Tuesday game notes
@Cardinals 4, Pirates 3 (14 inn.) – With Jon Jay on 2nd after a single and a steal, Adron Chambers sliced a hit to left, and Jay just beat the throw, giving Chambers his first RBI this year and first-ever game-winning hit. That capped the Cards’ late comeback, and trimmed their division deficit to 2 games. Jay had 4 hits, and Redbirds hurlers held Pittsburgh scoreless for the last 11 stanzas.
The Bucs jumped out early on Andrew McCutchen’s 2-run shot and another HR against Adam Wainwright, but St. Louis narrowed it with 2 runs on 4 singles in the 6th. They tied it in the 9th off Mark Melancon: LF Starling Marte’s 7th error put the tying run on 2nd with 1 out, and a 2-out walk to Carlos Beltran brought up Mr. Clutch, Allen Craig. He was hitting .500 with 2 or more on base (34-68), and his single to right tied the game — but defensive replacement Josh Harrison hit the cutoff man, and Beltran was caught en route to 3rd to end the inning.
Both teams escaped dire straits with nifty plays in extra time. Craig saved the same run twice in the 10th, first with a sprawling grab, then snaring a high throw to end the threat. St. Louis got a man to 3rd with 1 out in the 11th, and Craig was passed. Mike Matheny’s 10th-inning moves had left the pitcher hitting cleanup and no options, so Clint Hurdle played a 5-man infield, with Harrison stationed near the keystone; when Seth Maness grounded hard to short, Harrison handled a low feed and turned it over crisply. In the top of the 13th, Pittsburgh got 2 in scoring position with 1 out (the lead run spared by Kozma’s diving stop); a pass to Clint Barmes set up Josh Harrison’s room-service chop to 3B Daniel Descalso, who turned a clean 5-5-3. The lack of pinch-hitters bit the Cards again in their 13th, when a 2-out double was followed by IBBs to Beltran and Craig, and Maness struck out looking.
- Melancon was charged with his first blown save (and first run) since taking over closing chores for the injured Jason Grilli three weeks ago.
- Four of this year’s five IBBs with men on 1st and 2nd have worked. The other (to Miguel Cabrera) was followed by Prince Fielder’s go-ahead 3-run double, but Texas came back to win that one.
Marlins 1, @Royals 0 — Christian Yelich’s 3rd hit of the game scored Jake Marisnick, who stole 2nd, and broke up the scoreless duel in the 10th, as Miami won their second 1-0 game in more than 2 years, both in the last four days. Steve Cishek locked up his 20th straight save conversion, and he’s 25-2 in that regard, tied for 8th among the top 26 in saves. The Royals scratched out one walk and 4 singles (3 coming with 2 outs), and got just one man to 2nd base, with 2 outs in the 7th.
Starters Jose Fernandez and Bruce Chen both went seven scoreless, 3-hit innings:
- Chen has a string of 18 scoreless innings. He has a WHIP under 1 in each of his 6 starts, and 0.67 overall in that run. He’s allowed 4 runs in the 6 starts, for an 0.93 ERA. His string of 6 quality starts is a career best, in his 15th season. And among Royals in the last 20 years, only Zack Greinke (2009) had as many as 6 straight starts of 6+ IP and 2 runs or less.
- Fernandez in his last 13 starts (87.1 IP) has allowed 17 runs and 50 hits, for a 1.65 ERA.
@Braves 3, Phillies 1 — Kris Medlen allowed a run in 7 innings and doubled home the game’s first run, winning his 4th straight start to level his record at 10-10 after a 1-6 start. Chris Johnson hit a 2-run homer, and Craig Kimbrel locked up his 37th save and 27th in a row.
- After 11 starts, Medlen was 1-6 with a 3.48 ERA. In the next 13 outings, he’s 9-4 with a 3.92 ERA.
- Kimbrel has 15 straight scoreless innings, the 6th-best streak of his 4-year career.
@D-backs 4, Orioles 3 (11 inn.) — Paul Goldschmidt led off the 9th and 11th with home runs, tying and then winning a game that Baltimore had led 3-0 after 6 innings. The Oriole offense stopped after J.J. Hardy homered leading off the 5th, notching just 2 more singles the rest of the way, and besides that HR and a 2-run crunch by Chris Davis, they got just 2 other men as far as 2nd base all night. Baltimore held 2 games out of a wild card and fell 6 back of Boston, while the Snakes stayed 5.5 behind a wild card and 7.5 back of the rampaging Dodgers.
