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The Monday Takeaway
Through the first three innings in Seattle the pitching duel of Felix Hernandez versus Michael Pineda was easily living up to the hype. King Felix needed just 21 pitches to retire the Yankees in order the first time through the lineup and Pineda kept his former employers off the board while scattering just three singles.

But in a matter of minutes the clash between the talented right-handers turned into a one-sided affair and the pitcher who took it on the chin wasn’t the one you would have expected. Hernandez’s control began to unravel upon returning for the fourth inning, as the Mariners' ace issued three walks after allowing a pair of leadoff singles. He was lucky enough to escape with just a two-spot on the board after getting Brian McCann to ground into a double play during the frame but wasn’t nearly as fortunate the next inning.

Hernandez started off the inning by digging Stephen Drew into a 1–2 hole but was unable to finish him off, throwing three straight balls for the leadoff walk. After Ramon Flores followed with a single, Brett Gardner stepped to the plate and tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Gardner bunted the first pitch foul but Hernandez threw two straight balls while Gardner was trying to give himself up. With the count in his favor, Gardner was given the green light and fouled off two straight pitches. But Hernandez missed with his next two to load the bases.

The Yankees extended the lead to 3–0 after Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly and the bases were juiced once again after Alex Rodriguez singled through the left side. Hernandez fell behind 2–0 to Mark Teixeira and challenged him with a fastball. Unfortunately for Hernandez, the resurgent Yankees slugger was sitting dead red.

Teixeira’s grand slam blew the game wide open and saddled Hernandez with the first seven-run, five-walk game of his career. Lloyd McClendon finally walked out to the mound to give his right-hander the hook later in the inning, after Carlos Beltran ripped a double to left center, marking just the second time in the past calendar year that King Felix has failed to make it through five innings.

It truly was a tale of two different games for King Felix, as he breezed through the first three innings, spotting his pitches and painting the outer third of the plate against a Yankees lineup that was stacked with eight hitters who were either left-handed or switch-hitters.

But as soon as the lineup turned over, his ability to find the strike zone completely disappeared.

As for Pineda, he cruised through six innings of shutout ball before running into some trouble in the seventh inning. Kyle Seager led off with a single to right, then Seth Smith and Austin Jackson followed with back-to-back extra-base hits to give the Mariners their first two runs of the game. Pineda departed after walking Brad Miller but fared well overall, striking out nine and scattering seven hits. With the lead that the Yankees had built against Hernandez, the bullpen had more than enough cushion and turned in three clean innings to close out the 7–2 win.

Quick Hits from Monday
The top of the Cubs rotation has become solidified by the 1-2 punch of Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. After a rough April, Lester has pitched more like the top-of-the-rotation guy the Cubs hoped for when they inked him to a six-year deal this offseason. Meanwhile, Arrieta has backed up his breakout 2014 campaign with a strong 10 starts that have solidified him as a bona fide no. 2 starter.

Very quietly behind Lester and Arrieta, Jason Hammel has been pitching well for the Cubs, as the 32-year-old entered Monday with a solid 3.54 DRA (42nd in baseball among starters with at least 30 IP) and an 84 cFIP (18th). Those numbers dropped even further after he scattered five hits, struck out 11, walked zero and allowed just one run in 6 2/3 innings against the Marlins. After last night’s start, here’s a look at how some of Hammel’s peripherals have trended over the last two years.

Year

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

2013

139 1/3

6.2

3.1

1.4

2014

176 1/3

8.1

2.3

1.2

2015

67

9.3

0.9

0.8

The increased strikeout rate coincides with an uptick in Hammel’s use of his slider, as last season he cut the use of his curveball and changeup—two inferior offerings—in half. Hammel has achieved swing-and-misses with his slider a tick over 15 percent of the time the past two seasons, an above-average rate for the pitch. This season Hammel has ramped up his slider usage even further, with the veteran going to the offering over one-third of the time.

The Marlins got a full dose of Hammel’s new offering of choice, with 49 of his 117 offerings being sliders. Hammel got 11 whiffs with the pitch and got an additional 10 swing and misses with his fastball. The right-hander was effective changing eye levels during the outing, with 10 of the 11 whiffs on the slider coming on pitches below the knees and nine of the 10 fastball whiffs coming in the upper third of the strike zone or higher.

