Games of Wednesday, April 8th
Minnesota Twins (Ricky Nolasco) @Detroit Tigers (Anibal Sanchez)
Monday's game between the Twins and Tigers ended with two runners on base and Torii Hunter at the dish. The final pitch of the game was a low-and-away breaking ball that Hunter checked his swing on. Home plate umpire Country Joe West rung him up on a questionable check swing call and Hunter was not please, not pleased at all. After the game, Hunter questioned the integrity of Country Joe West, suggesting Country Joe West had dinner reservations or a concert to play in (Country Joe West is a country music singer when he's not making terrible calls on check swings). Torii Hunter will be fined for his outburst because you cannot question Country Joe West on a check swing call even if it might, perhaps, maybe, kind of, should have been a call that Country Joe West asked for help on. He could have simply asked the first base umpire for a ruling, which is something many home plate umpires will do on check swings. It's not like the first base umpire has anything else to do right then. Maybe next time Country Joe West will ask for help.
My pick: Tigers 7, Twins 5
Actual score: Tigers 11, Twins 0. Tigers' starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez shut down the Twins for 6 2/3 scoreless innings today en route to a blowout victory for the Tigers. Anthony Gose had 3 hits and 3 RBI and Ian Kinsler had 2 hits, 2 runs, and 4 ribbies, but Sanchez was a big part of the story in this one. After the game, Sanchez received praise from his manager. "He has a different look in his eye this year," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's like he's determined to do something." It's never a good idea to take what a baseball manager says too seriously, but this quote does make one wonder why Anibal Sanchez suddenly has a different look in his eyes in this, his tenth season in the major leagues. Why has he not been determined to do something for the last nine years? Has he been coasting along, without that look in his eyes, without that determination to do something? Also, Brad Ausmus was the Tigers' manager last year and sent Anibal Sanchez out to start 21 games for the team. Did Anibal have a vacant look before all of those starts? Did his look in 2014 say, "I'd kind of like to do something, but I'm not really all that determined to do anything. I mean, I could maybe do something if there's something to be done or I could just kind of not do anything. Either way, doesn't really matter to me." Sanchez will get his next start on Monday in Pittsburgh. We'll just have to see if he has that same look in his eyes then.
(My record: 1-0)
St. Louis Cardinals (Lance Lynn) @Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta)
The new-and-improved Jake Arrieta takes the hill after yesterday's rainout bumped the game to today. Jake Arrieta was less-than-stellar through the first four seasons of his career but became a dominant force on the mound last year. This is his first opportunity in the 2015 season to show that last year wasn't a fluke and that the new-and-improve Jake Arrieta is for real. I'm rooting for him.
My pick: Cubs 5, Cardinals 3
Actual score: Cubs 2, Cardinals 0. Speaking of strange things managers say, Cubs' manager Joe Madden had this to say about today's starter, Jake Arrieta--he's in such good shape he could record fitness videos, like Jane Fonda. Judging by that comment, guess how old Joe Maddon is? Did you guess 100? That's a good guess, but he's actually only 61. Jane Fonda first starting selling fitness videos on VHS in 1982, which was four years before Jake Arrieta was born. And Jane Fonda was no spring chicken then. Jane Fonda could be Jake Arrieta's grandma. Hey Joe Maddon, next time you make a reference to something, how about referring to something in this millennium?
(My record: 2-0)
Boston Red Sox (Rick Porcello) @Philadelphia Phillies (Aaron Harang)
Red Sox' pitcher Rick Porcello just signed a 4-year, $82.5 million contract yesterday and now takes the hill for the first time as an extremely wealthy individual. It makes you wonder if he'll be nervous thinking he has to prove it wasn't a bad idea to sign him to such an expensive deal. Will he go out there and over-throw, trying to justify being a $20-million-per-year player? I mean, we've seen this with Jim Carrey. The guy gets $20 million to be in a film and becomes the biggest over-actor there is (I'm thinking about Liar Liar in particular). Take it down a notch, Jim Carrey.
