The Tuesday Takeaway
Facing the team that selected him 36th overall in the 2010 draft, Mike Montgomery, now a member of the Mariners, gave the Royals a taste of the future they once dreamed he’d have in blue last night.
The left-hander’s fifth career big-league start was a four-hit shutout, in which he struck out 10 and didn’t walk a batter. Seattle scored three times each in the fourth and fifth innings, led by Dustin Ackley‘s 3-for-4 night that featured a two-run homer, and its starter rendered all but the first tally superfluous in the 7-0 rout.
Montgomery got ahead and stayed ahead, firing first-pitch strikes to 26 of 33 foes and collecting 13 swings-and-misses over the course of the night. Seven of those whiffs came on Montgomery’s changeup, as he pulled the string 20 times with great success. Time and time again, the Royals chased those blue squares below the strike zone, much to the delight of their former prospect:
Montgomery’s strikeout prowess is even more noteworthy because Ned Yost‘s offense is among the toughest in the majors to whiff. The 25-year-old is the first pitcher to rack up double-digit Ks against Kansas City this year; the only one who did it in 2014 was Corey Kluber, who had three such outings. The last left-hander to strike out 10 or more Royals was fellow Mariner James Paxton, way back on September 24, 2013.
To find the last southpaw to do so in a complete-game shutout, though, you’d have to rewind almost a decade further, to the prime years of one of the game’s foremost changeup artists. The date was July 6, 2004, and the pitcher in question was the Twins’ Johan Santana.
Hence, five games into his major-league stay, Montgomery is already in fine company, with a 2.04 ERA to boot. The onetime top-30 prospect’s route to the majors was a circuitous one, taking him through three organizations. He was traded in 2012 as part of the return package for James Shields, and then, two years later, was worth only right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who went to Tampa Bay in the deal that brought Montgomery to Seattle.
Now, Montgomery has done something no other Mariner had ever done before,
Mike Montgomery becomes the first #Mariners LHP with a 10-strikeout, zero walk shutout in club history.
— MarinersPR (@MarinersPR)
at the expense of his first employer, a team that no other big-league pitcher had so thoroughly flummoxed this year.
Quick Hits From Tuesday
ESPN’s Mark Simon took a deep dive Tuesday morning into the intriguing matchup between the ultra-powerful Giancarlo Stanton and the flame-throwing Carlos Martinez. Simon identified a specific weakness in Stanton’s approach, one that might enable Martinez to skirt damage if he commanded his top two pitches well enough.
The data suggested pitching Stanton inside with fastballs to set up breaking balls away. Martinez did that, to some extent, in their first head-to-head meeting and got ahead 1-2, before a waste pitch too far outside evened the count. He’d thrown back-to-back breaking balls but was determined to throw another, hoping that Stanton would finally go fishing. Good idea. As for the execution…
The pitch is still on its way, the bat is still on Stanton’s shoulder, but already, it’s clear that something has gone terribly wrong. Yadier Molina has begun to reach across the plate, hoping against hope that the mistake will somehow elude Stanton’s bat. No such luck:
Instead, it hit Stanton’s barrel and shot off at 119 mph, traveling 479 feet before the stands would let it travel no more. The mammoth blast was no. 26 of the year for the Miami right fielder, who padded his lead just as the surging Albert Pujols threatened to draw even.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, that was just about the only major blunder of which Martinez was guilty last night. He recovered to scatter eight hits over seven innings, limiting the Fish to just one more run and punching out nine along the way.
Down three runs in the fourth, the Redbirds battled back on a Jason Heyward solo shot and a two-run double by Xavier Scruggs. Then, in the seventh, with the game still tied 3-3 and Marlins starter Jose Urena watching from the dugout, Sam Dyson gift-wrapped a rally.
Scruggs notched a leadoff single, after which Dyson plunked Martinez and Randal Grichuk, loading the bases with one out. He recovered to strike out Jhonny Peralta, leaving it all up to Mark Reynolds, who, apparently, decided to avenge the HBPs by drilling one right back at Dyson:
They say the best revenge is living well, and despite a valiant effort from Adeiny Hechavarria, Reynolds’ infield single brought home the deciding run in the 4-3 Cardinals win.
The Pirates only scored in one of their eight offensive innings during yesterday’s home contest against the Reds, and they were down 4-0 when that frame began. Normally, that would spell trouble. But the last of the fourth at PNC Park on Tuesday was no normal half-inning.
