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June 25, 2014

What You Need to Know

Five Hours and Counting

by Chris Mosch

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The Tuesday Takeaway
Jake Arrieta entered Tuesday coming off a trio of superb outings over which he allowed just one run and 10 hits with a shiny 27-to-2 K:BB ratio in 20 innings of work. The 28-year-old right-hander continued his breakout campaign by flirting with perfection and twirling seven outstanding innings against the Reds.

Arrieta’s career-best strikeout rate this season can be largely attributed to his career-high usage of his slider (which could also be referred to as a cutter depending on who you ask), which sat at 23.2 percent entering Tuesday. The pitch has also generated swing-and-misses at a career-best rate, so it should come as no surprise that Arrieta’s recent dominance has come during a spike in the use of his slider.


That trend continued against the Reds, as Arrieta complemented his 95 MPH fastball with his breaking pitch just over 40 percent of the time, including some nasty ones early that elicited all kinds of expletives from our own Jason Parks. The Texas Christian University product needed just 77 pitches to cruise through six perfect innings, which featured eight punchouts. Arrieta missed inside with a slider against Billy Hamilton to lead off the seventh inning, and Wellington Castillo set up low and away for a 1-0 sinker from the right-hander.

Arrieta made the perfect pitch, hitting the target that Castillo set up, but Hamilton grounded the offering through the middle to break up the perfecto with a leadoff single.

Arrieta retired the next two batters, but served up an RBI single to Devin Mesoraco and a double to Jay Bruce that cut the lead to 4-2. The right-hander fanned Ryan Ludwick to escape the jam and record his ninth strikeout of the night, and he turned the ball over to his bullpen in the eighth inning after 94 pitches.

The Chicago hurler showed excellent command of his pitches, and when he did miss the strike zone, it was usually below the knees. He threw 66 of his 94 pitches for strikes with 12 of them of the swing-and-miss variety (and seven via the slider). Mesoraco’s single came against a slider that caught too much of the plate and Bruce took advantage of a slider left up in the zone, but Arrieta was otherwise spectacular during his seven innings of work. You can watch all nine of Arrieta’s strikeouts here.

Led by a three-hit night by Anthony Rizzo that included a solo home run, the Cubs provided plenty of offensive firepower to back Arrieta’s gem. Chicago tagged Homer Bailey for four runs and tacked on a three-run eighth against Sam LeCure to secure the 7-3 win. The lone bright spot of the night for the Reds was Mesoraco, who launched a home run off Neil Ramirez in the ninth to extend his streak with a dinger to five games.

Quick Hits from Tuesday

The 16-inning marathon between the Brewers and Nationals lasted until the wee hours of Wednesday morning, with Washington using an assortment of outstanding defensive plays, 10 scoreless innings from its bullpen, and a go-ahead blast to outlast Milwaukee in the longest game in Nationals franchise history.

The game started as a fine pitching duel between Jordan Zimmermann and Yovani Gallardo, who each threw six innings of quality ball. Zimmermann struck out nine while scattered six hits and allowing just two runs to come home on a Ryan Braun single in the fifth inning. The Nationals led off the game with a pair of singles and pushed across a run on a groundout later in the frame, but that was all the damage they were able to do to Gallardo.

With Milwaukee still up 2-1 in the eighth, Anthony Rendon knotted the game up against Will Smith on a solo shot that landed just beyond the reach of a leaping Carlos Gomez.

After Zimmermann departed, the Nationals got scoreless innings from Jerry Blevins, Aaron Barrett and Craig Stammen before handing the ball off to Ross Detwiler. The former sixth overall pick of the 2007 draft fired four innings of two-hit ball to match scoreless frames by Francisco Rodriguez and Zach Duke. Backing Detwiler in the 11th inning was Ian Desmond, whose play in the 5.5 hole was the first of a slew of outstanding extra-inning defensive plays by the Nationals. Desmond had actually made a similar play to his right in the third inning that robbed Gallardo of a base hit.

The Defensive Plays of the Day
Desmond’s play in the 11th…

With Khris Davis on first and one away, Elian Herrera drove one to the deepest part of the ballpark, but Denard Span made a leaping catch at the wall to save the game.

Two pitches later, Jean Segura blooped a pop up to shallow right field, but Jayson Werth made a sliding grab to send the game to the 15th inning.