- Goldschmidt (29 HRs, 93 RBI) added the NL home-run leadership to his portfolio of RBI and total bases.
- Jim Johnson blew his 8th save and 2nd in a row. His 39 saves leads the majors, but his 83% conversion rate is next-to-last among those with 21 or more saves.
- The O’s are 14-20 in one-run games, after last year’s historic 29-9. (I’m not looking for a fight, here; it’s just a fact.)
- Davis’s 44 HRs are the 4th-best total in Orioles/Browns history. He connected with 2 outs and a man on 2nd base in the 4th. The lack of intentional walks to Davis remains puzzling. He’s drawn just 2 IBBs in his last 43 games, and 11 all year, even though Baltimore’s #6 hitters have been lousy — .244 BA, .692 OPS.
- Baltimore leads the majors with 160 HRs hit, and with 152 HRs allowed.
- J.J. Hardy leads all 2013 shortstops with 22 HRs and 66 RBI. He has five seasons of 20+ HRs; just six shortstops have more.
@Nationals 4, Giants 2 — Adam LaRoche’s 2-run HR broke a tie in the 6th, as Washington won their 4th straight in a rain-delayed affair that knocked out both Gio Gonzalez and Madison Bumgarner after 4 innings.
- The Nats’ streak is their best since July 4-7, which left them 4 games behind Atlanta. They now trail by 14, thanks to their own 12-18 mark since then and Atlanta’s torrid 23-9.
- Seven of the Giants’ 8 substitutes (including pitchers) went into the leadoff spot. It’s the first time in 5 years that a team used 8 men in the top spot in a regulation game.
- #2 man Joaquin Arias had 4 of S.F.’s 10 hits and scored both runs. Nos. 3-8 each had one hit, but the Jints were 1-9 with RISP.
Mariners 5, @Rays 4 – Both sides got 2 home runs from their leadoff man, the 3rd such game in searchable history. But the run that led to Tampa’s 6th straight loss came on a Dustin Ackley triple over CF(?) Wil Myers, scoring Justin Smoak after one of his two key hits. The Rays have lost 8 of 10, falling from alone in 1st place to 4 games behind Boston.
- Seattle’s rookie SS Brad Miller has 4 home runs — 2 tonight, and 2 on July 19. Out of 20 multi-HR games by a Seattle shortstop, Alex Rodriguez owns 15, Miller has 2, and Brian Giles, Rey Quinones and Todd Cruz have one each. This year, only Miller and Troy Tulowitzki have two multi-HR games at shortstop.
- Ben Zobrist also homered twice, playing second base. It’s the first MLB game since 2008 with 2 or more HRs by two middle infielders — and Zobrist was part of that one, too. In both cases, the other slugger was the visiting SS, batting leadoff. Zobrist has just one other multi-HR game.
- Miller’s other multi-HR game was the same one in which Houston’s Brandon Barnes hit for the cycle.
- The other games with 2 HRs by both leadoff men: Chuck Knoblauch and Tony Phillips, 1994; Joe Morgan and Felipe Alou, 1965. (Do check out Morgan’s unique leadoff line: 6 for 6, 2 HRs.)
@White Sox 4, Tigers 3 (11 inn.) – With 2 outs in the 11th, Phil “Coke Zero” allowed a game-winning single to his only batter, the lefty Alejandro De Aza, as Detroit lost their 4th in 5 games. Miguel Cabrera went 0-5 for the first time since Opening Day, and the Tigers made the least of their 16 runners who reached safely, plus 3 errors by ChiSox SS Alexei Ramirez. Two of those gaffes led directly to Detroit runs in the 6th and 8th innings, the latter tying matters. But Detroit had no extra-base hits, hit into 2 DPs, and went 2-15 with RISP. And despite his bobbles, Ramirez saved a run in the 11th, ranging almost across the diamond to throw out the hobbled Cabrera.
Chicago broke out of a 1-0 hole in the 4th. Max Scherzer had set down 9 in a row, but he hit one and walked another to start that frame. After whiffing Dunn and Konerko, Max was one strike from getting out of it. But ex-teammate Avisail Garcia tripled to right, and came home himself when the throw got away from the inflexible Cabrera.
