Six team shutouts Sunday, 129 for the season. On a per-team basis, it’s the most shutouts at this stage of a season since 1989. But this year’s scoring average of 4.17 runs per game is no cause for hysteria. The post-WWII median is 4.34 R/G; the expansion-era median is 4.32. The median for the first 20 years of the DH era was 4.26. This year’s average is just 2%-4% below those marks, and it’s the same as last year’s average. It’s just normal fluctuation. (Oh, and if you’re feeling more historical than current, there’s a random box-score nugget at the bottom of the post.)
@Blue Jays 4, Royals 0 — Mark Buehrle went 8 innings for his 10th win, in team game #58. Only Roger Clemens has ever started so fast for the Jays, in 1997 — the first of his two straight Cy Young Awards north of the border. Two Royals hit leadoff doubles against Buehrle, but each was thrown out at third on a grounder by the next man.
- May is history, but Edwin Encarnacion started June off with a bang — 15th double, 19th HR.
- Backstop’s got Buehrle’s back: Dioner Navarro homered for the early lead. His three multi-RBI games this year all came in Buehrle wins.
- David Wells is the only southpaw to win 20 in a season for Toronto. Wells and Jimmy Key share the #2 mark of 17 wins.
Buehrle’s just halfway to 20 wins, and if he reverts to his career rate of wins per start, he’d fall just short. But if he makes it, he’d be the 12th modern pitcher to notch his first 20-win year at age 35 or older:
- The first seven of those all came by 1953: George McConnell (if you want to count the Federal League), Curt Davis, Rip Sewell, Spud Chandler, Preacher Roe, Allie Reynolds, Virgil Trucks.
- The last four were David Wells (2000, age 37), Jamie Moyer (2001, 38), Mike Mussina (2008, 39), and R.A. Dickey (2012, 37).
- Buehrle had 186 wins before this year, more than all but Mussina among those 11 first-timers: Mussina 250, Wells 141, Reynolds 136, Moyer 131, Trucks 108, Roe 80, Davis 70, Chandler 58, Sewell 57, Dickey 41, McConnell 12.
Atlanta 4, @Miami 2 — Evan Gattis played pinball with the sculpture, breaking a tie in the 9th with Atlanta’s first homer in three games and powering a sweep. First homer in 68 games off Steve Cishek, snapping the longest active streak. Teammate A.J. Ramos had his 67-gamer stopped on Wednesday. Mark Melancon’s 88-game streak died Monday. The torch is passed to LOOGY Scott Downs, no homers in his last 53 outings (but a 5.13 ERA).
- Shae Simmons got his first closing chance, since Craig Kimbrel had pitched three straight days, including Saturday’s phony save (last two outs with two on and a 4-run lead). Two hits and a walk off Simmons, but a DP in between saved the day.
- Marcell Ozuna has hit 8 of his 10 HRs at Marlins Park this year, batting .312 there with OPS over .900, but .202/.550 on the road. Ozuna reached the majors with just 10 games played above class A. He’s still a work in progress, but his power and good defensive metrics have him on pace to top 4 WAR this year — something no Marlins center fielder has ever done.
@Brewers 9, Cubs 0 — Milwaukee scored early and often, 8 runs in their first three raps, and Kyle Lohse polished off a 3-hitter on just 93 pitches, while poking a pair of 2-out ribby hits himself. No Cub reached second base until the 7th, and Lohse put down the last 8 in order after that. His 7th career shutout left him tied for 13th on the active list.
- Scooter Gennett homered and doubled twice, his first game with 3 extra-base hits.
- Lohse himself authored Milwaukee’s last whitewash of 3 hits or less, a career-best 2-hitter last September. Over the last 3 years, he has the 4th-best walk rate (1.59 W/9) among the 101 pitchers with 300+ IP. He’s also 9th in innings in that span.
- Ryan Braun’s 2-run shot in the 1st made him 13 for 25 on the first pitch this year, with 8 extra-base hits.