His final strikeout of the night, against Justin Bour to end the sixth inning, illustrated the outing well:

The one run the Marlins were able to tally off Hammel was largely the result of Giancarlo Stanton’s efforts. However, instead of playing long ball, Stanton decided to manufacture the run with his legs. After reaching first base on a single to right field scorched at 115 mph off the bat, Stanton made a good read on a breaking ball in the dirt that bounced in front of Miguel Montero, advancing to second on what went down as a wild pitch. Later in the at bat, Stanton stole third and trotted home when Montero airmailed his throw into left field.

But that wasn’t nearly enough for the Marlins, as the Cubs jumped out to a 2–0 lead in the first inning, with the key hit being an RBI opposite-field double by Anthony Rizzo. Miami rookie Jose Urena exited after giving up three runs over six innings and the bullpen surrendered two more runs—including a solo blast by Starlin Castro—in what was an eventual 5–1 win for the visitors.

***

It’s not every day that you pull up a starting pitcher’s FanGraphs page and find that his pitching ratios for his last game were at extremes quite like this:

But that’s what happens when you strike out 12 and issue zero free passes, but also give up enough hits that your skipper is forced to take you out of the game before the end of the fifth inning. That’s exactly what happened to Andrew Cashner against the Mets, as the Padres' right-hander joined Curt Schilling and Shane Reynolds as the only starters since 1914 to give up at least six runs, strike out at least 12, and walk zero batters in a single start. Cashner is the only one of the group who failed to make it out of the fifth inning.

Cashner wields a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can occasionally touch triple digits, and the Mets came up empty on heaters a total of 10 times during the outing. However, they also took advantage of several mistake pitches made by Cashner, as evidenced by the handful of light blue boxes over the fat part of the plate in his pitch chart below.

While Cahsner’s command was not at its best, Jacob deGrom showcased his own command on his way to another dominant outing. On the three-year anniversary of the first no-hitter in Mets history, deGrom was perfect through five innings before Clint Barmes grounded a single through the right side of the infield. The only other Padre to reach base against deGrom was Will Middlebrooks, who reached on an infield single that Wilmer Flores misplayed with two outs in the eighth inning.

deGrom finished the night with eight strikeouts and no walks, using 105 pitches to navigate through eight excellent innings of work en route to a 7–0 win for the Mets. The Stetson University product has followed up his Rookie of the Year campaign with a stellar start to his sophomore season and has been especially dominant over his last three outings, striking out 28 and walking zero across 23 1/3 innings while allowing just nine hits and two runs.

***

With the Pirates down 2–0 in the third inning against the Giants, Andrew McCutchen stepped to the plate against Ryan Vogelsong with the bases loaded. After getting ahead with a first-pitch strike, the Giants' starter hung a curveball to McCutchen, who ripped it into the left-center gap for what looked to be a bases-clearing double. Angel Pagan had other plans.

The former National League MVP had to settle for a sacrifice fly after Pagan made The Defensive Play of the Day and the Pirates were unable to do any more damage after Vogelsong fanned Neil Walker to end the inning. Two innings later, Vogelsong found himself in a bases-loaded jam again with one out and McCutchen up to bat. Once again McCutchen lined a ball into the gap. Once again, Vogelsong got bailed out by outstanding outfield defense behind him.

But this time, Walker delivered for the Pirates after McCutchen was robbed of extra bases, lacing a 1–0 fastball on the black the other way for a two-run double that no Giants outfielder could do anything about.

Walker’s base knock put Pittsburgh up 4–2 and Gerrit Cole was able to keep the Giants off the board during the remainder of his seven innings of work. The right-hander scattered five hits, struck out nine and walked two. The Giants cut the lead to one after pushing across a run against Tony Watson in the eighth inning but were unable to complete the comeback in the ninth against Mark Melancon, who locked down his 14th save of the season.

***

When pitching to Mike Trout, pitchers have an extremely small margin for error.

Alex Colome found that out the hard way on Monday night.

The Rays' starting pitcher did an excellent job taming the best hitter in the game in the early going, as the right-hander got Trout to chase a hard 89 mph cutter low and away for a strikeout in his first trip to plate

and then dug him into an 0–2 hole in his second at bat. Colome started him off with a perfectly-placed cutter that caught the corner low and away and then got him to offer on another hard cutter in the dirt.

