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May 28, 2014

What You Need to Know

Ben Revere's Ride

by Chris Mosch

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The Tuesday Takeaway
After tweaking his ankle during his most recent start last Tuesday, Yovani Gallardo had his scheduled start on Sunday pushed back for tonight’s rubber match against the Orioles. Approximately 10 hours before being scheduled to take the hill for Wednesday’s start, Gallardo capped off the second consecutive extra inning matchup between the two clubs with a pinch-hit walk-off double.

The last position player off the Brewers bench, Elian Herrera, pinch-ran for Lyle Overbay after the first-sacker led off the ninth inning, down 6-5, with a single off Baltimore closer Zach Britton. Herrera would come around to score the tying run on Jonathan Lucroy’s two-out infield single. Third baseman Manny Machado rushed the soft chopper off the bat of Lucroy, but had to adjust because of a last-second bad hop, and the throw ended up pulling Chris Davis off the first-base bag.

In the bottom of the 10th inning, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter elected to intentionally walk Mark Reynolds with two outs and nobody on to pitch to Gallardo, who was pinch-hitting for Francisco Rodriguez. Showalter’s move mirrored Ron Roenicke’s decision in the top of the inning, when he had Rodriguez put Chris Davis on with two outs and the bases empty to face David Lough. While Roenicke’s decision ended up working out for the Brewers, putting the winning run on base ultimately came back to bite the Orioles. McFarland fell behind 2-0 on Gallardo, and the 2010 Silver Slugger Award winner made him pay for a fastball left out over the plate and at the letters.

According to STATS, Gallardo’s double was the first walk-off hit by a pitcher since 2003, when Glendon Rusch’s pinch-hit single in the 14th inning gave the Brewers a 3-2 walkoff win against the Astros. Gallardo has always been one of the league’s better-hitting pitchers, as he entered Tuesday trailing only Zack Greinke and Mike Leake in OPS among active starters who had at least 100 career plate appearances.

Before the game went to extra innings, it was a battle of the long ball between the two clubs. The Brewers got a three-run jack from Carlos Gomez in the first inning and a pair of solo shots from Mark Reynolds and Khris Davis, to lead off the second and fourth innings, respectively. Nelson Cruz extended his league-lead in home runs with his 17th dinger of the season in the fifth inning, and scored on a three-run pinch-hit blast by Steve Pearce in the seventh inning that gave the O’s a 6-5 lead.

Gallardo will hope to get similar offensive production behind him when he takes the mound tonight opposite Bud Norris—who also pinch-hit on Tuesday and laid down a successful sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning. And who knows? Maybe Gallardo will help his own cause with the bat.

Quick Hits from Tuesday
After missing over a month with a strained oblique, Alex Cobb stifled the American League’s premier offense during his return, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless frames last Thursday. Cobb drew another tough matchup last night against the Blue Jays, but the Tampa Bay right-hander didn’t fare nearly as well this time around.

Cobb and Mark Buehrle matched zeroes during the first three innings before the two clubs traded two-run frames in the fourth. The next inning, the Jays distanced themselves from the visitors with a four-spot that was capped by back-to-back jacks.

Leading off was Jose Reyes, who lined a comebacker off Cobb’s right leg for an infield single. Cobb needed just a couple of warm-up pitches before feeling ready enough to take on Melky Cabrera, but it must have been a harrowing split-second for the Tampa Bay right-hander, given his history with comebackers.

After Cabrera advanced Reyes to second with a groundout, Jose Bautista singled up the middle on a 3-0 get-me-over fastball from Cobb to give the Jays a 3-2 lead. On the very next pitch, Cobb left a curveball over the plate, and Adam Lind drove the offering the opposite way for a two-run blast.

Two pitches later, Edwin Encarnacion launched a moonshot into the upper deck:

The home run was Encarnacion’s 10th in his last 12 games and his 14th in the month of May—tying the club record for the most home runs in any month. The last player to launch 14 home runs in the month of May was Barry Bonds, who did so during his 73-home-run season in 2001. Juan Francisco tacked on a solo home run off Josh Lueke in the seventh inning to give the Jays their 44th tater of the month—13 more than the next-highest team total.


