August 11, 2014
What You Need to Know
August 11, 2014
The Weekend Takeaway
Through six innings, the first of three clashes between the first-place clubs was a tidy, 2-1 affair. Then, it suddenly morphed into one of the weekend’s more eventful games.
Brewers starter Kyle Lohse edged out his counterpart, Roberto Hernandez, in the latter’s Dodgers debut, pitching six innings and allowing only one run, which came on a solo shot by Adrian Gonzalez in what would be Lohse’s final frame. Hernandez was charged with two runs in six innings, both of which scored in the first on an RBI single by Aramis Ramirez and a sacrifice fly by Scooter Gennett.
After playing things close to the vest to that point in the contest, the skippers sprung into action.
Hernandez breezed through innings two through six on just 47 pitches, so his pitch count when his spot in the batting order came up to begin the seventh was only 65. Nonetheless, sensing that his offense needed a jolt, Don Mattingly called for Justin Turner to pinch-hit, thereby pulling the plug on the right-hander’s first start since he came over from the Phillies. Ron Roenicke immediately countered by yanking Lohse, who’d thrown 105 pitches, in favor of right-handed reliever Rob Wooten.
The next hitter was Yasiel Puig, who bats from the right side, but with Adrian Gonzalez coming up, Roenicke elected to stick with Duke. Three weeks ago, Duke might’ve sailed smoothly through the rest of the inning. But the southpaw has come upon rough times, and he uncorked a wild pitch that moved Gordon to second before walking Puig. Then Gonzalez singled, Gordon scored, and the game was tied.
That would do it for Duke, but Roenicke’s decision to call for right-hander Jeremy Jeffress spurred Mattingly to insert Andre Ethier as a pinch-hitter. Ethier reached on an infield single, which brought Puig home from third, giving the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. Only a line-drive double play, off the bat of Matt Kemp with Gonzalez caught too far off of second, spared Milwaukee further grief.
Jamey Wright came on in relief of Hernandez after the seventh-inning stretch, and Aramis Ramirez promptly hooked a line drive to the right of Turner, who stayed in the game at shortstop. Turner replaced defensive whiz Miguel Rojas, but for the moment, the change did not hurt the Dodgers:
Trouble is, League isn’t quite the pitcher that Howell is, and on his third pitch to Reynolds, the Brewers put a hit-and-run play on. Say what you will about hitting-and-running with the whiff-happy Reynolds, but on this occasion it worked. He threaded a ball just out of the reach of Turner, who deflected it but couldn’t prevent Reynolds from earning a single or Weeks from advancing all the way to third.
Everyone was safe on Maldonado’s bunt, but after Elian Herrera flied out, the Brewers’ runners were stuck at first and second, and there were now two away. Jeffress’ spot in the order was due, so Roenicke turned to his third pinch-hitter in the inning: Khris Davis.
There’s a reason the sentence preceding Turner’s diving catch included the caveat, “for the moment.” Davis hit the third pitch of his at-bat to short, and Turner booted it to load the bases for Carlos Gomez, who tapped a slow roller to Turner, giving him a quick chance to atone for the error. Instead, Turner doubled down on the miscue, short-hopping his throw to first, where Gonzalez couldn’t dig it out.
That put the Brewers back on top. Gerardo Parra followed with a two-run single to help ensure they’d stay there. The only saving grace for League and the Dodgers was that Gomez ran into an out at third base when Puig fired home.
Gomez’s TOOTBLAN capped an inning in which his manager made three pitching changes, used three pinch-hitters, and called for a hit-and-run and a safety squeeze. Most skippers couldn’t fit that list into a day’s work. Roenicke put all those chips on the table in one inning.
At least for one night, Mattingly’s decision to trade pitching and defense for a spark at the plate fell victim to Roenicke’s small-balling and a hint of bad luck.
The Dodgers fell again on Saturday, 4-1, but on Sunday, with Clayton Kershaw toeing the rubber, they got their revenge. Whether it was by Roenicke’s edict or the scare that seeing Kershaw on the mound puts into opponents, the Brewers ran the bases yesterday as though they were still feeling the effects of a Saturday night pub crawl.
The bottom of the third inning began with a Jimmy Nelson double. Yes, a pitcher got an extra-base hit off of Kershaw, a feat that hadn’t happened in more than two years. But the Brewers would not score in the inning, and thanks to their ill-advised aggressiveness on the bases, Kershaw scarcely broke a sweat.
