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July 31, 2012

What You Need to Know

Tuesday, July 31

by Daniel Rathman

The Monday Takeaway
Going deep from both sides of the plate in the same game? That’s tough. Doing it in the same inning? That’s tougher. Throwing a grand slam into the mix? Well, until Kendrys Morales delivered the deathblow during the Angels’ nine-run sixth inning on Monday, no one had ever done that before.

The Angels traveled to Arlington on Monday trailing the first-place Rangers by five games and the second-place Athletics by half a game. Just days before the pivotal American League West battle, general manager Jerry DiPoto made a statement by adding Zack Greinke to his stockpile of aces. In the series opener, DiPoto’s players made theirs by thumping the Rangers, 15-8.

Morales’ two-homer, six-RBI sixth inning made the headlines, but scoring 15 runs takes a team effort. Mike Trout went 2-for-5 with his 17th home run of the season, Albert Pujols went 3-for-4 with two doubles, and even backup catcher Bobby Wilson chipped in a 2-for-4 effort from the bottom of the order. Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz did their part, but the Rangers could not keep up.

In addition to showcasing the Angels’ firepower, Monday’s rout exposed the Rangers’ greatest flaw: rotation depth, or lack thereof. Roy Oswalt was shelled to the tune of 11 hits (three homers) and eight runs in 5 1/3 innings, just 24 hours after Neftali Feliz was scratched from a minor-league rehab start with elbow discomfort. Thus, the pressure is now on general manager Jon Daniels to add a starter—or a reliever, to enable Alexi Ogando to move back into the rotation—before the clock strikes 5:30 p.m. in Texas this afternoon.

At 8:05 p.m. ET, the Angels will send Jered Weaver to the mound tonight looking to ensure a series split and a chance to bridge most of the four-game gap before they head to Chicago on Friday. Mike Scioscia’s team has not lost a game behind its 29-year-old ace since May 13—a span of 10 starts—when Ron Washington’s offense battered him for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. Rangers starter Derek Holland was charged with six runs in 6 2/3 frames in a loss to the Angels on July 20.

What to Watch for on Tuesday

  • Plenty of players have already changed uniforms since the All-Star break, and plenty more are expected to be on the move before this afternoon’s trade deadline. Will the Rangers land much-needed pitching help? Will the Dodgers finally get Ryan Dempster from the Cubs? Will the Giants answer their rivals’ acquisition of Hanley Ramirez? Will closers Jonathan Broxton and Rafael Betancourt be dealt? Stay tuned for answers to those questions and many more (4:30 p.m. ET).
  • The Red Sox have reportedly tried to move Josh Beckett, but their unwillingness to provide salary relief has made other teams wary of taking a chance on the 32-year-old right-hander. Beckett has not allowed a home run since May 10, but he has worked into the seventh inning just once in his last five starts, and his ERA has risen from 4.06 to 4.57 in the last month. Assuming he is not traded, Beckett will take on Justin Verlander and the Tigers in game two of a series with potential wild card implications (7:10 p.m. ET).
  • First, Ichiro Suzuki did it. Then, Wandy Rodriguez did it. Tonight, Francisco Liriano will follow in their footsteps by making his first appearance for his new team in the only home park he has known as a major leaguer. The 28–year-old southpaw was traded to the White Sox on Saturday—just days after allowing three home runs in a 2 2/3 inning, seven-run implosion at U.S. Cellular Field—in exchange for Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez. He will look for better results back at Target Field, where the Twins will counter with Nick Blackburn (8:10 p.m. ET).
  • Speaking of happy returns, the red-hot Matt Holliday will get a chance to continue his surge at Coors Field against former teammate Jeff Francis. Holliday has upped his OPS from 793 to 938 since June 15, and he has drawn at least one walk in nine of his last 10 games. The 32-year-old left fielder is a .357/.423/.648 career hitter in 366 games in Denver, and he is batting .340/.452/.660 against left-handed pitchers this season, so the stars appear to be aligned for Holliday to snap out of an 0-for-7 mini-slump that has briefly interrupted his rise up the National League leaderboards (8:40 p.m. ET).
  • Mets rookie Matt Harvey was dominant in his major-league debut on July 26, tossing 5 1/3 scoreless frames and whiffing 11 Diamondbacks in a 3-1 victory. The only knock on the 23-year-old righty was that he needed a season-high 106 pitches to record those 16 outs, so efficiency is likely to be Harvey’s goal as he takes the mound at AT&T Park for a duel with Tim Lincecum (10:15 p.m. ET). 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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