Tagged: Edwin Jackson

Walking with Molina

Jose Molina is Friday night’s designated hitter. Did you know that Molina has set his career high in walks this season? His 14th free pass did the trick, shattering his 2005 record of 13. There are all kinds of players — I bet somewhere in his career Barry Bonds got 13 walks in four games. To give Molina all the credit he’s due for his feat, it really does represent a huge uptick in patience. Last year, when Jorge Posada’s injury forced the Yankees to give Molina more playing time than he’d ever received before or ever will again, he walked only 12 times in 297 plate appearances. He’s exceeded that total by two despite coming to the plate 147 times. He’s walking twice as often as he used to. No doubt this is just another example of the cosmic dice finding the sweet spot on Molina’s Strat-O-Matic card again and again, Rosencrantz’s coin coming up heads 92 times in a row. Albert Einstein famously said that God does not play dice with the universe, but this is pretty clear evidence that He does play dice with Jose Molina’s walk rate. Coming soon: The Book of Molina: When Good Things Happen to Inoffensive Reserve Catchers — featuring a new translation of the Book of Job revealing that the whole thing was just a big misunderstanding.

… And Jim Leyland is Ophelia. Really. Tonight’s attempt to resolve the never-ending battle of the AL Central features Jake Peavy and the White Sox against Edwin Jackson of the Tigers and Lenny DiNardo of the Royals going against Jeff Manship (whose name always makes me think either of slave-rowed galleys or alien abductions, or both. Methinks the Twins will be but one game out at the end of the night. DiNardo is a journeyman lefty lacking in control or strikeout pitches, and while the Twins have had problems with southpaws this year (they’re under .500 in games started by lefties) DiNardo doesn’t merit any consideration because of his handedness. Manship of Space is a rookie, equally unimpressive in his own way, another Twins pitch-to-contact guy. The thing is, when you’re facing the Royals, pitching to contact isn’t such a big deal.

The Tigers get to try their luck against Peavy, who completely dominated them last week. Familiarity shouldn’t breed success, not with a pitcher of his quality, though it is fair to note that the previous game was at Chicago, and the Tigers have been miserable in road games. As for their own starter, Jackson was impressive early, but note that in the second half his ERA has jumped by two full runs, from 2.52 to 4.53. His strikeout rate has also dropped in that time, going from seven a game to six. In short, his season is a mirror-image of CC Sabathia’s. In his last start against the White Sox, just days ago, he gave up five runs in seven innings. His September includes a solid but unspectacular game against the Rays and seven shutout innings against the Indians. The rest has been mush, the aggregate coming to an ERA of 5.08.

Saturday the odds shift back to the Tigers, as the Twins draw Greinke and they get the sore-armed Freddy Garica. They bombed Garcia last week, but he had actually been pitching very well to that point, with a 3.09 ERA in his previous five starts. Unfortunately, his strikeout rate has been less than intimidating, even in that time, and that means that even if he’s at his best he could give up some runs. The one fly in the ointment for the Tigers is that they’re starting rookie Alfredo Figaro, a sort of functional sinker/change-up guy. One imagines he won’t have too long a leash. The results of Saturday’s play should make Sunday a day of for-all-accounts-and-purposes exhibitions, and the Yankees can get on with the business of figuring out how to beat the Tigers.

The around (and about)

lester_250.jpgRed Sox 8, Blue Jays 2: A comeback start for Jon Lester, with the lefty striking out 12 in six innings and allowing just one run on three hits and a like number of walks. On May 18, the Jays were in first place, 3.5 games up, with a record of 27-14. Since then, thanks to a nine-game losing streak, they’re 2-10. Reality bites — hard. Next up for the Red Sox: at Tigers. Next up for the Jays: hosting the Angels. It should be another good week for the Yankees, assuming they can win a few. Notice was paid to Terry Francona shaking up his lineup, a cosmetic change that sometimes leads to a seemingly psychological boost.

Tigers 3, Orioles 0: You have to feel for the Rays, who would be far more competitive with Edwin Jackson (eight innings, two hits, no runs, 2.30 ERA) on their team, but they made an economic decision they have to live with. The Rays have enjoyed the highest increase in per-game attendance this year, but that only means they rank ninth in the league instead of 12th. Thus are pennant races determined — it’s not just smarts, but also what you have in the bank, with perhaps the latter outweighing the former. The Tigers continue to allow the fewest runs per game (4.31) in the league, which allows them to win even on days like Sunday when Jim Leyland benched some key regulars. Bonus: Fernando “Caesar” Rodney has been an effective closer. Orioles’ silver lining: two good starts for rookie Jason Berken, though it probably doesn’t mean much in the long term. Luke Scott went 0-for-3, ending a rather ridiculous May in which he hit .432/.479/.1.000 in 13 games sandwiched around a DL stay.

Twins 3, Rays 2: In which the Rays give up the decisive run on a little looping liner over Ben Zobrist’s head. Former Yankee Sean Henn picked up his first hold of the season in this one. The Rays have the No. 2 offense in the AL, the Yankees No. 1. Both found on Sunday that sometimes you just don’t get the safeties when you need them. It happens.

