Astros 14, @Twins 5 — Houston pulled away with two late grand slams, career firsts by Chris Carter and Jon Singleton, plus George Springer’s 12th homer. Collin McHugh was staked to a 5-0 lead, but his wildness kept him from getting through five and cost him a win.

 

McHugh was pulled after 5 walks and 101 pitches, and the Twins closed within two runs in that inning. But Carter followed Robbie Grossman’s bunt hit with a big hello to his granny in right, and the rout was on. Kyle Farnsworth gave two runs right back (2 walks, 2 hits, getting one out), but Springer spanked the first pitch of the 8th to dead central, just out of Danny Santana’s reach. Springer was plunked with two outs in the 9th, and Singleton spruced up his 3-K, one-DP day with a mano-a-mano crank into right, getting much the better of Glen Perkins’s high fastball.

  • By my check, it’s the first game since 2011 with two slams by one team (the Yankees hit three that day), and the second time ever for Houston. (Those both came in one inning of a doubleheader at Shea; in the nightcap, they had a 10-run inning, capped by Larry Dierker’s homer off Nolan Ryan. The Mets just couldn’t beat Houston that year; the ‘Stros swept again in their next meet, knocking New York 10 games back in the race, with less than 50 games left. But things picked up from there.)
  • Houston tallied in double figures for the first time this year. Care to guess which team still hasn’t done that?

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Red Sox 5, @Tigers 3 – Like a sneeze that had been deferred all night, capping a miserable weekend for one New-York-and-Detroit sports fan. At least we got to see Koji, for a few pitches.

From the outset, Joe Nathan was presumed unavailable, due to his long stint the night before, and just maybe also to spare him from 33,835 lusty boos). ESPN’s booth wondered aloud if Joba Chamberlain might usurp Nathan’s role beyond this one game, if current trends continued — Joba having logged 12 straight scoreless outings, with strong overall numbers this year. Neeeexxxt question?

Since Big Papi joined Boston in 2003, he has 6 come-from-behind, tying or go-ahead HRs in the 9th or later. Four players have more: A-Rod (10), Miggy (9), Aramis Ramirez and Raul Ibanez (7). Ortiz’s last one was in 2007; his last such hit was in 2010, off Detroit’s Phil Coke (who got him in a big spot tonight); last on the road was 2005, off Detroit’s Fernando Rodney. (By no means am I trying to puncture Big Papi’s aura; you know I watched Game 2 in shock and awe. I’m just running some numbers, is all.)

  • Detroit’s 9th-inning ERA is now 7.71, more than a run worse than any team in the database. Their BA, SLG and OPS would also be new highs. On the other hand, that team with a 6.61 ERA in the 9th won their division
  • If B-R’s stats are complete, this was Brock Holt‘s first professional game in the outfield. Seems that he’s just a baseball player. His running catch at the wall was a highlight play, but just as impressive to me was how he handled two RBI singles by Eugenio Suarez. He ranged right to cut off each one, and quickly fired a low strike to second, ensuring that Suarez stayed put and preserving a DP chance, one of which was realized.
  • No shock that Anibal Sanchez used 112 pitches through 6 IP, while John Lackey needed just 77 in that span. Sanchez has the AL’s 3rd-highest rate of pitches per PA, while Boston sees the 2nd-most; Lackey and the Tigers are near the bottom of that rate.
  • Mike Napoli hit the first HR off Sanchez in 10 starts this year, stopping his personal best streak. For 2013-14, his rate of 0.38 HR/9 is the lowest of the 100 pitchers with 200+ IP.
  • Sanchez’s third straight game of 6+ IP and 2 runs or less with no win. Last Tiger with such streak [shudder] Brad Penny, 2011. Just one Tiger in the database has logged four such games in a row: Al Benton, 1942.
  • Can you spot what Al Benton’s 1942 Tigers rotation had in common with the 1944 A’s and no other team in modern history? Hint: Those teams played 30 and 34 doubleheaders, respectively.

