July 9, 2014
What You Need to Know
The Tigers' Roaring Comeback
The Tuesday Takeaway
The Tigers looked like they’d be in for a long night when the Dodgers jumped all over Justin Verlander in the top of the first inning of Tuesday’s clash between the two first-place clubs.
Yasiel Puig drew a one-out walk and moved up to second base following a single by Hanley Ramirez. Next up was Adrian Gonzalez, who roped a liner down the right field line for a double. An uncharacteristic misplay in the right field corner by Torii Hunter allowed Ramirez to score from first, standing up just ahead of the relay throw home. Matt Kemp singled home Gonzalez to give Los Angeles a 3-0 lead, and two batters later, Juan Uribe deposited a hanging breaking ball from Verlander into the visitor’s bullpen to extend the advantage to 5-0.
With a five-run lead and Hyun-jin Ryu on the hill, things looked promising for the Dodgers and bleak for the Tigers. Los Angeles was approximately an 86 percent favorite to leave with the “W” before the Tigers had even taken their first hacks. They were already celebrating in the dugouts with bubbles! But Verlander buckled down after his ugly first inning, which was more than could be said for Ryu.
Detroit kicked off a second-inning rally when Hunter led off with an opposite-field drive that one-hopped off the right field wall. Puig was there to field the ball cleanly off the wall and unleash a cannon of a throw to second base from the warning track, and second-base umpire Will Little called Hunter out on a bang-bang play. Brad Ausmus challenged the call on the field, and it was promptly overturned to give the Tigers a leadoff double.
Detroit proceeded to single Ryu to death in the inning, stringing together four consecutive base knocks to cut the lead to 5-2. The last of those four singles was a bases-loaded infield hit by Rajai Davis, which shortstop Miguel Rojas was able to keep in the infield with a sweet diving stop. However, Rojas hesitated before throwing to first, leaving just enough time for Davis to reach base safely.
Ryu rung up Austin Jackson with a backwards K for the first out of the inning, but the Tigers struck back with singles by Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and J.D. Martinez to even the score at 5-5. The Dodgers were able to escape the inning with the game still tied after Hunter—batting for the second time in the inning—grounded into a 6-3 double play.
Detroit knocked Ryu out of the game the next inning, when Davis delivered a one-out RBI single to plate Nick Castellanos from second base and give the home team a 6-5 lead. Jamey Wright relieved Ryu and allowed Alex Avila—for whom Ryu was responsible—to score later in the inning, running the southpaw’s total runs allowed up to seven. Perhaps the only time Ryu has been less effective during an outing in the States was earlier this season against the Giants, when he was blasted in an April start for eight runs during just two innings of work.
Wright didn’t fare any better against the potent Detroit bats, serving up a four-spot the next inning before being lifted in favor of Chris Perez. The Tigers could have extended the 11-5 lead even further then and there, but Kinsler ended the rally with Detroit’s second bases-loaded double play of the game.
With his offense rolling behind him, Verlander settled down after Uribe’s home run in the first inning, retiring the next 14 Dodgers to step to the plate. He exited after six innings and 100 pitches, but his ERA ballooned to 4.84 thanks to his shaky first inning. The Tigers padded their lead with another run in the fifth inning and two more in the seventh, finishing off their offensive outburst with a grand total of 14 unanswered runs. Miguel Cabrera added insult to injury during that two-run seventh with an RBI triple in the right-center gap off Paul Maholm, which was just the third three-bagger that Cabrera has collected in the last six years.
Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Hunter, Castellanos, and Davis each tallied three hits for the Tigers, who finished the onslaught with 20 total hits. Surprisingly, none of those hits left the yard. Matt Sussman pointed out that the last time a team scored at least 14 runs in a game without a dinger was last September, when the Tigers thrashed James Shields and the Royals, 16-2.
Quick Hits from Tuesday
The Reds have been plagued by the injury bug for most of the 2014 season, with Joey Votto, Aroldis Chapman, Mat Latos, Jay Bruce, and Devin Mesoraco, among others, all spending time on the disabled list. Cincinnati finally fielded a healthy squad during June and promptly shot up the National League Central standings, but Reds fans let out a collective groan early Tuesday morning when news broke that Votto was back on the disabled list with a strained quad that would likely require more than the minimum stay. With their star slugger out, the Reds were lined up for a day-night doubleheader against the struggling Cubs, with the matinee pitting Johnny Cueto against Travis Wood.
Billy Hamilton set the tone for the Reds with a leadoff bunt single on a 3-1 pitch from Wood. The speedy Cincinnati outfielder swiped second base two pitches later and came around to score on a Brandon Phillips single. The next pitch from Wood was a fastball down-and-in, but Jay Bruce gave it a ride.
Cueto worked a pair of clean innings to start the game, but worked himself into a jam in the third inning. Cueto walked Jeff Baker to lead off the frame, and retired the next two batters before plunking Chris Coghlan with a 3-2 offering to put runners at first and second. Up next was Ryan Sweeney, who scorched a liner to right field, but Jay Bruce came up throwing quickly from right field, which forced Baker to hold up at third. Cueto got Anthony Rizzo to hit a weak grounder to second base to squash the threat.
