September 16, 2014
What You Need to Know
September 16, 2014
The Monday Takeaway
What’s a good way for a pitcher to try to wrap up his league’s Rookie of the Year award? How about starting a game with eight consecutive strikeouts to tie a record previously held by Jim Deshaies? That’s the route Jacob deGrom chose.
The game began strikeout, strikeout, strikeout, strikeout, strikeout, as deGrom’s opponent, Jarred Cosart, punched out the first two Mets who batted, too. But the next three all reached, and a Wilmer Flores double gave deGrom a 2-0 lead.
He responded by going strikeout, strikeout, strikeout for a shutdown top of the second. After striking out as a batter to end the latter half, deGrom picked up a couple of backward Ks to etch his name into the history books.
Color Deshaies, now a broadcaster for the Cubs, impressed.
All that stood between deGrom and his own personal perch, a notch above Deshaies, was his counterpart, Cosart. Unlike the eight Marlins who batted before him, Cosart didn’t wait around. He took a first-pitch ball, then singled to snap the streak. Perhaps a bit rattled, deGrom uncorked a wild pitch that moved Cosart to second before Christian Yelich grounded out to end the inning.
DeGrom cruised through the sixth but ran into a world of trouble in the seventh, when the Fish went single-double-single to tie the game. Former Met Jordany Valdespin wound up at second base when the throw went home, and he advanced to third on a sac bunt by Jeff Mathis. Pinch-hitter Reed Johnson, taking Cosart’s place, drove Valdespin in with a sacrifice fly to give the Marlins their first lead of the game.
For all his good work—which featured 13 total strikeouts in seven innings and eight fastball whiffs in 41 tries—the 26-year-old deGrom was now in line for the loss.
The Mets would do something about that after the seventh-inning stretch, with the help of a leadoff fielding error by Casey McGehee. With pinch-hitter Eric Campbell aboard, fellow sub Josh Satin—batting for deGrom—struck out looking. Juan Lagares walked to put Campbell in scoring position, and Daniel Murphy knotted it up. Trouble is, Lagares was thrown out at third on the play, so Travis d’Arnaud’s ensuing double only brought home one run.
That would prove important later. For now, the Mets were back on top and deGrom was in line for the win. Three straight walks later, they were up by two.
But deGrom’s night was over, and Jeurys Familia couldn’t hold the line. He struck out Donovan Solano for starters, but instead of fanning the next four batters, he allowed all of them to hit singles. The last one, by Adeiny Hechavarria, tied it up at 5-5. Jenrry Mejia came on for the rescue, and he, too, began his night with a strikeout. But the second batter he faced, Jeff Mathis, put the Marlins on top with the fifth single of the frame.
On the bright side, he’s in exclusive company—the sort of company any Mets pitcher, rookie or otherwise, would be thrilled to keep. The only other right-hander to strike out 13 in seven or fewer innings of a Mets loss was Tom Seaver, the 1967 NL Rookie of the Year, on May 2, 1973.
Quick Hits from Monday
After taking 19 days off to nurse a lower-back ailment, Anthony Rizzo returned to manager Rick Renteria’s lineup last night. If he hadn’t, the Cubs and Reds might still be playing their series opener.
Alfredo Simon and Travis Wood dueled to a scoreless draw, with the former working seven innings and the latter six. A clean frame from Neil Ramirez evened things out. Manny Parra and Pedro Villarreal matched the goose egg posted by Pedro Strop in the top of the eighth, and Hector Rondon blanked the Reds in the top of the ninth. So it was 0-0 when Anthony Rizzo led off the bottom half.
Not for long:
Rizzo’s 31st long ball of the year was a walkoff, the only tally for either side at Wrigley Field. He’s the first Cubs player to hit a game-winning blast in a 1-0 decision since Joe Pepitone did in the 12th inning on June 8, 1971.
The Nationals won on Monday. Stephen Strasburg fired seven shutout innings and fanned seven. They scored four runs, one of them on a solo shot by Wilson Ramos. Washington led 4-0 heading into the ninth. It should have been easy.
