The Tuesday Takeaway
File this under Great Moments in Twitter:
— Matt Birch (@MBirchAngels) May 6, 2015
Angels PR man Matt Birch sent out that nugget during the top of the ninth, on the heels of bullpen meltdowns by both sides in what had been a tightly contested, 2-1 affair.
The Mariners countered quickly with a run in the top of the second, but Pujols’ yardwork was sufficient to keep the Angels on top until the eighth inning. That was when Garrett Richards—who tossed seven frames and limited the M’s to a run on five hits and two walks—gave way to Joe Smith, who was in a giving mood.
Smith was around the hitting area, perhaps too much so for his own good, as 14 of his 18 pitches went for strikes, but many of those were of poor quality. Robinson Cano greeted him with a double and scored the tying run on a single by Kyle Seager. But the Mariners were far from finished. The next batter, Logan Morrison, singled, and then Mike Zunino sent Smith to the shame closet with a go-ahead ground-rule double:
Except their setup man, Danny Farquhar, was no better at holding the lead than his counterpart in white and red. He got Trout to foul out, but then Pujols singled, David Freese walked, and Erick Aybar singled home a run. A single by Johnny Giavotella tied the game at 4-4, before Farquhar avoided further misery by coaxing a double-play ball from C.J. Cron.
Huston Street held the line in the ninth. And right around that time, Matt Birch took to Twitter to inform fans of the possibility of impending history.
The probability of Birch’s prediction coming to fruition was remote—at best. Perez, a 24-year-old with seven years of minor-league experience, had just 22 professional homers to his name in 2,318 trips to the plate. It was a just-in-case, might-as-well-tweet-it-because-who-knows shot in the dark.
Until it happened:
The backup catcher’s heroics broke the Angels' 11-15 tie with the Mariners in the American League West standings, moving Anaheim up to second place, six back of 18-9 Houston. It was the sort of jolt the Halos badly desired from someone, anyone, at the catcher position, which, with Chris Iannetta and the recently-DFA’d Drew Butera at the helm, was a dumpster fire emitting the stench of a .328 aggregate OPS.
So general manager Jerry Dipoto threw a dart at Perez, off to a fine start for Triple-A Salt Lake City, and hoped for the best. One game later, that OPS is up 64 points. How’s that for a first impression?
Quick Hits From Tuesday
A season-low 20,534 fans paid for admission to the Mets’ series opener versus the Orioles last night. That’s a shame, because there aren’t many better ways to spend a summer-like, 70-degree Tuesday evening in New York City than taking in the action at Citi Field with Bartolo Colon dictating the pace of play.
The 41-year-old right-hander worked quickly, threw first-pitch strikes to 23 of the 29 batters he faced, and kept the opposition without a walk, as he’s done in every outing since Opening Day. Colon rolled through 7 2/3 innings of six-hit, one-run ball while punching out nine Orioles, his highest K total in 27 career starts against the club. He poured in 71 of his 97 pitches for strikes, and Manny Machado’s eighth-inning solo homer was the only blemish on his line.
Remarkably, visiting starter Bud Norris actually trumped Colon’s strike-throwing efficiency. A spring chicken by comparison, the 30-year-old Norris either elicited a swing or impressed plate umpire Jeff Kellogg 69 times in 92 tries. In doing so, he teamed up with Colon to send everyone home in just two hours and 19 minutes.
But while Colon scattered his hits allowed and extended his walk-less streak to 34 1/3 innings, Norris issued one (harmless) free pass and watched the Mets string four key knocks together. Lucas Duda started the bottom of the fourth with a double, and two batters later, Daniel Murphy put the Mets on top
with an RBI single that prompted this tweet from New York Post beat writer Mike Puma
BREAKING: The Mets have scored a run.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) May 6, 2015
because it was the first run they’d scored in 21 innings.
As it turned out, the Mets would need every bit of that 3-0 lead, because the first pitch of closer Jeurys Familia’s ninth ended up in the seats for a Chris Davis home run. Familia recovered to get the next three batters in order to secure the 3-2 win.
That granted Colon his own bit of history, brought to the television audience’s attention by SNY play-by-play man Gary Cohen:
Gary Cohen just dropped an astounding Bartolo Colon stat. If he beats #Orioles today, he'll be first to beat any team with 7 different teams
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) May 6, 2015
Colon’s first interleague victory over the Orioles bumped the Mets to 17-10, tied with the Yankees for the best record in the Big Apple, and 12-3 at their sparsely populated home yard.
And, thanks to Cohen, you now have a bit of trivia to chew on while reading the rest of the Quick Hits: Can you name other six teams for which Colon has topped the Orioles? Answer later in the column.