Gomez hit a groundball to the left side of the infield. For some reason, Nelson thought it prudent to take off for third, where he was easily retired on the fielder’s choice. Right after that, Kershaw picked Gomez off of first—the second TOOTBLAN in the series for the center fielder—and a fly out by Jonathan Lucroy capped the inning.
They were at it again in the fourth, which Braun began with a single. He advanced to second on a wild pitch. Then, another offering got away from A.J. Ellis, and while Braun was initially called safe at third, Mattingly challenged the call
and it was reversed. The Brewers had committed the cardinal sin of making the first out of an inning at third base for the second inning in a row.
In the fifth, the Brewers got a runner to third safely in the person of Weeks, who doubled and moved up 90 feet on a productive grounder by Reynolds. With Weeks at third, one away, and the Brewers trailing 2-1, Roenicke called for Jean Segura to execute a suicide squeeze. The result was…
The Defensive Play of the Weekend
Segura popped up the bunt, Kershaw crashed toward the plate and dove to come up with it in the air, then doubled off a helpless Weeks, who was about to step on the dish.
So to recap: The Brewers had a runner reach second or third base with nobody out in the third, fourth, and fifth innings—and Kershaw faced the minimum in each of those frames.
The Brewers never did push across a second run. They dropped the finale, 5-1, and wrapped up the weekend with a two-game lead over the Cardinals.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
All major-league starting pitchers, collectively, have logged six starts of exactly two innings in which they allowed exactly five earned runs in 2014. Justin Masterson now owns half of them.
The first three Orioles who batted against the former Indians righty all reached base in Friday’s opener. But he struck out Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis, and coaxed a groundout from J.J. Hardy. Disaster averted.
Not for long.
After Ryan Flaherty singled to begin the bottom of the second, David Lough bunted him into scoring position, wherefrom he came home on a single by Nick Hundley. Nick Markakis then walked for the second time in as many innings. One swing by Manny Machado later
the Orioles had an early 4-0 lead. That would be the first of six Baltimore long balls. Masterson was only around to watch one more:
Masterson’s fourth pitch in the third inning became the first of two home runs by Hardy, who entered with only four on the season. The right-hander proceeded to drill Flaherty, misfire on a wild pitch, walk Lough, and allow a single to Hundley before Mike Matheny sent him to the showers. Only a tremendous escape job by Nick Greenwood, who induced comebackers from both Markakis and Machado, prevented further damage to Masterson’s already-inflated ERA.
But Greenwood would go on to serve up Hardy’s second homer two innings later. In the fifth, he teed one up for Adam Jones. And Sam Freeman, the next man out of Matheny’s bullpen, craned his neck for two round-trippers—a solo shot by Davis and a two-run bomb by Flaherty—in a three-batter span.
A.J. Pierzynski launched a two-run blast of his own in the top of the seventh, but that only turned a 12-0 blanking into a 12-2 beating. All the Cardinals could do was head back to the hotel and gear up for Saturday’s middle match behind Masterson’s fellow newcomer, John Lackey.
Say this for Lackey: He got through the second. And the third, fourth, and fifth, too. The only problem is, he coughed up nine runs along the way.
The visitors scored once in the first, on an RBI double by Jhonny Peralta, and once more in the second, on a solo homer by Jon Jay. The home team saw those two runs and raised the Cardinals a run-scoring two-bagger by Delmon Young and a go-ahead big fly by Caleb Joseph:
That homer put the O’s on top and Joseph into the franchise record books:
It was all downhill from there for Lackey, who served up Nelson Cruz’s 30th dinger of the season in the bottom of the third. The Redbirds got one back in the fourth, but the Orioles came back with three in the fifth, two of them on yardwork by Delmon Young. Three straight singles to open the sixth made it 9-3, and that was all for Lackey.
A wild pitch by Kevin Siegrist made it 10-3, and that was all for the middle match.
Lance Lynn needed 103 pitches to record 17 outs in the last game of the series, but Pat Neshek picked up the staff with two innings of brilliant relief. The sidewinding right-hander fanned four of the six batters he faced and used just 25 pitches in the seventh and eighth innings combined. Trevor Rosenthal wrapped up the 8-3 win with two more punchouts in the ninth, as the Cardinals crawled back ahead of the Pirates in the Central standings. Pittsburgh is now a half-game behind St. Louis.
The Tigers spent the ninth inning of Friday’s opener at the Rogers Centre penning a guidebook on how to stun, tease, and gut-punch the other team’s fans in five steps.
Step one: Carry a manageable deficit into the final frame. They were down 4-2. Check.
Step two: Bring the tying run to the plate. J.D. Martinez doubled. Check.
