A Race Is Brewing in NL Central

The Milwaukee Brewers have let the rest of the NL Central back into the title chase.

While the Brewers have lost eight of nine games since June 29, Cincinnati has gone 7-4, and St. Louis and Pittsburgh are both 6-4. So much for that 6 ½ game lead the Brewers had over St. Louis after games of June 28.

The Brewers are now just two games up on the Cardinals, 2 ½ up on the Reds and 4 ½ in front of the Pirates. The only other division with even two teams within 4 ½ games of first place is the AL East where Baltimore leads Toronto by 2 ½ games and the Yankees by three.

Matt Garza does start in Thursday against Philadelphia in an effort to help the Brewers avoid being swept in a four-game series with the Phillies. Garza’s last two starts have resulted in the Brewers last two wins.

The rotation has struggled. It is 1-6 with a 5.20 ERA in the last nine games. Only Houston (6.13), Colorado (6.28) and Texas (8.15) have a higher ERA since June 29. The Brewers bullpen hasn’t even had a save opportunity. Closer Francisco Rodriguez has worked just one scoreless inning the last 10 days.

The real problem is the offense. Ryan Braun, who has missed the last three games with back soreness, is hitting .350 since June 29, the only Brewers regular above .250. Carlos Gomez has hit only .194 and hasn’t scored a run. Aramis Ramirez has hit .194, Khris Davis .143 and Juan Segura .103. The first base combo of Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds is a combined 6-for-34.

Quickly

–Toronto’s lineup misses the bat of Edwin Encarnacion, out since last Saturday with a right quad strain. He’s third in the AL in home runs with 26, but can make a quick impact. He has hit two home runs in a game six times. Jose Abreu of the White Sox, who shares the major-league lead of 28 home runs with Nelson Cruz of Baltimore, has four multi-home run games.

–In 1958, Harry Anderson of the Philadelphia Phillies led the NL with 95 strikeouts – for the season. With four days left before the All-Star Break there already are six big-league player who have reached triple figures in strikeouts – B.J. Upton, Atlanta, 111; Ryan Howard, Philadelphia, 110; George Springer, Houston, 109, Ian Desmond, Washington, 108; Marlon Byrd, Philadelphia, 106; Giancarlo Stanton, Miami, 101, and Tyler Flowers, Chicago White Sox, 100.

–Defending world champion Boston hasn’t even been above .500 since May 14. They have lost seven of the last nine games, and both wins have been walk-off victories.

Memories

Eighty years ago July 10, Carl Hubbell was the star of the All-Star Game, striking out five consecutive Hall of Famers. After the first two batters of the came reached base, Hubbell struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmy Foxx. The second inning began with Hubbell striking out Al Simmons and Joe Cronin.

Fifty years later, July 10, 1984, Fernandez Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden combined to strike out six AL batters in a row. Valenzuela struck out Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson and George Brett in the fourth inning, and Gooden struck out Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis in the fifth. Gooden, at 19, was the youngest All-Star in history.

A’s Have A Stacked Deck

The Oakland A’s had the best record in baseball a week ago and now they are even better.

Just how big an impact the acquisition of right-handed starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs will have on the stretch drive in the AL West remains to be seen, but the A’s are off to the one of the best starts in franchise history, and one of the best in major league history.

The A’s go into Wednesday’s game against San Francisco with a 57-33 record, equaling the second best start to a season for the A’s since the franchise left Philadelphia. The A’s were also 57-33 in 1990 and 1975, and went 58-32 in 1971. They won division titles each of those seasons, but came up short in search of winning the World Series.

Claiming a World Series is a major factor in the A’s acquiring Samardzija and Hammel. Slotting those two into the rotation and the A’s have pitchers with five of the 24 lowest ERAs in the major leagues. Scott Kazmir ranked seventh at 2.53, Samardzija 15th at 2.74, Sonny Gray 22nd at 2.97, Hammel 23rd at 2.98, and Jesse Chavez 24th at 3.06.

