Heading into the All-Star Break, I’m noticing something about the National League – no one wants to win the damn thing. The Braves and Nationals keep trading the NL East lead, and their mediocrity has allowed the Marlins, Mets, and suddenly hot Phillies to stay in the race. The NL Central is a giant mess thanks to Milwaukee’s recent collapse, and fourth-place Pittsburgh is just 3.5 games behind the Brewers for the division title. Then there’s the NL West, which has all the makings of a classic battle down the stretch between the Dodgers and Giants…assuming both teams keep their end of the bargain. Two days away from the beginning of the All-Star Break, only one NL team is more than ten games out of a playoff spot. The American League at least as the courtesy of having *two* teams that far out.
Game of the Night: Reds 6, Pirates 5. There were several wild games on Friday night, but I don’t think any were wilder than this contest between division rivals. The Pirates led 5-1 through six, and Jeff Locke was cruising. Then, the wheels began to come off. To start the seventh, Ryan Ludwick reached base on a two-base throwing error by Pedro Alvarez. After a Chris Heisey ground out, Ramon Santiago doubled in Ludwick to make it 5-2. Pinch hitter Donald Lutz singled to bring the tying run to the plate, and Jared Hughes replaced Locke on the hill. Billy Hamilton brought Santiago in with a ground out to make it 5-3, and Hughes got out of the inning without giving up the lead. All-Star Tony Watson replaced Hughes to start the eighth, and got his first two outs quickly. Then, Devin Mesoraco put a ball into orbit to make it 5-4. Ludwick, Heisey, and Santiago followed with three straight singles to tie the game at five, and pinch hitter Brayan Pena added a single of his own to make it a 6-5 game. Aroldis Chapman struck out the side swinging in the ninth, and the Reds added a vicious blow to Pittsburgh’s already rough week.
Pitching Lines of the Night: Tim Lincecum pitched the Giants to a 5-0 win over the Diamondbacks, giving up three hits over seven scoreless innings, walking a pair and striking out six. Garrett Richards pitched the Angels to a 3-0 win over the Rangers, allowing five hits over seven shutout innings, walking a pair and striking out eight. Seattle beat Oakland 3-2 thanks to Felix Hernandez allowing two runs on six hits in eight innings, walking a pair and striking out nine. In the loss for the A’s, Jeff Samardzija gave up three runs on five hits in eight innings, punching out five without a walk. Miguel Gonzalez pitched well for Baltimore in their 3-2, ten inning win over the Yankees, giving up two runs on six hits in eight innings, walking none and punching out five. In the loss for New York, Hiroki Kuroda allowed two runs on three hits in seven innings, striking out three without a walk.
Hitting Lines of the Night: In the Mets’ 7-1 win over the Marlins, David Wright went 4/4 with a homer, two runs, and two RBI. Matt Holliday helped the Cardinals beat the Brewers 7-6, going 3/4 with two doubles, three runs scored, a walk, and a go-ahead solo homer in the ninth inning. Jimmy Rollins starred for the Phillies in their 6-2 win over the Nationals, going 2/4 with two homers and three RBI. Pablo Sandoval hit the ball well for the Giants in their win over the Diamondbacks, going 3/4 with a double, a homer, and three RBI. Chris Carter had a nice night for the Astros in their 8-3 loss to the Red Sox, going 2/4 with a pair of solo homers. In the win for Boston, rookie Christian Vazquez went 3/4 with two doubles, two runs, and three RBI.
Other Games: The Cubs blew a save, but walked off on the Braves 5-4. The Indians beat the White Sox 7-4. The Blue Jays scored three in the ninth to beat the Rays 8-5. The Tigers edged the Royals 2-1. The Cardinals survived six runs over the first two innings to beat the Brewers 7-6. The Rockies prevailed over the Twins 6-2. The Padres doubled up the Dodgers 6-3.
Today’s Games: Mike Minor starts for the Braves at Wrigley. Zach McAllister makes his return for the Indians against the White Sox. Chris Tillman and the Orioles host the Yankees. Wade Miley and Ryan Vogelsong will face off in San Francisco. Adam Wainwright gets the nod for the Cardinals in Milwaukee against heralded rookie Jimmy Nelson. Rick Porcello and James Shields will square off in Kansas City. Jered Weaver starts for the Angels in Texas. Charlie Morton and Mike Leake battle in Cincinnati. Cole Hamels and the Phillies host Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals. Ian Kennedy starts for the Padres in Los Angeles. Hisashi Iwakuma starts for the Mariners against Jesse Chavez and the Athletics.
National TV: Cardinals-Brewers (4 PM, Fox Sports 1), Pirates-Reds (7 PM, Fox), Nationals-Phillies (7 PM, Fox), Angels-Rangers (7 PM, Fox), Athletics-Mariners (10 PM, MLB Network), Padres-Dodgers (10 PM, MLB Network)
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.