Tagged: Miguel Montero

Bad Day for Bucs

This is what Yadi looks like after breaking a tie score with an RBI triple.

This is what Yadi looks like after breaking a tie score with an RBI triple.

There was quite a list of things that didn’t go well for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.

First off, they lost to the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals for a second straight day, pushing them 7 games back in the division.

Secondly, outfielder Starling Marte left the game with a hand injury after being plunked for the 3rd time in his last 4 games. He’s hitting .285 with 13 HR and 22 SB this season.

Third, the Chicago Cubs won for the 12th time in their last 13 games to close to within a game and a half of them for the top Wild Card spot.

Pedro Alvarez‘s brick glove at first base cost the Pirates two runs early on.

In the bottom of the 3rd, with the game still scoreless, the Cards had the bases loaded and one out. Jason Heyward hit a bouncer up the middle that looked to be an inning-ending 4-3 double play, but Neil Walker‘s throw to 1st was in the dirt and not only couldn’t Alvarez scoop it, but he also let the ball bounce well enough away from him to allow two Cardinal runners to score.

This play, by the way, came after one in which Alvarez failed to get back to first base in time to cover the bag on a ground ball.

Yadier Molina‘s RBI triple in the 6th inning snapped a 2-2 tie and held up to be the game-winner in a 4-2 St. Louis victory.  Molina’s low liner into center field got past a diving Gregory Polanco, giving the Pirates’ their second questionable defensive play of the night.

Meanwhile, Michael Wacha (W 14-4) struck out 7 Pirates in 6 innings of work, somehow scattering 12 base runners to allow just a pair of runs.

Andrew McCutchen homered (18th) and tripled (3rd) in the Pittsburgh loss.

This is the largest lead St. Louis has had in the division since July 25th. With another win today, it would be their largest lead since June 30th.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, in Chicago, close Hector Rondon again tried to play “Houdini” by putting men at 2nd & 3rd with nobody out and a 1-run lead in the 9th. After striking out the next two batters, however, he bounced a pitch in the dirt that catcher Miguel Montero couldn’t handle, allowing it to get away and giving the Milwaukee Brewers a run to make it a 2-2 tie.

Miggy atoned in the 10th, with a solo home run (11th).

Kris Bryant poked his 16th homer of the year for the Cubs and first baseman Anthony Rizzo made an unbelievable play on a foul ball, jumping up onto the tarp and then stepping out into the crowd to make a catch and retire the much-despised Ryan Braun.

Braun had a nice day at the plate, actually, going 3-for-4 with his 20th homer of the year.

It was the Cubs’ 6th straight win and 12th in their last 13. Amazingly, they’ve only made up 3 games on the Cardinals during this stretch.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Fielding metrics are a tricky thing and (at this point, anyhow) largely subjective and prone to stringers.

I just want to throw that caveat out there before pointing out some numbers about the Cubs’ shortstop situation.

Much has been made of Addison Russell being the more “natural” or “gifted” shortstop and Starlin Castro being more of a hack.

Well, this is an admittedly small sample size for Russell, but take a look at the numbers so far at short.

Castro: 103 games, 4.43 range factor per 9 innings, .962 fielding percentage
Russell: 14 games, 3.07 range factor per 9 innings, .917 fielding percentage

The subjective data from Baseball Info Solutions has Russell as the better fielder, with a +3 in defensive runs saved already, compared to -7 for Castro.

So the numbers say one thing but the eyes say another.

* * * * * * * * *

In his last 28 games, Cincinnati Reds‘ first baseman Joey Votto has a .563 OBP. He’s also hit .382 with 8 doubles and 5 home runs.

* * * * * * * * *

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

48-67 BREWERS Cravy (0-3, 5.40)
64-48 CUBS Lester (7-8, 3.227)
1:20 PM CT
65-46 PIRATES Liriano (7-6, 3.13)
73-40 CARDINALS Lynn (9-6, 2.76)
6:15 PM CT
50-62 REDS Sampson (1-1, 3.00)
64-50 Dodgers Latos (4-8, 4.67)
9:10 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .434
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .405
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .395
Jung-Ho Hang (PIT) .371
Matt Carpenter (STL) .367
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.99
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.04
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.11
Dan Haren (CHC) 1.12

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

Montero Goes Yard Again in Cubs Win

Miguel Montero has been hitting the ball hard lately.

Miguel Montero is 5-for-8 with 2 HR in the last two days.

Miguel Montero picked up a 3-run homer for the second night in a row as the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds, 6-3, on Thursday.