Mike Fiers tossed three scoreless innings for the Brew Crew, but Ryan Zimmerman finally broke offensive drought with a two-run blast on a 2-0 fastball from the Milwaukee right-hander.

Rafael Soriano came in to slam the door on the 4-2 marathon win, and the Nationals got one more defensive gem in the 16th. It was only fitting that this one came from their offensive hero of the night.

***

Going on even later into the night was the contest between the Indians and Diamondbacks, which lasted five hours and 32 minutes—tying the record for the longest game ever played at Chase Field.

The Snakes handed their closer Addison Reed a 6-5 lead in the ninth, but the former White Sox stopgap issued a pair of walks to Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana before surrendering a game-tying RBI single to Yan Gomes. Randall Delgado took over for Reed in the 10th and retired the Indians in order, but ran into trouble in the 11th. The 2006 amateur free agent out of Panama walked Michael Brantley to lead off the inning. Up next was Carlos Santana, who had reached base safely in his previous five trips to the plate. Delgado didn’t fool Santana with his 1-0 changeup, and the Cleveland slugger roped the offering down the right field line for a go-ahead bomb.

Bryan Shaw looked to shut the door in his second inning of work, but gave up a leadoff home run to David Peralta to cut the deficit in half. Shaw walked the next batter, Didi Gregorius, on four pitches and then served up a single to pinch-hitter Tuffy Gosewisch. Shaw was lifted in favor of John Axford, who allowed the game-tying single to Ender Inciarte, but fanned Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero with the bases full to send the game to the 12th. Things picked up again in the top of the 13th, when Jason Kipnis launched a long fly to center that ricocheted off Inciarte in center field. Kipnis appeared to be on his way to a go-ahead inside-the-park-homer, but Didi Gregorius had other plans.

After Wednesday’s scheduled starter and pinch-hitter Corey Kluber grounded out to end the top half of the 14th, the Indians brought in their final reliever, Mark Lowe, to pitch the 14th. Gerrardo Parra led off with a single and promptly swiped second base before moving to third on a fly out by Goldschmidt. Lowe intentionally walked Montero and Aaron Hill followed by sending the Chase Field fans home happy and putting an end to the night’s second marathon matchup with a deep drive to center.

***

Chris Young entered Tuesday’s contest with a .201/.284/.313 line and with Juan Lagares expected to return from the disabled list later this week, Adam Rubin reported on Monday that the Mets were prepared to cut ties with the Houston, Texas native. General manager Sandy Alderson quickly refuted those reports, and Young did all he could do against his former Oakland team to bolster his job security.

Down 1-0 in the home half of the second, Curtis Granderson jumped all over a fastball left over the plate by former Mets top prospect Scott Kazmir for a two-run blast to give the Amazin’s the upper hand. Next up was Young, who sat on a 2-1 changeup from Kazmir, giving the Mets back-to-back jacks for the first time this season.

The Mets hung another crooked number on Kazmir in the third, with Travis d’Arnaud capping off the four-run frame with a three-run shot in his first game back with the Mets since being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas. Two innings later, Young went yard for a second time, this time off former Oakland closer Jim Johnson to extend the lead to 8-1.

It was Young’s first multi-homer game since April 24, 2013, when he went deep twice with the A’s. He just missed out on his second career three-homer game when he flied out out to the warning track in the seventh inning.

The matchup between Kazmir and Bartolo Colon wasn’t short of storylines. During the offseason, the A’s allowed Colon to depart after they had signed Kazmir, who made his Queens debut on Tuesday against the team that drafted him 15th overall in the 2002 draft and traded him away two years later to Tampa Bay for middling starting pitcher Victor Zambrano.

The duel turned out to be pretty one-sided, and not in the favor of the man who entered the game as the American League’s ERA leader. Bob Melvin gave Kazmir the hook after he yielded seven runs on eight hits in three innings, which was the most runs Kazmir had given up in a start since July 10, 2010, when the A’s torched him for 13 runs in five innings.

On the other hand, Colon fired eight innings of one-run ball for the second straight outing. He allowed just four hits and one free pass against Oakland’s potent offense and struck out eight while rearing back for an extra MPH or two on his fastball during his final innings of work.

Melvin joked about his club’s approach against Colon prior to the game, telling reporters, “We may walk Bartolo intentionally a couple of times just to get him on the basepaths, see him run around a little bit.” The Oakland manager got his wish in the fourth inning, when Colon laced a single to left field to lead off the frame. It may have been the quickest bat release we’ve seen from Colon on a ball in play this year.

