And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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I looked at the schedule as I sat down to write this and noted that, even including the postponed game, there were only 14 games yesterday. Rays-A’s played Thursday-Saturday, leaving yesterday off to avoid conflicts with the Republican National Convention. Guess you couldn’t expect the RNC to compromise, so …

Anyway, it was weird and disorienting to see less than a full slate of games. Only thirteen thanks to the rain in Baltimore. Oh wells:

Phillies 4, Nationals 1: The sweep. With Cliff Lee pitching like Cliff Lee is supposed to pitch. Everyone’s having a lard at the Phillies season in the wilderness, but I think folks are gonna be in for a surprise next year when everyone’s healthy and they have Hamels/Lee/Halladay and a couple of good bats. It ain’t perfect, no, but that more than plays in the NL.

Brewers 7, Pirates 0: You hear that Mr. Hurdle?… That is the sound of inevitability… It is the sound of your death… Goodbye, Mr. Hurdle…

Braves 7, Giants 1: Tim Hudson allowed one over seven innings and, while it wasn’t an awful start, Tim Lincecum looked quite mortal allowing three over five. Back to back homers by Heyward and Freeman in the ninth were unnecessary piling on.

Cardinals 8, Reds 2: Four hits and four RBI for Matt Holliday, who has to be a part of the MVP conversation. Allen Craig homered and drove in three. The Cardinals are heating up. They’ve past the Pirates and, while still six back of the Reds, are looking dangerous.

Yankees 4, Indians 2: Curtis Granderson hit his 200th home run. Of all time, not in the game or the season, because those would be records. New York took two of three from lowly Cleveland, giving them a bit of breathing room over the Rays, who are four back.

Tigers 5, Angels 2: Back to back homers in the sixth by Prince Fielder and Delmon Young. Max Scherzer continued his recent good run, striking out nine in seven innings and winning his 14th. Mike Trout had a bad series. I note it only because I think it’s the first bad series he’s had all year.

Cubs 5, Rockies 0: Chris Volstad got his first win since, I think, the Carter administration. The game ended early due to rain. Gonna level with you: i’m having a hard time thinking about a Cubs game in Chicago, guys. For reasons that are best left unexplored but which have something to do with my girlfriend, I started watching that old TBS show “My Boys” over the weekend. The one with the female lead who covers the Cubs and has all the male friends and — based on two or three episodes anyway — looks like it’s gonna be some inside-out “Sex and the City” thing, albeit somewhat smarter. Upshot: the chick is pretty good looking, but all I keep thinking is how the people who really cover the Cubs look like Paul Sullivan. I can only suspend my disbelief so much, folks.  Oh, and I want the main character’s apartment.

Padres 5, Diamondbacks 4: Seven game winning streak for the Friars. They have swept the Diamondbacks in Arizona twice this year. A  three-man umpire crew officiated the game after crew chief Tim Tschida was scratched due to “personal medical reasons.” With the caveat that I will take this joke back if it turns out to actually be serious, I’m gonna assume he’s suffering from Little Donnie’s Disease.

Red Sox 8, Royals 6:  Pedro Ciriaco had three hits, scored twice and drove in two. James Loney had an RBI single. Wondering how long until the new car smell wears off the new look Sox and everyone starts to realize that, just because some guys no one likes are gone, the team isn’t any more fun to watch and certainly isn’t better.

Twins 6, Rangers 5: You can’t stop Ben Revere, you can only hope to contain him. Four hits for him, as the Twins broke a five-game losing streak.

Marlins 6, Dodgers 2: Four homers for the Marlins. Three in three games for Giancarlo Stanton. He had eight homers during the Marlins’ 11-game road trip.

Mets 2, Astros 1: Offensively, it was all Ike Davis, as he accounted for both Mets runs with homers, including the walkoff. Lucas Duda gunned a would-be runner out at home in the ninth to keep the game tied at 1.

White Sox 4, Mariners 3: Like the Cubs game, this one was called early — after seven — due to rain. Tyler Flowers’ game-winning homer came in just under the wire.

Blue Jays vs. Orioles: POSTPONED: As a man I ain’t never been much for sunny days. I’m as calm as a fruit stand in New York and maybe as strange. But when the color goes out of my eyes, it’s usually the change.  But damn Sam I love a woman that rains.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.