June 19, 2014
What You Need to Know
The Wednesday Takeaway
The left-hander raced through the first six innings, retiring all 18 batters he faced. Ten of those 18 went down via the strikeout. And Kershaw had accomplished all of that on just 78 pitches.
With no concern about his pitch count—and no reason to sweat the shutout with the Dodgers ahead 8-0—Kershaw took the mound in the seventh poised to keep on rolling. Moments later, two ground balls to the left side of the infield would define the game’s place in baseball history.
Corey Dickerson led off the top of the seventh with a slow chopper to short, soft enough that Hanley Ramirez needed to hurry, but hard enough to give him ample time to make the play. Ramirez fielded the ball cleanly, but his off-balance throw bounced wide of first base, beyond the reach of Adrian Gonzalez.
The game was no longer perfect, but the no-hitter remained intact. Two batters later, Troy Tulowitzki put it in peril with a hot shot down the third-base line. Fortunately, Miguel Rojas, a rookie billed by Jason Parks as “a super-slick defender,” was there and up to the task, turning in…
The Defensive Play of the Day
…and now, back to the Takeaway
Though Kershaw’s curveball is often hailed as the filthiest offering on his menu, it played second fiddle to his slider on Wednesday. The slider that fanned Dickerson was the 31st spun by the lefty, the 27th that went for a strike, and the 12th at which the Rockies waved and missed.
The slider darted away from lefties, like Dickerson, and at the back feet of righties. No matter where it was, the visitors couldn’t help but chase:
Add to that a fastball that touched 95 into the ninth and, of course, the curveball, and the sense that Kershaw was on the verge of something special was palpable long before he recorded the 27th out. By the seventh inning, Vin Scully was telling the television audience to “Twitter your friends [and] email your pals.” By the eighth, he was certain that Kershaw could not be jinxed.
Those who heeded the warnings watched the first perfect game spoiled only by an error since then-Giant Jonathan Sanchez saw his effort foiled by Juan Uribe on July 10, 2009. They also witnessed the first no-no thrown against the Rockies since another Dodger, Hideo Nomo, did it on September 17, 1996.
As the National League’s best starters from the first two months hit bumps in the road—from injuries (Jose Fernandez, Adam Wainwright) to rough outings (Johnny Cueto in May, Tim Hudson earlier on Wednesday)—Kershaw, who spent the first month nursing a teres major strain, is finally rounding into peak form. The 26-year-old may yet defend his senior circuit Cy Young Award. And the Dodgers, now just four games behind the scuffling Giants, may yet repeat as National League West champs.
Quick Hits from Wednesday
Kansas City gave its starter a quick 1-0 edge in the top of the first, when Eric Hosmer picked up a one-out single, stole second, and scored on an infield hit by Alex Gordon. How, you might ask, did Hosmer go 180 feet on an infield single? Shortstop Eugenio Suarez was all set to field the ball behind the keystone, but the ball had other ideas: It caromed sideways off the bag to the right side of the infield, far enough from second baseman Ian Kinsler to allow Hosmer to sprint home.
Smyly settled in after that, but Guthrie was in a groove from the start. He permitted only two Tigers baserunners in the first four innings, and he struck out six along the way before getting some help from Gordon in left.
Two of those punchouts came at the expense of Victor Martinez—which is notable in its own right, because Martinez came into the game with 19 strikeouts in 284 plate appearances this year. He’d fanned twice in a game only one time since August 7. Time for a bit of trivia: Can you name the last starting pitcher to notch two strikeouts versus V-Mart in the same game? (Answer at the end of this Quick Hit.)
By the time the Tigers figured Guthrie out in the seventh, the Royals were up by two. Omar Infante took care of that with a solo shot with two away in the top of the fifth. J.D. Martinez’s dinger, which curled just inside the left-field foul pole in the last of the seventh, brought Detroit to within a run, and Nick Castellanos chased Guthrie with a two-out double. But Kelvin Herrera quieted the crowd by retiring Don Kelly on a lineout, and the Tigers never threatened again.
The win was the Royals’ 10th in a row. That’s a sentence no one’s been able to type in two decades:
The AL Central rivals will meet once more on Thursday afternoon, but Ned Yost’s squad is now assured of leaving Detroit in first place.
