June 2, 2014
What You Need to Know
Weekend Wrap-Up, 6/2
The Weekend Takeaway
That doesn't happen very often.
Before Saturday, there had been only 17 occasions in at least the last century on which a club needed a minimum of 14 frames to settle back-to-back contests, according to the Baseball-Reference Play Index. The most recent were the Angels on September 8-10, 2010, but those games were against two different opponents—the Mariners and Indians—and the Halos had a day of rest in between. The last two teams to play each other for that long on consecutive days were the Indians and Pirates, on June 20-21, 2003.
For the National League East rivals, the drought, of sorts, was even longer. The Mets hadn’t gone 14 or more on two straight days since September 7-8, 1979, when the Pirates were also involved. The Phillies hadn’t done it in at least a century. But now they have.
Virtually all of the scoring in Friday’s tilt took place in the first five innings, which contained a three-spot and a two-spot for the Mets, and a three-spot sandwiched between one-run frames for the Phillies. A.J. Burnett endured the early rough patches to log seven innings. Rookie Rafael Montero was done before the end of the fourth.
That would force the Mets bullpen to eat nearly 10 innings to give the visitors a chance. Multiple relievers went the extra mile, holding the Phillies off the board for more than an inning, with Carlos Torres leading the way with 2 2/3 frames of scoreless work. But come the 14th, Jenrry Mejia and the defense couldn’t keep up any longer with a Phillies bullpen that entered play with the second-highest ERA in the senior circuit.
The last of three Mets errors, at the hands of right fielder Chris Young, put Mejia on the ropes with a runner in scoring position to start the frame. Carlos Ruiz singled to advance that runner, Marlon Byrd, to third base, after which Mejia intentionally walked pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez. With the outfield drawn in, Reid Brignac needed only a relatively deep fly ball to send those still at Citizens Bank Park home happy. And he delivered it:
Ballgame: Phillies 6, Mets 5.
Not to worry, Mets fans—revenge was on the way. Friday’s game took five hours and 23 minutes. Saturday’s 5-4 affair would last nine minutes longer than that.
Ruben Tejada, the eighth-place hitter in Terry Collins’ order, was the story throughout. He singled leading off the second inning but was stranded at second, so in the fourth, he opted to do all of the work himself:
Tejada wasn’t done being a pest to the Phillies. He singled home Bobby Abreu in the sixth inning to extend the Mets’ lead to 4-0. That was all the visitors would get in the first nine frames. And it wouldn’t be enough.
Jacob deGrom, who’d dominated the Phillies for six innings, came unglued to begin the seventh. Jimmy Rollins singled. Chase Utley walked. And then, Ryan Howard went yard to bring the Phillies within a run and collect the 1,000th RBI of his career:
The Phillies needed one more, and they got it in the last of the ninth, with Jeurys Familia on the hill. Byrd, who reached on Young’s two-base error to thwart the Mets on Friday, earned his way to second this time with a ground-rule double to lead off the inning. Domonic Brown followed with an RBI single, and while that was all the Phils could muster against Familia, it was enough to provide more free baseball to the fans willing to stay for it.
Enter Jeff Manship, the only pitcher who could retire Tejada on Saturday afternoon, when the shortstop went 3-for-4 with two walks. Tejada grounded out versus Manship to begin the 11th, but he wasn’t the only Met who failed to crack the right-hander’s code.
Manship came on in the top of the 10th with a 7.53 ERA; he left after the 13th with that number down to 5.89. Zero Mets reached base while he was on the bump. The right-hander worked four perfect innings and struck out six. To find the last Phillies reliever to record at least 12 outs without allowing a baserunner, you’d have to go all the way back to May 4, 1990, when Don Carman did it in a nine-inning win.
Unfortunately, Manship’s evening ended on a bitter note, when he pulled his quad while running to first base on a ground ball in the last of the 13th. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg went to Antonio Bastardo in relief of Manship, and that’s when things took a turn for the worse.
Bastardo walked Tejada, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. The Phillies intentionally walked Chris Young to face Daniel Murphy, who popped out to give the left-hander a chance to end the inning unscathed. David Wright had other plans, however, as he brought Tejada home with the go-ahead run on a single. The Phillies put two men on to begin the bottom of the 14th but couldn't plate either of them, as Ben Revere and Chase Utley struck out around a Rollins lineout to end the game.
Mets 5, Phillies 4, revenge served. But wait, there’s more.
Sunday’s series finale was knotted 2-2 after nine. All of those runs scored by the end of the sixth, so game four of four threatened to stretch deep into the afternoon, too. But the sides managed to settle this one a bit sooner, in the 11th, when Lucas Duda and Byrd traded homers.
