The Weekend Takeaway
When Tim Lincecum made his season debut on Saturday, the Angels had one question: Would he look like the Cy Young Award winner of 2009 or the 6.02 DRA-holder of 2014?
By the end of the first inning, it appeared they had their answer. After undergoing a season-ending hip surgery in 2015 and weathering a long and oft-mysterious free agent period, Lincecum took the mound with an uncharacteristic display of confidence, looking less like a beleaguered major-league veteran and more like the dominant long-haired hurler that led the 2010 Giants through their first championship run. In the first, Lincecum made quick work of the first two batters, then haggled with Stephen Vogt over an eight-pitch at-bat. Vogt eventually won out, punishing a poorly-positioned fastball with a line drive into left field. The Athletics’ luck was short-lived, however, as it only took Lincecum three more pitches to retire Danny Valencia with his first strikeout of the afternoon.
So it continued for another five innings. When he wasn’t inducing weak contact with high fastballs and changeups in the dirt, Lincecum worked his way into jams and right back out of them. In the third inning, with the bases loaded and one run already tainting his 0.00 ERA, Lincecum caught Jed Lowrie on a soft groundout to first base to end the inning. From the fourth inning until the sixth, no batters managed a hit off the right-hander, and only one reached base.
— Angels (@Angels) June 19, 2016
While Lincecum barely scratched 90 on the radar gun, his arsenal of off-speed stuff kept the A’s on their toes. He leaned heavily on his split-changeup combo, throwing it 33 times in both low- and high-leverage situations. According to Brooks Baseball, the last time he tossed more than 30 such pitches in an outing, he was on the losing end of a 3-2 match-up against the 2014 Marlins. His changeup may not elicit the high-octane strikeout totals the Giants reaped back in 2008 and 2009, but it induced enough weak contact to stack the odds in his favor for one afternoon.
Johnny Giavotella made short work of Triggs’ replacement, working his fifth homer off Ryan Dull while the rest of the Angels’ order batted around in the next inning, bringing the score to a cushy 7-1.
There will always be caveats with a pitcher’s first performance following significant injury and decline, and Lincecum’s outing is no exception. Yes, it’s impossible to predict his season trajectory on 98 pitches and six innings of work. Yes, the Athletics’ offense skews toward the less-intimidating lineups in the American League. No, flashes of dominance don’t always correspond to seasons of dominance (or even competence). Still, by whatever grace the baseball gods have bestowed on Mike Scioscia and his Angels, Lincecum’s return is something to rejoice about… for now.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
By now, it should come as little surprise that the pitcher known as Jake Arrieta is really a robot designed to manufacture pitcher wins. Sure, if you were going to create a robot to excel at any one pitching metric, pitcher wins probably wouldn’t be at the very top of your list (nor should it be), but then again, his 82 cFIP and 2.4 WARP don’t look all that human, either.
On Friday, Jake Arrieta served up standard Jake Arrieta fare for the Wrigley Field crowd, striking out 11 batters over six frames for a league-best 11th win of the season. He also allowed two hits, a pair of back-to-back singles in the third innings, and walked three straight batters in the sixth. When things got a little too close for comfort, Arrieta kept the score in his favor with a couple of inning-ending strikeouts.
The Pirates scrambled to plate a run against the bullpen, but found themselves overmatched there, too, and stranded their lone baserunner in the ninth while the Cubs racked up a hefty lead on a Matt Szczur home run, a three-run outburst in the sixth, and a force play that fell in their favor for a sixth and final run.
These days, it’s good to be the Cubs.
Franklin Gutierrez is quietly putting together a good season. If you wipe away the fog of the Mariners’ recent tumble in the AL West standings and Felix Hernandez’s calf injury and the Red Sox’ weekend series win and the general pessimism that’s starting to eclipse the hope Mariners’ fans felt at the beginning of the 2016 season, you might be able to glimpse Gutierrez’s .300 TAv, his seven home runs, and his 0.9 WARP.
During Friday night’s series opener against Boston, however, Gutierrez looked anything but inconspicuous. First, there was the two-run shot parked in the center field bleachers:
Then, there was the follow-up home run that cleared the Green Monster:
Later, when the Green Monster was gorged with taters, Gutierrez launched a bases-clearing double to cement a career-high six RBI:
Amid the mayhem of the Mariners’ 8-4 win (and the dismantling of former Mariner Roenis Elias), David Ortiz tagged Hisashi Iwakuma with his 521st career home run. Although Ortiz’s late-inning heroics weren’t enough to tip the score in Boston’s favor, they landed him among Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas, and Ted Williams with the 19th-most career home runs in major-league history.
These are the facts as we know them: The Marlins threw a combined one-hitter against the Rockies. The Rockies scored one run. The Rockies did not score on a home run.
While this breed of one-hitters is not unheard of, let us set the scene. Left-hander Adam Conley had worked 5 â…” innings of a no-hitter. He had induced a pair of quick fly outs to reach the heart of the order. Carlos Gonzalez, famed destroyer of earned run averages and attempted no-hitters, ripped a letters-high slider up the middle for a double. Conley intentionally walked 20-home run hitter Nolan Arenado to get to 17-home run hitter Trevor Story. Conley then unintentionally walked Trevor Story. Five pitches into Ryan Raburn’s at-bat, Raburn took a slider off the foot with the bases loaded.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, this is where the free handouts ran out. The Marlins ran up the score to 4-1 on a Christian Yelich home run and a pair of RBIs from Martin Prado and Giancarlo Stanton. Although Conley was pulled immediately after walking in a run, the bullpen covered his start with three scoreless frames, issuing no walks and no hits through the end of the game.
Defensive Play of the Weekend
Leading the ranks of the young, scrappy, and hungry: (Billy) Hamilton, who laid out on the warning track to snag a Jake Marisnick line drive during Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Astros.
What to Watch on Monday
You could watch Clayton Kershaw on Monday. No one would fault you for collapsing on the couch after a long work day and unwinding with some good ol’ Kershaw vs. Bryce Harper baseball goodness. Nothing cures a case of the Mondays like Clayton Kershaw.
While Kershaw plays limbo with his DRA, other games will be played, games of varying excitement and nail-biting potential. At 7:10 ET, Madison Bumgarner and the first-place Giants will take on the Pirates, who were just pushed into the middle of the NL Central by the Cubs. On one hand, Andrew McCutchen is hitting again after last week’s four-game hitless streak. In five games against the Mets and Cubs, he totaled six hits, two walks, and a home run, his 10th of the year. On the other hand, Bumgarner has limited the opposition to just four runs over his last 35 innings — and he’s a proven Home Run Derby candidate, to boot.
If your taste doesn’t run to good pitching or good pitchers hitting, you can catch the tail end of the Rockies-Marlins series at 7:10 ET. Prior to Sunday’s win, the Marlins recalled right-hander Paul Clemens from Triple-A New Orleans to slot in the rotation for Justin Nicolino, whose 5.78 DRA ranked eighth-worst among major league starters in 2016. Clemens has kept a low profile in the majors, too —so low, in fact, that he has not appeared in a major league game since his 13-game stint as a reliever for the 2014 Astros. Working in the right-hander’s favor is this: Despite his career 4.84 DRA and -0.2 WARP, he’ll make his season debut on the Marlins’ home turf and not the cFIP-destroying expanse of Coors Field.