Tagged: John Lackey

You’d think this would be bigger news, but…

After a period of being consigned to the house computer since coming home from college, I finally got my laptop set up with internet access again on Monday, and right away, I was battling with an annoying virus. The anti-virus program kept freezing up before it could finish its task, but the virus seems to have disappeared so I’m not going to keep up the fight. While waiting out the virus scans, however, I happened to check in on the games, and found that ESPN.com had “featured” three games, one of which hadn’t even started and all three of which involved teams from a certain division–the AL East. The Yankees-Indians game was an obvious one, as A-Rod is still sitting on 599. (It’s not his only “X99”, either–he’s got 299 career stolen bases, putting him one away from becoming the 7th member of the 300-300 club. In order by homers, Barry Bonds, 762/514; Willie Mays, 660/338; Andre Dawson, 438/314; Bobby Bonds, 332/461; Reggie Sanders, 305/304; and Steve Finley, 304/320. The all-time stolen base leader, Rickey Henderson, fell just three homers short. I found this out because YES offered “who are the only three players with 400 HR and 300 SB?” as a trivia question on Sunday, the day Dawson was enshrined in the Hall of Fame.) The Red Sox-Angels game, which hadn’t even started, was somewhat of a mystery–maybe it was for Lackey’s return to Anaheim? (Nope, that wasn’t until Tuesday; Monday was Dan Haren’s first start with the Angels. They did the same thing for Cliff Lee’s first start with the Rangers, which also went poorly, though without the injury.) But the Rays-Tigers game…I opened up the box score to find a double-no-hitter in progress in the bottom of the sixth, the second time this year a game had been hitless on both sides that late in the game. (That one got a featured game tag, too, despite neither side getting the no-hitter.) Max Scherzer was unable to hold onto their no-hitter as Matt Joyce hit a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the sixth (two walks and a catcher’s interference having loaded the bases), but Matt Garza became the fifth pitcher of the year to complete a no-hitter, the first in Rays history. (The next morning, one of the ESPN people cracked that it was the second time this year the Tigers had a no-hitter broken up by a guy named Joyce.) With the Rays joining the Rockies as teams earning their first no-hitters this season, only the Padres and the Mets are without no-hitters in their franchises’ histories. Also, an odd note: the Rays acquired Matt Joyce from the Tigers prior to the 2009 season in a trade for Edwin Jackson. After one year, the Tigers traded Jackson to Arizona for…Max Scherzer, whose no-hitter Joyce broke up. And then Jackson went and no-hit the Rays as a Diamondback earlier this year. (On that note, today’s Phillies-Diamondbacks game matches Jackson against Roy Halladay–no-hitter versus perfect game. Incredible.) With the trading deadline not yet upon us, we stand just two no-hitters shy of tying the modern record for a season–and it would be one away if not for Jim Joyce’s bad call. Bring it on.

Sitting on milestones

As I write this, the Yankees-Royals game has just gone to rain delay with a 1-0 count on Robinson Canó, batting with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. The Yankees lead 4-0, so it’s an official game. A-Rod bats right ahead of Canó in the lineup, and he struck out looking in his last at-bat, still sitting on 599 home runs. Meanwhile, Canó is 2 for 2 so far tonight and has brought his career hits total to 998, meaning it’s entirely possible that the Yankees could see milestones in back-to-back at-bats. Crazy.

Also crazy were yesterday’s games. In the afternoon, the Phillies 1-hit the Cardinals for 11 innings in St. Louis. The only other time a home team was held to one hit in a game of at least 11 innings? The infamous “greatest game ever pitched”–Harvey Haddix’s 12 perfect innings followed by losing the game in the bottom of the thirteenth. The Cards’ lone hit was in the fifth, though, so it wasn’t the longest no-hit bid in the majors yesterday. That belonged to John Lackey, who no-hit the Mariners for 7.2 innings before Josh Bard broke it up with a single. Lackey then left at the end of the eighth, at which point the Red Sox collapsed, allowing five runs (three earned) in a two-error ninth inning to allow the M’s to tie the score at 6-6, the shutout having disappeared long before the no-hitter did (walk, stolen base, advanced to third on groundout, scored on passed ball). Uh…damn, that’s horrible. Due to the “can’t assume the double play” rule, the first of the two runs that scored on the second error of the ninth would not have been unearned due to the “would’ve been the third out” rule, but the second was because the runner only scored due to the overthrow and the third out was made by the next batter…except the first run was unearned because that was the runner who reached on the first error in the first place. Oh, and the Red Sox? Still won the game, in 13 innings. Wow. Just…wow.

