@Marlins 10, Indians 0 — Unstoppable force, meet No-Way Jose Fernandez. Miami’s precocious ace prolonged his coming-of-age party — his 21st game was his first at age 21 — with a gem more brilliant than the last one, throwing a 14-K roadblock in front of Cleveland’s 8-win streak.
Smashing success and Philadelphia Phillies’ baseball are two phrases that haven’t been uttered in the same sentence very often over the 131 year history of the franchise. No professional sports team has suffered more defeats and few teams have tasted glory less often than the boys in Philadelphia. By the time the Phillies moved out of Veteran’s Stadium one magical, Steve Carlton-fueled run in 1980 was all that stood between the Phillies and an 0-for-the-century.
But with the move to shiny, new Citizens Bank Park in 2004 came a shiny, new ball club. In 2005 the team hired Charlie Manuel, who has been the most successful manager in franchise history, and gave the full-time 1st base job to Ryan Howard, who would go onto win the Rookie of the Year Award and then an MVP. 2006 saw the arrival of Cole Hamels, a future World Series MVP who fit nicely alongside a deep, talented offense chalked full of All-Stars. By 2007 the franchise had captured their first division title in 14 years, which would set off a run of 5 straight NL East crowns. And then in 2008 they finally hit pay dirt, capturing a World Series title in 5 games over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Royals 7, @Twins 2 — Justin Maxwell left a team that went 11-29 in games he played this year and lent an instant hand to the hottest club around, with a hit, a walk, a run and a ribby. Two sac flies and three RBI groundouts punctuated K.C.’s 9th straight win, matching their best since 1994. This streak and that one both began on July 23, with a labor-management cloud hanging over baseball.
Who’s up for a Bucs-Rays World Series? I foresee great entertainment for real baseball fans, and weak ratings to frustrate the network — a win-win!
@Pirates 2, Cardinals 1 (1st game, 11 inn.) — After two Bucs got free passes, Alex Presley singled to win it, pushing the Pirates atop the NL Central with the nightcap pending. Presley’s hit came on a full count and glanced off the glove of rookie southpaw Kevin Siegrist, who’d allowed just 4 hits and a run in his first 14 innings and might have escaped with a DP had he let it go through. It was Pittsburgh’s 6th game-ending hit, each by a different player, and gave them the majors’ best record at 63-42.
Rays 2, @Red Sox 1 — In a game rescheduled by rain, 8th-inning showers stalled David Price’s bid for the first 5-win July in Tampa history, and twice his relief nearly blew the lead. But Fernando Rodney escaped his self-imposed jam by striking out Mike Napoli, and the Rays nipped back into 1st place by a half-game.
With division and wild card rival Tampa Bay coming into town for a 3 game set, the Yankees were in dire need of a dominate performance from their $182 million dollar staff ace. New York entered play on Friday just 2.5 games behind Baltimore in the chase for the 2nd Wild Card and with the newly re-acquired Alfonso Soriano en tow, the deficit was looking a little more manageable. Unfortunately for New York CC Sabathia may no longer be the ace he once was. Heck, right now he isn’t even the ace of his own staff. That designation belongs to Hiroki Kuroda and his shiny 2.51 ERA.
After Friday night’s shellacking , CC Sabathia now has an ERA of 4.65. That mark stands as the highest of his career. It’s worse than the 4.38 ERA he posted as a rookie in 2001 when hitters were pummeling pitchers into submission night after night. And his ERA isn’t the only problem. The big lug is allowing more hits and homers than at any point in his career and more disturbingly, his fastball velocity is sitting 2 mph below his career norm.
Four 1-0 games in one day?!? There was one other day this year with two such games. Last June 13 had three, as did 2010-09-11, 2009-07-01, 2004-09-19 and 2004-06-08. There were six in three days starting 2005-08-12. But if I’m not mistaken, the last day with four 1-0 games was 2001-09-02. (You’ll have to poke around to find which one of those was most memorable.)
Only the early precincts were tallied when Game Notes put the issue to bed.
Rays 10, @Yankees 6 — Rain ruined the rampaging Rays’ second head-to-head crack at 1st place on Thursday, but the indirect route proved just as rewarding. A 6-run eruption off CC Sabathia, plus Boston’s meek loss in Charm City, left them alone at the top for the first time since last June, riding the long crest of a 20-3 wave (2.33 ERA).