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.
* * *
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.
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||51||24||–||W6|
* * *
|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
|Anthony Rizzo (CHC)||.304|
|Jhonny Peralta (STL)||.303|
|Andrew McCutchen (PIT)||.294|
|Gerardo Parra (MIL)||.294|
|Yadier Molina (STL)||.293|
|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|
The Jon Lester / Max Scherzer showdown ended with a 3-0 win for the Washington Nationals, taking the rubber game against the Chicago Cubs.
It was yet another high-strikeout game for the Cubs, who fanned 13 times in Scherzer’s 7 shutout innings of work.
For his part, Lester did well, going 7 innings and allowing 2 runs (1 earned), striking out 10.
At the plate, Lester made history by going 0-for-2. Lester sett n MLB record for most consecutive at bats to start a career without a hit (59), breaking former San Diego Padre Joey Hamilton‘s record. He’s now tied with Hamilton for most consecutive plate appearances to start a career without a hit (66).
Starlin Castro had a multi-hit game, but also had a multi-error day in the field. That gives him five errors in his last nine games.
That’s back-to-back series losses for the Cubs now and things don’t get any easier – the Kansas City Royals are up next.
* * *
The Miami Marlins couldn’t hold down the lead, surrendering a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 7th as they lost 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Bucs sent 10 men to the plate, doing it in strange fashion as they started the inning with consecutive outs and nobody on base. Four singles, two walks, and another single followed and they suddenly found themselves with a 3-run lead that held up. Neil Walker had the unfortunate discussion of hitting into both the first and last outs of the inning.
Gerrit Cole improved to 7-2 on the year, allowing a pair of runs in 7 innings of work while also fanning 7.
Andrew McCutchen (.262) and Sean Rodriguez (.281) each had a pair of hits for the Pirates, who won their 6th straight.
Before this comeback win, Pittsburgh was 0-15 when trailing after 6 innings.
* * *
The St. Louis Cardinals came from behind to sweep the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 4-3 win Wednesday night.
Trailing 3-2, Jason Heyward led off the bottom of the 9th with a solo homer to tie it up.
With one out and the bases loaded, Jhonny Peralta grounded into what looked to be a potential 5-2-3 double play, sending the game into extra innings. Third baseman Yasmany Tomas made a clean grab of the grounder, coming home to force Peter Bourjos out at the plate. But catcher Jordan Pacheco‘s throw down to 1st base sailed well over the head of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, into right field for an error that allowed Matt Carpenter to score. Game over.
Matt Holliday made history in the game, reaching base for the 43rd straight game. Doing so in every game of the 2015 season thus far broke Albert Pujols’ National League record, set in 2008. There are five names ahead of him, but all did it in the American League. Next up? 44 – Harry Heilmann (1923 Tigers), 47 – Alvis Davis (1984 Mariners), 48 – Mark McGwire (1996 Athletics), 52 – Frank Thomas (1996 White Sox), 53 – Derek Jeter (1999 Yankees).
Holliday has a .433 on-base percentage this season, second only to the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo in the division.
On the injury front, Matt Adams‘ torn right quad could mean the end of his season. The expected recovery time is 3-4 months. In his place, Mark Reynolds will become the full-time first baseman. There’s some talk of calling up Xavier Scruggs to replace him, with Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch pointing out Scruggs’ power numbers and good batting average against lefties. Here’s the problem – 21 HR at AAA is nice, but what does that translate to over a full season in the MLB? 15? Maybe? And hitting lefties is something Reynolds already can do for you. You need a first baseman who can hit righties, the handedness of pitcher you will face 60% of the time. So now we’ll keep an eye on what deal the Cards can pull off both to bolster their rotation and first base.
CF Jon Jay could be returning for this weekend’s series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
* * *
The Cincinnati Reds couldn’t get a winning streak going one day after breaking a 9-game losing run, falling 6-4 at home to the Colorado Rockies.
Starting pitcher Mike Leake (L 2-4) was atrocious, allowing 6 runs in 5 innings of work and putting the team in a 5-1 hole after 2 innings.
Todd Frazier connected for his 14th home run of the year and Billy Hamilton stole his 18th base.
Reds manager Bryan Price held a closed-door meeting with the team following the loss. Things are bad in the Queen City.
The Reds are considering Johnny Cueto as Sunday’s starting pitcher.
* * *
The Milwaukee Brewers lost 3-1 to the San Francisco Giants.
Khris Davis had a pair of triples for Milwaukee.
Mike Fiers fell to 1-5, allowing 2 runs on 8 hits across 5 innings of work, starting on short rest.
