On a per-game basis, Sale has arguably been the best starting pitcher in baseball this season, but it was Scherzer who stole the show with a complete-game shutout to bust himself out of a string of shaky starts. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner had been knocked around in his previous four outings, serving up at least eights hits, a home run, and four runs in each of them.
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The pitchers are the headliners on Bruce Bochy's club, but there are several valuable bats in the lineup, too.
It was an odd-numbered year, so it only stands to reason that the San Francisco Giants didn’t win the World Series (like they did in 2010 and 2012). Instead, the Giants put up an underwhelming 76-86 record, good for a third-place tie in the NL West with the San Diego Padres. Michael Morse and Tim Hudson were brought in via free agency, but for the most part San Francisco is relying on a return to form and good health by a cast of steady and reliable veterans.
The Cardinals play the Braves in Atlanta for a spot in the Division Series
The last time the Cardinals met the Braves in the postseason, in 2000, St. Louis swept a three-game series by outscoring Atlanta 24-10. Only six players from that series remain active and two, Rafael Furcal and Chipper Jones, will attend this one. Fresher on the minds of both squads and their fans is what happened last year, when the Cardinals made a late-season surge and stole away the Braves’ postseason ticket on the season’s final night. Consider this Atlanta’s opportunity for revenge.
Fredi Gonzalez began the year with a strong group of starters—even with Tim Hudson on the disabled list—and plenty of possible reinforcements. When Jair Jurrjens coughed up five home runs and 10 walks in his first four starts, Atlanta had the luxury of sending him down, because Hudson was finally healthy and Randall Delgado was emerging as a reliable rotation piece.
Tim Hudson has a new scar, a slightly different anatomy, and almost exactly the same numbers he had before his surgery.
In late July of 2008, a few days after Tim Hudson walked off a mound in Miami with elbow discomfort after holding the Marlins scoreless for six innings, doctors discovered that his ulnar collateral ligament had two tears—one partial, one complete. On August 8, Hudson had Tommy John surgery. On that day, in Pensacola, Florida, Dr. James Andrews opened up Hudson's elbow, removed his ulnar collateral ligament, and transplanted a tendon from another part of his body that was also opened up. There were drills and staples and sutures. There was general anesthesia and blood and that groggy feeling you get in the recovery room. Then there were months and months of healing and rehab and re-learning how to throw.
Mitchell is not the best prospect on the Yankees Triple-A staff, but don't be surprised if he's the first to the majors. Scouts think he could be effective as either a back-end starter or middle reliever, as while he's on the small side, he's ultra-athletic and features a fastball that has slightly above-average velocity and plenty of movement. He's not going to be a star, but he should have big league value, even on a championship-level roster.
Legendary scout Bill Wight's legacy lives on in Atlanta's pitching-rich rotation, but should the Braves trade from strength to address a weakness?
The Braves have too many young starters—a statement as timeless as any in baseball, right up there with "the Pirates hope to have a winning season” or “the Yankees lead the league in payroll.” Some things in baseball are destined to stay the same. Atlanta’s evergreen supply of young arms seems to be one of them.
Often, when a person joins a team just as it begins to do something well, he or she is identified as the catalyst for that change. That John Schuerholz has become the iconic figure behind the Braves’ pitching dominance is no surprise. Blossoming starting pitchers shaped Schuerholz’s legacy as much as, or perhaps more than, any other group of players did.