June 11, 2014
What You Need to Know
A Wild One at Coors
The Tuesday Takeaway
In a true Coors Field classic, both lineups batted around in the first inning. The Braves tagged Juan Nicasio with seven runs before the top half of the opening frame came to an end. Andrelton Simmons punctuated the rally with a grand slam:
But Mike Minor, who enjoyed the luxury of batting before he had to pitch, committed a cardinal sin: He walked three and hit a batter after being handed a seven-run lead. Nicasio helped out his counterpart by going down looking with the bases loaded to end the frame, but by then the seven-run margin had been trimmed to four.
Think the first inning was weird? The third has something to say about that.
With a runner on third and two away in the top half, Rockies manager Walt Weiss decided not to take any chances with Simmons, issuing the shortstop an intentional walk to bring Minor to the plate with men at the corners. But the left-hander foiled that strategy by delivering an RBI single to put the visitors ahead 8-3.
The Rockies threatened to eat into that five-run gap in the last of the third, which began with three straight singles. Trouble is, Justin Morneau—who collected the middle hit of the trio—was thrown out attempting to stretch it into a double, so only one run scored on Josh Rutledge’s subsequent knock. After D.J. LeMahieu bunted, Juan Nicasio helped himself out by driving in a run.
That’s right: In the same game that saw both teams bat around in the first inning, both starting pitchers—who survived that first inning—collected an RBI single in the third.
Unfortunately for Nicasio, his evening would soon take another turn for the worse. Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis both went yard in the top of the fourth, and while Wilin Rosario tried to counter that attack with a 468-foot bomb in the home half, the catcher’s long ball, distance notwithstanding, was worth only one run.
Nicasio was long gone by the top of the sixth, but Chad Bettis and Rosario combined to turn what had become a 10-8 nail-biter for the Braves back into a laugher. With runners at first and second and two away, Bettis threw a 58-footer to Evan Gattis, which skipped behind the right-handed batter’s box. Rosario picked the ball up and fired it into left field, allowing Freeman to score and Jordan Schafer to go to third. That’s a wild pitch, E2, if you’re scoring at home, and after the next three batters all singled, Atlanta was up 13-8.
As Minor learned in the first inning, though, no lead feels safe at Coors Field—especially when you’re giving the Rockies free passes. Jordan Walden came on in the eighth with the score at 13-9, and he walked the first three batters he faced. Drew Stubbs popped out, but Fredi Gonzalez had seen enough from the right-hander, who became the first Braves reliever to issue three bases on balls and throw a wild pitch without recording more than one out since John Rocker did it on May 27, 2000.
Bases loaded, one out, eighth inning. Craig Kimbrel time, right?
It would be, soon enough, but Gonzalez has a new toy at his disposal, and he’s not afraid to bring him out with the tying run at the plate. Rookie Shae Simmons, who’s emerged as a primary setup man in a bullpen that was recently in flux, came on and coaxed a sacrifice fly from Justin Morneau before striking out Josh Rutledge to extinguish the fire. Kimbrel fanned the side on 11 pitches, all of them strikes, in the ninth to seal the wild, 13-10 win.
Quick Hits from Tuesday
John Farrell’s club left the bases loaded in the second inning on Tuesday and failed to score with the bags juiced and nobody out in the fourth, but it got a much-needed gem from Brandon Workman to mitigate those failures at the plate. The 25-year-old righty scarcely broke a sweat in 6 2/3 innings on the hill.
Workman, who’s bounced around the rotation and bullpen since coming up to the majors last summer, hadn’t pitched into the seventh inning since July 14, 2013, when he made his first big-league start. But the Orioles couldn’t solve the University of Texas product, as he kept them on the heels with a deep arsenal while pounding the strike zone.
The righty needed just eight pitches to complete the bottom of the first, and he only once reached 15 in a frame. Three of Workman’s innings lasted fewer than 10 pitches, and he was well on his way to another such effort with two outs on three offerings in the seventh when Farrell made the call to the bullpen.
