Tagged: Kyle Schwarber

Lackey Leads Cards To 4th Straight Win

Kolten Wong celebrates with teammates after scoring to put them ahead by a pair of runs.

Kolten Wong celebrates with teammates after scoring to put them ahead by a pair of runs.

The St. Louis Cardinals were 3-1 winners over the Arizona Diamondbacks last night, running their winning streak up to 4 games.

John Lackey improved to 11-8, throwing a steady 7 innings of work, allowing 1 run on 7 hits and a walk. Lackey served up a solo homer to slugger Paul Goldschmidt in the 1st and then tossed 6.1 shutout innings to finish off his day.

Kolten Wong‘s RBI double in the 7th inning broke a 1-1 tie and Matt Carpenter‘s RBI single plated Wong to pad the lead.  Since taking three games off to get his head straight, Wong has three hits in the last two nights.

Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 40th save of the season, joining Pirates closer Mark Melancon in that club. Rosenthal is out this weekend on paternity leave with his wife scheduled to be induced into labor tomorrow.

The Redbirds got more solid defense, turning 3 double plays.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates scored 6 in the 2nd inning en route to an easy 7-2 win over the Miami Marlins, winning for the 11th time in their last 14 games.

Andrew McCutchen had a pair of extra-base hits – his 20th homer and 32nd double – driving in 4 runs.

Jeff Locke (W 7-8) went 7 innings, allowing a pair of runs on 5 hits and a walk.  It snapped a 6-game streak in which Locke had failed to escape the 6th inning.  He had gone 1-2 with a 6.39 ERA in that stretch.

The Bucs remain 4.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central.  September should provide plenty of drama with those two teams battling for the division title.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Chicago Cubs fell back to even in their series with the San Francisco Giants, falling 4-2 and snapping a 6-game winning streak.

Buster Posey hit an RBI double over the head of Chris Coghlan in right field to break a 2-2 tie in the 6th.

Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant each had a double and single, with Bryant driving in a pair of runs to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the 1st.

Even with the loss, the Cubs are still 21-5 in their last 26 games.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett is feeling well after throwing a two inning simulated game and is hopeful to be back soon. He’s scheduled to throw another simulated game – this time three innings – on Sunday as he tries to work his way back into the rotation for the postseason run.

The often entertaining Adam Bittner of the Post-Gazette had a nice write-up on the use of Pirates “first baseman” Pedro Alvarez. Check it out over there.

Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs.com wrote up 23-year-old Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco, focusing on his improved handling of southpaws. Last year, Polanco had a slash line of .171/.222/.244 against left-handed pitchers. This year? .214/.275/.321. Still not great, but improving. FYI: His numbers against RHP are pretty similar between last year and this. By the way, both Polanco and Alvarez sat last night against the left-handed Chris Narveson. Read it.

Anthony Castrovince takes a look at 2015’s Most Impactful MLB Managers and, wouldn’t you know it, 3 of the top 6 are from the NL Central. The Bucs’ Clint Hurdle comes in at #6, the Cards’ Mike Matheny at #4 and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon is #1. Read it at Sports On Earth.

* * * * * * * * *

Joey Votto continues to have a monster season, upping his on-base percentage yet another 10 points this past week to hit .446 at the top of the NL Central Leader Board.

In 14 games played since August 12th, Votto has a .571 OBP to go along with a .372 AVG, .837 SLG, 1.409 OPS, 5 HR and 5 2B. That’s spanning 63 plate appearances. Unreal.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 81 45 W4
Pittsburgh Pirates 76 49 4.5 W1
Chicago Cubs 73 52 7.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 53 74 28.5 L4
Cincinnati Reds 52 73 28.5 L2

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 76 49 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 73 52
San Francisco Giants 67 59 6.5
Washington Nationals 63 62 10.0

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

69-56 Dodgers Greinke (13-3, 1.67)
52-73 REDS DeSclafani (7-9, 3.97)
11:35 AM CT
73-52 CUBS Haren (8-8, 3.76)
67-59 Giants Bumgarner (15-6, 3.02)
2:45 PM CT
76-49 PIRATES Cole (14-7, 2.49)
51-76 Marlins Nicolino (2-1, 3.77)
6:10 PM CT
81-45 CARDINALS Martinez (12-6, 2.85)
62-64 Diamondbacks De La Rosa (11-5, 4.32)
8:40 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .446
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .400
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .396
Kris Bryant (CHC) .368
Jung Ho Kang (PIT) .364
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.98
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.09
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.12
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.13

Power Surge: Yadi Makes History

Yadier Molina homered for the 2nd time in 3 nights.

