Twins 7, @Blue Jays 2 — The new, improved Phil Hughes passed a big test with top marks. Against the sluggin’est squad, in this year’s best home-run venue, Hughes stared down his long-ball demons and never blinked, earning his first win in Toronto since 2011; 7.77 ERA in 5 starts there the past two years.

 

Coming off a 3-homer loss — the first sign this year of his past pattern — Hughes poured strikes past the now slumping Jays, starting 24 of 28 with a qualifying offer, and never reaching a 3-ball count. He fanned nine across seven scoreless innings, ending each of his last two frames with paired punchouts after two men had reached.

  • How consistent has Hughes been since late April? Overlapping strings of 6 starts with no walks and 5 with no gophers. All told this year, 72 Ks and 9 walks in 82 IP, with a 7-2 record (team 10-3). He’s lasted 6 innings or more in 10 straight outings, six more than his prior best streak.
  • Josh Willingham’s still making up for time lost to a 7-week DL stint. In 17 games back, he has 17 RBI and 5 HRs, including today’s 2-out wallop that put Hughes up 2-zip before throwing a pitch.
  • Danny Santana had a hit in his debut on May 5 and hasn’t stopped, earning a raise from the 9th spot to leadoff. He’s 32 for 86 (.372); 3rd-most hits in team history through 25 career games, trailing Kirby Puckett (38-109) and David Ortiz (33-81). Santana has never hit .300 in any minor-league stop.

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@Reds 5, Dodgers 0 – Johnny Cueto fanned 10 of the first 15 foes (whether they liked it or not), and picked off the one who spoiled his perfection. (What was Dee Gordon thinking, behind by 3 runs against the game’s most un-runnable righty? Cueto’s 18 career pickoffs match the total of steals against him.) Johnny’s ammo was spent after six rounds, finishing with 12 Ks and no walks for the second time this year.

LA stirred once Cueto departed, loading up with one down in the 7th, when a slam would tie it. But Jonathan Broxton, third hurler of the frame, got a 6-4-3 on Hanley Ramirez, stranding three inherited runners for the second time this year. Broxton stayed through the 8th and shaved his RA/9 to 0.44, one run in 20.1 IP; he has 5 saves, 9 holds, and just one blown lead.

  • Joey Votto drove in the first two with a 2-out double in the 3rd, his first ribs since May 10. A long DL stint explains most of that gap, but Joey was just 3-22 with RISP before tonight.

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@Rangers 6, Marlins 0 — Yu Darvish has been a marquee starter from the day he put on a Texas uniform, but he had never before finished what he started. His first complete game wasn’t his most glittering gem; the 10-K output ranks just 17th on his career list. But with no epic feat to chase, he got a few more outs in early counts, which combined with four runners erased to keep his pitch load acceptable into the 9th. Yu is 7-2, 2.11 this year, and 6-1, 1.32 in eight career inter-league games.

  • Texas is 10-2 behind Yu, 22-32 otherwise.
  • Darvish has 24 games with 10+ Ks, 10 more than the next man since 2012 (Max Scherzer). Almost one-third of his outings have reached that level (24/73).
  • Scherzer is now the only pitcher who owns a 200-K season but no complete games. Max and Daisuke Matsuzaka are the only ones with no shutouts.

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@Orioles 6, Red Sox 0 – Wei-Yin Chen’s first scoreless work in 10 tries against Boston. They’d hit .340/.875 off him, biggest numbers of any team he’s faced more than twice. But here, he set down 11 in order for starters; the first to reach base was out stretching, and three more removed by DP. The BoSox managed just four singles before rain drove Chen out after seven, and nothing at all afterwards. Adam Jones and Chris Davis gave Chen a 3-0 edge in the 1st, with a 2-out, 2-run clout by the lefty.

  • Last time the Orioles held Boston to 4 hits or less, no walks, and either no runs or no extra-base hits? Never happened. Duane Pillette of the Browns did it to them, in their next-to-last meeting before moving to Baltimore.
  • Probably coincidence, but Xander Bogaerts is 7 for 38 since he stepped over to third base, and Boston’s gone 2-7.

