Clearing the Bases: Lowe notes & Oh ... man

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
9:00
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First: Derek Lowe spun his first shutout in nearly seven years? OK, that’s interesting, but hey, it was the Twins; they’re terrible. And he induced four DP grounders? That’s pretty cool, but part of what goes with the territory facing a balls in play-oriented lineup like the Twins’. But he did it without a single strikeout? OK, now that’s unusual. The last guy to throw a nine-inning complete-game shutout without a K was Scott Erickson a decade ago, on April 28, 2002 (thank you Baseball-Reference.com).

And to do it with so much help from his friends, in the form of those four Twin-killing twin-killings? Nobody’s done that since Ken Forsch got that sort of boost from the Angels’ infield back in May of 1981. Add in that Lowe did this at a time when strikeouts are at all-time highs, while generating just one swinging strike all day ... and words fail. His pulling off this sort of game is sort of like baseball’s answer to the coelacanth, because it’s like Christy Mathewson stepped out of a time machine and just mowed down a big-league lineup (even the Twins). It’s just one of those very, very improbable things you have to enjoy when you see it happen.

Of course, there’s going to be something automatic and yappy that will immediately tell us that he wasn’t that good, and that he hasn’t been that good, and that run estimators like FIP or xFIP will tell you he should be giving up an extra run and a half or almost two runs more than his current 2.47 ERA. Which is fine and worth keeping in mind, going forward about what might happen and should happen, but in the meantime the shutout’s a part of history, and Derek Lowe made it.

Second: Bryce Harper hit his second-ever home run in the major leagues, and it wasn’t front-page news. Considering it was the Nats’ lone run, that isn’t really shocking -- at this point, not only is he tasked with just proving he belongs day in and day out, the bigger problem is how the Nats will stop running through his teammates like Spinal Tap runs through drummers.

Third: You might reasonably feel sorry for Will Ohman for his part in Tuesday’s eight-run inning that erased a 6-0 White Sox lead, or his subsequent responsibility for the Tigers making that a four-run lead in the next frame. His lot in life’s not fun as is: With a 140-point career OPS difference between getting lefties out and righties aboard, he’s tasked with situational heroics, trying to get a lefty power monster like Prince Fielder out twice in a series.

That said, when he came into the fracas in the Cell, the game was still just 6-5 with the tying run on first and just one out ... and why was he even being used? To face and erase utility scrubeenie Don Kelly? That matchup wasn’t going to happen, not with Delmon Young on the Tigers’ bench.

So rookie skipper Robin Ventura walked into that, Jim Leyland pulls Kelly, Young gets hit by an Ohman offering, tying run scuttles to second, and the top of the order’s due up on a hot day in the Cell, when every pulled pitch off a righty’s bat has souvenir potential. Sure enough, Austin Jackson goes yard with an Earl Weaver special to put a three-spot on the board.

Next inning? Ohman finally gets to pitch to the left-handed people that he’s supposed to see, the lefty batters who won’t get pulled at the first sight of a southpaw: Fielder, Brennan Boesch, and Alex Avila. Except that Ohman’s no longer fresh, and he puts two of the three of them on base, and they both score, and the bloodbath's a slightly darker shade of red.

Suffice to say, if there’s a Will Ohman owner’s manual, you wouldn’t find games like this in it, not unless it’s followed by, “If you see this happening, call tech support.”

Home plate: From old friend Jay Jaffe of baseball Prospectus, a man who’s never been afraid of letting his Dodger fandom shine through:
Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.

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