Hammel starts Wednesday’s game against the Giants, completing the first time through the revised rotation. A high level of excellence was established the last four days when the A’s won two games against Toronto and two more against the Giants. Kazmir, Samardzija, Gray and Chavez combined to allow three runs in 27 innings.

The best record since the start of the World Series for a team after 90 decisions was 67-23 by the 1998 New York Yankees. The record for the A’s franchise is 66-24 for the 1929 Philadelphia A’s.

 

The A’s 57-33 record is the best in the major leagues after 90 decisions since the 2005 St. Louis Cardinals, who won the NL Central.

QUICK HITS

–Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander gave up five first-inning runs against the Dodgers, but nothing in the next five innings, allowing the Tigers to rally for a 14-5 victory. Surprised? Well it was Verlander in an inter-league game.He is 23-2 with a 2.71 ERA 30 inter-league starts. His .920 winning percentage is best in inter-league play. Jered Weaver of the Angels is second at 15-4, a .789 percentage.

–Verlander is struggling overall. He is 8-7 and has given up five runs in six innings of two of the wins. At the age of 31 he has a 4.84 ERA, which puts him on a pace to continue a trend of an increasing ERA. Verlander had a 2.40 ERA in 2011, 2.64 in 2012 and 3.64 in 2013.

–Verlander is 3-1 against St. Louis and 1-1 against Miami, accounting for is only NL losses. He has a losing career record against only two teams — the Red sox (3-4) and Angels (4-5), and is .500 against Miami, Toronto (3-3) and the Yankees (5-5).

Memories

The National League beat the American League 1-0 on July 9, 1968 in the only 1-0 game in All-Star history. Willie Mays, who replaced an injured Pete Rose in the NL lineup, scored an unearned run in the first inning for the game’s only run. The NL pitching contingent of Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Ron Reed and Jerry Koosman combined to allow the AL only three hits.

The 1968 season led to baseball lowering the mound from 15 inches to 10 inches starting in 1969. It was in 1968 that Bob Gibson compiled a 1.12 ERA, and Carl Yastrzemski led the AL with a .301 average. There was an average six runs scored per game that season.

All-Star Vote? No Grounds for Complaints

Sorry. Hard to buy all the complaints about the All-Star roster selections.

Are there players who were overlooked? Of course. There always will be. It doesn’t matter how big the rosters are, there’s always going to be a debate over the final spot or two. And whenever there is a definitive size to a roster there is going to be players who can wage debates that they are having better seasons.

Bottom line, however, is decisions have to be made, and baseball has, over time, adjusted its selection process to make sure all sides have a say.
Consider the roster breakdowns:

National League

Fans vote for 8 members of starting lineup.
Players voted for 8 backups to starting lineup and 9 pitchers.
Manager selects 9 players.
Final Fan Vote decides final roster spot.

American League

Fans vote for 9 members of starting lineup (DH added to eight field spots).
Players voted for 10 backups to starting lineup and 8 pitchers.
Manager selects 6 players.
Final Fan Vote decides final roster spot.

The typical target for folks who want the All-Star system refined is the requirement that every team have at least one player on the team. It’s worth noting that each league only had three teams that were given mandatory picks, and five of the six vacancies went to pitchers — Tyson Ross of San Diego, Ryan Zimmerman of Washington, Jon Lester of Boston, Glen Perkins of Minnesota and David Price of Tampa Bay. The exception is second baseman Daniel Murphy of the Mets.

Houston Street is the most often discussed oversight this year, but it is worth nothing that NL manager Mike Matheny did have to pick a player from the Padres, and opted for Ross.

The other factor is that there will be changes to the roster before the game is played on Tuesday.

There will be injuries, including the AL starting catcher, Matt Weiters of Baltimore, who underwent Tommy John surgery last month.

