The Monday Takeaway
If Homer Bailey never has to see Adrian Gonzalez again, the Reds right-hander would be just fine with that. Gonzalez entered Monday’s series-closing matinee 10-for-23 lifetime with five homers and two doubles against Bailey. Among opponents with at least 20 head-to-head plate appearances, Gonzalez’s 1.632 OPS was tops by more than 250 points. And that was before this:
The Dodgers kicked off the contest with back-to-back singles, setting the table for Gonzalez to clear with a three-run blast to right. That was the start of a rough Monday afternoon for Bailey, who left after just 2 1/3 innings with six runs on nine hits shooting his ERA up to 5.73. After striking out 27 batters in his first 19 2/3 innings of the year, Bailey left yesterday’s game with none.
Gonzalez, however, did not leave. The game, that is. The yard, on the other hand, he left two more times—on this solo shot in the fifth
and on his second three-run tater of the day in the seventh:
The first baseman wound up with a career-high eight RBI, and he wasn’t the only Dodger doing noteworthy yardwork at Great American Ball Park. Rookies Andrew Toles and Rob Segedin slugged their first career homers back-to-back in the fifth, a four-bomb frame for the visitors, who also had Corey Seager and Gonzalez bid baseballs farewell in consecutive at-bats. Seager’s was his 22nd of the year, tying a Dodgers record for shortstops that had stood since 1930. Not rookie shortstops, mind you, but all shortstops.
Seager, a Rookie of the Year frontrunner, will have plenty of days in the limelight, though. The man of the hour Monday was Gonzalez, who’s rediscovered his power stroke over the last month and change. The 34-year-old had just seven long flies in 359 first-half plate appearances, but he’s now drilled eight in 137 trips since then, punishing most every fastball and sinker thrown his way:
Those numbers, incidentally, were from before Monday’s barrage, when Gonzalez was an equal-opportunity baseball destroyer, going yard once each on a fastball, changeup, and slider to power the Dodgers’ 18-run attack.
The visitors didn’t need all 18 of those runs, but they did need more than half, as Scott Kazmir added to a growing pile of question marks in their rotation. Spotted six runs in the first three innings, Kazmir couldn’t get out of the third, needing 78 pitches just to record eight outs. The lefty gave up six hits and three walks, struggled to get ahead of hitters, and came out with continuing back/neck soreness that will be examined by team doctors now that the Dodgers are back in L.A.
While the medical staff takes care of Kazmir, Gonzalez will aim to keep taking care of opposing pitchers, beginning with Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ starter in game one of a three-game set at Chavez Ravine that begins with the Dodgers up one in the NL West (7:10 p.m. ET).
Quick Hits from Monday
In other pitcher injury news, the Nationals scratched Stephen Strasburg from his scheduled start Monday in Baltimore and placed the right-hander on the disabled list with a sore elbow. It’s troublesome news for the Tommy John surgery survivor—who sparked worries about his health when he was lit up at Coors Field while struggling to finish pitches last week—but the Nats are confident that Strasburg will return in plenty of time for the playoffs, if not when he’s eligible in two weeks.
For Monday, manager Dusty Baker turned to call-up A.J. Cole, who struck out five in his first look at the Orioles order but only three of his next 19 batters faced. Cole’s second time through the lineup was particularly problematic, as the heart—comprised of Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Mark Trumbo—went double, double, homer
to make it 4-2 O’s.
That rash of extra-base hits aside, Baker couldn’t complain too much about Cole’s spot start, which saw the young righty navigate seven innings and hold a powerful lineup to four runs in a homer-friendly park. The Nationals were down a run and had Daniel Murphy at second with nobody out in the top of the eighth, when Baker did have a reason to grumble:
Bryce Harper bounced back to the pitcher, Donnie Hart, who wheeled around and saw Murphy daydreaming 20 feet off the second-base bag. He took a quick step toward Murphy, then threw to second, where Murphy scampered right into J.J. Hardy’s tag for the first out of the inning. Harper would ultimately get to third on a walk and wild pitch, but he didn’t score, and the Nats were also held off the board in the ninth.
In other atrocious baserunning news, here’s David Freese making the final out of the game at second base, after reaching first on an infield single with his team down by two runs:
The Pirates challenged, but to no avail. Freese was out, and the ballgame was over.
It was an unfortunate end to what had been an exceptional duel between Doug Fister and Jameson Taillon. The Astros righty bounced back from two straight poor efforts with seven scoreless innings, holding the Bucs to three hits and a walk while punching out six. His Pirates counterpart went eight for the third time in his first 12 career starts, demonstrating outstanding efficiency while getting 12 outs on the ground and eighth more via K. The pair combined for just four innings with more than 15 pitches and logged 10 with a dozen or less. Mistakes were few and far between.
Except on the bases, that is, where Freese’s denied rookie Josh Bell an at-bat as the potential tying run. The Astros won their fourth straight, 3-1.
