The Tuesday Takeaway
The triple play has always been a pitcher’s best friend. Decades ago, a torn ulnar collateral ligament was his worst enemy. Just 14 months after sustaining the latter, Brett Anderson rode the former to victory on Tuesday night.
Making his first start since June 5, 2011, Anderson held the Twins to four hits—all singles—and no walks in seven innings of one-run ball, striking out six along the way. His command, often the last hurdle pitchers must clear after returning from Tommy John surgery, was solid with the exception of a first-inning wild pitch that marked the only blemish on his line. And Anderson needed only 86 pitches (62 strikes) to record 21 outs, in part because one-seventh of them came on this play.
After coughing up back-to-back singles to Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit to start the sixth inning, Anderson threw a first-pitch curveball to Trevor Plouffe. The 26-year-old third baseman, already mired in a 2-for-27 August swoon, chopped it to his counterpart, Josh Donaldson, who touched the bag and sent it on its way around the horn. An outstanding turn by second baseman Adam Rosales made possible the 21st triple play in A’s franchise history, the eighth since their move to Oakland, their first at the Coliseum since July 18, 1983, and their first in general since Randy Velarde’s unassisted effort on May 29, 2000.
Meanwhile, with A.J. Griffin on the disabled list and Daniel Straily back in Triple-A, Anderson’s return gives the A’s critical rotation insurance for the 40 games remaining on their schedule. Still only 24 years old and armed with a fastball-slider combination that is the envy of almost every left-hander in the game, Anderson could be the X-factor that keeps Oakland—which remains in third place, a half-game behind Baltimore in the wild-card race—afloat when its schedule toughens in September.
What to Watch for on Wednesday
- Do you like watching young pitchers try to adjust to the majors? If so, you might want to call in sick today to take in the first game of the doubleheader between the Marlins and the Diamondbacks. Jacob Turner, who came over to Miami in the trade that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to Detroit, will make his first major-league start since the swap, matching wits with a fellow 21-year-old, Arizona rookie Tyler Skaggs, who headlined the Dan Haren deal with the Angels in July 2010. Skaggs earned the promotion by compiling a 116-to-37 K/BB in 122 1/3 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A; the lefty ranked 19th on Kevin Goldstein’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects list (3:40 p.m. ET).
- Last Friday, I wrote about Kris Medlen’s string of impressive performances that began when he joined the Braves rotation on July 31, while cautioning that his 2.46 FIP and 1.05 ERA as a starter might be a mirage produced by weak-hitting opponents. Well, the 26-year-old northpaw can silence the skeptics and seal his spot in Fredi Gonzalez’s September rotation by defeating the Nationals and helping the Braves to avoid the brooms in Washington D.C. He’ll take on Ross Detwiler, who defeated Atlanta with seven innings of two-run (one earned) ball on July 22. In addition to a quality outing from Medlen, the Braves will need Martin Prado—who is 9-for-16 lifetime versus Detwiler—to maintain his success against the Nationals southpaw (7:05 p.m. ET).
- Clay Buchholz has been on a roll of late, compiling a 2.03 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break, partly thanks to a recently-added splitter. The 28-year-old has tossed at least seven innings in each of his last six trips to the mound, and the Red Sox are 5-1 in those contests. However, the 11-3 right-hander’s recent surge will be tested in tonight’s battle with Jered Weaver (15-3) and the Angels, who snapped a four-game skid in Monday’s opener. Buchholz has gone 6-1 with a 4.10 ERA in 11 starts at Fenway Park this season, while Weaver is just 1-3 with a 7.16 ERA in his six career outings on Yawkey Way (7:10 p.m. ET).
- Matt Holliday, who was red-hot from May through July, has come crashing down to earth in August, going 16-for-78 (.205 average) with 19 strikeouts in 19 games this month. Now within a game of the National League wild=card lead, the Cardinals need their left fielder to get back on track in a hurry, because a critical, 10-game road trip to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Washington begins on Friday. Holliday went 1-for-4 in last night’s series opener, and he’s gone 7-for-27 (.259) with a couple of homers in his career against Wednesday’s Astros starter Bud Norris. The home team will send Kyle Lohse to the hill hoping to take care of business by clinching a series win (8:15 p.m. ET).
- Ned Colletti often catches flak for his high-priced mistakes, but inking Chris Capuano to a two-year, $10 million deal this past offseason was a masterstroke. Capuano has been worth 2.0 WARP in 2012, easily exceeding the value of his contract, and he has been particularly strong at Dodger Stadium, logging a 2.17 ERA over 12 starts. The 34-year-old lefty will be tasked with outdueling Matt Cain in the series finale (10:10 p.m. ET).