The Thursday Takeaway
On July 22nd, the Giants called upon 29-year-old swingman Yusmeiro Petit for an emergency start against the Phillies after they had placed Matt Cain on the 15-day disabled list. The Giants went on to win the game in 14 innings, but there was nothing special about Petit’s start; he lasted five innings, gave up seven hits and five runs, walked two and struck out five.
As it turns out, the final out Petit recorded in that start was just the first of 38 consecutive batters he retired entering Thursday. Petit’s streak spanned six relief appearances after that start, including a perfect 4 1/3–inning outing that was required after the Nationals shelled starter Tim Lincecum for six runs in 2 2/3 frames. That start was the tipping point for the Giants, who banished Lincecum to the bullpen and penciled Petit’s name into the lineup for Thursday’s start against the Rockies.
Petit sent the Rockies down in order in the first inning. He got Nolan Arenado to fly out to center to start the second, which broke the National League record of 41 consecutive batters retired set by former Giants pitcher Jim Barr in 1972 (a mark he shares with Bobby Jenks, who also reached 41 in 2007). The final bar for Petit to clear was Mark Buehrle’s major-league record of 45, which the veteran southpaw reached in 2009 when he followed up his perfect game on July 23 by sending down the first 17 batters he faced in his next start (the first out of that streak was recorded in the outing before the perfect game).
Sure enough, Petit had little trouble with Colorado’s lineup the first time through. He retired three of the first eight batters he faced through the air and struck out the other five. Petit’s fifth strikeout victim, Charlie Culberson, was the record-setting 46th consecutive out:
With many fans mindful of what had just transpired, Petit’s strikeout of Culberson elicited a standing ovation from the San Francisco crowd. Moments later, however, Petit’s counterpart Jordan Lyles ended the streak with a line drive that one-hopped the left field wall for a double. Charlie Blackmon drove Lyles home to cut San Francisco’s lead to 2-1, but Petit got out of the inning without any further damage and proceeded to mow the Rockies down for three more scoreless frames. The Giants would tack on two more runs while Jean Machi, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla preserved the win.
Petit needed just 81 pitches to get through six innings, recording nine strikeouts and issuing zero walks along the way. His curveball was especially on point, as the right-hander threw 16 of the 19 offerings for a strike, including eight swing-and-misses.
Petit’s record-breaking streak took place over the course of eight outings and 38 days and, unlike Buehrle, he didn’t have to face the same batters a second or third time through the batting order. Considering that Buehrle’s streak got him over three-quarters of the way to matching Johnny Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters, it is still arguably the more impressive accomplishment.
However, Petit’s performance is still extremely impressive, especially for a guy who spent the 2011 season pitching for the Oaxaca Warriors of the Mexican league and was DFA’d by the Giants as recently as last year. At the very least, Petit’s recent run suggests that he could prove to be a solid alternative for the Giants while Lincecum works through his issues in the bullpen.
Quick Hits from Thursday
After Detroit starting pitcher Kyle Lobstein threw a 1-0 cutter for strike one to Brian McCann in the second inning of yesterday’s game, the YES Network broadcast panned to a shot of the Tigers infield. The cameramen knew what was coming next, because as color commentator Ken Singleton noted, Detroit had shuffled its infield alignment against left-handed shift candidates such as McCann throughout the series only after getting strike one. Sure enough, third baseman Nick Castellanos jogged across the infield to stand to Ian Kinsler’s left in the second base hole.
On the very next pitch, McCann made Detroit’s coaching staff look pretty smart:
The Yankee catcher grounded Lobstein’s 1-1 offering directly at Castellanos, who started the good ol’ 5-6-4 double play. Instead of runners at first and second and one out, the Tigers escaped the second with the score still tied 0-0.
Lobstein relied on his defense throughout his first major-league start, as he failed to record a strikeout in six innings of work. However, the Flagstaff, Arizona native limited the Yankees to just four hits, a walk and two runs (one earned) and departed with the score even at 2-2. Hiroki Kuroda used 91 pitches to navigate seven frames of two-run ball for the Bombers and turned it over to Dellin Betances in the eighth.
The Tigers threatened to take the lead when Ian Kinsler drew a two-out walk against Betances and stole second base with Miguel Cabrera at the plate. The Tigers slugger was unable to deliver, however, as he fell victim to Betances’ power curveball. You know you’ve got a filthy breaking pitch when you can make the reigning AL MVP look like this:
The Yankees were a matter of feet away from taking the lead in the ninth inning, as Brian McCann launched an elevated fastball from Phil Coke high and deep down the right field line, but the ball hooked just foul. With two on and two outs, Coke would end up striking out McCann to keep the game tied heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Shawn Kelley entered in relief of Betances and proceeded to serve up a leadoff double to Victor Martinez. Kelley walked J.D. Martinez, but bounced back to strike out Castellanos and Torii Hunter. The Yankees reliever looked like he might just work himself out of the jam, but his first-pitch slider to Alex Avila caught the center of the plate …
… and the Tigers catcher delivered a walk-off hit just beyond the reach of Ichiro Suzuki.