Step three: Tie the game
and take the lead
with back-to-back home runs. Check.
Step four: Employ a shaky closer. Joe Nathan gave up a single and issued two walks in the last of the ninth. Check.
Step five: End it with a Web Gem
Check. That’s all it takes. —Daniel Rathman
That pit in the stomach of Blue Jays fans after Friday’s loss was analogous to the feeling that Detroit fans sensed throughout the weekend whenever Brad Ausmus called upon his bullpen to close out a game.
Despite watching Nathan’s ERA balloon to 5.36 after the pair of poor outings, Ausmus made it clear after Saturday’s loss that he would stick with Nathan as his closer. The 39-year-old’s strikeout rate has deteriorated and his walk rate is the highest it’s been since his second major-league season, while Soria’s FIP this season is nearly half that of Nathan’s. Ausmus’s decision became that much easier when it was announced before Sunday’s rubber match that Soria, his newly acquired bullpen stud, had hit the disabled list with a left oblique strain and is expected to miss two to three weeks.
Then in the 18th, Miguel Cabrera tattooed a ball to the warning track with one and a runner on first. Off the bat, Jenkins thought the ball had left the yard, but Rasmus was able to corral the ball at the wall to keep Toronto out of further trouble.
The next inning, Rasmus robbed another Tiger of a base knock. This time, it was Holaday, whose single would have given Detroit a runner in scoring position—possibly at third base—and one out. Instead, Rasmus made a diving catch to record the second out, and Romine struck out to end the top of the 19th.
Finally, in the bottom of the frame, Kawasaki led off against Porcello with an opposite-field single. Up next, Jose Reyes laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Ian Kinsler was late to cover first and Porcello’s throw ended up getting past the Detroit second baseman, allowing Kawasaki to move up to third. Porcello intentionally walked Cabrera to load the bases and face Bautista, who finally ended baseball’s second 19-inning marathon in as many days with a walk-off hit.
This happened on Saturday:
You might be wondering what’s special about a ninth-inning double that didn’t produce a run in a game in which the doubler’s team was already ahead. Our own Jordan Gorosh has the story:
As infrequently as Chapman surrenders extra-base hits to left-handed batters, he has a peculiar taste for the ones to which he permits them. Garrett Jones, typically deployed as a long-end platoon player, now has the rare feather in his cap.
Can you name the last lefty-swinger to do it before Jones? Five hints:
…three pitches later, the exceptional extra-base hit was all for naught.
In more salient news, the Marlins took Saturday’s game by a final score of 4-3. Chapman was just getting work in, after more than a week off between appearances. The most dominant closer in the game has now taken the hill seven times since the All-Star break. His team has come out on the losing end in three of those games, and only once—back on July 20th—was Chapman to blame.
The left-hander’s services weren’t necessary on Sunday, when Devin Mesoraco took matters into his own hands. Mesoraco cranked a two-run shot in the first inning
and a grand slam in the fifth
to steer the Reds to a 7-2 victory behind Johnny Cueto.
If you watched the entirety of the six-hour-and-32-minute marathon between the Red Sox and Angels on Saturday, you could be forgiven for forgetting that Garrett Richards carried a no-hitter into the seventh.
Dustin Pedroia singled to break it up, and two more hits, two fielding errors, and a sacrifice fly later, the Red Sox were on top 3-2. The Angels drew even on an oppo taco by Mike Trout in the eighth.
Pedroia saved his biggest moments in Saturday’s contest for innings that were multiples of seven. He took center stage again in the 14th, beginning with a one-out single. With a 1-2 count on David Ortiz, Pedroia took off for second.
At first blush, what you see above might look like a typical steal attempt with the shortstop covering and the second baseman making his way over to back up the throw. But because Ortiz was at the plate, the Angels had the shift on, and third baseman Albert Pujols—yes, you read that correctly—was playing much closer to his usual position between first and second. Pitcher Cory Rasmus was caught watching the tag at second base, which Pedroia beat, instead of scrambling over to third to prevent this:
Instead, Pedroia wound up on third with one away, and Ortiz gave the Red Sox the lead with a sacrifice fly.
But the Angels wouldn’t go quietly. Pinch-hitter Chris Iannetta led off the last of the 14th with a double. A walk by Efren Navarro and an opposite-field single by Kole Calhoun loaded the bases for Mike Trout, who hit a sharp groundball to short.
