This recap is heavy on action in the NL West this week, so that’s where we will start. There is a great pennant race in that division with 1.5 games currently separating the two leading teams.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
8/16 Giants vs. Nationals: Madison Bumgarner had one of the greatest single games of the season against the Washington Nationals. He pitched a complete game shutout. He allowed only three hits and 1 walk while striking out 14. In addition, he made a compelling case against the DH by going 2-3 with a home run and a double. The Nationals are now under .500. Their post- ASG troubles continue as they fall farther behind in both their division and the wild card races. I would say that in a one game playoff Clayton Kershaw is the pitcher I would least like my team to face but Madison Bumgarner is a close runner up for that spot. Bumgarner is currently striking out 9.6 per 9 innings on average while maintaining a WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) of 1.035.
Final Score: Giants 5, Nationals 0
8/18 Dodgers vs. A’s: Kershaw allowed 1 run and 5 hits while striking out 7 in 7 innings. Pedro Baez came in in the 8th and allowed 3 runs in 1/3 of an inning. Yimi Garcia allowed the walk-off base hit in the 10th inning giving himself and the team a loss after Kershaw’s great performance. This team simply can’t put the Giants away in the NL West. The Dodgers blog TrueBlueLA reported that Mat Latos was moved to the bullpen to maximize starts for Greinke and Kershaw as the Dodgers look to put some distance between themselves and the Giants.
Final Score: Oakland 5, Dodgers 4
8/20 Pirates vs. Giants: This is the beginning of a four game series that is important to both teams. The Pirates are 4 up in the Wild Card and would like to stay that way while the Giants are 2 down in the NL West and would not like to stay that way. Hunter Pence, the Giants’ right fielder, has been put on the disabled list with an oblique injury. Tomlinson, their second baseman, broke the wrong way on a routine infield hit. The Giants regular second baseman, Joe Panik, is currently nursing a back injury. It is clear the Giants need an upgrade at second base which could explain their pursuit of Chase Utley two weeks ago. The Giants left 10 men on base including leaving 7 in scoring position. The Pirates staff, lead by Charlie Morton, shutout the Giants. Morton struck out 8 in 6 2/3rd .
Final Score: Pirates 4, Giants 0
8/21 Pirates vs. Giants: The game started off with home runs by Marlon Byrd, continuing the tradition of former Phillies outfielders excelling when they become Giants through some San Francisco fog-based magic, and Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner hits his 5th home run of the season as he continues his campaign against the DH. The Giants gain ground on the Dodgers who lost to the Astros on Friday.
Final Score: Giants 6, Pirates 4
8/21 Dodgers vs. Astros: Chase Utley worked a full count in his first bat as a Dodger before grounding out to first. He wasn’t the only Dodger to struggle at the plate though. Fiers, the Astros pitcher, would strike out 10 Dodgers in a complete game no hitter. The Dodgers have now lost five straight games.
Final Score: Astros 3, Dodgers 0
8/19 Houston vs. Tampa Bay: The teams combined to strand 4 of 19 runners in scoring position. Keuchel and the Houston bullpen combined to strike out 14 batters while Karns and the Rays bullpen combined to strike out 19 Astros. Houston had 11 hits but striking out 19 times is not the mark of a solid offense team. Astros have a team OBP of .309 which is 11th in the AL. The Rays are flirting with the 2nd Wild Card slot even with a record under .500. It’s an interesting year in the AL.
Final Score: Astros 3, Rays 2
8/20 Astros vs. Rays: Chris Archer struck out 11 and allowed only 1 hit and 1 walk in a complete game shutout of the Astros. The Astros staff allowed 1 run on 8 hits. The Astros have to be a better offensive team if they hope to go far in the play-offs. Teams see a lot of aces in the play-offs. For Tampa Bay, this game moves them to one game under .500 and within 3 games of an AL Wild Card spot. They are three teams between them and that second wild card spot, currently held by the Angels with the Orioles only .5 games behind.
Final Score: Rays 1, Astros 0.
8/20 Royals/Reds: The Royals had 12 hits in a 13 inning win over the Cincinnati Reds. The Royals pitching staff combined to strike out 16 against the Reds. The Royals are now 13.5 games up in the AL Central. The Reds, sellers at the deadline, are currently looking past this season. They are playing .429 ball at this point.
Final Score: Royals 3, Red 1 (13)
In off-field news, Dave Dombroski (formerly of the Detroit Tigers) hired as Head of Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox are currently last in the AL East
8/20 Orioles vs. Twins: The Orioles were crushed by the Minnesota Twins. The Orioles staff combined to give up 18 hits to the 60-61 Twins. Eddie Rosario went 3-5 in a game that saw all but one Twins start register a hit. Minnesota wasn’t exactly on fire with their pitching, allowing 10 Orioles hits. At the end of the day though, it isn’t the number of hits that counts but the number of runs.
Final Score: Twins 15, Orioles 2.
Joe Sheehan, in his newsletter, makes the point that the Mets are 47-51 when playing teams that aren’t Miami or Philadelphia. This points to a weakness in the NL East overall. The Nationals and Mets have been able to dominate two incredibly weak division rivals, essentially padding their schedules the way that big time college football teams do in the pre-season. It still might not get the Nationals to the postseason, as they continue to hover around .500. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games and are now 4 games behind the Mets in the NL East and 8.5 games behind for the Wild Card. The Nationals were a team expected to contend for a World Series and they are going nowhere fast.