It didn’t take 12 innings, like Saturday’s game did, but the Giants edged the Astros 3-2 for the second straight game Sunday, with Matt Cain picking up his 10th win in the process.
Cain, facing the Astros for the first time since he pitched a perfect game against them last month, allowed two runs — one earned — in 6 1/3 innings.
The Giants are now 49-40 this season, even though they’ve been outscored by three runs.
They’re one of three teams playing on the opposite side of their run differential:
Giants: 49-40 – 346 RS, 349 RA – (3)
Orioles: 46-42 – 361 RS, 400 RA – (39)
Indians: 45-43 – 395 RS, 425 RA – (30)
The big factor there: the Giants are 20-13 in one-run games. In fact, the Orioles, Indians and Giants (in that order) have MLB’s best winning percentages in one-run games this season.
There aren’t currently any teams under .500 with a positive run differential, though the Red Sox have fit that description for much of the season. They’re currently 45-44 with 438 runs scored and 395 runs allowed (+43). The Diamondbacks have exactly as many runs scored as runs allowed (377) and they’re 42-46.
The Rangers, at +73, have baseball’s best run differential, with the Yankees second at +68. Those are also the two teams with the best records in baseball. The Twins have the worst run differential at -96. The Astros, with baseball’s worst record, are second at -77.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.