Stats & Info: Jonathan Papelbon

Papelbon not what he used to be

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
1:05
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The second appearance of the season was a troubling one for Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon.

For the first time in his career, Papelbon ended a game with a bases-loaded walk, blowing a two-run lead in a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.

In one-third of an inning, Papelbon allowed three runs, four hits and two walks.

It marked the first time that Papelbon issued consecutive unintentional walks since an April 7, 2010 appearance against the Yankees. In 12 1/3 innings at Rangers Ballpark entering the day, Papelbon had an 0.73 ERA, 18 strikeouts and two walks.

Papelbon had all sorts of location issues on Wednesday, which was very unusual for him. He threw only six of 21 pitches in the strike zone. It marked the first time in the last four seasons that Papelbon threw at least 20 pitches in a game and threw fewer than 30 percent in the strike zone. And the last two Rangers hitters- Donnie Murphy and Shin-Soo-Choo, weren’t chasing the ones that were well wide.

Also problematic for Papelbon was his fastball velocity, which averaged 90.9 mph down from 91.6 in his season debut on Opening Day.

Papelbon’s velocity has trended downwards the last two seasons, from 93.8 in 2012 to 91.9 in 2013 to 91.2 in two outings so far this season. Papelbon has never had serious velocity issues to start a season. His fastball averaged 93 mph or faster in April of 2009, 2010 and 2011.

With the decline in fastball velocity has come a decline with the splitter as well. He averaged just under 86 mph with it on Wednesday, down from its usual 88 to 89 mph range, when Papelbon was in his prime.

Anderson grounds the Tigers

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
1:18
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AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezBrett Anderson was dominant for
the Athletics in a must-win game


Brett Anderson didn’t show any jitters in his postseason debut, allowing just two hits in six scoreless innings.

It is just the fourth time that an Oakland Athletics pitcher has put up a pitching line at least that good in postseason history and the first since Vida Blue threw a two-hit shutout against the Orioles in Game 3 of the 1974 ALCS.

Anderson Staying Grounded
Anderson got it done by keeping the ball on the ground. Of the 18 outs he recorded, 11 came on the ground and six were strikeouts.

The Tigers were kept off balance by Anderson’s breaking ball which ranged in velocity from 75 MPH to 86 MPH. All six of his strikeouts came with his faster breaking ball, all thrown between 83 and 84 MPH. Seventy-four percent of Anderson's breaking pitches were down in the zone or below it, the second-highest percentage of his career.

Crisp Steals Another Homer
The lone fly ball out Anderson got was dramatic as Coco Crisp robbed Prince Fielder of a would-be home run.

According to Baseball Info Solutions, Fielder has been robbed of a homer three times in 2012, more than any other player.

In addition to Crisp’s robbery Tuesday, he has seven regular-season HR robberies since 2004. Only three players have more regular-season HR robberies than him in that span (Torii Hunter 12, Jason Bay 9, Ichiro Suzuki 8).

Shutout Notes
For the Athletics, the shutout was the 11th in their postseason history and the first since Game 2 of the 2001 ALDS against the Yankees.

It is the first time they’ve allowed four hits or fewer in a postseason shutout since the 1981 ALDS against the Royals.

According to Elias, it was the eighth time a team used four or more pitchers in a nine-inning shutout while allowing no more than four hits in a postseason game. The last time came in Game 1 of the 2008 ALCS when the Red Sox blanked the Tampa Bay Rays behind Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon.

Everything going Wright for Mets

July, 5, 2012
7/05/12
11:43
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Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDavid Wright is mobbed by his teammates after recording his first walk-off hit since 2008.
The New York Mets scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Philadelphia Phillies. After finishing 7-11 against the Phillies last season, the Mets have won eight of 12 games against Philadelphia this year.

The hero for the Mets on Thursday was David Wright. The third baseman, who drove in four (or more) runs for the third time in his last eight games, won the game with a single to break a ninth-inning tie. It was his seventh career walk-off hit, but first since 2008.

Including a walk-off sacrifice fly in 2006, it was Wright’s eighth career game-ending RBI, tying Kevin McReynolds for the Mets record.

Wright's game-winning single came on an inside fastball out of the strike zone. This season, Wright is 10-for-57 (.175) in at-bats ending with pitches outside the strike zone.

