Posted on: July 8, 2011 1:03 am
By Matt Snyder
Travis Hafner, Indians. We could concentrate on the colossal meltdown by the Blue Jays to lose after having a 4-0 lead entering the ninth, but let's instead focus on the man with the big blow, because you don't often see a walk-off grand slam. That's exactly what Travis Hafner did in front of the Cleveland fans who stuck around for the ninth Thursday. (Click here to watch the highlight on MLB.com). The Blue Jays only recorded a single out, allowing a single, double, walk and single before Hafner's bomb. The Indians appear to be somewhat back on track and have a 1-1/2 game lead in the AL Central.
Brad Hand/Jack McKeon, Marlins. Hand, a 21-year-old rookie, picked up his first major-league victory Thursday in a spot-start for the Marlins. He threw seven shutout innings and allowed just two hits. Sure it was against the Astros, but it still counts -- and the hitters are definitely better than Hand had been seeing in Triple-A. As for the McKeon inclusion here, he sent Hand out to warm up for the eighth inning and removed Hand before the inning started. Why? So the home fans could give the kid a standing ovation (Joe Capozzi via Twitter). Great move by the wily veteran McKeon. And don't look now, but the Marlins have won six of their last nine. Two of those three losses were to the Phillies, too.
Barry Zito, Giants. Alright, who took us back to 2002 in the time machine? I always knew Doc Brown was onto something with that flux capacitor. Zito was 40-57 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in his first four years for the Giants after signing a gargantuan contract. After a brutal start to the 2011 season, most Giants fans were wondering what they had to do to be freed from this albatross. But, wait. Time circuits on ... Zito is 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in three starts since returning from the disabled list. He was masterful Thursday night, striking out seven and walking zero. The only real blemish was a solo home run off the bat of Ryan Ludwick in the seventh. Zito's eight innings also allowed the Giants to rest the bullpen, other than one inning from closer Brian Wilson, after a 14-inning marathon Wednesday. If Zito keeps throwing like this, that's a pretty scary rotation for the defending champs.
White Sox vs. Twins. This is absolute ownership. After the Twins beat the White Sox 6-2 Thursday night, it ran the White Sox's record against Minnesota to 0-5 this season. That's not near the worst part. The White Sox have lost eight straight to the Twins. And that's not really the worst part either. In the last 36 games between the two, the White Sox have won just seven (LaVelle Neal via Twitter).
Nationals after the fourth inning. This just can't happen. The Nationals were leading the Cubs -- the team with the second-worst record in all of baseball -- 8-0 through four innings. That's gotta be the game. No discussion. Instead, the Nationals let the Cubs storm back and take a 9-8 lead in the eighth. Worse yet, the Nats tied it back up in the bottom of the eighth, only to see Henry Rodriguez allow a run. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, the Nationals had the tying run on third with one out and couldn't score him. Still, nearly all the blame has to go on the pitchers. Livan Hernandez allowed six runs in the sixth while Rodriguez, Sean Burnett and Todd Coffey combined to allow four runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Pedro Viola, Orioles. The Orioles as a whole are in a bad, bad place right now. They've gone 6-18 since pulling to within one game of .500 and Thursday night allowed 10 runs, 13 hits, six home runs and five walks to the Red Sox. But poor Viola, man, what a bad night. He faced just four batters. He walked one. The other three hit home runs.
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