Gerardo Parra

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And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores and highlights from Saturday’s games, including Jeremy Guthrie’s worst birthday ever.

Tigers 4, Red Sox 1: So much for the Twins’ undefeated streak. White Sox’ right-hander Miguel Gonzalez rattled off five scoreless frames on Saturday afternoon, striking out six of 27 batters and holding the Twins to two runs and two walks in over six total innings. Jason Castro bounced back in the sixth with a two-RBI home run to center field, but it wasn’t enough to even the score after Avisail Garcia and Geovany Soto went back-to-back in the bottom of the inning.

Cardinals 10, Reds 4: According to Elias Sports Bureau, Bronson Arroyo became the first 40-year-old to start a game for the Reds since 46-year-old Hod Lisenbee and 40-year-old Boom Beck appeared in the Reds’ rotation in 1945. It was a tumultuous and short-lived return to the mound for the veteran right-hander, who has been conspicuously absent from the majors for over three years. Whether it was nerves or rustiness, Arroyo sank the Reds into a six-run deficit by the fourth inning after handing the Cardinals six hits, three walks and two Aledmys Diaz home runs.

Orioles 5, Yankees 4: Baseball stats mean precious little in the first few months of a new season, but it’s worth pointing out that the Yankees currently have the third-most valuable bullpen in the American League, trailing only the Orioles and Angels. That did them little good on Saturday, however, when they lost another one-run game on a pair of RBI base hits in the seventh. Complicating matters was Gary Sanchez’s biceps strain, which he sustained after fouling off a pitch in the fifth. Perhaps it’s better to just remember Saturday’s game as the day Matt Holliday notched the 2,000th hit of his 14-year career:

Rays 3, Blue Jays 2 (11 innings): For four solid innings, Chris Archer and Aaron Sanchez were flawless. Archer delivered six strikeouts and kept a perfect game going until the fifth, while Sanchez allowed just two hits and prevented runners from reaching past second base. It was fitting, then, to see a pitchers’ duel decided by a pitching flub in the eleventh inning, when, with the bases loaded and two outs, the Blue Jays’ Casey Lawrence worked a 3-2 count against Brad Miller and walked in the winning run.

Pirates 6, Braves 4: Things could be going better for the Braves. An early win against the Mets last week ensured that they wouldn’t repeat their nine-game losing streak to start the season, but they’ve taken three consecutive losses since. Saturday was no better: R.A. Dickey buckled under nine runs, six walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings, and despite an airtight performance from the bullpen, Atlanta couldn’t quite muster the two runs they needed to regain the lead in the eighth inning.

Phillies 17, Nationals 3: Jeremy Guthrie has undoubtedly seen better birthdays. The Nationals selected the right-hander’s contract on Friday while Joe Ross finished his optional assignment, allowing Guthrie a brief window to make an impression on the team. Unfortunately, the impression he made was a poor one. Guthrie served up six hits, four walks, and a staggering ten runs through 2/3 of the first inning before left-hander Enny Romero came in to replace him. There’s no coming back from a disadvantage that great, especially after the Nationals saw their ten-run deficit snowball to a 14-run gap by the end of the eighth inning.

Cubs 11, Brewers 6: The Cubs looked more like their old World Champion selves on Saturday, evening the series with an 11-run effort on the back of Kris Bryant and Albert Almora Jr., among others. Every starting player — including right-hander Kyle Hendricks — logged at least one hit, and they collectively tagged the Brewers’ Tommy Milone with nine hits and four runs through four innings.

Royals 7, Astros 3: The Cubs weren’t the only ones who recovered some of their championship-caliber stuff this weekend. The Royals found a spark against the Astros’ bullpen, driving five hits, six runs and two homers against Houston right-hander Luke Gregerson in a decisive eighth-inning rally that brought to mind another late-game comeback from Kansas City’s 2015 postseason run. This time, however, the only compensation the Royals received was a series win, which they’ll look to convert into a sweep on Sunday.