Yadier Molina homered for the 2nd time in 3 nights.

Yadier Molina‘s 100th career homer lifted the St. Louis Cardinals as they took the rubber game against the San Francisco Giants with a 4-3 win at home.

In the 7th, Tommy Pham sped from 3rd base to score the tying run, getting in ahead of a throw home with the infield playing in.

Molina, batting cleanup for the first time in 2015, hit his 4th homer of the season in the 8th inning, breaking a 3-3 tie. After going much of the season without a homer, the thinner version of Molina homered for the 2nd time in the series. He went 3-for-4 on the night.

Trevor Rosenthal pitched a spotless 9th, striking out a pair for his 38th save.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

J.A. Happ went 6 shutout innings to guide the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mark Melancon had 3 strikeouts in the 9th (all on curveballs) to collect save number 38.

Sean Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with an RBI out of the #8 spot in the lineup, helping to atone for a big error in last night’s game.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Make it three straight losses for the Chicago Cubs, who allowed double digit runs for the second straight night – the first time that’s happened to them this season.

If you want to know how bad things went for the Cubs, the Detroit Tigers starting pitcher homered to center field in his first career at bat in the majors.

To be fair, the wind was blowing straight out to center at 15 mph, but still.

The 15-8 loss to the Tigers knocked the Cubs 9 games back in the division, although the Giants’ loss to the Redbirds kept them with the same lead in the Wild Card chase.

Jon Lester (L 8-9) lasted just 2.2 innings, allowing 7 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks, serving up 3 homers.

If you’re a Cubs fan with an eye on the future, it will please you to know that the kids were alright. Kris Bryant hit his 17th homer in a 4-for-4 night and Kyle Schwarber hit his 10th. It was Schwarber’s 2nd straight game with a long ball.

There’s always next year, folks.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Leaderboard Trends

In his last 12 games, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli has a .429 on-base percentage.

In 16 August games, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant has a .463 on-base percentage.

In contrast, Pirates infielder Jung-Ho Kang has a .233 OBP in his last 6 games. Since ending a recent 10-game hitting streak, Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter has a .250 OBP in his most recent 5 games.

Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano has a 1.75 WHIP in his last 4 starts. In that timeframe, he has gone 2-0 with a 5.82 ERA, allowing 29 hits in 21.2 innings of work.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 77 43 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 71 47 5.0 W2
Chicago Cubs 67 51 9.0 L3
Cincinnati Reds 51 67 25.0 L5
Milwaukee Brewers 52 70 26.0 W1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 71 47 +4.0
Chicago Cubs 67 51
San Francisco Giants 65 55 3.0
Washington Nationals 60 59 7.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

65-55 Giants Peavy (3-5, 4.18)
71-47 PIRATES Morton (7-4, 4.36)
6:05 PM CT
58-61 Diamondbacks Corbin (3-3, 3.43)
51-67 REDS Lamb (0-1, 7.50)
6:10 PM CT
53-67 Braves Foltynewicz (4-4, 5.61)
67-51 CUBS Arrieta (14-6, 2.39)
7:05 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .436
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .401
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .398
Francisco Cervelli (PIT) .375
Kris Bryant (CHC) .367
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.99
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.09
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.11
Dan Haren (CHC) 1.12

Pirates Gain Some Ground Despite Fielding Gaffes

Pedro Florimon's 2nd hit of the season was a big one.

Pedro Florimon’s 2nd hit of the season was a big one.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks went 15 innings last night with the Bucs finally coming out winners.

The Pirates took an 8-3 lead into the 8th inning, only to allow ‘Zona to tie the game up and send it to extras.

Francisco Liriano went 7 innings, allowing 5 runs. He allowed the first two men to reach base in the 8th before turning the game over to the pen.

Mark Melancon entered the 9th with a 2-run lead going for the save, but errors at the corner infield positions (3B Jung Ho Kang and 1B Sean Rodriguez) led to a pair of unearned runs and the tie ballgame.

Pedro Florimon‘s two-out triple in the bottom of the 15th scored Francisco Cervelli to give the Pirates a game gained on the Cardinals in the division. Floimon had entered the game as a pinch-runner in the 8th. It was just his 2nd hit of the season.