Leading off the bottom of the first of Thursday’s game against the Cubs, Billy Hamilton worked a nine-pitch walk. The speedy center fielder took off for second on Jake Arrieta’s first pitch to the next batter and slid in just ahead of John Baker’s throw for his 51st stolen base of the season. Opposing ballclubs have learned to always stay on their toes when Hamilton reaches base, but on Thursday, the rest of Hamilton’s teammates joined in on the havoc wreaked on the basepaths.
Kristopher Negron walked to lead off the next inning and stole second base without a throw, smartly picking his spot on Arrieta’s 0-2 pitch, which turned out to be a curveball that bounced in the dirt. Negron came across to score the game’s first run shortly after on a single by Zack Cozart. The slick-fielding shortstop stole his first of two bags with the pitcher up and then came around to score later on a double down the left field line by Hamilton. Todd Frazier singled home Hamilton and then swiped second base on the very next pitch, through no fault of Cubs catcher John Baker. Frazier was nearly halfway to second base before Arrieta started his delivery.
Cozart and Frazier picked up their second steals of the day as part of a three-run fourth inning that extended the lead to 6-0 and knocked Arrieta out of the game. It was the first time that either Cincinnati infielder had tallied multiple stolen bases in a single game. The six-run lead prevented any further action on the bases by Cincinnati, but the six steals were the most in a game by the club since May 10, 2006, when Felipe Lopez swiped four and Ryan Freel stole a pair in a 9-6 triumph over the Nationals.
Dylan Axelrod struggled to keep his pitch count down, but managed to toss five scoreless frames nonetheless to earn his first win as a member of the Reds. Pedro Villareal and Logan Andrusek combined for three flawless innings of work out of the bullpen before the Cubs avoided being shut out by tacking on two runs off Jumbo Diaz in the ninth. Jay Bruce’s disappointing 2014 campaign hit a new low on Thursday, as the Cincinnati right fielder joined Nolan Reimold, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Gonzalez as a member of this season’s platinum sombrero club.
Jorge Soler notched two more hits during his second game in The Show, ripping a line-drive double that one-hopped the left-field wall in the second inning, and tallying an RBI single in the ninth for the Cubs.
Things got wacky in the top of the ninth of Thursday’s series opener between the Angels and Athletics. With the score tied at 3-3, Erick Aybar led off the inning with a chopper up the first base line, where pitcher Dan Otero and first baseman Brandon Moss converged on the ball in play. The following transpired:
The ruling on the field—which was confirmed after the game—was obstruction by Moss, and Aybar was granted first base. The A’s played the rest of the game under protest.
So here’s what we do know.
Otero and Moss were each converging on the ball, which also happened to be directly in Aybar’s path on the way to first base.
At this point, it’s clear that if Aybar continues at full speed, all three men would collide at basically the same spot. Hence, Aybar starts to veer off to his left.
Sure enough, Otero and Moss collide, with Otero coming down with the ball. At this point, Otero bounces off Moss and into Aybar.
All three parties were put in an extremely difficult situation, with Otero and Moss attempting to field a ball that landed directly in Aybar’s path to first base, and Aybar recognizing this and trying to avoid an inevitable collision. The confusing part about Moss being called for obstruction is that it would seem to imply that he didn’t have the right to try and field the ball in the basepath. Because the ruling was termed a "judgment call" by plate umpire Greg Gibson, it seems unlikely that Oakland’s protest will be upheld.
Rule 4.19 says no protest shall be upheld of a "judgment" call. Crew Chief Gerry Davis called this a "judgment call by Greg Gibson."
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) August 29, 2014
With Aybar on first, the Angels sent up John McDonald to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but Otero and Moss were clearly still not on the same page.
The miscommunication between Otero and Moss set up runners at first and second with no outs. Another sacrifice bunt—this one fielded cleanly by Oakland—put runners at second and third with one out. Bob Melvin decided to intentionally walk Gordon Beckham, which—barring a double play—guaranteed that his club would have to face Mike Trout to get out of the inning. Sure enough, Fernando Abad got Kole Calhoun to pop up to shortstop for the second out, which brought up Trout. In came Ryan Cook, who got Trout to ground out into a fielder’s choice. Donaldson fielded Trout’s grounder and threw wildly to second base, but Alberto Callaspo sprawled out while keeping one foot on the base to send the game to extra innings.
