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July 10, 2014

What You Need to Know

Chris Sale's Revenge

by Chris Mosch

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The Wednesday Takeaway
When the rosters for next week’s All-Star Game were revealed on Sunday, arguably the most glaring omission from either side was the absence of Chris Sale. The lanky southpaw did miss a month of the season with a muscle strain in his pitching elbow, but on a start-by-start basis, he’s been one of the most dominant starting pitchers in baseball. The White Sox are well represented at the Midsummer Classic and Sale is still likely to make the trip to Target Field—he currently leads the American League Final Vote. But their skipper, Robin Ventura, still questioned how Sale’s gaudy numbers didn’t earn him an automatic ticket to the event.

Ventura’s comment was made in good humor, as the two skippers both received their higher education at Oklahoma State University. However, on Wednesday night in Boston, Sale was able to demonstrate firsthand to Farrell why a showcase of the junior circuit’s best players should be considered incomplete without him.

Through seven innings, the Red Sox had managed just three hits off Sale and only one of the extra-base variety. Boston’s best chance to score against Sale had come in the fifth, when Mookie Betts roped a one-out double off the Green Monster but was stranded in scoring position by Christian Vazquez and Brock Holt.

Meanwhile, the White Sox pushed across four runs of support for their ace. Jose Abreu went yard off Rubby De La Rosa in the first inning for his 28th dinger of the season. Conor Gillaspie followed with a solo bomb of his own in the second inning, and Chicago tacked on another run in the fourth inning and their fourth run against Edward Mujica in the top of the seventh. Chicago had other opportunities to add on to their lead, such as in the second inning, when Jackie Bradley Jr. robbed Tyler Flowers of an RBI extra-base hit with…

The Defensive Play of the Day

The White Sox nearly tallied multiple runs in the seventh against Mujica, but Boston limited the damage by completing a relay throw from left field to gun Alejandro De Aza out at the plate. Let’s just say that the play didn’t develop as Jonny Gomes had drawn it up.


The only Boston batter to collect multiple hits off Sale was Betts, who picked up a second double to start the eighth inning. But this time his two-bagger was the result of his legs and awareness rather than his bat.

Sale retired Vazquez and Holt on ground outs, but with Dustin Pedroia coming to bat, Robin Ventura lifted the southpaw after 107 pitches in favor of right-hander Jake Petricka. Boston proceeded to tee off on Petricka and cut into Chicago’s lead. Pedroia singled, David Ortiz doubled off the Monster, Mike Napoli drew a five-pitch walk, and Gomes doubled home Ortiz to pull Boston to within one run.

With Petricka allowing Betts to score, Sale finished the night with a single earned run to his name to lower his ERA to 2.08. The key to Sale’s night was his ability to get the Red Sox to chase pitches outside the strike zone, as you probably wouldn’t have been able to guess that he threw 80 of his 107 pitches for strikes by looking at his pitch chart.

The Red Sox offered at 23 (41 percent) of the 56 pitches that Sale threw outside of the strike zone, with only one of those swings resulting in a ball in play that wasn’t accompanied by an out. The other 22 swings induced a whiff, foul ball, or a ball in play on which the batter was retired.

After bailing Petricka out in the eighth inning, Javy Guerra was asked to close the game out in the ninth inning. The former Dodgers closer struck on Bradley Jr. to start the inning, but plunked Betts to bring the winning run to the plate. Daniel Nava proceeded to lace an opposite-field drive off Guerra that one-hopped the wall and resulted in a game-tying two-bagger. Up next was Holt, whose legend only grew when he delivered his first career walk-off hit.

Quick Hits from Wednesday
Wednesday’s slate of games featured a handful of matinees, with none more appealing than a clash between division leaders and a pair of former Cy Young Award winners.

Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke each turned in solid performances on the mound, with the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner coming ahead on top. Scherzer scattered four hits over seven innings and fanned seven Dodgers—the third time in his last four starts that he’s gone seven innings with at least seven punchouts.

One of the four base knocks that Scherzer served up was a one-out triple by Yasiel Puig in the first inning. The Cuban sensation got the best of a 3-1 fastball from Scherzer and drove it into the right-center gap, sliding in just ahead of the relay throw. Detroit pulled its infield in against Hanley Ramirez, who hit a hard grounder to Eugenio Suarez at shortstop. In one smooth motion, Suarez backhanded the grounder and threw to third base from one knee to catch Puig straying too far from third base. It was a heads-up play by Suarez, but not one of Puig’s finest moments.

Austin Jackson led off the bottom of the first with a triple of his own off Greinke, but unlike the Dodgers, Detroit was able to convert. Ian Kinsler singled Jackson home to put the Tigers on the board and scored later in the frame to make it an early 2-0 advantage.

Detroit added another run in the fourth, but Scherzer gave it back in the fifth with his only blemish of the night—a solo home run to Miguel Rojas. The only other threat the Dodgers mounted against Scherzer was in the sixth, when Puig led off with a double but was promptly stranded by the heart of Los Angeles’ lineup.

