May 19, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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40th anniversary: Bobby Valentine breaks his leg (4)
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Friday, May 17, 2013
Rangers 10, Tigers 4: So much for pitching porn. Darvish wasn't exactly sharp early but he ultimately settled down. Meanwhile, who put the benzedrine in Mr. Verlander's Ovaltine? He was a hot mess. And I do mean hot. He was lighting up the radar gun in the early innings but was overthrowing and seemed to have no idea where the ball was going. Just a mechanical disaster, really, unlike I've ever remembered seeing him. Darvish ended up going eight innings and improving to 7-1.
Mariners 3, Yankees 2: Andy Pettitte left with a muscle injury. Andy Pettitte is 40. So basically, this is his life now (warning: a bit of bad language, but if you're 40, you NEED to hear this because it's 100 percent true).
Mets 5, Cardinals 2: The Mets end a six-game skid behind five hits from Daniel Murphy and David Wright. From the AP gamer about Jon Niese:
Terry Collins thought it was no coincidence the lefty rediscovered his groove in shirt-sleeve weather and paved the way for the New York Mets' slump-buster.
That word he used: I do not think it means what he thinks it means.
Pirates 7, Brewers 1: Travis Snider hit a 458-foot homer that ended up in the Allegheny River. Snider went 3 for 5 with three RBI and the Pirates won their sixth of seven.
Red Sox 4, Rays 3: Down 3-1 in the ninth, the Red Sox loaded the bases off Fernando Rodney, and Will Middlebrooks cleared them with a double. Just bananas. Oh, sorry Fernando, not bananas at all. Rodney has already blown three saves this year. He blew only two last year.
Reds 5, Marlins 3: [Craig press three keys and his "The ____ sweep the Marlins" macro is activated]. This one was competitive at least, as Mat Latos ran out of gas in the ninth and Aroldis Chapman couldn't close the deal either, sending it to extras. Brandon Phillips, who had homered earlier, hit a sac fly for the go-ahead run in the 10th.
Giants 8, Rockies 6: Down 6-0 early, the Giants put up five in the fourth and three in the sixth. I didn't see the broadcast, but I'm gonna assume the announcers said "no lead is safe in Coors Field" approximately five times. San Francisco has beaten Colorado 10 straight times.
White Sox 5, Angels 4: Yet another rally on a night that seemed to have many of them. The Sox were down two in the eighth when they scored three. The go-ahead run came on a bases-loaded walk to Jeff Keppinger, who had not walked in over 140 plate appearances so far this year.
Nationals 6, Padres 2: Stephen Strasburg pitched eight innings allowing only one earned run. Bryce Harper shook off his ailments from the fence collision in L.A. and hit a 432 foot homer in the seventh.
Forty years ago today, one of the most gruesome and unfortunate injuries of the 1970s occurred. It ruined a promising career just as it was beginning— though the kid had a long future in baseball ahead of him anyway.
It was May 17, 1973, when Angels player Bobby Valentine broke his leg.
Valentine had been a huge prospect. As an 18-year-old in the Pioneer League, he was named league MVP. The club thought enough of him to bring him up for a few games in 1969, when he was still a teen.
At age 20, Valentine starred for the Dodgers’ Spokane club in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Valentine hit .340 with 29 stolen bases, 39 doubles, 16 triples, and 14 homers.
Figuring he was done with the minors, he became a major leaguer for almost all of 1971-72. The results weren’t quite what the Dodgers hoped for, though. Valentine had versatility in the field, playing all over the infield and outfield, but at the plate he was lackluster. He had virtually no power, and had a mediocre batting average.
In the 1972-73 off-season, the Dodgers sent him to the nearby Angels as part of a blockbuster trade also featuring Frank Robinson, Bill Singer, Andy Messersmith and Ken McMullen. Though Valentine’s career hadn’t quite taken off, he was still very young—just 23, an age at which many stars-to-be were toiling in the minors.
The change of scenery seemed to do Valentine a world of good. California settled on shortstop for Valentine, with occasional games in the outfield. A fifth of the way through the year, and Valentine was hitting over .300. The future appeared bright.
Then came May 17, 1973. This would be another of those games with Valentine in center. In the top of the second, Valentine’s career came to a sudden, shocking halt. Oakland’s Dick Green hit one to deep center field. Valentine went to the wall hoping to leap and rob Green of a home run. It didn’t work out that way. It really, really didn’t work out that way.
Valentine leaped up all right, but the ball missed his glove by a hair, for a home run. More importantly, gravity made a disastrous appearance. Valentine began descending, and when he did, his leg got tangled in the wall. It went between a pair of supporting poles. The wall gave way a bit, just enough to trap his leg. Then it flipped him to the ground. The middle part of his shin was bent. That middle part of a shin is never supposed to bend, but bend it did. It was the closest baseball got to a Joe Thiesman-Lawrence Taylor moment.
