Thursday, June 30, 2011

6/30/11 San Francisco Giants 2, Chicago Cubs 5

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Game 4 of 4

Extra innings mayhem!  Geovany Soto's first career pinch-hit HR saves the friggin' day!!  Andres Torres earns the rare-but-not-so-amazing Golden Sombrero, duly noted that he struck out 4 times in 6 AB.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

6/28/11 San Francisco Giants 13, Chicago Cubs 7

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Game 1 of 4
First game of Day/Night Doubleheader

Say goodbye to Doug Davis. I mean it, this time. There he goes…

Baseball is a very circular game. I mean this not in the sense that a baseball is kind of circular, or in the sense that the cross-section of a bat is circular, or any of that really. I mean this in an abstract sense...I almost used a $20 word like ‘metaphysical’ but I really don’t think it applies, and I don’t want to overstate what is really nothing but circumstance and coincidence on balls in play. There are many events in baseball that occur where some events, well…come around full circle. It may take decades, years, months, or days. It may require a 15,000 foot view or 15,000 data points to observe. Or, it may be as plain as the nose on your face. Sometimes you can see all of these peculiar baseball circles, intersecting and overlaying. Circles have a non-descript beginning and ending, we can’t really tell for sure where that point exactly is…but we know it’s there.

The circle began when today’s game was really supposed to be the 3rd game of a 3-game series that was played here in Wrigley on May 15. Game 2 of that series featured a semi-historic outing by Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong as he faced opposing starting pitcher Doug Davis in his very first appearance as a Cub. That contest was called after 6 innings due to rain, the final game of the series was postponed due to continued inclement weather. As it usually happens, the game was indeed rescheduled to occur when the Giants returned to Chicago at the end of June, hence the Day/Night Doubleheader.

Here’s where circumstance and coincidence come into play; Vogelsong and Davis are both facing each other once more. Vogelsong is not as efficient (nor does he face the same defensive quandary as he did on 5/14, when the weather was effectively playing both teams for the title!) but Davis is pretty much as consistent…Vogelsong gives up 6 runs (5 earned) on 6 hits in 5 innings, 4BB, 6K and 2 HR. Davis, sigh, works for only 4.1 innings, allowing 10 runs (all earned) on 12 hits, 3BB, 3K and 1 HR.

On 6/29/11, the following day, the Cubs release Doug Davis. He signs with the Chicago White Sox on July 15, appearing in 9 games with AAA Charlotte Knights (including this admirable outing against the Louisville Bats on 7/23/11) until he was released on September 4.

The Cubs are, then, firmly routed by the Giants, but a Cub fan makes a humorous turn on a Home Run trot by Miguel Tejada in the 9th. It’s well-known that when you are in the bleachers at Wrigley and the opposing team hits a Home Run, you should throw the ball back on to the field. It’s a turd, really…don’t keep it, throw it back! You may think this is silly, and you are entitled to think this, but it’s not just a corny thing some people do, it’s something Cub fans do to show their respect, and there really is nothing stupid or silly about it…and that’s MY opinion about that.

Of course, it’s also true that lots of fans in the bleachers do have ‘alternative balls’ that they will throw back onto the field instead of the ‘actual’ ball…I would never do this, but I would support any fan’s doing so as, once again, it still serves to demonstrate the respect we have for our own team’s Home Runs, as opposed to the disrespect we have for the opposing team’s Home Runs.

It’s clear in this instance, that this fan is not switching any baseballs, and it’s also clear that as Tejada’s tater lands squarely in his hands, he knows well before the catch what he’s going to do with it. And he does it very well, with a formidable gold glove-caliber outfield assist throw that finds the ball actually beating Tejada back to the plate. Somebody sign this guy!!

The Doug Davis Cubs circle began with a game against Ryan Vogelsong and the Giants, who were victorious, the circle ends with a game against Ryan Vogelsong and the Giants, in a makeup of what was to be the final game of the original series. Baseball is weird like that, very circular at times.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

6/25/11 Chicago Cubs 2, Kansas City Royals 3

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Game 2 of 3

Chris Getz: from “Toad” to “Hero” in less than 24 hours…

In Game 2 of the “yin-yang series” (my post of Game 1 sheds more light on this) the ‘toad’ of Game 1, Chris Getz, becomes the ‘hero’ of Game 2…or is Jeff Samardzija really the ‘toad’ of Game 2?

