Stats & Info: Marco Scutaro

Welcome to the show: Inside Cole's debut

June, 11, 2013
The Pittsburgh Pirates will unleash one of baseball's most promising prospects as former No. 1 pick Gerrit Cole takes the mound on Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants.

Here's a look at some of the key stats to know about tonight's matchup.

The History
Cole is the third right-handed pitcher to be drafted No. 1 overall by the Pirates (Kris Benson and Bryan Bullington). No other team has drafted more than one right-hander No. 1 overall.

Bullington rates as one of the least successful No. 1 picks ever. Of the No. 1 overall picks to reach the majors prior to Cole, Bullington has the fewest big-league wins (1).

The Pirates haven’t had a starting pitcher win his major-league debut since Paul Maholm against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005. The last nine Pirates starters to make their debut are a combined 0-4 with five no-decisions. The nine-start streak is the longest for any team.

Maholm is the only one to win since the start of the 2002 season.

Inside the Matchup
Among the challenges that Cole will face.

Giants catcher Buster Posey is hitting .328 with a .920 OPS in his last 32 games, and enters with 10 hits in his last 28 at-bats.

What to watch for: Posey’s recent history against right-handed pitchers is that he thrives when they throw him a fastball inside. His .367 in at-bats that end with fastballs/sinkers/cutters on the inner-half of the plate or just off the outside corner, ranks 15th-best in the majors since the start of 2012.

Second baseman Marco Scutaro is hitting .405 with eight walks and only three strikeouts in his last 26 games. He enters ninth in the majors in hitting with a .332 batting average.

What to watch for: Scutaro entered Monday ranked fourth in the majors in batting average with two strikes, .311.

Right fielder Hunter Pence is hitting .316 with 21 extra-base hits in his last 35 games.

What to watch for: Pence has been aggressive on the basepaths recently, with 12 steals and no caught stealing this season. Keeping runners close has been an issue for Cole in 2013. In Triple-A, he allowed 16 stolen bases in 17 attempts.

Cole’s rival moundsman will be Tim Lincecum, who is coming off one of his best starts of the season—seven innings, one run, three hits, with six strikeouts against the Blue Jays.

What to watch for: Pirates slugger Andrew McCutchen is 1-for-12 against Lincecum, one of six pitchers against whom he has 10 ore more at-bats and a sub-.100 batting average. The others: Roy Oswalt, Matt Cain, Bronson Arroyo, Travis Wood, and Roy Halladay

The last 3 No. 1 picks to debut
Here's a look at the last 3 No. 1 picks to make their MLB debut

David Price (September 14, 2008 vs Yankees)
Price made his MLB debut a little more than a year after being selected No. 1, pitching 5 1/3 innings of relief and allowing 2 runs in a loss to the Yankees.

Later that season, Price would be pitching in a pretty important spot-- closing out the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS.

Stephen Strasburg (June 8, 2010 vs Pirates)
Strasburg had an electrifying debut against the Pirates, striking out 14 in 7 IP, one shy of the record for strikeouts in a debut.

Bryce Harper (April 28, 2012 at Dodgers)
Harper went 1-for-3 with a double and RBI in his debut against the Dodgers. Harper was the 4th teenager since 1969 to get an extra-base hit in his major-league debut-- the other 3: Ken Griffey Jr., Adrian Beltre, and Jose Reyes.

Cabrera, Scutaro, Davis, amazing in May

May, 31, 2013

AP Photo/John F. RhodesMiguel Cabrera got a lot of high-fives this month.

Jose Valverde’s ninth-inning implosion spoiled the final day of the month for the Detroit Tigers.

But when you look back on the month as a whole, you’ll see something else- one of the great months in the history of the sport put up by Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera’s homer gave him a dozen in May, the most of anyone in the American League. Cabrera won the AL Triple Crown for the Month, hitting .379 with 12 home runs and 33 runs batted in.

He’s the first player to hit for that high a batting average, with that many home runs and that many RBI in the month of May since Mickey Mantle hit .414 with 16 home runs and 35 RBI for the 1956 Yankees, a season that concluded with his winning the Triple Crown. The full list, via the Elias Sports Bureau, is in the chart on the right.

Elias also tells us that Cabrera is the first player in MLB history to enter the month of June with a batting average of at least .340 as well as at least 15 home runs and 60 RBI.

For a Next Level look about what’s made Cabrera’s home runs special this season, check our blog post from earlier in the day.

Who else had a great month of May on the offensive end?

Here are two other hitters who were among the game’s most impressive.

Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants
The St.Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants had their game postponed, allowing Scutaro to finish with a .420 average, highest in the majors for the month.

The Giants second baseman, who rarely swings and misses, whiffed only three times in 100 at-bats.

He became only the third player since World War II ended in 1945 with a .420 batting average in a calendar month in which he had at least 100 at-bats and fewer than three strikeouts.

