Sorry, West Coast fans, but I won’t get to those games tonight as well as some others.

Nationals 7, @Braves 4: First meeting of the year between Washington and host Atlanta, and the series winner will take away at least a share of first place. The Braves had fallen off the perch by losing 5 of 6, averaging 2 runs and 5.5 hits per game while going 2 for 22 with RISP. Tonight, the visitors jumped out with 4 in the 1st, but Tim Hudson tightened and Atlanta chipped it down to 1. Then with 2 gone in the top of the 7th, it all went south for the Braves.

Chien-Ming Wang, coming out of the pen in his first appearance this year, batted with the bases empty and drew Huddy’s first walk of the night. Wang might have scored on Steve Lombardozzi‘s double, but Hank Steinbrenner put up the stop sign. No matter; after a 4-pitch walk to Bryce HarperRyan Zimmerman cracked the game open again with a 3-run double.

  • Wang got the win, allowing a run of his own (and 2 inherited) in 3 innings of relief.
  • Tyler Clippard worked a clean 9th and has earned the Nats’ last 2 saves, giving him 3 for his career.
  • Washington split the season series with Atlanta last year, including 2 wins that started the Braves’ fatal 5-game slide out of the playoff picture.

@Mets 6, Padres 1: He gave up the first run as usual, but Dillon Gee rallied with a career-high 9 Ks in 7 IP and chipped in a double (his first hit of the year) and the go-ahead run. The Mets mostly bunched their 8 hits into a pair of scoring thrusts, including a 2-out, 3-run rally in the 5th that closed out the scoring.

  • Hit sign, win sandwich? Lucas Duda hums: “Four … Four hundred … Four hundred foot-long….”
  • Mike Baxter made this nice grab at the wall in the 1st inning to start a DP, then laced a go-ahead double in the 3rd — his 10th extra-base hit out of 19 hits. Baxter, who grew up just a Whitestone’s throw away from Shea, is hitting .352/.975, with 12 runs and 9 RBI in 62 PAs. He’s still a rookie at 27; he and the trieuw freshman Kirk Nieuwenhuis have bulwarked the Mets outfield through the injuries and slumps of Jason Bay and Andres Torres.

Rays 7, @Red Sox 4: A grand slam by Matt Joyce was his 4th in 44 chances, but just the 2nd ever allowed by Jon Lester (though hitters have otherwise hit him pretty well with the sacks full). Joyce’s career OPS was just .609 against southpaws, .884 against righties. After a strong first start, recent call-up Alex Cobb labored through 5 IP (4 walks, 51 strikes & 45 balls) but allowed just 2 runs, and the late-inning crew kept Boston off the board for the last 3 frames. Fernando Rodney set down the top of the order and picked up his 15th save in the team’s 46th game, matching the fastest start in club history (Roberto Hernandez, 1999); his 0.72 WHIP is tops among closers.

  • In 3 games batting leadoff, Carlos Pena has reached base 8 of 16 times, scored 5 runs, hit 2 HRs and driven in 4. Tampa has scored 20 runs and won all 3.
  • The Rays have started 7 different cleanup hitters — 4 more than the rest of the AL average — yet they’re above average at that spot in BA, OBP and OPS.
  • A BoSox highlight was work of Scott Atchison, who came on after Lester dug a 7-1 hole and kept the Rays at bay for 3 innings to let the bats make a game of it. He’s allowed just 3 runs in 27 IP for the best ERA of any pitcher with 25+ IP.
  • Sorry, but the Play Index doesn’t cover brawls.

@Rangers 14, Blue Jays 3: There are now 6 batter games of 8+ RBI in Texas Rangers history, and only Nelson Cruz has two — both against Toronto. Cruz had a 3-run double in the 6-run 1st and ended the onslaught with his 4th grand slam, to finish 1 shy of the club RBI record set by Ivan Rodriguez. Handed a big lead, Derek Holland threw strikes (75 of 105) and finished with 9 Ks and 1 walk in 7.1 IP.