Speaking of denying rookies a chance to hit in big spots, the Braves also did that Monday, and it was by their manager’s choice, not a teammate’s blunder. It was 8-7 Diamondbacks in the top of the eighth. There was a runner on first with nobody out. The batter was Dansby Swanson, playing at Chase Field—his would-be major-league home, were he not traded to the Braves in the Shelby Miller debacle—with a chance to rub salt in the wound. Only he wasn’t batting. He was…
…bunting. And looking quite incompetent at doing so. Which makes sense, because in his 572 professional plate appearances before that one, he’d never put down a sacrifice bunt successfully. And he didn’t do so here.
But, to the Braves’ great joy, in the course of eventually striking Swanson out swinging, Jake Barrett uncorked a wild pitch that advanced the runner to second. Of course, there was one out now, and the next batter struck out swinging, too. Then, since Brian Snitker wouldn’t let Swanson beat his old team, Chip Hale decided that he wouldn’t give Ender Inciarte the chance, either. Hale walked Inciarte—the potential go-ahead run—intentionally, then watched Barrett chuck another wild one to move Inciarte into scoring position.
Just as Snitker’s bunt plan worked out in a roundabout way for the Braves, Hale’s risky decision to put Inciarte on turned out fine for the Diamondbacks in spite of Barrett’s erratic pitching. Adonis Garcia grounded out to end the inning just the way it started, 8-7 Arizona.
Since we’re taking managers to task here, let’s also give some credit where it’s due. Leading off the top of the ninth, still down 8-7, Freddie Freeman got ahead in the count, 3-0, against D’backs closer Enrique Burgos. And he was thrilled to get the green light:
That dinger, Freeman’s second of the game, tied it at 8-8. But just minutes later, Paul Goldschmidt untied it and ended it, 9-8:
While we’re giving skippers love, let’s not forget John Farrell—much maligned on Red Sox Twitter and WEEI—who made a timely defensive replacement, without which we’d have a less exciting Defensive Play of the Day.
Eight shutout innings Monday shaved David Price’s ERA down to an even 4.00, the lowest it’s been since his second start after putting pen to paper on a $217 million deal in Boston. But the left-hander needed help to aid his ERA’s descent back toward respectability, in the form of this home-run robbery from Andrew Benintendi,
who’d just moved to left field moments earlier when Jackie Bradley Jr. entered the game for Chris Young.
Young, by the way, went 1-for-2 with a double and two walks at the plate, returning from the 60-day DL just in time to torment Rays starter Blake Snell. The rookie was through after just 3 2/3 innings, having walked five and thrown 94 pitches. He took the loss in the 6-2 decision at the Trop.
The good news for the Yankees is that Gary Sanchez keeps homering:
He did so twice on Monday, giving him eight in his first 17 games, and marking an excellent start to his bid to repeat as the AL Player of the Week.
The bad news for the Yankees is that Anthony Swarzak keeps giving up homers:
That one, by Mike Zunino, was the 10th given up by the righty in 29 innings, and it turned a 5-3 Yankees lead into a 6-5 Mariners edge. Seattle went on to win, 7-5.
What to Watch on Tuesday
In a USA Today article published August 12th, Jake Lamb and Diamondbacks hitting coach Dave Magadan talked about the swing changes the third baseman made to precipitate his breakout offensive season. Those changes are most prevalent in the stance and stride phases of Lamb’s swing, where he now uses a higher leg kick and keeps his hands lower, both aimed at helping the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder to generate more power.
Here’s Lamb in 2015:
And here’s the 2016 version:
The adjustments are easily noticeable, and for a while, they were working splendidly. At the end of play on August 7th, Lamb was batting .287/.361/.593 with 24 homers.
As with most positive arbitrary endpoints, though, there’s an ugly companion on the other side of this one. How ugly? Well, since August 9th, Lamb is 2-for-46 with 19 strikeouts. Yeah. That ugly.
Lamb’s next chance to bust out of the slump comes with the Braves in town tonight. Rob Whalen goes for Atlanta, taking on Archie Bradley (9:40 p.m. ET).
If there’s one reason for the Indians, division leaders by 7 ½ games, to fret, it might be the health and performance of Danny Salazar, part of a three-headed rotation monster along with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Those right-handers all rank among the top nine starters in DRA to this point in the season, strung together 7-8-9 entering play on Monday, with Salazar ninth at 3.08. The 26-year-old was under 3.00 just two starts ago, but since the start of August, he’s been rocked by the Twins, spent two weeks on the disabled list with elbow inflammation, and returned to throw 18 balls and 16 strikes in one inning of work against the White Sox.
Nevertheless, the Indians insist that Salazar is healthy, and considering their cushion in the division—more than enough to offer Salazar another two-week break—we should probably believe them, unless the righty gives us more reason to think otherwise. Salazar will look to rebound this evening in Oakland, where he’ll square off with Sean Manaea in game two of three at the Coliseum (10:05 p.m. ET).