Fourteen games of America’s pastime come our way on the July 4 holiday, as we’ll have all-day baseball across the country. Lots of day games are on the docket, so this will be a slightly-shortened version of the article to get it posted before as many games as possible get underway.
Brewers/Pirates: Another dominant showing from Brandon Woodruff, who seemed to use his downtime to figure out what was going on. He struck out eight over six neat-and-tidy innings with just 94 pitches. In two starts since the return, he’s struck out 18 with no walks in 11 innings on just 170 pitches. He’s also allowed an average exit velocity of 82.2 mph and an 18.2% Hard Hit%. The Rays and Pirates are not good lineups, but those are impressive numbers.
Padres/Dodgers: The Padres came back off of Craig Kimbrel in the ninth to avoid the sweep after a really gutsy start from MacKenzie Gore. Gore really didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled and held the Dodgers to one run over 5.2 innings. He walked four, struck out five, gave up nine hard-hit balls and hung in there. It was a great start for his maturation process and a huge lift for the Padres, who eventually won 4-3. I’ve noticed some anti-Gore sentiment lately in the markets and I just don’t really see where it’s coming from. He wasn’t sharp, but that’s a different kind of lineup. I think he’s still a very good pitcher.
On the LA side, big starts from Mitch White in the bullpen game, as well as Tyler Anderson and Clayton Kershaw. Even though LA didn’t complete the sweep, it was still a good series to get back on track.
Cardinals/Phillies: Philadelphia won the rubber match on Sunday Night Baseball thanks to seven elite innings from Zack Wheeler, who only allowed three hard-hit balls. Adam Wainwright allowed 12 over his 5.2 innings, including a couple of homers. Ryan Helsley pitched two innings for Saturday’s save, something we’ve seen Oliver Marmol do a lot this season.
My biggest takeaway, though, remains how the Phillies continue to battle with the patchwork pen and no Bryce Harper. They’re 20-9 under Rob Thomson and have only lost consecutive games three times and only had one bad stretch with losses in four of five. Maybe Girardi was a bigger issue than I initially believed.
Royals/Tigers: So, we have to talk about Tarik Skubal. He allowed five runs on five hits with three walks and just one strikeout in 4.2 innings on Sunday against the Royals. Over his first 10 starts, Skubal had a 2.15 ERA, 1.99 FIP and 2.87 xFIP with 61 K against 10 BB in 58.2 innings of work. Over his last six starts, he has a 7.80 ERA with a 5.28 FIP and a 4.27 xFIP with 29 K in 30 innings, but also 14 BB. He’s also allowed six home runs. Yesterday, Skubal had a big velocity downturn, as his sinker and slider velo were both down 1.2 mph.
When you get a lot of pitcher injuries like we’ve seen with the Tigers, it is scary to see how Skubal’s command and control have fallen off and now the velo is on the fritz as well. Yesterday’s start featured his lowest fastball velo of the season. I’m officially very concerned.
Rays/Jays: The Rays won the last three games in this five-game series with an uptick in offense. They scored 24 runs in the three games and caught a break when Kevin Gausman took a liner off the leg, as they proceeded to rock Casey Lawrence, who was thrust into long relief. Then Thomas Hatch started Game 2 and they scored 10 runs on 12 hits in 4.2 innings against him with 13 hard-hit balls.
I can’t quantify it, but hitting is often contagious, especially with RISP. Players relax a little more after somebody gets some big hits and the Rays got quite a few big hits to finish out this series. I don’t know if they’re ready to go on a run or not, but they ranked in the bottom five in a lot of offensive categories in June, so it’s a good sign.