With that title, you will surely think I am talking about the inevitable Yankee injuries, and you are partly right: they put Tanaka on the DL last night, and started Chase Whitley in his place. Whitley had a solid start (5 IP, 1 ER, 55 GS) and the Yankees’ shut-down bullpen pitched 4 innings allowing 1 run, so they won 4-2. And they had always planned to pitch Whitley, giving each starter an extra day, so it doesn’t actually disturb things: they’ll just rescind the extra day, and everyone else will go on normal rest, with Whitley taking Tanaka’s place. AND they increased their AL East lead. Tanaka is not complaining of elbow pain, but rather wrist/forearm, and they are saying, at this point, a month or so. We’ll see.
But what I really want to talk about is the Cubs kids. Kris Bryant we know about: he was in the news all spring, is now with the big club, and his 1 for 4 with only a single last night brought his season line down to .341/.471/.439/810. And we KNOW he has power, so that 098 ISO will surely rise. Then last week they brought up Addison Russell, and he has yet to hit (.179/.207/.286) but has been brilliant in the field at second base, and last night hit a key double, his fifth of his very young season (fun note: HIS ISO is .107, BETTER than Bryant). NOW they bring up a third kid: Junior Lake. He started in left field, went 2 for 5 with an RBI double. Lake was not a debut (he played 108 games last year) but adds to the youth movement.
We have been talking about this for a few years, how the Cubs had a very deep minor league system, and the players might coalesce at the same moment. Consider these players and their ages:
Addison Russell, 2B 21
Jorge Soler RF, Kris Bryant 3B, Arismendy Alcantara IF (currently back in AAA) 23
Anthony Rizzo 1B, Junior Lake LF, Starlin Castro SS 25
That’s SIX of last night’s eight position players at 25 years old or younger. And the Cubs have money: they could conceivably keep this core around for a long time.
Is their pitching good enough to win? Hard to say. Will they be fun to watch? Easy to say, YES!
Meanwhile, on other fronts: I almost feel prescient – I said before the season started that I was NOT on the Red Sox bandwagon, that their starting pitching was worse than people thought and that they would lose a lot of games 11-8. Well, they lost one last night by EXACTLY that score, as Clay Buchholz (preseason anointed ace) and a bunch of relievers melted down so much that even their pounding bats couldn’t keep up. The Red Sox have outscored the Yankees, 109 to 107 in the same number of games (21) which is 5.19 R/G which in today’s run context is outstanding. But the Sox have ALLOWED 118 (5.62 $/G) worst in baseball, while NY has allowed only 81 (3.86 R/G). Unlike previous seasons, this year so far the Yankees deserve a BETTER record (by the Pythagorean rule) than they have, and the Red Sox a worse record. In the case of NY, it is entirely due to 3 blowout wins, which so early in the season tip the RS/RA ratio, but in Boston’s case it is earned. I may do April scorecards on Friday if I get ambitious.
The most fun game of the day yesterday, by far, was the Nats and Braves. Washington scored first, a 2-out RBI double by Harper in the top of the first. AJ Cole made his ML debut for the Nats, and his first inning went single, out, single, sac fly, wild pitch, double for 2 runs and a 2-1 deficit. Sadly, that was his GOOD inning. In the second it went single, single, sac bunt, intentional walk (!!), single, line out. One run in, two outs, bases still loaded, but a chance to escape with minor damage. Another single plated a second run, bases still loaded, now down 4-1. A comebacker to the mound to end the inning, but Cole got excited, threw it away, and suddenly it was 6-1, runners on second and third, and still pitching. A double and a single plated 3 more runs (!) before a grounder ended the inning and his outing: 2 IP, 9 R, 4 ER, 1BB (intentional), 1 K (Game Score 12 – tough debut) . 9-1 Braves. The Nats got one back in the third, the Bravesmatched it in the fourth, to make it 10-2.
In the top of the fifth the Nats scored 4 unearned runs, on double, error, sac fly, strikeout, single, home run to close to 10-6. A Denard Span HR in the sixth made it 10-7 and ended Teheran’s day (GS 33). But single, double, walk added a run for Atlanta, and put two on with no outs. Just like the Red Sox game, the Nats kept scoring, but seemingly couldn’t stop the Braves from scoring, too. But Thornton came on and got out, out, walk (loading the bases), out to reestablish order. 11-7 Braves. Then, in the top of the seventh, the Nats rallied via walk, out, walk, out, triple, double for 3 runs to close to 11-10. NOW it was really a ballgame! AGAIN they couldn’t keep the Braves off the scoreboard, as they parlayed a walk and two singles into another run, to extend the shaky lead to 12-10. But in the top of the ninth the Nats got two on (walk, single) with only one out and Dan Uggla at the plate. Uggla hasn’t hit at all for years (ask Atlanta, his opponent on this day) and was only playing due to injuries, but on this day he already had 2 hits and 2 RBI. 438 feet later he had 3 hits, 5 RBI and a 13-12 Washington win. Wow!
The Dodgers fell to the Giants 2-1 (Kershaw and Bumgarner) for the Giants fourth win in five games against LA. As noted yesterday, they are a sub-.300 team against the rest of baseball. And the Mets couldn’t get it done, either: they gave up 3 in the sixth to trail 3-0, got them all back in the seventh to tie the game at 3, but lost 4-3 on a run in the eighth. Montero (GS 52) and Phelps (54) were both fine but not great, and C Torres allowed a run out of the bullpen (as opposed to A Torres, who threw a scoreless inning). You can’t win them all, I guess.
Isn’t this fun???