Well, the race for the final All-Star spots is on, and Joey Votto is most deservedly leading the charge in the NL, while in the AL…Nick Swisher got off to the early lead but has since ceded it to Kevin Youkilis. Now, as a Red Sox fan, you’d think I’d be pulling for Youkilis, right? Nope. Here’s why. Overall, Michael Young has 5 career All-Star game appearances, with a respectable .333 batting average and .891 OPS, and 3 RBI. As those box scores indicated, however, those were not just any RBI–the first two came with two outs in the top of the ninth and the AL trailing by 1 run, resulting in the AL winning again, and the third came in the bottom of the 15th, again providing the winning run.
Anyway, the Rockies had a wild finish last night. 9 runs in the bottom of the ninth, the final three on a home run by Seth Smith, in a 12-9 victory over St. Louis. Smith was 3-for-4 with two walks. The lone out? A liner to first for the first out of the ninth inning. How amazing is that? Making an out and having a hit in the same inning isn’t that rare, but having the game-winning hit in the same inning as your only out…Also interesting to look at from this game: St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin was brought in after the Rockies scored their first run of the inning, cutting the Cards’ lead to 9-4, with runners on first and second. See anything odd about that? Yep, that’s right; it’s a non-save situation. With a 5-run lead, it’s only a save situation if the bases are loaded–La Russa brought in his closer one batter earlier than the custom, evidently trying to nip the rally in the bud. If the Rockies’ rally had come up just a little bit short and Franklin had been denied the save… (Also, the first batter Franklin faced was Chris Iannetta, who was batting just .208 and slugging .403 entering the at-bat. Iannetta had 1 career at-bat against Franklin, a double. Iannetta promptly homered to cut the deficit to 9-7, which is about the point where you’d normally be going to your closer…who was already in the game.)
Meanwhile, props to Johan Santana. After going 1-3 with three no-decisions, all Mets losses, in his previous 7 starts, Santana put together the type of dominant start baseball fans are used to seeing from him, a 3-hit shutout. His last complete game, also a 3-hit shutout, came in his final start of the 2008 season. As for the winning run? That would be a solo homer from none other than Johan Santana, his first career dinger, in the third inning. The Mets would tack on two more for a 3-0 win, but Santana is clearly the story here.
Chien-Ming Wang got lit up for the third straight start, as the Indians had a record day. Records that were broken or tied yesterday by the 14-run, 13-hit top of the second inning:
Runs allowed, Yankees, single inning: new record (former record not known)
Hits allowed, Yankees, single inning: new record (again, unknown)
Runs scored, Indians, single inning: tied (June 8, 1950, first inning, vs. Philadelphia Athletics)
Runs scored, Major League, single team, second inning: new record (former AL record was 13, I think held by two teams, but the site I found that on has already been updated; NL record is still 13, held by three teams spanning over a century. Here‘s the site if you want to see it.)
Of even greater concern than Wang’s struggles is the fact that New Yankee Stadium is starting to look like a real launching pad. Through three regular-season games, 17 home runs have been hit in the stadium, and the two preseason exhibition games held there had another 8. Two more homers have been hit so far today, halfway through the sixth. Yankee Stadium, a launchpad? It could happen. And frankly, that’s a really scary idea. Considering the stars that the Yankees find themselves able to land, we could end up with a clean home run record again in no time at all–or, worse, A-Rod. (Not this year, obviously, because he’s going to miss too much time.)
Showing they have a sense of humor, when Wang’s replacement (Anthony Claggett, in his major league debut) failed to stop the bleeding, the Yankee fans started chanting “We want Swisher!”
Cleveland has done this to New York quite a bit, apparently. A graphic in ESPN.com’s recap of the game shows that the four highest single-game run totals posted against the Yankees have all been courtesy of the Indians–24 at Cleveland on July 29, 1928; 23 at Cleveland on September 2, 2002; 22 at New York yesterday, and 22 at New York on July 19, 1987. Obviously, they’re forgetting about the other time Cleveland scored 22 runs at New York. You’d think they’d remember that one…
Also of note: The pitcher holding the Yanks to 1 run right now is Carl Pavano.
Okay, enough time has passed for me to blog again. Here goes…
1. What was up with that brawl yesterday?
I know that the benches cleared because of Josh Beckett’s pitch that went over Bobby Abreu’s head following a late time-out call. The question is, why did we end up with four Angels thrown out? The best that Baseball Tonight could come up with is that the Angels were mad that Beckett was allowed to approach home plate after the jawing had begun, whereas if a batter so much as set foot on the grass in an attempt to approach the mound, he’d be thrown out of the game. (Obvious point they missed: There is absolutely no point in the game in which a baserunner would belong in the vicinity of the mound, while the pitcher heads to home plate every time the catcher has to move to get a passed ball or wild pitch or engage a runner in a rundown, etcetera). They also suggested that Joe West did instigate more trouble by trying to shoo the Angels off the field rather than the Red Sox. Practical upshot: The Baseball Tonight guys are full of sh**. And, yes, Torii Hunter did shove an umpire.
2. So far, no good for the vaunted Tribe.
Talk about your bad starts for the favorites–although granted, the exact nature of a “favorite” seems to be up in the air for the AL Central. TV pundits said Indians, magazine pundits said Twins, and my genius totally-under-the-radar Royals pick actually wasn’t as under-the-radar as I thought it would be, with them being pegged as a team that could have a big improvement this year. Still…1-5 and trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the second tonight. Only the 1-6 Astros and 0-7 Nationals are worse, and the Astros did have an afternoon game today, so yeah, already lost. And that 1 win was just yesterday. Indians, not so great.