Valentine had multiple fractures to his right leg. He spent the rest of the 1973 season in various casts, but when they were taken off more bad news was in store for him. His bones hadn’t healed properly. Another surgery could fix it, but would mean Valentine would miss all of 1974, at the very least. He decided to play on his messed-up leg. He would play more than 100 games in 1974, but was soon relegated to backup duties. No more star-to-be, Valentine became a hanger-on. He bounced from the Angels to the Padres to the Mets to the Mariners, where his career ended in 1979, when he was still not even 30 years old.
Maybe Valentine wouldn’t have lived up to his potential. Plenty of prospects don’t. But maybe he would’ve. It’s a shame we’ll never know—and we won’t know because of the terrible injury that happened 40 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
Click for more...
Thursday, May 16, 2013
It seems way too easy to compare Jonathan Sanchez to Oliver Perez. They're both lanky left-handers with similar stuff and around the same age who had early success before the wheels came off. The comparison is so easy that it runs the risk of seeming lazy, something I've warned about in the past, but this is one of those situations where the fit is just really strong.
Sanchez, who was cut by the Pirates after posting an 11.85 ERA in five outings (including four starts), is about to sign a minor league deal with the Dodgers. Some are using the move to belittle the Dodgers as an example of how desperate they are, but like many minor league deals, this is a low-risk, high-reward transaction.
Perez and Sanchez both had their first big year in their third season in the majors. For Perez that was 2004, where he posted a 2.98 ERA in 30 starts thanks to a 3.45 FIP and 3.62 xFIP (good for 4.4 WAR overall). For Sanchez that was 2008, where he amassed 2.6 WAR thanks to a 3.85 FIP. His 5.01 ERA was obviously high, but a .317 BABIP (as compared to his .294 career mark) and a left-on-base percent of just 67.5 contributed mightily to that number.
After 2004 Perez imploded, tallying consecutive years of below-replacement level WAR and FIPs above five. Sanchez actually had a nice run after 2008, with ERAs of 4.24 and 3.07 the next two seasons.
After finding a home with the Mets in 2006 (and even starting and pitching decently in Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS), Perez had pretty good seasons in '07 and '08, posting solid ERA's that were significantly below his FIP and xFIP. In 2009, Sanchez hit a road bump when he started just nineteen games and walked 5.86 batters per nine innings, a career high. Still, he put up a 4.26 ERA and a nearly identical FIP, so it wasn't all that bad.
Then both pitchers simply became shells of their former selves in exactly the same way: they started walking everybody. For Perez it was the 2009 season, when he became a villain in Queens by posting a 6.82 ERA and walking 7.91 batters per nine innings. He was even worse the next year (if that's possible to believe), finishing at -1.1 WAR for the season. He was released by the Mets and could not make a major league roster for the 2011 season.
For Sanchez, the crash happened last year. Like Perez, he went from walking four to five batters per nine to walking over seven, and his strikeouts decreased as well, leading to a perfect storm of terrible pitching. In 15 starts he had a 8.07 ERA, a truly horrid number. But it was last season when Perez put himself together. After finding an opportunity in Seattle's bullpen, Perez had the lowest walk rate of his career (3.09/9) and finished with an astounding 2.12 ERA in 33 appearances, pitching primarily to left-handers.
This season has been even worse for Sanchez, who now finds himself, like Perez in 2011, off a major league roster. Although his ERA was 11.85, he did have a 5.03 xFIP (a HR/FB rate of 36.8 percent, as well as a .419 BABIP, really did him in). Perez is shining once again this year with a 1.17 ERA and 3.58 FIP.
What the Dodgers need to do is what the Mariners did with Perez: put him in the bullpen and make him a LOOGY. Here are the career splits for the two relievers:
vs. lefties: .223/.315/.364 (3.03 wOBA), 3.36 xFIP
vs. righties: .243/.355/.431 (.345 wOBA), 5.01 xFIP
vs. lefties: .215/.313/.363 (3.04 wOBA), 3.75 xFIP
vs. righties: .245/.356/.416 (.342 wOBA), 4.58 xFIP
Those numbers are strikingly similar, and it shows that neither is good enough versus lefties to make up for how mediocre they are versus righties. The best bet is the bullpen, where they can be mixed and matched late in the game. That's what the Dodgers should do with Sanchez, and if they don't figure it out, somebody else will.
Mariners 12, Yankees 2: This one was over almost before it started, with Phil Hughes getting knocked around for seven runs in the first inning, which he did not escape. Raul Ibanez hit two homers and drove in six off his old team. Which, I imagine, will cause some columnist who has been lauding Brian Cashman for putting together a chemistry-laden scappy bunch of no-names this past offseason to change gears and talk about how much of a mistake it was for him not to re-sign Ibanez.
