Tuesday game notes: Last-second reversals
@Cardinals 2, Nationals 0 — Michael Wacha was achingly close to a no-hitter. One out away, in just his 9th big-league start, the fastball he threw for his career-high 112th pitch had Ryan Zimmerman beaten, and all he could do was chop it back towards the mound. Wacha stands 6′ 6″ …
… but the ball just cleared his glove. Pete Kozma raced in behind the mound and almost made a miracle save with a bare-hand pickup, but his rushed throw pulled Matt Adams off the bag, and the swipe tag missed Zimmerman. Trevor Rosenthal came in to finish the Cardinals’ 93rd win, preserving their 2-game lead on the Bucs with 4 left for each.
Wacha set down the first 14 Nats (7 Ks) before Matt Carpenter’s error, but he came through the 6th with no others aboard. A walk opened the 7th, but 3 infield outs followed, and Wacha was through 7 on 86 pitches; 102 was his MLB high, and in a close game and a pennant race, with Wacha due at bat in the home 8th, the chance to finish could not be assured. That context loomed large when he walked Adam LaRoche starting the 8th, after a 1-2 count, and then threw two balls to Wilson Ramos. But the catcher rapped one to short, and they turned it, and Shane Robinson tracked down Anthony Rendon’s fly to left. Three outs to go, at 99 pitches.
In the 9th, Steve Lombardozzi took two balls, fouled the next, and bounced out to Kozma. Denard Span was next. Back in the 6th, he’d tried a bunt up the third-base line, hoping to bring the tying run to the plate — the supposedly savvy St. Louis fans booed lustily, perhaps forgetting that you play to win the game — but David Freese let it roll, and it turned foul. Now Span fought back from 0-2 to a full count, but Wacha got the call for his 9th strikeout. And then it was down to Zimmerman.
- The last Cardinals no-hitter was Bud Smith, 2001, his 11th start, 13th game. Wacha was in his 15th game; eleven pitchers since 1916 have bagged a no-hitter within 15 games.
- Carpenter’s 55th double set up the breakthrough run. Might we see 60? Carpenter owns one 5-game doubling streak this year, with 6 doubles and 13 hits from August 10-15. He’s scored 25 runs in 23 games this month, 125 runs for the year — most in the NL in the last 5 years.
- The last 60-double season was in 1936, by Joe Medwick. Todd Helton had a great shot in 2000, with 59 doubles and 7 games left, but his hits went too far — 4 HRs, 11 RBI in that last week.
@Indians 5, White Sox 4 — Chris Perez yielded two solo shots in the 9th, putting the Tribe in a 4-3 hole and silencing a crowd that was itching to tear off a page from the countdown calendar. The scoreboard showed Texas was winning; now they would be tied in the loss column. Down to their last out, with a man on 1st, Jason Giambi came off the bench, owning 10 pinch-hit HRs in 209 PAs, five of them walk-offs. Michael Brantley stole on the 2nd pitch by Addison Reed, but no matter: Giambi launched the next one to right. Game over. Fandemonium.
Ubaldo Jimenez started off sharp, as he’s been since August, but Hector Santiago matched him through 6 innings, tied at one. Chicago nosed ahead in the 7th, as Alejandro De Aza drove in an inherited runner off Cody Allen. But Cleveland flipped that right around, with Michael Brantley’s tying HR on Santiago’s first pitch of the 7th, and then a small-ball run knocked in by Kipnis. Joe Smith handled the 8th; he’s allowed 2 runs in his last 25 games. Dayan Viciedo led the 9th with an opposite-field shot, tying the game, but Perez whiffed the next two. Then De Aza struck again, jumping a first-pitch fastball over the right-center wall for his 17th HR, all from the leadoff spot.
- Giambi pinch-hitting with 2 outs, career: 7 HRs in 90 PAs. He came in 3 for his last 27, with no RBI. He has just 33 hits this year (.181 BA), but 9 HRs, 8 doubles and 31 RBI.
- Reed has had troubles all year, but he hadn’t surrendered a game-winning HR in his last 90 outings.
