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July 24, 2012

What You Need to Know

Tuesday, July 24

by Daniel Rathman

The Monday Takeaway
When did July 23 become July 31? On the heels of a crazy baseball weekend, Monday afternoon’s trades gave us a taste of the action to come. Within several hours, Ryan Dempster was a Brave—and then he wasn’t, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante became Tigers, top prospect Jacob Turner morphed into a Marlin, and a stunned Safeco Field crowd watched Ichiro Suzuki suit up in a new major-league uniform for the first time since he came stateside in 2001.

Monday had everything fans could ask for on the day of the trade deadline, and that day is still a week away. The Astros set the stage last week by consummating a 10-player deal with the Blue Jays and shipping Brett Myers to the White Sox; act II did not disappoint. From a deal that seems destined to lock up a once hotly contested division, to the first-ever swap involving competitive balance draft picks, to a big-name player getting a chance to contribute to a pennant run in the twilight of his career—well, if this was act II, the finale on July 31 has a lot to live up to.

We knew the Astros and Mariners would be sellers long before they opened for business during the past five days, but whether the Marlins would export players not signed to long-term deals was uncertain until Monday. Miami was 44-51 at the time Larry Beinfest and Dave Dombrowski came to terms, and perhaps the beginning of the apparent fire sale in Florida will motivate the Phillies, Brewers, and other non-contenders to start moving short-term assets, too.

The biggest takeaway from Monday’s action, though, may be that fears of a quiet deadline season due to the new wild card format were overblown. The hot stove is already sizzling, and with a week to go, the biggest names—from Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke to Hanley Ramirez and Justin Upton—are still on the market.

What to Watch for on Tuesday

  • After “recharging his batteries,” Zack Greinke is ready to return to the mound, and he will do just that in tonight’s game against the Phillies. The 28-year-old right-hander has allowed 14 earned runs in his last 14-plus innings of work, and he needs to bounce back quickly for general manager Doug Melvin to reassemble the dwindling line of suitors for his services before the deadline. Meanwhile, the Phillies will counter with Cliff Lee, who remains winless in six starts at Citizens Bank Park this year (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • If any team could figure out how to win an away game in walk-off fashion, it might be these A’s, who lead the league with 11 game-ending RBI this season. Oakland comes to the Rogers Centre riding its third five-game winning streak of the year and looking to avenge a series loss to the Blue Jays at the Coliseum in May. But Toronto is almost equally hot, coming off a sweep at Fenway Park during which it outscored Boston, 28-11. The A’s will look to Yoenis Cespedes—who leads the league with a  .500 average (18-for-36) since the All-Star break—to pave the way against Jays starter Brett Cecil (7:07 p.m. ET).
  • The desired pitchers’ duel did not materialize in the most recent matchup between Gio Gonzalez and R.A. Dickey, as the former lasted only 3 1/3 innings and coughed up six runs on July 19. After going 7-1 with a 2.04 ERA and only one home run allowed in his first 10 starts of the season, Gonzalez is just 5-4 with a 4.93 ERA and five gopher balls in his most recent nine. He will try to shed those woes in tonight’s rematch with Dickey, who pitched 7 1/3 innings to earn the win in the aforementioned meeting, but has since worked unsuccessfully in relief, surrendering a two-run homer to Juan Uribe in the Mets’ 8-5 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday (7:10 p.m. ET).
  • The Dodgers and the Cardinals are also looking to sustain their momentum from weekend sweeps. Mike Matheny’s pitching staff tossed back-to-back shutouts against the Cubs on Saturday and Sunday, and went 27 innings without allowing a run between the second inning on Friday and the second inning of last night’s 5-3 defeat. Adam Wainwright, who tied a season high with nine strikeouts in a loss to the Brewers on July 18, will need to keep finding ways to retire Matt Kemp to return to the win column. Kemp is just 2-for-14 with two walks in their past meetings, but he has notched at least two hits in six of nine games since the All-Star break (8:15 p.m. ET).
  • Safeco Field might as well be home to Yankees starter Freddy Garcia, who has pitched more innings (514 2/3) at the Mariners’ ballpark than at any other facility in the league. The 35-year-old righty has a 5.23 ERA in his 10 career starts against the Mariners, but he owns a 3.65 ERA in 78 trips at pitcher-friendly Safeco. Garcia faces the unenviable task of outdueling Felix Hernandez as he tries to help the Yankees improve to 2-0 in the Ichiro era (10:15 p.m. ET).

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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