Marlins 8, Mets 1: It looks like another standout performance is in the cards for Marcell Ozuna this season. The 26-year-old outfielder was batting .412/.444/.412 through his first four games of 2017 before Saturday, when he drove in two runs and unleashed a 437-foot, double-deck home run off of Robert Gsellman, falling just 10 feet shy of his all-time home run record.

Athletics 6, Rangers 1: With Sonny Gray still working his way back to the mound after sustaining a lat injury, Kendall Graveman has stepped to the forefront of the A’s rotation. It’s easy to see why. The right-hander was dominant on Saturday, taking a no-hitter through 6 2/3 innings against the Rangers and serving up two walks, five strikeouts and an unfortunately-placed 94 mph sinker to Mike Napoli.

Diamondbacks 11, Indians 2: You’ve seen a player hit for the cycle before, but have you seen a team collectively hit for the cycle in the span of one inning? The Diamondbacks engineered such a cycle in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game, starting with a David Peralta home run and followed by a Paul Goldschmidt double, Yasmany Tomas triple, Brandon Drury double and Jeff Mathis single. The inning ended, fittingly, with a seven-pitch strikeout to Zach Grienke, but the damage was already done, and another six-run spread in the eighth inning cemented the Diamondbacks’ 11-run rout.

Rockies 4, Dodgers 2: Coors Field is bound to get the best of every pitcher at some point, and on Saturday, it got the best of Clayton Kershaw. Nolan Arenado crushed a home run in the bottom of the first inning, while Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra went back-to-back in the sixth. By the end of the night, the Rockies had worked eight hits, four runs and three homers off of the Dodgers’ ace, marking the first game since April 17, 2013 in which Kershaw had allowed more than two home runs to opposing batters.

Padres 2, Giants 1: Giants’ left fielders Jarrett Parker and Aaron Hill continued their scoreless streak at the plate on Saturday, making the club’s recent acquisition of Melvin Upton Jr. all that more appealing. Madison Bumgarner wasted a complete game effort in the loss, issuing two runs, two walks and five strikeouts over eight innings.

Angels 5, Mariners 4: Despite Felix Hernandez’s steady decline over the last two seasons, there’s no denying he’s still a dominant force on the mound. No one felt the brunt of that more than Mike Trout, who lost a 14-pitch battle with the King during his first at-bat on Saturday:

The Angels had the last laugh, however, returning in the second to kick off a five-run effort that propelled them to their second win of the series.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 6, White Sox 3: Justin Verlander struck out 10 and three Tigers batters — Nicholas Castellanos, Ian Kinsler and JaCoby Jones — hit bombs. Jose Quintana gave up six runs in a little over five innings, which isn’t great for that whole “we’re gonna get a boatload of prospects for Jose Quintana” thing Rick Hahn and the Sox had in mind. Of course, looking back to my first season of “And That Happened” the other day reminded me that that was the year the Indians wanted to trade CC Sabathia and he ended up starting the season by getting shelled on the regular for the whole first month and change. By the end of the year he was carrying the Brewers into the playoffs on his back, so it works out. Not that Jose Quintana is 2008 vintage CC Sabathia or anything.

Yankees 5, Rays 0: 2017 vintage CC Sabathia is no 2008 vintage CC Sabathia either, but he did just fine last night, tossing five shutout innings. Chase Headley has started out quickly, in large part because he’s been taking what the defense gives him and hitting it the opposite way away from the shift. Of course, sometimes it’s fun just to hit a friggin’ dinger, and he did that last night too. Shortstop Ronald Torreyes did so too, a two run shot.

Rockies 6, Brewers 5: Two games, two saves for Greg Holland. The entire Rockies bullpen has been doing alright too, starting the year with 8.1 scoreless innings in two games. Setup man Mike Dunn struck out three Brewers, all looking, while protecting a one-run lead in the eighth. Meanwhile, former Brewers Gerardo Parra and Mark Reynolds were impolite to their former team, with Parra hitting a bases-loaded double in the third inning which put the Rockies ahead Reynolds hitting an RBI double in the fifth.

