Sunday

@Rangers 4, Rockies 2: An otherwise humdrum Colorado loss (their 14th in 17 games) was jazzed up by a 9th-inning rally that self-destructed in a baserunning/fielding blooper reel with compound gaffes by both sides. It’s not often you get one play that can illustrate four separate Little League teaching points, but here we go: Marco Scutaro, (1) Always watch the runner ahead of you, and (2) Never give yourself up until the umpire says you’re out; and as for you, Mike Napoli, (3) Don’t throw the ball until the runner fully commits towards a base, and youMichael Young, (4) Don’t chase a runner towards the next base, and especially not the trail runner. What a sorry display by both sides; it’s a shame either team had to come out ahead.

  • Oh, yeah — that comic rundown registered as the game’s top play on the WPA scale.
  • Until the 9th, the Rockies had 9 hits, 3 walks and a HBP, plus 2 steals in as many tries — but no runs. They never went down 1-2-3 all game, but were 1 for 10 with RISP and grounded into DPs to end the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th innings.
  • Texas was no great shakes in the clutch department, going 3 for 16 with RISP, two of those by rookie #9 hitter Leonys Martin, who collected his first 3 career RBI.
  • No. 2 hitter Elvis Andrus was on base 4 times including 2 doubles, but never scored — his 2nd such game this year. Andrus is having his best offensive year, with a .302 BA and .379 OBP, while batting 2nd for the top scoring team in baseball. He’s an excellent baserunner by any measure — taking the extra base at a 56% clip on others’ hits, and swiping 13 bags in 16 tries — and has missed only 3 games. Their #3 and #4 hitters are hitting .295 and .310, respectively. So why is he on pace for just 98 runs?
  • Matt Harrison got his 10th win despite leaving after 5 scoreless frames with a minor(?) back issue. He’s allowed 1 run over his last 4 starts combined (27.1 IP), all team wins, including scores of 1-0 and 2-1. Harrison’s 3.24 ERA isn’t great, but it’s 1.79 in his 10 wins and 2.13 in 2 no-decisions, and 6 of his 10 wins have come with run support of 4 or less.

@Angels 5, Dodgers 3: The Halos’ winning rally in the 7th started with 2 out and none on, with a walk to Albert and a plunking of Kendrys Morales, culminating in an RBI dink from Mark Trumbo.

  • Trumbo leads the AL with a 170 OPS+. He’s just 7 for 33 with RISP and 2 out, but in high-leverage situations he’s 17 for 47 with 4 HRs and 17 RBI (.362/1.075).
  • Mike Trout (5-1-2-0, 21st SB) is 13th player since 1901 with a 20-SB season by age 20. His runs rate (43 in 51 games) would be the 5th-best for the teetotaling set with 50+ games played. His .338 BA would be 4th-best by a qualifier age 20 or under. He’s started 51 of 53 games since his promotion, and reached safely in 42 of them, just once going 2 straight games without. His WAR rate (3.7 WAR in 51 games) would be #22 since 1901 for any age with 50+ games. I think the kid’s going to make it.
  • The Real LA is 13-17 since their 30-13 peak. In their last 12 games (4-8), they’ve hit like a SS defensive replacement — .210/.557, with 2 HRs in 423 PAs.
  • The Orange County team is 22-8 since their last low-water mark. They’ve won 8 of their last 12 despite averaging under 4 R/G. They’re 32-7 when they score 4+ runs, and (oddly) 7-0 with exactly 4 runs.

@Astros 7, Indians 1J.A. Happ (7 IP, 1 R) won his 2nd straight good start, the top/8th was divided like Gaul, and Houston pulled away with a pair of 2-run HRs in their half. They captured this series while allowing 2 runs or less each time, giving them 5 in a row over all. That’s their longest streak since August 2010, and matches the longest streak in MLB this year.