Greinke’s performance was just a touch behind Scherzer’s on Wednesday, but the 2009 AL Cy Young winner was able to miss his fair share of Detroit bats. His secondary offerings worked especially well, as he generated eight swing-and-misses with his slider and tallied another six with his changeup. Overall, Greinke finished the night with 21 total swing-and-misses and eight strikeouts while steering clear of any free passes.

With Scherzer departing after seven frames and 101 pitches, Brad Ausmus got 1-2-3 innings from Joba Chamberlain in the eighth and Joe Nathan in the ninth to secure the two-game series sweep.

***

After being shipped east over the weekend by the Diamondbacks in exchange for Vidal Nuno, Brandon McCarthy made his Yankees debut on Wednesday against the Indians in what turned out to be the longest game of the night.

Jason Kipnis greeted McCarthy back to the Junior Circuit with a single to left field, and moved up to second base after the no. 3 batter, Michael Brantley, chimed in with a single of his own. Mark Teixeira made a nice sliding grab on a ground ball hit by the next batter, Carlos Santana, but Teixeira’s throw to second base hit Brantley in the helmet and everyone was safe.

The Bombers would have escaped the first inning unscathed if not for Teixeria’s throwing error, as the next batter, Lonnie Chisenhall, hit an RBI groundout for the second out of the inning. Nick Swisher followed with a two-run single to give Cleveland an early 3-0 advantage.

Teixeira made up for the poor throw with his first multi-home-run game since July of 2012. The switch-hitting first baseman got the Yankees on the board in the fourth inning with a solo blast off Josh Tomlin and put New York up 4-3 with a two-run drive the next inning. Teixeira’s second dinger was a no-doubter:

Cleveland fought back against McCarthy to even the score at 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning, and the game would go an additional eight innings before either team was able to push across another run. The Indians would have had runners in scoring position against Adam Warren in the ninth inning if not for a nice diving snag at first base by Teixeira to rob Jason Kipnis of a hit and guarantee bonus baseball in Cleveland.

The Indians threatened again in the 10th inning, as David Huff walked the bases full with one out in relief of Warren. Joe Girardi turned to Shawn Kelley to bail him out, and the Louisville, Kentucky native did just that, striking out Nick Swisher and inducing an inning-ending groundout by David Murphy.

Jacoby Ellsbury finally ended the scoring drought in the top of the 14th, when he drove an 0-2 breaking ball from Vinnie Pestano into the right-field bleachers.

With David Robertson nursing a one-run lead, the Yankees closer got Brantley to hit a weak foul pop up down the left field line with two outs and the tying run on second base. Third baseman Kelly Johnson got a beat on the pop up and appeared to make a basket catch to end the game, but the ball popped out of his glove to keep the Tribe alive.

Two pitches later, Brantley hit an opposite-field liner that looked like it might go for extra bases off the bat, but Zoilo Almonte made a nice read to track it down and preserve the 5-4 marathon win for New York.

***

A day after Troy Tulowitzki announced that Giancarlo Stanton, Yasiel Puig, and Todd Frazier would be three of the members of the National League’s Home Run Derby team, the squad’s captain led the Rockies on a home run barrage of their own at Coors Field against the Padres.

On the hill for San Diego was soft-tossing Eric Stults, whose second pitch of the afternoon was an 87 MPH fastball over the heart of the plate. Charlie Blackmon wasn’t about to let him get away with that, and tattooed the offering into the home bullpen to give the Rox the early lead. Two batters later, Tulowitzki turned on an inside fastball from Stults for a laser down the left field line—his first round-tripper since June 15. That put the Rockies up 2-0.

The two teams exchanged solo blasts in the fourth inning, as Jake Goebbert launched his first career home run for the visitors and Wilin Rosario answered with his ninth jack of the season to lead off the bottom of the frame. Up next for Colorado was Nolan Arenado, who followed with more hard contact off Stults, but had extra bases taken away from him by Will Venable.

Seth Smith took Jair Jurrjens deep in the fifth inning to pull the Friars to within one run, and then the visitors knotted it up later in the inning. The score remained tied at three until the eighth inning when Drew Stubbs took Joaquin Benoit opposite-field for a two-run tater. Just for good measure, Tulowitzki added his second home run of the day two pitches later to complete the back-to-back jacks off Benoit. LaTroy Hawkins shut out the Padres in the top of the ninth to earn his 17th save and clinch the series win for Colorado.

***

Behind a pair of stellar pitching performances from Nathan Eovaldi and Josh Collmenter, the Marlins and Diamondbacks played to a 1-1 stalemate through nine innings of their matinee matchup at Chase Field. The Marlins used a trio of singles to score their only run against Collmenter in the sixth inning, and Didi Gregorius scored Arizona’s lone run in the eighth after leading off with a triple off Eovaldi.

