August 4, 2014
What You Need to Know
August 4, 2014
Unfortunately, the 93 mph heater caught more than flesh. Goldschmidt suffered a fractured left hand that will sideline him for at least a month and possibly close to two. In the latter case, he’d miss nearly the remainder of a regular season in which the Diamondbacks have scarcely caught a break. Goldschmidt’s plunking wasn’t intentional, but with frustrations mounting, the D’backs were bound to retaliate given appropriate circumstances.
Saturday’s middle match proceeded without that sort of hitch until the ninth inning, when the Pirates, already leading 5-1, had runners at second and third with one out. Their star, Andrew McCutchen, was in the box. And after Randall Delgado misfired with a fastball and then a slider, the count was 2-0.
That’s not a fun scenario in which to face one of the league’s most dangerous hitters, though with first base open, Delgado had the option of giving McCutchen an intentional free pass. He did, kind of:
Instead of tossing two soft ones outside, Delgado went with a hard one way inside, planting it right between the 2s on McCutchen’s back. It sent McCutchen to the deck and Delgado to the showers, as home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa didn’t hesitate to give him the heave-ho. Manager Kirk Gibson was already long gone by then, ejected for arguing a replay review in the second inning, so he wasn’t around to be tossed for (likely) ordering the beanball.
In McCutchen’s view, the desire to retaliate might have been understandable. But he took exception with Delgado’s decision to do so on the third pitch, when there was no reason for the batter to anticipate it:
After Eury De La Rosa replaced Delgado, the Pirates got their revenge. Russell Martin singled home a run and Brent Morel knocked in two more. The three insurance tallies rendered David Peralta’s ninth-inning two-run shot off Frieri irrelevant in the 8-3 Pittsburgh win.
McCutchen had hit .218/.348/.273 between the All-Star break and Saturday’s tilt, but the Pirates still managed to go 10-5 in that span. Their third baseman, Pedro Alvarez, went 0-for-3 with a strikeout on Saturday and committed his 24th error of the season on an errant throw. As our own Jeff Moore pointed out, Alvarez just can’t get the ball across the horn anymore:
While McCutchen was scuffling, Josh Harrison, a super-utility man, emerged as the most fearsome hitter in Hurdle’s order. He went 3-for-4, including a third-inning solo shot, on Saturday while batting leadoff and playing second base. Entering play on Sunday, Harrison was raking to the tune of .328/.375/.707 with five doubles, five homers, and a triple in his last 65 plate appearances.
That’s a rock-solid case for a more stable everyday job. More specifically, it’s a bid to take over Alvarez’s spot at the hot corner, where Harrison has played only 29 times in 94 games this year, as he has been primarily deployed as an outfielder.
In the wake of Alvarez’s benching, the Pirates signed utility man Jayson Nix and designated Morel for assignment. Alvarez remains on the roster, but Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Rob Biertempfel speculated right after the moves were announced that they spelled bad news for the third baseman:
Sure enough, Harrison got the start at third in Sunday’s finale and went 2-for-5. The bad news for the Pirates is that he failed in his lone at-bat with a runner in scoring position, and his teammates went 0-for-9 in theirs. The Bucs still scraped across a couple of runs, but that was only enough to fight the D’backs to a draw in regulation.
In the last of the 10th, Tuffy Gosewisch cranked a one-out double and moved over to third on a wild pitch by Mark Melancon. The right-hander then walked Nick Ahmed, which wasn’t particularly notable, because Gosewisch was the only runner who mattered. But Ahmed being on first base when Andy Marte—yes, the same Andy Marte who was once a hotshot prospect involved in the trades that sent Edgar Renteria from the Red Sox to the Braves and later Coco Crisp from the Indians to the Red Sox—came to the plate added another hint of controversy to a series already teeming with it:
He broke up a potential 4-6-3 double play by putting his left arm up on his slide into second. Had the second-base umpire deemed it intentional, Ahmed could have been called for obstruction. But Lance Barrett was content that Ahmed raised his arm as part of his slide and inadvertently deflected the throw to first, so he granted the Diamondbacks the walkoff win.