The Red Sox’ middle infielders were playing at double-play depth, and rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts had “double play” on his mind. He flipped to Pedroia covering the bag, and then Pedroia threw… home. By the time the ball arrived at the plate, Iannetta had already crossed it. Nonetheless, Pedroia apparently thought that he had a better chance to execute an unorthodox 6-4-2 twin killing than to throw the speedy Trout out at first.
Based on manager John Farrell’s comments after the game, Boston Globe beat writer Peter Abraham tweeted that Bogaerts was following orders from both his skipper and double-play partner:
Pedroia was a little overzealous in hoping that the slow-footed Iannetta would trot down the line to the plate assuming that the throw would go to first. Had Junichi Tazawa not bailed him out by getting a harmless grounder from Pujols and punching out Josh Hamilton, he might’ve gone swiftly from hero to goat.
But Tazawa did make the point moot, and the 4-4 tie dragged on all the way until the 19th. The Angels' most recent 19-inning game was just a year ago, on April 29, 2013, when then-A’s pitcher Brett Anderson was scratched from his scheduled start but wound up pitching more innings than his emergency replacement, Dan Straily. The Red Sox hadn’t played into the 19th since July 9, 2006. And much like that game against the White Sox, this one ended in a one-run Boston defeat:
Pujols’ walkoff tater, confirmed by replay review, gave the Halos a 5-4 win. Along the way, in all of its 19 innings of work, the Angels pitching staff allowed the Red Sox only six hits. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, that’s the lowest total conceded by any team in a game of 19-plus frames since at least 1914.
The Red Sox won 3-1 on Sunday on the strength of seven-plus innings of one-run ball from Rubby De La Rosa and a late three-run bomb by Yoenis Cespedes. The left fielder’s homer was his first since the July 31st trade that sent him from the A’s to the Red Sox. It helped his old team, which lost 6-1 to the Twins on Sunday, maintain a four-game lead in the West.
Before Sunday, the last Royals player to steal three bases in a game was Gregor Blanco. The outfielder was in the visitors’ lineup at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday and went 1-for-4 as the ninth-place hitter for the Giants, whose starter, Tim Lincecum, had little command of his pitches and even less command of the runners who reached base as a result.
Thus, when he wasn’t busy hitting or sitting in the dugout, Blanco got to watch Norichika Aoki and Jarrod Dyson steal his mantle from left field. The Royals stole seven bases in all, five of them on Lincecum’s guard—which lasted only 3 1/3 innings. The right-hander was pinned with six runs on seven hits and three walks, as Aoki and Dyson became the first three-steal tandem in franchise history. It was also only the fifth time that the Royals have swiped seven bags in a game and the first since August 1, 1998.
Kansas City starter Danny Duffy was far from perfect, allowing four runs in 6 2/3 innings, over which he walked three and beaned a fellow Duffy—Giants rookie shortstop Matt Duffy—but permitted only three hits. By the time the Giants hung three runs on Duffy’s line in the seventh, the Royals were well ahead. And while the visitors loaded the bases against closer Greg Holland, they did not score in the ninth.
Sunday’s 7-4 victory came on the heels of a four-hit shutout by James Shields on Saturday and a 4-2 win on Friday. The Royals have now won seven straight and 15 of 18. They trail the Tigers by just half a game with 46 left to play.
Bonus Defensive Play of the Weekend
What to Watch on Monday
Fans of hard-throwing, diminutive righties won’t want to miss tonight’s duel between Sonny Gray and Yordano Ventura. Both of them reach the mid-to-high 90s with their fastballs, with Ventura, who’s listed at an even 6 feet, pacing the circuit at over 98 mph, and Sonny Gray, who’s a tick below at 5-foot-11, averaging 94.5 mph. The Royals have been victorious in five of Ventura’s last six starts, and after a brief rough spell, he’s fanned at least a batter per inning in each of his last three. Gray, on the other hand, is coming off of a career-worst outing against the Rays, who pounded him for seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits and four walks in just 4 1/3 innings. That dud marked the first time Gray has failed to work into the seventh inning since June 28th (8:10 p.m. ET).
If you aren’t on the West Coast and you want to watch Felix Hernandez make a bid for his 16th consecutive seven-plus-inning, two-or-fewer-run start, you’ll need to stay up late. The right-hander gets the ball in the series opener against the Blue Jays, who are paying a three-game visit to Safeco Field. Hernandez last faced the Jays more than a year ago, on August 6, 2013, when they lit him up for six runs on nine hits and three walks in five innings. He’ll need to do a lot better while dueling Drew Hutchison to keep his MLB-record streak alive (10:10 p.m. ET). —Daniel Rathman
Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @danielrathman