PITCHING DAT PIFF IS ALL ABOUT DA GRIND
Sometimes you have pitchers like Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg who are great and a part of MLB’s hype machine from the door. Sure they can dazzle you with freakish velocity, but that’s only when they can stay healthy. Getting 35 starts out of a guy like Strasburg would be like convincing the government to raise minimum wages to livable wages.
Then you have those pitchers – those technicians – who through years of dominating under-the-radar, eventually jump out at you like a wild dog in an alley. The past few years Adam Wainwright has gone from good pitcher to elite. If he keeps winning 64.2% of his games (106-69 career record), somebody outside of St. Louis is going to eventually grab him as the first pitcher on their fantasy league squad.
Wainwright is good money, like a white rapper with a hip-hop song and pop-hop hook. He won 19 games in 2009 and 2013 (Doing that is the equivalent of winning 25 games back in the days) and he had a 20-win season in 2010.
He’s become a fixture for a St. Louis franchise that rival the Yankees as the exemplary and consistent model for constructing a team and how shrewd MLB front offices should operate. Wainwright’s name lives in infamy, deep under the skin of NY Mets fans for Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series , when he broke the hearts of Mets fans and clinched a victory by freezing Carlos Beltran with the bases juiced in the ninth inning—with what is now recognized as Wainwright’s patented knee-buckling curve.
The playoffs usually separate very good pitchers from immortal hurlers and Wainwright hadn’t even lost a playoff game before dropping one to the Dodgers and two to Boston in the 2013 World Series. The 6-7, 32-year-old is still in his pitching prime and with every sensational season he produces, he builds upon a resume that is starting to resemble some of the all-time greats. In addition to the winning seasons, since becoming a starter in 2007, Wainwright has finished second in the Cy Young voting twice, compiled three seasons of over 200 K’s and five seasons of more than 190 innings pitched. In 2008, he was limited to 20 starts but still went 11-3.
This season he is 7-2 after throwing a one-hit, shutout, complete-game gem against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday. It was Hi-Def Wainwright as he also whiffed nine, threw 115 pitches and retired the final 16 hitters he faced. Wainwright is tied with Cliff Lee for the most shutouts since the start of the 2010 season (8), despite missing all of 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Wainwright’s ERA dropped to a stingy 1.85, and if not for the magnificence of Cinccy's Johnny Cueto, St. Louis' sure-shotta would easily be the front runner for his first NL Cy Young award.
That’s been the case with Wainwright.
He’s acknowledged but often overlooked by more flashy pitchers with insane stuff. In 2010 Doc Halladay was in a zone, feasting on the weaker-hitting NL and captured the award. In 2013, “The LA Dream” Clayton Kershaw grabbed the second Cy Young of his young career, although Wainwright got revenge as the Cardinals spanked LA in the NLCS last season.
At the same time, maybe Wainwright's fortunes are changing, because Cueto got shellacked for six hits and six runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Nationals on Tuesday, so that arms race has surely tightened.
After the game Wainwright spoke to his importance and value as a pitcher. “There’s some things that get lost about pitching and that’s carrying your team deep into the game,” he said during a postgame interview on MLB Network. “When you get a lead, putting that zero up the next inning and squashing any momentum the other team might bring back on you. John Smoltz ( Atlanta Braves future HOF pitcher) used to tell me the most important thing you can do is lead the league in innings and all the other numbers will fall in place.”
Spoken like a true workhorse.
I’M PUTTING IN THAT WORK BOY
Speaking of workhorses, Atlanta Braves pitcher Julio Teheran tossed a complete-game, six-hit, 5-0 shutout against the 27-19 Milwaukee Brewers in which he threw 128 pitches, which ties him for second most in an MLB game this season. Nolan Ryan is in Houston somewhere cringing when the Astros play but smiling when he sees organizations letting pitchers do what they get paid to do. Cole Hamels threw 133 pitches on May 11.
The 23-year-old from Cartagena, Colombia lowered his season ERA to 1.92 making him the first Braves hurler under the age of 25 to have a sub – 2.00 ERA through his first 10 starts of the season. He’s just the fifth pitcher in franchise history to do so joining Joey Jay (1958), Dana Fillingim (1918), Jesse Barnes (1916) and Denny LeMaster (1963). Notice how long ago the other pitchers accomplished this feat ? More proof that 2014 is shaping up to be another “Year of the Pitcher.”
