Last night, the Orioles won thanks to the contributions of unexpected players. Tonight, Jay Bruce will try to slow down Matt Harvey.
The Tuesday Takeaway
Saddled with a six-game losing streak, during which their closer, Jim Johnson, had blown as many saves as he did over all of last season, the Orioles badly needed a jolt last night. Baltimore’s playoff odds had plummeted by 17.3 percentage points over its skid, which dropped the Orioles’ record to 23-21 and left them five games behind the first-place Yankees.
So, on Tuesday night, Buck Showalter’s team did what it did down the stretch in 2012, when a 48-29 surge after the All-Star break brought the American League wild card to Baltimore. It got significant contributions from unexpected players—players that Dan Duquette and his staff unearthed from the scrap heap in the preceding months.
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Last night, Patrick Corbin continued his breakout season in dominating fashion. Tonight, Max Scherzer will try to contain Carlos Santana and the Indians.
The Monday Takeaway
When members of the Baseball Prospectus staff submitted our breakout-player predictions back in February, only two pitchers, Matt Moore and Mike Minor, made the list. With Moore off to an 8-0 start and Minor sporting a 51-to-12 K:BB, those were fine choices. But if we were to do it over, a third lefty, the Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin, would undoubtedly join them.
Corbin took the Coors Field mound yesterday with a 1.52 ERA through eight assignments, a number that was scrutinized by those skeptical of his emergence as a mid-rotation stud. The southpaw’s strikeout rate had increased modestly, from 18.9 percent last year to 19.5 percent in the early going of 2013, but his walk rate had climbed more significantly, from 5.5 percent to 8.1 percent. His opponents’ BABIP was .259. He had stranded 89.2 percent of the runners who reached base. All of those are often indicators of impending regression.
This weekend, the Indians continued to put the hurt on top-flight pitchers. Tonight, Josh Lindblom will make his first career start against the A's.
The Weekend Takeaway
Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano, who came off the disabled list in time for the ongoing series against the Mariners, issued this warning to other teams after the third game of four:
The Rays' bullpen, so dominant last year, had another disaster last night. Tonight, Jeremy Hellickson will try to curb Chris Davis' penchant for power.
The Thursday Takeaway
Performance variations from season to season are common in baseball—given the extent to which batted-ball luck and other uncontrollable factors can impact the game—and they can seem especially glaring during the late-spring months, when sample sizes are still small and a few bad apples can turn a sweet stat line sour.
Matt Cain, who allowed 21 home runs in 219 1/3 innings in 2012, has already watched 13 balls sail over an outfield fence in 56 1/3 frames this year. Jay Bruce, who authored 34 bombs in 155 games last year, has just three to his name through his first 40 games of 2013. The Indians, whose 705 team OPS last year was 22nd in the majors, now sit atop the leaderboard with a 791 clip to date. But few turnarounds, positive or negative, can rival the complete 180 executed by the Rays bullpen, which last year was one of the most reliable and dominant units in the league.
Tampa Bay is holding its breath after David Price left yesterday's game with an injury. Tonight, Yu Darvish will attempt to make Omar Infante whiff at the dish.
The Wednesday Takeaway
The traditional rules of pitching depth aren’t supposed to apply to the Tampa Bay Rays, the story goes. If one of the young homegrown arms goes down to injury or if one ceases to be affordable, you just order another part from the factory in Durham, N.C., and repeat as necessary.
Last night, Jean Segura continued to impress in Milwaukee. Tonight, David Price will lock horns with Mike Napoli and the Red Sox.
The Tuesday Takeaway
Another day, another clip for the highlight reel from Jean Segura—or, so it seems these days in Milwaukee, where the young shortstop is routinely stealing the show.
The Brewers are 16-21, and their extra-inning loss to the Pirates on Tuesday was their eighth defeat in 10 games. With the Cardinals already 8 ½ games up in the National League Central, the Brew Crew’s long odds are growing longer with every loss, and the team’s front office is eagerly looking ahead to future years.
Aaron Hicks finally flashed some of his potential last night. Tonight, Bartolo Colon will look to halt Ian Kinsler and the Rangers.
The Monday Takeaway
When the Twins decided to break camp with Aaron Hicks as their everyday center fielder, prospect fiends, including Jason Parks, cautioned that the 23-year-old might not yet be ready for the challenges he would soon face. Parks, who ranked Hicks as the organization’s third-best prospect, praised his tools and on-base skills, but wrote, “a stop in Triple-A would be beneficial.”
Hicks earned the Opening Day gig by going 27-for-73 (.370/.407/.644) in Grapefruit League play, where he showed off both his power (11 extra-base hits, four home runs) and speed (3-for-3 on stolen-base tries). Both tools earned a 6 grade from Parks, to go with Hicks’ excellent arm, but big-league pitchers immediately exposed his unpolished approach, leaving the 2008 first-rounder with scant opportunities to display them.
