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The Thursday Takeaway

We’re not supposed to talk about pitcher wins anymore. There’s no real need to count the ways that the statistic is misleading and poorly constructed; Brian Kenny can take care of that for you. If you read this site, you should know why it’s not the greatest barometer of pitching success in a world filled with poor pitching barometers. In a world of blind men, the one-eyed man is king. The pitcher win is a blind man without a nose or nerve endings in his fingers.

That all being said, there’s something romantic about an undefeated season. Stephen Strasburg entered Thursday with an untarnished record, a perfect 13-0. This is the Strasburg that was promised years ago, born amidst Tommy John surgery and fastball smoke. The pitching prodigy, alongside the great hitter Bryce Harper. This is who the Nationals were supposed to be.

There isn’t a single person who truly expected Strasburg to shove his way to some sort of 20-0 ridiculousness. Even with a 1.12 ERA, Bob Gibson only went 22-9 in 300 innings of work. Even the best pitcher ever on the best offense in decades wouldn't likely have gone undefeated.

Yet there’s something romantic about being undefeated. It feels good. There’s a vintage shimmer to it all. There’s no way it could possibly last. But it’s fun to see how long it sticks around before being blown away in the wind.

On Thursday, the wind took the form of Justin Turner.

The redhaired viking almost single-handedly ended Strasburg’s pursuit of extended record perfection with two swings of his bat, both sending balls over the outfield fence in Washington and plating five runs.

For the first time in 2016, Strasburg lost. A 13-1 record is nothing to bemoan, but that little bit of luster is gone. Strasburg hasn’t been the best pitcher in the NL, merely one of the best. He became just a little bit more normal on Thursday, in a way that hardly really matters other than the fact that he gave up two home runs to Turner.

It’s a shame, unless you’re a fan of the Dodgers (or the Mets, or the Marlins). It’s a baseball footnote, a study in minutiae.

Stephen Strasburg lost. The perfect record is dead. Long life the perfect record.

Quick Hits From Thursday

No matter your stance on the whole “Best Fans in Baseball” thing, it’s hard to deny that there’s something a little… off… with the Cardinals.

The Cardinals sometimes seem like baseball cockroaches, but in a good way. They simply don’t die. Ever. You may fell Jhonny Peralta, but fear not, for interesting-but-not-fantastic-prospect Aledmys Diaz will play himself into Rookie of the Year consideration. Trevor Rosenthal will implode, yes, but Seung-Hwan Oh is just as good here as he was in Korea, so it’s all good.

In case you’re wondering, yes, the Cardinals won on Thursday.

Sure, it was the Padres. But Ryan Buchter, against whom Stephen Piscotty went deep, has been shockingly good this year. And, of course, there at the end was Diaz, who seems to be an Energizer Bunny of “seriously, Aledmys DIaz?” moments.

There’s no concrete evidence that the fabled Devil Magic really exists. But, would you really be surprised?

***

It was a match made in Heaven. Mark Reynolds was going to Coors Field, the land of a thousand and one dingers. Reynolds has made a long career of hitting the ball a long, long way and striking out, all while dealing with some extenuating circumstances.

Coors is the perfect match for Reynolds. It helps him raise his average to .277 (!) and he helps give the fans a reason to show up to the park: recreational mortar shots.

That’s 484 feet of home run right there. There was an impact crater and everything.

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That’ll do.

***

The 2016 season has not been kind to Francisco Liriano. He entered Thursday’s action with an ERA over 5, after three straight seasons of solid pitching for the Pirates. Liriano has always rode the lightning in a manner of speaking, teetering along the edge of strikeouts and walks to do his best to keep hitters off balance.

So far, the 2016 version of Liriano has demonstrated what it looks like when all those borderline pitches and his complicated delivery get out of whack. But on Thursday, he looked like his old self.

That’s 13 strikeouts, and he only gave up two earned runs along the way. With how badly the Pirates have needed useful starting pitching, that’s a godsend. Pittsburgh can only hope that it’s the start of a trend in the right direction.

Defensive Play of the Day

Hey, this Tim Anderson kid may be pretty good!

Now, we challenge you to describe the play without invoking the name of a certain pinstriped shortstop with a single-digit jersey number.

Fine, we’ll do it. Jimmy Rollins, who wore number 7 in his time with the White Sox, made a few plays like that in his prime. Anderson looks like a good one.

What, who did you think we were talking about?

What to Watch on Friday

Your evening will have a rather eventful beginning when Madison Bumgarner and Masahiro Tanaka face off in the Bronx. Bumgarner is a virtual lock to throw a good game (The Yankees offense has produced poorly against southpaws, plus, you know, Bumgarner), so Tanaka will have to pitch his heart out to keep his team in the game. He’s more than up to the task.

Current Tigers wunderkind Michael Fulmer will pitch opposite former Tigers wunderkind Jacob Turner at U.S. Cellular Field at 8:10 EST. Both teams are trying their hardest to jockey for position behind the seemingly unstoppable Indians. Starting Turner, he of the career 5.14 ERA, may not be the optimal strategy. Such is baseball in late July, when the depth for the depth comes up.

Five minutes after that game is scheduled to start, the Yu Darvish Show will set up shop in Kansas City. Danny Duffy and the Royals are happy to hear that the Rangers have been struggling badly, but that’s still Darvish on the hill, and they’ll have their work cut out for them. If you see one of those fabled gyroballs, please contact your Congressman and your favorite BP author immediately.

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