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Brewers 1, @Pirates 0 — Jonathan Lucroy had three of Milwaukee’s four hits, scored their run, stole a base, and threw out Starling Marte stealing second as the tying run in the 9th inning … ah, nooverturned! (The hazards of writing on the fly.) So, it was left for Jean Segura to make the big defensive play that saved K-Rod from his control hiccups, two walks on four straight misses after getting ahead. Yovani Gallardo went seven, squaring his ledger at 4-4 with his best start since the opening week. Lucroy led off the 7th with a double, just the third hit off hard-luck loser Jeff Locke, and came around on two (pardon the phrase) productive outs.

  • Lucroy is #2 in the majors with a .335 BA and 23 doubles.
  • Pittsburgh is 15-13 in one-run games, three more such games than anyone else. Milwaukee’s dealt five of those losses, and holds a 10-3 series edge, though still outscored by a run.
  • First 1-0 win since last July for the Brewers; that one took 13 innings, won by Caleb Gindl’s first homer. Their last SP to win 1-0 was Zack Greinke in June 2012, with 9 scoreless in a 10-inning game.

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Mariners 5, @Rays 0 – Would you believe it was nil-nil in the top of the 9th, with two outs and none on? Brad Miller started a 5-run uprising against Grant Balfour; the gruesome full sequence was triple, walk, single, triple, walk, double.

King Felix did all he could for seven innings, setting a new career high of 15 strikeouts, against one walk. But getting no support is a big part of his career storyline. Since 2006, he leads all pitchers with seven scoreless, winless starts of 7+ innings. For winless starts of 7+ IP and one run or less, Felix leads #2 Matt Cain by 28-23 in that span. More Felix notes:

  • He was due for one of these games, after winning his prior 5 starts with a total of 37 runs. Hernandez has 8 wins in 14 starts, 57%, against a prior rate of 41%. Ironic, though, that his only scoreless game this year was a no-decision.
  • The big game gave Felix 106 Ks and the MLB lead, at least for a day or two. He’s topped 200 Ks each of the last five years, #2 overall in that span, but has never led the league.
  • Nine straight starts without yielding a home run, a new personal best and tied for this year’s best (Anibal Sanchez).
  • King Felix joined a select group who’ve fanned 15 or more while facing 26 batters or less: Johan Santana notched 17 of 26; Randy Johnson 16 of 23; Jake Peavy twice bagged 16 of 25, netting a loss and the only other no-decision besides Felix among these eight games. Jon Lester, Yu Darvish and Max Scherzer round out the list. Felix threw only 100 pitches; the other seven were between 109 and 119.
  • Was Dominic Leone injured while facing one batter in the 9th? — or did Lloyd McClendon really make a matchup move with a 5-0 lead and nobody on base? I know there weren’t many home fans left in the last of the 9th, but such a move would seem rude.

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Cardinals 5, @Blue Jays 0 — Not a late report from Saturday. For the second day in a row, St. Louis held the top slugging team to four total bases, winning each by 5-0. The Cards swooped for 4 runs on 5 hits in the 2nd off Drew Hutchison, the last three scoring with two outs, capped by Matt Carpenter’s homer. Jaime Garcia went seven for his first scoreless game since last April, despite issuing his first 3 walks in five starts this year.

  • But maybe Garcia needs to be “effectively wild.” He came into this year with a 3.38 ERA, but had never gone even two starts in a row without walking a man. His walk-free opening this year saw a 5.47 ERA.

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@Angels 4, White Sox 2 – C.J. Wilson toyed with Chicago into the 8th, leaving with a 4-0 lead after a one-out walk. Three straight hits off Joe Smith cut the lead in half, but he got a 5-4-3 from Gordon Beckham with the tying runs on, Smith’s 5th GIDP of the year. Josh Hamilton drove in the first 3 runs with a double and single, raising his BA back over .400 in limited play. Mike Scioscia bucked the book in the 9th with a 2-out IBB to Adam Dunn, putting the tying run on base, but Ernesto Frieri caught Adrian Nieto looking to end it.

