It’s a pitchers era and an era of parity, and that was never more on display than on Wednesday night, when seven one-run games, four extra inning games, and three games decided on walk-offs were played.
The Wednesday Takeaway
It may not have been a one-run game, but it was still a close one for the Athletics. Naturally, they lost.
Neither team’s starter pitched well, nor did either pitch poorly, as Wei-Yin Chen allowed three runs in five innings, while Kendall Graveman gave up the same in 5 2/3. It was another lackluster game for Chen, who had a 2.86 ERA through July 21st but hasn’t been able to complete the sixth inning in any of his previous three starts. Chen had been getting by on a low BABIP, as his 4.19 DRA entering Wednesday attests, and that’s starting to catch up with him. It didn’t help that Chen’s normally solid control (1.9 BB/9) deserted him, as he walked four batters.
Still, he kept the Orioles in the game, as Baltimore scored two runs on singles by Jimmy Paredes and J.J. Hardy. From there, the game was quiet through the ninth inning, as Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton—members of the seventh-best bullpen in baseball by DRA—didn’t allow a run. Fernando Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz, and Edward Mujica did the same for the Athletics.
Then, the Athletics put in Arnold Leon to start the tenth, and things did not go well for the newly recalled right-hander. After allowing singles to Caleb Joseph and Manny Machado, Leon intentionally walked lefty-hitting Gerardo Parra to face righty Adam Jones.
It seemed like it worked out when Jones popped up to second base. But someone forgot about Chris Davis, who, by the way, hits lefty. He did this:
Davis has been hitting well since early June, batting .261/.338/.517 since the beginning of that month. His strikeout rate, while still high at 27 percent, is down from the 35 percent mark he’d reached at the beginning of the season. He’s also hitting fewer groundballs and more line drives, always a good thing for the pull-happy and shift-prone Davis.
Meanwhile, Leon continued to cause misery for fans of the team that is holding on to the second Wild Card spot in the fantasy world of the third-order winning percentage standings but is dead last in the real American League. It’s been a rough one for Oakland, whose starters collectively possess the best DRA in baseball but whose relievers have the second-worst.
Quick Hits from Wednesday
The Cubs had scorched into their series against the Pirates, winning five in a row, and then continued that streak with a win in what would have been the second of a three-game series that was shortened to two due to rain on Monday.
In what could be one of the last 10 or so starts in his career, the newly acquired Dan Haren put the Cubs in a hole early in the game, allowing a home run to Gregory Polanco and a single to Pedro Alvarez in the first inning, and a home run to Andrew McCutchen in the third inning. The Pirates added one more in the fifth on an RBI single by Aramis Ramirez.
Two of those runs came about as a result of Kris Bryant‘s fielding. Bryant, who is a smidge below average by FRAA on the season, made his 13th error of the year when a Jung-ho Kang groundball bounced off his glove to load the bases for Alvarez’s RBI single, and miscommunication with Starlin Castro led to Ramirez’s single.
The Cubs, however, battled back into the game with home runs by lefty batters Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber off the Pirates’ lefty starter, Jeff Locke, who had allowed just two homers and a .695 OPS against lefties. This tied the game in the top of the sixth, but in the bottom of the inning, the same suspects from earlier in the game—Polanco and McCutchen—helped the Pirates add two runs in the eventual 7-5 victory.
Many had counted the Rangers out around the trade deadline and considered the Cole Hamels trade largely a move for next season, as they were four games under .500, eight games out of the division, and four games out of the second Wild Card spot on that date.
They still may not be in fantastic position, but they just did about the best thing they could possibly do in sweeping the division-leading Astros over four games to put themselves two games back of the second Wild Card spot and a game over .500 to launch themselves back into the conversation. Their playoff odds stood at 13 percent before Wednesday’s game.
Nick Martinez, who had been one of baseball’s biggest candidates for regression after a 2.03 ERA by the end of May, did in fact see his ERA rise through June and July and entered Tuesday with a 4.01 ERA. Martinez, however, was able to turn in his second decent start in a row, pitching five innings and allowing just one hit and one run (despite three walks), which was all the Rangers needed. They took care of their scoring early, plating three runs against Scott Kazmir (none earned, due to errors by Kazmir and Hank Conger) in the first and one in the second with a home run. The Rangers were smart to score early, as they couldn’t get anything else off Kazmir—who has given up just that one earned run, the home run to Chris Gimenez, since joining the Astros—nor could they score against the Astros bullpen, which stands second in the league in DRA.
That extra run by Gimenez became critical when Phil Klein gave up an RBI single to Evan Gattis and walked Hank Conger with the bases loaded to pull the Astros within one, but the game remained scoreless the rest of the way as the Rangers pulled out the close win.
Baseball got its first look at Luis Severino on the big stage as the hard-throwing Yankees rookie, ranked the 28th-best prospect in BP’s midseason rankings, made his debut; it was a pretty good one. Despite the Yankees’ loss, Severino pitched five innings, giving up two hits and two earned runs while striking out six and walking none. If only for a more robust Yankees offense, which could only muster one run in eight innings against knuckleballer Stephen Wright, it would have been a more memorable debut for the rookie.
Here is Severino’s PITCHF/x chart for the game:
And there were a multitude of fun walk-off wins in two pretty non-consequential games and one fairly consequential game, which you can watch here:
Defensive Play of the Day
What to Watch on Thursday
The Giants will be in Chicago tomorrow night to take on their Wild Card rival, the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals are all but a lock for the division (87 percent, according to BP’s playoff odds report), and the Pirates appear likely to take one of the Wild Card spots. While the Giants don’t trail the Dodgers by much in the standings, Los Angeles has an 82 percent chance of winning the division. Therefore, this series will be crucial for both the team that most recently won the World Series and the team that least recently called themselves champions. BP’s odds give the Cubs the edge, pinning their chances of getting into the one-game playoff at 63 percent, while the Giants stand at less than half that. Groundballer Chris Heston (3.24 ERA, 3.98 DRA) will pitch for San Francisco against Jason Hammel (3.13 ERA, 3.52 DRA) to kick off the four-game series. (8:05 PM ET)
Another game with Wild Card implications will take place on Thursday night, as the Twins and Blue Jays will finish their series in Toronto. The Blue Jays are trying to knock out their competition for their first playoff berth since 1993. It appears that we’re reaching the end of the Twins’ quixotic bid for contention this season, as they’ve gone kablooey in their last 11 games (two wins) and now have less than a 10 percent chance of winning the Wild Card. The Twins will send out Kyle Gibson, whose 3.55 DRA is good for an 85 DRA-. It’s somewhat fitting, as Gibson has outperformed his 90th percentile PECOTA projection, just as the Twins largely outperformed theirs. To oppose him, the Blue Jays will send out a projection outperformer of their own, Mark Buehrle. (7:07 PM ET)