Stats & Info: Rafael Palmeiro

Britton's slider leads Orioles into first place

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
1:18
AM ET
Greg Fiume/Getty ImagesZach Britton has won four straight starts for the Orioles.
The Baltimore Orioles are partying like its 1997.

For the first time since 1997, when Cal Ripken, Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar were in Baltimore, the Orioles are in first place this late in the season. Since then, they have not even been within 16 games of first place on September 4.

Each of the last three seasons, they were 30 or more games out of first place on September 4.

How did they do it?

On July 28, the New York Yankees were in first place with an 8.5-game lead over the Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays.

But since then, the Orioles are 24-10, the best record in the majors over that span.

That includes a 12-0 win at the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, their largest road shutout over the Blue Jays in franchise history.

The 12 runs match the most the Orioles have scored this season (they also scored 12 against the Pirates on June 14). They’re now 18-2 this season when scoring at least eight runs.

The star of the night was Zach Britton, who threw seven shutout innings for the second time in four starts. Britton is 4-0 with a 0.94 ERA in his last four starts, allowing just three runs and five extra-base hits with more than a strikeout per inning during that span.

How did Britton take care of business against the Blue Jays?

• Once again, Britton's slider was unhittable. Blue Jays hitters were 0-for-7 with three strikeouts in at-bats ending with his slider. Opponents are 0-for-20 with 13 strikeouts against Britton's slider over his last four starts.

• Britton used his slider as a put-away pitch. Six of his seven outs with his slider came with two strikes. Three of those outs came on sliders in the zone and three came out of the zone.

• Britton worked his fastballs (2/4-seam) down in the zone. He threw 60 percent of his fastballs down in the zone, his second highest percentage in his career. Nine of the 13 balls in play against his fastballs were grounders.

Britton isn’t the only Oriole pitching well. Orioles pitchers have allowed three or fewer earned runs in six straight and nine of their last 10 games.

On Wednesday, the Orioles will try to sweep a three-game series without allowing a run for the first time since 1995, when they swept the Tigers in three games, giving Baltimore five straight shutouts to end the regular season.

But Wednesday could be a first if they can obtain a third straight shutout. The Orioles have never swept a road series of at least three games without allowing a single run in franchise history.
Today’s Trivia: Pete Rose turns 70 today. Since his final game on Aug. 17, 1986, who has collected the most hits?

Prince Fielder
Fielder
Prince Fielder faces his nemesis today, but it’s not who you might think. Fielder is just 3-for-42 (.071) with 13 strikeouts and no extra-base hits against Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Paul Maholm. He’s not the only star player with a seemingly random pitcher that he can’t solve. Some other examples:

• Alex Rodriguez was 1-for-18 (.056) against Darrell May, a pitcher with a career 26-43 record.

• Ryan Howard traditionally has struggled against southpaws, but it’s a righty who has flummoxed him the most. Howard is 3-for-28 with 11 strikeouts against Tim Redding.

• Albert Pujols is 0-for-11 with three strikeouts in his career against Rodrigo Lopez. That’s all been since 2007, a period during which everyone else is hitting .291 against Lopez.

• Vladimir Guerrero (1-for-19), Mark Teixeira (1-for-18) and Ryan Zimmerman (1-for-13) all share Jeremy Guthrie as an unexpected nemesis.

• Hanley Ramirez is 0-for-10 lifetime against Charlie Morton, a pitcher who entered 2011 at 11-29 with a 5.98 ERA.

Trivia Answer: Craig Biggio’s 3,060 hits all came after Rose retired, giving him the most in that span. Rafael Palmeiro is the only other player to collect 3,000 hits from that date on. His first hit came less than one month after Rose’s last game.

Friday's First Pitch

April, 1, 2011
4/01/11
11:19
AM ET
Today’s Trivia: For the first time since 2002, Roy Oswalt will not be the Opening Day starter for the Houston Astros. Who was the Opening Day starter for the Astros in 2002?

Quick Hits: A quick look at more Opening Day longevity.

