The Monday Takeaway
There weren't many bones to pick with Mike Bolsinger's outing on Monday night. In fact, the only salient one was its brevity.
The former Diamondback baffled his old mates for four innings. He gave up three hits, all of them singles, and struck out four without walking a batter. Bolsinger was sitting pretty at 48 pitches through four, and the Dodgers were, too, after slugging three taters in the top of the fourth.
It became clear that something was amiss in the top of the fifth, when Alex Guerrero was called on to pinch-hit for Bolsinger with runners at the corners and two away. Guerrero struck out, so the Dodgers' lead stayed at 4–0, and Joel Peralta jogged to the mound. Bolsinger's night was done, as everyone later learned, because of some bad oysters he consumed in Miami:
#Dodgers Mike Bolsinger on source of his illness tonight: "That'll teach me to eat oysters again" Said it hit him yesterday in Miami. Got IV
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) June 30, 2015
And that meant Don Mattingly would need to get five innings out of his bullpen.
The Dodgers' relief corps is replete with young flamethrowers, from Yimi Garcia to Pedro Baez, who complement veterans like Peralta and J.P. Howell and pave the way to Kenley Jansen, one of the league's best closers. The group doesn't lack for stuff, as its 241 strikeouts in 212 innings can attest. But its save percentage coming into yesterday's game was just 64 percent—down in the dumps with non-contenders and teams like the Cubs, who have actively sought bullpen help—and that was before Garcia and Adam Liberatore bumped the Dodgers' blown save total by two last night.
Six pitchers appeared in relief of Bolsinger Monday, and four of them were charged with two or more runs. Of the two that didn't, one, Liberatore, faced two batters without recording an out. The other, Howell, gave up two walks and a two-run single in one-third of an inning, allowing a pair of inherited runners to score.
Peralta jeopardized the Dodgers' four-run advantage virtually from the get-go. Three batters into his stint, he served up an 80-grade hanger to Nick Ahmed, who sliced the margin in half:
After Peralta got out of the fifth with no further damage, Garcia took over in the sixth, which almost exactly mirrored the previous frame. He got an out. Then he allowed a single. Then he coughed up a two-run jack:
And then he got two more outs to finish the inning. Except, by that point, the game was tied.
Luckily, the Dodgers had a pair of runs still in them. Jimmy Rollins singled home Adrian Gonzalez, who led off the seventh with a walk, and Andre Ethier, who doubled both runners into scoring position, to put L.A. up 6–4. Yasmani Grandal, who was intentionally walked before Rollins came up, was thrown out at third on the play, hindering the Dodgers' hopes of prolonging the rally.
Juan Nicasio entered for the visitors after the seventh-inning stretch, retired two batters, and then gave up two singles. Mattingly pulled the plug at that point and called on Liberatore, on whose watch the Snakes pulled off a double steal. As it turned out, they would've been just fine staying at first and second, because David Peralta followed with a triple:
Both runs were charged to Nicasio, who became the third-straight reliever to be saddled with a pair. Liberatore then intentionally walked Paul Goldschmidt, leaving runners at the corners for Baez, who fanned Yasmany Tomas to end the inning.
Mattingly rewarded Baez for that K by leaving him on the hill for the eighth, which went much more poorly. A leadoff walk to Jake Lamb proved problematic almost instantly, when Welington Castillo doubled him home. The next batter, Chris Owings, put down a nice base-hit bunt, which Baez compounded into a run-scoring "double" by firing the ball off the side wall in right field:
Ahmed sacrificed Owings over to third, and Baez proceeded to walk Aaron Hill, leaving runners at the corners with two away when A.J. Pollock popped out. Mattingly wanted a lefty to face Peralta, so he brought in Howell, who walked him. That wasn't particularly prudent, with Goldschmidt, a world-class lefty-masher, waiting on deck. His two-run single made it 10–6 Arizona.
The D'backs' second double-steal of the game put a pair in scoring position, but it also gave Howell an open base to walk Tomas. He then struck out the lefty-hitting Lamb to end the tumultuous inning, but the Dodgers failed to score in the ninth, and that was all she wrote.