There also will be replacements for starting pitchers who start on Sunday. They will be invited to attend the game, but can opt out of being used in the game because of the proximity to their start. There are five All-Star pitchers listed as projected starters for Sunday — Madison Bumgarner of San Francisco, Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati, Ross, Julio Teheran of Atlanta and Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees.

Quickly

–Seattle right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma has the number of the Minnesota Twins. In five career starts, Iwakuma is 5-0 with a 0.00 ERA against Minnesota. He did give up an unearned run in each of his two starts against the Twins in 2012, but after seven shutout innings on Monday he has 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against the Twins. He has given up 20 hits and eight walks, striking out 34 in 33 2/3 innings.

–Pittsburgh’s surge back into contention in the NL Central can be traced to its rotation. In the first two months of the season the Pirates starting pitcher were a combined 9-23 with a 4.55 ERA. Since June 1 the Pirates rotation is 19=8 with a 2.85 ERA, second only to the Dodgers (19-14, 2.76).

–St. Louis RHP Adam Wainwright (11-4, 1.79) has one start remaining before the break, but is in position to become the third Cardinals pitcher to have at least 10 wins and a sub-2.00 ERA before the All-Star Break. Bob Gibson was 11-5 with a 1.06 ERA in 1968 and Steve Carlton was 12-5 with a 1.65 ERA in 1969.

Memories

Randy Jones won the NL Cy Young award in 1976. He went 22-14 that season with the San Diego Padres, completing 25 of his 40 starts. On July 8, 1976 Jones won his 16th game a record for a pitcher before the All-Star Break. He was 16-3 at the time, and while he was 6-11 in the second half he lost seven one-run decisions among those 11 losses, including two 1-0 losses.

Jones’ career took a downturn after his award-winning effort. In the next six years he was 43-69.

Morneau Will Be An All-Star — Somehow

What can’t get lost in the struggles of the Colorado Rockies is the resurgence of Justin Morneau, one of the game’s true feel-good stories. With the All-Star Game in Minneapolis, where Morneau was an All-Star and an MVP, it is only fitting for him to get a moment in the spotlight next week.

Morneau was the 2006 AL MVP with the Twins, the hosts for this year’s All-Star Game. He was an All-Star each of the next four years, elected to the starting lineup in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

At the age of 30, in 2011, his career took a u-turn. A second concussion and four different surgeries created questions about his future. The Twins became concerned enough that last August they traded him to Pittsburgh, and then he hit the free-agent market last off-season. Encouraged by his former Twins teammate Michael Cuddyer, the Rockies signed Morneau to a two-year deal that was considered by many of the number crunchers a gamble.

It has paid off handsomely.

Morneau woke up Monday morning second in the NL with 59 RBI, sixth with a .316 batting average, 11th with an .866 OPS, tied for 16th in home runs with 13 and 23rd in on-base percentage at .348.

He figures to make the team in one of two ways — either the winner of the fan vote for the final player or as an addition to replace a player who has been selected but withdraws.

There is an interesting contingent of groups stumping for Morneau in the fan voting among five candidates for that final spot. The Rockies, obviously, are pushing him, and they entered into a coalition with Cleveland to support each other. Indians pitcher Corey Kluber is one of the five candidates for the final AL spot. Morneau is also getting a push from his former team in Minnesota and members of the Pittsburgh Pirates, at the urging of Pirates catcher Russell Martin, who like Morneau is a Canadian.

Then there is the Toronto Blue Jays, the Canadian based American League team, as well as various factions within Canada, including the Canadian Baseball Network.

QUICKLY

–The Oakland A’s are finally being recognized. Headed to a third consecutive AL West title and featuring the best record in baseball they also feature the most All-Stars this year — six. That’s the most A’s since seven were selected in 1975, and that’s quite a difference from a year ago when only one made it. And truth be told a seventh member of the A’s was voted to the All-Star team, but Jeff Samardzija, who made his A’s debut on Sunday after being acquired in a trade from the Cubs on Friday, won’t participate in the game because he was voted to the NL team. He is, however, invited to take part in the ceremonies in Minneapolis along with his new teammates who are on the AL team — third baseman Josh Donaldson, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, left=handed starter Scott Kazmir, catcher Derek Norris, first baseman Brandon Moss and reliever Sean Doolittle. Donaldson is the first A’s player voted to the starting lineup since Jason Giambi in 2000.