* With Vladimir Guerrero gone, the Texas Rangers will have a different Opening Day designated hitter for the 12th straight season. The last to go back-to-back was Rafael Palmeiro in 1999-2000.

Carl Crawford
Crawford
* The most storied position in franchise history, the Boston Red Sox may have finally found their man in left. Carl Crawford will be the fourth different Opening Day starter in as many years. That hasn’t happened in Boston since 1973-76 when the team was transitioning from Carl Yastrzemski to Jim Rice.

* The Chicago White Sox appear set to start the same outfield trio that began the 2010 season. In the past 35 years, the White Sox have had the same Opening Day outfield in back-to-back seasons just once. That was in 2003-04 with Carlos Lee, Aaron Rowand and Magglio Ordonez.

* Here's a glimmer of hope for New York Mets fans: the Mets have won five straight games on Opening Day, the longest active Opening Day win streak. Of course, Friday starter Mike Pelfrey may not evoke memories of Johan Santana or Tom Glavine, the starting pitchers in those five Mets wins.

* Conversely, no team has a worse recent Opening Day history than the Oakland Athletics. The A's have lost six straight times on Opening Day, the longest current streak in baseball. Oakland's most recent win was 2004, which was the last Opening Day start that Tim Hudson made in an A's uniform.

* Apart from first base, the entire Minnesota Twins infield falls into this category. In its Opening Day lineup, Minnesota will have its fifth second baseman in five years and eighth shortstop in eight years. It also will be the ninth straight year that the starting third baseman is different from the year before.

* Evan Longoria will be the only player in the Tampa Bay Rays lineup who started each of the last two opening days.

* Yunel Escobar will be the Toronto Blue Jays sixth different Opening Day shortstop in six years. Russ Adams was the last to start back-to-back openers in 2005-06.

* Similarly, Josh Willingham will be the A’s 12th Opening Day leftfielder in 12 years. Ben Grieve was the last to go back-to-back.

* Carlos Beltran is expected to be the 13th different person to man right field on Opening Day for the Mets in the past 15 years. Only Ryan Church and Jeromy Burnitz managed two such starts in that span, which included the likes of Eric Valent and Butch Huskey.

* The Colorado Rockies have only had two Opening Day first basemen: Todd Helton and Andres Galarraga. Jose Lopez will be the 14th to start at second in the opener. The last to do so in back-to-back seasons was Mike Lansing (1998-2000).

* Kevin Correia will be the 15th different Opener Day starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 19 years. That’s the period since Doug Drabek left via free agency.

Trivia Answer: Wade Miller was the last Astros pitcher not named Roy Oswalt to start on Opening Day.

Chasing history in the AL West

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
4:29
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Today’s Trivia: Paul Maholm takes the hill for the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday holding the team-lead in strikeouts with 90 (Side note: 34 pitchers had more than that before the All-Star break). Not having a 100-K pitcher is a bit more common than you might think. In fact, it happened five times last decade, including last season to the Washington Nationals. Which brings us today’s trivia question: Which pitcher led the Nationals in strikeouts last season?

The standings might say otherwise, but there’s always something to play for – in this case, history. In the first of a series of divisional breakdowns, here’s some statistical minutiae to keep an eye on in the closing weeks. First the AL West.