Montero, batting cleanup, hit his 8th homer of the year in the 1st inning off of Reds’ starter Michael Lorenzen, who lasted just 4.1 innings and allowed 6 runs (5 earned).

Starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada struggled again for the Cubs, getting pulled after allowing 3 runs in 3 innings of work, putting on 6 base runners. Travis Wood stepped in and picked up the win (3-2), going 2.1 shutout innings, allowing just one hit and no walks.

In Wada’s last two starts, he has gone a combined 6.1 innings with an 11.37 ERA and 2.369 WHIP.

Hector Rondon was again tasked with picking up the save, and did so with a scoreless 9th. The Cubs’ bullpen really bailed Wada out, at one point retiring 14 consecutive Reds.

For Cincy, it marked the end of a modest 4-game winning streak.

Video Highlights (MLB.com)

Here’s a proposal for the Cubs. Start Wada – allow him one time through the order against a lineup which has been constructed to face a left-handed starter. Then bring in Edwin Jackson – again, one time through the order, now facing a lineup which is probably going to be right-handed heavy. Then you can either go back to another lefty (Wood) or turn it over to the rest of the bullpen. Crazy? Last year, opponents batting from the right side put up an .816 OPS against Jackson versus .930 from the left side. Piggy-backing those two is something to think about.

For the Reds, Zack Cozart’s knee injury was a big one. He’s out for the season. That hurts. In 53 games, Cozart’s 2.0 WAR was among the highest in the league, per BaseballReference.com. At the plate, he was putting up a slash line of just .258/.310/.459 for a decent OPS+ of 108, but he had committed just 3 errors at shortstop for a .986 fielding percentage, well above the league-wide mark of .971. In short, he was a plus defender who was showing some pop this year, having belted 9 homers already.

* * *

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Washington Nationals, 6-5, lending even more doubt as to the idea that the Nats are a great team.

Milwaukee trailed 5-1 heading into the bottom of the 4th only to chip away for the win.

Tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 8th, Milwaukee got a few base runners on thanks to poor pitching (a wild pitch on a strikeout), poor fielding (an Anthony Rendon error while trying to turn a double play), and then an RBI base hit by Scooter Gennett that gave the Brewers the lead.

It had to be a good feeling for Gennett, who had a miserable start to the 2015 season before being optioned to AAA. He had just gotten called back up yesterday.

Gerardo Parra, Ryan Braun, Adam Lind and Jean Segura had two hits a piece for the Brew Crew.

Francisco Rodriguez continued to showcase himself as good trade bait in the next two months, picking up his 13th save and lowering his ERA to 1.17 on the season.

Video Highlights (MLB.com)

* * *

Stephen J. Nesbitt at the Post-Gazette took a look at the success of the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ pitching staff at keeping balls on the ground, leading to a league-best number of double plays turned. Read about it over here.

* * *

Pending a pass of a physical, the St. Louis Cardinals are looking to sign their 1st round pick in this week’s draft, Nick Plummer, by week’s end. Plummer was the #23 overall selection of the 2015 draft.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 3.0
Todd Frazier (CIN) 2.9
Joey Votto (CIN) 2.6
Jhonny Peralta (CIN) 2.4
Kolten Wong (STL) 2.2
WAR (pitchers)
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.5
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 2.4
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.2
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.9
2-way tie 1.8

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 39 21 W1
Chicago Cubs 32 26 6.0 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 32 27 6.5 W1
Cincinnati Reds 27 32 11.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 23 38 16.5 W1

* * *

Schedule

27-32 REDS Cueto (4-4, 2.64)
32-26 CUBS Hammel (5-2, 2.76)
3:05 PM CT
22-39 Phillies Correia (NR)
32-27 PIRATES Locke (3-3, 5.37)
6:05 PM CT
31-29 Nationals Zimmermann (5-3, 3.18)
23-38 BREWERS Fiers (2-6, 4.06)
7:10 PM CT
34-23 Royals Ventura (3-5, 4.62)
39-21 CARDINALS Garcia (1-3, 2.67)
7:15 PM CT

Cubs Unload on Bengals

Miguel Montero was seeing the ball well last night, as were most of the Chicago Cubs.

Miguel Montero was seeing the ball well last night, as were most of the Chicago Cubs.

NL Central Hub was out yesterday but is back today for our regular weekday posts.

* * *

The Chicago Cubs picked up a pair of big innings (4 in the 3rd, 6 in the 7th) en route to a 12-3 dismantling of the Detroit Tigers.

Miguel Montero and Chris Coghlan each drove in three runs. Miggy had three hits including a 3-run homer in the 7th and Coghlan picked up his 8th homer of the year in the 3rd.