Cardinals 4, Mets 2: Shelby Miller didn't get the decision and wasn't particularly sharp, but he did pitch five and two-thirds shutout innings and left with a lead. Rick Ankiel, like Ibanez, hit a homer against his former team. He said this after the game:
"It's unfortunate we didn't win but for me it's a positive, so I'm happy about it. For me it was just fun to do because it was against that team."
Yeah, you really want to stick it to that team if you're Ankiel. I mean, after all they did to him, sticking with him for years while he completely transformed himself in the minors and dealt with multiple career-threatening injuries when just about every other team would've released him. Yep, they really had it comin'.
Rangers 6, Athletics 2: Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer and made this diving catch off Brandon Moss. Not too shabby. Also not shabby: The Rangers have a seven-game lead in the division despite the fact they've played 25 of their 40 games on the road.
Diamondbacks 5, Braves 3: Paul Goldschmidt hit three doubles and Eric Chavez drove in three as the Braves lose yet again. They probably need to win a few in a row sometime soon or else the thing I'm comforting myself with -- that this team is gonna be streaky -- is not going to be true. They're just gonna be kinda blah.
White Sox 9, Twins 4: Who woke up Adam Dunn? He hit two homers and drove in five. But now he's gonna be up all night and that's no good.
Indians 10, Phillies 4: Cole Hamels is now 1-6 with a 4.61 ERA after being beat up by Cleveland. But at least Carlos Zambrano will be around soon to help out the pitching staff.
Astros 7, Tigers 5: Carlos Corporan hit a tiebreaking double in the top of the ninth and Miguel Cabrera's would-be game-winning three-run home run fell just short of the wall in the bottom of the ninth to end the game. Houston finally wins one against a Tigers team which has abused the the Astros in two straight series.
Padres 8, Orioles 4: San Diego sweeps Baltimore in the two-game series behind a 17-hit attack. The Padres are now 13-6 in their last 19. A nice bounce-back after dropping all three against Tampa Bay.
Reds 4, Marlins 0: Shin-Soo Choo with two homers. He's hitting .322/.465/.589 with nine bombs on the season. Mercy.
Pirates 3, Brewers 1: Yovani Gallardo was 7-0 in his last eight starts against the Pirates, but Wandy Rodriguez outdueled him.
Cubs 6, Rockies 3: Jeff Samardzija pulls a Baseball Bugs, hitting a two-run homer and pitching eight strong innings.
Red Sox 9, Rays 2: A costly loss for the Rays as they drop not only the game but lose David Price to an injured triceps (or is it tricepts?). Meanwhile, Jon Lester improves to 6-0. Stephen Drew hit a grand slam.
Dodgers 3, Nationals 1: Zack Greinke was apparently ready to return. He allowed one run in five and a third and didn't walk anyone while striking out four. He added an RBI single to boot.
Blue Jays 11, Giants 3: Shh! Four in a row for the Jays. If they keep this up and climb back into contention a lot of early-season memes will be obsolete, eh? Ryan Vogelsong gets rocked again. He may lose his slot in the rotation.
Royals 9, Angels 5: The Angels seem less into meme-busting, as they drop two of three to the Royals. Billy Butler came into Anaheim in a slump. Then went 8-for-13 with a homer and nine RBI in the series. They must serve some good country breakfast in Orange County.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Pirates 4, Brewers 3: Andrew McCutchen with a walkoff bomb in the 12th. John Axford surrendered the lead in the eighth. He's got a nifty 9.20 ERA now.
Dodgers 2, Nationals 0: Clayton Kershaw stuck out 11 in eight and two-thirds shutout innings. He tossed 132 pitches, the most in his career and the most in baseball since Justin Verlander threw the same amount last August.
Padres 3, Orioles 2: Yesterday on a radio spot we talked about how automatic Jim Johnson has been, having converted 35 straight saves. Sorry for jinxing you, dude. The Padres rallied for two in the ninth giving Johnson his first blown save of the year. Johnson couldn't quite wriggle out of the jam he created for himself. Single, single, double play, HBP, single, single, blown save. Death by, well, four or five cuts.
Phillies 6, Indians 2: Jonathan Pettibone got to the bigs because of injuries but he's staying there because he's getting the job done. Two runs allowed in six and two thirds. A 3-for-4 night with three RBI for John Mayberry.
Yankees 4, Mariners 3: Felix Hernandez was cruising until he tweaked his back in the sixth and had to leave after allowing only one run. The Yankees capitalized, scoring three off Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush. CC Sabathia struck out 10. Allowed 10 hits too. But he kept New York close, which was good enough last night.
