The Weekend Takeaway
If you asked Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling to describe Sunday’s action, he might break out one of his patented home run calls for Curtis Granderson: “That was something sort of Grandish.”
In the highlight of the early slate of games, the Marlins and Mets delivered some late-inning drama on South Beach, as beleaguered closers Heath Bell and Frank Francisco traded meltdowns in the ninth. Bell—who was only recently reinstated as the closer by manager Ozzie Guillen—went first, entering a contest tied at 2-2 and promptly coughing up the lead on two hits and two walks, most notably a two-run double by Justin Turner. Francisco’s first three batters picked up a triple, a walk, and a single, before the hotheaded righty got himself ejected by home plate umpire Todd Tichenor. Manny Acosta was saddled with a blown save on a sacrifice fly by Jose Reyes, before a walk and a hit batsman set Giancarlo Stanton up with the bases loaded and two out. Four hundred and thirty-three feet later, the Marlins had their fifth walk-off win of the season.
A bit later, as the Angels and Rangers got going in the rubber match of their series, the Reds were busy trying to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Nationals. Joey Votto had already done his fair share, slugging a pair of homers—just his third and fourth of the year—to keep Cincinnati in the game despite a rough start by Bronson Arroyo. The visitors took a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth, but Bryce Harper went #DERP for the second time in a week, and closer Henry Rodriguez was left to protect only a one-run margin the next inning. A single and two walks put Votto at the plate with the bases loaded and two out. Rodriguez fired an ill-placed, 2-2 fastball, and Votto sent the fans that braved the rain at Great American Ballpark home happy, making history in the process.
Sunday’s walk-off slams marked the first time since April 10, 1998, that two players accomplished the feat on the same day, as Stanton and Votto followed in the footsteps of Steve Finley and Mo Vaughn.
And what about that Angels-Rangers game? Well, with two outs and the bases loaded in the third inning, Nelson Cruz had his say, and an inning later, Jered Weaver was walking off and singing along with the fans in Arlington.
What to Watch for on Monday
- Are you one of those fans, like yours truly, who feel empty on nights when their team is off? If so, you’ll enjoy this week—the first week of the season when every team plays every day. All 30 will start the week with a pair of two-game series before jumping into interleague action with a three-game set this weekend.
- Ryan Dempster has held opponents to two earned runs or fewer in each of his five starts this season, and he’s allowed just one earned run over his last three outings. That’s impressive enough, but even more impressive is that he’s managed to go winless in the process. Tonight (7:05 p.m. ET), Dempster faces the Cardinals, who were the hottest-hitting team in the league until they ran into the Braves over the weekend and got swept. Mike Matheny’s lineup is still averaging a National League-best 5.5 runs per game, so Dempster will need to be extra sharp to maintain his tidy 1.02 ERA and get into the win column.
Arm ailments have plagued Tim Stauffer since he reached the majors in 2005, so when the former fourth-overall draft pick hit the disabled list with an elbow strain at the beginning of the season, there was cause for concern. Stauffer is ready to return now, though, after allowing only three earned runs and no walks over 15
2/3innings during his rehab assignment. His first big-league task of the year will be holding down the Nationals (7:05 p.m. ET), a team Stauffer has had plenty of success against, to the tune of a 1.66 ERA in four career starts.
- The last time, before Wednesday’s loss to the Twins, that Dan Haren started a game and failed to record a strikeout was June 6, 2004, when he was 23 years old and still battling to stick in the majors. Back spasms were likely the primary culprit, and considering that Haren has not missed a scheduled start in his big-league career, it’s possible that he chose to pitch through significant pain on a night when he should have been scratched. Haren will look to bounce back tonight (10:05 p.m. ET) when the Angels—who are now 15-20 and back in the AL West cellar—will host the A’s.