Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-8-18

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

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By Baseball Newstalgist, Bill Chuck

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Monday, August 18, 2008

Top of the 1st

Why can’t all teachers be like this?

Yesterday, the Orioles scored 16 runs, the Yankees and the Jays each scored 15, the White Sox scored 13, and the Twins and the M’s combined for 19. How’s that for pitching? How was that the fans who were attending, watching or listening to these games?

I’d like to send about two dozen pitchers the video of the game pitched by Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays who stopped Boston’s bats Saturday night, 4-1. I also want them to watch Paul Byrd’s losing debut for Boston, because he had nothing to be ashamed of either. These were two veterans who know that good control and a good pace creates good baseball. This was a lesson in baseball.

Good control doesn’t mean just throwing strikes, although in 7.1 innings Byrd walked no one and, in pitching his major league-leading eighth complete game, Halladay walked only one. Good control also means the ability to place pitches in the strike zone where you want them.

Now that doesn’t mean you have to strike out a lot of batters either. Halladay struck out four in the seven-hitter and Byrd? Well, he didn’t strike out anybody. He was the ninth Red Sox pitcher since 1956 to go 7.0 innings or more without recording a walk or a strikeout, but the first in 10 years since Bret Saberhagen did it on July 31, 1998 at
Anaheim (7.0 innings).

Pitching to contact does have its risks, Byrd surrendered homers to Alex Rios and Adam Lind, and Halladay held the Red Sox to six singles before Dustin Pedroia’s homer leading off the 9th. But on the other hand, you should have seen the fielding. Each team’s fielders were on their toes, making strong plays in both the infield and outfield.

The fans were into it as well as they watched these two teams play good, solid baseball. It’s as if they were cleansed after having watched their Red Sox score 37 runs in a three-game sweep of Texas. What a pleasure to watch a game at a good pace as well. Like a good movie, this game last only 138 minutes. It must have been like that yesterday in Houston as Roy Oswalt allowed one hit in eight innings and struck out 10, outpitching Randy Johnson in Houston’s 3-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in a game that only took 2:14. And like Saturday night at Fenway, the Astros and the Diamondback played error-free.

Watching Halladay is a treat. This was his league leading eighth complete game of the season. You need perspective on that? If Michael Phelps were a country his 8 golds would be fifth highest. If Roy Halladay were a team, he would trail only Cleveland with 9 and Milwaukee with 8 complete games (and both of those teams numbers are based on the contributions of the great CC Sabathia who has 7 complete games, four for Milwaukee and three for Cleveland). Speaking of CC, Halladay has now tossed 12 games this season of eight or more innings, tied with Sabathia for the most in the majors and Halladay is averaging 7.55 innings per start in 2008, the highest mark in baseball. Since 2003 Halladay has completed 34 games, 12 more than runner-up Livan Hernandez.

This was Halladay’s second complete game this season against the Red Sox, something that is remarkable in this day and age. In fact, since 1998, only two other pitchers have gone the route twice versus Boston in the same season, the Yankees’ Mike Mussina in 2001 and the White Sox’ Barolo Colon in 2003. In light of the schedule with the Sox and Jays on tap for seven more games, Halladay can tie the feat last achieved by Minnesota’s Frank Viola in 1988 with three complete games vs. the Red Sox in a season (Halladay and Byrd were facing each other for the second straight time and could make it three in a row next week when the Sox visit Toronto but it’s unlikely because Halladay is scheduled to pitch Thursday against the New York Yankees. No two pitchers have faced each other in three straight starts in 50 years.)

Now after the dozens of pitchers watch the video of these two craftsmen at work, I want to send around the audio of the game as broadcast by the Blue Jays’ tandem of Jerry Howarth and Alan Ashby. Major league radio teams should try to take the time to listen, minor league teams should make it their business to listen, and students from Emerson College, Syracuse University, UCLA, or wherever they are studying should not be allowed to graduate without hearing these two pros in action.