Reds 6, Marlins 2: Homer Bailey went the distance, striking out 10. Ricky Nolasco, in contrast, walked two dudes with the bases loaded and just had a miserable night. But hey, it's Miami.
Blue Jays 10, Giants 6: Melky Cabrera welcomed his former teammates with a 4-for-5, two RBI night. R.A. Dickey struck out 10 in six innings. The Jays put up a six-spot in the first inning off Barry Zito and that was almost all she wrote.
Rockies 9, Cubs 4: Carlos Gonzalez went 5-for-5 with two homers. And he was -- all together now -- a triple shy of the cycle.
Tigers 6, Astros 2: Miguel Cabrera had a homer, but it came after the game was effectively decided. The night before he didn't do much of anything as the Tigers routed Houston. Basically, the Tigers could be sending out a team full of Don Kellys and Andy Dirkseseseses and still be sweeping this series. Really, it's like watching an exhibition series between the big club and Triple-A or something.
Cardinals 10, Mets 4: The Mets are ... not good. Carlos Beltran is, though. He drove in four, reminding those in New York who still think he's a bum that in fact he's arguably a borderline Hall of Famer. John Gast pitched well for five innings before running into some trouble in the sixth. Still, impressive for the kid. Who, if he really takes off, we can start calling "The Great Gastby" or something. [dodges thrown fruit] or maybe not.
Rays 5, Red Sox 3: Matt Moore was smacked around for three runs in the first but then settled down and moved to 7-0 on the year. Six straight wins for the Rays.
Diamondbacks 2, Braves 0: This Patrick Corbin kid continues to impress, winning his sixth straight start to kick off the year despite walking five dudes. Double plays helped, as he had three turned behind him to get him out of jams. The Braves have lost four of five.
White Sox 4, Twins 2: Adam Dunn and Dayan Viciedo hit back to back homers. Jake Peavy was solid again. The Sox win despite two pretty clearly blown calls by umps, one at first base and one at home.
Angels 6, Royals 2: I guess Jeremy Guthrie is mortal after all. The Angels tagged him for five runs on 11 hits in seven innings. Homers from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. This is how it was supposed to go.
Rangers 6, Athletics 5: Two homers from Mitch Moreland, including one that helped ice it in the 10th inning. Adrian Beltre hit one in the 10th as well. Joe Nathan was shaky as all get-out in the bottom of the inning but finally nailed it down, needing 31 pitches to do so.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Braves 10, Diamondbacks 1: Justin Upton went 4-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs. Chris Johnson went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs. Martin Prado had a couple of hits and I suppose he was gritty. Gonna say that the first visit to Arizona for the Braves post-trade falls to their advantage.
Twins 10, White Sox 3: Aaron Hicks hit two home runs and robbed one from Adam Dunn in center. If I remember by college accounting course, that's a +3 in the home run column.
Indians 1, Yankees 0; Yankees 7, Indians 0: An old-timey doubleheader with no multi-hour break in the middle and one ticket buying access to both games. Don't see that happen much anymore. Takes a couple of rainouts to make it happen I guess. Justin Masterson was outstanding in the first, shutting out the Yankees and striking out nine. Vidal Nuno, I'm guessing a hair stylist/cosmetics mogul, pitched five innings of shutout ball himself in the second game, backed by a couple of RBIs each from Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay. Those three names, if I had told you were important parts of a Yankees game before the season started, would have likely had you thinking the team was in last place. They're, instead, a game up in the AL East, tied for the best record in the American League.
Cardinals 6, Mets 3: Rick Ankiel's Mets debut: 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. And he made a diving stab at a catch in the seventh inning, but just missed it, which led to the Cardinals scoring three runs. He said after the game if he'd had his own glove -- which was still back in Houston -- he would have caught it. Instead he had to use a pitcher's glove. I'm actually inclined to believe him here. Outfielder gloves are gigantic.
Brewers 5, Pirates 1: Milwaukee stole six bases off Pirates backup catcher Michael McKenry. I haven't seen a defender so abused since Jerry Rice embarrassed Charles Dimry back in 1990. Maybe Jerry Glanville thought McKenry could handle throwing out Brewers base runners like he thought Dimry could cover Rice in man-to-man.
Cubs 9, Rockies 1: Travis Wood joins the increasingly long list of pitchers making the Rockies look lost at the plate lately, tossing seven shutout innings. The AP gamer said "He's the first Cubs pitcher since Hippo Vaughn in 1919 to start with eight quality starts." I'm guessing that Hippo Vaughn had no idea what a quality start was. And even if he did, it wouldn't fit the same definition of "quality start" we know today. In 1919 it probably included cigarettes, Spanish Flu masks and trips to a brothel.