  • LA’s home sweep followed a 3-7 road trip, and put them in the right frame for Oakland’s Monday arrival. Oakland’s 5-1 edge in that series so far is a big part of their 4.5-game edge in the standings.
  • David Freese came in batting .231 with 2 HRs, but walked in all 4 trips. He’s only drawn 3 walks once before. Three walks came from lefty Jose Quintana, who seemed content to face Hamilton instead; but if that was a strategy, it backfired badly.

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@Royals 2, Yankees 1 – After James Shields squirmed out of bags full and no outs in the top of the 2nd, KC bunched four of their five hits with two outs in the last half, scoring both runs off Hiroki Kuroda. The Bombers also squandered Brett Gardner’s 1-out triple in the 7th, and had the tying run on second with no outs in the 9th. Gardner battled Greg Holland for eight pitches before he went down swinging to end it.

  • Gardner had 2 hits, but went 0-3 with RISP, and the team was 1 for 17. Their only run came on a groundout after a passed ball.
  • Yanks are 31-31, Royals 31-32 with a better run differential.

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Nationals 6, @Padres 0 – Jordan Zimmermann pitched the Nats into a 1st-place tie, polishing off a 2-hitter with 12 strikeouts, a new career high. Alexei Amarista spoiled the perfection in the 6th, pulling a tight 2-and-2 fastball over the infield. JZ worked past a leadoff triple in the 7th to keep his shutout going, and set down the last nine in order. San Diego’s been blanked 10 times this year, including three individual shutouts, each the most in the majors.

  • Zimmermann tossed a 1-hitter and a 2-hitter last year. For shutouts on 2 hits or less, he now has more than all other Washington Nationals combined. For the franchise, he’s the first with three such games since Floyd Youmans notched four from 1986-88.

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Marlins 4, @Cubs 3 – Chicago’s 5-win streak went down in a bullpen flame-out, fueling Miami’s claim to a share of 1st place. Jake Arrieta worked six scoreless, and Henderson Alvarez had his own shutout going with one out in the 6th. But Alvarez got hurt leaping for a bad throw at first base. The error put men on the corners, and Nate Schierholtz greeted Dan Jennings with a grounder that beat Garrett Jones for a 2-run triple. Brian Schlitter couldn’t hold that lead; he walked Casey McGehee, then let up three 2-out hits for the tie. Mike Dunn donated a new lead, forcing in the lead run with a 2-out, full-count walk to Luis Valbuena. But now it was Pedro Strop’s turn, and the wild man gave the Fish three freebies to fuel the tie, then uncorked a wild pitch for the lead run. Steve Cishek finally spoke up for his kind, fanning Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro for a clean save, leaving those two at 1 for 9 with 6 Ks on the day.

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@Arizona 6, Atlanta 5 – David Peralta’s first homer tied it up in the 7th off Aaron Harang and touched off a 6-run outburst. Atlanta fought back with 3 runs in their last two chances. But their 2-out push in the 8th died with the bags full, and Brad Ziegler struck out Freddie Freeman to seal it, dropping Atlanta into a first-place tie. Harang left after his 6th walk, and Luis Avilan missed four straight. A bunt moved them up, and Chris Owings delivered them. Paul Goldschmidt tacked on his 12th, a modest little poke.

Rookie Chase Anderson has started five games and won them all. He worked seven today for the first time, 8 Ks against one walk in his best all-around effort. The win streak reflects great run support as much as his own solid work (3.14 ERA). Still, he’s the first to win his first five MLB appearances since 2006 (Jered Weaver, 7), and first in the NL since 2002 (Kaz Ishii, 6).

  • Peralta’s dinger produced his first two RBI, and left him at 12 for 28 in his young career.

