May 29, 2014
What You Need to Know
Kazmir's 'A' Game
The Wednesday Takeaway
Fans at Oakland Coliseum were treated to a fantastic pitchers’ duel between Scott Kazmir and Anibal Sanchez on Wednesday, and the visitors started the bottom of the ninth inning with a 1-0 advantage.
Kazmir was in line for a complete-game loss, in which he threw 76 of his 103 pitches for strikes and struck out eight batters without issuing a walk. The lone mistake he made was a slider left up that Torii Hunter deposited over the right-center field wall. Kazmir was able to subdue the Tigers with his changeup, as he threw 19 of his 26 off-speed offerings for strikes—nine of them of the swing-and-miss variety. The southpaw was able to hold his velocity over the course of the game, registering his fastest four-seamer of the game with his second-to-last pitch.
Sanchez entered the ninth inning at the century mark with his pitch count, and had faced just two above the minimum. After retiring Alberto Callaspo to start the ninth, Coco Crisp sliced Sanchez’s 111th and final pitch of the night past Nick Castellanos and down the left-field line for a standup double.
Up next for Oakland was John Jaso, who lined a 2-2 slider from Joe Nathan to left field for a single. The ball just grazed the glove of Castellanos, so Crisp had to hold up at third base, setting the stage for Josh Donaldson:
Donaldson’s second career walk-off home run capped off a Wednesday that featured four different walkoffs. It was the first time since April 2 that there have been four or more walkoffs on a single day.
Quick Hits from Wednesday
The Rockies and Indians both succumbed to the long-standing adage that good teams will make you pay if you give them more than three outs in an inning. Exactly how good the Phillies and White Sox are is a fair question, but they’re both major-league teams and were able to capitalize on the opportunities handed to them.
LaTroy Hawkins entered the ninth inning against Philadelphia with a 3-2 lead, and retired the leadoff man. The next batter, Tony Gwynn Jr., hit a ground ball to Josh Rutledge, who threw the ball over the head of Justin Morneau, allowing the tying run aboard.
Ben Revere followed with a single to bring up Jimmy Rollins, and Hawkins caught a break when Rollins lined out to left field after Troy Tulowitzki had dropped a foul pop up earlier in the at bat. Chase Utley tied the game up with a single to right field, which set the stage for Howard.
In Chicago, Tyler Flowers reached on an error to lead off the ninth inning of a 2-2 game when Cleveland third baseman Mike Aviles bounced his throw to first base in the dirt. Leury Garcia pinch-ran for Flowers and stole second on a 2-0 pitch before advancing to third on a fly out. With the infield pulled in, Moises Sierra lined the 3-2 offering from Bryan Shaw to right field to give the White Sox the three-game sweep over the Tribe.
Sam Miller got another data point of walk-off celebration to add to his list of game-ending errors, as Toronto walked off for its ninth straight win on Wednesday. With the score tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Juan Carlos Oviedo skipped an Anthony Gose sacrifice bunt past second baseman Sean Rodriguez and into right field. Pinch-runner Kevin Pillar came all the way around from first to score and made a terrific headfirst slide at the plate to avoid a potential tag.
Pillar got hugs from Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes, and the three joined the rest of the team in mobbing Gose, who had perfectly executed his sacrifice bunt. Meanwhile, the Rays dropped to 23-31 and are now nine games behind the Jays in the AL East. Tampa Bay will head to Fenway Park for a three-game set with the Red Sox starting Friday.
The Giants pitching staff turned in another stellar performance on Wednesday, as they shutout the Cubs for the second time in as many days, and flirted with a combined no-hitter. A night after his teammate, Tim Hudson, turned in seven excellent innings, Tim Lincecum no-hit Chicago for five innings before hitting the showers. Lincecum struggled to find the strike zone and was far from efficient, but his bullpen picked up the slack with four innings of two-hit ball to complete the shutout.
Lincecum killed any hope of trying for his second career no-hitter by using 52 pitches to get through the first two innings, over which he issued three free passes. He started to develop a blister on his middle finger during the third inning, and needing 96 pitches to get through five innings, it became a no-brainer for Bruce Bochy to pinch-hit for Lincecum in the bottom of the frame.
“I’ve been through this,” Bochy told reporters after the game, referring to Lincecum’s 148-pitch no-hitter last July. “Believe me, it’s stressful. There was no chance he was going to finish that game. No question. I think he had really good stuff. He just missed on some pitches.”
Lincecum was unable to establish his fastball command against the Cubs—he threw just 43 percent of his four-seamers and sinkers for strikes—and as a result, he used his hard stuff just 44 percent of the time.
With his fastball command all over the place, Lincecum instead relied heavily on his slider and generated superb results from the offering, throwing 28 of his 37 sliders for strikes—four of which were of the swing-and-miss variety. It was the highest percentage of sliders that the 29-year-old used in a start since his final outing of 2011.
Lincecum exited with both teams sporting goose eggs, but the Giants put up a two-spot in the sixth inning against Edwin Jackson and tacked on three more off Chicago’s bullpen in the seventh. George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt, Jean Machi, Juan Gutierrez, and Javier Lopez combined to complete the shutout, with Affeldt being the only ineffective reliever of the bunch. He entered in the seventh with the combined no-hitter still intact, and walked the first batter he faced before giving a single to the next batter, John Baker.