Duda’s two-run blast was worth a run more than Byrd’s solo effort, so the Mets came out on top 4-3 and took the series 3-1.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
That’s been the National League West leaders’ modus operandi for much of the 2014 season: make two outs, then get down to business. The Giants led the majors in runs scored with two away when Pagan stepped into the box versus Wainwright, and even a pitcher with a 1.67 ERA couldn’t stop them from padding their cushion.
The first-inning run was merely the appetizer to a four-course dinner that would be served moments later. Wainwright retired the first two Giants batters of the second inning on a pop up and strikeout and then jumped ahead 0-2 against no. 8 batter Brandon Hicks. The second baseman was 4-for-36 with a home run and 22 strikeouts in plate appearances that began with a pair of strikes this season. One thing he hadn’t done in those 39 trips was draw a walk.
Wainwright, meanwhile, was an unlikely candidate to surrender such a free pass. He hadn’t issued one after an 0-2 count this year, and he’d done so only 23 times in nearly 1,200 opponents’ plate appearances over the course of his career. But Friday wasn’t the right-hander’s night—and the next eight pitches Hicks saw summed it up:
Hicks watched the 0-2 waste pitch for ball one, then fought off a tough 1-2 offering to stay alive. Wainwright missed with the next two pitches to fill the count, then challenged the keystoner and failed to put him away. Eventually, Wainwright let one get away, and Hicks took his base.
That’s when the Giants’ two-out run machine kicked into gear. The pitcher, Madison Bumgarner, chipped in a single. So did Pagan, whose base hit scored Hicks. And then, Hunter Pence delivered the big blow…
…a three-run, third-deck bomb that put the Giants ahead, 5-0. The Giants would tag Wainwright with two more two-out runs in the fifth inning, when Gregor Blanco singled off of reliever Seth Maness to bring around a couple of inherited runners.
Seven runs, all of them with two outs, gave the Giants 117 such tallies on the season, 12 more than the second-place Angels could boast at the end of play on Friday.
That was far more support than Bumgarner would need to improve to 5-0 in May on the penultimate day of the month. The left-hander held the Cardinals to three hits and a walk over seven innings, and he punched out 10 along the way to earn his second straight double-digit-strikeout start.
The home nine rallied in the eighth inning versus mop-up reliever David Huff, who tipped over the mop bucket and left a mess for Juan Gutierrez to clean. Huff committed the cardinal sin of hitting a batter and issuing two walks with a nine-run lead, and he paid the price on a three-run double by Jon Jay, who then scored on Allen Craig’s double off of Gutierrez to bring the final score to 9-4.
The Cardinals bounced back to take a rain-soaked game three of the four-game series with help from their top prospect. For more on Oscar Taveras’ scouting report and fantasy potential, see the Call-Up post by Jason Parks and Bret Sayre. For more on what he did on Saturday, stay right here.
Michael Wacha kept the visitors at bay for the first five innings, but with showers lurking in the vicinity, Yusmeiro Petit matched him zero for zero on the Busch Stadium scoreboard. That’s when Taveras made his almost-immediate impact.
With nobody on and one away in the bottom of the fifth, Taveras found a backdoor breaking ball to his liking and walloped it out to right field:
The 21-year-old’s first big-league home run was also his first career hit—and, more importantly for the Cardinals, their first run of the game. It also opened up the skies:
Despite the breaks in the action, Wacha and the Cards bullpen ensured that the narrow margin would hold up the rest of the way. The second-year righty wound up with six shutout innings, and Sam Freeman, Pat Neshek, and Trevor Rosenthal did the rest, as the offense supplied an insurance run in the seventh. Rosenthal struck out the side in the ninth to secure the 2-0 win.
The Giants recovered to win Sunday’s finale and take three of four in the series.
When the Red Sox walked off in the 10th inning of Friday’s game against the Rays, their manager was hitting coach Greg Colbrunn. That’s the baseball equivalent of Secretary of State John Kerry becoming President. Here’s how it all went down:
In the home half of the first inning, David Price drilled David Ortiz in the back. That prompted home-plate umpire Dan Bellino to warn both dugouts against starting a beanball war. Red Sox manager John Farrell took exception to Bellino’s proactive measure, and Bellino took exception to Farrell’s beef, giving him the early hook.
…and the benches cleared. No one was ejected—at least initially, much to Lovullo’s chagrin. He wanted Price gone; instead, the umpires told Lovullo to take a hike.
Since Butterfield was the acting manager, he, too, had to go.
