The Tuesday Takeaway
Ervin Santana is striking out just about as many batters as he did last season—and the one before, and the one before that. He’s walking about just as many, too. He’s relying on his fastball a bit less than usual and his changeup a little more, but not dramatically so. Santana is, essentially, not doing too much that’s terribly different from anything he’s done before. He’s just getting some very different results.
This is what’s placed him at the top of the leaderboard for ERA—the only starting pitcher whose figure starts with a zero here—but quite a bit further down in metrics such as DRA and FIP. There’s plenty to suggest that his results can’t be sustained at this level forever; namely, the fact that his BABIP is under .130 and his home run/fly ball rate is under six percent while nothing else has shifted in his numbers to make those changes seem particularly meaningful. For now, though, Santana simply isn’t letting guys score. Last night was no different.
Santana pitched six shutout innings against the A’s, striking out seven while allowing three hits and three walks. Meanwhile, the Twins had no problem backing him up with offense—and plenty of it. Minnesota hit a Target Field-record six home runs, dividing up the pain by smashing three off of Sonny Gray in his return from the disabled list and three off the Oakland bullpen.
Those included not one,
but two for Brian Dozier,
along with a particularly beautiful moonshot from Miguel Sano.
The Twins ultimately won by a score of 9-1, and Santana lowered his best-in-baseball ERA from 0.77 to 0.66.
The Orioles and Red Sox continued what’s become a theme of high drama for the pair. The night began with the Boston crowd giving Adam Jones a standing ovation, a gesture of goodwill after the outfielder spoke out about fans yelling racial epithets at him earlier this week. A few minutes later, Jones was heading back to the dugout courtesy of a strikeout by Chris Sale—the first of many. Sale went on to strike out 11 over eight innings. While it was his fifth consecutive start with double-digit Ks, it was his first one this year receiving more than three runs of support, and two home runs from Hanley Ramirez carried the Red Sox to a 5-2 win.
But there was more to Sale’s night than strikeouts and rare run support. In the first inning, he tried to make a statement by throwing behind Manny Machado—apparently continued retaliation for Machado’s hard slide against the Sox a week and a half ago. Unlike the first time that the team tried seeking revenge on Machado, when reliever Matt Barnes threw at his head two weekends ago, there was no disciplinary action from the umpires here. Machado understandably wasn’t pleased, and he didn’t mince words:
— Jon Meoli (@JonMeoli) May 3, 2017
Corey Kluber’s night wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t last long. Cleveland’s ace exited after the third inning with what was later described as lower back discomfort, and he gave up five runs on seven hits before he left. (Including a Miguel Cabrera home run in the first baseman’s return from the DL.) Detroit didn’t score at all off of the bullpen, but they didn’t need to—Justin Verlander held Cleveland to two runs while striking out five over seven innings of work, and he walked away with the victory.
Edinson Volquez made a little bit of interesting, albeit wholly inconsequential, history last night against the Rays. The Marlins starter struck out nine over four innings and change before being pulled with a blister on his right thumb—which sounds pretty impressive, until you learn that he also walked eight. He’s the first pitcher ever to strike out and walk so many in such a short outing. The Marlins’ bullpen kept recording Ks in his stead, but it wasn’t enough to win. While Miami collectively struck out 15, they still managed to lose to Tampa by a score of 3-1.
The Dodgers roughed up Matt Moore pretty solidly, hitting San Francisco’s starter for six runs in the second inning alone. Those included a home run from Franklin Gutierrez in his first at-bat returning from the disabled list, a bases-clearing triple for Cody Bellinger, and an RBI single for L.A. starter Alex Wood. That’s a sharp contrast to Moore’s start five days ago, when he held the Dodgers to one run over two hits in seven innings—a pretty ugly juxtaposition with last night’s total of nine runs on six hits and five walks in scarcely more than three innings. The Dodgers ultimately won, 13-5.
Defensive Play of the Day
If we’re okay with using a definition of “defensive play of the day” flexible enough to accommodate “most intriguing defensive play of the day,” then Boston and Baltimore definitely have the winner. The Orioles recorded the least graceful triple play in recent memory, beginning with J.J. Hardy dropping a popup.
What to Watch for Wednesday
After Machado’s comments last night—not to mention the two weeks of drama that came before them—the series finale between the Red Sox and Orioles is sure to be interesting. While the pitching matchup isn’t particularly inspiring, featuring Kevin Gausman and Drew Pomeranz, there should still be plenty to watch for after so much has been said on both sides about the validity of baseball’s unwritten rules and how and why they’re enforced.
Julio Urias’s first start after being called up last week was a modest success, with the youngster allowing one run and striking out four over five innings and change. He takes the mound again tonight against Jeff Samardzija and the Giants at 10:10 ET.