First base: Ohh, Baltimore. On the latest edition of SweetSpot TV, Eric Karabell and I discussed whether the Orioles should be buyers at the trade deadline. We agreed they shouldn't. Monday's game is a good example of why. Long-time prospect Chris Tillman had looked good in his season debut before the All-Star break, taking a one-hitter into the ninth against the Mariners. But that game was in Seattle so had to be taken with a cautionary optimism. Against the Twins on Monday Tillman failed to get out of the first inning, throwing 49 pitches, giving up five hits and two walks. The Twins went on to a 19-7 victory.
Look, there are two key numbers for the Orioles. The first is their 46-43 record that now has them half a game out of the wild-card lead currently shared by the Angels and Tigers. The second is their minus-55 run differential, second-worse in the AL to the Twins. The record is nice, but the run differential is a better indicator of team quality and future performance. With Jason Hammel now sidelined following knee surgery, Wei-Yin Chen is the team's only dependable starter. The offense ranks 11th in runs, 11th in OPS and 12th in OBP. Right now, it's a team with a good bullpen and not much else. And the bullpen may be starting to break due to its heavy workload. Hold on to your prospects, Orioles. Your future is not 2012.
Second base: Halladay returns. Roy Halladay returns from his shoulder injury to start for the first time since May 27. Halladay's average velocity on his fastball, sinker and cutter was down from 91.1 mph in 2011 to 89.4 before he was shut down, so that's one thing to watch tonight. Hitters had also been more successful attacking the cutter. After batting .206 against it in 2011, they are hitting .277 against it 2012. This is reflected in how right-handers were having more success against him as seen in this heat map:
Halladay takes on Dodgers rookie Stephen Fife, who will be making his major league debut. Fife is a 25-year-old right-hander, a third-round pick in 2008. His numbers at Albuquerque aren't inspiring (4.53 ERA), 66 strikeouts in 97.1 innings, but that's a tough place to pitch. He allowed just five home runs, so if he keeps the ball down maybe he can keep the Dodgers in the game.
Third base: #Yosted. I asked on Twitter why Salvador Perez was batting ninth for the Royals when the Mariners were starting lefty Jason Vargas. Since returning on June 22, Perez had been hitting .373/.383/.644. In limited time a year ago, he hit .484 against left-handers. You can make the case he's the Royals' best hitter against left-handed pitchers. Anyway, I got a bunch of feedback like "you must be new here" and "#boomyosted." As it turns it, Ned Yost actually explained his lineup in this notebook item from the Kansas City Star. It's a gem, including "I don’t want to hit Sal ninth, but I don’t have any other spot to hit him at this moment." Go, Royals.
Home plate: Tweet of the day. The Cardinals scored three runs in the ninth off Brewers closer John Axford to win 3-2 (leading Brewers manager Ron Roenicke to say Axford may lose his job as closer). How big was the win for St. Louis?
Cardinals win in 9th last night when trailing by 2+ runs was 1st on the road since Pujols off Lidge in 2005 playoffs
— Tom Orf (@MU4124) July 17, 2012