In the fifth inning of Thursday’s game between the Rockies and Cardinals, a struggling Carlos Martinez drilled D.J. LeMahieu in the hip with his 95th pitch of the game. It looked like a purpose pitch, though nothing leading up to it had suggested anyone would want to be throwing at anyone. Whether it was intentional or not, Martinez’s immaturity showed when he walked off the mound and jawed with LeMahieu afterwards. Worse, after escaping the inning, Martinez directed an obscene gesture towards the Rockies dugout.
Fast forward two innings. Rockies reliever Christian Friedrich, in his first inning of work, got the first two batters he faced. He then sent his first pitch to Kolten Wong not only in his direction, but up near his head:
Fortunately, no real harm was done. Wong took the pitch off his shoulder and walked to first without incident. The incredible thing is that Friedrich was allowed to continue pitching, even though warnings appeared to be issued after the earlier incident.
Regardless, herein lies the stupidity of beanball wars. Whether Friedrich intended to go up there or put one in his ribcage, the end result could have ended Wong’s season or worse. He deserves a lengthy suspension, and manager Walt Weiss should also be banned from the dugout for a spell. It’s 2015. There’s no longer any place for these purposely dangerous acts in baseball, and it shouldn’t take a career being ended for MLB to do something about it.
Cole Hamels was the shining star of Saturday’s slate, but there’s a ton of coverage of his feat already posted here. Let’s talk about the Cardinals, who have the best record in Major League Baseball at 63-34, the best run differential in baseball at +108, and the longest current winning streak now at five games.
23-year-old right-hander Carlos Martinez was again excellent Saturday at Busch Stadium, hurling eight innings of scoreless ball against the Braves in a 1-0 victory. He narrowly out-dueled former teammate Shelby Miller, who was charged with the game’s only run when Stephen Piscotty hit a go-ahead RBI sac fly off reliever Luis Avilan in the bottom of the eighth. It was Piscotty’s first major league RBI.
St. Louis will try to sweep Atlanta on Sunday afternoon behind 24-year-old righty Michael Wacha.
That rough series in Pittsburgh just before the All-Star break already seems like a distant memory. The Cardinals dropped three of four and their once-massive lead in the National League Central standings had shrunk to 2 1/2 games. As it stands currently, that lead is back up to seven games.
Your box scores and AP recaps from Saturday …
Tigers 5, Red Sox 1
Phillies 5, Cubs 0
Athletics 1, Giants 2
Blue Jays 8, Mariners 6
Orioles 5, Rays 1
Nationals 9, Pirates 3
White Sox 10, Indians 3
Astros 1, Royals 2 (10 innings)
Yankees 8, Twins 5
Dodgers 2, Mets 15
Braves 0, Cardinals 1
Reds 5, Rockies 2
Brewers 0, Diamondbacks 2
Marlins 1, Padres 3
Rangers 7, Angels 6
On so-called “getaway day”, the Mets played and won an 18-inning marathon in St. Louis against the Cardinals. Now, they have to hop on a late flight to Washington, D.C. for a three-game set against the Nationals before heading back to Queens, New York for a 10-game homestand. Not exactly fun if you’re wearing a Mets uniform.
The game was deadlocked in a scoreless tie through 12 innings before the Mets broke through with a run in the top of the 13th on Kevin Plawecki’s RBI single. But the Cardinals answered in the bottom half of the 13th when Kolten Wong hit a game-tying solo home run, sending the game into yet more extra innings. It wouldn’t be until the 18th that the Mets would finally capitalize on one of their many opportunities.
Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez, in his fourth inning of relief, allowed back-to-back singles to begin the 18th inning, then committed a fielding error to load the bases for Ruben Tejada. Tejada lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to bring in the go-ahead run and send a potential insurance run to third base. Eric Campbell followed up with a squeeze bunt, bringing in the Mets’ second run of the inning to make it a 3-1 game. Mets reliever Carlos Torres was able to set down the Cardinals in order to preserve the 3-1, 18-inning victory.
The game was beautiful in its ugliness. The Mets went 1-for-26 with runners in scoring position, matching a club record with 25 runners left on base, per ESPN’s Adam Rubin. ESPN Stats & Info notes that the two teams combined to go 1-for-34 with RISP and left 39 combined runners on base.
Lost in the marathon was a stellar effort by Jon Niese, who tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings, scattering five hits and a walk while striking out three. The lefty, a potential trade piece for the Mets, has a 2.28 ERA over his last eight starts spanning 55 1/3 innings.
The Mets are now 48-44, two games behind the Nationals for first place in the NL East. Meanwhile, the Cardinals maintain a 4.5-game lead over the Pirates for first place in the NL Central with their 58-34 record.
All-Star managers Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost have chosen their starting pitchers, with right-hander Zack Greinke of the Dodgers getting the assignment for the National League and left-hander Dallas Keuchel of the Astros being the pick for the American League.
Greinke’s excellence is well known. He’s a three-time All-Star and former Cy Young winner who currently has a 35.2-inning scoreless streak and an MLB-best 1.39 ERA that’s the lowest by any starting pitcher at the All-Star break since 1968.
The other starting pitchers on the NL roster are Madison Bumgarner, A.J. Burnett, Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Carlos Martinez, Clayton Kershaw, Shelby Miller, Max Scherzer, and Michael Wacha.
Keuchel is a great story. He was never considered a top prospect, had a losing record with a 3.74 ERA in the minors, and went 9-18 with a 5.20 ERA for the Astros in 2012 and 2013. Then last season he took a huge step forward, throwing 200 innings with a 2.93 ERA, and Keuchel has been even better this season with an 11-4 record and 2.23 ERA in a league-high 137 innings.
The other starting pitchers on the AL roster are Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, Felix Hernandez, David Price, Chris Sale, and Hector Santiago.
Last year’s All-Star starters were Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals for the National League and Felix Hernandez of the Mariners for the American League.