Cards Lose; Everybody Else Wins?

It was Randal Grichuk day at the Post-Dispatch last night.

It was Randal Grichuk day at the Post-Dispatch last night.

If only one team were to lose in the division last night, you wouldn’t have guessed it would be the team with the best record in baseball playing against one of the worst teams.

Indeed, it was the St. Louis Cardinals who were 7-1 losers at home against the Chicago White Sox last night after another rain-soaked evening.

It was a close, 2-1 ballgame until the 9th when the ChiSox went off on the Cardinals bullpen.

Seth Maness faced three batters, all of whom picked up hits and scored. Randy Choate faced two batters and hit both of them – they scored as well.

Matt Carpenter went 0-for-4 with an error as hit batting average slipped to .275. That call I put out early in the season for him to break the all-time record for most doubles in a season? It’s on hold. In his last 9 games – dating back to June 20th – Carpenter is hitting .100/.250/.133 for a .383 OPS across 36 plate appearances.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Tyler Cooney (0-0, 11.57) gets the start tonight for Saint Louie, subbing for Jaime Garcia‘s groin. Garcia won’t go on the DL and is expected to start on Tuesday.

Bernie Miklasz got all stat-happy on Randal Grichuk at the Post-Dispatch yesterday. Go check it out.

It wasn’t stat-focused, but Dan O’Neill was also all over Grichuk last night. Check his work out here.

With Grichuk’s improvement and Jason Heyward‘s awakening, Jon Jay (.223) is going to find himself on the bench when Matt Holliday is healthy and back in the lineup.

* * * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 9-3 winners over the Detroit Tigers, led by a 5-run 3rd inning.

He hadn’t homered in four weeks, but you wouldn’t have known it when Neil Walker went 4-for-6 with a pair of homers (6) and 3 RBI. Oh, and in case you him on your fantasy baseball team, he also swiped a base for you. Nice job!

Starling Marte also had a four-hit game, including a homer (13) and double.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * * *

For a second straight night, neither the Chicago Cubs nor the New York Mets appeared interested in scoring any runs.

Ultimately the Cubs prevailed, pulling out a 2-0 win in 11 innings.

The Cubs are 6-0 against the Mets this year. Five of those six games have been one-run victories.

Jon Lester went 7 shutout innings, allowing 5 hits and a walk while striking out 7.

Sure, it was because of the circumstances of an extra-inning game, but Justin Grimm became the 5th Cubs pitcher to record a save in 2015. Joe Maddon has said he has no defined closer and is instead going “by committee”. Sabermetric fans around the world are rejoicing.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Injured right fielder Jorge Soler is expected back to the major league clubhouse this weekend.

* * * *

Johnny Cueto led the Cincinnati Reds to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Hard to not always wonder if every start he makes will be his last with the team, but nothing official yet.

Cueto went 8 innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and a walk, striking out 8. He improved to 5-5 on the season.

Concerns over the elbow that caused him to miss a few starts? Since coming back, he’s 2-1 with a 2.52 in 6 GS.

Would be really interesting to watch him pitch for a contending team.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * * *

It must be nice playing the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Milwaukee Brewers won for the 7th time in their last 9 games, putting 17 hits on the board in a 9-5 win over Philly.

Scooter Gennett was 3-for-5 with a triple and a pair of doubles, driving in 3 runs.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 51 26 L2
Pittsburgh Pirates 44 33 7.0 W2
Chicago Cubs 41 35 9.5 W2
Cincinnati Reds 36 41 15.0 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 32 48 20.5 W4

* * *

Schedule

44-33 PIRATES Liriano (4-6, 3.21)
39-38 Tigers Ryan (1-1, 4.56)
12:08 PM CT
41-35 CUBS Arrieta (7-5, 2.94)
40-39 Mets deGrom (8-5, 2.15)
12:10 PM CT
32-48 BREWERS Garza (4-10, 5.52)
27-53 Phillies Billingsley (0-2, 6.75)
5:35 PM CT
37-44 Padres Ross (5-7, 3.57)
51-26 CARDINALS Cooney (0-0, 11.57)
6:15 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .405
Joey Votto (CIN) .396
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .386
Kris Bryant (CHC) .378
Matt Carpenter (STL) .373
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.92
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.97
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.01
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 1.06
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.10

Cards Streak Snapped At Six By Sox

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina appears to be in disbelief that Tyler Flowers just homered.

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina appears to be in disbelief that Tyler Flowers just homered.

The St. Louis Cardinals‘ six-game winning streak was ended last night when their offense was shut down by Chris Sale (8 IP, 1 ER) and the rest of the Chicago White Sox pitching staff, losing 2-1 in 11 innings.

Chicago took the lead with two outs in the top of the 11th when Tyler Flowers, hitting just above the Mendoza line this year, homered off of Miguel Socolovich.

The Birds put two men on in with two outs the bottom of the inning, but Xavier Scruggs grounded out to third, ending the rally.

