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April 1, 2014

What You Need to Know

Aces of the NL Central

by Daniel Rathman


The Monday Takeaway
Forty-six innings, 25 hits, two runs, 16 walks, 45 strikeouts.

No, that’s not the line of a good reliever with a bloated strand rate. It’s the line the National League Central’s pitchers combined to post over the course of their games yesterday. Unfortunately for two of the clubs, they happened to be playing divisional foes.

The Reds dropped their opening battle to the Cardinals, but they may yet win the war, because Johnny Cueto could scarcely have made a better return to the mound. A 2.8-win pitcher in 2012, the 28-year-old Cueto sat out nearly all of the 2013 season with a nagging lat strain that flared up thrice and forced him to the disabled list each time, for a total of 117 missed games. On Monday, the right-hander matched zeroes with Adam Wainwright until the top of the seventh inning, when Yadier Molina went yard for the only tally of the game. Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez, and Trevor Rosenthal provided a friendly reminder that it’s a bad idea to fall behind the Cardinals in the late innings, but Reds fans have plenty to be excited about despite the defeat.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, the Pirates sent their fans home happy behind six dominant innings from Francisco Liriano, efficient relief work, and a 10th-inning walkoff blast by Neil Walker. Manager Clint Hurdle’s bullpen ranked third in the majors with a 2.89 ERA last year, an accomplishment made more impressive by its volume of work: 545 2/3 innings, 85 more than either of the clubs (Braves, Royals) that placed above it. Four bullpen frames into 2014—during which Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, and Bryan Morris combined to throw 37 of 50 pitches (74 percent) for strikes—the group is unblemished. They sent the Cubs back to their team hotel with the bitter taste of an 0-for-11 line with runners in scoring position, which added to Chicago’s league-worst .218 mark in that department last year. Rick Renteria watched the heart of his order go 0-for-10—wasting seven innings of shutout ball from Jeff Samardzija and two more from Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, and James Russell—in his managerial debut.

To top off the division’s tremendous day on the mound, Yovani Gallardo started his bounce-back bid on a high note, helping the Brewers to blank the Braves. Gallardo worked six clean frames before handing things off to the bullpen, which—in a shock to Jim Henderson fantasy owners worldwide—was anchored by Francisco Rodriguez.

And so, the National League Central squads will carry a 0.39 ERA into Tuesday’s games. Unfortunately, because of the matchups, they’ll bring a .183 average along with it.

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Related Content:  Opening Day

10 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Myles Handley

Jeff Samardzija throws 7 scoreless innings and is not mentioned in the "good pitching by NL Central teams" article.

Apr 01, 2014 07:13 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Whoops, definitely an omission there. Added a note on Samardzija and the Cubs staff. Thanks.

Apr 01, 2014 07:19 AM
 
Imperialism32

I've been looking around the internet today for a good daily recap. Lots of places had "opening day thoughts" which were good (like Ben Linbergh's here) but I knew they wouldn't be daily. This one hits the sweet spot though, keep up the great work!

Apr 01, 2014 09:01 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Thanks!

Apr 01, 2014 10:02 AM
 
jrahl0

Francona did not challenge the play at the plate; apparently, a review of that type of play is at the discretion of the umpire. Francona did ask the umpire to take a look at it, though.

Apr 01, 2014 09:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Thanks for pointing out that distinction—I'll make the change above.

Apr 01, 2014 10:02 AM
 
jtpapka

Billy Hamilton had some Ks too ;-)...oops, never mind! Lou Brown would be proud!

Apr 01, 2014 09:54 AM
rating: 0
 
Jamey
(208)

Jason LaRue being able to play again would be a feel good comeback story connected to Cueto.

Cueto playing again just reminds me to wonder why he wasn't given a lifetime ban for ending another player's career with a kick to the head.

Apr 01, 2014 09:54 AM
rating: -1
 
salvomania
(449)

I'm noticing a very AL-centric tilt on the "What You Need to Know" bullets so far.

Yesterday's and today's bullets:
What to Watch: 7 bullets /7 AL subjects
Quick Hits: 3 bullets / 3 AL subjects

Apr 01, 2014 14:02 PM
rating: 0
 
Nojsztat

Did you miss the whole "Aces of the NL Central" part?

Apr 03, 2014 06:59 AM
rating: 0
 
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