And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Today was supposed to be the first day that I posted ATH later than I used to. Really: I was going to restore life balance with this one. I watched the Braves game last night but rather than stay up another hour and a half or two hours getting most of the recaps done, I turned off the TV and computer, went upstairs, read some non-baseball related things for a bit and then went to bed at a decent hour.  I was then going to wake up at six or so, calmly and with rest write ATH, post it at eight or something, content with the knowledge that 95% of you wouldn’t mind.

Then I woke up at 4:15 AM for no damn reason.

Whatever. Maybe life balance will return tomorrow.  Anyway:

Braves 9, Phillies 2: You know, I’d take way more pleasure in the Braves pounding the Phillies if it didn’t happen against Roy Halladay, because I actually really love that guy and hate to see these struggles. Guess I’ll have to get over that too. In the meantime: Evan Gattis homered in his MLB debut, Justin Upton hit a lazy, grit-free homer — clearly not playing to the scoreboard — and Jason Heyward added one against Jonathan Papelbon, who probably would have pitched better if he had anyone to lead him.  As for Gattis: with his newly-grown beard, dude looks like Mad Dog Buzz Sawyer, I have decided. Which led me to spend a good hour during the game last night in a Georgia Championship Wrestling Wikipedia hole. Which, by the way, is one of the kinds of things that help one restore life balance.

Giants 5, Dodgers 3: Walking seven in five innings is no way to go through life, son, but I suppose if you only give up two runs and drive one in yourself on a fielder’s choice it’s OK. Homers from Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence help too. In other news, given that one of those two guys is famously zaftig and the other one is on a hardcore paleo diet, I just got about 30 seconds of giggles trying to picture them  going out after the game to celebrate their heroics and getting into a fight trying to settle on a restaurant. Are there any combination kale/areapa places near Dodger Stadium?

Rays 8, Orioles 7: Walkoff bomb for Matt Joyce, saving Fernando Rodney’s bacon after he uncharacteristically blew a lead in the top of the ninth. It was the first time he’d even allowed a run since last August 18. Joyce’s quote after the game:

“To get the first win out of the way, and to have it in dramatic fashion kind of seems to be the Rays way.”

Funny. I thought “The Rays Way” was to slam former teammates for not having winning attitudes and claim that “The Rays Way” magically sprung into being the moment you yourself made the roster. Huh.

Diamondbacks 10, Cardinals 9: Matthew did a recap here. I’ll note that the fact that the Dbacks played a 16 inning game but were still afraid to use Heath Bell again speaks volumes. In other news, the fact that this game lasted beyond 3 A.M. eastern is part of the reason I’m gonna try not to get too hung up on staying up late to get these recaps done so darn early. Unless NBC will finally honor that request I put in about transferring me to a company-paid condo in a desirable west coast location I can’t hope to keep up with the late games and do them justice. Waiting to hear back from my supervisor on this any day now.

Mets 8, Padres 4: Matt Harvey struck out ten in seven shutout innings and his teammates supplied him with three two-run homers and a couple more on top. Which, keeping in mind it’s only been a couple of games, leads one to ask startling questions. Maybe that’s why I woke up at 4:15 AM. The possibility of unexpected horrors and such.

Rockies 7, Brewers 3: Juan Nicasio got his first win in nearly a year. Wilin Rosario, Michael Cuddyer and Dexter Fowler all homered too, as the Rockies take two of three from the Brewers to start the year. Walt Weiss after the game:

“Get good starting pitching and it tends to fall into place for you.”

That should happen at least a couple dozen times for him this season.

Indians 3, Blue Jays 2: Mark Reynolds hit the go-ahead homer in the 11th. This after Chris Perez blew the save in the ninth by surrendering a homer to Jose Bautista. I like the Indians this year and think they’ll surprise a lot of people, but Mark Reynolds and Chris Perez in key situations is gonna give Indians fans a lot of heartburn. The Jays start 0-2, putting a serious damper on that offseason title they won.

Athletics 6, Mariners 2: Tommy Milone gave up a couple of homers in the first inning but then he chilled out and pitched six shutout innings on top of that one.  Jed Lowrie went 3-for-3 with a homer a walk and three RBIs. Nate Freiman had two hits and an RBI in his major league debut, which is pretty cool.

Red Sox 7, Yankees 4: Clay Buchholz allowed one run in seven innings. Hiroki Kuroda took an early shower thanks to a Shane Victorino liner off his pitching hand. Not gonna bury the Yankees like everyone else, but their best shot to weather this early season storm of injuries and self-inflicted roster deficiencies is to get solid work from the 1-2-3 in their rotation. So far they’re 0 for 2 in that department.

Twins 3, Tigers 2: The girlfriend records a Tigers podcast each week for the Bless You Boys website. They were set to record this week’s installment last night right after this game ended. It ended with Phil Coke and the Tigers’ new quasi closer-by-committee setup blowing the game. I couldn’t hear them in the other room recording the podcast, but it took way longer than usual, so I can only assume it was to edit out all the f-bombs and bitter asides and such. If it were me, this week’s podcast would consist of me beating up an effigy of Jim Leyland as I screamed “DO NOT LET PHIL COKE PITCH TO RIGHTIES EVER, SEE?”

Pirates 3, Cubs 0: Wandy Rodriguez shut the Cubs out into the seventh inning, ending his night by getting out of a bases loaded jam with a strikeout to Brent Lillibridge with the count full. Just froze his butt. That bases loaded situation notwithstanding, the Cubs only managed two hits and that was the only time they got someone as far as third base.

Rangers 4, Astros 0: Houston was shut out for the second straight game, this time by Alexi Ogando — who struck out ten in six and a third — and four relievers who were mostly around to get some work in after not exactly needing it the past couple of games. The Astros have struck out 43 times in three games.

Nationals 3, Marlins 0: Gio Gonzalez did it all, throwing six shutout innings and hitting a homer. He was like that elephant in the old “Gone Batty” cartoon. Or maybe Bugs Bunny in “Baseball Bugs.” Hey, wait a minute. Warner Brothers was recycling cartoon plots!

White Sox 5, Royals 2: Jake Peavy threw a solid six and four Sox hit homers. The White Sox lost 12 of 18 to the Royals last year. If they had gone .500 against Kansas City they would’ve tied the Tigers for the AL Central title. So taking the first two games of the season from them probably feels pretty good.

Reds 5, Angels 4: Joey Votto drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth with a hot shot off Albert Pujols’ glove. Brandon Phillips hit a three-run homer. He’s the Reds’ cleanup hitter now, which is weird. But life is weird sometimes. Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are a combined 0 for 15 with five strikeouts in the first two games of the season. The Angels might survive yet another slow start from Pujols and early struggles from Hamilton. One wonders if Mike Scioscia will, though. I know it’s impossibly early, but I sorta feel like he’s gonna be the first manager to get the axe this year. You don’t sign the biggest free agents in the game two years running, get bad results and avoid someone being made a scapegoat.

OK, this time I mean it: tomorrow ATH is gonna be up later. Totally seriously.

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.