Daily Dose: Carpenter healthy and thriving

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Some time on the disabled list has kept Chris Carpenter off the NL
leaderboards and All-Star team, but the St. Louis right-hander is
pitching as well as ever in his comeback from significant elbow and
shoulder injuries. Carpenter tossed seven innings of one-run ball
Sunday afternoon to beat the Reds while improving to 6-3 with a 2.32
ERA through a dozen starts.

Carpenter is sporting a fantastic 58/11 K/BB ratio in 78 innings
that would qualify as the best mark of his career, has induced 55
percent ground balls to rank fifth in the league behind only Joel
Pineiro, Jason Marquis, Aaron Cook, and Derek Lowe, and has averaged
92.3 miles per hour with his fastball after never clocking in with an
average above 91.5 mph during his Cy Young-winning prime.

While the Cardinals reclaim the NL Central lead, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* It’s rare to see a last-place team swapping prospects for a
veteran in July, but that’s exactly what the A’s did Sunday by
acquiring outfielder Scott Hairston from the Padres for Craig Italiano,
Ryan Webb, and a player to be named later. Webb is a marginal relief
prospect and Italiano hasn’t really panned out since being a second
rounder in 2005, so it seems likely that the PTBNL will have good
value.

Hairston has hit .273/.332/.524 with 35 homers in 667 plate
appearances for the Padres, which is impressive production while
calling Petco Park home. Oakland isn’t a whole lot better for offense,
but Hairston could play every day and should be immediately picked up
in AL-only leagues. His arrival likely hurts Travis Buck, but opens the
door for prospect Kyle Blanks to see more action in San Diego.

* Chien-Ming Wang left Saturday’s game in the sixth inning and
landed on the disabled list Sunday with a strained right shoulder.
Wang’s overall numbers look miserable because of his historically awful
first three starts in April, but he hasn’t been a whole lot better
since rejoining the rotation last month, going 1-3 with an ugly 6.43
ERA and 20/11 K/BB ratio in 28 innings spread over six outings.

There’s no getting around a 9.64 ERA, but the nuts and bolts of his
performance suggest that Wang is far from a lost cause. He remains one
of the league’s most extreme ground-ball pitchers and his average
fastball of 92 mph nearly matches his career norms. The big changes are
a high rate of fly balls leaving the ballpark and a low rate of runners
stranded, both of which are somewhat luck-based.

AL Quick Hits: Vladimir Guerrero homered Sunday for the second
straight game after going deep just twice through 42 games … Derek
Jeter celebrated getting the nod for his sixth All-Star start by going
4-for-5 with a homer Sunday … Justin Morneau homered Sunday for the
fifth time in seven games … General manager Mark Shapiro said Sunday
that manager Eric Wedge is not in danger of losing his job despite
being the first AL team to 50 losses … Joba Chamberlain was knocked
around for eight runs in 3.2 innings Sunday, although five of them were
unearned … After overtaking Ian Kinsler at the last second in the
All-Star voting, Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-5 on Sunday with his first
homer since May 31 … Nick Blackburn allowed only two ninth-inning runs
in Sunday’s complete-game victory, lowering his ERA to 2.94 … Already
out for the season following surgery on his right shoulder, Coco Crisp
will have his left shoulder operated on as well.

NL Quick Hits: Bronson Arroyo was rocked again Sunday and has
now allowed 37 runs in 38 innings since June 1 amid talk of wrist
problems … Manny Ramirez received Sunday off to rest his sore legs with
Juan Pierre filling in … Joe Blanton shut out the Mets for seven
innings Sunday to help hand Johan Santana another tough-luck loss … Roy
Oswalt allowed just one run Sunday for the third straight start, this
time lasting eight innings … Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-3 with a homer
Sunday and has started this month 7-for-18 (.389) with four extra-base
hits and four walks … Randy Johnson suffered a shoulder injury while
hitting Sunday and left after giving up two homers in the next inning …
Mark Reynolds hit his 24th homer Sunday, moving into a tie for second
place in the NL … Nyjer Morgan was hitless through seven at-bats with
the Nationals, but had two doubles and a steal Sunday … Hanley Ramirez
was scratched from Sunday’s game with a hip flexor.

Settling the Scores: Memorial Day edition

ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 21:  American flags are shown after being placed by members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 21, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. "Flags-In" has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died in military service. At some point in the past couple of decades, however, it has become an all-purpose flag-waving, patriotism-declaring, civilians-in-camouflage holiday. It’s understandable why this is the case. We, as a country, haven’t always done mourning well. I think it’s part of our national cultural DNA that we don’t and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make days like this difficult.

I feel like the flag-waving and troop-supporting stuff is some sort of subconscious reaction to death. It’s our way of instantly trying to justify those deaths or to explain how they were not in vain, much the same way we might tell someone upon the death of a loved one that they’re in a better place or that they had a full life. Feeling the pain of loss is hard. We want to soften it in any way we can and make our pain serve a larger, better purpose. And so we get today, when Major League Baseball puts its players in camouflage caps and in jerseys with camouflage logos. They’ll sell them too, with proceeds going to good and noble veterans charities. The intent is noble and the ultimate effect of it all is beneficial. But it’s also a little beside the point. Maybe not beside the point as much as mattress sales or big celebratory barbecues which have come to characterize Memorial Day for so many, but still not exactly the purpose of the holiday.

I don’t condemn it. As I wrote last year, the men and women who actually fought and died in wars were hoping that they were, ultimately, making a better and happier world for those they left behind. And they no doubt hoped, among everything else they hoped, that others didn’t have to face what they were facing. They wanted our lives to be happy and our country to be safe and part of a happy and safe country involves 300 million people doing whatever it is they damn please, even if it’s just having barbecues and wearing camo at the ballpark.

I won’t say have a happy Memorial Day because that seems odd. Have any kind of Memorial Day you want, really, even if it includes barbecuing, drinking beer and wearing a cam ballcap. But as you do, please make sure you take some time to think about those who died in military service. And remember that they didn’t get to have as many days like the one you’re having as they were meant to have. And make at least some effort to offset your happy, patriotic or silly pursuits with some mourning and reflectiveness. It’s OK for that to stand on its own.

The scores:

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Orioles 6, Indians 4
Yankees 2, Rays 1
Nationals 10, Cardinals 2
Brewers 5, Reds 4
Royals 5, White Sox 4
Cubs 7, Phillies 2
Rangers 6, Pirates 2
Astros 8, Angels 6
Athletics 4, Tigers 2
Twins 5, Mariners 4
Giants 8, Rockies 3
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 3
Marlins 7, Braves 3
Dodgers 4, Mets 2

 

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely:

Report: Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there”

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 24: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits to hit during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In Saturday’s column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo notes that, according to a scout, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there.” Braun has been bothered by neck and back issues this year, missing on Sunday his eighth start out of the Brewers’ last 14 games, but he has still put up a quality .351/.424/.583 triple-slash line in 170 plate appearances this year.

More importantly for an acquiring team, Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract. He’s earning $19 million this season and in the ensuing two seasons, and then his salary decreases slightly to $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million if both sides pick up his mutual option (else a $4 million buyout would be exercised).

Per Cafardo, the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox are potential landing spots for Braun.