Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-6-14

Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Top of the 1st
In business, location is everything. And, baseball is indeed a business. And, since pitching is such a huge percentage of baseball, it stands to reason how critical location is to successful pitching. That is indeed a long way of saying that last night we saw the best pitching of the season.

The Yankees’ Chien-Ming Wang faced Paul Byrd and the Cleveland Indians. The Indians and Yankees entered the game tied for the major league lead with 359 runs apiece. The Indians still have 359; the Yankees now have 360 thanks to the Robinson Cano homer that gave the Yanks the 1-0 victory. Byrd took the loss, surrendering the one run, six hits and three walks in seven innings. He struck out six, tying a season high. Wang (7-2) pitched five-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings, improving to 6-1 with a fill-in save in his past nine appearances. Mike Myers and Kyle Farnsworth finished out the 8th, and Mariano Rivera fanned two in a hitless 9th for his 13th save in 14 chances.

It was the first time in 42 years that the highest-scoring team in the majors (Yankees, 5.89 runs per game) defeated the second-highest (Indians, 5.79) by a 1-0 score. The last such game was also at Yankee Stadium — a victory by the Twins over the Yankees on July 3, 1964. (There were only two others since 1900.)

Was that the best pitched game?

How about the spectacular Curt Schilling versus Johan Santana match-up at the Metrodome? When you look at the score and see the Twins beat the BoSox, 5-2 you say, “Billy-Ball what pitching duel are you talking about?” Well, Schilling and Santana were simply brilliant each allowing just a solo homer in eight innings of work. Santana struck out six of the first seven, including David Ortiz swinging for his 1,000th career strikeout. By the time, he was done Santana had allowed just a Jason Varitek homer and four other hits. He walked nobody and struck out 13.

If Randy Johnson were smart, and humble, he would call up his old pitching partner and ask, “Curt, how have you done it? How have you made the conversion from a power pitcher to a location pitcher?” Schilling mixed speeds, threw to different spots and ended up just surrendering a Michael Cuddyer homer among the six hits he gave up in 8 innings. Schilling walked one (Schilling’s first walk in six games, covering 34 2/3 innings) and struck out five. The game was decided in 12th by a walk-off grand by jason Kubel off the hideous Julian Tavarez.

That was great pitching.

But so was the performance by Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals who held the Pirates to three hits and struck out a career-high 13 in seven shutout innings as St. Louis defeated the Bucs, 2-1. “My stuff was as good as it ever has been,” said Carpenter, “Those guys are a good hitting team, but when you can execute a game plan and don’t make a lot of mistakes, you can have some success.” Carpenter’s 13 Ks equaled the most strikeouts by a Cardinals pitcher through the seventh inning since Steve Carlton fanned 16 Phillies batters, including 14 through seven innings, in 1970. Matt Morris also had 13 Ks through seven innings in a 2001 start against the Brewers.

Scott Rolen is doing his best to pick up the slack left by the huge absence of the injured Albert Pujols. Last night he doubled and scored on Juan Encarnacion’s single in the 4th, then doubled again an inning later to drive in the Cardinals’ second run after So Taguchi drew a two-out walk from Oliver Perez. Perez (7-2) was the hard luck loser giving up two runs on seven hits in seven innings, a great performance for a guy with an ERA close to seven.

The Perez performance was similar to that of Jaime Moyer of the Mariners who last night pitched six strong innings only giving up 8 hits and two runs. But like Perez, Moyer was the losing pitcher as the A’s Joe Blanton was enormous. Blanton threw 8 innings of shutout ball, allowing just 5 hits and no walks. Then Huston Street came on to close out the 9th and Oakland had a 2-0 victory in another beautifully pitched contest. Ichiro singled in the 9th to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He is batting .517 (31-for-60) during his hitting streak.

I’m not done.

Roy Halladay pitched a six-hitter to win his seventh straight decision and the Blue Jays ended a three-game losing streak with a 7-1 victory over the Orioles. Halladay (8-1) pitched his third complete game of the season and 23rd of his career. The 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner allowed one run, while striking out three and walking one. He’s walked one batter in his last five starts. Halladay retired 20 of the last 22 batters he faced.

Halladay is a different pitcher than he was in 2003 when he struck out a career-high 204. He’s had arm problems since, so now he looks to get quick groundouts instead of strikeouts. He understands the concept of location. “I just recognize the importance of getting ahead, being aggressive,” Halladay said. “If it comes to a situation where I need to get a strikeout I can expand a little bit and move off the plate, but for the most part I’m trying to get the guys off the field.” Halladay’s average of one complete game per 7.5 starts is the third-highest over the last 15 years, behind Scott Erickson (one CG per 7.0 starts) and Livan Hernandez (7.1). That’s with a minimum of 150 starts.

