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June 10, 2014

What You Need to Know

Chisenhall Messes With Texas

by Chris Mosch

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The Monday Takeaway
Lonnie Chisenhall has been teasing a breakout, as he entered Monday’s contest with a .365/.413/.538 slash line in 176 plate appearances this season. But nobody could have expected the show the former first-round pick put on during Cleveland’s 17-7 blowout of the Rangers. When the Indians walked off the field, Chisenhall had accomplished a stat line that no other player in history had ever recorded.

Chisenhall started off his historic night by singling home the second run of the game off Nick Martinez as part of a three-run first inning. In his second trip to the plate, the Cleveland third sacker sat back on a 1-1 changeup at the knees from Martinez, hooking it just inside the right-field foul pole.

The two-run blast by Chisenhall put the Indians up 8-1, and the visitors had put double-digits on the scoreboard by the time Chisenhall came to bat for the third time. Scott Baker was in for mop-up duty and surrendered Chisenhall’s second home run of the night, this one just beyond the reach of a leaping Daniel Robertson.

The Rangers had climbed to within a 12-6 deficit by the sixth inning, but Chisenhall took a 1-2 fastball off the plate from Baker and drove it the opposite way for an RBI double that one-hopped the left-field wall. With four hits and six RBI already to his name, Chisenhall put the final dagger in Baker’s nine-run relief appearance, tattooing a three-run shot that ended up a few rows farther than his first long ball.

The three-dinger night by Chisenhall was the first by a member of the Tribe since Shin-Soo Choo—who watched last night’s game from the opposing dugout—did it in 2010. The only other Indian to record a nine-RBI night was Chris James, who did it in 1991 during a 20-6 thrashing of the Athletics.


Chisenhall wasn’t the only Indian to tee off on Martinez and Baker on Monday night, as the middle of Cleveland’s order tore apart the Texas duo. Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley, and Jason Kipnis each tallied three hits of their own, as the four players combined to go 14-for-19 with six extra-base knocks.

Not many baseball players get to witness a nine-RBI night firsthand, but for Cleveland’s Jason Giambi, playing in these types of offensive outbursts is becoming something of a recurring theme. The 43-year-old has now started at DH in four of the last five games in which a hitter has driven in at least nine runs. Carlos Delgado and Garret Anderson each reached the milestone against Giambi’s Yankees in 2008 and 2007, respectively, and he watched his teammate, Alex Rodriguez, punish the Angels for 10 ribbies in 2005.

Quick Hits from Monday
Coming off their first series loss since the second week of May, the Blue Jays sent R.A. Dickey to the mound to get the club back on track. Danny Santana and Brian Dozier promptly greeted the knuckleballer with a pair of solo shots, the first time Minnesota had led off a game with back-to-back home runs since 2002.

Dickey settled in after the pair of long balls—retiring 16 of the next 19 batters—before loading the bases in the sixth inning. Dustin McGowan relieved Dickey and promptly got Trevor Plouffe to ground into a 6-4-3 twin killing. The Blue Jays spotted Dickey a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first inning, when Edwin Encarnacion drilled a three-run shot and took his parrot for a trot for the 20th time this season.

The Jays tacked on another run in the fifth inning, and the score remained 4-2 until Casey Janssen blew a save opportunity for only the second time this season. Kendrys Morales led things off with a one-out single—his first hit donning the Minnesota purple—before being lifted for a pinch-runner. The next batter, Plouffe, hit a potential game-ending double-play grounder to third baseman Brett Lawrie, but the game was kept alive after Steve Tolleson failed to complete the transfer. Kurt Suzuki and Eduardo Escobar made Tolleson pay, knotting the game up with back-to-back two-baggers.

But the Jays weren’t up for the idea of participating in bonus baseball, as Dioner Navarro drew a leadoff walk and pinch-runner Erik Kratz moved up 90 feet after a Jose Reyes single. With Kevin Pillar at the dish, Casey Fien located his 1-2 offering low and away, but Pillar reached out and blooped a single to right field. The Rogers Centre turf created a bounce high enough to allow Kratz to slide in just ahead of Oswaldo Arcia’s throw and send the Jays to the walk-off win.

***

With Mat Latos completing his fourth and final rehab start in Pawtucket against Boston’s Triple-A affiliate on Monday night, Tony Cingrani needed to toss a gem against the Dodgers if there was any chance of the 24-year-old remaining in the starting rotation upon Latos’ return. Seven hits, three walks, and six runs later, it appears that Cingrani has guaranteed himself a trip to either the Cincinnati bullpen or the Louisville rotation.