The Rays managed four runs off Buehrle and tacked on two more off the Toronto bullpen, but the Jays held on for a 9-6 win to advance to 19-7 in May with a 37 run differential during that time. Toronto’s rise to the top of the AL East has been the result of terrorizing Junior Circuit pitchers this month, as they entered Tuesday night sporting a league-leading .830 team OPS in May. The Jays swept the Red Sox and A’s in their previous two series and will look to get the brooms out for a third straight set on Wednesday.

***

Phil Hughes continued his streak of consecutive innings without issuing a walk last night, as the right-hander tossed seven BB-less innings against Texas. Hughes was originally scheduled to oppose Yu Darvish, but the Rangers ace was scratched from the start due to a stiff neck.

Instead, Texas turned to Scott Baker, who was looking to turn in a better outing than his six-run clunker against the Tigers in his team debut. The 32-year-old relied heavily on his sinker on Tuesday and was efficient with all his pitches, needing just 80 to get through six innings of two-run ball.

However, Baker’s strong outing was spoiled by Joakim Soria’s first blown save of the season. The Rangers handed their closer a 3-2 lead to start the ninth, and after retiring the leadoff batter, Soria allowed a double to Oswaldo Arcia that almost left the yard. After watching his teammate Josh Willingham go down swinging, Eduardo Nunez drove a fastball at the letters the opposite way, past a diving Rougned Odor into right field to plate Arcia.

With Nunez on second after advancing on the throw, Soria appeared to get out of the inning when Kurt Suzuki hit a routine grounder to Adrian Beltre.

Why Beltre didn’t just go to first is anybody’s guess, but third-base umpire Mike DiMiro called Nunez safe despite the Minnesota left fielder appearing to run outside the basepath. According to crew chief Jerry Layne, the call had ultimately been ruled safe because it was determined that Beltre had never actually attempted to tag Nunez while he was out of the basepath.

Because the play was a judgment call by DiMiro, it was not reviewable, and the Rangers decided to intentionally walk Eduardo Escobar to get to Danny Santana. Soria got Santana to hit a nubber back to the mound, but was unable to field it cleanly and watched Minnesota walk off.

***

Boone Logan has struggled with the longball the last two seasons, serving up nine home runs in just over 52 innings pitched since the start of 2013. The Colorado southpaw gave up his 10th dinger over that span on Tuesday, and it just happened to be the first of Ben Revere’s career.

Revere had gone 384 games and 1,565 plate appearances without a home run before tagging Logan in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game. Given another year of not hitting a home run, Revere would have been in danger of eclipsing Greg Gross’ record of 1,887 homer-less plate appearances to start a career since integration. Another couple years and Revere may have approached Emil Verban’s all-time record of 2,592 plate appearances.

Now that Revere has gone deep for the first time, all eyes will be on Brock Holt—the new active leader for most plate appearances by a non-pitcher without a home run.


***

Coming into Tuesday’s slate of games, the easy pick for pitcher’s duel of the night was out in Oakland, where Sonny Gray was set to square off against the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer. The result was anything but a low-scoring affair.

Scherzer struggled for the second consecutive start, giving up five runs (all earned) on eight hits and two walks. The right-hander went to his changeup just under 31 percent of the time against Oakland’s lefty-heavy lineup, but struck out a season-low four batters despite a season-best nine swing-and-misses with his changeup. Jed Lowrie and Alberto Callaspo each tattooed a pair of doubles in the second inning to hang a two-spot on Scherzer, and John Jaso hit a two-run blast in the fifth inning that put the A’s up 5-4 at the time. Scherzer left after six innings and actually managed to get away with numerous balls in play that he left over the heart of the plate.


For the home team, their 24-year-old hurler didn’t fare any better. The Tigers jumped on Gray with a two-run first inning, and Miguel Cabrera took the Vanderbilt product deep in the third inning. An Alex Avila RBI double pushed across the final run off Gray, who allowed more than three runs in a start for the first time this season.

