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June 24, 2014

What You Need to Know

Odrisamer Despaigne's Debut

by Daniel Rathman

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The Monday Takeaway
The Padres scratched Andrew Cashner from his scheduled Monday start against the Giants and put the hard-throwing right-hander on the disabled list with shoulder soreness. They called up Cuban defector Odrisamer Despaigne, who inked a minor-league pact in May and was sporting a 7.06 ERA in Triple-A El Paso, to take the mound in Cashner’s place. But if the Giants thought missing Cashner was a relief, they had another thing coming.

Despaigne delivered seven innings of shutout ball in the series opener, leading the Padres to a 6-0 victory. He retired the first nine Giants he faced in order, and before he took the mound again in the bottom of the fourth, the Padres had handed the 27-year-old a 3-0 lead.

Everth Cabrera jumpstarted the one-out rally with an infield single, after which Seth Smith singled and Carlos Quentin lined out. With two away, Yasmani Grandal thumped what was initially ruled a home run over the right-field wall but became a ground-rule double when the umpires determined via replay that a fan had reached over and interfered with the play:

Bud Black was ejected for arguing the decision, though he might as well not have bothered, because the next batter, Tommy Medica, plated both remaining runners with a double.

Back to Despaigne.

Hunter Pence broke up the righty’s perfect game with a one-out double in the fourth, but neither Buster Posey nor Pablo Sandoval could bring the right fielder home. The Giants stranded a runner each in the fifth and sixth innings, too, and in the seventh, Despaigne finished his night by getting Tyler Colvin to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

In doing so, Despaigne became just the fourth pitcher in Padres franchise history to log at least seven shutout innings in his major-league debut. The last one to accomplish the feat was Ricky Bones, on August 11, 1991. But the way in which the 6-foot, 195-pounder flummoxed the Giants was as intriguing as the results he attained.

Despaigne didn’t miss many bats on Monday night: He induced only five swings-and-misses in 86 offerings and notched only one strikeout. But he prevented the Giants from squaring up the ball, using a deep arsenal to keep Bruce Bochy’s hitters on their heels. All six of the pitches Despaigne employed wound up with a positive (from the pitcher’s perspective) linear weight.

The half-dozen-item menu itself wasn’t enough by itself, though. Despaigne also had different ways of serving up the six offerings:

The right-hander varied his release points on the fastball and curveball. About a dozen times, he dropped down to a sidearm motion, changing the movement on the pitches. The relative lack of scouting data on Despaigne played up the element of surprise.

Here it is, straight from the horse’s mouth:

That approach worked to perfection. And by the time Kevin Quackenbush took over in the last of the eighth, the Padres had doubled their lead to 6-0 with their second three-spot of the game.

Instead of seeing mid-90s heat and a vicious slider from Cashner, the Giants ran headlong into a crafty import they’d never seen before. Despaigne kept San Francisco off the scoreboard, something Cashner hasn’t done in three career tries—and something that only two other pitchers in the past century have managed to do in their first-ever trips to a big-league mound:

Quick Hits from Monday
With world-class lefty-killer Chris Sale on the bump for the White Sox, Orioles manager Buck Showalter elected to keep Chris Davis out of his starting lineup on Monday night. That proved wise, because the O’s who did start tagged the southpaw with 11 hits in six innings of work.

The bad news for the Orioles is that those 11 hits yielded only two runs. The good news is that despite knocking Wei-Yin Chen around for four doubles and a Jose Abreu homer, the White Sox put up only four runs on the evening. Together, the sides went 3-for-22 with runners in scoring position, keeping the contest close in the late innings.

And the longer the game stayed tight, the more likely it became that Davis would have a chance to make an impact off the bench. Off to a disappointing start on the heels of his 53-homer breakout year in 2013, the 28-year-old slugger was just 4-for-36 with 14 strikeouts in his previous nine games.

That slump did not deter Showalter from telling Davis to grab a helmet when the Orioles mounted a comeback against White Sox closer Ronald Belisario in the last of the ninth. Steve Pearce led off the frame with a single and moved to second when Adam Jones was hit by a pitch. Nelson Cruz struck out swinging. Then, with two on and one away, Showalter sent Davis to the box instead of Delmon Young, who was 3-for-4 on the night.

Davis worked the count full. Even with two runners on—the back runner representing the potential game-winner—White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers wanted Belisario to throw a slider in the dirt on the payoff pitch:

Davis is prone to chasing breaking balls down there, and the South Siders were willing to bet that he would do so in this situation, despite the risk of walking the all-important runner into scoring position. Instead, Belisario did something much worse: He hung the breaking ball over the outer third, and Davis was all over it.

That three-run blast walked the Orioles off with a 6-4 win. It was the 13th of the year for Davis, and it dealt Belisario his fourth blown save of the season while bloating his ERA to 5.50.

The White Sox’ fifth loss in a row dropped them deeper into the American League Central cellar. The Orioles’ third straight win helped them to keep pace with the Blue Jays, 1 ½ games shy of the East division lead, and pick up another game on the third-place Yankees, against whom Baltimore took two of three over the weekend.


Across town, the Cubs bullpen had been surprisingly steady. Young right-handers Neil Ramirez and Hector Rondon had given manager Rick Renteria a dynamic late-inning duo and kept our closer expert Mauricio Rubio guessing as to which one would secure the job for the long haul.

The answer might’ve gotten a bit clearer on Monday—and not in a good way for the North Siders.

The Reds scored a run in the first inning against Jeff Samardzija, when Billy Hamilton doubled and Todd Frazier tripled. But the right-hander stranded Frazier at third base, and the visitors didn't score between the second and the eighth.

