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July 28, 2015

What You Need to Know

July 28, 2015

by Daniel Rathman

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The Monday Takeaway
It's not easy to weather the Carlos Gonzalez inferno these days

Cargo right now 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
Mike Gianella (@MikeGianella) July 28, 2015

The Rockies outfielder had a ball at the Reds' expense over the weekend, when he cranked two homers Friday and two more Sunday, driving in eight runs over three straight multi-hit games. After the 17–7 series-ending romp, the Rox caught a flight to Chicago, well outside the thin air of Coors Field. But the drop in elevation didn't cool CarGo's bat. He put the Rockies on the board with a third-inning shot off Kyle Hendricks,

and then, after the Cubs scored six times in the fourth inning and carried a 7–4 advantage into the ninth, capped a four-run rally with a go-ahead blast off Rafael Soriano:

That missile was Colorado's second homer of the inning, following Daniel Descalso's tater off Jason Motte, and it gave Gonzalez his third multi-homer outing in four days. It also exposed the back end of the Cubs' bullpen, an area of need that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer might seek to address before the trade deadline passes on Friday.

In the meantime, Chicago has Kris Bryant to turn would-be disasters into walk-off wins:

Bryant's 14th dinger started the party at Wrigley, but the fireworks weren't over for the night.

No, it wasn't the Cubs rushing to acquire Craig Kimbrel or Jonathan Papelbon or Aroldis Chapman, or any reliever, for that matter. The big news poured out of the visitors' clubhouse, where Troy Tulowitzki was meeting with manager Walt Weiss, not long after Weiss pulled him from the one-run game heading to the last of the ninth.

That hint of foreshadowing was the appetizer for the story broken by FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal later in the evening. Tulowitzki is Toronto-bound, and the Cubs have another reason to celebrate: They won't have to contend with the Rockies' shortstop batting ahead of CarGo anymore.

Quick Hits from Monday
During his pregame chat with the media Monday, Rays manager Kevin Cash was asked why he'd written Curt Casali's name into the lineup at catcher for the third straight game. His answer:

#Rays Casali starting 3rd straight, Cash said it's to try to get more offense in lineup
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) July 27, 2015

Now, if you'd read that tweet and then gone over to Casali's player card, you would've discovered that he was batting .214 with a .277 on-base percentage, which isn't quite what you'd expect out of a must-have stick. Casali was, however, slugging .500, the product of three doubles and three homers in 47 plate appearances, so perhaps what Cash meant is that he wanted a thumper at the bottom of the order.

If that's the case, the first-year skipper has already developed the Midas touch.

Leading off the bottom of the third inning of a scoreless tie, Casali got an elevated 87 mph fastball from Anibal Sanchez and launched a no-doubter into the left-field stands:

Between that at-bat and Casali's turn in the eighth, the Tigers narrowed a 3–0 deficit to 3–2 on the strength of a solo homer and RBI single by Yoenis Cespedes. With Bruce Rondon on the hill, Steven Souza Jr. at third, and two away in the inning, Casali got a 2–0 challenge at 98 mph. Challenge accepted:

Casali's second blast of the game made it 5–2, and Brad Boxberger saw that three-run cushion through the ninth.

Nate Karns picked up the win for six innings of three-run ball, allowing just the Cespedes homer. Anibal Sanchez—who got a visit from the trainer after two walks and a wild pitch in the first—settled down for 5 1/3 innings but took the loss after giving up eight hits and three runs, needing 113 pitches to record 16 outs.

***

They don't just nickname you "the human yo-yo" for nothing. You have to earn it by getting swapped in and out of the rotation, shuttled to and from Triple-A, and keeping your fantasy owners guessing when and where you'll pop up next. Kevin Gausman is as deserving of the moniker as anyone, but he might have a little staying power in the O's rotation after his outing last night.

Taking on the Braves in the series opener at Oriole Park, Gausman came out firing 98 mph heaters and was still lighting up the radar gun in the eighth, with his pitch count over 100:

Also: Gausman's 104th pitch was 98 mph.
— Bird's Eye View (@BirdsEyeViewBal) July 28, 2015

That mustard was too hot for the Braves' taste, as the 24-year-old went a career-high 7 2/3 frames and held Fredi Gonzalez's squad scoreless on six hits and a walk. He struck out five, threw 70 of 107 pitches for strikes, and got 11 outs on the ground, a nice strategy in a yard where the ball can carry well.

Zach Britton, who's typically a world-class worm-burner, learned that the hard way when Adonis Garcia bopped his second homer of the year in the top of the ninth. But the O's rallied on two singles and a J.J. Hardy sac fly to send the game into extras.

Two innings later, Matt Wieters sent the Baltimore crowd home happy

with a big fly off Luis Avilan.

