Stephen Strasburg faced the Pirates for the first time since his major-league debut, and he reeled off a similar line.
The Thursday Takeaway
Merry Strasmas, Nationals fans. With the team coming off a disappointing three-game skid, Stephen Strasburg took the mound against the Pirates and played stopper with results strikingly similar to his major-league debut.
Back on June 8, 2010, Strasburg surpassed even the loftiest of expectations by striking out 14 batters without issuing a walk over seven innings in his first career start. Strasburg’s victims that night were the Pirates, who managed only two runs on four hits, one of which was a Delwyn Young homer.
Josh Hamilton pulled off a rare feat on Tuesday night against the Orioles.
The Tuesday Takeaway
Step aside, Matt Kemp—there’s a new name atop the home run leaderboard. That would be Josh Hamilton, who hit not one, not two, not three, but four long balls at Camden Yards in the Rangers’ 10-3 win over the Orioles.
Hamilton, whose absurd 1.298 OPS still trails Kemp’s by seven points, went 5-for-5, adding a double to those homers to finish just one total base shy of Shawn Green’s single-game record of 19. He is the first player to hit four homers in a game since Carlos Delgado did it on September 25, 2003, the first Rangers player ever to accomplish the feat, and the second player to join the club against the Orioles. The other was the Indians’ Rocky Colavito on June 10, 1959.
Fans were treated to weird baseball in Boston when the O's and Sox resorted to using position players as pitchers.
The Weekend Takeaway
Everyone loves a good dose of weird baseball, and that’s precisely what fans at Fenway Park were treated to on Sunday afternoon. The Orioles capped off their first sweep of the Red Sox in Boston since 1994, but that does not even begin to describe what transpired on Yawkey Way.
In one of the most bizarre goat-to-hero stories you will ever see, designated hitter Chris Davis hit like a pitcher… and then pitched like one, too. Davis began the afternoon by collecting a platinum sombrero, added a double-play ball in his sixth at-bat, and wound up 0-for-8 by the time the 17-inning marathon was over. But with the media preparing to make Davis the butt of many a Monday joke, Davis put the joke on the hometown nine, hurling two shutout innings to earn the win.
Brian Matusz and Jerome Williams both shined on the mound on Tuesday night.
The Tuesday Takeaway
When Jerome Williams threw his first complete-game shutout on June 27, 2003 against the Athletics, he was a hotshot 21-year-old seven starts into a promising career. When Brian Matusz last won a game on October 2, 2010, he was a 23-year-old blue-chipper capping off a stellar second half.
Coming into their outings on Monday, no one could have predicted that both of those runs would end on the same night. Williams had worked into the eighth inning of a start just once since returning to the majors last summer. Matusz had lost 12 straight decisions and had to do battle with a Yankees lineup ready to feast after a frustrating two-run effort the previous night. But they did.
Albert Pujols may be struggling, but there are major-league regulars doing even worse.
Albert Pujols you know about. The $240 million man has yet to get untracked for the Angels and ended the month of April hitting a paltry .217/.265/.304 without a homer. He's hardly the only hitter who has begun 2012 in a funk, though. In fact, 41 other hitters came into Tuesday with True Averages lower than or equal to that of Pujols' .225 in at least 65 plate appearances, i.e., enough to qualify for the batting title. Sure, those are small samples sizes, but we're 14 percent of the way through the season, with one page of the calendar wadded up into a ball, so it's not like we can't at least gawk at the outliers. What follows is a look at a half-dozen AL hitters—none of them as good as Pujols to begin with, admittedly—who are struggling to an even greater degree than the Angels slugger, and where they and their teams might go from here.
Is Adam Jones becoming the type of player the Orioles should build around?
At some point, in defiance of their past and themselves, they have to get good. That is the central premise. If that premise does not hold, then there's no point to even talking about whether or not the Baltimore Orioles should extend Adam Jones—it's all just deck chairs and sinking ships. So this week at Heartburn Hardball, we're going to try on optimism for a change.
Adam Jones will enter his third and final year of arbitration at the end of the 2012 season, assuming he is still an Oriole—at this point, there's no good reason to assume otherwise, as teams such as the Atlanta Braves were repeatedly told he was unavailable during the offseason, and there were indications that this dictum came from owner Peter Angelos, not Executive VP of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette. Things could change, yes, but as a general rule, when Angelos hitches the organization's star to a player, the Orioles are in for the long haul. Nick Markakis received a six-year deal to keep him in Baltimore, a deal that's made him somewhat immovable due to it paying him more than $15 million over each of the next two years and his production never quite matching his paycheck since 2008.
Last month, when the NL West preview I wrote with Geoff Young got under the skin of a few readers who found our jibes directed at the Giants to be unfair, I made a half-in-jest promise on Twitter: "[A]nybody got a favorite team? I promise to hate on them unreasonably tomorrow. I will rain down bias." Persistent problems in locating myself along the space-time continuum have prevented that promise from being fulfilled, until now.
Spring training is nearly over, but each team still has some nagging questions to answer.
In five weeks of bouncing around the country while watching spring training—or at least the news of it—I've compartmentalized the sore shoulder-driven roster dramas and other mundanities to the point that I'm left with one nagging question for each team, one loose thread that I can't resist tugging upon as the season nears. Showing my blatant East Coast bias, today I'll run down those loose threads from the near coast, working my way westward next week.
Orioles starter Brian Matusz followed his disastrous 2011 season with a successful 2012 spring training, but do we really know anything more about him than we did a month ago?
The day I begin to believe Brian Matusz's major-league career is over is a hot, slick, late August afternoon in Brooklyn. A friend and I have just finished moving a refrigerator into my apartment and are now returning the Zipcar he rented in Park Slope, and as he drives, I have my phone tuned to the audio feed of the last game the Baltimore Orioles would play that season in the state of California—a Sunday matinee pitting the Orioles' Brian Matusz against Jerome Williams of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
In late August, the Angels still have something to play for: they're only four games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West and only three games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card hunt. They don't know it yet, but their fortunes won’t improve; they'll play slightly better than .500 ball through the first few weeks of September, but slightly better than .500 ball doesn't catch the hottest team in the league—Texas would go 19-6 in September 2011—or the Rays, who have taken to hunting the Boston Red Sox like 25 light-hitting Ahabs. This Sunday afternoon, though, the Angels' season still has a glimmer of hope, even if it is just a trick of the light.
The punches keep on coming for the Mets, while other players deal with various sprains, bruises, and soreness.
David Wright, New York Mets (Partial Rectus Abdominis Tear)
Things just got worse for the Mets. After further tests, Wright was diagnosed with a partially torn rectus abdominis muscle toward the left side of his abdomen, which is in the same areas as the obliques. The treatment won’t be much different from oblique treatment; Wright will initially focus on rest and modalities like ice and gentle motion. Wright will then move to strengthening exercises and, eventually, baseball-related activities.
Wright’s soreness lingered longer than expected, so he had an ultrasound-guided injection to help calm the inflammation. The third baseman feels like he should be back in time for Opening Day, but that might be overly optimistic when you consider his comps are Ryan Zimmerman (who needed surgery) and Kevin Slowey (who didn’t). Both missed a little over two months’ time because of their partial tears, but the range of a “partial tear” is quite large. It looks like Wright will be back before the two-month mark, but we need to keep the extended timeline in mind. Both hitting and fielding can aggravate the injury, so we will have to wait and see how he responds to those activities.