- Chicago’s record for home runs batting 1st is 19, by Ray Durham, 1998. De Aza is 3rd in the majors this year, behind Coco Crisp (22) and Shin-Soo Choo (21).
@Rangers 3, Astros 2 — Adrian Beltre broke a tie in the 6th with his 29th home run, and first since August 28, and the Rangers followed up Monday’s laugher with a tense win against baseball’s worst team. Yu Darvish had another choppy 1st inning, with 2 walks after a single setting up a sac fly. Brad Peacock held that lead until 2 outs in the 4th, when Geovany Soto’s 0-and-2 single cashed in Peacock’s first walk. The Rangers scratched again in the 5th on a leadoff hit, a sac bunt, and Ian Kinsler’s go-ahead single. But Matt Dominguez evened it up with a leadoff home run, and Darvish left after 5.1 IP and his 4th walk. Phenomenal Neal Cotts got the last 2 outs of the 6th with the lead run on 2nd, lifting his strand rate to 24/28. After Beltre’s bash, Tanner Scheppers picked where Cotts left off, stranding the tying run on 2nd from no outs in the 7th; he passed the baton with 2 outs and 2 on in the 8th to Jason Frasor, who got the ball to reliable Joe Nathan.
- Houston dropped their 11th straight, and tied last year’s club record of 107 losses. They had never lost more than 97 before 2011, but have now lost 106+ three years in a row. Only one other team has lost 105 more than twice in a row: the 1962-65 Mets.
- Nine Ks for Darvish, 269 for the year — behind only Nolan Ryan in franchise history (301 Ks in 1989), and tied for the most in MLB since 2004 (Randy Johnson, 290).
- The Rangers, Red Sox and Braves all have 3 pitchers with 50+ IP and ERAs under 2.
Pirates 8, @Cubs 2 — Gerrit Cole reeled off his 4th straight win and 8th straight quality start, and his 2-run hit highlighted the Bucs’ 3-run 2nd. Pedro Alvarez hit two key doubles, his first time in 26 starts with 2 extra-base hits, and the Bucs pulled ahead of the Reds in the wild-card race that will be settled this weekend in Cincy.
- Pittsburgh’s past 17 games saw one inning of 4+ runs. They’d scored 3 runs or less in 7 of their past 10 games.
- Cole has a 2.45 RA/9 in his last 8 outings. He’s the first Pirates pure rookie to win 10 since 1999 (Kris Benson), and at 19 games, he’s the fastest Buc to 10 wins since 1987 (Mike Dunne).
Mets 4, @Reds 2 — Mike Leake came in with a 20-inning scoreless string, but the Mets routed him with a 4-run 2nd, and the Reds could only get halfway back against Jon Niese, despite numerous chances. The turning point came in Cincy’s first raps: Ryan Ludwick singled with 2 on and 1 out, but Juan Lagares nailed Shin-Soo Choo at home, his 13th assist in 112 games. Niese struck out Jay Bruce to end that uprising, and the Mets bagged a quick run in their 2nd. With 2 outs and a man on 1st, Eric Young’s long drive bounced over the wall, and the runner was sent back to 3rd, left up to Daniel Murphy. He fouled off four 2-strike offers, and on the 10th pitch, he fired a 3-run bullet. The Reds got the tying run to bat in the 9th on a wild strike three, but Zack Cozart hit hard to the box, and Vic Black coolly turned it over to see his first save.
- Cincinnati fell 3 back of the Cardinals, 1 from the Pirates.
Rays 7, @Yankees 0 — Matt Joyce clubbed the third pitch from Hiroki Kuroda into the RF seats, and the Yankees never got back in the game and fell to the brink of elimination. Tampa shot ahead 3-0 in the opening stanza, and though Matt Moore walked 6 in the first 4 frames, New York left 8 men aboard in that span, and went 0-10 with RISP all game.
- Tampa’s 3rd run scored on a sac fly, starting a run of 16 straight men who did not reach safely (one infield error). Kuroda’s yielded 23 first-inning runs this year, with a BA north of .340. He had similar 1st-inning troubles last year.
