Giants 9, @Braves 4 (11): Mere box-score trolling could never capture the extra-inning loop-de-loops of this wild ride. Instead, I’ll grab an earlier moment and try to gnaw it to the marrow. (If this ain’t your cuppa, there’s a few other game notes down below.)
In the 9th, Sergio Romo (who’s yielded just 2 runs in 27.1 IP) came on with 1 out and none on, and damn near lost the game: HBP, E4, WP, putting men on 3rd & 2nd with 1 out. But he struck out Paul Janish — this is the moment — and then, after a passel of moves and countermoves, Javier Lopez fanned Michael Bourn to end the threat.
How did it happen that Fredi Gonzalez let such a weak stick as Janish bat with the winning run on 3rd, when he still had at least 3 other hitters available? (Eric Hinske, David Ross and Tyler Pastornicky, who could also take over at SS if they pulled Janish but didn’t score.) Best I can tell, Fredi got flat-out-foxed by Bruce Bochy — whipsawed, really, by Bochy’s strategic deployment of his two bullpen lefties against Atlanta’s left-tilted lineup.
After Romo whiffed Janish for the 2nd out of the 9th, the pitcher was due up. Fredi sent in Hinske; Bochy countered with the lefty Lopez. Since Hinske doesn’t hit lefties at all, Fredi pulled him back and put in the RHB Pastornicky. Bochy fired the last salvo by using the open base to IBB Pastornicky and pitch to the lefty Bourn, who has a career .245 BA/.298 OBP vs. southpaws — and of course, Lopez’s whole career stems from his ability to get out lefties. When Bourn swung over a 2-2 sidler (no typo, that’s my attempt to coin a word for sidearm slider), Bochy won this battle decisively.
The question then becomes: Were Bochy’s moves foreseeable? And if so, what might Fredi have done differently?
Bochy’s moves were predictable. No way Hinske gets to bat against a righty; you either bring in the lefty right away and force a countermove, or you walk him and bring in the lefty to face Bourn. Of those choices, the first is preferable because (a) it gets Hinske out of the game, and (b) it preserves the open base to use as needed. Once Hinske was announced, everything else followed logically.
So back to Janish: Was there any way for Atlanta to wind up with better opportunities than Janish vs. Romo and Bourn vs. Lopez? I think there was — but to see how, we have to look back even farther.
Go back to the home 7th, game tied: Bochy brings in LHP Jeremy Affeldt to start the inning against the #7 hitter, LH 3B Juan Francisco, who packs a punch against righties but has never homered off a lefty. Fredi pinch-hits Chipper, who flies out. Next is Janish, who’s a little better against LHP but still nothing to fear, and he grounds out. The pitcher’s spot is next; and here, in my opinion, Fredi Gonzalez made a mistake that rippled all the way through the rest of the game.
With 2 outs and nobody on base in the 7th, Gonzalez pinch-hit Matt Diaz against Affeldt. Diaz has always hit lefties well, but he’s no longer a serious power threat. From 2006-10, Diaz hit 27 HRs in 717 PAs off southpaws, slugging .537. But since 2011, he has just 2 HRs in 225 PAs vs. LHP, slugging .382. And maybe that is a small sample, but Diaz also has no HRs in 158 PAs off RHP since 2011 — in all, 2 HRs in his last 383 PAs. And if he’s no HR threat, what’s the point of using him with 2 outs and the bases empty? Even if he hits a double, you’re hoping that Bourn can drive him in against the lefty.
Taking everything into account, especially the fact that Bochy has another lefty in the ‘pen, Diaz was a poor choice there. I’ll suggest two alternatives:
(1) David Ross is a high-power, low-OBP hitter — exactly the right allocation of resources for the situation. And if the threat of Ross’s power prompts Bochy to pull Affeldt for a righty, that’s just fine, since 3 of the next 4 Braves due up are lefties.