Randal Grichuk had three hits with a homer (7th) and double for St. Louis, but the rest of the lineup combined to go 5-for-35, hitting .143 with no extra base hits.

Lance Lynn‘s second start since returning from the DL was solid, allowing 1 run in 6 innings of work, striking out 6. But he never seems to pick up the W, even when he’s on his game, does he?

Game Highlights from MLB.com

In other pitching staff, it’s a new month today, so it’s about time for another injury to the rotation. And who better to volunteer than Jaime Garcia? Garcia came up with a groin injury last week and skipped Monday’s bullpen session. There’s a chance he misses his next start.

* * *

Also going extra innings last evening were the Pittsburgh Pirates, who outlasted the Detroit Tigers to win 5-4 in 14 innings.

Josh Harrison doubled off of center fielder Rajai Davis‘ glove, then scored on a Neil Walker double down the right field line to put Pittsburgh up a run in the top of the 14th.

Detroit put men on 1st & 2nd with one out in the bottom of the inning, but grounded into a 6-3 double play to erase the threat, ending the game.

Gorkys Hernandez was nearly the goat of the game, entering as a pinch runner in the 14th but then making a few base-running blunders. Funny that a pinch-runner would do that, but there you have it. On Harrison’s deep fly into center, Hernandez sprinted around 2nd, then thought that Davis had caught the ball so headed back around 2nd and towards 1st, then ran back towards 3rd but failed to step back on 2nd base on his way there. He was ruled out on an appeal play after the fact.

Andrew McCutchen had two hits and drew three walks for the Bucs.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Kyle Hendricks tossed 6 shutout innings and the Chicago Cubs bullpen threw 3 more perfect innings as they blanked the New York Mets in a 1-0 win, snapping a 5-game losing streak.

Chicago’s sole run came in the 6th when Matt Szczur doubled in Kris Bryant.

Jason Motte picked up his 3rd save.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds fell 8-5 at home to the Minnesota Twins.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers held off the Philadelphia Phillies for a 4-3 win.

In the 8th inning, the Crew were down 3-2 with 2 out and nobody on. Then Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez singled. Aramis Ramirez tied it with a single. Gerardo Parra walked to load the bases. Adam Lind pinch hit and drew a bases-loaded walk, pushing Gomez home to put Milwaukee ahead.

Milwaukee has now won 6 of their last 8 games.

Braun went 4-for-5 with a double. In a 5-game hitting streak, he is hitting 11-for-17 (.647) with 3 doubles and a homer. Since June 21st, Braun is hitting an even .500 (16-for-32) with 6 extra-base hits. That’s a .500/.556/.781 slash line for an absurd 1.337 OPS.

Jean Segura went 0-for-5 with an error.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 51 25 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 43 33 8.0 W1
Chicago Cubs 40 35 10.5 W1
Cincinnati Reds 35 41 16.0 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 31 48 21.5 W3

* * *

Schedule

41-36 Twins May (4-6, 4.62)
35-41 REDS Cueto (4-5, 2.98)
11:35 AM CT
31-48 BREWERS Lohse (4-9, 6.28)
27-52 Phillies Harang (4-10, 3.56)
6:05 PM CT
43-33 PIRATES Burnett (6-3, 2.01)
39-37 Tigers Simon (7-4, 3.57)
6:08 PM CT
40-35 CUBS Lester (4-6, 4.03)
40-38 Mets Colon (9-6, 4.89)
6:10 PM CT
33-42 White Sox Quintana (3-7, 3.95)
51-25 CARDINALS Lackey (6-4, 3.35)
7:15 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 25
Ryan Braun (MIL) 15
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 15
Joey Votto (CIN) 14
Marlon Byrd (CIN) 13
Strikeouts
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 108
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 108
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 103
Carlos Martinez (STL) 100
Jason Hammel (CHC) 99

Cellar Dwellers Come Up Winners

Billy Hamilton had four stolen bases last night.

Billy Hamilton had four stolen bases last night.

The only action around the division last night involved the bottom two teams who, for the most part, appear to be out of the running as we head into the final day of June.

Let’s get this over with.

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds went up 9-1 after 3 innings, thanks to a 5-run 3rd. Of course, they coughed up 6 in the top of the 4th. Still, they held on for an 11-7 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Billy Hamilton stole four bases, scoring a run in each of the first three frames.

Catcher Tucker Barnhart had four hits with a pair of RBI while shortstop Eugenio Suarez had three hits and drove in three. Both players doubled.

Every player in the Cincy lineup had at least one hit.

The win snapped Cincy’s 3-game losing streak.

Mike Leake‘s value at the trade deadline took a hit (ahem) as he allowed nine safeties in 4 innings of work, watching his ERA climb to 4.38. It’s the 4th time this year that Leake has lasted 5 innings or fewer while allowing 5 runs or more.

Joey Votto went 1-for-3, but is still hitting just 3-for-24 in his last 6 games. He fell out of the division leader boards below.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers have been winning a few games as of late, taking 5 of their last 7. Last night they overcame a 4-1 deficit, scoring 6 unanswered runs to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-4.