To make matters worse for Pittsburgh, McCutchen left the finale in the eighth inning with a left-side injury that may or may not have been related to the beanball he took from Delgado on Friday. X-rays came back negative, but the center fielder will undergo further testing today, as Pirates fans hold their collective breath.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
Alas, sometimes even the best-laid plans go awry. Just ask Adam Wainwright.
The right-hander retired the side in order in the first inning, then watched his counterpart, Wily Peralta, walk the bases loaded in the bottom half. But A.J. Pierzynski popped out to strand all three runners, and for the Redbirds, it was all downhill from there.
Wainwright missed the strike zone with each of his first three pitches in the second. Before Friday, he’d seen 91 plate appearances end on a 3-0 offering in his big-league career. Eighty-two of them had resulted in walks, one had become a sacrifice fly, and in the official at-bats, opponents had gone 3-for-8 with two doubles. What no one had ever done to a 3-0 pitch from Wainwright, though, was go yard.
No one until Aramis Ramirez, that is:
Wainwright put a fastball dead center, and Ramirez whacked it into the bullpen to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead.
If you were a betting person, you might have put money on Ramirez to do the 3-0 honors. Entering the game, 13 major leaguers had faced Wainwright at least 40 times in their careers, and none of the other dozen could hold a candle to the numbers that the longtime NL Central slugger had amassed. Ramirez was 19-for-50 (.380/.436/.640) versus Wainwright with seven doubles and two home runs. And he had two more knocks in the hopper on Friday night.
The visitors put more pressure on the Cards' ace with the benefit of an error by Matt Carpenter, which helped them to put runners at second and third with one out. Wainwright intentionally walked no. 8 hitter Elian Herrera to get to the pitcher Peralta, who lined out. Just where Herrera was going on the shot to short, we may never know, but his miscue helped keep the damage to a minimum.
That was all for the Brewers until the fifth, when Carlos Gomez singled and moved into scoring position on a balk. Ryan Braun plated him with a ground-rule double, leaving runners at second and third for Ramirez. Fortunately for Wainwright, Ramirez only managed an infield single this time. The righty recovered to retire the next two batters without permitting anyone else to score.
He wouldn't be so lucky in the sixth. Jean Segura singled. Herrera singled. Peralta advanced both of them with a sacrifice bunt. Wainwright plunked Gomez to load the bases. And then Lucroy blew the game wide open. The catcher’s bases-clearing double made it 6-0, and Braun’s ensuing two-bagger made it seven-zip.
Ramirez had become the first batter this year to collect three hits off Wainwright in a game. And the Brewers had become the second club to slap seven runs onto his line since the start of the 2013 season.
The visitors were done scoring, but the Cardinals had not yet started, and what they’d muster the rest of the way would prove to be too little, too late. Just one item of note: The two-run triple by Matt Carpenter in the ninth inning was the first extra-base hit allowed by Zach Duke in the last month and just the second logged against him since the beginning of June. It brought the score to 7-4, which is where it stayed, as Francisco Rodriguez slammed the door.
St. Louis took both of the weekend matchups: a high-scoring, 9-7 affair on Saturday in which the recently acquired Justin Masterson barely endured six innings; and a tidier 4-3 Sunday matinee, in which fellow newcomer John Lackey pitched seven strong innings of two-run ball.
Matt Garza, who carved up the Redbirds to take a one-hit shutout out of the sixth inning, suffered an oblique strain and had to exit early. The right-hander injured his left oblique last year, too, and was shelved for nearly two months. Garza and the Brewers can only hope that this ailment subsides more quickly.
With a .242 team True Average coming into Friday’s game, the Padres were the worst hitting squad in the majors. They had 772 hits on the season, exactly 100 fewer than the next-worst National League offense (Cubs). Their no. 3 hitter, Jedd Gyorko, carried a .183 batting average into the night. And since their weekend series was a home set, it would be played in the circuit’s most pitcher-friendly yard.
All of those factors worked in favor of Braves starter Mike Minor, who appeared to snap out of a rough patch with a 6 2/3-inning victory over the Friars when he faced them at Turner Field on July 27th. A rematch at Petco Park offered the 26-year-old a golden opportunity to shake his woes for good.
What came of that opportunity is something no one could have foreseen.