The Dominican right–hander was fooling Trout with the pitch so he decided to go back to the well one more time. With Trout in an 0–2 hole, one can only assume that Colome was trying to bury the pitch once again. Instead, the pitch crossed the plate at the knees and Trout crushed it into the left-field stands.

Colome made two nearly perfect pitches and threw a third one that was barely high enough to be considered a strike, yet he ended up on the receiving end of a three-run jack. Getting Mike Trout out is really hard.

But Colome didn’t make his pitches nearly as well against Trout’s teammate, Albert Pujols. The Rays climbed to within one run of the Angels by the fifth inning, but the first baseman padded the lead by crushing a hanging cutter from Colome for a solo blast.

Pujols would tack on a second moonshot off Andrew Bellatti in the eighth inning to give the home squad a 7–3 lead, the eventual final score.

What to Watch for on Tuesday

You remember that Bryce Harper fun fact that everybody loves? The one about him never facing a pitcher younger than him in professional ball—even after his rehab assignment at High-A last year? Well, your favorite fun fact could very well come to an end on Tuesday.

The Blue Jays started the season with a pair of 20-year-olds—Miguel Castro and Robert Osuna—to start the season. After a bumpy ride in the closer’s role, Castro was optioned to Triple-A but Osuna is sporting a 1.75 ERA and a nifty 25:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 25 1/3 innings for the Jays. Harper’s streak survived another day after Monday’s game between the Blue Jays and Nationals was postponed due to rain but with two games between the two squads on Tuesday’s docket there seems to be a decent chance the 22-year-old Harper faces off against Osuna. R.A. Dickey and Jordan Zimmermann will get the nod in the afternoon game (1:05 p.m. EST), with Marco Estrada and Max Scherzer slated to start the nightcap (7:05 p.m. EST).

***

Tuesday night kicks off what is expected to be a brief preliminary look at Rangers prospect Joey Gallo. Kate Morrison and Bret Sayre covered Gallo’s call-up and what to expect from the power-hitting third base prospect, but all indications are that this will be a short-term move while Adrian Beltre is out with a thumb injury. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels indicated on Monday that the plan is for Gallo to head to Triple-A once Beltre returns from the disabled list in two to three weeks. In the meantime, baseball fans will get a chance to see the 80-grade raw power that landed Gallo at no. 15 on the BP Top 101 Prospects list back in February. Gallo’s first crack at major league pitching will come in Arlington against Jeff Samardzija, who will be tasked with quieting a Rangers offense that is suddenly stacked with left-handed bats in the middle of the order (8:05 p.m. EST).

***

The last time Jeremy Guthrie took the mound for the Royals, the Yankees put on a Memorial Day shellacking, tagging the right-hander for a career-worst 11 runs and sending him to the showers before the second inning was in the books. Guthrie wasn’t fooling anybody in what was a start he’d like to forget, with the Yankees spitting on his pitches outside of the zone and making hard contact when Guthrie left pitches over the middle of the plate.

Guthrie has never been one to miss a ton of bats but has been able to survive as a serviceable back-of-the-rotation guy, eating innings due to solid control of the strike zone and a knack for avoiding the disabled list. However, his lackluster strikeout rate has crashed all the way to the bottom of the league: His 8.6 percent mark is currently 2.5 percentage points lower than the second worst in baseball. Pitching to contact is a strategy a starting pitcher can get away with when he has one of the top defenses in the league playing behind him, but even the Royals defenders have been unable to mask Guthrie’s poor performance to date. His 6.12 DRA is the fifth highest among starting pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched this year and his cFIP—which ranks third worst—offers even less reason for optimism.

The Royals are losers in five of their last six games and are set to open a three-game series against their division mates in Cleveland, but for Ned Yost’s club to get back on track, they’ll likely need to get some help from the bats against Carlos Carrasco (8:10 p.m. EST).

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bradnash
6/02
Andrew McCutchen is not the reigning MVP. That honor belongs to Clayton Kershaw.
doctawojo
6/02
Thank you -- fixed.
granbergt
6/02
I look forward to these recaps every morning. Keep up the good work!
cmosch
6/02
Glad you've enjoyed them. Thanks for reading!
NYYanks826
6/03
The craziest thing about Cashner's outing the other night was that his BABIP was over .900. He got all but two outs on strikeouts. One non-K out was a caught stealing, and the other was a pop out to the first batter of the game. So basically, after the leadoff hitter in the top of the first inning, the Mets had a 1.000 BABIP against Cashner.