White Sox 7, Royals 4: The Pale Hose are just one game below .500, and with a visit from Oakland up next, they’re likely to get back over in the short term. Define “short term” as until they host the Tigers for five games in four days a week from today. Less than 20,000 in KC to see Zack Greinke pitch against John Danks. Shameful.

Athletics 5, Rangers 4: On October 13, 2002, Adam Kennedy hit three home runs in the fifth game of the ALCS against the Twins. Yesterday he popped two against the Rangers, including the game-winner, bringing his season rates to .390/.462/.622 in 21 games. This from a fellow who wasn’t even in the Majors to start the year after having been thoroughly mediocre for the last six years and for the bulk of the rest of his career. This has always been the mystery of the player was the first-round pick of the Cardinals way back in 1997: on some days, he can be the guy he was in that playoff game, or was yesterday. On most days he can’t, but everyone knows he can. Hence the frustration.

Angels 9, Mariners 8: The M’s had this one in the bag until they actually had to pitch. That part didn’t work out too well. Six unanswered runs in the first three innings should have made the rest academic, but the Angels worked away and David Aardsma buckled in the ninth. Comedy relief included Ichiro Suzuki going 4-for-5 with a couple of doubles and a home run to raise his rates to .354/.386/.454, his 24th straight game with a hit. If Ichiro keeps this up, 2009 will be one of those years where Mr. Mariner lives up to his rep. Average during the streak: .406, three home runs in 106 at-bats.

Mets 3, Marlins 2: It’s not often you see a pitcher exit a shutout because he really, really has to get to the bathroom….

Astros 2, Pirates 1: Sixth save of the season for LaTroy Hawkins, backing Mike Hampton, as the Astros team up for a win out of 2001 or 2004 or any other year when Hampton and Hawkins were vaguely healthy and effective and people had more money than they do now. That would probably rule out 1893, what with the panic and all. Andy LaRoche in May: .330/.411/.457, now hitting .299/.371/.420 overall… The Pirates recalled Steven Jackson today. We’ll see if Joe Girardi erred in not getting the guy into a game before the Yankees cut him loose.

Phillies 4, Nationals 2: Methuselah Moyer wins No. 250, and may he win 250 more. Josh Willingham popped two for the Nats, and it’s hard to visualize his still doing double-duty as a Senate page after the trading deadline. If the Nats play one game above water the rest of the way, they would finish at 70-92. Their next series, at home against San Francisco, offers an interesting contrast, the pitching impaired versus the hitting impaired. My money is on the latter.

Brewers 5, Reds 2: Fifteen games in now and Trevor Hoffman still hasn’t allowed a run, and closing out this one allowed the Brewskis finally to pass the Cardinals and take first place. Mike Cameron popped home run number eleven, and his power is an important component of what’s been working for the Brewers. A bit unexpected, too: Cameron is hitting .284/.379/.550, and he’s never touched those numbers in a full season. Craig Counsell since Rickie Weeks went down: 11 games, 50 PA, .306/.320/.306. Anyone spot the problem here?

Padres 5, Rockies 4: A change of managers is a superficial patch for a team that can’t hit. Adrian Gonzalez blasts No. 20, leads the NL in home runs. If a player from that team in that park leads the league for the season, it will have been a minor miracle — 15 of the 20 have been hit on the road. Since joining the Padres, Gonzalez has hit .268 with a home run every 24.5 at-bats at home, .305 with a homer every 14.9 at-bats on the road. With a contract that calls for $3 million this year, $4.75 million next year, and $5.5 million the year after, he should be the most desirable trade possibility in baseball right now. Not only is he cheap, but if the acquiring team plays in a fair park and gets 250 post-trade at-bats, they could get 15-20 home runs out of the bargain.

Giants 5, Cardinals 3: When the starting pitcher (Adam Wainwright) has an off day, the Cards lack the offensive heft to counterpunch. This team desperately needs a bat. When I see “Wainwright,” I can never help hearing, “General Wainwright is a right guy.” And if you know what that refers to, you’re either pretty old, a history buff, or both. Here’s a toast to General Wainwright’s guys, holding out on that island (and after), real American heroes.

Braves 9, Diamondbacks 3: Garret Anderson hit his first home run of the season, raising his rates to .266/.294/.358. Kelly Johnson has hit in seven of eight games, batting .342 with seven doubles, a triple, and two home runs. No walks, though. Seems like it was at this time last year that I was wondering where Johnson left his walks… The real news of the game was Kris Medlen’s very solid start and a rare poor one by Max Scherzer.

Dodgers 8, Cubs 2: Over in the first inning, with former home run machine Eric Milton holding the Cubs in check. That’s not the feat it used to be, of course. Rafael Furcal is batting .245/.308/.304 with three stolen bases in six chances. When do you think Joe Torre drops him out of the No. 2 spot? My guess is never… As I typed these words, a John Mellencamp song came on the XM and I actually liked it. I’m shaken to my core. I was fooled by the long instrumental opening, I swear! Excuse me while I go look for some strong, abrasive soap….