Though he has excelled in other metrics, Starling Marte popped his first homer since July 1st.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The St. Louis Cardinals were shut out for the first time in three weeks, falling 2-0 to the San Francisco Giants.

The Cards managed just four base runners, with the top four in the order accounting for a double, single and pair of walks but nary a run.

The Giants picked up runs in the 6th and 7th, the latter coming in bizarre fashion as Madison Bumgarner was used as a pinch-hitter (and singled) and then Brandon Belt was hit on the knee by Randy Choate with the bases loaded, pushing a run across.

Lance Lynn fell to 9-8 after allowing 2 runs in 6.2 innings of work, striking out 6. Lynn allowed just 4 hits but also walked 5.

In four August starts, Lynn is 1-3 with a 4.58 ERA, walking 12 men in 17.2 innings of work.

Nursing a tight hamstring, Jason Heyward is expecting to return to the lineup for the Cardinals on Friday.

In possible good news for the Pirates and Cubs, the Giants’ Hunter Pence was put on the 15-day DL with an oblique strain. Pence has put up a slash line of .275/.327/.478 this year. After having appeared in every game during the last two seasons, he has played in just 52 games this year.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Chicago Cubs played too late for me to pay attention in a rain-soaked suck-fest, losing 10-8 at home to the Detroit Tigers.

Starting pitcher Jason Hammel had a rough outing, allowing 5 runs on 9 hits and a walk in just 3 innings of work. He served up three long balls.

The Cubs trailed 6-2 early on but scratched their way back into a tie game, thanks in large part to rookie Kyle Schwarber‘s 3-run homer (9) in the 5th.

But reliever Pedro Strop imploded, allowing 3 runs in the 8th, and that was it for the Cubs who lost a game in the Wild Card race.

It was the first time the Cubs lost consecutive games since a 3-game skid from July 24th through 26th.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 76 43 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 70 47 5.0 W1
Chicago Cubs 67 50 8.0 L2
Cincinnati Reds 51 66 24.0 L4
Milwaukee Brewers 51 70 26.0 L2

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 70 47 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 67 50
San Francisco Giants 65 54 3.0
Washington Nationals 59 59 8.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

49-70 Marlins Koehler (8-10, 3.68)
51-70 BREWERS Peralta (3-7, 4.07)
1:10 PM CT
58-60 Diamondbacks Ray (3-8, 3.29)
70-47 PIRATES Happ (4-7, 4.64)
6:05 PM CT
72-46 Royals Guthrie (8-7, 5.63)
51-66 REDS Sampson (2-1, 3.18)
6:10 PM CT
65-54 Giants Cain (2-3, 6.05)
76-43 CARDINALS Garcia (5-4, 1.57)
6:15 PM CT
57-61 Tigers Norris (2-2, 4.24)
67-50 CUBS Lester (8-8, 3.21)
7:05 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 29
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 23
Ryan Braun (MIL) 21
Joey Votto (CIN) 21
2-way tie 19
Strikeouts
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 163
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 154
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 154
Jon Lester (CHC) 149
Carlos Martinez (STL) 144

Pirates Avoid Sweep

Lance Lynn had what you might call a rough night

Lance Lynn had what you might call a rough night

The Pittsburgh Pirates were able to come out ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday night, avoiding a 3-game sweep to move back within 6 games.

The Bucs put 7 runs on the board in the top of the 1st en route to a 10-5 win.

Cardinals starter Lance Lynn didn’t make it out of the 1st inning, allowing 7 runs on 6 hits and no walks, retiring 2 batters. Thankfully, only 3 runs were earned, due to a throwing error by Matt Carpenter.

Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez led the offensive charge with three hits a piece, including Pedro’s 17th tater of the season.

It was the Bucs’ first win in St. Louis this season, where they are now 1-5.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Chicago Cubs won for the 13th time in their last 14 games, pounding the Milwaukee Brewers 9-2 to complete their second sweep of their neighbors to the north in the past two weeks.

Rookie Kyle Schwarber was back to mashing, going 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs (8). Anthony Rizzo poked his 22nd, Chris Denorfia his 2nd and Dexter Fowler his 12th.

Fowler has been playing well of late, and reached base four times yesterday, scoring 3 runs.

It wasn’t all good news for the Cubs, as Jon Lester tried to pick a runner off for the first time since April and once again threw it away for an error – his third of the year. Lester allowed 5 stolen bases in the game and is worst in the league in that category.