Time to make the predictions?

I’ve been keeping busy with other sports–and some non-sports entertainment–over the offseason, so I’m not 100% dialed in to the goings-on of baseball, but nonetheless, it’s time to at least make an attempt at predicting things.

AL East: As per usual, the AL East is quite possibly the toughest in all of baseball, and will likely be the source of the Wild Card. Now, I know that I am not unbiased, but I believe the Red Sox will take the division due to the depth of their rotation. When it was announced that Daisuke Matsuzaka would miss the start of spring training due to injury, I wasn’t really worried, because for all that he cost to get, he’s basically the Sox’ number 4 now, behind Beckett/Lester/Lackey (arrange these three however you like, although that’s probably the order I’d put them), and they’ve got Buchholz and Wakefield behind that, so even without Dice-K, they’ve still got a solid 5-man rotation. The Yankees and Rays should both still be in the division race up until the final week, though, and either one could end up as the wild card–it comes down to the Yanks’ aging veterans vs. the Rays’ unproven youngsters, particularly where the rotations are concerned (although the Yanks also have some unproven youngsters at the tail end of the rotation). Baltimore, for some reason, is optimistic about this year, while Toronto is known to be in a rebuilding year, so I’ll say that the Jays finish in last place and the Orioles in fourth.

AL Central: Another three-team race. I’ll give the edge to the Tigers, but I wouldn’t give anyone in this division more than a 35% chance of reaching the playoffs–the Tigers, Twins, and White Sox are that close.

AL West: A definite mystery. The Angels have definitely taken a step back and fallen back to the pack, to the point that I’m pretty sure I heard one person on the radio call the West a three-team race between the A’s, Rangers, and Mariners at one point during the offseason. I’m not sure if I’d go that far, though–it’s still the Angels we’re talking about here. The Mariners definitely made great strides during the offseason, trading for Cliff Lee and signing Chone Figgins as a free agent, but I’m worried they still don’t have enough star power to make it last–I’m not even really sure who their 3-5 starters are, and the lineup is decidedly small-ball. Then again, who in this division really does have serious star power?

NL East: The Phillies are still the class of the NL and should be able to make it four straight division titles and three straight NL pennants, at which point the talking heads will start to wonder how long it will be until we can start calling them a dynasty (yes, even if they lose the World Series again–after all, the ’90s/early ’00s Braves were a dynasty despite only winning one World Series, weren’t they? Okay, maybe not.) The Braves are my favorites to finish second, and possibly earn the Wild Card. The Mets have improved over the offseason and could end up in third if they stay healthy, or they could land in fourth. The Nationals will likely finish last in the division again, but will probably pick no higher than fourth and possibly as low as eighth in the 2011 draft rather than the #1 spot they’ll have for the second year in a row in 2010.

NL Central: To be honest, I really haven’t followed the NL that closely. I know that the Pirates will be in last place again, and that the Astros still aren’t terribly good and seem most likely to land in fifth, and that Milwaukee is a far cry from their 2008 wild card berth, but that’s about it. The Cubs and the Cardinals should slug it out again, and, like almost every other year, I’m going to say that the Reds could make some noise. (Note that I make this prediction almost every year, although I think I skipped it last year, and it hasn’t actually come true since 2006, when they still finished in third but weren’t eliminated from the division race until the penultimate day of the season.)