  • Keep it simple: When Happ keeps the ball in the yard, he’s 5-1 in 6 starts. When he allows a HR, he’s 1-6 in 8 starts.
  • There have been 21 team wins this year in which at least 3 pitchers recorded 1 out or less. Four of those games belong to Houston, including 2 of the 3 with 4 or more such pitchers. The Giants also have 4, Boston and Seattle 2, and 1 each for 9 other teams.
  • Derek Lowe‘s only strikeout was the opposing pitcher. He has 22 Ks in his 11 Quality Starts and is averaging 3.1 SO/9 this year, less than half his rate of the previous 2 years.

@Padres 2, Mariners 0: The hidden cost of a leadoff walk: With 1 out and the bases full in the 4th, Hector Noesi had to go after #8 hitter Alexi Amarista, instead of working him around the plate as he might have done otherwise with career .096 hitter (and righty batter) Edinson Volquez on deck. The lefty Amarista cracked a 2-run double on a centered first pitch, and there’s your ballgame. LHBs are hitting .288/.894 against Noesi, RHBs .207/.652.

  • Amarista snapped a 24-game, 60-PA streak of no ribbies. He’s 3 for 27 with RISP in his short career, all doubles.
  • Volquez needed 115 pitches to get through 6.2 IP, or 4.3 pitches per batter. He went 7 IP in 3 of his first 6 starts, but none of his last 10. His season average of 3.97 pitches/PA is 10th-highest among 73 NL qualifiers, and right in line with his career average.
  • The theme of AL dominance was lost on Seattle, who dropped 5 of 6 to the Friars while scoring 16 total runs.
  • Noesi has just 7 QS in 15 outings. Two of those were against the Padres, a total of 3 runs in 13 innings — but Seattle was shut out both times, against SPs who began those games with ERAs of 7.65 (Jason Marquis) and 4.11 (Edinson Volquez).
  • The M’s are last in the AL with a .300 OBP.

Cardinals 11, @Royals 8: KC outhit their guests by 14-8 and won the HR skirmish 4-2, but took the spirit of generosity too far by handing out 9 free passes. Jonathan Sanchez chaired the hospitality committee with 6 walks in 5.2 IP, giving him 34 walks and 28 Ks in 42 IP this year, not unrelated to his 6.21 ERA.

  • The Cards went 5 for 7 with RISP, the Royals 1 for 8.
  • The visitors swept the series by a combined 30-14.
  • Look, few people thought Melky Cabrera would even match last year, much less exceed it. But trading a player going into his age-27 season for a pitcher 2 years older, a pitcher of Sanchez’s proven frustrating inconsistency, not to mention bringing him from NL to AL, is the kind of mismanagement that has kept the Royals without a decent rotation for over a decade. In 4 years in the SF rotation, Sanchez had a 4.08 ERA, 99 ERA+, 4.7 BB/9 and 1.36 WHIP. The minor-leaguer they got in the deal, Ryan Verdugo, had that same walk rate in his 5 years on the farm; lo and behold, he has not magically discovered the strike zone this year. It’s not bad luck, and it’s not just low revenue. KC’s front office just hasn’t shown any ability to evaluate starting pitchers.

@White Sox 1, Brewers 0Eduardo Escobar pinch-hit in the 10th with 1 RBI in 65 career ABs, then ripped the 2nd pitch from Manny Parra into the left-center gap for a game-winning single.

  • For the 2nd straight start, Jose Quintana tossed 8 shutout innings but got no decision, the first such streak in 11 years. He joined Johan Santana and Matt Cain as the only pitchers this year with consecutive scoreless starts of 8+ IP, and has allowed 6 runs in 43.1 IP over all. He’s just the 4th pitcher ever from Colombia, and his 6 starts are the most among his countrymen.
  • It was the 3rd extra-inning 1-0 game this year, and the 2nd in 4 days between Milwaukee and a Chicago team.
  • The win went to Brian Bruney, just up from AAA, where he’s had a 1.65 ERA with 10.9 SO/9 in 55 IP in the past 2 years. Consistent with past habit, Bruney had 2 walks and 2 Ks in his inning’s work.
  • The Crew’s Michael Fiers went 7.1 scoreless with a walk and 7 Ks. In 33 IP, the 27-year-old rookie has 31 Ks and just 5 walks.