Before we go, let's add up the carnage left by Mattingly's relievers: 4 IP, 10 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 5 BB, 4 K, 2 HR, 5 SB. And now, let's fire up the Baseball Reference Play Index and put it in some historical context.
Relievers are human, and as humans, they're prone to the occasional bad day. It's just that they usually don't conspire to have their bad days all at once. In the worst-case scenario, a manager might reasonably expect three of his bullpen arms to fall apart, like Ramon Troncoso, Cory Wade, and Brent Leach did on May 7, 2009, the last time three Dodgers relievers allowed two-plus runs in no more than one inning of work. The last time four did so in unison? Try June 25, 1950.
Then there's Liberatore, who gave up a hit, a walk, and two stolen bases without getting an out, becoming the first pitcher to do so for any major-league club in 2015, and the first Dodger to do it since Pedro Borbon in 1999. Finally, there's Howell, who gave up a hit, two walks, and two steals in one-third of an inning. That, too, is a 2015 first, and a clunker unlike any spat up by a Dodger reliever since Brad Clontz in 1998.
Since Mattingly had to watch the mess unfold, and to stroll to the mound, periodically, hoping that his newest pitcher would stem the tide, let's get his two cents on the bullpen-wide meltdown:
Mattingly on #Dodgers bullpen: "It didn't really matter, it seemed like, what we did today. Whatever we tried, it wasn't the right guy."
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) June 30, 2015
The Dodgers have no shortage of electric relief arms in the organization, but they've yet to find a reliable combination, even with Jansen returning to stabilize the ninth inning. With that depth in mind, it's not surprising that Andrew Friedman told reporters a few days ago that bullpen upgrades aren't on his deadline shopping list.
One bad night probably won't change their plans and, as Friedman pointed out, the fickle nature of bullpens might yet turn this one into a strength before October. Perhaps all they need is some more of those oysters:
The Dodgers best pitcher tonight was the guy with food poisoning. Donnie should make sure the entire bullpen has food poisoning from now on.
— Ned2point0 (@Ned2point0) June 30, 2015
Quick Hits From Monday
The Rangers had a host of trouble running the bases in the first inning of yesterday's series opener versus the Orioles.
Leadoff man Rougned Odor got them going with a single, but then the 21-year-old got a little lackadaisical at first. If you're not going to dive back to the bag on a pickoff attempt, you'd better be darn sure you can get there safely standing up. Otherwise, you get TOOTBLAN:
Perhaps in an effort to make Odor feel better, Shin-Soo Choo, who singled after the second baseman was picked off, ran into an out, too:
Choo was once one of the league's most efficient base-thieves. He went 21-for-23 in that department in 2009 and eclipsed 20 steals three times after that, albeit with declining success rates. But at 32, Choo is no spring chicken, and ankle ailments have sapped his legs of their peak burst. He stole just three bases in seven tries amid a disastrous 2014 campaign with the Rangers and was stuck on zero entering his 69th game of the year.
So, running from first with two down and Adrian Beltre at the plate, Choo tried to sneak one by O's catcher Caleb Joseph, attempting a delayed steal of second well after Bud Norris' delivery. The flaw in that plan was Joseph's presence in the squat. He gunned down a league-high 40 percent of would-be thieves last year, and though that pace has slowed to a below-average 22 percent in 2015, his arm—unlike Choo's legs—is still very much intact. Close but no cigar was the verdict on the attempt, and the inning was over.
Fortunately for the Rangers, there is a way to score in baseball without enduring peril on the basepaths, and Mitch Moreland had it all figured out. He went deep in each of his first two at-bats, the first of which required replay,
leading the way in a four-homer attack to which Carlos Corporan and Choo also pitched in. That was ample support for Wandy Rodriguez, who scattered eight hits and two walks in five-plus innings by punching out seven Orioles and inducing a double play.
Let's introduce what hopefully will be a recurring (albeit not daily) feature in WYNTK. We'll call it The Swing of the Day. And we'll give Pablo Sandoval the privilege of starring in the pilot:
Ahead in the count 1–2, R.A. Dickey tossed Sandoval a 64 mph eephus that crossed the plate about even with the bill of the Panda's batting helmet. It was the sort of pitch that one might hesitate to chase even in a hit-and-run situation when swinging is mandatory. And it's hard to decide whether to be more shocked that Sandoval chose to hack at the lob or impressed that he managed to get on top of it.