- I’ll have to see this play to make sense of it. Bases loaded, no outs: “K Davis grounded into double play, second to third, R Braun scored, C Gomez out at second, J Lucroy out at third, K Davis to first.” I dunno … maybe Lucroy rounded third too far, after the forceout, and they picked him off? (Ah, no … I get it now.)
Giants 8, @Cardinals 0 — An early uprising and seven scoreless innings built Tim Hudson’s 6th win this year, #211 for the active career leader. At 37-20, the Jints have MLB’s best overall record, with impressive balance: 19-9 at home, 18-11 away.
Four runs in the 1st off Lance Lynn. In 12 starts, he’s allowed 12 runs in the 1st, 11 in the 4th, and just 9 in all other innings. In his first two starts this year, Lynn yielded 3 in the 1st, but managed to win. No surprise that Buster Posey (batting 3rd) and Brandon Crawford (6th) went 3-4 with 2 RBI against Lynn; before today, nos. 3 and 6 had hit .361 off Lynn, while all others hit .216.
Twins 7, @Yankees 2 — You just know how badly Phil Hughes wanted to win his Bronx return, and his perseverance was rewarded. No hits through 3 IP off Hughes, but New York ripped three straight to start the 4th, and flipped the score to 2-1 Bombers on Ichiro’s flyout. Hughes got through eight with just those 3 hits and 2 runs (100 pitches), but Minny’s hopes of scoring late grew dim as Dellin Betances fanned five of six in the 6th & 7th, with just four balls mixed in. Patience. David Robertson came on to close it, but he missed the target on his first pitch, and Josh Willingham pounced and tied the game. The closer alternated two whiffs and two walks, then fell behind 2-and-0 to slumping Brian Dozier (0 for 20), who doubled for the lead. An IBB to Mauer filled the bags, exit Robertson. Ex-Yank Eduardo Nunez broke it open with a pinch-hit, 2-run double, and it wound up as a 6-run outburst — the biggest 9th against the Yanks in 10 years.
- Hughes did lose his 6-start walk-less streak on a full count to Brian McCann, but Dozier erased him with a brilliant DP against Ichiro. Eight straight quality starts by Hughes, all team wins; 6-0, 1.99 ERA, 3 walks and 39 Ks. He already has two more wins than he garnered in 29 starts last year.
- But this might be the most startling streak for Hughes: 5 games without a gopher ball, tying his personal best from 2010. He allowed 59 HRs in the past two years, tied for 3rd-most in MLB.
- Betances has whiffed 56 of 110 batters faced this year — 9 walks, 15 hits and a 1.38 ERA in 32.2 IP.
- Chase Whitley has no decisions in his first four starts, but the Yankees won the first three. He’s the first Yankee since Chien-Ming Wang (2005) to start his career with four homer-free starts.
@Cleveland 6, Colorado 4 — Michael Bourn homered for his first walk-off hit, giving the hosts a 3-game sweep. Bourn had 1,003 prior hits and 29 home runs, but never a game-winner. None of his home runs ever tied a game, or brought a lead after the 7th inning. Cleveland is 18-11 at home, 9-19 on the road.
- Jhoulys Chacin’s Execrable Adventure, or How to Score Three Runs with Just a Single (1st-inning edition): Walk, wild pickoff throw, walk, scoring single, whiff, FC to catcher (all runners safe), scoring 4-pitch walk, sac fly, whiff.
- Corey Dickerson‘s among the best strict-platoon players so far this year, slugging about .700 against righties (7 HRs in less than 80 ABs). And unlike most Rockies, he’s done his best work on the road: 5 of 7 HRs, OPS over 1.000.
Mets 4, @Phillies 3 (11 inn.) — Tied two-all from the 6th unto the end of regulation, and the baseball world longed to see if these marathoners might have a third wind in them. But an innocent 2-out walk in the 11th set up Lucas Duda’s decisive blow, enough to withstand Marlon Byrd’s solo act in the home half, as the Mets clinched this rare 5-game set with one to go.
Top-8th, man on first and two outs, Jon Niese was allowed to bat; what the heck, he’d only thrown 82 pitches, and who knows how long this one might go. Ruben Tejada swiped second, but overslid the bag and was tagged out. Niese breezed through a 9-pitch 8th, then left for a pinch-hitter.