@Orioles 2, Nationals 1Sean Burnett began the bottom of the 8th with a 1-0 lead, a 1.04 ERA and 1 HR allowed in 26 IP. Two batters later, that all had changed. Adam Jones singled on an 0-2 pitch, and on an 0-1 offering, Matt Wieters connected for his first HR in 16 games and first late-and-close HR in 51 ABs this year. Then he ended the game by gunning down Ian Desmond on a SO/CS double play; his 38% CS rate leads the AL.

  • Since 2011, Wieters is hitting .364 against southpaws (67/184) with 13 HRs and an OPS over 1.100. Against righties, .222 with a .664 OPS.
  • When ahead in the count, Burnett had previously allowed just 5 hits in 32 ABs, no HRs. The hit by Jones was the first he’s allowed after getting ahead 0-2.
  • 3 more zeroes for the O’s bullpen, dropping their MLB-best ERA to 2.30 — 3 runs better than you-know-who’s relief staff.
  • In the history of the Orioles franchise since 1918, this was just the second time they won a series of 3+ games from a team based in Washington while scoring 2 runs or less in each game.
  • After a yeoman stint in the bullpen, Ross Detwiler returned to the rotation with 5 scoreless stanzas. He’s allowed 2 runs in his last 18.1 IP.
  • The Nats are 8-15 when scoring 2 runs or less — the best record in the majors in such games, just ahead of Baltimore’s 7-14 mark.

@Red Sox 9, Braves 4: The Youk Era ended on an up note, as Cody Ross led Boston with a pair of multi-run HRs and Adrian Gonzalez snapped a 13-game drought with his 6th longball. In his 2nd game of the year, free-agent signee Aaron Cook did just enough to win, allowing 3 runs in 5 IP; one run was unearned on his own error.

  • Youkilis went 2 for 4 in his Fenway farewell, with an RBI triple in his last AB. His career line: .303/.399/.509 in Fenway, .270/.376/.465 in road games.
  • In his first Fenway start, Mike Minor allowed 3 more HRs, taking over the NL lead with 18 taters in 80.2 IP. That 2.00 HR/9 would be the highest ever by a Brave with Minor’s 14 starts or more; the highest rate ever by a qualifying Brave is 1.57 by Phil Niekro in 1970.
  • After facing 37 batters, Cook is still seeking his first strikeout in a Boston uniform.
  • Atlanta had 11 hits but no walks, and went 1-11 with RISP.
  • Red Sox WAR leaders since 2004: David Ortiz, 30.8; Youkilis, 29.2; Dustin Pedroia (since 2006), 27.1. Youk’s WAR total is currently 20th among all position players Red Sox franchise history.
  • For whatever it’s worth: From the time of his debut on May 15, 2004 (4-1-2-1, HR), Boston had a .573 W% when Youkilis started (510-380), and .567 otherwise (250-191), a difference of about 1 win per 162 games.

Rays 7, @Phillies 3: In the nightcap, Tampa scored 3 in the 2nd off Cliff Lee and were never headed, capturing the doubleheader and the series.

  • The narrative around Lee (5 runs in 7 IP) has shifted from “it’s a shame he has no wins, pitching that well” to “he’s just not pitching well enough to win with that lineup.” In his last 7 starts, he’s allowed 27 ER in 47.2 IP, a 5.10 ERA, raising his season mark to 3.72. Tonight, after he dug the early hole, his mates got 2 in the 4th, but he gave those back in the 6th. In his last start, they gave him a 4-1 lead in the 3rd and 5-2 in the 8th, but he put the first 3 men on in the 8th, and they all eventually scored. Start before that, a 4-1 lead in the 4th vanished on a 3-run HR by Steven Tolleson. He’s just not pitching well.
  • In a truism taken to extreme, batters ahead in the count are killing Lee this year; before this game, they were 21 for 56 with 4 HRs, 1.196 OPS. His lack of command tonight made the 3-run 2nd — a leadoff walk on 5 pitches, and after a first-pitch single, consecutive doubles on counts of 2-0 and 3-0. In the 6th, 2 out and 1 on, he got to 1-and-2 on weak-hitting Sean Rodriguez, then walked him with 3 straight balls, and Brooks Conrad punished him with a 2-run double, puffing TB’s lead back to 3 runs.
  • Tampa’s last 2 runs came from 5 walks in the 8th, off 2 relievers, with no hits.

