Darren O’Day isn’t a conventional pitcher. He’s given plenty of quality right-handed hitters a tough time during his big-league career. Still, it was kind of telling that Alex Rodriguez couldn’t catch up to his 85-mph fastball in Thursday’s loss to the Orioles.
A-Rod did get a single and a walk in five plate appearances Thursday. However, Yankees manager Joe Girardi again made the call to pull him with the game on the line. Unlike Wednesday, it didn’t pay off tonight, as Eric Chavez lined out in his place to end the 13-inning marathon. Still, pretty much everyone figures A-Rod would have struck out anyway.
Starting Rodriguez against left-hander Joe Saunders on Thursday was the right move. Now that the Orioles are going back to a righty in Jason Hammel for Game 5, it’s time for Rodriguez to take a seat. His bat is too slow to make him a threat right now, and if he’s capable of guessing fastball and cheating on it, he certainly hasn’t showed it so far.
Chavez should play third base in his place. Chavez hit .298/.365/.543 with 16 homers in 245 at-bats against righties during the regular season. A-Rod hit .256/.326/.391 with 10 homers in 317 at-bats.
Really, as bad as A-Rod has looked, this doesn’t even make for a tough call. Rodriguez is hardly the only Yankee struggling — Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson aren’t getting it done either — but Chavez has been the superior option against righties for months now and with the season on the line, the Yankees can’t afford to be going with their lesser players. It’d do or die, and A-Rod appears long dead.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.