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The Wednesday Takeaway
Ubaldo Jimenez has had a lot of good games this season. The righty, who has a 3.17 DRA, has pitched five games in which he hasn’t given up any earned runs. Last night was one of those games, although you wouldn’t have expected that it would be so had you watched him last night. Jimenez put 10 runners on the bases in five innings, scattering seven hits and three walks, yet somehow avoided allowing any Twins to cross the plate. It took him 110 pitches to get through those five innings, though, so it was an early night for the bullpen.

That would be quite unfortunate for the Orioles, who, despite entering Wednesday just two games over .500, are still a game and a half behind the Yankees in the American League East. Baltimore inserted Bud Norris, who pitched terribly enough in the rotation to earn himself a demotion to the bullpen at the beginning of the month. Things didn’t go much better for Norris in his second appearance as a reliever, either, as he allowed a two-run home run to Brian Dozier and a solo blast to Joe Mauer. By DRA, the Orioles’ bullpen is the sixth best in baseball, although Norris didn’t help that out at all last night.

The Twins featured a pretty well balanced offensive attack, with seven different players garnering hits and four of those having multi-hit games. Among those players was Miguel Sano, who continued to hit in his seventh career game, singling once and walking twice. Sano’s still got awhile to go before he can top Chuck Aleno‘s 17-game hitting streak to start his career from 1941, but it’s a good start nonetheless. A more familiar name, Juan Pierre, had 16 to begin his career in 2001.

Tommy Milone, who entered Wednesday with a 1.69 ERA in his previous five starts, pitched another solid game, allowing five hits, two walks, and one run in seven innings. The Orioles, however, answered with two home runs of their own from Manny Machado and Chris Davis in the eighth off of Casey Fien, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the five runs the Twins had put up, and the Orioles fell 5–3.

Quick Hits from Wednesday
Cameron Maybin struck the first of many blows that would come in Wednesday’s Braves-Brewers game, hitting a three-run home run off Mike Fiers. That’s his eighth of the year, and he’s only one away from his career high of nine. Maybin is undoubtedly engaged in his best offensive season of his career, as he entered the game .295/.362/.425. The relative power surge for Maybin is somewhat surprising, given that he is hitting fewer fly balls this year. Instead, his HR/FB ratio is way up to over 16 percent. Maybin’s higher batting average has partially been a result of the greater number of line drives he’s hit.

Maybin’s big fly, soon followed by one from Kelly Johnson, wasn’t enough to overcome the Brewers, however, who came on with three home runs of their own: two from Carlos Gomez, and this monster shot from the recently returned Khris Davis:

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The Cardinals put up an early 4–0 lead, partially as a result of Michael Wacha‘s RBI single in the top of the second. However, while Wacha was able to get it done with the bat, the same couldn’t be said for his performance on the mound, as he allowed five runs, one of which came on a Kris Bryant triple, his third of the season. Miguel Montero‘s three-run double in the sixth inning gave the Cubs a 5–4 lead.

Chicago managed to score quite a few runs early, but that’s often not been the case, as the Cubs are 24th in baseball in runs scored, just ahead of notorious offense-challenged teams like the Marlins, Rays, and Mets. However, the Cubs have been better than they look at first glance at the plate, as their team TAv ranks 12th in the game.

It was the Cubs’ bullpen, however, that killed them this time, as Jhonny Peralta—who’s recently slumped a little bit, with his batting average falling from the low .300s to the low .290s and his OPS falling from the mid-.800s to the low-.800s in July—hit a two-run, two-out home run off Pedro Strop in the top of the ninth inning to give the Cardinals a 6–5 lead, which Trevor Rosenthal, who’s given up three total runs this season, closed out. That’s all for the Route 66 rivalry until September, as the Cardinals took the first and last games and the Cubs took the middle two.

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Another day, another dominant start for Jacob deGrom, whose ERA is down to 2.14 and whose DRA is down to 2.52. After a hiccup against the Cubs in his last start in which he allowed three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, deGrom shut down the Giants over eight innings, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out 10. It took deGrom just 99 pitches to complete the start. Over his last ten games, deGrom has a 1.38 ERA and has allowed just 50 baserunners while striking out 75 batters in 72 innings. He’s pounded the strike zone, throwing 70 percent of his pitches for strikes over that span.

It didn’t hurt that he was facing the Giants, who have been outscored by 16 runs in their last eight games. San Francisco managed to stop the bleeding with a 3–0 win over the Mets on Tuesday, but couldn’t get anything across save for a Hunter Pence RBI single in the ninth. The Giants’ playoff have sunk from 55 percent to 20 percent since the start of their swoon.

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Lots of fun stuff happened in the Royals’ 9–7 win over the Rays, like this:

And this, which is your defensive play of the day:

Looks like Kevin Kiermaier, who has 8.6 FRAA, just got a taste of his own medicine.

What to Watch on Thursday
By wins and losses, the Cardinals and Pirates are baseball’s two best teams, and that’s exactly who will be facing each other tomorrow. The Cardinals have bested the Pirates in four of the six games the two have played this season, outscoring them by three runs overall. However, St. Louis has been struggling in its last ten games, going 4–6, while the Pirates have gone 8–2. If the Pirates want to make a move to avoid the Wild Card game, this is an ideal place to start. However, they’ll have to overcome Carlos Martinez, who has been as good as ever in his last 10 starts, pitching to a 1.52 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 65 innings. Jeff Locke, who had his best start of the season last Saturday, will oppose him. Don’t miss the beginning of this four-game mid-season NL Central showdown that could be huge for the Pirates (7:05 PM ET).

The Twins and Tigers will also begin a four-game series tomorrow night in Minnesota, and Detroit will send out their best in David Price as they fight to remain relevant in the American League Central. Price has been dynamite in his last five starts with a 33:2 K/BB ratio with eight runs in 33 2/3 innings. The same hasn’t been true of Pelfrey, who’s allowed 23 runs in 24 innings in his past five starts. Sandwiching solid starts against the Cardinals and White Sox were games in which he allowed eight runs to the Rangers and Reds. He held the Royals to three in his last start, but lasted only four innings. While the Tigers are looking up at the Twins in the standings, the Tigers edge the Twins out in BP’s playoff odds with 37 percent to Minnesota’s 26 (8:10 PM ET).

It’ll be a battle of the aces out west as Garrett Richards takes on Felix Hernandez in Seattle. Since his last disastrous start on June 6th against the Yankees, Richards has allowed eight runs in 35 1/3 innings while only allowing a .585 OPS against opposing batters. Richards’ 3.35 DRA closely matches his 3.38 ERA for the season. He’s formed a solid one-two punch with Hector Santiago at the top of the Angels’ rotation. Since his last disastrous start on June 12th, against the Astros, Hernandez has allowed six runs in 27 2/3 innings with a .548 opponents’ OPS. Although it’s an AL West showdown, this game doesn’t have too many implications as the Mariners are out of it. Still, it should be a good pitching matchup to watch for west coasters or east coasters and heartlanders up late (10:10 PM ET).