Neither the Twins nor the Red Sox were able to pack much of a punch with the bats in the first two games of their three-game series. Boston shut out the visitors by a 1-0 martin behind seven innings of one-hit ball by Rubby De La Rosa on Monday, and Jon Lester outdueled Phil Hughes in a 2-1 game on Tuesday. On Wednesday, neither team had pushed across a run after nine innings, as Kyle Gibson allowed just one hit in seven innings of work and John Lackey needed just 105 pitches to keep the Twins off the board before the two squads headed into extra innings.
Koji Uehara took over for Lackey and retired the first two batters he faced before Chris Parmalee deposited a 1-2 splitter just out of the reach of Brock Holt and into the Red Sox bullpen. With Glen Perkins unavailable because of a stiff lower back, Casey Fien came in to try to lock down the game for the Twins. After getting Dustin Pedroia to fly out, Fien hung a 2-2 slider to David Ortiz:
Three pitches after Ortiz wrapped Fien's offering inside Pesky's Pole, Mike Napoli sent the Red Sox home as walk-off winners.
The Red Sox capped a series filled with excellent performances on the mound with an exciting sequence of back-to-back jacks to send the Boston faithful home satisfied. But just how rare was their three-game sweep of the Twins?
With a 65 percent quality start rate through his 439 career outings, Tim Hudson doesn’t often chuck up clunkers. But the league ERA leader turned in an all-timer in the finale of a two-game series between the Giants and White Sox.
Hudson’s ability to pound the strike zone and induce weak contact helped him rise to the top of the circuit with a 1.81 ERA when he took the hill at U.S. Cellular Field. On Wednesday afternoon, however, nothing in the right-hander’s arsenal was fooling any of the White Sox hitters.
Chicago’s assault on the 38-year-old began early with Jose Abreu’s 20th home run of the year:
That put the South Siders up 2-0. Hudson used his sinker to coax ground balls and work around extra-base hits in the second and third innings, but the pounding resumed in the fourth.
Adam Dunn drew a rare walk from Hudson to begin the frame, after which Alexei Ramirez lined out. The White Sox then strung together three straight singles. The third—a bouncer up the middle by Tyler Flowers—doubled the lead to 4-0.
Chris Sale couldn't keep the Giants off the scoreboard in the top of the fifth, when three straight hits and a sacrifice fly by Buster Posey cut the lead back to two runs. But Hudson couldn't stop the bleeding in the last of the fifth, when Dunn followed back-to-back singles with a three-run bomb that proved to be the deathblow in the 7-6 Chicago win.
Summed up, the carnage on Hudson’s line totaled 12 hits—two of them out of the park—and zero strikeouts. The former equaled a career high, last set on September 2, 2005, when Hudson was with the Braves. The latter, of course, matched a career low.
Hudson’s struggles helped the White Sox snap a two-game skid behind Sale, who wasn’t at his best—surrendering three runs in six innings—but pitched well enough to win. The right-hander’s ERA rose to 2.39 with the 4 2/3-inning drubbing, but he’ll have a golden opportunity to shave it back down when the Padres visit San Francisco next week.
Like many catchers, Brian McCann has never hit for the cycle. The trouble is that before Wednesday, he’d logged only two triples in his major-league career. And he’d never matched a three-bagger with a home run in the same game.
All of that changed on Wednesday, when the first-year Yankee drove in five of his club’s seven runs in a win over the Blue Jays. Most impressively, both of the big knocks in McCann’s 2-for-3 evening came at the expense of left-handed pitchers.
The 30-year-old got the long ball out of the way early, golfing a calf-high curveball from Mark Buehrle just over the right-field wall to flip a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. The Yankees were up 4-2 when he came up in the last of the seventh with the bases loaded and two away.
Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons had called on Brett Cecil to face Ichiro Suzuki with the bases loaded, but the southpaw walked the veteran outfielder to force in a run. Carlos Beltran fouled out, leaving the task of providing additional insurance in McCann’s hands. He didn't disappoint, lining the aforementioned three-bagger past a diving Colby Rasmus and all the way to the right-center field wall. By the time Rasmus recovered and collected the ball, McCann was assured of his first triple since June 6, 2009.
