Moving the Needle: Yunel Escobar turns a one-run deficit into a win with one swing, +.655 WPA. The A’s owned this one early, going up 5-1 after four. But then the Blue Jays took advantage of three A’s errors — two by Kevin Kouzmanoff — en route to a four-run sixth. Two of those runs they scored on outs. The A’s went ahead in the 10th when Josh Willingham led off with a homer, but the Jays answered when Rajai Davis singled and Escobar hit an opposite field liner that cleared the wall. That, my friends, is easily our biggest WPA swing of the evening.
Brandon McCarthy: 8 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 HR, 14 GB. Those Kouzmanoff errors really killed his otherwise solid performance. The last time McCarthy went eight was on May 24, 2009, when he pitched a complete game shutout against Houston.
Andy LaRoche: 2 for 3, 1 2B. That’s a quality batting line, sure. But it’s notable because he started at…shortstop. It would have been his first professional innings, majors or minors, at shortstop had the A’s not already played him there for three innings this year.
Also in this issue: Indians 3, Red Sox 1, Twins 5, Yankees 4, Angels 5, Rays 3, Cubs 6, Diamondbacks 5, Reds 8, Astros 2, Marlins 3, Nationals 2, Mets 7, Phillies 1, Padres 3, Giants 1, Rockies 3, Dodgers 0, Royals 7, White SOx 6, Brewers 1, Braves 0, Rangers 3, Mariners 2, Cardinals 3, Pirates 2
Moving the Needle: Billy Butler homers to tie it in the eighth, +.364 WPA. We had four extra innings games last night, and three of them ended with walk-offs. Melky Cabrera won this one with a bouncer that hopped past Gordon Beckham at second. But Butler’s eighth-inning, two-run homer to tie the game was the biggest swing in this one. Juan Pierre either can’t judge a fly or was trying to make Chris Sale feel better by pretending he was chasing it down. That one was way gone.
Alex Gordon: 3 for 5, 2 2B, 1 HR. And away he goes. That’s nine hits on the season, five of which have gone for extra bases.
Gordon Beckham: 3 for 6. He and Alex Rios were the only White Sox with multiple hits.
Moving the Needle: Hannahan sneaks one past the infield, +.142 WPA. Josh Beckett hits a few rough patches in his five innings, which is why he needed 106 pitches for those 15 outs. Through three he kept the Indians off the board, but in the fourth they struck for a pair. A double, RBI single, walk, and then Hanrahan’s single put the Indians in the lead for the first time.
Moving the Needle: Delmon Young bloops his way to a tie game, +.340 WPA. With a 4-0 lead after seven, Joe Girardi turned to his eighth inning man (and seriously, he used the term “eighth inning guy” no fewer than a half dozen times during the postgame). There’s something to be said for refusing to take a four-run lead for granted. There’s something else to be said for leaving in a guy who doesn’t appear to have his best stuff. Soriano capped his night by walking Joe Mauer with the bases loaded. David Robertson entered to face Young, who hit one beyond the reach of Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira — like the spot on your back that you can’t scratch. The hit tied the game, which set up Mauer’s go-ahead single in the 10th.
Mark Teixeira: 1 for 4, 1 HR. Ho hum, only his fourth homer of the year.
CC Sabathia: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K. That’s a winning performance, but he did not get it the win. It’s almost as if a starting pitcher doesn’t exert most of the control over the game.
Moving the Needle: Alberto Callapso caps the first-inning rally with a two-run single, +.153. The Angels jumped on Rays starter Jeff Niemann early, singling and stealing their way to a run. With runners on second and third with two outs, Callapso lofted a breaking ball into left-center to plate both of them. They tacked on in the second and fifth, handing the Rays their fourth straight loss to open the season.
Jordan Walden: 1 perfect inning, 1 K. Not a day after he was named closer, Walden picked up a save. It was the second of his career.
Moving the Needle: Chone Figgins and Milton Bradley fail with the bases loaded, -.279 WPA. It’s not easy being a Mariner facing the Rangers. These are tough times, with the high powered offense and all. So when the Rangers extended their lead to 3-0 in the sixth, the Mariners just had to do something the next inning. They did, stringing together four straight singles and pulling to within one. They caught a break when Ichiro reached on an error, but then couldn’t capitalize on the bases loaded, one out situation. In fact, their win expectancy was over 50 percent when they loaded the bases. For shame.
Michael Pineda: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 HR. A major league debut that went well. He didn’t run into much trouble until the fifth, and even then he limited the damage. It took him 85 pitches to record those 18 outs.
Nelson Cruz: 0 HR. That’s all you need to know.
