Matthew Pouliot

St Louis Cardinals v Arizona Diamondbacks

Diamondbacks top Cardinals in 16-inning marathon

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No one told Josh Collmenter and Mitchell Boggs that it’s too early in the season for games to be lasting past 3 a.m.

It took nearly 5 1/2 hours, but the Diamondbacks edged the Cardinals 10-9 in 16 innings Wednesday to claim two out of three in the opening series in Arizona. Cliff Pennington singled in Jason Kubel against a fatigued Fernando Salas to end it.

Salas was working into a third inning for just the third time in his career. The winning pitcher for Arizona, Josh Collmenter, pitched five innings out of the pen.

The Cardinals were ahead four times in the game, but never could make a lead stick. They were up 4-1 in the fifth, 7-5 in the sixth, 8-7 in the eighth and 9-8 in the 12th. Trevor Rosenthal and Mitchell Boggs both took blown saves for the club. Boggs, who is acting closer with Jason Motte sidelined, blew his chance in the 12th.

Gerardo Parra, Martin Prado, Paul Goldschmidt and Pennington all had three hits apiece for the Diamondbacks. Parra, Martin Prado and Goldschmidt homered.

The Cardinals got a scare in the contest when Allen Craig, making his first outfield start of the year, injured a knee in a wall collision in right, but he was able to stay in. He finished the game back at first base.

Daniel Descalso had four hits for the Cardinals.

While the offense was very good, the obvious key for the Diamondbacks tonight was that they were never forced to turn to Heath Bell out of the pen. Collmenter was able to go five innings after throwing as many as four in a game this spring. Bell would have followed him to the mound, but the Diamondbacks wanted to stay away from him after he gave up two homers, retired just one of the six batters he faced and ruined a perfectly good relationship on Tuesday.

Tim Lincecum walks seven, beats Dodgers anyway

Tim Lincecum
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Tim Lincecum’s awful spring, in which he gave up 18 runs in 15 1/3 innings, only added to the Giants’ doubts about what they’d get from their two-time Cy Young winner this season. They’re probably no closer to figuring it out after Lincecum walked seven yet still defeated the Dodgers on Wednesday.

Lincecum surrendered just two runs in five innings, and both were unearned. The first came on a passed ball from Hector Sanchez. The second came on a sac fly following an error from Buster Posey at first base. Meanwhile, the Giants offense came through with five runs off Josh Beckett in the 5-3 victory.

The Lincecum-Sanchez pairing was a constant in the second half of last year, and while that wasn’t supposed to carry over in 2013, it was a convenient option tonight with normal first baseman Brandon Belt ailing. If the Giants decide that Lincecum and Sanchez need to stick together, then Belt could see time in left field to make room for Posey at first base.

Lincecum’s performance tonight made him the first pitcher since old Giants teammate Jonathan Sanchez to walk seven and allow no earned runs in a start. Sanchez did it against the Naitonals on April 30, 2011 when he allowed just one hit in five innings. Prior to that, Edwin Jackson walked eight in his no-hitter for the Diamondbacks on June 25, 2010.

Lincecum matched his career high for walks, which he established against the same Dodgers team just last September (again in a victory). His walk rate increased for the third straight year last season (90 BB in 186 IP).

Red Sox pick up 13 more hits to beat the Yankees 7-4

Boston Red Sox Jackie Bradley singles in front of New York Yankees Chris Stewart in MLB game in New York
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For the Yankees to have much of a chance this year, they’re going to have to rack up their runs without hitting a bunch of homers.

Their biggest rivals are showing them how its done.

On a bitterly cold Wednesday night in the Bronx, the Red Sox amassed 11 singles and two doubles to beat the Yankees 7-4. In two games, they’ve scored 15 runs without the benefit of a home run, and they’re now 2-0 for the first time since 1999.

Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda already seemed to be in the midst of an off night when he had the top of his fingers grazed by Shane Victorino’s liner through the middle in the top of the second. He remained in, but faced just four more batters, hitting two of them and walking another. He was then removed with an injury with the Yankees down 2-0.

