Monday, July 25, 2005

Extra Frames

Rafael Palmeiro just drew a walk after nine-pitch duel with Rangers reliever Kameron Loe.

Sammy Sosa promptly followed that great at-bat with a first-pitch-swinging 5-4-3 double play. That's the 11th DP that Slammin' Sammy has grounded into this season, which basically puts him tied for 23rd in the majors in that category.

The GIDP leaders in baseball are all bunched up over a very small range of numbers. There is one guy, Bill Mueller of Boston, who has grounded into 17. Pedro Feliz has grounded into 16 twin killings. There are three guys with 15; two with 14; five with 13; nine with 12; and an absolute slew of players with either 11 or 10.

This tight bunching of totals makes the major league leader look especially bad then. Sean Casey of the Reds has grounded into 23 double plays this year, six more than the next highest total. That's a lot of rally killin' going on right there.

This is nothing particularly new for Casey. He's always been susceptible to the DP; since 2000 he ranks 9th in baseball in this category.

The Top 10 since 2000
Paul Konerko: 107
Jeff Bagwell: 92
Bernie Williams: 89
Magglio Ordonez: 87
Edgar Renteria: 86
Jon Olerud: 83
Jorge Posada: 81
Tori Hunter: 80
Sean Casey: 78
Andruw Jones: 78

Quite a few good players on that list. It seems the key to hitting into a lot of double plays would be either a) be as slow as an ox, or b) hit in the middle of an offense that puts a lot of guys on base. When you're a guy like Jorge Posada, it's a double-whammy. Most of us can run faster on on our hands ... backwards, than Jorge can huff and puff around those bases. And he's spent most of his career hitting in the bottom half of one of the best offensive teams in the league. Nothing ground-breaking in that analysis.

Casey's already surpassed his previous career high of 19 set in 2003. He's grounded into 16 DPs in a season three times: 2000, 2001 and 2004.

The Red Sox are heading to extra innings right now for the first team this season. It's their 99th game of the season, making it the furthest they've ever gone in a season without playing extra frames.

Wells threw another solid game tonight:
  IP      H       R     ER     BB      K      
6.1 9 3 3 0 5
And could've looked even better if Mike Timlin hadn't been knocked around a bit, allowing inherited runners to score.

Base hit Trot Nixon to lead off the 10th. Varitek's a good bunter, but not sure if he'll be squaring around.

Meanwhile in Balitmore, the Rangers are threatening to put this game away. They have 1st and 2nd with 0 outs in the top of the 9th, already up 4-2. Fly ball to right, one out, no advance by the runners. Blalock up, Ryan's in for Baltimore.

3-2 on Veritek.

Orioles got out of the inning with no further damage.

End of first post: 10:26 p.m.

Varitek struck out, but Nixon was able to swipe second base. Olerud's up now. Jesus Colome on the mound.

Roberts just led off with a single in Baltimore to get things going for the O's.

Odd play in Tampa. Sharp hit towards short, the ball hits Nixon, leaving Olerud at first with two outs. Listening to the radio broadcast, so having trouble envisioning exactly what the play looked like. Also trying to type simultaneously with the action.

Hollins just made a putout to end the inning.

In Baltimore, after a Melvin Mora strike out, Miguel Tejada ended the game with (what else?) a 5-4-3 DP.

End of 2nd post: 10:32 p.m.

Carl Crawford leading off for the Rays in the 10th. Schilling up 0-2 on him.

Where to go? With Texas-Baltimore a wrap, I guess I'll go over to Wrigley, where the Cubs are down 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th. Also wouldn't mind catching a quick glance of Cleveland-Oakland...

Infield hit for Crawford. Ground ball to Mueller, had to range to his left, made a one-hop throw that Olerud couldn't pick.

Cantu has already shown bunt before Schilling has even gone into his motion.

Bunt back to Schilling who threw to Renteria who made a nice play to hold the bag at second. The Sox announcers are saying Boston may have gotten a break on the call.

Gomes just popped out into foul territory. Two outs, man on 1st.

Huff's up.

Game over.

Aubrey Huff doubled off the right field wall, Cantu scored from first without a play at the plate.

4-3 Tampa in 10 innings.

That's a wrap for me tonight.

Think I'll read for a bit before bed, and keep the Mets game on in the background.

A Wrap on the Weekend

End of a weekend, and I still feel like I’m catching up on all the action that transpired in the majors since Friday.

It’s drifting towards 10:00 on Sunday night and the Cubs and Cardinals are playing the last game of the day in St. Louis. 3-2, Cards.

I don’t know about you, but the weekend has a way of pushing baseball, and I guess sports in general, to the back burner a little bit. I’m not saying that’s the case every weekend; a huge chunk of my time this afternoon consisted of either listening to baseball on the radio or watching it on television. In addition, Friday and Saturday nights are really the only nights of the week that allow me to watch West Coast games to their conclusion without consequences, i.e. walking into work the next morning like an absolute zombie.

However, depending on other things going on in my life – family functions, time spent with friends, to-do-lists, music and other fun activities – sports becomes more background music than the main attraction from Friday night to Sunday night. The game is a backdrop to conversation. The voices of a radio broadcast provide a consistent chatter on the back deck while you’re trying to cook those burgers to perfection. At social gatherings, whether it’s a birthday party or barbeque, the scores come in like stock ticker updates from someone who glanced at the TV on the way back outside: “Tigers 4-3 in the 5th.”

