Sunday game notes … and 3 days to catch our breath
“Who am I?” In my 9th year, and 3 years after being jettisoned by my original team, I currently have career highs in BA, SLG and OPS+.
@Cardinals 5, Marlins 4: Another Heath Bell crunch. Austin Kearns had put the Fish out front with a 3-run pinch-clout in the 7th, but the Redbirds scored 3 in the 9th to win. Rafael Furcal brought home the last two with a 1-and-2 single to left, as leadfoot David Freese slipped under a high tag. Furcal got his chance when Bell couldn’t finish .223-hitting Daniel Descalso, who battled from an 0-2 hole in a 10-pitch AB that ended with a walk.
- Bell and John Axford (further adventures below) began the day tied for the worst WAR among the 27 closers with 10+ saves. Bell already had him beat for the worst WPA in that group.
@Tigers 7, Royals 1: Is it coming together for Max Scherzer (7 IP, 1 R), or is the luck just evening out? The enigmatic whiff artist (11.2 SO/9, 4.72 ERA) has strung together 5 straight quality starts (2.45 ERA) with a sharp drop in his Hits Allowed, despite the exact same K rate.
- Prince Fielder has homered in consecutive games for the first time since last Sept. 1-2, and has 3 HRs and 10 RBI in the 5-game win streak.
- Quintin Berry has 5 triples (and 4 doubles) in 144 ABs. He also has a .388 OBP and 28 runs in 42 games.
- Besides a HR, the Royals got just one other man to 2nd base.
Blue Jays 11, @White Sox 9: In a game that might have never ended otherwise, closer Casey Janssen came on to face the tying run in the 8th and got the last 5 outs to remain perfect in 12 chances since inheriting the role. As seemed inevitable since mid-April, the Jays go into the Break at 43-43. Chicago lost their 5-game win streak but kept their 3-game lead over Cleveland, 3.5 over the “where have you been?” Tigers.
- The Toronto Two-Step, as conducted by ChiSox rookie Dylan Axelrod to start the dance-athon: Walk, home run; walk, home run.
- With 133 Ks through 85 team games, Adam Dunn has 17 more than anyone else ever has by this point, with at least 1 K in 76 games. Updating his “three true outcome” pace: 253 SO, 130 BB, 48 HR.
- If Kevin Youkilis stays healthy and productive and Alex Rios (the mystery man in our opening) continues his biennial resurgence, the White Sox will be tough to beat. Youk has filled the black hole at 3B (that position is even now batting .185 with a .511 OPS), and Rios has lengthened the lineup by hitting over .360 with RISP. The bullpen is still sketchy (12th in AL ERA), but it should be fairly easy to pick up a piece or two at the deadline.
@Pirates 13, Giants 2: The Lincecum dilemma: Unless he’s injured, he’s not going to get it together without pitching, and you can’t send him to the minors without his permission (forget it). But the Giants are trying to make the playoffs, and he’s killing them; with this loss, they’re 4-14 in his starts, and 42-26 with everyone else. This is the 11th time that he’s allowed 4+ runs in 6 IP or less; the Giants have lost them all.
- Neil Walker‘s 12-game hit streak: 23 for 47, 15 Runs, 11 RBI, stoking his season OPS by 106 points. Today he had Pittsburgh’s first 5-hit, H=PA game since he did it himself 2 years ago.
- Through 5 scoreless innings, A.J. Burnett had allowed 1 hit, and had an RBI hit of his own.
- Andrew McCutchen: .362, 18 HRs. Previous Pirates with 30 HRs and a .350 BA: None. With 30 HRs and a .330 BA: Dave Parker, 1978. With 20 HRs and a .350 BA: Roberto Clemente, 1961, ’67.
- Giants are 3-7 since their shutout sweep of LA. Their team ERA was 3.25 through June 4, but 4.37 in their last 31 games (15-16).
- Vintage Choo-choo chugging: In his last 20 games, Shin-Soo Choo (HR, 5-1-2-1) is hitting .398 with half his hits for extra bases.
- Vinnie Pestano boosted his MLB-best Hold count to 23. He’s stranded all 11 inherited runners, and has surrendered the lead just once all year, on a solo HR back on April 14. (Cleveland won the game.)
Rockies 4, @Nationals 3: Jordan Zimmermann (7 IP, 1 R) left with a 3-1 lead and a chance to even his record — a reasonable hope for a 2.61 ERA and especially in light of the team’s 40-2 mark when leading after 7. But Colorado tied it in the 8th before the Nats’ lefty tandem could record an out, leveling on a wild pitch by Mike Gonzalez, then went ahead in the 9th in the same wild fashion against Tyler Clippard.
- That ended a 69-game streak without a wild pitch for Clippard, who averages about 1 a year. And the scoring may be changed; it should have been scored a passed ball — it’s not right to base the decision on the ball having bounced, if the catcher uses awful technique. You can bet that young Jhonatan Solano will be reminded not to stab at a bouncing breaker with a man on 3rd.