Speaking of doing good things for different teams against the same team, Marlon Byrd did this on Tuesday
and now, to the Pirates, he’s that guy who keeps showing up uninvited at your house parties because you have too many mutual friends:
From Pirates media relations: Byrd is first player in PNC Park history to hit HR for 4 different teams (CHC, PIT, PHI, CIN) #reds
— Mark Sheldon (@m_sheldon) May 5, 2015
Byrd’s blast came an inning after this solo shot by Todd Frazier
who was in the midst of a Most Interesting Hitter in the World binge. For 36 plate appearances, Frazier didn’t always get hits, but when he did, he rounded the bags. The third baseman was 5-for-31 with five big flies over eight games and change before a sixth-inning single snapped his bid for a Dos Equis ad campaign.
By then, it was 4-1 Reds, and they bloated the margin to 7-1 in the top of the ninth on an RBI infield single by Billy Hamilton and a two-run double by Byrd. Those insurance runs almost took on heightened significance, because Aroldis Chapman wore a heavy coat of rust to the hill in his first appearance since April 28th.
Walk, strikeout, walk, walk, the adventure began, before pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez and leadoff man Gregory Polanco both fanned to strand all three runners. Hence, Chapman sealed the deal with the ol’ 1 IP, 6 BF, 0 H, 0 R/ER, 3 BB, 3 K, give-your-manager-a-coronary special, except with a six-run cushion instead of the customary three or fewer. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, it was the fifth such effort of the past century, and the first since Oakland’s Ryan Cook walked the tightrope in the eighth inning of a win over the Twins on September 22nd, 2013.
When you smash a ball about 417 feet, you generally expect a nice reward—a home run perhaps, a double if you’re unlucky, or at worst, if you trip over first base, a single in exchange for the spot on the blooper reel. Kevin Kiermaier denied David Ortiz all of that
and with his leaping grab in the Fenway triangle, he helped Rays starter Drew Smyly to carry a no-hitter into the sixth. That’s when Mookie Betts showed Ortiz that you don’t have to hit a ball 417 feet to take a trip around the bases. You just have to hit it to the right part of the yard:
That solo job was the first of two in the game for Mookie, who also launched one over the Green Monster in the eighth,
paying his respects to the Red Sox’ nifty uniforms with a throwback to Jim Rice:
Mookie Betts (age 22) is the youngest Red Sox player with a multi-HR game since Jim Rice in 1975
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 6, 2015
Meanwhile, Rick Porcello gave Boston a much-needed lift on the mound, scattering eight Rays singles over seven scoreless innings and punching out six without gifting the visitors a walk. It was the sort of ace-like performance the ace-less Red Sox have sorely lacked in recent weeks.
Alexi Ogando and Koji Uehara took care of the eighth and ninth, respectively, preserving the 2-0 shutout on a night when Betts accounted for all the offense. Per the Play Index, only one player younger than Mookie has ever cranked two solo shots in a 2-0 win. That would be Bryce Harper, on April 1st, 2013.
There’s a time and place to mess with a sizzling-hot Matt Carpenter. As Kyle Hendricks discovered last night, however, that time and place is not the fifth inning of a game in which Carpenter represents the tying run:
Hendricks missed his target, as his 88-mph pitch sailed down and in, and Carpenter golfed it out to right to square what had been a 4-1 deficit. The third baseman has spent the first month of the regular season building a case for Most Valuable Player consideration and flirting with the organization’s storied history along the way:
Matt Carpenter: 1st Cardinals player with 20 extra-base hits in the team's first 26 games of a season since Stan Musial in 1954.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 6, 2015
Carpenter partook in a two-run sixth-inning rally, too, capping it with a sacrifice fly two batters after Mark Reynolds cashed in Kolten Wong with a double. Two infield hits and a productive out made it 7-4 in the seventh, the eventual final score.
After the 1-for-3, BB, SF outing, Carpenter is up to .346/.412/.644 on the year, 98 OPS points ahead of Nolan Arenado, who has the benefit of calling Coors Field home. Right-handers like Kendricks have few places of refuge within the strike zone
thanks to Carpenter’s selectivity and his penchant for connecting with the pitches at which he offers.
While foes search for answers, Carpenter and the Cards are racking up wins, eight in a row now, in the wake of the season-ending Achilles injury suffered by Adam Wainwright. St. Louis is now 20-6, 6 ½ games up on the second-place Cubs, who’ve dropped four straight.
Elsewhere in the Show Me State, the 29,099 in attendance at Kauffman Stadium got to see this:
That’s a home run by Lonnie Chisenhall—but, more pertinently, it’s a home run off of Kelvin Herrera, which is like seeing a unicorn these days. The 25-year-old isn’t exactly accustomed to craning his neck to watch one fly: He hadn’t done it since way back on July 26th, 2013.
