Tom Milone first in six years to go eight scoreless with no strikeouts

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The Royals must have thought A’s rookie Tom Milone was a nasty left-hander when they sat lefty bats Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas on Monday night. They went on to make him look like one, kind of anyway.

Tommy Milone became the first pitcher in six years to finish an outing with at least eight scoreless innings and no strikeouts as part of a 1-0 win over the Royals. He allowed three hits and three walks in the 93-pitch outing before turning the ball over to closer Grant Balfour in the ninth.

The last pitcher to go eight scoreless without a strikeout was Justin Verlander against the Twins on May 17, 2006. Verlander also went without a walk in that one, though he still threw 103 pitches in his eight innings. Chien-Ming Wang of the Yankees pulled off the same feat five days prior on May 12, 2006, with eight scoreless, strikeout-less innings against the A’s.

Before that, it hadn’t been done since Scott Erickson of the Orioles shut out the Royals on April 28, 2002. Milone is the first left-hander to do it since the Pirates’ Jimmy Anderson against the Cardinals on July 22, 2001.

Many are skeptical of Milone since he works in the high-80s and doesn’t feature a great breaking ball. What he does have is command, a plus changeup and a delivery that makes him tough to read. The combination helped him go 12-6 with a 3.22 ERA and a 155/16 K/BB ratio in 148 1/3 innings for Triple-A Syracuse last year. The A’s picked him up from the Nationals over the winter as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade.

Whether Milone can keep this up is unclear. Certainly, he won’t be able to without any strikeouts, but he did have excellent K rates his last two years in the minors. As a soft-tosser, he’ll always be doubted until he experiences extended success in the majors.

The Japanese playoffs are super unfair

Hiroshima Carp
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I know a little about Japanese baseball. Not a lot, mind you. Like, I couldn’t hold my own with people who actually watch it or report on it or whatever, but I could explain some of the broad differences and similarities between the NPB and the U.S. majors.  I can say a few things about how the two leagues compare competitively speaking. I can name some stars and (I think) all the clubs. But there’s, quite obviously, a ton I don’t know.

A thing I did not know until today: the NPB playoffs are really messed up.

The NPB is divided into two leagues, the Central and the Pacific, with the winner of each league facing off in the Japan Series. Like the U.S. majors, they have preliminary playoff rounds in each league. Each league has three playoff teams, with the second and third seed teams playing a series first, and the winner of that series playing the top seed — the team with the best record in the league — in what is called the Climax Series.

Here’s the weird part: the higher-seeded team in the Climax Series — the team which won the league in the regular season — gets every single playoff game at home. What’s more, that team begins the Climax Series with an automatic 1-0 advantage. So, yes, it’s a seven-game series on paper, but one of the teams only has to win three games to advance to the Japan Series.

Oh, in Japan, they also have no problems ending a playoff game early if it rains. That’s what happened in the Central League Climax Series last night, where the lower-seeded Yokohama BayStars took on the league champ Hiroshima Carp. Here’s the report from Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times:

The rainy conditions in Hiroshima caused the umpires to stop play for over 30 minutes and ultimately call the game after five innings, minutes after the Carp put three runs on the board. Just like that, it was over. The Carp won 3-0, with Yokohama robbed of the four innings (at least) it would’ve had to try and rally.

Even better: as Coskrey notes, there are five days in between the end of the Climax Series and the beginning of the Japan Series, so there is no reason they could not suspend a game and resume it the next day. They just choose not to. The upshot: the Carp were staked to a 2-0 series lead despite the fact that they had only played five innings of baseball. UPDATE: they played a full game today, the BayStars won, so now it’s 2-1 Hiroshima.

Imagine if that happened in the NLCS. Imagine if the Dodgers began the series with a 1-0 lead over the Cubs and played all of their games in Los Angeles. Imagine there was a freak L.A. storm and it ended one of the game in the fifth inning, right after Justin Turner hit a homer. I’m pretty sure people would riot.

Kinda makes our complaints about the replay system seem rather quaint, eh?