Moving the Needle: Willie Bloomquist ties the game with a bases loaded single, +.249 WPA. With his leadoff homer yesterday and his game-tying single today, Bloomquist might be fooling some people in Arizona into thinking he’s actually good. While the Diamondbacks did end up dropping this one, they did make quite a comeback in the seventh. It started off Jeff Samardzija, continued with Marcos Mateo, and concluded with Boomquist’s single off James Russell. It was a hard grounder that bisected the diamond, scoring Juan Miranda and Ryan Roberts (who homered earlier in the game). The Diamondbacks bullpen would blow it in the next inning, of course.
Oh, and Bloomquist struck out to end the game, with the tying run on second.
Andrew Cashner: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR. He was having a fine 2011 debut through five. After he walked Bloomquist in the sixth he pointed to his shoulder, which of course led to his instant removal. It was termed shoulder tightness and he’ll undergo an MRI.
Marlon Byrd: 3 for 4, 1 2B. His eighth-inning double down the left field line brought home the go-ahead run. He had only three hits, and no extra base hits, in his first 18 PA of the season. Still looking for that elusive first walk.
Moving the Needle: Scott Rolen drives home the first run with a single, +.092 WPA. In games that feature early scoring, the WPA needle tends to move slowly and steadily. When Rolen laced and RBI single to center in his first at-bat, he increased his team’s chances of winning by nearly 10 percent. After the Reds tacked on two more in the first and then another two in the second, the needle inched toward 100% for the Reds.
Joey Votto: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 BB. Even though the Reds scored eight, this was their only extra base hit of the night.
Moving the Needle: Donnie Murphy walks off with a single, +.341 WPA. This game featured a nice little back-and-forth, including a solo homer from each team. The Marlins actually loaded the bases with none out in the 10th, but Sean Burnett came in and got two quick outs. But then he left an 0-1 pitch right over the middle. Murphy drove it into left-center for the surefire walk-off win.
Logan Morrison: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 HR. That’s Morrison’s second homer of the year, in his 15th PA, after he hit just seven in 287 PA last year.
Ryan Zimmerman: 1 for 2, 1 HR, 3 BB. That’s a mighty fine day if you ask me.
Moving the Needle: Troy Tulowitzki starts the scoring with a solo shot, +.123 WPA. After a dazzling debut, Clayton Kershaw looked a lot more human in last night’s game. After allowing just one of the first 12 batters he faced to reach, he left one up and out to Tulowitzki, who creamed it into the first row in left-center for the game’s first run. The Rockies tacked on with a Chris Iannetta homer an inning later, followed by another run off Kershaw in the sixth.
Jhoulys Chacin: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 14 GB. That is, 14 ground balls to just six balls in the air. He made it hard for the Dodgers to get anything going.
Moving the Needle: Ryan Braun drives in the game’s only run, +.118 WPA. As with games that feature heavy scoring early, 1-0 games tend to produce few needle-moving plays. This one came in the third, when Braun hit a shot off the glove of a diving Chipper Jones and into left field. The man who scored was also the man of the hour.
Yovani Gallardo: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K. The lack of strikeouts was a bit odd, but Gallardo still tore his way through the Braves’ lineup by inducing 16 ground balls, which led to two double play balls, and, combined with a caught stealing, meant he faced only one more than the minimum. If that weren’t enough, he also singled and then scored the game’s only run.
Moving the Needle: David Wright puts the Mets on the board with a bases-loaded single, +.132 WPA. When your pitcher singles to lead off the inning, you just have to bring him around to score. By the time David Wright did, Young was standing on third following a single and a walk. Wright’s single was just a little dunk into shallow left, but it was more than enough to score both Young and Jose Reyes from second. The Mets would tack on four more that inning and eventually chase Cole Hamels before he could finish it.
Chris Young: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 0 HR. A fine return after injuries kept him mostly inactive in 2009 and 2010. He also went 3 for 3 at the dish.
Moving the Needle: Lyle Overbay puts the Pirates up early with a two-run blast, +.186 WPA. Doesn’t it irk you, just a little bit, when the losing team has the most dramatic WPA shift in the game? That’s what happened when Overbay pulled the snot out of a McClellan breaking ball in the first. I’d be remiss, however, to miss Albert Pujols‘s go-ahead single, which was technically 0.2% less dramatic than Overbay’s homer. Also, honorable mention goes to Pedro Alveraez, who grounded into an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners in the sixth, when the game was still tied at two.
Kyle McClellan: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HR. After that Overbay shot he settled down and powered through the next five innings. Of the 14 balls he allowed in play, eight were on the ground.
Moving the Needle: Chase Headley draws a bases-loaded free pass, +.126 WPA. The Padres really wore down Madison Bumgarner in the third. He allowed three walks in the inning, including one with the bases loaded to give the Padres the lead. It was a 3-2 pitch to Headley, and it wasn’t particularly close. Chris Denorfia then bounced one between home and the mound, but Bumgarner couldn’t get a handle of it. He did finish the inning, but he would last for only one batter after that.
Aaron Harang: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 10 GB. Add another inning and that’s some vintage Harang, something we haven’t seen in about three years.
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