The Wednesday Takeaway
Just three days shy of the three-year anniversary of Felix Hernandez‘s perfect game, this happened:
Since then, Homer Bailey and Tim Lincecum have each thrown two no-hitters and Cole Hamels has been a part of two no-hitters, but no American League team had kept an opponent hitless for nine innings since Hernandez did it for the Mariners in 2012.
Iwakuma was mentioned as a trade chip at the deadline, but he remained in Seattle as July 31st passed. He possesses a 3.86 ERA for the season, but he’s been better since returning from two months on the DL with a strained lat muscle, as he’s put up a 3.05 ERA in 56 innings since June 6th.
It was vintage Iwakuma. True to his usual form (7.2 K/9), just seven of Iwakuma’s 27 outs came via the strikeout. Also indicative of his style was his use of the splitter, his favorite two-strike weapon, which was no different on Wednesday, when four of his strikeouts came via the pitch:
Iwakuma’s most common method for getting outs, however, was the groundball. The sinker-balling righty, who owns a 54 percent groundball rate on the season, induced 11 worm-killers from Oriole batters, so Seattle’s defense had to be on high alert. Luckily, it was, as he was helped out by plays like these:
Offensive support for Iwakuma came from RBIs by Franklin Gutierrez, Robinson Cano, and Jesus Sucre, who helped his pitcher out behind the plate and at it. Cano, after his rough start, is batting .329/.389/.566 since the beginning of July. Cano’s BABIP is pretty high at .345, but his career average is .322, so this isn’t that alarming. Furthermore, he’s boosted his line-drive rate from a league-average 23 percent in the April-June stretch to just under 30 percent since July 1st. He’s also done a better job of hitting the ball to the opposite field, and has improved both his strikeout and walk rates.
Quick Hits from Wednesday
If you find yourself more than six games out of first place at the beginning of August, you can still come back and win that division, but it’s not going to happen overnight. How about over ten nights?
The Blue Jays extended their second-longest winning streak of the season to 10 games, becoming the first team since the 1977 Royals to have double-digit streaks in a single season. Meanwhile, the Yankees have gone 3-7—including last weekend’s three-game sweep at the hands of Toronto—and are out of first place as they have lost five in a row. Over their 10-game streak, the Jays have improved their odds of winning the division from 16 percent to over 50.
The Jays featured a balanced offensive environment to attack Aaron Brooks for eight runs on six hits and two walks to drive the pitcher out of the game early. Three-run home runs by Chris Colabello—whose batting average is still .328, because his BABIP is still over .400—and Justin Smoak helped drive the 10-run outburst for the Blue Jays as everybody in the lineup reached base and everybody except Kevin Pillar scored a run.
This was the first bad start for Brooks since coming over from Kansas City in the Ben Zobrist trade, as he had pitched at least seven innings while giving up only one run in each of his previous two games for Oakland.
The Nats’ playoff odds have suffered in August, as they were 36 percent before Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers, down from 70 percent at the end of July, as they’ve gone 4-8 in the month and lost the division lead.
Washington’s offense, ranked fifth in baseball by TAv, has suffered a blow the past two nights as they’ve been shut out for two games by the Dodgers’ two-headed monster of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw one-upped (or, perhaps, two-upped) Greinke’s six-inning, six-strikeout, no-run performance with an eight-inning, eight-strikeout, no-run performance of his own. Kershaw also crossed the double century mark, notching his sixth-straight 200-strikeout season. PECOTA expects about 60-70 more from him.
Kershaw pitched most of the game under pressure, holding onto a 1-0 lead until the bottom of the eighth, when Andre Ethier made it all the way around the bases on his own double because Anthony Rendon chucked a throw into the dugout. Joc Pederson also scored in the process, leading to what would be the final 3-0 score.
Pirates-Cardinals didn’t turn out to be the marquee matchup we had hoped for, but it was still fun to watch two of baseball’s best young pitchers duke it out for a few innings.
Gerrit Cole wasn’t exactly on his game, as he fastball velocity was just under 96 instead of scraping 97 like it usually does. Additionally, his slider had about an inch less movement both horizontally and vertically. He labored through 5 1/3, throwing 106 pitches, and even walked his opponent on the hill, Michael Wacha. Still, Cole wasn’t exactly backed up by his defense, as Jung-ho Kang and Neil Walker both made errors. The Pirates’ defense, which was fifth in defensive efficiency just two years ago, is now sixth-worst, and fourth in baseball in errors.
While Wacha wasn’t the most dominant version of himself, allowing 12 baserunners in six innings, he was still plenty good enough to shut down the Pirates, giving up just two runs. Both of those runs came at the hands of Andrew McCutchen, who homered in the fourth and drove in the second with a triple in the fifth.
However, that wasn’t enough to stop Yadier Molina, who showed McCutchen and the Pirates he could burn it too with a triple in the sixth to score Randal Grichuk, his second of the season, and twice as many as he’s had in any other season. Then he really turned on the jets in the eighth by stealing third base:
Defensive Play of the Day
Could possibly be the defensive play of the year!
What to Watch On Thursday
Two of baseball’s top pre-2015 prospects will face off as the Rockies finish their series in Queens against the Mets. It hasn’t exactly worked out so far for Rockies right-hander Eddie Butler. One might think that Butler has pitched better than his 5.50 ERA, given that he plays half his games in Coors Field, but DRA believes that’s not the case, as it tabs him with a 6.54 mark. Syndergaard, who has pitched nearly 100 innings since being called up on May 12th, has fared much better, with a 3.01 ERA and a 3.42 DRA with 9.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. (12:10 PM ET)
It’ll be a solid pitching matchup to close out the Pirates-Cardinals series in St. Louis tonight. (These days, if you’re watching the Cards, you’re halfway to a solid pitching matchup already.) Lance Lynn, who has been good the whole season (2.76 ERA, 3.73 DRA), will start for the Cardinals. He was good again last Friday against the Brewers, pitching six scoreless innings. However, it’s been a labor for the high-strikeout Lynn, who has the best K rate of his career but has been burning through, on average, 105 pitches to get through six innings in his starts. Francisco Liriano, pitching for Pittsburgh, also has one of the best strikeout rates of his career this season, but that was fueled by an April-and-May strikeout surge that saw him fan 75 in 59 2/3 innings. Since the beginning of June, Liriano’s strikeout rate has dipped to under a batter per inning, but he’s getting significantly more groundballs (58 percent in June and July vs. 49 percent in April and May), so he’s been able to go deeper into games while allowing fewer runs. Liriano struggled against the Dodgers in his last outing, but while the Cardinals are no slouches on offense, they’re 14th in the league in TAv while Los Angeles is second. Tune in as the National League’s two best teams by record face each other. (7:15 PM ET)
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