Danny Duffy (who will later become better known as #PulledPork) faces Carlos Zambrano in the highest-attendance game at Kauffman Stadium since Opening Day 2011. Duffy stays in the game past the 6th inning for the first time in 9 career starts, but leaves the game in a no-decision deadlock with Zambrano, each allowing 2 runs apiece after 7 innings of work.

Alex Gordon makes a Gold Glove worthy outfield assist in the 3rd inning, allowing Matt Treanor to catch Reed Johnson at home plate…Johnson’s run would have been the first of the game, and probably would have been the difference for the Cubs later on.

The Royals get on the board first, with RBI singles by Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler in the 5th inning. Aramis Ramirez and Geovany Soto respond by touching Duffy for 2 back-to-back HR in the 6th; Soto’s blast will be important in later innings.

With the score tied at 2 apiece in the 8th, lefty John Grabow starts the inning in relief of Zambrano; Grabow only faces Gordon, with a one-pitch flyout to RF, and is lifted in favor of the Shark. Enter Jeff Samardzija, who offers bases-on-balls to Jeff Francoeur (pinch-hitting for Mitch Maier) and Mike Moustakas (Francoeur steals second during Moustakas’ PA)…with only one out in the inning, Jeff is unable to end it here, and faces Wilson Betemit (pinch-hitting for Matt Treanor). With the count 2-2, Samardzija lobs an 86-mph high and outside pitch to Soto that gets away; the doofus pitch is scored as a passed ball that allows Francoeur to advance to 3rd and suddenly, this game is on the line for the Cubs.

I still question the PB scoring, and only do so because of how high and how outside this potato was; Soto covered a great deal of ground to receive the pitch, therefore, one might disagree and have a valid basis for disagreement…however, let’s just stick with the PB ruling for now…

Soto’s passed ball might have been the move that cost the Cubs the game, but with Gordon’s earlier assist and Soto’s own solo HR to erase this run, the error (by no fault of its own) cancels that HR out and Soto’s game account is even. Technically, Baseball-Reference’s Box Score
credits Soto with a WPA of 0.073, higher than any other Cub in the lineup (even higher than Ramirez’ WPA of 0.052); despite the PB it’s hard to make a claim that Soto blew the game.

Let’s get back to the game…Betemit is still at the plate, and Samardzija strikes him out. 2 down, 2 on, and 2 in scoring position. Chris “The Toad” Getz works a 2-2 count from the Shark before hitting a dribbler that banks off Samardzija’s glove, allowing Francoeur to score. Getz’ WPA is 0.177, that of a “Hero,” not a “Toad,” and Joakim Soria strikes out the side in the top of the 9th, bringing the Royals a well-earned win and tying the “yin-yang” series 1-1.

Incidentally, Francoeur’s timely BB after working a full count, SB, and winning run scored yielded in the Royals’ highest player WPA for the game, 0.199.

Alex Gordon continues his consecutive hit streak at 12 games, Starlin Castro continues his at 9 games.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

6/24/11 Chicago Cubs 6, Kansas City Royals 4

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Game 1 of 3

What a pair!!

The most anticipated series of the season (at least for me, as both a Cubs fan and a Royals fan) begins in Kauffman. Lucky me, I’m in Chicago for the weekend.

This was the Cubs first series vs. the Royals since 2002, their first series in KC since 2000. Since 1997 the Cubs lead the series 9-6.

I call it the “Yin-Yang” series…not in a sense of ‘good and evil,’ or ‘light and dark,’ but as in ‘THIS and THAT.’ Those who know me well, know that my baseball journey started in my childhood with the Royals. I remember Kauffman in the early 70s, when it was “Royals Stadium.” Those days are forever burned into my brain, even as my life changed and I moved away from the area and, eventually, away from Baseball. My return to Kauffman in 2009 was a profound emotional experience, at a minimum. Along with Wrigley, Kauffman is the heart of the baseball experience.

Of course, the two places are much different…and in a somewhat obtuse ‘yin-yang’ sorta way. Wrigley is an elder stadium with class and minimal upgrades. Kauffman is an elder stadium with class and maximum upgrades. Both places represent to me a dual spectrum of baseball experience that serve as the pinnacle of pride, location, and fan activity that are examples to the modern-day baseball fan that you can have it both ways.

