April 15, 2014
What You Need to Know
The Monday Takeaway
B.J. Rosenberg went first. He faced three batters—Gattis, Dan Uggla, and Andrelton Simmons—and all three of them found the seats, becoming the second troika of the season to go back-to-back-to-back. It had been at least 64 years since another reliever was so badly bludgeoned.
With the Braves now up 5-1, Luis Avilan decided to one-up Rosenberg. He served up only one tater, but that one was a three-run bomb off the bat of Domonic Brown, which scored the third, fourth, and fifth runs of the frame and put the Phillies ahead 6-5. Little did Avilan know that, an inning later, he would become the first pitcher since Jack Knott in 1934 to be credited with a win after allowing at least five earned runs and recording no more than three outs*.
Jonathan Papelbon had worked on three straight days, so Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg entrusted Jake Diekman with his first career save opportunity. The hard-throwing lefty was dealt a tough task, with a long line of right-handed hitters due up, separated only by Freddie Freeman, whose True Average versus same-side pitchers last year was a respectable .277. To make matters worse, Diekman couldn't throw a strike.
Whether it was ninth-inning nerves, erratic mechanics, or both, Diekman missed the strike zone with 11 of his first 14 pitches. He walked both B.J. Upton and Justin Upton. In between, Freeman bounced a 3-1 pitch to Chase Utley, which the second baseman failed to convert into an out. Evan Gattis struck out on three pitches. Then Diekman hung a slider to Uggla. And this happened.
Uggla’s grand slam, which made him the fourth player to slug a pair of long balls on Monday night (more on that in a moment), gave the Braves a 9-6 lead. He and Gattis formed the first Braves pair to do it since Jason Heyward and Omar Infante in 2010.
Quick Hits from Monday
The Pirates went back-to-back three times; the duo of Neil Walker and Gaby Sanchez did it twice, and Starling Marte and Travis Snider accounted for the third. Homer Bailey served up four of the blasts, bringing his gopher-ball total through 14 1/3 innings this year to six. That probably isn’t what the Reds were looking for when they tendered the right-hander a six-year, $105 million extension in February.
Fortunately, each time Bailey or J.J. Hoover dug the Reds a hole, their own offense dug them out. Todd Frazier gave Cincinnati a 2-1 lead in the first. After Bailey blew that one, Ryan Ludwick gave him a 4-3 lead in the fourth. When that one sailed over the wall, with rain threatening to shorten the game were it to become official, Joey Votto brought the Reds back up 6-5 in the fifth. And after the Pirates pushed ahead again in the sixth, Devin Mesoraco ensured that the Reds would live another day.
That day is tomorrow. The Bucs and Reds will resume swinging for the fences with a shot to break the all-time single-game record at 5:30 p.m. ET.
Let’s move on to another hitter’s haven, Globe Life Park in Arlington, where the only tally on the scoreboard after five frames was a solo shot by Mike Zunino. Making his first big-league start since July 2012, Colby Lewis was doing just fine. Then the BABIP overlords and Lewis’ injury-marred defense took matters into their own hands.
Robinson Cano hit a grounder that tipped off the glove of diving second baseman Josh Wilson for an infield single. Corey Hart popped out. Michael Saunders hit a line drive into the left-center field gap, which center fielder Leonys Martin stabbed at and missed, turning a likely double into a sure triple. Kyle Seager rolled a single through the middle of a drawn-in infield.
That was it for Lewis, but the Rangers weren’t done wrecking their own defensive efficiency.
Justin Smoak sent a bouncer toward third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, who entered the game 32.7 fielding runs below average for his career; true to form, Kouzmanoff got eaten up by a high hop and turned the possible double-play ball into zero outs. Dustin Ackley followed with a single, but not before catcher J.P. Arencibia failed to catch a foul pop and nearly suffered a serious injury in the process. Right fielder Alex Rios kicked around the single, enabling Smoak to go to third.
Think we’re done? Not remotely. Zunino earned a clean single. Abraham Almonte chopped an infield hit into the 5.5 hole, just over the glove of a lunging Kouzmanoff. And the Rangers—and the new emphasis on clean transfers—picked things up from there.
Brad Miller hit a comebacker, a tailor-made 1-2-3 twin-killing opportunity, at Pedro Figueroa, who did his part. The southpaw threw it to Arencibia, who stepped on the plate to (for the moment) record one out but bobbled the ball before he could throw it to first.
Last year, that would’ve reloaded the bases with two outs. This year, following a challenge by Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, the play was overruled into an error on Arencibia, and everybody was safe.
A sacrifice fly by Cano, who—you might remember—led off the inning, brought home the sixth Seattle run of the frame, many more than the visitors would need in what ended up a 7-1 rout.
The Brewers had won nine straight. Their starting pitchers hadn’t been charged with more than three runs in 26 straight, dating back to last September 15. Jon Jay and the Cardinals halted both of those streaks on Monday night.
Jay’s three-run homer in the sixth-inning, tacked onto a solo dinger by Jhonny Peralta in the second, gave Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez ample support, as the right-handers carved up Milwaukee’s lineup. Lynn fanned 11 over seven innings of work, the first time he’d amassed that many strikeouts in a scoreless outing since June 13, 2012, when he whiffed a career-high 12.
Both Lynn and his counterpart, Matt Garza, benefited from home-plate umpire Bob Davidson’s strike zone, which stretched, inconsistently, in every conceivable direction. Davidson served Matt Carpenter with his first career ejection in the fifth inning for arguing what was a generous called third strike.
What to Watch for on Tuesday