Rays 3, @Phillies 2: In the day game, Cole Hamels left for a PH after 7 masterful innings, leading 1-0. But Antonio Bastardo walked 2 of the first 3 men in the 8th (just his second 2-walk game this year), and Carlos Pena – hitting .163 against lefties with 43 Ks in 92 ABs at that point — looped a belt-high first pitch into the 5th row in RF. Philly got a run back and the tying run to 3rd in their half, but John Mayberry looked at strike 3 (now 1 for 14 with a man on 3rd and less than 2 out), and Michael Martinez flied out to end it.

  • Pena’s HR helped make a winner of the just-departed David Price, who’s bounced back from his worst game (7 runs by the Mets) with back-to-back wins for a 10-4 record.
  • Hamels was bidding for his 11th win. He has 9 career wins when supported by 1 or 2 runs, but his last 5 starts with that level of support have all been team losses.
  • Fernando Rodney converted his 21st save, with just 1 blown. Seven of those saves protected 1-run leads.

Twins 4, @Reds 3: A four-day rest didn’t help Aroldis Chapman, who absorbed his 3rd blown save and 4th loss in his last 7 games. Joe Mauer‘s 10-pitch AB led to a 1-out double after he fought out of an 0-and-2 hole. And on a 3-and-1 pitch, Josh Willingham placed an accent over his name on the 2nd-deck scoreboard.

  • Already leading the league in Win Probability Added (as he did in 2010), Joey Votto turned around a 2-1 deficit with a 2-run HR in the 8th. Votto’s 4.9 WPA was 64% more than the #2 man, David Wright. The only men ever to post 10+ WPA are Barry Bonds (2001, ’02, ’04) and Willie McCovey (1969). Meanwhile, Willingham’s clutch blow padded his own AL lead in that department.
  • Minny SP Scott Diamond sliced through 8 IP on just 82 pitches/65 strikes, and the late thunder yielded his team-high 6th win with a 2.67 ERA.
  • In his 195th career relief game, Jared Burton notched his first save.
  • 8 ER and 3 HRs in the last 6.1 IP by Chapman, after none in his first 29 IP. If there’s a silver lining, he’s issued just 2 walks in the rough patch; his 2.8 BB/9 is less than half his prior career average of 6.5.
  • Trevor Plouffe hit his 15th HR, and 13th solo shot; he has 26 RBI. No one with 15+ HRs has ever had a RBI/HR ratio that low; the lowest is 1.82 by Scott Hairston in 2008 (31 RBI, 17 HRs).

@Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 1: He may be a rookie, but Wade Miley against the team ranked 15th in NL OBP is already a mismatch. The man with the 1.01 WHIP and 1.8 BB/9 allowed just 4 runners in 8 innings, and no runs until Alfonso Soriano‘s 14th HR in the 7th that made it 2-1. The Snakes pulled away with 3 runs over their last 2 at-bats, including a walk-and-score by the .357-hitting Miley.

  • The Cubs (24-48) have been swept in six series of 3+ games, plus a 2-gamer. Their only 3-game win streak was a home sweep of the Padres.
  • Soriano and Darwin Barney combined for all 4 Cub hits.
  • Miley (9-3, 2.19) has allowed exactly 1 run in each of his last 4 starts, covering 30.2 IP. That stretch includes a 1-0 loss in Texas. As a starter this year, he’s 8-3, 2.09 in 12 games.
  • Arizona has won 14 of 20 to wriggle back onto the wild-card fringe at 37-35.

@Athletics 4, Giants 2: The first career extra-base hit by Derek Norris was a lulu — a 2-out, full-count, 3-run, game-winning HR off Santiago Casilla, costing Matt Cain his 10th win for the year and 9th straight winning start. Cain allowed a run on 3 hits in 7 IP, trimming his H/9 to 6.22.