Adam Lind, who had a monster April, is now mired in a 2-for-24 stretch. His 6th inning single broke up a run of 16 straight ABs without a hit.
That’s five straight losses now for the Brew Crew, who fell 15.5 games back. And we still have a few days left in May.
* * *
NL Central Leaders
|Anthony Rizzo (CHC)||.439|
|Matt Holliday (STL)||.433|
|Kris Bryant (CHC)||.393|
|Matt Carpenter (STL)||.389|
|Jason Hammel (CHC)||0.912|
|Johnny Cueto (CIN)||0.964|
|Michael Wacha (STL)||1.040|
|Jake Arrieta (CHC)||1.086|
|Gerrit Cole (PIT)||1.094|
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||31||16||–||W4|
* * *
|24-22||PIRATES||Burnett (4-1, 1.37)|
|23-25||Padres||Kennedy (2-4, 6.11)|
|9:10 PM CT|
The 9-game losing streak ended for the Cincinnati Reds last night when Skip Schumaker‘s looper over third base landed just inside the foul line, rolling into the corner for a walk-off double.
Marlon Byrd started the 9th by drawing a walk, moving to 2nd on a sacrifice laid down by Kristopher Negron, then scored on Schumaker’s hit.
Michael Lorenzen went 7 strong innings for Cincy, giving up 1 run on just 2 hits and 3 walks. The rookie is sporting a 3.12 ERA this year.
In other developments, an MRI of Johnny Cueto‘s stiff elbow revealed nothing more than the “standard” inflammation you see in a pitcher. With days off on the schedule both Thursday and Monday, there’s a good chance they’ll just push Cueto’s next start back a week. He’s 3-4 with a 3.03 ERA (3.33 FIP) this season, striking out 8.3 per 9.
Dave Fleming at Bill James Online has a lengthy article on Billy Hamilton, focusing on the Reds’ decline that started when he was dropped from the leadoff spot. Read it over here.
* * *
On the other side of streaks, the Pittsburgh Pirates won their 5th in a row, beating the Miami Marlins 5-1.
Josh Harrison has certainly found his stride and he kept it again last night, with two more hits including a double. After May 10th, he was hitting .173 but has now hit .431 with 7 extra-base hits in the last 12 games.
Also hitting is Jung Ho Kang, who has an 8-game hitting streak (.406) going after picking up a pair of singles.
Jeff Locke (W 3-2) went 5.2 shutout innings for the win, striking out 6.
* * *
Another 1-run win and another walk-off win for the Chicago Cubs, who came back to beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 last night.
The Cubs lead the league in 1-run wins, doing it last night by tying it in the 8th inning on this ridiculous homer by Kris Bryant, Hector Rondon picking off Yunel Escobar on this pretty bad base-running play (by the way, he almost ran himself into an out earlier when he started to go from 2nd to 3rd after a stolen base even though Addison Russell was standing 5 feet away from him with the ball in his hand) and then finally ending it when Russell hit a ball over Denard Span in the bottom of the 9th.
It was a good capper for the 21-year old Russell, who had a 3-hit night to snap an 0-for-10 stretch.
Kyle Hendricks came off strong from the shutout in his prior start, going 7 innings and allowing 1 run.
That snapped a mini losing streak for the Cubs, who go back against the Nats for the rubber game tonight. And it’s a fun one – Jon Lester versus Max Scherzer.
* * *
Jaime Garcia got his first win of 2015 as the St. Louis Cardinals survived a rough start and beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-4.
Matt Adams, limping into 2nd base on a double in the 5th inning, left with a quad injury. A trip to the DL is expected with Mark Reynolds taking over as the regular first baseman.
Matt Belisle and Seth Maness combined for 3 shutout innings of relief work, the latter recording his 3rd save when he entered the game with 2 out and men on 2nd & 3rd. Regular closer Trevor Rosenthal had the night off, barring emergency, after tossing 2 innings Monday night.
Matt Holliday tied a franchise record by reaching base for the 42nd straight time to start the season. That equaled a mark set by Albert Pujols in 2008. Holliday is hitting .322 after picking up a pair of hits Tuesday.
To the friend who I suggested keep an eye on Marco Gonzales as a fantasy baseball sleeper, I truly apologize. The southpaw will be out most of June with a “shoulder impingement” injury. Gonzales was in talks to replace Adam Wainwright in the rotation, but couldn’t take the job because of a pectoral injury at AAA. Garcia, also injured, got better quicker and made a decent showing in the minors, earning his spot. Gonzales had struck out 7 across 6 innings of work in his most recent start.
* * *
The Milwaukee Brewers were 6-3 losers at home against the San Francisco Giants.