(2) This may seem heresy, but if you don’t want to use your backup catcher in the 7th inning of tie game, maybe you should just let Kris Medlen go to the plate. He does have 6 hits in 45 career ABs — and went 10 for 32 with a HR, triple and 2 doubles in the minors. He’s a switch-hitter, so if nothing else, he thinks he can hit. What’s more, he’s the only one of Atlanta’s 3 good relievers whom Gonzalez is willing to stretch beyond an inning, having gone 2+ on 8 occasions this year — whereas Craig Kimbrel has gotten more than 3 outs just twice in 136 career games, none since last April.
It’s not for me to say that Kimbrel is able to handle longer stints. But if Fredi won’t do that, shouldn’t he take more care not to run through his other good relievers so quickly? Medlen threw 20 pitches in his one inning; he’s thrown 30+ seven times this year. And look what happened by lifting Medlen: While saving Kimbrel for the 9th (and/or for Buster Posey), Fredi used southpaw Eric O’Flaherty against Justin Christian (rookie RH journeyman with little power) and the switch-hitters Melky Cabrera (who’s just devouring lefties, .422/1.170) and Angel Pagan (more power from the right side).
There might be personnel issues I don’t know about. But it seems to me that if you let Medlen hit in the 7th, your chance of scoring goes down only slightly (from minuscule to infinitesimal), but you can try to get another inning out of him — and if you do, then Kimbrel can still face Posey in the top of the 9th, O’Flaherty is on tap for extras, and Diaz is available to hit in the home 9th. And that’s where he was most needed.
@Brewers 4, Cardinals 3: Milwaukee made a change at closer, but can anyone tell the difference? OK, Francisco Rodriguez has converted both chances, but oh, the agita. In this one, K-Rod came on with a 2-run lead and fanned the first man, albeit on a full count. Then, a double by former teammate Carlos Beltran and a full-count walk; another strikeout; Beltran stole 3rd (Rodriguez is awful at holding runners — they’re 19 for 20 since 2011); and 2 more full-count walks to force in a run. At long last, Lance Berkman flied out to the warning track to end it. The totals: 35 pitches (his first time at 30+ in more than a year), 16 balls, 3 walks — but a save.
- No team has lost more 1-run games than the Cards (11-17), nor is further behind their Pythagorean record (-5).
- If you knew only the offensive totals, you’d never believe Milwaukee won this game. They had 5 hits (a double and 4 singles), 2 walks and a HBP, 1 steal, and went 1 for 11 with RISP. St. Louis had 7 hits (2 HRs and a double), 9 walks, 2 SB and 1 CS. But the Brewers scored all 4 runs in the 1st on just 2 hits, helped by 3 Cardinal errors.
- Teams giving 8 or more passes in regulation are now 10-43 this year.
- Tyler Thornburg‘s 2nd start went a bit better than his 1st, when he allowed 4 HRs. This time he was yanked 1 out short of qualifying for the win, having allowed 2 runs on 2 HRs, 5 hits and 4 walks. Counting his one relief outing, he’s allowed 7 HRs in 12 big-league innings.
- Adam Wainwright went 7 IP on 1 ER, 4 hits, no walks, 9 Ks. He’s 7-3 in the 10 games that his mates have scored 4 or more, and 0-7 in the 9 games they’ve scored 3 or less.
@Tigers 7, Angels 2: C.J. Wilson hadn’t yielded more than 5 runs in any start this year, but the Tigers got that many in the first 2 frames and 7 in his 6 innings. He’d held opponents to a .200 BA with RISP, but Detroit went 5 for 8 off him en route to 7 runs on just 8 hits, no HRs.
- Meanwhile, if Doug Fister has another second half like he had last year, it will be a huge lift to a Detroit club that currently has just one starter with an ERA+ over 94. After his worst stretch as a Tiger — 3 “disasters” in a span of 6 starts, 7.47 ERA and 47 hits in 31.1 IP — Fister has opened the second half with two gems like those that were his signature during Detroit’s drive to the 2011 division crown. In 15 IP, he’s allowed 2 runs, 5 hits and 2 walks, with 18 whiffs, including his second-ever 10-K game tonight. Outside of Albert’s solo shot in the 1st, no Angel reached 2nd during Fister’s 8 innings, and he retired his last 11 in order.
