Slow night in the baseball world, as we were left with only seven games. Yeah, I know that's a decent amount, but it's still less than half the usual amount and only 12 teams were in action. But we did see some strikeouts. CC Sabathia, Colby Lewis and a gentleman listed below went into double digits. I also got to use a Rob Deer reference, so that was fun. Anywho, time to get to the The Lineup.
Thursday night scoreboard, with recaps and box scores for all seven games
Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles. After losing the nightcap of a doubleheader, the Orioles had dropped three of the four total to the Rangers. It could have very easily been a sweep, if not for the impressive outing by Chen Thursday afternoon. Over 7 2/3 innings, Chen allowed only six hits and two earned runs while walking just one and striking out five. That's pretty good work against the best offense in the American League. Chen even held Josh Hamilton without a homer, which is quite the feat these days.
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals. Where are the commenters we had last summer who kept saying Strasburg would never come back healthy and the Nats were rushing him? All Strasburg did Thursday was strike out 13 in his six innings of work. He's now 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA and clearly the elite ace that the Nationals drafted.
Michael Brantley, Indians. The Indians as a whole had a really good Thursday, but let's single out Michael Brantley for his four-hit game (matching a career high). He had two doubles, two RBI and one run scored.
Josh Beckett, Red Sox. He followed up his golf game with one of the worst starts of his career. The Indians roughed up Beckett for seven hits and seven earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings. I'll give Beckett credit for one thing, though, he found out how to get the Fenway faithful to cheer manager Bobby Valentine. They cheered the maligned skipper when he pulled Beckett from the game. No word on what Beckett ate/drank in the locker room after the start, but we do know he bristled at the mention of golf: "I spend my off-days the way I want to spend them. My off-day is my off-day." (via CSNNE.com). That's true, but he hadn't pitched since April 29 due to an arm issue. Yet it was healthy enough to golf. That's where other people are coming from, Josh.
Twins' infield/battery (mostly Ryan Doumit). This is one play, but it was horrendous. In the play-by-play log of the Twins-Blue Jays game, you might see an Edwin Encarnacion "infield single" in the fourth inning that plated a run. It was actually a towering pop up that landed about five feet from home plate ... while catcher Ryan Doumit, pitcher Jason Marquis and third baseman Trevor Plouffe stood watching. I think that play pretty well sums up the Twins' 8-23 start. Also, earlier in the game, this happened to Doumit (I love the fan behind home plate trying to point to the ball).
Bartolo Colon, Athletics. Rough one for Bartolo, as the Tigers dinged him for nine hits and seven earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings.
Yu vs. C.J.; C.J. vs. Rangers; C.J. vs. Napoli. We know who the Rangers would rather have, as they let C.J. Wilson walk for a good chunk less money than they ended up committing to sign Yu Darvish out of Japan. And it just so happens that the first time the Rangers and Angels meet this season, it's Wilson (4-2, 2.61) vs. Darvish (4-1, 2.54). How perfect. Both have been very good this season, too. On the other hand, the Rangers already have a seven-game lead over the Angels in the AL West. Still, let us not forget the preseason animosity between Wilson and his former catcher, Mike Napoli. That can fill the void of a first vs. second battle. I'm downright giddy for this game. 8:05 p.m. ET
Jesus returns ... with King Felix. The Yankees dealt highly-touted hitting prospect Jesus Montero (along with Hector Noesi) to the Mariners this past offseason for starting pitcher Michael Pineda (and Jose Campos). While Pineda is out for the season after not throwing a single regular-season pitch, Montero is hitting .268/.282/.420 with four homers, 16 RBI and 10 runs. He returns to the Bronx with his Mariners Friday, and he'll get to catch one of the game's best pitchers: Felix Hernandez (3-1, 1.89). The Yankees will send Hiroki Kuroda (2-4, 3.75) to the mound. 7:05 p.m. ET
NL's best? In the small sample of the 2012 season we've seen so far, I believe the three best teams in the NL are the Dodgers, Cardinals and Braves. The latter two open a three-game series Friday night in St. Louis. Mike Minor (2-2, 5.97) gets the task of trying to shut down the Cardinals' offense while Jaime Garcia (2-2, 3.76) looks to shut down the Braves. 8:15 p.m. ET
Full Friday schedule, probable pitchers and all
• Do you believe in Magic? It's disheartening to know that Frank McCourt is a billionaire. It's also disheartening to know that McCourt controls a half-interest in the property surrounding Dodger Stadium. The good news? Guggenheim Baseball Management -- the new Dodgers ownership group -- has veto power over any ideas McCourt has for the property. And they've given the power solely to part-owner Magic Johnson. (latimes.com)
• Closing the gap. Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked why competitive balance in baseball seems to be better so far this season, and he believes a lot of it has to do with data crunching, but he also throws drug testing into the mix with an interesting spin: "There was really no middle class, I guess. There is much more of a middle class now, whereas before there were the haves and the have-nots. I think maybe the performances have been balanced, the playing field has been leveled a little bit by the drug policies that are in place. And I think that speaks to the more balanced play." (MLB.com)
• Closing time. The debate rages on about whether or not teams actually need a "closer." Thestar.com (out of Toronto) is the latest with a piece on the matter. First, there is noted numbers guy Keith Law of ESPN.com: "Modern closer usage is insane ... It could be the seventh, it could be the eighth, it could be the ninth [when you need to use your best reliever] ... The stat has defined the usage." Next up is former reliever Duane Ward, who said it's important for relievers to know their roles, but that the ninth isn't necessarily always the toughest to work, contrary to what we've been told for years by the closer narrative: “There were so many times that I came into ball games bases loaded, no outs or one out," Ward said (thestar.com). "That was hard. When you start off an inning, like the ninth, and it's clean, that's a lot easier.” The debate surely won't be going away any time soon.
• The most interesting unlucky man in the world. Everyone knows how much I love "wins" as a primary indicator of a pitcher's worth (note sarcasm). Well, Rob Neyer over at SB Nation goes through the unfortunate pitchers so far this season in terms of W-L record. The most unlucky? Ryan Dempster of the Cubs, who leads the majors with a 1.02 ERA yet is 0-1. In five starts, his worst outing came when he gave up two runs in 6 2/3 innings. And he hasn't "won" yet.
• Inventing a "star." I couldn't possibly do this story justice in a blurb. Go over to onmilwaukee.com and read the story of Montaous Walton, who created a fake persona via the Internet to gain notoriety as an up-and-coming baseball player. It didn't work.
"We're looking to prosecute," said Dan Mullin, Major League Baseball Department of Investigations Senior Vice President (onmilwaukee.com). "That's the ultimate goal."
Seriously, the story is pretty long, but it's entertaining enough to make some time for.
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