Jonathan Lucroy went 4-for-5 with a pair of RBI for the Brew Crew. Ryan Braun was 3-for-5 with a double.

Aramis Ramirez‘s pinch-hit 2-RBI double to the wall in right-center put Milwaukee ahead 5-4 in the 6th inning.

All told, five Milwaukee batters had multi-hit games as the team pounded out 16 in total.

Gerardo Parra, by the way, crept into the division leader board below. He’s hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games. In that stretch, his batting average has climbed 18 points, batting 16-for-43 for a .372 batting average.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 51 24 W6
Pittsburgh Pirates 42 33 9.0 L1
Chicago Cubs 39 35 11.5 L5
Cincinnati Reds 35 40 16.0 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 30 48 22.5 W2

* * *

Schedule

30-48 BREWERS Jungmann (2-1, 2.74)
27-51 Phillies Hamels (5-6, 3.26)
6:05 PM CT
42-33 PIRATES Cole (11-3, 2.16)
39-36 Tigers Verlander (0-1, 6.17)
6:08 PM CT
39-35 CUBS Hendricks (2-4, 4.46)
40-37 Mets Niese (3-7, 4.12)
6:10 PM CT
40-36 Twins Hughes (6-6, 4.20)
35-40 REDS DeSclafani (5-5, 3.35)
6:10 PM CT
32-42 White Sox Sale (6-4, 3.02)
51-24 CARDINALS Lynn (5-4, 2.84)
7:15 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

AVG
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .304
Jhonny Peralta (STL) .303
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .294
Gerardo Parra (MIL) .294
Yadier Molina (STL) .293
ERA
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 2.01
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.16
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.77
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.80
Lance Lynn (STL) 2.84

Cards Sweep Cubs, Run Win Streak To Six

Jason Heyward is tearing it up in Matt Holliday's absence.

Jason Heyward is tearing it up in Matt Holliday’s absence.

The Chicago Cubs might look good on paper and may very well still turn out to be the team that runs the Central for the next decade, but for now they still remind me of that era in Michael Jordan‘s career when the Chicago Bulls couldn’t quite get past the Detroit Pistons. That team needed to learn how to get past the king of the mountain, as do the Cubs.

In Major League Baseball’s NL Central division, the St. Louis Cardinals are that king of the mountain. With a 51-24 record now, they have a .680 winning percentage and are the quickest team to 50 wins since the 2005 Chicago White Sox – a team that went on to win the World Series that year.

This weekend, they swept the Cubs in a 3-game series, pushing them what seems like an insurmountable 11.5 games back as we near the half-way point of the season.

Indeed, the post-season probability calculators now show the Cards with a 90.1% chance to win the division with the Pittsburgh Pirates at 5.1% and the Cubs at 4.8%. The Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers are flat-lined.

Yes, there are Wild Card spots up for grabs, but it still seems odd to look at that when the calendar is still reading June. We’re getting close to focusing on that, however…

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 51 24 W6
Pittsburgh Pirates 42 33 9.0 L1
Chicago Cubs 39 35 11.5 L5
Cincinnati Reds 34 40 16.5 L3
Milwaukee Brewers 29 48 23.0 W1

* * *

Schedule

29-48 BREWERS Nelson (4-8, 4.34)
27-50 Phillies O’Sullivan (1-5, 5.34)
6:05 PM CT
40-35 Twins Pelfrey (5-4, 3.06)
34-40 REDS Leake (5-4, 3.91)
6:10 PM CT

* * *

National League Ranks

Batting Pitching
St. Louis 7th 1st
Pittsburgh 11th 3rd
Chicago 9th 5th
Cincinnati 10th 9th
Milwaukee 12th 13th

Garcia Latest Cardinal Bit By Injury Bug?

Jaime Garcia was solid again

Jaime Garcia was solid again

The St. Louis Cardinals were 6-1 winners over the Miami Marlins.

Another nice start for Jaime Garcia, who went 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and no walks. He’s 3-3 with a 1.69 ERA now.

Not all good news for Jaime, however, as he left the game with a cramp near his left groin while rounding 3rd base.

Kolten Wong went 2-for-4 with a 2-run homer in the 3rd inning, put the Cards up 2-1.

Jason Heyward homered for the 3rd straight game.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Cardinals Notes: Lance Lynn returns to the rotation tonight, having missed his last two starts with a forearm strain…

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds put 4 runs up on Gerrit Cole in the 1st inning en route to a surprising 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

J.J. Hoover got the save for the Reds with Aroldis Chapman out on paternity leave. Hoover threw a spotless 9th, ending with a pair of strikeouts. Chapman is available for tonight’s game.

Cole went 4.2 innings, allowing 5 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks, falling to 11-3 with a 2.16 ERA this season.

