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What You Need to Know: June 17, 2015 | Baseball Prospectus - Baseball Prospectus keyboard_arrow_uptop

The Tuesday Takeaway
Phillies fans haven’t had much to cheer about this season, as the club entered Tuesday’s game against the Orioles with an MLB-worst 22–43 record. Things got even gloomier in Baltimore, where Philadelphia ended up on the wrong side of history and even managed to turn a Jeff Francoeur pitching appearance from an exciting sideshow to a concerning event.

Things quickly got out of hand at Camden Yards, with the home squad putting up a six spot in the first inning and extending to a double-digit lead by the third inning. The Orioles used the long ball early and often, with Manny Machado smacking a leadoff home run in the first inning off Jerome Williams

and another one in the second inning off Dustin McGowan.

That turned out to be just the start of home run barrage from the Orioles, who broke a franchise record with eight dingers. Chris Parmelee went yard twice and Jimmy Parades, David Lough, Chris Davis, and Ryan Flaherty all got in on the action.

Francoeur made eight appearances out of the bullpen for San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate last year and was able to hold his own upon entering in the seventh inning of the 17–3 game. He wielded a fastball that sat in the mid-80s, touched 89 mph, and also peppered in a two-seamer with decent movement, a slider, and a curve. He started things off by striking out Nolan Reimold on three pitches, finishing the Baltimore outfielder off with an 80 mph slider, and then proceeded to retire the side in order. It was the first time a Phillies pitcher had kept the Orioles off the board in the game.

The Phillies sent Francoeur back out for a second inning of work in the eighth but things didn’t go quite as smoothly. Ryan Flaherty crushed the first pitch he saw into the right-center-field bleachers to make it 18–3. Francoeur proceeded to plunk Caleb Joseph. The wheels then completely came off the Francoeur pitching experiment, as the right-hander walked three of the next five batters and nearly served up a grand slam to Jimmy Paredes.

It wasn’t until Francoeur walked Reimold to load the bases for the second time in the inning that pitching coach Bob McClure came to the mound, at which point Francoeur had already thrown 46 pitches. With nobody warming up in the bullpen, Chase Utley was visibly upset during the mound visit, even cussing at McClure for allowing Francoeur to stay in the game that long.

Nevertheless, Francoeur buckled down and required just two more pitches to retire Parmelee and get out of the inning and put an end to a frustrating night for the visitors.

Quick Hits from Tuesday
Meanwhile, in Tampa Bay the Rays sent two position players to the mound to save their own bullpen after falling behind 13–1 against the Nationals. The main beneficiary of multiple innings of position players pitching turned out to be Wilson Ramos, who padded his home run total against the duo of Jake Elmore and Nick Franklin. Ramos welcomed Elmore in the eighth inning with a homer to center and then jacked a fastball from Franklin out to left in the ninth.

Every Nationals starter tallied a hit in the eventual 16–4 blowout and Yunel Escobar was the only one who failed to pair hits. Bryce Harper added his 22nd long ball of the year and Danny Espinosa reached base six times on five hits and an HBP.

***

Matt Harvey entered Tuesday in the midst of a rough stretch, as the hard-throwing right-hander had been tagged for eight home runs over his last four starts, including a pair of seven-run beatings at the hands of the Pirates and Giants. Making the outlook even bleaker for Harvey was that the Blue Jays, whose hitters have launched the third-most home runs and produced the second-best True Average this season, were in town to take their hacks.

However, Harvey got back on track against the Blue Jays’ potent offense, blanking the visitors across seven innings and allowing just four runners to reach base. Opposing batters usually fear the hard slider and vicious curveball that complement Harvey’s fastball but it was the changeup that the Blue Jays had trouble squaring up in this one. He threw 17 of his 22 off-speed offerings for strikes, with six of the swing-and-miss variety, and got eight outs on balls in play against the pitch. Having the full array of his secondary pitches to pair with the high-90s fastball led to six strikeouts and zero walks issued for Harvey, who departed after 107 pitches with a 3–0 lead.

But things got ugly for the Mets as soon as Harvey hit the showers. Carlos Torres entered the game and immediately walked Ryan Goins, then allowed singles to Kevin Pillar and Jose Reyes. The only thing that was remotely going New York’s way was that Pillar gifted them an out after failing to see that Goins had been held at third on the Reyes single, resulting in a major baserunning blunder that proved to be costly for the Jays.

Torres was given the hook after walking Josh Donaldson to load the bases. With Jeurys Familia unavailable after pitching on four of the last five days, Terry Collins brought in Bobby Parnell to try and clean up Torres’ mess. Jose Bautista hit a sacrifice fly and Edwin Encarnacion tacked on an RBI single but Chris Colebello struck out with the tying run in scoring position to end the inning and magnify Pillar’s costly mistake. Parnell sent the Jays down in order in the ninth to lock down his first save since returning from Tommy John surgery.