Like Scherzer, Gray actually generated a career-high in swing-and-misses with his primary secondary offering—his curveball got Detroit hitters to come up empty nine times.

When both starters made their exit after six innings, Gray’s A’s held a 5-4 lead, but the Oakland bullpen faltered and allowed Detroit to tack on a run in both the seventh and eighth innings. Joe Nathan pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to lock down his 12th save of the season.


***

Tuesday marked the fifth straight game that Matt Kemp rode the pine, as manager Don Mattingly reportedly told Kemp last week that he was no longer the team’s center fielder. The 29-year-old may have the opportunity to regain one of the three spots in the Dodgers outfield after Carl Crawford sprained his left ankle chasing down a double in the eighth inning on Tuesday.

Crawford was removed from the game after the play, but it was Scott Van Slyke, not Kemp who replaced his injured teammate. Kemp did get a pinch-hit opportunity in the bottom of the inning, but struck out swinging to strand Chone Figgins at second base. X-rays on Crawford’s ankle were negative, but it does look like Crawford could miss some time.

Mattingly has said that he wants Kemp to get comfortable taking fly balls in left field before inserting him into the starting lineup. It remains to be seen whether the timeline to get Kempt back in the lineup will speed up in the wake of Crawford’s injury, or whether Mattingly will actually play Van Slyke over the 2011 MVP runner-up in the short-term.


***

After having his last start cut short by rain, Tim Hudson hurled a gem against the Cubs on Tuesday. The 38-year-old right-hander kept his sinker down in the zone to induce groundballs and went to his cutter to generate eight swings-and-misses. Hudson struck out five without issuing a walk and needed just 96 pitches to get through seven scoreless frames.

The Giants offense backed Hudson with two-run frames in the first and fifth innings, while Jeremy Affeldt and Jean Machi combined to retire the final six Cubs of the game. With the sterling performance, Hudson lowered his ERA to 1.92—good for fifth-best in the senior circuit.

The Defensive Play(s) of the Day
On Tuesday, there were a pair of spectacular plays to rob would-be home runs. The first was in the Minnesota-Texas game, when Aaron Hicks stole a three-run blast from Donnie Murphy, who had little choice but to tip his cap.

After a long rain delay, the White Sox ended up downing the Indians, but Michael Bourn made a fantastic grab to rob Paul Konerko:

What to Watch for on Wednesday

  • Lance Lynn tossed a complete game five-hit shutout on Tuesday to knot up the series between the Yankees and Cardinals at a game apiece, and St. Louis will send Shelby Miller to the mound opposite Hiroki Kuroda in Wednesday’s rubber match. St. Louis’ 23-year-old righty has struggled to go deep into games this season, making it through six innings in just four of his ten starts. However, he is the owner of a 2.38 ERA over his last six starts. For the Yankees, Kuroda has been plagued by the longball this season—allowing nine home runs in 59 `/3 innings, including five in his last three starts (8:15 p.m. ET).
  • A pair of excellent pitching matchups are scheduled out west on Wednesday, as C.J. Wilson and Felix Hernandez will square off at Safeco Field, while Homer Bailey and Clayton Kershaw will do battle in Chavez Ravine.

    Wilson is coming off back-to-back outstanding outings against the Royals and Rays, and will look to follow up Jered Weaver’s six-inning, three-run performance last night against the Mariners. Hernandez last pitched against the Angels on Opening Day, when he went six innings and struck out 11 batters en route to a 10-3 win (10:10 p.m. ET).

    Kershaw and the Dodgers will look to put the finishing touches on a three-game sweep on the Reds, who dropped their fourth straight game on Tuesday. Kershaw rebounded well from his seven-run nightmare against the Diamondbacks with six innings of two-hit ball against the Phillies last week. The southpaw will try for a second quality outing and will be opposite Homer Bailey, who is still trying to get on track this season (10:10 p.m. EST).

Chris Mosch is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Chris's other articles. You can contact Chris by clicking here

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