He struck out 10 in 7 innings of work, improving to 8-8 on the year.

The Cubs now head into the dreaded “Crosstown Classic” that brings out the absolute worst in Chicago baseball fans. In my experience, it involves fans of the White Sox openly berating anybody who is minding their own business and wearing Cubs gear and, on the flip side, has Cubs fans talking about the number of teeth that most White Sox fans have.

If you don’t live in a market with multiple baseball teams, consider yourself lucky.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 73 40 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 46 7.0 L2
Chicago Cubs 64 48 8.5 W6
Cincinnati Reds 50 62 22.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 48 67 26.0 L2

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 46 +1.5
Chicago Cubs 64 48
San Francisco Giants 60 53 4.5
Washington Nationals 58 55 6.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

65-48 CUBS Hendricks (6-5, 3.73)
54-58 White Sox Samardzija (8-7, 4.62)
3:10 PM CT
66-46 PIRATES Happ (4-7, 4.78)
63-53 Mets Colon (10-11, 4.76)
6:15 PM CT
46-69 Phillies Morgan (3-3, 4.06)
48-68 BREWERS Peralta (2-7, 4.48)
7:10 PM CT
46-68 Marlins Koehler (8-9, 3.75)
73-41 CARDINALS Garcia (4-4, 1.77)
7:15 PM CT
51-62 REDS Lamb (NR)
64-51 Dodgers Wood (7-7, 3.72)
9:10 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 5.4
Joey Votto (CIN) 4.8
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) 4.0
Jason Heyward (STL) 3.8
Jung Ho Kang (PIT) 3.6
WAR (pitchers)
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 4.6
Carlos Martinez (STL) 3.3
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 3.3
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 3.1
John Lackey (STL) 3.1

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

Caught Red-Handed; Cardinals Hack Into Astros Systems

GETTY_N_121311_HackedCodeYesterday afternoon, it was revealed that the St. Louis Cardinals are under investigation by the F.B.I. for having hacked into the Houston Astros‘ network.

Last June, the Astros admitted that somebody had hacked into their internal systems, compromising their scouting database which went under the nickname “Ground Control”.

At the time, it was not revealed who had broken into their systems; only that somebody had done it and it was under investigation.

Yesterday, the criminals were identified as members of the Cardinals.

The story goes that employees of the Cardinals were able to access the Astros’ systems by using old passwords that belonged to then-Cardinals scout and now-Astros GM Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow left his role in the St. Louis scouting department after the 2011 season, taking over as Houston GM that December.

Since then, the Houston Astros have taken off as a team whose scouting department is considered top notch, right up there with the likes of the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins. True, Houston’s farm system currently ranks “only” 14th by Baseball America. Also true – they had three years in a row where they had the #1 pick overall in the draft, though 2014 top pick Brady Aiken didn’t end up signing with them.

But the fact remains that the Houston franchise is considered by many to be a paradigm for how to put an organization together. Last season, Sports Illustrated did a feature story on the ‘stros system, calling this out.

I offer those facts up as rebuttal to trolls who say “big deal, it’s just the Astros”. Well, not only does Houston’s major league team have the best record in the American League right now (38-28, .576), but the information from their scouting department is the kind of thing must teams would absolutely love to have access to.

Really, the larger point here is that this is corporate espionage and breaks laws set forth in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Whether or not the information they received is useful or helped the Cardinals win games (either directly or indirectly), it’s still against the law to go into a rival’s computer system and nose around. Any argument that this was no big deal is a bad argument. It’s illegal. Plain and simple.

A lot of people reduced the seminal book “Moneyball” to being a game-changer for how it elevated On Base Percentage as an important statistic.

Moneyball = OBP.

For me, that’s really simplifying things. What I think you were meant to take away from that book was something else.

It was about how teams (like the Oakland Athletics) who don’t have deep pockets need to find some other way to get a step ahead on their opponent. Yes, in the case of that book, it was how they believed the other 29 franchises were overlooking OBP as an important yardstick to measure a player’s worth. They jumped on that and rode it to success for a few years there.

But in the post-Moneyball years, we’ve gotten more and more into advanced statistics and analytics, still coupling all of that with scouting.

What I’m really driving at here is that the team with the best data wins.

It’s not necessarily who has all the money. (Where are all those New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers World Series rings from the past decade?) It’s who has the best data.

And that’s why this story is important.

This is theoretical, yes, but it explains why this is important.