–Fans didn’t seem to carry any grudge in electing Baltimore outfielder Nelson Cruz to the AL starting lineup, despite the fact he was given a 50-game suspension as a member of the Texas Rangers last year. Neither the fans, nor the players, voted to put Ryan Braun of Milwaukee or Melky Cabrera of Toronto on the team. But then neither Braun nor Cabrera have had seasons better than those selected ahead of them.

–Yes, Tampa Bay is 8 1/2 games out in the AL East, but nobody has taken charge in that division and the Rays are starting to make some noise. It’s not just that they have won 10 of their last 12 games, but they went 9-2 on a just completed road trip that included taking three of four in both Baltimore and Detroit, the AL East and AL Central leaders, with a three-game sweep of the Yankees in the middle.

MEMORIES

 

Plenty has been made over the years about Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees following the 1919 season.

But 100 years ago Monday there was an even more interesting move involving Ruth that could have changed baseball history dramatically.

At the time Ruth belonged to the Baltimore team in the International League, and owner Jack Dunn was in a financial crisis because of competition from the emerging Federal League. As a result he offered to sell Ruth, along with Ernie Shore and Ben Egan, for $10,000 to Connie Mack, a friend of Dunn’s who owned the Philadelphia A’s. Mack, however, said he couldn’t afford the deal. Cincinnati, which had a working agreement with Baltimore, used its right to select two players to take outfielder George Twombly and shortstop Claude Derrick, which left Dunn still looking to move Ruth, Shore and Egan.

Joe Lanin, who owned the Red Sox at the time, stepped up with $25,000 to purchase the three players. Two years later Lanin sold the Red Sox to Frazee.

 

Road is Path to Division Title

Not surprising that the six division leaders on Sunday morning all had winning records on the road.

The six, in fact, ranked in the top 10 in road winning percentage.

What was a bit unexpected is that four of the six division leaders had better records on the road than they do in their own ballpark.

Overall, AL Central leader Detroit is No. 1 with a .625 road winning percentage (25-15) followed by NL West-leading Los Angeles (.622, 28-17). NL Central leader Milwaukee is fourth (28-18, .609), and AL West leader Oakland is fifth (27-18, .600). Baltimore, today’s leader in the AL East, is tied for seventh with Kansas City (24-19, .558). AL East leader Atlanta is 10th (24-20, .545).

Milwaukee (24-18 home, 28-18 road), the Dodgers (22-23 home, 28-17 road), Baltimore (23-21 home, 24-19 road) and Detroit (23-21 home, 24-19 road) all have played better on the road so far this season.

QUICK HITS

–Nelson Cruz of Baltimore when 5-for-5 with a home run and stolen base in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Fenway Park. Big deal? He’s the third visiting player to get five hits with at least one home run and one stolen base at Fenway, the first since Jimmie Foxx in 1929. Ty Cobb did it in 1922. The two Red Sox to have accomplished that were Rick Miller in 1974 and Jim rice in 1984.

–Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez has 10 consecutive starts in which he has worked at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs. It’s the longest such streak since Mike Scott had 12 in a row with Houston in 1986. Hernandez is 6-1 in the 10 starts. Scott understands that. He was 6-3 in his 12-game streak.

–Texas went into Sunday leading the AL with 14 shutouts. It’s an all or nothing season for the Rangers. They rank last in the AL with a 4.61 ERA. the ERA in the 73 games in which the Rangers have allowed a run is 5.52.

