Stats & Info: Colorado Rockies

MLB theme of the week: Filling needs

November, 22, 2013
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Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler wasn’t the only notable move this week, the busiest of baseball’s offseason so far. Let’s take a snapshot look at some intriguing notes related to other players who switched teams.

Bourjos, Young, find new homes to show off their ‘D’
The St. Louis Cardinals made a major defensive upgrade in centerfield in acquiring Peter Bourjos from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Though Bourjos has been hindered by injuries the last couple of seasons, he’s accumulated 33 Defensive Runs Saved in center field over the last four seasons. That’s tied with Craig Gentry for fifth-most at that position in that span. That’s just behind Chris Young, who agreed to a one-year $7.25 million contract with the Mets. Young is two years removed from his last really good defensive season. Young accumulated 38 Defensive Runs Saved for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010 and 2011, which ranked second-best among centerfielders in that span, behind only Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers.

Bourjos will be worth more to the Cardinals than he will to most other teams. Over the last four seasons, the Cardinals centerfielders have combined for -12 Defensive Runs Saved.

Young’s value to the Mets may depend on what position he plays and what other moves they make. Their centerfielder, Juan Lagares, ranked second in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved last season.

Angels fill a need
In obtaining third baseman David Freese from the Cardinals in trade for Bourjos, the Angels secured a player with a better history of offensive production at the hot corner than they’ve had in awhile.

The Angels have ranked 28th and 27th in OPS from their third basemen over the last two seasons.

Freese’s numbers dipped a bit from 2012 to 2013, but definitely represents an upgrade for the Angels.

Freese’s batting average on balls hit in the air was a near match in 2012 and 2013 (.473 and .481), though his homer total dipped from 20 to 9.

His overall batting average drop from .293 to .262 was attributable to hitting more ground balls (a 52 percent ground ball rate in 2012, 56 percent in 2013) and to his ground balls finding fewer holes (he went from hitting .310 on grounders in 2012 to .230 last season).

Under the radar: Bolstering the bullpen
With questions at the back of the bullpen, the Rockies went for experience by signing veteran LaTroy Hawkins, who had formerly pitched for the team with modest success in 2007. Hawkins pitched very well for the Mets last season, particularly filling in at closer in the latter part of the season when Bobby Parnell got hurt. Hawkins held opponents scoreless in 17 of his last 18 appearances (the only blip was a five-run outburst by the Tigers), striking out 16 and walking only one in that stretch.

The strikeout-to-walk rate was a key to Hawkins’ success. He had a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (55 strikeouts, 10 walks) at age 40.

Hawkins was one of five pitchers to throw at least 70 innings of relief last season with a strikeout-to-walk-rate of 5 to 1 or better. The other four are Koji Uehara, Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Trevor Rosenthal.

NL Defensive MVP? Simmons/Arenado lead

September, 6, 2013
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Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesAndrelton Simmons has been super-solid for the Braves this season.
If you were going to pick the NL’s Defensive MVP for 2013, much like for the overall award, there is one candidate who stands above the rest.

Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is going to break the single-season record for most Defensive Runs Saved (definition here). He’s currently at 38 Defensive Runs Saved. Baseball Info Solutions has charted that stat since 2003 and no player previously finished with more than the 35 Brett Gardner had in 2010.

Simmons has twice been named Sweet Spot’s Defensive Player of the Month and was runner-up for that selection in August. He has more than twice as many runs saved as the next-closest shortstop (Pedro Florimon of the Minnesota Twins with 16) and has more than three times as many as the nearest NL shortstop had entering Friday (Clint Barmes, 11). No other Braves player has more than 16.

What Simmons does best is not just make the difficult play, but make the routine one as well. The left side of the Braves infield has been in vacuum mode all season. Opposing hitters are reaching base only 21.6 percent of the time on ground balls hit to the left of the second-base bag. That’s the lowest success rate in the majors. And let’s remember what Simmons replaced when he came up last season—Taylor Pastornicky, who had -15 Defensive Runs Saved in only 330 innings.

As we noted: There is a considerable statistical gap between Simmons and the next-best NL defender. That gap exists at one other position of note, third base. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado would be the runaway NL Defensive Rookie of the Year if such an award existed. His 30 Defensive Runs Saved are 20 more than anyone else in the league.

