Cardinals, Carpenter Heating Up

Adam Wainwright (L) and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (R)

Adam Wainwright (L) and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (R)

The Annual St. Louis Cardinals Playoff Train has taken off. They swept the woeful Cincinnati Reds over the weekend, moving 2 games up in the division.

I remember when everybody got all excited about small sample sizes and thought that the Reds’ 4-0 start actually meant something. Nostalgia… They’ve now lost 7 of their last 8. I don’t think they’ll win 12.5% of their remaining games, but that’s still a bit more representative of the level of talent on their team.

St. Louis has now won five straight while Matt Carpenter is rolling on a streak of seven straight games with a pair of hits. After game 4 on April 11th, Carp was hitting .267. Since then, he’s gone 14-30 (.467), upping his average to an even .400. 9 of those 14 hits have been extra-base hits – 7 doubles and a pair of taters.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers got swept again, dropping their 5th straight on Sunday. They were dropped by the Pittsburgh Pirates who, look at this, are now up to even at 6-6 this season.

Milwaukee is off to its worst start in franchise history and has connected for just three home runs through 12 games. They’re 14th in batting average and 15th in both on-base and slugging. And the top 2 pitchers in the rotation have ERAs of 10.34 (Kyle Lohse) and 5.40 (Matt Garza). On the bright side, 26-year old Jimmy Nelson has been solid with a 1.50 ERA in his two starts.

In his first two games after shaving his head, Starling Marte went 4-for-8 with 2 HR for the Bucs. Is it the bald dome? Or is it facing Brewers’ pitching?

* * *

The Kris Bryant Parade started with a 0-4, 3 strikeout day and including somebody in Wrigley yelling “YOU SUCK!!!” at him. The next day he had a pair of singles and drew three walks. Game 3 had a double and another strikeout.

So going up against a San Diego Padres team that is off to a great start, he finished with a .300/.500/.400 slash line. The 4 strikeouts in 13 plate appearances is about what was expected of him. So, so far he’s pretty much played as expected.

While the Chicago Cubs are excited to have Bryant in the lineup now, they loss their first series of the year and only avoided a sweep narrowly, nearly blowing game 2 before coming back to win it in extra innings.

* * *

Speaking of Bryant, here were some interesting articles on him from over the weekend.

Chris Mitchell writes on Fangraphs.com about projections for Bryant’s career.

Tim Healey at Sports on Earth tells you why folks are excited about Brant.

And Dave Cameron at Fangraphs.com tells us that Bryant might be the next… Troy Glaus?

On non Kris Bryant news, Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs.com takes a look at Aroldis Chapman’s… changeup!

* * *

National League Ranks

Batting Pitching
St. Louis 9th 1st
Chicago 7th 9th
Pittsburgh 11th 2nd
Cincinnati 12th 11th
Milwaukee 14th 15th

* * *

Schedule

6-5 CHICAGO Arrieta (1-1, 1.98)
6-6 PITTSBURGH Burnett, AJ (0-1, 2.25)
6:05 PM CT
5-7 CINCINNATI DeSclafani (1-0, 1.38)
2-10 MILWAUKEE Peralta, W (0-1, 4.50)
6:20 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 8 3 W5
Chicago Cubs 6 5 2.0 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 6 6 2.5 W3
Cincinnati Reds 5 7 3.5 L4
Milwaukee Brewers 2 10 6.5 L5

Merry Krismas

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant is getting the call up. If you follow NL Central Hub, then you follow baseball. And if you follow baseball, you already know about Kris Bryant.

For those who don’t, a little background. Depending on the source, he’s either the #1 or #2 prospect in baseball.

When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the reins of the Chicago Cubs a few years back, they immediately started to do the right thing. The overdue thing. Rebuild.

Rather than throwing money at free agents year after year, hoping to catch a few breaks and manage to be a .500 club, they finally stripped everything down to its core, tanked, and rebuilt the team via the draft.

God bless Jim Hendry, who seemed like a nice guy and all, but looking at some of the contracts he was giving out was just painful to witness. But then I want to see every GM be a little more sabermetrically-inclined and have an actual plan in place. Watching the way the Cubs management run their team was like watching those cartoons where somebody tried to stop a leaking damn by plugging their fingers into holes. Their actions were aimless and doomed to end in failure.

Bryant was selected #2 overall in the 2013 draft and he’s pretty much torn it up at every level he’s played at along the way.

Untitled

In 2013, he hit .336/.390/.688 for a 1.078 OPS with 9 HR in 36 games across rookie ball, low A, and high A. In the fall league, he had a 1.184 OPS in 20 games with 6 HR.

In 2014, between AA and AAA, he hit .325/.438/.661 with a 1.098 OPS and 43 HR (tops in the minors) in 138 games.

Yes, things can happen. He could get injured and his game forever altered, although hitters are far less prone to career-derailing injuries than pitchers are.

But the kid can flat out rake and he should be injecting a whole lot of excitement into the division.

