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August 28, 2014

What You Need to Know

August 28, 2014

by Daniel Rathman

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The Wednesday Takeaway

For two innings in yesterday’s matchup with the Yankees, David Price bent but did not break. He struck out a pair to strand two runners in the first, then induced a twin killing to thwart two more in the second. Shane Greene matched those goose eggs for the visitors, and the game was scoreless into the third.

The top of the New York order came up for the second time, led by Jacoby Ellsbury, who singled and stole second. Then Derek Jeter doubled. Then Martin Prado singled. Then Mark Teixeira doubled, and it was 2-0 Yankees.

At some point, Price had to record an out, right? Not yet.

Carlos Beltran singled home Prado, and Brian McCann did the same for Teixeira. Chase Headley singled to load the bases.

That’s seven straight hits against one of the best pitchers in the American League. Surely, three quick outs were in store, right? Nope.

Brett Gardner picked up an infield single. Then Francisco Cervelli singled, and the Yankees had batted around on nine consecutive hits. Really. This happened:

Brad Ausmus watched from the visiting dugout in disbelief, before finally pulling the plug on Price’s night and inserting Blaine Hardy. Two sac flies and a ground out ended the inning, but not before the Yankees surged ahead 8-0.

As New York Daily News beat writer Mark Feinsand pointed out, it was the first time that any American League lineup had strung together nine straight knocks in an inning since 1996, when the Tigers were the ones who accomplished the feat. On Wednesday, they learned that what goes around, comes around—after 18 years.

Price—two-plus innings, 12 hits, eight runs—wore the collar while Greene carved up the Tigers for eight strikeouts in seven innings of two-run work. One of those runs came on Victor Martinez’s 26th home run. Adam Warren and Dellin Betances each surrendered a run in mopup duty, but that only brought the score to 8-4, which is where it would stay.

The incredible third-inning rally was more than enough to give the Yankees their sixth win in seven games. They sit 2 1/2 games behind the Mariners for the second wild card spot in the American League. The Tigers are two games up on the Bombers in the same hunt.

Quick Hits from Wednesday

Price allowed 12 hits on Wednesday. Drew Smyly, whom the Rays acquired from the Tigers in the three-team deal that shipped their former ace to the Motor City, has allowed only 11 over his last four starts.

After authoring a two-hit shutout over the Blue Jays last week, Smyly kept on rolling at Camden Yards, shaking of a Chris Davis dinger in a seven-inning, one-run showing. He walked one and struck out six, lowering his ERA to 3.31, and Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee took care of the rest.

Meanwhile, the Rays offense tagged Kevin Gausman for three runs (two earned) in four innings. All of the runs scored in the first and second. Ben Zobrist kicked off the opening salvo with a double and capped off the scoring in the latter frame with a sacrifice fly.

Neither side plated a run after the second in the 3-1 affair.

***

Jorge Soler didn’t wait long to announce his arrival:

Inspired by Luis Valbuena, who went yard immediately before his first major-league at-bat, the 22-year-old Cuban thumped a Mat Latos fastball 423 feet to center field, beginning his career by taking part in a back-to-back set. On a night when Jacob Turner scuffled through 3 2/3 innings and watched six runs score, three of them with the help of errors by his infielders, those big flies were about all Cubs fans had to applaud.

By contrast, the home crowd at Great American Ball Park got seven adequate innings from Latos, the homers notwithstanding, as he struck out 10 and walked only one. The Reds countered the Valbuena and Soler dingers with two runs of their own in the last of the second, and they tacked on four more in the fourth, eventually winning 7-5.

***

Adam Wainwright versus Jeff Locke might be a mismatch on paper, but the underdog got the job done for the Pirates last night.

Each starter served up a home run: Wainwright a two-run shot to Ike Davis in the second, Locke a solo blast to Matt Holliday. The former was Davis’ second game-winner in as many days, a worthy encore to his pinch-hit long ball on Tuesday.

Despite throwing just 13 first-pitch strikes in 28 tries, Wainwright permitted only one more run in six innings, scattering seven singles besides the Davis dinger. That wasn’t enough on Wednesday, because Locke was sharper, keeping the ball on the dirt to the tune of 14 ground-ball outs in 7 1/3 innings.

Tony Watson and Mark Melancon slammed the door in the rubber match, clinching a critical series win for the Pirates, who now sit four games back of the Brewers and 2 ½ behind the second-place Cards, currently the no. 1 wild card team in the senior circuit. The Giants, who hold the other, are 1 ½ games up on the Bucs.

