[All factoids grown organically and prepared without Elias additives.]
Explain this strategy to me:
-- In Atlanta Sunday, the Nationals trailed the Braves by a run in the top of the 6th. With 1 out and the bases empty, relief pitcher Sean Burnett was due up. Manager Davey Johnson did not make a move. This seems odd, since:
- In 28 career ABs, Burnett had just 1 hit, a double. In his minor-league career, he was 11 for 57 (.193); he had 1 HR, seven years ago.
- Burnett, a LHP who averages about 3.4 batters faced per game, had already faced 5 batters, with awful results: he gave up a tying 3-run HR to Brian McCann, the guy he was summoned to retire, then walked LHB Freddie Freeman, who came around to score the go-ahead run.
- Johnson had not yet used any hitters off the bench.
Perhaps Johnson wanted to milk another inning from Burnett because starter Tom Gorzelanny had left after 2 IP with an ankle injury. But this was only the Nats' 3rd game since their 4-day All-Star break, and their bullpen wasn't heavily taxed in the first 2. And what's the point of saving arms if you're not going to try to get a lead? And if you're going to get a lead on Atlanta, best not to wait too long, with Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel lurking.
Maybe Johnson just didn't have a quality RH bat on the bench to send up against George Sherrill, with Jerry Hairston and Ivan Rodriguez on the DL. 1st-string catcher Wilson Ramos was probably the best RH hitter available, but many skippers won't use their last catcher until the later innings. But if lefty/righty was an issue, why send up the lefty-swinging Burnett? Livan Hernandez is a competent righty hitter.
Anyway, how did it all play out? Naturally, Burnett singled to RF (his first hit since 2008 and first ever against a southpaw), and after a forceout, Danny Espinosa hit his 17th HR to put the Nats back on top; and then Burnett set down Atlanta 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 6th.
- The Braves had the last laugh, walking off in the 9th and dropping the Nats back into the red. But a key moment came in the 8th, when Nate McLouth homered with 2 out off Tyler Clippard to level the score. McLouth was the 5th batter Clippard faced in his 2 innings, and he connected on Clippard's 27th pitch of the game, after an 8-pitch strikeout of Alex Gonzalez.
- The gopher ball is the lone chink in Clippard's armor. He has allowed 8 HRs in 54 IP this year, and 25 in 206 IP over the past 3 seasons, a rate of 1.1 HR/9.
Moving on to other games....
-- In his 27th save opportunity this year, Pittsburgh's Joel Hanrahan finally blew one. He came on with 2 down in the 8th and a man on 1st, and surrendered a tying double to Chris Johnson. Hanrahan began the day with the highest cumulative WPA (Win Probability Added) of any closer this year, 2.971; only the supreme set-up men Jonny Venters and Tyler Clippard (3.491) were above him. The Bucs won in extra innings and slid past the Cards into 2nd place, a half game behind Milwaukee.
- Pirates rookie LF Alex Presley picked up the slack for a hitless Andrew McCutchen, driving in the tying and go-ahead runs with 2-out hits in the 4th and 6th inning, and plating an insurance run in the 11th with his 3rd hit. Presley is batting .343 (23 for 67) and slugging .522.
- If a game goes long enough, a bad team will usually beat themselves. The Astros imploded in the 11th with fielding errors by 2 different pitchers and a passed ball that let in the first of 3 runs in the inning.
- Houston fell to 31-64, putting them on pace for 109 losses. They've never lost more than 97 games in a season, and haven't lost more than 90 in 20 years. They are 15-35 at home; every other team has at least 20 home wins.
-- Baltimore scored twice off Cleveland reliever Joe Smith in the 7th and went on to their 2nd straight win. Smith had not allowed a run in his last 19 IP and began the day with an 0.80 ERA (3 ER in 33.2 IP).
- The O's won consecutive games for the first time since June 19-20.
- In their last 30 games, Baltimore has received just 5 quality starts, from 5 different pitchers.
- O's 2B Robert Andino hit a go-ahead 3-run HR in the 5th, his 2nd HR of the year. Andino hit exactly 2 HRs in 2010, 2009 and 2008. He now has 9 RBI this year in 72 games and 245 PAs.
- Grady Sizemore left after injuring himself on a 1st-inning double, his 21st of the year. He has 23 singles
-- The A's, who hadn't scored 8+ runs in a game since June 16, scored 8 runs in the 1st inning against Angels starter Joel Pineiro, added a 9th run in the 3rd, and cruised behind 7 scoreless IP from Gio Gonzalez.
- It was the 2nd straight time that Gonzalez blanked the Angels over 7 IP. He's 5-2 in 8 career starts vs. the Halos with 53 Ks in 46 IP. He trimmed his ERA to 2.30.
