Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-8-7

8/7/2008
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

Billy-Ball – From the diamond to your desktop…
By Baseball Newstalgist, Bill Chuck

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Top of the 1st
OUCH!
Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis had to leave Wednesday night’s game against the Royals in the bottom of the 1st after he was hit by a 92-mph fastball from Royals starter Luke Hochevar. Fortunately for the Red Sox, X-rays were negative and it’s just a painful contusion on his right hand.

Youk is day-to-day. Since the incident occurred in Youk’s first time at the plate, and because a Hit By Pitch does not count as an at-bat, his 12-game hitting streak remains intact.

Now its very unlikely that we’ll reach a time that Kevin Youkilis hits in his 57th straight game and we look back at this moment and realize the streak could have ended there. I feel pretty confident that Youk won’t break Joe DiMaggio’s record. And even though this is Youk’s ninth time getting hit this season, I’m equally confident that he won’t break Ron Hunt’s modern record of getting plunked 50 times in a season, like Hunt did in 1971. I also doubt that Youk, who has been hit 39 times in his career, will ever approach Hughie Jennings 287 hit by pitches or Craig Biggio’s modern record of 285 HBPs. However, Kevin did say after the game, “It hurts like hell still. It’s swollen and bruised up.”

Getting hit by a pitch can really get you hurt or worse. Alfonso Soriano missed six weeks this season when he was hit in a similar fashion to Youkilis and broke his hand and he was just one example of injuries this season as the result of pitches. Of course, sometimes if you take one for the team like Jose Molina did in July for the Yanks, it can be a game-winner. Molina was plunked by the A’s Lenny DiNardo with the bases filled in the 12th and the Yankees won on a walk-off HBP, just like they had on July 15, 1965, against the Washington Senators when Clete Boyer was plunked.

The worst hit by a pitch in major league history was when Indians shortstop Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Yankees pitcher Carl Mays and died 12 hours later. When this occurred on August 16, 1920, pitchers could do just about anything to the ball to alter its delivery. When that pitch was thrown by submariner Mays at twilight (remember there were no lights) it didn’t matter whether it was a spitter, or the ball had been cut or scuffed, Chapman couldn’t see it and froze at the plate as it hurtled towards his head.

Mickey Cochrane, probably the best catcher in the 1920’s and 30’s was also hit in the head by a pitch but he survived and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1947. His lifetime .320 average is the highest of any major league catcher. He also was a player-manager for the Detroit Tigers and his 582 winning percentage (413-297) is the best of any Tigers manager who managed for at least one full year.

But Cochrane became a full-time manager after his playing career ended brusquely on May 25, 1937, when his skull was fractured in three places on a 3-2 pitch from Yankee Bump Hadley. Cochrane was in critical condition for nearly two days. He was hospitalized and was unconscious for days. His condition was so serious that he was given his last rites but recovered enough to resume managing his team, but never played again.

Now remember, how I mentioned with Youk that a Hit By Pitch does not count as an at-bat, so while Cochrane’s last plate appearance was an HBP, his last at bat officially occurred in the prior plate appearance.

In that at bat Cochrane homered against Bump Hadley.

That means that Cochrane and Ted Williams are the only Hall of Famers to have ended their careers by hitting a home run in their final official at bat.

Top of the 2nd
IN THE EAST
In the AL East, the Rays remain the story coming from behind scoring six in the bottom of the 9th to top the Tripe, 10-7. Trailing by four entering the inning, Eric Hinske had an RBI double in and then Gabe Gross tied it 7-all with a two-run homer off Edward Mujica, who was trying for his first major league save. Masahide Kobayashi (4-5) replaced Mujica and gave up an infield single to Akinori Iwamura, walked Ben Zobrist before Carlos Pena hit a three-run homer to center for his fifth career game-ending homer. The AL East leaders, who have never won more than 70 games in 10 previous seasons, improved to 68-45 with their eighth victory in 11 games. Their 45 home wins are the most in the majors. As the Monkees sang, “I’m a Believer.”

The second place team kept pace as Jacoby Ellsbury hit a three-run homer and Tim Wakefield knuckleball shut down Kansas City on four hits through six innings, helping the Boston Red Sox to an 8-2 victory over the Royals enabling the Bostonians to keep pace with the Rays. Jed Lowrie and J.D. Drew drove in two runs apiece for the Red Sox, Wakefield (7-8) won for the first time in four starts. The Sox were 6-1 against the Royals this season.

The Yankees hung on thanks to another surprising effort from Sidney Ponson. Ponson (7-2), released by Texas in June, gave up three hits in 6 1/3 innings as the New Yawkahs topped the Rangers, 5-3. The Yankees snapped a three-game road losing streak and remain the only AL team not to lose four straight road games this season. Jason Giambi hit his 386th career home run and is 4-for-8 with two home runs and three RBIs in three games since shaving his mustache. Mariano Rivera is now 27 for 27 in save opportunities this season.