Unfortunately for the Indians, Chisenhall’s rare feat was merely a footnote in Tuesday night’s contest, which saw five runs scored in the first—two on a long ball by Michael Brantley, three on another off the bat of Eric Hosmer—and just three thereafter. Chisenhall’s tater was the Tribe’s only slice of that pie, so Kansas City prevailed, 5-3.
With Greg Holland set for activation today, the Royals needed one last adjustment to the close-game recipe that took them to the World Series a year ago. After six solid innings from Jason Vargas, Ryan Madson gobbled up the seventh, paving the way for Herrera and Wade Davis to do the rest. Davis earned his sixth save with a scoreless ninth, so he’ll hand closer duties back to Holland with his 0.00 ERA for the year still intact.
In other bullpen news, the A’s recipe hadn’t been working. An 0-7 ledger in one-run games was ample proof of that. So manager Bob Melvin hinted to reporters that he intended to mix it up last night:
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) May 5, 2015
Susan Slusser, who covers the Athletics for the San Francisco Chronicle, suggested that first-year closer Tyler Clippard could make his way into the game before the ninth. She was right.
With the A’s up 2-0 behind an excellent outing by Jesse Chavez, things began to unravel in the last of the eighth. Chavez gave up a one-out single to Jordan Schafer, which would’ve been no trouble at all, except that Ike Davis misfired on the subsequent fielder’s choice, putting the tying run on first with one away.
Melvin called for setup man Evan Scribner to face Brian Dozier, and when the Twins second baseman singled home Schafer to cut the lead to one, Melvin refused to go down with anyone but his most trusted reliever on the mound.
So, on came Clippard, aiming for a five-out save, which, as it turned out, would be a piece of cake. He whiffed Torii Hunter, got a fly ball from Joe Mauer, and then retired the side in order in the ninth, slamming the door with his second strikeout of the night.
It was a crucial outing not only for the A’s, who finally got into the one-run-win column, but also for Clippard, who hadn’t exactly been a silver bullet himself entering play on Tuesday. The ex-Nat’s ERA stood at 2.61, but a deeper dive revealed a 7-to-6 K:BB ratio over 10 1/3 innings, the product of much spottier command than he’d exhibited the previous two years.
If the Clippard of 2013-14 has finally made his way into green and gold, Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over the Twins could end up being one of the A’s most significant triumphs of the season.
Trivia answer (in chronological order): Indians, White Sox, Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Athletics.
The Defensive Play of the Day
Bases loaded, nobody out, a 2-0 count, a groundball bounding up the middle headed for two-run-single land. The Pirates were on the cusp of a second-inning disaster. But then Neil Walker smothered it and flipped it to Jordy Mercer, who pirouetted it to first base for one of the finest twin killings of the season to date:
What to Watch on Wednesday
Robbie Ray, the young left-hander of Doug Fister-to-the-Nats trade fame, was sent on his way this past offseason in the three-way deal that brought Shane Greene to the Tigers. The 23-year-old Ray landed with the Diamondbacks, went down to the minors, and proceeded to punch out 35 batters in 24 2/3 innings for Triple-A Reno. All those Ks persuaded the D’backs to look past Ray’s bloated 5.8 BB/9 rate and call him up for a challenging club debut: a date with the Rockies at Coors Field. To Ray’s credit, he served up only one long ball during his time with the Reno Aces, pitching in the bandboxes of the Pacific Coast League, so perhaps he’s ready for the thin air of Denver. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder will square off with Eddie Butler as part of a doubleheader, after two straight rainouts to begin the series.
Back in Phoenix, the D’backs social media staff seized the opportunity to troll their rivals to the north:
— #VoteDbacks (@Dbacks) May 5, 2015
These rainouts are uncharted waters for the desert dwellers, who, as beat writer Nick Piecoro pointed, hadn’t had back-to-back games postponed in six years. The forecast looks more accommodating this afternoon, when Josh Collmenter and Tyler Matzek will toe the rubber in the previously scheduled contest. The Ray-Butler matchup will commence shortly after the conclusion of game one (3:10 p.m. ET).
Only one team has beaten the Pirates in a game started by Gerrit Cole this year. Only one team has managed to hang more than one earned run, and more than two total runs, on Cole’s line in any of his five starts. And only one player, of the 121 that Cole has faced, has gone yard at the former UCLA Bruin’s expense. That team is the Reds, and the player in question is Todd Frazier, who cranked a Cole offering over the left-field fence in the first inning way back on April 8th. Cole wound up with a no-decision that day, when the Reds won in 11 innings, and tonight he’ll have a chance to exact his revenge while attempting to run his personal winning streak to five. Mike Leake, who allowed three runs on five hits and six walks in that April 8th meeting, stands in his way again (7:05 p.m. ET).