A week ago at this point, most of us were wondering whether Max Scherzer might be snubbed out of the All-Star Game altogether. Now, after his latest gem, it’s worth wondering if he could start the Midsummer Classic again.
Between the makeup of the AL pitching staff and the recent results, it’s not that crazy, though it’s unlikely.
Scherzer’s win over the Dodgers Wednesday tied him with Rick Porcello for second in the American League with 11 wins. The one American Leaguer with more, 12-game winner Masuhiro Tanaka, is out after going on the disabled list with elbow soreness.
That opens the door for a lot of candidates. Felix Hernandez would seem to have the strongest resume, boasting a 10-2 record to go with a 2.11 ERA for the resurgent Mariners. Mark Buehrle has 10 wins and a 2.60 ERA, though he also has six losses to go with that. Scott Kazmir is 10-3 with a 2.53 ERA.
None of them are on track to start Sunday, so they’re not going to be ruled out.
Scherzer has the advantage on wins (11-3 record) as well as strikeouts, but heads into the break with a 3.35 ERA. Hernandez tops him on strikeout-to-walk ratio, hits per nine innings, innings pitched, home runs allowed and Wins Above Replacement.
In short, it looks like a long shot. The fact that Scherzer could even be considered in this conversation, though, is a testament to his performance over the last month.
Steven Moya heads into Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game with some very good numbers, among them an Eastern-League leading 22 home runs and 185 total bases along with 24 doubles and 72 RBIs. Now, he can count one triple play.
Thanks to MILB.com for the video from Wednesday’s game at Altoona, which shows what happened better than I can explain it:
Ashley Marshall had a cool writeup on the setup for the play.
“Everybody was pretty excited,” said first baseman Corey Jones. “A few guys said it was their first one and our trainer, T.J. Saunders, said he had never seen one before. It was a huge momentum builder for us and a killer for them.
“They say a double play is an inning killer, but a triple play is as good as it gets. I ran right up to [Parrish] and said, ‘You told us you wanted a triple play, so you got one.’ The only other people who knew what I was talking about were the pitcher, the catcher and the other infielders who were there during the mound visit. It was pretty funny.”
Teammates picked it up from there:
— Corey Jones (@TheCoreyJones) July 10, 2014
Moya had his usual impact at the plate, too, hitting a triple with two RBIs and a pair of walks — his 13th and 14th walks on the season to temper that strikeout-to-walk ratio a little bit. His OPS stands at .841 with a .263 batting average and .293 on-base percentage.
Moya will be part of the World Team for Sunday’s Futures Game at Target Field in Minneapolis, airing live at 5pm ET on MLB Network. It’s probably my favorite part of the All-Star festivities.
Considering Rick Porcello offered up his old jersey number to Torii Hunter for a donation to Superstorm Sandy relief a couple years ago, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s trying to turn his Final Vote candidacy into an off-field impact. He needs a lot of help from fans to do it, though.
As part of the All-Star Final Vote last-day push, votes are being counted on twitter until 4pm ET using hashtags. For every tweet using the #PickRick hashtag, Porcello will make a donation of 21 cents to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, up to a total donation of $21,000. That covers 100,000 tweets.
It might not get him an All-Star roster spot, but it should get a positive impact. It’s also a way to show his gratitude for the support he has received, not just from the Tigers but nationwide.
“I’m not used to that kind of attention. I’m definitely flattered by it for sure,” Porcello said Wednesday. “It’s pretty cool to see people that are supporting you. On a completely personal level, that’s definitely very nice. I’m very thankful.
“It’s been a new experience for me in my career, and it’s been something whether I win it or not that I’ll never forget. It’s been a pretty cool couple of days.”
The Twitter vote campaign is in its third year. Until 4pm, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the official vote total used to determine the winners.
Fans can also cast votes on the mobile web at MLB.com/vote or via text message. To receive the Final Vote ballot, text the word “VOTE” to 89269. To vote for a specific player, fans can text their choice to 89269. For example: Text “A3″ to vote for AL Player 3 or “N3″ to vote for NL Player 3. Standard message and data rates may apply. Text “STOP” to end and “HELP” for information. Mobile voting in Canada also is available and fans should text their choices to 101010.
Brad Ausmus had been talking about trying to get Miguel Cabrera a day off, but had been holding off with Victor Martinez unavailable. He has held off no longer, sitting Cabrera for the getaway day against the Dodgers with four games coming up in Kansas City.
Don Kelly, 3-for-8 off Zack Greinke, gets the start at first base. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but let’s be honest: Even if Kelly was 3-for-13 against Greinke, you’d be somewhat surprised. For what it’s worth, Cabrera is 10-for-35 with a double, home run and 11 strikeouts against Greinke.
The Dodgers pull a surprise and use the same lineup they had last night, including Hanley Ramirez at DH.