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Athletics 11, @Orioles 1 – What a relief: Oakland had gone a whole week between blowout wins. Bad Ubaldo showed up today, and he was no match for the red-hot Kaz.

In case Scott Kazmir‘s resurrection isn’t absurd enough in your eyes, note that after bad seasons in 2009-10 and being virtually inactive the next two years, he didn’t even pitch well for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. Cleveland took a flyer anyway, gave him one start at AAA, then threw him into the fire. Not only has he stayed in the majors (and healthy) since then, he’s now pitching better than ever before — halfway to a new career high in wins, with career-best ERA, WHIP, K/W, and even IP/G.

  • Kaz isn’t the only member of the 2012 Skeeters to get back to the majors. Jason Lane, a 7-year MLB veteran outfielder and a big part of Houston’s lone pennant, became the ace of that Skeeters pitching staff. After passing a AAA trial, he pitched twice for the Padres last week, retiring 13 of 14 batters, with 4 Ks. He’s since been DFA’d, but here’s hoping Lane gets another shot. How can there not be a role for a long reliever who can also hit?
  • Will Uncle Joe Torre give Manny Too-Macho a timeout? We’ll never know what Buck Showalter or veteran teammates said in private to Machado after Friday’s unprovoked outburst. But if nobody gave him the straight dope, then shame on them. Unreasoned, unchecked aggression leads to dangerous, dumb stunts; and if Manny’s too young to know better, who else will set him straight?

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@Giants 6, Mets 4 — At 42-21, these Giants have tied the ’62 team for the best start since they moved west. Only the ’23 club was better (43-20). Both teams lost the World Series. (Not that I’m bitter!)

I am a rookie with 17 career hits. I’m on second base in the top of the 1st, one out, no score, #3 hitter up with a 1-0 count. I should try to steal third if:

  1. [ ] I really miss playing in Las Vegas.
  2. [ ] I just want to fit in with my knucklehead teammates.
  3. [x] Hmm, maybe I’ll just wait and see what Daniel Murphy can do against Tim Lincecum’s 5.01 ERA and .304 BA vs. lefties.

The Mets didn’t find many right answers this week.

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Trout-Sale Followup

(Not to be confused with Trout Mask Replica.)

Discovering that Chris Sale hadn’t seen the bases loaded this year until his fateful face-off with Mike Trout, I checked this season’s bases-full rates among all starting pitchers. To my surprise, 18 others with at least 5 starts this year have only faced one batter with bags full. The lowest rate belongs to Mark Buehrle, one out of 359 total batters faced (0.3%). Jason Vargas is right behind him (1/355). The expected number for these two would be about 6 such chances, using the average of this group.

The biggest shock has to be Edwin Jackson: Despite a 1.46 WHIP, Edwin’s faced just one man with the sacks drunk. With similar WHIP rates in 2011 and ’13, he averaged 15 such chances.

Using 3-year data and a 30-start minimum, the lowest bases-full rate is Derek Holland’s 0.8% — less than half the group average, despite an unspectacular 1.26 WHIP. The highest rate, as any Blue Jays fan would guess, is Ricky Romero’s 4.0%.

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Another angle on that 8th-inning slam: Sale is the first starting pitcher in over a year to allow a grand slam after the 6th inning. Tampa’s David Price and Jeremy Hellickson each served 7th-inning slams last May, both with two outs.

The last SP slam in the 8th or later, by my check, came in April 2010, off Ian Kennedy, who started that inning with a 13-1 lead. Jose Contreras served one in the 8th, in 2007, but he already trailed, 6-3.

