The Weekend Takeaway
The Tigers could not have asked for a better start to their weekend series against the Twins: Their first batter, Ian Kinsler, went yard and Detroit was up 1-0 right off the bat. Their starter, Robbie Ray, got two strikeouts and a popup in the bottom of the first. Everything was peachy.
The Twins went double-double-double to begin the last of the second, and it was 2-1 Minnesota, but a one-run deficit is hardly the end of the world. Kurt Suzuki struck out, and Ray had three punchouts to his name in 1 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, that’s just about the only good thing anyone could say about the left-hander’s performance.
Eduardo Escobar, the eighth hitter in the Twins' order, went yard to kick off what would be a five-hit night, the first by a no. 8 hitter for Minnesota since John Roseboro did it on April 29, 1968, according to the Baseball-Reference Play Index. Escobar would also become the first shortstop to collect a triple and a long ball in the same game for the franchise since Joe Cronin of the then-Washington Senators pulled it off on September 2, 1929.
History class dismissed. Back to the game.
Back to history class: Ray is the third Tigers starter since at least 1914 to allow five extra-base hits in 1 1/3 or fewer innings, and the first since Mike Maroth did it without getting out of the first inning on May 25, 2006. The Tigers won that game. No, really, they did. You can see for yourself. And they put a scare into the Twins in this one, too, with a four-run top of the fifth that made it 6-5.
Six Twins followed orders, taking free passes to first, the last of which came with the bases loaded. Add in Escobar’s triple, which got everything started, three singles, a stolen base, and errors by Kinsler and Nick Castellanos, and you get … nine runs!
That’s nine runs on four hits, none of which was a home run, mind you. And the Tigers’ nightmare wasn’t over yet.
Called on for mopup duty in the seventh, Joba Chamberlain gave up four singles and another bases-loaded walk to make it 17-5. Unlike the relievers who preceded him, Andrew Romine—yes, that’s shortstop Andrew Romine—got the memo to throw strikes. His strikes led to back-to-back home runs, but what’s another three-spot in a 12-run game? Water under the bridge, really, unless you miss history class.
In that case, it’s the first time a major-league team has dropped 20 in a game since September 4, 2013, when the Red Sox did it against—you guessed it—the Tigers. It’s also the first time the Twins have done it since May 21, 2009, and the first time they’ve done it to Detroit since June 4, 1994.
There’s not much you can tell your team after a game like that, except to get a good night’s sleep and remember that tomorrow’s a new day.
A new day with two games. A new day on which the first Tiger to toe the rubber lasted precisely as long as Ray did. One-and-a-third innings was all fellow rookie Buck Farmer could handle, and he exhausted 54 pitches just to get that far. Only half of those were strikes, as Farmer walked two and hit a batter, and few of those strikes were of good quality, as he gave up five hits, including a double and a triple, to boot.
Out went Farmer, in went Patrick McCoy, and on went the Twins with their assault on Detroit pitching. McCoy went an inning and was charged with two more runs on five hits, including a couple of doubles. Kyle Lobstein saved the day by chomping up the remaining 5 2/3 innings; that the Twins pinned him with three runs on four hits and four walks is beside the point.
Joe Mauer went 2-for-3 with a double and two walks at the inexperienced pitchers’ expense, and rookie Kennys Vargas led the Twins with five RBI, three of them on a bases-loaded two-bagger, in the 12-4 blowout.
Lobstein’s innings-chewing eased the sting of the defeat for the Tigers, giving their manager plenty of bullpen options behind Justin Verlander in the latter half of the twin bill. He’d need them because Verlander couldn’t complete the sixth.
Neither, though, could Twins starter Trevor May, and while he threw more strikes than he did in either of his first two starts, the former Phillies prospect was knocked around. May allowed five runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings; the only saving grace for him was that 10 of the 11 knocks were singles.
The Tigers led 5-4 when the game went to the bullpens, and Blaine Hardy, the first man used in relief of Verlander, did one run better than Jared Burton, who took over for May. By the time Ausmus brought in his closer, Joe Nathan, for the last of the ninth, the Tigers were up 8-5. Their insurance runs, obtained on RBI singles by Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera, proved pivotal, because Nathan gave up a single and a double before settling down. Mauer and Vargas batted representing the tying run, but neither could take advantage in the 8-6 Tigers win.
Max Scherzer didn’t pitch particularly well in Sunday’s series finale, either, ceding three runs in just five innings, but the Tigers' offense made his iffy outing moot. Detroit slapped Kyle Gibson with five runs in 4 2/3 innings, over which Ausmus’ lineup racked up eight hits and four walks, and none of the first three Minnesota relievers would escape without damage to his ERA.
Victor Martinez paced Detroit with three hits, including a two-run homer, his 25th of the season, a career high. Torii Hunter matched V-Mart’s team-high four RBI, three of them on a bases-clearing triple. And by the time Glen Perkins gobbled up the final three outs in the top of the ninth, the Tigers had scored 13 runs on 18 hits, eight walks, a hit batsman, a wild pitch, and an error.
