Moving the Needle: Mike Stanton gets his groove back with a monster three-run shot, +.379 WPA. As we see so often, the Sunday rubber match between the Rockies and the Marlins proved the main event. Three times the WPA swung more than 25%. Omar Infante provided the first score in the fifth. He came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, scored tied at zero. A triple cleared the bases and put the Marlins ahead. Then, in the top of the eighth, Troy Tulowitzki — who else? — doubled home the tying run. Finally, in the bottom half the Marlins put a couple of runners on with two outs for Mike Stanton, who hit one way out to left. It was technically only the third-longest of the day, at 420 feet, but it seemed like it was a lot further than that.
Anibal Sanchez: 9 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K. He held his no-hitter through eight, and still managed to complete the game.
Jason Hammel: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 HR, 11 GB. A fine performance in a game where the Rockies just couldn’t afford to give up many runs.
Josh Johnson: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K. The question is now whether any of Johnson’s starts won’t make the notables section.
Also in this issue: Red Sox over Angels | Dodgers over Cubs | Yankees over Orioles | Marlins over Rockies | Tigers over White Sox | Brewers over Astros | Twins over Indians | Mets over Diamondbacks | Rangers over Royals | Cardinals over Reds | Rays over Blue Jays | Phillies over Padres | Braves over Giants | A’s over Mariners |
Moving the Needle: Peter Bourjos whiffs on a catch in center and allows two runs to score, +.176 WPA. Carl Crawford came to bat with two outs in the fourth inning of Friday’s game, with his team leading 1-0. He put his head down and started running out what appeared to be an inning-ending fly ball, but the three Angels converging on it — Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, and Torii Hunter — apparently couldn’t determine who would catch it. The ball was clearly closest to Bourjos, but he was caught off-guard and whiffed on the catch. Two runs scored, putting Boston up 3-0. The Angels did mount a late-inning comeback, but it fell short, which was as close as they’d get all weekend.
Jon Lester: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K. The walks and strikeouts led to 111 pitches, which ended Lester’s night a little early. It seems as though he has a yearly routine of getting lit up in his first start, maybe two, and then returning to dominance.
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K. That’s 15 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 12 K in his last two starts, after two rough starts earlier in the season.
John Lackey: 8 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K. That’s a nice scoreless streak for Lackey, too. After allowing a run in the first inning of his last start he threw five scoreless.
Moving the Needle: Jeff Baker doubles home the go-ahead runs, +.324 WPA. On Saturday it appeared the Cubs were headed for a second straight loss against the Dodgers. They had already gotten shellacked 12-2 on Friday, and on Saturday came into the bottom of the eighth own 8-5. But they got things started immediately against Matt Guerrier, who was entering his second inning of work. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases, and then a Starlin Castro single brought home two. Darwin Barney tied the game on a fielder’s choice, and Aramis Ramirez put him in scoring position with a single, which set up Baker, who took new pitcher Blake Hawksworth into the gap and all the way to the wall. The hit scored both base runners and finally gave the Cubs the lead. They were lucky to have it, too, as the Dodgers again put up big runs on Sunday.
Hiroki Kuroda: 6.2 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 0 HR, 13 GB. When 20 of the 29 batters you face either strike out or hit the ball on the ground, you’re doing something right.
Moving the Needle: Brian Roberts ties, and nearly wins, the game with a double, +.329 WPA. In his last save opportunity, Mariano Rivera blew it. He does that about once a year, so it appeared he put it behind him. Yet we’ve seen in the past where his fallibility period lasts a couple of appearances. Rivera got out of an eighth-inning jam only because Brett Gardner made a spectacular running catch. Handed a blank slate and a one-run lead in the ninth, Rivera couldn’t finish the job. With runners on first and second and two outs, Brian Roberts hit one down the first base line and into the corner. Robert Andino came around and tried to score from first, but the throw barely beat him, ending the inning and the Orioles chances. Two innings later the Yankees would put three on the board and complete the mini sweep.
Freddy Garcia: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K. That’s 12 IP, 0 R, in his two starts this season.
CC Sabathia: 8 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HR. An Adam Jones three-run homer was his only mistake. Otherwise he breezed through the Orioles’ lineup. This was the first time this season that a Yankees pitcher went eight. No other starter has completed seven.