- Pineiro matched Madison Bumgarner for the most runs allowed this year while getting 1 out or less. Pineiro led the NL with 1.1 BB/9 two years ago and has averaged 1.8 BB/9 since 2008, but he walked the first 3 batters and 4 in the inning.
- Conor Jackson's grand slam was Oakland's first of the year.
- Oakland had scored more than 8 runs just twice this season, the last time on May 17.
-- Reds rookie SS Zack Cozart scored the tying run and added his first career HR, while Homer Bailey shut down the Cardinals for his first win since May 16. Cozart is hitting .400 (10 for 25); his first 9 hits were singles.
-- Who crafted the Rangers' victoire ecrasante du jour in Seattle? It was Matt Harrison, who blanked the M's on 3 hits and a walk through 7 innings (giving him 16 straight scoreless frames) before yielding a run in the 8th. Neftali Feliz threw a spotless 9th to secure the 11th straight win for Texas, the 2nd-best streak in franchise history. They won 14 straight in 1991.
- The Rangers have allowed 1 run or less in 5 straight games, a new record for the Texas edition of the franchise; the Senators had a 6-game streak in 1967.
- Seattle began the day with a team batting average of .222, which fell to .221 with a 6-for-31 effort. For comparison, the lowest team BA in 1968 ("the Year of the Pitcher") was .214 by the Yankees, the only team to hit below .224 that year. But that was with pitchers batting in every game. If you take the pitchers (.092 BA) out of the equation, the '68 Yankees' team BA rises to .224; whereas, if you take the Seattle pitchers (5 for 25) out of the equation, their team BA is still .221. I think that just about says it all.
- On a bright note for the Mariners, rookie SP Blake Beavan had his 3rd quality start in as many outings; his one big mistake was a pitch that Mitch Moreland hit for a 3-run HR, the only runs off Beavan in his 6.2 IP. He has allowed 6 runs in 20 IP (2.70). The franchise record for quality starts to begin a career is 5, by 2011 sensation Michael Pineda; the only other Mariner with more than 3 was Sterling Hitchcock in '96.
-- The Brewers and their New World Order took an early lead in Colorado, then hung on by the skin of their teeth to reclaim 1st place in the NL Central. Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart, in their new roles as #5 and leadoff hitter, were central to Milwaukee's attack; K-Rod earned a hold by jitterbugging around a leadoff double in the 8th; and John Axford survived a rough start to the 9th, when an error and a double put the tying run on 2nd with no out, by retiring CarGo, Mark Ellis and Troy Tulowitzki to preserve the 4-3 win.
- Jason Giambi was 2 for 3 with his 10th HR, a double and 2 walks, pushing his OPS to 1.044 in 106 PAs. Contrary to expectation, 7 of his 10 HRs have come on the road, and his current HR rate (9.4% of PAs) would be the highest season rate of any player in the past 3 years with more than 5 HRs.
-- Welcome back, Carlos Guillen! The oft-injured former star, playing his 2nd game of the season after an 11-month absence, singled home Victor Martinez to complete Detroit's comeback win against Philip Humber and avoid a home sweep at the hands of the hated White Sox. The win puts the Tigers back into a virtual tie with Cleveland atop the "who wants it?" AL Central.
-- Daniel Murphy's double snapped Antonio Bastardo's streak of 12 hitless innings, and Lucas Duda's triple ended the wicked lefty's 16-IP shutout string. But Bastardo got the biggest out of the game when he fanned Justin Turner as the tying run in the 8th, and the Phils captured the series on the strength of a 3-run HR by Michael Martinez, the first HR of his career.
- Among Mike Pelfrey's many problems this year: (a) Opposing pitchers are now 8 for 30 against him (.267), after Kyle Kendrick's 2-hit day; and (b) he has now allowed 16 HRs in 118 IP. The Mets have lost all 4 of Pelf's starts against Philly this season.
- Completely idle trade speculation: Could a trade of Adam Dunn for Jason Bay work out? Bay, who is again being booed at home (and his performance deserves it even if his effort doesn't), desperately needs a fresh start somewhere. Dunn would get back to his native league and the comfort of having a defensive role, and would give the Mets someone at least theoretically capable of hitting a few HRs. Dunn's contract has 3 more years and $44 million guaranteed, while Bay has 2 years and $35mm guaranteed (counting a $3mm buyout of a $17mm option that vests based on PAs in the last 2 years). OK, so the White Sox signed Dunn because they wanted a lefty to help balance the rightward tilt of their lineup; but they're actually hitting better against RHPs this year -- and besides, can they afford such subtle concerns at this point? Similarly, the Mets might not want to take on the extra $9mm that's guaranteed to Dunn, plus he would pose a defensive dilemma since his outfield play is so poor and they already have a capable 1B in Murphy, who has shown that he can't play the OF either. But these are nuances that shouldn't stand in the way of such creative GMs as Sandy Alderson and Kenny Williams.
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