The National League East has become a one-lane comfort cruise. The Braves topped the Marlins 5-0 last night at Turner Field to extend their winning streak to 14 games.
Brandon Beachy tossed eight scoreless innings for his first win since Tommy John surgery last June. He gave up just three hits and one walk while striking out six. There are questions about the Braves’ rotation, but if Beachy manages to regain his form down the stretch, that would be a big boost come postseason time. Remember, Beachy had a 3.07 ERA in 41 starts in the majors prior to the surgery.
The Braves got all of their offense last night from the home run ball, as Justin Upton and Chris Johnson went deep in the bottom of the first inning while Brian McCann connected for a solo blast in the third. After hitting just four home runs in 77 games between April 28 and the end of July, Upton has amassed six of them through eight games so far this month.
With a win later today, the Braves would tie for their longest winning streak (2000) since the team moved to Atlanta. They currently hold a 15 1/2 game lead over the Nationals, with their first division crown since 2005 looking like an inevitability.
Your Friday box scores:
Phillies 2, Nationals 9
Twins 7, White Sox 5; Twins 3, White Sox 2 (10 innings)
Padres 2, Reds 7
Angels 5, Indians 2
Cubs 3, Cardinals 0
Tigers 3, Yankees 4 (10 innings)
Pirates 1, Rockies 10
Athletics 14, Blue Jays 6
Mets 4, Diamondbacks 5
Red Sox 6, Royals 9
Rangers 9, Astros 5
Brewers 10, Mariners 5
Rays 6, Dodgers 7
Orioles 5, Giants 2 (10 innings)
On Sunday, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was ejected for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado‘s head. It was revenge for a slide of Machado’s which ended up injuring Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Barnes was suspended four games.
Hall of Famer and former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said that if he were in Barnes’ shoes, he would have also thrown at Machado, although not necessarily at his head. Via ESPN’s Scott Lauber:
If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him. The only thing I would’ve done differently is probably bring the ball a little bit lower.
Martinez added that Machado “did not intend to hurt Pedroia. And I know that because I know Machado.” And he doesn’t think Barnes meant to throw at Machado’s head.
Martinez, of course, was certainly a pitcher who wasn’t afraid to pitch inside to batters and even hit a few of them when he felt he or his teammates had been wronged. This is an unfortunate part of baseball’s culture and the fact that it continues means that it will eventually result in someone being seriously hurt. It’s disappointing that Martinez isn’t willing to be a better role model now that his playing days are over. Martinez could have set an example for today’s pitchers by saying what Barnes did crossed a line. Getting a Hall of Famer’s seal of approval will only embolden players now when they feel they must defend their teammates’ honor.
The “tradition” of beaning batters to defend one’s teammates is anachronistic in today’s game, especially when Major League Baseball has made strides in so many other ways recently to protect players’ safety.
Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez continued to struggle on Thursday, allowing a run in a 2-1 loss to the Mariners. It’s the sixth time in nine appearances that the right-handed veteran has allowed a run, bumping his ERA up to 6.23. He’s blown two saves and has two losses on the year.
Despite that, it doesn’t sound like Rodriguez’s job as the Tigers’ closer is in any jeopardy, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. When asked how much of a leash Rodriguez has, manager Brad Ausmus said, “I’ll let you know.” Ausmus continued, “I think people have short memories. This guy did a pretty good job for us last year. Early on, people were worried because the velocity was down. Well, the velocity is back.”
“But at some point,” Ausmus said, “he does have to pitch the way he pitched last year, because he did an outstanding job for us last year and in a city that has been looking for a closer that was consistent for a long time, he was that.”
Rodriguez, 35, doesn’t have the stuff he once did. And the Tigers do appear to have someone who would be a better option in high-leverage situations. Lefty Justin Wilson has thrown 9 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings so far this season with 15 strikeouts and three walks. But for now, it sounds like Rodriguez will be free to work through his issues.