At any rate, that one-of-a-kind 6–3 ground out had no bearing on the outcome of Monday's contest, so—once you're done watching the GIF a time or two or 53—let's move on to more important things.
Like, say, the outing turned in by Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, who's gradually resembling the front-line starter Boston has direly lacked. Buchholz hadn't served up a home run in six starts when he climbed the mound Monday, and he kept the power-packed Blue Jays in the park, no small feat at the Rogers Centre. He'd also limited opponents to two earned runs or fewer in six of his previous eight games, and he made that 7-of-9.
Buchholz logged eight innings, allowed just one run on five hits, did not walk a batter, and struck out five. Solid fastball command was the key to the right-hander's success, as he notched a first-pitch strike to 20 of his 27 foes and worked off the hard stuff with an array of secondary offerings. Buchholz didn't pound the knees or paint the corners, but he mixed his pitches well under the guidance of catcher Sandy Leon and the Jays seldom looked comfortable in the box.
That's noteworthy, considering John Gibbons' club took the field Monday leading the league with 420 runs scored—topping the second-place Yankees by more than 50—and batting an aggregate .280/.355/.482 at home. Buchholz joins Yovani Gallardo, Michael Pineda, and Jake Odorizzi as the only starters to waltz into the Rogers Centre this year and fire eight or more frames while permitting no more than one run. According to the Play Index, he's just the 10th to do so since the start of the 2012 season.
With Buchholz in top form, the Red Sox didn't need much offense to win, a good thing because Sandoval, head-high hacks and all, went 0-for-4, and David Ortiz did, too. Boston scored twice in third inning on a pair of walks, a single, and a two-run double by Xander Bogaerts. The visitors then added an insurance tally in the fifth when Mookie Betts cranked a leadoff triple and scored on a single by Brock Holt.
Koji Uehara wrapped up the 3–1 decision with his 17th save.
Buchholz's first claim to fame was chucking a no-hitter in his second major-league start, as Terry Francona watched in awe from the dugout. On Monday, Cody Anderson, taking his second turn in Francona's Indians rotation, tried to upstage Buchholz with a perfect game.
Anderson booked 7 2/3 scoreless innings in his big-league debut, so he had a tough act to follow in his second look at the Rays. But follow it he did, by setting down the first 19 Rays who came to bat in order. Then, a former Indian and Red Sox spoiled the fun:
Grady Sizemore's solo shot gave the Rays their first baserunner and hit of the day, and their first run off of Anderson in two games. It also marked the rookie's first run allowed in the bigs.
Fortunately for the Tribe, Anderson was pitching with a 2–0 lead at that point, and Sizemore's dinger merely halved it. The Rays would get no closer. Yan Gomes went yard in the eighth and the Indians plated four in the ninth to complete the 7–1 rout.
As for Anderson, he departed with eight innings of one-run ball under his belt, making him the seventh starter in Indians history to begin his career with back-to-back outings of 7 2/3 or more innings and no more than one run allowed. The last was Dennis Eckersley, back in 1975.
Quality pitching was in short supply in Cincinnati on Monday, where both starters, Mikes Leake and Pelfrey, were gone before the fifth inning, the latter much sooner than that.
Pelfrey hit the showers four batters into the third, carrying eight runs on nine hits and three walks on his line for the evening. Leake was through after four, having allowed the Twins to claw all the way back into a game they trailed 9–1 heading into the frame. He owes Nate Adcock, Manny Parra, and Aroldis Chapman a fine dinner for picking up the slack and holding the visitors the rest of the way.
And he might as well let his battery-mate, Tucker Barnhart, in on that meal, because the Reds' lineup might not have produced 11 runs sans its no. 7-hitting catcher. On a night when every Cincinnati position player but Todd Frazier had multiple hits, Barnhart led the way with four, driving in two runs and scoring another.