Los Angeles Angels
    Bobby Abreu
  • Bobby Abreu needs one stolen base for 20 on the season. That would give him 12 straight seasons of 15 HR and 20 SB, extending his own record streak. Barry Bonds (10 straight) has the next longest such stretch.
  • Brandon Wood’s .397 OPS would be the lowest for a player with 200 plate appearances since Frank O’Rourke posted a .325 OPS for the 1912 Boston Braves. Wood is just below Tony Pena Jr.’s .398 for the Kansas City Royals in 2008. Wood’s .185 on-base percentage would be the seventh lowest since 1900 for players with 200 PA.
  • With 56 strikeouts and only four walks, Wood would have the most strikeouts for a player with fewer than five walks since Rob Picciolo (63 K, 2 BB) of the 1980 Oakland A’s.
Oakland A’s
  • Both the Seattle Mariners and A’s do not have a player with 15 home runs. The difference is that the A’s leader Kevin Kouzmanoff (14 HR) has been missing time with a back injury. The last AL team without a 15-HR player was the 1992 Angels, who were led by Gary Gaetti’s 12.
  • If Daric Barton (100 BB, 88 K) stays below 100 strikeouts, he’d be the first American League player since Rafael Palmeiro to do that in a season with over 100 walks. Since Palmeiro’s 2002 campaign, 16 players have done this, but all were in the National League. With only eight HR, Barton would be the first to do this with fewer than 10 HR since Rickey Henderson in 1996.
  • How does a pitcher with only 98 strikeouts have the lowest opponent OPS in the AL since Tim Hudson in 2003? There just might be some luck involved for Trevor Cahill. The .224 BABIP against Cahill is the lowest against a qualifying AL pitcher since opponents had a .212 BABIP against the Detroit Tigers Jeff Robinson in 1988. Not only was that Robinson’s only season with a sub-3.00 ERA, but his next best was 4.73.
Seattle Mariners
    Franklin Gutierrez
  • With Franklin Gutierrez currently leading the team with 56 RBI, the Mariners could become the first team since the 1983 Cincinnati Reds without a 60 RBI player in a non-strike shortened season. That Reds squad was led by Ron Oester’s 58 RBI.
  • Russell Branyan only has 56 RBI to go with the 24 home runs he’s hit between the Cleveland Indians and Mariners. He’s safe though. The fewest RBI for a player with 25+ HR is 54 by Ron Gant when he played for the Philadelphia Phillies and Angels in 2000. The AL “record” is shared by Fred Lynn (1988 Orioles/Tigers) and Marcus Thames (2008 Tigers) with 56.
  • Mariners designated hitters are batting just .190 at the plate this season. Over the last 35 years, the only AL team to hit below the Mendoza Line at DH was the Texas Rangers (.197) in 1988. Larry Parrish was the most frequent DH on that squad.
Texas Rangers
  • Left-handed hitters are batting just .136 against C.J. Wilson. That’s the second lowest for a qualifying AL starter over the last 35 years. In 1995, lefties hit just .129 against Randy Johnson. The difference is that Johnson only faced 92 lefties that season, while Wilson has done battle with 156.
  • If he doesn’t suit up again in the regular season, Josh Hamilton will finish with 21 home runs and .395 batting average at home. Over the last 50 years, the only other AL player to hit .390 with 20 HR at home was Albert Belle for the 1994 Indians.
  • Elvis Andrus has 145 hits, but only 17 have gone for extra bases. The last player with over 150 hits in a season with 17 of fewer extra base hits was Kirby Puckett in 1984. Only 17 of his 165 hits were no singles.
James Shields
Key Matchups: Alex Rodriguez (.208) and Mark Teixeira (.143) have been baffled by James Shields in the past. However, no one compares to Curtis Granderson. His .077 average is lowest for anyone that Shields has faced at least 20 times. Granderson’s struggles are notable for the fact that he usually struggles against right-handed pitchers. In fact, against righties not named James Shields, he has a .289 career average compared to .216 against southpaws.

Chad Billingsley has an 0.61 in 29 2/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, good enough for a 2-0 record in four starts. In fact, Billingsley has tossed 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against San Francisco. Both Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval are 0-for-10 against him in 2010. Uribe was 5-for-10 entering the season.

Trivia Answer: With 92 strikeouts, Jordan Zimmermann led the 2009 Nationals, despite making only one appearance after the break. Washington’s Tyler Clippard (97) had already eclipsed that total while pitching solely in relief.

1st Pitch: Pujols pursues 400

August, 24, 2010
8/24/10
3:13
PM ET
Today’s Trivia:
After going deep last night in Pittsburgh, Albert Pujols is now one home run away from his 400th career HR. Pujols' first career longball came in April of 2001 off of Armando Reynoso and the Arizona Diamondbacks. What did Pujols do in that game that he ALSO did last night? Hint: it’s something he has now done 26 times in his career. Pujols

Bonus: Obviously, Busch Stadium is the park where Pujols has gone deep the most. But which Busch Stadium – the one that closed in 2005 (Busch II) or the one that opened in 2006 (Busch III)?