Let’s say the Cardinals had been scouting a player as a potential trade target, and their scouting department’s feelings on the guy were that he would be a great asset to the team.

Now let’s say the Cardinals look into the Astros’ scouting department and find that they have spoken to somebody who knows that same player and identified that he has some sort of nagging injury that is getting progressively worse.

All of a sudden that trade target looks a whole lot less desirable.

More data = better informed decisions.

Conversely, let’s say the Cardinals were scouting a pitcher for the draft and ended up feeling just “meh” about him. He moves down on their list.

They then see the Astros’ internal system and find that they actually think that pitcher has plus stuff, great make-up, etc.

Well, geez. Maybe the Cardinals’ scouts caught him on a few bad days. Maybe something was just going on with him when they scouted him and he’s worth another look. After all, this other team’s opinion of him is totally different from theirs. They’d better get to the bottom of this.

Again, more data leads to better decision-making.

Exactly what information was gotten, who got it, what they did with it, and who knew about it… all of that is still up in the air at this point.

What punishments will be handed down – loss of draft picks, firings, financial penalties meted out by Major League Baseball… all of that is also still up in the air until the investigation concludes.

No, this isn’t life and death. It’s stealing secrets from other teams. Not well-protected secrets, mind you, particularly if Luhnow is using the same password as he used to. The Cardinals’ franchise has certainly committed other, larger sins in the recent past. They seem to have an alcohol-related incident every few years, with players endangering (and occasionally ending) the lives of others with blood alcohol content levels ranging from twice the legal limit (see Josh Hancock, Tony LaRussa) to FIVE times the legal limit (see Oscar Tavares and the spouse that he murdered as a result of bad decision-making).

Those things somehow keep getting swept away and people say “I can’t believe the Cardinals would do something like this! There’s such a wholesome franchise! They do things the right way – ‘The Cardinal Way'”.

Sorry to burst your bubble. That self-righteous thing plays well in the press if you’re a Cardinals’ fan. But the rest of the sporting world shouldn’t be fooled. Not anymore.

Sadly, much like the drunk-driving deaths that resulted in practical parades at Busch Stadium celebrating players who jeopardized the lives of other road travelers, Cardinals Nation will likely flip the script on this as well, and say things like “every team does this”, “the Cardinals are only being investigated because other teams are jealous of their success”, yada yada yada.

Jeff Gordon, at the Post-Dispatch, writes:

Industrial espionage would be conduct unbecoming America’s Model Baseball Franchise. If the FBI finds merit in these allegations, the Cardinals’ previously pristine image would be soiled.

Again, I ask, what “pristine image” are we talking about here? Sharing porn on your Twitter feed (see Carlos Martinez). Drunk driving. Murder. Those aren’t exactly “pristine”, are they?

Don’t buy and of that mid-American wholesomeness for a second.

More from Gordon:

There was nothing to gain by hacking the Astros… Any idiot can order wholesale tanking and conduct a perpetual fire sale. The much greater challenge is contending season after season after season — as the Cardinals have done…

Again, Gordon is missing a pretty large point here. The Cardinals have been riding a decade-plus stretch of success based largely on scouting that was done while Luhnow was with them as their scouting director. Of course they’d still love to see what he thinks of players!

From a separate Gordon article:

People are tired of the Cardinals winning all the time because people don’t enjoy seeing the same people succeed over and over again. Maybe it reminds them too much of their high school days when they never sat at the popular table.

See, this is what I knew would come out of the Post-Dispatch. No, it’s not that other teams are jealous and want to see you fail. It’s your franchise’s fake “aw shucks”, mock humility and self-righteousness that gets under people’s skin. Don’t deflect it as “y’all are just jealous of us”.

People from your organization have done bad things.  In some cases, really bad things.

In another bit of delusional sports-writing, the usually steady Tim Brown from Yahoo! Sports:

Before Tuesday morning, about the worst one might have said about the Cardinals was they had figured out Clayton Kershaw – Were they filching signs? Had they picked up tendencies? Was he tipping pitches in a way only they could see? – and they were mostly lauded for it. That’s not cheating. That’s the game.

That was the worst?  Really?

Again: A pattern of drunk driving in the organization, capped off with last year’s off-season murder of an innocent young woman.

Don’t be stupid. Or, at the very least, don’t be lazy. There are plenty of bad things you could have said about the Cardinals before this hacking story broke.