All 10 hits have come against inside fastballs. Wright is 10-for-23 (.435) in at-bats ending with an inside fastball out of the strike zone this season.

With his game-winning hit against Jonathan Papelbon, Elias informs us that Wright is the first player to have walk-off hits against both Papelbon and Mariano Rivera.

Papelbon has three losses this season, with two of those against the Mets.

The Mets were able to win despite a subpar start from R.A. Dickey. After allowing only one earned run in his previous seven starts against National League opponents, Dickey allowed five runs in seven innings against the Phillies.

The run that the Phillies scored in the first inning snapped a streak of 20 consecutive starts for Dickey without allowing a run in the opening frame. The last team to score against Dickey in the first was the Washington Nationals on September 2, 2011.

Around the League
• The Mets weren’t the only NL East team to rally for a ninth-inning win. The Nationals won for the first time in 27 games this season when trailing after eight innings. They beat the San Francisco Giants, who had been 40-0 when leading after eight in 2012.

• The Chicago White Sox finished up a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers. It was the first time this season that the Rangers were swept in a series of at least three games. That leaves the White Sox as the only team that hasn’t been swept this season.

• Jim Thome picked up his first RBI with the Baltimore Orioles, the sixth club for which he has driven in a run. The only player with more career RBI than Thome who drove in runs for more teams was Al Simmons with seven.

• The Pittsburgh Pirates moved 10 games over .500 for the first time since 1992. That bodes well for the Bucs, since 1992 was the last time they finished with a winning record and made the playoffs.

Valdespin's HR shocks Papelbon, Phillies

May, 7, 2012
5/07/12
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Jordany Valdespin's first career hit couldn't have come at a better time. With the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies tied at two in the top of the ninth inning, Valdespin golfed a splitter from Jonathan Papelbon over the fence, snapping a streak of six straight hitless at-bats to begin his MLB career.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Valdespin is the first player whose first career hit was a go-ahead HR in the ninth inning or later since Miguel Cabrera on June 20, 2003. He's the first player to record his first career hit via a pinch-hit go-ahead HR in the ninth inning or later since Steve Sisco for the Atlanta Braves on May 13, 2000 (also against the Phillies). While Cabrera has gone on to hit more than 280 HR in the majors, Sisco's HR was the only one of his short MLB career.

Papelbon earned his first loss as a member of the Phillies and allowed at least three runs in a game for the first time since June 4 of last year. Papelbon had good reason to think that Valdespin wouldn't be able to do much with the splitter that ended up in the bleachers. Entering Monday, opponents were just 2-13 (.154) against Papelbon's split-finger fastball this season.

Roy Halladay's streak of eight straight wins against the Mets came to an end after he allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings. After winning his first three starts of 2012, the Phillies have now lost four straight starts by Halladay for the first time since he came to Philadelphia in 2010. Halladay has a 5.13 ERA in those games after having a 1.17 ERA in his first three starts of the season.

Elsewhere in the majors on Monday:

Philip Humber struggled for a third straight start, allowing eight runs and failing to reach the fourth inning as the Chicago White Sox fell to the Cleveland Indians 8-6. Since throwing the 21st perfect game in MLB history on April 21, Humber is now 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in his last three starts. According to Elias, Humber's 20 runs allowed in that span are the most by any pitcher in his first three starts after a perfect game since 1900.

Brandon Snyder, who entered Monday with five total RBI in 27 career games, drove in a game-high six runs in the Texas Rangers 14-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Snyder became the first player to drive in at least six runs from the eighth spot in the order since Jorge Posada on August 13 last season.

• The Boston Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 11-5, improving to 12-16 on the season. Despite their subpar record, Monday was the MLB-leading eighth time the Red Sox scored 10 or more runs in a game this season. Baseball-reference.com tells us Boston is the fourth team to score 10 or more runs eight times in its first 28 games of a season in the live-ball era (since 1920), joining the 1997 Rockies, 1950 Yankees and 1928 Athletics.

MLBJonathan Papelbon has agreed to a 4-year, $50M deal with the Phillies, pending a physical.
The Philadelphia Phillies made the biggest splash in the free agent market so far, agreeing to a four-year, $50 million deal with Jonathan Papelbon on Friday (pending a physical).

Papelbon's deal, if finalized, would be the largest free-agent contract in terms of total dollar value ever signed by a relief pitcher. His average annual salary of $12.5 million would be the third-highest, behind only two free-agent contracts Mariano Rivera signed with Yankees for $15 million per season.