Aramis Ramirez had a pair of hits and collected his 6th homer of the season.
Matt Garza (L 2-7) continued his nightmare season, escalating his ERA to 6.00 after allowing 5 runs in as many innings of work, surrendering 8 hits and walking 3 to go with 7 punch outs.
Jonathan Lucroy begins a 4-day minor league rehab assignment today and could be on the active roster when the Brew Crew starts a series against the Cards on Monday.
Also returning from the DL is shortstop Jean Segura (broken finger), who should return to action on Friday.
* * *
NL Central Leaders
|Todd Frazier (CIN)||13|
|Ryan Braun (MIL)||12|
|Marlon Byrd (CIN)||10|
|Francisco Liriano (PIT)||64|
|Gerrit Cole (PIT)||63|
|Jake Arrieta (CHC)||62|
|Lance Lynn (STL)||62|
|Johnny Cueto (CIN)||60|
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||30||16||–||W3|
* * *
|18-26||Rockies||Kendrick, K (1-6, 6.58)|
|19-26||REDS||Leake (2-3, 4.14)|
|11:35 AM CT|
|18-29||Marlins||Hand (0-1, 5.48)|
|23-22||PIRATES||Cole, G (6-2, 2.05)|
|11:35 AM CT|
|27-20||Giants||Vogelsong (3-2, 4.60)|
|16-31||BREWERS||Fiera (1-4, 4.63)|
|12:40 PM CT|
|27-19||Nationals||Scherzer (5-3, 1.67)|
|25-20||CUBS||Lester (4-2, 3.56)|
|7:05 PM CT|
|21-24||Diamondbacks||Collmenter (3-5, 5.19)|
|30-16||CARDINALS||Lynn (3-4, 3.46)|
|7:15 PM CT|
The Pittsburgh Pirates took a step towards earning a series split, taking game 3 of their 4-game home series against the Chicago Cubs 4-3.
It wasn’t without drama, as the Comeback Cubs staged a rally in the 8th inning to make it a 1-run game, putting the first four batters on base before Tony Watson retired David Ross on an RBI fielder’s choice, Jonathan Herrera on a fly out and Addison Russell on a liner.
Watson would continue on into the 9th to pick up the 2-inning save. (Is it 1985 again?)
Kris Bryant, who got his first action in center field after Dexter Fowler left with some tightness in his groin, struck out with Anthony Rizzo representing the tying run on 1st base, ending the game.
* * *
Kolten Wong found inspiration by watching past footage of himself on his iPad and then brought that out to the field with a 3-hit day, including a homer, driving in 3 runs and making some great defensive plays to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a wild 7-5 win over the Washington Nationals.
As a guy who has always had some weird fascination with second base, those are the kinds of plays I dream about.
Like Wong, Matt Adams also homered and doubled.
Matt Carpenter only had one hit, though it was his 3rd homer of the season.
* * *
The Johnny Cueto / Jimmy Nelson match-up lived up to it’s billing and ended with the Cincinnati Reds handing the Milwaukee Brewers their 8th straight loss.
Billy Hamilton scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 9th, breaking a 1-1 tie when Francisco Rodriguez uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the speedster to cross home.
It was kind of a weird play, with Rodriguez’s pitch going about 57 feet, bouncing in the middle of the left-handed batter’s box with a right-handed batter at the plate.
The catcher, Martin Maldonado, got on the ball quickly and made a perfect throw to Rodriguez coming across the plate. Hamilton, who chose to cross home plate standing up, narrowly avoided a potentially nasty collision with the pitcher at the plate. Instead, he dodged Rodriguez’s tag by about a foot, crossing home safely.
Aroldis Chapman retired three in a row (of course), book-ending the inning of work with strikeouts (again, of course).
Nelson went 8 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and a pair of walks, striking out 5. He has a sparkling 1.35 ERA.
Cueto also went 8 innings and allowed 1 run, though on 5 hits to go with 2 walks and 8 punch-outs. His ERA fell to 1.86 in 2015. On the “red flag” side, Cueto went 125 pitches in the start. With some mediocre middle relief options and coming off of the 16-10 slug-fest the night before, it seems Cueto was bound to be pushed tonight, particularly in a tight ballgame.
In some bit of weirdness, umpire Angel Hernandez called Cueto for two balks in the game. The pitcher had been called for just one during his masterful 2014 season.
* * *
Some recent Fangraphs.com goodies to munch on:
Mike Pitriello (Fangraphs.com) on the Brewers failure to recognizing that this season would be a flop. Granted it has gone even worse than expected, but there still has been no signs that the team is building towards anything either. Read here.
Dave Cameron wrote about the Cubs going all on with Addison Russell. Read here.