Nolan Arenado
Arenado
Arenado is one Defensive Run Saved shy of Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado for the major league lead at the hot corner. Machado gets a lot of national press for his glovework, but Arenado has been similarly good. He leads all third baseman in the Baseball Info Solutions-tracked “Good Fielding Plays” (think: plays that are Web Gem nominees) and ranks second to Machado in Baseball Tonight with 11 Web Gems (Machado had 16).

There are a number of other players who have had fine defensive seasons on non-contenders and teams that are fading out of contention, most notably Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers and Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks. The next-highest rated defender among those players on contending teams is Russell Martin (whom Dave Cameron is profiling today for ESPN Insider).

Martin ranks second among catchers with 14 Defensive Runs Saved, trailing only Wellington Castillo of the Chicago Cubs, who has 18. Martin doesn’t have quite the arm of Yadier Molina (who also has legitimacy with 10 Defensive Runs Saved), but he’s having his best year at throwing runners out, nailing 33 of 76 attempting to steal (43 percent) and picking off three others.

Starling Marte
Marte
Martin’s teammate, Starling Marte also could make a case. He leads all leftfielders with 20 Defensive Runs Saved this season, a total that got a nice early boost from a pair of early-season homer robberies. He’s rated best in the majors at his position in chasing down balls hit to the deepest part of the ballpark.

The Reds and Dodgers don’t have any candidates that would necessarily be standouts in a defensive MVP competition. The Reds top candidate is rightfielder Jay Bruce, who has rebounded from a pair of below-average (stat-wise) defensive seasons to lead his team with 14 Defensive Runs Saved (tied for fourth among NL players at that position).

The Dodgers have a host of defenders who rate well, with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez ranking best relative to his position (10 Defensive Runs Saved, third-best in the National League). Another player deserving of props: utility man Nick Punto, whose 10 Defensive Runs Saved tie Juan Uribe, Gonzalez and Puig for the Dodgers lead.

Therein lies the difference been MVP and Defensive MVP. Punto is unlikely to ever be mentioned in any MVP conversation at any point.

For more NL MVP info, see Jerry Crasnick's article from earlier today.

Corbin wins with dominant breaking ball

May, 21, 2013
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The three pitchers with the best ERAs in baseball took the mound on Monday night, and the one who was most dominant was neither Clayton Kershaw nor Shelby Miller, but Arizona Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin.

Let’s run through some of the highlights of Corbin’s performance, which was unusually good from both a historical and statistical perspective.

The accolades
Corbin threw a three-hit complete game with 10 strikeouts.

He is the third visiting pitcher to throw a nine-inning complete game at Coors Field with 10 or more strikeouts, and the first since 1998. The list is in the chart on the right.

Only one Diamondbacks lefty had previously recorded a complete game, allowing three hits or fewer with 10 or more strikeouts-- Randy Johnson, who did so seven times for them.

Corbin is the second pitcher in the last 20 seasons to open a season with nine straight starts in which he allowed two runs or fewer in six innings or more.

The other is Ubaldo Jimenez, who opened 2010 with a dozen straight such starts for the Rockies.

How he won
Corbin took advantage of the Rockies’ willingness to swing at pitches outside the strike zone.

He threw 74 of his 97 pitches for strikes, despite less than half of his pitches being thrown inside the Pitch F/X strike zone.

Corbin repeatedly tantalized Rockies hitters with his breaking ball. He threw 34 of them and the Rockies went after 21, missing on 15 of them (almost all of which were thrown down-and-in to righties or down-and-away from lefties).

This breaking ball is Corbin’s signature pitch. Opponents have taken 94 swings at it and missed 54 times. His 58 percent miss rate is easily the highest in the majors.

Corbin’s 39 strikeouts with his breaking pitches are the third-most of any pitcher in the NL this season, trailing only A.J. Burnett’s 44 and Clayton Kershaw's 42.

Looking ahead
Corbin is the second pitcher in the last three seasons to win his first seven decisions of the season for the Diamondbacks. Micah Owings did so in 2011.

Corbin is two wins away from the Diamondbacks' club record for wins to start a season. Brandon Webb started the 2008 season with a 9-0 mark.

Corbin should next start against the San Diego Padres this weekend. He held the Padres to one run in seven innings in that appearance.

Jacob Nitzberg contributed research to this post.

AL East leads early divisional rankings

May, 2, 2013
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With three teams each finishing at least 16 games above .500, the American League West was the strongest division in 2012 according to the ESPN Stats & Information MLB Division Power Rankings.