Since Petco opened for business in 2004, the Padres had only once collected 20 hits in a home game. They hadn’t done it since Ryan Klesko was on the team. The date was April 29, 2005, and the victims were the Diamondbacks, led by Brandon Webb.
But that contest was no rout. It was a 5-4 battle of attrition in which the Padres left 19 men on base. They got the win, but not before the 15th inning, by which point they’d made 43 outs.
On Friday, the Padres only hit into 24 outs. Had they been given 43 to play with, the game might still be going on.
Their first hit, a leadoff single by Everth Cabrera, was innocuous. Their second, a two-run jack by Tommy Medica, was anything but. It put the Padres ahead 2-0, and on a night when the Braves only scored once, that would have sufficed.
Hits three and four, both no-out singles in the second inning, were fruitless—felled by a double-play ball in front of the pitcher, Eric Stults, who flied out and left a runner on third. Hit five was another single by Cabrera kicking off the third, ahead of a sacrifice bunt by newcomer Yangervis Solarte. The bunt seems silly, in retrospect, because the next batter, Gyorko, doubled, and the one after him was Medica, whose yardwork only got louder:
Second-deckers are hard to come by in almost any park, but at Petco, they’re a rarity. Medica didn’t just clear the bottom level, though, he cleared the front part of the stands and the walkway on the level above it, too. MLB.com beat writer Corey Brock has been covering the Friars for eight years, and he could scarcely remember a longer long ball hit by a righty at the spacious field.
Minor would only permit two more hits, both harmless singles, but the damage was done. Five runs in as many innings, on nine hits—two of them homers—and two walks. He struck out only one.
If it’s any consolation, his relievers fared even worse. They only had to endure three innings of Bud Black’s suddenly torrid lineup, and they coughed up 11 more knocks—and five more runs—along the way. Medica accounted for two of those 11, both singles. David Hale, who was charged with three runs on six hits in just two-thirds of an inning, gave up one of them. He faced eight batters and allowed seven of them to reach. The only saving grace for Hale is that the fifth Padre in the stretch, Abraham Almonte, who was making his San Diego debut, hit into a double play.
When Medica singled against David Carpenter to begin the last of the eighth, he became the second Padre in franchise history, and the first since Klesko in 2001, to slug two homers as part of a five-hit day. He scored on a groundout by Almonte that plated San Diego’s 10th and final run.
With the 10-tally output, the Padres raised their post-All Star break runs average to 5.1 per game. That leads—yes, leads—the senior circuit, the same circuit they lagged so far behind before the break, when their mean output was 2.9. You might say, as putrid as the Friars’ bats were for the season’s first three-and-a-half months, they were due for this sort of outburst. All they had to do was start using each other’s lumber:
The Padres went on to win all three games in the series, the latter two by one-run margins, 3-2 on Saturday and 4-3 on Sunday.
With the Rangers' rotation ravaged by injuries, general manager Jon Daniels searched wherever he could to patch the vacancies left by disabled players. So when the Astros jettisoned Jerome Williams in early July, Daniels pounced, grabbing the right-hander with a minor-league offer that quickly yielded a major-league job.
Williams’ first outing as a Ranger—a six-inning, one-run win over the A’s on July 25th—went well. His second, on Friday, made Minor’s drubbing look like Sandy Koufax’s finest hour.
The 32-year-old was in trouble from the get-go, as Jason Kipnis singled to put the leadoff man on, and Mike Aviles, who replaced Kipnis at first base on a fielder’s choice, came around to score on an RBI double by Michael Brantley. But Williams navigated that first-inning jam with no further damage, and he worked around a double in the second frame, too.
Terry Francona’s lineup got its second look at Williams in the third inning, but even though the Tribe put a crooked number on the board, all was not yet lost. Aviles walked, Brantley singled, and Carlos Santana singled home Aviles to make it 2-0. But Williams got Lonnie Chisenhall to hit into a double play, and one batter later, the inning was over, with the deficit still a manageable 3-0.
The fourth didn't exactly go swimmingly for Williams, as Cleveland tacked on two more. David Murphy and Ryan Raburn both turned in one-out singles, and after a fly out by Kipnis, Aviles and Brantley both delivered RBI knocks. Williams was spared further grief when Leonys Martin gunned down Aviles at third base to end the frame. It was 5-0, but Minor gave up five runs, too, and if Williams was going to distinguish himself, he’d need to do a whole lot worse than that.
