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August 21, 2014

What You Need to Know

August 21, 2014

by Daniel Rathman

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The Wednesday Takeaway
The Braves had the misfortune of running into Gerrit Cole, rested and refreshed after a 45-day stay on the disabled list with a lat strain.


Whether it was the time off or the adrenaline of returning to a major-league mound, Cole routinely hit the high 90s with his heater on Wednesday and, on one occasion, blazed it in there at 100.3 mph. He earned strikes with 40 of his 61 four-seamers and notched four swinging strikes with the gas, too, though all five Atlanta hits also came on the hard stuff.

Two of those hits, a single by Justin Upton in the first and another by Chris Johnson in the sixth, left the Braves ahead, 2-0, when Cole hit the showers after seven.

Alex Wood outdueled Cole while the UCLA product was in the game, but right after the visitors chased him, their own starter came unglued. Gaby Sanchez would make two more plate appearances in the contest, and both of them would help decide it.

Sanchez’s first trip yielded a leadoff walk, which Travis Snider followed with a ground-rule double that knocked Wood out of the game. On came Jordan Walden, who coaxed a groundout from Chris Stewart—albeit a productive one that scored Sanchez from third and advanced Snider to within 90 feet of the plate. Walden’s 3-2 pitch to pinch-hitter Neil Walker was a scud that skipped well away from Gattis and on to the backstop, allowing Snider to come home with the equalizer.

The right-hander got out of the eighth without permitting the Pirates to take the lead, but after Mark Melancon held the line, David Carpenter was undone by his left fielder. Justin Upton's two-base error put Bucs at second and third with one out for Sanchez…

…who said “thank you very much” with a sacrifice fly that snapped Pittsburgh’s seven-game plunge.

Quick Hits from Wednesday
Jesus Sucre, a .138/.138/.138 hitter in 31 plate appearances before yesterday’s matinee at Citizens Bank Park, went 2-for-4 with his first career double against Cole Hamels and the Phillies. So why did Scott Weber of the Mariners blog Lookout Landing have this…

…to say?

The game was tied, 1-1, in the top of the fourth inning, when the visitors took the lead, but—if not for a wacky turn of events—could’ve had much more. Kyle Seager drew a walk to begin the frame, and Chris Denorfia reached on an infield hit; Seager went first-to-third thanks to an error by third baseman Andres Blanco. After that, Logan Morrison doubled, scoring Seager with the go-ahead run and moving Denorfia to third with nobody out.

Up stepped Sucre with two men in scoring position. He singled to right field. And nobody scored.

How’s that possible? Well, before picking up his first knock of the day, Sucre missed a sign. Some signs—steal, deer crossing, the lean and touch—can usually be missed without dire consequences. But blowing a suicide squeeze sign is like walking into the wrong restroom.


Hamels’ 1-1 pitch darted low and inside, as Sucre either took a very late and feeble checked swing or began to square around with the ball already past him. In either case, he hung Denorfia out to dry between third and home, and Hamels eventually tagged the runner out several feet shy of home.

Sucre atoned for the blunder to some extent with his base hit, which advanced Morrison to third, wherefrom he’d score on a wild pitch. But walk, single, double, single, sacrifice bunt, wild pitch is a sequence that generally produces more than two runs, and the Mariners would almost immediately rue their failure to blow the game open.

Wil Nieves led off the last of the fourth with a single. A two-base throwing error by James Paxton on a comebacker from Blanco put runners at second and third with nobody out. Sound familiar? This time, it was Hamels, not Sucre, in the box, and Sucre found a way to mess this situation up, too.

The 26-year-old’s passed ball allowed his counterpart, Nieves, to score and Blanco to scamper over to third. Blanco would not have scored from second on Ben Revere’s ensuing groundout, but, thanks to Sucre’s second mistake of the inning, he came in with the tying run. Moments later, Jimmy Rollins reached on an infield single, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Chase Utley.

That made it 4-3 Phillies, and since neither side had any runs left in the hopper, 4-3 was the final tally.

A quick glance at the box score would tell you that Sucre had a career day at the plate. But he cost the Mariners a run each in the top and bottom halves of the fourth inning of a contest in which every run mattered. And that’s why Sucre’s first-ever multi-hit game is one he’d like to forget.


Jeff Samardzija wouldn’t mind forgetting his Wednesday afternoon, either.