Marlon Byrd went 2-for-4 with his 12th homer of the year, driving in 3 runs.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Reds Notes: Raul Iglesias did some bullpen work as he starts the road to returning to the Reds’ rotation, tossing 30-plus pitches in the bullpen as he recovers from an oblique injury. Iglesias is due back before the All-Star break… Brandon Phillips sat out last night with a jammed thumb…

* * *

The Chicago Cubs‘ winning streak was ended with a 5-2 loss at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Another rough start for Kyle Hendricks, who has allowed 10 earned runs in 10 innings across his last two starts.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Cubs Notes: Still no word from the Cubs on whether or not Tsuyoshi Wada will be available to make his scheduled start on Saturday. Seems they’d rather not go to Edwin Jackson or Travis Wood, each of whom has fared well since being put in the bullpen. The top 3 of the Cubs’ rotation has been solid. After that, things are fragile…

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers were 4-1 winners over the New York Mets.

Jimmy Nelson improved to 4-8, going 8 innings and allowing 1 run on 2 hits and a walk.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 47 24 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 40 31 7.0 L1
Chicago Cubs 39 31 7.5 L1
Cincinnati Reds 33 37 13.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 27 46 21.0 W2

* * *

Schedule

36-37 Mets deGrom (7-5, 2.34)
27-46 BREWERS Jungmann (2-1, 3.50)
1:10 PM CT
39-34 Dodgers Frias (4-5, 4.68)
39-31 CUBS Lester (4-5, 3.80)
1:20 PM CT
33-37 REDS DeSclafani (5-5, 3.48)
40-31 PIRATES Burnett (6-3, 2.05)
6:05 PM CT
47-24 CARDINALS Lynn (4-4, 3.07)
30-43 Marlins Haren (6-4, 3.19)
6:10 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .417
Joey Votto (CIN) .405
Matt Carpenter (STL) .387
Kris Bryant (CHC) .384
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .376
WHIP
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.938
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.949
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 0.985
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.087
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 1.088

One Big Inning All Pirates Need

Francisco Cervelli has given Pirates fans cause to forget Russell Martin.

Francisco Cervelli has given Pirates fans cause to forget Russell Martin.

Did you know that if you ranked all 15 National League teams by winning percentage, the NL Central has the top 3 teams?

And if you did the same for all 30 Major League teams, the NL Central has 3 of the top 5?

* * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 7-6 winners over the visiting Cincinnati Reds, scoring all their runs in the 4th inning.

The Bucs sent 10 men to the plate in the inning, highlighted by Francisco Cervelli‘s 3-run homer that tied the game at 4-4 and Andew McCutchen‘s 2-run tater that put Pittsburgh ahead by 3 runs.

Tony Watson struck out the side in the 8th and Mark Melancon did the same in the 9th to pick up his 24th save. That’s 19 straight appearances now, spanning 19.1 innings, without allowing a run. MM has 16 saves in that stretch.

Starling Marte made a pair of highlight reel plays in left field, helping the Pirates snap a 3-game losing streak, having been swept by the Washington Nationals over the weekend.

Neil Walker made his first start in 5 days, having sat out with hip pain.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Chicago Cubs continued to hold their own against division leaders, this time beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 in 10 innings on Chris Denorfia‘s walk-off sacrifice fly to deep center field.

The Cubs loaded the bases to start the bottom of the 10th. Addison Russell inside-outed a grounder to Adrian Gonzalez at first base which was nearly muffed, but then recovered for a 3-2 fielder’s choice. Denorfia then followed up by connecting on a 1-1 cutter into center field that carried deep enough for the speedy Matt Szczur to score easily.

No win, but Jason Hammel was solid, throwing 7.2 shutout innings and allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out 6.

The win was Chicago’s 4th straight.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Another day, another win for the St. Louis Cardinals, who scored 4 unanswered runs in the middle innings to win 4-3 visiting the Miami Marlins.

Jason Heyward put the birds on the board first, picking up his 8th homer of the year in the 4th inning. He’s homered in 3 of his last 5 games now and is hitting .500/.520/.958 in his past 6 games. Heyward was looking like a bust of a signing, batting just .211/.268/.333 through May 3rd. Since then? 42 games in which he’s hit .320/.350/.503 with 15 extra base hits.

A 2-RBI double into the left field corner by Xavier Scruggs tied the game up.

Mark Reynolds‘ base hit off of pitcher Sam Dyson with two out and the bases loaded in the 7th broke the 3-3 tie.

Trevor Rosenthal came on to pitch the 9th, ending the game by getting Dee Gordon to ground into a 4-3 double play.

Jhonny Peralta had a rough night, going 0-for-5, striking out 3 times and grounding into double plays in his other two plate appearances.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the New York Mets, 3-2, aided by an error in left field by Michael Cuddyer who allowed a carom off the wall to get past him and allow the go-ahead run to score in the 7th.

Mike Fiers went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and a pair of walks with 7 strikeouts.