  • The HR also spared A.J. Griffin an undeserved loss in his MLB debut. Griffin retired 15 of 16 batters after Buster Posey‘s HR in the 1st, and left after issuing his only walk to Posey with his 104th pitch to start the 7th.
  • After allowing just 1 run over his previous 13 games, Casilla was nicked in each game of this series, although he finished off the save in game 1 and got bailed out in game 2 after all 3 of his batters reached base. His only other blown save in 22 chances this year came on one unearned run.
  • It was Oakland’s 4th walk-off hit this year, but the first that reversed a deficit and the first with 2 outs. Their last walk-off when trailing was 2010-04-17 by Ryan Sweeney (back when Jim Johnson was actually hittable). Their last 2-out game-winning hit was 2011-07-16 by Scott Sizemore. And their last 2-out, do-or-die hit was a 2-run triple by Rajai Davis on 2009-08-03.
  • Norris was part of the return for Gio Gonzalez.
  • The score stood 2-1 from 2 out in the b/1st to 2-out in the b/9th, a span of 48 outs.
  • The last Giant to win more than 8 straight starts was Streakin’ Sal Maglie, who snagged 9 straight in April-May of 1952; the Barber also had 9 straight in April-June of ’51, and 11 straight in July-September ’50.

Tigers 3, @Pirates 2: With his team having suffered consecutive 4-1 defeats, collecting just 4 hits each time, Justin Verlander might have despaired when he lost a 2-0 lead in the 7th on a tying HR by Garrett Jones, after stifling them on 2 infield hits through the 6th. Instead, he buckled down and pursued the pledge he recited in that MLB commercial: “I will pitch more complete games.” Verlander retired the last 7 men in order, starting with a DP to end the 7th and finishing with a pair of strikeouts. Quintin Berry, whose first career HR had provided that lead in the 1st, sparked the winning rally in the 8th with a 1-out walk and his 11th steal in as many tries, and Delmon Young delivered the run with a 2-out hit after an IBB to Prince Fielder.

  • Verlander won his 3rd straight start and, through 16 games, is 8-4, 2.52; at the same point last year, he was 9-3, 2.54. He’s 3 strikeouts ahead of last year’s pace, and just a little behind in most other categories. But I wouldn’t expect him to go 15-2 in his last 18 starts again.
  • J.V.’s not getting any better at swinging away — now 0 for 24 with 14 Ks in his career — but he laid down his 4th sac bunt in 3 batting games this year.

@Marlins 9, Blue Jays 0: Timely hitting and the year’s first scoreless outing by Mark Buehrle ended a 6-game Fish famine.

  • From the score, you’d never guess that Miami had just 1 more baserunner than Toronto. Five runs scored on a pair of HRs, and 2 more on a Han-Ram triple that was followed by a sac fly; they left just 2 men aboard.
  • The Jays fell into a solo cellar grip, despite a 37-35 record that would have them a half-game out of first place in the neighboring Central Division.

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Saturday

@Astros 8, Indians 1Dallas Keuchel became the first pitcher with a CG within his first 2 career games since the Clay Buchholz no-hitter in 2007. He went the distance on 108 pitches, allowing 6 hits and a walk, with a solo HR by Asdrubal Cabrera. Houston made the most of their 10 hits, leaving just 2 on base. Keuchel gave up hits to 2 of the first 3 men in the 9th, but was left in to get the last 2 outs.

Rockies 11, @Rangers 7:

  • In 4 IP, Colby Lewis had 6 Ks, no walks and no HRs — but allowed 8 runs on 12 hits. After serving up 14 HRs in his first 10 starts, he’s allowed just 1 gopher in his last 5 games, but his ERA is about the same in both sets.
  • Josh Hamilton was 0 for 5 with 4 Ks, and has 1 HR in his last 18 starts.
  • Colorado’s 17 hits without a walk tied the MLB season high.
  • All 18 runs were scored in the first 5 innings.
  • With an 11-1 lead through 4 innings, Josh Outman was in line for his first win of the year and a trimming of his 8.41 ERA. But he was chased during the Rangers’ 6-run 5th, and finished the night with an 8.64 ERA. In 5 starts, he’s allowed 19 ER in 20.1 IP.

