Jaime Garcia leads strong cast of NL ROY candidates

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Cardinals rookie Jaime Garcia put on a show Sunday afternoon in St. Louis, tossing a three-hit shutout against the Giants in what became a 9-0 Cards victory.

The young left-hander needed only 89 pitches to get through his nine innings of work and he did not allow a runner past first base.  According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it was the first shutout by a Cardinals rookie since Bud Smith fired a no-hitter against the Padres in September of 2001. 

Garcia has been fantastic all year for the second-place Redbirds with an incredible 11-6 record, 2.42 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 111/54 K/BB ratio through 24 starts.  He must be considered the front-runner for the National League Rookie of the Year Award at this point, but he does have competition:

Starlin Castro – SS – Cubs:  The 20-year-old shortstop was thrown into the fire in early May and has done everything that the Cubs have asked.  Through 94 big-league games, he’s batting .316/.363/.438 with three home runs, 37 RBI and six stolen bases.  Castro has also shown improved range at the shortstop position.

Jason Heyward – OF – Braves:  An early favorite for the ROY, Heyward may still win it if he is able to finish the year strong and lead his Braves to the postseason.  The 21-year-old has posted an .830 OPS with 14 homers and 57 RBI in 104 games for Atlanta this year.  His .378 on-base percentage ranks ninth in the National League.

Buster Posey – C – Giants:  Posey got a late jump on his competition thanks to a delayed call-up, but he’s been truly excellent since finally landing that late-May promotion.  Over 74 games this season he owns a .341 batting average, a .903 OPS and nine home runs.  The 23-year-old has begun playing catcher more with Bengie Molina out of the picture.

Mike Stanton – OF – Marlins:  Stanton was called up to the majors on June 8 with a reputation for taking pitchers deep.  He’s done just that, blasting 14 home runs in only 227 major league at-bats and posting an impressive .848 OPS along the way.  His plate discipline does need work, but Stanton has legitimate 40-homer pop and he is already showing it age 20.

Mike Leake – SP – Reds:   The Reds have already shifted him to the bullpen in an effort to limit his innings total, but Leake’s performance this season is certainly worthy of all sorts of accolades.  He currently boasts an 8-4 record, a 3.85 ERA and a total of 90 strikeouts over 138 innings.  Garcia’s numbers are far better, but Leake has defied the odds in going from a college pitcher to a successful major leaguer without a hint of affiliate baseball and his Reds are headed for their first postseason birth since 1995.

Fringe Candidates: Chris Johnson (3B, Astros), Jonny Venters (RP, Braves), (Stephen Strasburg (SP, Nationals), Gaby Sanchez (1B, Marlins), Tyler Colvin (OF, Cubs).

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

Associated Press
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Red Sox 11, Yankees 6: The Red Sox clinch the AL East and they do it as Mookie Betts, I presume, clinches the AL MVP Award. He has a strong case for it on the merits, but his three-run homer in the eighth in the division-clinching game, in a week in which he was hobbled by an injury, are the sprinkles the voters like to see on top of that MVP cake. (See Jones, Chipper, 1999). Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt each hit homers as well. Giancarlo Stanton hit a grand slam in a losing cause. The Yankees loss also drops them to a mere game and a half above the A’s for the top Wild Card slot because . . .

Athletics 21, Angels 3: . . . Oakland romped in a game that was . . . something less than competitive. Marcus Semien had three hits and drove in five while Stephen Piscotty homered and drove in four. Angels Catcher Francisco Arcia pitched the last two innings. He gave up three runs but he also hit a homer, which I’ll call a “net two” in my wholly invented plus/minus system for two-way players. That made him better than three of the other Angels pitchers yesterday, none of whom had the chance —  or the guts! — to bat. Look for the Calcaterra Plus/Minus System to be adopted widely in the coming years. It’ll come in handy literally tens of times. Maybe.

Blue Jays 9, Rays 8: The Rays led this one 9-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, but Jaime Schultz and Sergio Romo could not hold that lead, giving up three home runs in the final frame, including Justin Smoak‘s walkoff blast. Danny Jansen hit a three-run shot in the ninth and Lourdes Gurriel hit a two-run shot. As I noted the other day, Tampa Bay has been surging in the past month or so. Surging so much that they had even entered the fringes of the Wild Card discussion, pulling to within five and a half games as of yesterday morning. This gut-punch loss, however, drops them back to six and a half back with ten games to play.

Braves 8, Phillies 3Kevin Gausman allowed three runs in six and a third innings and Lucas Duda hit a pinch-hit double to drive in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and give Atlanta the win. Coming into yesterday’s action, the Braves led the Phillies by five and a half. Daunting, but since the two teams had seven matchups against one another in the season’s final eleven days, Philly had a puncher’s chance. They needed to win most of these matchups and otherwise hold serve, but it could be done. Now, one day later, it’s that much harder. Indeed, If Atlanta takes two of three this weekend, it’s all over.

Mets 5, Nationals 4: The Mets blew an early three-run lead, built thanks to homers from Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce. Max Scherzer settled down after that, however, and ended up striking out 13 Mets in seven innings of work. The Nationals still trailed but came back from a two-run deficit in the eighth inning to force extras. That’s all the scoring they’d do, though, and their old friend Jose Lobaton hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the 12th to give New York the win. Between him, Dusty Baker and a bunch of relievers they case off, the Nationals have a whole army of departed Force Ghosts watching them from the sidelines like Yoda and Obi-Wan watched Luke. Except, of course, they’re watching the Nationals face plant as opposed to triumph.

White Sox 5, Indians 4Matt Davidson hit a run-scoring single with two out in the 11th to give the White Sox the win. Sox reliever Hector Sanchez pitched three scoreless innings to end the game. It was the White Sox’ first win in Cleveland this year in nine tries.

Tigers 11, Royals 8: Christin Stewart hit two homers — career homers number one and number two — drew a bases-loaded walk and drove in six in all. It was the most RBI a Tigers player has had in a game in 11 years. Given that those 11 years covered Miguel Cabrera‘s prime, that’s quite a trick. It was only Stewart’s 11th career game. He’ll remember it for the rest of his life.

Reds 4, Marlins 2: Cody Reed pitched six shutout innings — picking up his first win as a starter — and Scooter Gennett homered and doubled as the Reds take the first game of a four-game series in Miami. Question: will this be the least-attended four-game series in baseball this year? It’s gotta be in the top five.