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August 27, 2014

What You Need to Know

August 27, 2014

by Daniel Rathman

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The Tuesday Takeaway
If you’ve pitched at any level, from Little League to high school to college to the pros, you’ve had a coach tell you to get ahead and stay ahead. Madison Bumgarner took that sage advice to heart on Tuesday night.

Facing a depleted Rockies lineup—sans Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Michael Cuddyer—Bumgarner threw 24 first-pitch strikes in 28 tries. Fifteen of the 23 plate appearances that lasted at least three pitches featured an 0-2 count. And eighty of Bumgarner’s 103 offerings either satisfied plate umpire Cory Blaser’s strike zone or elicited a swing.

The North Carolina native played old-fashioned country hardball with the visitors, and his heater was too hot to handle. Bumgarner fired 72 fastballs, earning 57 strikes, 19 of which came on swings-and-misses. While he put the “get ahead and stay ahead” mantra to full use, he eschewed a different timeless refrain.

If pitching coach Dave Righetti told Bumgarner to keep the ball down, he didn’t listen. The lower quintile of the hitting area went virtually untouched as Bumgarner challenged the Rockies with belt- and letter-high fastballs, then climbed the ladder to finish them off. That game plan worked to perfection. The only blemish on the 25-year-old’s line came when he strayed from it:

Leading off the eighth inning, Justin Morneau went down and yanked a 1-2 curveball into the right-field corner for a double. Some pitchers might have let the sting of losing their perfect game or no-hitter bleed into the ensuing at-bats. Not Bumgarner. With Morneau on second threatening to halve the Giants’ 2-0 lead, he struck out the side on 11 pitches to end the inning.

That three-batter stretch was only the second-most impressive of the night for the southpaw, who equaled a career high with 13 punchouts. Between a Morneau fly out to begin the second and a Nolan Arenado lineout to end the fourth, Bumgarner carved up the other seven Colorado starters to the tune of popout, strikeout, popout, popout, strikeout, strikeout, strikeout.

With his perfecto still intact through six, Bumgarner had only one source of consternation: His teammates couldn’t solve Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa. And they might not have without a little help from their pitcher.

Back on April 11th, Bumgarner slugged the first of his two grand slams this season against an erratic De La Rosa, who’d hoped to sneak a first-pitch fastball by him for strike one. This time, Bumgarner’s fastball became his counterpart’s undoing, when De La Rosa fouled off an 0-2 pitch and suffered a thumb contusion in the process.

De La Rosa was still in pain when he took the mound for the last of the sixth, and he walked Hunter Pence to kick off the frame. Five pitches later, Bumgarner’s battery mate, Buster Posey, went yard:

The catcher drove another one over the fence in the eighth to pad his pitcher’s lead to 3-0, the eventual final score. While Bumgarner’s brilliance earned the headlines, Posey’s four homers in six games might be the more intriguing stretch-run development for the Giants, who’ve seen the 2012 National League MVP raise his OPS from .759 to .803 in that brief span.

Behind Bumgarner’s fastball and Posey’s pop, the Giants kept pace with the Dodgers, who remain five games up in the National League West. Bruce Bochy’s squad is 1 1/2 games up on the Braves and Pirates for the senior circuit’s second wild card.

Quick Hits from Tuesday
On a night when they went hitless with runners in scoring position, the Royals, dead last in the majors in home runs, were going to need one to defeat the Twins and avoid falling into a loss-column tie with the Tigers.

A scoreless draw suddenly became a 1-0 deficit in the top of the seventh, when Brian Dozier doubled and Joe Mauer singled him home. Meanwhile, Ricky Nolasco mowed down the Royals with two strikeouts in the seventh. Jared Burton, the first man out of the Minnesota bullpen, fanned two more in a scoreless eighth. The one-run margin held into the ninth.

One of the few left-handed closers in baseball, Glen Perkins is no picnic for arm-side hitters. He’d allowed only one dinger to a lefty this year and only a pair since Opening Day, 2012. Those two came off the bats of Josh Hamilton and Jonathan Singleton. Now, they’ll need to make room for an American League MVP hopeful:

With Alcides Escobar on first, Alex Gordon got a hanging slider and cranked it deep to right field to send the Kauffman Stadium crowd into a frenzy celebrating the two-run walk-off jack.

Perkins was stunned:

And he should’ve been:

According to the results data at Brooks Baseball, Gordon is the first left-handed major-league hitter ever to turn a Perkins slider into a gopher ball.

Thanks to their left fielder’s unique heroics, the Royals stayed 1 1/2 games up on the Tigers in the Central.


The Braves have Justin Upton, and on Tuesday, the younger Upton went 3-for-3 with a double and a walk. He scored one of the Braves’ two runs and drove in the other.

Unfortunately for the Braves, the Mets have an outfielder who one-upped Upton: Juan Lagares. With nobody on and two away in the third inning, Lagares turned in

The Defensive Play of the Day

And that was merely the appetizer for the main course to come at the plate in the last of the fourth:

Upton could only watch as Lagares’ two-run shot sailed into the left-field seats to give Dillon Gee and the Mets a 3-1 lead they would not relinquish.

