David Freese

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

44 Comments

Cardinals 6, Giants 1: So both my kids came down with strep throat at the same time. Figures. And it figures it would happen on the first truly warm and nice day of the spring. Sunny, breezy, pushing 80 and, with the exception of the trip to the urgent care to get the throat swab and antibiotics prescription, we’re inside all day. Which is cool. Make the most of it. Turn on a baseball game. I turned on this one late in the afternoon. The kids are too sick to go out and play but not so sick to where they can’t watch the game over my shoulder, telling me which players they think are lame (i.e. all of them), that it’s funny how, given that my name is Craig Allen, that there’s a player named Allen Craig, and reminding me when they see Tim Lincecum in the dugout — the only player they really know by sight — that mommy thinks he’s cute like those sketchy skater boys she used to date before she met me.  And yes, the kids know this. He’s “mom’s boyfriend.”  How was your Sunday?

Phillies 3, Braves 0: Cole Hamels was on point, striking out eight over seven innings, rendering last start’s boo-fest ancient history. The saving grace of the kids being sick is that I was at the urgent care for most of this one. Which I would have been watching and not enjoying too terribly much if they weren’t sick, so thanks streptococcal pharyngitis! To call the Braves’ offense sputtering is an insult to the concept of sputtering. Apart from Friday’s “where the hell did that come from” game against Cliff Lee, Braves hitters couldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.

Red Sox 4, Yankees 0: Josh Beckett looked better last night than he had in years. The velocity was up, the command was there and the Yankees didn’t have much of a chance. Open question: homers aside — and they do have a lot of them — is this a Yankees offense with real problems, or did they just catch a good pitcher on the wrong night, recapturing something we all thought he had lost?

White Sox 6, Rays 1: Paul Konerko was rockin’ (two homers) Gavin Floyd was rollin’ (eight, innings no earned runs), and the Rays continue to reel.  Babara Ann.

Brewers 6, Cubs 5: The Brewers are on a roll — they’ve won five of six — and Prince Fielder is on a roll too. He hit a two-run jack in this one and is now is 11 for his last 18 with two home runs and 11 RBIs.  Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee hit two-run shots too, McGehee’s a pinch hit job that brought the Brewers from behind and put them on top to stay.

Angels 3, Blue Jays 1: Anaheim is on a roll too, winners of four of five. Jered Weaver struck out 15 Jays in seven and two-thirds. It was his career high and the most for an Angel pitcher since Chuck Finely struck out 15 Yankees in 1995.  Weaver is 3-0 on the season with a cool 0.87 ERA.

Astros 7, Marlins 1: J.A. Happ pitched some righteous baseball into the eighth inning and was 2 for 3 with a couple of RBI as well.  Someone confirm for me that the Astros announcers said that Happ “helped his own cause.”  Because if they didn’t, they get fined. It’s right there in the guild’s bylaws. No, I’m sorry, I can’t show you the guild’s bylaws.  They’re secret.

Padres 7, Dodgers 2: San Diego salvages one behind Aaron Harang. Ryan Ludwick and Nick Hundley were in the middle of the action offensively, scoring four runs, getting two hits driving in three and walking three times between them.

Indians 6, Mariners 4: And the Tribe sweeps the Mariners, who are doing a great job of validating the preseason doom and gloom. Erik Bedard was shelled for six runs on ten hits in four innings. That’s seven straight for the Erie Warriors.

Athletics 5, Twins 3: Oakland takes two of three in Minnesota, showing some signs of offensive life in the process. The Twins continue to struggle in that department. They’ve only scored 24 runs in their nine games so far this year.

Diamondbacks 10, Reds 8: Arizona came back from a 5-0 deficit. Chris Young hit a big three-run homer and Stephen Drew reached base five times and had three RBIs as the Dbacks take two of three from the Reds.

Rockies 6, Pirates 5: Seth Smith with the always exciting game-winning bases loaded walk in the seventh. The walk came off Mike Crotta, who walked three of the four batters he faced. The other one — Jason Giambi — hit an RBI single.  Nice win, but I love how the AP game story has the Rockies talking about how much they’re proving by winning on the road in the early going this year. As if a series against the Pirates breaks the mold or makes a statement or something.

Rangers 3, Orioles 0:  The Rangers have the best pitching in the AL right now and the second best offense. Other than that, I suppose they’re in good shape.

Royals 9, Tigers 5: I had been thinking before the season that for the Tigers to do anything this year, they needed Rick Porcello to put it together. He’s not putting it together. But hey, he’s consistent! In each of his first two starts he’s given up five runs on nine hits in five innings. Wilson Betemit went 4 for 4 with two doubles and a walk.

Nationals 7, Mets 3:  Chris Young deserved a better fate after allowing one run on one hit in seven innings, but that’s bullpens for ya. D.J. Carrasco gave up the lead in the eighth, Blaine Boyer gave up the game in the eleventh.