@Red Sox 8, Braves 4: Making his 2nd start after 22 relief outings, Franklin Morales held Atlanta to 2 ER in 6 IP with 8 strikeouts, giving him 17 Ks and 1 walk as a starter.

  • Will Middlebrooks hit his 9th HR, moving past Ted Williams to tie for 3rd in most HRs by a Red Sox in his first 40 career games. Sam Horn holds the top spot with 14. Middlebrooks (3-for-4, HR, double) bumped his OPS+ to 155. In BoSox club history, Williams is the only first-year with 300 PAs and an OPS+ of at least 140. Middlebrooks also has RBI equal to 21.7% of his PAs (33 RBI in 152 PAs); the only first-year
  • Both teams are over .500, but are 2 games under at home.

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Yankees 4, @Mets 3: The Bombers clinched the season Subway Series, scoring all their runs in the 7th on (what else?) a pair of HRs. Chris Young carried a 2-hitter and a 3-0 lead into the 7th, helped by his own 2-out RBI single after an intentional walk — finally coming through in his 3rd chance with men in scoring position. But the Yankee 7th started with a walk and a double, bringing up Raul Ibanez as the tying run. Against lefties in 2011-12, Ibanez has hit .206 with 4 HRs in 160 ABs; against righties, .253 with twice the HR rate.

So where was Tim Byrdak?

Young had only thrown 94 pitches, but he’s always been a 6-inning pitcher; in 143 career starts, he has 1 CG, and has completed 7 innings just 27% of the time. His BA/OPS go from .231/.642 in the 6th to .262/.751 in the 7th. And he’s a HR pitcher — his career rate of 1.1 HR/9 is 62nd out of 182 active pitchers with 500+ IP. The Yankees have yet to prove they can score without HRs.

But Young stayed in, and Ibanez roped the first pitch out, clearing the same snack-cracker sign as Ike Davis’s 3-run shot the night before (but without the same assistance), and tying the game. Jon Rauch came in with a strikeout, but on an 0-2 count, Eric Chavez hit the first pinch-HR of his career inside the LF pole for the lead.

So where was Byrdak? Well, it’s complicated. I didn’t get to watch the game, so my first thoughts on reading the play-by-play were:

(1) It seemed that Terry Collins was saving Byrdak for Robinson Cano –he did retire Cano and Teixeira in the 8th — which is not the best use of resources. Sure, Cano’s a better hitter than Chavez or Ibanez. But he isn’t so vulnerable to lefties — career .295 BA and .807 OPS. And you can’t protect a lead in the 8th if you fall behind in the 7th.

(2) Ibanez likely wouldn’t have batted against Byrdak, anyway. Girardi could have called on Andruw Jones, still plenty dangerous; since 2010, he’s hit 20 HRs in 279 ABs against southpaws, and 2 HRs in 26 pinch-ABs. But at least that would get Ibanez out of the game, which is helpful since Byrdak is the Mets’ only bullpen lefty.

But two points make the judgment tougher: Mets closer Frank Francisco was not available, shortening an already brief list of credible options in the Mets’ bullpen; and Ibanez has 2 HRs in 12 trips against Byrdak.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the Yanks took the lead in the 7th with two lefty-on-righty HRs, then used their own lefty specialist to stifle the Mets in the home half: with the tying run on 3rd and 1 out, but Boone Logan came in to strike out Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy on a total of 7 pitches.

Young’s RBI in the 6th was the Mets’ only hit in 14 chances with RISP. They wasted a 1-out, 3rd-and-1st chance in the 2nd (strikeout-groundout); got just 1 run from a no-out, 3rd-and-2nd chance in the 4th (2 Ks left a man on 3rd); wasted a leadoff double in the 7th (Logan’s Ks); and put 2 on with 1 out in the 8th, but fanned twice more against David Robertson.

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