The other two are Hall-of-Famers Lou Boudreau (August 1948 for Indians) and Tony Gwynn (August 1993 and May 1997 for Padres).

Scutaro owned the outer half of the plate. He was 25-for-49 in at-bats that ended with a pitch that was in that area, or just off the outside corner. He missed on only three of 85 swings against those pitches.

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
Davis hit .364 with 10 homers in May and capped the month with a hit in the Orioles’ ninth-inning rally against the Tigers, which was won on a walk-off homer by another Chris—- Chris Dickerson.

Davis is the first Orioles player to have that high a batting average with that many homers in a calendar month since Albert Belle hit .364 with 12 homers in June 2000.

He finished with the highest slugging percentage (.768) of anyone in the majors and the second-highest wOBA (weighted on-base average) of any player this month, with his .491 trailing only Cabrera’s .499.

Davis has been a very tough out with two strikes through the first two months of the season. His 12 two-strike homers in 2013 have already surpassed the 10 he hit in 2012.

Davis is hitting .287 with two strikes this season. He hit only .161 in two-strike counts in 2012.

The year in MLB heat maps

December, 31, 2012
With 2012 about to come to a close, we thought we'd take one more look at the baseball season.

We'll do so both in words and with heat maps-- visual images that may bring back a memory, or tell you something about the greatness of a particular moment or performances.

The Year of the Triple Crown

Miguel Cabrera became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown. He produced one of the most memorable baseball seasons in recent memory.

Cabrera helped the Detroit Tigers all the way to the World Series, by outhitting and outsluggling everyone in his path.

He solidified his finish and the Tigers pennant hopes by hitting .333 with 11 home runs and 30 runs batted in in September/October.

Cabrera would go on to win the AL MVP in a much-discussed resounding victory.

The Year Buster Posey Returned

Sidelined for a good portion of 2011, Buster Posey returned to form in the latter part of 2012 to cop MVP honors and help the San Francisco Giants to the World Series.

Posey hit .385 after the All-Star Break, a batting average 35 points better than anyone else in the majors and a number topped only three times in Giants history.

The Giants have won two World Series in three seasons with Posey as of their most important figures. He's establishing very early in his career that he'll be a player not to be forgotten.

The Year of Trout

Mike Trout lived up to his billing as one of baseball's most touted prospects. It didn't take long before he was the best player in the game.

Trout was a five-tool player who seemed like he could do almost anything at bat or in the field.

He hit .326 and finished one stolen base shy of a 30-homer/50 steal season.

He also robbed four players of home runs with his running, leaping catches at the fence.

...and Harper
Bryce Harper had some weaknesses in his game, but improved significantly upon those in helping the Washington Nationals to the NL East title.

Harper showed he would not be intimidated by stealing home after Cole Hamels hit him with a pitch.

His numbers in the season's final month were among baseball's best.

The AL and NL Rookies of the Year showed the ability that has many thinking they’ll be two of the biggest stars of this generation.

Each brought an intensity and skill that wowed fans of all ages.

The Year of Josh Hamilton's Extremes

Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton looked like he was going to be the one contending for the Triple Crown in the early part of the season.

In his first 27 games, he hit .406 with 14 home runs and 36 RBI, capped by a four-homer game against the Baltimore Orioles.

What was most interesting about those four homers is that they came against pitches on the outer-third of the plate.

Those same pitches would give him quite a bit of trouble later in the season.

As good as Hamilton was early in the season, he struggled almost as much in the year's final weeks.

In his last 26 games (including the one-game playoff against those same Orioles), Hamilton struck out 39 times and missed on 45 percent of his swings.

Pitchers took advantage of his overeagerness repeatedly getting him to chase pitches out of the strike zone.

Hamilton went 2-for-17 in his last four games, a rough end to his Rangers career.

But his greatness was still enough to net him five years and $123 million from the Angels this offseason.

The Year of Perfection

There were a major-league record three perfect games in 2012, thrown by Philip Humber, Matt Cain, and Felix Hernandez.

Humber's was special for its unlikely nature. His 11 wins entering his perfecto start were the second-fewest by anyone at the time of their perfect game.

Cain's was magical, remembered both for his strikeout total (14, tying Sandy Koufax's record for strikeouts in a perfect game) and the great defensive play by Gregor Blanco to save it.

Hernandez's was great because of his dominance with both his fastball and his offspeed pitches. All 12 of his strikeouts came with his offspeed stuff.

The Year of the Knuckleball

New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey brought the knuckleball to new heights in 2012.

Dickey found a way to command and dominate with a pitch that baffled opposing hitters.

Dickey resorted to a few new tricks, throwing it a little harder than usual and a little higher than usual.

The image at right shows Dickey’s success vs lefties. He whiffed as many in 2012 (110) as he did in 2010 and 2011 combined.

He finished with 230 strikeouts in all, becoming the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young Award.

The Year the Orioles Flew High

No one figured on the Baltimore Orioles making the postseason in 2012, but this overachieving group put together one of the more improbable runs on its way to winning a wild card spot.