Of course, ‘modern-age’ upgrades to Wrigley (including a jumbotron) would serve as nothing less than blasphemy. In the same breath, I believe that the upgrades to Kauffman have enhanced its majesty with nothing less than utmost respect for the tradition that has stood, and still stands proudly, within those walls. By comparison, a visit to Great American Ball Park feels empty…a great place, with plenty of visual stimuli and between-innings shenanigans, but I don’t feel the presence of Crosley Field, Riverfront Stadium at all. More importantly, I know that Pete Rose and Johnny Bench never played there, I know that Tom Browning never pitched a no-hitter there. All I can think of is Sean Casey, Barry Larkin, Ken Griffey, Jr, and *cough* Adam Dunn…and that’s just not the same.

Wrigley, naturally, is much different in that respect. A few years shy of Wrigley history is Kauffman, but no emptiness. It may have been astro-turf at the time, but look over to third base…the greatest baseball player of all time, George Brett, played right over there. Dick Howser paced in that dugout. Bo Jackson roamed in that outfield. Bobby Floyd played there, even if only for a short time. And the water spectacular is still there, as are the posts, the wicked angle cantilever roofing, and the “Crown Vision” jumbotron (albeit updated tremendously). It was made for baseball at a time when stadiums were made for other unholy sports. Most of them are long gone, Kauffman isn’t and that is just awesome. The 6th oldest baseball stadium in the U.S. Kauffman and the Royals are important to me, just as Wrigley and the Cubs are important to me. Is one more important than the other? Sure, just a little bit. But that doesn’t matter. The jewels of my baseball universe head to head…that’s the best thing I could ask for. But I didn’t have to ask, so that’s even better.

And, don’t let anyone else fool ya…the greatest treat of all for a true baseball fan is to enjoy a game while rooting for both sides.

This first game of the contest was, indeed a treat. Dempster and Chen both pitched well, and both teams enjoyed sparks of offense that culminated in a 4-4 tie at the top of the 9th.

As a Cubs fan, here’s where the fingers of fate start wrapping around your throat. Timely hitting has never been the forte of this team, and Aaron Crow is a pretty darn good pitcher. Lo and behold, after striking out Soriano to lead off, Tony Campana gets on base with a bunt single (scouting report: he’s kind of FAST), then “the kid” DJ LeMahieu reaches on a single.

Leave it to Chris Getz to bobble what should have been a routine double-play ball to end the 9th off the bat of Kosuke Fukudome, scoring Campana (he is FAST, ordinarily the bases would have been loaded). Starlin Castro is next, and takes a 1-2 pitch for a chopper ground ball to score LeMahieu. The Cubs have a rally; a 6-4 lead with 1 on, 1 out and…Aramis Ramirez at bat.

Ah, there’s that double-play ball…a little too late for Crow to stave off the damage, but in time to end the inning.

The bottom of the ninth…where Joakim Soria has been unpredictable this year, Carlos Marmol has been Carlos Marmol all year. Striking out the first 2 batters, Billy Butler belts a scorching double to right field…Jarrod Dyson comes in as a pinch runner, and Alex Gordon is next. Time for the tums? Not today…I’m thinking about EXTRA INNINGS!!!

Not a chance…Gordo grounds out to Castro and the game is over. Cubs WIN.

Thanks to timely hitting!!

In the top of the 1st inning, Starlin Castro gets his 100th hit of the season, and during the next at bat, gets caught stealing for the first time.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Chris Getz reaches base on a single, and is then thrown out 2-6-5-6 after attempting to steal second during the next at bat by Melky Cabrera. Getz flies through second, scurries back to second when the put out occurs. Can it be a SB and a caught stealing in the same play?

Not this time, and here’s why: The ruling was that Getz never safely made it to second base, so no SB was officially credited.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

6/23/11 Pawtucket Red Sox 4, Louisville Bats 3

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 4 of 4

Oh gosh, oh gee…can it be…KEVIN MILLWOOD?!?

