My brother and I were discussing the other day how it’s hard to pay attention to baseball in August, when half the teams are out of the playoff hunt already but the really meaningful division deciding games are still a few weeks off. This week a selection of MLB starters took it upon themselves to call our attention back from NFL training camp, impending fantasy football drafts, and Usain Bolt. Three days in awesome pitching, after the jump.
I know our Ladies… stats experts will tell me wins and ERA are not the most accurate measure of a pitcher’s performance (more on this later) but Cliff Lee is 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA in his five starts since joining the Phillies. His fifth win, which I was lucky enough to see in person at Citi Field, got off to a rough start when Chase Utley made two errors on the first at-bat of the game and allowed Angel Pagan to round the bases and score on what should have been an easy out. (The other run the Mets scored in this game was unearned as well.) It was one of those sneaky good kind of performances where you look up in the 7th inning and realize a pitcher’s thrown 90 something pitches, 60 of them for strikes. Nothing too flashy, just getting the job done.
Also, although my family didn’t realize it at the time, we witnessed Billy Wagner’s last inning as a Met — and he looked pretty well recovered from his latest DL stint, at least for four batters. So don’t panic yet, Red Sox fans. About this, anyway.
You may have heard about this one. Or maybe not, since it happened in Kansas City and against Cleveland, but it was still awesome. Zack Greinke set a new Royals franchise record by striking out 15 batters en route to a 6-2 win, blowing past his previous personal best of 11. (The previous franchise record was 14, set in 1988, and if you can name the pitcher without looking him up you are …Minda, probably.) Greinke has 38 strikeouts against Cleveland in 4 starts this year, and it’s worth it to read the MLB game summary if only for the dazed comments from the Indians players.
I do love a good pitcher’s duel — especially when my favorite team is the victor. Facing our pitching nemesis, Wandy Rodriguez (seriously, even Albert has trouble hitting this guy), Adam Wainwright threw eight innings of three-hit shut-out ball, with five strikeouts and no walks, to beat the Astros 1-0. After a shaky start to the season, Wainwright has quietly reeled off a string of impressive starts, and along with Chris Carpenter, is one of the main reasons the Cardinals have steadily increased their lead in the NL Central. (Well, and Albert and Matt Holliday, but this is a post about pitching.)
Yesterday was an object lesson in why wins aren’t great stats to measure a pitcher’s effectiveness, as both Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir had excellent starts, only to be denied the win because their bullpen allowed the other team to tie the game. (Both the Phillies and the Rays ended up winning in the 10th inning.) Hamel threw eight scoreless innings after struggling much of the season, and Kazmir struck out 10 batters and allowed just 1 run on 4 hits. But you get a picture of Kazmir because I’ve already put one Phillie in this post.
I’ve had one eye on the games and the other on my fantasy football magazine all week (last night I had a very weird dream about Brian Westbrook), so I’m sure I’ve missed someone. Who’s been calling your attention back to baseball this week?