Detroit got 4 hits and 3 walks in the 2nd and 3rd innings, but scored just once. They had men on the corners and 1 out in the 3rd, Victor Martinez hitting with a full count. V-Mart swung and missed, and the play-by-play says that Torii Hunter was “caught stealing home.” That doesn’t seem rational, but I haven’t seen the play yet.
- Ramirez has tied his career high with 20 errors.
- Is Joaquin Benoit injured? I find no such report, yet he hasn’t pitched in a week, while Detroit has lost 3 walk-off games in their last 5 contests, two in extra innings.
- As good as Detroit looked during their 12-game win streak, they’re still a flawed team. If Cabrera doesn’t hit a home run, they’re a plodding, sequential offense, with 3 of the AL’s top 10 DPsters. The lost Jhonny Peralta was their 2nd-most productive hitter, and Jose Iglesias can’t hit his way out of a tissue box. And Cabrera really can’t move at all right now.
Brewers 5, @Rangers 1 – Scooter Gennett homered twice off Alexi Ogando, matching his prior career total in 25 games, and stopping the Texas streak at 8 wins. It’s the fourth 2-HR game ever by a Brewers #9 batter, and their first as a National League team. (That Brewers list includes one of the four searchable 3-HR games by a #9 hitter, from Dale Sveum in 1987. And that list, in turn, includes the famous Shamsky game.)
@Yankees 14, Angels 7 – The Bombers set a season high with 19 hits, helping CC Sabathia even his record at 10-10 on a night that he labored as he has all year. Sabathia lasted 6 innings and walked 6, his most since 2010. He let in 3 runs early, with some shoddy defense behind him, but the first of Alfonso Soriano’s 2 HRs gave him a 4-3 lead in the 5th. CC promptly walked the bases full, but he was bailed out when a runner scoring on a flyout was wrongly judged to have left the base too soon, and the DP ended the inning. The Yanks tacked on 10 more in their next three raps, 6 of those off the forgotten Joe Blanton, and more than enough to survive a rocky return by Dellin Betances, who allowed 4 runs (3 on Mike Trout’s HR) in his 3rd career appearance and first since 2011.
- Soriano set a new career high with 6 RBI, and Eduardo Nunez tied his best with 4 driven in.
- The outburst snapped a 35-game string of single-digit runs, New York’s 3rd longest of the last 20 years. Their 2nd-longest streak came earlier this year (47 games); the longest was 53 games last year.
- The Yanks have scored 10+ runs five times this year. They had 13 or more such games in each of the previous 20 years.
- It’s the 62nd AL game this year where every starter for one team had a hit — but the first one for the Yankees.
- Vernon Wells homered for the first time since May 15, snapping a career-longest drought of 63 games and 206 ABs. Wells batted .199 with 10 walks, 16 RBI and 15 runs during that spell, and began the night with career-worst season marks of .364 slugging, .648 OPS and 78 OPS+.
Red Sox 4, @Blue Jays 2 (11 inn.) — With 2 outs and a 1-2 count, Shane Victorino drove a single to CF, scoring 2 and leading Boston to an extra-inning win. Toronto had tied it in the 8th on a 3-and-1 HR by J.P. Arencibia, the 8th allowed by Junichi Tazawa, taking a win away from Ryan Dempster. Jacoby Ellsbury swiped a pair, and each led to a run. David Ortiz reached 4 times, but none led to a run, as the three behind him went 1 for 14. Koji Uehara got the last 4 outs for the win.
- For years that caught stealing have been counted, Ellsbury’s 44 SB against 4 CS would be the best success rate ever by a BoSox with more than 20 steals, and tied for 8th best by any 40-steal man.
- Uehara’s last 15 appearances: no runs, 5 hits, 1 walk and 22 Ks in 17.1 IP. His season WHIP is 0.68, his ERA 1.32.
@Dodgers 4, Mets 2 — Who here is ready to see L.A. drop about 10 in a row? My hand is up, but it’s not likely to happen with Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the rotation, and Kenley Jansen at the back end.
- As for Matt Harvey, he fanned his first 2 batters, then hardly put another pitch where he wanted it, allowing all 4 runs on 8 well-struck hits, while walking 2 to triple his post-Break total.
