And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Mariners 4, Red Sox 2: I went down to West Virginia to see old friends
over the weekend. I went without my wife and kids, so I had a lot of
time to wander around my old hometown, drive some crazy country back
roads, do a little hiking in the middle of nowhere and generally get
lost in my own head for a little bit. Highly enjoyable, but I gotta say: both the 20 year-old memories stirred
by meeting up with friends and being removed from civilization for a day
or two was a bit disorienting. Dreamilike, in some ways, really. You know how in “Inception” Leo DiCaprio had that little spinny top thing? Well, I use boring and inefficient Dice-K starts in which he throws 110 pitches in six innings while walking five dudes to let me know when I am out of dream land and back to reality.

Astros 4, Reds 0: Seven innings of one-hit ball for Wandy Rodriguez
against a Reds team that seems like it had one foot on the charter to
Milwaukee from the time this one got going. I listened to this game on
the radio on my way back from West Virginia yesterday. Well, part of it.
After spending the better part of two days touring the coal fields, I
didn’t have a lot of patience for Reds’ color man Jeff Brantley telling
us that pinch hitting was “the hardest job in America.” It was 1-0 at
that point, though, so I guess I didn’t miss anything that truly
impacted game’s outcome. 

Rangers 6, Angels 4: Josh Hamilton continues to be ridiculous and the Rangers take three of four from Anaheim, extending their lead to seven games. Dan Haren is nice, Angels fans, but I really can’t see him being a difference maker right now.

Giants 3, Diamondbacks 2: Buster Posey smacks four hits to extend his hitting streak. He’s at .469/.511/.815 in July and at .371/.407/.579 on the year.  This is the man that Brian Sabean said “wasn’t ready” back in April. Sure, dude. Whatever.

Tigers 6, Blue Jays 5; Blue Jays 5, Tigers 3: When teams split a double header do the players go to bed that night thinking that the day was totally wasted? I’d probably feel that way.

Dodgers 1, Mets 0: Clayton Kershaw threw eight shutout innings a day after Joe Torre emptied the bullpen to win Saturday’s 13-inning affair. For the second day in a row Jerry Manuel refuses to use K-Rod in an ultra-tight game. Does he simply not trust his putative relief ace? Does he only care about saves?  How do you lose two games like the Mets’ Saturday and Sunday games without once getting your relief ace into the action?

Cardinals 4, Cubs 3: Felipe Lopez homers in the eleventh and Dennys
Reyes closes the door in the bottom half of the inning. Why Dennys Reyes
and not Ryan Franklin? Because Tony La Russa thought it would be a good
idea to use his best relief pitcher in a close game rather than have
him sit around and wait for a save situation, Jerry Manuel.

Brewers 8, Nationals 3: The Brewers sweep the Nats thanks to some terrible defense by Washington. Note to Jim Riggleman: Just because a guy has played a little third base in the past doesn’t mean he should play third base now.

Athletics 6, White Sox 4: Dallas Braden gets his first win since his perfecto nearly three months ago. Braden after the game: “I can finally quit answering calls from the Oakland Zoo looking for
their monkey. He’s off my back and I’ll be sending him home.” Hmm . . . was it the Vervet or the Squirrel Monkey?

Padres 6, Pirates 3: San Diego sweeps Pittsburgh in what is shaping up to be the Pirates’ worst season in 25 years. Which is saying something given that they’ve been wandering in the desert for a good 22 of those years.

Twins 10, Orioles 4: The Twins cruise despite having a number of regulars out of the starting lineup due to the effects of an unbearably steamy weekend in Baltimore. Jim Thome tied George Brett on the career RBI list. Remember when Thome used to play third base? Yeah, that was pretty hilarious.

Phillies 4, Rockies 3: Jimmy Rollins stole third and then came home on a wild pitch to score what turned out to be the winning run in seventh. If he would have reached on catcher’s interference and made it to second on a balk it would have been the run of the year. The Rockies have lost five in a row on what is turning out to be a nightmare east coast swing.

Marlins 5, Braves 4: The Braves had the bases loaded in the top of the eleventh with one out. Nate McLouth grounded into a double play. He was terrible before his concussion, the Braves won like crazy when he was gone and he’s been terrible since he came back. He adds absolutely nothing to this team. Wes Helms used to be talked about in similar unflattering terms when he played for the Braves but he got the game-winning hit in the bottom half of the inning for Florida. I think I’d rather have him playing centerfield than McLouth right now.

Yankees 12, Royals 6: Yankees in a laugher on the strength of two Curtis Granderson jacks and three RBI from Alex Rodriguez. Or at least it was a laugher until A-Rod got smacked with a ball in the eighth inning. It hit and bruised his left hand pretty good. “I was more fearful of the ball coming toward my face,” A-Rod said after the game. “My beautiful, beautiful face,” he did not add.