Buoyed by timely hitting and a great bullpen, the Orioles won 16 straight extra-inning games.

The Orioles didn't have anyone who ranked among baseball's best in Wins Above Replacement, but their sum was greater than their parts.

Adam Jones epitomized Baltimore’s late-game magic by smacking four game-winning extra-inning homers.

The Orioles outlasted the Rays and challenged the Yankees for the AL East title, then took New York to five games in the ALDS.

The Year of the Unlikely Athletics

After a major offseason overhaul, the 2012 Oakland Athletics roster was comprised of a cast of unlikely standouts, who somehow knocked off the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels to win the AL West.

Grant Balfour was among many who achieved beyond their usual means and had a little something left at season’s end. He closed the season with seven saves and a win in his last 10 appearances.

Lefties hit .157 against Balfour in 2012. The last 13 to face him were retired.

The Year of the Scutaro

Marco Scutaro was an afterthought to many in baseball after the Giants picked him up late in the season, but he’d be anything but an afterthought the rest of the way.

Scutaro hit .362 in the final 61 games of the regular season. Then, after nearly being taken out of the series on a hard slide from Matt Holliday, he bounced back up and finished as NLCS MVP with a .500 batting average.

To cap off the amazing end to the season, Scutaro got the winning hit for the Giants in extra innings in their World Series-clinching win against the Tigers.

Giant surprise: A World Series sweep

October, 29, 2012

Getty Images/Doug PensingerPablo Sandoval’s three-homer game in Game 1 set the tone for the 2012 World Series sweep.
The 2012 World Series ended in dramatic fashion, with San Francisco Giants closer Sergio Romo catching Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera looking with a fastball for Game 4’s final strike.

It was the first called strikeout for Romo all postseason. He’d been known to throw the slider with two strikes, but he caught Cabrera by surprise with that pitch.

That was fitting, because this was a series of surprises. Let’s summarize some of the highlights here.

A significant sweep
This was the Giants' seventh World Series title and their third World Series sweep. Their previous sweep was in 1954 against the Cleveland Indians.

The Giants' seven World Series titles are tied for fourth-most all-time with the Boston Red Sox. They passed the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second-most by a National League franchise. Only the St. Louis Cardinals have more among NL teams, with 11.

The Giants are the first team to sweep a World Series since the 2007 Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies. It’s the first sweep by an NL team since the 1990 Cincinnati Reds swept the Oakland Athletics.

The Giants became the first team to win an NL Championship Series in seven games and then sweep a World Series. The only teams to do so in the American League are the 2004 Red Sox and 2007 Red Sox.

The Giants have won six straight World Series games, tied for the second-longest streak by an NL team. The Reds won nine straight from 1975 to 1990.

The Giants are the first NL team to win two World Series in a three-year span since the 1975 and 1976 Reds. The Reds also swept for the second of those two victories.

This marked the first time the NL has won three straight World Series since the NL won four straight from 1979 to 1982. That’s the only time the NL has won more than three straight World Series.

Most Valuable Panda
Pablo Sandoval won World Series MVP honors, marking the second straight year they were won by a third baseman. David Freese of the Cardinals took home that trophy last season.

Sandoval hit .500 with three homers in the World Series, benchmarks hit previously by only Babe Ruth (1928 Yankees), Lou Gehrig (1928 and 1932 Yankees) and Hideki Matsui.

Sandoval is the fifth third baseman to win World Series MVP honors in the past 15 seasons, joining Scott Brosius (1998 Yankees), Troy Glaus (2002 Angels), Mike Lowell (2007 Red Sox) and Freese.

Sandoval set a Giants record for most hits in a single postseason, breaking the previous mark set by J.T. Snow in 2002.

Scutaro’s Giant moment
Marco Scutaro, nearly knocked out of the postseason by a Matt Holliday slide, had the game-winning hit in the 10th inning Sunday. He’s the fourth player to get an extra-inning game-winning RBI in a World Series clincher on the road.

He’s in the company of three Hall of Famers: Mel Ott (1933 Giants), Joe DiMaggio (1939 Yankees) and Dave Winfield (1992 Blue Jays).

Giants Among Men
Although Sandoval won MVP honors, one of the biggest stories of the season was the Giants' pitching staff.

Giants pitchers held the Tigers to a .159 batting average, the third-lowest by a team in a single World Series. The only teams that fared worse than the Tigers were the 1966 Dodgers (.142) and 1969 Orioles (.146).

Giants pitchers allowed six runs in the World Series, tied for the third-fewest by an NL team, and the fewest since the 1963 Dodgers limited the Yankees to four runs.

The NL record is three runs allowed, set by the Giants' franchise as well -- against the Philadelphia Athletics in 1905.

Cain looks to win another clincher

October, 28, 2012

Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesMatt Cain gets the start Sunday as the Giants look to sweep the Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series
Matt Cain will look to close out the sweep for the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of the World Series Sunday.

