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May 31, 2017

What You Need to Know

Disappointing Duel

by Emma Baccellieri


The Tuesday Takeaway

Before last night, Red Sox rookie Deven Marrero had two major-league home runs to his name. By the end of yesterday’s second inning, he had another, and by the end of the third, he had yet another—doubling the total for his young career in just two at-bats.

That someone as notably weak at the plate as Marrero had such a night is the easiest way to illustrate that Tuesday’s matchup between Sox White and Red was truly a slugfest. Chris Sale’s return to Chicago to face former teammate Jose Quintana was not the pitchers’ duel that was promised—far from it. Instead, both starters had their worst game of the year. For Quintana, that meant crossing the 80-pitch mark in the third inning and getting pulled before he could complete the frame. For Sale, that meant filling in the spaces between his usual glut of strikeouts with more hits than he’s allowed at any point since last July.

It wasn’t a good look for either pitcher. But it was an especially bad one for Quintana, following a somewhat similarly rough outing by him last week. This one was just worse. (See: the aforementioned Marrero home runs.) In two innings and change, he gave up seven runs on 10 hits, three of which were homers. Especially struggling was his curveball—which was put in play three times and caused damage on each one, left hanging over the plate for both of the Marrero dingers as well as a Josh Rutledge double. The final statistical result for the short outing? A lonely Game Score of a lowly 1.

By comparison, Sale wasn’t so bad—but by comparison to the standards of your average Chris Sale start, he wasn’t so good. After allowing 10 hits and walking two, he was pulled following the fifth inning, the earliest he’s exited a game this year and one of only two times he’s left before completing the seventh. He still had nine strikeouts—when does he not?—but that feels a little less meaningful when it comes alongside a season-high six runs allowed.

The relative implosion of both starters left the game close in the middle innings, but Boston’s bullpen was ready to rise to the challenge and Chicago’s was not. The three White Sox relievers—Michael Ynoa, Dan Jennings, and Juan Minaya—allowed two runs apiece, allowing Boston to break things open and take a 13-7 victory. Those included three home runs to match the three allowed by Quintana, and enough space for Sale’s worst night yet with the Red Sox not to end up feeling so seriously bad after all.

Quick Hits

After a middling first few innings against the A’s, Trevor Bauer ramped things up to become the best possible version of himself. On his way to setting a career-best mark of 14 strikeouts, he struck out nine of 10 batters at one point. He went seven innings, longer than he has in any game this year, and managed not to give up a home run for the first time since April. Bauer was backed up by dingers from Jason Kipnis and Bradley Zimmer, plus more strikeouts from the bullpen—enough to tie the franchise record for a collective pitching performance in a nine-inning game, at 19. Cleveland won, 9-4.

***

The Mets rebounded from yet another blown lead by their bullpen in order to outlast the Brewers in extra innings. After rookie Tyler Pill put in some perfectly adequate work in his first career start—allowing one run over five innings and change—the Mets were able to take a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth. But then came the bullpen, bringing the woes that have only seemed par for the course with them lately.

Fernando Salas loaded the bases in the seventh inning for Jerry Blevins, who walked in a run and then saw two more score on an ugly fielding error by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. From there, though, the rest of the relief corps kept things together through extras—with Josh Edgin, Addison Reed, and Josh Smoker combining for five scoreless innings until Jay Bruce walked everybody off with a single in the 12th.

***

Albert Pujols got another step closer to no. 600. He hit home run no. 599 as a three-run shot that was part of a nine-run third inning for the Angels, which gave them all the offense they needed to defeat the Braves, 9-3. Meanwhile, Eric Young held his own in his second game of the impossible task of filling in for Mike Trout, going 2-for-5 and driving one in.

Defensive Play of the Day

Mike Moustakas wasn’t about to let Dixon Machado lead off the game with a hit. His diving catch made sure that didn’t happen—and considering that the Royals ultimately beat the Tigers only by the slimmest of margins, 1-0, it really paid off.

What to Watch Wednesday

Cleveland has won three straight; Minnesota has lost three straight; the former now has a chance to overtake the latter for first place in the AL Central. The Twins have the far trickier task in facing the Astros, who have won six straight and show no signs of letting up (David Paulino versus Hector Santiago, 1:10 p.m. ET). Meanwhile, Cleveland takes on Oakland with Mike Clevinger set to go up against Sean Manaea (6:10 p.m. ET).

James Paxton will make his first start since heading to the disabled list with a forearm strain at the beginning of the month. Before the injury, he was off to the best start of his career and one of the better ones in all of baseball, with a 1.89 DRA through his first six starts. He and the Mariners will face Antonio Senzatela and the Rockies (10:10 p.m. ET).

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

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