Welcome to the inaugural edition of Fastballs, Curves and Sinkers, where we dissect the previous days highlights and break down standouts (fastballs), the forgettable (sinkers) and the surprises (curves).
Enough talk, here we go.
This was what Indians fans would call a "greatest hits" game—Trevor Hafner nailed his fourth home run of the year, Carlos Santana broke out of an 0-for-23 slump with his second long-ball of the season, and Grady Sizemore returned to the lineup in a big way, launching one over the right field wall. Fausto Carmona was sharp(7 IP, 1 ER, 5 SO). Chris Perez has been a shutdown closer for the Indians—only four baserunners and no runs allowed this season—and nailed down his fifth save of the season.
This was the Orioles seventh straight loss and the problem seems to be the lie in the offense(26th in the league in BA, 27th in OPS). Baltimore might want to work out their mechanics soon, as it's not hard to be buried in the highly competitive AL East.
Fastball: The Indians. Right now the AL Central standings look upside-down, with Cleveland and Kansas City leading the way. I'm not sold yet on the Royals due to youth and unproven starting pitching, but the Indians are a different story. They have the aforementioned stars as well as Shin-Soo Choo and decent veterans like Adam Everett and Orlando Cabrera who've been to the postseason before(Everett with the Astros, Cabrera with the BoSox, Angels, Twins, and Reds). It's obviously still early in the season, but of all the surprise teams, Cleveland might have more staying power than the rest of the field—especially in an up-for-grabs AL Central.
In game one, Yovani Gallardo had his first poor outing of the season, allowing seven runs in a little over five innings. Meanwhile, Jason Marquis pitched well for the Nats, getting into trouble at times, but allowing only two runs through seven innings. Ivan Rodriguez has been having a slow start to the season thus far, but still managed to knock one out of the park.
In the night cap, Livan Hernandez got his first seven outs on 17 pitches—that should pretty much tell you how his day went. Danny Espinosa was great all over—highlight reel catch in third inning, combined 2-for-7 with a triple, a home run, and six RBIs for the doubleheader For the Brewers, Marco Estrada had a decent little start(6 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 SO) but the bullpen collapsed in the seventh. Jerry Hairston Jr. hit the cycle minus a triple. Nationals had a total of 22 hits for both games.
Placido Polanco went 3-for-4 with a home run, raising his average to .373 on the year(7th in the NL). Cole Hamels did what you would expect him to do(7 IP, 2 ER, 7 SO) and so did Anibel Sanchez(6 IP, 2 ER, 8 SO). Jose Contreras got his third save of the season. Otherwise, a very vanilla game.
Curve: Ryan Webb got the loss despite the fact the run he allowed wasn't earned. It's the equivalent of a store manager getting yelled at because a trainee screwed something up. Not technically Webb's fault, but them's the rules.
The Pirates hit Edinson Volquez early and often(six runs through five innings), posting four runs in the first frame—including back-to-back long-balls by Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata(kind of ironic, as those are really the only two bright spots in the entire Pirates' lineup). Joey Votto has reached bace in 32 consecutive starts—for those wondering, the record is 84 by Ted Williams in 1949. Jay Bruce had a big day(4-for-5, 2 RBIs) and launched one of three Reds home runs(the other two were by Jonny Gomes and Miguel Cairo).
Fastball: Tabata. His line for the season does all the talking: .310 AVG, .938 OPS, 3 HR, 8 SB, 13 R. The Pirates need to find better talent to pool around Tabata and McCutchen eventually or else both of these guys end up as future Yankees/Red Sox.
Jacoby Ellsbury had his third home run of the year and Jed Lowrie contributed three RBIs as the Sox flattened the Jays. Jon Lester had a decent outing(1 R in 6 IP) and showed good reflexes in avoiding Yunel Escobar's broken bat in the third. Jarrod Saltalamacchia also had three ribbies.
Sinker: Carl Crawford. After being benched on Saturday, he came back with a phenomenal… 0-for 4, dropping his average to .127. Man, I wish I spent $142 million on this guy in the offseason. Granted, his slump isn't going to last forever, but for now, it's certainly not helping the BoSox.
Johnny Damon was injured—not sure how badly, as of yet—which is probably why he didn't have another walk-off against Minnesota. Jason Kubel blasted a home run for the second straight day. Brian Duensing was good, but had to work out of trouble frequently(7 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 5 S). Jeremy Hellickson pitched seven but gave up four. The Twins are the only team in the league that haven't scored more than five runs in a game this season(even the Mariners have done it twice).
Fastball: Twins' defense. Each of the outfielders for the Twins made highlight reel-level plays and put together their fifth straight error-free game—which might not sound that impressive, but after nine errors in their first ten games, the Twins will take any positives they can get right now.
Curve: Joe Nathan. Announced before the game that he had asked to be demoted to regular relief until he got his best stuff back. In a sports world filled with players drunk on egomania, you don't see too many guys go out of their way to cut themselves off. Props to Nathan for recognizing his own recent falters and pulling himself.
Mets snap a seven-game losing streak. Josh Thole went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs. Jason Heyward knocked his fourth long ball of the year. Tommy Hanson had nine strikeouts in the loss.
Fastball: Jose Reyes. Scored two of the Mets runs Sunday, has six stolen bases and is hitting .315 for the year. No one expects the lesser New York baseball team to do much this year, but if anything is going to happen, it'll be because of Reyes. Last year, Reyes maintained his steady .280-ish average, but his OBP was way down—this year, its back around the .350 mark, and its hard to believe its not going to stay that way.
