Pitching problems persist post All-Star break

"Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that KitKat bar."

1. Pitchers probably don’t like KitKat bars

Baseball players do not tolerate breaks well, particularly pitchers. This is why frequently after the All-Star break you see rocky performances from pitchers who are used to pitching every fourth or fifth day.

For example, in the Angels destruction of the Yankees last night, 10-2, Yankees starter Phil Hughes, who admittedly has been scuffling ever since the Yanks have tried giving him more rest between starts, threw five innings giving up nine hits and six runs which matched a season high for earned runs.

In the Orioles, 11-10, 13-inning walkoff win over the Rays, Tampa starter Matt Garza went 6.1 giving up 10 hits and seven runs.

The Pirates scored nine runs in the 1st off Donnie Bush of the Brewers and then hung on for an 11-9 win in part because their pitcher, Brad Lincoln lasted 2.1 and gave up seven runs. Now granted, neither of those pitchers were any great shakes to begin with, but neither are that bad.

Philadelphia lost 7-1 to the Cardinals, in part because Chris Carpenter pitched really well (so much for my theory) in picking up his 11th win of the season but also because the Phils had to go to the pen early as 47-year-old starter Jamie Moyer strained his elbow and lasted only one inning and is headed for the 15-day disabled list. I wondered if the layoff hurts older pitchers like him and Andy Pettitte who quickly went on the DL in his first start following the All-Star break.

Nate Robertson gave up eight runs, seven earned, and six hits in five innings for Florida as Colorado crushed the Marlins, 10-0. Jeff Francis allowed three hits, struck out seven and walked none while lowering his ERA from 5.14 to 4.63. Francis is not like Carpenter in that he has been returning from missing the 2009 season injured and the break probably did him good.

Ryan Dempster struggled with sharpness for the Cubs allowing seven runs, four earned and four walks in five innings but fortunately for him, Aramis Ramirez hit three homers and drove in seven runs to help Chicago rally to beat the Houston Astros, in a football-like score of 14-7.

Tim Lincecum allowed five runs and seven hits in 4.2 innings, struck out a season-low two and walked three but the Giants rallied to defeat the Dodgers in an insane game, 7-5. Jonathan Broxton (3-2) took the loss a week after earning the save in the All-Star Game but he wasn’t the pitcher on the mound at the end of the top of the 9th, an inning in which the Giants rallied with three runs after entering trailing, 5-4.

In this game, Dodger starter Clayton Kershaw, manager Joe Torre, and bench coach Bob Schaeffer were all ejected at various times due to a variety of HBP and brushbacks. That left manager-in-waiting and hitting coach Don Mattingly to come out to the mound to discuss strategy with Broxton as the Giants had the bases loaded. As he was stepping off the mound, first baseman James Loney apparently asked Donnie Baseball a question, and Mattingly stepped back on the mound. Giants manager Bruce Bochy came out to protest to plate umpire Adrian Johnson that Mattingly had technically made two visits to the mound in the same inning and that meant Broxton had to leave the game. The umpires met and agreed, and Broxton had to leave the game.

Reliever George Sherrill then came in and gave up a double to Andres Torres, giving the Giants a 6-5 lead, and another hit by Buster Posey off Travis Schlichting drove in another San Francisco run. Sherrill had thrown only two warm-up pitches in the bullpen and was limited by the umps to eight although according to MLB Rule 8.06, “The substitute pitcher will be allowed eight preparatory pitches or more if in the umpire’s judgment circumstances justify.” The Dodgers contend, I believe correctly, he should have been entitled to more pitches under the circumstances.

Posey now has a 14-game hitting streak. The Dodgers are winless since the All-Star break with a season high-tying sixth straight loss.

In any case, the pitchers will soon be back in their regular rotation but every fan should be aware of the dangers in the break.

2. I love walkoffs

The ending in Los Angeles was bizarre and the ending last night in Oakland was pretty odd as well as Kevin Kouzmanoff hit a two-out walkoff RBI single in the 10th inning to give the Oakland Athletics a 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox after trailing early, 4-0.

In the top of 10th, Cliff Pennington went up the middle for a bouncer by Bill Hall, and flipped the ball sideways to Mark Ellis at second who made a barehanded catch as he stepped on the bag and then wheeled and threw to first in the same motion for a very, very slick double play.