When it began, Reds starter Josh Smith, fresh up from Triple-A had a no-hitter. He’d walked five batters, sure, but that was irrelevant because the Bucs couldn’t find any holes in the Cincinnati defense. Then he walked Neil Walker to begin the fourth, and all of a sudden, the Pirates’ batted balls began to fall.
Josh Harrison singled. Pedro Alvarez doubled home Walker. And then, up stepped Francisco Cervelli, batting .308/.385/.396 in one of the most surprising standout performances of the first half, aiming to knot the score with one swing:
That would do it for Smith, who gave way to Pedro Villarreal, who quickly got two outs. Gregory Polanco tripled, but he would’ve been stranded at third had Eugenio Suarez converted Starling Marte‘s ensuing groundball into an out. Instead, Suarez threw the ball away, and the E6 allowed the go-ahead run to score. And for the Reds, the news only got worse from there…
Andrew McCutchen saw to that, bringing home Marte and himself with a two-run jack that completed Pittsburgh’s seven-run outburst.
The Reds scored once each in the fifth and sixth innings but were kept off the board the rest of the way, as the Bucs squeaked by with a 7-6 win. Mark Melancon, who’d struck out only 19 batters in 33 2/3 innings, K’d the side for the first time in 2015 to record his 24th save.
Another day, another five-RBI night for Maikel Franco, whose red-hot hitting continues to pave the way for a suddenly sizzling Phillies attack.
The visitors were unkind to Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who was passable his first time through the order but regressed toward piñata status as the night went on. Philadelphia began the fourth inning trailing 3-1, but a double by Andres Blanco and a two-run dinger by Cameron Rupp took care of the deficit. Four batters later, Franco put the road nine on top with a three-run oppo taco.
That 6-3 margin held for an inning-and-a-half, when Chase Headley and Alex Rodriguez bopped back-to-back jacks off Sean O’Sullivan, who fared no better than Sabathia. Neither completed the fifth inning and each saw six runs score on his watch, leaving the game in the hands of the bullpens.
Both relief staffs did their jobs until the top of the ninth, when Joe Girardi called upon Dellin Betances. The big right-hander carried a 0.26 ERA into action on Tuesday, having allowed four runs in 35 innings, only one of them earned. So it was quite a shock when the Phillies, who hadn’t scored five runs in an inning all season, did so for the second time in the game.
Ben Revere kicked off the ninth with a double, and Betances quickly filled the open base by plunking Cesar Hernandez. That wasn’t too bright with Franco on deck, and the rookie infielder made Betances pay:
That made it 8-6 Phils, and they weren’t done.
After a productive groundout by Ryan Howard moved Franco to third, Betances drilled Jeff Francoeur and got the hook from Girardi. In came rookie Nick Rumbelow, who began his day by walking Domonic Brown. That loaded the bases. Blanco unloaded them with a triple.
A tightly contested 6-6 affair became an 11-6 laugher, Justin DeFratus kept it that way with a clean ninth.
Runs were at a premium in Chicago, which is to say they weren’t happening at all for most of the night.
Zack Greinke was good—six innings, three hits, two walks, five strikeouts—if not particularly efficient, needing 111 pitches to get 18 outs as the patient Cubs wore him out. Jason Hammel was better, holding the Dodgers to a couple of hits and a couple of walks in 7 2/3 while punching out six. Hector Rondon finished off the eighth, and when Adam Liberatore countered with a goose egg, neither starter could factor into the decision.
Not many of them, though.
After Jason Motte shut down the Dodgers on seven pitches, Joel Peralta threw 11 and allowed all three Cubs he faced to reach. Don Mattingly came out to replace Peralta with Kenley Jansen and install a five-man infield with Andre Ethier at second base. That worked, briefly, as Addison Russell hit into a fielder’s choice out at home. But the next batter, Chris Denorfia, was able to lift one to the outfield
and Matt Szczur scrambled home with the game’s only run.
When Madison Bumgarner notches double-digit strikeouts, it’s almost always great news for the Giants. The left-hander was 18-1 in 21 such games entering play Tuesday, and the Giants had won both of the no-decisions.
Bumgarner struck out a career-high 14 Padres last night, carving up a lineup loaded with right-handed power hitters. But after San Francisco staked its starter to a 2-0 edge in the fifth inning, the Padres battled back in the seventh. A leadoff walk by Yonder Alonso and a double by Will Middlebrooks put two men in scoring position for Will Venable, who knotted the score with the Friars’ second two-bagger of the frame.