Moving the Needle: Jhonny Peralta triples home the first run of the series, +.151 WPA. When one team doesn’t score, the WPA needle tends not to move. And for good reason. If WPA tracks the flow of the game, and if one team isn’t scoring the game can get quite boring, which was the case most of the weekend, as the Tigers shut out the Sox in the second two. Ironically, the biggest WPA swing came on the first run of the game — the only game in which the Sox scored runs. That was Peralta’s triple to center that brought around Miguel Cabrera to first. The Tigers would tack on another that inning, and then two more the next. Their dominance would last all weekend.
Justin Verlander: 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 3 HR. The last of the homers, a Paul Konerko shot, actually looked foul, but the wind brought it back to the foul pole. The three solo homers kind of masked what was an otherwise dominant outing by Verlander.
Brad Penny: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 12 GB. The White Sox offense makes everyone look good.
Max Scherzer: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K. It feels odd putting all three Tigers starters in the notables section, but when you allow three runs in three games, it’s tough not to.
Moving the Needle: Jason Kubel turns a deficit into a lead, +.260 WPA. Down 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Kubel came to the plate with two runners in scoring position. He then crushed one to right off Rafael Perez. The TV cameras gave it the home run shot, and at most parks it would have been. But at Target Field it merely bounced off the wall, which was enough to give the Twins the lead, and one they’d hold onto in completing the mini sweep. It was also an excellent weekend for Justin Morneau, after missing games with the flu and a sore neck, as he went 4 for 8 with a double.
Brian Duensing: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 10 GB. That’s Duensing when he’s on his game. It helped, too, that Fausto Camona laid an egg in the Friday matchup.
Moving the Needle: Josh Willingham breaks the 1-1 tie with a double, +.345 WPA. This is the kind of rubber match you want to see. The A’s and the Mariners entered the seventh deadlocked at one. With runners on first and third with two outs, Willingham grounded one past a diving Choen Figgins and into the left field corner for a double. Milton Bradley fumbled with it a bit, which allowed Conor Jackson to score standing up from first. The Mariners did mount a comeback to pull within one, but the A’s got some insurance in the ninth.
Michael Pineda: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K. His first few starts are about all you can ask from a rookie.
Trevor Cahill: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 HR, 7 GB. It wasn’t a banner day for Cahill, but he still got the job done. It seems as though every start he’s proving himself in a different way.
Doug Fister: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. The only negative you can say is that he didn’t stick around long enough to stave off the seventh-inning disaster.
Brett Anderson: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. Why I still like the A’s chances: opponents having to face Cahill and Anderson on back-to-back days.
Moving the Needle: Prince Fielder ties the game in the ninth with a double, +.484 WPA. Sometimes WPA can be a strange, strange beast. I suppose I understand somewhat in this instance. Fielder’s ninth-inning double tied the game and also put himself, the winning run, in scoring position with just one out. It was the height of emotion, as Ryan Braun slid between Humberto Quintero’s legs to get the run. Then in the 10th, Quintero hit a ground rule double that scored two runs, putting the Astros up 8-6. That seems to be a huge swing for extra innings, yet it was about 7.5% lower on the WPA scale than Fielder’s double. That would be the only game the Astros mustered in this series.
Randy Wolf: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR. Contenders don’t lose series to the Astros at home. Wolf came through big with this one.
Moving the Needle: Brayan Pena hits a three-run shot to tie the score, +.219 WPA. The Royals kept Friday’s affair a game for a bit. It appeared as though the Rangers would pull away, as they led 5-2 in the fourth. But Derek Holland made a mistake to Pena, and it cost him the lead. The most interesting sequence of the weekend, though, was the series of solo homers on Sunday that accounted for the first five runs of the game. MIke Napoli hit the first, and then Jeff Francoeur answered. Adrian Beltre had seen enough and gave the Rangers the lead back, but then Mike Aviles evened the score a half inning later. The final blow in the sequence came in the bottom half, when Andres Blanco of all people added his own solo shot.
Alexi Ogando: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. How he keeps doing it I don’t know, but there have been few starters as impressive as Ogando to start the season.
Moving the Needle: Ike Davis homers to straightaway center, giving the Mets a lead, +.473 WPA. David Wright did all he could in the seventh inning of this one. He started the inning by drawing a leadoff walk. He then stole second base, putting himself in scoring position for Davis, who came to bat with two outs. Davis launched a ball off the wall in center, scoring Wright. But wait! Citi Field’s wall in center is high, and so they painted this orange line to give hitters a better chance at a long fly. Turns out, Davis’s shot hit above the line, and therefore was a go-ahead home run. We see the line in minor league parks with big batters’ eyes, but rarely in major league parks. I would guess that every home run to that area gets reviewed, because it’s tough to tell from such a distance whether it touched above the orange line or not.