That’s where the fifth comes in.
Santana walked. Chisenhall singled. Nick Swisher singled to load the bases. Yan Gomes singled home a run, and the bags were still juiced. Murphy singled home another, still leaving three on. And that would do it for Williams, who would watch reliever Nate Adcock allow all of the inherited runners to score.
Going back to the fourth inning, which ended with an out on the bases, each of the last seven hitters to face Williams, and nine of the last 11, reached safely. By the time the Tribe was through with the beating, the carnage was 10 runs (all earned) on 13 hits and three walks in just four-plus frames on the hill.
For those of us who can’t help but wonder how rare such a pounding is, the Baseball-Reference Play Index reveals that only eight starters in the last century have squeezed 13 or more hits, 10 or more earned runs, and three or more free passes into four or fewer innings. The Rangers saddled White Sox starter Felipe Paulino with that sort of mess on April 18th of this year. Since 1998, the only other pitcher to be so thoroughly battered was Runelvys Hernandez on July 7, 2007. Then-Tiger Scott Sanders, who served up 11 runs on 16 hits to the Rangers on April 14, 1998, is the most recent hurler to check all of those dubious boxes without giving up a home run.
At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Rangers rookie Phil Klein is a large man. The downward plane on his pitches makes them tough to lift. Minor-league batters only managed seven home runs over Klein’s first 201 2/3 professional innings. They didn’t go yard in any of his 51 2/3 frames on the bump this year. What they did do was go down swinging or looking a whopping 70 times in that span, leaving Klein brimming with confidence when he got the call to The Show last week.
The 25-year-old found out quickly that pitching in the majors is a wee bit tougher than climbing the ladder. A 30th-round pick out of Youngstown State University in 2011, Klein got to the bigs in a little more than three years. He made his first two appearances in the bookend games of the Indians’ three-game sweep over the Rangers.
Klein made his debut in mop-up duty in the sixth inning on Friday, not long after Williams buried the Rangers. The first batter he faced was Chisenhall. And on Klein’s fourth offering, Chisenhall did something no minor leaguer was able to do:
That long ball ultimately was not significant. This one was:
Entrusted with a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the 12th inning of Sunday’s finale, Klein served up a walkoff homer on the payoff pitch to Michael Brantley, the leadoff man in the inning. And thus, the Indians completed the sweep.
After keeping the ball in the park at both Double-A and Triple-A, Klein has now begun each of his first two major-league assignments by allowing a dinger.
The Angels went 3-1 in C.J. Wilson’s four starts between June 24th and July 9th, but the left-hander didn't contribute a whole lot to any of the victories. Wilson was thrashed to the tune of a .392/.449/.658 triple-slash line, the product of 31 hits (five homers) and eight walks in just 16 2/3 total innings on the hill. His ERA shot up from 3.34 to 4.33.
A sprained ankle gave Wilson a reprieve from his struggles, shelving him for about three weeks, his first stint on the disabled list since the Rangers converted him into a starter in 2010. He returned to the majors in Saturday’s middle match at Tropicana Field with a chance to secure a series win over the Rays.
That didn't happen.
Wilson retired the first two Rays who came to bat, whiffing Desmond Jennings and coaxing a grounder from Ben Zobrist. The third-place hitter, Brandon Guyer, drew a walk. And then Evan Longoria opened the scoring. A two-run shot put Wilson in an early hole, but he punched out Sean Rodriguez, giving manager Mike Scioscia some hope that he might regain his composure.
The Rays had other plans.
After Yunel Escobar flied out to begin the second, James Loney picked up a one-out single. Wilson then walked Curt Casali, putting Loney in scoring position for Logan Forsythe, who drove him in and advanced Casali to third. The next batter, Jennings, laid down a squeeze bunt, which was placed well enough not only to score Casali but also to enable Jennings to reach first. Perhaps inspired by the leadoff man, Zobrist bunted, too, and he earned a single for the effort as well. Now, there were two men in scoring position, and Guyer put the biscuits in the basket to end Wilson’s day.