This type of free-agent contract is nearly unprecedented for the Phillies. It is just the third time they have awarded a free agent contract of at least $50 million and only the fifth time they’ve given out a contract of at least four years to a free agent.

The Phillies were rumored to be nearing a free-agent deal with last year’s closer, Ryan Madson, but instead chose to spend their money on Papelbon.

Papelbon bested Madson in nearly every statistical category except ERA last year. Madson, by virtue of his better ERA, had more success with runners on base than Papelbon, stranding 80 percent of baserunners, compared to 70 percent for Papelbon.

Papelbon has found success in the ninth inning because of his ability to get opposite-handed batters out. Last year he held lefties to a .428 OPS, the best rate among right-handed pitchers (min. 75 PA) and nearly 75 points better than what Madson did against lefties last year.

Papelbon, despite large swings in his ERA from a career-best 0.92 in 2006 to a career-worst 3.90 in 2010, has been one of the most consistent and prolific closers since his first full season in 2006.

The only other pitcher to have at least 30 saves in each season since 2006 is Rivera, and Papelbon is the only relief pitcher to record at least 75 strikeouts in each of the last six seasons.

While his 2.30 ERA over the last six seasons barely cracks the top 10 among relievers, his FIP of 2.45 (which measures what a player's ERA would be based on things he can control: strikeouts, walks, and homeruns) was the best among relievers during that span (min. 200 IP).

A closer look at the best free-agent closers

November, 3, 2011
11/03/11
3:46
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There are a number of quality back-end relief pitcher on the free-agent market this offseason, and a number of teams are expected to have heavy interest.

Here's a look at the cream of the crop, the best three closers available.

Heath Bell
Even if Heath Bell stays in San Diego and pitcher-friendly Petco Park, as expected, there are signs his future performance may not match that of his past performance.

Bell struck out just 19.9 percent of the batters he faced in 2011, his lowest rate in eight career seasons. That strikeout rate ranked just 85th among 144 qualified relievers (minimum 200 batters faced), and only three of the 19 closers with at least 30 saves had a lower strikeout rate than Bell.

Besides missing fewer bats than ever, Bell also benefited from some good fortune on balls in play. His BA on balls in play was .269 in 2011, a number that’s likely to regress back toward his career mark of .307 next season.

Ryan Madson
Madson
Ryan Madson
Ryan Madson has been one of the elite setup men in baseball for years, but after getting his first full-time shot to close in 2011, he seems poised to cash in as a free agent. Madson is a rare late-inning reliever who has the ability to miss bats and get ground balls.

He was one of only four right-handed relievers in 2011 (minimum 40 innings pitched) who struck out at least 25 percent of the batters he faced and got a ground ball on over half the balls in play.

Jonathan Papelbon
Jonathan Papelbon is set to hit the free agent market coming off one of the best seasons of his career.

The right-hander had both the second-highest strikeout rate (34.1) and second-lowest walk rate (3.9) of his career in 2011.

These factors helped lead to a 2.16 xFIP last season, the best of his career.

After leading by nine games over the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card race through games of September 2nd, the Boston Red Sox ended up failing to reach the postseason as the final day of the regular season came to a close. The Red Sox lost 4-3 to the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday after leading 3-2 going into the ninth inning.

Jonathan Papelbon blew his second save in his last four chances after converting his previous 25 save opportunities. Also for the second time in the last three games against Boston, Robert Andino had a hit that turned out to be the difference in the game. Andino singled home the winning run Wednesday two days after hitting a three-run inside-the-park home run Monday. Boston had been 89-0 this season in games in which they led in the ninth inning or later.

The Red Sox finished the month of September with a 7-20 record and a .259 win percentage. That percentage is the team's worst in any calendar month since August 1964 when they had a .241 win percentage. The 20 losses is tied for the most in September in franchise history.

Down in St. Petersburg, the Rays defeated the New York Yankees 8-7 in 12 innings after trailing 7-0 entering the eighth inning. In doing so Tampa Bay clinched the AL Wild Card berth and will play the Texas Rangers in the Division Series beginning Friday.

