A look at action over the weekend involving the front-running teams. Included were some marquee matchups, starting with the Missouri showdown series.
More after the jump.
Cardinals@Royals – Cards salvage finale of 3-game set with cross-state rivals
- Royals took the opener as Chris Young improved to 4-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.78. It was Young’s fourth straight start of 5+ IP allowing one run or less, tied with three others for the longest such streak by a Royal to start a season. In the first of those starts, Young allowed no runs or hits over 5 innings, joining Trevor Bauer as pitchers of record this season to be removed from such a game in their first start of the year. That has happened on only 8 other searchable occasions, 7 of them since 1990.
- KC edged the Cards 3-2 in the rain-shortened second game, with both starters recording a CG. It’s the first CG for the Royals against St. Louis in the regular season or post-season.
- St. Louis prevailed 6-1 in the finale as Michael Wacha improved to 7-0 on the season, joining Woody Williams in 2003 as the only Cardinal starters to win their first 7 decisions of a season without a CG.
Astros@Tigers – Houston takes last two to split 4-game set
- The Astros came back from 5-0 after 6 innings to tie the game in the 9th on Preston Tucker‘s pinch-hit home run as Tiger closer Joakim Soria blew his first save of the year. But Detroit catcher James McCann answered with a home run of his own for the 11th-inning walk-off win as Tony Sipp became the fifth Astro to surrender an extra-inning walk-off home run to his only batter of the game.
- In game 2, an 8th inning error by Astro third baseman Luis Valbuena led to three unearned runs as Detroit broke open a close game to win 6-2. James McCann had two hits, two RBI and two GIDP to join Al Kaline as the only Tigers with such a searchable game.
- In game 3, four straight Astro singles led to two 6th inning runs to give Houston a 3-2 lead. The Astro bullpen would take it the rest of the way as the Tigers recorded their first searchable game failing to reach base against any of four or more relievers. Ian Kinsler became the first player this season to ground into a triple play, the first of his career.
- In a wild finale, Detroit led 5-3 after one inning but the Astros battled back to tie 7-7 after 6 stanzas, before pulling away for a 10-8 victory. Preston Tucker delivered his second pinch-hit home run of the series, the first Astro to do so in consecutive PH appearances.
Rangers@Yankees – Texas sweeps as Yankee swoon continues
- How far has the AL East fallen? After losing 10 of 11, New York finds itself … in the thick of the division race, just a game-and-a-half back.
- In the opener, every Yankee starter collected a hit but it wasn’t enough to recover from a 7-run 3rd inning set up by Michael Pineda‘s throwing error after fielding a sacrifice bunt. Garrett Jones‘ 3-run pinch-hit home run was his first round-tripper as a Yankee. Colin Curtis did the same in 2010 with his only career homer. Quiz: who is the other player with a searchable 3-run pinch-hit jack as his first Yankee homer? (Hint: his last home run preceding that shot was hit against the Yankees)
- The third inning was also a Yankee killer in game 2 as CC Sabathia allowed the first 5 Rangers to reach base and Esmil Rogers only added fuel to the fire, allowing a walk, single, double, home run and hit batter, all in his first third of an inning. In all, fourteen Rangers went to the plate in a 10-run inning as Texas romped 15-4. The last time the Rangers scored 6+ runs off two Yankees pitching 3 innings or less was a 16-5 thrashing at the Stadium in New York’s 114-48 world championship season in 1998.
- Texas completed the sweep with a 5-2 win, holding New York scoreless after the first inning. Justin Wilson followed Paul Quantrill as Yankees to face 3 batters and allow a single, double and triple.
- AL batting leader Prince Fielder continued to bash with three homers in the series as he approaches 300 for his career (four more to go). Fielder is on pace for just the second season by a Ranger of 200 hits and 30 home runs, following the 2001 season of Alex Rodriguez whose four hits in the series raised his career total to 2975. While attention is focused on that 3000 hit milestone, 2000 is also a big number for A-Rod as in 2000 RBI (eight to go) and 2000 runs (could get there by end of the year). Ten thousand ABs are also just around the corner, probably in the next two weeks.
Athletics@Rays – Teams split four game set, as A’s win back-to-back for first time in 36 games
- In the opener, Alex Colome and four Ray relievers combined for a 6-hit whitewash of Oakland. Jesse Chavez took the loss to fall to 1-4 for the season despite a nifty 2.89 ERA. Chavez is the 26th pitcher to post an ERA over 5.00 in 150+ games through age 29 including 80% in relief, but the first with that pedigree to become a starter aged 30+ and have some success doing so, with a 3.32 ERA and 114 ERA+ this season and last.
- In game 2, Evan Longoria‘s 3-run homer was the key hit in a 5-2 Rays win. Scott Kazmir took the loss to drop to 2-3. Kazmir won his first two starts of the season and posted an 0.99 April ERA that has ballooned to 5.14 in May. The latter result is nearer Kazmir’s career norms of a 4.31 first half ERA improving to 3.66 in the second half of year.