Tigers 7, Astros 2: A grand slam for Andy Dirks and, ouch, a dislocated jaw for Jose Altuve. These losses are getting increasingly painful for the Astros.
Nationals 6, Dodgers 2: Bryce Harper needed 11 stitches on his chin and he jammed his shoulder hitting the outfield wall. This is the quintessential "guy who plays really freakin' hard" kind of injury, I suppose. He actually hit a chain link fence which sits in front of a scoreboard. Don Mattingly said after the game "That fencing we have is a little dangerous. If you hit that, you're going to feel it, especially face first." You know THAT's gonna be thrown back in Mattingly's face during his deposition. Man.
Royals 11, Angels 4: Five hits and five RBIs for Billy Butler, breaking a horrendous slump for Country Breakfast. Speaking of nicknames, Ned Yost called pitcher Luis Mendoza "Mendy" after the game, extending his streak of awful, unimaginative nicknames for his players to, like, 15. He and Eric Wedge probably have a little cheat sheet with every player's name on his team with a little "y" next to it in case they need to use a nickname in a postgame interview.
Athletics 5, Rangers 1: Eight Ks for A.J. Griffin. Back to back homers for Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss. The A's needed this one after dropping six of their last seven.
25 years ago today, one of the wildest games of the 1980s took place. It’s a contest that will forever be known as The Jose Oquendo Game, after the Cardinals utility infielder who played such a key role in it.
On May 14, 1988, Oquendo and the Cardinals hosted the Atlanta Braves. It would prove to be a game that just wouldn’t die.
Early on it looked like it would be a good day for St. Louis. The Cardinals jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, but things wouldn’t keep going that way. Instead, in the top of the fourth the Braves rallied for four runs against Cardinals pitcher Cris Carpenter and took the lead. They wouldn’t get to keep it for long, as St. Louis pushed a pair of runs across in the bottom of the frame. In fact, the Cardinals chased Braves starting pitcher Zane Smith from the game with just four innings pitched.
This would prove to be a day you didn’t want to lose your starter early.
After four offense-fueled innings, the game’s pace shifted. The pitchers took over, and the game remained 5-4 Cardinals until the seventh, when the Braves pushed Carpenter out of the game and tied it, 5-5.
With a tie score in the late innings, both teams could safely assume the next run would win it. That would be correct—but no one could foresee how long it would take to get that next run across the plate.
St. Louis nearly put it away in the eighth when Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee belted back-to-back singles to lead the inning. Alas, they stranded Smith on third. In the ninth the Cardinals had a pair of one-out singles, but again couldn’t score the run.
One of those ninth inning singles came from Jose Oquendo. He had just entered the game to replace first baseman Bob Horner. Well, technically Oquendo replaced relief pitcher Ken Dayley, but that was just part of a double switch. No one would ever think to have Oquendo pitch, right? Sure position players sometimes pitch in games, but only in garbage time in blowouts, not late in a tie game. It would take some really bizarre circumstances to get Oquendo on the mound. …. Not that I’m foreshadowing anything. …
The game entered extra frames, but neither team could get someone home. In a sign of the year, the umpires called both teams for balks—one on St. Louis’ Todd Worrell in the 11th and another on Atlanta’s Rick Mahler in the 12th. This was the year of the balk—the league wanted a crackdown on that arcane rule. Neither balk led to a run scoring.
As the game churned on, a key question emerged: Who was going to pitch? At a certain point in time, the bullpen runs out of arms. Atlanta, whose starting pitcher left earlier, ran into this problem first. The Braves' solution was to bring in starting pitcher Mahler in the 12th and see how long he could hold up.
St. Louis should’ve had a deeper bullpen because its starter went longer, but the Cardinals had a problem. Whitey Herzog blew through two relievers in the seventh, when Atlanta tied the game. He had a third man last just one inning before pulling him in the double switch that brought Oquendo in the game.
Ace reliever Todd Worrell lasted three full innings, allowing just one hit and a walk, but Herzog pulled him for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 11th. On came veteran Bob Forsch, who could go a long time, but Herzog yanked him for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 14th.
This was the ninth straight game the Cardinals played a game. Just two days earlier, they’d been in a 13-12 contest that used up his bullpen. The day before that the Cardinals played in a 16-inning marathon, with the bullpen throwing 10 innings. His staff was fried. When Herzog pulled Forsch, he had no relievers left to use.
Okay, do the best you can. Herzog called on Randy O'Neal. He’d been the starting pitcher in that 16-inning game on May 11. He threw six innings that day, and couldn’t pitch much here—but he could pitch some, right? Herzog’s basic approach was to try to win the game in each inning. There’s no point worrying about the 17th inning when it’s the 10th—and how often do games go that long anyway?
