MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals

The unbalanced schedule sucks. It’s really one of the greatest threats to competitive balance in baseball today. It overloads the schedule with division games at the end of the season, which means more Rockies/Padres battles than is good for anyone.

But when you get a three-team race like we see in the National League Central, it means a Big Series takes place just about every day during September. We saw just such a Big Series this weekend, as the St. Louis Cardinals took back what is rightfully theirs.

Which is to say, the St. Louis Cardinals are now in first place in the NL Central, 1.5 games ahead of the Pirates after a weekend sweep in which just about everything went wrong for the Pirates. Just as the Pirates looked the part of world beaters when these two teams met at PNC Park last weekend, it was the Cards time to erase any doubt that this race is coming down to the wire.

Adding even more intrigue, the Reds completed a sweep of the “home and cooled” Dodgers, winning three straight one-run games over LA to slide into a tie with the Pirates for second. It’s all happening in the NL!

The star of the Reds weekend set was Billy Hamilton, who stole two more bases and lead his team t–NOW HOLD ON A SECOND HERE! Billy Hamilton is an exciting player who injects the entire stadium with energy as he bounds from the first base dugout in a late-game, pinch-running situation.

BUT THE STAR OF THE WEEKEND WAS JOEY VOTTO, who went 4 for 8 with five walks, breaking out a slump in a series way. Votto or Jay Bruce, who became the first left-handed batter to take Kershaw deep all season.

Billy Hamilton is a nice September luxury, when expanded rosters allow a player to contribute in such a narrow fashion (he still hasn’t made a plate appearance or worn his glove for an inning of defense.) When the postseason begins, the Reds will rely on their stacked lineup to score runs and their strong rotation to prevent them. If – IF – a late-game situation arises where Billy Hamilton might provide a spark off the bench, he still requires somebody to get on base first. And then somebody to drive him. Exciting? Yes. The deciding factor? NO.

Elsewhere, the Rangers salvaged their weekend series with the Angels thanks to Alex Rios, who homered and doubled home the go-ahead run in the seventh to avoid the sweep. Rios has been sort of excellent for Texas, homering twice during the series in Anaheim and posting a .297/.343/.495 line overall. The Rangers sit 1.5 games behind Oakland, who had the extreme pleasure of facing the Astros this weekend.

The AL Wildcard is no clearer, as the Rays, Yankees, Orioles, Cleveland, and even the Royals failed to make up significant ground. Though, with so many teams in the mix, it is that much more difficult to make up “significant ground.” Cleveland took two of three from the Mets, Baltimore took three of four from the White Sox, the Royals managed a series win against Detroit while the Rays and Yankees dropped their weekend sets. It’s a mess and will remain a mess until further notice.

Game Chart of the Weekend


Source: FanGraphs

Never a dull moment* when these two connect for a series.

* – other than all the dull moments, generally during the 7th pitching change of the game of the third time a batter strolls beyond the dirt cutout around home plate while waiting for the pitcher to come set.

Respect the Gattitude

Cole Hamels was having a nice little Sunday against the Braves at CBP. He pitched eight innings, struck out nine Barves, walked two and gave up just two hits. One of the hits you can see above…for a few seconds, before it leaves orbit as the longest home run of the year and the longest home run in Citizens Bank Park history.

The second hit you can see below. Cole Hamels is none too impressed.

There is so much rich, rich comedy to mine from these two videos. From the absurd length of the first shot to it bouncing off an unsuspecting Phillies fan, a woman who had to reason she was out of harm’s way walking on the concourse 480 feet from home plate.

Then there are Cole Hamel’s reactions to these two bombs. The first – a dejected flip of the wrist. Acknowledgement of a mistake made with a pitch over the plate.

The second? That is the best home run reaction sing Ryan Hanigan walked to Kentucky after Buster Posey all but ended the 2012 NLDS.

Stellar performances by Gattis (baseball murder) and Hamels (petulance distracting from overall dominance), fields at which they both excel.

Brandon McCarthy Shines

Brandon McCarthy turned in another fine start on Saturday night against the San Francisco Giants. He pitched eight strong innings, allowing just a single run on six hits, striking out six batters and walking just one. It was the third consecutive good outing from McCarthy, who has allowed just 16 hits and a single walk over his last 24 innings pitched, a turnaround he attributes to some necessary mechanical tweaks.