In the NL East, Kyle Kendrick pitched six scoreless innings, Ryan Howard homered (again) and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Florida Marlins 5-0. Kendrick (10-5) allowed four hits and five walks to win at home for the first time since beating Cincinnati on June 2. Chad Durbin tossed two scoreless innings, and Ryan Madson completed the five-hitter. Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez (1-1) gave up four runs (three earned) and five hits in five innings in his second start since returning from shoulder surgery. Howard is now tied with Adam Dunn for the major league lead with 32 homers.

The Mets lost additional ground to the Phils as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Padres. The Padres won for just the second time in their last seven games overall and are 5-1 against the Mets this season. Cha Seung Baek gave the Mets fits again, allowing two runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. The Padre is 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA in two starts against New York this season and is 4-5 overall with a 4.90 ERA. Jody Gerut, Brian Giles and Chase Headley all went deep for the last-place Friars. Pedro Martinez allowed four hits and three runs, two earned, in 6.1 innings, his longest outing of the season (how telling is that, boys and girls?). He has given up five solo homers in his last two starts.

Top of the 3rd
IN THE CENTRAL
In the NL…
The Astros scored four times in the top of the 3rd inning but the Cubbies answered with a Mark DeRosa grand slam and an Alfonso Soriano three-run homer to score eight runs and send Chicago over the Houstonians, 11-4. It was their ninth win in the 11 games and improved their NL best record to 69-46. Soriano has 20 hits, including six homers, and 14 RBIs in 11 games since returning from a broken finger. In those 11 games, the Cubs have outscored their opponents, 75-39.

The Brewers are doing their best to keep pace with the hot Chicagoans, they topped the Reds yesterday, 6-3. Rickie Weeks matched his career high with four hits. “The doom and gloom that was in here two days ago, and we end up with a 4-2 road trip and again, we’re doing fine,” manager Ned Yost said. The Brewers are three games into a stretch of 10 games against Cincinnati, Washington and San Diego, the bottom of the very deep NL barrel.

The Cards kept pace as well as Albert Pujols hit a granny (don’t worry she’s fine) and Ryan Ludwick homered again as the St. Louisians topped the LA Mannys, 9-6. Ludwick tied a franchise record with a homer in his fifth straight game, only four pitches after
Pujols’ sixth career grand slam during a five-run 4th that chased Derek Lowe, who gave up eight runs and 13 hits in only 3 1/3 innings. Pujols finished 4-for-4 with a walk, while insisting being on the same field as Manny Ramirez served as motivation. “You can have nine Manny Ramirezes out there and I’m still going to go and play my game,” Pujols said. “I don’t have to impress Manny Ramirez or 45,000 people. My job is to play hard and help my team to win.” The thought of nine Manny’s I’m sure would put Terry Francona into a state of distress that he might not recover from. Speaking of the Manny, he hit his 513th home run to break a tie with Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews for 20th place on the career list and added an RBI single. He is batting .600 (12-for-20) with three homers and six RBIs in five games since joining the Dodgers. Ludwick is the fifth Cardinals player to homer in five straight games and the first since Pujols from Aug. 17-22, 2007. He has totaled six homers during the streak. Other Cardinals to homer in five straight games are Jim Edmonds (2004), Rip Collins (1935) and Jim Bottomley (1929).

In the AL…
Jim Thome hit a three-run homer and John Danks worked 6.2 allowing one run on four hits helping the Chicago White Sox to a 5-1 victory over Detroit. Justin Verlander dropped to 2-8 with a 6.01 ERA against the White Sox in his career. The White Sox remained a game ahead of the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central, while the Tigers dropped 8 1/2 games out of first place — the farthest back they’ve been since trailing by nine games on June 11.

The Twins’ Denard Span drove in a career-high four runs and leaped to rob Adrian Beltre of a go-ahead homer, leading the Twins over the Seattle Mariners 7-3. Nick Blackburn gave up three runs in six innings for his ninth win of season (tied for most by AL rookies), has allowed three earned runs or less in seven straight and nine of last 10 starts

Top of the 4th
THE WREST OF THE NL
Despite the Dodgers loss they lost no ground to the Diamondbacks who were almost totally shutdown by the Pirates’ Jeff Karstens (why can’t the Yankees get pitchers like him?). Karstens retired the first 23 Arizona batters before Chris Young’s two-out double in the 8th and finished with a two-hitter in a dominating 2-0 victory. Karstens (2-0) has tossed 15 scoreless innings against the Cubs and the D-Backs since coming to Pittsburgh from the Yankees. Karstens outpitched Randy Johnson and got his first two major league hits off the Big Unit and scored on Doug Mientkiewicz’s 8th inning double. Freddy Sanchez homered off Johnson (9-8) to account for the other run. Karstens was 6-4 with a 3.80 ERA at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season and if he continues to pitch this well the Pirates will be forced to trade him.