I won’t bother getting into why he wasn’t on the Opening Day roster. We’ve talked enough about the trade off of 12 days of Bryant versus one extra year in his prime. That’s not even an argument worth having. Anybody worth their salt will tell you the Cubs did the right thing in delaying his promotion.

When Cubs fan see Addison Russell get the call up to play short and Starlin Castro is moved to second, things will get even more interesting on the North Side of Chicago.

I know folks tend to be down on Castro, and he’s not a Gold Glover at short, but I think his numbers would play excellently at second base. Also, with Arismendy Alcantara‘s struggles at the plate and Javier Baez trying to figure things out at AAA, having an infield of Anthony Rizzo, Castro, Russell and Bryant could be pretty appetizing for Cubs’ fans.

* * *

The St. Louis Cardinals took the rubber game of their series against the Milwaukee Brewers yesterday afternoon, besting them 4-0. 36-year old veteran starting pitcher John Lackey (W 1-0) went 7 innings, allowing 5 hits and a walk while striking out 8 for his first win. Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta had two more hits and are each hitting .364 this season, while Mark Reynolds and Yadier Molina also each had a pair of hits.

It was Carp’s 4th straight game with multiple hits. His slash line is now .364/.432/.586 for a 1.018 OPS to go along with 4 doubles.

Yadi has been another good example of why folks shouldn’t panic about stats early in the season. He went 0-for-10 in his first 3 games and was hitting .143 after his first 6 games. He’s now up to .276 after going 5-for-8 in his last two games. .276 in today’s era is above average. Couple that with what he does behind the dish and Molina is still the front-runner to be the Catcher for the NL Central Hub’s All-Division Team at year’s end.

* * *

Much has been made of the increased tendency towards defensive shifts. Eyebrows were raised when incoming commissioner Rob Manfred said he would consider banning shifts in order to bring the league’s waning offensive numbers back up.

The thing is, I see this in every sport. I’ve seen offensive schemes in football that just couldn’t be beat, like the pistol offense. Well, that lasted about one season before defenses adjusted during the off-season. The pistol isn’t a magic bullet (sorry for the pun) that it was made out to be.

I read something similar about an NHL team a couple of years ago and I’m sorry that I can’t remember who the team was, but the gist was that they had come up with a way to really shut down their opponent’s offensive chances. That unbeatable team was ousted in the first round of the playoffs and I haven’t heard about this again.

The point is, every time something comes up in sports that starts to tilt things one way or the other, people get in a big huff about how rules need to be changed because this will forever change the way things are done.

And it just never seems to be the case. Folks will figure out the shift like they do everything else in sports. Sports are all about making adjustments. Something happens and the opposition reacts.

Miles Wray, at Fangraphs.com, points out one thing that could affect the shift. And I’ve seen this come up in at least one other game during the first week of the 2015 season, where 3rd base was left wide open due to the shift.

This is something that base runners are going to need to be aware of when the guy at bat has a shift being placed against them. If a base runner is on first and there’s an extreme shift to the right side, you can really mess with that shift by breaking for 2nd base. Batter drops a base hit into the outfield or to the opposite side of the infield? Again, you should be looking for the chance to sprint for an unoccupied 3rd base.

Granted, these opportunities are more likely to be exploited if the man on base is fast enough to sneak in there, but it’s still the sort of thing that could really “break the shift”.

Read the whole article here.

* * *

Tony Blengino took a look at Cardinals’ first baseman Matt Adams‘ batted ball profile, concluding:

Adams is going to need make some strides with his BB rate, and he had better learn to selectively pull the ball in the air for power

Check out the full article here.

* * *

Things keep getting worse for the Brew Crew, as star center fielder Carlos Gomez has been put on the DL with a slight “tear” in his hamstring.

You can read more about it at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

This was going to be a long, painful season for Milwaukee even if they stayed healthy. An injury to Gomez just makes it that much worse to endure.

It will be interesting to see when teams like the Brewers and Reds throw in the towel this season, see who is dealt, and see if they show signs of building towards the future.

There’s a lot of stiff competition in this division and those two franchises need to figure out how they’re going to join the fray.

* * *

Schedule

6-4 San Diego Shields (1-0, 2.08)
5-3 CHICAGO Hammel (1-0, 4.50)
1:20 PM CT
2-7 MILWAUKEE Nelson (1-0, 0.00)
3-6 PITTSBURGH Locke (1-0, 3.00)
6:05 PM CT
5-4 CINCINNATI Cueto (0-1, 0.64)
5-3 ST. LOUIS Wacha (1-0, 1.42)
7:15 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
Chicago Cubs 5 3 W1
St. Louis Cardinals 5 3 W2
Cincinnati Reds 5 4 0.5 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 3 6 2.5 L2
Milwaukee Brewers 2 7 3.5 L2

Travis Wood, Cubs Shut Out Reds

Travis Wood

Travis Wood

You see guys like Jumbo Diaz and Kevin Gregg in their bullpen and then Jason Marquis starting last night and wonder how the Cincinnati Reds are supposed to win any games.