Indians 4, Rangers 3: Welcome back Carlos Carrasco. The Tribe starter who missed the playoffs last year with a broken hand struck out seven in five and two thirds last night, giving up two runs and snagging the win. Carlos Santana hit a short homer — 367 feet — in a winning effort. Joey Gallo hit a long homer — 442 feet — in a losing effort. Gallo has some holes in his swing, but he knocks the hell out of the ball when he connects:

Astros 2, Mariners 1: The Astros’ biggest question this year is their rotation, a year after hardly anyone stepped up for them in that department. Lance McCullers‘ failure to do last year was more about injury than ineffectiveness, but he’s healthy now and gave Houston their second strong starting pitching outing in two games, striking out seven and allowing only one run while tossing six innings. The offense came via Brian McCann‘s first homer in an Astros uniform and a solo shot from Marwin Gonzalez in the sixth.

Cubs 2, Cardinals 1: Jake Arrieta allowed one run, unearned, in six innings. The highlight of the game, though, was Albert Almora Jr. robbing Matt Adams of a home run in the bottom of the seventh:

All of the StatCast stuff that goes with that is there to inform you that it was, in fact, a good catch. Because you would’ve had no way of knowing that it was without it. Or at least that’s how I interpret most StatCast stuff.

Giants 8, Diamondbacks 4: A Dante-from-Clerks game for Gorkys Hernandez — he wasn’t even supposed to be here today — but he made the most of it, driving in four runs with a two-run single and a two-run double. No word as to whether he had a run in with his girlfriend after she brought him lasagna. Johnny Cueto went five innings and got the win despite giving up home runs to Jake Lamb and Paul Goldschmidt. Cueto thinks this job would be great if it wasn’t for the f*****g opposing batters and has strong feelings about the contractors on the Death Star.

Angels 7, Athletics 6: Matt Shoemaker made his first start since a comebacker fractured his skull last year, so he’d prefer not listening to you complain about having to come in to work this morning. Shoemaker pitched five innings allowing two runs on four hits. He left with a lead but got the no-decision after his bullpen faltered. Danny Espinosa did not falter, however, as he hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning to bring the Angels back from a 6-4 deficit and help them to a 7-6 win. Welcome back Matt.

Padres 4, Dodgers 0: Clayton Richard tossed eight shutout innings for San Diego, turning things around pretty dramatically after the drubbing the Padres received at the hands of the Dodgers on Opening Day. Yangervis Solarte drove in two, singling home a run in the first and hitting a solo homer in the third.

 

2017 Preview: Colorado Rockies

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Colorado Rockies.

The Rockies’ offseason is summed up best with punctuation: the question mark. The club signed Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million contract in December. That isn’t the strange part. The strange part was signing a player who had been a shortstop and an outfielder, but never a first baseman, to play first base in a market flush with first basemen. And the Rockies forfeited their first-round draft pick to sign Desmond, who had rejected the Rangers’ $17.2 million qualifying offer.

Desmond is a pretty good player. Per Baseball Reference, he has been worth between 2.0 and 4.0 Wins Above Replacement in each of the last five seasons. He’s versatile. He has speed and power. He has some intangibles that certain teams, especially the Rockies, value highly. But Desmond is not a player that should be making teams jump out of their boots to sign and move him to the least impactful defensive position from more important positions like shortstop and outfield.

The odd signing aside, the Rockies look poised to at least be interesting in 2017. They have too many good outfielders, which is like a rich person complaining that he has too much money in his wallet for it to close. Veteran Gerardo Parra is the least impressive of the bunch after logging a .671 OPS across 381 plate appearances last season. As David Dahl is currently battling a back injury, Parra could open up the season as the Rockies’ regular left fielder. Dahl, soon 23, impressed with a .315/.359/.500 line in 237 PA after making his major league debut last season.

Charlie Blackmon returns to center field. As he plays in baseball’s most hitter-friendly park, his offensive achievements tend to be underappreciated. Blackmon, though, posted a nearly identical OPS on the road compared to home, .926 to .939. Overall, he hit .324/.381/.552 with 29 home runs, 82 RBI, 111 runs scored, and 17 stolen bases in 641 PA. If Blackmon has another typical season, he should merit consideration at least for the NL All-Star team.