- Rockies won their first series in over a month with their 2nd comeback win of the year starting from the 8th or later.
- 3B Jordan Pacheco sparked the go-ahead 9th with a leadoff double, his first extra-base hit in 22 games. He had been 22 for 73 in that stretch, all singles.
- Franchise first: Three Nats had 2 steals — Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper and Roger Bernadina. Only once in the past 10 years did they have two players with 2+ steals.
- Ian Desmond tied the franchise SS record with his 17th HR, a turnaround 2-run shot — the 6th HR in his last 13 games, with 15 RBI 14 extra-base hits.
- Since homering in his 11th career game (it took dad 39 games), Eric Young had gone 179 games without another tater before connecting off Sean Burnett today.
- Clippard’s one weakness in years past was the gopher ball, but he hasn’t been touched that way in his last 42 games. He’s 4th-best in SLG allowed and 3rd in OPS among those with 30+ IP.
@Angels 6, Orioles 0: In his Angels debut, Brad Mills proved what we already knew: He can handle Baltimore. Mills went 5 scoreless (6 Ks, no walks), then handed off to the 4×100 relay team. He’s beaten the O’s in all 3 career meetings, his only wins in 15 games.
- 2nd straight shutout, 3rd in 7 games, and MLB-high 13th this year by the Angels. Two teams have 10, and three have 8. The Anaheimers had 11 shutouts all of last year; they’ve had more than 20 just once — 28 in 1964, 18 of them in brand-new Dodger Stadium.
- The Halos got back to 10 games over .500 and haven’t lost 3 straight since May 19-21.
Reds 4, @Padres 2: Some pitchers can get away with working behind in counts, but Jason Marquis can’t. Mistake #1: He fell behind Jay Bruce 2-and-0, then tried to paint the inside corner. After 2-and-0, hitters were 20 for 40 off Marquis before today. Mistake #2 followed immediately: Ball 1 to Ryan Ludwick, then pitch that tailed in until it was sent far away. Over Ludwick’s career, the difference getting ahead of him or falling behind has been worth almost 500 points of OPS; on a 1-0 count exactly, his OPS is over 1.000.
- Joey Votto‘s bid for his first HR (and 2nd RBI) in 12 games was vehemently denied.
- Aroldis Chapman‘s hiccups are over for now. In his last 4 games, he’s fanned 10 of 14 batters, with 1 walk and 1 single. He’s up to 71 Ks out of 151 batters this year.
Brewers 5, @Astros 3: Here’s the winning rally off Fernando Rodriguez: Walk to Nyjer Morgan, steal, IBB to Ryan Braun, wild pitch, walk to Aramis Ramirez, infield hit by Corey Hart. Finally, Rickie Weeks singled to right, and Rodriguez was so offended that he struck out the side on 12 pitches. His record fell to 1-8, the most relief losses in MLB.
- Wish I could’ve seen this AB by Jose Altuve against John Axford with the tying runs in scoring position and 1 out: Ball, ball, ball, strike looking, strike looking, strike looking. I can see taking a strike. Maybe strike two was a bad call or a perfect pitch. But letting 3 go by with ducks on the pond, that just doesn’t sound right. Axford then fell behind 3-and-1 to Scott Moore, but came back for the game-ending whiff.
- Groundhog Greinke started today as he did yesterday — that is, he started the game again, and again allowed hits and a run to the first two batters, Jordan Schafer and Jose Altuve. This time he kept his cool despite a 3-run 1st, but lasted just 2 more innings and was on the hook to lose for the 2nd day in a row before the Crew tied it in the 8th.
Cubs 7, @Mets 0: One thing about a scrappy, resilient squad — they don’t always beat the teams they’re supposed to beat. New York is 2-4 against Chicago, 0-3 vs. Houston. At the Break, the Mets, Cardinals and Giants are all 46-40, while the Reds (47-38) and Braves (46-39) hold the wild cards. All 8 winning NL teams are within a half-game of a playoff spot.
- Ryan Dempster went 5 scoreless in a return from the DL, his 4th straight scoreless start. He’s the 2nd Cub to do that in the searchable era (though Bill Lee‘s 1938 streak was all CG shutouts, while Dempster’s covers 27 IP), and the first of any stripe to do it in one year since Brandon Webb‘s memorable string of 5 in 2007.
- First RBIs of July for Starlin Castro, first multi-hit game since June 23, first extra-base hit since June 20. He had 7 singles in his past 13 games. But not every pitcher has gotten the memo to tempt him with a first pitch just off the plate; Jon Niese fed a first-pitch meatball and Castro sauced it for a 3-run capper. Maybe Niese was tiring and the pitch slipped; and maybe, as Bobby Ojeda’s postgame remarks often imply, Niese just isn’t that smart at this stage of his career.
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