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@Kansas City 4, Cleveland 1 – Long & strong starts led a mini-sweep, as KC knocked their guests off a 9-1 perch to claim a third straight series win, and bootstrap back over .500. Yordano Ventura’s economy — no walks, 3 whiffs — let him go seven on just 85 pitches, backing up Tuesday’s work by Jason Vargas, who took a shutout into the 8th. Wade Davis spat on his own 8th-inning mess, bags full with none out, then two quick whiffs and a clean escape.

  • Alcides Escobar led KC’s “sac attack” with 3 hits, stroking one of four sac flies, and creating another with an alert dash on a pop-up ten feet off the infield. Escobar also swiped his 17th, reaching 39-1 in thefts since last season, and 114-21 career (84%).

It’s the 2nd time since 1914 that a team hit 4 sac flies with no other runs — the first in regulation time, or in a win, or in a game played without intervening roster moves. To explain….

Raise your hand if you remember this crazy continued contest from 1980: Four scoring flies for the visiting Expos, one off Bruce Sutter to tie in the 9th, another for a 12th-inning lead. But the Cubs rallied with two outs to keep the game going. Cliff Johnson won it in the 14th, with a grand slam that followed an intentional walk to Bill Buckner — Chicago’s first overtime walk-off salami in the database that goes back to 1938.

The extra twist: It began on May 28, but was suspended in the top of the 11th — no lights yet in Wrigley — and finished on August 8. Johnson was acquired on June 23, for future consideration, and wound up playing in the past. Ol’ Heathcliff entered the restart in the 11th and whiffed twice before his epic blast. Since the game technically occurred on May 28, Johnson shows up in a B-R “streak finder” for players starting their Cubs career with a homer and 4 RBI – even though Cliff was actually in Baltimore on May 28, knocking two hits for Cleveland, and had played 33 games with Chicago before the slam. On the flip side, despite homering in his two prior games (by real time) plus the scheduled game on August 8, Johnson is not listed among the Cubs’ 25 homer streaks of 4 games or more, nor even among 3-game streaks.

All three of Johnson’s ABs followed an unaccustomed stroll by “Billy Buck,” the eventual batting champ. The famous free swinger had played over 1,200 games (by the time this one resumed) without ever taking three passes, and he would add just two more such games in his 1,300 remaining contests. Just once in 2,517 games did Buckner walk thrice without an IBB; he’s also the only player with zero walks in 100+ postseason PAs.

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@Pirates 4, Cubs 2 – Cutch is heating up, or should we say reheating? He’s gone deep three days in a row, 6 HRs and 7 doubles in 10 games this month, slugging over 1.000. His slash trio are all above last year’s MVP-worthy marks, and his 174 OPS+ would be a personal best.

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@White Sox 8, Tigers 2 – A DP in the 6th gave Justin Verlander a chance to get by on just one run, after loading the bases with no outs. But he never got that last man, and seven more ChiSox reached before the nightmare ended. After Alejandro De Aza floated a full-count hit, two walks reset the cushions, bloating Justin’s pitch count to 35 for the inning, 121 for the game. Gordon Beckham broke it open by lining the first pitch up the middle to tally a pair. Reliever Ian Krol let in the leftovers (and one of his own), closing the books on another ugly outing by the erstwhile ace: 7 earned runs tonight, and a 7.41 ERA in his last six.

  • Jose Abreu slugged #19 in the 2nd, putting Chicago up 1-0 with his second off Verlander. Next time up, JV dispatched him on three straight strikes, stranding three, and Detroit pulled even behind Miggy’s double. But Abreu won the third round on points, singling to lead off the 6th and scoring the tiebreaking run.
  • Ian Kinsler hit .333 through 45 games, then a 9-65 swoon. Torii Hunter’s under .200 his last 20 games, with one walk.