The narrow margin drove the skipper to use Andrew Miller to retire Chris Davis to minimize the chances of the slugger tying the game with one swing. Junichi Tazawa handled the eighth, Koji Uehara worked a scoreless ninth, and that cemented the first 1-0 decision between Boston and Baltimore in nearly a decade.
As the O’s learned last night, you can’t win if you don’t score. That’s a lesson the Rays are still figuring out—three games into a shutout streak that began over the weekend.
In Tampa Bay’s defense, Adam Wainwright isn’t a pitcher any scuffling lineup ever wants to see. But Joe Maddon’s club saw a 19-inning scoreless stretch extended to 28 innings by the Cardinals ace and three relievers in a 2-0 defeat at the Trop.
Matt Holliday’s solo shot in the sixth inning was all the help the Redbirds pitching staff needed to secure the series-opening victory, as Wainwright held the Rays to seven hits—six of them singles—and two walks in seven innings of work. Jake Odorizzi put up a formidable fight, but one mistake was all it took to send the right-hander to his seventh defeat in his last eight decisions.
While the Rays—who dropped to 24-42 on the season and remain mired in last place, not only in the East but in all of baseball—haven’t scored a run in three straight games, the Cardinals haven’t allowed one their last three times out. It’s the first time St. Louis has recorded three straight blankings away from the Gateway City in 71 years. Which is a handy transition to the next Quick Hit…
If it’s any consolation to the Rays, the first-place squad in their division isn’t having much luck pushing runners across the plate, either. The Jays, who suffered back-to-back 5-0 losses to the Cardinals to wrap up their weekend series, went down 4-0 to the Twins on Tuesday night.
Danny Santana walked to begin the game, and Brian Dozier followed with a two-run dinger. Minnesota could’ve stopped there, but Santana doubled home a pair in the fourth, just for good measure, to provide extra insurance for Kevin Correia and Co. in a 4-0 win.
Only five opponents managed to hold the Blue Jays scoreless at the Rogers Centre during the 2013 season, but John Gibbons’ bunch has now gone down without a whimper three times in the last four days. Toronto has one game left on the homestand before it embarks on a 10-game road trip. After tomorrow, 20 of the Jays’ 29 remaining games before the All-Star break will be played south of the Canadian border.
Lest you think the only other club in the American League East, the Yankees, is exempt from the run-scoring woes because they won last night…
It truly is a division-wide malaise.
Francisco Liriano had been struggling against lefties all season long, with a .309/.377/.850 triple-slash line posted at his expense. Anthony Rizzo, a left-handed hitter, had been thumping like-handed hurlers all year, with a .333/.438/.567 effort to his name. As it turns out, sometimes you can predict baseball after all:
Liriano hung a 1-1 slider to Rizzo, and the first baseman walloped it into the last row of the right-center field stands at PNC Park to give the Cubs an early 2-0 lead.
The first-inning long ball marked just the second time in Rizzo’s career that he’s gone yard on a slider thrown by a left-handed pitcher. But while the round-trippers weren’t coming, Rizzo had been handling the breaking ball much better in 2014 than he did last year. It was only a matter of time before the improved recognition led to a tater, and Liriano finally gave the Cub a mistake he could drive.
Rizzo next stepped into the box in the top of the fourth, but while Liriano was on the bump to begin that at-bat, a strained oblique halted his bid to bounce back and coax an out. Jeanmar Gomez relieved Liriano and promptly allowed a double, one of a pair of two-baggers that Rizzo added to his homer before the 7-3 Cubs victory was in the books. The second double required a bit of help from right fielder Gregory Polanco, who went 1-for-5 in his major-league debut but averted an error by the grace of the official scorer.
The 3-for-4 evening was the third three-extra-base knock of the 24-year-old Rizzo’s career and the second that included a home run. The other came on September 16, 2012, also against the Pirates.
The Defensive Play of the Day
The A’s lead the league with 19 outfield assists on the year.
But while Cespedes saved the day for Oakland in the eighth, Collin Cowgill brought home the winning run with a solo shot in the 14th to put the Angels up 2-0 in the three-game set between the top two teams in the West:
The win was Anaheim’s fifth in a row, and it brought the Halos to within 2 ½ games of first place.
What to Watch for on Wednesday