keyboard_arrow_uptop

The Wednesday Takeaway
Greg Bird narrowly missed out on his first career hit and first career home run through the power of replay review on Saturday, but he's since collected both of those things and then some.

Bird's first and second career home runs couldn't have come at a better time for the Yankees, as the rookie first baseman drove in all four of the Yankees' runs. New York didn't have trouble putting runners on base, as they had men on in all but two innings that they batted, but Bird provided the engine of baseball's fifth-best offense (by TAv) with his homers in the fourth and sixth innings.

Bird's efforts aided Nathan Eovaldi, who pitched his best game of the season by Game Score, edging out an eight-inning, two-run effort, also against Minnesota, on July 26th. Eovaldi gave up six total baserunners and three runs in seven innings, striking out eight; it was just the second time he's struck out as many batters in 2015. Eovaldi was unstoppable, as he burned his fastball in at an average of 99.5 mph, breaking 102 with his four-seamer at one point. Eovaldi's low-spin splitter baffled Twins hitters as well, as they swung and missed at the pitch 22 percent of the time.

Chasen Shreve and Dellin Betances, two-thirds of the Yankees' three-headed bullpen monster, finished the final two innings of the game as New York edged out the Twins to put another game of space between themselves and the Blue Jays, who lost to the Phillies on Wednesday.

Quick Hits from Wednesday
Jesse Chavez is neither a strikeout pitcher nor a ground-ball pitcher, but he's resembled either one or the other in each of his last two games. After striking out nine in six innings in a losing effort to the Blue Jays last Friday, Chavez generated 14 ground balls and ten ground-ball outs in an eight-inning, two-run, two-hit outing that was enough to quell baseball's best offense (again by TAv).

Chavez's sole mistake was an 89 mph cutter to Jimmy Rollins in the third inning that landed in the right-field seats on a day when it was revealed that Rollins would be reunited with his former keystone partner Chase Utley. Chavez buckled down after the home run, keeping the A's within one.

Two familiar culprits for the Dodgers allowed the Athletics back into the game, as defensive miscues in the sixth helped two runs to cross the plate and three different relievers helped allow two runs to the A's in the eighth to put Los Angeles in a 5-2 hole, the score by which they would eventually lose. The Dodgers rank 21st in baseball in defensive efficiency and 24th in reliever DRA.

***

Further east, the Astros' bullpen, which has now overtaken that of the Royals to become baseball's best by DRA, helped them keep the Rays to just the two runs that starter Dallas Keuchel allowed as they walked off against Tampa in the 13th inning.

Keuchel was his typically above-average self, pitching shutout baseball for six innings until he allowed an RBI triple to shortstop and former no. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham and a sacrifice fly to James Loney in the top of the seventh inning to put the Astros in a 2-1 deficit; it was only one run instead of two thanks to a home run by the Astros' own shortstop and former no. 1 overall pick.

The Astros managed to rally in the ninth inning to tie the game with a bloop double by Jed Lowrie and a single to score him by Evan Gattis. From there, four Houston relievers combined to allow only one baserunner as they held the tie until the latter shortstop and former no. 1 overall pick could did this:

***

Both starting pitchers in Wednesday's Mets-Orioles series finale fell victim to old woes, as Ubaldo Jimenez returned to the slightly wild version of himself that put up a 4.2 BB/9 through 2014 by walking four batters in five innings while giving up three runs.

Noah Syndergaard also failed to record an out in the sixth inning, as his lackluster performance, also of five innings and three earned runs, matched his previous struggles on the road. In 46 road innings this season, Syndergaard has recorded a 3.71 FIP and a 2.9 K/BB ratio, versus 2.76 and 8.1 in Citi Field.

It was a home run for Jonathan Schoop and a single for Steve Clevenger in the sixth inning that caused Terry Collins to yank Syndergaard from the game with 96 pitches. Wilmer Flores did his best to cover for Syndergaard in the next half-inning, hitting a solo home run to help the Mets re-take the lead, but Adam Jones answered with a home run of his own off Hansel Robles to tie the game, where it would remain until Henry Urrutia did this:

Even with the loss and a Nationals victory over the Rockies, the Mets still stand far ahead of Washington, with a 75 percent chance of winning the division. Meanwhile, the Orioles' win kept Baltimore a half-game behind the Angels, with a 30 percent chance of winning of winning the Wild Card.

Defensive Play of the Day

What to Watch on Thursday
A make-or-break weekend awaits the Giants, who have gone 6-4 in their last 10 games while the Dodgers have gone 5-5. After a tough and low-scoring series against the Cardinals, San Francisco will get no relief as they'll face another tough opponent in the Pittsburgh Pirates for four games starting tonight. To oppose Charlie Morton, the Giants will pitch Jake Peavy, who gave up five in 5 2/3 innings against the Nationals in his last start. (7:05 PM ET)

Max Scherzer has given up lots of runs in his last five starts: 18 in 27 innings. Scherzer's stuff is pretty much the same, and he's throwing a similar proportion of pitches in the zone as he did in his first 19 starts, although he's walked 2.7 batters per nine. Scherzer is also striking out plenty of batters: 12 K/9 over that span. Scherzer's biggest problems are the inordinate number of home runs he's given up and some bad BABIP luck. Scherzer has allowed an astonishing eight home runs in those 27 innings, and his BABIP is .344. Scherzer's FIP is 5.29 since July 24th, but his xFIP is 2.82. That anomalous home run rate won't be helped by Scherzer pitching in Coors Field on Thursday night as the Nationals go for the sweep against the Rockies. (8:40 PM ET)