Marquis last posted an ERA+ of 100 or better in 2009, when he went 15-13 with 4.04 ERA (4.10 FIP) for the Colorado Rockies.

Maybe the Reds were impressed by his 4.05 ERA in pitcher-friendly San Diego last year, but his peripherals tell a very different number.

Anyhow, Marquis was beaten around last night by the Chicago Cubs, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits and 3 walks in 4 innings of work.

Anthony Rizzo had his first homer of the season. Cubs win 5-0, taking their second straight series and re-claiming first place for the time being.

Travis Wood (W 1-1) went 7 shutout innings for the Baby Bears, allowing 3 hits and a pair of walks while striking out 7. He’s got his ERA down to 2.31 after that performance.

Cubs’ reliever Neil Ramirez left the game after 3 pitches with an injury. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon described the right shoulder injury as “nothing real positive” which, for the eternally optimistic Maddon, is really something. Ramirez, who has been a pretty solid pitcher out of the Chicago pen, was throwing his fastball at 90 mph – 5 mph slower than usual.

In 50 appearances, Ramirez had a 1.44 ERA with 10.9 K/9.

* * *

In St. Louis, the Cardinals were 4-2 winners over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Lance Lynn needed 99 pitches to complete 5 innings, allowing 1 run on 6 hits and a walk to go along with 4 strikeouts. He’s 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA.

He used up 4.5 pitches per batter faced, up from 4.0 in his prior game. The National League average this season is 3.8 pitches per batter faced.

Yadier Molina had 3 hits (.240) and Matt Carpenter had 2 (.345), while Jason Heyward picked up his 4th double of the year already. He’s on pace for 93 two-baggers, if you wanted to know. Only 96% more of the season left to play!

We knew this would be a bad season for Milwaukee – put together with a horrible farm system, being in a division with teams that do have good farm systems and are already better than them to boot, it might be a bad decade – but it got a little worse when Center fielder Carlos Gomez went down with a hamstring injury legging out a fielder’s choice in the 9th inning.

Milwaukee already lost Ryan Braun for a couple of games earlier. Through the first week and a half of play, the outfield has been snake-bit.

Gomez was quoted as saying: “I’ll have to wait until the morning and see how it is. Right now, it’s sore. Tomorrow is the day that we know if it’s going to be a couple of days or a lot.”

He’s expected to not play in today’s game.

* * *

Finally, in Pittsburgh, the Pirates lost another close one in inter-league play against the red hot Detroit Tigers, who are now 8-1.

Alfredo Simon improved to 2-0, going 8 shutout innings for Detroit and allowing just 2 hits. He fanned only 2, with the Pirates failing to “hit ’em where they ain’t”.

Francisco Liriano had nothing to show for a good outing – 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 K. He’s 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA.

Rajai Davis’ solo shot in the 6th ended up the game’s only run.

The Bucs have now gone 19 innings without scoring a run and haven’t walked in four straight games.

Andrew McCutchen had one of the two Pittsburgh hits – he’s hitting just .207 this season. No Pirate in the top 5 of their order is currently hitting better than .235.

It’s pretty amazing to look at the league stats right now. The National League as a whole is hitting just .240, with the Pirates’ .207 mark the worst. (The Cardinals, at .248, are 4th in the NL – tops in the Central.)

Things are looking up, however, as Starling Marte has shaved his head in hopes of bringing some change of fortune. I can vouch that bald is beautiful. I think this will work.

* * *

Thank you, Paul Daugherty. Daugherty writes about Reds manager Bryan Price’s misuse of the Reds’ bullpen weapon known as Aroldis Chapman. Price has been driving me a little bonkers all season long. I guess I’m just glad that I’m not the only one.

* * *

Just one game on the scoreboard today, with the Cards and Brew Crew finishing up their 3-game set.

A St. Louis win puts them into a tie for 1st atop the division.

* * *

Schedule

2-6 MILWAUKEE Fiers (0-1, 9.00)
4-3 ST. LOUIS Lackey (0-0, 6.00)
12:45 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
Chicago Cubs 5 3 @1
St. Louis Cardinals 4 3 0.5 W1
Cincinnati Reds 5 4 0.5 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 3 6 2.5 L2
Milwaukee Brewers 2 6 3 L1

Back to Business

Anthony DeSclafani

Anthony DeSclafani

Back from a little sabbatical and throwing myself back into the game today. Yesterday I woke up at 3:30 AM in order to make a bus that took me 3.5 hours away to a conference. All told it was an 18 hour day, 7 of which was spent in a bus.

I’m a little zonked right now.

Did manage to get home in time to catch the end of Reds/Cubs. Cubs tried to play the role of the comeback team for a 3rd straight game, but fell short. They put men on 1st & 2nd against Aroldis Chapman with 1 out, down by 1 in the bottom of the 9th. Then Chapman remembered “Oh ya! I’m Aroldis Chapman!” and whiffed grey-beard, David Ross, and (less surprisingly) Mike Olt.