Dan Haren allowed two earned runs over six-plus. Mark Buehrle had a an average start for the White Sox, giving up four over seven. Adam Dunn still hasn't gotten going for the Sox yet(.182 AVG) and went 0-for-4 in this game, but his OBP is a .341, so it's not like he's not trying. He's in the same category Carl Crawford is in—he's not going to be this dormant forever, and opposing pitchers should just be thankful for the down time. Maicer Izturis went 3-for-4 and scored two runs, raising his already high average to .383 for the year. He also has a .953 OPS, which is nothing to complain about.
Fastball: Haren. Season stats: 4-0. 1.16 ERA. 0.65 WHIP. .164 BAA. That pretty much sums it up.
Miguel Pineda had his third consecutive quality start and has a respectable 2.33 ERA for the season. Meanwhile, Jeff Francis also posted a QS(his fourth in a row) in the loss. I'm not entirely certain how Francis can have a BAA so high and a WHIP so low, but its Kansas City, where nothing approaching sensical has been done since 1996, so I'll let it slide. Wilson Betemit is riding a nine-game hitting streak. Justin Smoak is hitting .300 for the year, which isn't noteworthy because its impressive—moreso, it's like Halley's Comet… Get a good look, you may never see it again.
Heath Bell got himself into and out of some trouble in the ninth, loading the bases before finally nabbing the last two outs. Clayton Richard lasted just over five innings before being shown the door(6 ER). Nick Hundley continues to hit well, going 2-for-5 with a homer and has a .630 SLG for the season. Jorge Cantu added one of his own, although his numbers for the season are far less remarkable(.176 AVG, .531 OPS). Hunter Pence added his 12th RBI and went 2-for-4.
Fastball: Brett Myers. Four consecutive quality starts to begin the season is how you want to play the game. Remarkably, he's only 1-0 despite the effort. He's posted a 2.37 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, and a .253 BAA. Look at it this way, Astros fans: King Felix won the Cy Young last year, and he had 12 losses. Theoretically, anything's possible.
This game was pretty tight up til the 8th, when the Rockies blew it open. Carlos Gonzalez went 4-for-5 and Seth Smith went 2-for-2—both had 2 RBIs. The Cubs learned from the Mets' mistake and mostly seemed to pitch around Troy Tulowitzki(two walks—can you really blame them?). Starlin Castro has been ridiculously hot to start the season(.418 AVG, 1.025 OPS) and continued it yesterday, going 3-for-4 with 2 runs. Despite putting up nine runs, this wasn't really a stat-heavy game for the Rocks-more of an "everyone contributed" game.
Fastball: The Rockies. Everyone knew CarGo and Tulo were remarkably talented, but the truth is that there's talent on this team across the board. Guys like Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith, Jonathan Herrera, Todd Helton and a decent enough pitching staff to at least keep games close. What's even more remarkable is guys like Ian Stewart, Ty Wigginton, Ryan Spilborghs, Jason Giambi, and Jose Lopez haven't even gotten going yet. Until someone proves otherwise, this is the team to beat in the NL West.
The otherwise could come as soon as tonight, as the Rockies host the Giants for a three-game series.
Sinker: Coors Field is Ryan Dempster's Kryptonite—in ten appearances there, he has a 10.93 ERA and a 2.143 WHIP. Lucky for him, the Cubs don't have to go back there this year.
Trevor Cahill pitched eight stellar innings, allowing only one run and striking out nine. His numbers are exactly what they're supposed to be for an ace: 0.95 WHIP, .177 BAA, 2.49 ERA. This only helps highlight how dominant Oakland's starting rotation has been—104 IP, 9 QS, 2.16 ERA, 1.17 WHIP. If the A's can muster merely a semi-decent offense this year, the staff could raise them to contender status. The Tigers already won two games out of a four-game road series, so their stats took the day off(Casper Wells might've hit a home run, but I really wasn't paying attention).
Matt Kemp walk-off home run ends the game in the ninth. Otherwise, this game was pure pitcher's duel: Chris Carpenter was great(7 IP, 0 R), but Chad Billingsley was sick(8 IP, 0 R, 11 SO). Andre Ethier has a 14-game hitting streak and a .377 AVG for the season.
Fastball: Matt Kemp. 3-for-4 in this game, walk-off home run, league-leading .474 AVG, 1.265 OPS. The Dodgers are likely to be fighting for third place for the season, but at least Kemp should keep people coming to games.
Stephen Drew singled in Justin Upton in the tenth for the walk-off(which was a close play at the plate, no less). Home runs kept Frisco in the game—Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, and Pablo Sandoval all went yard—but otherwise accumulated only six hits. Meanwhile, Zona was held together by Justin Upton(2-for-4, HR, 3 runs) and Drew(2-for-6, 3 RBI). Neither of the starting pitchers(Madison Bumgarner and Barry Enright) were too impressive, both giving up four earned.
ESPN listed this series as "pivotal." I'm not sure I've ever heard a regular season series in April called pivotal before, but okay. Adrian Beltre carried the Rangers like an Easter Basket(3-for-4, 2B, HR, 4 RBI) but it wasn't enough, as the Yanks got four-baggers from Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, and Curtis Granderson. Eric Chavez, playing in place of A-Rod, singled in the go-ahead single and Rivera finished off the game for his seventh save of the season.
Fastball: The Yankees and the Rangers. This is how you figured this series would go—lots of offense, a 2-1 split by the home team, and long-balls a-plenty. The Rangers and the Yanks meet six more times during the regular season, and likely at least four more times in the postseason.