With the Rays trailing 7-6 and down to their final strike in the ninth inning, Dan Johnson hit his second home run of the season to tie the game. Then in the 12th, Evan Longoria became only the second player in major-league history to hit a walk-off home run in his team’s final game of the regular season and thus clinch a postseason berth for his club. That according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other player to do that, of course, was Bobby Thomson with his “shot heard ’round the world” against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951.

The Rays' nine-game deficit in September was the largest by any team to make the postseason in MLB history.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tampa Bay is the first team to earn a postseason berth by overcoming a deficit of seven or more runs to win their final game of the regular season. The previous record for the largest deficit overcome to clinch a postseason spot with a win in a team’s last regular-season game was six runs by the Rockies against the Giants in 1995. Colorado overcame an 8–2 San Francisco lead that day to win their season finale 10–9 and clinch a Wild Card position.
With a 5-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday night, New York Yankees starter Ivan Nova captured his 12th straight win. Nova went 7.2 innings and allowed six hits and no earned runs. His 12 straight wins by a rookie starter are the most since Larry Jansen of the 1947 Giants did the same.

The Yankees now have a six-game lead over the struggling Boston Red Sox, their largest margin of the season. New York can clinch a playoff berth with a win in one game of Wednesday's day-night doubleheader with the Rays.

Here's a next-level look at how Nova got the win:

Nova threw his fastball less often than he normally does. Fifty-three of his 103 pitches (51.5 percent) were fastballs, below his season average of 61.3 percent.

Rays hitters were 3 for 14 in at-bats ending with Nova's fastball. Overall, hitters are hitting .196 in at-bats ending with Nova's fastball in September; they hit .297 against it before that.

Left-handed hitters were 2 for 11 against Nova, and he had success keeping the ball away from those hitters.

Thirty-one of his 52 pitches to lefties (59.6 percent) were outside, above his season average of 50.9 percent entering Tuesday. Rays lefties were 0 for 5 in at-bats ending with an outside pitch from Nova.

Rays hitters were 1 for 15 against Nova with men on base, including two double plays.

Nova stayed out of hitters' counts. Fourteen of his 103 pitches (13.6 percent) came when he was behind in the count, his second-lowest percentage in a start this season.

Elsewhere in the AL East, the Red Sox could not take advantage of the Rays loss and remained two games ahead of Tampa Bay in the American League wild card race. Starter Erik Bedard struggled against the Baltimore Orioles, throwing 76 pitches in 2.2 innings of work and allowing four runs (one earned), in a 7-5 loss. This is the 14th straight game in which the Red Sox did not get a quality start.

The Red Sox are now 5-15 in September, which is as many losses as they had in September and October of last season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Red Sox have gone 22 straight games without winning two in a row. That's their longest such streak since the 1994 team had a 28-game run in May and June of that season.

The Red Sox used seven pitchers in their Tuesday loss to the Orioles. Since rosters expanded on September 1, the Red Sox have used at least five pitchers in a game nine times. They have used at least five pitchers in 45 percent of their 20 games this month.

Jonathan Papelbon recorded his second blown save of season. He'd converted 25 straight save chances and allowed his first run since July 16.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Clayton Kershaw got the better of Tim Lincecum and picked up his 20th win in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants. The loss snapped the Giants' eight-game win streak and moved the Dodgers above .500 for the first time since they were 14-13 before games of April 30.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us Kershaw is the fourth-youngest pitcher in Dodgers history to win 20 games in a season and the third since 1942 to defeat the Giants for win number 20 of the season.

Kershaw (20-5, .800) joins Justin Verlander (24-5, .828) and Ian Kennedy (20-4, .833) as pitchers with at least 20 wins and a winning percentage of .800 or better in 2011. There have been only two seasons in major-league history in which at least three pitchers won 20 or more games with a winning percentage of .800 or higher: 1910 (Russ Ford of the Yankees, King Cole of the Cubs and Chief Bender of the A’s) and 2002 (Barry Zito of the A’s, Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks and Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox).

Dan Braunstein contributed to this story.

Kimbrel sets rookie standard

July, 8, 2011
7/08/11
3:41
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Craig Kimbrel picked up his 27th save of the season Thursday against Colorado, a number that happens to be a very significant milestone; it broke a tie with Jonathan Papelbon for the most saves by a rookie prior to the All-Star Break since saves became an official stat in 1969. Kimbrel is part of the best relief corps in baseball, as the Braves bullpen owns a MLB-low 2.64 ERA this season.