Although Cain hasn’t been as dominant this postseason as he was in 2010, he still has a chance to make some history. If he picks up the win, he’ll become just the third pitcher in MLB history to get the win in the clinching game of three series in a single postseason according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The others are Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees in 2009 and Derek Lowe of the Red Sox in 2004 (one of Lowe’s wins came in relief).

Finishing with the Fastball
Cain looked to have his stuff back in his last start against the Cardinals, helped by his ability to get outs when the count went to two strikes. In his first three starts of the postseason, Cain allowed seven hits (including three home runs) in two-strike counts. But in his last start, the Cardinals went 2-for-14 with four strikeouts. The key for Cain will be to use his fastball in two-strike counts, where opponents are hitting .087 (2-for-27) in two-strike at-bats ending with a fastball.

Among Tigers hitters, the only ones with significant history against Cain in the regular season are Prince Fielder and Omar Infante who have each gone 5-for-18 (.278) against the Giants righty.

Max Urgency
Just like Cain, Max Scherzer brings the heat when he gets two strikes on a hitter. This postseason his average fastball velocity is 92.5 MPH when he has fewer than two strikes and 94.1 MPH when he has two strikes.

Max Scherzer
Last postseason Scherzer struggled mightily, allowing 10 runs in 15⅔ innings, but this year he’s been lights out – allowing one earned run in 11 innings while striking out 18.

The problem for Scherzer is that because he relies so heavily on strikeouts, his pitch count gets inflated. He reached the 90-pitch mark in the sixth inning of both his starts this postseason and didn’t finish either inning.

The Giants lineup on Sunday could feature up to six left-handed hitters – with the exceptions being Marco Scutaro, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

That shouldn’t be a problem for the Tigers’ flamethrower as he’s dominated lefties this postseason, allowing them only two hits in 29 at-bats while striking out 15.

Stats to Watch
• Only two teams have swept their League Championship Series only to be swept upon reaching the World Series: the 2007 Colorado Rockies and the 1990 Oakland Athletics.

• The Giants have four shutouts this postseason which is tied for the most in MLB history. The previous three teams to do it went on to win the World Series (2010 Giants, 1998 Yankees, 1905 Giants)

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Giants have not trailed in their last 54 innings this postseason. That is six innings shy of the single postseason record set by the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

Sandoval puts himself in Giant company

October, 25, 2012
The opening game of the World Series was as easy for the San Francisco Giants as each of the three games it won to close out the National League Championship Series.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the Giants are the second team to win four straight games, all by at least five runs in a single postseason (the only other is the 2007 Boston Red Sox).

In doing so, they had little trouble with one of the game’s biggest pitching stars.

Let’s look at some of the keys to their Game 1 victory.

Pablo’s Picasso
Pablo Sandoval became the fourth player to hit three home runs in a World Series game, joining Babe Ruth (1926 and 1928), Reggie Jackson (1977) and Albert Pujols (2011).

Sandoval’s 13 total bases are the second-most ever in a World Series game, trailing only the 14 by Pujols against the Texas Rangers last season.

Sandoval is the first player to hit home runs in each of his first three plate appearances in a World Series game and the first to hit three home runs in Game 1 of any postseason series.

Each of the two home runs that Sandoval had against Justin Verlander came against 95-mph fastballs.

Sandoval has three home runs against 95-mph pitches in the past six days (he hit one against the St. Louis Cardinals' Mitchell Boggs in the LCS). Since the start of the 2010 season, he only has two regular-season home runs against pitches thrown that fast.

Verlander’s World Series struggles continue
Verlander, who had won his previous seven starts with a sub-1.00 ERA, was hit hard in Game 1.

Verlander became the first American League pitcher to lose his first three World Series starts since Lefty Williams of the 1919 White Sox. (Williams was banned from baseball for his role in the “Black Sox” scandal.)

For the second straight start, Verlander didn’t have his usual putaway stuff. He threw 38 two-strike pitches, but finished with only four strikeouts.

In the regular season, Verlander averaged a strikeout for every five two-strike pitches he threw.

The Giants did well when they laid off Verlander’s offspeed pitches. They watched 21 of them go by and only two of those were called strikes.

Sandoval’s second home run came on a fastball after he passed up at swinging at a pair of changeups that were off the plate.

In all, the Giants had four hits in the six at-bats that ended with a Verlander fastball.

Zito tames the Tigers
In addition to winning with his arm, Giants starter Barry Zito won with his bat.

He became the first pitcher to drive in a run in Game 1 of the World Series since Mike Cuellar for the 1969 Baltimore Orioles.

The Giants became the first team in postseason history to have their starting pitchers drive in a run in four straight postseason games.

In fact, their starting pitchers have twice as many RBIs in their past four postseason games as they do runs allowed (two).

As for his mound work, Zito had a sharp breaking ball. He threw 29 of his 40 breaking pitches for strikes.