Tigers 4, @Twins 2 — Detroit’s in the tourney for the third straight year, though Ty Cobb would roll over to see his record “tied” by mere division winners. V-Mart and Omar Infante opened the 4th with home runs, and 3 batters later, Austin Jackson made it a threesome. Doug Fister earned his 14th win, working through early trouble to get 19 outs on 2 runs, and Joaquin Benoit bounced back from his first blown save with a 3-strikeout 9th.
- Detroit has five 13-game winners for the first time in club history, and they lead this year’s majors in SP wins (75), innings, SO/9, SO/BB, and strikeouts (by a margin of 103).
@Braves 3, Brewers 2 — Andrelton Simmons stroked a 2-out game-ender, his 3rd walk-off hit this year. Still needs a home run for the walk-off cycle.
- Tyler Thornburg’s 7 starts: 9 runs (7 ER) in 43 IP, a 1.88 RA/9. Each start has been 6+ innings, no more than 2 runs allowed.
- Scooter Gennett made a key error, but he also had 2 more knocks. He didn’t hit in his first trial, back in June, but he’s at .355 in 41 games for his 2nd stint.
@Mariners 4, Royals 0 — James Paxton‘s made 4 starts, winning 3, all against playoff teams or contenders. This was his best: 10 Ks and no walks in 7 innings, all but ending K.C.’s playoff dream. Only one other Mariner has fanned 10 by his 4th game; now, that’s good company.
Dodgers 2, @Giants 1 (8th inn.) –
A young man hit the ball quite some distance, and Matt Cain seemed surprised.
Unfinished Monday notes
(Sloppy, I know, but I’m not going back.)
@Rays 5, Orioles 4 — Chris Davis hit his 52nd HR, but Baltimore’s bullpen blew a 4-2 lead, and James Loney’s walk-off home run finished a 4-game sweep that virtually killed the O’s playoff hopes. But no one concerned about Baltimore baseball is thinking beyond the dreadful knee injury that befell Manny Machado at the end of his 189th hit, 6th-most by any MLB player age 20 or under.
Wil Myers drove in the 2 tying runs against Darren O’Day in the 7th, on a 2-out bloop that just barely fell in as two fielders collided. Matt Wieters led off the 8th with a double, but was out stretching for 3rd, as Ben Zobrist chased down a long carom in left and fired a seed. Nate McLouth’s subsequent bunt double was stranded. The O’s went down one-two-three in the 9th, ending with Davis looking at a 2-2 pitch. Tommy Hunter, who had worked through his own 2-walk jam in the 8th, pumped an 0-and-1 fastball right into a left-hander’s happy zone, and suffered his 11th home run in 173 PAs against lefties this year, three of them game-enders and two of those in Tampa.
- Machado played 207 consecutive games from the start of his career.
@Rangers 9, Astros 0 — The year just can’t end fast enough for the Astros, but the Rangers have need of them.
Houston’s lost 10 in a row, scoring 2 runs or less in nine of them and 14 runs overall. They’re 2-25 against Texas, 4-15 vs. Oakland.
Royals 6, @Mariners 5 (12 inn.) –
B/7th — A good jump and great speed got Jarrod Dyson close enough to this drive to be charged with a 3-base error, scoring pinch-runner Michael Saunders to tie the game in the 7th. (Saunders had run for Justin Smoak after a 1-out walk. Smoak must be pretty slow to get pulled in that spot — ah, yes, he is very slow.) Nick Franklin drove in the go-ahead run, Seattle up 3-2.
T/8th — K.C. jumped back on top when Franklin threw wildly on a sure DP pivot that would have ended the inning. By rule, they can’t charge an error for not getting the 2nd out, only for the batter-runner advancing to 2nd base. And that point became moot when Billy Butler was intentionally walked, because all walks are the same for earned run purposes. So when Salvador Perez delivered a 2-out insurance hit, just beyond Franklin’s reach, both runs that scored after the failed DP turn were earned runs, due to quirks in the scoring rules. Anyway…
@Cardinals 4, Nationals 3 — St. Louis came back from an early deficit and went ahead on Carlos Beltran’s 24th HR — the first ever in 46.2 IP by Tanner Roark and the Cards’ only extra-base hit of the game, but enough to hang Roark with his first loss (7-1, 1.74). Adam Wainwright gave up Jayson Werth’s 2-run shot in the 1st, but stuck around for 7 innings, long enough for his 18th win, which is just about average for him.