- Three straight games of 11+ innings, last done by the Royals in 2011. The last such streak totaling at least 39 IP (as these Mets-Phils tilts have done) was by Cleveland in 1975; they dropped all three at home, starting with a 17-inning nightcap. The last such streak in one series (three games of 11+ IP totaling at least 39) was in 1943, A’s at Tigers — part of Detroit’s live-ball record streak of four straight games with 11+ IP.
- Niese cruised through 3 frames on 27 pitches, but Ryan Howard rang his bell in the 4th, putting the Phils up 2-1 after the Mets wasted multiple scoring threats.
- Curtis Granderson has drawn a walk in 10 straight games, tying the longest streak of the last 5 years. Mets’ top marks are 12 (Darryl Strawberry, 1987) and 11 (Keith Hernandez, 1984). All seven prior Mets streaks of 10+ (and all nine in MLB since 2010) featured at least 5 hits; Grandy has 4 in his. David Ortiz had a 10-game walk streak with 3 hits back in 2009.
- Mets are now 17-6 when scoring 4 or 5 runs. That’s obviously the optimal range in this era, with NL teams averaging exactly 4 runs so far this year. On the down side, the Mets have scored 5 runs or less in 18 straight games, going 8-10. That’s just the 3rd-longest streak this year; Atlanta went 24 straight from April to mid-May, one shy of their longest in the divisional era. The Mets aren’t even halfway to their longest streak of 5 runs or less; the 1979 edition went 40 straight games from August until the final week, with a 7-33 record.
- Anyone can hit a homer these days. But how many can swing and miss and break a bat?
- Brutal baserunning cost the Phils a chance to go ahead in the 7th.
Orioles 9, @Astros 4 — David Lough’s 2-run HR brought his first RBI in his last 60 PAs, and Manny Machado’s first salami blew it open in the 6th.
@White Sox 4, Padres 1 — Chris Sale caught Everth Cabrera looking at his 100th pitch, finishing a 2-hit masterwork. Just one of the first 24 batters in this game reached base — Paul Konerko’s 437th HR, 430th for the ChiSox. (Frank Thomas’s club mark of 448 HRs still seems safe.) Chase Headley’s homer in the 5th stopped Sale’s perfect string and tied the game, and Tommy Medica followed with a single. But a double play gave Sale new wind, and Tyler Flowers got the lead back with his own tater in the home half. Konerko stroked a 2-out, 2-run double in the 6th, and the gangly ace cruised home from there, retiring the last 14 men.
@Red Sox 4, Rays 0 — Jon Lester toyed with Tampa’s noodle bats, whiffing 12 in seven innings to lead Boston’s 7th straight win, hard on the heels of a 10-game skid. Brock Holt hit four doubles, driving home a pair and tying a record (at least since 1914) last matched by Victor Martinez, 2010. Holt also walked, stole, and scored on the first career hit & RBI by Garin Cecchini, out of Sulphur, Louisiana.
- I don’t know where Sulphur is, but Cecchini is the first big-leaguer to hail from there — and the first named Garin.
- OK, Sulphur is in Calcasieu Parish, in southwest Lou’sian’. Never heard of that one, either. I should have, because Lake Charles is there, but the truth is, I never got far from New Orleans & the bayou country in my ancestral state.
Rangers 2, @Nationals 0 — Leonys Martin’s homer in the 7th broke a scoreless tie, rewarding a vintage effort by Yu Darvish in his return to action after one missed turn. Darvish tied his season high with 12 Ks over 8 innings on an economical 102 pitches.
- Texas leads the majors with 11 shutouts. But they’re 2nd in the AL with 22 games scoring 2 or less, and next-to-last with 35 HRs, a season pace of 99.
@Mariners 4, Tigers 0 — Rookie Roenis Elias tamed the Tigers, who’ve now dropped 10 of 14 since their Fenway sweep. The 3-hitter by Elias squared Seattle at .500; they’ve not been more than two games above or below that mark since May 2.
- Elias had just three quality starts in his first 11, and hadn’t gone past 7 innings.
