Penny dropped from rotation; Smoltz was tipping pitches?

Leave a comment

Boston dumping Brad Penny from the rotation certainly shouldn’t be shocking to anyone, but that the move is taking place in mid-August and involves Penny being bounced in favor of Junichi Tazawa rather than John Smoltz is pretty surprising.
Prior to Smoltz joining the Red Sox there was all kinds of talk about whether they should part with Penny to make room in the rotation, but they kept both and then Smoltz’s struggles made it a moot point. However, Penny definitely pitched his way out of the rotation by going 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA and 89/42 K/BB ratio in 131.2 innings spread over 24 starts, including 0-4 with a 9.11 ERA in his last five outings.
He’ll move to the bullpen for now while Tazawa makes one more start, and then Tim Wakefield’s return from the disabled list could shake things up further. Penny is one of just seven AL starters with an average fastball velocity of at least 94.0 miles per hour and he threw the pitch more often than any other starter in the league except for Jeff Niemann of the Rays, relying on his heater 72.4 percent of the time. All of which tells you that getting major-league hitters out involves a lot more than just throwing really hard.
Meanwhile, after watching Smoltz toss five shutout innings with nine strikeouts in his return to the NL yesterday the Cardinals are apparently convinced that he was tipping his pitches while getting knocked around in the AL. Tony La Russa told reporters yesterday that “it’s pretty clear he was tipping his pitches” while Smoltz said merely that he “very well could have been.”
We may never know the truth on that, but whatever the case moving to the NL and being on schedule to face the Padres, Nationals, and Pirates in his first three starts gives Smoltz every opportunity to succeed. I’ll have to double-check the Cardinals’ schedule to be certain, but I’m pretty sure that his fourth start would be against the Little League World Series runner-ups.

Sean Manaea thought he was throwing a one hitter

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tossing a no-hitter doesn’t just require physical excellence; it’s a mental feat, too. Which is why it may have helped that Athletics hurler Sean Manaea didn’t realize his no-hitter was intact until the eighth inning of Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Red Sox.

While the first few innings passed uneventfully, Sandy Leon managed to reach base in the fifth inning after skying a ball to shallow center field. It wasn’t a clean hit, of course — shortstop Marcus Semien dropped the ball on the catch and was promptly charged with an error to preserve Manaea’s no-hit bid.

That was news to Manaea, who told reporters that he didn’t realize he still had a no-hitter going until he saw the scoreboard in the eighth inning. “Until the eighth, I thought it just like was a one-hitter,” he said. “I looked up in the eighth and saw there were still zeros and was like, whoa, weird.” The delay of that realization may have calmed his nerves as he continued to blank the best team in baseball, eventually capping his 108-pitch, 10-strikeout effort in the ninth.

A few fun facts about the feat:

  • Manaea’s no-hitter was the 12th of its kind in franchise history, dating back to Weldon Henley’s no-no against the St. Louis Browns in 1905.
  • The most recent pitcher to do so for the A’s was fellow left-hander Dallas Braden, who completed the club’s second-ever perfect game against the Rays in 2010. Surprisingly, Manaea managed to make even more efficient use of his pitch count than Braden did during his perfecto; he fired just 108 pitches against the Red Sox, a hair under the 109 pitches used by Braden against the Rays.
  • Manaea himself, however, is just the seventh Athletics pitcher (and third lefty) to toss a no-hitter. Legendary southpaw Vida Blue pitched two no-nos for the team, including a combined no-hitter that also featured Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers against the 1975 California Angels.
  • Until Saturday, the Red Sox had the second-longest streak without being no-hit in the majors, at 3,987 games… a record that was only eclipsed by the A’s own streak.
  • With a 17-2 record and .895 winning percentage, the Red Sox were the most successful team to be no-hit in major-league history. Prior to Saturday’s loss, they averaged 6.4 runs per game and had yet to be shut out by any team in 2018.
  • Since 1908, 46 no-hitters have been pitched against AL East teams: four against the Blue Jays, five against the Rays, eight against the Yankees, 13 against the Red Sox and 16 against the Orioles. Mariners lefty Chris Bosio was the last pitcher to no-hit the Red Sox, a feat he accomplished almost exactly 25 years ago on April 22, 1993.