The final totals for the series split are staggering:
— Tyler Mason (@FSNtylermason) August 24, 2014
And after a brutal start to the weekend, the Tigers, down two games to the Royals, aren’t feeling so bad about themselves. Detroit’s deficit is only a half-game worse than it was four days ago, before all of the madness transpired.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
As rosily as things had gone for the Nationals over their previous 10 games, all wins—five of the most recent six in walk-off fashion—the Giants had reason to fear that their 4-2 lead in the middle innings of Friday’s series opener would eventually evaporate.
Rookie second baseman Joe Panik had enjoyed the night of his professional baseball life, flashing theretofore unseen power for a three-run homer off Doug Fister, his first in the majors, and notching three other hits for his first four-knock output since reaching The Show. Buster Posey had gone yard for the second straight night, joining Panik to leave Doug Fister with two gopher balls for the first time since June 15th. And the Giants were in fine shape despite playing a game and half in Chicago on Thursday and arriving at their hotel in Washington at 5:30 in the morning.
But the threat of another Nats comeback loomed until the eighth, when the Giants prudently padded their cushion. Fister, pitching just days after having surgery to remove cancerous skin from his neck, kept Matt Williams’ club in the game with six innings of four-run ball. Jerry Blevins and Ross Detwiler let it slip away.
The Giants got two in the eighth off Blevins, both on a double by Travis Ishikawa that followed a two-out walk by Gregor Blanco and a single by Panik. That made Bruce Bochy’s offense the first to slap six on the Nats since August 8th, two days before their surge had begun. Then the visitors posted a four-spot in the ninth, buoyed by an error by first baseman Adam LaRoche that opened the door to a three-hit, one–sac fly rally. By the end, the Giants had become the first team to reach double-digit runs versus the Nationals since the trade deadline.
Scoring 10 runs is a good way to halt your opponent’s 10-game winning streak, and the Giants did just that on Friday. They raced out to a 2-0 lead on a two-run shot by Hunter Pence in the first inning of Saturday’s game, but were undone by a "horse****" start by Tim Lincecum, falling 6-2.
The Giants led by that same margin on Sunday, but nine straight Nationals reached in the sixth inning as Washington surged ahead 9-6. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Bryce Harper cranked a three-run shot high off the foul pole and Danny Espinosa nearly found the upper deck for two more to make it 14-6.
And so, despite the disappointing opener, the Nats resoundingly took the series and started a new winning streak. With the Braves’ 5-3 loss to the Reds on Sunday, Washington is running away with an eight-game lead in the National League East.
Some 13 months ago, the Orioles acquired three months of Scott Feldman’s services and backup catcher Steve Clevenger from the Cubs in exchange for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. On Friday, they got a firsthand look at the breakout campaign on which they’ve missed out.
Taking on an American League opponent sans its designated hitter for the first time this year, Arrieta retired the first 13 batters he faced. That gave the Cubs ample opportunities to get on the board against Kevin Gausman, which they did in the fourth inning on a solo shot by Luis Valbuena
Arrieta nearly let half of that 2-0 lead slip away in the top of the fifth, when Chris Davis singled with one away to become the first visitor to reach safely. J.J. Hardy followed with a walk that moved Davis into scoring position, and with two away, Caleb Joseph singled, setting up a play at the plate:
Out was the call on the field, confirmed by a crew chief–initiated review of Rule 7.13. Credit Sweeney with saving the run. Credit Javier Baez with giving the Cubs one more:
The Orioles finally broke through in the seventh, on the strength of Nelson Cruz’s boomstick
but that was all Baltimore could muster in the matinee. Its former employees, Arrieta—seven innings, four hits, one walk, five strikeouts—and Strop, who allowed the tying run to come to the plate but fanned two in an scoreless inning of relief, were too hot to handle in the 4-1 Cubs win.
The O’s saw another old friend, Tsuyoshi Wada, in Sunday’s series finale, and the southpaw no-hit them into the seventh inning, when Steve Pearce spoiled the fun with a home run. That was all for Baltimore, though, as Buck Showalter’s squad lost 2-1. Their Chicago tour concludes with a sweep of the White Sox negated by a sweep at the hands of the Cubs.
Try as White Sox starter Scott Carroll and reliever Matt Lindstrom might, they couldn’t blow their heaters by Joe Girardi’s hitters or fool them with their secondary stuff. The South Side mound duo combined for 105 deliveries in the middle match at Yankee Stadium, and the home team only whiffed on three of them.
As a result, neither Carroll nor Lindstrom was able to log a strikeout. It’s the first time the Yankees have gone a full game without an offensive K since May 12, 2011, an 11-5 loss to the Royals. The White Sox went eight innings on the bump without a pitching strikeout in a 2-0 loss to the Indians on May 3rd of this year.
Saturday’s 5-3 New York win followed a 4-3 Yankees walk off on Friday night. They completed the sweep on a three-run walk-off shot by Brian McCann on Sunday afternoon, as the White Sox bLOLpen—this time in the person of Jake Petricka—struck again.
In loosely related news, the Pirates’ hurlers couldn't miss any Brewers bats on Friday; to make matters worse, they had no trouble missing the strike zone. That combination often spells doom, but for Jeff Locke and Co., the series opener at Miller Park turned out alright.