So what do the Cubs have now? 4 more games before Kris Bryant’s glove is deemed adequate enough to start at 3B in the Bigs?

Setting snark to the side now…

For Cincinnati, Anthony DeSclafani continues to shine. He threw 7 shutout innings for his first win of the season and is now sporting a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings of work. A 0.77 WHIP (7 H, 3 BB) to go along with 7.6 K/9 and that trade for Mat Latos is looking pretty good right now. Latos is currently 0-2 with a 17.36 ERA, lasting all of 4.2 innings across two starts.

Small sample size, sure, but that’s pretty bad.

The Cards and Brewers had a rare Tuesday off, so that leaves the Pirates as the only other team in action last night. A.J. Burnett racked up a ton more strikeouts (8 in 6.2 innings) but Shane Greene of the Detroit Tigers was dominating, going 8 shutout innings to lead the Bengals to a 2-0 win over the Bucs.

Starling Marte did not play for Pittsburgh last night, giving way to a start in right field for Corey Hart. Marte is carrying a 25 OPS+ in 7 games this season, with a .115/.176/.269 slash line. In 30 plate appearances, Marte has struck out 14 times.

* * *

Today’s schedule has a little bit of intrigue in every game.

In the first game of the night, I’m curious to see if Francisco Liriano can lead the Pirates to an interleague series win over the 7-1 Detroit Tigers. They should have won game 1 pretty easily, but a 9th inning meltdown turned it into just a one-run win. Last night they played solid on one side of the game, just not the other, losing 2-0. So they’re holding their own.

The second game of the night (Reds @ Cubs) is probably the least interesting pitching match-up (Jason Marquis – seriously – versus Travis Wood), but they are currently the top two teams in the Central. (It’s early. I KNOW!) So there’s something there. Plus, having Marquis start means we’re almost guaranteed to see Jumbo Diaz or Kevin Gregg pitch, so anything could happen.

And then the final game of the night has the Brewers at the Cardinals. I still see the Brewers as a last place team (maybe 4th place…) and the Cardinals as the class of the division, but the latter is off to just a 3-3 start. Lance Lynn deserved a win in his first start, but got hung with an L when he was out-pitched by Jake Arrieta. The time seems right for the Cards to get a winning streak started here.

* * *

Some of my favorite stories from the last few days…

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson’s spike curve is investigated at Fangraphs

Chicago Cubs skipper Joe Maddon likes geeks

* * *

Schedule

7-1 Detroit Simon (1-0, 5.06)
3-5 PITTSBURGH Liriano, F (0-0, 2.57)
6:05 PM CT
5-3 CINCINNATI Marquis (0-0, 4.50)
4-3 CHICAGO Wood, T (0-1, 5.79)
7:05 PM CT
2-5 MILWAUKEE Peralta, W (0-0, 2.57)
3-3 ST. LOUIS Lynn (0-1, 1.50)
7:15 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
Cincinnati 5 3 W1
Chicago 4 3 0.5 L1
St. Louis 3 3 1 L1
Pittsburgh 3 5 2 L1
Milwaukee 2 5 2.5 W1

Cubs Come Back (Again)

Well the Pirates and Cubs are winning games as they were expected to and the Reds are losing games as they were expected to, so everything is back to normal.

Less normal is the Brewers spoiling the Cardinals home opener yesterday, but full-on normalcy is overrated anyhow.

My regular 9-5 has me up at 3:30 AM for a special trip, so just a short post tonight.

Cubs win over the Reds 7-6 in a 10 inning comeback win. The Cubs have two guys touted for Rookie of the Year – one is still in the minors for maybe 6 more days and the other (Jorge Soler) had two homers. Watching the game I was wondering why Jumbo Diaz kept piping them down the middle and Soler made him pay. Alcantara later broke and 0-for the season stretch and got a walk off base hit through a drawn in infield with the bases loaded. 3rd straight win for the Cubs and 3rd straight loss for the Reds. The latter falls from 1st place and the former takes over. It’s early, people. Relax.

I also watched the Pirates home opener today as they handed the Detroit Tigers their first loss of the year. Gerrit Cole looked pretty filthy before running into trouble. Starling Marte continues to struggle for the Bucs. He has struck out in 54% of all plate appearances. Melancon had troubles to start the 9th (2B, 2B, HR) but finally got 3 outs to hand Pittsburgh a 1 run win.

Matt Garza and the Brew Crew took out Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals, so maybe they are finding some life. Again, it’s early.

* * *

Fangraphs took a interesting look at the interplay between Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto through the 4-2 start to the Cincinnati Reds season.  Does Votto get more fastballs to hit with Hamilton on base?  Does Hamilton get better chances to steal with Votto’s skills at the plate?  You be the judge.

* * *

As stated, weird schedule today so I can’t post pitching match ups and standings tonight. Regular features will return Wednesday morning.

Have a great day, everybody.

PANIC!!!

