Most contenders didn’t get a shot at some of the biggest bats to hit the waiver wire. Earlier this week the Twins placed two desirable hitters, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel, on trade waivers, and both were claimed by teams on the fringe of contention. Kubel will stay put, while Thome heads to Cleveland. Left in the dust were teams such as the Angels, Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, and the entire National League. Yet if any of these teams want to add a left-handed bench hitter there is one readily available.
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Yankees 22, A’s 9
Moving the Needle: Russell Martin‘s grand slam put the Yankees on top, +.431 WPA. The A’s had Phil Hughes’s number, tagging him for six runs in 2.2 innings. It was 7-1 by the end of the third, which, after the way the first two games of this series had gone, seemed a lot bigger. But then the Yankees battled back the way they know how: with the homer. Martin hit a solo shot in the fourth, Robinson Cano smacked a grand slam in the fifth, and then Martin added a grand slam of his own in the sixth, which brought the Yankees all the way back. It was 10-7 then, but as the final score indicates the runs kept flowing. In the seventh they added six runs, and in the eighth they added another six, including another grand slam. The Ynakees set a major league record with three grand slams in one game.
Curtis Granderson: 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 BB. His homer was the record-breaking grand slam.
Derek Jeter: 3 for 6, 1 3B, 1 BB. He’s now hitting .358/.405/.480 since coming off the DL.
Also in this issue: Orioles 6, Twins 1 | Braves 8, Cubs 3 | Diamondbacks 8, Nationals 1 | Tigers 2, Rays 0 | Cardinals 8, Pirates 4 | Red Sox 6, Rangers 0 | Astros 3, Giants 1 | Royals 9, Blue Jays 6
A’s 6, Yankees 4
Moving the Needle: Coco Crisp’s three-run homer in the 10th gives the A’s a convincing lead, +.483 WPA. Crisp started the game right when he homered in the first. The Yankees, of course, covered that run, and eventually took the lead. But CC Sabathia had some trouble in the eighth and allowed the tying run to score. Each team scored one more, bringing the game to extra innings. The A’s singled twice, and then Crisp hit a monster shot to right, into the second deck. The homer gave the A’s all the lead they’d need, even though the Yanks did manage to put up another run in the 10th.
Nick Swisher: 2 for 3, 2 HR, 1 BB. He also hit a homer in the previous game, and came within about two feet of a walk-off grand slam in that one.
Scott Sizemore: 4 for 4, 2 2B. He and Crisp combined for perfect days.
Also in this issue: Angels 8, White Sox 0 | Cubs 3, Braves 2 | Mariners 9, Indians 2 | Rockies 7, Astros 6 | Orioles 6, Twins 1 | Marlins 6, Reds 5 | Reds 3, Marlins 2 | Rays 3, Tigers 2 | Diamondbacks 4, Nationals 3 | Red Sox 13, Rangers 2 | Mets 7, Phillies 4 | Blue Jays 4, Royals 3 | Pirates 2, Brewers 0 | Dodgers 9, Cardinals 4 | Giants 2, Padres 1
A little taste of success, when combined with an expanding budget, can make for an interesting off-season. The Texas Rangers experienced that in the off-season, first bidding nine figures for Cliff Lee, and then signing Adrian Beltre to a five-year, $80 million contract. Yet it’s one lesser move, and a non-move, that have really spurred the Rangers lately.
After the Rangers signed Beltre and essentially removed Michael Young from third base, the third position he’s played for them, he predictably requested a trade. Rumors of a Rockies trade abounded, but never came to fruition. Eventually both parties agreed to drop it, instead using Young at DH and wherever needed in the infield.
About 20 days after the Beltre signing, the Rangers swung a trade, swapping reliever Frank Francisco for Mike Napoli. The Blue Jays had recently acquired Napoli from the Angels, but decided that they’d rather have Francisco in their bullpen than Napoli as their DH and sometimes catcher. The Rangers, who were likely dismayed to have Francisco accept their arbitration offer, were glad to add Napoli’s bat, even if it would be tough to find him playing time.
As expected, the campaign has begun in New York. Even prior to his inside the park home run on Sunday, Yankees scribes have started penning the case for their hometown man, Curtis Granderson, to win the AL MVP Award. The case makes plenty of sense from an old school perspective. Granderson is the best player on a playoff-bound team, and has generally outproduced his fellow playoff-bound peers at the plate. With 35 homers he trails only Jose Bautista, who won’t sniff the postseason. That he leads the league in runs and RBI furthers his case among those who actually vote for the award.
The statistically inclined audience tends to ignore most of the above factors. There are plenty of other issues at stake, such as how many runs the player created irrespective of his teammates. There’s also defense. That’s why WAR is often the place a statistically inclined fan will start the MVP conversation. Granderson doesn’t fare as well here, ranking fifth in the AL with 6.1 WAR. Worse, he trails four players in his own division. But WAR does contain a one-year sample of UZR, and we know that one year of UZR can provide misleading results. Is this the case for Granderson?