Rant aside, as a fan of baseball history, I find this all extremely interesting. It’s completely unprecedented, though not entirely surprising that it happened. My gut feeling is that this has happened before but the Astros were the first team to actually realize who they were being hacked by. Even if hadn’t happened before, it was bound to happen at some point.

What MLB does about it is what I’m most interested in.

* * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates won their sixth straight as they continue to play amazing baseball.

And they did it the way they’ve been doing it throughout this streak, behind amazing starting pitching.

This time it was Charlie Morton, who improved to 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA after firing 7 shutout innings in a 3-0 win for the Bucs. Since returning from a season-opening stint on the DL, Morton has 5 starts, all of them for wins.

In the last 6 games, the Pirates have fired 5 shutouts! In that stretch, here are the starting pitcher lines:

June 10th – Morton: 7.1 IP, 0 ER
June 12th – Jeff Locke: 6 IP, 0 ER
June 13th – Gerrit Cole: 6 IP, 1 ER
June 14th – A.J. Burnett: 9 IP, 0 ER
June 15th – Francisco Liriano: 8 IP, 0 ER
June 16th – Morton: 7 IP, 0 ER

That’s a total of 6 GS, 43.1 IP, 1 ER for a 0.21 ERA.

Mark Melancon picked up his 21st save with a perfect 9th inning.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Cardinals shook off all the talk about this data hacking scandal with a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Michael Wacha was the winner again, improving to 9-2 with a 2.48 ERA.

Wacha went 6.1 innings, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 5. He was pulled after 86 pitches after a second rain delay kicked in. That works well anyhow as the Cardinals would prefer to balance using a guy who is pretty much pitching lights out right while avoiding overusing a young kid and running him into the ground before the post-season.

Kevin Siegrist stepped in once again to notch the save while usual closer Trevor Rosenthal sits out with some arm stiffness.

That’s five straight wins for the Cards.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Wondering what Adam Wainwright has been up to while he sits out the remainder of the season with that Achilles injury?

I’m gardening my face off. I’ve got cucumbers, zucchinis, pumpkins, five different kinds of tomatoes, all the herbs. I’ve got blueberries, apples, grapes. Once I can start moving around, I can start weeding stuff.

* * *

The battle between Sports Illustrated’s pick for the World Series and the Sporting News’ pick turned into a dud, as the Cleveland Indians (SI) pounded the Chicago Cubs (SN) 6-0.

By the way, I’m not sure either publication picked well there. Nor am I thinking that either magazine made those picks for any reason other than trying to appeal to championship-starved markets from the Midwest who will buy those magazines just because of those predictions.

Kyle Schwarber made his pro debut for the Cubs striking out looking on three pitches. Schwarber, rated the #19 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, was supposed to have the night off but got plugged in at catcher when Miguel Montero was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the bottom of the 8th inning.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Owen Watson at Fangraphs.com took a look at Anthony Rizzo’s improved plate discipline thus far through the 2015 campaign. Check it out over there.

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds were 5-2 winners against the Detroit Tigers.

Todd Frazier hit a pair of homers, upping his season total to 20, good for 3rd best in the National League. And tops in the division – check out the Leaders below.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers fell 20 games back in the division on the night of June 16th, losing 7-2 to the Kansas City Royals.

They allowed 7 straight runs before putting a few runs on the board in garbage time.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 20
Joey Votto (CIN) 14
Ryan Braun (MIL) 13
Starling Marte (PIT) 12
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 11
Strikeouts
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 99
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 89
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 82
2-way tie 80

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 43 21 W5
Pittsburgh Pirates 37 27 6.0 W6
Chicago Cubs 34 28 8.0 L1
Cincinnati Reds 29 35 14.0 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 24 42 20.0 L4

* * *

Schedule

34-28 CUBS Wada (0-1, 4.84)
30-33 Indians Marcum (3-1, 4.09)
6:10 PM CT
34-31 Tigers Price (6-2, 2.44)
29-35 REDS Cueto (4-4, 2.85)
6:10 PM CT
24-42 BREWERS Fiers (3-6, 4.04)
36-25 Royals Blanton (0-0, 1.80)
7:10 PM CT
37-27 PIRATES Locke (3-3, 4.90)
28-35 White Sox Danks (3-6, 5.29)
7:10 PM CT
43-21 CARDINALS Martinez (7-2, 2.93)
34-30 Twins Milone (2-1, 4.15)
7:10 PM CT