Wednesday, August 6, 2014

NL Showdown in Milwaukee

Two of the National League’s best take the field for the second game of a three-game set tonight in Milwaukee. Both the Giants and Brewers have hit a mini-skid recently, but both still control their own destiny. The Brew Crew is on top of the Cardinals in the NL Central by a game, while the Giants sit 2.5 back of the Dodgers in the West. However, San Francisco does hold one of the coveted Wild Card spots. Milwaukee will be looking to take the series tonight and go for a momentum-shifting sweep tomorrow.

The Brewers received some unfortunate news yesterday, as starting pitcher Matt Garza was placed on the 15-Day DL with an oblique strain. The dreaded oblique strain is a nightmare for any baseball player, particularly pitchers since they cannot go through their motion with confidence. That means Garza is left without a true timetable to return, which leaves veterans such as Kyle Lohse and tonight’s starter, Yovani Gallardo, on the hot seat in his absence.

Gallardo (6-5, 3.38 ERA) is enjoying a bounce-back season after a shaky 2013. He’s been especially unhittable lately, riding a scoreless streak of 16.2 innings at the start of play tonight. In his current form, a normally toothless San Francisco offense may have even less bite.

Ranking in the bottom third of baseball in most team offensive categories, the Giants don’t have history or luck on their side tonight. Gallardo has been dazzling in his last four starts vs. Bruce Bochy’s club, boasting a 1.29 ERA. Additionally, due to off days on Thursday and Monday, Gallardo is pitching on six days rest. So don’t expect a thunderstorm from the Giants’ bats tonight.

That leaves San Francisco to depend on the arm of Ryan Vogelsong (6-8, 3.88 ERA). The veteran righty continues to grind innings as the dependable #4 or #5 starter for the Giants. However, with Matt Cain undergoing season-ending elbow surgery, it’s time for Vogelsong to take a leadership role. His two-hit complete game against the Mets last week should open some eyes, but prior to that night, the Giants' offense only gave him three total runs in support over the prior six starts. If San Francisco’s bats can find a way to jump on Gallardo early and offer some support to their starter, they could steal a victory in Milwaukee. We just don't expect that to happen.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Yankees to Host Detroit's New-Look Rotation

The baseball world watched last week as Oakland and Detroit attempted to one-up each other at the trade deadline. After adding one big arm, Jeff Samardzija, early in the summer to bolster their rotation, Oakland GM Billy Beane went for it and acquired a proven postseason winner in Jon Lester. Not to be outdone, Detroit's personnel man, Dave Dombrowski swooped in, and to most neutral observers, stole David Price from the Rays.

Fresh from taking two of three against the Red Sox in Boston, the Yanks return home to face the heart of Detroit's new-look rotation. In back-to-back-to-back nights, they'll take on reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, 2012 Cy Young winner Price, and 2011 Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander. It all starts tonight against Scherzer (13-3, 3.27 ERA), who's not quite up to last season's performance but is still looking for his sixth straight win and league best 14th overall win. The news gets worse for New York.

Scherzer has been brilliant over his last seven starts, posting a 2.08 ERA and tallying 56 punch-outs in 47.2 innings of work. To make things even easier on Max, the Tigers have provided him with 6.8 runs of support per start over the same stretch. As if those trends don't spell enough trouble for the Bombers, the big righty has had a quality track record vs. New York in his career. Scherzer is 6-1 with a 3.12 ERA against the Yanks in seven starts, as well as receiving an average of 6.92 runs in support per start. So, while the Yankee bats woke up over the weekend in Boston, the Red Sox pitching cupboard had been rendered empty after trading away four starters. Detroit's arms figure to give Joe Girardi's club a much stiffer test.

With that kind of opposition, the Bombers arms must show up on Monday. That task belongs to Brandon McCarthy. Fortunately for the Pinstripes, McCarthy (3-0, 2.55 ERA) has been a reincarnation act since coming over from the Diamondbacks in early July. The Yankees have won each of the four starts he's made since returning to the American League, even though McCarthy was a bit of a punching bag for the fourth place Dbacks.

Despite struggling to a 5.01 ERA in 18 starts in Arizona, McCarthy has to a feel a level of comfort being back in the American League. Prior to signing with the Dbacks in 2013, the lanky right-hander had spent each of his first seven seasons in the Junior Circuit. After battling an array of arm injuries throughout the years (he's still without a 30-start season in his career), McCarthy is a savvy pitcher. Instead of relying on his stuff to retire batters, he changes speeds, recalls past at-bats, and comes prepared for his starts. This resurgence should come as a shock to no one; McCarthy has made a living by getting off the mat from injury and poor performance. If McCarthy helps anchor a shaky Yankee rotation over the final two months, they very well could be playing some meaningful games in October.

Hankering for those meaningful baseball games in August and September? Well, SnapCall will have them! Tonight's action starts at 7pm, so don't be late!