MEMORIES

Fred Lynn made All-Star Game history on July 6, 1983. In the 50th anniversary game — played at Comiskey Park, where the first game was played — Lynn hit the only grand slam in All-Star history. He unloaded after left-hander Atlee Hammaker was ordered by manager Whitey Herzog to intentionally walk Robin Yount in the third inning, helping the AL to win the game and ending an 11-year NL winning streak. The AL has a 21-9-1 record in the last 31 games, bringing the all-time record to 43 wins for the NL, 39 for the AL and two ties.

In 1975 Lynn became the first player to be a rookie of the year and MVP in the same season. He finished his 17 year career with four Gold Gloves, 306 home runs, 1,111 RBI and a .283 average. A nine-time All-Star he had four home runs and 10 RBI in the Summer Classic, second all-time in RBI to Ted Williams, who had 12, and home runs to Stan Musial, who hit six.

A’s Grade out an A on Trade

Amid the frustration of four consecutive first-round eliminations in the post-season a little more than a decade ago, Oakland general manager Billy Beane proclaimed that once the playoffs begin luck takes over.

There is more truth to that than many may want to admit. Ask the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost their offensive catalyst, Hanley Ramirez, in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLCS against St. Louis last year.

Beane, however, is smart enough that this time around he wants to minimize the impact back luck could have on this A’s team.

Beane knows that given the financial reality of the A’s there is no long-term plan that can provide continual titles so given a small window of success before he has to rebuild he took a gamble with a potential huge payoff on Friday.

He dealt three prime prospects to the Chicago Cubs for pitchers Jeff Samardaija and Jason Hammel, who move into the top of the A’s rotation along with Sonny Gray, not only adding strength right now but giving the A’s depth to withstand possible injuries down the stretch.

Yes, Hammel is on a one-year deal and Samardaija can become a free agent after 2015.

No, that’s not a red flag for Beane. In the financial constraint the A’s face he knows they have a two-year window to capitalize on a team that has won back-to-back division titles, and he wants to get a legit shot at a world championship, which the A’s have been denied since 1989.

And after being swept in Detroit recently, seeing the power arms of the Tigers, Beane knee he needed to beef up his rotation, and now suddenly Tommy Milone projects to a high-grade long man, and Drew Pomeranz can go back into a middle inning role when he comes off the disabled list.

Beane gave up a bounty of prime prospects but he also knew it was best to move now instead of wait until the end of the month because it means he can get as many as 10 additional starts from the new pitchers between today and Aug. 1.

QUICKLY

–Texas has not merely lost 10 consecutive games on the road. Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin points out the Rangers have been outscored 61-30 in those games.

–Derek Jeter has joined George Brett, Stan Musial, Cal Ripken, Jr., Brooks Robinson and Ted Williams as only players to play for the same team in a career that began before turning 21 and ended after turning 40

–Toronto’s offensive funk was underscored by Frida’s 1-0, 12-inning loss at Oakland. Jays were sixth in majors with 120 runs scored in April, led the majors with 165 runs in May, but ranked 17th in runs scored in June with 105. They have hit .192 with runners in scoring position the last 27 games, including going 0-for-8 in Oakland.

Memories

Ted Williams, considered by many the greatest hitter in the history of the game, died of cardiac arrest at the age of 83 on July 5, 2002.

The first-ballot Hall of Famer is the last player to hit .400, compiling a .406 average in 1941. He was a career .344 hitter, won an MVP award once, the AL Triple Crown in 1942 and 1947, and the AL batting title six times. He is believed to have been the first player against whom defenses consistently went into a shift, moving three infielders to the right side of the infield.

The closest a player has come to hitting .400 since 1941 was Tony Gwynn, who hit .394 with San Diego in 1994. Right behind Gwynn are George Brett, .390 with Kansas City in 1980; Williams himself with .388 in 1957; Rod Carew, .388 with Minnesota in 1977, and Larry Walker, .379 with Colorado in 1999.

Rocky Rotation Undoes Rockies

The season opened with hope in Colorado.