11949846888132734don_t_panic__dan_gerhard_01.svg.hiI thoroughly enjoyed reading numerous local bloggers as well as listening to phone-ins to sport talk shows to get a good feel for how much panic there can be after just 3 or 4 games into a Major League Baseball season.

Lest you’ve forgotten, an MLB season is 162 games long. So we’re talking about assessing your team based on 2% of a total season.

Giving up on your MLB team after 3.5 games… In NFL terms, this would be akin to giving up on your team’s season with 9 minutes and 16 seconds remaining in the 2nd quarter. (I did the math for you, but feel free to double check.)

Reading Chicago sports media, for example – by the way, this is never recommended – there was utter panic that the White Sox were 0-4 and Cubs were 1-2. Never mind that the ChiSox had faced the defending American League Champion Kansas City Royals in those first three games and the Cubs had split 2 games with the still powerful St. Louis Cardinals.

I don’t know what record the Cubs and White Sox will have after 162 games are done. If I boiled down the dozens of season previews I’ve read over, I’d say national prognosticators have both teams somewhere in the range of between 81 and 86 wins. But I sure as shit know that I can’t base my opinion of them on 3 or 4 games.

* * *

Let’s get to the weekend recap in the NL Central.

The Cincinnati Reds hosted the St. Louis Cardinals. Coming into the series, the Reds were 3-0, coming off of a surprising sweep of the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cards had split a rain-soaked Opening Series in Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.
The Reds took the series opener, 5-4, behind a pair of Joey Votto homers and yet another stolen base by Billy Hamilton.
The Cards won game 2, 4-1, behind Michael Wacha’s 6.1 innings, allowing 1 earned run. Johnny Cueto took the loss to fall to 0-1 with a 0.64 ERA; he went 7 innings and allowed 1 run.
The Cards then took the rubber game of the series, winning 7-5 in 11 innings when Matt Carpenter connected for a 2-run homer in the top of the inning off of Kevin Gregg, who I still can’t believe has a job. Carlos Martinez did not get a decision, but threw nicely for the Red Birds, going 6 innings and striking out 8 while allowing 2 runs.
Carpenter is hitting .300, while Jhonny Peralta (.333), Matt Holliday (.300) and Kolten Wong (.294) are also off to nice starts.
Votto has a slash line of .333/.429/.708 with 3 HR and 8 RBI. So far, the comeback is going nicely. Hamilton had 7 stolen bases.

The Cubs took to Colorado to face the Rockies. After losing game one 5-1, their offense showed up big time in a 9-5 win to even the series. Dexter Fowler enjoyed his homecoming (more on that later) with a pair of triples. And the Baby Bears had their first homers of the season with Chris Coghlan, Mike Olt and Starlin Castro all doing a number. Castro had 3 hits, by the way. Olt took a pitch off the wrist later in the game, getting those Kris Bryant whispers revved up. Bryant also homered at AAA the night of this game. Olt’s x-rays were negative and he would actually pinch hit in game 3 of the series.
Speaking of which, the Cubs showed they aren’t the same pushover team of recent years, coming back to win 6-5 and take the series. Trailing 5-3 with a man on 2nd and 2 outs in the 9th, Wellington Castillo singled in a run and then Fowler took LaTroy Hawkins into the upper deck in right field for a go-ahead two-run homer. Hector Rondon stranded the tying runner at 3rd, picking up his 2nd save.
Fowler had a slash line of .308/.400/.846 in the 3-game series at Colorado.
Arismendy Alcantara has looked fluid when he’s played second base, but he’s 0-for-12 at the plate. On the bright side, his 5 walks give him a .294 OBP which, while not spectacular, helps make up for some of that. His OPS+ is currently negative 5, which I didn’t even think was possible. Castro is hitting .300, but no other Cubs’ regular is hitting over .250 and four are hitting below .200.

And in Milwaukee, the Brewers finally won a game, but it was the Bucs taking the series, 2 games to 1. So no NL Central swept or was swept over the weekend.
After Pittsburgh took game one, 6-2, Milwaukee came back to take game two, 6-0. Jimmy Nelson tossed 7 shutout innings, striking out 9 while allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks. Vance Worley went 6.1 innings and allowed 6 earned runs for the Pirates. Andrew McCutchen did not play.
The Pirates took the final game of the series, 10-2, behind McCutchen’s 2nd homer of the year. He had 4 RBI while Neil Walker had three, picking up his first homer of the season.