Carlos Gomez started in center field for the first time in 9 days, going 1-for-2 with a walk.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 45 24 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 39 30 6.0 L3
Chicago Cubs 38 30 6.5 W3
Cincinnati Reds 32 36 12.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 25 46 21.0 L2

* * *

Schedule

32-37 REDS Leake (4-4, 4.01)
40-30 PIRATES Cole (11-2, 1.78)
6:05 PM CT
46-24 CARDINALS Garcia (2-3, 1.76)
30-42 Marlins Latos (2-4, 5.37)
6:10 PM CT
39-33 Dodgers Bolsinger (4-2, 2.87)
39-30 CUBS Hendricks (2-3, 4.28)
7:05 PM CT
36-36 Mets Colon (9-5, 4.81)
26-46 BREWERS Nelson (3-8, 4.64)
7:10 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 23
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 15
Ryan Braun (MIL) 14
Joey Votto (CIN) 14
2-way tie 12
Strikeouts
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 105
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 97
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 96
Carlos Martinez (STL) 94
Jason Hammel (CHC) 92

Bryant, Weather on Display at Wrigley

Sky over Wrigley Field

Sky over Wrigley Field

Kris Bryant hit two homers in a game for the first time in his MLB career, driving in 3 runs as the Chicago Cubs defeated Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2.

Bryant broke an 0-for-15 streak, taking a 73 mph hanging curveball from Kershaw to opposite field for his first homer. His second homer was crushed to left field on a 93 mph fastball from a Dodger reliever.

Jason Motte picked up the save on his birthday – his 2nd of the year. (Save. Not birthday.)

But the big story may have been the weather. Tornadoes touched down south of Chicago, and the skies over Wrigley Field were pretty outstanding, as evidenced in the picture above. Here’s another.

CIJhIubWcAAxgQM

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

I see Yadier Molina has snuck into the division’s leader boards for batting average (see below). Since May 5th, when he was hitting just .231, Molina has batted .329 in 42 games.

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 45 24 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 39 30 6.0 L3
Chicago Cubs 38 30 6.5 W3
Cincinnati Reds 32 36 12.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 25 46 21.0 L2

* * *

Schedule

32-36 REDS Smith (NR)
39-30 PIRATES Locke (4-3, 4.74)
6:05 PM CT
45-24 CARDINALS TBD
30-41 Marlins TBD
6:10 PM CT
39-32 Dodgers Greinke (5-2, 1.81)
38-30 CUBS Hammel (5-2, 2.89)
7:05 PM CT
36-35 Mets Niese (3-7, 4.21)
25-46 BREWERS Fiers (3-7, 4.50)
7:10 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

AVG
Jhonny Peralta (STL) .311
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .308
Matt Holliday (STL) .303
Joey Votto (CIN) .296
Yadier Molina (STL) .295
ERA
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.78
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 2.05
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.80
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.85
Jason Hammel (CHC) 2.89

Pirates Swept, Ending 8-Game Win Streak; About Tabata

Max Scherzer tossed a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. But it came attached  with some controversy.

Max Scherzer tossed a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. But it came attached with some controversy.

The big story around the division over the weekend was a near perfect game pitched against the Pittsburgh Pirates by Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals.

Scherzer retired 26 straight men to the start game before facing pinch-hitter Jose Tabata, one out away from tossing the 24th perfect game in MLB history.

I hopped over to the Wikipedia entry to see the exact date of the last perfect game and an entry was already in there for Scherzer’s perfect game as somebody wanted to make sure they had added something the second that the 27th out was recorded.

I was about an hour south of Chicago, visiting my dad for Father’s Day, and we were watching the game together, thinking we might be witnessing history. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Scherzer recorded two quick strikes as Tabata fouled off a fastball and slider. Scherzer had the look of a pit bull from the 8th inning onward and I didn’t see any way he wouldn’t get the job done. It just looked meant to be.

Even the baseball gods seemed to be looking out for him.  The 8th inning ended with a Pedro Alvarez grounder in the hole to the right side that looked a single, only the shift allowed the chance of a ground out, a sure play was made and with Alvarez’s lack of speed, the 24th out was recorded.

Versus Tabata, Scherzer followed up with two balls before inducing foul balls on three straight 2-2 pitches.

I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but it always seems to me like if you get into a situation where the pitcher can’t put the batter away and he keeps fouling off pitch after pitch that it’s damned near inevitable for the batter to come away with the win in that plate appearance.

After three fouls balls, doubt started to creep into my mind. I pictured a walk. A double laced down the right field line. Something that would break it up.

But I certainly didn’t expect what happened.

Scherzer threw a slider inside.  A slider that didn’t quite slide.  The pitch caught Tabata on the elbow.

Both my father and I immediately shouted a bit at the screen because it sure looked like Tabata had dropped his elbow into the pitch.

Deliberately.

The replay pretty well confirmed what we had seen on the initial pitch – he appeared to lower his left elbow, making sure the pitch caught him on the elbow guard.

I know the rule book states that a batter must make an effort to get out of the way of the pitch or the hit batter ruling can be taken away. It’s rare, but I’ve seen it happen a few times.  I seem to recall seeing a few HBPs taken away from Reed Johnson a few years ago, for example.

