The Tuesday Takeaway
The 2015 season has not been kind to CC Sabathia, who has looked like a shell of his former self in his age-35 season. The Yankees’ southpaw has struggled with the long ball and hasn’t missed bats with nearly the same frequency as he did at the start of the decade, which has resulted in a 5.19 DRA that ranks in the bottom fifth of baseball among starters with at least 70 innings pitched. However, Sabathia has still shown signs of solid control at time, keeping the free passes to a minimum, and a cFIP in line with the league average indicates that the peripherals are still there for the big man.
Perhaps most encouraging for Sabathia has been a steadily increasing fastball velocity as the season has worn on.
Sabathia evoked memories of the old CC in the early going on Tuesday night against the Twins, retiring the first 13 batters of the game while sitting 92-93 mph and touching 94 a handful of times. But Trevor Plouffe worked a six-pitch walk to break up the perfecto and Eduardo Escobar blooped a single into shallow right field for the first hit of the game later in the inning.
The Twins would follow with their first run of the game, as Sabathia hung a breaking ball to Kurt Suzuki, who ripped it down the left-field line for an RBI double. Escobar tried to score from first base but Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius teamed up to nail him at the plate on the relay throw. That tied things up, as the Yankees had drawn first blood in the fourth inning when Greg Bird collected an RBI base knock off Mike Pelfrey.
Sabathia and Pelfrey kept things tied at 1-1 through six innings, but the Yankees’ hurler got into early trouble in the seventh by issuing a leadoff walk to Joe Mauer. Sabathia’s next task was to retire rookie phenom Miguel Sano. The left-hander made a pretty good pitch: a changeup on the outer third of the plate. But Sano waited back and drove it over the left-field fence to give the Twins the 3-1 lead.
The Twins would add one more run in the inning and Sabathia exited after 6 2/3 with a mediocre final line. However, he did finish the game with one of his highest average fastball velocities of the season, an encouraging sign for the Yankees.
Ryan O’Rourke had relieved Pelfrey the previous inning and the 27-year-old lefty quickly let the Bombers get back into it in the seventh. Chase Headley led off the inning with a pinch-hit single to left, and after walks to Brendan Ryan and Brett Gardner, the Yankees had loaded the bases. Out came O’Rourke, in came right-hander J.R. Graham, and out went the second pitch to Alex Rodriguez.
A-Rod’s grand slam was the 25th of his career and put the Yankees back on top 5-4, drawing a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd. The 40-year-old slugger obliged with a curtain call, a scene that would have been unimaginable prior to his improbable comeback season.
New York would tag Graham for three insurance runs the next inning and go on to win by a final of 8-4, maintaining their one-game lead over Toronto in the AL East.
Quick Hits from Tuesday
While A-Rod was the star of the show in the Bronx, it was Josh Donaldson leading the charge for the Blue Jays down in Philadelphia.
Aaron Nola got the ball for the Phillies and squared off against Donaldson in the first inning. Donaldson absolutely obliterates pitches on the inner third of the plate, so Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp called for a fastball on the black for the first pitch. Nola’s 94 mph fastball ran back over the plate and Donaldson gave it a ride into the second deck of Citizens Bank Park.
Neither Nola nor R.A. Dickey had a particularly good day on the mound, with Nola issuing four walks over five innings and Dickey hitting the showers after four innings of work. By the time the sixth inning rolled around, Philadelphia held a 5-3 lead. But once Nola handed the ball off to the bullpen, everything unraveled.
Elvis Araujo was first up out of the bullpen and he promptly walked Ben Revere. After a sacrifice bunt, Araujio bowed out in favor of Jeanmar Gomez, who gave up back-to-back singles to Chris Colabello and Troy Tulowitzki. That brought up Donaldson with the score now 5-4 and the go-ahead run on base. Gomez fell behind 3-0 to Donaldson and followed with a get-me-over fastball. The only problem for him was that Donaldson had the green light.
Donaldson’s second dinger of the game and 33rd of the season put the Jays on top, and Edwin Encarnacion would extend the lead to 8-5, the eventual final score, with a solo shot later in the inning. While Donaldson rightfully got the credit for carrying the offense, Liam Hendriks, Brett Cecil, Latroy Hawkins, Aaron Sanchez, and Robert Osuna each tossed a scoreless inning of relief to keep the Phillies at bay after Dickey’s shaky outing.
After getting swept at home by the Pirates over the weekend, the Mets headed down to Baltimore for their first game of an eight-game road trip.
Curtis Granderson started the jaunt off with a bang.
It was Granderson’s seventh leadoff home run of the season, breaking a franchise record previously held by Jose Reyes.
The Mets added another run off Orioles starter Kevin Gausman in the third inning on a Daniel Murphy double down the left-field line. With two outs, Mets third-base coach Tim Teuffel was aggressive in sending Wilmer Flores, who looked to be dead to rights at home plate. But Jonathan Schoop dropped the relay throw, allowing the Mets to extend their lead.