* * *

National League Ranks

Cincinnati: 6th in Runs Scored/Game, 10th in Runs Allowed/Game
St. Louis: 9th in Runs Scored/Game, 2nd in Runs Allowed/Game
Chicago: 8th in Runs Scored/Game, 6th in Runs Allowed/Game
Pittsburgh: 7th in Runs Scored/Game, 8th in Runs Allowed/Game
Milwaukee: 13th in Runs Scored/Game, 15th in Runs Allowed/Game

* * *

Schedule

6-0 Detroit Sanchez, An (1-0, 0.00)
2-4 PITTSBURGH Cole (0-0, 5.40)
12:35 PM CT
1-5 MILWAUKEE Garza, M (0-1, 7.20)
3-2 ST. LOUIS Wainwright (1-0, 0.00)
3:15 PM CT
4-2 CINCINNATI Leake (0-0, 4.76)
3-2 CHICAGO Lester (0-1, 6.23)
7:05 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
Cincinnati 4 2 L2
Chicago 3 2 0.5 W2
St. Louis 3 2 0.5 W2
Pittsburgh 2 4 2 W1
Milwaukee 1 5 3 L1

Frazier, Hamilton, Votto Keep Reds Hot

Todd Frazier was at the center of another Reds win.

Todd Frazier was at the center of another Reds win.

The Cincinnati Reds finished off a 3-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates to open up the 2015 MLB season, taking them down 3-2 on Thursday afternoon.

Pittsburgh had taken a 2-0 lead mid-way through the contest, with Pedro Alvarez leading off the 5th on a single and later scoring to give them their first run, then connecting on a solo homer in the 6th.

In the bottom of the inning, Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett did what he usually does – thoroughly dominate for the first time or two through the order (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K) and then run very abruptly run out of gas.

In this case he allowed a lead-off single to pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker who was then erased on the front-end of a fielder’s choice ground-out by Billy Hamilton.

Hamilton then scored on Joey Votto’s 2nd homer in as many days, tying the game.

Badenhop, Diaz and Chapman combined for three shutout innings out of the Cincy bullpen, taking the game still tied 2-2 into the bottom of the 9th.

The other series hero, Todd Frazier, led off with a double off of Scahill. (Frazier finished game one with a walk-off homer and then homered again in the 1st inning of game 2.) After Frazier advanced to 3rd on a slow grounder to Kang at shortstop, the Bucs intentionally walked Jay Bruce to set up the potential double play.

With the infield in at the corners and the outfield playing shallow, Marlon Byrd lifted a fly ball into shallow(er) right field, with Frazier retreating back to 3rd base as Gregory Polanco came in to make the catch.

One problem… The ball went off of Polanco’s glove, skittering 10 feet behind him and allowing Frazier to stumble back towards the plate and score the game-ending run.

A tough opening series for the Bucs, who are a pretty popular pick to either win the Central or at least take a Wild Card spot in the National League.

Hamilton, by the way, had two more stolen bases to up his season total to 6.

Schedule

1-1 Chicago Wood, T (0-0, -)
3-0 Colorado Matzek (0-0, -)
3:10 PM CT
1-1 St. Louis Lackey (0-0, -)
3-0 Cincinnati Marquis (0-0, -)
6:10 PM CT
0-3 Pittsburgh Locke (0-0, -)
0-3 Milwaukee Fiers (0-0, -)
7:10 PM CT

Standings

W L GB Strk Div
Cincinnati 3 0 W3 3-0
Chicago 1 1 1.5 W1 1-1
St. Louis 1 1 1.5 L1 1-1
Milwaukee 0 3 3 L3 0-0
Pittsburgh 0 3 3 L3 0-3

Votto Leads Reds in Extra Inning Win

Joey Votto is off to a nice start in a bid for NL Comeback Player of the Year.

Joey Votto is off to a nice start in a bid for NL Comeback Player of the Year.

Joey Votto has been often mentioned as a front-runner candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. Last night he got that campaign kicked off in style.

Votto hit just .255 last season, appearing in only 62 games. On the bright side, his on base percentage was still a robust .390, but he only had 6 homers.

Aside from 2008, when he hit “only” .297, Votto had a string of .300 seasons, so last year was definitely a down one for the first baseman.

Last night, Votto tied the game up with a two-out single in the 7th inning and then he won it with another RBI single in the bottom of the 11th, sometimes shortly before 2 AM local. (I’m glad I didn’t stay up to watch the whole thing.)

Walk-off. The Cincinnati Reds win and improve to 2-0, dropping the Pittsburgh Pirates to 0-2.

Votto is hitting .400 through the first two games of the season.

From the lead-off spot, Billy Hamilton is hitting .444. He stole three bases last night after having pilfered one on Opening Day as well.

Gerrit Cole was throwing gas last night for the Bucs, but lasted just 5 innings after racking up 93 pitches. Such is the life of a strikeout pitcher. The pitch counts add up. Cole finished with 6 strikeouts and 2 walks, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits.

Todd Frazier was the Opening Day hero for the Reds with a walk-off homer. The 2014 NL Central Hub All-Division third baseman hit his 2nd homer of the season in the 1st inning, giving the Reds an early 1-0 lead.

The Pirates locked up third baseman Josh Harrison in a four-year contract extension to the tune of $27.3 million. Harrison has club options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

He joins Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, Jung Ho Kang and Jose Tabata as Pirates with multi-year deals.

Next up for GM Neal Huntington may be Gregory Polanco while it sounds as though hometown player, Neil Walker, may be left exploring free agency following the 2016 season.

Cincinnati goes for the sweep this afternoon.