And apparently the Mets hit rock bottom in their second game against the Astros (the pop-up bunt double play). They’ve won four straight since.
Mike Pelfrey: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 0 HR. He battled through this one and gave the Mets just what they needed, just when they needed it.
Joe Saunders: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K. I didn’t want to put him on here, but two hits in six is pretty good. His final walk was the one to Wright in the seventh.
Jonathon Niese: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 0 HR, 10 GB. Apparently he was pitching for his spot in the rotation. I don’t quite get that, but he answered the call.
Moving the Needle: Mike Morse hits a big three-run homer, +.260 WPA. It looked like a regular line drive, but Morse’s third inning blast just kept carrying and carrying. The short wall in left helped, I’m sure. The three-run shot gave the Nats a 4-1 lead and help them split the mini series.
Jeff Karstens: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 Er, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR. This was the best pitching performance of the series, for those interested.
Moving the Needle: John McDonald walks off with a two-run homer, +.361 WPA. The Rays actually appeared poised to take the first game of the series, but ended up blowing their lead in the eighth. That took the game all the way to the 11th, when McDonald of all people pulled one into the bullpen for the walk-off win. It was the 13th homer of his career — which began in 1999.
Brandon Morrow: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 1 HR. Comes back from the DL and strikes out half the batters he faces. Just imagine what it’ll look like when he’s built up some stamina.
Ricky Romero: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 1 HR. The Rays loaded the lineup with lefties to combat Romero’s changeup, but it did little good. Thankfully, they had…
James Shields: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K. That’s two straight complete games for Shields, who is continually upping his trade value.
Moving the Needle: Yadier Molina provides 100% of the scoring, +.346 WPA. For the first time in three weeks it was a non-Yankees matchup on Sunday Night Baseball. Who would have thought that two Midwest teams could provide such excellent entertainment. This was a pitchers’ duel through and through, as Jake Westbrook stymied Reds hitters while Edinson Volquez just made them miss baseballs. One guy who didn’t miss a baseball was Molina, whose sixth-inning blast to left-center represented the game’s only runs.
Chris Carpenter : 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HR. Unfortunately, it came in the Cardinals’ only losing effort of the weekend. He did leave the game with the lead, but the defense and bullpen blew it for him.
Jake Westbrook : 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K, 10 GB. It appeared he was longer for the game — he threw only 87 pitches — but that’s NL ball for you.
Moving the Needle: Ryan Howard breaks the tie in the 11th, +.431 WPA. Two-out, extra-inning, multi-run hits always make that WPA needle move. Howard provided the muscle in this one, driving one to the left field corner that was just out of the reach of Ryan Ludwick. The hit plated two Phillies, putting them up 4-2, which was enough to give them the game. They might have swept this series, but as the scores indicate the games were still good on an individual basis.
Cole Hamels: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K. Yeah, that first start might have just been a blip on the radar. That’s two runs, 23 strikeouts, and 27 ground balls in his last 22 IP.
Tim Stauffer: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. He hasn’t struck out seven in a game since August 15, 2009.
Roy Halladay: 8.2 IP 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 14 K. Yeah, just try winning against that. Just try. The Phillies might have problems on offense, but this is why they won’t matter quite as much.
Moving the Needle: Aaron Rowand doubles home a pair and gives the Giants a lead, +.434 WPA. The Giants did their best to avoid a sweep at home, but the Braves proved too much. It appeared that they had a chance during their rally in the seventh. Rowand’s double capped the four-run inning, but Dan Uggla wasted no time in homering to tie the game leading off the next inning. The Braves would eventually take it in the 10th, slaying Brian Wilson in the process.
Tommy Hanson: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 HR. A nice bounce back after lasting only five in his last outing against the Mets.
Tim Hudson: 8.2 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 0 HR, 16 GB. Hard to score many runs when you’re hitting everything on the ground. That’s what Hudson does, and that’s what Hudson did.
Brandon Beachy: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 HR. The Phillies might have the better top end, but the Braves have a damn solid rotation one through five. If they can put together some offensive series like this one, they’ll be in good shape.
Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.