A close game in late innings necessitates a mad dash to a radio, a television, something with immediate access to the game.

Things are different during the week. You’re in your working week routine. Things are a bit more controlled, a bit more ordered. And the game has its own unique place in the fabric of that routine. Afternoon games are antidotes to help push you through those last couple of hours at the office. A night game offers a multitude of purposes: it can be the centerpiece of the evening, simply a diversion, a backdrop for the everyday interaction with your family, even just a way to drift off to sleep. Baseball is the most flexible of sports in this way, and one of the most flexible ways to pass your time. One game can be a multitude of things to a multitude of people at once. And one thing isn’t necessarily more right or wrong than the next.

Other things of note from this weekend:

The A’s sweep of the Rangers. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, as they’ve now been playing good baseball for almost two months. But Oakland’s surge back into contention for the post-season after their dreadful start is probably the biggest team surprise of the season for me.

Seven weeks ago they were 12.5 games behind in the Wild Card race. Today, they caught the Twins for the lead for the Wild Card; the Yankees are even in the loss column with those two teams, but trail by percentage points.

This run (six in a row, 12 of 14, and 22 of 27) is reminiscent of those great second half runs of the ’00-’02 Art Howe teams. This one though is more impressive to me, as many observers had resigned this team to “rebuilding” status.

On the other side of the field, the Rangers have been reduced to the fringe of the AL post-season race at 48-49. David Pinto hinted this morning that maybe Buck Showalter and Orel Hershiser should start worrying about job security. While I think firing Buck is not the answer, Hershiser could be a target for a franchise that is going to start wanting results from this young, talented nucleus of players. However, it would ultimately be making a move for the sake of making a move. The Rangers’ pitching numbers are not good, but looking at that staff, is there a pitching coach alive that would really make that much of a difference?

Lights Out, Game Over. For four days, the Yankees and Angels played a game called “Who Can Get to the Closer First?” The Angels won that game within a game 3-1. And of course, that matched the final results of the actual games played in Anaheim from Thursday-Sunday.

The Combined Numbers of Rodriguez and Rivera from the four-game series:
  IP      H       R     ER     BB      K      SV
4.2 3 0 0 1 5 4
The Orioles are teetering on the brink. Can the Orioles recover from an ill-timed (but really when would it be a good time?) sweep at the hands of the woeful Devil Rays?

The surprising aspect of the team’s now concluded 3-7 road trip is the offense has been the weakness in this stretch of games.

From the Balitmore Sun:

But when everything was said and done at Tropicana Field, the Orioles scored
just nine runs in the series. They managed six hits in their final 17 innings
this weekend, continuing a slump that started in the first post-All-Star break
series in Seattle.

Over the past eight games, the Orioles are batting
.247 overall and .127 with runners in scoring position. They scored only 21
runs, an average of 2.6 a game, during that span.

.127 w/RISP. That’s hard to do.

The Sun also reported that Javy Lopez will be back in the line-up tonight as the O’s return home to start a four-gamer with Texas. A series featuring two teams that are fighting for their post-season lives as we hit the last week of July.

Finally, a win. It had been 52 days since Wade Miller had won a game for the Red Sox. Saturday night in Chicago that changed as he threw his best game in a Boston uni. The seven innings equaled his longest outing of the year, an amount he tallied May 31 vs. Baltimore and June 11 vs. the Cubs. He got the win in a low-scoring affair, allowing 5 hits, 0 runs; he walked 4 and struck out 4. The Sox won 3-0.

If Miller can become a bit more consistent, it would be a huge boost to a Boston starting rotation that has been spotty of late. Since the break, they’ve gotten two nice starts from David Wells (14 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 K), but the rest of the crew has been less than impressive.

Matt Clement is enduring his roughest stretch of the season after a great first half. Despite going the distance in a loss to the Yankees last week, Tim Wakefield’s knuckler has been getting knocked around and out of the park: 6 home runs allowed in his last two starts. Arroyo has been hit to the tune of 18 hits/11 runs (10 earned) in his last two outings, and isn’t fooling anybody: three strikeouts in 12.1 IP.

Overall, the Boston starters are 4-5 with a 5.19 ERA since July 14 in games against New York (1st in AL in RS); Tampa (T-10th); and Chicago (5th).

The Padres continue to make things harder for themselves than it needs to be. After games played on July 17, San Diego had a seven-game loss column lead on the sub-.500 Diamondbacks. Now, after seven losses in a row, the Padres are only one game over .500, and Arizona is back in the race: three games out in the loss column despite being 48-52. None of the other three division teams are even on anyone’s radar at this point, as the next closest team, the Dodgers, are ten games under the .500 mark.

No afternoon games today. Ten series get underway tonight under the lights, and none of them are a stop-what-you’re-doing-and-get-in-front-of-a-TV-right-now series. The Texas/Baltimore and Houston/Philadelphia match-ups are probably the most enticing, as they involve teams fighting it out for a Wild Card spot, and in Philly’s case still thinking about the division.

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