After completing a three-game sweep of the Nationals in D.C., the Yankees are starting to look like the real Bronx Bombers.
The Weekend Takeaway
The Yankees and Nationals both came into this weekend’s series at Nationals Park on six-game winning streaks. But after Danny Espinosa grounded out to end Sunday’s finale, New York was on cloud nine and Washington was three in the hole.
Though the Dodgers have one more win than the Yankees and four more than the Nationals, by most measures, the teams that squared off in the nation’s capital this past weekend were the two best in baseball right now. After a month and a half of lurking in the background and struggling to find a rhythm, Joe Girardi’s squad has resoundingly announced its presence with the recent surge.
The Tigers' three-star strategy has not been working out so far.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Two months ago, when the offseason was winding down and every team’s slate was still clean, the Detroit Tigers were the trendy pick to win the AL Central. Indeed, if you went by ESPN’s predictions—made by a diverse group of 50 analysts and pundits, ranging from former managers and players to insiders like Buster Olney to our own Kevin Goldstein, from all corners of the country—the Tigers were the only choice. Each and every one of the 50 picked Jim Leyland’s team to sit atop the division standings come October 3.
But after last night’s 9-6 loss, the Tigers are 25-31, six games back, and trailing both the White Sox and the Indians, who are separated by half a game and tied in the loss column. Presented with a chance to gain ground on Cleveland in a three-game series at Comerica Park, Detroit has dropped the first two and will rely on rookie Casey Crosby to play stopper in his second major-league start this afternoon (1:05 p.m. ET).
The Mets and Nationals had a hard time keeping with the easy storylines on Tuesday night.
The Tuesday Takeaway
After five innings of last night’s series opener between the Mets and Nationals, the home team led 3-0 and the game story was simple: Jordan Zimmermann outshines Chris Young in Young’s 2012 debut, as Washington extends its NL East lead. That last clause still rang true at the end of the 12-inning marathon, but by the time the Nats walked off with a 7-6 win, the beat writers in the Nationals Park press box had written, backspaced, written, backspaced, and written again.
The Mets homered twice in the top of the sixth inning, saddling Zimmermann—who had allowed only two home runs in his first seven starts—with his sixth and seventh gopher balls in four outings since. Then, Sean Burnett and Craig Stammen teamed up in the top of the eighth for the first of three blown saves by the two bullpens, allowing the visitors to pull ahead 4-3, before Tim Byrdak and Frank Francisco coughed up a run in the bottom half of the frame.
A brutal eight-game losing streak has taken the Atlanta Braves from first to worst in the NL East.
The Weekend Takeaway
It’s not all that hard to go from first to last in nine days this early in the season. To do so as resoundingly as the Braves have, though, takes a special kind of awfulness.
At the end of play on May 20, Fredi Gonzalez’s team was 26-16 and enjoyed a 1 ½-game lead in the National League East. At the close of shop last night, the Braves had slipped to 26-24 and sat in a last-place tie with the Phillies, four games behind the first-place Nationals.
Two starting pitchers are putting up elite strikeout rates this year, without adding new pitches or heaps of velocity. This is how.
Strikeouts are up this season. That, in itself is nothing new: strikeouts have been up in many seasons—most seasons, even—since the dead ball disappeared. The explanations have multiplied almost as quickly as the Ks. The mound is higher. The strike zone is bigger. Hitters are swinging for the fences. Pitchers are increasingly specialized, and they throw pitches they didn’t use to throw, and they throw the ones that they used to throw harder than they used to throw them. Also, Jose Molina keeps tricking umpires into seeing strikes that aren’t there.
Those are all valid theories, and more than one of them, if not all of them, probably contain some truth. But to that long list of culprits behind baseball’s increasing lack of contact, I’d like to add two more: Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer.
Adam Dunn continues to make a big comeback from one of the worst seasons in major-league history, and Bryce Harper hits his first homer.
The Monday Takeaway
With 11 home runs in 150 plate appearances entering Monday’s game against the Tigers, Adam Dunn had come all the way back from one of the worst offensive seasons in history. Well, almost all the way.
The one thing Dunn had not yet done was go deep against a left-handed pitcher. The last time he did that, Dunn was still a member of the Nationals, the Democrats still controlled the House, and the most salient things being occupied were airplane lavatories on cross-country flights.
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.
Max examines all the factors that influence pitch velocity, lays out his simple and complex approaches to making PITCHf/x information more accurate, and determines how hard the Nationals are really throwing.
Cooling off the radar guns No more calling Strasburg's 91 mph pitch a 'changeup'. It's disheartening to like 98% of the rest of us for whom 91 is a 'fastball'.—@BMcCarthy32