@Indians 6, White Sox 5 (10 inn.) — Carlos Santana led off the home 10th with a full-count home run, and after a game such as this, even the hard-bitten Cleveland fans should be able to read this without feeling doomed: The Indians have taken over a wild-card spot.
Their own hard work and some outside help had presented the chance, but the Tribe would need all their resolve to finally pull it off. A 3-0 lead dissolved into a 2-run hole by the last of the 9th, which Michael Brantley began with his 2nd double. They loaded the bases with no outs against Addison Reed, and tied it up with sac flies by Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis. Dylan Axelrod, dropped from Chicago’s rotation at the All-Star Break, came on in the 10th for his 2nd relief try. Santana’s clout was their 3rd walk-off bomb in 6 games, and extended their win streak to 7.
Corey Kluber threw strikes all night, but his defense and bullpen let him down a bit. Tied in the 9th, he got the first 2 outs but left after a single, and Cody Allen yielded hit-walk-hit for 2 runs. Kluber gave up 3 runs in the 6th, with the leveler set up by Michael Bourn’s questionable throw home that let Alex Rios scoot into scoring position; he scored on Adam Dunn’s single, and a lineout and groundout ended the inning.
- Even so, Kluber posted a 3-flat ERA in 6 July outings, and has strong basic stats for the year: 25 walks and 110 Ks in 114.2 IP.
- Cleveland leads the majors with 5 walk-off HRs and 9 game-winning RBI.
- Reed blew up his last save try against Cleveland, in the June 28 doubleheader that sparked their resurgence. They’re 19-10 since that day.
@Tigers 11, Nationals 1 — Justin Verlander was on the ropes again. The home fans had barely sat down, and already the first three guests were aboard. Verlander looked ready to walk the ballpark — or, worse, groove a 2-and-0 pitch to Jayson Werth.
But they needn’t have worried. Werth just missed it, JV nipped the damage at one tally, and soon the Tigers were mauling Gio Gonzalez for 10 runs, in two equal installments. This was no vintage Verlander — 5 walks in 6 innings, 3 times on base for his nemesis, Denard Span (17 for 44). But he mustered 3 RISP whiffs of Adam LaRoche, Washington’s best clutch hitter so far, and once the score reached 10-1 in the 4th, it was more like a bullpen session.
- Torii (“Don’t touch that calendar!”) Hunter led the all-hands assault with 4 hits, and might have completed his first cycle (Detroit’s first since ’06) if not for the courtesy stop sign imposed on Alex Avila by 3rd-base coach Gene Lamont. Hunter hit .374 and slugged .697 in July with 7 HRs, almost twice his total through June.
- But Victor Martinez is the July hits leader (pending late games), with 3 today and 41 for 105 this month, giving Jim Leyland a win over impatient bloggers. V-Mart came in at .232 and goes at .274.
- Detroit sputtered into July at 43-37, tied with the Indians, but they went 18-8 and outscored their foes by 153-92. They now sport the best run differential in MLB
- Ten runs off Gio were 3 more than he’d ever allowed for the Nationals.
@Pirates 5, Cardinals 4 — Neil Walker tagged up and hustled to 2nd on a deep fly to left, then scored the lead run on Russell Martin’s hard single, as the Jolly Roger was raised yet again. The Cardinals scored 2 in the first, matching their max from the last 6 games, and knocked out Jeff Locke with 4 runs and 10 hits in 4 innings. But they left 7 on base in those frames, 5 in scoring position, and Pittsburgh came back with five singletons, 4 off Adam Wainwright. Vin Mazzaro and Tony Watson each got 6 outs, and Mark Melancon finished briskly for his 5th save. Walker homered, Starling Marte bagged his 31st steal, and each scored twice, while Clint Barmes drove in a run for the 3rd time in 4 games after a 20-start dry spell.
- Pittsburgh’s won the first 4 of this 5-game face-off, and 6 in a row vs. the Cards, building a 2.5-game lead and a 65-42 record — their best at this point since 1972.
- Those expecting an uptick in Jeff Locke’s .236 BAbip may have nodded. On the bright side, he fanned 6 and walked but one.
Diamondbacks 7, Rays 0 — Eric Chavez and Paul Goldschmidt each homered and combined for 4 hits, 4 runs and 4 ribbies, while Wade Miley worked around 5 walks in 6.1 innings of 2-hit ball. Tampa trailed 4-0 in the 3rd and never mounted a threat.
- Even bigger news: Alex Torres gave up a hit in his 3rd straight outing, now at 10 hits in 33 IP this year.
Blue Jays 5, @Athletics 2 (10 inn.) — Jose Reyes sparked the winning rally with an infield hit, and Jose Bautista redeemed his costly throwing error with a go-ahead double, as Toronto became the first visitors in 6 weeks to win consecutive games and/or a series in Oakland. R.A. Dickey went 6 innings on 2 unearned runs (including his first E of the year), and four Jays relievers retired 12 of 14. Bartolo Colon allowed a run of each flavor over 6 stanzas, giving him 15 straight quality starts — the longest streak of the last 3 seasons, and an A’s record for the live-ball era.