- With a 9th-inning triple, Mike Trout extended his scoring streak to 10 games, the 2nd-longest in MLB in the last 2 years. He’s tied for the MLB lead at this writing with 65 Runs, in just 70 games.
- Using today’s rookie and batting-title qualifying standards, the highest BA since 1901 by a qualifying rookie was Lloyd Waner‘s .355 in 1927, 73 points above the NL average of .282. Trout is currently batting .353, 97 points above the AL average. (For anyone who doesn’t know my policy, I don’t count the Federal League as a major league, so tough luck, Benny Kauff and your .370 rookie BA. Send me a SASEmail and I’ll send you my reasons. Also, George Watkins hit .373 as a pure rookie in 1930 and did qualify for the batting title by the standard of the day, but by today’s standard of 3.1-PA-per-team-game, he was 53 PAs short.)
@Red Sox 10, White Sox 1: Young Pedro Hernandez got a rude introduction to the big leagues, to Fenway Park, and to the lefty-mashing proclivities of Cody Ross. The BoSox RF launched 3-run moon shots in the 3rd and 4th to lead an 8-run, 12-hit assault on the rook — the most hits inflicted in a debut since 1985, and the most runs in a debut since last June. To his credit and true to his form, Hernandez threw strikes, giving just 1 walk and 29 balls out of 87 pitches; his career minor-league walk rate is a slim 1.6 BB/9 in over 400 IP.
- Ross began the night with an 1.139 OPS against southpaws this year and .931 career, then went 3 for 5 with 10 total bases against them. He has 9 HRs and 24 RBI in 67 ABs off portside dealings in 2012.
- Congratulations if you pegged Felix Doubront as the first Boston pitcher to reach 10 wins this year (10-4, 4.24). The southpaw has been bathed in run support, now just over 7 R/G; half his wins have been backed by 10+ runs. Doubront did pitch well tonight, as did Mark Melancon, who’s allowed 1 run and an 0.61 WHIP in 16.1 IP since returning from Pawtucket, where he was similarly dominant.
- Carl Crawford has scored 2 runs in all 3 of his games so far, matching the longest streak of his career, and Jacoby Ellsbury is 11 for 27 since his return. Boston is 2nd in MLB in scoring; if they get any pitching, a wild card spot is well within reach.
- Since 1918, only one other ChiSox debut saw as many as 12 hits allowed: Fabian Kowalik, 1932. It would be 3 years before Kowalik got another start, and he finished his career 1-8, 6.87 as a starter. Only two other Southside debuts since 1918 suffered as many as 8 runs, including Arnie Munoz in 2004; he never got another start.
@Yankees 6, Blue Jays 0: Once upon a time, Ricky Romero was 8-1 — thanks mainly to run support well over 6 R/G. Now he’s lost 5 straight starts, the last 3 by shutout, and it hardly seemed to matter that Toronto got only 7 at-bats today due to the rain. Today Romero allowed 12 hits, the high for his career and for any 2012 Blue Jay; he’s now 3-5, 5.37 in 11 career starts against the Yanks.
- The good side of Hiroki Kuroda was on view: His 5th scoreless game of 7+ IP put him in a tie for the MLB lead, and he’s allowed just 6 runs total in his 9 wins (0.84 ERA). He also has 4 “disasters,” second only to Phil Hughes in the pinstripe rotation. (The rest of their regulars have just 3 combined, none by Sabathia or Pettitte.) Kuroda’s ERA is over 6 in his 10 non-winning starts.
- New York welcomed Wounded Warriors before the game, then watched helplessly as yet another Blue Jay toppled onto the limping wounded ranks.
- The sweep of Toronto (six, six, six…) put the Yanks on pace for their second 100-win season in 6 years under Joe Girardi.
- Francisco Liriano (6 IP, 10 Ks) is the first in 5 years to lose consecutive starts with 10+ strikeouts, and just the 3rd since 2011 to have 2 such losses in a season. Since his bullpen time-out, Liriano has a 2.84 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 77 Ks in 63.1 IP, but a 3-4 record.