And that’s how Colbrunn wound up at the helm. He’d serve in that capacity until the last of the 10th, when—with Jonny Gomes at first—A.J. Pierzynski lifted a fly ball deep to the warning track near the Red Sox bullpen in center field:
Center fielder Desmond Jennings interfered with right fielder Wil Myers, who might have been able to track down and catch the ball. They collided and fell to the ground, and by the time Myers could recover and chase down the loose ball, Gomes was on his way home. Pierzynski had a walk-off triple to seal the 3-2 victory, and the Fenway Park crowd had a wild ending to a wild night.
For another oddity from that Rays-Red Sox series, flip ahead to Sunday’s finale, a 4-0 Boston win in which leadoff man Brock Holt went 4-for-4 with a walk. All four of the infielder’s hits were doubles.
Over the last century, only seven other players have racked up four two-baggers in a game in which they had only four at-bats, according to the Play Index. None of them did so while playing first base.
Holt’s efforts helped the Red Sox complete a sweep of the Rays. John Farrell’s club has now won seven straight after dropping 10 in a row.
If we could turn off injuries like a setting in MLB: The Show, we might have been treated to a duel between two of the most electric young right-handers in the game on Saturday:
Instead, with Yordano Ventura nursing an elbow injury, the Royals were forced to roll with Aaron Brooks. The 24-year-old was making his first major-league start, after getting shelled for six runs over two innings out of the bullpen in his debut. He was asked to contend with the prolific Blue Jays lineup in the perilous confines of the Rogers Centre. It didn’t go well.
Brooks walked Jose Reyes to begin the afternoon, then hit Melky Cabrera. Jose Bautista doubled, and Brooks wanted nothing to do with the sizzling-hot Edwin Encarnacion, so he walked him, too. Adam Lind singled. Brooks then plunked Brett Lawrie before serving up a ground-rule double to Juan Francisco. He proceeded to walk Dioner Navarro, before Anthony Gose hit into a double play.
The Jays came within one hitter of batting around without making an out or reaching on an error. That doesn’t happen very often, especially not in an opponent’s first-ever start:
And the Jays weren’t done battering Brooks. Reyes and Cabrera both singled to bring home two more runs, leaving Brooks with seven tallies and just two outs on his line when manager Ned Yost came out to fetch him. Michael Mariot coaxed a popup to the catcher from Bautista to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Just how bad was it, from a historical perspective? Very. On top of his ERA ballooning to 43.88, Brooks became the first pitcher in at least a century to bean two or more batters without completing an inning in his first big-league start.
The Blue Jays would go on to win 12-2, improving to 21-9 in May, which matched their franchise record for wins in a single month.
Toronto won again on Sunday, 4-0, behind eight shutout frames from Mark Buehrle, who picked up his league-leading 10th win.
When we look back at the most intriguing uses of expanded replay during its inaugural season, a play in the Rangers-Nationals game on Sunday might rank among the top few. It had no bearing on the outcome of the series finale in Washington, D.C., where the Rangers prevailed 2-0 on the strength of an eight-inning, 12-strikeout, zero-run outing by Yu Darvish. But the game was scoreless at the time, so there was plenty at stake for both teams.
Setting the stage: With one away in the top of the first, Elvis Andrus reached on an infield single, moved to second on a single by Alex Rios, and continued to third when Denard Span kicked the base hit. Adrian Beltre struck out swinging, leaving runners at the corners with two out. With Donnie Murphy at the plate, Rios took off for second, and Andrus bolted for home when Wilson Ramos threw down to the keystone.
Rios beat the throw, but he came off the bag on his slide and was correctly called out by second-base umpire Cory Blaser. However, because Blaser’s call was initially “safe,” the revised call did not come in time for home-plate umpire Brian O’Nora to determine whether Andrus crossed the plate before Rios was tagged out. Hence, O’Nora ruled that Andrus’ run should count, and while the inning was over, the Rangers were granted a 1-0 lead.
Nats manager Matt Williams begged to differ:
And replay proved him right, wiping the run off the board to preserve the scoreless tie when the Nationals came to bat.
It’s hard to fathom that even the most attentive umpiring crew could have accurately adjudicated the play on the fly, with Blaser facing second base, O’Nora’s view of the base and tag impeded by the players involved, and the other umpires needing to see the action at both second base and the plate in order to determine the correct call at the latter. Only side-by-side replays could reveal that Rios was clearly out before Andrus touched the dish.
The Rangers’ victory enabled Ron Washington’s bunch to avoid a sweep in the nation’s capital, where Texas lost 9-2 on Friday and 10-2 on Saturday.
The Defensive Plays of the Weekend
What to Watch for on Monday
Thanks to Nick Wheatley-Schaller for making the embedded GIFs.