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August 13, 2013

What You Need to Know

Albers at it Again

by Daniel Rathman


The Monday Takeaways
Last week, in his major-league debut, Andrew Albers blanked the Royals for 8 1/3 innings. Given his story and the fact that he was setting foot on a big-league field for the first time at the age of 27, that seemed like a big deal. Six days later, Albers one-upped himself.

The left-hander was unable to complete the shutout on August 6, failing to bump Andy Van Hekken down a line on the list of pitchers who have done it in their first tastes of The Show. Instead, he did in his first start at Target Field, two-hitting the Indians and outgunning Danny Salazar in a 3-0 Twins victory on Monday night.

Albers retired the first 11 Indians he faced in order before coughing up a single to Jason Kipnis in the top of the fourth. Asdrubal Cabrera lined out to end that frame, and the Tribe did not earn another baserunner until Yan Gomes singled in the top of the eighth. Michael Brantley lined out, Mike Aviles fouled out, and that was that. Not only did the Indians fail to score, they never even advanced a runner into scoring position, as Albers faced two over the minimum in his 102-pitch gem.

As Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan pointed out on Twitter, Albers became the first pitcher to toss 8 1/3 or more zero-run frames in each of his first two starts since Tom Phoebus did it for the Orioles in 1966. After making a bit of Twins history in his first start, he made some more in his second, shattering the longest scoreless streak to begin a career by a Minnesota starter, which was previously held by Anthony Swarzak.

Unless Albers adds a few ticks to his 87-mph fastball or learns how to spin an electric breaking ball, the magic will soon wear off. He has fanned only four batters through his 17 1/3 run-less innings, and the FIP overlords won’t allow that to go on forever. But Albers, on top of his tale of perseverance, is delivering proof that you can go a long way by throwing strikes and changing speeds—if your defense “fill[s] up SportsCenter’s Web Gems” behind you.

***

The Diamondbacks got Adam Eaton back from the disabled list on July 9, after the outfielder spent three-and-a-half months nursing a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, but they did not get much from him during his first month in the lineup. Eaton collected only three extra-base hits and batted only .236 in his first 22 big-league games of the year, struggling to live up to the hype that he generated by posting a .382 on-base percentage in 22 games last September.

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