Wednesday’s outing by Lincecum was the first time that a starting pitcher lasted just five innings in a no-hit bid since 2008, when Florida’s Rick van den Hurk was pulled after walking five and using 94 pitches to get through five hitless innings against the Braves. The only other pitcher in franchise history to be pulled with a no-hitter after five innings did color commentary for the Giants last night; Mike Krukow tossed five no-hit innings against the Reds on May 12, 1983.
Nelson Cruz has been worth every penny of the one-year, $8 million deal that the Orioles were able to sign him to this offseason. The 33-year-old slugger entered Wednesday’s contest with five home runs in his last eight games, and smacked his league-leading 18th and 19th home runs of the season off Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo, upping his slash line to .306/.375/.663. Cruz has destroyed pitches at the belt this season, which is where Gallardo left each of the pitches that Cruz crushed.
In the second inning, Cruz drove a 1-0 fastball the opposite way…
…and then jumped on a first-pitch hanging slider from Gallardo.
Unfortunately for Cruz, Milwaukee’s bats were also on point, and the Brew Crew went on to take the rubber match by a final of 8-3. Khris Davis padded the lead for the Brewers in the eighth inning, cranking a two-run shot off Brian Matusz to finish the three-game series 7-for-11 with three long balls. Milwaukee’s Davis certainly won the series matchup against Baltimore’s Chris Davis, who was hitless in 11 at-bats and struck out seven times.
George Springer continued to tear the cover off the ball and Chris Carter went deep twice, as the Astros dominated the Royals 9-3 during yesterday’s matinee to complete the three-game sweep. It was a long day for Danny Duffy, who allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits and five walks in four innings. Springer punished a belt-high changeup from Duffy in the first inning for his sixth longball in as many games.
Carter sat out Houston’s previous three games after being mired in a 4-for-25 slump, but responded well to the time off. In the fifth inning, he deposited a 2-2 fastball left up by Duffy into the visitor’s bullpen, and tattooed a hanging slider by Luis Coleman for a three-run shot the next inning.
The Astros outscored the Royals 21-5 during the three-game set, as Houston swept its first series of the season and has now won five straight games. On the other side, Ned Yost said that he was embarrassed by his team’s performance this week, while Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon each echoed their manager’s feelings. The Royals dropped to four games under .500 after Wednesday’s loss, and things aren’t about to get any easier— their next four games are on the road against the streaking Blue Jays.
The last time Chase Anderson took the mound, the Diamondbacks spotted him a seven-run head start in the second inning against Clayton Kershaw and piled on 11 more runs before the game’s end. Last night, the Diamondbacks tore apart Tim Stauffer, chasing the San Diego right-hander with an eight-run first inning and leaving Anderson with a 10-0 advantage after two innings.
Six of Arizona’s eight starting position players finished with multiple hits, with A.J. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Owings and Miguel Montero each reaching base at least three times. Owings reached base on all five of his trips to the plate, recording four singles and a walk, while Goldschmidt finished a triple short of the cycle. Aaron Hill was the lone Diamondback who apparently didn’t get the invite to the party, as he went 0-for-5 and struck out twice.
As for Anderson, he lasted five innings and gave up four runs (one earned) on eight hits to pick up his third win in as many starts. With the 12-6 win, the Diamondbacks have now provided Anderson with more run support (30) in his past two starts than the Cubs have given Jeff Samardzija all season (28).
The Defensive Plays of Wednesday
Anthony Gose and Melky Cabrera each made spectacular leaping catches against the wall versus the Rays.
While it may not stand out as the flashiest play of the day, Derek Dietrich made what turned out to be a game-saving backup of first base when Mike Dunn airmailed a throw over the head of Ed Lucas. Dunn ended up escaping the bases-loaded jam and the Marlins won 8-5 in extra innings.
What to Watch for on Thursday
After dropping 10 straight games, the Red Sox took the first three games of their four-game set against the Braves, and look to get the brooms out for the sweep on Thursday. Boston has yet to sweep a series this season and hasn’t completed a four-game sweep since April of last season. They’ll turn the ball over to Jake Peavy, who has been tagged for at least eight hits and five runs in each of his last three starts. Mike Minor will take the hill for the Braves, who enter Thursday’s game just a half game up on the Marlins atop the NL East (7:10 p.m. ET).
Over the weekend, Reds manager Bryan Price hinted that Tony Cingrani’s spot in the starting rotation is not guaranteed when Mat Latos returns from the disabled list. Despite utilizing his slider and changeup more often this season, Cingrani has been unable to deceive batters the way he did last season. His swing-and-miss rate is down for all of his pitches, while his chase rate is down from 26.6 percent to 22.9 percent. With Cingrani sporting a 5.23 FRA and Alfredo Simon getting results every fifth day, a strong performance on Thursday against the Diamondbacks would go a long way in solidifying the southpaw’s rotation spot (9:40 p.m. ET).
Chris Mosch is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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