That double chased Bumgarner from the game, with a share of the franchise San Francisco-era K record by a southpaw (previously held by Atlee Hammaker) in hand but no chance at a “W.” His counterpart, Odrisamer Despaigne, was long gone already, after five innings of two-run ball. But the Padres bullpen held the line.
Neither side scored again in regulation, so bonus baseball was on tap at AT&T Park, too. Unlike the Dodgers and Cubs, though, the Padres and Giants would need an 11th inning.
And that’s when the 2-3-4 section of the Friars order, 0-for-11 with 11 strikeouts to that point in the night, sprung to life. Derek Norris doubled. Justin Upton singled. And Alexi Amarista, who entered when Matt Kemp was ejected, turned in an infield hit that scored Norris to put the Padres up 3-2.
Could the visitors, 18 strikeouts and all, snatch a series-opening a victory at AT&T Park? It was up to Craig Kimbrel to save it. The closer issued a one-out walk to Brandon Crawford, but he struck out the side, leaving Crawford, who stole second with two down, stranded in scoring position.
Per the Play Index, this was the fifth time the Padres have won a game in which they fanned 18 or more times. The last one came back on May 25, 2008, when they clubbed five homers and defeated the Reds, 12-9, in 18 innings.
The Defensive Play of the Day
Fan interference, child endangerment…
…and a great, barehanded grab.
BONUS: The Defensive Non-Play of the Day
Nice throw, Torii.
What to Watch on Wednesday
The road back from Tommy John surgery can be long and arduous, but Ivan Nova has finally reached the end. Fourteen months after going under the knife, the right-hander is ready to rejoin the Yankees for a home date with Cole Hamels and the Phillies.
Nova struggled badly in 2014, but he’s less than two years removed from a very solid 2013 campaign in which he compiled a 3.10 ERA over 23 games (20 starts), supported by a 3.30 DRA. A healthy and refreshed Nova could be exactly the sort of mid-rotation starter the Yankees need to deepen their rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, both of whom have taken some lumps of late.
The 28-year-old Nova averaged almost 95 mph on his four-seam fastball and consistently hit 93 with his sinker in 2013, so monitor the radar-gun readings to see if he’s back to those levels a year and two months after surgery. Nova was knocked around a bit in his last rehab start, coughing up five runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings, but the Yankees deemed him good to go. They’ll transition to a six-man rotation for the time being, and Nova will tackle a tall order in his return, going up against Cole Hamels in the series finale versus the Phillies (1:05 p.m. ET).
When you tune in to watch Gerrit Cole, you sometimes see pitches like this one:
Very few starting pitchers in the world can reach 98 mph with that sort of run. All of which is to say that if you haven’t seen Cole yet this year—and even if you have—you might want to check out the Pirates game against the Reds today.
Scouts who flock to PNC Park to watch Mike Leake, likely a popular trade target for pitching-needy teams as the July 31st deadline approaches, will have the peripheral benefit of seeing Cole, who isn’t going anywhere and has earned a win in each of his last six starts. Only one other Pirates starter has authored a longer “W” streak in the last 40 years, and that’s Cole’s current teammate A.J. Burnett, who did it in 2012. Cole can move to within one win of matching that run by downing the Reds tonight (7:05 p.m. ET).
A little time in Triple-A seems to have done Kendall Graveman a lot of good. The rookie right-hander was demoted after getting thumped to the tune of an 8.27 ERA in April, but he returned in late May and has been outstanding essentially ever since.
Graveman is 4-for-4 in the quality-start department this month, and he’s worked at least seven innings while surrendering two runs or fewer in three straight. The 24-year-old’s ERA has tumbled each time he’s taken the hill since returning from Nashville, and it’s now all the way down to 4.02. Graveman altered his pitch mix after the brutal first month
paring down his fastball and slider usage while bumping his cutter and curve into somewhat more-prominent roles. The cutter continues to run into trouble, clearing fences when Graveman misses his targets, but the curveball has been dynamite. Opponents are just 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts against the yakker this month.
Tonight, Graveman gets the ball in the middle match of a three-game set in Arlington, taking on a Rangers club that beat him to a pulp on April 9th. He gave up eight runs on seven hits (two of them homers) that day, walked a batter, drilled a couple, and packed all of that carnage into 3 1/3 innings in the A’s pitcher-friendly yard. Now, the seemingly new-and-improved Graveman will seek revenge in the bandbox that is Globe Life Park, taking on Wandy Rodriguez this evening (8:05 p.m. ET).