As this weekend demonstrated, the Blue Jays can't get by on power alone. Tonight, the Dodgers will pin their hopes on Josh Beckett as they face Bryce Harper and the Nationals.
Well, my Little League coach was right: You can’t win games just trying to hit home runs. The Blue Jays did rout the Red Sox Sunday with five bombs, including two from Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion’s league-leading 11th, and now lead the majors with 51 long balls in 39 games. But despite the power, Toronto sits 24th in baseball with just 3.74 runs per game, and has only three regulars with an OBP over .340.
Obviously, Jose Reyes’ injury has derailed the Blue Jay offense on every level—although his replacement, Munenori Kawasaki, is one of those three regulars getting on base—but the team has been working under the “swing hard in case you hit it” philosophy for years, dating back to the JP Ricciardi era. (For some reason, I always associate it with Aaron Hill.) In fact, going back to 2006, the Blue Jays have failed to rank higher in the AL in runs scored than they did in homers. Ricciardi took office in Toronto prior to the 2002 season, so this trend began about when his draft classes really started to impact the major-league level.
Yesterday, Scott Kazmir and the Indians turned back the clock in their victory over the A's. Tonight, Pablo Sandoval will probably not try to be patient while facing Tim Hudson.
The Thursday Takeaway Scott Kazmir is hitting the mid-90s with his fastball. The Indians are among the American League’s leaders in home runs. Mark Reynolds, who has hit more long balls than any other player in the junior circuit, is batting over .275. What is this, 2007?
No, a quick check of the calendar confirms that it is, in fact, May 2013. And no, the radar gun at Progressive Field wasn't deceiving the fans in attendance or those watching the Indians’ 9-2 victory over the Athletics on television. Kazmir, two-year hiatus and all, really was touching 96 mph with his fastball on Thursday afternoon. And the visiting A’s, like many of the teams the 29-year-old lefty faced during his heyday in Tampa Bay, could do nothing with it.
Yesterday, King Felix put on a show against the Pirates. Tonight, Cody Ross is set to do battle with Cole Hamels.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Remember when the Mariners gave Felix Hernandez a record-setting seven-year, $175 million extension this past offseason, and then news of a possible elbow injury surfaced, and then Hernandez’s first Safeco Field start since the payday briefly stirred concerns that the annual 230-plus inning workloads were finally taking their toll? The right-hander’s fastball may no longer touch the mid- to high 90s, as it did during his first few major-league seasons, but his last five starts have left no doubt that King Felix is still King Felix.
In yesterday’s matinee at PNC Park, the 27-year-old Hernandez stymied the Pirates over eight innings of work, keeping pace with A.J. Burnett until Jesus Montero’s solo shot gave the Mariners a decisive 2-1 lead. Hernandez’s fastball only averaged a tick over 91 mph, but his secondary offerings baffled the Pirates from beginning to end, as 26 of his 33 changeups, curveballs, and sliders went for strikes. With virtually everything working, Hernandez needed only 97 pitches to record 24 outs, before Tom Wilhelmsen cleaned up the ninth inning to earn his ninth save.
Last night, Craig Kimbrel blew his third save in five tries. Tonight, Matt Moore will try to contain Rajai Davis at the dish and on the basepaths.
The Tuesday Takeaway
The Braves had a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. The Reds had the bottom of their order coming up. And Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was set to unleash one of the league’s most dominant short-burst pitchers, Craig Kimbrel.
That’s an automatic win for the Braves, and a tough loss for the Reds, who halved a two-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth against Eric O’Flaherty, right? For two batters, it sure seemed that way. Kimbrel, who fanned a remarkable 50.2 percent of the hitters that he faced last year, subjected Jack Hannahan and Corky Miller to that cruel fate, and he needed only eight pitches to do it.
Last night, Paul Goldschmidt proved he still owns Chris Capuano. Tonight, Hiroki Kuroda will try to continue his good fortunes against Dexter Fowler.
The Monday Takeaway
Giants play-by-play broadcaster Duane Kuiper has a number of go-to expressions, one of which is “ownage is ownage,” used when a hitter with an extensive track record of success against a pitcher tacks another knock onto his résumé. In many cases, small-sample matchup data is littered with erratic hot streaks and cold spells, and ownage can be fleeting. But try telling that to Chris Capuano, who experienced it full-bore in Monday’s series opener versus the Diamondbacks, before hitting the showers three batters into the fifth inning.
Capuano—who strained his calf in his first start of the season back on April 17 and was making his first appearance since coming off of the disabled list—had a chance last night to impress manager Don Mattingly and begin building a case for a long-term spot in what eventually will once again be a crowded Dodgers rotation. Unfortunately, his nemesis, lefty-masher Paul Goldschmidt, was in the number-three hole of the opposing lineup.