The right-hander had served up only one home run in three starts this month when he ascended the mound for a lunchtime date with the Mets at the O.co Coliseum. In the second inning, Eric Campbell made it two with a solo shot to center. And in the third, Lucas Duda made it three, bisecting the yard with a three-run bomb that put the visitors ahead 5-0.

Oakland got two runs back in the last of the third, but Samardzija couldn’t keep his team within three. Three Mets singles sandwiched around a pair of strikeouts grew the lead to 8-4. A bases-loaded walk by Sam Fuld in the eighth accounted for the only other tally in the matinee.

Samardzija’s 3 2/3-inning, seven-run clunker marked just the second time this year that he’s been unable to complete five innings and his first such dud in green and gold. His plight led to the A’s eighth loss in 10 games, and Bob Melvin’s bunch could only hope for help from the Red Sox to avoid falling 1 ½ back of the Angels in the West.


Early on in the night game at Fenway Park, it seemed they might get it. Clay Buchholz looked sharp, fanning Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout en route to a 1-2-3 first inning, and the Red Sox strung together two singles and a Yoenis Cespedes sacrifice fly to take a 1-0 lead.

Buchholz permitted only a two-out single by David Freese in the second inning, and the Red Sox scored once more, this time on a single by David Ross. The next batter, Brock Holt, hit a groundball to Albert Pujols at first base. And that’s when disaster struck for the Angels:

Pujols threw to second to retire Ross. Shortstop Erick Aybar, ready to fire a relay to first base with pitcher Garrett Richards covering, held up his throw and instead checked on Xander Bogaerts at third. He did that, because Richards was down in a heap after stepping awkwardly as he turned to look for the relay from Aybar. After a 10-minute delay, Richards was wheeled off on a stretcher with his right knee immobilized, though the Angels later announced that the injury was to the patellar tendon in his left knee.

Cory Rasmus came on in relief of Richards and got out of the second inning, but in the third, the Red Sox added another run on the 30th homer of the year by David Ortiz. Big Papi was a big pest throughout the series: He’d reach base three more times on Wednesday, giving him three straight contests with four or more times aboard. According to Red Sox baseball information manager Jon Shestakofsky, Ortiz is the first player to notch that sort of streak for the club since Johnny Damon in 2002.

But while Ortiz would keep on reaching, he was done scoring, and none of his teammates would cross the plate again, either. That gave the Halos ample time to climb out of their 3-0 hole, and they did so in a big way in the top of the fifth.

Down 3-1 at this point after a fourth-inning RBI single by Howie Kendrick, Anaheim went single, walk, single, walk, fielder’s choice, sac fly, single. That last knock was worth another RBI for Kendrick, who drove in the Angels’ first and sixth tallies of the night.

The sacrifice fly that preceded Kendrick’s second run-scoring hit in as many innings belonged to Josh Hamilton. And just in case doubling up the Red Sox wouldn’t suffice, the center fielder collected another sac fly in the top of the seventh.

Mike Scioscia’s club has been on a weird two-sac-fly binge over the past two seasons. Per the Baseball-Reference Play Index, Hamilton’s effort last night was the 36th time in Angels history that a player had posted a pair of sacrifice flies in the same game. It was also the ninth time that a Halo has done it since Opening Day, 2013. All other big leaguers have combined for 28 two-sac-fly showings during that span.

Hamilton added an RBI single to his line in the ninth, bringing the score to its final resting place of 8-3. The Angels are now assured of holding at least a one-game West edge when they land in Oakland for a three-game weekend showdown that begins tomorrow.

But that’s little consolation for Richards’ knee injury, which the Halos can only hope isn’t as serious as it looked. Scioscia called it “significant” in the postgame presser but did not offer any further details. We should learn more about the extent of the ailment later today, when Richards is due to see a specialist back in Southern California.


While the A’s are looking up at the Angels, they’re looking down at the Tigers, who hold the second wild card berth, five games behind Oakland, after a 6-0 victory at Tropicana Field on Wednesday. Detroit’s batterymates did virtually all of the heavy lifting in the blanking of the Rays.

The night started as swimmingly for Jake Odorizzi as it did for Buchholz well up the Atlantic seaboard, but things unraveled more quickly for the Tampa Bay righty. After a pair of strikeouts, Odorizzi gave up an infield single to Miguel Cabrera and a double to Victor Martinez that got lodged underneath the wall near the right-field corner, giving the slow-footed first baseman enough time to score.

