The Weekend Takeaway
It’s hard enough to win at Coors Field when you don’t gift the other team runs with defensive miscues and inattention. The Rockies didn’t make any fielding errors in Friday’s series opener, but they still lost 13-10, as the Brewers got the better end of the slugfest by outhitting their hosts 19-16.
Saturday was a different story.
The visitors committed the first defensive blunder of the afternoon, a botched fielding attempt on a ground ball by second baseman Rickie Weeks, and the Rockies eventually took advantage on a two-run single by Justin Morneau. That knock accounted for half of the home nine’s output in the middle match. The Brewers would equal it in the second inning alone.
That frame began ominously enough for the Rockies, as Carlos Gomez reached on an infield single and took second on an error by Josh Rutledge at third. Gomez advanced to third on a fly ball to right field by Aramis Ramirez, putting himself in position to score on Rutledge’s second error of the inning. Khris Davis, who hit the slow roller that Rutledge threw away, moved to second on the play and scored on a single by Mark Reynolds.
That might’ve been okay, because the opposing pitcher, Wily Peralta, was coming up, and Friedrich jumped ahead in the count 0-2. When the pitcher is in the box facing a two-strike count, a team can generally feel confident in its ability to coax him into an unproductive out. The Rockies managed to mess that situation up—not once, but twice.
Peralta hit the 0-2 pitch on the ground to short, a tailor-made 6-4-3 twin killing to get Friedrich out of the inning. Except that second baseman D.J. LeMahieu short-hopped first baseman Justin Morneau on the relay, allowing Reynolds to jog across the plate when the ball skipped into the dugout. To make matters worse, Peralta would ultimately score, too, on a stand-up triple by Weeks.
Three errors sent the Rox tumbling from a 2-0 lead into a 4-2 hole. And they still hadn’t reached the bottom of the pit.
With two on and two out in the top of the third, Mark Reynolds doubled to put the Brewers ahead 5-2. With runners at second and third, Friedrich issued an intentional free pass to Segura to load the bases for Peralta. He got ahead 1-2. Peralta would strike out to end the inning two pitches later. Unfortunately, the pitch in between resulted in three runs.
Friedrich’s 1-2 offering was over the plate but upstairs—not egregiously so, and certainly within the reach of catcher Michael McKenry, who appeared to get crossed-up by the fastball. It caromed off the mask of the home-plate umpire and rolled up the first-base line. McKenry corralled the ball efficiently, but his fade-away toss to the plate airmailed everybody, allowing a second run to come across.
And that’s when the Rockies went from sloppy to negligent.
Segura, who was at first base when Friedrich uncorked the wild pitch, was now at third. Friedrich and Rutledge, who’d scrambled toward the visitors’ on-deck circle to retrieve the ball, were walking back to their positions as though the play were dead. McKenry was staring down at the plate, lamenting the two runs that had already scored, with Morneau right behind him looking at Friedrich and Rutledge. LeMahieu was two-thirds of the way down the first-base line, looking in the same direction as Morneau. And the shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, was on the edge of the grass near his regular position, facing the plate.
All of which means two things: 1) None of the Rockies infielders was within 60 feet of third base, and 2) None of the Rockies was prepared to make a play at the plate. Seeing all that as he aggressively rounded third, Segura bolted for home. By the time Friedrich realized what was going on, it was too late for him to outrace the speedy Segura to the dish.
And that’s the story of how the Brewers scored three runs with the bases loaded, two out, and their pitcher about to whiff.
The visitors tacked on one more tally to win game two by a final score of 9-4.
Looking to avoid a sweep on Sunday, the Rockies trailed 6-4 in the ninth when Francisco Rodriguez entered for the Brewers. The first batter, Corey Dickerson, gave them a glimmer of hope with a triple off the right-field wall.
But Dickerson got greedy when Carlos Gomez’s throw got by Aramis Ramirez. He started to go home, hesitated—as though he thought better of it with the Rockies down by two runs and nobody out—then stumbled, fell down, and was thrown out at the plate by several steps.
Having the tying run in the box might have proved useful to the Rockies, because the next batter, Wilin Rosario, crushed a home run. Instead, Rosario’s blast merely brought the Rox to within one. That was as close as they’d get, as Ryan Wheeler struck out and Charlie Culberson grounded out.