The pitch neutralized ALCS MVP Delmon Young, who went after a pair of Zito breaking balls that were off the plate and grounded out both times, once into a double play.

Lincecum provides the needed relief
Tim Lincecum continued his run of fine relief work in this postseason, striking out five of the seven batters he retired.

Lincecum became the first reliever to pitch at least 2 1/3 innings of baserunner-free relief, with at least five strikeouts since Todd Worrell for the 1985 Cardinals.

Detroit Tigers hitters missed on seven of their 14 swings against Lincecum and only put two of his 32 pitches into play. They took six swings against his changeup and slider and whiffed on all six.

Scutaro’s supporting role
Marco Scutaro picked up where he left off in the NLCS by going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. He’s now 16-for-32 since Game 1 of the NLCS. He has an 11-game postseason hitting streak, tied for the longest in team history with Irish Meusel.

Scutaro continued his run of swinging without missing. He has gone 27 straight swings without missing on one. For the postseason, he has swung at 89 pitches, netting 17 hits and only two swings-and-misses.

Can't miss Scutaro's impact in Giants win

October, 23, 2012

AP Photo/David PhillipMarco Scutaro had a picture-perfect swing in this year's NLCS.
The 2012 National League Championship Series ended with Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro catching the final out in a driving rainstorm.

It capped the most memorable of weeks for Scutaro and his teammates. It was one that didn't start well, with the Cardinals nearly delivering a knockout blow in the first four games.

In Scutaro's case, he was nearly knocked out of the series by a Matt Holliday slide trying to break up a double play.

But it ended with he and his teammates singing a championship tune in the rain.

Scutaro went from being a member of the cellar-dwelling Colorado Rockies to being one of the pivotal players in helping the Giants reach the World Series, where they'll face the Detroit Tigers.

This will be the Giants' 19th World Series appearance, second-most all-time, trailing only the 40 by the Yankees.

Let's take a look inside their NLCS win.

The History
The Giants became the second team to win six straight elimination games in a single postseason, joining the 1985 Royals.

They are the seventh team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the league championship series, the first since the 2007 Red Sox.

It marked the first time in team history that the Giants won a winner-take-all Game 7. They had lost their previous five.

The win also snapped the Cardinals' six-game winning streak in winner-take-all games, tied for the longest such streak in major league history.

The Cardinals now have blown 3-games-to-1 leads four times -- in the 1968 and 1985 World Series, and the 1996 and 2012 NLCS.

Scutaro won NLCS MVP honors after hitting .500 in the series. That’s tied for the second-highest batting average in a postseason series in Giants history.

Scutaro tied a postseason single-series record with 14 hits in the LCS, matching a mark reached three times previously.

Only six players who were midseason acquisitions have won a postseason MVP award. Scutaro joins Donn Clendenon (1969 New York Mets), Rickey Henderson (1989 Athletics), Mike Devereaux (1995 Atlanta Braves), David Justice (2000 New York Yankees) and Cody Ross (2010 San Francisco Giants).

Scutaro was the best hitter in the majors this season when it came to swing-and-miss avoidance.

Scutaro missed on only 5.6 percent of his swings in the regular season.

He was even better in the LCS.

Scutaro took 43 swings against Cardinals pitching. He had seven times as many hits as he did swings-and-misses (2).

Supporting Cast
The Giants got hits in important spots from the likes of Scutaro and third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

Sandoval was an MVP candidate as well. He has an RBI in five straight games, matching a Giants postseason record set by Barry Bonds in 2002.

How They Won
The Giants won in a manner similar to how the Detroit Tigers swept the Yankees in the American League Championship Series -- with great pitching.

Starters Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain combined to allow one run over the final three games.

The Giants got outs when they needed them most. The Cardinals were 1-for-21 with runners in scoring position in the final three games.

Cardinals hitters had trouble catching up to fastballs in the last three games, missing on them at a rate of once about every five swings. In the regular season, they missed on them at a rate of once for every six swings.

The Cardinals scored one run or fewer in each of their final three games of the NLCS.

This is the third time in franchise history they have scored one run or fewer in three straight postseason games in a single postseason.

The others were in the 1985 World Series against the Royals and the 1996 NLCS against the Braves.

They blew a 3-1 series lead in each instance.

Vogelsong sticks to slow stuff in Giants' win

October, 16, 2012
After scoring six runs in their first three home games this postseason, the San Francisco Giants found their offense at AT&T Park.

Second basemen Marco Scutaro and Ryan Theriot, who had five hits and one RBI combined in this postseason entering Monday, combined for three hits and four RBI in the Giants’ 7-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Giants got the game off to a good start as Angel Pagan hit his second lead-off home run in the last six days.

He’s the second player with two lead-off home runs in a single postseason joining Jimmy Rollins who did it in 2008. Rollins and Derek Jeter each have the most postseason home runs leading off the first inning with three.