I’ve read a lot of thoughts on this, but my dad and I both found it to be kind of “Bush League” and I still maintain that that’s exactly what it was.

Len Kasper (TV play-by-play man for the Chicago Cubs) Tweeted out something to the tune of “Since when is it a batter’s job to help a pitcher get a perfect game? I must have missed the memo.”

I’m not a big fan of the “unwritten rules of the game”, but… I guess there are some cases where I make an exception.

Stealing bases when you’re up by 8 runs in the later innings, for example. Yep. That one is off-sides to me. Not cool.

A batter running across the pitcher’s mound on his way back to the dugout? That’s not worth a fight. I don’t care about that one. Not a fan of pitcher’s feeling that the pile of dirt somehow belongs to them.

Dropping a bunt to break up a perfect game, like Ben Davis famously did in May of 2001 against Curt Schilling? That one didn’t bother me. And I bring that up because that’s a play that seemed to be brought up in comparison to what Tabata did.

The differences, however, are pretty large.

In the Schilling game, his team was up just 2-0. It was the 8th inning, with one out. There was still plenty of time left for the San Diego Padres to come back and win that game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Schilling was still 5 outs away from the perfecto. A single would bring the tying run to the plate. There were plenty of circumstances which, put together, make me feel that manager Bob Brenly has always been in the wrong about this.

But on Saturday, Tabata and the Pirates were down to their final out. 1 out remaining, not 5. And his team was down 6 runs, not 2. Down 2 with 1 out in the 8th is a lot different than down 6 with 2 outs in the 9th.

In fact, in Davis’ situation, his team had a 7.4% win expectancy. Still got a decent pulse there.  That’s slightly better than a 1 in 14 chance of winning. Not the best odds, but still plenty manageable.

In Tabata’s situation, however…  Well, let’s look at the play-by-play data from 1957 onward that is used to construct Win Expectancy charts.  In the 57-plus years of data, do you know how many times a visiting team has been down by 6 runs with nobody on base and two outs in the 9th inning and come back to win?

The answer is zero.

Now I don’t expect Tabata to be aware of that fact, but he had to at least be aware that his team had virtually no chance of winning that game.

Granted, some of this is also fueled by some big Pirates fans I have known who have gone on and on about how much they dislike Tabata and how they found him to be a horrible person. And the post-game write-up in the Post-Gazette didn’t help, as it made reference to Tabata giving a little smirk and joking about it afterwards in a way that kind of made it sound like “Ya, it was a cheap thing to do, but I’m really happy to be hated by millions of baseball fans right now. Screw everybody. Is there a baby nearby that I can steal candy from?”

Sure, Tabata is fighting to maintain a roster spot, but I can’t imagine drawing a hit-by-pitch in that situation is really going to do anything to convince the front office that he belongs on the team.  A player whose OPS+ has hovered in the low 80s for the last two seasons isn’t convincing anybody he’s found his swing by doing what he did.

To the credit of Scherzer, who still celebrated wildly after recording the no-hitter by retiring the 28th man he faced, he had this to say after the game, putting the blame squarely on himself:

It was a slider that just backed up, and it hit him. I don’t blame him for doing it. I mean, heck, I’d probably do the same thing.

Tabata is going to be portrayed as a villain for a long time to come and I can’t really argue against that. Yes, your job is to win games. But there is also honor in sports. Or at least there should be.

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 45 24 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 39 30 6.0 L3
Chicago Cubs 37 30 7.0 W2
Cincinnati Reds 32 36 12.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 25 46 21.0 L2

* * *

Schedule

39-31 Dodgers Kershaw (5-4, 3.29)
37-30 CUBS Wada (1-1, 3.68)
7:05 PM CT

* * *

National League Ranks

Batting Pitching
St. Louis 10th 1st
Chicago 5th 5th
Cincinnati 9th 9th
Pittsburgh 11th 2nd
Milwaukee 14th 14th

Pirates Run Win Streak To 8

Mark Melancon has been lights out.

Mark Melancon has been lights out.

Sure, it’s only beating up on the Chicago White Sox – a team that has struggled mightily in 2015 and has now lost seven straight games – but the Pittsburgh Pirates will still take it.

The Bucs’ winning streak was extended to 8 games after a 3-2 win last night, led once again by ace Gerrit Cole.

Cole improved to 11-2 on the year with a 1.78 ERA, allowing 2 runs in 7 innings of work on 3 hits and 3 walks.

Five Pirates had multi-hit games, including a 3-for-3 night by Corey Hart at DH.

Another spotless inning for closer Mark Melancon, who picked up his 23rd save, striking out a pair in the 9th. He has not allowed a run since May 11th, posting a 0.00 ERA in his last 18 appearances (18.1 IP); if you bump that back to games from April 23rd onwards, his ERA is 0.33 across his last 27 games (27.1 IP).

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The St. Louis Cardinals offense continued to stall as they dropped their second in a row, losing 2-1 against the Minnesota Twins.