The Reds maintained their 3-0 advantage until the sixth inning, when Coghlan and Sweeney launched back-to-back solo jacks off Cueto that landed in practically the same section in the right-field bleachers. The Reds tacked on a run of their own in the home half of the frame to make it a 4-2 ballgame, but the Cubs threatened against Cueto once more in the seventh.
Baker started things off with a one-out single and moved to second after third baseman Ramon Santiago botched a fairly easy chopper off the bat of Darwin Barney. Officially, it was ruled an infield single. Justin Ruggiano knocked Cueto out of the game with a single to center, but Baker was once again forced to hold up at third base after making sure that the ball wouldn’t be caught. Cueto was only at 97 pitches, but Bryan Price decided he’d rather have the platoon advantage and went to southpaw Manny Parra with Coghlan and Sweeney due up.
Coghlan entered the day slugging .175 against same-sided sliders in his career, and Parra exploited his Achilles heel with a trio of sliders. Parra started Coghlan off with a slider off the plate, which the former Marlin swung through for strike one. Coghlan laid off a second-pitch splitter away for ball one, but Parra came back with another breaking pitch on the black for a called strike two. The 31-year-old came back with another slider, which Coghlan whiffed at for the second out of the inning. Two pitches later, the Cubs squandered yet another bases loaded opportunity, as Sweeney grounded out to second for the third out.
The Cubs stayed within striking distance with help from a flawless relay in the eighth inning by Nate Schierholtz and Darwin Barney to nail Chris Heisey at the plate…
…but Aroldis Chapman fanned Sweeney with the tying run on first in the ninth inning to shut the door on the 4-2 win in game one of the doubleheader.
Game two featured two starting pitchers making their major league debuts, but it was all Chicago in the early going. Coghlan roped a two-run blast in the second inning off Cincinnati’s David Holmberg to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead and become the first Cubs batter to go deep in both halves of a twin bill since Alfonso Soriano did it in 2007.
Anthony Rizzo led off the third for the Cubs with a moonshot into the right-field bleachers and Mike Olt followed later in the frame with a two-run shot to put the Reds in an early 5-0 hole. Holmberg didn’t make it out of the third inning.
Tsuyoshi Wada fared much better in his first major league start, scattering five hits and allowing a lone unearned run over five innings. The Reds chipped in another run in the sixth inning and pulled to within one run after the Cubs walked the bases loaded with nobody out in the seventh. Carlos Villanueva got Devin Mesoraco to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, which scored a run, and Hamilton followed with a stand-up RBI triple to deep center. Todd Frazier stranded him at third.
The next inning, Pedro Strop was in relief of Villanueva and served up a leadoff single to Phillips. Next up was Bruce, who once again came up big for the Reds with a double down the left field line. Coghlan took a poor route to cut off the hit, which allowed Phillips to come around to score the game-tying run.
After chipping away at Chicago’s lead all night long, Cincinnati finished up the comeback in the ninth against Hector Rondon. Brayan Pena hit a towering pop up that fell between Starlin Castro, Luis Valbuena, and Coghlan down the left field line. Mike Leake pinch-ran for Pena and went first-to-third on a single to left by Mesoraco. That set the stage for Hamilton, who collected his fourth hit of the twin bill to send the Reds home walk-off winners.
When Julio Teheran and Jacob deGrom faced off last week in Atlanta, it was Teheran who came out on top with seven innings of one-run ball; the Mets rookie got touched up for three runs in the first inning. Tuesday night, the roles were reversed, as deGrom turned in the most impressive start of his young career while Teheran made an early exit in one of his ugliest outings of the season.
The Mets jumped on Teheran from the get-go, as Curtis Granderson led off the home half of the first inning with a solo tater off the Pepsi Porch in right field. New York piled on three runs the next inning, highlighted by a two-run double by David Wright. The next inning, Eric Young Jr. drove home New York’s fifth run of the game off a 64 MPH eephus from Teheran.
All nine starters, including deGrom tallied hits off Teheran, who surrendered a career-worst 11 hits to the Amazin’s. On the other hand, deGrom was locked in. Not only did the 26-year-old command his fastball for a strike nearly 70 percent of the time, but he was able to dial up his heater to the highest single-game average velocity of his career. In the fourth inning, deGrom topped out at 97.5 MPH, which was approximately half-a-MPH faster than his previous-best fastball velocity.
Atlanta’s hitters expanded the zone up against deGrom’s four-seamers (six swing-and-misses high and out of the strike zone) and then chased several breaking pitches below the knees. The result was a career-high 20 swing-and-misses for deGrom—11 via his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, five on curveballs, and a pair with both his slider and changeup. The result was seven scoreless frames from deGrom to go with 11 punchouts and zero free passes issued. deGrom fanned 11 Phillies over 6.1 innings of work earlier this season, which coupled with Tuesday’s performance, put the Stetson University product in some pretty good company.
