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June 4, 2012

What You Need to Know

Monday, June 4

by Daniel Rathman

The Weekend Takeaway
Superstitious baseball fans scream or tweet threats at broadcasters who mention that a no-hitter is in progress for fear that the pastime’s overlords won’t let it stand. Apparently, those same overlords read Craig Glaser’s guest article last Tuesday and decided that the curse should work in reverse, too.

Some 80 hours after the article went up on the Baseball Prospectus homepage, Johan Santana took the mound at Citi Field and threw the first of the 134 pitches he would need to do what no Mets hurler had ever done before. He began with an 88-mph fastball to Rafael Furcal and ended with a 79-mph changeup that fooled David Freese. In two hours and 35 minutes, Santana walked five Cardinals and struck out eight, facing 32 batters without surrendering a hit.

The no-no was the third thrown in the majors this season and a historic moment for a franchise that sorely needed one. Moreover, it set the wheels in motion for the Mets pitching staff to hold the Cardinals scoreless from the first inning of Friday’s series opener until the eighth of Sunday’s nationally televised game three.

By defeating the Cardinals 6-1 last night, the Mets—who were almost universally picked to finish last in a competitive National League East—improved to 31-23 and moved into a virtual three-way tie for first place in the division with the 30-22 Nationals and the 31-23 Marlins. They will look to sweep St. Louis out of the Big Apple this afternoon, before heading to the nation’s capital for a three-game battle with the Nationals that begins Tuesday night.

With some help from the Braves, a series win in Washington could give the Mets their first post-June 1 NL East lead since Sept. 19, 2008. (Of course, you probably should not mention that to any of your Mets fan friends.)

What to Watch for on Monday

  • According to ESPN’s Jim Bowden, the first overall pick in the major-league draft will be Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, but some believe that Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton is in play, too. And the remaining 29 first-round picks are up in the air, leaving plenty of drama surrounding this evening’s telecast on MLB Network. The Astros and first-year general manager Jeff Luhnow will officially go on the clock at 7:00 p.m. ET, but be sure to check out Kevin Goldstein’s mock draft at BP in the hours before the draft begins.
  • The Mets will attempt to complete a four-game sweep of the Cardinals this afternoon (1:10 p.m. ET), but what happens in the home bullpen at Citi Field before or after the game may be equally important. Santana and R.A. Dickey will both throw their between-start sessions today, as manager Terry Collins decides whether the latter can go on short rest on Wednesday to enable the former to get an extra day of rest and go Thursday. If that plan proves infeasible, the Mets may be forced to turn to the minors for a fill-in.
  • The Dodgers continue their stretch of 19 of 25 on the road with a visit to Citizens Bank Park, where the matchup with the Phillies will feature two of the league's top three offensive catchers in terms of OPS. Carlos Ruiz leads all of his colleagues by a mile at 1.029, while A.J. Ellis—who hit his sixth home run of the season on Sunday and continues to silence all doubters—is third at 934. Chooch has some history against tonight’s (7:05 p.m. ET) Dodgers starter, Clayton Kershaw—namely, this three-run homer in Game One of the 2009 NLCS.
  • There’s no place like home to Rockies outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler, who obliterated everything thrown their way to lead Colorado to a 6-1 stand at Coors Field. Gonzalez went 15-for-30 (.500) with four homers and Fowler went 15-for-27 (.556) with five extra-base hits, as the Rox pummeled the Astros and Dodgers by a combined score of 58-31. Jim Tracy’s team will return to Denver this weekend, but it must now take a three-day jaunt to the desert to face the Diamondbacks. Tune in to see if CarGo and Fowler can stay hot in Phoenix (9:40 p.m. ET).
  • Rangers swingman Scott Feldman’s forays into starting have not gone well this season, and in his last two tries—both against the Mariners—he allowed nine runs (seven earned), walked eight batters, and served up two homers over nine total innings. Feldman could not ask for a better opponent to help him turn things around than the hapless A’s, and with Roy Oswalt now breathing down his neck, he’ll try to do just that at the Coliseum tonight (10:05 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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Overthinking It: Bryce... (06/01)
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