And although it’s only one month into the season, the AL West is looking up at the five other divisions in the first edition of the 2013 rankings.

Each month during the season, ESPN Stats & Information will look at how the divisions stack up against each other to determine which one is the best … and the worst.

The formula used is made up of four variables that measure team and divisional strength: ESPN.com power rankings, non-divisional win percentage, strength of schedule and individual player rankings.

Based on the four variables, each team receives a score from 4 to 120 (1-30 for each variable). The total score of each team in a division is added together then divided by five, which is the number of teams in a division.

And right now, the American League East is first the rankings thanks to hot starts by the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. The perceived demise of the AL East has not yet been realized; four of its five teams rank in the top 16 of the most recent ESPN.com power rankings.

The AL East ranks first in all four categories measured by the divisional rankings, including the player rater.

The division has the top-ranked hitter in Baltimore’s Chris Davis, and the second-ranked pitcher in Boston’s Clay Buchholz.

The NL West is second, 12.4 points behind the AL East. The Colorado Rockies are off to a hot start with their bats. They scored 141 runs in April, the most of any National League team. As a result, the Rockies have five batters ranked in the top 30 of ESPN’s batting player rater, by far the most of any team.

As for the AL West, the addition of the Houston Astros and the early season struggles of Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners have the division in last place in the divisional rankings. In April, the AL West went a combined 18-30 (.375 win percentage) in games outside of the division, by far the lowest win percentage of any division.

Since the season is still young, expect the ratings to drastically change in the next month. Look for inter-divisional matchups between the Braves and Reds, Yankees and Rockies, and Tigers and Rangers to impact the May rankings.

Gonzalez does damage early in count

September, 24, 2012
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Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez
The Los Angeles Dodgers kept pace in the Wild Card race by beating the Cincinnati Reds with the help of two big lefties; Adrian Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw.

After homering in his first plate appearance with the Dodgers on August 25, Gonzalez went 105 at-bats before hitting his second one in the second inning Sunday.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the third-longest homerless at-bat streak of Gonzalez’s career. He went 110 at-bats between home runs for the Padres in 2006 and had a drought of 109 at-bats earlier this season for the Red Sox.

Sunday was the 14th multi-home run game of Gonzalez’s career, but it was the first in which both of his homers gave his team the lead. His second-inning homer put the Dodgers ahead 1-0 and his seventh-inning homer made it 2-1 Los Angeles.

Both of Gonzalez’s homers also came early in the count, the first off a 1-0 fastball and the second off a first-pitch slider.

Gonzalez, like many hitters, has been at his best this season when he attacks early in the count.

Twelve of his 18 homers this season, including all three with the Dodgers, have come early in the count.

Plus, Gonzalez now has five career homers in just 15 at-bats against Homer Bailey, his most against any pitcher.

Kershaw took the mound for the first time in 12 days due to a hip injury. He was a bit rusty, especially with his fastball command.

Kershaw threw just 32 of his 62 fastballs (52 percent) for strikes, his second-lowest percentage in 147 career starts. He issued five walks for the first time this season and only the second time in the last two seasons.

However, Kershaw still was able to command his breaking pitches, and he was able to escape trouble by going to them in key situations.

Six of the seven curveballs Kershaw threw came with runners in scoring position. Reds hitters finished 1-for-9 in at-bats ending with his breaking balls and 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Three of Kershaw’s five strikeouts came with runners in scoring position, all with his breaking balls (two curveballs, one slider). Maybe the biggest coming from a slider that struck out Joey Votto with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.

It was the 10th time Votto has struck out against Kershaw in 17 career at-bats, his most against any pitcher. Six of the first seven strikeouts came on fastballs, but the last three strikeouts have come on breaking balls.

The Dodgers are off Monday, but finish the season with three games at the San Diego Padres, and six games at home. Three apiece vs the Colorado Rockies and rival San Francisco Giants.

Beckett's fastball not as effective anymore

August, 28, 2012
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What’s all the excitement for about Josh Beckett?

Josh Beckettum
Beckett
The newly acquired Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher made his first start for a National League team since 2005, and he’s simply not the same pitcher anymore.

Beckett allowed a leadoff home run to Tyler Colvin after allowing just one leadoff homer in his entire five-season NL stint with the Florida Marlins.

Much of his decline can be attributed to a decline in fastball velocity.