And speaking of the Giants…

***

For the second straight night, they got an outstanding effort from their starting pitcher. And just as Madison Bumgarner needed help from Buster Posey to secure a one-hit shutout on Tuesday, Tim Hudson’s eight-inning effort might have been spoiled without his battery-mate’s heroics in the ninth.

Hudson recorded the 2,000th strikeout of his career and limited the Rockies to one run on four hits in eight innings, with the lone tally coming on a solo splash by Corey Dickerson leading off the fifth. It was homer no. 20 for Dickerson in what’s been an impressive breakout year, and the first hit of the evening for the visitors, who did not have a baserunner until the eighth the previous day.

The Giants led 2-1 heading into the ninth, on the strength of an RBI bunt single by Gregor Blanco in the fourth and a run-scoring knock by Posey in the seventh, but Santiago Casilla could not hold that edge. He drilled the first batter, Drew Stubbs, and then allowed a double to Justin Morneau, which tied the game at 2-2. Casilla dodged further damage with the help of a double-play ball, but by then, his fourth blown save of the season was in the books.

The game seemed bound for extras, when Juan Nicasio, who entered for Colorado in the ninth, struck out two of the first three Giants who dug in against him. The exception was Angel Pagan, who singled, giving Posey a chance to end it.

And end it Posey did, with his fifth home run in the last seven games. Posey’s 3-for-5 night gives him 15 hits in his last 31 at-bats, eight of them for extra bases, five of them over a fence. His OPS has climbed 54 points in a week. And the catcher’s latest bomb gave Bruce Bochy the 1,600th win of his managerial career.

***

Yovani Gallardo failed to record a strikeout in six innings at Petco Park on Wednesday, but he got through them unscathed. His counterpart, Odrisamer Despaigne, whiffed nine in seven frames, but the Brewers got to him for a pair of runs in his last inning on the bump.

Unfortunately for Gallardo, his bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. Jeremy Jeffress squandered half of it on three hits in the seventh. Francisco Rodriguez gave up the rest on a solo homer by Rene Rivera in the ninth.

On a night when the top three hitters in the Brewers order—Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, and Ryan Braun—went 0-for-13 with seven strikeouts, the Padres could afford to strand 11 and still find a way to win. They did just that in the 10th, overcoming a failed sac-bunt attempt by Cameron Maybin with an RBI single by Rivera that sent the Petco Park fans home happy.

The Defensive Play of the Day

On a night when Clayton Kershaw was on point, ceding only an unearned run in eight innings of 10-strikeout brilliance, Wade Miley needed all the help he could get to keep up. Aaron Hill provided some

but it wasn’t enough to deny Kershaw his league-leading 16th by a 3-1 final in the desert.

What to Watch on Thursday

It took nearly a month of dreadful results for Giants manager Bruce Bochy to yank Tim Lincecum from his rotation, but a 2 2/3-inning, four-run calamity at Nationals Park last weekend was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Yusmeiro Petit—who’s best known for his near-perfect game last September but has also retired 38 consecutive batters in long-relief duty—is stepping in to pitch game four of the Giants’ series with the Rockies at AT&T Park. The 29-year-old’s performance by role has been night and day with a 1.84 ERA in 49 relief innings and a 6.32 mark in 31 1/3 as a starter, but Petit can scarcely do worse than Lincecum when he takes on Jordan Lyles this afternoon (3:45 p.m. ET).

Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco flashed electric stuff to fan eight Astros in six innings of one-run ball on August 22nd, and he now has three straight starts with zero or one run allowed since returning to the rotation this month. For more on Carrasco’s surge, check out J.P. Breen’s in-depth look published on Monday. To see the 27-year-old Venezuelan in action, tune in as the Tribe takes on the White Sox in Chicago. John Danks is scheduled to toe the rubber for the South Siders (8:10 p.m. ET).

The Athletics and Angels, who are jockeying for first place in the American League West, have seven head-to-head contests remaining. Four of them take place this weekend in Anaheim; the other three come next month in Oakland. The SoCal leg begins tonight, with the Halos up by a game. Sonny Gray, who held the Halos to three runs in 8 1/3 innings at the Coliseum on Friday, takes the hill for the visitors against C.J. Wilson, who did his part in a duel with Jon Lester on Saturday, in which the Angels were undone by a late run-scoring wild pitch (10:05 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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