***

The Cardinals only scored on one swing Monday, and by the time they got around to doing that, they were down 1–0. Fortunately, the biggest cut of the game was worth four runs, all credited to Kolten Wong:

Wong's grand slam, the second of his career, was the only blemish on the line of Raisel Iglesias, but it dug the Reds too deep a hole. Lance Lynn steered the 4–1 lead through seven, before handing things over to Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal, who slammed the door without permitting a baserunner.

Along the way, Iglesias put himself into a strange group of 61 starters by plunking three Redbirds while walking none. He's the second starter to collect three HBP in a walk-free outing this year, joining Chris Heston, who did it in his no-hitter on June 9th. Per the Baseball-Reference Play Index, the last Reds starter to bean a trio without tossing ball four was Brandon Claussen, back on April 6, 2006.

***

Here's a nice way to celebrate your 40th birthday:

Alex Rodriguez's 24th homer of the year was the Yankees' second of the day and his sixth birthday bomb, good for the all-time record. It followed this one by Didi Gregorius,

the shortstop's first big-league round-tripper off a southpaw.

All that yard work spoiled Matt Harrison's evening. He was slapped with six runs in as many innings in his third start off the DL, equaling his run allowance from his first two games of the year. After an impressive, six-scoreless-inning effort at Coors Field on July 21st, Harrison is back to square one as he tries to reestablish himself in the Texas rotation.

Ivan Nova, meanwhile, is having a merrier time getting back into the swing of things for the Yankees. He held the Rangers to a couple of tallies in five frames, walking two and striking out three. The right-hander could stand to be sharper, particularly when it comes to getting ahead in the count, as only 10 of his 23 first pitches went for strikes. But he's looking like a viable back-end option for Joe Girardi's bunch, potentially answering one of the questions lingering behind Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.

Chasen Shreve, who's been outstanding for Girardi after coming over from the Braves during the offseason, bridged the middle innings, and Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances wrapped up the 6–2 victory.

The Defensive Play of the Day
There were 27 hits in the White Sox's 10–8 win over the Red Sox on Monday, and there could've easily been 28 if Mookie Betts had a little less range in center field:

What to Watch on Tuesday
Are the Orioles buyers or sellers? And if they're buyers, what's on their shopping list? The answers to those questions might lie, partially, in Ubaldo Jimenez's start this evening.

Following a strong June and first half of July that evoked memories of his peak form, Jimenez appeared to revert to his dismal 2014 edition in his two games since the All-Star break. He allowed seven runs in each of those outings, first in 4 2/3 innings to the Tigers, then in just 2 1/3 to the Yankees, and his ERA shot up a full run, from 2.81 to 3.81.

With doubts surrounding other members of their rotation, the O's can hardly bear Jimenez turning back into a lemon if they're to stay in contention through the summer. He'll toe the rubber tonight against a Braves lineup that now features Freddie Freeman, who returned from the disabled list Sunday, but is sans Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, who were shipped to Queens last week.

The 31-year-old Jimenez will square off with Julio Teheran in game two at Camden Yards (7:05 p.m. ET).

***

One game separates the 55–43 Angels from the 55–45 Astros in the American League West, so the division lead is at stake as the sides kick off a three-game series in Houston, where A.J. Hinch's club is 33–17.

Hinch will counter Halos lefty C.J. Wilson with right-hander Collin McHugh, who's shaken off a homer-happy May and June to throw well of late, in game one. McHugh has logged a 2.61 ERA over his past six starts, piecing together a 29-to-8 K:BB ratio while serving up only one home run.

With the 28-year-old McHugh on the hill, Mike Trout can pretty much forget about seeing anything below mid-thigh:

McHugh has pitched Trout almost exclusively upstairs, even with his slider, which he's twirled toward the corners to avoid hangers over the plate. The results have largely favored the hurler, as the reigning AL MVP is 2-for-11 with five strikeouts and a HBP, though both of Trout's knocks went for extra bases.

They'll reunite in south Texas with Trout now pacing the circuit in big flies and McHugh aiming to keep the ball in the yard for the sixth time in seven starts (8:10 p.m. ET).

***

Brett Anderson made the first 84 major-league appearances of his career with the A's; tonight, for the first time since leaving Oakland in a trade with the Rockies before the 2014 season, he'll take on the green and gold as a member of the Dodgers.

Inked to a one-year, $10 million contract as a reclamation project for the new Dodgers regime, Anderson hasn't disappointed. He's rocking a 3.33 ERA through 19 starts and burning worms at a league-best 66.8 percent rate, more than two percentage points better than that of runner-up Dallas Keuchel. The only lingering question is the left-hander's durability, and the 27-year-old dodged a bullet last week when an Achilles tendon ailment proved minor enough to only delay his 20th assignment of the year by a few days.

That brief pushback, without which Anderson might've missed the chance to take on his former employer, has lined Anderson up for a date with Oakland's ace, Sonny Gray, in the series opener. Ninth on the groundball-rate leaderboard at 54.9 percent, Gray leads all American League starters with a 1.99 DRA. He's never faced the Dodgers (10:10 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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