Dugout Digest – the AL gap has been closed

After an April that saw them go 17-6 with a +56 run differential, many fans (myself included) expected the Texas Rangers to roll through the American League like it was nothing. Since that hot April, the Rangers are 16-19 and have just a +8 run differential. Their 33-25 record is still the best in the AL, but the White Sox, Rays, and Orioles are all just a half game behind Texas as 32-25, and the Yankees are a game back at 31-25. Even the nine game lead that the Rangers had on the Angels in the AL West has been slashed, by more than half down to just four games. What does this tell you? The season is 162 games and six months long. Don't call the season over 23 games and one month in.

Game of the Night: Pirates 5, Reds 4 (10 innings). Pittsburgh held a 4-3 lead going into the ninth, and handed the ball to closer Joel Hanrahan. The first pitch Hanrahan threw ended up in the left center field upper deck, courtesy of Ryan Ludwick. It was Ludwick's second smash into the second deck of the game, and tied the game at four. Cincinnati brought in untouchable reliever Aroldis Chapman for the tenth, and something funny happened: he was hittable. Much maligned Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes led the inning off against Chapman with a double, and Michael McKenry followed with a double of his own to score Barmes, the first run that Chapman had allowed all season. Chapman didn't allow any more damage in the inning, and Pittsburgh turned to Chris Resop to shut the Reds' bats down. Joey Votto led the inning off with a double, and couldn't advance on a Brandon Phillips groundout to short. Jay Bruce was intentionally walked, and Resop got Todd Frazier to strike out for the second out of the inning. That brought up Ludwick with a chance to win the game. On the seventh pitch of the at bat, a Resop fastball on the outside corner froze Ludwick for strike three to end the game, and gave the Pirates a shocking series win in Cincinnati, just a week after winning their series against the Reds in Pittsburgh.

Pitching Lines of the Night: Boston Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz has had a crappy year, but he delivered tonight against the Orioles. Buchholz threw a complete game shutout, striking out six while walking one and allowing four hits while the Red Sox gave him plenty of offense in the 7-0 win. In the Mets' 3-1 win over the Nationals, RA Dickey was sublime yet again. He shut out the Nationals over 7 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out eight hitters. He's now got a 2.44 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning. Seriously? One more: former Rangers prospect Brandon McCarthy shut down his former team in Oakland's 7-1 against the two-time AL champs. McCarthy allowed one run over seven innings, holding Texas's potent offense to only three hits while striking out five and not walking a soul.

Hitting Lines of the Night: In the Cardinals' 14-2 blowout win over the Astros, World Series hero David Freese went 2/5 with two runs, six RBI, a walk, and a pair of homers. Milwaukee's Japanese import Norichika Aoki had a great game in the Brewers' 4-3 win over the Cubs, going 3/5 with three runs and a pair of solo homers at the top of the order. Coco Crisp of the A's went 2/4 with four RBI, a triple, and a homer in their win over the Rangers.

Spotlight Series: The Braves completed their sweep of the Marlins in Miami by winning the game 8-2, scoring all eight of their runs in the final four innings of the game. Atlanta starter Mike Minor was shaky, and lasted just five innings, allowing one run on four hits, but walking five and striking out four. Marlins starter Mark Buerhle was better, going six and giving up two runs on three hits, walking one and striking out three. But Atlanta built upon their 2-1 advantage to stick each starter with a decision. Miami started the scoring in the fifth, as Jose Reyes hit his first homer as a Marlin off of Minor. The Braves then got on the board after a two-run homer by Martin Prado in the sixth, and Jason Heyward made it a 3-1 game in the seventh. Prado singled in a run in the eighth to make it 4-1, but the Marlins answered with a Giancarlo Stanton solo homer to make it 4-2. The game was blown wide open in the ninth, as Jason Heyward hit his second homer of the night. Both homers were monster shots, going over 430 feet each. The Braves then put a cherry on top as Michael Bourn hit a three-run homer, his sixth of the year which is a new career high. Cristhian Martinez allowed no runs in a shaky ninth, and that was all for the Marlins. The Marlins will move on to host the Rays in interleague play, while the Braves will welcome the Toronto Blue Jays to Atlanta.

Other Games: The Tigers hammered Derek Lowe, and beat the Indians 7-5. Despite just one extra base hit, the Dodgers put eight runs on the board (including four in the ninth inning off of Chad Qualls), and completed a four game sweep of the Phillies by winning 8-3. Philadelphia has now lost six in a row. The Rays avoided a sweep in New York by beating the Yankees 7-3. The Giants hit three homers in an 8-3 win over the Padres. Orlando Hudson walked off for the White Sox, as they beat the Blue Jays 4-3

Today's Games: We've entered the part of the schedule where interleague play will be everywhere, so get used to some interesting matchups! In the Subway Series, Johan Santana will take on Hiroki Kuroda. Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals travel to Boston to face Felix Doubront of the Red Sox. The battle of Florida pits Ricky Nolasco against Jeremy Hellickson. MLB ERA leader Brandon Beachy joins the Braves in welcoming the Toronto Blue Jays to town in the 20th anniversary of the 1992 World Series between the two teams. CJ Wilson and the Angels will travel to Colorado to take on the Rockies, and Albert Pujols will apparently be playing third base with Kendrys Morales at first. Oh dear. 

Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.

About Joe Lucia

I'm the managing editor of Awful Announcing and the news editor of The Comeback. I also made The Outside Corner a thing for six seasons.