My pick: Red Sox 8, Phillies 4
Actual score: Phillies 4, Red Sox 2. The shocking news from this game is that Jeff Francoeur is still playing major league baseball. After Francoeur hit .235/.287/.378 in 2012, you might have thought his career would be over. Then when he hit .204/.238/.298 for the Royals and Giants in 2013, it wouldn't have been a stretch to say the fork was sticking out of his back because surely he was done. And certainly after he had 2 hits in 24 at bats (.083/.179/.083) for the Padres last year, you would think it was time for him to ride off into the sunset. But he didn't ride off into the sunset. He signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies and started today's game and, with the game scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, Jeff Francoeur hit a 3-run homer to help the Phillies beat the Red Sox. Jeff Francoeur is obviously a zombie.
(My record: 2-1)
Toronto Blue Jays (R.A. Dickey) @New York Yankees (Michael Pineda)
You may remember Yankees' pitcher Michael Pineda from when he pitched for the Seattle Mariners a few years ago. Then he was traded to the Yankees for Jesus Montero. You may remember Jesus Montero from . . . well, actually, you probably don't remember Jesus Montero. His bat went missing shortly after the Mariners acquired him in that trade and he hasn't been heard of since.
My pick: Blue Jays 6, Yankees 3
Actual score: Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3. The Blue Jays led this game 3-1 going into the bottom of the 8th, but the Yankees battled back to score three runs in the inning and took the lead. Lefty reliever Andrew Miller set the Blue Jays down in the 9th for the second save of his career. The big news in New York was the Yankees' smallest crowd since September 23rd, 2004, which was before they moved into their new ballpark. The other big news was Alex Rodriguez going 0 for 4 and seeing his batting average for the season drop to .167.
(My record: 2-2)
New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @Washington Nationals (Jordan Zimmermann)
Jacob deGrom is bringing sexy back with his homage-to-the-80s hairstyle. It's business in the front and party in the back, baby! His 'do isn't Hall of Fame caliber, like Randy Johnson's was, but it's not bad for a second-year player. It took Randy Johnson years to cultivate baseball's best mullet, so give Jacob deGrom some time.
My pick: Nationals 5, Mets 4
Actual score: Nationals 2, Mets 1. Jacob deGrom and his hair did a great job of limiting the Nationals to just 2 runs through 6 innings but Jordan Zimmermann with the extra "n" was even better, allowing just 1 run through 6 innings. Ryan Zimmerman with no extra "n" was the hitting star for Washington, as he had a 2-run homer in the first inning that would prove to be all the runs the Nats would need.
(My record 3-2)
Pittsburgh Pirates (Gerrit Cole) @Cincinnati Reds (Mike Leake)
My pick: Pirates 6, Reds 2
Actual score: Reds 5, Pirates 4. This was a gut-wrenching back-and-forth loss for the Pirates. The game was tied after five innings. The Pirates took the lead in the top of the 7th, only to see the Reds tie it in the bottom of the inning. The game remained tied into the 11th. In the bottom of the 11th, the Pirates were down to one pitcher left in the pen--Radhames Liz. Radhames Liz last pitched in the major leagues in 2009 and has a career walk rate of 6.2 batters per nine innings, which is really, really bad. Sure enough, Radhamez Liz had some trouble throwing strikes in this most crucial of situations. He started off the inning by getting Brandon Phillips to pop out. He then plunked Zack Cozart. In 2014, Zack Cozart was the worst hitter in all of baseball who had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title when he hit .221/.268/.300. The last person you'd ever want to hit with a pitch is Zack Cozart, but that's just what Radhames Liz did. He regained his composure to strike out Matt Dominguez. Of course, Matt Dominguez was the second-worst hitter in all of baseball last year. It's kind of amazing that the two worst hitters in baseball last year were batting back-to-back in this situation, but life has those little amazing things happen every now and then. Still, there were two outs and a runner on first and Billy Hamilton was coming to the plate. Billy Hamilton, by the way, was the 13th-worst hitter in all of baseball last year out of the 146 hitters who qualified for the batting title. Surely, Radhames Liz could get Billy Hamilton out and send this game to the 12th inning, right? No, not right. Not right at all. Radhames Liz walked Billy Hamilton. This is not a particularly easy thing to do because Billy Hamilton does not walk very often (5.7% of the time in his career). Walking Billy Hamilton meant there were no runners on 1st-and-2nd and Radhames Liz would have to face Joey Votto, the best hitter on the Reds. Joey Votto singled to right, Zack Cozart scored, and Radhames Liz single-armedly lost the game for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
(My record: 3-3)
Atlanta Braves (Shelby Miller) @Miami Marlins (Tom Koehler)
Giancarlo Stanton was signed to a $300-million contract and he's hitting .200? What a bum!