Locke went six innings, walked six, and did not fan a batter, but he also permitted only two hits. One of those was a two-run jack by Ryan Braun that put the Brewers on top 2-0 in the first inning. To the FIP overlords’ dismay, the pair that crossed the plate on that moonshot represented the only runs Milwaukee would slap on Locke’s line.
The UCLA product did his best to give away the game, but Ron Roenicke’s club went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and committed three fielding errors, doing its best not to seize it.
So Josh Harrison stole the show instead with a two-run double in the second, an RBI single in the fourth, a fine defensive play in the seventh, and a two-run bomb in the eighth. The third baseman’s contributions made Locke a winner and compensated for a pitching staff that walked eight and struck out only one. The Bucs hadn’t won a game with such seemingly ineffective pitching in more than half a century.
Locke was in uncharted waters, too. Per the Play Index, he became the first starter to walk six, strike out zero, and serve up at least one homer in a winning effort since Rob Tejada did it for the Rangers versus the then–Devil Rays on May 2, 2006. No Pirate had ever done it before.
After Pittsburgh’s 8-3 victory on Friday, the sides split the weekend tilts, giving the Bucs the series win. The Brewers now have a 1 1/2–game lead over the second-place Cardinals and are five up on the Pirates.
A’s victories on Friday, behind Sonny Gray, and Saturday, behind Jon Lester and a run-scoring wild pitch in the eighth inning of a 1-1 tie, squared the American League West heading into Sunday’s nationally televised finale. As the Cespedes Family BBQ gang pointed out, it was a rare opportunity for the Athletics to showcase their talents at their home yard on ESPN’s marquee broadcast:
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) August 24, 2014
But the Angels weren’t about to oblige. They took full advantage of a shaky Scott Kazmir to deflate the Coliseum crowd and take the air out of the telecast early.
Three runs in the second. Two more in the third, on a loud blast by Josh Hamilton. Three more in the fourth, when Kazmir exited without recording an out. And a mammoth Mike Trout bomb in the sixth, just for good measure, made it 9-0 Angels.
The A’s tried to claw back, getting homers from unlikely sources: fill-in third baseman Alberto Callaspo, who was starting as Josh Donaldson underwent an MRI on his knee, and shortstop Andy Parrino, who’s holding down the fort until either Jed Lowrie returns from the disabled list or the A’s acquire Yunel Escobar.
But three seventh-inning runs and one in the ninth didn’t even halve their hole, as the Halos prevailed, 9-4, to move back into first place. The sides will reunite in Anaheim next weekend for a four-game series in which the division lead is likely to be at stake again.
The Defensive Play of the Weekend
Runners at the corners with two outs in a 4-4 game in the bottom of the 12th. A flare on its way into shallow left-center field. Adeiny Hechavarria to the rescue:
The Marlins would ultimately squander their shortstop’s tremendous effort, falling 5-4 in 13. Hechavarria chipped in a pair of triples on Sunday, but the Fish wasted those as well, dropping the series finale, 7-4, as the Rox took two of three.
What to Watch on Monday
If the Pirates are going to keep up in the National League Central and wild card races, they’ll need a healthy and effective Francisco Liriano down the stretch. The left-hander was excellent for the better part of a month, but he took his worst beating of the season last week at Turner Field, where the Braves tagged him for nine runs (seven earned) on 10 hits in four innings. Liriano can atone for that dud against a postseason competitor by shutting down the Cardinals this evening in the opener of a three-game set at PNC Park. Visiting skipper Mike Matheny will counter with John Lackey (7:05 p.m. ET).
Michael Pineda has pitched well for the Yankees in two starts since coming off the disabled list. Facing a pitch limit at Camden Yards on August 13th, the 25-year-old breezed through five one-run frames on 67 pitches, carrying a perfect game into fifth. He was a touch shakier with the Astros in the Bronx last week, but the right-hander held Houston to two runs in six innings on 89 pitches. That gave him this distinction:
Michael Pineda is 1st pitcher in last 100 years to allow 2 R or fewer and 5 H or fewer in each of his 1st 6 starts with Yankees
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) August 21, 2014
Pineda will try to make it seven straight while taking on James Shields and the Royals at Kauffman Stadium in the lone Central Time Zone contest on the slate (8:10 p.m. ET).
With Garrett Richards, who tore the patellar tendon in his left knee while covering first, joining Tyler Skaggs on the shelf for the rest of the season, the Angels reached into the well and pulled out Wade LeBlanc to take his place in the rotation. It’s unfair to expect LeBlanc to fully replace Richards, one of the best starters in the American League this season, but the Halos will hope that the 30-year-old swingman can keep the club in games and allow the offense to win them. While LeBlanc began the year in the Angels' organization, his most recent major-league appearance actually came in a Yankees uniform on June 4th, when he pitched an inning of relief against the A’s and gave up two runs. He was designated for assignment and returned to the Angels on a minor-league deal on June 17th, biding his time in Salt Lake City before the call came to take the ball in tonight’s duel with Jarred Cosart and the Marlins (10:05 p.m. ET).