- Last Mariner to blank Detroit: Aaron Sele, 2000 — also a 3-hit, 4-0 game. (How times have changed: Sele was in the midst of a 4-year run totaling 69-35, with a 4.27 ERA, good for a 109 ERA+. That same ERA over the past 4 years would earn about a 93 ERA+.)
- How badly do the Tigers need relief help? Corey Kneber, their first-round draft pick last year, is in the majors after just 50 innings in the minors, and most of those at low-A. He did pitch very well down there, but … 50 innings?
@Athletics 6, Angels 3 — Jered Weaver had owned the A’s in the past three years — 8-1, 0.87 ERA in 11 starts (10 team wins) — but today they rocked him for 6 runs and 11 hits in six innings. The Angels came into Oakland hot (14-6), while the A’s had dropped 6 of 8. A sweep would have put the Halos in first place for the first time since Opening Day last year. There was a sweep, all right, but Oakland’s lead swelled to 4.5 games.
Reds 4, @Diamondbacks 3 — Four solo shots off Wade Miley: Second time this year a team scored 4+ runs with only solo HRs. First time the Snakes have ever lost that way.
- With a 9-22 home record, it might be time for Arizona to pull a Cleveland Spiders disappearing act.
Pirates, @Dodgers — Too late for this edition. Game Notes has a day job.
Random notes for the end of May
Yasiel Puig is batting .344 with a pace of 79 extra-base hits. No LA Dodger with 75+ XBH has batted over .334 (Adrian Beltre, 2004). Duke Snider (1953-54) and Babe Herman (1929-30) each reached that combo twice, in the more favorable environs of Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.
Puig’s .436 OBP is also just off the LAD record set by Gary Sheffield in 2000. No other left-coast Dodger has qualified above .434.
So if you’re integrating those three factors (high OBP and XBH in a pitcher’s park) and thinking, “Does that mean … ?” — well, you’re absolutely right: Puig’s 193 OPS+ would break Mike Piazza’s franchise record of 185. Pedro Guerrero is the only other Dodger to crack a 180 OPS+, in either city.
Yes, I’m all over the map on young Yasiel — here a rave, there a rip, everywhere a jaw-drop — but what else can we do? He might be the most talented baseball player (not just athlete) in the game right now. (Sorry, Mike.) But despite signs of growth, he’s still the most mistake-prone player I’m aware of. But I guess I’m coming around. As Babe Herman showed, pounding that horsehide can paper over a lot of mistakes.
By the way, Puig was 2nd in the NL batting race as June began. The only LA Dodger batting crowns came back-to-back by Tommy Davis, 1962-63. Seven different Brooklyn Dodgers won batting titles.
Through May of last year, seven of the ten ultimate playoff participants were already in place, with another sitting just one game out. The three changes were the Dodgers overtaking Arizona for the NL West crown, and Tampa Bay & Cleveland passing the Yankees and Rangers for AL wild-card berths. Four of six division leaders on May 31 held those spots. (Oakland caught Texas for the AL West title, but they already held a wild-card berth by May 31.)
But in 2012, just half the ultimate postseason players were in place by May’s end, and just two division leaders went on to claim those titles (italics = held & retained playoff spot; bold = held & retained division lead):
- 2012 AL through May: Orioles, ChiSox, Rangers (division leaders) / Rays, Yanks+Cleveland (wild cards)
2012 AL final: Yanks, Tigers, A’s / Orioles, Rangers
- 2012 NL through May: Nats, Reds, Dodgers / Marlins, Mets (no, really!)
2012 NL final: Nats, Reds, Giants / Atlanta, Cards
In 2011, with just one wild card spot, five of eight Octoberists were in place by May 31, and four of six division titleists:
- 2011 AL through May: Yanks, Cleveland, Rangers / BoSox
2011 AL final: Yanks, Tigers, Rangers / Rays
- 2011 NL through May: Phillies, Cards, D-backs / Marlins
2011 NL final: Phillies, Brewers, D-backs / Cards
We all remember Atlanta blowing their playoff spot in the final week (along with Boston), but they had a slow start and needed a 50-29 run from June through August to get in position for that disappointment.