* * *

In Chicago, they got the ballgame in after having postponed game 2 of the series due to inclement weather than never actually materialized. (PANIC!!!)

Lance Lynn was on his game for the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing just 2 hits and a walk in 6 innings of work, striking out 9 Cubs.

Unfortunately for the Cards, Jake Arrieta was pretty dominant as well, going 7 innings and allowing 3 hits and 3 walks while fanning 7 Cards – 3 of which were caught looking.

Following the 7th inning stretch, the ballgame was still knotted at 0-0. Anthony Rizzo led off the Cubs’ 7th getting hit in the upper right thigh by a Lynn fastball. Lynn’s pick-off attempt went wide of first baseman Matt Adams for an error that allowed Rizzo to move up to 2nd. Starlin Castro then singled over a leaping Johnny Peralta into left, scoring Rizzo and giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead.

Castro alertly advanced to 2nd on Matt Holliday’s throw home, which was a strange one. Holliday had the ball with Rizzo still a step or two away from 3rd, and it appeared he’d have a good play at the plate on him as he was being waved home. But it also appeared as though maybe the throw home was supposed to involve a cut-off man, only no Cardinals were there to receive the throw. Instead, Holliday’s throw bounced a couple of times on the wet grass before being picked up by Lynn just left of the mound.

Castro moved to 3rd on a sac bunt, and then scored on a sac fly deep to right, making it 2-0, Cubs.

That would hold up as the Cubs’ pen continued to pitch well. Phil Coke, Neil Ramirez and Pedro Strop each retired one batter in the 8th and Hector Rondon picked up his 1st save with a spotless 9th.

Although they finally scored a couple of runs, the Cubs are hitting just .125 through 2 games and have struck out in 37% of all plate appearances.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers were swept by the Colorado Rockies, although they made a game of it.

Ryan Braun was out one more day while he nursed a minor rib injury, but he stepped in as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 9th, the Brewers trailing 4-2 with men at 2nd & 3rd and 2 outs.

Braun hit a soft roller down the 3rd base line that Nolan Arenado couldn’t field, allowing Gerardo Parra to score.

Carlos Gomez then hit a single through the infield and into right field for a game-tying RBI.

With Braun in scoring position, however, Jonathan Lucroy struck out and the game went into extra innings, where the Rox Wilin Rosario came off the bench as a pinch-hitter and connected for a solo homer that held up as the game-winner.

On the plus side, Wily Peralta broke the streak of bad starts for Milwaukee pitchers, going 7 innings and allowing a pair of runs on 7 hits and no walks.

The Brewers now play their next 19 games against teams in the NL Central. If they were going to get swept in April, this was a good series to have that happen. Now it’s time for them to get to work. They have home-and-away series against the Reds, Cardinals and Pirates, skipping the Cubs this month.

Schedule

0-2 Pittsburgh Burnett, AJ (0-0, -)
2-0 Cincinnati DeSclafani (0-0, -)
11:35 AM CT

Standings

W L GB STRK DIV
Cincinnati 2 0 W2 2-0
Chicago 1 1 1 W1 1-1
St. Louis 1 1 1 L1 1-1
Pittsburgh 0 2 2 L2 0-2
Milwaukee 0 3 2.5 L3 0-0

Rainouts in Chicago’s Favor

Scooter Gennett is hitting .167 for the Brewers, who fell to 0-2 on Tuesday night.

Scooter Gennett is hitting .167 for the Brewers, who fell to 0-2 on Tuesday night.

Last night’s Cubs / Cardinals game was called on account of inclement weather.

I don’t want to get all “conspiracy theory”, but the game was called over 6 hours before the first pitch was scheduled and there are several strange coincidences at play here.

1. The whole mess with the bathroom situation at Wrigley Field.
2. Delaying the game until a later date helps ensure that uber-prospect Kris Bryant will be available for the Cubs when this game is made up.
3. If the game is delayed past the All-Star break, it may also mean the Cubs get their other uber-prospect, Addison Russell, available for that game.

With more rain in the Chicago area today, I wouldn’t doubt this afternoon’s game being called as well. It certainly would be welcome news for the Cubs – buying them time to improve their field and the product that they put on it.

* * *

Watched the Brewers / Rockies game last night. Matt Garza looked pretty decent early on, keeping hitters off-balance with a mix of a breaking ball and low-to-mid 90s fastball that seemed to catch hitters unaware.

But in the 4th inning the breaking stuff was flat. Curves were hanging, sliders weren’t sliding… It was a mess.

A 3-run Rockies’ 4th ensued and the Brewers fell 5-2.

Garza went 5 innings, which is better than the 3.1 innings that Kyle Lohse went on Opening Day.

The early part of the season has a lot of off days packed in, which is good for Milwaukee because their bullpen is being taxed so far.

In good news for the now 0-2 Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan Braun’s MRI revealed nothing significant going on with his ribs, so he is expected back soon.

