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April 21, 2017

What You Need to Know

Eric Thames is Back at it Again

by Demetrius Bell


The Thursday Takeaway

For eight innings during Thursday’s game between the Red Sox and Blue Jays, nobody blinked. The eyes on the scoreboard were wide open, as evidenced by the constant stream of zeroes in each column as the game progressed, and both starting pitchers were extremely sharp-eyed and zeroed in on the task at hand.

Marco Estrada may have thrown 106 pitches over just six innings, but it was still a performance that was worthy of a better result on a different day. He finished with just three hits and two walks allowed while also adding seven strikeouts to the mix. He ended his start by getting Mitch Moreland to chase after a high fastball.

While Estrada pitched well, Chris Sale pitched extremely well. Sale threw four fewer pitches than Estrada did, but he lasted two more innings and also kept Toronto off of the scoreboard. Sale is one of the best pitchers in the game today, and when he’s throwing like he was on Thursday then it’s going to be a rough time for any batter who has to face him.

The staring contest between the two pitching staffs finally came to a close in the ninth inning, which is when Toronto’s crew blinked first. Xander Bogaerts drove in Moreland to put the Red Sox ahead in the top of the ninth, so the Blue Jays went into the bottom of the inning staring down loss no. 12 in 15 games this season. Kendrys Morales, however, did his best to make sure that loss no. 12 would turn into win no. 4 by taking Craig Kimbrel deep to center field and electrifying the crowd in the process.

Unfortunately for Toronto, the electricity was sapped away by the time the top of the 10th inning rolled around. Jason Grilli entered the game for the Blue Jays, and if the rest of Toronto’s pitching staff had their eyes wide open for the staring contest, Grilli was in a constant state of blinking as he gave up three runs. The knockout shot was delivered by the strikeout-averse Mookie Betts, who made up for the egregious sin of actually striking out twice in one game by clearing the bases with two outs.

Kimbrel returned to the mound in the 10th inning and made up for his blown save by locking down the game for the Red Sox on his second chance. Boston is now 10-6, and the Blue Jays continue to stumble around in the darkness at 3-12 after straining their eyes in this particular staring contest.

Quick Hits

It brings me great joy to inform you that Eric Thames is back at it again.

For those of you counting along at home, Thames went into Thursday’s game with 1.5 WARP already under his belt for 2017, and he’s currently at the top of the home run leaderboard with eight.

While Thames may have hit the highest-profile dinger of the night in Milwaukee, it wasn’t the hardest. That honor goes to Travis Shaw, who obliterated an 87.5 mph changeup from Carlos Martinez.

In the bottom of the fifth inning of what turned out to be a marathon game, Jonathan Lucroy hit a double to right to lead things off. The Rangers wouldn’t get another hit until the 13th inning, which is when Joey Gallo hit a double, and the Rangers walked it off with a Delino DeShields single immediately after that. That means that the Royals impressively managed to lose a game in which the Rangers went 27 batters without getting a hit.

***

Meanwhile in Cincinnati, Chris Davis hit a liner straight to the shift at the first base area. However, Eugenio Suarez dropped the ball immediately after “catching” it, and confusion ensued.

In a scene reminiscent of something you’d see on a Sunday afternoon in the fall, people were watching a sport and wondering whether a catch was actually a catch. In this case, it was ruled a catch and Davis was out.

However, don’t let that wonky situation distract you from the fact that Wade Miley pitched a gem for the Orioles. He went eight innings, only gave up two hits, one walk, and one run while striking out 11 batters on the evening, while throwing just 84 pitches. Fortunately Baltimore eventually won it in extras, because it would have been a real shame to see this performance go to waste.

Defensive Play of the Day

Jed Lowrie was busy in the top of the second inning. He may have missed out on being part of a double play on his first highlight of the frame, but he made up for the “missed opportunity” with his second highlight.

What to Watch on Friday

If you enjoy the no. 7 playing a big role in baseball, then you’ll enjoy this random fact about the four AL Central teams playing each other on Friday: Cleveland and Detroit are both 8-7, Minnesota is 7-8, and Chicago has sevens in both columns. If you want that trend to continue, then you should root for Corey Kluber and the Indians to overcome Jose Quintana and the White Sox while also rooting for Justin Verlander and the Tigers to defeat the Twins. That would guarantee that each team continues to have a seven in their win/loss column, and it also guarantees that I am the only person who cares about this.

Now that the esotericism is out of the way, there’s an interesting matchup in Cincinnati. The Reds are off to a pretty pleasant start to what everybody was expecting to be a rough season. They’re 9-7 right now, but they’ll have a tough task ahead of them if they want to get to 10 wins, because they’ll be facing Jon Lester and the Cubs.

Demetrius Bell is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Demetrius's other articles. You can contact Demetrius by clicking here

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Premium Article Minor League Update: G... (04/21)
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What You Need to Know:... (04/20)
Next Column >>
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Short Relief: A Murder... (04/21)

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