Cingrani’s kryptonite during his 97-pitch outing was Scott Van Slyke, who was penciled in at center field instead of Andre Ethier with the southpaw on the mound. In the second inning, Van Slyke worked a 3-2 count against Cingrani before launching a 448-foot moonshot to left-center on the seventh pitch of the at-bat.

The Reds tied the game up at 1-1 in the home half of the second, as Dan Haren threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded and Cingrani at the dish—a situation that had been set up by Haren intentionally walking the no. 8 hitter Donald Lutz to face the pitcher. The Dodgers put a two-spot up in the fourth inning, which the Reds countered with a solo shot by Ryan Ludwick in the same frame. Cingrani issued a pair of two-out walks in the fifth inning, which brought up Van Slyke. Cingrani’s final pitch of the evening was a fastball left over the heart of the plate:

Yasiel Puig and Dee Gordon both returned to action after missing games over the weekend due to injury. Gordon didn’t start the game, but he entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and was thrown out stealing after reaching on an infield single. Puig started the game hitting in the three-hole and went 1-for-4, but he had another awkward slide into second base that closely resembled the one that caused him to leave Saturday’s game with a right hip flexor strain.

The last time the Nationals handed Stephen Strasburg the ball, he struck out 11 Phillies over seven innings and didn’t give up a free pass. Strasburg’s rotation-mates were just as impressive between his starts, most notably Tanner Roark’s 11-strikeout outing that spanned eight shutout innings and Jordan Zimmermann’s complete-game, 12-strikeout performance on Sunday. Washington’s rotation didn’t issue any walks between Strasburg’s starts, a streak that the 2009 no. 1 overall pick continued on Monday against the Giants.

Strasburg limited the hard-hitting Giants to just four hits over six innings while punching out seven by the Bay. When the hard-throwing right-hander exited after 88 pitches, beat writers put the dominant stretch by the Nationals rotation in perspective:

Behind Strasburg’s outing and a three-hit, five-RBI night by Ian Desmond, the Nationals routed the Giants 9-2 in the opener of a four-game clash between teams that figure to be playing meaningful games late in September.

***

The Mariners continued to ascend into the American League playoff race, securing a series win against the punchless Rays, who were shut out by the visitors for the second straight game. Tampa Bay had an opportunity to split the four-game set with David Price on the bump against Erasmo Ramirez, but they were unable to match an early three-run frame by the M’s.

With runners at first and second and one away, James Jones reached on a perfectly placed drag bunt, which loaded the bases for Robinson Cano. Price tried to blow an 0-2 fastball by Cano, but Seattle’s $240 million investment laced the offering the opposite way for a two-run double. Stefen Romero followed with a chopper to Ben Zobrist at the keystone, which plated Jones from third base and extended the lead to 3-0.

The third inning was the only inning that Seattle was able to muster any offense, as Price allowed just three hits—two of which didn’t leave the infield—in the other seven frames. Price punched out 10 batters and walked just one, and tied a season high with 18 swing-and-miss strikes.

Erasmo Ramirez kept the Rays off the board, but was unable to make it through five innings, as he walked five batters and threw at least five pitches to nine of the 23 batters he faced. Ramirez was lifted after 4.2 innings and 88 pitches, but Seattle’s bullpen was outstanding behind him, facing just one more than the minimum to complete the shutout. BP’s playoff odds pegged the Mariners with a 34.5 percent chance to make the playoffs prior to Monday’s game, and after their eighth win in nine games, they sit just a half-game behind the Angels for second in the AL West.

***

Angels closer Ernesto Frieri had some strong words for the division-rival Athletics prior to this week’s three-game series between the two clubs. “We’re going to beat them,” Frieri told reporters on Sunday. “Get ready to write that. I hate to say this, but they have a little bit extra luck. If you pay attention every play, it’s stupid how the game goes their way.”

Everything about the Athletics screams legitimate, and as R.J. Anderson noted two weeks ago, the last team to lead baseball in True Average and Defensive Efficiency—the 2004 Cardinals—went on to reach the World Series. The A’s still maintain their lead in both categories and entered the series with the Angels boasting a plus-125 run differential, which was 67 runs higher than the next best team. However, the Angels knocked that run differential down a few rungs with a win on Monday behind another stellar pitching performance by Garrett Richards.