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@Phillies 3, Padres 0 – Back on May 30, Reid Brignac’s first Phillies RBI was a game-winner. His first home run in their stripes turned the same trick, as he chomped a 2-0 cookie from Nick Vincent in the 9th. Cole Hamels and Tyson Ross were in “A” form, matching zeroes through seven, each bagging one of four hits the other yielded in that time. But neither was around at decision time. Hamels, who went the extra inning, wound up with 11 Ks, and a hope for just his 3rd win. But Ryan Howard fanned to end the 8th with two on after an IBB to Chase Utley.

  • San Diego’s 11th shutout defeat turned back a recent threat from the Rays, who’d pulled even with three straight.

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@Astros 5, D-backs 1 – Dallas Keuchel keeps a-comin’ on. He allowed Aaron Hill’s solo shot and little else in his eight tidy innings. Twin killings rubbed out half the rest who reached, including Arizona’s one chance with RISP, after an infield error. George Springer singled in his first two trips, keying the first two runs, and Chris Carter powered a pair off Brandon McCarthy, who fell to 1-9. Chad Qualls put the bow on with his 19th straight scoreless appearance.

  • Keuchel’s won six of his last seven starts, averaging almost 8 IP with a 1.33 ERA.
  • His string began by stopping Houston’s 5-game skid that left them 10-24 with a 5.06 ERA. They’ve gone 20-13 since, with a 3.16 ERA.

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@Colorado 8, Atlanta 2 – Tyler Matzek won his debut, brushing aside the first 13, then eight more after two singles. The Rox roughed up Julio Teheran and took away his ERA lead, with 7 runs and 10 hits. Matzek had scored a run before he let one in, and finished his seven innings with 7 Ks and no walks, just 21 balls out of 81 pitches.

  • Matzek is the first Rockie to break in with 7+ IP and no walks.
  • But how does one get a debut with these stats? Six walks per nine innings, 1.4 K/W?
  • After a 3-run 1st inning, Julio Teheran had allowed 11 runs in that frame this year, and 11 in all others.

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Brewers 3, @Mets 1 – Milwaukee missed so many break-it-open chances, but that all faded along with the Mets, who got just 3 of their last 27 men on base after taking their typical early lead.

  • Three hits and two more doubles for Jonathan Lucroy, now batting .341 with 25 two-baggers. The only NL catcher in the last 75 years to bat .340 or above was Mike Piazza, in 1995 & ’97. No backstop ever had more than 47 doubles; Lucroy’s pace is 61, but he’s already at his career high.
  • Three hits, three Ks, no runs in Milwaukee’s 1st, against Jacob deGrom. B-R has no “inning finder” (yet!), but for a broad view of how rare such innings are, I searched for game appearances of exactly one inning, no runs and at least 3 hits & 3 Ks. Just one pitcher since 1914 did that within a single inning: Jonathan Papelbon, 2009.

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Tuesday

@Angels 2, Athletics 1 (14 inn.) — When Collin Cowgill’s two-out drive jumped the corral, the Halos rounded up a 5th straight home win, turning up the heat on the first-place A’s. A game full of highs and lows, sometimes on the same play:

An epic heave by Yoenis Cespedes outgunned his own blunder, keeping things tied up in the 8th. It blew up every medium, but struck me as a poor risk, maybe one-in-a-hundred that the throw lands just so for the out. It wasn’t do-or-die — Oakland would send three sluggers in the 9th — and the high-arcing toss let Mike Trout take third with (what would have been) one out, and Albert coming up.

The Angels overcame their own mistakes, mainly the basepath kind:

  • When Josh Hamilton plated the first run in the 6th, Albert (on second with no outs) wisely made sure the ball got past Nick Punto. But then he didn’t watch his third-base coach ’til way too late, and plowed right past a clear stop sign with his eyes elsewhere (see 0:50) — dead on delayed arrival, even with a two-hop throw by Brandon Moss. (He now has 3 assists in 12 games played in RF.) Despite that slow-paced play, Hamilton failed to move up — and the very next pitch produced a 5-4-3 DP, Josh Donaldson redeeming his bad throw that started the whole mess.
  • When Albert reached second to start the 11th, Kole Calhoun ran for him … and ran himself right off the field, trying for third on a grounder to short. (Sean Doolittle strolled into that tight spot — man on second, no outs — and walked away clean, then punched his way past a one-out double in the 12th.)
  • That’s cold: In the 13th, a man on second and one out, southpaw Jeff Francis gave Josh Hamilton a straight intentional walk and pitched to the righty, David Freese — who took two balls, then rapped his second inning-ending DP, to cap an 0 for 6 train wreck. Freese’s minus-0.49 WPA is the worst in almost a year for a team win.
  • Cespedes’ 8 assists are driving his dWAR, but he moved like an aged Andre Dawson on the winning homer. He slowed up a lot before reaching the wall, and barely jumped at a ball that may have been catchable. Is he injured?
  • Albert’s hit some home runs this year. But when I watch him run, all I can think is: Seven more years after this one.

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Nationals 2, @Giants 1 — D.C. has cracked down on those Giants of industry, beating them large and small, dealing their back-to-back losses since May 16-17, including the first loss since April for Maddy-Bum-Gee. The Nats have meted out 1.7 R/G during their 9-2 stretch.

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Atlanta 13, @Colorado 10 — Atlanta’s season highs in runs and hits (16), right where such things tend to be found. Rocky Mountain plunge: 1-and-11, 3-and-15, 7-and-21.

  • Second game this year (and this week) with both starters allowing 11+ hits. Two is a full season’s allotment, based on this century’s average. However
  • It’s just the second game since 1929 where both starters gave 11+ hits and logged 4 innings or less.
  • Tommy La Stella is 14 for 38, still all singles. He’s flashed a little less power with every step up the ladder — .215 ISO in A ball, .160 in high A, .140 in AA, .066 in AAA — so this may be a logical conclusion.

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@Mets 6, Brewers 2 — “Lucky win” would be going too far. But all of their scoring came from walks and two taters that just cleared the wall in right field, and Dice-K escaped serious injury on a hip-checking comebacker. Only two visiting pitchers had allowed 2 HRs in a Citi Field game this year — but if anyone could do it, Marco Estrada’s your man. He ran his gopher streak to 10 games (18 HRs in 61 IP), tying the longest of the last two years. Yet he’s 4-2 in those ten, and the Crew have split ‘em.

Estrada’s served at least 2 HRs in 15 of 66 career starts — but this was the first with two multi-run homers. Taylor Teagarden’s 2-out slam in the 6th came after three walks and 25 pitches in the inning. Ron Roenicke wanted him to finish that frame since he was due at bat in the next, but the skipper’s stinginess may have cost him a winnable game, given the Mets’ trend of blowing slim leads. Estrada had whiffed Teagarden in two prior ABs….

Matt den Dekker’s had one brilliant defensive game, but the more we see him, the more we miss Juan Lagares. Can’t fault Matt on that play, which only a great CF makes — but that’s what Juan is, with 5.1 dWAR in 163 career games. No CF has scored 6+ dWAR in a 2-year span since Andruw‘s prime, 1999-2000.

Lyle Overbay must have thought there were two outs; what other thought process would lead to such a bad risk, down a run in the 4th with one out and the pitcher due up next?

Teagardening at night: Taylor joined Collin Cowgill with grand slams in their Mets debut. And I was at both games — a happy accident, since I attend just a few games per year. Only Teagarden’s slam was his first hit as a Met.

  • He’s played in six prior seasons, but totaled just 518 PAs; 60 games one year, 14 to 28 the other five. Only three catchers have six or more seasons with 10 to 30 games: Charlie Silvera, Johnny Riddle, Grover Hartley. “Taylor Teagarden” would fit right in with those fun names, and I believe he’ll join them this year.
  • Teagarden’s latest call-up brought him closer to another dubious distinction: Two whiffs with his one hit gave him 185 Ks and 97 hits, a 1.91 ratio. The highest ratio with 100+ hits is 1.90 by Dave Nicholson (573 Ks, 301 hits).

