This week's bunts, a chat with Chip Hale, and a new trend in defensive shifts. Plus: Ted Williams.
Last month I started a season-long series (continued here, here, here, here, and here) devoted to tracking bunts for base hits with the infield shift in effect; this is the seventh installment. To bring you up to speed on the series’ premise and methodology will take but two brief excerpts. Excerpt one:
The A's lefty logs his first complete game since 2006, plus more recaps from a walkoff-filled Wednesday and previews for Thursday.
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.
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The Brewers walk off thanks to Tuesday's starting pitcher and Ben Revere finally goes deep, plus much more from Tuesday and previews for Wednesday.
The Tuesday Takeaway
After tweaking his ankle during his most recent start last Tuesday, Yovani Gallardo had his scheduled start on Sunday pushed back for tonight’s rubber match against the Orioles. Approximately 10 hours before being scheduled to take the hill for Wednesday’s start, Gallardo capped off the second consecutive extra inning matchup between the two clubs with a pinch-hit walk-off double.
The last position player off the Brewers bench, Elian Herrera, pinch-ran for Lyle Overbay after the first-sacker led off the ninth inning, down 6-5, with a single off Baltimore closer Zach Britton. Herrera would come around to score the tying run on Jonathan Lucroy’s two-out infield single. Third baseman Manny Machado rushed the soft chopper off the bat of Lucroy, but had to adjust because of a last-second bad hop, and the throw ended up pulling Chris Davis off the first-base bag.
The last-place Indians take a wild one from the first-place Tigers, the A's win with only one hit, plus more Wednesday recaps and previews for Thursday.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Wednesday’s action kicked off with a matinee at Progressive Field between the Indians and Tigers, with the visitors looking to avoid a three-game sweep. Cleveland fans certainly got their money’s worth, as the contest featured an abundance of offense, ejections, outfield assists and the home team walking off in bizarre fashion over five hours after the first pitch.
On the mound for the Indians was Zach McAllister, who failed to make it through five innings for the fourth time in five starts. The Tigers pushed across four runs in the top of the first inning, highlighted by a two-run home run by J.D. Martinez, who made McAllister pay for a 1-0 fastball he fired down the pipe. The Cleveland right-hander served up a solo blast to Victor Martinez to lead off the third inning and followed with a seven-pitch walk to J.D. Martinez, which was all Terry Francona needed to see to send McAllister to the showers.
The Reds' ace tosses another shutout, the Mets use a brand-new starter for the second straight day, plus other recaps and previews for the weekend.
The Thursday Takeaway
The Padres and Reds played two on Thursday, with the first matchup pitting Johnny Cueto and Ian Kennedy against each other in a matchup between baseball's ERA leader and its FRA leader.
Nick Bacarella mentioned in yesterday's WYNTK that Cueto entered Thursday as the first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela to start a season with eight starts of at least seven innings pitched while allowing two or fewer runs. That streak continued after Cueto tossed his second shutout of the season on Thursday, and he is now the first starting pitcher since 1914 to start a season with nine such starts.
The young Ray's fine outing, a shutout by Masahiro Tanaka, David Ortiz's yardwork, plus more from Wednesday and previews for Thursday.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Entering last Friday’s start against the Indians, Jake Odorizzi owned a 6.83 ERA and 1.80 WHIP, and had made it out of the fifth inning in just three of his six starts. The Tampa Bay right-hander held the Indians scoreless during that outing and racked up 11 punchouts, but lasted just five innings and promptly watched his bullpen squander the lead. On Wednesday, Odorizzi carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and reminded Rays fans that he was more than just a throw-in that the club got in the James Shields-Wil Myers trade.
Odorizzi’s fastball worked particularly well against the Mariners, as the pitch generated 13 swinging strikes, nearly doubling his previous career high of seven (which came in his last start against Cleveland). After the game he told reporters, “It felt good coming out. The hitters tell you what your stuff is like. They didn't put any hard contact on it, so we kept going to it. Kept bringing it up higher and higher in the zone to see if they kept swinging at it, and a lot of them did.”
Yu Darvish flirts with perfection again and Aroldis Chapman returns, plus more from a busy weekend and preview for Monday.
The Weekend Takeaway In his first start of the 2013 season, Yu Darvish set the tone for his stellar sophomore campaign with 8 2/3 flawless innings against the Astros. When the 27th batter, Marwin Gonzalez, hit a grounder that turned into a single, the Texas right-hander threw his hands up and couldn’t help but crack a smile.