On the bump for the Snakes to begin the 10th inning was ground-baller Brad Ziegler, who induced a chopper to third base by Adeiny Hechavarria. The ball glanced off the glove of a leaping Martin Prado, allowing the Miami shortstop to reach base to lead off the inning. A sacrifice bunt and strikeout brought Christian Yelich to the plate with two outs and Hechavarria on second base, but Arizona elected to walk Yelich after falling behind 2-0 and take their chances with Donovan Solano.

The second baseman watched a sinker pass by for strike one and then jumped on a changeup left up for a double into the left-field corner, which plated both Hechavarria and Yelich. Armed with a two-run lead, Steve Cishek came into the game to try and preserve the game for the Fish. He would fail to record an out.

Aaron Hill worked a nine-pitch at bat against Cishek to lead off the inning and came up with a single past a diving Solano at the keystone. Cishek walked the next batter, Ender Inciarte, on four pitches before surrendering an RBI single to David Peralta, which put runners at the corners. That set the stage for Paul Goldschmidt, who laced a hanging breaking ball from Cishek into the left-center gap to send the Snakes home as walk-off winners.

***

With the Blue Jays holding on to a 7-6 lead in the seventh inning against the Angels, Colby Rasmus came oh-so-close to robbing Albert Pujols of this go-ahead two-run tater.

It was the first home run that left-hander Aaron Loup had surrendered in 43 innings pitched this season, and proved to be the game-winner for the Angels. Both Marcus Stroman and C.J. Wilson were chased early, but Pujols’ 20th home run of the season sent the Angels to their eighth win in their last ten games. Coupled with an Oakland loss in San Francisco, Los Angeles is now 3.5 games back in the American League West. On the other hand, Toronto stumbled to its sixth loss in its last seven games and will look to end the first half on a high note this weekend in a three-game set against Tampa Bay.

***

Yordano Ventura had been cruising on the mound with a 2-0 lead at Tropicana Field, but he quickly worked himself into a jam against the Rays in the fourth inning on Wednesday. Evan Longoria led the inning off with a single and moved up 90 feet after James Loney worked an eight-pitch walk. Ventura retired the next two batters before walking Jose Molina to load the bases.

Ventura dug Kevin Kiermaier into a 1-2 hole, and his battery mate Salvador Perez called for a fastball down and away. This is where the pitch crossed the plate.

The Tampa Bay rookie outfielder deposited Ventura’s mistake pitch into the right field bleachers for his first career grand slam, which was the exclamation point on his 4-for-4 day at the plate.

The Rays maintained their 4-2 lead into the ninth inning and brought on Joel Peralta to slam the door. The 38-year-old right-hander allowed a leadoff single to Jarrod Dyson before issuing a one-out walk to Eric Hosmer two batters later. Joe Maddon decided that he’d seen enough from Peralta and brought in Kirby Yates to face Salvador Perez. That plan backfired.

Perez’s towering three-run blast landed just out of the reach of Brandon Guyer in the left-field corner and gave the Royals the 5-4 lead. Greg Holland retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth to lock down the series win for Kansas City.

Bonus Defensive Play of the Day
Alex Rios thought he had extra bases, but George Springer sacrificed his body to reel in a spectacular grab at the wall.

The first-year Houston outfielder added an opposite-field two-run blast later in the game to help the Astros complete their second ever sweep of the Rangers. The last time Houston got the brooms out for their in-state rivals was in June of 2003.

Oh, and if anyone can figure out a good nickname for future Springer home runs, feel free to send them Kevin Goldstein’s way.

What to Watch for on Thursday

  • As the Reds go for a five-game sweep of the Cubs Thursday afternoon, their pitching staff will be counting down the hours until Anthony Rizzo leaves town. The left-handed slugger went deep for the third time in the series last night against Alfredo Simon and has reached base safely in eight of his 18 trips to the plate in Cincinnati. Rizzo passed Justin Morneau for the top spot in the National League All-Star Final Vote on Wednesday, and he will look to give fans even more reason to #VoteRizzo when he squares off against Homer Bailey (12:35 p.m. ET).

  • The final game of the rivalry series between the Athletics and Giants will pit two of the best pitching surprises of the season against each other in their final starts of the first half. Less than two years removed from pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters, Scott Kazmir’s superb first half with Oakland has earned him his third career All-Star game appearance. Across the Bay, Tim Hudson boasts a career-best FIP and walk rate for the Giants, and has rebounded from his gruesome ankle injury better than anyone could have imagined. The Giants will try to salvage a series split in what should be a terrific pitching duel (3:45 p.m. ET).

  • It’s difficult to imagine a much better environment for Clayton Kershaw to try and extend his streak of 36 scoreless innings than his matchup at home against the Padres on Thursday night. Kershaw jumped to third place on Los Angeles’ scoreless streak with eight innings of two-hit ball at Coors Field during his last outing, and with another dominating start against San Diego, he could get to within two starts of actually challenging Don Drysdale (58) and Orel Hershiser (59) for the major league record. It’s a long shot and a record chase that usually isn’t taken seriously until at least 40 innings because of the sheer difficulty of sustaining such a streak. But if there’s anyone with a chance, it’s Kershaw (10:10 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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