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April 25, 2012

What You Need to Know

Wednesday, April 25

by Daniel Rathman

The Tuesday Takeaway
Josh Johnson missed most of the 2011 season because of inflammation in his right shoulder. Johan Santana was shelved for much of it while rehabbing from a torn capsule in his left one. But on Tuesday night in Queens, they decided to party like it was 2009.

The Marlins and Mets aces matched each other out for out, hit for hit, and run for run on a night that was supposed to be highlighted by Jose Reyes’ return to Citi Field. Instead, Reyes went an inauspicious 0-for-4, while Johnson and Santana stole the show.

Both pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing a run on three hits. Johnson struck out nine and walked one, while Santana fanned 11 and walked two. Neither was the pitcher of record for his team in what ended up a 2-1 Mets victory.

Johnson and Santana both remain winless on the young season, but they delivered their best outings to date in Tuesday’s duel. Once among the league’s hardest-throwing starters with a fastball that averaged nearly 96 mph, Johnson worked in the 91-93 mph range and got many of his punchouts with his slider. Santana went to his bread-and-butter changeup early and often, and he made his presence felt in the first inning by catching Hanley Ramirez and Logan Morrison looking for the second and third outs of the game.

After starting their road trip to Washington and New York with consecutive losses and a rainout, the Marlins needed Johnson to turn the tide—and he certainly did his part. After losing both ends of a doubleheader to the Giants on Monday, the Mets needed vintage Johan to make an appearance—and he did, ensuring a positive storyline on a night that very well could have turned sour.

Johnson and Santana did on Tuesday night what aces are supposed to do, and what they were once expected to do every fifth day. In Buster Olney’s words, they were like “two kids who hit puberty early.” Now that their swing-and-miss stuff has returned, all that’s left is to prove that they can still—pun intended—shoulder a full-season load.

What to Watch for on Wednesday

  • The Royals failed to snap their now-12-game skid last night, and now Luke Hochevar may meet his own worst enemy in Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. In one of the most extreme examples of batter-pitcher ownage across the league, Choo has gone 15-for-25 with four doubles, three home runs, and three walks against Hochevar; he is also a perfect 4-for-4 on stolen base attempts with Hochevar on the mound. Assuming Choo’s sore hamstring recovers with a night's rest, Hochevar will need to rein him in to play stopper for Kansas City. 
  • No team has given Barry Zito as much trouble over the course of his career as the Reds. Zito owns an awful 7.47 ERA and 35-to-22 K/BB ratio lifetime against Cincinnati, and he’s barely averaged five innings per start in nine tries. The Giants are 3-0 in Zito’s starts to date, but tonight’s (7:10 p.m.) matchup may provide the first true test of his resurgence.
  • The Orioles placed Dontrelle Willis on the restricted list over the weekend, and unsurprisingly, neither the pitcher nor his agent, Matt Sosnick, is pleased about the move. General manager Dan Duquette has endured a rocky first few months in Baltimore, and Sosnick seized the opportunity to remind the world of Duquette’s faux pas with the Korean Baseball Association over the winter. Those are hardly the headlines the 10-7 O’s want to see during their likely brief stay atop the AL East standings, but it seems this latest flap is just getting started.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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<< Previous Article
Pebble Hunting: Albert... (04/24)
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Premium Article Collateral Damage Dail... (04/25)

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