So why was the fan base collectively hyperventilating?
Rafael Soriano is why. After stripping Soriano of his closer title about two weeks ago, manager Matt Williams gave him the ball with a four-run lead in the ninth. Williams was hoping not to use Drew Storen, who’d supplanted Soriano in his previous role. No such luck.
The ninth began with a single by the slumping Andrelton Simmons. Soriano bounced back to strike out Joey Terdoslavich, but the next batter, Justin Upton, doubled, too, plating Simmons to make it 4-1. Jason Heyward flied out, so there was one on and two away, and the tying run was still in the on-deck circle. It advanced to the batter’s box when Soriano walked Chris Johnson, prompting Williams to pull the plug.
Storen, who came on for the newly minted save opportunity, was no saint, either. He gave up a run-scoring single to Christian Bethancourt, putting the tying run on first. A wild pitch moved the rookie catcher to second while pinch-runner Emilio Bonifacio remained at third. Fortunately for the Nationals, a B.J. Upton groundout halted the rally.
Since the National League East title is virtually in the bag, a loss on Monday would hardly have been disastrous for the Nats, who padded their lead to 11.5 games with the 4-2 win and trimmed their magic number to two. More worrisome is the state of their bullpen as October nears. With Soriano’s usefulness eroding, even in non-save situations, Williams’s club no longer has the ability to shorten postseason games the way it seemed it might a month ago.
Also having bullpen issues last night were three of the five clubs in the American League Central. At the end of it all, there was no ground gained or lost between the Tigers and Royals.
Detroit led Minnesota, 6-4, when Max Scherzer hit the showers after seven innings. Joba Chamberlain quickly imperiled that lead by walking the first two Twins who batted in the last of the eighth. Phil Coke relieved Chamberlain and, together with catcher Bryan Holaday, allowed a double steal. That set the stage for Joe Mauer’s ensuing two-run single, which knotted the score at six apiece.
Two more Tigers relievers would be needed to stem the tide, after Trevor Plouffe singled off of Al Alburquerque to put runners at first and second with one away. Kyle Ryan was their savior, coaxing a double-play ball from pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez to end the frame.
Some two minutes later, Casey Fien let the Tigers go back up by two. Torii Hunter went yard to make it 7-6, and Miguel Cabrera made it back-to-back jacks to restore the two-run margin. Joakim Soria would preserve that score, but not without a little drama, supplied by Kurt Suzuki’s leadoff double. The Twins catcher got no closer to the plate, and the tying run never left it.
The White Sox bullpen has been as notorious for its failures this year as the Tigers’ bullpen has been. We now have one more to add to the list.
But first, this note on Ned Yost’s evolving bullpen management: After refusing to use his top relievers to escape a sixth-inning jam on Sunday, Yost went with Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis to give his team a shot late in the opener at Kauffman Stadium. Meanwhile, the Royals halved what had been a 3-1 Chicago lead on an eighth-inning RBI single by Alex Gordon. Billy Butler grounded into a fielder’s choice with runners at the corners and two out to give the South Siders hope that they might hold on.
That left Chicago’s setup man, Zach Putnam, with this weird line: two-thirds of an inning pitched, two hits, a walk, two wild pitches, and a stolen base allowed. Just how rare is such an adventure? According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, Putnam is the first reliever in at least a century to check all of those boxes while recording two or fewer outs and without permitting an earned run.
More pertinently, by allowing only the one unearned tally, he gave Jake Petricka a chance to close out the narrow win. But Petricka gave up a one-out double to Mike Moustakas, who was replaced at second by pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson. This time, instead of getting picked off like he did last week, Dyson stole third and came all the way around to score the tying run on Petricka’s wild pitch.
…slow enough not only for Cain to reach, but for Gore to score from second with the winning run.
They say speed kills. After Monday’s 4-3 defeat, which kept the Royals 1 ½ games behind the Tigers, the White Sox would have to agree.