Kimbrel has converted his last nine save opportunities without allowing a run, and batters are hitting under .100 against both his fastball and slider in that span. Kimbrel also has not allowed a walk in those nine straight saves, and has reached a three-ball count just three times.

Something’s Brewing

Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford continued his roll Thursday, notching his 20th straight save. It’s a particularly interesting streak, considering Axford blew two of his first five save chances of the year. He’s now closing in on the team’s single-season consecutive saves record of 25 set by Doug Jones in 1997.

During his current saves run, Axford has compiled a 1.91 ERA while allowing only one home run in 33 innings. He has recorded 45 strikeouts and just 11 walks in that span.

Axford has shown significant improvement with inside pitches this season. On at-bats ending with pitches inside this season, foes are hitting .194 with a .585 OPS. Compare that to 2010, when those numbers were .270 and .737.

Royal Numbers

Middle relievers don’t often receive much credit for their work, but Kansas City Royals reliever Louis Coleman certainly deserves praise for his most recent week. In three July outings this year, Coleman has gone two innings in each and has yet to allow a run. During this month, he’s faced 24 batters and gotten them to swing and miss at a rate of 35 percent (league average: 20 percent).
Since scoring 14 runs on June 20 against the San Diego Padres, the Boston Red Sox have scored a total of 14 runs in their last six games. (Tuesday was the seventh time this season that Boston's been shut out.)

Perhaps that's one reason the Red Sox will start David Ortiz at first base on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies (7 ET on ESPN.)

The downturn in offense has coincided with a trip National League ballparks and the loss the designated hitter. With Ortiz out, the Red Sox have had to shorten their lineup. Ortiz primarily was batting fifth in the lineup, but in their last four games -- all in National League ballparks -- the Red Sox have been batting J.D. Drew and Darnell McDonald in the five-spot. The two have combined to go 3-for-16 (.188) in those games, including 0-for-11 with men on base. This season, Ortiz is batting .312 with eight home runs with runners on base.

The Red Sox are not only losing out in the fifth spot in the order, but are also not getting any offense from their pitchers. Boston is one of five American League teams that has yet to get a hit from a pitcher. In National League parks, the Sox' No. 9 hitters are 1-for-14 (OF Josh Reddick had a pinch-hit single). Their No. 9 hitters were batting .258 entering their National League road trip.

Matchups to Watch:
• Placido Polanco is 4-for-23 against John Lackey, but with only one strikeout and one home run. That means his Batting Average On Balls in Play against Lackey is .143 (3-for-21). Polanco's career BABIP is .312.

• Ryan Howard is 0-for-4 in his career against Jonathan Papelbon with three strikeouts, and each came on a 3-2 count. His other out was a flyout, also with a two-strike count (0-2)

• Leadoff hitters in an inning is 9-for-30 (.300 BA) vs Bard this season. Everyone else is 13-for-98 (.133 BA)

• Should Terry Francona consider giving Jacoby Ellsbury a day off? Ellsbury is 2-for-20 in his last 5 games, but on BABIP, he's struck out only once. He's 1-for-his-last 18 when putting the ball into the field of play.
There’s plenty to watch with the Detroit Tigers taking on the Atlanta Braves in ESPN’s first spring training telecast Thursday at 1 ET. Here’s a closer look at a couple of interesting storylines the new announcing team of Dan Shulman, Bobby Valentine and Orel Hershiser will be watching.

Chipper and changeups
One point of focus for Chipper Jones will be his performance against the slow stuff located away. Our Inside Edge video scouting data showed that Jones hit just .136 last season in at-bats that ended on a breaking ball or changeup on the outer part of the plate or beyond. That’s down significantly from .358 in 2008, and .274 in 2009.

Chipper Jones
Jones
Jones’ biggest bugaboo was the changeup away. It wasn’t that he was missing on these swings at an exorbitant rate (last season he was just above the major league average), but Jones wasn’t able to hit the ball hard when he made contact. All of our data sources indicate that Jones hit line drives and hard-hit balls at a rate well below the league average. When Jones did, he didn’t get hits. Jones was just 5-for-35 (.143) when making any sort of contact with a changeup away. The league average was .280 when making contact with those pitches.

