The Giants were so dominant in the 2010 postseason that Matt Cain had no chance to match Cole Hamels’ feat from 2008. Hamels went 4-0 and his team won all five of his starts as the Phillies marched to a World Series victory.
Cain, on the other hand, pitched just three times as the Giants cleaned up two years ago. Starting once each series, he allowed only one unearned run over 21 1/3 innings as San Francisco won its championship.
Until now, that was the only time the Giants had reached the postseason in Cain’s seven big-league seasons, meaning Cain entered his Game 1 start tonight with a 0.00 ERA. Unfortunately, it didn’t last for long. Cain left a curveball up to Brandon Phillips in the third, and Phillips deposited it into the stands in left for a two-run homer. In the fourth, Jay Bruce was able to yank a changeup out to right, making it 3-0.
With the Giants yet to score, Cain was removed for a pinch-hitter after five. He was at just 75 pitches and likely would have been good for two more innings, but this is the postseason and the Giants needed offense. They went on to lose 5-2.
For Cain, it was the first time he allowed two homers since the July 21. It happened five times during the regular season, yet two of those five outings came against the Reds.
The early exit makes Cain a candidate to come back and pitch Game 4 on short rest. The Giants haven’t announced their starters beyond Madison Bumgarner on Sunday, but expectations were that it’d be Tim Lincecum in Game 3 and Barry Zito in Game 4. Cain in Game 4 now seems a whole lot more likely, particularly if the Giants are down 2-1.
But that probably doesn’t scare the Reds. Cain has allowed 11 runs over 18 innings the three times he’s faced Cincinnati this year. While he’s plenty good, he suddenly appears vulnerable.
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has not exactly been strikeout-averse over his five-year career, but he has been pretty good about not bunching them up. Entering Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Harper had struck out three or more times in a game only 21 times in 533 games. He had registered two four-strikeout games, the last of which occurred on August 21, 2012 — his rookie season.
On Sunday, Harper struck out three times against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez and once against reliever Seung Hwan Oh for the dreaded golden sombrero. The reigning NL MVP has now equaled his walk and strikeout totals at 17 apiece.
Despite the rough afternoon, Harper still owns a lusty .272/.390/.679 triple-slash line with nine home runs and 24 RBI.
Yankees third baseman Chase Headley finished April without registering an extra-base hit. Across 71 plate appearances, he registered only nine hits for an uninspiring .150/.268/.150 triple-slash line. Speaking to David Laurilia of FanGraphs, Headley said that Yankee Stadium isn’t as hitter-friendly as many people think it is, and added that the shift has helped to limit his offensive success.
“Everybody talks about how good of a ballpark Yankee Stadium is to hit in, but it’s pretty big with the exception of right field,” said Headley. “The rest of it plays as big, or bigger, than most yards. It’s maybe a better fit for guys who hit the ball high down the line than it for guys who hit the ball like I have for a lot of my career.”
“Because of the shifting that’s going on now, if you hit the ball on the ground, for the most part you’re out,” Headley told me. “I’m trying to get the ball elevated — I want to hit it hard in the air — and if I never hit another ball on the ground, I’ll be happy.”
According to StatCorner.com, Yankee Stadium is indeed better for left-handed hitters, and particularly so when it comes to extra-base hits. It lists park factors for handedness, setting 100 as average. A higher number means it’s more hitter-friendly. Here are the left-right numbers as of today’s writing:
- Singles: 101 for left-handed hitters, 102 for right-handed hitters
- Doubles and triples: 101 LH, 82 RH
- Home runs: 137 LH, 127 RH
Headley’s hypothesis seems to have some merit. But his claim that shifts have been hurting him doesn’t seem to hold up to the numbers.
Headley’s ground ball BABIP (batting average on balls in play) this season is only .022 behind his career average of .239. As he’s only hit 23 ground balls total this season, the difference between .239 and .217 is less than one hit.
Where Headley’s BABIP is notably lower is line drives. His career average line drive BABIP is .698, but it’s only .333 on nine line drives in 2016. This could be simple bad luck or it could mean Headley is making worse contact. FanGraphs’ batted ball data suggests Headley has been pulling significantly fewer balls (36 percent to his 45 percent career average), and he’s making “hard” contact less often (21 percent versus his 31 percent career average). Overall, there’s been very little change in his ground ball rate versus his fly ball rate.
Headley mentioned to Laurila that if he could, he would try to hit fly balls to the pull side more often. “I’m working on that,” he said.
Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez was given permission to leave the team on Friday in order to travel to Miami. Martinez was named in a lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed he knowingly trasmitted mutliple sexually trasmitted diseasese to her. She is seeking $1.5 million in damages for battery, negligent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, fraud, and more, TMZ reported on Saturday.
Martinez rejoined the team and started on Sunday afternoon against the Nationals. His attorney called the allegations “100% false”.
The Cardinals are waiting for more information to find out if the league will investigate the matter under its domestic violence policy. Via Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, GM John Mozeliak said, “We wait. And once we learn more, then we’ll have more of an idea. These are things you just learn as you go.”
The Blue Jays had a comfortable 5-1 lead in the top of the ninth inning of Sunday afternoon’s game against the Rays, but one never knows when a base runner might be crucial. Kevin Pillar was on first base when reliever Ryan Webb threw over to first on a pickoff attempt and got him in a rundown.
First baseman Logan Morrison chased Pillar towards second base, lobbing the ball to shortstop Brad Miller. Miller sent Pillar back to first base, throwing to Webb covering the bag. Webb chased Pillar back towards second base and threw to second baseman Logan Forsythe. Forsythe chased Pillar back again, but Webb wasn’t able to get out of Pillar’s way. Second base umpire Mark Ripperger immediately signaled “no obstruction” and Pillar was easily tagged out after he was essentially bear hugged by Webb.
Here’s the MLB.com video.
Major League Baseball defines obstruction as “the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.” Webb had already thrown the ball and Forsythe was in possession of it, so he couldn’t have been considered “in the act of fielding.”
At any rate, the Jays still won 5-1, giving them the series win over the Rays.