Quick Hits:
The Tampa Bay Rays’ Rafael Soriano accomplished a rare baseball feat on Monday (a feat with a cool-sounding moniker to match its impressiveness): the Immaculate Inning. Such an inning requires striking out the side on nine pitches, which Soriano did against Erick Aybar, Mike Napoli and Peter Bourjos. Soriano

So rare is the feat that it has only been done 44 times in MLB history. Let’s take a look at some of the pitchers who have pulled off the Immaculate Inning, according to baseball-almanac.com:

• Only three have done the feat twice, and all three are Hall-of-Famers: Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan. No one has done it three times.

• An Immaculate Inning has occurred in every inning, though it is most common late in games. It’s happened nine times in the ninth, seven times in the eighth and four times in the seventh.

• There are some pretty solid sluggers who have been on the other end of an Immaculate Inning. Ken Boyer was part of one thrown by Bob Bruce in 1964. Andre Dawson and Rafael Palmeiro were both part of one thrown by Jeff Robinson in 1987. Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio have each been victims, though in different games. Even contact machine Ichiro Suzuki fell prey to one, but in his defense, it was done by Pedro Martinez.

• From Elias: The last closer to get a save while striking out the side on nine pitches in the ninth inning was LaTroy Hawkins in September 2004 for the Chicago Cubs.

• Call it the Rich Harden connection: On the same night Harden was pulled in the middle of a no-hitter, Soriano threw his Immaculate Inning. But Harden has an I.I. of his own, and it came in the first inning. He did it in June 2008 with the Oakland Athletics against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

• Koufax is the only one to throw an Immaculate Inning that turned into an immaculate game. His first Immaculate Inning came in his first no-hitter – on June 30, 1962 - and was also done in the first inning. His immaculaticity (not a word) ended in the second inning when the New York Mets’ Frank Thomas grounded out to short.

• And finally, a Lou Piniella connection. Piniella managed the 1991 Cincinnati Reds to a 74-88 record and fifth place division finish. But that might not have been the worst of it. That team, featuring Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo and Hal Morris, is the only team in MLB history to have two Immaculate Innings thrown against them in the same season. Andy Ashby and David Cone did it to them that year.

Today’s Leaderboard:
It’s becoming one of the classic adages in the sport – if you let the leadoff man get on base in an inning, he’s going to come around to hurt you. Well, don’t pity the leadoff men tonight. Several of the pitchers who are the top culprits in letting the leadoff man get on base are starting for their teams on Tuesday.

Key Matchups:
• Ichiro has been an All-Star every year of his 10-year MLB career and has never batted below .303 in a season. But none of that might be true if he had to face Josh Beckett in every at-bat. Beckett is limiting Ichiro to a career .190 BA (4-21) with more strikeouts (five) than hits. Among pitchers who have faced Ichiro at least 20 times, Beckett is the starter who’s holding him to the lowest average.

• These numbers don’t seem to match up: Adam Wainwright has a perfect 5-0 record at PNC Park, yet a pedestrian 5.56 ERA there. Among parks where Wainwright has pitched more than once, he has a higher era at only Dodger Stadium. Turns out, you can chalk up his sparkling record at PNC to run support. His offense has scored an average of 7.43 runs in games he started there.

• There’s a new Cincinnati Reds rookie starter in town, and he’s not named Mike Leake. Travis Wood takes the mound in San Francisco tonight, making his 10th career start. No Giant has seen him before, but they might want to know these numbers. Wood is allowing a .135 BA his first time through the lineup, but that jumps to .184 his second time through and .222 his third time through.

Trivia Answer: In both games, Pujols finished a triple shy of the cycle. In fact, Pujols has never hit for the cycle in his career despite coming a triple shy of it on 26 occasions. He has finished a home run shy of the cycle twice and finished a double shy of the cycle once.

The bonus question was a trick question. Sort of. Pujols has the exact same number of home runs at both Busch Stadiums – 94 at each.

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