Jones, who’s returning from a torn ACL, has missed 253 games over the past six seasons. Since 2005, the Braves are 375-344 with Jones in the lineup, and 127-126 when he does not play. Last season, Atlanta was 15 games over .500 (55-40) when he played.
-- Katie Sharp, Mark Simon, Douglas Clawson

Can the kid close?
Hershiser is picking Atlanta's flamethrowing rookie Craig Kimbrel as his National League Rookie of the Year. Even though Kimbrel isn’t pitching today, expect his name to be mentioned during the telecast.

Kimbrel’s strikeout rate (17.4 per 9 innings) isn’t the only amazing statistic. In 171⅔ professional regular-season innings, the youngster with a 95-mph fastball has yielded just five home runs (none in the majors). In his last 16⅔ innings, combining regular season and postseason, Kimbrel has not allowed an extra-base hit.

Something to watch with Kimbrel is whether he can get ahead in the count. Kimbrel threw first-pitch strikes only 43 percent of the time last season. That was the worst rate for those who threw at least 350 pitches. Kimbrel's first-pitch strike rate was just 36.6 percent in his first eight appearances. His rate improved to 55 percent over his final 13 regular-season appearances and four postseason outings.

This wouldn't be the first time the Braves went with an inexperienced closer. They did so multiple times during the 1990s, most notably in 1993 (Greg McMichael, 19 saves, 2.06 ERA), 1998 (Kerry Ligtenberg, 30 saves, 2.71 ERA) and 1999 (John Rocker, 38 saves, 2.71 ERA).
-- Katie Sharp, Jeremy Lundblad, Zach Singer

Stat of the day
A quick search of the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index shows that Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward have a chance to be the second pair of teammates since 1900 to have an OPS of .700 or better in their “age-21-or-younger” season (age computed as of June 30). The only teammates who did that were Gary Carter and Larry Parrish in 1975 with the Montreal Expos.

Coincidentally, Parrish is in his first season as the Braves' hitting coach.
-- Ben Duronio

Rays sweep reeling Rangers

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
11:57
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The good news is the Texas Rangers have a comfortable lead in the American League West (eight games over the Athletics and Angels). However, after getting swept by the Tampa Bay Rays, Texas clearly has some work to do with the postseason on the horizon.

• Against the division-leading Twins, Yankees and Rays (New York and Tampa Bay are tied atop the AL East), the Rangers are a combined 3-11.

• The Rays were the fifth team to sweep the Rangers this season, and the fourth from the AL East. (The Boston Red Sox are the only team in that division that hasn’t swept Texas.)

• How much do the Rangers miss second baseman Ian Kinsler? They were 59-41 before he went on the disabled list with a groin injury. In the 19 games the Rangers have played without Kinsler, they're just 8-11.

• Except for the month of June when they went 21-6, the Rangers have been a .500 club (46-46), including 6-9 in August.

NOTABLES FROM WEDNESDAY:
• The New York Yankees are 7-1 this season when Brett Gardner is the lead-off hitter, outscoring their opponents 42-19. Gardner is 12-for-31 (.387 BA) with eight runs scored and three walks in those games. He's also started six of those eight games by getting on base in the 1st inning (Jeremy Bonderman hit Gardner with a pitch in the first inning on Wednesday). The Yankees have scored in the first inning in five of those eight games, totaling 11 runs.

• Holding onto a 3-2 lead against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Milwaukee Brewers' Trevor Hoffman was brought in with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Hoffman proceeded to strike out Brendan Ryan on three pitches. According to Baseball-Reference.com, batters are now 0-8 against Hoffman in situations where he’s pitching in a game with a 1-run lead and the bases loaded in the 9th inning or later.

• Despite blowing a three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, the A’s came back in the bottom of the inning to win 5-4. Oakland is now 51-0 this season when leading after eight innings. Only the Yankees have more wins without a loss (64-0) when leading after eight.

• The Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera has now hit at least 30 home runs in six of his first eight seasons. The only players who have had more 30-HR seasons in their first eight years in the bigs: Albert Pujols (8), Eddie Mathews (7) and Ralph Kiner (7).

• The Red Sox's Jonathan Papelbon became the first pitcher (since saves became an official stat in 1969) to record at least 30 saves in each of his first five full seasons. Papelbon also struck out the side in the ninth, just the third time in his career he's had a three-out save and struck out all three batters he faced.