My pick: Braves 7, Marlins 4
Actual score: Braves 2, Marlins 0. Five Atlanta pitchers combined to shut out the Marlins as the Atlanta Braves complete a three-game sweep. The Braves are in rebuild mode and the Marlins fancy themselves contenders, so this was a bit of a shocking start to the season.
(My record: 4-3)
Baltimore Orioles (Miguel Gonzalez) @Tampa Bay Rays (Jake Odorizzi)
Two years ago, there were three Miguel Gonzalezes in the major leagues. Last year, there were two Miguel Gonzalezes. Now we're down to just one Miguel Gonzalez and he's starting this game for the Orioles. He's the last remaining Miguel Gonzalez in the big leagues until one or more of the three Miguel Gonzalezes who are in the minor leagues get their chance in the show.
My pick: Rays 8, Orioles 5
Actual score: Rays 2, Orioles 0. Jake Odorizzi of the Rays kept the Orioles in check and three relievers contributed to the shutout in the team's victory today. It was the first victory of Rays' manager Kevin Cash's young career and he was drenched in a celebratory dousing after the game. The Orioles lost this one in painful fashion. With the score tied 0-0, Orioles' pitcher Miguel Gonzalez started the bottom of the sixth by striking out Steven Souza, Jr. and getting Asdrubal Cabrera to ground to first. All looked well for the O's. Then Gonzalez walked Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings. And that was all she wrote for Miguel Gonzalez. Reliever Brian Matusz came in and walked Brandon Guyer to load the bases. Then he walked Logan Forsythe, which forced in the first run of the game. There's nothing quite like four straight walks to give up a run. That hurts. The Rays added another run later to win 2-0.
(My record: 5-3)
Chicago White Sox (Jose Quintana) @Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy)
The Kansas City Royals do strange things like bat Mike Moustakas second and Alex Gordon sixth, which they did in their first game of the season. Mike Moustakas has a career on-base percentage of .291. You don't put someone who struggles to get on base near the top of the lineup. It's just not a smart thing to do. You want guys on base when your big hitters come up and someone with a career .291 OBP should NOT be batting second. Meanwhile, Alex Gordon is the Royals' best hitter and he bats sixth. His career on-base percentage is .346. If Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas were each given 600 plate appearances in a season and performed up to their career on-base percentages, Alex Gordon would get on base 208 times. Mike Moustakas would get on base 175 times. That's 33 more times you have a guy on base in front of your three, four, and five hitters. Yet, the Royals still had Mike Moustakas batting second and Alex Gordon batting sixth. And, of course, they won the game 10-1 because life is just kind of ridiculous some days.
My pick: White Sox 7, Royals 3
Actual score: Royals 7, White Sox 5. Neither Jose Quintana nor Danny Duffy were on their games tonight. Both pitchers gave up 5 runs in 5 innings. Quintana was slightly worse, as he gave up 10 baserunners to the 8 baserunners given up by Duffy. The score was tied going into the bottom of the 8th, but Lorenzo Cain untied it with a 2-run jack. The Royals' Greg Holland came in for the save and the defending American League champion Kansas City Royals got the victory.
(My record: 5-4)
Colorado Rockies (Eddie Butler) @Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta)
Whenever I see the name Wily Peralta, a I always think of Wile E. Coyote of the old Roadrunner cartoons. I'm not even sure if Wily is pronounced the same as Wile E., I just assume it is and that's how I hear it in my head. In a related note, the Brewers have been outscored 15 to 2 in their first two games this year, so the entire team is basically Wile E. Coyote getting anvils dropped on their heads.
My pick: Brewers 6, Rockies 4
Actual score: Rockies 5, Brewers 4. The theme of this game was relief pitchers getting bombed (but not in the sense that they had too much to drink, although maybe after the game that was true). First up was Jonathan Broxton. With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the 8th, Broxton gave up a 2-run jack to Carlos Gonzalez and the Rockies took the lead, 4-2. In the bottom of the 9th, it was LaTroy Hawkins' turn. Holding a 4-2 lead, Hawkins allowed 4 hits and 2 runs and the score was tied. In the 10th inning, Brewers' reliever Francisco Rodriguez got in on the action by giving up a solo homer to Wilin Rosario. Finally, John Axford settled things down by getting through the 10th for a save and another Rockies' victory.