It was just the second time in Colon’s career that he’s picked up base knocks in back-to-back outings. The last time it happened was in July of 2002, when he picked up singles in consecutive starts with the Expos.

***

Over the weekend, the Blue Jays stormed back from an 8-0 deficit to take a 14-9 thriller from the Reds. On Tuesday night, Toronto nearly coughed up a 6-0 lead of its own to the Yankees, but avoided being on the other end of a demoralizing loss and instead came away with a walk-off win.

Kicking off the scoring for the Jays was Dioner Navarro, who launched a hanging curveball from David Phelps into the second deck of the Rogers Centre for a three-run homer in the fourth inning. Oh, and he boasted a pretty killer bat flip.

The next inning, Toronto used a trio of singles by Munenori Kawasaki, Jose Reyes, and Edwin Encarnacion to load the bases. Encarnacion’s infield single was a freebie, as Derek Jeter looked to second base and then to third base before deciding to fire to first, but Encarnacion was able to beat out the infield single by half a step.

With two outs, Colby Rasmus laced a first-pitch curveball from Phelps off the top of the right field wall, which easily scored Kawasaki and Reyes. Rasmus thought he had a grand slam off the bat and got a slow start out of the box, so he was hung up in a rundown when the relay throw intended for home plate was instead redirected for second base. Covering second base was Jeter, who chased Rasmus thinking he could outrun the Toronto outfielder for the third out of the inning. However, Rasmus dove back safe to first base while Encarnacion made the heads-up play to score from third base.

Mark Buehrle cruised through the first five innings, keeping the Yankees off the board with four hits on with 59 pitches. Jeter ended the shutout with a towering solo shot over the left field fence to lead off the sixth. In the seventh, the Yankees mounted a five-run rally that was started by a one-out double by Brian McCann. The next batter, Brian Roberts, drilled a 2-2 offering from Buehrle that stayed just inside the left field foul pole to cut the deficit to 6-3. Buehrle retired Yangervis Solarte on a fly out for the second out of the inning, but Brett Gardner knocked the crafty 35-year-old out of the game with a double to left.

Dustin McGowan came on in relief and promptly walked Jeter on five pitches. Up next was Jacoby Ellsbury, who singled through the left side of the infield to score Gardner. Jeter and Ellsbury each moved up 90 feet after Mekly Cabrera’s throw home skipped past the catcher, which proved to be key Jose Reyes bounced a would-be inning-ending groundout by Mark Teixeira past Encarnacion at first base, allowing both runners to score and tie the game at six apiece.

Dellin Betances was able to work his way out of a one-out bases loaded jam in the eighth inning, but Adam Warren served up a leadoff double to Reyes in the ninth. The next batter, Melky Cabrera slapped a bunt down between Warren and Solarte at third base. After a slight hesitation by the two, Solarte fielded the bunt and threw it past Roberts at first base and Reyes trotted home to score the game-winning run.

***

Clayton Kershaw’s quest to join Johnny Vander Meer in the back-to-back no-hitters club was thwarted quickly by the Royals on Tuesday, as Eric Hosmer laced an opposite-field single with one out in the first inning. However, the Dodgers’ ace turned in eight superb shutout innings for his no-hitter encore, striking out eight and walking one without allowing an extra-base hit.

Kershaw was spotted a 1-0 lead before he toed the rubber, and he needed just 108 pitches to navigate his eight innings of work. Despite lamenting his fastball command in post-game interviews, Kershaw threw just over two-thirds of his heaters for strikes and was able to miss bats with his breaking pitches. His slider generated nine swing-and-misses while his curveball notched another three. With his stellar outing, Kershaw became the first starting pitcher since Tommy Greene in 1991 to toss at least eight shutout innings in his follow-up start to a no-hitter.

Kershaw also coaxed 13 ground balls compared to just three flies, raising his career-best ground-ball rate to 61.4 percent. Despite missing the first month of the season, he’s rapidly closing the gap on the rest of the National League Cy Young field and boasts a 1.26 ERA and a 66-to-6 K:BB ratio in seven starts since his seven-run clunker against the Diamondbacks on May 17. His FIP for the season dipped to 1.58 after Tuesday’s start.