Meanwhile, Barnhart's opposite number, Kurt Suzuki, suffered through a nightmarish night. He went 0-for-4 with a double-play grounder at the dish, and 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, but that wasn't half the pain. Billy Hamilton's four steals, along with two from Eugenio Suarez, are more likely to keep the catcher up at night.
The Defensive Play of the Day
On a night when just about every game featured a gem worthy of recognition here, Josh Donaldson added this one to his personal highlight reel:
What to Watch on Tuesday
If the Cubs are interested in acquiring Jon Niese from the Mets—and FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported over the weekend that they are—they'll surely be scouting his next batch of outings, so it's pretty handy that the schedule-makers have Joe Maddon's club visiting the Mets in Queens this week, and even more convenient that Terry Collins has Niese lined up to take on the Cubs in the series opener.
Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson will hope that Niese can make a better impression on the North Siders than he did on May 14th, when the Cubs tagged him for six runs (four earned) in 6 1/3 innings. Niese plunked as many batters (two) as he struck out that day, leaving Anthony Rizzo with a pair of unwanted bruises, and he also served up a home run to Dexter Fowler in a shaky start that set the tone for a rough second half of May.
Things have turned up since then for the 28-year-old, who takes a 3.46 June ERA into his fifth and final assignment of the month. He's due to lock horns with Kyle Hendricks, whose performance has gone in the other direction. Hendricks has been shelled to the tune of 32 hits and four homers in 26 June frames, which takes the shine right off his 22-to-4 K:BB ratio over that same span. The right-hander hasn't booked a sixth-inning out in any of his last four starts, so he'll seek greater efficiency along with improved results when he toes the rubber at Citi Field (7:10 p.m. ET).
Forearm issues can linger sometimes, or even be precursors to serious elbow trouble, but fortunately for the Cardinals, neither appears to be true of the ailment that sidelined Lance Lynn for a couple of weeks this month. Lynn looked as good as new when he blanked the Marlins over six innings on June 25th, and barring a hiccup in his next couple of starts, there won't be any cause for further concern.
The 28-year-old righty can allay any remaining worries by shutting down the White Sox at Busch Stadium tonight. He's made only one career start versus the South Siders, and that came way back on June 13, 2012, when Dayan Viciedo, Paul Konerko, and Alex Rios composed the middle of Robin Ventura's order. Lynn notched a career-high 12 strikeouts that day, a mark that still stands as his best big-league effort in the K department, but he won't see many familiar faces among the Pale Hose when they reunite. Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez are the only holdovers, so Jose Abreu and Co. will aim to do what their predecessors couldn't when Lynn blew them away three years ago.
Meanwhile, Chris Sale gets the ball for the White Sox in the best on-paper duel of the day. The southpaw will vie for his eighth-straight start with double-digit strikeouts, and he's already in exclusive company, as only Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Nolan Ryan went seven in a row before Sale. Per the Play Index, Martinez—who had two separate such streaks—currently stands alone at eight (8:15 p.m. ET).
Andrew Heaney pitched well in his first start donning an Angels uniform, holding the Astros to a run over six innings while walking one and striking out six. Tonight, in his second game with the Halos, the southpaw will have to contend with one of the majors' best hitters against left-handed pitching to date.
The batter in question is the Yankees' Chris Young, who carried a .424 True Average in 76 plate appearances versus southpaws into play on Monday, good for third behind only Nelson Cruz and Giancarlo Stanton. Young has clobbered just about everything that lefties have thrown at him so far in 2015, slugging over .500 off of all pitch categories
while shaving his whiffs-per-swing rate to 18 percent, the lowest it's been since 2012.
Heaney will have his work cut out for him when Young digs in this evening, and the outfielder will do his best to support Ivan Nova, who, like Heaney, will be making his second big-league start of 2015. While Heaney spent the first two-and-a-half months honing his arsenal, Nova was rehabbing after Tommy John surgery, from which he successfully returned last week. The 28-year-old's velocity looked good, but it may take time for him to restore his command to pre-injury levels, as evidenced by his recording only one strikeout in 6 2/3 innings against the Phillies. Nova would do well to miss more bats while taking on Mike Trout and the Halos tonight (10:05 p.m. ET).