Dodgers 2, Cardinals 1
Moving the Needle: Aaron Miles ties the game with a triple in the ninth, +.514 WPA. It appeared as though Lance Berkman‘s second inning homer would hold up, as the Cardinals held that 1-0 lead into the ninth. But their bullpen could not hold it. Miles drove in the tying run with his triple, and Rod Barajas followed with an RBI ground out to give them the lead. Javy Guerra picked up the save, though facing Corey Patterson in Matt Holliday’s stead helped plenty.
Chris Carpenter: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K. It was all going so well until he plunked the leadoff hitter in the ninth.
James Loney: 3 for 3. They were all singles, yes, but that’s still seven hits in his last two games.
Also in this issue: Mariners 3, Indians 2 | Braves 3, Cubs 0 | Orioles 4, Twins 1 | Rockies 9, Astros 5 | Tigers 5, Rays 2 | Nationals 4, Diamondbacks 1 | Rangers 4, Red Sox 0 | Phillies 10, Mets 0 | Brewers 8, Pirates 1 | Pirates 9, Brewers 2
Giants 6, Astros 4
Moving the Needle: Pablo Sandoval’s two-run homer puts the Giants ahead in the 11th, +.492 WPA. The Giants tied the game at four in the fourth, and then waited seven more innings to score another run. Both teams threatened in the ninth, loading the bases, but neither came through. In the 11th the Giants got a one-out walk, and then two batters later Sandoval blasted them to victory. Ramon Ramirez, filling in for the injured Brian Wilson, pitched a perfect bottom half.
J.D. Martinez: 3 for 5, 1 2B. He drove in two runs. J.D. Martin, on the other hand, is … I have no idea.
Brandon Belt: 4 for 5, 1 HR. He drove in three. Aubrey Huff should be getting the Aaron Rowand treatment soon enough.
Also in this issue: Angels 7, Orioles 1 | Braves 1, Diamondbacks 0 | White Sox 10, Rangers 0 | Cardinals 6, Cubs 2 | Tigers 8, Indians 7 | Rockies 5, Dodgers 3 | Red Sox 6, Royals 1 | Yankees 3, Twins 0 | Nationals 5, Phillies 0 | Blue Jays 1, A’s 0 | Brewers 6, Mets 2 | Rays 8, Mariners 7 | Reds 5, Pirates 4 | Padres 4, Marlins 3
Angels 2, Rangers 1
Moving the Needle: Mark Trumbo delivers a win with a walk-off homer, +.690 WPA. The Angels were three outs from getting swept at home by the Rangers, which would have effectively ended their chances at contention. But Torii Hunter led off the ninth with a single, and then Trumbo blasted a walk-off homer. The Angels are still 11 behind Boston in the loss column for the AL Wild Card, and they’re six behind Texas in the West. Somehow, seven and 12 seems a degree worse, even though it’s just a one-game difference.
Jered Weaver: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K. His only blemish was a high changeup that Mike Napoli blasted a good 450 feet.
Colby Lewis: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K. That’s just what the Rangers needed to complete the sweep. Unfortunately, the revamped bullpen can’t be perfect every game.
Also in this issue: Braves 1, Giants 0 | Indians 4, White Sox 2 | Dodgers 5, Brewers 1 | Red Sox 4, Royals 3 | Nationals 3, Reds 1 | Yankees 8, Twins 4 | Phillies 4, Diamondbacks 1 | Blue Jays 7, A’s 0 | Padres 3, Marlins 1
In a move that shocked no one, this morning the Royals signed Jeff Francoeur to a two-year extension. The deal will pay him $13.5 million between 2012 and 2013, which is a bit higher than I had guessed when writing about Francoeur earlier in the week. But it’s still a decent haul for a free-agent-to-be, and despite the immediately negative reaction to the deal, it could work out for the Royals.
Reds 2, Nationals 1
Moving the Needle: Wilson Ramos grounds into a game-ending double play, -.530 WPA. Yes, despite trailing by one, the Nationals had a 53 percent chance of winning the game in the ninth. That’s because they had loaded the bases with one out. But Ramos hit into a 4-6-3 double play, ending the game. Ryan Zimmerman’s leadoff homer went for naught.
Ross Detwiler: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 K. It’s not the prettiest of starts, but the Nats will take it from the former No. 1 pick.
Johnny Cueto: 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K. He continues to defy his peripherals, though in this game they were just fine.
Also in this issue: Rangers 4, Angels 3 | Giants 7, Braves 5 | Rays 4, Red Sox 0 | Rockies 12, Marlins 5 | Indians 4, White Sox 1 | Astros 4, Cubs 3 | Twins 6, Tigers 5 | Brewers 3, Dodgers 1 | Royals 5, Yankees 4 | A’s 6, Orioles 5 | Phillies 9, Diamondbacks 2 | Blue Jays 5, Mariner 1 | Cardinals 7, Pirates 2 | Mets 7, Padres 3