Not only did the Giants’ bats come to life, but they also had a starting pitcher get through the sixth inning for the first time this postseason.

Ryan Vogelsong allowed one run in seven innings to pick up his first career postseason win.

Vogelsong matched a season high by recording nine outs with his offspeed pitches. He did not allow a hit against an offspeed pitch.

This postseason the Giants have been working hard Monday through Friday and then taking weekends off.

They improve to 4-0 on games played on weekdays, scoring nearly four more runs per game than they have on the weekends.

Chris Carpenter was responsible for six of the eight runs in the game as he allowed five and drove in the Cardinals only run.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Carpenter is just the seventh pitcher in MLB history to drive in his team’s only run in a postseason game.

The last to do so was Darryl Kile of the Astros against the Braves in 1997.

It’s Carpenter's first postseason loss since 2009.

He was 5-0 in his previous seven starts.

The series now shifts to St. Louis for the next three games beginning Wednesday.

Matt Cain will face Kyle Lohse in Game 3.

Cain won his last start and is 1-1 in the postseason while Lohse is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in two starts.

Giants pull out win despite just three hits

October, 9, 2012

Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Giants' offense was quiet once again, but they did enough to survive to see Game 4.
The San Francisco Giants offense continued its struggles in the NLDS, but got some help to pull out a season-saving win despite just three hits.

The Giants' first run came without a hit in the third inning and their final run came courtesy of a Scott Rolen error in the 10th.

Giants Pull Out Rare Win
They are the first road team to win a postseason game with fewer than four hits since the 2001 New York Yankees against the Oakland Athletics in Game 3 of the ALDS in the famous Derek Jeter relay game.

The Giants also became just the fifth team in MLB postseason history to win a game in which they were struck out 16 times and the seventh team in postseason history to win an extra-inning game in which the winning run scored because the batter reached on an error.

Hits Come Few and Far Between
The Reds pitching staff held the Giants to one hit through the first nine innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau the Giants are the third team in MLB postseason history to win a game with only one hit through nine innings after getting two hits in the 10th. The 1974 Oakland Athletics and 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers both won in nine innings despite only having one hit.

After starter Ryan Vogelsong allowed three hits and a run in the first inning, the Giants pitching staff combined to allow just one hit over the final nine innings.

Homer Bailey Dominates
The against-the-odds win for the Giants wasted a stellar start by Homer Bailey, who rode the momentum from his no-hitter a couple of weeks ago by tying his career high with 10 strikeouts, while allowing only one hit (a Marco Scutaro single) in seven innings.

The only other pitchers to allow one hit or fewer in at least seven innings while striking out double-digits are Roger Clemens, Orlando Hernandez and Mike Mussina.

Bailey got ahead of Giants hitters, starting the first 13 and 19 of the 24 fitters he faced with a strike.

The 10 punch-outs set a Reds single-game postseason record -- besting the previous mark of nine shared by Hod Eller (1919 World Series against the Chicago White Sox) and Jose Rijo (1990 World Series against the Oakland Athletics).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bailey also tied the postseason record with six consecutive strikeouts. It was done four times previously.

Latos and Scutaro help Reds, Giants clinch

September, 23, 2012
The Cincinnati Reds shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers, and with the win, clinched the NL Central division title.

It’s their second division title in the last three seasons and 10th in the Divisional era (since 1969).

Saturday was the Reds 92nd win of the season, their most since 1999 when they went 96-67.

A major reason for Saturday’s victory was Mat Latos who threw eight-plus scoreless innings for the first time this season.

Latos threw 53 of his 67 fastballs (79 percent) for strikes, his highest percentage in his career. He pounded the zone with his fastball by throwing 47 of his 67 fastballs (70 percent) in the strike zone.

Latos’ dominance on Saturday continues a recent trend as he is 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA in his last five games. The Reds have won all five.

Also clinching a postseason berth is the San Francisco Giants who win their second NL West title in three years. Similar to their 2010 World Series champion team, this year’s team has done well in close games – winning a league best 29 one-run games.

The Giants overcame adversity, going 25-10 since Melky Cabrera was suspended on August 15. They entered that day tied with the Dodgers atop the NL West – the gap in the NL West is now 11 games.

Although the Giants trade for Hunter Pence generated more buzz initially, the trade for second baseman Marco Scutaro has had the biggest impact.

After hitting .271 in 95 games with the Colorado Rockies, Scutaro has hit .361 with the Giants. Scutaro went 3-5 Saturday and has had at least two hits in 13 of his last 18 games.

Scutaro has gone 37-86 (.430) against pitches over the horizontal middle third of the plate (the 4-5-6 on your telephone) since being acquired by San Francisco.

Brandon Mendoza, Lee Singer and Kenton Wong contributed to this post

McLouth the latest among unlikely keys

September, 13, 2012
Nate McLouth got a pitch in a good spot for his walk-off winner.