• The Minnesota Twins' Francisco Liriano had pitched 78⅓ innings at Target Field this season without allowing a home run before the Chicago White Sox's Andruw Jones hit a three-run shot in the second inning. And while Liriano gave up his first HR at home, Joe Mauer went deep at Target Field for the first time this season (49 games).

• The Philadelphia Phillies' Jimmy Rollins was the first player since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997 to have a triple, home run and two stolen bases in a game. Also in that game, Jayson Werth had been hitless in his last 35 at-bats with two outs and runners in scoring position before his seventh-inning double scored Raul Ibanez from third.

• The Atlanta Braves are tied for the major league lead with 10 walk-off wins, and rookie Jason Heyward has accounted for three of them following his RBI single in the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals.

1st pitch: Positive spin for Orioles, Casilla

August, 6, 2010
8/06/10
11:14
AM ET
Today’s Trivia: Jonathan Papelbon is 0-5 for his career against the Yankees. What former major leaguer, who pitched for both the Red Sox and Yankees in a career that spanned the 60s, 70s, and 80s, is the last Red Sox pitcher to lose six straight games to the Yankees?

Quick Hits:

In honor of the Orioles recent success under Buck Showalter, we present a number of ways to look at Baltimore in a positive light.

• Rookie reliever Alfredo Simon has 16 saves and has a chance (if the Orioles keep winning) at the club rookie record for saves – 27, set by Gregg Olson.

• Outfielder/DH Luke Scott ranks fifth in the American League in at-bats per home run (14.5)

• Reliever Mike Gonzalez has a 2.25 ERA since returning from the DL, holding opponents to a .233 on-base percentage in eight appearances since his return.

• All-Star selection Ty Wigginton has a 1.030 OPS in his last 13 games.

• The Orioles lead the AL in extra-inning wins with eight

• The Orioles have won seven straight games vs AL West opponents

Today’s Leaderboard: Twins second baseman Alexi Casilla, filling in for Orlando Hudson, made a really nice spin to throw out Carl Crawford to end the Twins win over the Rays on Thursday. Casilla has upgraded his defense at second base this year.

Last season, using the Baseball Info Solutions metric +/- (which evaluates how many more/fewer balls a player turned into outs than the average player playing his position), he rated a -16, second-worst among the 35 second basemen who played the most innings. This season, he’s not Hudson, who we’ll spotlight here, but he’s a respectable +3.

Best +/- Rating
Second Basemen in 2010

Orlando Hudson +18
Chase Utley +17
Robinson Cano +15
Sean Rodriguez +14
Brandon Phillips +11
Reid Brignac +11

Key Matchups:

• Adam Wainwright owns the Marlns DP combination. Dan Uggla is 2-for-16 against Wainwright with 7 K. Hanley Ramirez is 3-for-18 with 4 K. Of the 55 players who have faced Wainwright at least 15 times, Uggla’s .125 BA is tied for second-worst

• Cliff Lee has walked only nine batters all season, but he could face the AL’s No. 2 man in bases-on-balls, Oakland’s Daric Barton today. Barton is 0-for-11 with no walks against Lee, his worst 0-for against any MLB pitcher. Lee has faced 125 lefties, but has not walked a left-handed hitter all season.

• Of the 172 batters that Javier Vazquez has faced 20+ times, Adrian Beltre’s .441 batting average ranks fourth-best.

• Light-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera has an .800 career slugging percentage against Twins starter Francisco Liriano. He’s 5-for-his-last-8 against Liriano and has at least one hit in each of the last five games he’s faced Liriano.

Trivia Answer: Former Red Sox and Yankees pitcher Mike Torrez, who gave up the infamous home run to Bucky Dent in the one-game playoff that decided the AL East title in 1978, lost six straight to the Yankees while with the Red Sox, from 1978 to 1980.
Since starting the season 7-0, Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Silva has hit the wall in July. Silva is 1-2 with an 8.44 ERA in July and opposing hitters are hammering his fastball to a .438 BA (14-32).

After an up-and-down May and June, Chicago White Sox pitcher John Danks 3-1 with a 2.51 ERA in July. The lefty has been especially tough on right-handed batters, holding them to a .127 BA (9-71) this month.