The 6-5 loss was the Rockies’ sixth in a row. First-year manager Walt Weiss has now watched his squad go 12-27 since May 7, when Colorado last held a share of first place in the National League West.
Ailments suffered by key players, most notably the tumor in Carlos Gonzalez’ finger, Michael Cuddyer’s fractured shoulder socket, and a slew of starting pitcher injuries, are a significant reason behind the collapse. But poor fundamental baseball—and a dirt monster—were their undoing against the Brew Crew.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
The Indians welcomed a scuffling Tigers club to Progressive Field for a three-game series this weekend with a chance to move into second place in the American League Central. Terry Francona’s squad was 23-12 at its home yard, and a sweep would have pushed the Tribe to four games over .500 and brought Cleveland very much into the thick of the junior circuit postseason picture.
But instead of trampling the Tigers while they were down, the Indians got swept themselves.
Much like the Rockies had done a day earlier, the Indians invited their own demise with poor defense on Sunday. Miguel Cabrera homered in the first and drove in a run with a single in the third, but with four innings in the books, the game was very much within reach.
By the end of the fifth, it was all but over.
Ian Kinsler singled and stole second. Austin Jackson singled, moving Kinsler to third. Then Cabrera hit what might have been a 4-6-3 double-play ball had the Indians been able to turn it. Instead, a challenge by the Tigers revealed that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera had never controlled the throw from second baseman Jason Kipnis:
The missed catch was the Indians’ league-leading 65th error of the season. And they weren’t done adding to that total.
The next batter, Victor Martinez, hit a line drive at Michael Bourn, and the center fielder got eaten up and had it clank off his glove. With the out total still at zero, J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos each doubled home a pair, Andrew Romine singled in Castellanos, and Kinsler singled in Romine. What had been a tight, 2-0 contest quickly ballooned into a 9-0 laugher.
Lonnie Chisenhall committed what proved to be a harmless throwing error in the eighth to hike the Indians’ mounting tally to 67. The Tribe scored thrice in the last of the ninth, but that was too little, too late in the 10-4 defeat.
Detroit won Friday’s opener 6-4, with four runs in the last two frames, which matched a four-spot by Cleveland—on homers by Cabrera and Carlos Santana—in the bottom of the eighth. Joe Nathan blew his fifth save of the season on Saturday, as concerns about the Tigers bullpen loomed as large as those about the Indians’ defense, but the visitors rallied against Cody Allen in the top of the 10th to win 5-4.
The Royals dropped three straight to the Mariners to allow the Tigers to regain the division lead and pad it to 2 ½ games before the weekend was out.
A power-packed Blue Jays lineup and the cozy confines of Great American Ball Park seemed a combination ripe for fireworks. In that regard, the late innings of Friday’s series opener did not disappoint.
The Reds raced out to an 8-0 lead at the expense of spot starter Liam Hendriks and long reliever Todd Redmond. All eight tallies came in the last of the second, half of them on long balls by Devin Mesoraco:
and Jay Bruce:
and suddenly it was a ballgame again, at 8-3.
John Gibbons’ lineup fell silent for the next two innings, then watched the Reds tack on a run in the bottom of the fifth. Down six with 12 outs to play with, the visitors were on the ropes again. But facing a bullpen that might’ve been worn down after a 12-inning affair versus the Pirates on Thursday, the Jays were undeterred.
A double by Colby Rasmus and a single by pinch-hitter Adam Lind made it 9-4. With runners at second and third and two out, Reds manager Bryan Price had seen enough of Latos, so he handed the ball to Manny Parra, who promptly walked Melky Cabrera to load the bases. That was all for Parra, but Logan Ondrusek missed with a full-count cutter to Jose Bautista to walk in Toronto’s fifth run of the night.
The Jays were done in the sixth, but they could smell blood again, especially when Price called on Jumbo Diaz to make his major-league debut. Diaz’s second big-league foe, Brett Lawrie, wasn’t fazed by his 98-mph gas:
And in case that initiation wasn’t sufficient, pinch-hitter Juan Francisco—another former Red—provided some more:
But the Reds had Aroldis Chapman—who’s striking out just about everyone this season—at their disposal to buy the dormant offense a couple of innings, right? Nope. Even the flame-throwing left-hander couldn’t stop the Jays’ charge.