All three runs in the game came on solo homers, with Jason Heyward (6th) putting the Cards up 1-0 in the top of the 7th, only to have Joe Mauer tie it up in the bottom of the 8th and Kennys Vargas win it in the 9th.

The homers were allowed by Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Villanueva, respectively.

The Cards have gone 12 straight games scoring 4 or fewer runs. Of course, they’ve also gone 7 straight games allowing 3 or fewer.

Jaime Garcia went 6 shutout innings as he continues to pitch lights out since getting called up to the rotation. He’s sporting a 1.76 ERA in 6 starts thus far, though has just a 2-3 record to show for it. In fact, the St. Louis offense has been shut out in three of Garcia’s six starts. Consider his numbers on a high-powered team – he’d likely be more like 5-0 right now.

Mark Reynolds has some pop in his bat, but his obscene strike out rates really hurt the Cardinals in Thursday night’s contest. In the top of the 9th of a tie game with Matt Carpenter on 3rd base and one out, Reynolds struck out flailing at a pitch well off the plate.  Yadier Molina then flew out routinely to right field to end the inning.

Carpenter had a pair of doubles and is 5-for-11 during a 3-game hitting streak.

The second straight loss for the Redbirds coupled with the Bucs’ winning streak means their lead in the NL Central is down to 4 games heading into Friday.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Chicago Cubs were 4-3 losers against the Cleveland Indians in a game with multiple rain delays.

Hammel lasted just 4 innings, having run his pitch count up to 86 already. He allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 2 hits and a pair of walks, striking out 6.  An hour-long rain delay in the top of the 5th led to a shortened night of work.

Kyle Schwarber had another great night at the plate, showing some hustle on the bases that is unexpected for a guy who looks like a tank. He also popped an opposite-field homer; the first of his MLB career.

Without a position he can really play regularly with any aptitude at the Major League level, he’s still getting sent down after inter-league play is over. But he’s definitely shown he can mash with the big boys. He has a nice short swing and the ball comes off his bat like it’s shot out of a cannon. He’ll head to AAA after this weekend.

The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs after the Schwarber homer, and then the rain fell.  When the game resumed, Cody Allen came on to pitch and got Miguel Montero to fly out to left, erasing the threat.

Kris Bryant extended his hitting streak to 14 games.  He’s batting .351 with 5 doubles during this stretch of games.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds game against the visiting Detroit Tigers was called on account of rain sweeping across Ohio.

Recently injured starting pitcher Jon Moscot is undergoing surgery to repair his dislocated left (non-throwing) shoulder. Having gone 1-1 with a 4.63 ERA across three starts, Moscot should be out the rest of the season and good to go for 2016.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers lost their 6th straight (ho hum), defeated 3-2 to the Kansas City Royals.

K.C. took an early 3-0 lead on starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson (L 3-8, 5 IP, 3 ER, 11 H, 2 BB, 0 SO), then allowed Milwaukee to creep back into the game, only to come up short.

Down by one, Milwaukee loaded the bases in the top of the 8th inning, only to have Aramis Ramirez pop out and Scooter Gennett strike out looking at a Wade Davis curveball in the middle of the plate.

Carlos Gomez (hip) was out of the lineup again. He’s played in only 3 of the Brew Crew’s last 9 games.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 43 23 L2
Pittsburgh Pirates 39 27 4.0 W8
Chicago Cubs 35 29 7.0 L1
Cincinnati Reds 30 35 12.5 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 24 44 20.0 L6

* * *

Schedule

39-27 PIRATES Burnett (6-2, 1.89)
34-33 Nationals Ross (1-1, 3.46)
6:05 PM CT
43-23 CARDINALS Lyons (1-0, 5.00)
23-45 Phillies Aumont (NR)
6:05 PM CT
29-39 Marlins Haren (6-3, 3.22)
30-35 REDS Leake (3-4, 4.35)
6:10 PM CT
35-29 CUBS Hendricks (2-2, 3.80)
36-30 Twins Hughes (4-6, 4.79)
7:10 PM CT
24-44 BREWERS Jungmann (1-1, 2.25)
28-38 Rockies De La Rosa (4-2, 4.91)
7:40 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Todd Frazier (CIN) 3.7
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 2.8
Joey Votto (CIN) 2.7
Jhonny Peralta (CIN) 2.4
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) 2.2
WAR (pitchers)
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 2.7
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.5
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.3
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.0
2-way tie 1.8

Wada Bad-ass

Wada Bad-Ass

Wada Bad-Ass

Hard not to lead with the Chicago Cubs, who shutout the Cleveland Indians while scoring a pair of touchdowns and a field goal (17-0).

They received 7 shutout innings of work from starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, who was pretty much on the cusp of losing his spot in the rotation.

Every member of the lineup had a hit, including multi-hit games for the kids: Kyle Schwarber (4 hits including a triple in his first Major League start), Anthony Rizzo (2 hits including his 12th homer, snapping an 0-for-20 stretch), Kris Bryant (2 hits with a grand slam off of outfielder-turned-emergency-pitcher David Murphy), and Addison Russell (2 hits including his 5th homer and a spectacular play in the field).

