Wednesday game notes: One division hangs by a thread
Mets 1, @Reds 0 — Daisuke Matsuzaka bested Reds ace Mat Latos on both sides of the ball, leading the Mets to the first visiting 1-0 win since 2010 in Great American Ball Park. And before the day shift was over, events in the Gateway City knocked the Reds out of the division race.
Dice-K put down a small threat in the 2nd, and his second career sacrifice set up the Mets’ run in the 3rd, on Eric Young’s squib through a drawn-tight infield. In the Reds’ half, he worked past a leadoff double, helped by a Latos bunt popout. Cincinnati went hitless in 8 ribby chances, two each by Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto. Matsuzaka worked 7.2 innings, his most since April 2011, whiffing Hamilton with his 105th pitch and the tying run on 2nd. Shin-Soo Choo’s huge platoon gap called for a southpaw, but Pedro Feliciano walked him on 4 pitches, then moved up the runners with a wild one to Votto. But Pedro pulled out of the nosedive, getting Joey to fly out. Hard-workin’ Hawkins closed it up cleanly, as the Mets claimed the series and a little revenge for Cincinnati’s visiting sweep back in May.
We knew it would happen, someday: “B Hamilton caught stealing second, catcher to shortstop.” It was almost a pitchout, but it still took a beautiful throw to catch Blazin’ Billy. And who’d have guessed that the honors would fall to Mets rookie catcher Juan Centeno, who’d been victimized twice in this game by Jay Bruce (career 36 SB, 26 CS), and once in his lone prior MLB game by Buster Posey (6-4 career)? Not to mention Dice-K, who had suffered 25 straight successful steals, dating back to 2010. Hamilton had swiped 13 in a row (just 11 games) before this first nipping. (Centeno did have outstanding CS rates in the minors.)
- Even stranger: Three weeks back, Matsuzaka seemed on the verge of a DFA. Now he has four straight good outings, totaling 6 runs (4 ER) in 26.1 IP.
- I like his chutzpah: After Aroldis Chapman had toasted the first two Mets in the 9th, he fell behind to Anthony Recker, who cut on the 3-and-0 pitch (and missed), before walking. Had Recker put the ball into play, it would have been the first ever on 3-0 against Chapman.
- Hamilton has attempted a steal in 14 of 19 opportunities, 78%. Granted, many have come in cherry-picked spots as a pinch-runner. But among those with 10 or more steals, the next-highest attempts rate is 46% by Rajai Davis. Hamilton has not tried to steal 3rd.
- Just for fun … Who’s the best quadragenarian closer in Gotham since the All-Star break? Mets closer Bobby Parnell went down at the end of July, and 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins got his first crack at the role since 2009. He’s been charged with runs in just 2 out of 24 outings since then, cashing in 12 out of 13 save chances, 7 for 7 in one-run tries.
- While waiting to go into Opening Day, I was asked to predict the Mets’ record. I said 75 wins; my friends said more like 70. They’re now 73-85. I don’t know why it’s mostly been a fun year; maybe I finally got my expectations down to absolute zero, and just enjoyed Matt Harvey, Marlon Byrd, and the good things that happened.
- The last time New York beat the Reds 1-0, it was Gary Carter’s second home run as a Met, and Bruce Berenyi’s only win of the year.
- But “Mets 1, Reds 0″ in Cincinnati has happened just once before, and so long ago that Pete Rose was a second baseman, Frank Lary still pitched in the majors, Larry Bearnarth was doing, not teaching, and the Reds played in Crosley Field. But none of that touches the game’s fame: something about 10 innings, no hits, and 17 whiffs, all crashing down….
@Cardinals 4, Nationals 1 — Jordan Zimmermann went after his 20th win, and perhaps a further point of pride, both for himself (beaten up by the Cards last September and October) and for his team, who sought to end a 6-game skid to St. Louis dating to last year’s NLDS shocker. But any revenge angle was spoiled by Shelby Miller and Matt Adams, two young birds who played no role in that playoff series, but who could be key figures this autumn. Miller, at 22 the youngest full-time St. Louis starter since 2000, let in a 1st-inning run built on two walks, but then set down 10 straight into the middle innings. His sacrifice helped the Cards draw even in the 3rd, between Daniel Descalso’s leadoff double and Matt Carpenter’s groundout (RBI #78).