Chapman walked Colby Rasmus to get the visitors going, and Erik Kratz doubled him home on a flat slider to give Toronto its first lead of the game:
The closer fanned Jose Reyes, but he then uncorked a wild pitch that moved Kratz to third, and the catcher came home on an RBI knock by Cabrera to put the Jays up by two. Bautista walked, leading Price to pull Chapman in favor of Sam LeCure. From fastballs to sliders to knuckle curves, the right-hander threw everything he had at Encarnacion, but he couldn't avoid surrendering the slugger’s second three-run bomb of the game on the eighth pitch of the at-bat:
Encarnacion’s yardwork made it 14-9, and that was it for the wild opener. It was just the third time in franchise history that the Blue Jays had won a game in which their starter allowed at least six runs in no more than 1 2/3 innings. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, it last happened 25 years ago today.
The Reds quickly erased the bitter taste of that defeat by routing the Jays 11-1 on Saturday. Cincinnati also won the rubber match, 4-3, behind eight innings of three-run (one earned) work from Johnny Cueto.
First place was on the line in the Braves-Nationals series, too, as Atlanta came to Washington, D.C. 1 ½ games back in the National League East. Fredi Gonzalez’s bunch now heads to Houston with no ground gained or lost, after a 2-2 split.
Thursday’s Braves win was bittersweet for the visitors, who watched Gavin Floyd outduel Jordan Zimmermann—and then found out that they might be without for the former White Sox right-hander for the rest of the season because of a fractured elbow.
Friday’s win didn’t lack for frustration, either. Another underdog in the starting-pitching matchups, Mike Minor, got the best of Stephen Strasburg by striking out 11 Nationals in seven innings of work. The left-hander pounded the strike zone with a four-pitch mix and elicited four whiffs in 10 tries with both his changeup and knuckle curve.
But Craig Kimbrel couldn’t protect the 4-2 lead. The closer couldn’t throw his knuckle curve anywhere near the strike zone…
…and after his first-pitch breaking ball to Rendon bounced in the dirt, the Rice product sat dead red, eager to pounce on a fastball mistake. He got one…
…and with one swing, Rendon tied the game at 4-4. Kimbrel’s other curveball misses came to the next batter, Jayson Werth, who drew the second walk of the inning, but the right-hander worked out of the jam by inducing a ground out from Adam LaRoche.
After three innings of solid relief work by both sides, Kimbrel got a reprieve from Jerry Blevins. The Nats lefty walked B.J. Upton, gave up a single to Freddie Freeman, and then served up the go-ahead hit to Evan Gattis:
Andelton Simmons plated an insurance run with an RBI fielder’s choice, and Jordan Walden did what Kimbrel could not: keep the two-run lead intact and pick up a save.
That victory briefly put the Braves atop the East, but the Nationals pitching staff got its act together over the weekend. Atlanta scored just one total run in the last two games of the series, with Doug Fister (eight shutout innings on Saturday) and Tanner Roark (5 1/3 innings of one-run ball on Sunday) leading the way on the hill.
Meanwhile, Rendon stayed red-hot at the plate. He went 3-for-4 with this RBI double in game three and 1-for-3 with a two-bagger in the finale. The infielder is now 26-for-77 (.338 average) with four doubles and six long balls over a hot streak that dates back to May 30. He helped the Nationals even the series with a 3-0 win on Saturday and a 4-1 victory on Sunday.
On the other side, Evan Gattis extended his hitting streak to 20 games before having it snapped with a 0-for-3 afternoon yesterday.
But as the A’s took three of four from the Red Sox over the weekend, Vogt did more at the plate while moving around the diamond than just about any big-league backstop ever has.
Both Saturday’s game three and Sunday’s game four went to extra innings. And while the defending AL West and East champions split those contests, Vogt played a key role in each of them.
Leading off the third inning of Saturday’s tilt, Vogt clobbered a ball off the right-center field wall, then watched the carom hop over the head of Jackie Bradley. By the time Bradley recovered and fired it in, Vogt was on third standing up. He’d score on a sacrifice fly by Alberto Callaspo.