Beckett’s heater averaged more than 94 MPH in 2009 but it has decreased in average velocity each of the last three seasons. It’s down to 91.5 MPH this season. In fact, his fastest fastball velocity this season is 94 MPH, which is slower than his average fastball velocity in 2009 (94.1).

But it’s not just his fastball. The average velocity of his cutter has decreased each of the last three seasons. It averages 89.1 MPH this season, a full 2 MPH lower than it was in 2009.

His changeup and curveball are both nearly 2 MPH slower this season than they were last season.

Beckett is now winless in his last seven starts. He’s lost five straight decisions for the first time in his career. He’s won just one game since May. He hasn’t had a quality start since July 15.

HOW BECKETT LOST

• Five of Beckett's seven hits allowed, including both extra-base hits, came on his fastballs (2/4-seam). It's his fourth straight start in which he's allowed at least five hits via the fastball, his longest streak in the last four seasons.

• Beckett tied a season high by going to eight three-ball counts, which ran up his pitch count. Six of the eight three-ball counts came after he was originally ahead 1-2 or 2-2. That especially hurt his outing, as he had to come out after 5 ⅔ innings with 108 pitches.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezThe Giants hit just two home runs at home in July, both by Buster Posey.
ESPN's Home Run Tracker analyzes video of each home run hit this season and as far back as 2006. Each month, the tracker will detail the best and worst home runs, as well as some other interesting statistics pertaining to the long ball. With the exception of the final day of the month, below are the notable home runs for the month of July.

No Doubter of the Month: Longest true distance HR
June Winner: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers (484 feet)
July Winner: Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres (485 feet)
On July 2 at Chase Field, Maybin hit a 485-foot shot to left-center field. Not only was it the longest home run of his career, but the second-longest at Chase Field since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006.

Wall-Scraper of the Month: Shortest true distance HR
June Winner: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (329 feet)
July Winner: Cody Ross, Boston Red Sox (338 feet)
On July 19 at Fenway Park, Ross hit an Addison Reed pitch into the monster seats for a walk-off home run. The 338-foot HR is the longest “wall-scarper” this season. It was Ross’ shortest home run since he hit one 337 feet off Hiroki Kuroda in 2008.

Moonshot of the Month: Highest apex HR (maximum vertical height ball reaches)
June Winner: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds (152 feet)
July Winner: Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians (154 feet)
Hafner’s 363-foot HR off Ricky Romero on July 13 was the third-highest in 2012. The two home runs with higher apexes in 2012: 366-foot home run by Todd Helton on April 14 that had an apex of 162 feet, and a 419-foot bomb by Paul Goldschmidt on April 6 that reached a height of 156 feet.

Liner of the Month: Lowest apex HR
June Winner: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (43 feet)
July Winners: Ryan Ludwick, Cincinnati Reds and Casey Kotchman, Cleveland Indians (47 feet)
Ludwick’s 361-foot HR on July 14 was his lowest apex since the beginning of the tracker in 2006. Kotchman’s 354-foot shot on July 4 also had an apex of 47 feet, the lowest at Progressive Field since May of 2010.

Mother Nature: Most climate-impacted HR
June Winner: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds (+67 feet)
July Winner: Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies (+50 feet)
On July 28, the wind was blowing out at Coors Field when Michael Cuddyer’s 363-foot home run was aided by a 13 mph wind. That carried the ball an extra 50 feet. Only four home runs at Coors Field have been more wind-aided since 2006.

Masher of the Month: Player with greatest average distance (min. 5 HR)
June Winner: Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks (425.8 feet)
July Winner: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (424.9 feet)
Cabrera’s nine home runs in July had an average distance of 424.9 feet, more than five feet more than the next closest player, Edwin Encarnacion. Four of Cabrera’s nine July home runs went at least 440 feet, including his 300th career HR, which went 457 feet.

Team Power Outage of the Month: Team with fewest HR
June Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers (6)
July Winner: San Francisco Giants (14)
After relinquishing the June award to their NL West rivals, the San Francisco Giants once again take the award for fewest home runs. The Giants hit just 14 in July, three more than the 11 the Giants hit in May. Only two of the Giants’ 14 HR in July were hit at home.
This is the Home Run Derby edition of our Home Run Tracker awards, focusing on the eight players competing in the Derby on Monday night. The awards are for home runs hit in the first half of the regular season.

All information goes back to the 2006 season, the first year of the ESPN Home Run Tracker Database.