* * *

Looking at where the Pirates were in their lineup when they trailed 2-0 in Cincinnati heading into the 8th inning (eventually tying it on a 2-run homer by Andrew McCutchen against Kevin Gregg), I was struck by how this was a perfect opportunity to explain the concept of “high leverage” situations and exploit the obsession with the save statistic as being a very flawed one.

Well, Mike Petriello over at Fangraphs just took care of that for me.

My original thought was that it might have been a good case for using stud closer Aroldis Chapman in the 8th and somebody else in the 9th.  Sometimes the game is won or lost in the 8th inning and it’s better to use your star reliever in that situation rather than saving him for the 9th just so he can collect a save.

But Petriello points out that, with the Reds having Tuesday off, there’s no reason to not use Chapman for two innings.  (What is it, 1985?!)

And, yes, I know, this can all fall under the topic of “hindsight is 20/20″ and it’s plenty easy to criticize the decision after it’s already happened.

But we can agree that the Reds were facing a tough spot (pinch hitter followed by the top of the order) and that they were more likely to face lesser hitting in the 9th.  The game was on the line at that moment and they chose Gregg instead of Chapman.

Thankfully for them, Todd Frazier’s 3-run blast in the bottom of the inning would change things.  But it was still a strange decision.

Read his full article over here.

Schedule

1-0 St. Louis Lynn (0-0, -)
0-1 Chicago Arrieta (0-0, -)
1:20 PM CT
0-1 Pittsburgh Cole (0-0, -)
1-0 Cincinnati Leake (0-0, -)
6:10 PM CT
2-0 Colorado Butler (0-0, -)
0-2 Milwaukee Peralta, W (0-0, -)
7:10 PM CT

Standings

W L GB STRK DIV
Cincinnati 1 0 W1 1-0
St. Louis 1 0 W1 1-0
Chicago 0 1 1 L1 0-1
Pittsburgh 0 1 1 L1 0-1
Milwaukee 0 2 1.5 L2 0-0

Frazier homer lifts Reds

Todd Frazier's 3-run homer pushed the Reds past the Pirates on Opening Day 2015

Todd Frazier’s 3-run homer pushed the Reds past the Pirates on Opening Day 2015

I spent the day at home from work, as I often do for Opening Day. Just trying to cram as much baseball as possible into my brain.

In the end, I did stick with the NL Central games, which meant watching a Milwaukee Brewers team that I picked for last place in the division.

They sure didn’t disappoint, as Kyle Lohse was smacked around for 8 runs, allowing as many hits as outs – 10.

Adam Lind had three hits for the Brew Crew, but they were down 10-0 heading into the bottom of the 4th inning and things stayed that way.

It was tough to watch, as pretty much every thing off the bats of Colorado fell in for a single or split outfielders into a gap for a double.

In their 16-hit attack, half of those went for extra-bases: 8 doubles and a pair of homers.

To add insult to injury, Ryan Braun left the game with a rib cage injury and is due for an MRI today.

When your team’s most optimistic expectations are to win high-scoring games, but you get shutout on Opening Day and lose one of your sluggers to injury? It doesn’t bode well.

The better game of the day was Opening Day in Cincinnati, where the Reds topped the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 behind an 8th inning, tie-breaking homer by Todd Frazier.

Johnny Cueto picked up right where he left off in 2014, tossing 7 shutout innings allowing 4 hits and a walk and striking out 10.

But Kevin Gregg came on to pitch the 8th inning and did some things. Horrible things.

If you didn’t even realize that Gregg was on an MLB roster, that may explain why most folks don’t expect much from the Reds this season.

He faced four batters – retiring half of them. Unfortunately the last batter he faced was Andrew McCutchen.

Here’s a highlight reel of Cueto’s performance, well worth watching. You also get some nice fielding plays by Cueto, who is no slouch with the glove.

Thoughts Due Up

  1. I somehow forgot to mention it, but that strike zone on Opening Night was insane. And for both teams. It sort of felt as though the ump felt “You threw it 60 feet 6 inches? Good ’nuff! STEEEEEERIIIIIIIIKE!”
  2. Hearing about the bathroom situation at Wrigley Field made my stomach turn. Horrible. Hopefully they get that park fixed up sooner rather than later. I thought about bringing my kids there, as they are just now starting to show some interest in sports, but… no.
  3. Looking forward to Cubs/Cards tonight. But I really hate it when the MLB schedule-makers give the Cubs home games in that first week of the season; and night games to boot? That seems like lunacy.

Schedule

1-0 St. Louis Lynn (0-0, -)
0-1 Chicago Arrieta (0-0, -)
7:05 PM CT
1-0 Colorado Lyles (0-0, -)
0-1 Milwaukee Garza, M (0-0, -)
7:10 PM CT

Standings

W L GB STRK DIV
Cincinnati 1 0 W1 1-0
St. Louis 1 0 W1 1-0
Milwaukee 0 1 1 L1 0-0
Chicago 0 1 1 L1 0-1
Pittsburgh 0 1 1 L1 0-1
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