The Weekend Takeaway
For manager Dave Roberts, the decision was a simple one. Removing his injury-prone starter after seven innings was a logical move, one that would decrease the risk of aggravating an aggressive case of blisters on Hill's throwing hand and give him the chance to finish out the season without another stint on the disabled list.
Except that veteran left-hander Rich Hill still hadn’t allowed a batter, not by walk, or error, or hit. Except that Hill was sitting at 89 pitches on the night, well within reach of nine perfect innings. Except that Yasiel Puig had just sacrificed his body on a no-shot catch to preserve the bid. Except that the pitcher warming up was Joe Blanton, whose closest bid to a perfect game was a complete game three-hitter against the A’s in 2007 and whose current 106 cFIP hung dangerously close to the career-worst mark of 110 he set in 2008.
The simplest decisions are rarely the easiest ones.
Roberts pulled a devastated Rich Hill after the seventh, during which the 36-year-old fielded bunt attempts and struck out nine batters and generally made the Marlins look foolish against his curveball-heater combo:
Grant Dayton and Kenley Jansen combined for the final frame of the game, stranding former Dodger Dee Gordon during the Marlins’ last-ditch effort to get on the board. The Dodgers got their knocks in earlier that night, before the cloud of the blown perfecto hung in the air, on four home runs from Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner.
When Hill’s hand is fully healed and he’s pitching the Dodgers to their fourth consecutive division title, perhaps he can laugh about this night with Roberts and Blanton (or, at the very least, commend Roberts on his foresight). Right now, this one’s going to sting for a while.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
Up the coast from Los Angeles, under the cool midnight skies of San Francisco, the Giants and Diamondbacks took a 5-5 game into the 12th inning.
For the clubs who plan on contending beyond October 2, the 40-man roster is an opportunity to add depth, relieve an overtaxed bullpen, and get a little more pop in the lineup down the final stretch. For the Diamondbacks, it was an excuse to cycle through 12 pitchers in one night, coming one lefty specialist shy of tying the all-time record for most pitchers used in a single game.
Despite the best efforts of manager Chip Hale and a heroic 10th-inning home run from Jake Lamb, Arizona found itself outmatched in the final frames of the five-hour affair against Madison Bumgarner and seven of the Giants’ finest relievers.
The Giants, who are not yet out of the running for a wild card spot in the NL West, also found themselves on the weird side of history when they utilized right-handed reliever Cory Gearrin both on the mound and in the outfield:
With his hybrid outfield-reliever stint, Gearrin became the first pitcher to work multiple positions in one inning since 1987, and the first to do so while picking up a save since 1991.
There’s probably no reason to freak out about Clayton Kershaw. This is, after all, the man with a sub-2.00 ERA in three of his last four seasons, the man whose 8.9 WARP in 2015 eclipsed the total team WARP for 10 major-league pitching staffs, the man who makes no-hitters look effortless and six-game streaks of double-digit strikeouts routine.
This was also the man who needed 66 pitches to get through three innings against the Marlins, the man who wasted seven pitches on a Jeff Francoeur double and whose breaking balls missed the strike zone 68 percent of the time.
There were still Kershaw-esque elements to this game, even after Chris Johnson’s RBI hit and J.T. Realmuto’s 393-ft. home run. In the second inning, with one out and a runner on first, Kershaw labored through a 10-pitch at-bat against Adeiny Hechavarria to record his second strikeout of the night, finally catching Hechavarria on a fastball that just grazed the top of the strike zone.
Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna took a fair amount of convincing to strike out, too, battling through six- and eight-pitch at-bats in the third before Kershaw was pulled. Despite the lefty’s less-than-perfect command, he retained the power and speed that made him such a threat stint on the disabled list, improving the average speed of each of his pitch offerings.
The Dodgers aren’t hurting for good pitchers right now, which will give Kershaw some breathing room as he works out a few kinks in his delivery before his next start on Wednesday. In the meantime, it’s difficult to be upset over an outing where Kershaw became the first major-league hurler (by a lot) to notch at least 150 strikeouts while walking fewer than ten walks in a season.
Let us veer away from the injured pitchers, the pitchers of near-perfect games and #weirdbaseball, and toward one of the game’s greatest hitters.
David Ortiz overtook Hall of Fame slugger Jimmie Foxx on the all-time home run list on Sunday afternoon, belting a graceful 367-footer into the Red Sox bullpen. With an exit velocity of 98 mph, it was Ortiz’s fourth-slowest home run of the year, as well as the third-shortest of his 32 homers. He now holds the 18th most home runs in major league history.
This is why we watch baseball. (Well, this and perfect games, and Vin Scully, and pitchers hitting, and hitters pitching, and walk-off balks, but you catch my drift.)
Defensive Play of the Weekend
Forget the two-handed grabs, the barehanded snags, the beer splashes and hat snatches. This one-hand, grand slam capture is the new standard for fan catches.
What to Watch on Monday
Clint Hurdle is playing musical chairs with the Pirates’ rotation, and rookie Jameson Taillon will find himself without a seat this week. The right-hander is skipping a start in order to complete the season without hitting an innings cap, as he’s bumping up against 90 innings in his first major-league season so far. In his place, Gerrit Cole will take a spot start after coming off of the disabled list with elbow inflammation. Cole’s 4.16 DRA is a career-high mark, due to an erratic pitching schedule that has been sidelined by a variety of injuries. Facing the Pirates is Phillies’ righty Jeremy Hellickson, whose off-again, on-again relationship with the club appears to have finally stabilized, if only for the time being (7:05 ET).
Elsewhere, the Dodgers will try pitching prodigy Jose De Leon on the road against Yankees at 7:05 ET, and Oakland left-hander Ross Detwiler will make his first start of the month versus the 74-68 Royals and Dillon Gee’s 5.16 DRA (7:15 ET).