Chris Mitchell earlier projected Bryant. And now he’s posted a tempered projection on Russell. Maybe not ready for stardom in 2015 and, with plate discipline problems, possibly not ever. But still a good chance to be a high quality player. Read here.
Jeff Sullivan on Bryant’s sick ability to handle an inside pitch and punch it outside for an opposite field double off the wall. What? Read here.
Outside of Fangraphs…
Bill Brink at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, despite his struggles, Mark Melancon is still the Pirates closer. His pitches have been coming in about 3 mph slower than last year’s solid campaign. Read here.
* * *
|8-6||CHICAGO||Hendricks (0-0, 6.10)|
|7-8||PITTSBURGH||Locke (2-0, 1.93)|
|11:35 AM CT|
|8-7||CINCINNATI||Bailey, H (0-1, 7.94)|
|2-13||MILWAUKEE||Lohse (0-3, 10.34)|
|12:40 PM CT|
|9-4||ST. LOUIS||Wacha (2-0, 1.35)|
|7-8||Washington||Scherzer (1-1, 0.83)|
|3:05 PM CT|
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||9||4||–||W1|
I 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
* * *
|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|
* * *
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.
|0-2||Pittsburgh||Burnett, AJ (0-0, -)|
|2-0||Cincinnati||DeSclafani (0-0, -)|
|11:35 AM CT|
There’s a link down below, but the most interesting thing I saw this weekend was Tony Campana’s speed getting the better of perennial Cy Young candidate Roy Halladay. It’s a good thing for the Cubs to have that kind of speed out there, considering they have only one player (Bryan LaHair) who is at all competent at knocking the ball out of the park.
This is one where the Sabermetric crowd may be thinking “well, duh” but the team may have made a mistake when they left Campana off the opening day roster. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and I guess nobody expected Marlon Byrd to have a batting average roughly equal to my 3-year old’s weight, but Campana posted a 1.5 WAR (per Fangraphs) in 95 games last season. That pro-rates to a 2.6 over a 162-game season, assuming he stayed healthy, which is decent. Not world-beater, but right on pace with what Byrd (2.7) would’ve had over a 162-game pace.
One other factor to consider is that Tony C didn’t even get a chance to show off his speed last season, getting only 155 plate appearances in those 95 games. Given a chance to get more PA, would Campana have been more valuable (per WAR) than Byrd? Likely. Was leaving him off the 2012 roster also a mistake? Also likely.
Look, I don’t know that that wasn’t a fluke, but the Cubs have little to nothing else going for them, and Campana is pretty entertaining to watch. The Cubs need something like that to get me actually interesting in watching them play in 2012.
PIRATES (9-12) @ Braves (14-8)
6:10 PM CT
Why You Might Watch This: Do I think James McDonald is a good pitcher? No. (And the peripheral stats back that up.) But he is coming off of a great outing and it will be interesting/revealing to see how he fares against a team that’s playing pretty well in 2012.
- The Bucs lost 2011 2nd round selection Josh Bell with a left knee injury this past weekend.
- Garrett Jones invites 5-year old girl to steal the bat from him.
Mets (13-9) @ ASTROS (8-14)
7:05 PM CT
Why You Might Watch This: Knuckleballs. Other than that, I think it’s awesome that we have two pitchers with negative WAR going head-to-head.
- The Houston Chronicle wants to know how much you would pay for something that Nolan Ryan once peed on. That’s… kinda’ weird.
- Don’t give up on Jordan Lyles!
BREWERS (10-12) @ Padres (7-16)
9:05 PM CT
Why You Might Watch This: I’m staring to wonder if the Brewers will ever get/stay above .500, but a series against the Padres is a good way to help your chances. And, also, seriously?! Another negative WAR match-up?!
- Nyjer Morgan’s loss is Carlos Gomez’s gain.
CUBS (8-14) @ Phillies (10-12)
6:05 PM CT
Why You Might Watch This: Honestly, there’s never a good reason to watch Chris Volstad pitch. Every time I see this guy throw I see a guy who doesn’t appear terribly interested in doing what he does for a living. Pass.
- Tony Campana helped the Cubs beat Roy Halladay this weekend. Accent on Cubs, beat and Halladay.
- Count Jonathan Papelbon among Theo Epstein’s fans.
Other Team News
- Chris Carpenter still not close to coming back.
- And again…
- Ken Rosenthal breaking down the NL Central for us.
- Poor David Freese…
- Scott Rolen and Chris Heisey among several Reds trying to heat up.
- Speaking of today’s Campana-centric focus on what speed can do for you, he’s more love for Reds’ prospect Billy Hamilton.