Eddie Perez likely to be Braves’ interim manager if Fredi Gonzalez is fired

Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, left, stands with manager Fredi Gonzalez during a spring training baseball workout, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
2 Comments

There’s been a lot of rumbling that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will soon get the pink slip. His team is 7-20 entering Thursday’s action. Historically, front offices — particularly those of rebuilding/restructuring teams — respond to that by making coaching and/or managerial changes.

Per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, bullpen coach Eddie Perez is likely to fill in as the Braves’ manager on an interim basis if and when Gonzalez is fired. Perez has been with the Braves as a coach since 2007. He played for the Braves in 10 out of his 11 seasons from 1995-2005. Perez wasn’t known for his bat, but was respected for the way he called games and handled the Braves’ then-elite pitching staff.

Bowman notes that Gonzalez isn’t expected to be fired over the weekend. If the team plays well, that could extend Gonzalez’s leash, so to speak.

First baseman Freddie Freeman issued a vote of confidence for his skipper, saying, “I think everything is getting magnified since we’re off to this start. I don’t know if it’s fair to put it all on [Gonzalez] because he’s not a player. We’re the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day. We’re obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that’s Fredi’s fault is unfair in my opinion.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, left, and Kris Bryant celebrate a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
2 Comments

The Phillies and Cardinals got started a little early, finishing up their four-game series on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we have 10 games on our slate, including Cubs-Nationals.

The Cubs have jumped out to a 20-6 start, looking like baseball’s best — and scariest — team. Entering Thursday’s action, the Cubs have a +93 run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). That’s by far the best in baseball. The next best are the Nationals at +50, the Mets at +44, and the Cardinals at +41. In fact, the Cubs’ run differential is so good that they have under-performed relative to their expected won-lost record of 22-4.

This is without Kyle Schwarber. This is with Jason Heyward hitting a miserable .211/.317/.256, Jorge Soler hitting .185/.276/.292, and Addison Russell hitting .224/.356/.329. It’s with John Lackey pitching to a 4.32 ERA.

What makes the Cubs so good? They’re on-base machines. The club’s aggregate .364 on-base percentage is second best in the majors behind the Pirates. Dexter Fowler has an outstanding .470 OBP and Anthony Rizzo is at an elite .403. In fact, of their regulars with 100-plus plate appearances, Heyward is the only one with a sub-.350 OBP. The league average is .319. The Cubs steal bases, too, as they’re 17-for-24 (~71 percent) in that department.

The Cubs have baseball’s best pitching staff, which has yielded a major league-best 2.54 runs per game. Only four teams are below 3.00 runs allowed per game. Of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta is the big contributor to that with a sterling 0.84 ERA, but Jon Lester has put up a 1.58 mark and Jason Hammel 1.24. Closer Hector Rondon has found himself in only four save situations but has converted each of them with an even 1.00 ERA and a 15/0 K/BB ratio in nine innings. The Cubs’ aggregate bullpen ERA of 2.66 is fifth-best in the majors.

It’s too early to use defensive statistics with any degree of certainty, but even the eye test shows the Cubs to be elite defenders at the important positions, particularly shortstop (Russell), right field (Heyward), and third base (Kris Bryant).

The Cubs’ success isn’t exactly surprising. The club rode five consecutive fifth-place finishes into some high draft picks and that talent is starting to establish itself in the majors. Whether it was fans, writers, or Vegas oddsmakers, the Cubs were preseason darlings.

Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs opposite the Nationals’ Joe Ross at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ Chicago White Sox (Erik Johnson), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

The Phillies are seeing to it that their minor leaguers eat well

Crop of vegetables. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other vegetables.
12 Comments

For years we’ve talked about how odd it is that baseball teams are in the extraordinarily competitive business of developing highly-trained athletes yet, for whatever reason, it pays minor leaguers virtually nothing and all but forces them to subsist on junk food and other cheap options.

As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, however, the Phillies are changing that. Indeed, they’re plowing serious money into nutritious food options for their minor league players:

The Phillies are teaching their minor leaguers how to play baseball, so why not teach them how to eat well, too?

“We want them to not have to worry about anything other than baseball,” assistant general manager Ned Rice said. “When they’re playing for the Phillies, they’ll have that stuff taken care of for them.”

 

That this is a news story — and it is a good and novel one — is kind of sad in some ways. How teams haven’t been on board with this approach for decades is beyond me.

Tracking baseball’s “Naturals”

The Natural
5 Comments

Rob Neyer has a great column in today’s New York Times in which he tracks the real life players who, at one time or another, were dubbed “The Natural.” A la Roy Hobbs in the book and movie of the same name.

There are some that a lot of people probably remember: Jeff Francoeur and Ken Griffey, Jr. as “The Natural” come to mind easily. There are some who I don’t ever recall being called “The Natural” but were, apparently, like Terry Pendelton and Karim Garcia. There are also some whose stories were far odder and far more tragic than any version of Hobbs’ tale (oh man, a Toe Nash sighting!). Then there’s Rick Ankiel, whose path may be the closest one to Hobbs’ of them all, at least broadly speaking.

Fun stuff that, in addition to being a walk down memory lane, is also an instructive lesson about how the power of narrative works in sports.