The 33-year-old’s line: 1 1/3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 K. He’s the second Angels starter to be sent to the showers with four outs or fewer under his belt this year, joining Garrett Richards, who lasted just two-thirds of an inning on May 30th. The last Halos starter to be saddled with six runs in that short an outing was Ervin Santana on July 4, 2012.
Cory Rasmus and Joe Thatcher combined for two scoreless innings of relief work that kept the Angels in the game, but Chris Archer—six innings, three runs, nine strikeouts—pitched well enough to prevent a comeback. Scioscia was fortunate to have swingman Michael Roth around when Thatcher was forced out of the game with an injury. The southpaw gave up four runs in 4 2/3 shaky innings, turning the contest into a 10-3 rout, but he gobbled up the rest of the outs to save the bullpen for Sunday’s finale.
The Angels bounced back to win Sunday’s rubber match, 7-5, thumping Jake Odorizzi for five runs in just three innings. They trail the A’s, who lost two of three to the Royals, by just one game in the American League West.
Without Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki in the middle of their lineup, the Rockies did well to muster five runs against Rick Porcello and Co. on Saturday. But it wasn’t close to enough because the Tigers unleashed a ceaseless assault on Tyler Matzek and the Colorado bullpen.
Matzek was in a mess from the outset, as Rajai Davis doubled and Ian Kinsler singled to put runners at the corners with nobody out. He did well to induce a double-play grounder from Miguel Cabrera, which lit a run up on the board but prevented the game from getting out of hand early. In fact, the Rockies would counter with a pair in the top of the second to briefly take the lead.
It would be short-lived, though, because Alex Avila turned in an RBI single in the last of the second to pull the Tigers even. The next inning, Cabrera avenged his twin killing with a very big fly. If you watch the highlight, you’ll hear the Tigers play-by-play broadcaster note that there was “a lot of room out there for [Drew Stubbs],” the Rockies center fielder, but no yard could hold that 445-foot blast.
After three innings of putting sticks on the board, the home nine decided to post a crooked number in the fourth. J.D. Martinez nearly thwarted that plan by hitting into a double play after Torii Hunter’s leadoff single, but Nick Castellanos tripled, Alex Avila doubled, and Eugenio Suarez singled to make it 5-2 Detroit.
Think that’s bad? The fifth inning was an absolute mess for Matzek, who allowed an infield single to Kinsler, then compounded it by throwing the ball away and allowing the second baseman to go all the way to third. He proceeded to intentionally walk Cabrera ahead of Victor Martinez, who launched a three-run homer that blew the game wide open.
Kinsler reached on another infield single with runners at second and third in the sixth, but this time, he drove in a run himself. In the seventh, Martinez picked up a much louder RBI on a solo dinger. And in the eighth, an Avila double followed by a Davis single made it 11-2 Tigers. There wasn't any need for them to bat in the ninth, even though the Rockies did their best to salvage some dignity with a three-spot that brought them to within six.
If you kept track above, you might have noticed that the Tigers scored at least one run in every inning—the first time any major league team has done that since the Yankees dropped 17 runs on the Blue Jays on April 29, 2006. It was also the first time the Tigers have done that at their home stadium since 1912.
Brad Ausmus’ squad took a different route to victory in Sunday’s series finale. Anibal Sanchez fanned 12 over seven scoreless innings, paving the way for a four-hit shutout completed by Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria. The latter’s first scoreless outing in a Tigers uniform brought out the brooms at Comerica Park, as the Tigers walked away with a 4-0 win.
The Twins scored 16 runs on Sunday. That’s rare, but not extremely so, considering that they’d done it on 67 previous occasions since 1914. What’s crazier is the manner in which they reached that total.
White Sox starter Jose Quintana was effective if not efficient. He held the visitors to one run (zero earned) over five innings, but he needed 115 pitches to get that far. That meant his skipper, Robin Ventura, would need to steer his porous bullpen—the weekly bane of Mauricio Rubio’s Closer to Me—through the remaining 12 outs.
There was ample reason to believe that Chicago’s 3-1 lead would be short lived. But the swiftness with which Ventura’s relievers squandered it, and then dug their club a seemingly bottomless hole, was virtually unprecedented.