***

There are many instances in which balks are very subtle violations that a viewer at home may not pick up on as it happens. Small flinches or failing to come to a complete stop are often the causes for an umpire to stop play and give a baserunner an additional 90 feet. Scott Kazmir’s balk in the fifth inning against the Padres was not of the subtle ilk. This was simply a case of the left-hander panicking when he realized Melvin Upton Jr. was trying to steal home.

After already starting his windup, Kazmir stepped off the rubber and fired toward home, which prompted home-plate umpire Tripp Gibson to award Upton home and even the score at three apiece.

Ben Zobrist took Andrew Cashner deep the next inning to put Oakland back on top, 5–3, which remained the score until the eighth inning. Drew Pomeranz was on in his second inning of relief and served up leadoff singles to Upton and Yonder Alonso before being pulled in favor of Evan Scribner. The right-hander coaxed Justin Upton to hit the first pitch he saw into a double play that plated a run but also got him one step closer to getting out of the inning. Scribner’s very next pitch was a fastball left up to Matt Kemp, who crushed it to even the score again.

Pat Murphy, whom the Padres named the interim manager for the rest of the season, called upon Craig Kimbrel to pitch the ninth inning. The Padres’ stopper had trouble getting the ball over the plate, first issuing a leadoff walk to Sam Fuld, who was promptly thrown out trying to steal second base. With two outs, Kimbrel committed the cardinal sin of walking Billy Burns, who entered the day 12-for-14 in steal attempts this season. Sure enough, the speedster swiped second base and got himself into position to score the go-ahead run on Eric Sogard’s subsequent single up the middle. Tyler Clippard struck out the side to put the finishing touches on the win for Oakland.

***

Julio Teheran’s disappointing season continued at the hands of the slumping Red Sox, who tagged the 24-year-old for six runs on a career-worst 13 hits over 6 1/3 innings. Leading the charge for Boston was Brock Holt, who manned the keystone and was penciled into the leadoff spot with Dustin Pedroia dealing with inflammation in his left knee. Holt jump-started a two-run first inning for the home squad with a double off the Green Monster and added a single in the fifth inning. The Red Sox used a three-run sixth inning to pad a 5–2 lead for Wade Miley and Holt added some extra cushion in the seventh with a solo blast that barely cleared the Monster.

By the time Holt came to bat for a fifth time, Boston had mounted an 8–2 lead over Atlanta and the Fenway Park crowd was more invested in whether Holt would complete his bid at hitting for the cycle. Braves reliever Sugar Ray Marimon left an 0–1 fastball over the heart of the plate and Holt drilled it for a triple to the deepest part of Fenway, becoming the 20th Red Sox player in history to hit for the cycle and the first since John Valentin in 1996.

The Defensive Play(s) of the Day
The Rockies may have come up short in their 8–5 loss to the Astros on Tuesday but it certainly was no fault of Nolan Arenado. The third baseman picked up a pair of hits and put on a clinic defensively at the hot corner, displaying why he entered the day with 15 Defensive Runs Saved, the most in baseball.

In the second inning, Arenado made a difficult play look nearly routine, spinning to his left to rob the speedy Jake Marisnick of a base hit.

Then in the fourth, he helped Chris Rusin’s final line look slightly less disastrous, turning what would have been a second-straight single to lead off the inning into a 5–4–3 twin killing.

Arenado capped off his stellar glove work with a backhand play down the third-base line to rob Evan Gattis of a hit.

Also turning in a fine defensive play of his own during the matinee was Astros rookie Carlos Correa, who made a diving backhand stab and proceeded to unleash a bullet to first base to rob Charlie Blackmon of a hit in the second inning.

What to Watch on Wednesday
If you’re a fan of low-scoring affairs featuring masterful pitching, a pair of contests between aces will surely pique your interest on Wednesday night. With no matinee matchups on the docket, kick your night off with a duel in Cincinnati between David Price and Johnny Cueto (7:10 p.m. EST). The Reds’ right-hander is expected to be a hot commodity when the trade market heats up next month and the Tigers had a scout in attendance at Cueto’s most recent start against the Cubs, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Detroit’s hitters will get a first-hand look at Cueto while the Reds will try to slow down Price, who is fresh off complete-game masterpieces in his past two starts against the Indians and White Sox.

Staying up late for the West Coast games will reward you not only with the always-enjoyable Clayton Kershaw/Vin Scully combination in an interleague game against the Rangers (10:10 p.m. EST) but you’ll also be treated with a stellar matchup in San Francisco. Felix Hernandez is reeling from the worst outing of his career, as he failed to make it out of the first inning of an eight-run mauling at the hands of the Astros. King Felix will look to bounce back against a Giants offense that ranks 10th in baseball with a .267 True Average. Seattle’s offense has struggled in recent weeks and things won’t get any easier for them when they take their hacks against Madison Bumgarner. The southpaw pitched eight strong innings of one-run ball his last time out only to be on the losing end of a 1–0 score thanks to Arizona’s Chase Anderson. The Giants will look to provide their ace with more support this time out as the four-game series shifts from Seattle to the Bay Area (10:10 p.m. EST).


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