- Wainwright has 71 wins since 2009, tied for the NL lead with Clayton Kershaw and one other. (Care to guess?) Of course, Wainwright missed one entire season in that span.
- It was Wainwright, of course, who started the game that ended the Nats’ title hopes last year, with a first-inning HR in that one, too.
Pirates 2, @Cubs 1 — Starling Marte came off the bench for defense and wound up with the winning home run, connecting with 2 outs in the 9th, after Kevin Gregg had whiffed the first two. But it almost didn’t stand up: Jason Grilli was one out from the save, with Nate Schierholtz on 1st. Ryan Sweeney looped a hit to right-center, and when Marlon Byrd bobbled the bounce, Schieroltz went for it all, and the relay from McCutchen through Morneau just got him. The win, plus the Nationals’ loss, clinched Pittsburgh’s first playoff berth since Francisco Cabrera.
- Charlie Morton went 7 brilliant innings, 3 hits and a walk on 89 pitches, but Mark Melancon gave up 2 hits and a wild pitch as the Cubs tied the game.
- Neil Walker took Jeff Samardzija deep in the 1st, but the Bucs went 0-6 with RISP.
@Reds 3, Mets 2 (10 inn.) — Shin-Soo Choo wiped out the Reds’ passel of missed chances, driving a hit off the left-center wall to bring the winning run home from 3rd base and clinch no worse than a tie for a playoff spot. Cincinnati left 13 on base during regulation, including a man on 3rd with no outs in the 9th. Johnny Cueto went 7 strong innings in his 2nd start back from long absence, with 2 runs (one earned) on 3 hits and 3 walks. Ex-Red Aaron Harang’s 6-inning stint saw 6 walks and 5 hits, but only 2 runs. Three of the walks went to Joey Votto with men on and 2 outs, one forcing in a run. Aroldis Chapman was in form, smoking the 3 Mets he saw, though they did get 7 fouls (4 by Travis d’Arnaud). Choo returned from a 2-game absence with 3 hits, driving in the first and last runs.
Billy Hamilton’s latest pinch-steal was a comic affair: With 2 outs in a tied 8th, and with no throws over from Frankie Francisco, Hamilton ran on the first pitch. Catcher d’Arnaud had called for a pitchout, but good ol’ Frankie missed the sign and fired one just off the plate. It tipped off d’Arnaud’s back-reaching glove and nailed the ump in the thigh. Did Francisco really think the plan was just to deliver a pitch as if the man on first base was Paul Konerko? He’s been out for most of the year; maybe he just hasn’t heard about Hamilton?
Votto’s 4th walk set a personal high, and a 5th came on purpose in the 9th. That all enabled Ryan Ludwick’s historically awful night: 0-for-5, four times with RISP, stranding 10 men, including the potential winning run on 3rd with 1 out in the 9th. I can’t wait to see the WPA number. (To his credit, Ludwick never whiffed, and had two lineouts.)
- All walks in 5 or more PAs has now happened twice in the last 5 years. The other to do it was in the visitors’ dugout — Mike Baxter, last August 4.
- The same, with no runs scored, was last done in 2008 by Alex Gordon.
- Votto’s practically lapped the field in walks since 2010, leading #2 Prince Fielder by 426-379 and the NL’s #2 man by 426-308 — but while there were 61 four-walk games in MLB and 31 in the NL in those years, Votto never had one until now.
- Choo took over the Reds’ lead with 3 game-ending RBI.
@Twins 4, Tigers 3 (extras) — Joaquin Benoit got 2 big outs in the 8th with the tying run on 2nd, but his quest for a 5-out save met a crashing end in the 9th on Brian Dozier’s leadoff home run, #18. Justin Verlander fanned 10 of the first 15 men, including 6 in a row, and 12 overall in 6 innings. But although he turned over a 3-0 lead, he was not dominant, serving up 6 hits and 3 walks, with Twins in scoring position in the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th.
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