The Tuesday Takeaway
By almost any measure, Clayton Kershaw has been among the best handful of pitchers in baseball this season. By almost any measure, he is having his worst season in years—which is why he’s now simply among the best handful of pitchers, rather than his usual position as the totality of baseball’s best in and of himself.
He’s allowing more home runs than he ever has and more hits than he has since 2010, posting his highest DRA since 2012. He has his worst strikeout rate in four years and his lowest ground-ball rate in six. Relative to what we think of when we think of Clayton Kershaw, his performance has been something a bit softer and smudged and less potent; relative to what we think of when we think of pitching writ large, his performance has been something pretty excellent.
Last night against the Cardinals, Kershaw was excellent relative to anything—certainly the best he’s been this year, but just as good as we’ve ever seen him, too. He struck out 10 over his first eight innings, allowing zero runs on just two hits and walking none.
But he was nearly matched by Lance Lynn, who struck out just as many over eight innings and allowed only one run on a first-inning solo shot by Yasmani Grandal. The pitchers’ duel seemed to find its ending in the eighth, with Lynn walking Kershaw on four pitches before managing to get out of the inning with a pitch count of more than 120. With Kershaw still at fewer than 100 pitches, no one was warming in the Dodgers’ bullpen, and all that was left was for him to get the 1-0 victory was to seal the deal in the ninth.
But Kershaw began the inning with a leadoff single to Randal Grichuk. And then with Grichuk on second base after advancing on a groundout, pitch no. 100 spelled disaster for Kershaw:
With that wild pitch, the game was tied, and the shine on Kershaw’s stellar outing dulled. Extra innings melted into a long slog, featuring one frightening outfield collision that saw Joc Pederson forced to exit the game with a stiff neck and both bullpens stretched nearly to their limits. Ultimately, though, Kershaw’s big night ended in victory—with Logan Forsythe playing the hero in the 13th inning on an RBI double.
Ervin Santana added another gem to what’s shaping up to be the most effective year of his career. In his second shutout of the season, Santana struck out six and allowed only two hits. An RBI single from Byron Buxton and a solo home run from Brian Dozier provided some support, and the Twins beat the Orioles, 2-0.
In his first outing since being called up from a stint at Triple-A, Joe Ross was at his best. He struck out six over eight innings, allowing just one run on a solo homer from Mike Zunino. Meanwhile, Christian Bergman was very, very far from his (or anyone’s) best. Thrust into the rotation as a result of the Mariners’ many injury woes, he had the worst start of the season so far as calculated by game score. In four innings, he allowed 10 runs on 14 hits—four of which were home runs, including two from Anthony Rendon and this 450-foot moonshot from Bryce Harper.
Seattle’s bullpen held off any more scoring, but the damage had been done. The Mariners fell, 10-1, to lose their fourth straight.
Edwin Encarnacion continued his recent campaign to speed up his slow start of the season. He homered not once, but twice, off Reds starter Amir Garrett.
Those were just two of four home runs that Garrett gave up in five innings of work, but that didn’t mean the game was a blowout. Thanks to a rough outing by Carlos Carrasco and a collapse by Cleveland’s bullpen in the seventh inning, the score was tied at seven runs apiece heading into the eighth. But an unfortunately-timed wild pitch from Drew Storen changed that, and Cleveland won, 8-7.
The Braves had to wait for their win over the Pirates, but it was worth it. Losing 3-2 to the Pirates entering the seventh inning, they were faced with a rain delay. A little more than three hours later, the tarp finally came off and gave them a chance to mount their comeback. They scored twice in the seventh to take the lead, which they handed over to their bullpen and its 21-inning scoreless streak.
Under Sam Freeman and Arodys Vizcaino in the seventh and eighth, respectively, that streak got longer—but then came closer Jim Johnson for the ninth, and there was the end of the pen’s dominance. Johnson let the Pirates score twice to take back their one-run lead, allowing three hits and a walk. But the end of the scoreless streak didn’t spell defeat. In the bottom of the ninth, the newly-acquired Matt Adams drove in the winning run after Nick Markakis had doubled to tie it.
Defensive Play of the Day
Austin Hedges wasn’t about to let this Wilmer Flores pop-up drop in foul territory, no matter how much ground he had to cover.
The Padres fell to the Mets, 9-3.
What to Watch on Wednesday
Jose Berrios will look to follow up his incredible second outing of the year—an 11-strikeout, two-hit performance last week. Just a few days short of his 23rd birthday, he’ll face off against Chris Tillman and the Orioles as the Twins look to win their fourth straight at 12:35 p.m. ET.
Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and James Paxton are all on the disabled list. This means that the Mariners have had to get creative with their starting pitching (see: Christian Bergman yesterday), and that continues with 27-year-old rookie Sam Gaviglio tonight. Gaviglio has never merited so much as a single-line entry in the Baseball Prospectus Annual, nor received any mention on this site after six years in the minors, and he’ll make his second start in a week for the Mariners tonight. His first went well, three hits in five shutout innings, and he’ll try to continue that against Tanner Roark and the Nationals at 7:05 p.m. ET.
By DRA and FIP and just about every other sophisticated metric, Mike Leake is nothing special this year. But by ERA, he’s the best in the National League—or, at least, he was until Kershaw’s dazzling display last night. (Now he’s a few hundredths of a run behind, with 2.03 to Kershaw’s 2.01.) He goes up against Rich Hill, who was activated from the disabled list last week. Hill was effective in his first start back, with one run in five innings, and he’ll look to continue that as his Dodgers take on Leake’s Cardinals at 10:10 p.m. ET.
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