The Weekend Takeaway
If you’ve been holding your breath for Jake Arrieta to miss a step this season, well, I have bad news for you.
Not only did he log his seventh consecutive win of 2016, but he improved his record to 18-0 dating back through August 4, 2015—a feat matched by only four major-league pitchers since 1913. If Arrieta and his 7.9 run-support average can pull off another three wins, he’ll join Lefty Grove and Carl Hubbell with the longest pitcher winning streak in baseball history.
It hasn’t been a stellar month for the Bucs, who dropped a three-game set against the Cubs at the beginning of May and were nearly swept on Sunday before eking out a 2-1 finish. On Saturday, the Pirates seized their window of opportunity in the fourth inning against Arrieta, breaking out with Andrew McCutchen’s 10-pitch double and a pair of basehits for Gregory Polanco and Francisco Cervelli to get on the board.
All three hits were delivered via Arrieta’s slider, whether he was pitching McCutchen a little outside,
mailing a letters-high slider to Polanco,
or gambling with a first-pitch slider to Cervelli.
While the slider proved to be a solid second pitch for Arrieta, utilized nearly as often as his signature sinker, it both induced the most strikes of any pitch he threw and the most balls in play. He looked comfortable using it in almost any situation: with hitters ahead in the count, with hitters behind in the count, with two outs and nobody on, with no outs and runners at the corners.
Arrieta regained his balance after the fourth inning, issuing one more walk before settling down to retire 11 consecutive batters. He reserved his slider to catch hitters early in the count, but returned to his sinker to polish off long at-bats.
Of course, you can’t mention Arrieta’s winning streak without giving some brownie points to the Cubs’ lineup, who united for eight runs on long balls from Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell and a smattering of RBIs from Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant. Rizzo’s blast off of left-hander Jeff Locke was his 11th of the year, a second-pitch shot that landed right over the ivy in the right field bleachers.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
Over in the National League East, Marlins’ ace Jose Fernandez worked his own 11-strikeout masterpiece against the Nationals. He shut out the Nats through six of seven frames, slipping briefly in the fourth inning on a Ryan Zimmerman inside-the-parker that left Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton reeling after a brutal outfield collision.
Through the first three innings, Fernandez relied almost exclusively on his four-seam fastball, using it in 31 of 47 opportunities to induce a smattering of weak contact. After Zimmerman’s home run, the right-hander turned to his curveball with increasing regularity, using it to strike out nine of 11 batters and generate a whiff rate of 27.5 percent.
While Stanton recovered to mash his 11th homer of the year, Fernandez perfected his fastball-curveball combo to strike out the side in the sixth and seventh innings, blowing past the heart of the order to bury the Nationals’ last comeback attempts. Deep in the count, his curveball lived at the bottom of the strike zone, where it dipped into the dirt again and again for a fatal strike three.
— #VoteMarlins (@Marlins) May 15, 2016
The cherry on top? Fernandez pumped up his 3.9 run support average with a two-out, bases-loaded single to pad the Marlins lead and earn his fourth consecutive win of the year.
There hasn’t been a dull moment for David Ortiz in 2016. Last weekend, he tied Carl Yastrzemski for second-most career home runs in Red Sox history and chewed out the umpire who robbed him of a ninth-inning walk. This weekend, Ortiz clipped another historical record and became the third major-league player to hit 600 doubles and 500 home runs.
His third inning home run off of Collin McHugh was many things: a 429-footer to center field, his first hit off of the southpaw, his 10th tater of the season, and No. 513 in the slugger’s career totals, edging past Ernie Banks and Eddie Matthews for the 22nd-most home runs in major-league history.
To the highlight reel!
Maybe passing up Ernie Banks on an all-time home run list would be enough for some hitters, but Ortiz was far from satisfied. He tied the game 5-5 In the ninth inning with a triple, then inked his name on another page of the history books with a walk-off double in the 11th to join Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds in the exclusive 500 homers, 600 doubles club.
If there’s a better way to commemorate your last season in the majors, it hasn’t been discovered yet.
When the Phillies needed a perfect throw to clinch Saturday night’s 4-3 victory against the Reds, left fielder Tyler Goeddel delivered.
Let’s start with the footage and work our way back from there. In the top of the ninth, with one out and runners on second and third, Goeddel snagged a deep flyball off the bat of Jordan Pacheco:
What happened next incurred some side-eye from the Reds dugout. Phillies backstop Cameron Rupp received the throw on the baseline just ahead of Eugenio Suarez, who looked like he had a sure thing coming into home plate to tie the game 4-4. However, since Suarez elected not to slide into home, and the ball landed in the basepath a split second before the collision, Rupp was acquitted of any plate blocking violation and the game-winning out was preserved.
Partial credit also goes to Odubel Herrera’s home run, another play that was subject to umpire speculation moments after the ball ricocheted off the top of the right field fence. The solo shot was Herrera’s fourth homer of the season, keeping him on track to outpace his PECOTA-projected seven home runs in 2016. He’s already outshined his 1.1 WARP estimate and holds 1.7 WARP on the year, accentuated by a smooth .340 TAv through 159 plate appearances. You keep doing you, Odubel.
What to Watch on Monday
In the long-standing tradition of one Jacob Joseph Arrieta, Blue Jays southpaw J.A. Happ will take on the Rays Monday evening as he hunts for his sixth consecutive win of 2016. Last week, he destroyed the Giants with 8 â…” innings of shutout ball, flexing a 95 mph four-seamer and landing seventh on the ERA leaderboard with a 2.05 average (despite carrying a 32nd-best DRA of 4.31).
Like Arrieta, Happ’s performance benefits from a high strand rate, and his peripheral stats show room for improvement. Although his BB/9 rate hovers around 2.4, well below his 3.5 career average, his strikeout rate is down to 5.6 per nine innings, the third-lowest mark among major-league pitchers with at least 45 IP in 2016. Thanks to a meager strikeout total, the lefty’s 107 cFIP is the highest it’s been since he tossed his first full season with the Jays back in 2013. While it’s perfectly reasonable to expect Happ to regress as he barrels toward his projected output for 2016, the Jays have to hope he’ll extend his hot streak as long as possible (7:07 ET).
The Yankees need pitching, and they need it now. At least, this was the sentiment conveyed by manager Joe Girardi heading into Saturday’s game, when the bullpen scrambled to cover Luis Severino after he exited Friday night’s loss with a tricep strain. Enter Chad Green, the 24-year-old left-hander positioned to make a spot start in lieu of Michael Pineda during Monday’s series opener against the Diamondbacks.
Green was stashed in the Yankees’ system after the club dealt Justin Wilson to the Tigers during the offseason, and landed in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with a 1.22 ERA through 37 innings. Despite his newfound success, the numbers he amassed in Double-A Erie during 2015—a 3.93 ERA and 3.22 FIP through 148 â…” innings—may speak more accurately about the kind of pitcher the Yankees will see on Monday, reflected in part by PECOTA’s projected 5.48 DRA and 0.3 WARP. His fastball touches 97 on a good day, but an underdeveloped reserve of secondary pitches and weak command might have Girardi reaching for the bullpen phone sooner rather than later (9:40 ET).