O’Neal pitched one scoreless inning, and that’s all he could give. Herzog was out of relievers, and he was out of starting pitchers who could fill the gap. Time to get creative.
That’s when he called on Oquendo. No, he wasn’t a pitcher. Yes, he was an infielder. But he had the best stuff of any position player available, so to the mound went Oquendo. Oh-kay then.
Oh, and there was one other odd little wrinkle. Because Herzog had used so many players as pinch-hitters or in double switches or whatever, when Oquendo shifted from first base to the mound, Herzog had no one to put on first. He wasn’t just out of pitchers—he was also out of position players.
Time to stay creative. Herzog moved Duane Walker, who had been playing in left, to first. In left he put Jose DeLeon—a starting pitcher. Yes, that’s right—Herzog put a pitcher in left, and a utility player on the mound.
You see, DeLeon was the starting pitcher the day before. He threw 8.2 innings, and so was far too tired in the arm to take the hill today. So that’s why Oquendo was on the mound instead.
Of Herzog’s remaining starting pitchers, he figured DeLeon would be the best bet in the bat and in the field. Not that Herzog wanted to risk DeLeon doing anything in the field. He kept switching DeLeon with right fielder Tom Brunansky. If a lefty was at the plate, he put Brunansky in right and DeLeon in left. When a righty was up, flip them. By the end of the day, DeLeon’s defensive assignment would read like this: LF-RF-LF-RF-LF-RF-LF-RF-LF-RF-LF-RF.
Oquendo nearly lost the game right away, though. The first batter he faced, Ken Griffey Sr., doubled. After an intentional walk, a single by Ozzie Virgil threatened to end the game. Griffey pushed past third and on to home, but Brunansky threw him out at the plate. Given a new lease on life, Oquendo got the next two batters out to end the inning.
He allowed another single in the 17th, but survived without any real danger. He issued a pair of two-out walks in the 18th, but Ron Gant’s line drive was snared by third baseman Tom Lawless to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Mahler was having a hell of a game for himself. Heading into the 18th, he’d already pitched six innings in relief—and surrendered just two meager singles and a pair of walks, one of them intentional walk.
But in the 18th, St. Louis finally staged a rally against Mahler. First, Brunansky hit an infield single to third, and an error by third baseman Ken Oberkfell let him advance to second. Lawless tried to bunt Brunansky to third, but Mahler fumbled the bunt and everyone was safe on to the second error of the inning. Brunansky was just 90 feet from victory—and there were still no outs. Incredibly, Jose Oquendo was about to post a victory.
However, half the Cardinals players were weak hitting backups, and one was due up right now: catcher Steve Lake. He grounded weakly to third. Oberkfell made sure to check Brunansky and then threw to first for the first out, with Lawless advancing to second.
Next, Atlanta walked Luis Alicea. It’s not listed as an intentional walk, but it’s not a bad time to give out a base on balls, as the run is meaningless and now there is a force at every base.
Up next, Duane Walkermashed a hard hit liner—but a horribly placed one. Shortstop Andres Thomas caught it and before you could say “on to the 19th inning” he threw to third to double off Brunansky, who’d been running on contact. Mahler survived. But how much longer could Oquendo?
Turns out that a fourth inning was too much for St. Louis to ask of its utility man. Though he got two of the first three batters out, he issued two walks and a wild pitch. Up came Griffey, the man who nearly ended the game about an hour earlier. This time he didn’t hit a single, but bopped a double to bring home in both runners.
Mahler had an easy 1-2-3 inning to close it out. It was one of the best relief stints of the era: eight scoreless innings with just three hits and three walks (two intentional) for the win. Atlanta won, 7-5—but St. Louis had put up a brave effort in that game from a quarter century ago.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
Click for more...
Monday, May 13, 2013
White Sox 3, Angels 0: Chris Sale was fantastic. And not just because of that suh-weet 1983 throwback jersey. A perfect game into the seventh and then the hit that inning to Mike Trout was all the Angels could muster.
Indians 4, Tigers 3: Watched this one with the girlfriend's parents. Tigers fans. Let's just say that Jose Valverde will not be getting a Christmas card from them. Her dad called the implosion before it happened. I suppose one can do that when one watches Valverde enough. In other news, lots of praise for Asdrubal Cabrera's fancy footwork on a double play in the bottom of the ninth. And it was. But if Torii Hunter was actually running it out at full speed it wouldn't have been a double play. No word on this from the announcers. Found that odd.
Reds 5, Brewers 1: Nothing so fun in this one as some things I saw in Cincinnati when I went to the game on Saturday. Best thing there: Brewers pitcher struck out a Reds hitter, Jonathan Lucroy fires it off to third base to send it around the horn and Yuniesky Bentancourt ... drops it. Pretty epic. Here Donald Lutz drove in three. God, shut up, Lutz.