3. Chien-Ming Wang continues to decline.
First start of the year, at Baltimore: 3.2 innings, 7 earned runs, 9 hits, 3 walks–loss. Tonight, he allowed 4 earned runs in the first, then walked in the fifth run of the game before recording an out in the second, at which time he was immediately removed. The three runners then scored right away, courtesy of a Carlos Peña grand slam. 8 earned runs, 3 walks, 6 hits, 1 strikeout. Total 2009 stats: 4.2 innings, 15 hits, 15 earned runs, six walks, 1 strikeout. ERA 28.93; WHIP 4.50. Looks like the New York fans should be worrying less about whether or not Joba belongs in the bullpen (he had a decent outing yesterday but the bullpen blew it in the eighth inning, leading to a lot of blowhards saying that he belongs in the bullpen. Actually, in all fairness to the New York fans, most of those blowhards were national media, and the New Yorkers that called into Power Alley, as well as the many New York media featured this morning, insisted that the Yankees are better off with Joba in the rotation–which I agree with) and more about why their rotation has been faltering. Tampa Bay had a 10-0 lead after 3; it’s now 10-2 in the fifth.
4. Some surprising leaders.
On a mutual off-day before their first game of the season, the Braves and Marlins entered the day with the best records in the game, each at 5-1. Although this will hold up as the best winning percentage, a few others could be with them at 4 games over .500 by tomorrow at 6-2 should they win tonight, those being the Cardinals, Blue Jays, and…Padres? The Blue Jays are being predicted to finish no better than fourth in their division (although with the trio of teams in their division, that’s not saying much); the Cardinals could be anywhere from 2nd to 5th in most predictions (I’m leaning towards the fifth end), and the Padres, well, are more or less the consensus pick to finish last in the majors this year. Yes, last in the majors. Also unexpectedly in first in their division, and by a large enough margin that they’ll still have at least a tie for the lead by the end of the day tomorrow, are the Mariners–predicted to finish last in the American League. You can’t blame this on matchups alone, because the Mariners started off with the Twins and A’s; the Padres with the Giants and Dodgers; and the Jays with the Tigers and Indians. Wait…maybe that last one wasn’t a great example. The Braves and Marlins both had the Nats in the mix, but also the Phillies and Mets, respectively. The Cardinals…it’s a fluke of scheduling. They started out with the Pirates and Astros. The former is my choice for worst in the league; the latter, well, they’ve definitely been moving in the wrong direction.
5. No, seriously, what is wrong with the Yankees?
Update: Jonathan Albalajedo continued after giving up the Peña grand slam, giving up a leadoff home run in the third before getting through the inning okay and making it through the fourth fine. He then allowed the first two batters to reach in the fifth and left the game, a total of 3 innings on the night. Edwar Ramirez struck out the next two batters, but then allowed a hit to drive in the Rays’ 11th run, a third run charged to Albalajedo. Ramirez would be charged with a run of his own when Pat Burrell led off the sixth with a homer, then got through the sixth. 12-2 Rays. The Yanks scored another in the top of the seventh, and then Phil Coke came in, proving that one caller wrong about the Yanks having more faith in Coke than they do in Marte. The Yanks aren’t bringing in any of their best setup men in this turkey. How do we know that? After Coke gave up three runs (all unearned, as he got the first two out, then allowed a walk, the error, another walk, and a three-run double–15-3, Rays,) the next pitcher to come in (for the bottom of the eighth–15-5 Rays) was…Nick Swisher. Bringing in a position player to pitch in the regulation nine is sad. What’s sadder, though, is that Swisher was the most effective pitcher they had–he was the only one that didn’t allow a run, and he allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk, a 2.00 WHIP–Ramirez, the only one who could make a case for being more effective with his 3 strikeouts and just 1 run, on a solo homer, in 2 innings, had a 2.50 WHIP for the game, and besides that, he also allowed an inherited runner to score; Albalajedo’s 5 hits and 1 walk in 3 innings also equates to 2.00 WHIP, but he was charged with three runs and a total of five scored while he was in the game (one of his charged runs was scored after he’d left, but he allowed all three inherited runners to score); Coke, though he also didn’t allow an earned run, had a 3.00 WHIP, not to mention the three runs allowed, earned or not, in just one inning; and, of course, Wang and his 8 earned runs in 1 inning.
6. Goddamnit, why do I have to keep making detours for memoriams?
R.I.P. Harry Kalas, Phillies broadcaster, who collapsed in the broadcast booth prior to today’s Phillies-Nationals game and died at the age of 73, and 1976 AL Rookie of the Year Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, found dead in an apparent accident on his farm this afternoon at the age of 54. A moment of silence for Kalas was held at all major league games. The baseball graveyard is filling up much too quickly.
7. Orlando Hudson hits for cycle against Giants
Dodgers 11, Giants 1.
8. Zack attack
Yes, SportsCenter is weird. Apparently, Zachary is barely even in the top 1000 most common names, and there have only been 13 players with that name in major league history…but three different Zac(h/k)s started games today–Greinke of the Royals, Miner of the Tigers, and Duke of the Pirates. Duke was the best, giving up just 4 hits in a complete-game shutout of the Astros. Greinke was just good enough, going five innings and picking up the win over the lowly Indians. Miner was just a footnote in an interesting piece of history. Up until today, no two players had hit their X00th career home runs in the same game, where X could be any digit, and doesn’t even necessarily have to be the same number for the two players. It was
the same number, though, when Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye of the White Sox became the first pair. Dye led off the top of the second with his 300th career home run. Konerko followed him, and on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, hit his 300th home run. Yes, there had never been two players to reach double-zero milestones in the same game, and then they hit the same milestone in back-to-back at-bats. Congratulations.
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
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