This seems to be the week of “Who would have thought he’d be the star?” as baseball's pennant pushes move into the home stretch.

In each of the last three days, there have been some unlikely difference makers on contending teams. Pitchers like Philadelphia Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick and Oakland Athletics closer-for-a-day Jerry Blevins have made significant impacts.

On Wednesday, it was a day for a hitter.

Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth was the night’s unlikely star. He continued a run of fine play since the Orioles picked him up not long ago. McLouth got the second walk-off hit of his career in the win over the Rays.

The game-ending hit came on a pitch right to the hottest of McLouth’s hot zones-- knee-high over the middle of the plate. He’s found his hitting stroke on pitches down in the strike zone.

Earlier this season, when McLouth was struggling, he was 3-for-15 against pitches in the lower-third of the strike zone, putting 45 percent of his swings against those lower-third strikes into play.

But with the Orioles, McLouth is has three hot spots (as noted in the heat map above) on those pitches—and instead of fouling them off, he’s making good contact. Sixty percent of his swings have been put into play.

McLouth got the winning hit on a slider-- his third hit against a breaking pitch in his last two games. In his season-opening stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates, McLouth managed just one hit off a breaking ball among the 50 he saw.

Who would have thought it?
Other Players this week

Monday: Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick beats the Marlins, with his pitch of choice being a changeup that netted seven strikeouts and 13 outs overall.

After going 4-9 with a 4.86 ERA in his first 27 outings of the season, Kendrick is 5-1 with a 1.49 ERA in his last six starts.
Jerry Blevins

Tuesday: Athletics reliever Jerry Blevins came out of the bullpen to escape a first-and-third-no-out jam to protect a one-run ninth inning lead against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Blevins got a strikeout and a ground-ball double play to end the game. It earned him his second save in 205 career major league appearances, his first since the 2010 season.

Wednesday: In addition to McLouth, utility infielder Marco Scutaro had two RBI for the San Francisco Giants in a win over the Rockies, giving him 30 RBI in 179 at-bats with his new team. Scutaro had the same 30-RBI total with the Rockies earlier this season, but did so in 377 at-bats.

Who would have thought when Scutaro played his first game with the Giants on July 28 that his RBI total from then to Sept. 13 would match Hunter Pence and be one better than Buster Posey?
Marco Scutaro drove in a career-high seven runs as the San Francisco Giants blanked the St. Louis Cardinals 15-0 on Wednesday night.

Scutaro capped the scoring with a ninth-inning grand slam. Before Wednesday's outburst, that single hit would have matched his career high of four RBIs in a game.

From the Elias Sports Bureau, at 36 years and 283 days old, Scutaro is the oldest player in Giants history with seven or more RBIs in a game. The previous record holder was Phil Weintraub, who drove in 11 runs against the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 30, 1944, at a younger 36 years old.

Scutaro wasn’t the only one working his way into the record book Wednesday.

The loss was the second-largest shutout loss in franchise history for the Cardinals. The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cardinals 19-0 at Busch Stadium on Aug. 3, 1961.

It also is rare for a defending World Series champion to face such a large whitewashing. According to Elias, the last defending champ to suffer a worse shutout loss was the Pirates in 1926.

This was the second game to end in a large shutout win on the night, with the Miami Marlins beating the New York Mets 13-0 at Citi Field.

Elias notes that Wednesday was only the second day in major league history on which there were two shutouts in which the winning teams scored at least 13 runs. On June 9, 1915, the Chicago White Sox defeated the New York Yankees 13-0, and the Detroit Tigers blanked the Boston Red Sox 15-0.

The San Francisco offense likes getting away from AT&T Park. The Giants scored five runs in the sixth inning, and four runs each in the eighth and ninth.

It was the seventh time this season that the Giants scored at least five runs in an inning, and all seven were in road games. In addition, eight of their 12 four-run innings have been away from home.

On the pitching side of the shutout, Ryan Vogelsong threw seven scoreless innings to pick up the win. He has gone at least six innings in each of his past 22 starts, the longest active streak in the majors.

Elias informs us that the last Giants pitcher to throw at least six innings in more consecutive games was Bill Swift, who made it 24 straight games in 1993.

Quality (and quantity) starts from A's

August, 27, 2010

The Oakland Athletics, sporting a major league-best 2.60 ERA since the All-Star break, have 18 straight quality starts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the longest such streak by an American League team since the New York Yankees also had an 18-game streak in 1981. The next longest streak in MLB was the Braves' 21-start streak in 1997.

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Tampa Bay Rays' Carl Crawford has 33 consecutive steals against the Boston Red Sox. It's the longest streak of successful steals against one team since Vince Coleman had 34 against Houston from 1986 to 1990.

• Jon Lester, 2-5 since the All-Star break, is unbeaten on the road in his career against the Tampa Bay Rays (3-0 in five starts).