NL West: If the Braves don’t win the Wild Card, expect it to come from this division. This may be a four-team race, as the Dodgers and Rockies, both postseason teams last year, should not have fallen off much, the Giants are still a team on the rise (again, see last year), and the Diamondbacks…well, I still have no clue why they faltered so much. They won the division in 2007 and were in the hunt late in 2008, and they made humongous upgrades in the ’08-’09 offseason…and inexplicably were a complete non-factor in 2009. I can only dismiss this as a fluke, and I think they’ll compete this year. Who will win this division? Your guess is as good as mine; all I’m willing to predict is that the Padres will finish in last place.

Playoffs: Like I said, I’m not really sure who most of the NL teams will be, and frankly I don’t really care because the Phillies are far better than anyone else in the league in my mind and will win the NL pennant. As for the AL, I’m going to predict Red Sox over Tigers and Rays over Mariners in round 1, followed by…Red Sox over Rays in the ALCS, and then…ooh, this is a tough one. They say pitching wins championships, and nobody has better pitching (if they’re healthy) than the Red Sox, which is why I picked them this far (yes, the Rays could also outhit the Red Sox, but their pitching, while good, is not good enough). But the Phillies rotation, while not as deep, is probably even stronger at the top, and their lineup is quite possibly the best in either league. Then again, you have to look beyond the simple skills and consider the matchups. For some reason, the Red Sox never really had much trouble with Halladay, which is odd because the Red Sox usually struggle with the Blue Jays, period. Lackey, while never terribly good against his new team regardless, was especially bad at Fenway, so if he ends up as the #3 and the AL wins the All-Star Game again, that’s all the better–and if the NL somehow pulls it out and the Sox pitch Lackey in Games 2 and 6, even better. So…it’ll be a close one, but I think the Red Sox can make it 3 titles in 7 years.

Team of destiny?

By now you’ve no doubt noticed that the Tampa Bay Rays have
already equaled last year’s win total and stand just four wins shy of their
franchise record with 41 games remaining. (And this after a loss, too.) XM’s
Baseball This Morning provided a nice list of parallels between the ’08 Rays
and the ’69 Miracle Mets. First off: The ’08 Rays have a 24-year-old ace in
Scott Kazmir. The ’69 Mets had a 24-year-old ace, Tom Seaver. The ’67 Mets were
61-101, ditto the ’06 Devil Rays. The Mets’ manager in 1969 was Gil Hodges, who
has three letters in his first name and six in his last name, just like current
Rays manager Joe Maddon. What does it all mean? Absolutely nothing, of course,
but the Rays are a very good team without a doubt. Remains to be seen if
they can get past the Angels in the playoffs, assuming that that’s who they
play. The Red Sox’ traditional postseason dominance of the Angels can only go
so far, and with Boston’s horrible road record, I’m not so confident in their
chances as a wild card team–especially not against a team with the road record
to nullify their home field advantage when they do have. Modified predictions
for ALDS: Angels sweep Red Sox, Rays beat White Sox in 4.

 

Raul Ibañez set a new Seattle record for RBIs in an inning
with 6 in the seventh inning against Minnesota, part of a ten-run offensive by
the Mariners that inning. Ibañez’s grand slam proved key to the Mariners’
comeback win. Also hitting a grand slam yesterday was Marlon Byrd of the Texas
Rangers, after the Yankees rallied to tie the game at 5-5 in the top of the
ninth, providing a 9-5 walkoff win in the regulation nine. Oakland lost their
seventh game in a row and is just 2-14 since the All-Star Break. Furthermore,
they had been playing only .500 ball leading into the break and are 9-23 since
their high-water mark of nine games over .500 on June 28th. The
Angels won last night on a bases-loaded walk, the same method Tampa Bay used to
win the previous day by an equal 6-5 score.

 

Milwaukee continues to reel, falling for the seventh time in
their last nine games as they were shut down by a Cincinnati team that was
coming off of a sweep at the hands of the league-worst Washington Nationals.
The game was more notable for the fight that transpired in the dugout between
Prince Fielder and Manny Parra. The Cubs also lost, 2-0 in a rain-shortened
game against the scorching Houston Astros (7-1 over their last eight), so
Milwaukee remains five games back, now just half a game up on the idle Cards in
the wild card race.