Richards fired seven innings of four-hit ball, allowing just one run and zero walks. The flamethrower induced nine swing-and-misses including seven via his slider, and turned the ball over to the bullpen with a 3-1 lead.

After an eventful weekend in Baltimore, Josh Donaldson had an uncharacteristically poor night on defense for the A’s. Donaldson committed three errors—all of them of the throwing variety—including two in the fifth that led to an unearned run. Donaldson’s first error was an ill-advised thrown on a Hank Conger bunt attempt that the Oakland third baseman skipped into the dugout, which allowed Conger to advance to second base.

Two batters later, Mike Trout hit a opposite field fly, which was initially ruled a home run, but was reviewed and ruled a ground-rule double as the result of fan interference. Angels manager Mike Scioscia came out to argue that Trout would have been able to advance to third on the play, but was immediately ejected for disputing a reviewed play.

The Angels tacked on an insurance run in the eighth inning to extend the lead to 4-1. Frieri did all he could to back up his talk by striking out all three batters he faced, racking up his 11th save of the season. The A’s will look to answer back in game two when they send Drew Pomeranz to the mound opposite Hector Santiago, who will take hill in place of Tyler Skaggs, who was placed on the disabled list Monday with a hamstring injury.

***

Astros manager Bo Porter channeled his inner Davey Johnson in the eighth inning on Monday, when he sent southpaw Tony Sipp from the mound to right field while his bullpen-mate Jerome Williams came in to face Paul Goldschmidt. Williams walked Goldschmidt, and Sipp returned to the mound to strike out Arizona’s left-handed backstop, Miguel Montero.

Such a strategic move to take advantage of a platoon advantage isn’t unprecedented, as the Astros sent left-hander Wesley out to right field for a batter during a game in 2011 and 2012. Perhaps the most memorable incident was back in 1986, when Johnson shuffled his bullpen aces, Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell, back and forth between the mound and right field multiple times over the course of four innings during a 14-inning contest in which Johnson’s Mets outlasted the Reds 6-3.

Defensive Play of the Day
Coco Crisp robbed Mike Trout of a potential two-run triple in the third inning, making an incredible leaping catch against the wall. Trout settled for a sacrifice fly.

What to Watch For on Tuesday
After rumors this past weekend of Pittsburgh calling up super-prospect Gregory Polanco proved to be false, the Pirates announced that they intend to call up Polanco for Tuesday’s game as a corresponding move to Neil Walker being placed on the disabled list.

Polanco’s first big league start is scheduled to be against Cubs right-hander Travis Wood; the Pirates will counter with Francisco Liriano. Plan your dinner around the kid’s first trip to the plate (7:05 p.m. ET).

***

Keeping balls in the ballpark has never been Marco Estrada’s strength, but his propensity to give up the long ball has been taken to new extremes this season. The Milwaukee right-hander has served up a league-leading 18 home runs in 2014, which is just one fewer than the career-worst total he surrendered in 2013. Luckily for Estrada, Tuesday’s scheduled start comes against the Mets, who have hit the fourth-fewest dingers among all teams this season. Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda lead the Mets with eight home runs apiece, and will be the biggest threats to extend Estrada’s streak of starts allowing a home run to 10 games. The Mets are coming off back-to-back series sweeps at the hands of the Cubs and Giants, and they will send rookie Jacob deGrom to the hill in search of his first career win (7:10 p.m. ET).

***

Justin Verlander’s woes continued his last time out even though he averaged his highest fastball velocity of the season, and the six-time All-Star has now allowed at least five runs in five of his last six starts. Verlander will look to turn his fortune around against the White Sox on Tuesday while dueling John Danks. The 29-year-old southpaw will try for his fourth straight start of at least seven innings and two or fewer runs, which would be the first time in his career he has accomplished such a streak (8:10 p.m. ET).

***

Prior to Monday’s rainout between the Royals and Yankees, Tuesday’s contest between the Bombers and the Mariners was scheduled to pit Masahiro Tanaka against his fellow countryman, Hisashi Iwakuma. Instead, Seattle’s bid for its ninth win in 10 games will come in a more favorable matchup, as Iwakuma will take on Vidal Nuno in the first of a three-game set. Iwakuma’s start comes on the heels of seven scoreless frames against the Braves and he has exemplified impeccable command since making his season debut in early May. The 33-year-old hurler boasts a 36-to-4 K:BB ratio over 50 2/3 innings and seeks to continue his brilliant 2014 campaign against a squad that ranks second-to-last in the American League in True Average (10:10 p.m. ET).

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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