The Royals must have thought A’s rookie Tom Milone was a nasty left-hander when they sat lefty bats Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas on Monday night. They went on to make him look like one, kind of anyway.
Tommy Milone became the first pitcher in six years to finish an outing with at least eight scoreless innings and no strikeouts as part of a 1-0 win over the Royals. He allowed three hits and three walks in the 93-pitch outing before turning the ball over to closer Grant Balfour in the ninth.
The last pitcher to go eight scoreless without a strikeout was Justin Verlander against the Twins on May 17, 2006. Verlander also went without a walk in that one, though he still threw 103 pitches in his eight innings. Chien-Ming Wang of the Yankees pulled off the same feat five days prior on May 12, 2006, with eight scoreless, strikeout-less innings against the A’s.
Before that, it hadn’t been done since Scott Erickson of the Orioles shut out the Royals on April 28, 2002. Milone is the first left-hander to do it since the Pirates’ Jimmy Anderson against the Cardinals on July 22, 2001.
Many are skeptical of Milone since he works in the high-80s and doesn’t feature a great breaking ball. What he does have is command, a plus changeup and a delivery that makes him tough to read. The combination helped him go 12-6 with a 3.22 ERA and a 155/16 K/BB ratio in 148 1/3 innings for Triple-A Syracuse last year. The A’s picked him up from the Nationals over the winter as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade.
Whether Milone can keep this up is unclear. Certainly, he won’t be able to without any strikeouts, but he did have excellent K rates his last two years in the minors. As a soft-tosser, he’ll always be doubted until he experiences extended success in the majors.
The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.
In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.
On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.
Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.