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July 29, 2014

What You Need to Know

July 29, 2014

by Daniel Rathman

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The Monday Takeaway
The Nationals were on top of the Marlins 6-0 at the seventh-inning stretch on Monday night, and if the last decade was any guide, they had to be feeling good about that lead:

But the nine outs that separated Matt Williams’ club from a series-opening win proved too hard to get. Jordan Zimmermann, unblemished until the seventh inning, walked Giancarlo Stanton with one out. Two batters later, Garrett Jones tripled Stanton home to put the Marlins on the board. Marcell Ozuna followed with an infield single that brought the Fish one-third of the way to the sort of comeback they hadn’t enjoyed in more than a decade.

They were back at it in the last of the eighth, this time against reliever Ross Detwiler. Adeiny Hechavarria and Reed Johnson both singled, and they both advanced a base on a groundball by Christian Yelich. Pinch-hitter Jeff Baker made it 6-3 with another productive grounder, and while Drew Storen struck out Stanton to end the inning, the Marlins were halfway to a tie.

Closer Rafael Soriano stood between them and that tie, and the right-hander had permitted only five earned runs in 42 1/3 innings on the season. He hadn’t been charged with more than one run in an outing since May 10th. And he’d last allowed three runs in a game on August 15, 2013.

The Marlins didn’t just break that streak, they did one better.

Soriano was wild from the start, missing with four straight pitches to put Casey McGehee aboard to begin the ninth. Jones followed with a double that moved McGehee to third and Ozuna singled, plating McGehee and sending Jones to third, wherefrom he scored on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s sacrifice fly. At that point, the Marlins were within a run. Hechavarria got them that run with a three-bagger that scored Ozuna.

The two open bases behind Hechavarria were academic, and Soriano quickly filled one of them by plunking pinch-hitter Donovan Solano. Fed up with his closer’s erratic pitching, Williams yanked Soriano in favor of Jerry Blevins, who whiffed Yelich to put the game on the cusp of extra innings. Baker had other ideas:

And the fans who stayed at Marlins Park to witness the comeback went home happy. Now winners of five straight following the 7-6 decision, Mike Redmond’s men are 52-53 on the year, six games out in the East and five back in the wild card.

Quick Hits from Monday
The Marlins are tied at one game below .500 with the Reds, who have dropped nine of 10. They learned the hard way on Monday that if you want to beat the Diamondbacks, you’d best not let them drag you into the 15th inning.

Since entering the majors in 1998, the Diamondbacks had played a dozen contests that lasted 15 or more frames. They’d won 11 of them. And last night, they made it 12 of 13.

Each team scored only once in regulation play, the Reds on a solo shot by cleanup hitter Devin Mesoraco

and the D’backs on a fourth-inning RBI knock by Mesoraco’s counterpart, Miguel Montero. The next 10 frames were fruitless, as Chase Anderson, Homer Bailey, and their relievers clamped down. One of those relievers, Aroldis Chapman, lit up the radar gun at 104 mph ...

... and struck out the side.

Fast forward to the 15th inning, the second frame worked by J.J. Hoover. The 26-year-old had developed something of a reputation for suffering late-inning defeats. He got the win in the Reds’ second game of the regular season, and since then, he was 0-7. On four of those seven occasions, the decisive run was scored at his expense in the ninth inning or later. Hoover had already taken two extra-inning losses this month when Bryan Price sent him to the bump in the 14th. He got through that inning unscathed, but the visitors weren’t so kind in the 15th.

In a game in which the top three hitters in the teams’ lineups went a combined 1-for-33 with three walks and 16 strikeouts, the bottom half of an order would need to get something done. Batting sixth for Arizona, Martin Prado drew a one-out walk from Hoover and advanced to second on a grounder by Didi Gregorius. That put Prado in scoring position for the eighth-place hitter, Nick Ahmed, who singled him around.

That was all the Diamondbacks would get, but it was also all they’d need, because Addison Reed slammed the door in the bottom half of the frame. It was loss no. 8 of the year for Hoover, who leads all relievers in that dubious category. And the Reds are now 1-9 since the All-Star break, fading quickly in a crowded National League wild card race.

* * *

Jason Lane—yes, still that one—toed the rubber for the Padres against the Braves in the lone matinee on yesterday’s slate. At 37 years and 219 days old, Lane became the ninth-oldest pitcher to tackle a starting assignment in the majors for the first time. And given that he brought a 4.67 ERA up with him from Triple-A El Paso, it went better than anyone could have expected.

The left-hander turned in six scoreless innings for the Padres, but manager Bud Black might have been a little greedy when he sent Lane back to the hill for the seventh. Evan Gattis, the leadoff man in the frame, got a hanger and walloped it:

Gattis would drive in another run in the last of the eighth. Those were the only runs scored in the getaway day affair because Ervin Santana and Craig Kimbrel combined to stifle the visitors’ anemic lineup to the tune of 14 strikeouts and no walks. What’s intriguing, though, is that the right-handers went about their business in different ways.

Santana’s game plan was to get ahead and stay ahead of an offense replete with scuffling hitters. He attacked the zone with fastballs early in the count, slapping a first-pitch strike on 24 of the 29 batters he faced:

Those fastballs over the plate set up a whole lot of sliders down and away to righties and at lefties’ back feet. And the Padres flailed helplessly at those breaking balls, as Santana racked up 11 whiffs in 43 tries.

The Braves’ starter swore by the virtue of first-pitch strikes. Their closer said you can take that virtue and shove it:

Kimbrel saw three batters in a perfect ninth, and his opening salvos to all of them missed the hitting area by half a foot. Despite that, he struck out the side. On 13 pitches.