Cubs 2, Nationals 1: Storen and Soriano should film a buddy cop movie in which they take over cases from ace detectives and then totally lose the trail of the killer.
Pirates 3, Mets 2: I suppose Matt Harvey isn't going to be near perfect every time. And plays like this and like this don't happen every day either.
Blue Jays 12, Red Sox 4: Two homers for Jose Bautista. Three more from other Blue Jays. Two of three from the Sox. Maybe that's something to grow on.
Rockies 8, Cardinals 2: After being shut down on Friday AND Saturday night, the Rockies return the favor with a gem from Jorge De La Rosa and a three-run homer from Troy Tulowitzki.
Rays 4, Padres 2: The Rays are heating up. They've won five straight. Here a homer from James Loney -- where the hell is his heat coming from? -- and solid bullpen work brought it home.
Giants 5, Braves 1: Highlight of the game was Pablo Sandoval hitting a ball into McCovey Cove and the guy in the kayak totally eating it face first into the water when he tried to get the ball. I may or may not have wished for a great white shark to eat him when it happened, but I may or may not have been aggravated at my team playing like garbage too, so there was an excuse for my hostility.
Yankees 4, Royals 2: Homers from Vernon Wells and Robinson Cano. Umpire Laz Diaz also tried to goad Hiroki Kuroda into a fight, which was simply ridiculous.
Dodgers 5, Marlins 3: Nice bounceback start for Chris Capuano, who had one to forget last Monday against the Diamondbacks. Miami cures a lot of ills.
Orioles 6, Twins 0: Wei-Yin Chen was cruising along for five shutout innings before having to leave with an oblique strain, but the bullpen finished the shutout for him. Baltimore has won six of eight.
Phillies 4, Diamondbacks 2: Brandon McCarthy's best start of the year went for naught when Philly came back late, scoring two off Heath Bell in the ninth and then capped off by a two-run single by Ryan Howard in the 10th. Thank you, by-the-book managing from Kirk Gibson. McCarthy had 87 pitches through eight shutout innings. He has thrown over 100 pitches four times this year. You'd think he'd get a chance to pitch the ninth.
Rangers 12, Astros 7: "[Team] completes sweep of Astros" is Shift + CTRL + A on my machine. What is it on yours?
Mariners 6, Athletics 1: Kendrys Morales hit a three-run homer. Joe Saunders remains unbeatable at home. Jason Bay hit a homer and Jesus Montero had an RBI. No word what the other six or seven DHs they have did.
Thirty years ago today, a new club began in baseball, the 2,000 strikeout club. Sure, many pitchers had achieved 2,000 Ks, but in 1983—for the first time ever—a batter struck out for the 2,000th time.
It was on May 13, 1983, that Reggie Jackson fanned for the 2,000th time.
Striking out that many times takes some doing. When Jackson began, the game’s all-time strikeout champion was Mickey Mantle, with over 1,500. That was huge back in those days, as only eight men had ever struck out 1,000 times prior to 1967.
But things were changing. No one had struck out 1,000 times until Babe Ruth, and the 1920s and '30s were very low strikeout times in general. World War II also hindered admittance to the club because many of the best players were serving overseas.
Strikeout rates went up in the 1950s and then further in the 1960s. By and large, they’ve been on an upward trend ever since. Thus, while there were only eight men who had fanned 1,000 times by Opening Day, 1967, by the time Jackson had reached that mark in 1975, he was one of 44 members.
And Jackson kept on whiffing. He fanned at least 100 times in 18 of his 21 seasons. The three times he didn’t were his abbreviated 35-game rookie season, the strike-shortened 1981 season, and his last year, when he fanned 97 times in 336 at-bats. Jackson swung for the fences and was willing to take the big miss to get the big blast.
By the late 1970s, Willie Stargell had overthrown Mantle to become the all-time whiff king. During 1982, Jackson passed up Stargell, and has been the strikeout leader ever since. Stargell retired just shy of 2,000 Ks, showing the way for Jackson to set the milestone.
Jackson did it in appropriate fashion, I suppose. May 13, 1983, began with Jackson sitting on 1,997 punchouts. Twins starter Frank Viola fanned him twice to put Jackson on the cusp of history. In the bottom of the 11th, Minnesota reliever Len Whitehouse got the historic strike three for Jackson’s 2,000th strikeout.
In the years since, despite the ever-increasing strikeout rates, Jackson remains No. 1 in batter strikeouts, and there are just five others over 2,000. Andres Galarraga was one of the first men to join Jackson over 2,000 Ks, but barely as Galarraga retired with 2,003 strikeouts.
