You might not believe how John Axford and the Brewers lost. Again. The longest hitting streak of the season is alive and kicking, and Friday promises several clashes of titans ...
Full Thursday scoreboard with box scores and recaps for all games
Michael Brantley, Indians: The Tribe outfielder went a forgettable 1-for-4 in a loss to the Reds on Thursday, but he did extend his hitting streak to 21 games. His, it so happens, is now the longest hitting streak of 2012. And for that, Brantley's earned 3-up honors.
Jarrod Parker, A's: The ball has been flying out of Coors Field all week, except when the 23-year-old Parker was on the bump. On Thursday, he blanked the Rockies for 7.0 frames, striking out six, giving up three hits (all singles) and walking only one. It was a gem under conditions that were less than accommodating.
Matt Wieters, Orioles: Wieters, who's rather quietly developing into one of the best all-around catchers in baseball, took part in the ritual abuse of the Pirates on Thursday. In five trips to the dish, Wieters tallied four hits (two of which were doubles), five RBI and a pair of runs scored.
John Axford, Brewers: In absurd fashion, Axford blew his third save of the season in the 4-3 loss to the Royals. In the ninth, he took the ball with a one-run lead, and he promptly retired the first two batters. Actually, Axford retired the first three batters. He whiffed Mitch Maier on a bounced curve, but the ball scooted away and Maier reached on a strikeout wild pitch. From there, the wheels came off. In two-thirds of an inning, Axford wound up surrendering a pair of runs on one hit, one walk and, of course, one wild pitch. Axford took the loss for the second time in as many nights, and his ERA for the season now stands at 5.55. After three straight one-run losses to KC, the Brewers are now 7.5 games out in the NL Central.
Jeremy Hellickson, Rays: It was a true disaster for start for Hellickson. Against the Mets on Thursday, Hellickson hemorrhaged eight runs on nine hits in just 3.2 innings. He didn't strike out a single batter, and he gave up three home runs. As a result, Hellickson's ERA jumped from 2.65 to 3.45.
Munenori Kawasaki, Mariners: In 2012, few things in baseball are as humiliating as getting swept at home by the Padres, but that's what has befallen the M's. In Thursday night's series finale, Kawasaki was the main offender, as he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and six runners left on base. He's now hitting .189/.259/.208 for the season.
Ballpark battles: The Red Sox, denizens of Fenway Park since 1912, travel to play the Cubs in Wrigley, where those same Cubs have toiled since 1916. Forecast? Lots of pink hats. Possible rotation savior Daisuke Matsuzaka, making his second start since returning from Tommy John surgery, goes for Boston. Possible trade-deadline prize Ryan Dempster goes for Chicago. 2:20 pm ET
Heavyweight bout: World Series preview? It could indeed be as the surging Yankees invade the capital city to take on the surging Nationals. On Friday, the improving Phil Hughes opposes NL Cy Young hopeful Gio Gonzalez. Consider this a mettle-tester for the upstart Nats. 7:05 pm ET
Pair of aces: In a rematch of the 1959 World Series, the first-place White Sox pay a visit to the first-place Dodgers. All the more compelling is that AL Cy Young contender Chris Sale faces reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. 10:10 pm ET
Friday probables for all games
• Theo takes his lumps: Cubs honcho Theo Epstein of course made his name as GM of the Red Sox. While Epstein guided the Sox to a pair of World Series titles, his last season in Boston didn't go so swimmingly. Now, in a conversation with John Thomase of the Boston Herald, Epstein accepts some blame for what happened.
• The next Mick and Willie?: Does Bryce Harper + Mike Trout = Willie Mays + Mickey Mantle? Bill at the Platoon Advantage explores the similarities in a compelling read.
• Viva la Midwest: The three-game Tigers-Cubs set at Wrigley drew almost 125,000 fans to the yard and set a mid-week series attendance record for the ballpark that's been around for almost a century. [Chicagoist]
• C'mon, blue!: SweetSpot takes a look at the five worst umpiring calls in history. The conspiracy theorist will note that the Yankees were the beneficiaries in three of the five.
• Happy 25th, pretty boy: Surely you marked this on your calendar and synched a reminder to your various and sundry mobile devices, but in case you have neglected to do these things please know that it's the 25th anniversary of the fictional Keith Hernandez "second spitter" game on "Seinfeld." Let us commemorate.
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