Monday starter Joel Pineiro lost to Boston earlier this season (May 5), with a David Ortiz home run proving to be the game-winning RBI. In his career, Ortiz has hit .440 (11-25) off Piñeiro, with three homers (only Manny Ramirez has more). Both hits in the earlier game came on 1-1 counts, which has proven to be Papi's favorite count this season (.474; 2-0 is next at .417).

The Angels are last in the majors at hitting split-finger fastballs (.067, 3-for-45), and their OPS on the pitch (.144) is less than half that of the 29th-place Tigers. That doesn't bode well against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who holds opponents to a lower-than-average .176 against splitters, and has gotten them to chase half the ones he throws outside the strike zone.

In 2010, with two strikes opponents are hitting .224 (15-67) and are slugging .403 (27 TB) against Javier Vazquez's curveball and slider. In 2009, with two strikes opponents hit .158 (29-184) and slugged .207 (38 TB) against his breaking balls.

This season his miss percentage with two strikes against his curveball and slider is 19.4 percent (98 swings, 19 misses, 34 fouls) In 2009, Vazquez's miss percentage with two strikes against his breaking balls was 33.8 percent (237 swings, 80 misses, 67 fouls).

Jake Westbrook faces the Yankees for the first time since the 2007 ALDS. In that game the Yankees only had one swing and miss versus the 79 pitches that Westbrook threw and the Bronx Bombers went 7-16 against his fastball.

1st Pitch: Quick hits from around the majors

July, 20, 2010
7/20/10
3:30
PM ET
Today’s Trivia: Alex Rodriguez is two home runs shy of becoming the seventh player in baseball history with 600 career HR. Who has the second-most HR among players with the first name Alex?

Quick Hits: A quick look at some newsworthy hits from around baseball:

From the Houston Chronicle: Jason Castro's three-run blast in the third inning was the first home run of three or more runs by a catcher since Brad Ausmus hit a grand slam Aug. 5, 2006 at Arizona.

From the Boston Herald: Since he blew back-to-back saves June 23-24 in Colorado, Jonathan Papelbon has pitched 7 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings and gone five-for-five in save opportunities. Dating to last season, he has converted 34-of-37 save chances.

From ESPNChicago.com: Alex Rios hit his 100th career home run Monday, a two-run shot in the fifth inning against the Seattle Mariners. After just five games it has already been a milestone second half for Rios. He connected on his 1,000th career hit Thursday at Minnesota.

From the Detroit News: Armando Galarraga is 1-1 with a 5.61 ERA in six starts since the Jim Joyce game, but the Tigers are 5-1 in those starts. Just back from Toledo, this will be just his second start for the Tigers since June 29.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Albert Pujols had his 100th double at Busch Stadium III, which now gives him more doubles at two of the ballparks the Cardinals have called home than Hall of Famer Stan Musial.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Ronny Cedeno has been torrid the past five games since the Pirates ended his platoon at shortstop with Bobby Crosby. In that span, Cedeno is 11 for 18 with six extra-base hits, five runs scored and two RBI.

From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Hanley Ramirez's bunt single during the Marlins' three-run third off Ubaldo Jimenez produced his first RBI since July 5, only his second this month. At his current pace, Ramirez would finish with 95, 11 fewer than last year.

From the Philadelphia Daily News: On May 21, against the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park, Jayson Werth went 2-for-4 with a homer, a couple of runs scored and a pair of RBI in a win over the Red Sox. The Phillies' rightfielder was hitting .329 with nine home runs and 33 runs batted in. The Phils were 11 games over .500 at 26-15. Since then, Werth is .236-4-17 in his 48 games with 55 strikeouts. And the Phillies are 22-29 in that span.

Today’s Leaderboard: Brandon Inge broke his hand in Monday's loss to the Rangers and he's expected to miss four to six weeks. Inge has been one of the most durable players at his position over the last two seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he has started 241 games at third base since 2009, tying Evan Longoria for the highest total in the major leagues.


Key Matchup: Something has to give tonight in Los Angeles when the Giants and Dodgers face off. Giants ace Tim Lincecum is holding righthanded batters to a .202 batting average, tied for fourth-lowest in the majors. On the other hand, the Dodgers are hitting .271 against righthanded hurlers, sixth-best average in baseball.

Trivia Answer: Former major leaguer Alex Gonzalez (who played with Toronto, the Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay, Montreal and Philadelphia) hit 137 career HR in 13 seasons. As a side note, Jackie Robinson finished his career with 137 home runs.

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