I got more.

Enrique Gonzalez, a rookie making his third big league start, allowed one hit over seven dominating innings as Arizona beat San Francisco, 2-1. “Slider, change-up, everything was good,” the 23-year-old Venezuelan said. “I concentrated because we needed a win.” San Francisco starter Jamey Wright (5-6), who allowed two runs in seven innings took the loss. He was absolutely on target when he said, “I’m probably going to win more of those than I lose,” Wright said. “Just give the other guy credit. He was nails out there. He got into a rhythm and we couldn’t figure him out.”

Omar Vizquel’s 1st inning single was the Giants’ only hit off Gonzalez. After Vizquel’s hit, Gonzalez (2-0) retired 18 men in a row before issuing back-to-back walks to Ray Durham and B*nds with two out in the seventh. Gonzalez got Moises Alou to ground to third to end the threat. Gonzalez walked two and struck out four. “Enrique was the story,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. “Velocity, command, confidence. He made big pitches when he had to.” That’s location.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon knows about location, he’s watching Kenny Rogers pitch for over 20 years. “The first time I saw him was in 1984 in Burlington, Iowa,” Maddon said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s not going to throw you a good pitch until you make him throw one.”

Rogers allowed one run in eight strong innings to earn the 199th victory of his career, and the Detroit Tigers beat the Devil Rays, 7-1. Rogers (9-3), who would be the 10th active pitcher to reach 200 wins, allowed four hits and a walk and struck out nine, one short of his career high. “I don’t go for strikeouts, but if I had known I was at nine, I would have gone after some other hitters,” Rogers said. “I felt good. I think there’s a lot of value in knowing how to pitch. I’ve been around a long time.”

Chan Ho Park (4-3), who pitched full-time for the Dodgers from 1996-2001, likes his location San Diego. He held Los Angeles to one run and three hits, struck out five and walked three in six innings of work as the Padres topped the Dodgers, 9-1 . He won for the second time in six starts, a span that included two losses and two no-decisions.

Josh Johnson pitched six strong innings and had an RBI double in the Marlins’ 4-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves. “I guess I got lucky on that one,” Johnson said of his run-producing hit. “I was just trying to make contact and I wound up getting a real good swing.” There was nothing lucky about his pitching, Johnson (5-4) allowed one run and seven hits. He struck out seven and walked two.

Finally, yes it counts even when it comes against the Kansas City Royals. Jered Weaver, the Angels’ first-round draft pick in June 2004, reduced his ERA to 1.37 and became the second pitcher in franchise history to win his first four major league starts as Weaver held the Royals to an unearned run over seven innings in a 4-1 victory. The other pitcher was Bo Belinsky, who won his first five starts in 1962 and finished his rookie season 10-11.

Weaver, the younger brother of Angels right-hander Jeff Weaver, struck out five and walked one. He has allowed just four earned runs, 16 hits and four walks in his 26 1/3 innings of work — and has received a total of 30 runs of support from his teammates. Scot Shields pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Francisco Rodriguez did likewise in the ninth for his 15th save in 16 chances, as the last 14 batters for the Royals went down in order.

Talk about location! How would you feel if you are a pitcher on the Pirates and learn you have bee traded? Elated right? Guess again. Brandon Duckworth (0-1) allowed two runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings in his Royals debut, striking out six and walking three. The right-hander, obtained from Pittsburgh on Saturday, became the 12th pitcher to start a game for the Royals this season — one more than they used last year.

It’s all about location, location, location.

Top of the 2nd
The Mets scored one run in the top of the 1st and added eight more later on to defeat the Phillies 9-7. The Mets have now won their last six games, having started each of them by scoring in the top of the first. That tied the National League record for consecutive wins, all on the road, scoring in the first inning in each game. The Cubs had six-game streaks of that type in 1913 and in 1944. The major-league record is seven, by one of the great teams in history, the 1939 Yankees.

Billy Wagner earned his first save in Philadelphia since leaving the Phillies as a free agent last offseason by getting the final five outs for his 13th save in 16 chances. Tom Glavine failed to win his 10th game and allowed four homers for just the second time in his career. The Phillies hit five home runs in their loss. It was the first time the Phils failed to win a game in which they homered five times since 1965, when they wasted six homers in a 14-13 loss to the Giants at Candlestick Park.

New York (40-23) has the best record in the NL and leads second-place Philadelphia by 7