- Colby Rasmus capped a strong month with 3 hits, a double and 2 RBI. He hit .371 in July, and now stands at .277 with a .490 slugging average.
Reds 4, @Padres 1 — An error spoiled Homer Bailey’s chance at a shutout, but he snapped the Reds’ 5-game skid and his own 4-loss skein since his no-hitter. Chase Headley’s 2-out error led to a 3-run 7th, with Joey Votto’s 2-run double ending his 6-game RBI drought. Brandon Phillips had 3 hits for the first time in 75 games, in which span he hit .250 with a .680 OPS, but 59 RBI. Aroldis Chapman was hustled in as soon as the “save” light went on, getting 2 outs with the tying run nowhere in sight.
- Out of 21 closers with 20+ saves, Chapman ranks 16th in Win Probability Added. (Jim Johnson, the MLB saves leader, is next-to-last on that WPA list.) Chapman’s converted a solid percentage (25 of 29), but a lot of his saves have been ho-hum, as leverage goes.
- Votto’s made 12 errors, 3 more than any other first baseman, but he’s still near the top of the Defensive Runs Saved metric. (No opinion is expressed or implied by this statement; I am just noting a fact.)
Astros 11, @Orioles 0 — A 4-run 2nd invoked one of this year’s strongest themes: “Never trust a Houston lead.” But they just kept pulling away. A grand slam and 2 doubles gave Jason Castro 42 extra-base hits, tops on the team by far and one off the catchers’ lead. Matt Dominguez homered for his first 4-hit game, and young Robbie Grossman finally went deep in his 31st game.
- Brett Oberholtzer got his first start in the majors after 105 down on the farm, and he earned the win with 7 zippy frames on 3 harmless singles.
@Red Sox 4, Mariners 4 (14th) — Dustin Pedroia hit a go-ahead moonshot off Ollie Perez in the 7th, but red-hot Kyle Seager tied it right back up with a blast against Junichi Tazawa, and by now they’re “touchin’ hands” all over again on Yawkey Way.
- Seager in July: 38 for 94 (.404) with 6 HRs and 21 runs in 25 games. His double plated the first run, and he’s now hitting .299/.865 for the year.
- “I’ve been inclined / to believe they never would….” Out of 24 chances, it’s the first time this year that the Red Sox went from trailing to leading in the home 7th. They tied it up three other times.
Yankees 0, @Dodgers 0 (7th) — The meeting of ex-teammates Kuroda and Kershaw seems all that it should be, but some of us have to work in the morning.
Blue Jays 5, @Athletics 0 — Mark Buehrle backed up last Thursday’s 2-hitter with seven easy ovals, good for a 20-inning scoreless streak. Jose Bautista roped his 25th HR, and Steve Delabar struck out the side on 9 pitches in the 8th.
- Delabar has the first outing since July 2011 with at least 3 strikeouts and Pitches=3*SO. His current teammate, Juan Perez, was the last to do that. Delabar has 70 Ks in 48 IP, with 37 in his last 18. He’s on track for the highest SO/9 by a Blue Jay with 50+ innings.
- Despite cooling off in the last two seasons, Bautista’s 149 HRs since 2010 still leads the majors, with Miguel Cabrera 2nd (144). Eight more dingers this year would put him in the all-time top 10 for ages 29-32 combined.
Brewers 3, @Cubs 2 (2nd game) — It wasn’t enough that the guests hogged all the wins; oh, no. Milwaukee had to go and scratch up the paint on Kevin Gregg, causing Theo Epstein to wheel him out of the July Sales Event! tent. The dings weren’t deep ones — this one’s a boot, quite frankly — but he’ll need a good buff-and-polish to spruce up his 6.00 ERA, 1.94 WHIP and sub-1 SO/BB ratio over his last 17 games.
- Carlos Gomez drew 3 walks for the first time in his 776 games. Each came on a full count, which is kind of interesting. His career walk rate is 5.1% of PAs, far below the MLB average of 8.1% for non-pitchers; but on a full count, he’s almost normal (28% vs. 29%). He just doesn’t get to full counts at a normal rate (9.7% vs. 12.5%).
- It’s not been a good year for the Cubs’ “cornerstone” position players. You know all about Starlin Castro‘s regression, but Anthony Rizzo has also gone backwards since May. In his last 52 games, he’s batting .214/.696, with 4 HRs. He may be hitting in bad luck, and there are still things to build on — solid SO/BB rates, and almost half his hits going for extras this year — but a Wrigley-based first baseman hitting .239 (and.183 with RISP) lacks the feel of a franchise anchor. (Now watch, he’ll hit a HR or two Wednesday.)