NO DOUBTER -- Given to the player who hit the home run with the longest true distance

Carlos Beltran
Beltran
Winner: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals (464 feet)

Beltran hit an Ian Kennedy pitch 464 feet on May 8, his longest since Sept. 28, 2007, when he hit one 466 feet. Of the eight participants, Beltran is the only one to eclipse the 460-foot mark this season.

WALL SCRAPER -- Given to the player who hit the home run with the shortest true distance

Winner: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (340 feet)

Bautista’s home run off Dillon Gee on May 20 had a true distance of 340 feet. Bautista has the two shortest homers of the eight participants and is the only one to hit a home run fewer than 350 feet. He does have two homers of more than 450 feet, as well, so not all of his are short ones.

Mark Trumbo
Trumbo
MASHER -- Given to the player with the greatest average home run distance

Winner: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Trumbo’s 22 home runs have averaged 419.5 feet, the best in all of baseball (min. 10 home runs). Eighteen of his 22 home runs went farther than 400 feet, including two that went farther than 450.

MOONSHOT -- Given to the player who hit the home run with the highest apex (Apex: the maximum vertical height a ball reaches during its flight)

Winner: Trumbo (151 feet)

On June 10, Mark Trumbo hit a 364-foot home run with an apex of 151 feet, the fifth highest of the season; no other participant has a homer with an apex higher than 140 feet.

Carlos Gonzalez
Gonzalez
LINER -- Given to the player who hit the home run with the lowest apex

Winner: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (46 feet).

Gonzalez and Robinson Cano each had a 46-foot apex home run, but Gonzalez wins the tiebreaker because his left the park in 3.15 seconds compared to Cano’s 3.44. Gonzalez won this award on April 29 in extra innings off Frank Francisco.


FASTBALL -- Given to the player whose home run had the fastest speed off the bat

Jose Bautista
Bautista
Winner: Bautista (117.5 mph)

Giancarlo Stanton originally had this award before his knee injury forced him out of the Derby, when his 462-foot home run had a speed off the bat of 122.4 mph on May 21, breaking the left-field scoreboard at Marlins Park. With Stanton out, Bautista takes his second award when his 430-foot home run on May 16 had a speed off the bat of 117.5 mph.

MOTHER NATURE -- Given to the player who hit the most climate-impacted home run

Winner: Beltran

At Kauffman Stadium off Jonathan Sanchez on June 24, Beltran hit a 386-foot home run aided 50 feet by a 13 mph wind. If those same wind conditions exist Monday, the Derby will be quite an event.

Beltran, CarGo strong NL picks in derby

July, 9, 2012
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Here is a breakdown of the National League players in the Home Run Derby (ESPN, 8 ET) field as well as players not in the field who merit consideration based on analysis from information provided by ESPN Home Run Tracker. Click here to check out our American League breakdown.

Of the 64 home runs hit at Kauffman Stadium this season, 24 have gone to left field (37.5 percent). The average home run distance there is 413.0 feet, second only to Coors Field in Colorado (414.2 feet). The participants likely to have the most success Monday night will have power to left field and have a high average home run distance.

Carlos Beltran
Beltran
Carlos Beltran
The only switch-hitter in the field, Beltran has hit 15 of his 20 home runs from the left side of the plate. It might serve Beltran better to hit right-handed, as the three homers he hit to left field came as a right-handed batter. Only five of his home runs would not have been out of Kauffman Stadium and only six went fewer than 400 feet.

Carlos Gonzalez
Gonzalez averages 412.4 feet per home run, the best in the National League (min. 15 home runs). Despite hitting just two homers to left field, Gonzalez has hit 11 that would have been out of Kauffman Stadium.

Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen replaces Giancarlo Stanton, who had four home runs of more than 450 feet, the most in the majors. McCutchen has 18 homers, but he doesn’t have a single 450-foot home run and averages only 398.9 feet per homer.

Matt Kemp
Kemp
Matt Kemp
Kemp is in because he’s the captain. He did hit 12 home runs in April but just four of them would have been home runs at Kauffman. None of those 12 went to left field and Kemp barely averages 400 feet per home run (400.2).

Other NL players who are not in the field but warrant consideration:

Ryan Braun
Braun leads the NL in home runs by a wide margin with 24, but averages just 405.6 feet per homer. Fewer than half of them would have left Kauffman (11), and only five were hit to left field.