TIGERS (career numbers against Greinke)
- Austin Jackson, CF (1-for-10, K)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-26, HR, 7 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, DH (9-for-33, 2 doubles, 3 HR, walk, 5 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-10, walk, 2 K’s)
- Don Kelly, 1B (3-for-8, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Alex Avila, C (3-for-11, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
- Rajai Davis, LF (2-for-11, walk, 3 K’s)
P: Max Scherzer
DODGERS (career numbers off Scherzer)
- Dee Gordon, 2B (3-for-8, double, HR)
- Yasiel Puig, RF
- Hanley Ramirez, DH (0-for-6, 3 K’s)
- Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (4-for-20, double, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Matt Kemp, LF (0-for-18, walk, 5 K’s)
- Andre Ethier, CF (6-for-18, double, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Juan Uribe, 3B (3-for-10, double, K)
- A.J. Ellis, C (1-for-3)
- Miguel Rojas, SS
P: Zack Greinke
This wasn’t the vintage form Justin Verlander had in mind. He’ll take it.
Before Justin Verlander had his MVP season in 2011, he had more than a few outings like this — crooked numbers and high pitch counts in the opening inning, followed by quick innings and zeros to salvage a winnable outing. He gave up a five-run, 43-pitch first inning April 11, 2010, then held the Indians to one hit over the next four innings before giving up another run in the sixth.
In 2010, I used to think of it as Verlander going into Pitch Conservation Mode — get early contact, get outs, get out of the inning quick, eat up as many innings as he can. Tuesday was a bit like that — five runs within the first seven batters, 31 pitches in the opening inning, then five shutout innings over 69 pitches to qualify for the win.
“You kind of walk a fine line there,” Verlander said, “between pitch conservation and not giving up any more runs, because you know if you give up any more runs, that’s probably going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, especially when your team goes out there and starts to score some runs to get you back in the ballgame.”
He did it Tuesday by getting a feel for his secondary pitches and changing speeds. In the opening inning, didn’t seem to have a feel for any pitch other than his fastball. He was still kicking himself after the game for a changeup he threw to Adrian Gonzalez for a two-run double that opened the scoring, and he couldn’t be happy with the 0-2 curveball he hung to Juan Uribe for his two-run homer later on.
“The curveball to Uribe was homer. And then the changeup to Gonzalez was just a little bit up,” Verlander said. “You take those two away, or better executed, and it’s probably not a bad inning at all. If I execute that changeup to Gonzalez, we probably get a double play. It just didn’t happen. It is what it is. It happens. Gotta get better.”
He got better. It just happened from the second inning on.
Not only did all five of Verlander’s runs come in the opening inning, so did four of the five hits he allowed. He shut down the Dodgers offense following Uribe’s two-run homer until Hanley Ramirez walked leading off the sixth and Matt Kemp singled off the glove of a diving Nick Castellanos two batters later.
The stretch in between saw Verlander, who struggled to locate anything but his fastball in the opening inning, change speeds and flummox Dodgers hitters after that, retiring 13 in a row. The curveball that hung for Uribe to hit out on an 0-2 pitch sent down Matt Kemp swinging to end the third inning and induced an Andre Ethier comebacker in the fourth.
It was a good lineup that he shut down.
“Obviously first innings have been a little bit of an issue,” Verlander said. “That probably goes into finding a rhythm and getting things going. Hopefully it gets easier and easier and those first innings are no longer an issue.”
Still no Victor Martinez today, so J.D. Martinez gets another day at DH. With the day game tomorrow, it could be Kansas City before Victor Martinez gets in a game, though they could also simply decide to sit him until the break.
The Dodgers take advantage of the DH spot to get Hanley Ramirez out of the field. In past Interleague series, the Dodgers have rotated players at DH, including Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. Venezuelan Miguel Rojas gets the start at shortstop.
Reminder for those of you outside of Michigan that tonight’s game is on MLB Network, continuing a stretch where the Tigers have been on national television for several days.
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- J.D. Martinez, DH
- Torii Hunter, RF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Alex Avila, C
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
- Rajai Davis, LF
P: Justin Verlander
DODGERS (career numbers vs. Verlander)
- Dee Gordon, 2B
- Yasiel Puig, RF
- Hanley Ramirez, DH
- Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (2-for-14, HR, 5 walks, 3 K’s)
- Matt Kemp, LF
- Andre Ethier, CF
- Juan Uribe, 3B (2-for-15, double, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- A.J. Ellis, C
- Miguel Rojas, SS
P: Hyun-Jin Ryu
Three months after Andy Dirks played in his last game, an early Spring Training contest before he was diagnosed as needing back surgery, the Tigers outfielder is finally back to game action. He headed out on a minor-league rehab assignment Tuesday, beginning at Class A Lakeland.
When Dirks underwent back surgery March 10, the original timetable projected his recovery to take about 12 weeks. His return has been slower than that, delayed at times because of discomfort he felt while moving around. Considering the nature of the surgery, essentially repairing a disc in his back, it isn’t a huge surprise.
Dirks played in four early Spring Training games before his back problems worsened. Essentially, his rehab assignment is his Spring Training, which means this probably isn’t going to be a quick stint to just his timing back at the plate. He can stay on rehab for up to 20 days, which would take him up towards the end of July if he took that long. Dirks still has minor-league options, too, if he needs more time than that.