Javy Guerra came on to start the sixth and sandwiched a strikeout between two singles. Then Eduardo Nunez singled home a run to make it 3-2. The next batter, Danny Santana, doubled, and the one-run edge was now a one-run hole.
But that was only the beginning.
Taylor Thompson kept the Twins off the board in the seventh, but Ventura asked him to stay on the hill for the eighth. Bad move. He walked the first batter in the frame, then gave up a triple to Santana, and followed it up with another walk.
That was all for Thompson. In came Ronald Belisario. The right-hander faced four batters and all four of them singled, the result being an 8-3 lead for the Twins. Next up: Eric Surkamp. Two of the first three batters who dug in against Surkamp doubled; the other brought home a run with a fielder’s choice. Then Santana notched an RBI infield single, and Dozier knocked home one more to make it 13-3 Minnesota.
Back-to-back-to-back jacks, including the longest home run by a Twin since at least 2006. By the time the visitors were through thrashing Rienzo, it was 16-3. Mercifully, the three consecutive long balls were the last of the scoring for the afternoon.
So to recap: The White Sox starter allowed one run in five innings. Their bullpen pitched four innings and allowed 15.
According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, no team in at least a century has given up 16 or more runs in a game in which its starter pitched at least five frames and held the opposition to no more than one. The Yankees came close in a wild one at Fenway on April 21, 2012, but they finished one run short. And that’s as close as anyone has gotten.
MLB.com beat writer Scott Merkin cited Elias in pointing out that the South Siders relievers had only allowed 15 runs on two prior occasions in franchise history, both of them more than 75 years ago. If this isn’t rock bottom for the 2014 White Sox bullpen, it’s hard to imagine what will be.
When you’re not exactly fleet of foot, like Albert Pujols after knee surgery in 2012 and a long-term bout with plantar fasciitis, if you’re going to hit a groundball, placing it on the opposite side of the diamond from first base is a sound strategy. Usually.
Pujols tried it on Wednesday, and this happened:
He tried it again on Thursday, and this happened:
With the Orioles series over and Manny Machado no longer there to show off his cannon, Pujols had reason to believe that the third time might be the charm. Nope:
That around-the-horn twin killing seems like a fine transition to ...
The Defensive Play of the Weekend
In the eighth-inning of a one-run game with the speedy Ellsbury likely bidding for a triple, that’ll do.
What to Watch on Monday
Monday matinees don't come around very often, but they’re a fine distraction from the start of the workweek. There’s one on the slate today: the finale of a four-game set between the Giants and Mets at Citi Field. Tim Hudson, who gets the ball for the visitors, will confront his demons at the ballpark in Queens, the scene of the gruesome ankle injury that ended his 2013 season last July. He’s due to duel Dillon Gee, who might hope that Giants skipper Bruce Bochy leaves Travis Ishikawa out of his starting lineup. The first baseman enjoyed the only multi-homer game of his career at Gee’s expense on May 15, 2012 (12:10 p.m. ET).
Let’s play Name that Pitcher:
Clue one: He’s worked exactly seven innings and permitted exactly one run in each of his last four starts. (In case you’re wondering, the Baseball-Reference Play Index says the last pitcher to do that in a single season was Jamie Moyer in 2001.)
That would be Tanner Roark, who’s rocking a 2.74 ERA for the year, good for 10th among qualifying National League starters. He’ll put that mark to the test with the Orioles coming to Washington, D.C., where Buck Showalter will counter with Kevin Gausman (7:05 p.m. ET).
The battle of Los Angeles commences this evening with the first of four games in the home-and-home set. Don Mattingly’s squad gets to host today and tomorrow, and the skipper has Zack Greinke lined up to take on the Angels’ de facto ace, Garrett Richards. Tonight’s contest will mark the 30-year-old Greinke’s first home start against a junior circuit opponent this year. The Halos lit Greinke up for six runs on 10 hits in just four innings of work last May 27th. Richards last started a game versus the Dodgers on June 24, 2012, when their lineup was stocked with former Angels, namely Bobby Abreu, Adam Kennedy, and Juan Rivera (10:10 p.m. ET).