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The Wednesday Takeaway

The interleague showdown between the Colorado Rockies and the Houston Astros was an ode to the randomness of the 162-game baseball season. Anything can happen—and, given that many chances, it often does.

Colorado flamethrower Jon Gray is an ace-caliber pitcher who, in his third full big-league season, was supposed to show that talent more consistently. It hasn’t worked out quite that way. Gray’s 5.44 ERA entering action was almost a full run worse than his career mark, and he even found himself demoted to Triple-A for a stretch.

But on Wednesday night, Gray was at his best. He fired off seven innings of one-hit, one-run baseball, rendering one of the American League’s most feared lineups largely impotent. In the fourth inning, Alex Bregman drew a one-out walk, and Jose Altuve doubled him home. An error and a groundout brought Altuve around, in turn, for a second (unearned) run. But other than that, Gray kept Houston off of the bases—and kept his team in contention, as the score was 2-1 Houston in the bottom of the seventh.

With the bases loaded and one out, the Rockies brought Nolan Arenado to the plate. Arenado’s power, plus the speed of Raimel Tapia on third base, created all sorts of possibilities. Arenado’s always a threat to go yard, for one thing. A fly ball to the outfield would’ve tied the game. On the flipside, a reasonably well-hit ball directly at an infielder would almost certainly turn into an inning-ending double play.

Most of the times that this situation plays itself out this year, one of those things will happen. This time around Arenado hit a sacrifice fly to the third baseman, baseball’s answer to the 11/8 time signature in music:

 

Had J.D. Davis‘s throw been true, Tapia would’ve been out by a step and a half. But having just sprinted down the popup, inverted his body over the railing, and then righted hastily by his teammates in the dugout, Davis was in no condition to do that. The heads-up play from Tapia tied the score and probably will go down as the cheapest RBI that Arenado ever earns in his career.

That would be the last offensive action until the bottom of the 9th. The score was still 2-2, and with one out the Rockies’ brought up Charlie Blackmon and the top of the order. Collin McHugh fell behind 3-1 to Blackmon, who got just the pitch he was looking for to end the game with his 20th home run of the season. To celebrate, the Rockies washed Blackmon’s beard:

The top three teams in the NL West are all separated by less than a series, and the Giants are still in striking distance from fourth place, so this hard-fought win could be a major piece of the inevitable playoff puzzle.

Quick Hits

Albert Pujols is no longer the most feared hitter in the game—in fact, he’s no longer even a replacement-level big leaguer. But the Angels’ DH is still chasing some pretty significant milestones in the baseball lexicon. Pujols hit career home run number 631 off of James Shields, slingshotting himself ahead of Ken Griffey, Jr. on the all-time leaderboard.

 

The Oakland A’s were down to their final strike in Texas, but Khris Davis saved himself exactly one emergency taco of the oppo variety for just an occasion like this:

 

The 6-5 score held up as the final, with Blake Treinen slamming the door for his 26th save of the year.

Tampa has been at the forefront of innovative pitcher usage this season, frequently deploying closer Sergio Romo in less-than-orthodox ways. Romo got out of a jam in the eighth inning with the lead intact before beginning the 9th inning at third base as lefty Jonny Venters came on to face pull-happy lefty Greg Bird. Bird pulled a grounder to second, just as planned, and then Romo returned to the mound to close out the victory:

 

The Rays are in uncharted territory, but they’re north of .500 and outperforming preseason expectations by a wide margin.

Toronto’s Jake Petricka was one pitch away from getting out of the top of the 11th inning with the bases left stranded when he hit Max Kepler in the back leg, giving the Twins the lead over the Blue Jays. But the fun was just beginning. Mitch Garver plated two with a ground-rule double, Robbie Grossman brought in two more with a double of his own, and Joe Mauer finished the two-out avalanche with an RBI single:

 

Defensive Play of the Night

“Ballgirl” to “outfielder” is an unorthodox career path in Major League Baseball to be sure, but one Texas Rangers crew member looks like she might have what it takes to make the leap.

 

Not only did she snare a hard-hit Jed Lowrie liner out of midair, but she did so while blowing a bubble. And ultimately, she couldn’t have made it look easier or cooler.

What to Watch on Thursday

The first pitch comes at Chicago, as the Diamondbacks and Cubs meet in a showdown of playoff hopefuls. Zack Godley is set to pitch for Arizona—he’s been up and down this year, but we’ve seen his best work in the past two months or so. Opposing him is Tyler Chatwood, the Cubs’ disappointing offseason addition who has walked just shy of eight batters per nine innings this year.

Sonny Gray’s name has come up in trade talks over the past couple of days, which means his start against the Royals could be his last in pinstripes. We’ll see.

Speaking of the late-July #HugWatch, the Twins are slated to start Kyle Gibson but he could be somebody else’s pitcher by then. Or the Twins could choose to start someone else in case they do move Gibson. Again, we’ll see.

Alex Cobb of the Orioles will start against the Rays, his ex-team. Tampa is on the friendly side of .500 this year; Cobb is 2-13.

Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals will take on Dan Straily and the Marlins. Odds are, if something historic and/or newsworthy happens tonight, Strasburg dealing against Miami is a safe bet to be the cause.

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newsense
7/26
"then righted hastily by his teammates in the dugout,"
Technically is that even allowed? What if they were holding him up as he was making the catch?
Colin Anderle
7/26
Rule 7.04(c) Comment: If a fielder, after having made a legal catch, should fall into a stand or
among spectators or into the dugout or any other out-of-play area while in possession of the ball after making a legal catch, or fall while in the dugout after making a legal catch, the ball is dead and each runner shall advance one base, without liability to be put out, from his last legally touched base at the time the fielder fell into, or in, such out-of-play area.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2011/Official_Baseball_Rules.pdf page 61 as numbered, page 66 on the PDF.
newsense
7/26
So the play on Tapia was moot and the other runners should have been allowed to advance?
Colin Anderle
7/26
Pretty sure the Rockies would've had to challenge the result of the play under that rule--which, since the runner scored, they were in no hurry to do. But they could've gotten a 1st and 2nd situation turned into a 2nd and 3rd situation. So I'm thinking the entire umpiring crew and Colorado bench missed this obscure call. And if anyone in the Houston camp understood what was transpiring on the field, they understandably kept their mouth shut.
Gavin Rodkey
7/26
Davis didn't fall *into* the dugout -- he almost did, but his teammates held him up.

The rules don't address whether anyone *in* the dugout preventing a player from falling into the dugout. Similarly, the rule doesn't specifically address spectators in the stands preventing a player from falling into an "out-of-play area."

As we've seen in other MLB games, if in the process of catching a foul ball at the edge of the "out-of-play area" (i.e. the seats along the foul line), a player ends up leaning into or against a fan while also in contact with the field or the wall, and that fan's support prevents the player from subsequently falling over the wall into the "out-of-play area," the catch is NOT nullified. In the same way, Davis' catch would not be nullified by his the presence of his teammates preventing him from falling into the dugout and out of play.

Now, if he fell completely *over* the dugout wall and was supported *only* by his teammates -- like he was crowdsurfing -- then I think the umpire might have had some discretion.