If he gets through it and comes back, the Tigers gain a potentially valuable left-handed bat for their outfield, something they currently don’t have. Though Dirks’ 2013 numbers were disappointing (.256 average, nine home runs, 37 RBIs, .686 OPS in 484 plate appearances), he was expected to be in line for a bounceback year this season before the back issues hit.
How the Tigers fit him into their outfield picture is probably a question best answered later than it is now. J.D. Martinez continues to drill the ball well after the point where one would’ve reasonably expected a hot streak to end. Torii Hunter is showing signs of better swings. Rajai Davis is off to a good start in July after struggling through June, while Austin Jackson continues to be up and down.
While Victor Martinez’s back issues allowed the Tigers to play all four in the same lineup for most of last week, the odd man has been utilityman Don Kelly, despite his standing as the only left-handed hitter in the bunch. That said, there’s a risk in taking Kelly off the roster, because if leaves middle infielder Andrew Romine backing up Nick Castellanos at third base.
Rick Porcello compiled his 25-inning scoreless streak over the course of four different starts and three weeks. It took just five pitches and two batters for the Rays to end it. One batter later, Porcello had a three-run deficit before he had his first out. With David Price pitching on the other side, that was essentially the ballgame.
It took six batters for Porcello to get a ground-ball out, one of 10 he ended up earning on the night.
It took just five-plus innings for the Rays to get Porcello, owner of back-to-back shutouts, out of the game.
All in all, it was a rough night. And Final Vote or no, it was not a good spotlight for him on national television.
“I was falling behind guys,” he said. “I didn’t stay down in the zone well tonight at all.”
After three outings that made him look like he could pound hitters into the ground with his sharp-moving sinker, Sunday was a reminder that even sinkerballers like Porcello need secondary pitches to work.The numbers off the sinker were startling: He threw 27 out of 37 for strikes, the Rays swung at 22 of them, and missed on just two. They put 13 in play and got base hits on six.
“We’ve said all along that the key for him is being down with his sinker,” Ausmus said. “When it gets up, it gets flat. You see more fly balls. He made the adjustment. He actually started getting the ball down in the zone. He got some ground balls. A couple of them found holes. He was getting the ground balls he was trying to get. That’s going to happen sometimes with ground ball pitchers. Some will find holes.”
Porcello gave up three other hits off the four-seam fastball, two on the changeup, and one off the slider (which is really more of a cutter at this point). The one pitch that seemed to avoid heavy damage for him was the curveball, and even that drew eight swings out of 11 strikes.
To state the obvious, the Rays swung early and often, and they didn’t miss much.
“I think it’s important to get on him early like that,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said, “because if you don’t he settles in and it’s really difficult. We worked good at-bats, obviously, we have the last couple of nights.”
MIGUEL CABRERA (9th All-Star selection, 5th with Tigers)
“It’s very special. I appreciate the fans. We want to win, try to get home field advantage for the World Series.”
Best part of All-Star week: “We’re off. We see the best players in the National League, American League. We’re going to enjoy it.”
VICTOR MARTINEZ (4th All-Star selection, 1st with Tigers)
“Believe it or not, man, last year watching the Home Run Derby, [Victor Jose] told me these words: ‘Daddy, you better make it next year, because I don’t want to see my butt on the couch watching the Home Run Derby on TV again.’ I’m like, ‘Really? It’s that easy, kid?’”
MAX SCHERZER (2nd All-Star selection in a row)
“We both [Scherzer and Porcello] said we were kind of on the fringe if we were going to make it or not. We were crossing our fingers both.”
“It’s such an honor to represent the American League in the All-Star Game. I’m so excited to be able to go there next week.”
Miguel Cabrera will be an All-Star Game participant for the ninth time in his career. For the Home Run Derby, however, he will be an observer once again.
“I’m going to enjoy watching,” said Cabrera, who confirmed that he has declined an invite to the event.
Cabrera has taken his swings in the event twice in his career, but not since 2010, and not since his current run as the game’s most dangerous hitter. He did not take part in last year’s Derby because of a nagging back injury, a decision the Tigers welcomed.
Manager Brad Ausmus made it clear he’d have no problem if Cabrera or any other player wanted to take part. But while Ausmus doesn’t buy the idea that swinging for home runs in such an event can mess with a player’s swing, Cabrera does.
“I don’t feel like I can mess with my swing right now,” Cabrera said. “I’ve got enough [going on with it] right now.”
Cabrera definitely had a lot going on with his swing early in the year, when he batted .277 with just two months over the season’s opening month. He seemingly cleared that hurdle in May, when he hit .380 with eight home runs, 34 RBIs and a 1.126 OPS. However, he hit a relatively low .279 in June, though four home runs and 11 doubles tempered the average drop for an .845 OPS.
With Victor Martinez dealing with a sore back and uncertain for any of the All-Star festivities at this point, it appears unlikely the Tigers will have a competitor. Cabrera had been lobbying for Martinez to be invited, but that was before Martinez missed most of this week with the bad back.