Courtesy of the MLB Extra Innings package, I was able to follow most of the games Tuesday night. I should have gone to Las Vegas instead as my right thumb was punching the right buttons at the right time. I saw a number of home runs live rather than as part of the nightly highlights on Baseball Tonight. You gotta have good timing (or luck) to catch everything I did in one evening.
Here was the lineup on my DirecTV system:
Ch. 734: Cubs at Pirates
Ch. 735: Phillies at Nationals
Ch. 736: Blue Jays at Indians
Ch. 737: Tigers at Yankees (rained out)
Ch. 738: Giants at Braves
Ch. 739: Marlins at Cardinals
Ch. 740: Devil Rays at White Sox
Ch. 741: Royals at Twins
Ch. 742: Brewers at Astros
Ch. 743: Mets at Rockies
Ch. 744: Reds at Dodgers
Ch. 745: Angels at Mariners
Ch. 746: Red Sox at A's
All of the day's games were carried by the Extra Innings package except the Orioles @ Rangers and the Padres @ Diamondbacks. The LAA-SEA game was blacked out or as the banner at the bottom of the screen proclaimed: "Program is not available in your area." Not a problem. I watched it on our local Channel 13 instead.
When I got home from the office, I clicked on 734 out of habit and proceeded to scroll through the channels to get a feel for what was on TV. Most of the east coast games were a few innings old when I got my first glimpses of action. Here is what I was able to catch Tuesday night.
Having recently discovered Marty McLeary, I was intrigued to find the 31-year-old pitcher making his first appearance of the season and the fourth of his career. He threw two innings in relief, giving up a hit, a walk, and a run while striking out two. McLeary looked OK, but I wouldn't rush out and add him to your fantasy roster anytime soon.
In the meantime, Carlos Zambrano was pitching a lot better than he was fielding. The Cubs clogged up the bases by walking seven times and lost 7-6 to the Pirates in 11 innings.
With the Phillies leading the Nationals, 6-3, and runners on first and second and one out in the top of the sixth inning, I saw Chase Utley fly out to deep left center in what normally would be the type of at-bat that would pass without comment. However, I couldn't help but get a kick out of the subsequent conversation between the Nats' play-by-play announcer Bob Carpenter and color analyst Tom Paciorek. They wondered aloud if the runners stayed put so as not to open up first base with Ryan Howard coming up in the belief that manager Frank Robinson would intentionally walk him. Well, I don't doubt that he would have been given a free pass with runners on second and third, but I disagree with the implied logic that it's better for the offense to have Howard up with runners on first and second than to take their chances with Dave Dellucci and the bases loaded.
Paciorek pointed out that Willie Mays was famous for not taking an extra base in similar situations to "protect" Willie McCovey, even refusing to advance on wild pitches. Now that is laughable. If the Giants were better off with Mays on first and McCovey at the plate than with Mays on second and McCovey on first (after the ensuing IBB), then why wouldn't the defensive team just walk Big Mac in either situation? The point is that it is never a negative event for a base runner to take an extra base, no matter who is coming up next.
As it turned out, Howard launched a three-run HR off the facing of the upper deck in straightaway center field. It was his 48th roundtripper of the year, tying him with a guy named Mike Schmidt for the single-season team record. True to form, Carpenter responded with the following beauty: "I wish those runners had tagged up." Not only did that comment expose the fact that he is a homer, but it suggests that the Nats were disadvantaged by runners failing to advance. I'll admit, this mentality is a pet peeve of mine and is probably worthy of a separate column.
I watched with interest C.C. Sabathia hitting 98 on the gun in the ninth inning of his league-leading fifth complete game, a 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays. He struck out Vernon Wells to end the affair with a breaking ball that almost hit the dirt. Sabathia is 3-1 with an ERA of 1.69 and 43 SO vs. 7 BB in August.