The outing was Kershaw’s first against the Royals in his career, and with eight masterful innings, he left a lasting impression on at least one Kansas City slugger.

***

Just when you thought that George Springer hits home runs a long way, he hits a 441-foot blast… to right-center field.

The rookie’s solo shot gave the Astros an early lead against the Braves, but Atlanta got help from a pair of dingers by the Upton brothers to edge out Houston by a final of 3-2. Justin and B.J. went deep in the same game for the fourth time in their careers, which tied the MLB record for the most home runs by brother teammates in the same game.

Springer had a chance to tie the game up in the ninth after Jose Altuve stole second base with two outs to rack up his American League-leading 27th base of the season. But Craig Kimbrel countered Springer’s power bat with his own power fastball, rearing back for a pair of high heaters that Springer was unable to catch up to, including strike three to shut the door on the game.

***

Ian Kinsler received a relatively warm reception from the Rangers crowd during his first at back in Arlington since being traded during the offseason and subsequently wishing an 0-162 season for his former teammates. Kinsler belted a 1-1 fastball from Colby Lewis into the left field stands to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead and proceeded to give his former teammates in the home dugout a playful wave as he rounded the bases.

Lewis wasn’t too pleased by his former teammate’s antics, telling reporters after the game that he was “disappointed” by Kinsler’s gesture to the dugout. The two had some words when Kinsler was on his way back to the dugout after popping out in the third inning, but nothing more transpired from the incident. The Texas hurler squared off with Detroit’s Drew Smyly for a 1-1 duel until the sixth inning, when Lewis and reliever Ben Rowen combined to surrender a five-spot that featured J.D. Martinez’s fifth dinger in his last eight games. Kinsler added a two-run single in the eighth inning to push the score to 8-1, and the Detroit bullpen allowed a run in the ninth inning of the 8-2 final.

***

Chalk this up as a bonus near-defensive play of the day. In fact, it was just inches away from arguably being the defensive play of the year. And by who else?

Trout went on to add a go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the inning, as the Angels went on to knock off the Twins by an 8-6 final.

What to Watch on Wednesday

  • With Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia hitting the disabled list with shoulder injuries, the Cardinals will turn to 2013 first-round pick Marco Gonzales on Wednesday against the Rockies. Jeff Moore and J.P. Green wrote about Gonzales yesterday and raved about the southpaw’s changeup, which Moore called a true plus-plus pitch with “plus arm-side fade and diving action.” Gonzalez will not only have to deal with thin air at Coors Field during Thursday’s matinee, but he’ll have to be especially wary of Troy Tulowitzki, who has torched opposing changeups over the course of his career. Tulo has torn the cover off the ball against most pitchers this season, and he has fared especially well against changeups, against which he’s hitting .520 and slugging .960. The Rockies will counter with a debuting starter of their own, as Yohan Flande is slated to be the 12th mile-high hurler to start a game this season. The 28-year-old out of the Dominican Republic was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs after the team announced that Christian Bergman is expected to miss six weeks with a broken bone near his left thumb. (3:10 p.m. ET).

  • As mentioned earlier, Devin Mesoraco went yard for the fifth straight game on Tuesday and he’ll attempt to extend his streak on Wednesday against Edwin Jackson. Mesoraco and Todd Frazier have been unlikely heroes for a Cincinnati offense that had been red-hot prior to being silenced by Jake Arrieta. The Reds have averaged just under eight runs in their last nine games and will look to bounce back from Tuesday’s game in the rubber match against the Cubs. They’ll counter Jackson with Mat Latos, who is fresh off a five-run outing against the Jays (7:05 p.m. ET).

  • While Gavin Floyd—the latest of Atlanta’s starting pitcher casualties—is scheduled to undergo surgery on his fractured pitching elbow Wednesday morning, Alex Wood will get the start for the Braves for the first time over seven weeks. Aside from a seven-run clunker against the Marlins, Wood was stellar through the first month of the season for Atlanta, surrendering two runs or less in his other six starts. The return of Floyd and Aaron Harang’s unexpected hot start to the season pushed Wood to a one-month stint in the bullpen, after which the Braves sent him back to Triple-A to get stretched out to start again. With Floyd’s injury creating a sudden opening in Atlanta’s stable of pitchers, Wood will get the call against the Astros and will be on approximately a 95-pitch limit during his first crack at cementing his spot back in the rotation (8:10 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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