The Athletics went down in order in the 10th and sent Cook back out for the bottom of the frame. Cook walked Albert Pujols on five pitches to start the inning and the Angels' first baseman advanced to third moments later on a single to center by Josh Hamilton. Up next was Howie Kendrick and on the eighth pitch of the at bat, the Angels second baseman sent his club home walk-off winners with a sacrifice fly to right.
The Defensive Play(s) of the Day
Royals pitchers got some serious help behind them in Thursday’s series finale against the Twins. Alcides Escobar started the defensive wizardry with an outstanding barehanded play on a slow chopper up the middle to nab Eduardo Nunez by half a step …
… while his teammate Lorenzo Cain did his best to one-up him with a leaping catch at the wall.
Despite Kansas City’s defensive efforts and a game-tying home run in the seventh inning off the bat of Alex Gordon, the Twins were able to avoid being swept with a six-run 10th. Bruce Chen took the full brunt of Minnesota’s offense, which batted around, tallying a pair of walks and five hits.
Bonus Fan Catch of the Day
What to Watch this Labor Day Weekend
The Cardinals finally get their man back Friday night, as Yadier Molina is expected to make his long-awaited return to the starting lineup after missing over seven weeks with a torn right thumb ligament. The Cardinals were aggressive with Molina’s rehab so he could return in time for their seven-game homestand, and the backstop went 5-for-6 in his two-game assignment with Springfield that concluded last night. In Molina’s absence, Tony Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski have combined to hit at a paltry .207/.263/.264 clip while providing the Cardinals with below-average defense at catcher. Shelby Miller will be the first to reap the benefits of Molina’s return behind the dish Friday night when the Cardinals open their weekend series against the Cubs, looking to close the 1 1/2–game gap between themselves and the Brewers atop the National League Central (8:15 p.m. EST).
There are a grand total of 17 games scheduled for Saturday’s docket. On the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox will play two against the Tigers, with the matinee game featuring one of the best pitching matchups of the weekend: Max Scherzer versus Chris Sale (1:10 p.m. EST). The two staff aces squared off back in June and Scherzer prevailed with the first complete-game shutout of his career while Sale fanned 10 over seven innings in an admirable consolation performance. The nightcap is a more likely destination for crooked numbers, as the Tigers will turn to Kyle Ryan and the White Sox will trot out Chris Bassitt. Each pitcher will be making his major-league debut (7:10 p.m. EST).
In St. Louis, the Cardinals play host to a doubleheader against the Cubs. Game one between the squads will feature a matchup between July acquisitions, as Justin Masterson will take the hill for the Cardinals opposite Felix Doubront, who will make his first start for the North Siders since being shipped out of Beantown (2:15 p.m. EST). Fresh off 6 1/3 innings of one-hit ball against the Orioles, Tsuyoshi Wada will take the ball in game two for the Cubs, while St. Louis’ starter for the nightcap has yet to be announced (8:15 p.m. EST).
The second consecutive weekend series between the Angels and Athletics will conclude on Sunday with Matt Shoemaker and Scott Kazmir scheduled to face off in the finale. Shoemaker has rounded into form over the past two months, holding opposing batters to a .574 OPS while striking out nearly a batter per inning and walking 1.4 per nine. Kazmir, on the other hand, has been trending in the wrong direction as of late, concluding in a seven-run pummeling against the Angels last Sunday in which he was unable to record an out in the fourth inning. Oakland pushed Kazmir’s start back a day—partially because they wanted to him to get some extra rest—so the southpaw will look to avenge his clunker exactly one week later (3:35 p.m. EST).
There’s no shortage of matinee action on tap for Labor Day, with 10 afternoon games scheduled for your enjoyment. Start things off with a National League East pitching duel between Cole Hamels and Julio Teheran (1:00 p.m. EST) and follow it up with a rematch of last Tuesday’s matchup between Gerrit Cole and Lance Lynn scheduled to take place a little over an hour later (2:15 p.m. EST). David Price will try to bounce back from one of the worst outings of his career against the Indians, who will counter with Corey Kluber in what should challenge the Scherzer-Sale matchup as the pitching duel of the weekend (4:00 p.m. EST).
The Rockies and Giants are scheduled to play 1 1/2 games on Monday, as they will complete their game from May 22nd that was suspended due to rain before starting their scheduled Labor Day contest. The suspended game will resume with two outs in the bottom of the fifth with Troy Tulowitkzi’s spot in the order due up to hit with Michael Cuddyer on first base, so some offensive substitutions will clearly be in order. Monday’s regularly scheduled contest will begin 20 to 30 minutes after the completion of the suspended game (4:10 p.m. EST). Finally, finish the day off by tuning into MLB Network to watch a clash of division leaders, as the Nationals send Gio Gonzalez to the mound for the series opener at Chavez Ravine, while the Dodgers counter with Roberto Hernandez (8:10 p.m. EST).