The midway point arrived with a painful reality.

A rotation that the Rockies saw as having promise at the end of spring training has been undermined by injuries.

Jair Jurrjens is scheduled to make his Rockies debut on Friday night against the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw. He becomes the major-league-leading 13th pitcher the Rockies will use in their rotation this season.

That equals the third largest number of starting pitchers the Rockies have ever used in a season, and the All-Star break is 10 games away. They set a club record in thier inital season with 15 in 1993. They used 14 pitchers in 2012, and previously used 13 starting pitchers in 1997, 2003, 2007 and 2011.

The only other teams who have used a double figure total of starting pitchers are Texas (11), San Diego (10) and Minnesota (10). At the other extreme is Milwaukee, which has the best record in the NL. The Brewers have used only six starting pitchers so far, and the Big Five of Marco Estrada, Yovani Gallardo, Matt Garza, Kyle Loshe and Willy Peralta have started 85 of the 86 games.

The Rockies, meanwhile, have had only one of the five-man rotation they projected to open the season make each of his starts — Jorge De La Rosa. And De La Rosa continues to take his regular turn despite lower back tightness and a recurring finger blister.

Meanwhile, the Rockies have had four pitchers make their big-league debut this year, including three in a six-day span on their last home stand.

And now they will turn to Jurrjens, who at 21 made-his big-league debut with Detroit, at the age of 22 was entrenched in the Atlanta rotation, at 25 was an All-Star, and today, at the age of 28, is battling to survive, joining his fourth organization since the start of last season.

After four full seasons in the big leagues, Jurrjens had a 50-33 record and 3.40 ERA in 115 big-league starts. In the two-plus seasons since his big-league resume features a 3-4 record and 6.63 ERA in 13 games, 11 starts. And time at Triple A in the Detroit, Baltimore and Cincinnati organizations since the start of 2012 hasn’t been much kinder — 13-19 with a 4.67 ERA in 43 starts.

Quick Hits

–Carlos Pena, who was sitting at home three weeks ago, is the latest player Texas has looked at to fill the first base void created by the loss of Prince Fielder to neck surgery. Pena was 3-for-33 through Friday, when he was pinch-hit for in the late innings for the third time in six games.

–Bill Arnold reports that the Montreal Expos were 14-21 on Canada Day, July 1, during their existence, but since the franchise moved to Washington, D.C., in 2005 they are 9-1.

–Philadelphia has been shutout 11 times — eight times at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies record for being shutout is 23 times in 1908 and again in 1909.

Memories

In the second game of a July 4, 1905 doubleheader, Rube Waddell and the Philadelphia A’s beat Cy Young and the Boston Americans 4-2 in a 20-inning game. Not only did both pitchers work complete games, but A’s catcher Ossee Schrecongost caught a record 28 innings that day betwene the two games. The A’s two-run 20th came courtsey of an error, a hit batter and two hits.

Young pitched 320 2/3 innings that season at the age of 38, his 15th consecutive season of 300-plus innings. He also would add another before he retired, working 343 1/3 innings in 2007 at the age of 40.

The 300-inning season is only a memory. The last pitcher to work 300 innings in a season was Steve Carlton, who pitched 304 innings in 1980.

 

 

Braves Still Have ‘Quality’ Rotation

Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine have given way to Julio Tehran and Co. Freddie Gonzalez has succeeded his mentor, Bobby Cox, as the manager.

The Atlanta Braves, however, are still well armed.

Braves starters lead the major leagues with 60 quality starts – at least six innings and three earned runs or fewer – with Teheran tied for the major-league lead of 16. Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati, Felix Hernandez of Seattle and Masahiro Tanka also go into Thursday with 16. Teheran’s teammate, Aaron Harang, is tied for fifth with 14 quality starts.

The Dodgers, tied with Milwaukee for second in the team stats with 56 quality starts, have depth in the rotation. Hyun-jin Ryu has 12 quality starts, Dan Haren and Zack Greinke with 11 each, Clayton Kershaw 10. amd Josh Beckett with nine.