- He’s the first since 1990 with consecutive scoreless starts of 8+ IP and 2 Ks or less (regardless of the point in their career). Dennis Cook did it in his first 2 starts of 1990, at which point he owned 3 shutouts in 24 career starts. Cook would start 47 more games, but never got another shutout.
- The shutout by Albers was just the 4th time in the last 20 years that a Game Score of 85 or higher was achieved with no more than 2 strikeouts. Aaron Cook (2012) and Jake Peavy (2005) each scored 85 with 2-K, 0-walk 2-hitters, and Jon Lieber (2001) scored 86 on a 1-walk 1-hitter.
In 11 starts from June 16, Chacin has averaged over 7 IP with an RA/9 just under 2. His season home-run rate, 0.3 HR/9, would be the best ever by a Rockies hurler with 150 IP, and his 138 ERA+ would be 2nd on that list.
Is Jhoulys Chacin really this good? He’s always been effective, posting a 126 ERA+ in 400 innings from 2010-12. But his control has improved immensely this year, from a steady 4.0 BB/9 in 2010-12 down to 2.4 BB/9 this year. There are three other big and interesting changes in his rates this year:
- His SO% has fallen for the 3rd straight year, from a high of 23.7% of batters in 2010 and a 19.3% average for 2010-12, down to 14.9% this year.
- His HR% has plunged, from 2.3% for 2010-12 all the way to 0.8% this year.
- His DP% has soared, from 11% of DP chances for 2010-12 to 18% this year.
When a drop in K rate comes with improved results, it usually means a lower batting average on balls in play (BAbip). And that would be a red flag, as BAbip tends to regress towards the mean. But in Chacin’s case, the other factor in “balls in play” — home runs — has dropped so sharply that his BAbip this year is actually a bit higher than for 2010-12, by .287-.282.
So, then, how “real” is this year’s HR rate? Here, his batted-ball ratios do raise a caution flag: Chacin’s ratio of ground balls to fly balls hasn’t changed (0.98 for 2010-12, 0.93 this year), but the rate at which his flies have left the park has dropped off a cliff — 7.5% to 2.3%.
Some of that may fall to overall changes in the Coors Field park effects; the one-year park factor is down from 125 last season to 107 so far this year. Chacin has allowed 4 HRs in 14 home starts this year, and teammate Jorge De La Rosa has fared even better, with 2 HRs in 11 home starts. Yet Chacin’s home/road ratios are not atypical; his ERA is 4.00 in Coors, but 1.87 in 9 road starts, with just 1 HR.
Chacin’s higher DP% may reflect improvement in Colorado’s up-the-middle defense, especially at SS, with Troy Tulowitzki able to play more this year, and his replacements faring much better than last season. The Rockies’ team DP% is up from 10% to 12%. But there likely is some air in Chacin’s DP numbers. He’s 3rd in DP% among NL qualifiers, but 16th in GB/FB ratio.
The foundation of all Chacin has done this year is his improved control. A low walk rate has value in itself — while his BA allowed is up from .240 (2010-12) to .249, his OBP is down from .326 to .300. What’s more, the sharp decline in walks suggests that he’s more often hit his target, which would tend to produce fewer HRs and perhaps more timely grounders. Still, the dramatic improvement in his HR% and DP%, with no concurrent change in his ground ball rate, suggests that his recent success is at least a little bit flukey.
While the Coors park factor is down this year, several Rockies regulars still have big home/road differentials:
- DJ LeMahieu – .323/.840 home, .227/.523 away, 145 tOPS+ (ratio of home OPS to overall OPS).
- Troy Tulowitzki – .358/1.040 home, .241/.809 away, 124 tOPS+.
- Dexter Fowler – .310 BA/.893 OPS at home, .216/.705 away, 122 tOPS+.
- Michael Cuddyer – .357/1.039 home, .301/.845 away, 121 tOPS+.
- Nolan Arenado – .288/.783 home, .244/.646 away, 118 tOPS+.
This Sunday featured 3 complete games, and Monday brought 4 more — 7 of this year’s 86 CGs in a two-day span. There are just two other dates this year with 3 complete games — July 9 and July 13. (The latter had Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter, plus a Zack Greinke/Tyler Chatwood 1-0 duel.)
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