Carlos Gonzalez had another typical year in right field. The three-time All-Star hit .298/.350/.505 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI in 632 PA. As he’s aged and dealt with injuries, he’s not quite the MVP-caliber player he used to be, but he’s still an impact player. The Rockies may consider dealing Gonzalez by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, however, because he’s in the last year of his contract.

Moving back to the infield, Nolan Arenado returns to the hot corner. Despite leading the league in home runs and RBI in each of the last two seasons, Arenado finished eighth and fifth in NL MVP balloting. This past season, he batted .294/.362/.570 with 41 home runs and 133 RBI in 696 PA. Unfortunately, he plays in an era that is rich with talented third basemen and that, along with Coors Field being his home for half the season, cause him to be a bit underappreciated. Arenado, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, is among the best defenders at any position, not just his own. It’s hard to see anything but another monster year for Arenado in 2017.

24-year-old Trevor Story will once again handle shortstop duties for the Rockies this season. He was the talk of the town when he ended his first month in the majors last year with a 1.019 OPS, 10 home runs, and 20 RBI. Of course, he cooled off a bit and wound up missing time with a torn thumb ligament, but he still finished with outstanding numbers, good enough for a fourth-place finish in NL Rookie of the Year balloting. As far as NL shortstops are concerned, Story is heading into the season as arguably in the top-five.

As if the Rockies didn’t have enough offense, they have the reigning batting champion at second base in D.J. LeMahieu. The 28-year-old paced all of baseball with a .348 average along with a .416 on-base percentage, a .495 slugging percentage, 51 extra-base hits, 66 RBI, 104 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases. And he played solid defense. LeMahieu was the Cubs’ second round pick in the 2009 draft and went to the Rockies in December 2011 in the Ian Stewart trade. The Cubs haven’t whiffed on deals much lately, but that was a big one.

Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy will handle catching duties for the Rockies. The two are battling it out this spring for the right to start regularly. Wolters is better defensively while Murphy has the better bat. It’s difficult to say at this point who the favorite is, but catching is usually a position where defense and intangibles carry a little more weight than they do at other positions.

The Rockies’ starting rotation doesn’t really inspire confidence. Four spots are spoken for with Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson, and Tyler Chatwood. Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez are competing this spring for the No. 5 spot. Anderson and Chatwood had great showings last season, each finishing with an ERA under 4.00. Bettis and Gray were north of 4.50, as were Marquez and Hoffman. Pitching in Coors Field is tough and it’s just not going to be the Rockies’ strength, at least this year.

Adam Ottavino is the favorite to open the season as the Rockies’ closer. The right-hander returned from Tommy John surgery in July and posted a 2.67 ERA with a 35/7 K/BB ratio in 27 innings through the end of the season. He misses bats quite frequently and has good enough control where he can legitimately be one of the league’s better closers, but he likely won’t see as many save opportunities as he would on a more competitive team.

Greg Holland, 31, inked a one-year, $7 million contract with the Rockies in January after missing the entire 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. He’s still working his way back and has yet to make his Cactus League debut. Despite several years of closing experience, this is why Ottavino is very likely to be the Rockies’ closer to begin the season. However, if Holland shows he can be effective early on, he might give new manager Bud Black a choice to make in the ninth inning.

Jairo Diaz also underwent Tommy John surgery and is expected to return around late May or June. He was effective in limited action back in 2015, owning a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings with an 18/6 K/BB ratio. The rest of the bullpen includes a handful of veterans in Chad Qualls, Mike Dunn, Jake McGee, and Jason Motte. Dunn, a lefty, inked a three-year, $19 million contract back in December and is likely to serve as the set-up man ahead of Ottavino.

The Rockies aren’t far away from being competitive, especially if some of their prospects like Hoffman and Marquez live up to expectations. However, in the NL West, the Dodgers and Giants are going to be tough to overcome. It’s going to be a two-horse race in that division for most of the year.

Prediction: 79-83 record, 3rd place in division