  • Not to be a party pooper, but 25 of Cruz’s 31 RBI have come when Texas scored 10+ runs; his season WPA before tonight was -0.50, one of the worst in the majors.
  • Coming off a shutout of the Mets, Brandon Morrow didn’t survive the 1st. He walked the first 2 batters, then gave up 5 hits and 6 runs in the shortest start of his career. In his 5 wins (including 2 shutouts this month), Morrow issued 6 walks in 36.2 IP; in his other 5 games, 14 walks in 25.2 IP.
  • Josh Hamilton snapped his 11-game HR drought.
  • Here’s a shock: Even with this game, Texas has been more potent on the road this year, averaging 5.9 R/G compared to 5.2 at home.

@Orioles 8, Royals 2: Twenty straight days in first for the 29-17 O’s. They went 6 for 10 with RISP, 5 of those in the 5th when they scored 5 off Bruce Chen to bust the game open.

  • Baltimore’s OPS against righties is just average, but they’re near the top of the league against southpaws.
  • In 3 years starting for Colorado, Jason Hammel (tonight: 6 scoreless, 7 Ks) averaged 6.3 SO/9. Facing DHes and tougher competition in the AL East this year, he’s now averaged 8.7 SO/9 through 9 starts. If Denver’s high-and-dry conditions affected his K rate, you can’t tell it from his career splits.
  • The Matt Wieters free-fall continues: Two weeks ago, he was at .300/.961. In 14 games since, he’s 5 for 50, dropping to .233/.773.

@Marlins 7, Giants 6: San Fran out-hit Miami 14-7, but the hosts won the battle of walks and HRs, dropping Tim Linecum (6 ER in 5.2 IP) to 2-5, 6.41.

  • Giancarlo keeps finding interesting things to bounce a ball off of.
  • Biggest blow was a tiebreaking 3-run HR (on a big-time hanger) by 2009 Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, recently back from the minors. He’s now 6 for 50.
  • Am I reading this right? Lincecum has one quality start in 10 games this year?
  • Melky hit his 3rd HR and 6th triple. He had 5 triples all last year, and his career high is 8.

Phillies @Cardinals: Big win for the Phils, who got back over .500 with their second straight hard-earned win over the Redbirds. Cliff Lee walked 3 (he came in with 5 walks in 44 IP), but none figured in the scoring. In the 7th, Lee singled leading off (he’s 6 for 16), then scored the tying run from there on a double by Juan Pierre (I kid you not!), his 4th extra-base hit out of 40 safeties.

  • The last player with 100+ hits and at least 90% of them singles was Otis Nixon, 1998.
  • I’ll admit, I have no idea what they said – but this doesn’t look good. It probably had something to do with this play. Maybe Cliff is a little frustrated at being winless in 7 starts.

@Pirates 1, Cubs 0: Five pitchers combined on a 10-hitter — one hit for each game in Chicago’s 10 game losing streak, longest in the NL this year. The Cubbies went hitless in 12 tries with RISP. A.J. Burnett has allowed 6 runs in his last 4 starts, 27.1 IP, with 22 Ks against 6 walks. Pittsburgh has won 5 of his 7 starts, and if he could have a mulligan on his one disaster start (12 R in 2.2 IP), his ERA would drop from 4.19 to 1.79.

  • Meanwhile, it’s not funny any more for Ryan Dempster (7.1 IP, 7 Ks, 1 BB), who’s now 0-3, 2.19 in 8 starts. This was his 6th start of 6+ IP and 2 runs or less, in which he’s 0-2 with 4 no-decisions. In all other MLB starts meeting those criteria, the SP has won 60% of the games and lost 10%.
  • The Cubs know from losing, but they hadn’t lost 10 straight since 1996, when Amazing Grace and Ryno still closed off the right side and Sosa was just another Sam. No other NL team has lost more than 6 in a row this year.
  • That’s 13 games since the last walk by Starlin Castro, which is just the 4th-longest streak of his career. With 58 hits and 4 walks, he’s on pace for 209 hits and 14 walks. No batter has ever had 200+ hits with less than 15 walks.
  • Pittsburgh has played 21 one-run games out of 45, winning 12. Their bullpen still leads the NL with a 2.41 ERA.