Matt Holliday
Holliday
Matt Holliday
Holliday has only 14 home runs, but he’s averaged 410.4 feet per long ball. Half of his homers went to left field and eight would have been out of Kauffman.

Wilin Rosario
Rosario would have been an interesting choice had he made the All-Star team. He averages 412.8 feet per home run and only four have traveled fewer than 400 feet. He has one 450-foot blast and 10 of his 14 homers would have been out of Kauffman.
It might be time for reruns on the television networks, but it was sweeps week as the second round of interleague play began. Six series ended with one team winning all three games, including the Citrus Series between the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays.

The mood has been bright in Tampa since the word Devil was removed from the team’s name, and the Rays are well on their way to taking the season series against the Marlins for the fourth time in the last five years. The Rays swept the series by outscoring Miami 22-7 in their first trip to Marlins Park.

Expect that to continue when the series shifts to Tropicana Field next weekend. The Rays have won 9 of their last 12 games against the Marlins in St. Petersburg.

Miami keeps switching directions with each turn of the calendar. After going 8-14 in April, the Marlins went 21-8 in May, accumulating the most wins in a single month in franchise history. The tide has turned since then, as Miami has lost six straight and is 2-7 in June.

The Marlins next series is at home against the Boston Red Sox, another team that is coming off a weekend whitewashing. The Red Sox were swept by the Washington Nationals at Fenway Park. Heading into the series, the Nationals/Expos franchise had never won in nine games in Boston.

Washington did something that no National League team had done since 2002. That June, the Atlanta Braves swept a series at Fenway Park, the last time the Red Sox were swept at home in an interleague series. Between the two sweeps, Boston compiled a 58-23 record at home in interleague play.

The sweep craze also swept into the Bronx for the Subway Series. The New York Yankees swept the New York Mets at Yankee Stadium for the first time since 2003. Russell Martin hit a walk-off home run as the Yankees won 5-4 on Sunday. It was the first walk-off homer by the Yankees in the history of the Subway Series.

The series win for the Yankees shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the Subway Series is one of the more lopsided in interleague history. The Bronx Bombers are 52-35 against the Mets in regular-season play. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees’ .598 winning percentage is the highest by a team against an in-state opponent in interleague play.

Former Yankee A.J. Burnett was also part of a sweep this weekend, as the Pittsburgh Pirates swept the Kansas City Royals. Burnett has now won five straight starts, which Elias points out is his longest streak since winning six straight in 2008 for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Los Angeles Angels swept the Colorado Rockies in Denver to extend their road winning streak to nine games. That’s tied for the longest streak away from home in the majors this season, and is two games short of the franchise-record 11 straight in 1988. The Baltimore Orioles won nine straight road games in May.

The Arizona Diamondbacks finished up a sweep of the Oakland Athletics with Joe Saunders picking up the win. It was the 13th win of Saunders’ career against the A’s. Elias confirms that it is the most wins by a pitcher against Oakland since Saunders picked up his first win against them in 2006.
Jamie Moyer will make his ninth start of the season for the Colorado Rockies on Monday when he faces the Miami Marlins.

Forty games into the season and the Rockies will look to the 49-year-old lefty to be the first Colorado pitcher to win back-to-back starts this season. (Moyer beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in his last start.)

The Rockies are the only team that does not have a pitcher who has won consecutive starts this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Moyer will oppose Mark Buehrle, marking the first time in almost four years that opposing starters had made a combined 1,000 starts. On Sept. 19, 2008, Barry Zito and the Giants beat Greg Maddux and the Dodgers, in what turned out to be the final loss of Maddux's career.

Also when Moyer takes the mound on Monday at Marlins Park, it will be the 50th major-league stadium he’s pitched in during his 25-year career. The only active stadium that Moyer has not pitched in is Target Field in Minnesota. Among players to debut since 1900, Moyer has pitched at the most parks (regular-season games only), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The matchup will also feature a pitcher with more than 250 wins (Moyer, 269) against one who has thrown two no-hitters. According to Elias, the last time a pitcher with at least 250 wins opposed a pitcher with at least two no-hitters was June 21, 2005, when Randy Johnson faced Hideo Nomo.

- Kenton Wong, Doug Kern and Nate Jones contributed to this post.
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories.