In the fifth inning, Granderson got his third hack at Gausman and worked a 2-1 count. The young hurler left another fastball belt-high and middle-away—basically the same spot as the first-inning home run—and Granderson gave it a ride again.
Granderson’s second home run of the game landed just beyond the reach of a leaping Adam Jones and gave the Mets a 3-0 lead. With Jacob deGrom on the mound, that deficit seemed like a mountain to climb for the Orioles.
deGrom entered Tuesday with the fifth-lowest DRA among starters with at least 70 innings pitched and a top-ten cFIP supported the idea that the 27-year-old has emerged as a legitimate ace.
Against the Orioles, deGrom displayed outstanding command of his mid-90s fastball, which he used to generate 10 swing-and-misses. Three of those came during his showdown in the first inning against Chris Davis.
Davis struck out in all three trips to the plate against the hard-throwing right-hander and has now struck out all six times he’s faced deGrom. Obviously a small sample, and clearly we’re talking about a hitter with major swing-and-miss in his game, but it’s safe to say that to this point deGrom has the first baseman’s number.
deGrom didn’t miss often during his 7 2/3 innings of work, striking out six, walking one, and throwing 70 of his 100 pitches for strikes to lower his ERA to 1.98. But Gerardo Parra punished one of his few mistakes of the evening. The outfielder has been on a tear since being traded to the Orioles and he smacked a solo home run on a 3-1 fastball that deGrom left over the middle of the plate.
The Mets were gifted a pair of insurance runs in the ninth inning following a brutal error by Jonathan Schoop. The Orioles second baseman had cost the team a potential run by dropping the relay throw earlier in the game and had committed a throwing error on a routine grounder in the sixth inning. With Michael Conforto on first in the ninth, Wilmer Flores hit a grounder to Manny Machado at third, which looked to be the start of an easy double play. But Schoop inexplicably dropped the throw and no outs were recorded.
Both runs came around to score later in the inning, which turned out to be pivotal when the Mets’ bullpen nearly melted down in the bottom of the ninth inning. Tyler Clippard started the inning with a 5-1 lead but was yanked from the game after getting just one out and allowing two runners to reach base. Mets skipper Terry Collins called upon his closer, Jeurys Familia, who struck out Schoop for the second out of the inning.
Lucas Duda was late getting over to cover first base on a grounder between him and the second baseman, which resulted in an infield single by Steve Clevenger to load the bases. Familia promptly walked the next two batters to make it 5-3 and put the tying run at second base, but he got Manny Machado to ground out to third to escape the game with his 33rd save of the season.
While the Mets were able to rebound from being swept with a win against the Orioles, the team that dealt the Amazins’ that sweep, the Pirates, dropped their series opener to the Diamondbacks on Monday. Things didn’t look much better for the Buccos out of the gate on Tuesday when Francisco Liriano started off the game by giving up three straight singles.
Already down 1-0, Liriano walked Welington Castillo to load the bases, and the Pittsburgh southpaw looked like he was about to be on the receiving end of a major crooked number. However, he got Yasmany Tomas to ground into a double play and David Peralta to fly out to escape with the inning with just two runs allowed.
The Pirates responded with a pair of their own in the bottom of the inning. Gregory Polanco led off with a single back up the middle and Starling Marte followed with a base knock of his own to left field. Diamondbacks starter Chase Anderson airmailed a pickoff attempt into center field, allowing both runners to move up a base. Both of them would come around to score on sacrifice flies.
But Anderson would make up for his throwing error in the bottom of the inning. Nick Ahmed ripped a one-out triple just beyond the reach of Polanco in right field, bringing up the Diamondbacks’ starting pitcher with a chance to give the club the lead with the bat. He came up empty on two hacks against Liriano but proceeded to deaden a bunt down the first-base line, scoring Ahmed and resulting in a single.
Liriano returned the favor against Anderson in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double into the right-center field gap. He would then settle in on the mound, retiring 15 of the next 16 batters. By the time Liriano came back out for the eighth inning, the Pirates had taken an 8-3 lead and seemed to be cruising to a win in the middle match of the series.
But they still had a ways to go.
Liriano was pulled in favor of Jared Hughes after allowing the first two runners to reach base in the eighth. The right-handed reliever didn’t fare any better, allowing a single to Aaron Hill and issuing a bases-loaded walk to Paul Goldschmidt. Tony Watson did a commendable job getting the Pirates out of the jam, but by the end of the inning the Snakes had cut the deficit to 8-6.
Melancon would retire the next two batters before giving up a single through the left side to Aaron Hill. That brought Goldschmidt to the plate with the tying run on base. Melancon got the slugging first baseman to hit a grounder to first base but the ball glanced off the glove of Sean Rodriguez and into right field, allowing both runs to come around to score and tie the game.
