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August 6, 2014

What You Need to Know

August 6, 2014

by Daniel Rathman

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The Tuesday Takeaway
Adam Dunn pitched an inning and allowed a run for the White Sox on Tuesday.

The run the Rangers pinned on his line was the 16th permitted by the home nine at U.S. Cellular Field last night and the dumpster fire was the second to pollute the South Side of Chicago in a span of three days, after the Twins lit up Robin Ventura’s pitching staff for a 16-3 rout on Sunday.

Despite fielding trade interest in John Danks leading up to last Thursday’s deadline, general manager Rick Hahn opted to hold on to the left-hander. The Rangers were glad he did.

Ron Washington’s hitters pounded Danks early and often. Adrian Beltre cranked a two-run jack in the first. Robinson Chirinos drilled a solo shot in the second. J.P. Arencibia went yard in the fifth. And Chirinos’ second long ball of the night

sent Danks packing later in that frame. By the time the Rangers were through with the Austin native, his line contained nine runs on eight hits and five walks in just 4 2/3 innings. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, Danks is the first White Sox starter in at least a century to pack four big flies and five free passes into an outing that brief.

Unfortunately for Ventura, he lacks the relievers to stem the tide when his starter gets caught up in it. So when the bullpen is tasked with eating 14 outs, a blowout is almost sure to balloon into an embarrassment.

Flamethrower Maikel Cleto, fresh up from Triple-A Charlotte, served up a solo blast to Shin-Soo Choo in the sixth. Andre Rienzo was touched up for five hits and uncorked two wild pitches in a four-run seventh. Eric Surkamp needed 27 pitches to hold the Rangers to one run in the eighth. And that’s how Dunn got to toe the rubber for the first time in his major league career.

Allowing 16 runs once is bad enough, and per the Play Index, Tuesday’s beating marked the 88th occasion on which the White Sox have done it since 1914. But letting it happen twice in a three-day span requires a special kind of pitching putridity. Until yesterday, the shortest gap between 16-plus-run drubbings for the ChiSox was five days: June 3rd to June 7th, 1953.

The White Sox have now watched a pair of last-place opponents score 51 runs in the first five games of their six-game homestand. For the sake of a silly comparison, Clayton Kershaw allowed 55 runs during the entire 2013 regular season.

Quick Hits from Tuesday
Kershaw didn’t have it on Tuesday, either, but in his case, not having it means giving up three runs in seven innings. He left with a 4-3 edge, which might have been enough to down Hector Santiago and the Angels if the Angels didn’t have Albert Pujols.

Alas, Pujols was there to deny Kershaw a win. He smashed a payoff pitch from Brian Wilson for a game-tying home run. The long ball came after an RBI double off the defending Cy Young Award winner and a Web Gem. Not a bad day at the office.

The trouble for the Angels is that David Freese did have a bad day at the office. He went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts at the plate, but, more saliently, he made two throwing errors at the hot corner. The second one proved fateful

in the 5-4 Dodgers walkoff win.

***

To this point in his first year as a Yankee, Brian McCann has slugged five home runs against left-handed pitchers: one against Mark Buehrle, one against Craig Breslow, and—this is not a misprint; I repeat, not a misprint—three against David Price.

This was the third one, a second-inning solo tater that tied game two of the Tigers' visit to the Bronx at 1-1. Three innings later, Martin Prado launched his first dinger in a Yankees uniform to give the pinstripe-clad squad a 3-1 lead:

But the Tigers would roar back with a run each in the sixth and seventh, preventing Hiroki Kuroda from outdueling Price in the latter’s first start since the last-minute deadline blockbuster that sent him into Brad Ausmus’ rotation. Andrew Romine halved the deficit with a leadoff cheapie into the short porch, and Alex Avila knotted the score by capping a three-single rally in the next frame.

Price outlasted Kuroda, who was finished after the seventh, but the Tigers couldn't score in the eighth or ninth, so his 8 2/3-inning effort would not yield a win. Dellin Betances made sure of that by blowing a 100-mph heater by Miguel Cabrera to end the eighth, and then working around a hit batsman and passed ball in the ninth.

With the flame-throwing Betances and David Robertson anchoring the back end, the Yankees' bullpen has emerged as one of the best in the league. The Tigers’ relief corps, by contrast, has caused the Detroit faithful plenty of grief, but on Tuesday night, general manager Dave Dombrowski’s investments paid off.

Free-agent pickup Joba Chamberlain turned in 1 1/3 innings of flawless work in his return to the Bronx. Newcomer Joakim Soria followed with a clean 11th. After that, Alex Avila broke the tie with a big fly off of Matt Daley. And Joe Nathan, who joined the bullpen last offseason along with Chamberlain, notched the save with a scoreless last of the 12th.