Rays 4, Indians 2Pretty spiffy play by Reid Brignac in the seventh, taking what could have easily been a game-tying hit away from Carlos Santana. I’m not a big fan of extreme defensive shifts like that, but I’ll admit it, they’re pretty satisfying when they result in a play like that.

Shocker: Bruce Bochy tabs Madison Bumgarner to start Opening Day

Madison Bumgarner
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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You might want to sit down for this news. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has tabbed ace Madison Bumgarner to start on Opening Day in Milwaukee against the Brewers, CSN Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic reports. Shocking, I know.

The Giants had a busy offseason, adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to the starting rotation, but neither had a shot at getting the Opening Day nod considering what Bumgarner has done for the Giants over the last five seasons.

Since the start of the 2011 season, the 26-year-old lefty compiled a 3.05 ERA with 1,034 strikeouts and 239 walks across 1,050 innings. Among starters who logged at least 800 innings in that span of time, only Clayton Kershaw, Cueto, Zack Greinke, David Price, and Felix Hernandez have posted lower ERAs.  And Bumgarner is the only one among them with a championship ring. In fact, he has three.

Tony Clark is not happy so many players remain unsigned

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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We’re almost halfway through February. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training soon. And yet, there are more than a handful of solid free agents that remain unsigned. Among them: Yovani Gallardo, Ian Desmond, and Dexter Fowler. All three have draft pick compensation tied to them, as each rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from his respective former team. That, undoubtedly, is a reason why they haven’t inked a contract yet.

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark is unhappy about this reality and expects to discuss potential changes when the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. The current CBA expires after the 2016 season. Per the Associated Press, Clark said last week, “I think it’s disappointing when there are as many talented players still without a home. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to be in a world where very talented players are at home for whatever reason they are there. It will likely be a part of the conversation in bargaining.”

Clark also mentioned, among other things, the possibility of a draft lottery, which would take away the incentive for teams to “tank”, or lose on purpose. The Astros and Phillies have notably done this in recent years, finishing with baseball’s worst record and thus netting the #1 overall draft pick.

These are, however, simply two items of many that will be discussed during the upcoming offseason. It will be interesting to see what solutions are eventually put in place.

Michael Pineda hopes to reach 200-inning mark for first time

New York Yankees' Michael Pineda delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
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It was reported on Friday that Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he makes his way back from arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. His health will be crucial to the Yankees’ chances this season, but the same goes for rotation-mate Michael Pineda, who hopes that this is the year he’ll be able to take on the workload of a frontline starter.

Pineda was on pace for a career-high in innings last season, but he landed on the disabled list in late July with a right flexor forearm muscle strain and missed a month. He struggled upon his return and ended up with 160 2/3 innings, so he fell short of his career-high of 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners way back in 2011. Now going into his age-27 season, Pineda told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that his goal for 2016 is to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career.

“For me, this year, I’m coming here early to be strong and working hard to pitch 200 innings this year,” Pineda said at the club’s Minor League complex. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. This is my goal, and help my team.”

Pineda had a mediocre 4.37 ERA (90 ERA+) last season despite impressive peripherals with 8.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. Among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched, only Bartolo Colon of the Mets had a lower walk percentage. Pineda managed to increase his ground ball rate to 48.2 percent and also saw an uptick in velocity from 2014, so there’s reason to believe in improvement if he can stay healthy.

Brewers GM: Acquiring Jacob Nottingham doesn’t change Jonathan Lucroy’s status

Jonathan Lucroy
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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The Brewers acquired prospects Jake Nottingham and Bubba Derby from the Athletics on Friday in exchange for slugging outfielder Khris Davis. The hope is that Nottingham will develop into the Brewers’ catcher of the future, so you could say that the club is planning for life after Jonathan Lucroy. However, Brewers general manager David Stearns said today that the trade doesn’t change Lucroy’s immediate status.

The Brewers are in rebuild-mode and Lucroy is an excellent trade chip if healthy, as his contract includes a $5.25 million club option for 2017. It’s likely just a matter of time before he’s shipped elsewhere, but yesterday’s trade shouldn’t change the timeline for a potential deal. Nottingham doesn’t turn 21 until April and has yet to play in Double-A, so he’s still a ways off from the majors. The Brewers can afford to wait on the right offer for Lucroy, whether it’s in spring training or at the trade deadline or perhaps later.

Checking in at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Nottingham batted .316/.372/.505 with 17 home runs over 109 games last season between Class A and High-A. He was traded from the Astros to the Athletics as part of the Scott Kazmir deal last July. It’s worth noting that Stearns was the assistant GM for Houston when Nottingham was drafted in the sixth round back in 2013, so he’s clearly a fan.