The Wednesday Takeaway
One of the reasons Dodgers manager Don Mattingly chose Carlos Frias to take the place of the injured Hyun-jin Ryu for yesterday’s start at Coors Field is that the left-hander “has been a strike thrower.” True to form, Frias notched strikes with nearly two-thirds of his pitches on Wednesday and did not walk a batter. But the good news ended there.
When Mattingly mercifully came to fetch him, Frias became the first pitcher in at least a century to allow 10 hits without recording three outs.
The Rockies went single, single, three-run homer (by Justin Morneau), ground-rule double, single before Frias finally recorded an out—a caught stealing of Corey Dickerson by catcher Tim Federowicz. After that, the rally continued with two more singles, before Frias got out no. 2—a bunt by D.J. LeMahieu that resulted in a fielder’s choice out at home. Then, two more singles, the first of which came off the bat of the opposing pitcher, Jorge De La Rosa. That sent Frias to the showers with the bases loaded.
Scott Elbert came on and let two of the inherited runners score on another single, before getting Michael Cuddyer to fly out to end the arduous frame. By then, Morneau had five RBI, a first-inning franchise record, and the top three hitters in Walt Weiss’ order each had two hits. You can see the entirety of the eight-run assault here.
The Rockies would double that total before the Dodgers left for the airport, with most of the remaining damage coming at the expense of Kevin Correia. Charlie Blackmon launched a 428-foot solo shot in the third, Wilin Rosario doubled home a pair as part of a three-run fourth, and a Josh Rutledge triple keyed a two-run fifth.
Four days after blowing out the Giants 17-0, the Dodgers came within six outs of a 16-0 blanking. The unlikely hitter who spared them total embarrassment? Darwin Barney, whose eighth-inning wall-scraper made it 15-1, before the Rockies countered with a Brandon Barnes dinger in the bottom of the frame. Miguel Rojas singled home a run in the top of the ninth to round out the scoring in the series finale.
Quick Hits from Wednesday
Meanwhile, in Arizona, the Giants and Diamondbacks played a tightly contested getaway game that was tied heading into the ninth.
The sides got a run each in the second—the Giants on a double by Brandon Crawford, the D’backs on a single by their pitcher, Andrew Chafin, in his first major-league start—and one apiece in the fifth, the visitors on a squeeze bunt by Gregor Blanco, and the home nine on a strikeout-wild pitch following an A.J. Pollock triple.
That made it 2-2, and 2-2 it stayed until the ninth.
Contributions from rookies have helped the Giants to stay within striking distance of the Dodgers and atop the National League wild card picture, buoying the club out of a midseason swoon. On Wednesday, two of those first-years, Joe Panik and Andrew Susac, combined to go 0-for-5. The third, Matt Duffy, supplied the game-winning knock.
An 18th-round pick in 2012, Duffy rocketed through the system and hit well at virtually every level, including a .332 average this year at Double-A Richmond, one of the toughest offensive yards in the minors. The Long Beach State product found the going rougher when the Giants gave him a middle-infield look this summer, and he entered as a pinch-hitter yesterday with an 11-for-50 line and 12 strikeouts.
Nonetheless, Bochy placed his faith in Duffy with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth, as Addison Reed battled elusive command. Reed fed Duffy a steady diet of sliders—five of them in the six-pitch at-bat—even though the rookie whiffed on the lone fastball he saw. Even with the count full and nowhere to put Duffy, Reed went with the breaking ball, a get-me-over offering that caught too much of the plate and wound up in left-center field.
Santiago Casilla preserved the 4-2 margin in the ninth, and the Giants moved to within two games of the Dodgers in the West.
Five games shy of the Cardinals when the Central-division showdown began at Busch Stadium yesterday, the Brewers needed a sweep to realistically revive their chances of surpassing the Redbirds and Pirates. They took the opener, 3-2, on Tuesday, but last night, Adam Wainwright stopped Ron Roenicke’s squad in its tracks.
For six innings, Mike Fiers and Wainwright went toe-to-toe, baffling the hitters on both ends. Fiers took a no-hitter into the sixth, before Wainwright singled to break it up. At that point, Milwaukee was out-hitting St. Louis, 6-1.
But none of those hits produced any runs. The Brewers’ poor sequencing finally came back to haunt them in the last of the seventh, when the Cards strung a couple together and took advantage of an error.