Zimmermann plunked Matt Holliday to start the home 4th, and Adams, the burly first sacker who’s slugged .511 this year, stroked a double to left on an 0-and-2 pitch, putting ducks on the pond. Yadier Molina boosted his .364 RISP average with a humble ground hit through the middle, scoring both mates for a 3-1 lead, as Adams beat Denard Span’s throw. Miller faced the tying run in the 5th and the 6th, but got through those mild threats with a strikeout of Ryan Zimmerman and a swift DP turned against Ian Desmond. In the 6th, Jordan Z. again got ahead of Adams with two strikes, but the big boy’s big fly showed that not every lefty’s a pure low-ball hitter. That 3-run lead would suffice, as after the 1st inning, Washington never got 2 men on base at once.
- Trevor Rosenthal earned a save in each game of this sweep, as Mike Matheny has followed a Cardinals tradition with a late change of closers en route to the playoffs. In 2011, it was Jason Motte taking over from Fernando Salas in September and on through the World Series. In 2006, Adam Wainwright stepped in for the injured Jason Isringhausen with 2 saves in the final week, but 4 more in that title run.
- It was only 6 games, but this was the first sweep of a season series between these one-time division rivals.
- Shelby, meet Lindy: Miller became the youngest Cardinal since 1957 with a 15-win season. He’s also the first MLB player with the first name Shelby.
@Cubs 4, Pirates 2 — For the first time in 5 tries against Francisco Liriano, the Cubs opened the scoring, when Anthony Rizzo drove in Darwin Barney. It would not be enough, as Jake Arrieta walked in the tying run with 2-out passes to McCutchen & Morneau. Liriano pitched out of danger in the 2nd through 4th, including two leadoff doubles by Darnell McDonald. The 34-year-old journeyman came in 11 for 47 this year, plus a sad .653 OPS at triple-A. But he’d seen Liriano before, going 3-for-8 with a homer. McDonald hit in the 6th with 2 on, game still tied one-all, and he planted a 1-and-1 fastball into the sun-dappled bleachers. The Bucs got the tying run up in the 9th, but Kevin Gregg fanned Marlon Byrd and Starling Marte to end it. Despite only 6 hits, Pittsburgh got 13 at-bats in RBI chances, but just one (non-scoring) hit.
- The afternoon’s games all but clinched the Cardinals’ division flag, as they lead the Pirates by 3 games with 3 left to play.
- Pittsburgh’s 12-12 this month, outscored 102-87, scoring 3.6 R/G.
- Liriano hadn’t served up a 3-run HR since last July 23, and had yielded just 8 taters all year — but he’s been touched in 4 of his last 5 games. With 2 or more men on base this year, Liriano had allowed just a .209 BA and .519 OPS.
- Pedro Alvarez reached 3rd on an error, when his liner ate up Starlin Castro, and Junior Lake did his best Sori impression while chasing it down. But Pedro got himself doubled off when he first broke towards home on a laser snared at the hot corner.
- McDonald set career highs with 3 extra-base hits and 8 total bases. He’s played 329 MLB games, but only 126 with 4 PAs or more.
- Marte swiped 3, and became the first 40-steal Buc since Tony Womack, 1998.
- Rizzo went 2 for 3 off Liriano. He was hitting .184 against southpaws, while Liriano had been a fate worse than death for lefty batters — 15 for 125, a .120 BA and no homers. Apparently, this is why they play the games.
@Indians 7, White Sox 2 — Danny Salazar fanned 8 of his 16 outs for his 2nd MLB win, and Cleveland pulled away with 5 mid-game runs. Michael Brantley had 3 hits, Asdrubal Cabrera had 2 (each with a 2-out scoring knock).
- My brother, the Sox fan, says with confidence (and hope) that Dylan Axelrod will not spend next year in Chicago’s rotation. I’m inclined to agree with him. To be fair, the former 30th-round pick earned his way to the majors after the ChiSox plucked him off the minor-league scrap heap back in 2009. But his big-league results so far, in about 200 innings, have been intolerable.
Rays 8, @Yankees 3 — No ceremony, no bobblehead — but Yankees fans bade farewell to Phil Hughes in their own special way (it rhymes with “you”), and New York was eliminated from playoff contention. Tampa took the lead in the 3rd against Hughes, and romped home behind David Price (8 Ks, no walks). Six straight wins by the Rays, who pulled out of their spin just in time.
@Rangers 7, Astros 3 — Texas did what they had to with Houston, completing the sweep, but they’re getting no help from the Yankees or White Sox.