***

It took 86 games and more than 360 plate appearances, but Norichika Aoki finally has a home run in a Royals uniform. A grand slam, to be more precise. The four-run swing capped an eight-run fifth inning, which buried the Diamondbacks in the desert.

Royals starter Danny Duffy blinked first in the matchup with fellow southpaw Wade Miley, allowing a run to the home team in the bottom of the first. But Salvador Perez walloped a three-run bomb in the top of the third and Billy Butler added another in the fifth before Aoki dropped the hammer.

Duffy wound up with five solid innings of one-run ball in which he issued just one walk and fanned seven. Miley, meanwhile, was slapped with 10 runs in 4 2/3 frames, the last three of which came around when reliever Bo Schultz served up Aoki’s slam.

The Royals would go on to win 12-2 after tacking on one more in the ninth.

***

Since the turn of the century, there have been 23 relief appearances in which a pitcher worked two innings and recorded six strikeouts. Two of those have been delivered by a Phillie. Both of them belong to Antonio Bastardo.

On April 8, 2011, Bastardo mowed down the Braves in a losing effort. On Tuesday, he carved up the Astros in the 11th and 12th frames of what ended up a 15-inning win.

Bastardo threw 33 pitches, and the Astros swung and missed at 10 of them:

In the zone, high, wide, or low didn’t matter; the Astros couldn’t touch the lefty, who might not have been around to stifle them had the Phillies held a deadline fire sale. With a Philadelphia uniform still on his back, Bastardo joined the Reds’ J.J. Hoover as the only bullpenners to post a two-inning, six-strikeout line this year.

The game was tied 1-1 from the seventh-inning stretch through the last of the 15th, when Astros long man Jake Buchanan finally game unglued. Grady Sizemore led off with a single, advanced to second on Ben Revere’s sacrifice bunt, and stayed there on a Jimmy Rollins fly ball. Buchanan then walked Chase Utley, but Ryan Howard foiled that plan with an RBI single. The first baseman accounted for both Philadelphia runs, with the second coming 13 innings after his second-inning home run.

The Defensive Play of the Day
Justin Ruggiano had visions of a two-out rally, sparked by a single through the 5.5 hole, in the late stages of a 4-4 game. Trouble is, Nolan Arenado had the 5.5 hole covered:

Ruggiano grounded out to third again in the 11th, when he came up with Starlin Castro (who’d doubled) on second and nobody out. That’s a rough pair of at-bats for the outfielder, but the Cubs picked him up by drawing a couple of walks, which moved Castro to third in front of Ryan Sweeney’s go-ahead single.

Ballgame, right? Nope. Hector Rondon couldn’t hold the lead in the last of the 11th. Jason Pridie got things started with a one-out infield single. Charlie Blackmon followed with another single, advancing Pridie to second. And Charlie Culberson came through with an RBI knock that evened the tally at five apiece.

All of that merely set the stage for this:

"This" being Javier Baez’s first career home run, the first of many, if the scouting reports are any indication. Baez waited until extra innings to make his first big-league splash, but it’s sure to be a memorable one for Cubs fans who stayed up late enough to watch it fly in the 6-5 win.

What to Watch on Wednesday
If you’re in the mood for great pitching this afternoon, the docket won’t disappoint. Start with Chris Sale, who’ll try to rebound from a rough outing against the Twins when he squares off with the Rangers (2:10 p.m. ET). If you prefer to watch righties master their craft, stay tuned an hour later, when Sonny Gray looks to give Bob Melvin his 800th managerial win by beating the Rays (3:35 p.m. ET) and Julio Teheran takes on the Mariners at Safeco Field (3:40 p.m. ET).

The trade that sent John Lackey to St. Louis brought Joe Kelly (and Allen Craig) back to Boston. Now, Kelly and the Red Sox are in the Gateway City, and the right-hander is scheduled to square off with his former club in game two of three at Busch Stadium. Kelly struggled against the light-hitting Cubs and Padres in his last two starts as a Redbird, allowing a total of nine runs in 9 2/3 innings. He’ll try to bounce back in a familiar setting while dueling his best friend and ex-roommate Shelby Miller. The two were best men at each other’s weddings last November (8:15 p.m. ET).

Can you name the last pitcher to go yard off Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta? You’ll have to think back a long way—to June 18th, to be exact—when the solo shot was the only run charged to Arrieta in a seven-inning win. The 28-year-old has kept all of his opponents within the fences in each of his last seven starts, and he hasn’t given up more than three runs in a game since the end of May. A visit to Coors Field will put both of those streaks to the test, and Arrieta is due to duel Jordan Lyles in the middle match (8:40 p.m. ET).

Trivia answer: Giancarlo Stanton owns the only homer slugged off of Arrieta since May 22nd.

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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