With one away in the inning, Matt Holliday worked a walk. The next batter, Matt Adams, rolled a groundball with eyes through the Brewers’ shift and on to Carlos Gomez, who slipped while trying to pick it up. That enabled Holliday to score all the way from first and Adams to advance to second. Jhonny Peralta followed with another single that made it 2-0 St. Louis.
The Brewers got a glimmer of hope on a base hit by Scooter Gennett leading off the eighth, but he was promptly erased on a twin killing off the bat of Jonathan Lucroy. Gennett was Milwaukee’s last baserunner in a game in which the visitors grounded into two double plays and had just one at-bat with a man in scoring position.
Wainwright walked two and struck out seven in the seven-hit shutout, which lowered his ERA to 2.45, restored the Cardinals’ five-game lead over the Brewers, and kept St. Louis 2 ½ games ahead of Pittsburgh. With 77 strikes in 102 pitches, the right-hander finished just shy of a Maddux.
Indians starter Carlos Carrasco did not come up short. He sliced through the Astros with stunning efficiency to author a 98-pitch two-hitter.
There are a whole lot of red squares not particularly close to the strike zone in the plot above, and the vast majority of them ended up as strikes in the book. Carrasco hurled 27 sliders on Wednesday, and remarkably, all but three of them were strikes. Eleven of the 27 yielded swings-and-misses, which amounts to a 40.7 percent whiff rate, if you’re dividing at home.
With it, Carrasco became just the second pitcher in the last century to notch a Maddux while recording at least 12 strikeouts and permitting two or fewer hits. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, the only other starter to do it was Sandy Koufax in a no-hitter on June 4, 1964.
Brandon McCarthy didn’t pitch a shutout, or even a complete game for that matter. He was done after seven. But he finished his night on about as high a note as one could imagine.
Meanwhile, the Yankees offense scored thrice in six innings against Alex Cobb, so when McCarthy departed, the flame-throwers at the back of Joe Girardi’s bullpen had a one-run margin to protect. Dellin Betances fanned a pair to break the franchise record for single-season strikeouts by a reliever. David Robertson followed with two more Ks to finish off the 3-2 affair.
Pop quiz time: Which team leads the majors in runs scored since August 1st?
This team defeated an American League Cy Young Award winner last night, saddling him with five runs in 5 2/3 innings of eight-hit, three-walk work. Its leadoff man went 3-for-5 with a double and a triple, both off of the decorated starter, who gave up five earned runs in less than six innings without serving up a homer for just the fourth time in his career.
The win was meaningless for the team in question, because it was eliminated from postseason contention on September 11th. The loss might prove costly for its opponent, though, because that club is in a still-tight race for its division title.
The #MNTwins have scored 235 runs since August 1 – the MOST in baseball.
— Dustin Morse (@Twins_morsecode) September 18, 2014
The Twins, who topped David Price behind Danny Santana, who raised his slash line for the season to .324/.360/.484 with the three-hit showing.
That 8-4 defeat is bad news for the Tigers, as the Royals put a dent into Chris Sale’s Cy Young Award hopes. They tagged the lefty for five runs in as many innings, compiling nine hits, two of which went over the fence.
Lorenzo Cain slugged one of those long balls, accounting for three runs on one unique third-inning swing. Unique, because it was the first home run that Sale has given up in the majors on an 0-2 pitch.
Norichika Aoki, who batted second, just in front of Cain in manager Ned Yost’s speed-at-the-top order, joined in on the first-time fun. He went 3-for-4 to up his hit total for the series to 11, roaring past George Brett and Willie Wilson, who previously held the franchise record for knocks in a three-game set at 10.
Behind Cain, Aoki, and Yordano Ventura—who fired seven innings of one-run ball, walking two and fanning seven—the Royals won 6-2. They’re now just a half-game behind Detroit in the Central.
Out west in Anaheim, Mike Trout wound up hitless with a golden sombrero. Albert Pujols went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Howie Kendrick went 1-for-4 with a single and two strikeouts. With that dominance of the most dangerous bats in Mike Scioscia’s lineup, you might think that James Paxton and the Mariners did everything right.
Not quite. The sides were all square through six-and-a-half innings, with Paxton matching C.J. Wilson, but the last of the seventh was a hot mess for the visitors.
Kendrick singled with one out, and David Freese followed with a single. Two on, one away, right? Nope: Right fielder Chris Denorfia got eaten up by an in-between hop, the ball kept on bouncing all the way to the wall, and the game was scoreless no longer.