- “Some squall, eh?” With 2 outs in the 4th, Texas had no hits and a 3-1 deficit. Then seven straight Rangers reached base against Dallas Keuchel, with 5 hits, and they took a 6-3 lead. Keuchel went back for the 5th, and fanned 4 of his next 5 men. Martin Perez survived Houston’s 3-run 4th to pitch 7 solid innings, with 8 Ks to tie his career best.
- There was a Kyle Drabek sighting: He gave up a home run to his first man, the debuting Jonathan Schoop (make that Jonathan Rufino Jezus Schoop — love the “z”), and walked the next. Sad to say, even with Roy Halladay’s injured wing, I’d still take his future over Kyle’s.
Tigers 1, @Twins 0 — Max Scherzer fanned 10 and walked 6 in seven 2-hit innings, finishing at 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA, as Detroit clinched the Central. Kevin Correia was tough in the clinches: Down a run after two batters, he got 2 GDPs and never had 2 on at once.
- Scherzer’s prior season high was 4 walks, just once. He finished with 240 Ks, joining Verlander, Lolich, McLain and Newhouser at that level in Detroit history.
- Scherzer’s .875 W% is a franchise record for a qualified season, and for more than 10 wins. A loss would have kept the record with Wild Bill Donovan‘s 25-4 for their first pennant-winner.
- Detroit’s last 1-0 win was the 2012 finale, also started by Max. (Before that … remember Jarrod Washburn?)
- Are you watching this, Cleveland? Minnesota played each game tough in this series.
@Angels 3, Athletics 1 — For the first time ever in this series, neither side had an extra-base hit. Jered Weaver logged a quality start for the 12th straight time against Oakland (career 2.29 ERA, 26 starts).
Brewers 4, @Braves 0 — I can recall just one other time that a guy hit a home run and did not touch home plate. (It was such a weird scene in the top of the 1st that one play-by-play scribe left out a batter.) Kyle Lohse gave up a leadoff bunt hit, then nothing else until a single with 2 outs in the 7th, finishing with his second career 2-hitter and a career-high in game score.
- Milwaukee’s blanked the Braves 4 times in 6 games this year, tying the most by one team since 1988. The 2010 Phillies and 1992 Giants each had 4 shutouts of the Braves, out of 18 games each.
- Atlanta’s 17 shutout losses are also their most since 1988. Meaning? Meh. The 2010 Giants were shut out 16 times, and that seemed to work out all right. (On the other hand … besides those Giants, the last WS champ with even 12 shutout losses was the 1980 Phillies.)
- Atlanta fell a half-game behind in pursuit of the NL’s best record.
@Mariners 6, Royals 0 – And the Royals are out. Hisashi Iwakuma threw 8 shutout innings, matching his best.
- Iwakuma has allowed 3 runs in 35.2 IP this month. It’s the 16th-best ratio of IP to runs for Sept./Oct. since 1916 (min. 30+ IP).
- A lot of the years on that list are instantly recognizable — Hershiser ’88, Gooden ’85, Maddux ’95, Johan 2004, even Tug McGraw ’73. But here’s one that I’d not known about, which shocks me, given the context: Don Larsen, 1956. In his last 8 starts of that regular season, Larsen allowed 9 runs in 64 IP, a 1.27 RA/9.
Red Sox 15, @Rockies 5 (7th inn.) — Rockies fans bade arrivederci to their Toddfather, who gave them one more home run and a double to cheer, among all the BoSox rallies. It’s his 2nd game with that combo this month, after two years without.
- Helton has at this writing 576 home extra-base hits, tying Jim Thome for 14th in the searchable database. This is not the time to go into the flip side.
Why would Mat Latos get into this discussion on the eve of the playoffs?
“I pitched real well all year and I hear nothing but good things,” Latos told the newspaper. “But I pitched against the Pirates and I have a bad start. [With] certain Reds fans, I’m not allowed to have that.
“Let alone, no fan knows that I’ve been dealing with an injury since the Texas Rangers game — and I’ve been pitching with it. So I’ve been pitching the way I’ve been pitching, but I’ve been pitching hurt.”
Latos insisted during the interview with the Enquirer that he was not discussing the injury in order to appease fans.
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” he told the paper. “I [couldn't] care less because I’m not trying to win over fans or anything like that.”
Got it, Mat: Your rationalization is for the benefit of some other audience.
Subscribe to: RSS feed