The Indians have now won 15 of their past 20 games. Nonetheless, Cleveland's actual winning percentage (.473) is well below its Pythagorean (.548). The Tribe has scored the third most runs in the majors and is a bullpen ace away from being a contending team next year.
I missed Chipper and Andruw Jones hitting back-to-back home runs against the Giants but caught a highlight clip of San Francisco announcer Duane Kuiper, in his all-red Cleveland uniform, slugging his one and only career dinger exactly 29 years ago. Yes, Joe Posnanski's favorite player growing up hit a grand total of one HR in 3,379 lifetime at-bats in the bigs.
Was able to sneak a few peeks of Marlins lefty Scott Olsen, who is third in the NL in K/100P (see league leaders at the bottom of the sidebar on the left), limiting the Cardinals to just three hits and one run over eight innings in a 9-1 romp that saw Mark Mulder's ERA zoom to 7.14 on the season. (Note to self: check how Dan Haren has performed for the A's. . .ahh, 12-10, 3.80 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.40 K/9. . .score one for Billy Beane.)
As luck would have it, I switched to the Devil Rays-White Sox game just in time to watch Delmon Young get the first hit of his MLB career, a line-drive HR over the left-field fence off Freddy Garcia. I have a feeling that Young will hit a few more HR than Kuiper over the course of his career.
Joe Mauer (.353/.431/.509) is having a terrific season, but the Minnesota catcher is hitting into more than his fair share of double plays. To wit, I saw the sweet-swinging LHB bounced into his 18th GIDP in the fourth inning. The Royals scored two runs in the fifth and went on to win 2-0 behind Mark Redman's complete-game shutout.
My knack for switching from one game to another at an opportune time was kept in tact when Craig Biggio hit the first pitch I saw in the Brewers-Astros NL Central League battle for his 17th HR of the season. The Houston second sacker was batting in the third hole for the first time this year. He was the seventh different player manager Phil Garner has put in that spot in the lineup. Biggio's jack was the 2,910th hit of his career, good for 34th all time. He should move into the top 20 by the end of the 2007 season.
Saw Chad Bradford scraping his knuckles on the mound in the Mets 10-5 victory over the host Rockies. I missed Carlos Beltran's 39th HR but was pleased nonetheless as I took the MVP candidate in the third round of our 15-team fantasy baseball draft before the season began. I'm pleased to report that I'm in first place as we head into the stretch run. Go Daniel Cabrera!
It's 11:35 p.m. and the Reds-Dodgers game is still going as I type this entry. Derek Lowe has just entered the game in a role that Vin Scully reminds listeners was how he spent the better part of his first five years in the majors. Just saw Edwin Encarnacion strike out for the third time of the evening. If he whiffs again, it will be his first of the morning. Each team has used seven pitchers and Lowe is about to hit for himself in the bottom of the 14th.
Oakland beat Boston 2-1 in a pitcher's duel between winner Kirk Saarloos and loser Josh Beckett. This is the one game I paid next to no attention to as I chose to concentrate more on the Angels game. Bad choice.
In a battle of the Jereds/Jarrods (or was it Jareds?) in Seattle, the rookie with a 9-1 record and 1.92 ERA going into the game was finally humbled. He gave up back-to-back home runs to Ichiro Suzuki and Chris Snelling to open the contest, then allowed consecutive doubles to Adrian Beltre and Raul Ibanez before getting his first out. Weaver gave up four solo HR (including two to Snelling) in 4 2/3 innings in what was easily his worst outing of the year.
Like a lot of pitchers, Weaver likes to establish his fastball the first time through the lineup. He was facing Seattle for the third time in less than two months and the Mariners were sitting on his heater early in the count. Weaver was tagged with a loss that seemed pretty inconsequential in view of what took place in the top of the eighth inning. Mariner relief pitcher Rafael Soriano was hit squarely on the side of his head by a line drive off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero. He fell to the ground and was later strapped to a stretcher, removed from the field on a cart, and taken to a local hospital. Here's hoping Soriano is doing well and resting comfortably by the time you read this article.