I really wanted to find the last game-on-the-line slam off a starter in the 8th or later, but it’s tedious work. B-R’s Event Finder does not specify starter or reliever. I tried a Google shortcut, but no luck. I tried some individual Event Finders for recent workhorses. I checked the top-10 in most starts of 7+ IP in the last 10 years, but struck out: No slams so late in starts for by CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander, Mark Buehrle, James Shields, Dan Haren, Cole Hamels and Bronson Arroyo. (Arroyo and King Felix suffered one in the 7th, and Haren had one in relief in the 11th.) I checked the 13 pitchers with 5 or more slams allowed in the last 10 years, but found none after the 7th.

So I pressed on by brute force. And in 2005, I finally found one: July 9, 2005, Brandon Webb against the Reds in Phoenix, leading 2-1 into the 8th. Sean Casey’s double with two on tied it up with one out, and an intentional walk to Ken Griffey filled the bags. D-backs catcher Chris Snyder, the offensive hero so far, fielded Joe Randa’s tapper and stepped on the plate for the second out. That brought up the dangerous Adam Dunn, then in the midst of his five straight years with 40 HRs and 100 walks. Webb had handled Dunn neatly three times in the game, and in 10 of 11 career meetings. But he fell behind, 3-and-1, and Adam got it done, with the fourth of his 12 career slams.

Dunn, of course, homered Saturday, Chicago’s last hit before the big Angels rally.

I’m not quite prepared to say that Webb was the last starter to allow a meaningful slam as late as the 8th inning. From a list of all pitchers who allowed such a slam, I have a pretty good sense of who was a starter at the time, but being sure means clicking on every box score — “C.J. Wilson, was he starting in 2008? Ah, no” – and that’s more than the info is worth.

Before I found Webb’s game, I found three earlier ones among the top-10 in complete games since 1980:

  • April 22, 2004: Curt Schilling was tied in Toronto, 3-all in the 8th. With two outs, he walked Orlando Hudson on a full count, loading the bags on his 120th pitch. Chris Gomez had never hit hit a grand slam in 11 seasons, 112 chances. Gone. Jays won, 7-3.
  • June 27, 1998: Schilling again, for the Phillies against the Devil Rays. Although he’d allowed 9 hits through seven, Schilling led 1-0 in the 8th. But three straight one-out hits tied it up and put men on third and second, and ran Schill’s pitch count over 130. After an IBB to Wade Boggs, pinch-hitter Paul Sorrento worked the count full, then connected on Schilling’s 141st pitch, his most in a game to that point. (A month later, Schilling threw his career-high 146 pitches, also losing that one in the 8th.) Slams were a Sorrento specialty; this one was his 9th out of 104 bags-full chances so far, and out of 150 HRs. It was just the second time he had batted off Schilling, and the only hit he would ever get.
  • May 3, 1996: Greg Maddux, the 4-time defending Cy Young winner, took a 2-1 lead into the 9th, but three straight singles tied it. With men on third and second, he got Todd Zeile to pop up for the first out, then intentionally walked Jim Eisenreich. Benito Santiago clubbed the next pitch, just #100 from Maddux, and the Phils went on to win, 6-3. (Santiago went on to smack 30 HRs that year, his only time over 18. He faced Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz more than he did any other pitchers, and hit 6 career HRs off Maddux and Smoltz, his most against any pitcher.)

Rounding out the CG leaders:

  • Jack Morris allowed 389 HRs, but only 5 slams, none after the 2nd.
  • Roger Clemens yielded 363 HRs, 5 slams, latest in the 6th.
  • Fernando Valenzuela, 226 HRs, just 2 slams, latest in the 6th.
  • Greg Maddux, 353 HRs, 3 slams, one in the 9th.
  • Charlie Hough, 383 HRs, 7 slams, none past the 4th as a starter.
  • Randy Johnson, 411 HRs, 5 slams, none past the 6th.
  • Bert Blyleven, 430 HRs, 8 slams, none past the 6th.
  • Dave Stieb, 225 HRs, 3 slams, none past the 5th.
  • Curt Schilling, 347 HRs, 5 slams, two in the 8th.
  • Dennis Martines, 372 HRs, 6 slams, none past the 5th.

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