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.
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.
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
|Matt Holliday (STL)||.466|
|Anthony Rizzo (CHC)||.463|
|Kris Bryant (CHC)||.411|
|Joey Votto (CIN)||.408|
|Matt Carpenter (STL)||.391|
|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|
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||23||10||–||L1|
* * *
|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|
Last night they picked up right where they left off, pounding the Cleveland Indians 8-3.
Lance Lynn, who seems to have a nice start with nothing to show for it most times out, went 6 shutout innings, striking out 9 while improving to 2-3 on the season. Oh, and it was his 28th birthday. Not a bad way to celebrate.
Matt Holliday homered (3rd) and drove in 4 runs.
Matt Carpenter returned to the lineup after last week’s bout with dehydration/fatigue/dizziness/lightheadedness/exhaustion/insomnia and did his usual 2015 thing, picking up 2 hits to up his season average to .336 and (of course) doubled again. It was Carp’s 15th double of the season. Earl Webb, look out.
Kolten Wong was granted his wish to bat leadoff and responded by going 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts.
There was one other issue to keep an eye on, as Yadier Molina left the game in the 9th with upper back stiffness. Yadi is hitting .276/.325/.343 with 7 doubles, having appeared in 28 of the Cards’ 32 games this season.
* * *
The much anticipated debut of New York Mets wunderkind Noah Syndergaard went well for 5 innings. But the Chicago Cubs got to the kid in the 6th inning, prompting a move to the bullpen and when the dust settled, the Northsiders had sent 10 men to the plate and scored 4 runs.
At the end of the day, Jake Arrieta (W 4-3) out-pitched Syndergaard, going 8 innings and allowing 1 run on just 3 hits and 2 walks, fanning 10.
Kris Bryant homered (3rd) for the third time in the last four games, reaching base four times. (He also tripled and walked twice.) So far, that move to the 2nd spot in the lineup has opened up the power game. You can argue that there’s no such thing as protection in the batting lineup, but since he moved ahead of Rizzo in the lineup, he’s been seeing a different assortment of pitches.
Anthony Rizzo drew a trio of walks and also had a hit.
* * *
Yesterday we mentioned Josh Harrison‘s troubles. Most recently, he had just 1 hit in his last 25 at bats. Last night, he helped lead the way in a 7-2 win for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Harrison connected for a 3-run homer and another struggling Pirate, Andrew McCutchen also homered in the Bucs win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
A.J. Burnett, clearly motivated to be named to the 2015 NL Central Hub All-Division Team, improved to 2-1 with a sterling 1.60 ERA, allowing 1 earned run in 7 innings of work.
Perhaps turning a corner on the 2015 season, Cutch is now hitting .385 in his last 7 games.
That’s four straight wins now for the Pirates.
* * *
A walk-off win for the Cincinnati Reds over the Atlanta Braves, as Devin Mesoraco‘s double ended the game.
Mesoraco, who has been unable to resume catching duties came through as a pinch hitter, scoring pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who had replaced Brayan Pena as a pinch runner after a one-out single. Let it be said that using Lorenzen as a pinch-runner paid off in a big way there. It looked like there might be a play at the plate, as Lorenzen was just rounding 3rd as the throw was coming in from left field. But Andrelton Simmons couldn’t get a hold of the throw in, dropping the ball before he could make a relay throw. Game over.
Mesoraco has a hip injury which prevents him from squatting, but he has had no trouble running, legging out a triple and double in the last couple of days.
More troubles for the Cincinnati middle infield, as 2B Brandon Phillips left in the 6th inning with a toe injury. SS Zack Cozart had already missed the last two games with a sore wrist.
* * *
The Milwaukee Brewers‘ 3-game winning streak ended with a 4-2 loss at home against the Chicago White Sox, who are just 3-10 now on the road.
ChiSox starting pitcher Chris Sale returned from his suspension and struck out 11 Brewers over 8 innings of work.
Elian Herrera homered (4th) in his 3rd straight game as he started for the 5th time in as many games at third base, filling in while Aramis Ramirez waits for his back issues to clear up.
Martin Maldonado had a rough night, striking out in all three plate appearances.
* * *
NL Central Leaders
|Todd Frazier (CIN)||11|
|Starling Marte (PIT)||8|
|Anthony Rizzo (CHC)||7|
|Joey Votto (CIN)||7|
|Lance Lynn (STL)||51|
|Mike Fiers (MIL)||49|
|Jake Arrieta (CHC)||48|
|Johnny Cueto (CIN)||47|
|Gerrit Cole (PIT)||45|
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||23||9||–||W1|
* * *
|23-9||CARDINALS||Lackey (2-1, 3.20)|
|11-20||Indians||Kluber (0-5, 5.04)|
|5:10 PM CT|
|17-16||PIRATES||Liriano, F (1-2, 2.79)|
|11-23||Phillies||Hamels (2-3, 3.68)|
|6:05 PM CT|
|15-18||Braves||Stults (1-3, 4.84)|
|16-17||REDS||Iglesias, R (0-0, 5.40)|
|6:10 PM CT|
|20-13||Mets||Harvey (5-1, 2.72)|
|17-15||CUBS||Hammel (3-1, 3.52)|
|7:05 PM CT|
|13-17||White Sox||Quintana (1-3, 5.03)|
|12-22||BREWERS||Nelson (1-3, 4.00)|
|7:10 PM CT|
I finished 2014 with a large surplus of vacation days accrued and, since I’m allowed to roll over only a certain number, I figured I’d plan a few “staycation” days ahead of time. Yesterday’s planned day off was supposed to include some bike riding to various local restaurants and museums. Instead it turned into a day that was about 25 degrees cooler than it should normally be and my wife and I had great coffee and watched snowflakes falling outside the store. Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was still a great day.