I got to spend the last couple of innings watching them in action. Howarth’s desk was filled in a manner of chaotic organization with notes and stats that were highlighted and at ready access. When the time came to speak of Halladay’s previous complete game effort against the Sox, Jerry went through his personal loose-leaf scorebook and was able to pull up the April game, filled with notations decipherable only to him, but delivered smoothly and with clarity to his audience.

Meanwhile, as Howarth delivered his play-by-play, Alan Ashby was readying information from his laptop in the same fashion he prepared himself for catching Nolan Ryan or Mike Scott. When called upon, he was always ready with insights and critiques.

Halladay, Byrd, Howarth, and Ashby each one proved to be gifted professors in my continuing education of baseball.

Why can’t all teachers be like this?

Top of the 2nd
The Cubs won for the 10th time in their last 11 road games by scoring eight times in the 7th inning as they topped the Marlins, 9-2. Trailing 2-0 the Cubs sent 12 batters to the plate. The Cubs tied a season-high with six doubles. Ryan Dempster (14-5) struck out 10 batters in six innings to win for the fourth time in six starts. He gave up two runs, the sixth straight game in which he has allowed two runs or fewer. The Cubs won their sixth of seven while the third-place Marlins lost for the fourth time in five games. Chicago is 6-0-1 in its last seven series.

The Cubs picked up a game on each of their NL Central rivals as the Brewers lost to the Dodgers, 7-5, and the Cards lost to the Reds, 7-3.

The White Sox hit four home runs to increase their major-league lead to 178 on the season and bury the pitiful A’s, 13-1. Carlos Quentin hit his AL leading 34th homer. Javier Vazquez (10-10) allowed four hits in eight innings to help the White Sox win consecutive games in Oakland for the first time since August 2000 and took the season series from the A’s for the first time in eight years. This was Vazquez’ ninth straight season with 10 or more victories. For the first time in major league history, three members of the 500 home run club (Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Thome and Frank Thomas) were pinch hit for in the same game. The A’s have lost 10 straight series, falling to a major league-worst 5-23 since the All-Star break.

Edinson Volquez pitched seven shutout innings, becoming just the second Reds pitcher in the last 15 years to win at least 15 of his first 20 decisions in a season as the Reds ended an eight-game home losing streak. Despite the victory, the Reds have lost 17 of their last 22 games. The Cardinals had won four straight.

The Dodgers blew a four-run lead enabling Andre Ethier to hit his second homer of the game and his first career walk-off home run as L.A. beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-5. The Dodgers also got homers from Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp. Ryan Braun returned to the starting lineup for Milwaukee and hit a tying home run with two outs in the top of the 9th off Chan Ho Park, who slammed his glove to the ground when the ball cleared the fence. Braun, who leads the Brewers with a .301 average, 31 homers and 86 RBIs, was 2-for-4 in his return to the starting lineup. He missed six games because of tightness in his lower back, and entered Saturday night’s game as a pinch hitter and doubled in two at-bats.

The Dodgers are 6-1 when Ramirez homers, 8-3 when he drives in at least one run. Manny’s homer went an estimated 439 feet landing in the pavilion seats in left-center. Ramirez, who has 26 homers overall this year, is 25-for-59 (.424) with six homers and 21 RBIs in 16 games with the Dodgers after his divorce from the Boston Red Sox. In the last 16 games he played with Boston, Ramirez was 24-for-59 (.407) with four homers and 15 RBIs. Ethier is hitting .357 since Manny Ramirez made his L.A. debut on Aug. 1. He had a .274 average before that.

The Dodgers and the D-Backs are tied now thanks to Roy Oswalt allowing one hit in eight innings and striking out 10, outpitching Randy Johnson in Houston’s 3-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ty Wigginton hit a three-run homer off Johnson in the 1st inning as the Astros averted a three-game sweep and won for the ninth time in 11 games. Jose Valverde finished the two-hitter, allowing only Stephen Drew’s single in the 9th before earning his 31st save in 37 chances

Top of the 3rd