My trip to Slugger Field for our annual church Men’s Club meeting at the game is always a weird one. We do this every year, it’s always on “Thirsty Thursday” (you know what that means) and we always meet at Browning’s for a beer first, then to the Overlook Grille for more beer. Our system for beating the 2-beers-per-transaction rule is flawless, as there is always a picnic table filled with $1 beers, plenty of cold ones when you need them, and a bucket full of baseball smack talk camaraderie. The only understanding is that sooner or later, it will be your turn to stand in line…do it gracefully.

This year’s trip got weirder, as I arrived later than usual (after dinner at Zanzabar with my boss, who I was most happy to bring to the game and the “meeting”) and took my proper place at our picnic table, I craned my neck around to check out who the starting pitchers were…


Yes, that’s right. It really was Kevin Millwood. You already know his career…since being drafted in the 11th round by the Braves in 1993, he has been on 6 teams. Now with the Red Sox for his 7th organization landing (including the Rangers in 2006 and the Red Sox now, he’s pitched for 4 clubs), and really not having seen him work since 2009, but having seen his 4-16 win-loss record for the Orioles in 2010, the thought in my mind was…what now?

See update at the end of this post for “what now” with Kevin Millwood!

Scott Carroll, of course, is one of my favorite pitchers. He started for the Bats, and after allowing 1 run each in back-to-back innings, settled down to only allow one more as he left the game in the 8th inning. At that time, the game was tied 3-3. Scott was leaning quite a bit on his fastball tonight.

Millwood, on the other hand, also pitched well, pitching 6 innings with only 2 runs (earned), 3 BB and 7K.

As I had hoped, we got EXTRA INNINGS…bonus baseball. But not for long.

Top of the 10th, game still tied, RHP Brandon Hynick enters for his second inning of work. A leadoff walk to Pawtucket RF Matt Sheely and a consecutive walk issued to CF Che_Hsuan Lin ends in a remarkable PIDP (Popped into Double Play), which means 1 on, 2 out and 3B Daniel Nava at the plate. Hynick throws 2 outside, then Nava tags him for an RBI double to left field…the speedy Sheely easily scores from second. Star 1B Lars “Lumberjack” Anderson flies out to end the inning with Pawtucket up by a run.

Pawtucket needs two pitchers to nearly handcuff the Bats; Todd Frazier nails a screaming double to LF with 2 outs to instigate a Bats rally. Rally falls short as Pawtucket brings in LHP Randy Williams to induce a first-pitch groundout to 2B to leave Frazier stranded and end the game.

If I took pictures tonight, I have no idea what happened to them. That’s “Thirsty Thursday” for ya.

”What Now?” Kevin Millwood UPDATE
On August 6, 2011, Millwood was released by the Red Sox after a (5-1) win-loss record and a 4.28 ERA with Pawtucket. He never got called up to Boston during his time with the Red Sox organization. 2 days later, he signed as a free agent with the Colorado Rockies. As of 8/11/11, he’s had one start with the Rockies, a loss, and an ERA of 3.86.

Official Scorecard and Bat Chat

Saturday, June 18, 2011

6/18/11 Toledo Mud Hens 1, Louisville Bats 3

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 3 of 4

Kansas City native Scott Carroll is starting to become one of my favorite pitchers.

He pitched well but still got roughed up a little bit on Opening Day, since then he’s compiled a 5-2 win loss record and is cruising along with a 4 plus change ERA and only two (maybe three) rough outings in his last 10 games. Scott can carry several innings of shut-out work deep into a game before hitters start to get to him. I liked Travis Wood a lot last year, for the record I think Scott is a much better pitcher with just as much stuff as Travis, with better command and use of his pitch profile. That being said, he was roughed up by the Toledo Mud Hens on opening day, and that’s who the Bats are facing today. With Daniel Ray Herrera gone, hopes are the Bats can handle the Mud Hens lineup with more efficiency this time around.

Before we get into the game, this is my first June game which means new programs are out…I’m not ashamed to say I yelped aloud to find not only a Todd Frazier article but none other than the all-time strike out leader for the Louisville Bats, Matt Maloney on the cover!!

