The Tuesday Takeaway
David Price’s first few games in a Red Sox uniform have been rather up-and-down—and after the distinct “down” of eight runs in less than four innings in his last start, Tuesday was a definite “up.” It didn’t look that way at first, as Price kicked off the game by giving up a run on three quick singles. But with the bases loaded, he struck out Drew Stubbs to end the inning, and from there, the Ks kept coming.
Just about everything was clicking for Price as he equaled his career strikeout high with 14. Particularly effective was his changeup, with 15 of 19 pitches going for strikes. The blemishes of his first inning matched those of his next seven innings combined—three hits and one walk in the first, three hits and one walk in the rest of the game—and he had plenty of run support to keep things comfortable. Right from the start, Travis Shaw gave Price a lead to work with a three-run homer, and he drove in two more with a double later on.
Of course, this all came against the hapless Braves, mired in what’s now a seven-game losing streak. You might notice that of the six hits Price gave up, none were home runs—something that’s become par for the course for Atlanta. The team pushed their dinger drought to 15 games Tuesday, which puts them in fairly exclusive company in the integration era. Since 1947, just 13 teams have had longer streaks, and the Braves’ is the longest since the 1991 Cardinals went 18 games. Atlanta’s home run total is still stuck at 3, which puts them as a team behind 60 individual players (including such noted powerhouses as Jean Segura and Chris Coghlan).
As mentioned above, the Braves have three home runs on the season—just like Andrew McCutchen, if you change “the season” to be “the first six innings Tuesday night.” McCutchen went yard twice in the first two innings against Jorge de la Rosa and followed those up with a shot off of Christian Bergman for good measure. It was baseball’s first three-homer game of the season and the second one of McCutchen’s career, putting him in a historically elite group of Pirates hitters in that regard.
The improbable Rich Hill renaissance story got another mystifying, feel-good chapter. In seven shutout innings against the Tigers, Hill put up eight strikeouts with no walks. With his fifth start of the year, he has now pitched more in 2016 than he did in 2015—and though he’s certainly faltered a bit, he’s also shown enough to suggest that last fall was something more than a fluke. He entered Tuesday with the best K/9 figure among starters, at 13.7, and if you remove his ugly first start from the picture, his season ERA sits at 1.93. Hill’s curveball was especially effective Tuesday, as is usually the case in his strong starts, and the outing was his first of the season without any walks.
After sitting out the last three games with a bruised leg and fluid-laden knee, Yoenis Cespedes wasn’t going to play Tuesday. But with the Mets down 3-0 against the Reds in the seventh inning, Cespedes came to the plate anyway, and he delivered. Brandon Finnegan had looked fairly sharp in his first six innings of work, but he’d started to get himself in trouble in the seventh, walking Juan Lagares and giving up a single to Kevin Plawecki. Then it was Cespedes up to bat, two on and one out, and it took just one pitch—a fastball located disastrously down the middle—for the game to be tied.
The Mariners and Astros started off decently competitively Tuesday. But then the Ms lit up Dallas Keuchel, and then they kindly decided to spread the pain by offering similar treatment to reliever Michael Feliz, and you could be forgiven for abandoning the 9-1 blowout before the eighth inning. If you did, though, you missed that weirdest and most delightful aspect of dreadfully one-sided games: position players pitching. Backup catcher Erik Kratz won style points for showing off an unusually deep arsenal—not just a fastball, change-up and cutter, but a knuckleball, too!—but the fact that it came with three hits, two runs and two wild pitches made it sadly less impressive.
Defensive Play of the Day
What to Watch on Wednesday
For more than 75 years, Johnny Vander Meer has been baseball’s only pitcher with back-to-back no-hitters. Jake Arrieta will try to change that Wednesday. He followed his last no-hitter with eight innings of shutout ball, zero walks, and seven strikeouts—the sort of stellar performance that is more or less the norm for Arrieta at this point, but it included four hits that kept him from Vander Meer’s spot in history. He’ll give it another shot Wednesday against Taylor Jungmann and the Brewers.
After missing almost all of last year with an Achilles’ injury, Adam Wainwright has only been one to watch in 2016 in the way we’re all drawn to watching a car wreck. His first three starts have him showing decreased velocity and saddled with a 7.25 ERA, along with walking more batters than he’s striking out—4.03 free passes per nine compared to 3.63 Ks. He’ll try to improve that on the road against the Diamondbacks Wednesday, but there doesn’t seem to be much reason to expect anything different.