The Padres are 9-0 when scoring exactly 4 runs, the most wins and best percentage at that scoring level this year. Since 1969, the best W% by any team with 20+ games of 4 runs scored was 18-4 by the 2012 A’s.
Dallas Keuchel has 76.2 IP in 11 starts, a hair less than 7 IP per game. In the past two years, just three AL pitchers managed such an average with at least 30 starts — Chris Sale in 2013, Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez in 2012. Four other AL pitchers this year have averaged 7+ IP with at least 11 starts: Hernandez, David Price, C.J. Wilson and Masahiro Tanaka.
- With 2.9 WAR through 11 starts, Keuchel leads the AL, and is on pace for 8.4 WAR (assuming 32 starts). The only Houston pitchers to crack the 8-WAR barrier were Larry Dierker (1969, 8.6) and Mike Scott (1986, 8.4). The only ‘Stros to lead their league in pitching WAR were Scott, Roger Clemens (7.8, 2005) and Roy Oswalt (6.7, 2007).
In two-strike counts, Masahiro Tanaka has held batters to a .121 average — 20 for 165, no HRs, 88 Ks in 175 PAs (50.3% Ks). The AL 2-strike average is .177 BA and 38.7% Ks.
- In this century, only Zach Duke went through a 200-IP season without yielding a 2-strike home run (2009). Oddly, Duke had the 3rd-lowest K rate among NL qualifiers that year.
Random Box-Score Nugget
There’s a game I’ve long meant to look up, and I finally got around to it. Bill James cited this game in describing what Bert Campaneris meant to the Kansas City A’s:
“Nobody else in the lineup got a hit … but Campy went 4-for-4, stole several bases, and scored 4 runs. The A’s won the game, I think 4-2 or 4-3.”
Bill only gave the year, 1966. But this has to be the game. His recall wasn’t perfect; there were two other KC hits. But those were purely incidental, and James had the gist just right. Campy scored after each of his four hits, and no one ever drove him in:
- Leadoff single, sac bunt, stole third; after a walk, Campy scored on a misplay on the trail runner’s steal of second. Next two men made out, stranding the other runner at third.
- One-out triple, scored on wild pitch. Next two men made out.
- Two-out single to LF, mysteriously scored on Tommy John’s error on the same play. The play-by-play just says, “Single to LF; Campaneris Scores/Adv on E1/No RBI/unER.” I would love to see this play, even in a staged reenactment; how does the pitcher commit a (three-base?) error on a single to left? Anyway, the next man made out.
- Leadoff single off Hoyt Wilhelm, stole second, to third on passed ball, scored on passed ball. Next three men made out.
Just how unusual was this performance?
- Campaneris scored .478 WPA, while every other KC batter scored negative. OK, there are 19 searchable wins in which all nine starters had negative WPA, but those games all saw a substitute get the big late hit. I haven’t the patience to check the hundreds of wins with eight starters notching negative WPA, but I’m sufficiently impressed with this aspect of Campaneris’s game.
- There’s just a handful of live-ball games wherein a team scored 4+ runs with no RBI and won. (The last was Andy Hawkins’s 1990 “no-hitter.”) None of those other games saw one winning player score more than twice. (Most such games that you’d find with a P-I search are simply missing the RBI data.)
- Of the 262 searchable games in which one player scored 4+ runs and scored each time he batted, just three others accounted for all their team’s runs in a win: Dick McAuliffe, 1968; Eric Davis, 1990; and Matt Kemp, 2009. Only Kemp matched Campy’s WPA, but there was a second star in that game, as Brad Ausmus drove him in twice with doubles.
- No other shortstop ever scored 4+ runs and all his team’s runs in a win (at least since 1914). McAuliffe’s the only second baseman to do that, Kemp the only center fielder; no catcher has done it.
No matter how you slice it, that’s one hell of a one-man game. That year would be the second in a row that Campaneris led the A’s in hits, runs, doubles, triples, total bases, offensive WAR, and of course, steals — all justifying Bill’s wrap-up: “There was a feeling of, ‘hang on, Campy, we’ll get you some help.'”