This game went a lot different, Scott had another great outing, NEVER lost control of the game, and had some ‘executive’ relief assistance from Sam LeCure, in Louisville on rehab. The Bats’ offense managed to squeeze in a few runs, but fought hard in doing so…the Mud Hens’ pitchers (Enrique Gonzalez, L.J. Gagnier, and Brad Thomas, the latter also in a rehab assignment) were nearly as effective. Rather than a pitching duel between starters, there was an even greater duel between several pitchers; Carroll and LeCure pretty much had the Mud Hens handcuffed.

An interesting note about the Mud Hens’ pitching staff this evening…for all 3 pitchers: 4BB, 7K, 1 HR, 1 HB, 13 balls in the air and only 2 groundouts.

Rain threatened the area but never quite appeared…Chihiro took my picture. People usually don’t hesitate to stop me and ask about stuff I’m wearing at games, but the Taco Mac shirt gets the most inquiries, I think.

Oh, and hey…for the first time this year, the Zooperstars are in the house! Here Brendan Wise (RHP for Toledo, did not pitch tonight) is attacked after whooping Alex Frogriguez in a dance contest.

This is Yao Flamingo, Ken Giraffey Jr, and Manatee Ramirez (who has not retired) messing about with Mud Hens 3B Bryan Pounds…

And, of course, Harry Canary led us in singing “Take Me Out…” and spraying folks with silly string during the 7th inning stretch.

I told myself “I’m not going to take any pictures of Todd tonight” but you know that I am obliged to. Here’s Todd Frazier, who had a dismal evening (0-for-4, 2K, a flyout, lineout, and groundout) facing Enrique Gonzalez (2.2IP, 3H, 2ER, 3BB, 4K, HR, 13 BF, 61 pitchers, 37 for strikes, 9.56 FIP*)…Gonzalez was taken out of the game too soon to tell what the rest of his night could have been like, but there’s no doubt about it…he was throwing strikes.

* Yes, for the first time in this post…introducing FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) as a stat I will include in each pitcher’s line whenever I can ‘whip it up’…we’re going to give this a shot! What is FIP? Read THIS for more information. The league average I’m using for now is 3.2, if you think I should use something different for Minor League, Independent League, Major League, or whatever league…please drop me a comment on this and I will mess around with it a little.

Danny Dorn at bat (2-for-3, 2R, 2H, K, 2RBI on a HR off Enrique Gonzalez with 1 on and 1 out)

Cale Iorg (1-for-3, H, 2K) faces Scott Carroll (6IP, 4H, ER, BB, 4K, 22 BF, 66 pitches, 44 for strikes, 2.37 FIP). I mentioned Cale in my Opening Day post.

Will Rhymes (0-for-3, BB, 3 groundouts) faces Scott Carroll.

Zack Cozart (0-for-4, 2K, 2 Flyouts) faces Enrique Gonzalez…

…and flies out to Center Fielder Clete Thomas.

Hey kids, it’s Jeremy Hermida (1-for-2, 2BB, putout 7-6-2 coming home on a double by Devin Mesoraco)…Jeremy (.346/.434/.500) is currently in a near-statistical tie for the International League batting crown with Gwinnett Braves’ Jose Constanza (.345/.392/.401). I think it’s safe to assume that a batting crown alone doesn’t tell you who is a more effective hitter.

Hermida facing Enrique Gonzalez…a swingandamiss!

Todd Frazier again.

Sam LeCure (3IP, 3H, 0R, 3K, 11 BF, 46 pitches, 32 for strikes, 1.20 FIP) warming up on the mound…

Cale Iorg faces Sam LeCure in the 7th inning.

The 8th inning was brought to you by Ocean Spray…and you can thank Tug Haines for helping out with that!!!

Detroit Tigers 3B Brandon Inge (1-for-4, K, 2 flyouts) is rehabbing in Toledo! His only hit of the night was against Sam LeCure, but he was erase on Bryan Pounds’ GIDP (6-3) to end the top of the 9th, and the game, with the Bats winning 3-1.

After the game, a 3-inning exhibition Men’s Slow Pitch Softball game occurred between the visiting Wounded Warriors and a combo squad of Louisville Police and Fire Departments. The Wounded Warriors squad was comprised of entirely amputee players…a very impressive outing and program, as they tour to promote the program and show off their skills. Here is a brief writeup of their visit by Fox 41’s Tom Lane, including a video with the local news story.

Official Scorecard and Bat Chat

Official Program: MATT MALONEY!
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