Back to baseball.
* * *
Looking around the division and seeing some story-lines that seem to be developing for each team.
The St. Louis Cardinals are as good as we expected. Their pitching staff has been nothing short of phenomenal, but the lineup has left something to be desired. It will be interesting to see if the hitters step their game up and if the pitching is for real.
The Chicago Cubs have started to parade out their young talent and have been a really fun team to watch. The lineup has been surprisingly effective, but Jon Lester has struggled in three starts as the high-priced ace.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, championed by many to win the division, are off to a really rough start. Like the Cards, bad hitting and amazing pitching, but they haven’t been able to get above .500 yet.
The Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers are as bad as expected, but for the Brew Crew it’s just one bit of awful after another. They lost star CF Carlos Gomez to a hamstring injury, C Jonathan Lucroy‘s fractured left toe will keep him out 4-to-6 weeks, and 2B Scooter Gennett just required stitches on after slicing open his hand while reaching for body wash. When it rains, it pours.
As for the Reds, manager Bryan Price (who has already made some really questionable decisions with his bullpen) went all Lee Elia on the media. And it was delightful.
* * *
Last night, the Cubs and Pirates went back and forth in a crazy game with numerous lead changes, ultimately ending with another bad outing by Pirates closer Mark Melancon (8.53 ERA) that led to an 9-8 win for Chicago.
Both teams got horrible work from their bullpens – each team allowed 5 ER in 4 IP of work from their relievers.
The Bucs took an 8-6 lead into the top of the 9th, but Melancon couldn’t hold it down. Anthony Rizzo singled, Jorge Soler doubled over Andrew McCutchen in center, Kris Bryant walked to load the bases, Starlin Castro tied it with a 2-RBI single and Bryant scored on Wellington Castillo‘s slow roller to second, putting Chicago ahead.
Three up, three down for Hector Rondon, who notched his 3rd save.
Castro also homered earlier in the game – it was his 2nd of the game.
New stud prospect Addison Russell went 0-for-5 with 3 K in his Cubs’ debut. Russell was the #2 ranked prospect in baseball per Baseball Prospectus, #3 by both Baseball America and Fangraphs and #5 by MLB.com.
Though he is a slick-fielding shortstop by nature, Russell will fill in at second base where the Cubs have been woeful. (He spent the last week playing 2B exclusively for AAA Iowa.) The Cubs would be clearly better served by swapping Castro and Russell at the middle infield positions, but for whatever reason will keep things as they are for the time being.
Castro has yet to play a game at second base in his MLB career, nor have I seen any news stories saying this is something they’re considering doing.
Javier Baez has not played a game in the minors in well over a week now, having taken bereavement leave following the death of his sister earlier this month.
Regardless of which position Castro plays, any talk involving a trade of him should be tabled. Since a bad 2013 season where the Cubs tried to turn him into a more selective hitter, he has been solid. He’s a 3-time All-Star, he’s only 25, he’s cost controlled, and he consistently puts up OPS+ numbers above 100. Those types of players don’t go on trees and, as Baez is an example of, there’s no such thing as can’t-miss prospects. Castro has proven himself to be a solid Major Leaguer and deserves to keep a spot in the lineup. Worst case is that he slides over to play second base next season.
* * *
In Washington, the Cardinals lost 2-1 in 10 innings.
Matt Carpenter had only one hit, but it did lead to a game-tying run in the 9th inning.
The Nats had a prime opportunity to win in the bottom of the 9th, loading the bases with 1 out, but Jordan Walden struck out Ian Desmond and got Jayson Werth on a fly out to Jon Jay in center.
Yunel Escobar ended the game with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th, ending the Cards’ 5 game winning streak.
Lance Lynn had another nice start done in by a lack of offense, as he went 6.1 innings, allowing 1 run with 7 strikeouts. He did have some control issues, however, walking 4 Nationals.
The Redbirds currently have three starting pitchers with sub-2.00 ERA and all five are under 3. John Lackey is the “worst” of the bunch with a 2.77 ERA, Carlos Martinez just outside the sub-2.00 group with a 2.08, while Michael Wacha (1.35), Lynn (1.56) and Adam Wainwright (1.71) are all making opponents look silly.
* * *
And finally, in Milwaukee, the Brewers’ pitchers allowed 13 hits, walked 6, and the fielding committed a pair of errors that led to 5 unearned runs.
Of course, when you allow 11 earned runs, what’s another 5?
The Reds were 16-10 winners in Milwaukee, as things continued to go downhill for the Brewers who have now lost 7 straight.
Since April 30th of last year – remember, this is four full months before they fell out of 1st place, but people seem to mis-remember that 2014 Milwaukee club has a good one – Milwaukee is 64-84 for a .432 winning percentage. They went 62-72 from April 30th onward last season.
Zack Cozart had a pair of homers for Cincinnati in the win that brought them back up to .500. Todd Frazier also went yard, hitting a grand slam. It was the 4th homer of the year for both Reds.
Elian Herrera homered, doubled and had 5 RBI for Milwaukee. Nice day for a kid that was drafted in 2003 and didn’t make it to the Bigs until 2012.
* * *
|8-5||CHICAGO||Hammel (1-0, 5.11)|
|6-8||PITTSBURGH||Worley (1-1, 5.84)|
|6:05 PM CT|
|8-4||ST. LOUIS||Lackey (1-0, 2.77)|
|7-7||Washington||Fister (1-0, 0.69)|
|6:05 PM CT|
|7-7||CINCINNATI||Cueto (0-2, 2.14)|
|2-12||MILWAUKEE||Nelson (1-1, 1.50)|
|7:10 PM CT|
* * *
|St. Louis Cardinals||8||4||–||L1|