Odorizzi bounced back to hold the Tigers at bay through the fifth, and he struck out the first two batters in the sixth. But beginning a frame with a couple of Ks is apparently a bad omen for Odorizzi. Rajai Davis doubled. Kinsler singled to make it 2-0. And Joe Maddon pulled the plug on the 24-year-old’s outing.

On came Kirby Yates, who’d fare no better. Torii Hunter singled. Then, with Miguel Cabrera in the box, Yates uncorked a wild pitch to advance the runners to second and third. That opened up first base, and Yates quickly filled it by walking Cabrera. Unfortunately, that meant he’d have to challenge Martinez.

Yates got ahead in the count, 1-2, and catcher Curt Casali wanted high cheese to put the designated hitter away. That’s no easy task these days, considering that Martinez had 23 homers and just 36 strikeouts to his name in 2014. But Casali had seen the scouting report, and it looked something like this:


Up and away is just about the only location in which right-handers can reliably blow pitches by Martinez, who’s enjoyed a terrific renaissance at the age of 35. Up and away is also where Casali set up:


But Yates didn’t quite get the ball up enough, and…

…he paid the price. Martinez’s grand slam, dinger no. 24, put the Tigers on their way to a rout.

Now up 6-0, Rick Porcello, who’d posted nothing but goose eggs on the bottom line of the Trop’s scoreboard, could cruise through the rest of the evening. The Rays managed only two baserunners in the last three innings, and neither of them made it to second base.

In fact, the home nine didn’t get a runner into scoring position after the first inning, when Ben Zobrist doubled but was stranded at third. Porcello barely broke a sweat in the three-hitter, throwing 74 of 106 pitches for strikes and striking out four without issuing a walk.

It was the third shutout of the year for the 25-year-old. He didn’t have any, in 149 career starts, when the year began.


When Ender Inciarte took setup man Tyler Clippard deep for a two-run tater in the eighth inning last night, it seemed the Nationals’ eight-game winning streak might finally be on its last legs. Turns out, Clippard was merely setting the stage for Washington’s fourth walkoff victory in five days.

Evan Marshall got the call out of the Diamondbacks bullpen to preserve a 2-2 tie in the last of the ninth. Marshall’s outing started poorly, as Bryce Harper led off with a single, his third hit of the night. The southpaw recovered to strike out Wilson Ramos, but it was all downhill from there.

Kevin Frandsen singled to move Harper from first to third, and the next batter, Anthony Rendon, put the crowd and his team on cloud nine:

Coupled with the Braves’ loss to the Pirates—also 3-2 and also in walkoff fashion—Rendon’s heroics gave the Nationals a season-high seven-game lead in the National League East.


It’s fast becoming a tale of two seasons for Brewers reliever Zach Duke: pre-August and August.





BB (rate)

K (rate)



43 1/3


11 (6.6%)

59 (35.3%)





3 (11.1%)

1 (3.7%)

After the Jays tied the game, 3-3, against Jimmy Nelson, who endured 5 1/3 innings without his best stuff, Milwaukee skipper Ron Roenicke went to his once-trustworthy lefty to take on switch-hitters Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera. The move backfired.

Duke jumped ahead of Reyes, 0-2, then placed a fastball right down the chute, a costly location mistake that turned into a go-ahead single. Cabrera singled, too, moving Reyes to second, and that was it for Duke.

In came Brandon Kintzler. With a right-hander now on the mound, the Blue Jays pulled off a double steal. They shouldn’t have bothered:

Jose Bautista’s ensuing big fly, delivered on yet another two-strike mistake, would’ve scored them anyway. It capped a five-spot that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 7-3 lead.

The Brewers halved the margin on a long ball by Carlos Gomez in the last of the sixth, but Colby Rasmus got those two back in the ninth to wrap up the 9-5 workday.


Welcome back, Matt McBride:

After a two-month stint in the majors in 2012, the 29-year-old returned to the minors and waited nearly two years for another chance in The Show. He got it, and on his second day back, he took advantage in grand fashion.

