The Wednesday Takeaway
The Yankees have played quite a few high-scoring games recently. Since last Saturday, one team in each of their games has scored at least ten runs, and that trend continued on Wednesday. After their pitchers allowed 34 runs, 44 hits, nine home runs, and 12 walks in the previous 27 innings, the Yankees busted out ten runs of their own to salvage the series finale against the Phillies.
The Yankees hadn’t had too many scoring problems of their own, as they jumped all over Kevin Correia and Sean O’Sullivan on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, driving both out of the game before they completed five innings. However, lackluster starts by Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia—preceded by Masahiro Tanaka‘s worst major-league start on Sunday—proved too much for the Yankees to overcome.
However, they got just what they needed out of Ivan Nova to end their three-game slide in the righty’s first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2014. Nova, a key member of the Yankees’ rotation of 2011–13, put up 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing three hits and two walks. Never a huge strikeout pitcher, with a career strikeouts-per-nine rate under seven, Nova fanned only one, although it was a good one, as it came against Maikel Franco, who torched the Yankees for six hits, five runs, 10 RBIs, three home runs, and a defensive stab in the previous two games. Nova largely resembled the same pitcher he was before going under the knife, as his velocity was nearly identical to his career norms.
Cole Hamels also returned from an injury—albeit a much more minor one, as his strained right hamstring only required him to miss one start—but he was hit hard. Hamels’ fastball velocity was actually somewhat higher than it has been for most of the season, but nearly all his pitches were lacking significant movement, most notably his changeup, which saw its vertical movement decline by about 2.6 inches from its 2015 average. Hamels allowed 11 baserunners and five runs in just five innings.
The Yankees’ most productive offensive contributors on the day were, as they have been for much of the season, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. The former returned from an injury of his own—a stiff neck—to go 3-for-5 with two RBIs. After grounding-into-the-shift-ing his way to a .198 BABIP over the first two months of the seasons, Teixeira has produced a .295 BABIP in 60 June at-bats. Meanwhile, Rodriguez reached base four times in five trips to the plate, also knocking in two runs. A-Rod spent the day dodging, dipping, diving, and ducking, as he was hit by a pitch in the first inning and dropped to avoid this foul ball in the seventh:
Quick Hits from Wednesday
Max Scherzer may be getting much of the press for his recent stretch of dominance, but Marco Estrada has been making some noise of his own. One start after taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning, Estrada one-upped himself by taking a perfect game into the eighth inning before a Logan Forsythe infield single broke it up.
In his previous two games, Estrada has pitched 15 2/3 innings, struck out 16, and allowed just seven baserunners and one run. That said, he’s still Marco Estrada. He is getting some more drop on his changeup and more break on his curveball, but as Dayn Perry writes, it’s not accompanied by a significant change in velocity. Having Josh Donaldson (worth 6.1 FRAA already in 2015) making plays like this behind you doesn’t hurt, either:
That, in case you were wondering, was your Defensive Play of the Day.
Opposing Estrada was Nate Karns, whose 3.43 DRA and 82 DRA- indicated he has pitched even better than his 3.53 ERA and 96 ERA- entering Wednesday’s game would indicate. Karns didn’t disappoint, taking a no-hitter of his own into the sixth inning and eventually finishing with three hits, three walks, and five strikeouts in six shutout innings.
From there, it was the bullpen’s turn. The Blue Jays feature a middle-of-the-road relief corps, ranking 16th in the league in DRA, while the Rays’ 4.76 DRA among relievers is the third worst in baseball. Yet the teams combined for 9 1/3 bullpen innings and only one blow was struck: a Chris Colabello home run in the top of the 12th that would prove to be decisive in the Blue Jays’ 1–0 victory.
Colabello is still hitting .343 and his BABIP remains north of .400. Apparently, he’s going to enjoy himself for as long as he can while the party’s still hot and the interest rates are still low.
It was a game of deja vu all over again for the Astros and Angels. First, there were the pitchers. Then, there were the replays.
Two young rookie pitchers went head to head in this AL West battle. Andrew Heaney, ranked the 37th-best prospect in baseball before this season, faced the Astros’ Lance McCullers, who entered the game sporting a low ERA (2.45) an even lower FIP (2.31), and a great DRA (2.71) in 40 1/3 innings.
Both young fireballers pitched well, almost eerily so, with final lines that looked quite similar: one run in six innings on four hits for each. McCullers threw mostly fastballs and curveballs during the start, with his curve having nearly two more inches of movement than usual. McCullers used his fastball to overpower Mike Trout twice on his way to six strikeouts while Heaney’s fastball-slider combination mixed with the occasional changeup fanned five.
Another battle of the bullpens ensued, as this game spilled into the 13th inning, although it looked as if it could have ended sooner. The Astros threatened in the ninth when Preston Tucker singled to lead off the inning and was replaced by George Springer, who has stolen 13 bases this year. Mindful of Springer’s aggressiveness, Joe Smith threw to first
and got him. After a review, Springer was confirmed to be out.
It looked as if the Astros would get something going again when Evan Gattis lined a pitch down the left field line, but a great throw by Daniel Robertson caught El Oso Blanco as he galloped into second:
And, yup, without even having to watch the video, you guessed it, he was thrown out, and, yup, the call was upheld.
And so ended this episode of replay-a-geddon, with the Angels winning 2–1. It’s often said that one doesn’t want to make the final out of an inning on the basepaths, but it’s generally not too good to do so with just 0 or 1 outs, either. The Astros are slightly above-average baserunners, with two baserunning runs to their credit this season, but it killed them in this game, as they were able to get only one runner on base after Gonzalez was thrown out; ironically, that runner was Gonzalez himself, who wisely stayed put but was stranded in the top of the 13th. The Angels walked off on a Taylor Featherston single in the bottom of that inning.
What to Watch on Thursday
Matt Wisler earned himself another start with a solid major-league debut after being called up last Friday against the Mets, shutting New York down for eight innings while allowing only one run. Baseball’s 53rd-best prospect entering 2015 will now be tested against the Nationals, who sport the fourth-best team TAv in baseball, as opposed to the Mets’ 25th-best mark. Opposing him will be Doug Fister, who has put up an uncharacteristic 4.80 ERA. One might think that this is due in part to playing in front of baseball’s second-worst defense by defensive efficiency, but his FIP at 4.64 isn’t much better and he’s put up an ugly 153 DRA-. Fister missed about a month with a strained flexor muscle in his right forearm. His velocity, which was already down from last season, was even lower in his first start back from the DL last Thursday, and it showed, as he allowed nine hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings. He’ll see if he can pick it back up against the Braves, who threaten to pass the Mets as the Nationals’ main competition in the National League East. (4:05 PM ET)
Only four major leaguers have borne the name De La Rosa, and only two of them are currently active. Tomorrow, they’ll go head to head. That’s right, it’s De La Rosa squared, folks: Rubby’s Diamondbacks will take on Jorge’s Rockies in Colorado. Honestly, there’s not too much interesting besides that; although the D’backs are four games out of the NL West, both teams’ playoff odds stand below 10 percent (in the Rockies’ case, below 1 percent). And although both have pitched better than their ERAs suggest, both are mediocre. So this isn’t really a what to watch; it’s more something to be aware of, unless you get a kick out of watching pitchers with the same surname duke it out. (3:10 PM ET)
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