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Rays' David Price looks to become the second AL pitcher to win 16 games this season (NYY CC Sabathia, 17-5) as he takes on the Red Sox. Since Tampa Bay's inaugural season in 1998, the Rays and the Pirates are the only teams that have not had a pitcher with 16 wins in one season.

• There are four Red Sox who have at least five career at-bats against Price, and they’re all struggling mightily against him. Marco Scutaro, Victor Martinez, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell are a combined 4-for-29 (.138 BA) against Price.

• One reason why the Cleveland Indians' Josh Tomlin is winless in his last four starts (0-3)? The Indians have scored two runs or fewer in all four games.

• The Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Oswalt is 73-25 in his career after the All-Star Break, including a 31-7 record in the month of August. He’s 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA in five starts since joining the Phillies.

• The San Diego Padres' Mat Latos has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 straight starts (the most in a season in team history), and three earned runs or fewer in 19 straight starts (1.69 ERA over that stretch).
• From the Elias Sports Bureau: The San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum has struggled mightily in August with an 8.38 ERA. (It’s the highest ERA in a calendar month in his career.) He’s allowed at least four earned runs in each of his last three starts -- his longest previous streak of starts surrendering four earned runs or more was two.

• Once again, the Yankees' A.J. Burnett has not been able to back up a strong month. After going 3-1 in five starts with a 2.00 ERA in July, Burnett’s 0-3 with an ERA over six in four August starts.

• The Los Angeles Angels' Jered Weaver has struck out four batters or fewer in each of his last two starts. In his first 25 starts, Weaver struck out four batters or fewer in just one start.

A first for the Red Sox

July, 28, 2010
In their 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Boston Red Sox had all four infielders - Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro, Bill Hall and Kevin Youkilis - hit home runs. This was the first time in team history that the Red Sox got a home run from a player at each infield position.

Next-Level Awards: Part 1

July, 14, 2010
With the 2010 season at the halfway point (and with apologies to the purists who say the halfway point was actually at the end of June), we present a handful of Next-Level Awards to a few players who have excelled (or "de-celled"?) in our favorite categories so far this season.

Since all teams have played between 86 and 90 games at this point, we're using 275 plate appearances as our minimum for all hitting awards.

The "Friendly Confines" award

Although Target Field has confounded some power hitters, Twins CF Denard Span seems to enjoy the place. He has the biggest difference between his home and road batting average this season. In Minneapolis, he's hitting .357; elsewhere, it's .198. Ironically, all three of his home runs have been in road games; however, he does have more total extra-base hits (8 doubles, 5 triples) in the Twins' new home.

The average "home" advantage in the majors, by the way, is .016.

Runners-up: Vernon Wells (.322 in Toronto, .199 on the road); Martin Prado (.389/.273); Travis Hafner (.303/.189).

Honorable mention: Jason Giambi has taken a liking to Denver. He's batting .380 at Coors Field and only .173 away from it, although his 132 PA are not enough to qualify for our award.

The "Summer Breeze" award

No surprise here. Mark Reynolds, who shattered the single-season record for strikeouts in '09 after setting it in '08, is whiffing on 40.9% of his swings this season and again leading the majors in K's. That's 8% higher than anybody else who qualifies for the award.

Far-runners-up: Mike Napoli (32.9%), Adam Dunn (32.3%), Ryan Howard (30.8).

The "Gettin' Low" award

Pitchers are always trying to keep the ball down. It takes a special hitter to go down there and get it with any degree of success. In a very tight three-way race, the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera ekes out the best average in the majors on low pitches (down in the zone or below it).

Cabrera, at .3618, just beats out Justin Morneau and the Orioles' Nick Markakis, who both have identical low-ball averages at .3613. To his credit, Miggy also has seven homers on low balls, and more extra-base hits than the other two contestants. Markakis is the most patient of the three, chasing only 16% of balls below the zone.

Which brings us to....

The "Reach For The Stars" award

Vladimir Guerrero left Los Angeles (home of the stars), but he's still chasing them in Texas. Vlad has gone reaching for 38.4% of bad balls (out of the strike zone) this season, giving him a clear lead in that category.

Runners-up: Adam Jones (36.0%), Pablo Sandoval (32.2%), Jose Guillen (32.2%).

Fifth place belongs to Ichiro Suzuki, who has set all kinds of base-hit records so far in his career. You wouldn't think of him as someone who would swing at a lot of bad balls. In Ichiro's case, though, he succeeds in making contact and finding holes.

That begets...

The "Trashman" award

Cleaning up bad balls is messy work. Not a lot of hitters do it well. Ichiro does. In fact, he's got a 52-point lead when it comes to batting average on balls out of the strike zone. And he hits almost as well (.319) on balls outside the zone as he does on balls that are in it (.329).

Runners-up: The aforementioned Guerrero, despite swinging a lot, also makes pretty good contact on bad balls. He's hitting .267, followed by Markakis (.264) and Boston's Marco Scutaro (.244).

More awards, including a few for the guys who THROW the ball, will be posted tomorrow.