Chris Denorfia also homered and doubled, driving in 4 runs for the Cubs.

In the post-game press conference, Wada had this to say about his big day:

I am bad-ass.

See the full interview here.

It was the most runs the Cubs had scored in a game since a 19-0 win over the San Diego Padres by that ill-fated 1969 squad.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

If not for a hugely lop-sided game and the ability to include a non-English speaker calling himself “bad-ass”, the lead story would surely be the Pittsburgh Pirates, who ran their winning streak up to 7 with a 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.

All 3 Pirate runs scored in the 1st inning – Andrew McCutchen had an RBI single and Jung Ho Kang popped a 2-run homer, his 4th of the season.

Jeff Locke wasn’t able to keep the shutout parade going, allowing 2 runs in 6 innings of work. He struck out 8 against 2 walks and 3 hits allowed.

Mark Melancon collected his 22nd save with a perfect 9th inning.

It wasn’t all sunshine for the Bucs, though, as Starling Marte had to leave the game in the 9th inning. Marte appeared to injure his left ankle while hitting the first base bag in the previous inning.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Jeff Sullivan wrote about Cutch’s post-April rebound over at Fangraphs. If you like looking at feet, you will probably enjoy it. Check it out over there.

* * *

The St. Louis Cardinals saw their 5-game winning streak end with a 3-1 loss visiting the Minnesota Twins.

Carlos Martinez threw effectively, allowing just 2 runs (1 earned) in 6.2 innings of work, while striking out 6.

The turning point came in the 4th inning when the Twins had men at the corners with one out, down 1-0. Martinez’s pickoff attempt at first went just wide of first baseman Mark Reynolds‘ grasp, glancing off his glove for an E-3 and allowing the tying run to score from 3rd and move the runner from 1st up to 3rd. That runner, Eduardo Nunez, then scored on a sacrifice fly to put Minnesota up 2-1.

But the offense hit 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, not giving Martinez any kind of support.

Jason Heyward had the sole multi-hit day at the plate for the Birds, upping his average to .259 this season.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Closer Trevor Rosenthal, who hasn’t pitched since June 13th, says he’s ready to resume closing duties but that he’ll be keeping a close eye on some arm fatigue. Rosenthal has 21 saves in 29 appearances this season, posting a sterling 0.59 ERA to go with a 0.96 WHIP, striking out 9.8 men per 9 innings. He hasn’t allowed a run since May 3rd, boasting a perfect 0.00 ERA in his last 17 appearances.

* * *

The Todd Frazier Show continued, leading the Cincinnati Reds to an 8-4 win in 13 innings over the Detroit Tigers.

Fraizer’s walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning was his 2nd of the game and 22nd of the year.

Jay Bruce is hitting just .232 this season, but went 5-for-6 with a pair of doubles last night.

And Twitter-abuser Brayan Pena went 4-for-6 (.302) with his 8th double of the year.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Devin Mesoraco sounds close to officially ending his season after an aborted attempt to convert from catcher to outfielder. The hip injury isn’t getting any better and it sounds like he’s finally ready to concede the season to surgery.

In other Reds injury news, outfielder Marlon Byrd could be returning soon. Eligible to come off the DL this Thursday, he’s expected to play a pair of rehab games at AA before returning to the big league club for this weekend’s games.  Byrd had been an interesting stick for Cincy before his injury, hitting just .212 but also driving 10 of his 35 hits out of the park.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers were crushed again by the Kansas City Royals, this time by a 10-2 score that handed them their fifth straight loss.

Carlos Gomez was in the lineup at DH and had a pair of hits including a double. He’s been out of the lineup 5 of the Brewers’ last 7 games.

There is good news ahead for Milwaukee, however. There’s only 95 games left this season.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 43 22 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 38 27 5.0 W7
Chicago Cubs 35 28 7.0 W1
Cincinnati Reds 30 35 13.0 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 24 43 20.0 L5

* * *

Schedule

43-22 CARDINALS Garcia (2-3, 2.06)
35-30 Twins Pelfrey (5-3, 3.18)
12:10 PM CT
35-28 CUBS Hammel (5-2, 2.81)
30-34 Indians Salazar (6-2, 3.54)
6:10 PM CT
34-32 Tigers Verlander (0-0, 3.60)
30-35 REDS Leake (3-4, 4.35)
6:10 PM CT
24-43 BREWERS Nelson (3-7, 4.60)
37-25 Royals Guthrie (4-4, 5.79)
7:10 PM CT
38-27 PIRATES Cole (10-2, 1.71)
28-36 White Sox Samardzija (4-4, 4.84)
7:10 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .422
Matt Holliday (STL) .417
Kris Bryant (CHC) .398
Joey Votto (CIN) .398
Matt Carpenter (STL) .379
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.949
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 0.956
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.963
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.044
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.083
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