The Red Sox added on from there, scoring four times off Cody Eppley in the third. The Yankees, meanwhile, totaled just one run in seven innings off Clay Buchholz. It was quite a change from the last time they saw him; last October 2, the Yankees torched Buchholz for eight runs in 1 2/3 innings, taking his season ERA from 4.22 to 4.56.

The Yankees did come back with three runs in the eighth on a line-drive homer from Vernon Wells off Alfredo Aceves. Still, it was too little, too late.

The Red Sox went out of their way to improve the clubhouse atmosphere over the winter, and while it’d be rather ridiculous to say that it’s paid off after two games, they have put together a couple of really impressive team efforts. Every Red Sox starter except Will Middlebrooks collected a hit tonight. The seven runs were driven in by six different players and scored by six different players. The one guy to score twice was Jackie Bradley Jr., who picked up his first major league hit when he singled in the sixth.

Matt Harvey overwhelms Padres in season debut

Matt Harvey
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The Mets didn’t want to put extra pressure on Matt Harvey by making him their Opening Day starter this year, but let’s face facts: he’s the club’s best hope for having an ace this year. He showed why on Wednesday night when he limited the Padres to one hit and struck out 10 over seven scoreless innings.

Harvey cruised tonight, throwing 94 pitches in his seven innings. He ended up picking off Everth Cabrera, the only Padre to single off him. He did walk a pair, but thanks to a double play ball, he faced just one batter over the minimum.

The 10-strikeout game was Harvey’s third in 11 major league starts. The only other Mets to have that many so soon were Nolan Ryan (four) and Dwight Gooden (three). Which makes for pretty good company.

Having turned 24 last month, Harvey is older than the typical pitching phenom. Still, that might work in his favor this year, since he shouldn’t have to deal with the typical 160- or 180-innings limit. The Mets won’t want to extend him too far unless they somehow find themselves in contention in September, but he should pitch enough innings to finish in the top 10 in the NL in strikeouts.

Tigers lose because Jim Leyland’s closer-by-committee really wasn’t

Jim Leyland
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Jim Leyland said all of the right things this spring after Bruce Rondon failed to step up and win the Tigers’ closing gig. He didn’t seem the least bit disturbed to go with a closer-by-committee situation while waiting for things to shake out.

And then he went and seemingly abandoned the idea in the second game of the season.

Game 1 worked out perfectly for Leyland: the Tigers beat the Twins 4-2, with Joaquin Benoit getting four outs in the eighth and ninth and before stepping aside for Phil Coke with lefty Justin Morneau up. Morneau struck out and Ryan Doumit flied out to end it.

Game 2 didn’t. Leyland went with the same exact arrangement in a 2-1 game, even though this time in meant Benoit would face lefties Joe Mauer and Morneau in the eighth and Coke would get the righties in the ninth. Benoit did his job in the eighth, but he walked Trevor Plouffe to start the ninth before getting pulled. Coke came in and retired the lefty Chris Parmelee, only to give up hits to right-handers Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar and take a 3-2 loss.

In Coke’s defense, Escobar’s double to the warning track in center should have been caught. It appeared that Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks both thought the other would haul it in. Still, even if it had been caught, it would have been a game-tying sac fly and a blown save for Coke. And it was a well hit ball by a pretty terrible hitter.

But the whole idea here is that Leyland has a bunch of similarly talented relievers and needs to play matchups as a result. And he didn’t. Coke was successful in an expanded role in the playoffs last year, but right-handers torched him for a .396 average in the regular season. Lifetime, righties have hit .299 against him, compared to .232 for lefties. He is a matchup guy, not a closer, and the obvious call was to use him in the eighth tonight.

Leyland, though, trusts Coke. More than he does Benoit. Far more than he does Al Alburquerque, even though Alburquerque has a 1.57 ERA and a .143 average against in 57 1/3 innings as a major leaguer. If not Coke, one gets the feeling it would have been Octavio Dotel finishing this game, even though he’s the third or fourth best right-hander in the pen.

Of course, I’m probably overreacting here. It’s the second game of the season, and Leyland deserves a chance to feel things out. At the same time, given that it is early in the season, why not see what Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal can do in those pressure situations? The Tigers already know exactly what they have in Coke. And trying to make a closer out of him is like shoving a square peg into a round hole.