The game quickly went from an easy win for Pittsburgh to a nightmare, with the result being an empty supply of bubble gum
and an unnecessary depletion of the bullpen. Arquimedes Caminero and Joe Blanton each tossed three scoreless innings of relief to counter excellent bullpen work by the Diamondbacks. But despite letting Arizona get back into the game the Pirates were eventually able to escape with the win, with Pedro Florimon playing the unlikely role of walk-off hero in the bottom of the 15th. Better late than never.
When Reds starter Raisel Iglesias was pulled after his masterful outing against the Royals, Kansas City Star beat reporter Andy McCullough tweeted the thought going through the mind of every Royals fan.
Iglesias scattered three hits over his seven scoreless innings of work, and with the Royals trailing 1-0 at the time, they had one inning to tie things up before the fireballing Reds closer entered the game. Jarrod Dyson and Kendrys Morales each reached base in the eighth inning against J.J. Hoover, but Alcides Escobar grounded into an inning-ending double play, making the chances of a comeback unlikely.
Ben Zobrist didn’t get the memo.
It was the first time that Zobrist and Chapman had ever squared off. The left-hander started Kansas City’s midseason addition with three fastballs. With Chapman behind in the count 2-1, he followed with a hanging slider and Zobrist deposited it into the left-field stands.
Lorenzo Cain followed Zobrist’s home run with a single up the middle and promptly took advantage of Chapman’s long delivery to the plate, stealing second and third base on back-to-back pitches with neither steal drawing a throw from catcher Brayan Pena.
With the infield now drawn in, Salvador Perez hit a grounder back up the middle that was fielded by Brandon Phillips. Cain hesitated and made a late break toward the plate, then found himself caught in a rundown as a result. Eugenio Suarez made the mistake of chasing Cain toward home and double pumped his throw, resulting in a play at the plate that was much closer than it needed to be. The call on the field was “safe,” but after a three-and-a-half-minute replay review it was overturned. The game would go on into extra innings.
The two bullpens exchanged zeroes over the next three innings and with the game being played in an NL park, Kris Medlen was forced to hit for himself in the top of the 13th. With Jarrod Dyson on first, the former Braves pitcher dropped down a sacrifice bunt, but Reds pitcher Ryan Mattheus threw the ball into right field. The speedy Dyson came around all the way from first to score the go-ahead run.
Zobrist would add an insurance run with an RBI single later in the inning, and Greg Holland pitched around a walk to shut the door on the 3-1 come-from-behind win for the Royals.
Defensive Play of the Day
Is there anything Carlos Correa can’t do?
The 20-year-old shortstop continues to amaze the baseball world with both his tremendous bat and slick glove. In addition to his diving stop in the first inning of Tuesday’s game against the Rays, Correa tied the game at two apiece in the eighth inning with an RBI double. The Astros would go on to win in the 10th inning when Marwin Gonzalez walked things off.
What to Watch on Wednesday
Corey Kluber probably won’t be bringing home Cy Young hardware for a second-straight season, particularly given his inflated ERA and low wins total. But despite not dominating the Junior Circuit to the extent he did last year, the Indians’ ace has still been pretty damn good this season. He currently boasts the fifth-highest WARP this season among starting pitchers and has a cFIP bettered only by Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw. He’s not missing quite as many bats as he did last year, but he’s also issuing fewer free passes, and, as Michael Baumann points out, he’s been ramping up his four-seam fastball usage at the expense of his sinker as the season has progressed. The right-hander is coming off a pair of dominating complete-game starts against the Twins, with a fourth-inning home run by Joe Mauer being the only thing standing between Kluber and a no-hitter in the most recent outing. On Wednesday, Kluber will look to continue his hot second half in Boston opposite Joe Kelly (7:10 p.m. EST).
Matt Cain‘s spot in the rotation was up the air after he failed to make it out of the fifth inning against the Nationals last Friday. Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa both tagged Cain with home runs in that game, an issue that is at the center of the right-hander’s inflated 6.05 ERA and 5.50 FIP over eight starts this season. With Mike Leake scheduled to return from the disabled list, Bruce Bochy was asked over the weekend whether Cain would make his next scheduled start, and the Giants’ skipper was noncommittal in his response. But with news that Leake isn’t quite yet ready to return, Cain will get one more shot to convince Bochy that he should stay in the rotation over Ryan Vogelsong. Cain’s velocity has taken a slight dip since returning and his strikeout rate is lower than it has ever been over the course of a full season. Pair that with eight home runs allowed in as many starts and it’s clear why things haven’t gone in Cain’s favor. Things won’t get any easier on Wednesday for the right-hander, as he draws a matchup against the Cardinals (7:15 p.m. EST).