Top of the 5th
THE DREADED ROTATOR CUFF
Joba Chamberlain was placed on the 15-day disabled list with rotator cuff tendinitis in his pitching shoulder. The club said Chamberlain will rest for about a week before beginning a throwing program.Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he had no specifics to report regarding Chamberlain’s examination by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Alabama. You hate to hear the words “rotator cuff ” used for any pitcher.

In a related note…
The Mariners’ Jarrod Washburn may be pitching his way out of Seattle as he only gave up a three-run triple to the Twins’ Denard Span in a Seattle 7-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Washburn, who threw a solid six innings, and tossed his seventh “quality start” at least six innings pitched, three earned runs or fewer allowed, in his last 10 outings. Talk about a bogus stat. Washburn left with Mariners trailing 4-3 after six, the difference being an unearned run that scored in the second after an Adrian Beltre error. With Washburn’s 3.44 earned-run average since May 25, he might prove to be an adequate replacement in the Yankees rotation for Joba Chamberlain who went on the DL yesterday. Washburn presumably may have already cleared waivers.

Top of the 6th
BILLY-BALL-SITE-OF-THE-DAY
I have said many times before that when perusing through as many “inside reports” as I do, you have to pick one who you decide you will believe in. This is the guy who will recommend the restaurants you will like, the movies you like, and the perspective on baseball you like. My guy for many years has been Ken Rosenthal. I was thrilled when Fox Sports made him “their guy” because in addition to being knowledgeable, he seems to be one of the nicest people in the business.

The archive of his work is the B-B-S-O-T-D – http://msn.foxsports.com/writer/archive?authorId=162

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
AL
Oakland Athletics at Toronto Blue Jays, 7:07 pm
(R) Justin Duchscherer (10-7) vs. (R) A.J. Burnett (13-9)
New York Yankees at Texas Rangers, 8:05 pm
(R) Mike Mussina (14-7) vs. (R) Scott Feldman (4-4)
Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox, 8:11 pm
(R) Zach Miner (5-4) vs. (R) Javier Vazquez (8-9)
Tampa Bay Rays at Seattle Mariners, 10:10 pm
(R) Andy Sonnanstine (11-6) vs. (R) Felix Hernandez (7-7)

NL
San Diego Padres at New York Mets, 12:10 pm
(R) Josh Banks (3-4) vs. (L) Johan Santana (9-7)
Florida Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies, 1:05 pm
(R) Chris Volstad (2-2) vs. (L) Cole Hamels (9-7)
Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals, 2:15 pm
(L) Clayton Kershaw (1-3) vs. (R) Kyle Lohse (13-3)
Washington Nationals at Colorado Rockies, 3:05 pm
(R) Jason Bergmann (1-8) vs. (L) Jeff Francis (3-7)
Washington Nationals at Colorado Rockies, 6:35 pm
(L) Odalis Perez (4-8) vs. (R) Ubaldo Jimenez (8-9)
Houston Astros at Cincinnati Reds, 7:10 pm
(R) Roy Oswalt (8-8) vs. (R) Josh Fogg (2-3)
Atlanta Braves at Arizona Diamondbacks, 9:40 pm
(R) Charlie Morton (2-5) vs. (R) Yusmeiro Petit (1-2)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Let’s hear it for the Phils’ Mike Cervenak who pinch-hit a single to left for his first major league hit and RBI. Cervenak will be 32 on Aug. 17 and is in his 10th professional season, but this is his first visit to the bigs. Mike did however play for the Kia Tigers in Korea in 2006 and 8 1/2 seasons of independent and minor league ball. Cervy was batting .310 with 52 RBIs for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs before his call-up. Cervenak has also played for the Greensboro Bats, the Norwich Navigators, the Fresno Grizzlies, and the Norfolk Tides.

Cervenak is the third independent league player to suit up for the Phils this season, the other are catcher Chris Coste and pitcher R. J. Swindle.

Top of the 9th
WANT TO KNOW WHY THE RAYS ARE NOT FADING?
Rays center fielder B.J. Upton was benched yesterday for failing to run out a grounder that he hit back to the mound Tuesday night.

“When it comes down to individual effort, it takes absolutely zero talent — zero — to try hard and play hard every day,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m OK with physical mistakes, with mental mistakes; I’m accepting of all that. The part that I’m not accepting of is the part that you can control. And that’s your effort.”

That’s why.

Bottom of the 9th
BUY THE BOOK
Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales,” with a Foreword by Jon Miller available now from ACTA Sports.

Autographed first editions are available by contacting, Bill@billy-ball.com or order directly from Acta Sports, http://www.actasports.com/detail.html?&id=3427 or from your favorite bookstore worldwide.

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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.