 

Yeah, yeah, I did it again. Two days worth of writing for
this entry. Tampa Bay got that win, passing last year’s mark with 40 games to
go. Also, I feel a lot better about the Red Sox now. They continue to get
production up and down the lineup, as Youk had his fourth straight game with an
XBH, Pedroia’s now got the longest road hitting streak by a Red Sox since 1913,
Lowrie continued his hot streak with another triple and more RBIs, Bay went 4
for 5, and even Jacoby got into the act, with two hits and two stolen bases–the
first steals in over a month. I really love this team. Where else do you see
the number four starter win Pitcher of the Month? Oh, right, Cleveland
(actually, that was the number 5, at least when it happened, back in April. 15
wins and an All-Star start can change that designation quickly). With win 15 on
Monday night, Lee leads the AL and was briefly tied for the major league lead,
but NL leader Brandon Webb picked up his 16th last night to retake
sole possession of the overall lead. Many happy returns, with Mike Hampton
picking up his first win since 2005, Chris Carpenter making his first home
start since Opening Day 2007 in an eventual 11-inning Cardinal win, and Francisco
Fausto Carmona returning for the Indians, though I’ve already mentioned that
the Indians didn’t win last night, being the Rays’ opponents. (Another
reference to XM Radio on the morning commute there. Really blew that one.)
Interesting play in last night’s Red Sox-Royals game. One of Jason Bay’s four
hits had just barely enough distance and height to clear the wall if
uncontested, but of course, it was contested. Royals centerfielder Mitch
Maier managed to get a glove on it but couldn’t make the catch, instead weakly
knocking the ball away. The ball continued to roll on top of the outfield
wall
for 10-20 seconds before left fielder Ross Gload batted it down and
threw in, limiting Bay to a double. Nevertheless, it was a wholly inexplicable
turn of events. Chris Waters had a phenomenal debut, shutting out the Angels
for eight innings, and the Tigers continued to struggle as they continued to
have trouble closing out games, blowing a 6-1 lead at the halfway point with a
run allowed in the bottom of the fifth, two more in the sixth and one each in
the seventh and eighth and wasting a two-run top of the 14th by
allowing four runs in the bottom of the inning, the last three on a Nick
Swisher home run.

 