Quality starts do seem to have an impact on the quality of the team. Of the top eight teams in terms of quality starts only one – the New York Mets – has a losing record. The Mets are tied for fifth with 55. Baltimore, tied with Arizona for the second fewest quality starts at 34, among the bottom seven with a winning record. Texas has a major-league low 29 quality starts. Colorado is fourth from the bottom with 35 and Tampa Bay, which enjoyed recent success because of its rotation, is fifth with 36.

Quick Hits

–Pittsburgh is making a move. The Pirates have a best-in-baseball 26-14 record since May 21, and while they are six games back of NL Central leader Milwaukee, a two-game gain, they are only a half-game back of second-place St. Louis. The Pirates have enjoyed marked improvement. They averaged 3.4 runs per game in the first 44 games, but are ninth in baseball at 4.35 runs per game in the last 40. Their ERA has been reduced from 4.03 in the first 44 games to 3.42 in the last eight.

–AL East leader Toronto gets a cross continental test of its strength leading up to the All-Star break with a 10-game road trip that takes it to Oakland, Anaheim and Tampa. The A’s were swept in a three-game visit to Toronto this season but have a best-in-baseball 51-33 record. Anaheim has won eight of 10, and earlier this year took three of four in Toronto. Tampa has a five-game winning streak.

–Third baseman Nolan Arenado (broken finger) comes off the disabled list Thursday. The Rockies were 12-27 without him. That stretch also saw the Rockies lose left fielder Carlos Gonzalez (finger surgery) and Michael Cuddyer (broken left shoulder socket) from the lineup. They also placed starting pitchers Jordan Lyles (broken finger), Eddie Butler (rotator cuff inflammation), Christian Bergman (fractured left hand) and Jhoulys Chacin (right shoulder inflammation) on the disabled list.

Memories

Left-hander Frank Tanana, 24, completed his 14th consecutive start on July 3, 1977 in a 6-4 victory against Oakland. Tanana would finish the season 15-9, sidelined by a “tired arm.’’ He completed 20 of his 31 starts that season, but he didn’t lead the league. Nolan Ryan and Jim Palmer had 22 complete games each. In the last 10 years only one team has had more than 15 complete games – 2011 Philadelphia has 18. St. Louis leads the majors going into Thursday with five followed by Cincinnati. Nine teams are tied for third with three.

The last time a pitcher had 15 complete games in a season – much less in consecutive starts – was Curt Schilling with 15 for Philadelphia in 1998. Since then only three pitchers have even had double figure totals in complete games – Randy Johnson, 12, 1999 Arizona; James Shields, 11, 2011 Tampa Bay, and CC Sabathia, 10, 2008 Cleveland/Milwaukee.

June Swoon Hit NL West

The Dodgers made their charge to the top of the NL West in June.

It wasn’t, however, all their own fault.

They had help from the rest of the division.

The Dodgers were the only NL West team to have a winning record (18-10), the most wins of any Major League team in June.

Arizona was 12-14, and the three remaining members of the division had the three worst June records in the National League.

San Francisco was 10-16, which dropped them behind the Dodgers in the standings. San Diego was 10-17. Colorado was 8-20, the worst June in franchise history.
Injuries undermined the Rockies.

Offense — or a lack thereof — led to the struggles of the Padres.

The Padres hit .171 in the month, the lowest average in June in Major League history. The 1955 Baltimore Orioles (.188) are the only other team to hit below .200 in June. The 1916 Boston Braves and 1963 Houston Colt 45s both hit .201 in June.

Six Padres who had 30 or more at-bats during June hit below .200 — Carlos Quentin (.085), Everth Cabrera (.135), Will Venable (.141), Chris Denorfia (.159), Rene Rivera (.188) and Yonder Alonso (.191).

