The Tuesday Takeaway
Sometimes, the jokes write themselves. Like, say, when a 2-11 team decides to skip batting practice, wears its BP jerseys out on the field, and proceeds to give up 16 runs.
Last night wasn't the first time that manager Ron Roenicke has tried to shake up his squad’s routine in hopes of snapping a rut. The move came with the Brewers bleeding players, from Jonathan Lucroy to Scooter Gennett, who was replaced on Tuesday by Elian Herrera. And, in Roenicke’s defense, the “show-and-go” plan did give way to Milwaukee’s best offensive output of the season: 10 runs on 12 hits—both 2015 highs—along with two homers, no small feat for a club that had amassed just four through 13 games.
But cynics could argue that correlation does not imply causation—and, moreover, that for two innings, the Brewers looked like a team very much in need of batting practice. Five strikeouts at the hands of 36-year-old junkballer Jason Marquis were ample evidence of that.
By the time the home nine woke up from its slumber, Jay Bruce had buried them in a 4-0 hole:
Before we move on, one more look at Martin Maldonado’s reaction, in case you missed it the first time:
Such is life when you’re 2-11 and down by four runs. But wait, there’s more:
Yup, that’s another grand slam, this one off the bat of Todd Frazier, to break a 4-4 tie and make Mike Fiers the first pitcher to cough up two salamis in the same game since Daniel Schlereth in 2011.
Before the Brewers could counter, another crooked number was on its way, this one a three-spot, highlighted by Zack Cozart’s two-run dinger. The Brewers did get one run back in the last of the fifth, but that was like bringing a spork to a gunfight. Especially because the Reds had another two-tally long ball coming, courtesy of Joey Votto, who made it 13-5 in the top of the sixth.
At long last, in the bottom of the frame, the Brewers delivered a worthy blow:
a grand slam of their own, off the bat of Herrera, fresh up from Triple-A. The 30-year-old officially etched this game into the history books as only the second contest in senior-circuit history—joining this one from June 3rd, 1987—to feature three grand slams.
On the other hand, the Brewers might have just as soon preferred to forget a game in which Cozart, the owner of four home runs in 543 plate appearances last year, went deep twice. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, Cozart became the 28th shortstop in the last 100 years to slug two homers and steal a base in the same game, the first Reds shortstop to do it since Barry Larkin on May 13th, 1995, and the third player to do it for any team while manning the six spot and batting eighth.
It turns out, those batting practice uniforms Roenicke and the team chose to wear befit the pitching more than the hitting. So it goes when you’re 2-12, grasping at straws to right a rapidly sinking ship.
Quick Hits From Tuesday
Few clubs have proven as resilient in the early going as the defending AL champion Royals. Ned Yost’s squad might be down often, but it’s seldom out:
The #Royals have trailed in eight of their 11 wins.
— STATS (@STATS_MLB) April 22, 2015
Take last night’s battle with the Twins, for instance. The Royals squandered 1-0 and 3-1 leads, and were trailing 5-3 heading into the last of the sixth. They got a run back immediately, to make it 5-4, but were still down one in the bottom of the eighth.
With Casey Fien on the mound for the Twins, Salvador Perez picked up a leadoff single, and Yost put the wheels in motion with pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson, whose legs would soon have twofold significance.
Rookie Paulo Orlando
tripled singled Dyson over to third, a 180-feet advancement that might not have been possible with catcher speed. That put Dyson in position to score the tying run on a productive out, but it also enabled Orlando to steal second behind him. The next batter, Christian Colon, grounded out, plating Dyson and moving Orlando to within 90 feet of home plate. Fien salvaged some dignity by inducing a foul out from Alcides Escobar, which left Orlando stuck on third, and first-year manager Paul Molitor decided that was enough.
A couple of weeks ago, St. Paul Pioneer Press beat writer Mike Perardino wrote about the ways in which the Molitor era might differ from Ron Gardenhire’s tenure. One aspect that Berardino identified was using closer Glen Perkins “outside of textbook save situations,” like, say, high-leverage, lefty-lefty matchups in the eighth.
Case in point: Tuesday’s contest, when Molitor called on Perkins in a 5-5 tie. Trouble is, Mike Moustakas wasn’t onboard with that narrative:
Perkins made an 0-2 fastball mistake, Moose slapped it into left field, and the Royals were on the verge of their eighth come-from-behind victory of the young season. Wade Davis, who’s filling in for the injured Greg Holland, took care of the rest in a clean ninth.
No Travis d’Arnaud? No biggie. Kevin Plawecki enjoyed a 2-for-4 debut.