1. CLIPPERS MAKE HISTORIC COMEBACK: The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, 99-98, in Game One of their First-Round series. The Clippers trailed by 21 points at the end of the third quarter. The win tied the shot-clock era playoff record for the largest deficit overcome at the end of the third quarter. (2002 Boston Celtics vs New Jersey Nets)

2. BYNUM RECORDS TRIPLE-DOUBLE IN WIN: Andrew Bynum recorded a triple-double (10 Pts, 13 Reb, 10 Blk) in the Los Angeles Lakers 103-88 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game One on Sunday. According to Elias, was the first triple-double by a center in an NBA playoff game since May 7, 1993, when David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs (20 points, 17 rebounds, 11 assists) did it against the Portland Trail Blazers.

3. RONDO EJECTED, CELTICS DEJECTED: Rajon Rondo was ejected for bumping a referee during the fourth quarter of the Celtics 83-74 Game One loss to the Atlanta Hawks. NEXT LEVEL: If Rondo is suspended, the Celtics offense will likely take a hit. The Celtics averaged over seven points more per 100 possessions with Rondo on the floor this season compared to when he was off the floor or out.

4. RAYS ROMP RANGERS IN SERIES: The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Texas Rangers, 5-2, taking two of three games in their weekend series against the defending AL champions. According to Elias, the Rangers had won each of their seven previous series this season, tying them for the second-longest streak of consecutive series wins to begin a season for a team that had gone to the World Series the previous year. The 1907 Chicago Cubs won their first 11 series and the 2003 San Francisco Giants won their first seven.

5. METS WIN A CLOSE ONE: The New York Mets defeated the Colorado Rockies, 6-5 in 11 innings. According to Elias, it was the second victory in franchise history in which the Mets allowed a pair of game-tying home runs in the 8th inning or later. The other was New York's classic 19-inning, 16-13 win at the Atlanta Braves on July 4, 1985.

Nationals walk off with wild win over Reds

April, 12, 2012
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Most frequent pitch locations for Gio Gonzalez vs Reds on Thursday.
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Don’t look now, but the Washington Nationals have zoomed to the top of the NL East following their 3-2, extra-inning win over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday afternoon.

The Nationals improved to 5-2, their best start since moving to Washington, and also win their first home opener since 2008. This is just the second time in the last 15 seasons the franchise has won five of its first seven games. In 2001, the Montreal Expos were 6-1 after seven games.

The Nats took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning but Brad Lidge blew the save, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks. Lidge had allowed just one run over his previous 16 appearances dating to August of last year.

The Nationals won it in the 10th inning thanks to a wild outing by Reds reliever Alfredo Simon. Simon hit Ryan Zimmerman to lead off the inning and Zimmerman eventually came around to score four batters later on Simon’s wild pitch with Roger Bernadina at the plate.

This was the Nationals’ fifth win on a game-ending wild pitch since moving to Washington in 2005. Entering Thursday, the Nats had lost their last six extra-inning games against the Reds and were 0-5 in one-run games versus Cincinnati over the last two season.

Gio Gonzalez got a no-decision but deserved the win, tossing seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and just two hits allowed.

Gonzalez had success going low as Reds hitters went 0-for-11 in at-bats ending with pitches down in the zone or below. Gonzalez also did a good job finishing off batters, allowing zero hits in 13 at-bats that reached a two-strike count.

Around The Diamond
• The Minnesota Twins came back from a six-run deficit against the Los Angeles Angels thanks to home runs from both Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. It was the first time that Morneau and Mauer homered in the same game since July 6, 2010.

Matt Garza
Garza
• Matt Garza fell one out short of a shutout when he was pulled after 119 pitches in the ninth inning of the Chicago Cubs 8-0 win. Garza had his slider working, throwing 31 of them, as the Milwaukee Brewers were hitless including five strikeouts in nine at-bats ending with the pitch.

• The Detroit Tigers improved to 5-1 this season with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Austin Jackson scored a run and has now crossed home plate in all six games this season, the longest streak to start the season by a Tiger since Darrell Evans scored in the first eight games in 1986.

• Madison Bumgarner took a no-hitter into the sixth inning as the San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 4-2. Bumgarner recorded a career-high 14 ground-ball outs (including a double play) with eight of them coming in at-bats ending in sliders.

For Verlander, some fastballs were too fast

April, 11, 2012
4/11/12
11:52
PM ET
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesAfter pitching 16 scoreless innings to start the season, Justin Verlander picked up the Tigers' first loss by allowing four runs in the ninth inning against the Rays.
For eight innings on Wednesday, Justin Verlander pitched like the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young winner. Twenty-three pitches later, the Detroit Tigers were on the way to their first loss of the season.

