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May 15, 2012

What You Need to Know

Tuesday, May 15

by Daniel Rathman

The Monday Takeaway
With 11 home runs in 150 plate appearances entering Monday’s game against the Tigers, Adam Dunn had come all the way back from one of the worst offensive seasons in history. Well, almost all the way.

The one thing Dunn had not yet done was go deep against a left-handed pitcher. The last time he did that, Dunn was still a member of the Nationals, the Democrats still controlled the House, and the most salient things being occupied were airplane lavatories on cross-country flights.

Finally, in the first inning of Chicago’s 7-5 win over Detroit, Dunn exorcised that demon on a first-pitch fastball from rookie Drew Smyly, notching his 12th dinger of the year in the process. The big fly to right-center field marked Dunn’s first off a southpaw since August 6, 2010. But the news isn’t all bad for the 22-year-old Smyly: The last lefty to fall victim to Dunn’s pop was Clayton Kershaw, who served up two gopher balls to him that day and proceeded to win the Cy Young award the following season.

Speaking of exorcising demons, Bryce Harper finally got the monkey off his back, too, mashing his first big-league homer off Padres righty Tim Stauffer. Harper did not disappoint with distance (429 feet), trot time (17.07 seconds), or curtain call, bouncing back admirably after a rough afternoon in Cincinnati on Sunday.

What to Watch for on Tuesday

  • The Phillies are 0-4 in Cliff Lee’s starts so far this season, and the southpaw has a bizarre career line against the Astros. In three duels with Houston’s offense, Lee has pitched 15 2/3 innings, fanned 20 batters, and walked only one—yet his ERA is a bloated 6.89. He will need to be especially careful when facing Carlos Lee this afternoon (1:05 p.m. ET), as El Caballo has touched up his namesake in past meetings, logging an 8-for-21 line with three homers and one of his 19 career triples.
  • Rafael Furcal entered Monday’s game against the Cubs a ridiculous 23-for-44 in the month of May, but Ryan Dempster and co. shut him down, as the Cardinals shortstop went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. Tuesday’s Cubs starter Paul Maholm may have a tougher time keeping Furcal off the basepaths, though. Maholm has not allowed more than one earned run in a start since April 15, but Furcal is 9-for-22 against him with four doubles and a homer. That matchup at the top of the St. Louis order may decide the game (1:45 p.m. ET).
  • It’s a matchup of undefeated lefties—CC Sabathia, whom you’d expect to be undefeated, and Wei-Yin Chen, a rookie who, despite having already faced the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers, still owns a flawless 3-0 ledger. Baltimore has not lost a game started by Chen since his April 10 debut against New York, and it will need to maintain that run to avoid a sweep (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • Things got awfully weird the last time Bartolo Colon faced the Angels, as the rotund right-hander took pounding the zone to an unprecedented extreme. Colon fired 38 straight strikes on his way to eight shutout innings in a 6-0 Oakland victory that marked the second time the Halos had been blanked this season. They have since posted six more goose eggs, including a 5-0 defeat last night. To recap: Mike Scioscia’s lineup has failed to produce a run in 22.2 percent (eight of 36) of its contests to date. And now Colon gets to try for an encore, as he’ll square off with Ervin Santana—the victim of five of those shutouts—tonight (7:05 p.m. ET).

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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