Fresh off Monday’s series opener between the Cardinals and Pirates ending in theatrical fashion with Matt Adams’ walk-off blast, the two clubs were back at it again on Tuesday night. The winner of the National League Central showdown was primed to pick up a game on the Brewers, who dropped their second straight matchup with the Phillies.
Pittsburgh and St. Louis exchanged two-run frames in the early going, with the Cardinals scoring their runs off two-baggers and the Buccos launching a pair of two-run blasts. Kolten Wong got St. Louis on the board first in the second inning with a frozen rope off Vance Worley into the right-center gap that scored Oscar Taveras and Jhonny Peralta.
Pittsburgh pulled even in the fourth inning when Pedro Alvarez hammered a 0-2 curveball that Carlos Martinez left up in the zone out to right-center for his 100th career home run. Andrew McCutchen doubled Pittsburgh’s run total the next inning with a two-run blast of his own that put the Pirates up 4-2. That lead quickly evaporated in the bottom of the fifth when Matt Holliday doubled home Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay to even the score at 4-4.
Each team’s bullpen was able to quiet the other squad’s bats, including scoreless frames by all-star set up men Tony Watson and Pat Neshek. St. Louis got a scoreless ninth from Trevor Rosenthal and Pittsburgh tried for the same from Ernesto Frieri. The former Angels closer induced a groundout from Peralta and fanned Taveras to get the first two outs. Up next was Wong, who worked a 3-2 count against Frieri, who left the sixth pitch of the at bat down Broadway. The result? A second St. Louis walk-off blast in as many nights.
The newest member of the Diamondbacks, Vidal Nuno, was spectacular in his first start since being traded by the Yankees, but the 26-year-old left-hander quickly realized how much he’s going to miss having Dellin Betances and David Robertston anchoring his bullpen. Nuno and Miami’s Brad Hand squared off in one of the more unlikely pitching duels of the night, with Nuno limiting the Marlins to just three hits and a walk over seven innings of work and Hand surrendering just an unearned run in his second start back from the disabled list.
The Snakes held their 1-0 advantage heading into the ninth inning, when they turned the ball over to their closer, Addison Reed. The 25-year-old boasts improved strikeout and walk rates this season, but has struggled with the long ball—a problem that reared its head on Tuesday. Reed had worked the Marlins down to their final strike, as Marcel Ozuna looked to keep the game alive with two outs and Ed Lucas on first base. Tuffy Gosewisch set up low and away for the 2-2 fastball, but Reed left the offering inside and just below the belt.
Steve Cishek pitched a clean bottom of the ninth to pick up his 20th save of the year and even the three-game set up at a game apiece.
Sonny Gray outdueled Madison Bumgarner out west at the O.Co Coliseum on Tuesday night, stymying the reeling Giants with seven dominant innings of work. The 24-year-old Vanderbilt product scattered six hits and one run over seven and struck out eight versus one walk to send the A’s to their sixth straight win and the Giants to their ninth loss in their last 12 games. However, that didn’t stop Hunter Pence from getting into the Bay Area rivalry and riling up some Oakland fans. After making a nice sliding catch in the third inning, Pence ran back to his position while answering the chirps coming from the right field stands. Plenty of boos followed.
The Defensive Play of the Day
With Toronto right fielder Nolan Reimold playing just in front of the warning track against Mike Trout, Munenori Kawasaki was the only player with a realistic shot at getting to this bloop hit in shallow right field. And get to it he did:
What to Watch for on Wednesday
- Wednesday’s slate of games treats us to four matinee matchups, with none juicier than a clash between two former American League Cy Young winners. The middle match between the Dodgers and Tigers pits Zack Greinke versus Max Scherzer, with both hurlers a start removed from tossing eight-inning, one-run gems. Last night’s matchup between Justin Verlander and Hyun-jin Ryu was an enormous letdown for anyone hoping for a pitcher’s duel, but chances are that Dodgers and Tigers hitters won’t fare quite as well today (1:08 p.m. ET).
- The last time Dillon Gee was seen in Queens was nearly two months ago, as the Mets right-hander has been on the shelf since early May with a strained lat. Prior to landing on the disabled list, Gee had enjoyed a strong start to the season, albeit due in large part to some luck on balls in play. Gee will take the rotation spot of Jon Niese, who was placed on the disabled list with inflammation of the AC joint in his throwing shoulder, and will look to help the Amazin’s clinch a series win against the Braves (7:10 p.m. ET).
- Jeff Samardzija dazzled in his Oakland debut over the weekend, and Jason Hammel will try to follow suit for his new club on Wednesday against the Bay Area rival Giants. The Athletics took the first two games of the two-and-two rivalry series, and will travel across the Bay Bridge to AT&T Park, where the Giants will counter with Matt Cain. Hammel has enjoyed his finest first half ever thanks to a career-best walk rate and swing-and-miss rate. The latter has been the product of a zone-contact rate that is over three percentage points lower than his career average. Hammel’s counterpart on the mound, Cain, has reeled off back-to-back solid starts and will look to end his shaky first half on a high note (10:15 p.m. EST).
Chris Mosch is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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