The Monday Takeaway
Trevor Bauer has been dominant at times through his first two starts but also run into trouble with efficiency and high pitch count. In his first start against the Astros, he needed 111 pitches to get through six innings, striking out 11 and walking five, which led to him being pulled in the middle of a no-hitter. Last week against the White Sox he cracked the century mark again through six innings, fanning eight and walking four in the process.
Bauer gave up just two runs total over the pair of starts and the Indians came away with the win in both games, but the number of free passes from the 24-year-old still left something to be desired. On Monday, Bauer’s command was arguably the sharpest it’s been all season.
Early on, Bauer was nibbling at the edges of the strike zone and needed 57 pitches to get through the first three innings. To that point, he had four strikeouts and two walks. But he proceeded to strike out the side in the fourth inning with just 14 pitches and then retired the White Sox in order with just five pitches in the fifth inning. He tossed two more scoreless frames, departing after the seventh inning with a 3-0 lead.
Perhaps the best example of the right-hander hitting his spots was this three-pitch strikeout of Avisail Garcia in the fourth inning.
Bauer’s slider was working well on Monday, as he threw 22 of his 27 sliders for strikes and coaxed seven swinging strikes with the pitch. Through 19 innings this season, Bauer has 26 strikeouts and has allowed just two runs to cross the plate. The 24-year-old has always had the stuff to dominate but he’ll have to locate his pitches like he did on Monday to take the next step forward.
Everything was sailing smoothly for the Indians: Bauer was shoving, Ryan Raburn hit a moonshot and the club had a 3-0 lead heading into the ninth. Indians closer Cody Allen struck out Adam LaRoche on three pitches to start the inning but it all went downhill from there.
Garcia got the rally rolling with a double down the right field line. Allen proceeded to bring the tying run to the plate after walking Conor Gillaspie. Alexei Ramirez followed with a towering fly ball to deep center that Mike Aviles was unable to reel in. Two runs scored and Ramirez had himself a double. The White Sox went on to string together four more singles, with Melky Cabrera delivering the walk-off winner. That’s seven straight Chicago hitters that Allen allowed to reach base in an absolute meltdown that dropped the scuffling Indians to a 4-7 record.
Quick Hits from Monday
The Tigers hot start to the season continued last night. But this time it wasn’t because of their potent offense but due to an outstanding pitching performance by Alfredo Simon and sound defensive play behind him.
Simon was coming off eight innings of shutout ball against the Pirates last week and was equally impressive on Monday, establishing his two-seam fastball early and playing off it with his devastating splitter. Simon generated eight swinging strikes with the splitter, with six of his seven strikeouts ending on splitters. However, he did miss with this one:
Teixeira’s solo shot was the lone run that Simon gave up during the game. However, the right-hander did get some assistance behind him in the bottom of the sixth. After reaching on a single, Jacoby Ellsbury got a great jump on Simon and appeared to have second base swiped. James McCann, however, had something to say about that.
At that point, Simon found himself down 1-0, due in part to an impressive outing by his counterpart, CC Sabathia, and numerous Web Gems made by the Yankees' outfield defense. But in the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers used singles by Rajai Davis, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes to take a 2-1 lead.
Simon made his exit the next inning, leaving runners at the corners with one out for Joba Chamberlain. With Jacoby Ellsbury up, it was somewhat surprising to see Brad Ausmus go with Chamberlain instead of the left-handed Ian Krol, but the big man rewarded his manager’s decision by inducing a 4-6-3 double play.
Joakim Soria did the rest, shutting the door on the win and improving Detroit’s record to a MLB-best 11-2.
The way things started off for Jake Arrieta, it was understandable to think that the right-hander could be in for a long night. The Pirates were making lots of loud contact off Arrieta in the first inning, with five of the six balls put in play registering an exit velocity of at least 100 mph. Gregory Polanco and Andrew McCutchen each tallied singles and Neil Walker smacked a double to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead that could have been larger if not for McCutchen getting caught in a rundown between third and home. Things could have been even worse for Arrieta if not for a slick diving stop by Starlin Castro to lead off the inning.
But Arrieta buckled down after his rough start, retiring 16 batters in a row after Walker’s double in the first inning. The only Pirates to reach base against Arrieta after the first inning were McCutchen on a double in the sixth and Pedro Alvarez, who reached on an error in the seventh.
Arrieta had excellent fastball control and went to his slider often throughout the start, throwing 40 sliders and getting nine swinging strikes with the offering. He departed after seven innings, hitting the century mark while striking out seven and issuing zero free passes.
As for the offense, Kris Bryant delivered an RBI single in the fifth to even the score at 1-1. In the seventh inning, he stepped to the plate with two on and two outs and ripped an Arquimedes Caminero fastball off the center-field wall. Bryant’s double cleared the bases but a series of misplays by the Pirates led to an adventurous trip around the bases for the Cubs' third baseman.