The Braves hit into four double plays, three of them on the ground, two of them off the bat of Chris Johnson, who—as fate would have it—was batting directly behind Upton, who Gee and his mates never retired. The Mets' starter endured 6 2/3 innings and permitted only two runs, even though he walked a pair and struck out only one. Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia did the rest.


Bob Melvin’s pitching staff is without closer Sean Doolittle, who’s on the disabled list with an intercostal strain, and still with beleaguered starter Jason Hammel, who, until yesterday, remained in search of his fine Cubs form that seemingly disappeared the moment he donned green and gold.

Neither of those factors felled the A’s in game two of their series with the Astros.

Hammel turned in his best effort since the early-July trade, limiting Houston to just three hits, walking one, and whiffing six. One of those hits was a solo homer by Dexter Fowler, but the A’s carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth.

With interim closer Eric O’Flaherty preparing to bid for his first career save, Melvin turned to Luke Gregerson to bridge the gap from his starter to the ninth inning. And the seasoned setup man, not the scuffling starter or newly minted closer, gave up the game.

To be fair, it wasn’t all Gregerson’s fault: With one away in the inning, Stephen Vogt committed an error that put the tying run, in the person of Robbie Grossman, on base. But Gregerson drilled the next batter, Jose Altuve, and the subsequent one, Chris Carter, drilled his 1-1 pitch:

The former A’s farmhand took a couple of moments to admire his moonshot, savoring the chance to simultaneously play spoiler and give his old club a taste of what it’s missed this year. When it finally landed, Carter’s three-run tater made it 4-2 Astros, and that’s where the score would stay.

It was homer no. 32 for the 27-year-old San Francisco Bay area native and his league-high 19th since the Fourth of July. Coupled with the Angels’ rout of the Marlins, Carter’s fireworks put the A’s back in a one-game hole in the American League West.


For Dustin Pedroia, long balls have been much fewer and farther between this year. His slugging percentage dipped below .400 on May 17th and hasn’t reached that bar since. But maybe, just maybe, a late-season power surge is in store:

That two-run second-decker, Pedroia’s seventh blast of the season and second in as many games, gave the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead over R.A. Dickey, and they’d stretch it to 3-0 before the opening frame was out. The Jays countered with a run each in the third, fourth, and fifth, and the sides traded tallies in the seventh, leaving it 4-4 at the end of regulation at the Rogers Centre.

An inning of clean bonus baseball followed in the 10th. Then Pedroia singled with the bases loaded in the 11th to put Boston ahead 6-4.

Out went Casey Janssen, whose error gifted the Red Sox a baserunner on a would-be sacrifice bunt before Pedroia’s knock. In came Sergio Santos, who promptly struck out Yoenis Cespedes to give the home nine a ray of hope. Briefly.

Mike Napoli’s 451-foot dream-dasher made it 9-4. Allen Craig’s 397-foot coffin-nailer, his first big fly in a Red Sox uniform, bloated the lead to 11-4. It was the first time the Red Sox have scored seven or more times in the 11th inning or later since 1982, when current NESN color man Jerry Remy contributed to the rally.

All that insurance proved useful to rookie Heath Hembree, who surrendered a one-out walk, a single, and two doubles that shrank the lead to four runs before coaxing a ground out to end it.


Anthony Rizzo hit his 30th home run of the season. Arismendy Alcantara slugged his fifth as a big leaguer. Those two long balls accounted for all the scoring at Great American Ball Park, where Travis Wood pitched six shutout innings to outduel Johnny Cueto.

But before all of that, there was a 50-minute rain delay—an all-too-common occurrence when these National League Central rivals have gotten together this year:

That’s not a misprint: The Cubs and Reds have played each other 14 times in 2014, and on eight separate occasions, their grounds crews have rolled out the tarp.

The 3-0 victory was worth the wait for Rick Renteria’s side, which has now spent 10 1/2 hours waiting in the last eight days.

What to Watch on Wednesday
Adam Wainwright’s strikeouts are tumbling

Month K%
March/April 25.3
May 24.1
June 20.3
July 12.4
August 16.3

and his ERA is rising, up to a season-high 2.52 after a six-inning, five-run (four earned) dud at Citizens Bank Park last week. The right-hander gets a chance to redeem himself on stop two of the Cardinals’ Pennsylvania tour, as he gets the ball in the series finale with the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Wainwright is scheduled to take on Jeff Locke in the matinee (12:35 p.m. ET).

Stay tuned in the Central Time evening slot for a right-hander who’s striking out as many foes as ever. Corey Kluber gave up three runs to the Twins on August 21st, which is almost as rare for him these days as it is for Felix Hernandez: Only one other team, the White Sox on July 11th, had scored more than two off of Kluber since June 10th. Tonight, he gets a chance at revenge against the South Siders at U.S. Cellular Field. Hector Noesi is due to get the ball from home manager Robin Ventura (8:10 p.m. ET).

Finish off your day with Clayton Kershaw taking on the Diamondbacks. Kershaw’s most recent trip to the desert yielded the worst start of his career, an almost-unfathomable 1 2/3–inning, seven-run mess. That was way back on May 17th, though, and the southpaw has compiled a 1.37 ERA since that day. Kershaw has pitched at least eight innings in three straight starts and five of his last six. He’ll square off with Wade Miley, who hasn’t completed the eighth since July 1st (9:40 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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