It was the second time that Kimbrel fanned the Padres side with a baker’s dozen of filth in the series. He’s collected 22 strikeouts and permitted only four hits in his last 13 1/3 innings on the bump.

* * *

Speaking of a reliever striking out the side, Brad Boxberger did, too. He pitched the eighth inning for the Rays on Monday, in relief of starter Jake Odorizzi, who turned in seven innings of one-run ball against the Brewers, the organization that drafted him 32nd overall in 2008.

It took 15 pitches for Boxberger to whiff Scooter Gennett, Mark Reynolds, and Jean Segura in order. Jake McGee punched out two more Brewers in a perfect ninth to complete the 2-1 victory, the Rays’ 21st in 27 games.

Boxberger, a righty, and McGee, a lefty, have formed a dynamic duo at the back end of Joe Maddon’s bullpen, giving the skipper two excellent options to finish off all the wins that his team has been racking up of late.

In 13 appearances since June 29th, Boxberger has pitched 15 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out 22. Meanwhile, McGee, who leads the American League with 52 appearances, has worked 14 innings, allowing three runs on 12 hits and a walk while striking out 23.

Add that up and over the last month, Boxberger and McGee have joined forces to post the following line: 29 1/3 IP, 16 H, 3 R/ER, 3 BB, 45 K. If you’re going to score against the Rays these days, you’d better do so by the end of the seventh.

* * *

Here’s a complete list of the players to whom Yu Darvish has allowed more than two home runs: Mike Trout, Brandon Moss, Matt Dominguez, Brett Gardner.

Trout is Trout—no surprise there. Darvish can’t crack the A’s, and Moss is the A’s best power hitter, so that makes sense. Dominguez is something of a surprise, but he went yard 21 times last season, and stranger things have happened.

Stranger things like, say, Brett Gardner going yard not once

but twice:

Trout’s four Darvish-served homers have come in 40 lifetime encounters, Moss’s four have come in 26, and Dominguez’s three have come in 18. Gardner now has four long balls off of the Rangers ace in 11 plate appearances.

Trouble is, his long balls merely gave the Yankees a 2-0 edge. It didn’t last through the fifth inning.

David Phelps, unscored upon through four, was far more generous in the fifth, though not before he recorded two outs. Chris Gimenez singled, after which Phelps retired Rougned Odor and Shin-Soo Choo with Gimenez only advancing to second. But he scored on a single by Elvis Andrus, who went first-to-third on a single by Alex Rios and scored on a double by Adrian Beltre to tie the game. Phelps then walked Jim Adduci to load the bases.

Up stepped J.P. Arencibia, who can bop one over a fence now and then, but who was batting 53 points below the Mendoza line coming into the contest. When Arencibia gets into a two-strike count, there’s a roughly even (28 in 57 this year) chance that he’s going to strike out. And there’s a lower-than-one-in-10 chance (5-for-52) that he’s going to get a base hit.

Phelps didn’t just get two strikes on Arencibia, he jumped ahead 0-2. And then he dotted the outside corner with a fastball. Arencibia struck out swinging on a similar 0-2 offering in the second inning. This time, he threaded it through the middle to bring home a pair and give the Rangers a 4-2 lead.

Neither side scored after that, as Darvish went seven innings and allowed only the two Gardner homers. Neal Cotts and Neftali Feliz—closing in the wake of the trade that sent Joakim Soria to the Tigers—nailed down the win.

The Defensive Play of the Day
Pirates righty Vance Worley tossed a four-hit shutout over the Giants in the series opener at AT&T Park. He couldn’t have done it that efficiently without the acrobatic turn supplied by Neil Walker on this twin killing:

What to Watch on Tuesday
Remember when Carlos Santana had a .567 OPS on May 10th and a .632 OPS on June 6th? The Royals probably don’t. Santana raised hell all weekend in Kansas City, slugging two homers on Friday, one more on Saturday, and another pair on Sunday, helping the Indians to salvage one win in the four-game set. That’s five long balls in three games, raising Santana’s tater total to 20 on the season and his OPS to .827. Tonight, the Indians return home, and it’ll be up to the Mariners’ Hisashi Iwakuma to cool down the Tribe’s hottest bat. Santana will take his hacks in support of Trevor Bauer in the opener (7:05 p.m. ET).

The Yankees’ buy-low acquisitions have thus far made general manager Brian Cashman look like a genius. Chase Headley homered for the first time in pinstripes on Sunday and is batting .333 since shaving his beard to join the Yankees. Brandon McCarthy has allowed exactly one earned run in each of his first three starts since coming over from the Diamondbacks. Home runs were McCarthy’s bugaboo for much of the year, but he’s served up only one of them in his last six trips to the mound. The cozy dimensions of Globe Life Park will test that newfound stinginess with the gopher ball, as McCarthy looks to deliver a worthy encore to his six-inning victory over the Rangers in the Bronx last week. He’ll take on Nick Martinez in game two in Arlington (8:05 p.m. ET).

According to ESPN’s Jim Bowden, Cashman might not be done wheeling and dealing, and if he’s not, Jorge De La Rosa could join McCarthy and Headley in the Bronx. The left-hander has helped Dan O’Dowd and Bill Geivett to line up suitors by turning his 2014 campaign around at precisely the right time. De La Rosa has held opponents to two or fewer earned runs in each of his four July starts, and he fanned 11 Nationals while walking none at Coors Field on July 23rd. Next up for the 33-year-old is a date with Edwin Jackson and the Cubs at Wrigley Field, where De La Rosa last toed the rubber on April 26, 2011. Only two players who appeared for the Cubs that day—shortstop Starlin Castro and lefty reliever James Russell, then a starter—remain with the club (8:05 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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