Vogt was in the lineup as the right fielder at the time. But he moved to catcher in the top of the eighth, two innings before Coco Crisp delivered his second game-winning single in as many days, this one of the walk-off variety:
In the 2-1 win, Vogt became the 12th big leaguer since at least 1914 to collect a three-bagger in a game in which he played both catcher and right field. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, Eli Marrero did it in 2003, but that was in a 20-inning marathon. The last player to do it in a game that lasted 10 or fewer innings was Craig Biggio—yes, that one—in 1990. And the only other A’s player to do it was Manny Sanguillen in 1977.
That solo bomb came with Vogt, who started as the right fielder, on the lineup card as the first baseman. He moved back to right field in the top of the 10th and wound up at catcher later in the frame. As a result, Vogt became the first big leaguer in at least a century to go yard while playing catcher, first, and right in the same game.
Now rearmed with the lead, Uehara bounced back to pick up the win as the Red Sox dodged the A’s brooms, 7-6. The final out of the game was none other than Doolittle, the first baseman-turned-closer whose hitting services became necessary after the A’s lost their designated hitter when catcher Derek Norris left the game with a head injury.
Speaking of head injuries, Padres pitcher Alex Torres became the first pitcher to sport this look to avoid one:
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) June 22, 2014
Then with the Rays, Torres was called to the mound last year to relieve Alex Cobb when the right-hander took a line drive to the head. The “shock” of that experience led the southpaw to ask for the isoBlox cap shown above.
The Defensive Plays of the Weekend
Sharp ground balls up the middle generally turn into hits, but it happens a little less often when Ian Desmond is playing short:
What to Watch for on Monday
- When Alfredo Simon was battered for five runs in 3 2/3 innings by the Dodgers on May 27, it seemed that what had been a smooth conversion from reliever to starter was about to hit rough waters. But the right-hander has since rattled off four consecutive quality starts, including a 6 1/3-inning, three-run effort against the Pirates his last time out, in which he worked around three walks and two hit batsmen. The 33-year-old’s peripherals, which add up to a 4.37 FIP that’s far worse than his 3.05 ERA, still portend imminent regression. Simon will try to stave it off again while facing Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs (8:05 p.m. ET).
- The Astros might seem like a comfortable opponent against which to shed the rust of a disabled list stint, but Bo Porter’s club gave Gio Gonzalez plenty of trouble when he came back off the shelf last week. Gonzalez was charged with three runs on five hits, three walks, and a hit batter, and he needed 93 pitches to record 15 outs. The 28-year-old has now permitted four or more runs without working into the sixth inning in each of his last three starts, a stretch that dates back to May 11 and wraps around a month-long bout with shoulder inflammation. Gonzalez will try to snap out of it in game one of three between the Nationals and Brewers at Miller Park. The home nine are scheduled to counter with Matt Garza (8:10 p.m. ET).
- While Samardzija is perhaps the most likely big-name starting pitcher to switch uniforms before the trade deadline, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported on Saturday that Andrew Cashner might give him some company on the block. As the Padres continue to scuffle through a disappointing campaign, felled largely by their league-worst offense, Cashner has bounced back from a strained elbow to post a 2.37 ERA over three June starts.
But Cashner isn’t starting today: He was scratched on Sunday afternoon, just hours after the Padres announced that they were going with a three-man GM committee as an interim replacement for Josh Byrnes. There was no accompanying word of an injury to the right-hander; the Friars pitched the move as simply “being conservative.”
You might want to watch the rumor mill, in case “being conservative” is code for “serious trade discussions.” But if nothing materializes on that front, at least we’ll have the big-league debut of 27-year-old Cuban defector Odrisamer Despaigne—who, incidentally, was one of the last significant additions of Byrnes’ tenure. Signed to a minor-league deal with a $1 million signing bonus in May, Despaigne posted a bloated 7.61 ERA in five starts for Triple-A El Paso, but he struck out 29 batters in 23 2/3 innings. He’ll lock horns with Matt Cain and the Giants at AT&T Park (10:15 p.m. ET).
Thanks to Nick Wheatley-Schaller for making the embedded GIFs.