Six Cubs had a multi-hit game.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

You may have missed this article on Jake Arrieta‘s curveball over at Sports on Earth. If so, JAKE ARRIETA HAS A DANGEROUS CURVE. Opponents are hitting .135 against Arrieta’s curve, swinging and missing at 38.5% of those offerings, which is 6th best in the National League.

Also, while we were away, the Cubs picked up free agent closer Rafael Soriano. Something to keep an eye on with the Cubs volatile closer situation. Soriano is probably a month or so out from being able to contribute to the team, not having pitched since last year’s disastrous second half (6.48 ERA in 27 appearances).

* * *

The St. Louis Cardinals came out 4-2 winners against the Colorado Rockies.

Carlos Martinez improved to 7-2, carrying a shutout into the 7th inning until he allowed a 2-run homer which chased him from the contest.

Trevor Rosenthal notched his 20th save.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

Jeff Sullivan has a nice article on Martinez’s emergence as a starting pitcher over at Fangraphs.com. Sully’s focus is on Martinez’s change-up and it shows some pretty impressive differences in the amount of run he gets on that pitch, comparing 2014 data to 2015. Really shines some light on why Martinez has had a breakout year. Read the article now.

The Matt Holliday quad tear isn’t as severe as that which struck down Matt Adams a few weeks ago. It doesn’t appear that the Cardinals starting left fielder will require surgery, and he’ll probably miss about a month of play.

* * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates shut out the Milwaukee Brewers, 2-0, as Charlie Morton continued to be a bright spot in his return to an already impressive rotation.

Morton improved to 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA, going 7.1 shutout innings while allowing 6 base runners and striking out 6.

Mark Melancon picked up his 19th save with a perfect 9th.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

From Gene Collier’s column at the Post-Gazette, here are numbers from the Bucs’ relievers in recent games:
Tony Watson: 0.79 ERA in last 21 games
Melancon: 0.40 ERA in last 22 games

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds won their 4th straight, taking a 5-2 game at home against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Brayan Pena was 4-for-4 at the plate with a pair of RBI while Ivan De Jesus Junior picked up another homer on a 3-run shot that was part of a 4-run 1st inning.

The Reds have won 8 of their last 12 games, but keep in mind that the combined winning percentage of opponents in those games was .434. The most impressive part of this stretch was a 3-game sweep of the Washington Nationals, but they’re only 31-28, hardly performing like the world-beaters they appear to be on paper.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

* * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .443
Matt Holliday (STL) .417
Joey Votto (CIN) .403
Kris Bryant (CHC) .392
Matt Carpenter (STL) .385
WHIP
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.893
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.945
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.018
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.078
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.103

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 39 21 W1
Chicago Cubs 31 26 6.5 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 32 27 6.5 W1
Cincinnati Reds 27 31 11.0 W4
Milwaukee Brewers 22 38 17.0 L1

* * *

Schedule

27-31 REDS Lorenzen (1-1, 3.29)
31-26 CUBS Wada (0-1, 4.19)
7:05 PM CT
31-28 Nationals Roark (2-2, 3.16)
22-38 BREWERS Garza (4-7, 5.09)
7:10 PM CT

Cards Shut Down by Kluber, Indians

We usually use a player from the NL Central as our featured image, but DAMN! Can't ignore last night's performance by Cleveland Indians' starting pitcher Corey Kluber.

We usually use a player from the NL Central as our featured image, but DAMN! Can’t ignore last night’s performance by Cleveland Indians’ starting pitcher Corey Kluber.

Corey Kluber did this to the St. Louis Cardinals last night, erasing his 0-5 start to the season: 8 shutout innings with 1 hit allowed, no walks and 18 strikeouts.

18!!!

Kluber, the defending AL Cy Young winner, joined Bob Feller as the only Cleveland pitchers to strike out 18 men in a game. That’s good company.

John Lackey (L 2-2) allowed 2 runs in 5.1 innings, which seems like a small miracle considering he allowed 5 hits and walked 5 as well. The Indians went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Jhonny Peralta had the sole Cardinal hit – a single with two out in the 7th.

Mark Reynolds and Peter Bourjos each struck out in all three plate appearances.

Dominant stuff.

Matt Holliday took a 94-mph Kluber fastball to the left elbow in the 1st inning and had to be pulled from the game. A scan revealed a “deep contusion” and he’ll likely be out at least a few days. With Jon Jay already nursing an injury (left thumb bruise) and Randal Grichuk‘s back injury keeping him off the team, the Cards’ outfield situation is pretty grim right now.