(My record: 5-5)
Cleveland Indians (Carlos Carrasco) @Houston Astros (Scott Feldman)
Carlos Carrasco is the Jake Arrieta of Cleveland. Both Arrieta and Carrasco were below average pitchers before breaking out last season. Both need to do it again this year to prove they are for real. As fate would have it, both are pitching today. If fate were more organized, fate would have had them pitch against each other in their first game of the year, but fate did not do that. Stupid fate.
My pick: Indians 5, Astros 1
Actual score: Indians 2, Astros 0. Carlos Carrasco struck out 10 batters in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. It's a good indication that he might be the pitcher he was last year and not the pitcher he was before last year, but it is only one game and the Astros led baseball in striking out in 2014, so we're not ready to canonize Carlos Carrasco just yet. Still, good game, Carlos.
(My record: 6-5)
San Francisco Giants (Chris Heston) @Arizona Diamondbacks (Jeremy Hellickson)
Matt Cain was supposed to start this game for the Giants but he has a strained flexor tendon in his throwing arm so Chris Heston will get the start. Chris Heston played college baseball at Seminole Community College and was drafted in the 47th round of the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft. He did not sign. When you're drafted in the 47th round, it's like the team is telling you, "Hey, we need someone to carry the bats from the clubhouse to the dugout for one of our minor league teams and you look like you might be able to handle that job." Heston went back to school for another year, then was drafted in the 29th round by the Washington Nationals the following year. When you're drafted in the 29th round, it's like the team is telling you, "Hey, we need someone to take up space on one of our minor league rosters so the real prospects can have someone to play against." Again, Heston chose to go back to school and ended up being drafted again, this time in the 12th round, which made him marginally a prospect. He pitched in the Giants' minor league system for five years before getting into three games during last year's Championship run. He pitched a grand total of 5 1/3 innings but he was part of the team that won the World Series so he has a ring on his finger. No matter what he does for the rest of his major league career, Chris Heston has a World Series ring. Good for him.
My pick: Diamondbacks 6, Giants 3
Actual score: Giants 5, Diamondbacks 2. Former Seminole Community College pitcher Chris Heston was on his game today, giving up 0 earned runs in 6 innings and striking out 5 Diamondbacks. With his outing today, Chris Heston has done Seminole Community College proud, unlike another Seminole Community College alum named George Zimmerman, who is not someone to be proud of.
(My record: 7-5)
San Diego Padres (Andrew Cashner) @Los Angeles Dodgers (Brandon McCarthy)
With the injury histories of these two starting pitchers, we're just hoping they can get through the game without going on the DL.
My pick: Dodgers 6, Padres 5
Actual score: Dodgers 7, Padres 4. Right now, it's Adrian Gonzalez' world and we're all just living in it. Adrian Gonzalez hit dingers in his first three at-bats in today's game and had one in his final at-bat of yesterday's game, giving him homers in four consecutive at-bats. That's pretty good. He scored 3 runs today and drove in 4. He also now has 5 homers in 3 games, which is historical. Through three games, Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .769 and has a 2.077 slugging percentage.
Texas Rangers (Ross Detwiler) @Oakland Athletics (Scott Kazmir)
Both Ross Detwiler and Scott Kazmir are left-handed pitchers but in the grand scheme of things, Ross Detwiler is to Scott Kazmir as Hydrox cookies are to Oreos.
My pick: Athletics 5, Rangers 3
Actual score: Athletics 10, Rangers 0. Just as the Oreo cookie is superior to the Hydrox cookie, Scott Kazmir (7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 10 K) was superior to Ross Detwiler (4 1/3 IP, 6 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 2 K) in today's game.
Los Angeles Angels (Matt Shoemaker) @Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma)
Mariners' starter Hisashi Iwakuma has started 9 games agains the Angels in his career and is 6-1 with a 2.75 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. That's pretty good. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.
My pick: Mariners 4, Angels 2
Actual score: Angels 5, Mariners 3. Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners had a rough start in today's game, giving up 4 runs in the first and another in the second. He settled down after that, but the damage was done. The Mariners battled back to score three runs and make it a 2-run game, but that was as close as they got and the Angels had the victory. In a career milestone of note, the Angels' Albert Pujols hit the 521st home run of his career, which ties him for 18th place on the career list with Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Willie McCovey, and Frank Thomas. That's nice company right there.