The lowest June averages in history were compiled by Dan Meyer (.028, 1983 Oakland A’s) and Lyn Lary (.029, 1940 St. Louis Browns).

Quickly

–Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has a major-league-leading 10 outfield assists, equaling his total for a year ago. Jackie Bradley, Jr., of Boston and Michael Brantley of Cleveland have nine apiece. Chuck Klein of the Phillies had 44 outfielder assists in 1930, the most since 1901. Robert Clemente’s 27 for Pittsburgh in 1961 are the most since expansion began in 1961.

–Detroit outfielder Rajai Davis’s walk off grand slam against Oakland on Monday night was the fifth walk off grand slam of the season. The previous four: Nick Swisher, Indians, June 19 against the Angels; Jose Abreu, White Sox, April 25 against the Rays; Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, April 18 against the Mariners, and Ike Davis, Mets, April 5 against the Reds.

–Washington Ian Desmond followed an intentional walk to Bryce Harper by the Rockies on Monday with a three-run double. He is 11-for-17 with 16 RBIs during his career following an intentional walk to the batter ahead of him in the lineup.

Memories

Bill Terry led all players in votes for the All-Star Game when the teams were announced on July 1, 1934. Terry also managed the NL team that year, the only time the All-Star Game featured a player manager. Babe Ruth finished second to Terry in the voting. Terry replaced John McGraw as manager of the New York Giants in June of 1932, and led the Giants to a world championship in 1933. Enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1954, Terry managed the Giants through the 1941 season.

Seven Teams Face Long Odds With 10-Game Deficits

Good news, bad news as baseball reaches the midway point of the season.

There are eight teams in the AL and eight in the NL who are within four games of a post-season spot.

On the other hand, there are seven teams that are 10 games or more out of first place.

Tampa Bay in the AL East and Colorado in the NL West are both 10 games out of first. San Diego is 11 back in the NL West, and Arizona 12. Texas is 14 games behind AL West leader Oakland, and Houston is 16 back. The Chicago Cubs are 15 games out of first place in he NL Central.

The odds are against those seven teams.

Since the advent of the wild-card in 1995 there have been only six teams who have overcome a 10-game or bigger deficit on June 30 and advanced to the post-season.

The 2012 Oakland A’s, who were 12 games out, are the only team to win a division title. The 2001 A’s did claim the NL wild-card despite a 20-game deficit on June 30, and were actually 21 games out after games of July 1 that season. Other teams that rallied from deficits of 10 or more games to reach the post-season were 2005 Houston (13 1/2 games), 2003 Florida (12 games out), 2007 New York Yankees (11 games out) and 1998 Boston (10 games out).

Quick Hits

–Clayton Kershaw had an impact June, going 6-0 with a 0.82 ERA. He is tied for 12th all-time in June wins. Whitey Ford was a record 8-0 in 1961, and 10 pitchers have won seven games in June. His ERA is tied for 27th for pitchers who worked at least 30 innings in the month of June. Cliff Lee had a record 0.21 ERA for Philadelphia in 2011.

–Oakland has outscored the opposition 418-283 this season, a 135 run differential. The Dodgers have the second best differential, outscoring the opposition by 54 runs.

–The Mets have blown leads in 23 of their losses, the most in the majors.

Memories

The Pittsburgh Pirates moved into Forbes Field on June 30, 1909. The Pirates called the stadium home for 61 years, playing their final game there on June 28, 1970. Forbes Field was built at a price of $1 million and was the first stadium built of steel and poured concrete in an effort to extend its lifespan. The Pirates moved into Three Rivers Stadium on July 16, 1970, which they called home until the opening of PNC Park for the 2001 season.

Changing homes isn’t rare anymore. consider that Coors Field, which opened in 1995, is the third oldest NL park. The only older parks are Wrigley Field opened in 1914 as the home for Chicago’s team in the Federal League. The Cubs have called Wrigley Field home since 1916. Dodger Stadium opened in 1962.

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