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Tuesday, August 10, 2010
1st Pitch: Awards watch

By Gregg Found, ESPN Stats & Info

Today’s Trivia: The Seattle Mariners became the first team in major league history to turn a triple play for a manager who was making his debut, turning the trick for Daren Brown on Monday. Today is also the anniversary of Rafael Furcal’s unassisted triple play, which at the time was the 12th in MLB history. The M’s have been on the wrong end of an unassisted triple play before. Who turned it, what team did he play for and what year was it?

Hint: Mike Blowers was on 2nd base for Seattle and Kevin Mitchell was on 1st when the triple play started.

Quick Hits: Suppose the season ended today. Who would you pick for most of MLB’s top awards? Let’s look at some contenders who could make team history if they win:

Joey Votto has to be the frontrunner for NL MVP this season. The last Cincinnati Reds player to win MVP? Barry Larkin in 1995. Before Larkin, the Big Red Machine owned the MVP award, winning six in an eight-year span (1970-77), with four different Reds players taking the trophy.

But suppose Albert Pujols overtakes Votto. That would give Pujols three straight MVP awards, something only Barry Bonds has done.

But suppose Carlos Gonzalez overtakes them both. Or Ubaldo Jimenez regains form and wins the Cy Young. Only one Colorado Rockies player has won an MVP or a Cy Young in the franchise’s history. Larry Walker was MVP in 1997.

Josh Johnson is your NL ERA leader, but no Florida Marlin has ever won the Cy Young (or the MVP, for that matter).

If Miguel Cabrera wins the AL MVP, he’d be the first Detroit Tiger since Willie Hernandez in 1984 to do so. But he’d be the first Tigers batter since Charlie Gehringer in 1937.

CC Sabathia is in a battle to win the AL Cy Young award. Sabathia has already won one with the Cleveland Indians. The only other pitcher to win an AL Cy for more than one team: Roger Clemens.

If Cliff Lee can convince voters to give him the Cy Young (he leads the AL in Wins Above Replacement), he’d be the first Texas Rangers pitcher to win it. The closest that Nolan Ryan got as a Ranger was 5th. Ferguson Jenkins was 2nd as a Ranger in 1974.

Today’s Leaderboard: How many guesses would you need to come up with the Baltimore Orioles as the AL team with the most walk-off wins this season? Yep, the O’s have celebrated the most with nine walk-off wins. But they’ve had their fair share of heartbreak too, with seven walk-off losses. Here are the teams who have had more walk-off elation than deflation this season:

Maybe it really is the Padres’ year.

Key Matchups: The Chicago Cubs have averaged just 2.5 runs per game over their last four games and the bats aren’t likely to awake against Tim Lincecum tonight. Cubs batters who have faced Lincecum before have combined for far more strikeouts against him (27) than hits (18). The two main scapegoats are Aramis Ramirez and Mike Fontentot; they’re both 1-13 in their career against Lincecum, combining for 10 K.

Have a “K” ready in your scorebook when Vladimir Guerrero faces A.J. Burnett tonight. Guerrero has fanned 11 times against Burnett in 45 career AB. There are nine pitchers that Guerrero has faced more times than Burnett, but only one – Felix Hernandez – has struck him out more often.

Ricky Romero has to be breathing a sigh of relief. Of the four players slugging the highest against him (min. 10 PA), three are from the Red Sox. But two won’t step in the box against him tonight – Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. Instead, Romero might want to think about a four-finger salute to David Ortiz; Ortiz is 6-13 with a home run and three doubles against Romero.

Trivia Answer: John Valentin of the Red Sox turned the unassisted triple play on July 8, 1994. Not a bad sequence for Valentin – he led off the bottom of that inning and smoked a home run!

Bonus points if you knew that the Valentin unassisted triple play game was the same one where Alex Rodriguez made his MLB debut. A-Rod, batting ninth, went 0-3. He batted ninth the rest of the season.