Daily Dose: Cliff Lee can't buy a win

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Cliff Lee’s win-loss record has suffered from a lack of lineup and
bullpen support all season and that continued Thursday night, as he got
stuck with a no-decision despite tossing seven innings of two-run ball
against the Pirates. Lee has thrown a Quality Start in 12 of his last
13 outings, with a 2.20 ERA and 69/21 K/BB ratio during that time, yet
has just a 4-4 record to show for it.

He’s just 4-6 overall despite a 2.92 ERA after going 22-3 with a
2.54 ERA on the way to the AL Cy Young last year. With the Indians
falling to 30-44 and a dozen games back in the AL Central rumors are
starting to swirl that Lee may be on the trading block. General manager
Mark Shapiro is believed to be holding out for an elite pitching
prospect, but Lee’s poor record likely hurts his perceived value.

While the misleading nature of individual win-loss records displays
itself perfectly in Lee, here are some other notes from around baseball

* John Smoltz made his Red Sox debut Thursday night, allowing four
first-inning runs before holding the Nationals to one run over his
final four frames. Losing his first start in more than a year clearly
isn’t good news, but Smoltz retired the final eight hitters he faced
and struck out the side in his last inning. It wasn’t the debut that
Boston fans were hoping for, but he looked good enough to be an asset.

* Eric Byrnes is expected to miss 4-8 weeks with a fractured left
hand after Scott Feldman plunked him with a pitch Thursday. Byrnes is
hitting .216/.260/.361 this season after batting .209/.272/.369 last
year, so his absence obviously isn’t a big blow to the Diamondbacks and
basically just guarantees that Gerardo Parra will continue to play
regularly once Chris Young returns from a groin injury.

* Josh Hamilton has begun swinging a bat following June 9 surgery on
a partially torn abdominal muscle and general manager Jon Daniels
revealed Thursday that “there’s a reasonable chance” he’ll be able to
return from the disabled list before the All-Star break. Hamilton has
indicated that he’ll probably skip the Home Run Derby, but he’s also
third in the fan voting for a starting spot in the outfield.

* Despite general manager Neal Huntington announcing earlier this
week that he would remain in the rotation for at least one more start,
Ian Snell was demoted to the minors Thursday and the move apparently
came at his request. Snell is 9-20 with a 5.40 ERA in 46 starts since
the beginning of last year, but Pittsburgh has turned down trade offers
and resisted what may be a smart move to the bullpen.

AL Quick Hits: Frank Thomas said Thursday that he’s close to
retiring, but is “still in shape, ready to go if anything happens” …
Kenji Johjima (toe) is set to return from the disabled list Friday and
will resume starting … Armando Galarraga gave up four runs in six
innings Thursday, but won for the first time since April … If his
bullpen session goes well Friday, Roy Halladay (groin) should be
cleared to start Monday … Evan Longoria sat out Thursday’s game, but
his hamstring injury isn’t considered serious … Ichiro Suzuki went
4-for-5 with a homer Thursday and now has a career-high .901 OPS …
Denard Span returned from the DL with a triple and three walks Thursday
… Yuniesky Betancourt’s hamstring injury sent him to the shelf
Thursday, which is addition by subtraction for the Mariners … Asdrubal
Cabrera (shoulder) may come off the DL as soon as Friday … Aaron Poreda
picked up his first career win Thursday by pitching a scoreless 13th
inning.

NL Quick Hits: Brandon Webb will be examined by three more
specialists before making a decision on his shoulder injury … Homer
Bailey will start Saturday and should get a chance to stick in the
rotation if he can throw strikes for once … Not willing to wait for
Milton Bradley’s next injury, manager Lou Piniella has benched him for
a couple games … Antonio Bastardo exited Thursday’s start in the fourth
inning with a strained shoulder … After losing three of his past four
starts, Johan Santana tossed seven innings of two-run ball Thursday for
win No. 9 … Kenshin Kawakami isn’t expected to miss a start despite
being hit on the neck by a liner Wednesday … Jake Fox went 3-for-4 with
his first homer Thursday … Hitting just .214 overall and .125 since
being dropped to sixth in the lineup, Jimmy Rollins has been benched
for two games … Reed Johnson (back) went on the disabled list Thursday,
so the Cubs replaced him with Ryan Freel … Geovany Soto tested positive
for marijuana during the WBC, but called it “an isolated incident.”

Kris Bryant on Joey Votto: “He’s the best player ever … He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

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The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”

Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.

Video: Daniel Descalso hits D-Backs’ third inside-the-park homer of the season

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Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.

It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.

As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.