The Mets and Braves were scoreless after four-and-a-half, when Trevor Cahill slipped into one of his patented bouts of wildness. He issued a leadoff walk to Campbell, and then gave up singles by Plawecki and Flores to load the bases for Niese. Falling behind Niese 3-0 wasn’t Cahill’s finest hour, but to his credit, he recovered and got a tailor-made double-play ball.
That was all for Cahill, and—since the Braves would only score once—that was all for them, too. The Mets cruised, 7-1, in their ninth straight victory and eighth in a row at Citi Field.
Most home runs land in the bleachers. Some reach the second deck. Occasionally, you’ll see a third-decker. If you’re lucky, someday you might watch a moonshot land on the fourth floor. But the 500 level? There aren’t many stadiums that can accommodate a baseball that high up.
Fortunately for Edwin Encarnacion, the Rogers Centre is one of them
even if there weren’t any fans up there to retrieve the souvenir. That was the second jack of the game for Encarnacion, who was joined in the yardworking business by Jose Bautista, who had a good, long look at this missile after Jason Garcia threw behind him earlier in the at-bat:
The Blue Jays chased Orioles starter Bud Norris after just 2 1/3 innings, shooting his ERA up to 17.42 with nine earned runs. Since Mark Buehrle and Co. teamed up to hold the O’s to an 0-for-9 showing with runners in scoring position, that was more than enough for Toronto to cruise to a 13-6 win.
Down in Tampa, the Rays, trailing 1-0, tried to mount a sixth-inning rally. And a comeback might have materialized, had Brandon Guyer been ruled safe at second on Steven Souza Jr.’s fielder’s choice. But he wasn’t
and you might forgive first-year skipper Kevin Cash for believing that the replay control center is in charge of his rookie hazing.
He challenged the “out” call and, well, you decide:
Guyer might’ve beaten the ball by a millisecond, and Dustin Pedroia’s foot might have slipped off the bag juuuuuust a bit before the ball settled into his glove, but neither of those elements is quiiiiiiite clear enough in the view above, which was the best of those presented in the embedded clip. So the call stood.
Which is okay—you win some, you lose some, and it all evens out in the end. Except that the Rays have lost ‘em all this year. They’re 0-for-8. And, with their sixth-inning comeback bid thwarted, they didn’t score on Tuesday, losing the game, 1-0.
That’s a shame, because Chris Archer was outstanding. The right-hander lasted only 5 2/3 innings, but he struck out nine Red Sox to scatter seven hits, all of them singles. Were it not for a throwing error by rookie second baseman Ryan Brett, they might still be playing.
Brett had a rough day at the office overall, getting picked off and leaving with an injury after that costly misfire.
As for Archer, at least he has a 1.07 ERA to console him. Archer’s slider was a menace to society on Tuesday night: 36 of the 44 he spun went for strikes, and 13 of those were whiffs. The slider reached peak form in the middle innings:
In one nine-hitter span, starting with Pablo Sandoval's last at-bat, Chris Archer got six strikeouts with his slider.
— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) April 22, 2015
After the tough-luck defeat last night, Archer can only hope he has the same caliber breaking ball at his disposal when he next takes the hill.
Speaking of terrific sliders, Carlos Carrasco has one, too:
That's the first HR Carrasco has allowed on a slider since 2013
— Nick W. Schaller (@NeastWS) April 22, 2015
That HR our own Nick Wheatley-Schaller referenced being this:
Fortunately for Carrasco, who backed-up his 2-2 offering to a hitter who feasts on mistakes, the margin for error is a bit wider when your offense actually scores.
The Tribe had the lead back by the fifth inning, thanks to solo homers by Carlos Santana and David Murphy. Those were the club’s 10th and 11th taters of the season, and all 11 of them have two things in common:
#Indians this season: 11 HR – all solo shots… all on the road
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 22, 2015
West Coasters and those who stayed up late were treated to a pitching appearance by Ike Davis. Position players pitching either means a huge lead or an insurmountable deficit for their club. For the A’s, it was the latter:
— Steve Kroner (@SteveKronerSF) April 22, 2015
Naturally, Davis was the only Oakland hurler who did not contribute to the Halos’ 14-run outburst. He logged a scoreless, perfect, nine-pitch eighth.