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Monday

Cleveland 17, @Texas 7 – Lonnie Chisenhall’s big box has already been covered  … As noted by HHS regular David P., Michael Brantley’s 5-run performance was the 13th for Cleveland, and first since 1986 (Joe Carter) … Poor Jason Kipnis (5-3-3-4) had to settle for third star … And somehow, Carlos Santana still went 0-5 … Cleveland’s 9th win in 10 tries pulled them within 2 games of Detroit, starting from 8 back … Remember how George Kottaras was sent to the minors in May right after hitting 2 HRs in his only game? Got one AB on June 1, then homered in his next time up, tonight. (And if that demotion seemed unfair, note that Kottaras was recalled after going 5-42, 18 Ks at Buffalo.)

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Mariners 3, @Rays 0 — Seattle’s second straight shutout, 4th in 8 games this month. Their bullpen’s allowed one run in 21 IP this month, 7 hits, 7 walks. Call me nuts, but I still prefer Tampa’s lineup … David Price’s fifth game this year with 10+ Ks, totaling 3 walks. Only three have notched 10 games in one season with 10+ Ks and one walk or less: Curt Schilling twice (13, 10), Pedro Martinez twice (12, 11), and Randy Johnson (11), all from 1999-2002.

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@Blue Jays 5, Twins 4 – Kevin Pillar came in for defense in the top of the 9th, wound up with the walk-off hit … First blown save by Casey Janssen, on 2-out RBI doubles by Kurt Suzuki and Eduardo Escobar … Jose Reyes (HR, 2 SB) got his 3rd hit in the winning rally, which began with a walk … Most of the scoring came in the 1st: Minny opened with back-to-back jacks off Dickey, each on a full count. Edwin Encarnacion answered with a 3-run shot, #20 … Dustin McGowan bailed out Dickey big-time, a bases-loaded DP to end the Twins’ 6th.

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Dodgers 6, @Reds 2 – Scott Van Slyke’s perfect night included 2 HRs off Tony Cingrani. He has 6 HRs in 43 ABs off southpaws this year (13-43, 5 doubles, 12 walks); career OPS over .850 vs. LHPs. Why would Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier ever start against a lefty? … Ryan Ludwick soloed in the 4th, but when he hit with bags full and no outs in the 8th, a 1-2-3 DP, killing the inning.

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@Orioles 4, Red Sox 0 – Bud Norris worked eight scoreless innings for the first time, and three homers notched all 4 runs off Jake Peavy.

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@Pirates 6, Cubs 2 — Charlie Morton held Chicago to a run in 7 IP. Pittsburgh’s only starter with ERA+ over 100 improved to 3-7, after starting off 0-6. Bucs are next-to-last in NL quality starts, 13th in starters’ ERA … Andrew McCutchen (4-1-2-3) working on his third straight year with a .400 OBP; only Joe Mauer could match that, if he rallies. Three hits for Starling Marte, fighting through a 5-50 skid.

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@White Sox 6, Tigers 5 – Heavy lumber: #18 for Jose Abreu; #15 for Victor Martinez, once more on par with his strikeouts; and #12 by Miggy … Robin Ventura played the infield in with one out in the 9th, tying run on 3rd, Miggy two batters away. Ian Kinsler’s hard chopper went over the third baseman, but hooked foul just before the bag; he took an iffy strike three, and Torii Hunter bounced out to end it. Gordon Beckham’s 3 hits all led to Sox runs … Eugenio Suarez hit his 2nd HR in 4 career games, the only Detroit shortstop ever to do that. Just one other Tigers SS since 1914 had even one homer that soon … Quick, name the last shorstop with 2 HRs in his first 4 games.

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Career splits for an Wade Davis:

  • Starting (500+ IP) — 4.57 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 16% SO.
  • In Relief (109 IP) — 1.99 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 33% SO. Zero career saves.

But we all know that bullpen work is easier than starting. How do those splits compare with others who’ve filled both roles in recent years? A topic for another post.

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