The Thursday Takeaway
Chris Sale has been the best pitcher in baseball this season. He went into his Thursday start leading MLB in PWARP (3.87) and had a sterling DRA of 1.73 to go along with his ERA of 2.97 and microscopic FIP of 1.80. Combine that with the prospect of facing an anemic Philadelphia lineup, and you had to figure that it was going to be a long night for the Phillies and smooth sailing for Sale.
For the most part, this was the correct assumption. Sale continued his string of dominant performances with an outing that was excellent even by his lofty standards. Sure enough, the Phillies looked lost at times at the plate, while Sale was tearing through the lineup with relative ease. From the fourth inning until the eighth inning, Sale went through 14 batters without giving up a hit—the lone baserunner came in the form of Howie Kendrick, who reached via walk. Other than that, Sale was once again nearly untouchable.
Unfortunately for Sale, Boston’s bats couldn’t figure out Nick Pivetta, either. This was Pivetta’s seventh career start, but it sure seemed like he was an ace on the level of Sale—for this one night, at least. Sale struck out 10 over eight innings, but Pivetta kept up with him by throwing nine strikeouts over seven innings. Additionally, he only walked two batters over 107 pitches. If Sale’s performance against the Phillies was predictable, then Pivetta’s performance against Boston’s offense was the exact opposite.
This is baseball, so someone was going to break through and eventually break the deadlock. It wasn’t Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, or any of the Red Sox. Boston’s entire offense squandered some golden chances, so it was a frustrating night for them. Instead, it was the Philadelphia combination of Andrew Knapp and pinch-hitter Ty Kelly who eventually got the best of Sale in the eighth inning. Kelly put one of Sale’s sliders into left field to bring home Knapp for the game’s first and only run.
Philadelphia’s offense was just as anemic as advertised. Sale was just as electric as we figured that he’d be. However, baseball doesn’t adhere to a script and that was evident by the gem that Pivetta threw. As a result, Philadelphia managed to hang an “L” on Boston, and an excellent performance from Sale went by the wayside. That’s baseball for you.
Chris Sale with a tough-luck loss tonight. https://t.co/qALus4K5m6 He's on pace to strike out about 330 this year, walk about 45.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 16, 2017
Just a few days after Aaron Judge hit the longest home run of the season, Keon Broxton decided to try to one-up New York’s rookie sensation. He may not have beaten Judge’s moonshot from Saturday, but Broxton can now lay claim to the longest homer hit in the history of the current Busch Stadium with this 489-foot monster shot.
Exit velocity: 109mph
Angle: 29°ðŸš€ pic.twitter.com/tf5jhynPok
— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) June 15, 2017
While Broxton’s dinger was of the majestic variety, Bryce Harper hit a homer that wanted to get out of the ballpark faster than Sonic the Hedgehog blazed through a stage on the old Sega Genesis games.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post tried to come up with a new term to describe just how quickly the ball cleared the fences:
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) June 15, 2017
Jose Berrios was at it again on Thursday afternoon, as he managed to bring order to the mound in Minnesota after the Mariners scored 27 runs in the first three games of the four-game set. By the time Berrios was finished with Seattle, the Mariners only had two runs on the board and had struck out six times with just five hits to show for it over eight innings. It was yet another flash of what’s to come from Berrios, who is clearly showing why it was imperative to have patience with him after his shaky major-league appearances in 2016.
Meanwhile, catcher Chris Gimenez was the man who helped power the Twins to victory in this one, as he delivered a twin package of dingers that pushed Minnesota to the victory.
It’s been an unusual season for Miguel Cabrera. His production is down in comparison to where it was last season, especially in the power department. His ISO is at a relatively meager .149 (compared to the .247 ISO he put up in 2016) and he went into Thursday night’s game with only five dingers to his name. By the time the ninth inning rolled around, he had six and you can imagine that the Tigers are probably thrilled with the timing of Miggy’s sixth homer of the season.
Defensive Play of the Day
Trevor Story added another eventful page to his book as a big leaguer, and we’ll be able to turn to the page he wrote on June 16, 2017 that involved him robbing the Giants of at least a couple of runs with this diving catch in shallow left field.
What to Watch on Friday
The obvious marquee matchup tonight will be taking place in Houston, as the Astros welcome the Red Sox for the start of what should be an intriguing weekend series. Houston’s been the clear frontrunner in the American League, and they’ve also been successful against the rest of the AL East so far. The Astros have already gotten their hands on the Yankees, Orioles, and Rays, and went 7-2 against that crew.
If the Red Sox want to avoid a similar fate to the one their divisional rivals suffered, they’ll have to get a strong start from Drew Pomeranz. The lefty hurler got bopped around by the Tigers in his last outing, which ended a streak of three consecutive good starts following a bit of a kerfuffle with manager John Farrell in late May. He’ll have to be at his best to keep Houston’s dangerous lineup under wraps. That’s much easier said than done when the Astros (who are second in the AL with a collective TAv of .277) seemingly have the ability to put a crooked number on the scoreboard in any inning, nearly at will.