The Wednesday Takeaway
Over the past two games, the Nationals have averaged eight runs. Not too bad. Except that sixteen of those runs came on Tuesday and none came on Wednesday, so they lost.
It was a rough game on both sides of the ball for Washington, as the team collected just two hits (neither for extra bases) and made three errors, two of which came on this play that most of us have probably experienced firsthand in our lives:
This continues to be a difficult season for the Nationals defensively, as their .679 defensive efficiency and minus-4.14 park-adjusted defensive efficiency both rank second to last in baseball.
That play—which was ruled a single and three bases worth of errors—was part of a 3-for-4 night for Steven Souza Jr. in which he also hit a home run. Souza had an eventful night in his first game back in Nationals Park as a Ray, earning a round of applause before being booed after lining a base hit in the second inning.
For the second straight game, the Rays did some funky stuff with their pitching. After tossing position players Jake Elmore and Nick Franklin in their 16–4 loss on Tuesday, the Rays tried a committee approach to be able to use pinch-hitters more often and keep the Nationals off-balance at the plate. While neither pinch-hitter the Rays sent up reached base, the strategy worked swimmingly on the mound, as five Rays pitchers combined to allow only four base runners. Manager Kevin Cash’s fluid bullpen strategy has been turning heads all season, as six different pitchers have collected two or more saves for the Rays.
Another strategy that worked was starting Curt Casali behind the plate. Casali collected his first hit of the season, and then some, singling twice, hitting a home run, and walking once. This provided a much-needed offensive boost at a position that came into the game hitting .156/.204/.227 using a combination of Rene Rivera and Bobby Wilson. Their combined performance is worse than that of almost any other regular position player in MLB. While the journeyman Casali is no long-term solution behind the plate, his production was a breath of fresh air for the production-starved Rays.
Quick Hits from Wednesday
Having gone 1–5 in the six games following their early June seven-game winning streak, the Yankees needed a pick-me-up from the sometimes spectacular, sometimes horrendous Michael Pineda on Wednesday if they wanted any hope of salvaging a series split against the Marlins. Pineda had been his latter self in an 11–3 loss against the Orioles after being skipped in the rotation for innings-count purposes.
Pineda bounced back last night, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning before allowing a home run to Christian Yelich, the only hit the righty would allow in 6 2/3 innings before the bullpen took over the job. The Yankees' bullpen, formerly one of their strongest suits, has struggled in the absence of the injured Andrew Miller. Yankees relievers had allowed 13 runs in 23 innings over the past week, but Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson managed to get an out apiece before handing the game off to Dellin Betances for a five-out save.
The ‘pen would not do so without scaring Yankees fans, however, as a Marlins run driven in by Dee Gordon was overturned after replay review:
Opposing Pineda on the mound was rookie Jose Urena, who, despite allowing nine baserunners in six innings and not having his best stuff, managed to limit the Yankees to two runs. Urena struck out only one while walking four—his highest total of the season—on a night in which his fastball averaged more than a mile per hour less than its usual 95. Urena only threw 50 of his 96 pitches for strikes, but was able to back himself out of jams in the first, fourth, and fifth as the Yankees went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
One of those hits came from Alex Rodriguez, who reached base four times on the night and even stole a base for the first time since September 5, 2013. Rodriguez, who entered the night with a .321 TAv, has had one of the best seasons of any 39-year-old in history and now stands just three hits shy of 3,000 for his career. A-Rod’s 1.6 WARP through 253 plate appearances has nearly equaled the production he put up in 529 plate appearances in 2012.
The bats came out on Wednesday in Cleveland as the Cubs pummeled the Indians 17–0. It was an offensive show for the ages as every player Chicago sent to the plate managed a hit. The Cubs didn’t stop, piling on hit after hit and run after run in three big innings throughout the game. Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo both homered, along with Chris Denorfia, and the game’s scoring, fittingly, was capped off by a Kris Bryant grand slam in the seven-run ninth inning.
The star of the game, though, was Kyle Schwarber, who, after striking out in his first major league plate appearance on Tuesday, went 4-for-5 on Wednesday, including this triple:
Maybe Schwarber already took care of all that corner-turning stuff and last year’s fourth-overall pick can skip the big-league adjustment and just put up performances like this regularly.
Defensive Play of the Day
DRS and FRAA think Gerardo Parra is exactly average, while UZR sees him 4.4 runs below. So which one is correct? It seems that Parra is trying to tell the defensive metrics that none have it right:
What to Watch on Thursday
Quick trivia question for you: who is the Pirates' second-best player by BWARP? It's not Starling Marte or Jung-ho Kang. Rather, it's Francisco Cervelli, who is batting .316. Cervelli was recently behind the plate for the Pirates' 35-inning scoreless streak, which ended in the sixth inning of yesterday's game, and had run his own streak of 56 consecutive scoreless innings. Gerrit Cole hasn't been too shabby himself this season this season, and he's proved no different this month, allowing just one earned run in 20 June innings. Cole will get to go to town against the White Sox, baseball's second-worst offense by TAv. (8:10 PM ET)
Two of baseball's oldest and most interesting pitchers will take the mound tonight, as 42-year-old Bartolo Colon will face 40-year-old R.A. Dickey. This is Dickey's first start against the Mets after being traded before the 2013 season, and the former Cy Young Award winner hasn't been particularly good, putting up a 4.17 ERA since 2013 while Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud are emerging as supporting members of the Mets' young core (although d'Arnaud is hurt right now). There's another 42-year-old at play in this game, however, that will make it less interesting: the designated hitter. Because the game is at Rogers Centre, we will be kept from the glory that is Bartolo Colon's prowess at the plate for one start. (7:10 PM)