If an 11-9 wild one is a Coors Field Special, then what the Padres and Phillies played last night was a Petco Park Classic: a tidy, two-hour-and-nine-minute, 1-0 affair.
Andrew Cashner was on the winning end of it, with a two-hit shutout in which he walked one and whiffed seven. It was a Maddux, too, as the hard-throwing righty needed just 92 pitches, 68 of them strikes, to set aside Ryne Sandberg’s lineup for good.
But all of those efforts might have been for naught sans a fielding miscue by Phillies third baseman Cody Asche. With runners at the corners and two out in the second inning, Cashner hit a ground ball to the hot corner that Asche kicked. As it turned out, the run scored by Rene Rivera on the play was the only one in the game.
Finally, down in Tampa Bay, Masahiro Tanaka tested his arm in an instructional league game early Monday afternoon. His fastball peaked at 92 mph, roughly his average velocity to this point in the majors, but the right-hander came away relatively bearish about his chances of starting against the Blue Jays this weekend despite throwing five shutout innings. There is little doubt that the 25-year-old would like to return before his rookie year is out, but with the Yankees’ playoff odds having dipped below one percent, there is plenty of reason to wonder whether they should let him.
The Defensive Play of the Day
Arismendy Alcantara spent most of his minor-league days as a middle infielder, but he can flash the leather in center, too:
What to Watch on Tuesday
Remember Ubaldo Jimenez? It’s been a while since he last earned a starting assignment from manager Buck Showalter—exactly a month, in fact, since he coughed up six runs in 4 1/3 rocky frames versus the Indians. Jimenez made a couple of late-August relief appearances, then disappeared as soon as rosters expanded, until the Orioles made their East division lead Ubaldo-proof. Now, thanks to a doubleheader that forced Baltimore to use six starters in five days, the pitcher Showalter could not trust in a still-competitive race will get the ball with a chance to clinch the crown. Jimenez’s K:BB ratio in seven career starts against the Blue Jays is an unsightly 26-to-23, and that comes with seven gopher balls in 38 2/3 innings. He’ll likely need to improve on those numbers for the O’s to celebrate at visiting starter Drew Hutchison’s expense this evening (7:05 p.m. ET).
Corey Kluber has racked up 230 strikeouts in 212 2/3 innings this year, giving him the 16th-highest single-season total in Indians history, and the right-hander is poised to shoot further up that leaderboard with a favorable late-September docket. Assuming he stays healthy and Terry Francona sticks to a regular rest pattern for his starters, Kluber will get the Astros (third-most batting strikeouts entering play on Monday) and Twins (seventh) this week, before wrapping up his 2014 campaign against the much-stingier Rays (fourth-fewest). The 28-year-old is four shy of Gaylord Perry’s 1972 output, six away from Sam McDowell’s 1967, eight lower than Perry’s 1973, 10 down from Bob Feller’s 1938, and—if you really want to get adventurous with the possibilities tonight—15 behind Herb Score’s 1955 and 16 back of Feller’s 1939. While reaching either of those would require Kluber to soar past his season-high K total of 12, a fine effort tonight would put him in position to leap into the franchise top 10 this weekend. He’ll take on Nick Tropeano in game two of the series at Minute Maid Park (8:10 p.m. ET).
Five games separate the Cardinals and Brewers in the National League Central, where Milwaukee has fallen into third place, 1½ games behind Pittsburgh. Anything short of an improbable sweep at Busch Stadium this week would likely torpedo the Brewers’ dreams of capturing the title. At 37-35 away from Miller Park, Ron Roenicke’s club has been one of the senior circuit’s best road teams, better than the Cards and Pirates in that department, though that means the Redbirds (47-28 at home) have done their best work in the venue that will play host to the three-game set. The visitors will have to take it one game at a time and hope for the best. Wily Peralta, who snapped a three-start skid with 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Marlins his last time out, is up first in a duel with Lance Lynn (8:15 p.m. ET).