Freese ended up on second, so the Mariners intentionally walked Erick Aybar to fill the open base, and Paxton finished his night on a high note, punching out Chris Iannetta. Then, manager Lloyd McClendon went to the bullpen for a right-hander to face C.J. Cron.
Danny Farquhar entered, and, three pitches later, what had been a scoreless tie turned into a laugher:
Cron’s blast capped the scoring in the 5-0 shutout, of which Wilson chipped in seven innings of one-hit mastery. Joe Smith and Huston Street took it the rest of the way, putting the Angels in position to clinch the West with an A’s loss.
That loss seemed not to be in the cards, because Jeff Samardzija carved up the Rangers to the tune of 10 strikeouts in eight clean frames. Samardzija limited Texas to four hits, as the A’s first run, plated on a fifth-inning RBI single by Sam Fuld, held up until the ninth.
The A’s put Adrian Beltre on to set up a possible double play that would prevent the Rangers from scoring the go-ahead run. Instead, J.P. Arencibia sent a loud message to the clubhouse staff in Anaheim: Get the champagne ready.
That message grew louder as the Rangers loaded the bases off of mop-up man Jesse Chavez, then scored their fifth run when Fernando Abad, mopping up for Chavez, drilled Martin. They added one more when Andrus picked up an infield single off the glove of a diving Brandon Moss. Finally, a warning-track fly ball by Odor ended the inning.
Our own Matthew Kory summed it up best:
This game is a nine inning version of the A's season.
— Matthew Kory (@mattymatty2000) September 18, 2014
The Rangers’ 6-1 win clinched the West for the Angels and brought the Royals even with the A’s in the race for the top wild-card seed. That’s important, because Kansas City won the season series and would host the contest if the season had ended yesterday. The Mariners’ loss left them two games back of the Athletics and Royals.
The Defensive Play of the Day
who ranged and leaped to deny Wilmer Flores an extra-base hit and preserve the Marlins’ one-run lead. Miami went on to win, 4-3.
What to Watch on Thursday
Most Thursdays feature at least a couple of day games on the slate, but that’s not the case this week: If you’re looking for a matinee to watch, you’ll have to tune in to the series finale between the Rangers and A’s. In it, Oakland starter Sonny Gray will try to build on back-to-back strong outings, the most recent of which was an eight-inning, two-run effort at Safeco Field in which he battled Felix Hernandez to a draw. The going is easier this time, at least on paper, with the injury-ravaged Rangers sending Nick Martinez to the bump at the Coliseum. An 18th-round pick in 2011, the 23-year-old Martinez was rushed to the big leagues to patch holes in the rotation, and he’s taken his lumps while settling in. He tossed five scoreless relief innings in a loss to the A’s on April 28th, but this will mark his first career start against Bob Melvin’s club (3:35 p.m. ET).
The Brewers and Cardinals wrap up their three-game set this evening with ex-Cardinal Kyle Lohse facing off with Shelby Miller. With his 24th birthday approaching on October 10, Miller has been excellent over the past few weeks, posting an even 1.00 ERA over his last four starts. That success is chiefly the product of a .176 BABIP, though, as Miller’s strikeout rate—17 in 27 innings—remains uninspiring for a pitcher whose raw stuff was highly touted on his way up the chain. Miller hasn’t walked a batter in his past two starts or coughed up a homer in any of his last three, and he’ll need to either miss more bats or maintain those other FIP-friendly rates to stave off regression as the playoffs approach (8:15 p.m. ET).
The day’s best on-paper duel could come in the late-night slot, when King Felix is scheduled to square off with Jered Weaver at Angel Stadium. Hernandez has done some of his best work when facing the Halos, logging a 29-to-7 K:BB ratio and permitting only 10 hits in 21 2/3 innings over three starts. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols have pulled their weight, going a combined 5-for-18 with three doubles and a home run against the Cy Young Award candidate, but their teammates are an aggregate 5-for-53 with no extra-base knocks. Manager Mike Scioscia will hope to generate some down-order production in his team’s fourth meeting with Hernandez this year, so that the Angels can improve to 15-3 behind Weaver since June 21st* (10:05 p.m. ET).
*Now that they’ve clinched, there is also the possibility that the Angels will scratch Weaver and put forth a lineup resembling a spring training split squad this evening. In that case, we’ll start the potential perfect game watch for King Felix now.