* * *

A walk-off walk for Chris Coghlan and the Comeback Cubs as they take their 3rd straight game against the visiting New York Mets.

Jason Hammel held his own against Matt Harvey, leaving the Chicago Cubs trailing 1-0 headed into the bottom of the 8th. Addison Russell singled with one out, moved to second on a wild pitch, then scored on a base hit by Dexter Fowler to tie it up.

In the bottom of the 9th, Anthony Rizzo led off with a hard single into right. Starlin Castro roped one through the left side for another hit, moving pinch-runner Matt Szczur to 3rd. After Miguel Montero was intentionally walked, reliever Jeurys Familia entered the game. He struck out Jorge Soler, who swung at some pitches that he really shouldn’t have. But then Coghlan stepped up with the bases loaded and left the bat on his shoulders on a 3-1 pitch that wasn’t close.

Hammel went 8 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and a walk, striking out 6. Check him out on the division’s WHIP leader boards below.

A rough night for Soler, who couldn’t possibly look more miserable about playing in weather below 50 degrees. The entire field will be full of guys in short sleeves and there’s Soler with a parka on. He might have signed up for the wrong team. His plate appearances tonight: 4-6-3 double play, strike out, 4-6-3 double play, strike out with the bases loaded.

* * *

Jeff Francoeur can still throw the ball and his arm helped save the Philadelphia Phillies in a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Jordy Mercer‘s fly ball into right field was caught in foul territory by Francouer for the 2nd out. Steve Lombardozzi then attempted to tag up from 3rd but was thrown out at the plate by a good 5 feet, giving Francouer his 123rd career outfield assist. That’s 3rd best among active outfielders behind only Carlos Beltran (135) and Torii Hunter (125). For reference, the career leader is “The Grey Eagle”, Tris Speaker, who had 449.

Cole Hamels was impressive against Pittsburgh, going 7 innings for the win while allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk, striking out 9.

Andrew McCutchen is still only hitting .231 this season, but he had a 2-RBI single last night and is hitting .293 with 6 extra-base hits in his last 14 games.

Sean Rodriguez, who my wife finds exceptionally handsome for a hirsute man, struck out twice and also grounded into a double play.

The loss ended the Bucs’ four-game winning streak.

Some exciting news for Pirates prospects as the #2 pick of the 2010 draft, starting pitcher Jameson Taillon, is slated to throw his first inning of work since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.

Also recovering is Charlie Morton, scheduled to start in the minor today in his rehab from hip surgery. Morton is among the front-runners to replace Vance Worley in the bullpen.

* * *

Raul Iglesias made his second career start an impressive win, firing 5+ innings of no-hit ball to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.

Iglesias finished with 8 innings of work, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and 3 walks, striking out 5.

Zack Cozart returned to the Cincy lineup and had a double and sac fly. He also made this pretty sweet play in the field. The shortstop is hitting .321 this season.

On the other side of the middle infielders, Kristopher Negron is hitting just .111 after an 0-for-2 day – he filled in for Brandon Phillips and his injured toe at second.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers tried to come back but couldn’t overcome the 3 runs they allowed in the 1st inning, falling to the Chicago White Sox 4-2.

The Journal Sentinel has a nice short article on Elian Herrera. Herrera signed as an amateur free agent in 2003 and didn’t see action in the big leagues until 2012 when he was already 27 years old. Read the full article here.

Herrera has been filling in at third base while Aramis Ramirez sits out with back problems. Rami, who has missed the last six games, is expected to return to the lineup Friday.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

OBP
Matt Holliday (STL) .466
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .463
Kris Bryant (CHC) .411
Joey Votto (CIN) .408
Matt Carpenter (STL) .391
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.877
Mike Leake (CIN) 0.966
Jason Hammel (CHC) 0.993
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.007
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.034

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 23 10 L1
Chicago Cubs 18 15 5.0 W3
Cincinnati Reds 17 17 6.5 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 17 17 6.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 12 23 12.0 L2

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Schedule

23-10 CARDINALS Wacha (5-0, 2.09)
12-20 Indians Bauer (2-1, 4.19)
11:10 AM CT
17-17 PIRATES Worley (2-2, 4.63)
12-23 Phillies Harang (3-3, 2.38)
12:05 PM CT
20-14 Mets Niese (3-2, 1.95)
18-15 CUBS Wood, T (2-2, 4.96)
1:20 PM CT
17-17 Giants Lincecum (3-2, 2.00)
17-17 REDS Cueto (3-3, 2.98)
6:10 PM CT