For a while it looked like Sammy Sosa might pass him up, but Sosa aged poorly in the early 21st century, and he never got to Jackson’s 2,597 punchout total. Jim Thome likely would’ve passed Jackson up this year had any team signed him, since he’s just 49 back: 2,548 Ks to Jackson’s 2,597. But Thome went unsigned, preserving Jackson’s record.
Two active players are the others over 2,000. For a long time it looked like Adam Dunn might break the record, as he is the all-time king of the three true outcomes: home run, walk, or strikeout. But he’s having a horrible 2013, after a rotten second half in 2012, which came after a historically futile 2011. He still needs 500 more Ks and isn’t likely to get there.
That just leaves Alex Rodriguez. He is 37 years old and 564 whiffs behind Reggie. If A-Rod can recover from his hip injury and be productive enough at the plate to last several more years, he has a chance. That said, it’s not necessarily a good chance. Over his last five seasons, he fanned fewer than 564 times. He’s likely to play less as he gets older, and so he’d need to last until he’s 43 or older. That’s tough to do.
There’s no one else on the horizon that looks likely to catch Jackson. Miguel Cabrera would be the next person with any sort of shot, but he just completed his third straight year with under 100 punchouts.
Reggie Jackson is still the strikeout king, and he looks to remain so for quite some time. And the strikeout king fanned for the 2,000th time, 30 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happens X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
Click for more...
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Sixty years ago, one of the most famous and successful pitchers of his generation threw the game of his life. On May 12, 1953, Whitey Ford dang near hurled a no-hitter. He didn’t quite pull it off, falling short the most frustrating way possible. The sole hit tallied against him came from the bat of the opposing pitcher. Oh, and it wasn’t just any hit; it was an infield single.
Sixty years ago, Ford was still a young arm looking to establish himself. He’d broken in with the 1950 Yankees, posting an impressive 9-1 record, but he then lost the next two years. The government called Ford into military service during the Korean War, and Ford didn’t pitch at all in 1951 or '52. Now it was 1953, time for Ford to prove he was more than a flash in the pan.
May 12 would be Ford’s fourth start of the year and so far, so good. He had a record of 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA. But today would be a much bigger test. Facing off against Ford was New York’s top rival, the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe had finished in second place each of the last two years and would do so again this year, coming in as runner-up to the Yankees each time. While the Indians had a notable pitching staff featuring Hall of Famers Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, and Bob Feller, they also had a solid core of hitters.
Only the Yankees would score more runs in the 1953 AL than the Indians. And all of Cleveland’s top bats—Larry Doby, Al Rosen, and Dale Mitchell—were in the lineup that game, so this would be a true challenge for Ford.
Ford started off on the wrong foot with a leadoff walk to Ray Boone, but then Boone was out trying to steal, and Ford retired the next two batters without a problem.
Ford walked Doby in the second frame but then nearly picked him off. But thanks to an error, Doby ended up on second base with one out. However, Ford forced a couple ground outs to strand Doby.
Ford walked another batter in the fourth and still another in the fifth, but since he was only letting one baserunner on an inning, nothing came of it. Meanwhile, the Yankee hitters had given Ford a commanding 5-0 lead. Heading into the sixth, the drama wasn’t if the Indians would come back, but if they would get a hit. They still hadn’t done so as the sixth began.
Leading off the sixth was Wynn, the veteran Indians pitcher. Sure he’d allowed five runs so far, but it was the 1950s. You let pitchers bat late in the game when down 5-0. Besides, he was one of the best-hitting pitchers in baseball. He would hit .275 on the year.
Sure, Wynn was a terrific hitter for a pitcher, but note that qualifier—for a pitcher. Yes, he’d hit. 275 in 91 at-bats in 1953, but that came in between seasons hitting .222 and .183. For his career, Wynn hit .214. That .275 number was a big of a fluke caused by the relatively small number of at-bats.
Regardless, Wynn hit one to the third baseman and managed to churn his 33-year-old legs fast enough to make it to first before the throw. Ford’s no-hitter was no more.
Ford didn’t surrender another hit, though. He retired 12 of the last 13, giving up just another base on balls. Most notably, in the eighth inning Ford faced three different pinch-hitters and fanned all three of them, recording the complete game for a 7-0 win.
But there was no no-hitter. And, though he’d star on the Yankees for another 14 seasons, Ford would never get to the promised land of a no-hitter. He’d throw two more one-hitters, which interestingly enough came in back-to-back starts in 1955, but this was as close as Ford would come to a no-hitter. You’d figure that if all that stood between a man and a no-hitter was preventing the opposing pitcher from getting an infield single, he’d get it 99 times out of 100. Well, this was time No. 100. And it was 60 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
Click for more...