Verlander needed just 81 pitches to get through the first eight innings against the Tampa Bay Rays with the Tigers leading 2-0. That brought him to 16 scoreless innings with just three hits allowed on the season. In the ninth, he allowed four runs after surrendering three hits and a walk.

Verlander was the first pitcher to throw eight scoreless innings before allowing four or more runs in the ninth inning to take a loss since Tim Hudson for the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 22, 2005, against the Philadelphia Phillies.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s the first starting pitcher to pick up a loss after allowing no runs on one hit or fewer in the first eight innings of a game his team led entering the ninth since Mark Langston of the Seattle Mariners in 1989. Langston took a no-hitter into the ninth inning before losing to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Verlander struggled with his fastball in the ninth inning, seemingly from over-throwing the pitch. In his first 16 innings this season, Verlander averaged 93.1 mph on his fastball, reaching a maximum velocity of 97.9. On 13 fastballs in the ninth inning against the Rays, every pitch came in above that average. He measured as high as 99.5 mph and averaged 97.2 during the frame.

Even with the extra oomph, the Rays were able to get to Verlander because he was leaving the ball over the plate. Entering the ninth, opposing hitters were 2-for-25 against Verlander’s fastball as he threw only eight percent down the heart of the plate. In the ninth inning, he threw 31 percent of his fastballs straight down the middle, including two hits by the Rays.

Quick Hits

• With the Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks losing and the Minnesota Twins winning, every major-league team has at least one win and one loss.

• Six days after tying a career-high by allowing 10 hits against the St. Louis Cardinals, Josh Johnson didn’t make it out of the fourth inning against the Phillies after allowing a career-high 11 hits.

• Peter Bourjos hit the second inside-the-park home run in Target Field history. The ball traveled 372 feet and would have been out of 10 ballparks.

• Tim Lincecum lasted just 2⅓ innings against the Colorado Rockies, his shortest outing in 157 career starts.

• The Oakland Athletics won in the bottom of the 12th inning when Jonny Gomes was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. It was the first time game-ending hit by pitch since … Brad Lidge hit Gomes as the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies on August 21, 2011. From Elias, it was the first game to end with back-to-back hit batters since 1966.

• Stephen Strasburg tossed six scoreless innings, topping 100 pitches for the first time in 19 career starts with the Nationals.
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories

1. DARVISH ROUGHED UP, BUT GETS WIN IN DEBUT: Yu Darvish allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings in his MLB Debut, including four in the first inning. However, he got the win as the Texas Rangers won 11-5 against the Seattle Mariners. FROM ELIAS: He was the first pitcher in more than 100 years to win his major-league debut in a start in which he allowed four or more runs in the first inning. That had last been done by Bill Steele of the 1910 St. Louis Cardinals, who surrendered five runs to the Cincinnati Reds in the opening frame of his first big-league game, but was credited with the win when St. Louis rallied for a 14-7 victory.

Barry Zito
Zito
2. ZITO THROWS FIRST SHUTOUT IN A WHILE: Barry Zito threw his first shutout since 2003 as the San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. FROM ELIAS: Zito ended his streak of 274 consecutive starts without a shutout, the third-longest drought in major-league history. Tim Wakefield (353 straight, from 1997 to 2011) and Kirk Rueter (299 in a row, from 1995-2005) had longer spans.

3. SPURS STREAK ENDS: The San Antonio Spurs' 11-game winning streak was snapped after a 91-84 loss to the Utah Jazz. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili didn’t play on Monday. It is the second time this season that Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili didn’t play in a loss that snapped an 11-game win streak. The first time was on February 21 in a 40-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

4. THREE TEAMS GET FIRST WIN, TWO STILL LOOKING: The Giants, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees all won Monday, leaving just two winless teams remaining in MLB. The Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins both dropped to 0-4 with losses. It’s the Braves worst start since 1988 when they started 0-10. It’s the Twins worst start since 1981, also an 0-4 start.

5. KNICKS-BULLS ... THE REMATCH: The New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls square off in Chicago on Tuesday. The two teams met two days ago in New York with the Knicks winning 100-99 in overtime. Carmelo Anthony scored a season-high 43 points in that game and became the fifth player in the last five seasons to make a game-tying shot in the last 15 seconds in regulation, then make the game-winning shot in the last 15 seconds in OT.

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