A groin injury delayed the start of Jorge De La Rosa’s season but the Padres had no mercy for the left-hander in his season debut on Monday. San Diego jumped all over De La Rosa from the get-go, with the first four batters of the game reaching before the Colorado hurler finally recorded an out. But Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alonso continued the first inning onslaught with a pair of base knocks that gave the Padres a 5-0 lead before Odrisamer Despaigne threw his first pitch of the game.
Things didn’t get any better for De La Rosa in the second, with Troy Tulowitzki letting a groundball go through the wickets to lead off the inning. Two singles, a walk and a triple later and the Padres had tagged De La Rosa for nine runs (seven earned), tying a career-worst for the veteran. The Padres didn’t even need a long ball to knock De La Rosa out of the game but they made him pay for numerous mistakes out over the heart of the plate.
San Diego would add insult to injury with another five-spot in the fifth, capped off by a Will Venable home run—the only four-bagger of the game by either team.
The 14-3 clubbing that the Rockies took at the hands of the Padres was their fourth straight loss, which now brings them back to a 7-6 record after their hot start to the season.
What to Watch on Tuesday
—It’s an exciting time to be a Chicago Cubs fan. Just when people had begun to calm down after the arrival of Kris Bryant, Theo Epstein decided on Monday night to give Addison Russell the call to the big leagues. Russell is expected to start at second base on Tuesday with left-hander Francisco Liriano on the mound, replacing the sub-par production that the team would have had going forward from Jonathan Herrera. With one of the more exciting young offensive cores in the game, the Cubs are rapidly becoming appointment television (7:05 p.m. EST).
—Nathan Eovaldi’s strikeout rate has never quite been what you would expect from a guy who can touch triple digits. He has struck out fewer than the league average rate for starting pitchers in each of the past two seasons, complementing a fastball that has averaged 96-97 mph with a hard slider, a curve he would use early in the count, and a changeup that would rear its head once in a blue moon.
Eovaldi’s slider had the most potential out of the secondary pitches, but before this season, it had been middle-of-the-pack in terms of missing bats. With the Marlins in 2014, his slider ranked 48th in whiffs per swing among sliders thrown at least 200 times. Since then, Eovaldi was traded to the Yankees and has worked with pitching coach Larry Rothschild on tweaking his slider and shedding his changeup for a splitter. Just last month, Eovaldi hinted that a better slider was on the horizon:
My slider is a lot better. Last year, it got hit too hard. Now, it’s got a little bit more depth to it. I’ve been able to throw it more consistently for strikes, which I needed to do.
Previously, Eovaldi’s slider averaed 87 mph and looking something like this when at its best:
Through his first two starts, Eovaldi has taken a couple of ticks off the pitch, averaging 85 mph and now featuring more depth. Here’s a couple of sliders from Eovaldi’s last outings against the Orioles, with the first slider checking in at 85 mph and the second one all the way down to 82 mph.
It’s not as if the previous version of Eovaldi’s slider was a bad pitch by any means. But now that the pitch has more depth and resembles a slider more than a cutter, there’s at least some reason for optimism that more swings and misses will follow.
The other task Eovaldi worked on this spring with Rothschild was to integrate a splitter into his repertoire. It was a pitch the right-hander experimented with during his final two starts of last season, but he is hoping can become a third put-away pitch. Eovaldi used the changeup sparingly during his career but it was a pretty bad pitch, lacking the ability to generate either groundballs or empty swings. By shedding the changeup for a splitter, Eovaldi has added a pitch with a completely new look.
2014 Change up
The movement on Eovaldi’s changeup closely resembled the movement on his two-seamer but his splitter features a wider gap in velocity from his fastball and a sharper vertical drop than the changeup. Here’s a pair of splitters from his last start against the Orioles.
Under Rothschild, Eovaldi has made a conscious effort to tweak his slider and add a splitter that he hopes can serve as an out pitch as he gets more comfortable with it. His first two outings have been a mixed bag of results, generating just four swinging strikes and one strikeout in his first start compared to 14 swinging strikes, paired with nine punchouts, in the second. On Tuesday, he draws a tough matchup against Detroit. Look to see whether the changes that the 25-year-old has made can help him tame the Tigers’ potent offense (7:08 p.m. EST).
—The last time we saw Carlos Carrasco, he was being carted off the field following a scary moment in the first inning of his start against the White Sox. Melky Cabrera hit a line-drive right back to Carrasco, which deflected off the right-hander’s hand before striking him on the left cheek and leaving him on the ground for several minutes. Luckily, Carrasco escaped without any serious head injury or signs of a concussion and was diagnosed with a bruised jaw. The Indians decided to push Carrasco back a day to Tuesday, where he’ll face off against the White Sox and hope to put the incident behind him. Taking the hill for the South Siders will be Hector Noesi, who is surely looking over his shoulder with Carlos Rodon looming in the White Sox bullpen (8:10 p.m. EST).
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