And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Reds 12, Indians 5: One in a bunch of lopsided Thursday games. Brandon Phillips simply abuses Indians pitching as a rule and he did so again yesterday, driving in four. And he likes it too. He said after the game: “Deep down, it feels good to beat up on the Tribe.” Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 21. The Reds sweep the Indians for the first time in four years. They are so close to claiming victory in the Battle of Ohio. And to the victor goes the spoils!  Soon the Reds will dine on the finest bologna and Velveeta the Buckeye State has to offer and the streets of Columbus, Lima and Akron will flow with the blood of the non-believers!

Cardinals 5, White Sox 3: Adam Dunn tied Josh Hamilton for the MLB lead in homers with his 22nd bomb. He’s on pace for 57 homers and 255 strikeouts. His average is .227 yet his OPS is .940. Dude is too weird to live, too rare to die. Sure, the Cardinals won, but that’s a mere detail. We’re in the business of building this donkey’s legend here, friend.

Mets 9, Rays 6: Johan Santana was less-than-sharp, but the Mets sweep the Rays behind two homers from Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Jason Bay added one too. That’s something considering he’s on a “hey, good for you!” basis for doing anything more than falling over these days.

Tigers 5, Cubs 3: Detroit wins its second straight over Chicago and Justin Verlander notches a win for the first time in a month. Most notable, however: just how thoroughly Detroit fans took over Wrigley Field in this series. It was basically a home game for the Tigers. Someone in Chicago had better come up with some sort of “Cubsitude” campaign. Or something.

Orioles 12, Pirates 6: Baltimore unloads on former mate Erik Bedard for their biggest offensive night of the season. Steve Pearce homered and drove in five. Matt Wieters drove in five and did it without even hitting a homer. The O’s were up 10-0 before the Pirates got a run. Just a shellacking.

Athletics 8, Rockies 2: Oakland has one of the worst offenses in the game but leaves Colorado having scored 26 runs in a three-game sweep. Meanwhile, Jarrod Parker allowed only three hits over seven scoreless innings. The Rockies are simply cratering.

Phillies 6, Twins 1: Know what Charlie Manuel needed? A night when he didn’t have to call on that freak show bullpen of his. And Joe Blanton gave it to him. Blanton threw a complete game, allowing one run on seven hits. Jim Thome hit a three-run bomb because he is Jim Thome and all he does is mash taters.

Royals 4, Brewers 3: For the second night in a row the Royals got to the back end of Milwaukee’s bullpen. Though really, this isn’t all on John Axford. He struck out the first man he faced but strike three was a wild pitch, allowing him to reach (note: like 75% of wild pitches seem to come on balls the catcher should at least knock down and passed balls are rarely called these days). The winning run scored on a dumb decision by shortstop Edwin Maysonet, who cut off a throw from the outfield in an effort to get the batter which allowed the lead runner to come around and score.

Diamondbacks 11, Rangers 3: Arizona salvages one and breaks out of a run scoring drought to do it. Daniel Hudson struck out seven in seven innings, rebounding from a nightmare start his last time out.

Astros 6, Giants 3: It was an extremely Barry Zito third inning, as he walked the bases loaded and then allowed a grand slam to J.D. Martinez. Brandon Belt hit his third homer in as many games. It’s gonna be extra fun when Bruce Bochy comes up with an excuse to bench him next time. I’m gonna go with “those homers are rally-killers” or some variation on that theme.

Padres 6, Mariners 2: The sweep. Edinson Volquez allowed one run and four hits while pitching into the seventh. Overall, Padres starters basically shut down the M’s lineup. Good for them and all, but I hope the pitching doesn’t continue to be good. Because I’ll be at the Padres-Rangers game with my kids on Monday night and if anyone takes a no-hitter late, I can totally see my kids being all like “can we GO?” At which point I’ll put them up for adoption.

Yoenis Cespedes should be ready for Tuesday’s game

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The Mets are off today, and that day off may be just enough to get outfielder Yoenis Cespedes ready to start their next game, on Tuesday, against the Braves. At least that’s what he’s telling Mets manager Terry Collins.

Cespedes did not play in the weekend series against the Nationals, but was available as a pinch hitter yesterday. He was even on the on-deck circle at the end of last night’s game.

Cespedes, who tweaked his hammy running to second base on Thursday, is hitting .255/.364/.636 with six homers and 10 RBI in 15 games on the young season.

Marcus Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch for some reason

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A “quick pitch” is an illegal action in which the pitcher pitches the ball before the batter is prepared. What makes a quick pitch a quick pitch? According to Rule 6.02(a)(5), it’s this:

 . . . Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

There are a couple of reasons why you don’t want quick pitches in baseball. In one respect, it’s about safety, as mentioned specifically in the rule. You don’t want a pitcher throwing a 90 m.p.h. fastball in the batter’s general direction if he’s not ready for it, because if it goes off course the batter will have no ability to defend himself and bail. But there’s also a spirit-of-the-game reason for it. The essence of baseball is the face-off between batter and pitcher. While everyone wants the game to move along promptly, the game isn’t really the game if the batter isn’t ready.

There is more art than science to all of this, of course, as all batters and pitchers have different pre-pitch routines, but when you watch a game, there’s a rhythm to all of that. You know the batter is gonna take a couple of practice swings and settle in. The pitcher tends to respect that. The quick pitch rule is rarely invoked for this reason.

It was used in yesterday’s Angels-Blue Jays game, however. And used badly in my view. Watch Marcus Stroman pitch to Kole Calhoun. The ump is Ramon DeJesus. The count was 3-1, so the automatic ball resulted in Calhoun being awarded first base:

Calhoun was obviously upset about something, calling time after Stroman is into his motion (which is not allowed) throwing his hands up and stuff after the pitch. But tell me, in what way was he not “reasonably ready” for that pitch, to use the language of the rule? He’s facing Stroman, looking at him. He’s done with his warmup swings, his bat is up and cocked and he’s standing in hitting position. I understand that it’s a judgment call by the umpire, but it seems to me like the umpire just called time too late because Calhoun didn’t feel ideally comfortable or something.

Either way, it set off Stroman and manager John Gibbons. Gibbons was ejected arguing the call. Stroman, who was otherwise excellent yesterday, was rattled for a bit, giving up a couple of hits and a run afterward. It was Calhoun who scored, natch.

It didn’t affect the outcome, but it certainly seemed like a bad call. And possibly a bad precedent, as batters may now try to lobby harder for quick pitch calls, given its success yesterday. Or, if umpires tend to think that was a bad call too, maybe they’ll overcompensate for it and be less likely to call quick pitches? You never know how this stuff will play out.

Whatever happens, I’ve been against Major League Baseball’s habit of increasingly taking judgment calls away from umpires, trying to make the subjective objective and making a flawed instant replay system the Supreme Court of Baseball Calls. But jeez, it’s hard to argue for allowing umps to hold on to judgment calls when they blow ’em like this.