It got crazy in the bottom of the 10th. Coco Crisp led off by striking out and getting ejected by plate umpire Bob Davidson. Coco is a little cranky these days because after going 1-for-5 last night, he is now 1-for-22. Then Daric Barton singled off Ramon Ramirez (0-3) and advanced to second when Davidson called a balk on Ramirez.

“I didn’t see it,” Boston manager Terry Francona told the gathering of reporters. “He saw something that nobody else in our dugout saw.”

Kurt Suzuki was intentionally passed before Dustin Richardson came in and struck out Adam Rosales. Boston pitching coach John Farrell was ejected by Davidson during that at-bat for arguing a checked swing call.

Kouzmanoff then lined a single to right off Michael Bowden and Barton slid in safely ahead of the throw from J.D. Drew.

Dallas Braden, who is still seeking his first win since throwing a perfect game and recovering from an injury, started and got a no-decision. Nevertheless, he was pleased with his performance telling the San Francisco Chronicle, “We won, and my elbow is not out on the mound, it’s still on my arm,” said Braden, who allowed 10 hits and a walk and struck out six. “All signs positive.”

3. Looking for a good hitting pitcher? Take a Leake

Rookie Mike Leake moved to 7-1 for the first-place Reds giving up five hits in five scoreless innings before a rain delay forced him from the game. The Reds hung on to beat the Nationals, 8-7. Leake helped his own cause by singling in a run; he leads all NL pitchers with a .385 average.

4. Bye, bye, Lou

Lou Piniella announced yesterday that he would retire as the manager of the Cubs at the end of the season, ending a 22-season career as a manager and 18 years in the majors as a player. General manager Jim Hendry said Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, now managing the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Des Moines, would be a candidate for the job.

Piniella will retire as the 14th-winningest manager in major league history. His managerial record can be found on Billy-Ball.com.

5. Babaloo

Desi Arnaz performing "Babaloo"

The Washington Nationals have agreed to terms with 28-year-old Cuban pitcher Yunesky Maya, a baseball source confirmed and first reported by ESPN Deportes.

The Nationals will make the signing official after Maya receives his working visa and completes a physical in Washington. Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo could not confirm or deny the agreement, but he acknowledged the Nationals have followed Maya for some time and believes Maya, a veteran of the Cuban national team and Cuban National Series, could be added to the Nationals rotation by the end of the season.

Rizzo then lit up a big fat cigar and put on a Desi Arnaz album.

6. Some good news for a change

Milwaukee Brewers Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Bob Uecker will be back behind the microphone this weekend after a three-month recovery from heart surgery. The 75-year-old broadcaster underwent surgery April 30 to replace his aortic valve, aortic root and part of his ascending aorta.

The Brewers said Uecker will return to the WTMJ broadcast booth beginning Friday.

Welcome back, Uke.

7. Happy 62nd birthday

Best wishes to Gary Trudeau, the creator of Doonesbury.

8. I’m not one to talk

Michelle Obama has enlisted Major League Baseball and its players’ association for a new public service advertising campaign to promote her program to eliminate childhood obesity.

On a related note, happy birthday to CC Sabathia who turns 30 today.

9. Today

AL

Rays (James Shields) at Orioles (Brad Bergesen), 12:35

Angels (Joel Pineiro) at Yankees (Javier Vazquez), 1:05

Indians (Jake Westbrook) at Twins (Francisco Liriano), 1:10

Blue Jays (Marc Rzepczynski) at Royals (Zack Greinke), 2:10

Red Sox (Clay Buchholz) at A’s (Gio Gonzalez), 3:35

Rangers (Colby Lewis) at Tigers (Max Scherzer), 7:05

White Sox (Gavin Floyd) at Mariners (Felix Hernandez), 10:10

NL

Astros (Brett Myers) at Cubs (Ted Lilly), 2:20

Brewers (Randy Wolf) at Pirates (Zach Duke), 7:05

Nationals (Stephen Strasburg) at Reds (Bronson Arroyo), 7:10

Padres (Jon Garland) at Braves (Tommy Hanson), 7:10

Rockies (Jason Hammel) at Marlins (Ricky Nolasco), 7:10

Phillies (Joe Blanton) at Cardinals (Jamie Garcia), 8:15

Mets (Jonathon Niese) at Diamondbacks (Dan Haren), 9:40

Giants (Barry Zito) at Dodgers (Chad Billingsley), 10:10