Daily Dose: Great Greinke

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Perhaps sick of watching the lowly Royals cost him victories with poor support from the bullpen and lineup, Zack Greinke took matters into his own hands Sunday with a complete-game, one-hit shutout against the Mariners. Kenji Johjima’s second-inning single was the lone hit allowed by Greinke, who struck out five and walked one while lowering his league-leading ERA to 2.32.
Greinke ranks just fifth in the AL with 13 wins and has lost eight times despite giving up more than three earned runs only four times in 27 starts, but there’s no doubt that he’s been the league’s best pitcher. He leads the AL with a 2.32 ERA, six complete games, three shutouts, and a 1.08 WHIP while ranking behind only Justin Verlander with 202 strikeouts and second to only CC Sabathia with 190.1 innings.
If ever there was a time to ignore a pitcher’s win-loss record, this is it. Kansas City’s lineup ranks second-worst in the AL and Greinke has received less run support than any starter in the league. Beyond that the Royals’ bullpen ranks dead last in the AL with a 5.15 ERA and the team has gone just 37-66 when Greinke isn’t on the mound, which is a 104-loss pace. Don’t let his team’s awfulness mask his greatness.
While the Cy Young voters hopefully take notice of Greinke’s amazing year, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Chad Qualls has been solid as Arizona’s closer, posting a 3.63 ERA and 45/7 K/BB ratio in 52 innings, and converted his 24th save in 29 tries Sunday. Unfortunately it may be his final save of the year, as he suffered a dislocated kneecap while twisting to deflect a ground ball up the middle on the game’s last play. Qualls collapsed into a heap on the mound before the trainer popped his knee back into place. Not pretty.
He’s scheduled to undergo an MRI exam Monday, at which point the Diamondbacks should know whether he’ll be able to pitch again this year. Jon Rauch had been the primary setup man in Arizona all season and would’ve been in line for saves, but the Diamondbacks dealt him to the Twins on Friday. Juan Gutierrez seems likely to get the nod despite being a rookie with a 4.29 ERA and 55/27 K/BB ratio in 57 innings.
* After taking three weeks to get his 38-year-old arm back into pitching shape, Paul Byrd made his Red Sox debut Sunday with six shutout innings against the Blue Jays. While he was using just 83 pitches to record 18 outs, Daisuke Matsuzaka struggled in a rehab start at Double-A, giving up five runs in two innings. Matsuzaka appeared on track to rejoin the rotation on September 9, but those plans may have changed.
* Jake Peavy’s eventual White Sox debut has been delayed further after he departed a minor-league rehab start over the weekend with elbow soreness. Peavy is on the disabled list because of an ankle injury, but his elbow became a bigger concern after he was hit by a line drive during a rehab outing last week. He lasted just 3.1 innings while trying to pitch through the discomfort and will be examined further Monday.
AL Quick Hits: Roy Halladay lost Sunday for the sixth time in his last 10 starts … As planned, Joba Chamberlain was removed from Sunday’s start after just three innings and 35 pitches … Fresh off the disabled list, Akinori Iwamura went deep Sunday off Justin Verlander for his first homer in 155 at-bats … John Lackey allowed just an unearned run over eight innings Sunday, slicing his ERA below 4.00 … Brian Matusz turned in his first gem Sunday, striking out eight and walking one in seven innings of one-run ball … Mark Teixeira homered Sunday to become the first AL player to crack 100 RBIs … Ryan Rowland-Smith took a tough-luck loss Sunday, striking out seven in eight innings of three-run ball … Kendry Morales smacked his 10th homer of the month and 30th homer of the season Sunday … Jorge Posada returned to the lineup Sunday and plans to play through his finger injury.
NL Quick Hits: Adam Wainwright notched his MLB-best 16th victory with six innings of one-run ball Sunday … Edgar Renteria hit a go-winning grand slam Sunday as the Giants tied the Rockies for the Wild Card lead … Nelson Figueroa had a career-high 10 strikeouts Sunday, allowing just one run in seven innings … Troy Tulowitzki went 4-for-5 and matched a career-high with his 24th homer Sunday … Washington dealt Ronnie Belliard to Los Angeles for Single-A reliever Luis Garcia and a player to be named later … Randy Johnson (shoulder) has been playing catch from flat ground and could return in September as a reliever … Justin Upton homered Sunday and is now 9-for-20 with four extra-base hits since returning from the disabled list … Carlos Zambrano gave up 10 singles and a triple before being chased after just 3.1 innings Sunday … Garrett Jones homered again Sunday, giving the minor-league veteran 16 long balls in 51 games … Clayton Kershaw racked up 11 strikeouts in a no-decision Sunday, giving him 164 on the season.

Collins worried David Wright might go on disabled list

Washington Nationals v New York Mets
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NEW YORK (AP) Mets manager Terry Collins is worried David Wright may wind up on the disabled list because of a neck injury.

New York’s captain and third baseman was out of the starting lineup for the third straight day Monday because of his neck. He was given anti-inflammatory medicine over the weekend.

Now 33, Wright was on the disabled list from April 15 to Aug. 24 last year when he strained his right hamstring and then developed spinal stenosis. He has a lengthy physical therapy routine he must go through before each game.

“With the condition he’s been playing in and the condition he’s in right now, yeah, I’m concerned about it,” Collins said Monday. “Is it going to happen? I can’t tell you. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. I know this guy plays with a lot of discomfort. He always has. And when he can’t play, he’s hurt.”

Wright homered in three straight games last week before getting hurt. He is batting .226 with seven homers, 14 RBIs and 55 strikeouts in 137 at-bats.

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: