The Weekend Takeaway
The Reds entered Friday having lost 10 of their last 11. The Nationals entered Friday having won 9 of their last 11. Both teams would see their fortunes take a U-turn over the weekend.
The series began inauspiciously for the Nationals, as the struggling Stephen Strasburg left the game after only sixteen pitches with a neck and/or back issue for which he would later be placed on the 15-day DL. The Nationals took a 2–1 lead in the top of the sixth, but the Reds answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning and added some insurance with Todd Frazier‘s fifteenth home run of the season.
Anthony DeSclafani delivered six strong innings for the Reds, and he did so without even doing what he’s traditionally best at: hammering right-handed hitters. He ranks among baseball’s best this season with a .525 OPS against right handed batters, two spots below Dallas Keuchel and two spots above Michael Wacha. However, in this game, DeSclafani allowed two hits apiece to righties Ian Desmond, Yunel Escobar, and Wilson Ramos, and only struck out one batter.
It would be of little consequence, however, as DeSclafani limited the Nationals to just two runs. He only struck out one batter, but if there’s one batter you’d like to strike out, it’s this guy:
The Reds pulled off another victory on Saturday, returning from a 5–4 deficit in the bottom of the eighth inning in which the Reds might possibly have batted around when all nine men came up to the plate. A Zack Cozart double and a Billy Hamilton single were the keys in the 8–4 win.
Hamilton has hit better since being moved to the bottom of the lineup, although it’s still pretty dismal. The speedy center fielder has hit .294 since the change on May 17th, but that’s been accompanied by a dismal .580 OPS in those games, although he did continue a six-game hitting streak on Saturday.
Saturday also saw another lackluster start for Gio Gonzalez. After going 6 1/3 innings and giving up only one run in his last outing, Gonzalez left this game with one out in the sixth to close May with a 4.54 ERA for the month and a 4.73 ERA for the year. Gonzalez has been giving up many more hits than in previous seasons: 10.1 H/9 this year versus a 7.9 career average. That’s largely been fueled, however, by an unsustainably high .379 opponents’ BABIP.
The Reds definitively checked “batting around” off their to-do list by sending ten men to the plate in the bottom of the seventh in what would become a six-run inning. Frazier and Brandon Phillips had big days at the plate, as Phillips went 2-for-5 with two RBIs, two runs, and a homer, and Frazier added three hits of his own in four trips with the same two RBIs, two runs, and a donger. It was, however, a rough game for the Nats’ Matt Grace, who had allowed just two runs in 12 relief innings this season before giving up four in the seventh inning on Sunday without recording an out. The Reds won 8–2.
Michael Lorenzen, ranked the Reds no. 3 prospect by BP before the season, delivered another decent outing for Cincinnati after being called up in Homer Bailey’s absence. He followed up his seven-inning, two-hit, one-run performance against a weak Colorado offense with a 6 1/3-inning, one-hit, two-run showing against a much stronger Washington lineup. He did, however, allow six walks, much higher than the already high 4.5 BB/9 he allowed up to Sunday. While the Nationals are relatively patient, walking the seventh most frequently among all MLB teams this season, the young pitcher will, needless to say, have to keep the free passes down.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
Friday saw the Dodgers and Cardinals, who entered the day as the National League’s two best teams, face each other for the first time since the 2014 NLDS.
It also saw Mike Bolsinger, who had retired the last 23 batters he faced in his previous start, allow three straight baserunners to begin his outing: a double to Kolten Wong, a single to Matt Carpenter, and a walk to Jhonny Peralta. Bolsinger gave up two runs in six innings, which would be enough for the Cardinals, who eventually took the 3–0 victory. It was still a good game for Bolsinger, who’s put up a 1.15 ERA in 31.1 innings this season.
"He did a nice job," Don Mattingly said. "Didn’t look like he had a real good curveball tonight, but he hung in there, kept pitching, mixing. I thought he did a nice job for us." Donny Baseball has a keen eye, for Bolsinger indeed lost some action on his curveball, as the vertical movement sunk from eight inches on average before Friday evening to under seven inches in the 21 offerings of the pitch he threw against the Cardinals.
St. Louis got another great start out of (half a) million-dollar man John Lackey, who pitched seven shutout innings in the winning effort.
Lackey, whose ERA improved to 2.83 on the season, had a superb month of May, increasing his velocity slightly and delivering a 1.89 ERA while also upping his strikeout rate. While his groundball rate hasn’t changed substantively this season, Lackey has relied on his sinker more heavily this season:
Lackey’s dominant performance also extended the Dodgers’ scoreless streak on the road, which reached four games, putting them in rarefied territory with six teams who have matched the feat and only one—the 1985 Atlanta Braves—that has exceeded it, per the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index.
It looked like Los Angeles might tie the record on Saturday, as Michael Wacha no-hit them for 5 1/3 innings until the Dodgers’ bats woke up in the sixth inning, scoring four runs and knocking Wacha out of the game to set them up for the eventual 5–1 victory. The big blow came from Yasmani Grandal, who was returning from a concussion that same day:
Grandal has been an absolute monster this year when he’s been healthy. He’s got an .897 OPS, including a .406 OBP, and a .325 TAv. He doesn’t qualify for the batting title, but if he did, he’d lead all major leaguers in batted balls directed up the middle, with 48 of them carrying toward center field.
The seven-inning, one-hit, no-run, eight-strikeout performance might have been the best start of Martinez’s young career. It was by Game Score, ranking five points higher than Martinez’s next-best effort. Jhonny Peralta took care of the Redbirds’ offense. Peralta, who entered the game batting .304/.366/.500 for an OPS+ of 135, hit his eighth home run in the first inning to give the Cardinals a 2–0 lead and then provided some insurance in the bottom of the eighth, answering a Joc Pederson home run in the top of the frame with an RBI single.
Another day, another world-beating effort for Dallas Keuchel:
Keuchel lowered his ERA to an AL-leading 1.76 for the season. Keuchel, who also leads baseball in innings pitched, dealt a complete-game shutout to give the Astros’ bullpen a night off. Keuchel’s sinker is always good, but it was especially good on Saturday, as it had about half an inch more movement than it usually does, according to BrooksBaseball.com. So he went with it: The righty usually relies on the pitch 52 percent of the time, but threw it on nearly 67 percent of his pitches against the White Sox.
Keuchel’s slider, his favored two-strike weapon against lefties, was also working. The pitch generated whiffs on almost 78 percent of the swings it drew in Saturday’s start, helping fuel Keuchel’s career-high 11-strikeout performance. The game, which was Keuchel’s second shutout of the season, was his best of 2015 by Game Score.
Defensive Play of the Weekend
This Dee Gordon diving catch was good:
But it’s not nearly the best thing that happened in Sunday’s Mets-Marlins matchup. This was:
What to Watch For On Monday
- You probably won’t be able to actually watch this unless you live or happen to be in Jupiter on Monday, but keep your ears perked and your Twitter feed refreshed as Jarred Cosart and Jose Fernandez face off in an intrasquad game tomorrow. The Marlins hope to have Cosart return from a bout of vertigo, and tomorrow’s outing will be another step in Fernandez’s long road to recovery from Tommy John surgery; he looks to return in early July.
- Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda will match up for the first time tomorrow. Both men earned trips to the All-Star Game in 2011 as they headed the Mariners’ rotation that year before Pineda was traded to the Yankees the following offseason. Both pitchers have been fantastic this season as well, as Pineda leads baseball with a 13.4 K/BB ratio while Hernandez is tops with an 0.89 WHIP (10:10 ET).