McBride’s first-pitch slam off of Danny Duffy keyed the Rockies’ 5-2 victory over the Royals at Coors Field. Kansas City is now a game up on Detroit but even in the loss column. Colorado is a game “behind” the Rangers in the quest for the no. 1 overall pick.

The Defensive Play of the Day
We can only assume Jay Bruce bought Billy Hamilton dinner after this one:

What to Watch on Thursday

For the second time this week, there are only eight games on the docket. Fortunately, they’re spread evenly throughout the p.m. hours, with almost no breaks in the action.

Pitching fans have a tough decision on their hands at the outset. ‘

Corey Kluber, who might be the runaway American League Cy Young Award favorite in any other season, has been overshadowed by Felix Hernandez, but he’d make an incredibly worthy runner-up. The right-hander has held opponents to no more than one earned run in each of his last five starts, and he’s fanned 10 in four of his last six. This afternoon’s matchup with Phil Hughes will give the Twins their first look at the newly dominant Kluber, whom they thumped for six runs in 5 1/3 innings in his last start of 2013. Hughes, now a strike-throwing machine with just 15 walks in 158 innings, has yet to see the Tribe since moving to Minnesota in the offseason (1:10 p.m. ET).

Get ready to flip back and forth between that game and the Tigers-Rays battle at Tropicana Field. David Price once called the dome home, but it’s now enemy territory as he returns for the first time since the deadline deal that made him a Tiger. Price, who turns 29 on August 26th, has led the Tigers to a 2-1 ledger in his three starts for Brad Ausmus’ club, working at least eight innings in two of them. He gets the Rays’ new de facto ace, Alex Cobb, in the matinee. The 26-year-old right-hander hasn’t suffered a loss since June 23rd, and he’s compiled a 2.24 ERA, 57-to-13 K:BB ratio, and just three gopher balls over his last nine starts (1:10 p.m. ET).

The only contest in the mid-afternoon Eastern/early-afternoon Pacific time slot pits the Diamondbacks against the Nationals. It’s a lefty-lefty duel between Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez, who’s been undone by shaky command in his last four times on the bump. Gonzalez has struck out at least six batters in each of his August assignments, but he’s completed the sixth inning only once since July 31st, leaving Matt Williams’ bullpen with a lot of outs to pick up. Miley, meanwhile, has shaken off a 4 2/3-inning, 10-run disaster versus the Royals to post consecutive quality starts. He kept the Marlins to two runs (one earned) and struck out nine in seven frames his last time out (4:05 pm. ET).

When Matt Shoemaker last toed the rubber against the Red Sox, he entered as an emergency reliever in the 17th inning of a contest that would ultimately go 19. The former undrafted free agent was the hero for the Halos in that marathon, as he turned in three spotless innings to give the Anaheim offense plenty of time to walk them off. The right-hander looked no worse for the wear of that unexpected call of duty while taking on the Rangers last week, and he’ll try to keep on rolling at Fenway Park, where he’s due to square off with Rubby De La Rosa (7:10 p.m. ET).

Finally, wrap up your day with Vin Scully on the mic, calling what should be a fine duel between Tyson Ross and Clayton Kershaw. Ross has walked six and hit four in 12 innings over his last two starts, so he will be looking to rein in his control at Chavez Ravine. Kershaw, meanwhile, is in uncharted waters after being dealt his first “L” since May 28th, a 14-start span. He tossed a complete-game three-hitter when he last hosted the Friars on July 10th, and the only run on Kershaw’s line in that one came on a homer by Chase Headley, who’s since been shipped to the Bronx (10:10 p.m. ET).

BONUS What to Watch!

Make that 8 ½ games on the slate today, because Major League Baseball upheld the Giants’ protest of their tarped-out loss the Cubs on Tuesday. As CSN Bay Area Giants beat writer Andrew Baggarly tweeted, it’s the first successful protest since 1986.

With the 2-0 decision wiped out, the teams will resume what had been the opening game of their series in the bottom of the fifth inning. Neither manager has announced his pitching plans, but it’s safe to assume that the starters, Ryan Vogelsong and Tsuyoshi Wada, won’t reappear. Swingman Yusmeiro Petit is the most likely candidate to pick up where Vogelsong left off for the Giants when play begins (5:05 p.m. ET). First pitch in the series finale, pitting Madison Bumgarner against Travis Wood, is scheduled for three hours later (8:05 p.m. ET).

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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