None of those adjectives describe the efforts of R.J. Alvarez, a former Angels farmhand who was undone by his erratic control and the A’s normally sound defense. Alvarez’s stay on the mound featured five hits (all singles, two of the infield variety), three walks (one of them intentional), two wild pitches, and two fielding errors. Seven runs were charged to the righty, six of them earned, though two scored when Fernando Abad served up a three-run big fly to Kole Calhoun. Oh, and, by the way, amid all of this, Alvarez struck out the side in the sixth.
If that sounds like a unique hodgepodge to you, well, it sure is. In fact, per the B-Ref Play Index, no pitcher in at least a century had even met the innings (1), runs (7), and strikeouts (3) criteria, let alone walked exactly three batters and uncorked a pair of wild pitches along the way.
Alvarez and the fielders behind him foiled what likely was manager Bob Melvin’s initial plan to spare the bullpen in the blowout:
Which explains why Davis eventually found his way to the hill.
The Defensive Non-Play of the Day
Jon Jay dove. To what end and with what result is not important. Wait, what’s that? It is important?
In Jay’s defense (no pun intended), he also spared the Cardinals a ninth-inning walkoff loss with
The Defensive Play of the Day
a grab worthy of Statcast’s admiration in the system’s MLB Network debut.
Sadly for the Cardinals, Jay’s efforts merely delayed the party in the nation’s capital. No outfielder could have tracked down Yunel Escobar’s 10th-inning walkoff blast:
What to Watch on Wednesday
Get your Corey Kluber fix in the lone matinee on the docket, as the defending AL Cy Young Award winner takes on Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox in a getaway day game at U.S. Cellular Field. The 29-year-old Kluber has picked up where he left off in 2014, racking up a 30.9 percent strikeout rate alongside a 4.9 percent walk clip, both of which actually represent modest improvements from last year’s numbers.
But while all of that is well and good, here’s the rub: The Indians are 0-3 behind their ace to date, with losses to the Astros, Tigers, and Twins. They’ll look to offer the right-hander more support, both offensively and in relief, against Samardzija, who shook off a pair of iffy starts to hold the Tigers to one run over eight innings his last time out (2:10 p.m. ET).
Ubaldo Jimenez was sent to the showers 3 2/3 innings into his most recent outing, not because of ineffectiveness of injury, but because home-plate umpire Jordan Baker tossed him without warning for plunking Pablo Sandoval, who was as surprised by the ejection as the Orioles were. What’s done is done, though, and for Jimenez, it means that he’s allowed just one hit through 10 2/3 scoreless frames through two starts.
Start two was shakier than start one, with three walks accompanying the HBP, but the early returns on Jimenez’ attempted renaissance are encouraging. Tonight, he’ll get a second look at the Blue Jays club that he dominated back on April 11th, when he delivered seven innings of one-hit ball, walked one, and struck out eight. Jimenez will square off with Aaron Sanchez, just as he did in his 2015 debut, as the 22-year-old continues to try to settle into his new rotation role. Sanchez enters with 8 2/3 rocky innings marred by a 5-to-5 K:BB ratio, and homers by Alejandro De Aza and Chris Davis in his first meeting with the O’s (7:07 p.m. ET).
Tomorrow's matchup between Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner is 1st time that both the reigning RS MVP and WS MVP will face each other.
— Bill Arnold (@sfgwire) April 22, 2015
Neither left-hander has quite lived up to the lofty expectations spurred by their 2014 efforts, though Kershaw has been closer to his yesteryear form. The Dodgers ace has punched out 26 batters in 18 1/3 innings, including 12 Rockies on April 17th, and the bulk of the damage to his 4.29 ERA came on April 11th in Arizona, the scene of his worst outing of 2014.
Bumgarner, meanwhile, has uncharacteristically drilled three batters—he hit six in the regular season last year—and been shelled to the tune of 22 hits in 17 innings. The lefty is sporting a bloated .354 BABIP despite four-percentage-point decrease in line-drive contact, so his luck should soon turn around, but the bigger concern has been Bumgarner’s inability to miss bats. His swinging-strike rate has plummeted from 11.1 percent in 2014 to 7.9 percent in his first three starts of this year.
The southpaw chalked up his spotty command to minor mechanical issues, which he’d hoped to iron out before the loss to the Diamondbacks and has now had additional time to resolve, but one other factor bears watching:
While Bumgarner’s fastball velocity has been no worse for the wear of his record-breaking postseason workload, his cutter and curveball have been noticeably slower. Both are down about 2.0 mph from their 2014 averages, though the cutter was back up to 87 his last time out. Keep an eye on the radar-gun readings tonight to see if the diminished zip on the secondary stuff persists, or whether the swings-and-misses return if it doesn’t (10:15 p.m. ET).