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July 10, 2013
What You Need to Know
The Tuesday Takeaway
The American League’s least productive lineup, one with only two starters toting on-base percentages higher than .310, is not supposed to collect 23 hits in a game against Verlander. But on Tuesday, the White Sox did.
Even the most productive hitter in the league is not supposed to collect four hits off of Verlander in the same game, much less to tie an American League record with six base knocks in a nine-inning contest that Verlander started for the opposing team. But on Tuesday, Alex Rios did both.
If the internet did not exist, box scores, statistics, and standings were not circulated, and scouting reports were unavailable, the Tigers would have known nothing about the White Sox heading into the opener of the first series between the teams this season. They might have left Comerica Park down on their hopes of securing a second consecutive division title after watching the team with which they jockeyed for much of 2012 slap 12 hits off Verlander and plate six runs against the bullpen. But the Tigers were in first place, the White Sox 14 games behind them in the cellar, and none of those information sources could have foretold the shelling that took place in Detroit on Tuesday night.
Rios picked up the visitors’ first hit with a single to right in the opening frame. He raised both his hit total and the team’s to two with a triple in the top of the third. Between that two-out three-bagger and Rios’ next knock, a single in the fifth inning, only Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez added to the White Sox’ tally. With five-ninths of its offensive innings in the books, Chicago had five hits and no runs. Apart from a dearth of high-90s readings on the radar gun, this was a typical Verlander start.
Except that in the ensuing four frames, the White Sox scored 11 times on 18 hits.
Five of the runs and seven of the hits were charged to Verlander, who was pulled four out-less batters into the eighth inning after throwing his 112th pitch of the night: a 92-mph fastball that Conor Gillaspie turned around for a single. Gillaspie also made the third out of the top half of the eighth, a frame in which the White Sox sent 13 batters to the plate. Between his plate appearances, the visitors tacked on five runs to the two that scored on a homer by Adam Dunn off of Verlander earlier in the inning. Six hits, all of them singles, in a seven-batter span, brought home three superfluous insurance runs in the top of the ninth.
Verlander left with a dozen knocks on his line for just the third time in his career and the first this season. The White Sox combined for more hits than any team had collected in any game, regardless of the number of innings played, in nearly two years. And Rios made all sorts of history, from the unique four-hit feat against Verlander to the six-hit outburst that gave him ample opportunities to utilize his speed.
Down in the dumps with a lethargic offense, a four-game losing streak, and the third-worst record in the league, the White Sox needed a jolt. The Coffee, Alabama, native supplied it in the 11-4 win—in his words, “the most fun [they’ve] had in quite a while.”
Tuesday’s Matchup in Review
As expected, Hamels’ meetings with Ian Desmond were brief—and, as had previously been the case, most of them went the pitcher’s way. Desmond went 1-for-4 with an eighth-inning single; he flied out once and grounded out twice. One of the two grounders was a 4-6-3 double play that put the kibosh on a possible first-inning rally, coming on the heels of a leadoff single by the newest member of the Nationals, Scott Hairston.
Hamels coaxed both the twin killing and the sixth-inning slow roller to short with cutters under the hands. Desmond’s single came on a grooved, 1-0 fastball, and it followed another knock from Hairston and preceded a walk drawn by Bryce Harper. Unfortunately for the Nats, Hamels clamped down on their hopes of coming back by fanning Ryan Zimmerman and inducing a harmless fly ball from Werth to erase the bases-loaded jam.
Desmond, who was 5-for-28 against Hamels coming into the game, is now 6-for-32. And Hamels remains the only big-league lefty who has faced the shortstop at least 20 times and held him to a sub-.700 OPS.
Matchup of the Day
Nova, who allowed a whopping 87 extra-base hits in 170 1/3 innings of work last year, posted a 6.48 ERA in three-plus April starts before departing two innings into his fourth with elbow inflammation. He spent a month on the disabled list, made two relief appearances in May—including a five-frame appearances highlighted by an immaculate inning—then went down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and finally earned his way back in late June. Nova’s most recent outing, a complete-game victory over the Orioles in which he allowed two runs and fanned 11, was the most impressive of his 68 career starts.
Once a four-pitch hurler with a standard fastball, curveball, slider, changeup mix, Nova has effectively eschewed the latter two offerings, using them only as show-me pitches to keep hitters guessing. His curveball is significantly more effective, and it was his primary weapon against Buck Showalter’s lineup on July 5.
The power hook induced 10 swings and misses in 33 tries, far more than his fastball and sinker, even though the hard stuff sat in the mid 90s and touched 97 mph. Expect him to lean on it again tonight, particularly against the Royals’ best bats.
One of those middle-of-the-order hitters is Hosmer, who—after a prolonged power outage—has hit .319/.360/.558 since the beginning of June. The 23-year-old has slugged eight homers over that 150-plate-appearance span, to go with seven doubles and a triple. He’s also walked 10 times since June 1 against only 15 strikeouts.
Hosmer’s home run off of Nova came on a center-cut fastball on May 12, 2011; it was the second big fly of his major-league career, and it came on the first major-league pitch that Nova threw him. Three months later, on August 16, he added a double on a hanging slider, the fifth pitch of an at-bat in which Nova alternated his breaking pitches: slider, curve, slider, curve, slider. But that was a different Nova, a pitcher who employed a deeper arsenal instead of honing in on the two or three offerings that were producing the best results. Hosmer is likely to see a two-pitch, fastball-curveball mix tonight.
Based on the above data from Hosmer’s Brooks Baseball hitter card, that could give Nova the edge. The first baseman’s recent surge has come largely on the strength of his fastball and changeup hitting. He has never handled curves and sliders well, hitting .214 on the former and .187 on the latter in his big-league career, and although the results have improved over the past month and change, Nova’s strengths on the mound appear to match Hosmer’s weaknesses in the box.
Of course, Hosmer has proven over the past five weeks—and in his handful of encounters with Nova—that he can punish location mistakes. If Nova reverts to his mistake-prone 2012 form, he is likely to pay the price (7:05 p.m. ET).
What to Watch for on Wednesday