Meanwhile, the Cubs had just as much trouble with Alfredo Simon, who kept on rolling with seven innings of one-run ball. The only blemish on his line: this sixth-inning solo homer by Anthony Rizzo.

Cincinnati and Chicago remained knotted at 1-1 into the ninth, when Rondon, not Ramirez, got the call to hold the line. With a 34-to-9 K:BB ratio and zero gopher balls in 27 2/3 innings, the 26-year-old seemed up to the task. He induced a groundout from Skip Schumaker and a fly out from Zack Cozart, and the Cubs were on the verge of a chance to walk off in the last of the ninth.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

Chris Heisey singled and stole second. Hamilton brought him home on an infield single. Todd Frazier singled and stole second, with Hamilton moving up to third on the hit. Joey Votto walked to load the bases. And in case Rondon had any visions of escaping the jam with the game in hand, Devin Mesoraco crushed a grand slam:

The third salami of Mesoraco’s career and the 13th tater of his breakout showing at the plate put the Reds ahead 6-1. The Cubs went down without a whimper in the last of the ninth.

Rondon’s meltdown brought back memories of bad bullpens in the Cubs’ recent past—the memories that both he and Ramirez were beginning to erase. Since the start of the 2010 season, 144 relievers have allowed at least five runs without recording more than two outs. Rondon was the 14th to do it for the Cubs, who’ve accounted for nearly 10 percent of those disasters but hadn’t suffered one since last July.


Matt Adams came off the disabled list sizzling earlier this month, swatting a home run in each of his first three June games and a triple in his fourth. Those long balls doubled the first baseman’s tally for the season to six. Adams was kept in the yard in his next seven contests, but on Monday night, he resumed his bid to make up for lost time.

The 25-year-old lined out in the first inning, but while his opening salvo was unrewarded, he’d make plenty more hard contact later in the evening.

Jhoulys Chacin worked himself into trouble in the top of the third, drilling Mark Ellis to start the frame and then walking Matt Carpenter after Lance Lynn moved Ellis to second with a sacrifice bunt. The next batter, Matt Holliday, doubled home Ellis. After that, Adams brought home both Carpenter and Holliday with a single.

The Rockies couldn’t solve Lynn, so the Redbirds’ 3-0 advantage was safe even in the thin air of Coors Field. But Adams wasn’t done solving Chacin.

He clobbered a 1-2 mistake into the right-field stands to make it 5-0 in the fifth. Two innings later, Adams went yard for the second time, this one a three-run shot off of Franklin Morales:

Adams’ eighth big fly of the season made it 8-0, the eventual final score. Add it all up, and the big first baseman was 3-for-5 with two homers and six RBI.

That was more than enough support for Lynn, who turned in eight innings of three-hit, no-run, no-walk, seven-strikeout pitching for the visitors to lower his ERA for the season to 2.90. No visiting starter in the history of Coors Field had reached all of those benchmarks in the same start before the 27-year-old Lynn did it on Monday night.

With Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha both on the disabled list with shoulder ailments, the Cardinals will need Adam Wainwright and Lynn to be at their best. They’ll turn to 2013 first-rounder Marco Gonzales in the series finale on Wednesday.


Adams wasn’t the only first baseman who enjoyed his Monday. Logan Morrison had a day to remember, too.

Unlike Adams, who’d gotten going after a brief injury break, Morrison’s bat was nearly silent throughout his first 20 games with the Mariners. He was 7-for-41 with 10 strikeouts since a 52-game absence with a hamstring strain, and his True Average through 66 plate appearances in Seattle was just .192.

The 26-year-old’s TAv inched upward each time he stepped into the box in the series opener.

Morrison clobbered a solo dinger with one away in the second inning to tie the game at 1-1:

When the Red Sox took the lead back, 2-1, Morrison contributed a single toward a six-run fourth inning that was keyed by a three-run triple by Endy Chavez. An inning later, he picked up another single, and this one came with an RBI.

After the seventh inning stretch, Morrison helped the M’s put the Red Sox away by capping a four-spot with a 431-foot, three-run bomb:

And to top it all off, in the eighth inning, Morrison drew a two-out walk.

That’s four hits in as many at-bats, two of them over a fence, plus a free pass, just for good measure. The last Mariner before Morrison to go 4-for-4 with two homers and a walk? Ken Griffey Jr., way back on September 1, 1997.

The Defensive Play of the Day
An extra-base knock for Justin Morneau wouldn't have hurt the Cardinals much, given that they were up 8-0 in the bottom of the seventh. But Jon Jay decided to rob the first baseman anyway:

What to Watch for on Tuesday

  • Pitchers facing the Tigers have a hard enough time contending with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, but now there’s a third tough bat in the heart of Brad Ausmus’ order. Mechanically different J.D. Martinez is 19-for-47 (.404 average) with six doubles and four home runs in his last 12 games. It’ll be up to Colby Lewis to tame the younger Martinez’s bat as the Tigers come to Globe Life Park in Arlington for a three-game set. Drew Smyly, who’s held opponents to two or fewer runs in all three of his June assignments, is due to toe the rubber for Detroit (8:05 p.m. ET).

  • Each time a pitcher throws a no-hitter, he has a chance to do what no one besides Johnny Vander Meer has ever done: throw a second consecutive one. From a talent and stuff standpoint, Clayton Kershaw might have as strong a chance to match that feat as any pitcher has since Vander Meer did it in 1938. The 26-year-old has never pitched against the Royals, the club he’ll see tonight with Danny Duffy on the bump for the home nine at Kauffman Stadium. Duffy has held opponents to three or fewer runs in each of his past four starts, and if he can keep that up, the matchup of hard-throwing southpaws should make for a fine duel (8:10 p.m. ET).

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

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