In addition to making personal history, McCann also put his name in an exclusive club of Yankees backstops:
A .226/.286/.372 triple-slash line isn’t what the Yankees had in mind when they invested $85 million over five years in the former Brave. We’ll find out in the next few days if McCann’s first tater since May 23 is a sign that he’s ready to emerge from his first-half slump. —Daniel Rathman
It's been a long time since Bartolo Colon has been able to claim that he's helped his own cause at the plate. Nine years, in fact, as the 41-year-old had gone hitless in his previous 43 at-bats entering Wednesday's game at Busch Stadium. Not only did Colon jumpstart the offense for a Mets team that was staring down a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals, but he allowed just four baserunners over eight brilliant innings of work.
Matt Carpenter got the scoring started in the home half of the first inning by tattooing a 1-1 meatball from Colon into the St. Louis bullpen for a leadoff dinger. From that point on, Colon was dialed in, facing just two over the minimum during the next eight innings and allowing the Redbirds to get a man into scoring position just once. The ageless wonder didn't miss many bats, but he demonstrated superb command of the zone, notching first-pitch strikes against 22 of the 27 batters he faced and recording a season-best 74.4 percent strike rate.
His counterpart, Lance Lynn, cruised through the first five innings and was in prime position to keep rolling with a 1-0 lead as Colon was set to lead off the sixth. However, Colon got solid wood on Lynn's second offering and laced it down the left-field line for his first career extra-base hit. He even dropped his bat!
Colon motored into second base for his first base knock since June 10, 2005, when he singled against the Mets at Shea Stadium as a member of the Angels. With the lineup turning over, leadoff man Eric Young Jr. drove home Colon with a two-bagger of his own, marking just the second time that Colon had scored a run. The first time he crossed the plate was in 2002, on a two-hit day out of the nine-hole for the Expos. The leadoff hitter for the opposing Brewers that day? Eric Young Sr.
David Wright drove Young Jr. in later in the sixth inning to give the Mets the lead, and the visitors tacked on another run the next inning. Despite needing only 86 pitches to navigate the first eight innings, Colon was pinch-hit for in the top of the ninth inning. Terry Collins elected to turn the ball over to his closer Jenrry Mejia and indicated post-game that the steady in-game temperatures of 90 degrees played a considerable part in his decision to pull Colon in his complete-game bid.
Mejia kept things exciting in the ninth inning, serving up a leadoff double to Carpenter and then plunking Jon Jay. After Matt Holliday grounded into a 6-4-3 twin killing, Allen Craig cut the deficit to 3-2 by reaching on an infield single. Next up for the Cardinals was Matt Adams, which prompted Collins to give his closer the hook in favor of southpaw Dana Eveland. The 30-year-old journeyman got Adams to ground out for the third out, recording his first save since 2005 and salvaging the final game of the series. —Chris Mosch
The Nationals stole five bases in their 6-5 win over the Astros last night. Denard Span and Anthony Rendon had two apiece. But Jayson Werth’s lone swipe featured one of the most uniquely elusive sliding efforts you’ll ever see:
The slide was so good, Werth had to nickname it:
Despite those swipes, all of which came in the first four innings, the Nats trailed 4-2 when their thievery was done. They finally rallied after the seventh-inning stretch.
Down 5-3 when the bottom half of the frame began, the Nats halved the gap on a solo blast by Rendon. Werth followed by drawing a walk, and he continued to showcase his baserunning acumen by going from first to third on a bloop single by Adam LaRoche. That put the outfielder in position to score the tying run on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman, who reached on the play as the Astros opted to nab LaRoche going to second. Zimmerman later scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Nate McLouth.
The one-run win gave the Nats a 1 ½-game lead in the National League East, after the Braves fell 10-5 to the Phillies. Fredi Gonzalez’s squad will now pay Matt Williams’ bunch a visit with first place on the line. The sides kick off a four-game series with Gavin Floyd and Jordan Zimmermann toeing the rubber tonight (7:05 p.m. ET). —Daniel Rathman
What to Watch for on Thursday
Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @danielrathman