In his fine outing against SF on Saturday, McCarthy helped his own cause with a fine catch behind the mound. After he made this play, Brandon McCarthy touched his forearm for some rosin that he apparently keeps on his person for emergencies.

mccarthy arm

Pitchers storing goop on their arms is nothing new and hardly bears mentioning. But, two batters after the above catch, the Giants broadcast team cluck their tongues and say something along the lines of “Boy, he’s stuff is really moving!”, it makes the mind start connecting dots, doesn’t it?

Not accusing, just noticing. Just as I noticed Giants future closer Heath Hembree going to his mouth and then his jersey after every single pitch. Every one!

hembree jersey

RELATED

Brandon McCarthy has made two straight great starts and nobody can, or should, take that away from him. But the old axiom “never believe anything you see in April or September” has some merit. While McCarthy ran through a reasonable facsimile of the Giants everyday lineup, a pitcher he battled last Monday in Arizona sports a 0.00 ERA over the last seven days thanks to running wild on two meager lineups.

Esmil Rogers threw a great game in Minnesota yesterday, going 7.2 inning of shutout ball after putting up 6.1 innings of one-hit ball against the Snakes on Labour Day. Feast your eyes on the starting lineups Rogers dominated:

Versus Arizona
  1. Tony Campana CF
  2. Adam Eaton LF
  3. Paul Goldschmidt 1B
  4. Eric Chavez
  5. Martin Prado
  6. Gerardo Parra
  7. Wil Nieves C
  8. Cliff Pennington SS
  9. Brandon McCarthy P
Versus Minnesota
  1. Alex Presley CF
  2. Chris Herrmann C
  3. Brian Dozier 2B
  4. Oswaldo Arcia LF
  5. Ryan Doumit DH
  6. Trevor Plouffe 3B
  7. Chris Colabello 1B
  8. Clete Thomas RF
  9. Pedro Florimon SS

Look, big leaguers are big leaguers – getting them out is always difficult. But of the 18 names you see above, how many are even league average hitters capable of playing every day? Five? Always remember: don’t believe anything you see in April or September.

STILL RELATED

On Saturday night, the Blue Jays (not behind Esmil Rogers but J.A. Happ and a fleet of relievers) crushed the Twins 11-2 because the Twins are awful and should probably be contracted.

If we choose not to contract the Twins, it is time to re-consider the ongoing employment of Ron Gardenhire. The shining beacon of baseball the Right Way called for an intentional walk with his team down six runs in the ninth inning of a game between two teams going NOWHERE. The Twins issued the free pass to Edwin Encarnacion, bringing up Adam Lind with two runners on. Lind homered, putting the game even farther out of reach.

Shameful? Embarrassing? Let’s go with both and call it a day, shall we? Congratulations, Ron Gardenhire, you killed baseball in Minnesota forever.

TENUOUSLY RELATED

David Huff, Jim Miller, Brett Marshall, James Brewer. One of those men is the backup left guard for the New York Football Giants. The other three men pitched for the New York Yankees baseball club on Saturday afternoon, allowing 13 runs to the hated Red Sox en route to their second straight drubbing.

The cruel twist of the Yankees season saw them unexpectedly compete for months on the strength of their pitching alone, an outstanding starting staff carrying an offense anchored by Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay. As the Yankees position players healed and returned to the lineup, the pitching wilted. While still conceivably in the Wild Card race, no team ($189 million budget or otherwise) should rely on three nameless, faceless long men against the best offense in baseball and hope to survive.

After dropping two of three to Boston this week, I think we can the Yankees playoffs hopes did not, in fact, survive. They had a good run.

Under the Dome

Under the Dome is a television show I watch but do not enjoy. I do not think I am alone in this feeling as the show set ratings records all summer long but there is very little discussion (read: tweeting) about the show in my circles. The show is, well, bad but I still watch. Brian K. Vaughn is involved and after contributing Y: The Last Man, Pride of Baghadad, and Saga to the world, I figure I owe him.

“Catching up” on the show this week, I noticed something about two of the characters. Combine these two guys:

And you get this guy!

San Francisco Giants Victory Parade

Also known as this guy!

Comments (2)

  1. That would explain a lot if he was actually two people trapped in one body.

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