The Weekend Takeaway
Equipped with Mjolnir, Thor is unbeatable. Without it, well, he might look something like Noah Syndergaard on the losing end of a 4-3 pitcher’s duel.
Excepting a three-inning, five-run implosion back in June, Syndergaard hasn’t looked anywhere near abysmal all season, and Friday night was no exception. His fastball lived at 98 mph, his sinker touched 100, and when his slider was in the zone, no one could touch it.
Even so, the Mets’ most explosive starter was no match for Justin Verlander, especially backed by an offense that ranks second-lowest in run production through 2016. Coming off of an 11-strikeout complete game against the Astros, Verlander looked every bit as unbeatable against the Mets, retiring nine of the first 11 batters he faced and setting down five scoreless frames en route to a nail-biting finish.
Verlander hit his stride after Kelly Johnson did this to a knee-high curveball,
retiring seven of the next eight batters he faced and capping his outing in the sixth with an epic 10-pitch punchout to catch James Loney swinging. While Verlander flummoxed everyone but Johnson, the Tigers worked the lead in their favor with Victor Martinez’s two-run shot and an RBI basehit from James McCann.
With Mjolnir—and, for the sake of this analogy, let’s say Mjolnir is a viable offensive drive—Thor looks every inch the otherworldly warrior, one who can wield a 2.74 DRA and 66 cFIP with ease. Without it, he can still give any mortal contender a run for his money.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
There’s the Dallas Keuchel who pitched the Astros to an 86-76 finish with a 2.43 DRA and 7.3 WARP in 2015, and then there’s the Dallas Keuchel of 2016, one whose command issues and lost velocity has bloated his DRA to an unseemly 3.88 through the first four months of the season. This isn’t to suggest that Keuchel has been bad all year—even the worst players have occasional flashes of brilliance—but Friday’s gem against the Rangers transcended any effort the 28-year-old has expended so far this season.
Keuchel spun nine innings of a three-hitter, striking out seven and restricting the Rangers’ offense to a leadoff hit for Shin-Soo Choo and a pair of doubles for Carlos Beltran and Adrian Beltre. While Keuchel’s declining fastball velocity raised some concerns earlier this season, the right-hander didn’t appear to struggle with his heater out of the stretch:
On the contrary, his fastball velocity averaged 90.3, breaking 90 for the first time since July 19, when he pitched 6 â…“ innings of two-run, six-strikeout ball against the A’s. Keuchel also omitted his cutter for the first time in May, relying instead on his fastball as a tertiary pitch alongside his sinker and slider duo.
The Astros responded to Keuchel’s dominance in full force, surpassing their 3.3 average run support with a four-run outburst in the third inning and a bonus Jose Altuve RBI double in the seventh:
Billy Hamilton is a defensive wizard. This is the kind of statement we can make declaratively, the kind we feel in our souls to be true with nary a glance at his Baseball Prospectus page, but not until Hamilton nets a flyball with Willie Mays-like flourish and The Flash-like speed
and steals four bases on three hits
Wheels spinnin'. ðŸ”¥ðŸ”¥ðŸ”¥ pic.twitter.com/9AuLA2sZxd
and airmails a Gerrit Cole slider to right field
and you look at his 7.6 Baserunning Runs on the year, quickly approaching the career-best 10.9 BRR he put up in 2015, does it really start to hit home.
and the accidental kindness of Jean Segura, who was so eager to reward the young shortstop’s first career hit that he tossed the ball into the Brewers’ dugout without calling time out first, prompting the umpires to award Arcia two extra bases:
Sometimes, it’s the little things that mean the most… or count the most against your team. Definitely one of those two.
Defensive Play of the Weekend
It’s not often that this feature highlights a Jeff Francoeur play, so take it away, Frenchy.
What to Watch on Monday
Sure, you could watch the evening session of table tennis singles at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games—or you could watch Johnny Cueto and Jose Fernandez face off in a battle of sub-3.00 ERAs. The Giants are still sitting pretty atop the NL West standings, while the Marlins have a one-game cushion above the Cardinals for the second wild card slot in the National League. With Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list, Jose Fernandez has eclipsed the top of the leaderboard with a 57 cFIP and 1.89 DRA, the only DRA under 2.00 among active major league pitchers. Behind his 5.4 WARP, again the highest mark among his major league peers, though still shy of his projected 6.1 threshold for the season, lurks a Marlins’ offense that boasts one Giancarlo Stanton and one member of the 3,000-career hit club (7:10 ET).
And sure, you could watch Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross take on Wang Fan and Yue Yuan in the preliminary beach volleyball tournament, but not before you carefully consider the merits of a Kevin Gausman-Kendall Graveman match-up as the Orioles and A’s go head-to-head for some late night baseball (10:10 ET). After racking up a 4.88 ERA through five starts in July, Gausman worked a two-run outing against the Rangers over seven solid innings in his first August appearance. The same cannot be said for Graveman: despite a strong showing in July, punctuated with four quality starts and a 2.68 ERA, the right-hander lapsed during his first start this month with four innings of six-run, two-homer ball against the Angels.
Okay, maybe we shouldn’t have mentioned beach volleyball.