I'm not sure if there's a bigger surprise of a player in baseball this year than Pirates starting pitcher James McDonald. After defeating the Twins last night, McDonald's ERA sits at 2.19, with a .195 batting average, 0.95 WHIP, and an 83:24 strikeout to walk ratio in 90 1/3 innings. His ERA is fourth in the National League, his strikeout to walk ratio is 15th, his WHIP is third, and his batting average against is fourth. Come to think of it, there's a guy ahead of him in all four of those categories who might be a bigger surprise: RA Dickey of the Mets. The Pirates have lacked an ace pitcher for years, but with McDonald in the fold, it looks like they've got one now.
Game of the Day: Tigers 2, Cardinals 1 (10 innings). Kyle Lohse and Jacob Turner both had solid outings, allowing just one run apiece. Lohse went seven for the Cardinals, while Turner went five for the Tigers. Turner wasn't great, walking five while only striking out three, but he got the job done. The Tigers got their lone run on a Prince Fielder solo homer in the fourth, while St Louis brought in their run on a Matt Holliday sac fly in the fifth. The game went into extras, and Joaquin Benoit held the Cardinals scoreless in the tenth. The Cardinals' half of the inning was nowhere near as easy, with Victor Marte quickly loading the bases with one out after a pair of singles and a hit by pitch. That brought up Tigers rookie Quintin Berry with a chance to be the hero, and that he was, singling in Ramon Santiago to win the game for Detroit. The Tigers' bullpen was absolutely fantastic in relief of Turner. They threw five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, one walk, and six strikeouts. Offensively, there obviously wasn't a lot going on. Rafael Furcal reached base three times for the Cardinals, and Skip Schumaker, Carlos Beltran, and David Freese all reached twice. But St Louis just had a pair of extra base hits (both doubles), and stranded ten men on base. For the Tigers, only Fielder reached base twice, and aside from his homer, they had just one extra base hits (a double by Ryan Raburn). Hell, the team only had two at bats with runners in scoring position, and once was Berry's at bat in the tenth.
Pitching Lines of the Night: The two starters in the A's-Dodgers game had nearly identical lines, but neither figured in the decision, with Oakland walking off to win the game 4-1. Travis Blackley started for the A's, and was great, allowing just one run over eight innings on three hits, walking none and striking out six. His counterpart was Clayton Kershaw, who did his usual thing: eight innings, one run, three hits, two walks, seven strikeouts. Neither pitcher deserved to lose, and neither did. I already mentioned how good McDonald was in the Pirates' 9-1 win, but I didn't mention his statline. He threw a complete game, allowing just one run on six hits, striking out five without a walk. That'll do, Pittsburgh.
Hitting Lines of the Night: In that 9-1 win, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen continued his season of terror, going 3/4 with two runs, three RBI, a double, and a triple. McCutchen got some help on offense from a pair of teammates: Garrett Jones, who went 2/4 with three RBI and a homer, and Pedro Alvarez, who went 2/4 with two runs and a homer. Red Sox rookie Will Middlebrooks helped lead a Boston rally to beat the Marlins 6-5, going 3/4 with four RBI and a game-tying two-run homer in the eighth inning. In that loss for the Marlins, you can't blame Giancarlo Stanton, who went 2/3 with two runs, a walk, and his 15th homer of the year.
Spotlight Series: The Nationals took the series with a 5-2 win over the Rays in the finale. The Rays struck first on an RBI single by Desmond Jennings in the second off of Gio Gonzalez, but Washington answered back in the third by plating two, one on a Michael Morse sac fly and one on an Ian Desmond RBI single. An RBI single by Sean Rodriguez in the sixth tied the game at two, and with Moore leaving after five, it sealed a no-decision for him. Joel Peralta and his pending suspension relieved Moore, and allowed two runs on a double by Danny Espinosa to give the Nationals a 4-2 lead. Roger Bernadina tacked another run on in the seventh on a double of his own to make it 5-2, and that's where it ended up after a perfect ninth from Tyler Clippard. Gio Gonzalez wasn't overly impressive for the Nationals, allowing two runs over six while only striking out four and walking two, but it would be enough. The Nationals will now travel to Baltimore to take on their beltway rivals, while the Rays head to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies.
Other Games: The Rockies got a late pair of two-run homers to beat the Phillies 4-1 and avoid a sweep. Aaaaaaaaaaaaand I covered all of the other games already.
Today's Games: Back to a full slate of games…hooray! Jordan Zimmermann and Jason Hammel will duel in the Beltway Series. James Shields will take on the winless Cliff Lee in Philly. Doug Fister will take on AJ Burnett in Pittsburgh. Roy Oswalt makes his Rangers debut against the Rockies. Andy Pettitte takes on Jonathon Niese in the Subway Series. Zack Greinke will take on Chris Sale in an absolutely phenomenal matchup. Ricky Romero and the Blue Jays travel to Miami to take on Anibal Sanchez and the Marlins. The shockingly good Chris Capuano will start for the Dodgers against Dan Haren and the Angels in the Freeway Series. Tim Lincecum and Jarrod Parker will battle in the Bay Area brawl.
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.