Dugout Digest – slipping away

The Pittsburgh Pirates are clinging to their hopes of a playoff berth and a season over .500 for the first time in 20 years. Yet, games like last night make you think at times that these are the same old Pirates. Pittsburgh and Milwaukee were deadlocked at two after six before the Brewers scored four in the seventh, highlighted by a three-run double by former Pirate prospect Aramis Ramirez off of reliever Jared Hughes. Pittsburgh got one back in the seventh on a Rod Barajas solo homer, and made it a game in the ninth by scoring a pair and putting two on with two out for pinch hitter Gaby Sanchez…who struck out against Kameron Loe to end the game with a 6-5 Pirates loss. Coupled with the Cardinals 8-5 win over the Reds, the Pirates fall to two games out of the second wild card spot. They're still nine games above .500, so hitting that benchmark seems likely…but the playoff race is fading from their sights, and that's not a good thing at all for the black and gold fans in the Steel City.

Game of the Night: White Sox 9, Mariners 8. Jake Peavy held Seattle in check over seven innings, and the White Sox offense pounded Jason Vargas, leading to a 7-2 Chicago lead going into the ninth. Then…the bullpen completely imploded. Phil Humber allowed a solo homer to Jesus Montero, got a fly out, and then walked Justin Smoak. He was pulled for Donnie Veal, who allowed a Trayvon Robinson double and was pulled right after that. Then, Sox closer Addison Reed came in with two on and a four run lead. Reed walked Brendan Ryan (not an easy task), and allowed a two run single to Dustin Ackley to make it 7-5. Then, another walk, this time to Michael Saunder. That walk was followed with a Kyle Seager sac fly to make it 7-6, and a game-tying single by John Jaso that turned into a go-ahead single after a bad throw from Alex Rios. With an 8-7 lead, Seattle turned to Tom Wilhelmsen in the ninth…and well, I wrote about what happened to Wilhemsen last night.

Pitching Lines of the Night: In an 8-0 shutout win for the Rangers over the Twins, Matt Harrison allowed two hits in his eight shutout innings, walking two and striking out five. The Padres shut out the Diamondbacks 5-0, and Eric Stults threw seven shutout frames, giving up just three hits, one walk, and tallying four strikeouts. CC Sabathia had success in his old home of Cleveland, throwing 7 1/3 innings and allowing one run on four hits, walking one and striking out nine in a 3-1 Yankees victory.

Hitting Lines of the Night: The Orioles beat the Blue Jays 6-4, and Chris Davis went 3/4 with three homers and four RBI. Adrian Beltre gave the Rangers all the offense they needed, hitting for the cycle and driving in three runs. The Dodgers stomped the Marlins 11-4, and Andre Ethier went 4/4 with three runs, four RBI, and a homer. Nick Swisher was the Yankees offense in that win in Cleveland, going 3/4 with three RBI, a walk, and a homer. Angel Pagan haunted his old NL East rivals from Atlanta in a 5-3 Giants win, going 4/5 with a double, a triple, two runs, and an RBI. Adam Dunn went 2/5 with three RBI and two homers for the White Sox in their win over the Mariners, while Freddie Freeman went 2/4 with a pair of solo shots in Atlanta's loss in San Francisco.

Other Games: The Cubs rallied late to beat the Rockies 5-3. Zack Greinke kept the Tigers offense in check in a 2-1 Angels win. Kyle Kendrick confounded the Nationals in a 4-2 Phillies victory. The Red Sox beat the Royals 4-3, even with their heads deep in the trade rumor clouds. A late homer by former Ray Jonny Gomes lifted the A's to a 5-4 vwin. The Astros beat the Mets 3-1, and no one really cared at all. 

Today's Games: Six day games today…nice! Brandon McCarthy and Jeremy Hellickson will duel at the Trop. Ryan Dempster looks to build on a great start last time out, taking on the Twins. RA Dickey looks to slice and dice through the Astros. Brandon Morrow makes his first start for the Blue Jays since mid-June, taking on the Orioles. Jaime Garcia looks to continue his success from his first start back in two months against Mike Leake and the Reds. Hiroki Kuroda takes on Justin Masterson in Cleveland. The red hot Mike Minor starts for the Braves against Madison Bumgarner and the Giants. Dan Haren will start for the Angels in Detroit. Gio Gonzalez takes on Roy Halladay in your pitching matchup of the night. Josh Beckett is scheduled to start for the Red Sox against the Royals, but who knows if that will actually happen. Shaun Marcum makes his first start since mid-June for the Brewers, taking on the Pirates. Josh Johnson and the Marlins will take on Clayton Kershaw and the potentially new-look Dodgers.

Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.

Dugout Digest: Slipping away


On Friday morning, it looked like the AL Central was shaping up to be one of the better division races in baseball. The Indians had reeled off seven wins in ten games to close a four-game Detroit lead to a 1 1/2 game gap. A three-game set between the Tribe and the Tigers — the first of three on the schedule in the season’s last five weeks — in Detroit only built up the excitement more. In a year when most of the division races fell apart early, this one looked like it had some legs. 

Four days later, the Tigers have a 5 1/2 game lead and the Indians are tied with the White Sox in the standings, both teams further behind the Tigers than the Angels are behind the Rangers in the West. The Indians have six games left against the Tigers and they’re not out of things yet, but it seems like a lifetime has passed between Friday and today when it comes to determining the AL Central champ in 2011. 

The reason the difference is as big as it is? The Tigers swept the Indians over the weekend, then got to send Justin Verlander out to the mound on Monday night. Verlander served up a leadoff home run to Matt Joyce, then he slammed the door shut on the Rays. He struck out eight and allowed just two hits after Joyce’s homer in his seven innings of work, dropping his ERA to 2.28 and recording his 19th win. He’s now got an AL-best 212 strikeouts and he’s neck and neck with Jered Weaver for this year’s AL Cy Young Award. Getting to start him after sweeping your biggest rivals for a playoff spot seems unfair. 

The Indians, meanwhile, suffered a second straight tough loss when Chris Perez came into a 2-2 game in the top of the ninth and promptly hit Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan (combined OBP: .569!), then made a fielding error on Trayvon Robinson’s bunt that eventually set up Franklin Gutierrez’s go-ahead (and ultimately game-winning) sac fly. After the loss, Perez tweeted, “Positives from that outing: no balks. Everything else I did sucked.” 

It’s certainly not quite time to give in just yet for Cleveland. They do have those six more games against the Tigers (three more than the White Sox do) and, hey, they’re playing the Mariners this week. It’s certainly possible things could turn back in the right direction for them as quickly as they’ve gone south these past four days. Still, they’ve gone from neck and neck with the Tigers to teetering on the edge of contention in rapid fashion and if something doesn’t change soon, they’re going to be an afterthought in the AL Central race pretty quickly. 

Also last night: The Diamondbacks lost again, the Rangers shut out the Red Sox in a possible Division Series preview, the Pirates beat the Brewers for the first time in 2011, and Cliff Lee crushed the Mets with his arm and his bat. Full scoreboard here

Tonight’s games: The Tribe try to stop their slump with a double header against the Mariners, Ervin Santana and Mark Buehrle try to keep the Angels and White Sox on the edges of contention, Ian Kennedy tries to stop the D’Backs skid in DC, and Matt Cain pitches against the Padres as the Giants try to make up ground on the D’Backs. Full schedule here. 

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.