Tigers 10, @Twins 6 (7th): Before tonight, 11 of the first 14 runs off Tigers rookie Drew Smyly had come on 7 HRs. Opponents were 3 for 20 with RISP, and 0 for 8 with 2+ men aboard. Among all first-years, he’s second to Yu Darvish in total strikeouts and SO/9 (44 Ks in 43.2 IP), and first in SO/BB ratio (3.38).

__________

Random notes:

It’s sad, but there can be no more doubt: Ichiro is slowing down, literally and figuratively:

  • SB attempts as a percentage of opportunities: 2001 through 2011 — 13.6% // 2012, 9.7%
    (On pace for 24 SB attempts, 11 fewer than his previous low and about half his career average.)
  • Reaching on error: 2001-11 — averaged 10 ROE per year (including 11 last year) // 2012 — zero
  • BA with RISP: 2001-11 — .333 // 2012 — .170 (8 for 47)

The Mariners are last in the AL with 16 RBI from the #3 spot in the order; the other teams average 27.

That’s a lotta whitewash: Updating the Angels’ shutout pace: 7 shutouts for, 8 against; both are more than any other team. On pace to be involved in 53 shutouts (25 for, 28 against). In the AL/DH era, the most shutouts thrown was 20 by the 1989 A’s & Angels; the most allowed was 21 by the 1973 Yanks & ChiSox.

Through Thursday, there have been:

  • Just 2 games in which both teams scored in double figures. That’s 1/4 the average for 1996-2005 through the same number of team games.
  • 26 batter games of 3+ extra base hits. The 1996-2005 average for the same period was 46.

Searching for another Met with an early-season performance similar to what David Wright has done so far. I think the closest is John Olerud in 1999 (surprisingly, that’s the year after he set the Mets BA record at .354). Here are their numbers through 41 player games; if you look past the BA, the rest is uncanny:

  • Wright, .405 BA/.500 OBP/.628 SLG/1.128 OPS/16 doubles/1 triple/5 HRs/28 RBI
  • Olerud, .346 BA/.503 OBP/.624 SLG/1.127 OPS/16 doubles/0 triples/7 HRs/28 RBI

Leftover notes from Wednesday:

Boston scored a run off both Luis Ayala and Darren O’Day. There have been 26 games in which Baltimore used at least 2 of their 4 top relievers (Ayala, O’Day, Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson. This was just the 2nd game in which two of them were scored upon, and the 4th in which the group was charged with 2 or more runs in total.

In 2006, Nick Johnson had three 2-HR games in a span of 6 weeks. His next one came 6 years later.

Scott Podsednik had a HR, a sac bunt and a GIDP — first time this year for that particular odd combination, which happens 2-3 times in an average year. (Last year it was Howie Kendrick and Roger Bernadina.) Shane Victorino‘s HR/SH/2B combo happens about 5 times a year. Just one player this century had all of the above in one game — HR, 2B, SH, GIDP — and he did it while tossing a 4-hit shutout.

Through 1986, just 40 players from Venezuela had played in the majors. Since 1987, 235 more have made the Show; 64 have played in the majors this year alone.

NL ERA split by role: Starters, 3.80; Relievers, 3.82. In the “closer era,” NL relievers are typically 0.3 to 0.6 runs below the starters, though there have been scattered years where the gap was smaller.

I continue to be fascinated by the repeated chances given to Andrew Miller, the 6′ 7″ southpaw who seems unlikely to develop enough control to be effective for long. He’s 27 now, has averaged 5.3 BB/9 in his big-league career, and 5.1 in the minors, and doesn’t get nearly enough whiffs to justify that walk rate. Before being called up this year, he tossed 11 innings at AAA, with a dazzling 23 strikeouts and just 4 hits — but an equally amazing 14 walks, and thus a 5.73 ERA. His results with Boston have been very good so far — 8.2 IP, 2 walks, 2 runs, 11 Ks. It won’t last, but I suppose the Sox are just happy to get anything out of him.

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