- After losing 14 of 16, Oakland rebounded to halve the series, starting with a 5-0 win in game 3. With the game scoreless and runners on the corners with two out in the 6th inning, Kevin Cash‘s decision to remove starter Nate Karns didn’t work out as Xavier Cedeno allowed his first 3 batters to reach for a four-run A’s uprising aided by two Rays errors. Center-fielder Billy Burns collected his first career RBI in his 88th career PA, the longest searchable RBI-less streak for an Athletic (excl. pitchers) to begin a career.
- In the finale, Billy Burns made it two PA in a row with an RBI by leading off the game with a first pitch home run off Rays’ starter Erasmo Ramirez. Two of Burns’ teammates would also homer in a 7-2 win to support 5 shutout innings by Sonny Gray, who was forced to leave the game early when his ankle stiffened up after being struck by a ball hit by Rays’ first baseman James Loney.
Phillies@Nats – Washington takes two of three to extend NL East lead
- In the opener, Max Scherzer turned in another stellar performance in a 2-1 win. It was Scherzer’s 7th start of 6+ IP with no more than one earned run allowed, the most in his career in his team’s first 60 games and his third straight year with 5 such starts over that period.
- Philadelphia took the middle game 8-1 as Stephen Strasburg had another rough outing that saw his season ERA hit 6.50. Strasburg’s strikeouts are down a bit from last year and his walks are up a bit, but neither by a lot. Rather, he’s just giving up far too many hits with his H/9 up 50% over his career high rate last season. Looking at Pitch/FX data on fangraphs.com, Strasburg’s pitches in the zone are running above 52% after being in the 48%-49% range the past two seasons. And, his contact rate is way up with batters connecting on 85% of all swings compared to 76% the past two years, and connecting on 73% of swings outside the zone compared to only 56% the past two years. Strasburg has lost about an inch to an inch-and-a-half of vertical break on his cutter while elevating his fastball and changeup more than previously. And he’s gone much more to a four-seam fastball instead of a two-seamer, the latter comprising only 6% of his pitches this year compared to 20% last season.
- Washington took the finale by a 4-1 score as Drew Storen collected his 14th save in 15 chances and 25th in 26 tries going back to last season, with no runs allowed in 24 of those 25 converted saves.
Padres@Dodgers – LA takes two of three to maintain NL West lead
- In the opener, Joc Pederson‘s 8th inning solo shot was the difference in a 2-1 Dodger win. Those were LA’s first runs in four games after the Giants whitewashed the Dodgers in three straight by the Bay for the second time in four seasons.
- Pederson homered in his second straight PA to give LA a 1-0 lead in the middle game. No further scoring was needed to support Mike Bolsinger‘s eight shutout innings of one-hit ball in a 2-0 Dodger win. That one hit was delivered by Yangervis Solarte leading off the game and was erased when the next batter grounded into a double play. That enabled the Dodgers to face the minimum 27 batters, only the third such searchable one-hit team shutout involving more than one pitcher, and the first for LA.
- Quite a different story in the finale as San Diego unleashed a 20-hit barrage for an 11-4 win at the expense of starter Carlos Frias who became the second Dodger this season to find himself behind 4-0 before recording his first out of the game. Frias’s 4 innings of work is the shortest searchable start by a Dodger allowing 10 earned runs on 12 or more hits (the most recent of the 7 such longer starts was Ralph Branca‘s complete game win on 1949-06-25 when the Rams beat the Steelers by a touchdown 17-10) 🙂
Giants@Rockies – Champs take first two but settle for series split
- After shutting out the Dodgers in three straight games to climb within a game-and-a-half of the division lead, the resurgent Giants took their 6-game winning streak to Denver … and allowed 8 runs in each of the first two games, but still won both to extend their hot streak to 16 wins in the last 21 games. It was the first time since 1923 that the Giants won two such consecutive games on the road against the same opponent.
- In the opener, San Francisco scored four in the 9th to break open a tight game but Colorado answered with four in their half of the inning to make it close. Jeremy Affeldt started that inning by allowing base hits to all 5 batters he faced, only the second such searchable relief outing by a Giant with the first coming just last year by … Jeremy Affeldt. The first three of those hits were all pinch-hits to tie the Rockies’ team record for the most in one game.
- In the second game of the series (and first of a double-header), Chris Heston pitched into the 6th for the win, just the third searchable victory by a Giant starter when allowing more runs than IP and more HR than strikeouts. The other two were by Joe Nathan (yes, that Joe Nathan, who was a Giant starter with a 4.70 ERA before finding his true calling as a dominant relief specialist) and Larry Jansen, the only Giant ever with 20 wins and 20 CG in a debut season, and the last of four such pitchers in the live ball era.
- In the nightcap played in brisk 45° weather, Daniel Descalso‘s 6th inning two run HR put Colorado ahead to stay and made a winner of David Hale in his Rockies debut.
- In the finale, Colorado got to Tim Hudson for 7 runs in an 8-run 4th inning en route to an 11-2 win. Nolan Arenado had two hits (one a HR) and two runs scored in the inning while Ben Paulsen followed Arenado with two outs in the frame. Hudson, who turns 40 on the day of the ASG, has been hurt by the long ball this year while his strikeout rate has dropped a third from where it was two seasons ago, with only one start so far with 5 or more Ks. Still, the crafty veteran has 5 quality starts in 9 outings, good enough to keep his rotation spot for now.