The Thursday Takeaway
The cult of Madison Bumgarner goes beyond his legendary performance in the 2014 playoffs and his rawhide country persona. It goes beyond the side-slinging lefty delivery, the scruffy beard, the Carhart commercials, and the snot rockets.
It’s that he’s a really good pitcher who can hit for power. And on Thursday night, he became the first pitcher since 1976 to intentionally bat for himself in an AL park (intentionally, because Joe Maddon had a lineup card snafu a few years back with Tampa Bay that forced his pitcher into the lineup). Bumgarner’s reputation has almost reached mythological status at this point. Commentators speak of him like some sort of Paul Bunyan-esque figure when he strides into the batter’s box. He is to be pitched to like the second coming of Babe Ruth, or so the stories go. One false move, and the ball could find itself in the seats.
And this is true, to a certain extent. Even Clayton Kershaw has fallen victim to Bumgarner’s power stroke. In a way, it was only a matter of time before Bruce Bochy would let him hit for himself in an AL park. The time was especially right on Thursday, given the watered-down nature of the San Francisco bench. Hunter Pence, Joe Panik, Matt Duffy, and Kelby Tomlinson are all hurt. It was either Bumgarner hitting, or the latest arrival from Triple-A at DH.
Bochy opted for Bumgarner. He entered as a career .182/.226/.305 hitter, slashing .175/.261/.350 on the season. Bumgarner would hit a double.
It was a double in the sense that it was a meatball from a pitcher who ended the night with an ERA over 10 and that Billy Burns got a bad read on the ball in center field, but technically speaking, it was a double. Bumgarner would also give up four runs in just over six innings of work, including home runs by Marcus Semien and Yonder Alonso.
But he got that double! So he’s now hitting .186/.265/.372. What a monster.
Quick Hits from Thursday
The Yankees are not good. The problem is that they are not exactly be truly bad, either. They merely exist in .500 baseball land. Blessed with a brilliant late-inning relief corps, Masahiro Tanaka, and a surging Didi Gregorius, they do everything in their power to stay around the most mediocre record possible.
They did this on Thursday by being on the winning end of a walk-off passed ball. Despite giving away an out with a bunt during an inning in which Tony Barnette couldn’t find the strike zone, the Yankees still managed to win.
This is because the universe dictates that the Yankees must be as disturbingly boring in their record as possible. Despite the bunt, and despite the fact that Ronald Torreyes did this at one point during the game, they won.
— Cut4 (@Cut4) July 1, 2016
The Yankees have not been two games over .500 at any point this season. Don’t hold your breath.
So it’s probably time to start talking about the Indians. They won their … wait, let me check if this is correct. It’s correct? Seriously, the research department isn’t just making this up? Jeez.
NBA sources tell The Vertical that not only is Timofey Mozgov going to the Lakers, but that the Indians are really, really good at baseball.
Remember Brandon Moss? It feels like it’s been decades since he was one of the bats at the middle of Oakland’s shocking run to contention a few years ago. It was he that hit the home runs in that insane Wild Card game, and it was his homers that would go for naught as Kansas City magick’d their way past the A’s. After something of a lost 2015 from a value standpoint, Moss is drinking deep of the Cardinals Devil Magic.
That’s 454 feet of dinger. Moss is now hitting .258/.345/.581 and is serving as one of the most important offensive players for the Cardinals. He may have slipped into the ether for a short while, not out of sight but certainly out of mind. But Brandon Moss wants you to remember what he’s capable of. That includes conducting strategic mortar barrages on the last row of right field seats.
Defensive Play of the Day
Tim Anderson has only recently arrived in the big leagues, but he’s quite eager to show that he belongs in the same group as the Correa-Lindor gang of impressive young shortstops. This play will help his cause.
What to watch on Friday
This section is usually used (by me, at least) to highlight impressive pitching matchups happening today and to explain why you should watch them. Friday’s slate of games offers, well …
The day’s afternoon game will feature Cleveland's 13-game winning streak being put to the test by Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays. Stroman is an incredibly talented young pitcher, but has seen his ERA balloon out to an unsightly 5.33. Josh Tomlin will oppose him and silently ask Josh Donaldson for mercy.
As for the evening action, there’s Jacob deGrom going up against Jason Hammel at 7:10 EST in Queens. Both men sport earned run averages under 3.00, and pitch for teams (the Mets and Cubs, respectively) who are in the playoff hunt. The Mets are spiraling downwards and the Cubs are the Cubs, and this is also an NLCS rematch, so there’s some good narrative here if you’re into that.
Which of Friday’s starters in the A’s-Pirates game has an ERA over 5.00, Jeff Locke or Sonny Gray? Trick question, they both do! Will Gray right himself against the struggling Pirates? Will Locke see his stuff play up against a lackluster Oakland offense? Will Lassie tell the farmer that Timmy’s trapped in the well in Anaheim? Tune in to find out!