Put it off another day…I really, REALLY despise the Tampa
Bay Rays. I wasn’t really paying that much attention to yesterday’s afternoon
games while they were in progress, but I knew that there were some going on,
including Rays-Indians. No sooner do I find the game on my radio… “WAAAAAAAAY
BACK!!! THIS GAME IS TIED!!!” I’m not going to do the whole quote, but yeah. I
then found out that the first two batters of the inning doubled. Disgusting…and
it only got worse. The infield single was disappointing, the four-pitch walk
was horrifying, and the three-run homer was, by that point, almost
predictable–I say almost because I was actually expecting the following batter
to get a grand slam instead. I’m watching the very beginning of SportsCenter
right now, and baseball is nowhere in sight–Brett Favre got traded, and the
entire rundown of seven topics is Favre-related. (I think it froze up again, though,
because this isn’t the top one any more. It may not even be one of the seven,
which would be really disturbing.) More media circus here in Jersey, too–the
Jets ended up winning out over the Buccaneers. (That’s a bit of a shame,
really; not only do I hate both “New York” football teams, Brett Favre would
probably be an upgrade for the Bucs–who do they have, Jeff Garcia? Garcia was
good for us when McNabb went down in ’06, but I’d rather have Favre
there–remember, the Bucs are in the same division as the Carolina Panthers,
whose ’09 first-round draft pick the Eagles picked up in a draft-day trade. So
improving the Bucs helps my favorite team.) Oh, wait, I was wrong about it
freezing up; we’ve returned from the first break and four of the seven are still
on the rundown. The end of SportsCenter was also all Favre…which detracts from
a different kind of Buc. I swear, good accomplishments on bad teams get
no attention at all–the next five on the rundown are “Indians-Rays”, “Walk-off
HR”, “Yankees-Rangers”, “Joba Chamberlain”, and “Red Sox-Royals”. In a way, it
makes sense–the Rays are a division leader and had an incredible comeback win,
the Yankees are in the same division and have a major starter who will be
missing some time, and the Sox are also in that division and leading the wild
card. Unfortunately, after that, it’s even more football coverage–about to fill
up the rundown again. Okay, so what’s the rule–you have to carry the
no-hitter into the ninth to get mentioned by the halfway point? Remember last
week’s entry, when John Lackey’s 8⅓ no-hit innings against the Red Sox got the
top story on SC (and brought the rest of the AL East to the top), even with
plenty of Favre news to go around, and Doug Davis, his cancer-survivor status
and his 7⅔ perfect innings couldn’t get in until after the second
commercial break? Guess what–it happened again, except this time it doesn’t
seem like this one will beat the third break. Eight NFL pieces in this
block, followed by…the NL East: Padres-Mets, then Marlins-Phillies. Hello? 7⅔
perfect innings!!!
This time the Diamondbacks were on the other side of the
ball, unable to get a baserunner until there were two outs in the eighth. Two
more pieces appear on the rundown, and they’re Tigers-White Sox and
Twins-Mariners. We’ve hit the third commercial break, and they’ve told us to
stick around for highlights of the Cubs’ eight-run third against the
Astros–they often tell us to “stick around” for something that we’ll still be
“sticking around” for at the next commercial break, like yesterday with
the surreal play from the Red Sox-Royals game. We’re back, and the next one is,
rather cryptically, “Images”. I’m guessing it’s more Brett Favre. The clock by
the rundown says 11:37, and I might be wrong about the “Images” because the
next one is Dodgers-Cardinals. Will this be it? NO! The next one is
Astros-Cubs, so the following one should be Brewers-Reds…and it is…PGA
Championship. Man, and I was sure that they were going for the NL
Central thing. They go for the second-in-the-West Dodgers versus
second-in-the-wild-card, third-in-the Central Cards, and then follow up with
the Central’s leader…and doesn’t go to the Brew Crew next? Bad editing,
guys…Twins-M’s took us into the fourth commercial, and “End of an Era” followed
“PGA Championship”, followed by even more Favre. I am not going to
finish this entry until SportsCenter gets to the biggest accomplishment of the
night…I mean, you’ve got this 25-year-old, recently acquired…Ah, there’s
“Images”. Image of the week–Manny arriving in LA, Favre arriving and leaving
Green Bay, Carl Edwards celebrating a win, or US cyclists wearing black masks
in Beijing. Manny won out in the poll. “Headlines” and “Legends” follow
“Favre’s Best”…wait…at 11:47, “Headlines” could be that bit I saw…IT IS! The
next one after “Legends” is “Long, Strange Trip”, which was the final
segment–and, yep, there’s “Top Stories” again. Oh, look, “Favre’s Best” is the
daily top 10–they’re taking all of them from Favre’s career highlights instead
of the day’s plays. So, we’ve now got SportsCenter all wrapped up, and so many
games left uncovered. Brewers-Reds, A’s-Jays, Orioles-Angels, Braves-Giants,
Nats-Rockies (okay, that one got rained out; doubleheader today), and, of
course…Pirates-Diamondbacks. If a large-market team kept an opponent of the
bases–or was kept off the bases–for so much as six innings complete,
it’d probably be the top story. Jeff Karstens retires the first twenty-three
Diamondbacks he faces, and it doesn’t get on SportsCenter at all. Come on, near
perfect game? Against a division leader? Still a complete-game shutout–unlike
the Lackey game, which wasn’t a shutout, or the Davis game, which wasn’t a complete game?
Opposing a sure-fire Hall of Famer–“the ugly guy”, as my mom calls him. (Randy
Johnson may not be pretty, but he throws a mean fastball.) ESPN, you disgust
me.