Around the Majors - June 23
This seems like as good a morning as any to go Shyster-style around a night in the Big Leagues. I had a chance to log a decent amount of Extra Innings time, watching parts of six or seven games and came away with a few impressions that I thought I would share.
First, here are Craig's words on last night's Orioles-Marlins tilt:
Two counts of bullpen malpractice. Count I: against Danys Baez for allowing five runs on four hits in the seventh. Count II: against a quartet of Fish relievers that immediately turned around and blew that lead in the eighth and ninth. Jorge Cantu singled in the winning run in the twelfth, but that can be blamed on the pen too, as Brian Bass walked Emilio Bonafacio for some strange reason, then uncorked a wild pitch to allow him to get to second before Cantu did his thing. Pfun Pfact: by the year 2017, use of the term "uncorked" in the wild pitch context will exceed its use in the wine context for the first time in recorded history. If you don't believe me, you can look it up.
I would add to that a couple of counts of managerial malpractice by O's skipper Dave Trembley. First, as Craig notes above, Danys Baez pitched the seventh inning and did so rather poorly. The bigger issue in my mind is the mere fact that he found himself on the hill to start the 7th. Koji Uehara had thrown 76 pitches, 59 of them strikes, and allowed just one earned run on seven hits. He didn't walk anybody. Uehara now has a 4.05 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and perhaps most impressively, a 48/12 K/BB ratio. In other words, Uehara's good and not the type of guy you yank after he has tossed just 76 pitches.
The second count of managerial malpractice has to do with Trembley's bullpen mismanagement. This one is pretty simple, and it's something that a number of Managers can be accused of regularly; managing around the "Save". Since May 1st, George Sherrill has allowed two earned runs in 19 appearances, good for a 0.95 ERA. His OPS-allowed is somewhere around .480. He has been just about as lights-out as you could hope any reliever would be. In last night's 12-inning affair in Miami, Sherrill didn't pitch. He had thrown three consecutive games in Philadelphia over the weekend but Baltimore had an off-day Monday. He should have been available.
Francisco Liriano cruised to his 3rd win last night in Milwaukee. And by "cruised" I mean "stumbled and stammered and subjected fans and fantasy owners alike to another infuriating performance". This is an especially touchy subject around these parts, as Liriano is a guy that both Rich and I really liked to start the year. I am embarrassed to say what I bid on him at my fantasy league's auction back in March. His line last night? 5 innings, 7 hits, 5 walks and 117 pitches. Oh and 6 strikeouts and the Win. If ever a performance laid to rest the significance of the "Win" as any sort of meaningful measure of how well a starting pitcher performs, it was this one.
Quietly, Max Scherzer is rounding into form. The youngster had another effective outing last night, striking out 7 over 6 innings. Among starting pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched this season, Scherzer now ranks 7th with a 9.23 K/9. With Brandon Webb's status now up in the air for 2009, I am not ready to predict a Wild Card run for the Snakes but with Scherzer and Dan Haren at the top of the rotation and a lineup that is bound to improve, I do think they will mount a real charge in the second half.
The Boston Red Sox are now 14-5 in June, having outscored opponents 109-69 in the process. While the reigning AL MVP has struggled (.203/.267/.253) over those 19 games, two players that drove this Sox fan crazy in April and May have stepped up. Jacoby Ellsbury has hit .357/.448/.554 with 9 stolen bases (he hasn't been caught stealing) in June, while David Ortiz is hitting .308/.400/.654 this month. Boston now has a 5-game lead in the AL East and has overtaken the Rays for the best run differential in the American League.
Elsewhere, Zack Greinke, Tim Lincecum and Hiroki Kuroda were all awesome, the Cubs bullpen troubles continued and the Yanks bats remained quiet.