THE RETURN OF CRUSH
Chris “Crush” Davis sputtered out go the gate this season after bombing 53 dingers in 2013. He spent some time on the DL with an oblique strain and is just rounding into form. Tuesday night against the sinking Pirates was Davis’ official, “I’m back bitches,” mash down, as he slammed three-homers for the second time in his career. He was on his Boog Powell/Eddie Murray combo sauce. Both Powell and Murray accomplished the feat an amazing three times. Davis last mashed three against Toronto on August 24th of 2012.
With the win, Buck Showalter’s AL East-leading O’s improve to 23-20. Davis also matches a career high with five RBIs after mustering just 15 through the first 30 games this season. He’s got to pick up the pace to reach last season’s historic power surge, but he seems to be in a zone so he could close the gap pretty quickly.
As TSL forewarned earlier in the season, the return of Machado and Davis would shake up the entire division. B-More's O's were 12-12 at the time Davis went down and Machado returned from his knee surgery. With both players rounding into All-Star form, when they take a dump now, it’s on everybody else’s head.
SECOND TIME AROUND
Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka's fairy-tale streak of 42 consecutive starts without a loss came to an end Tuesday night. The Yankees free agent fireballer was 6-0 this season entering last night’s interleague game against the NL’s Chicago Cubs, posting a impressive 66-7 strikeouts to walks ratio, and he was coming off a dominating shutout against the Mets (who doesn’t shut out the Mets?..but I digress). Tanaka was also 24-0 last season overseas.
Yankees Captain Derek Jeter was presented with a square No. 2 from the legendary Wrigley Field scoreboard before the game by Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro . That was all of the good will the Cubs would offer the Yankees as Tanaka had his first rocky outing and suffered his first loss in over two years (639 days).
The Cubs 6-1 victory was decisive and much need for a team that’s fading at 16-27. Tanaka wasn’t shelled as he gave up eight hits, three earned runs and struck out seven in six innings. But Tanaka’s progress will be interesting to watch as the season wears on and batters get more familiar with his arsenal of pitches, especially his splitter, which is considered one of the best ever. The Cubs were the first team he faced for the second time in his major league career and they had his number. It's something to keep an eye on.
MILE HIGH MASHIN’
Nolan Arenado must wake up every day and thank the baseball gods that he ended up in Colorado. He also gives extra thanks anytime he plays the San Francisco Giants. On Tuesday, his three-run walk-off homer gave Colorado a 5-4 win over the Giants. Two of Arenado’s three career walk-off hits have come against San Fran.
Coors Field has always been a hitter’s paradise and a pitcher’s graveyard. Since the expansion franchise entered the league in 1993, offense has been the staple of its existence. Over the years – especially during the Steroids era—cats like Dante Bichette and Todd Helton and Larry Walker and now Troy Tulowitzki, built Hall of Fame – type resumes hitting in the high altitude. Free agent pitchers such as Mike Hampton, who took a record 8-year $121 million in 1999 to pitch in Hitter’s Heaven, were never the same after the whiplash they endured at Coors. Hampton was awful for the Rockies. The first year of his contract, he had an ERA over 5.00. The second year, he went 7-15 with a 6.15 ERA. The Rockies agreed to eat part of his salary to send him out of town to the Braves
The Rockies haven’t always won, making the playoffs just three times in the franchise’s 22-year history. But they almost always hit, especially at home, where they are currently 16-6, second for best home record in the majors. This season has been no different. At home the Rockies are ranked first in MLB in team average (.350), home runs (38), runs (159) and (OPS .975).
GOLDEN ARMS LEADS THE WAY
Drew Pomeranz is 4-1 with a 0.94 ERA after throwing five scoreless innings for the AL West top dawg Oakland A’s, in a 3-0 win over the Tampa Rays on Tuesday. He became the first A’s pitchers to toss three straight scoreless starts since Brett Anderson in 2009.
Pitching potency is the main reason Oaktown's won 10 of its last 11 games. Oakland’s staff is lights out, going 8-0 with a 1.42 ERA during that span. The A's 17-6 road record is MLB’s best and their +98 run differential exudes dominance. So does their 29-16 overall record, which also reigns supreme.