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05/23/2005 Archived Entry: "MLB News: NL Roundup 5-23-2005"
MLB News: NL Roundup 5-23-2005, by Norman LeRoy
New Order at the Top: Marlins solidify lead in East, D-backs slip into lead in West; pitching dominates once again
With a quarter of the season behind us, it’s safe to ask whether the owners have taken some juice out of the ball to tamp down talk of steroids. Pitching has dominated all year and continued to do so last night, while the Marlins increased their slim lead in the NL East and the D-backs surged past the Padres in the West. Here are your game recaps:
Florida Marlins 8, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5
A key seven-run sixth sparked the Marlins (24-16) to victory last night, increasing their NL East lead over the Atlanta Braves to 1.5 games. Starter Brian Mohler and reliever John Riedling (W1-0) gave up ten hits in 5.1 innings of work for the Marlins, but hung tough against the over-matched D-Rays, allowing only two runs to the visitors and giving their offense the chance to come through. It seemed unlikely to happen through the games early innings, as Tampa’s Casey Fossum (L2-2), clinging to a one-run lead, no-hit them through four. The frustration was too much for normally placid Marlins manager Jack McKeon to take, leading to his ejection in the fourth frame for arguing balls-and-strikes, his first ejection in nearly two years. The manager’s uncommon display of fire seemed to transfer to his team though, the Marlins exploding for eight runs in the next two innings to put the game away and complete the series sweep.
Mike Lowell had the Marlins first hit of the game, doubling cleanly to left after a Juan Encarnacion walk. Damion Easley immediately followed with a sacrifice fly, and the Marlins had broken up Fossum’s no-hit and shut-out bids. After Tampa scratched out another run in their half of the sixth, the Marlins sent twelve men to the plate and scored seven of them, turning a tense game into a rout. Juan Encarnacion’s two-run double was the big blow in an inning that quickly descended into farce, as the cellar-dwelling D-Rays misplayed routine a pop-up and hit pinch-hitter Carlos Delgado with a pitch to drive in a run.
Home runs by Tampa’s Carl Crawford and Damon Hollins made the final score respectable, but the game was never in doubt after the sixth. Todd Jones pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save, delivering the Marlins fourth straight win and thirteenth of twenty-one, despite a plethora of injuries and sub par offensive performances from the normally dependable Mike Lowell and Juan Pierre. The Marlins have suffered injuries to bullpen stalwarts Guillermo Mota and Antonio Alfonseca, as well as starter Ismael Valdez, yet still lead the majors with an incredible 3.21 team ERA.
Diamondbacks 1, Tigers 0
While the Marlins were pummeling the Devil Rays, Arizona (27-18) seized control of the NL West by squeaking past the Detroit Tigers in a game delayed 3 hours, 14 minutes by rain. Javier Vasquez has gone from a Bronx bust to a desert rose, slinging a dominating 5-hit shutout to raise his record to 5-3. Vazquez struck-out seven and walked none to stifle the Tigers bats, and an eighth inning RBI single by Craig Counsell drove home the game's winning run. Detroit’s Jason Johnson (L2-4) had matched Vazquez pitch-by-pitch until the eighth, when he gave up a lead-off single to Royce Clayton, who advanced on a sacrifice bunt and a wild-pitch before Counsell poked a single through a drawn-in infield. Arizona is not a dominant team offensively and has only the tenth best ERA in the National League, but they play smart, mistake-free baseball and are excellent defensively, with second-basemen Counsell and short-stop Royce Clayton forming one of baseballs best keystone-combinations.
Kansas City Royals 9, St. Louis Cardinals 2
A team that does dominate in every conceivable way is the St. Louis Cardinals (27-16), but that was not the case last night, as David Ekstein made three errors in two innings, leading to six unearned-runs for the Kansas City Royals.
Eckstein’s first error came with a runner on first and nobody out, when he bobbled a potential double-play ball off the bat of David Dejesus. Jeff Suppan nearly crawled out of the inning unscathed, getting the next two Royals out, but faltered at last, surrendering consecutive doubles to Emil Brown and Mark Teahan. He righted himself enough, however, to draw a routine grounder from the bat of Matt Diaz, only to watch helplessly as Eckstein’s throw pulled first-sacker Albert Pujols off the bag, allowing Teahan to score. Thoroughly disconcerted by his short-stop's miserable day, Suppan delivered a gopher-ball to Kansas City catcher John Buck, who gratefully delivered it to the home-town fans in the left-field seats. Eckstein booted another grounder for good measure in the second, before finally eliciting sarcastic cheers when he fielded his first ball cleanly.
The Cardinals could never recover from these early miscues as the Royals salted away the victory to avoid the series sweep. Ryan Jensen (W 1-0) pitched five innings to earn the victory for the Royals, while Suppan took the loss, giving up nine runs—three earned—in five innings to drop his record to 3-5. The Cards are still in firm control of their division despite the loss, seven games ahead of sub-.500 Milwaukee, Chicago and Pittsburgh in second place.
That’s how your division leaders fared last night, now let’s take a brief look at the leagues other twelve games:
Chicago Cubs 4, Chicago White Sox 3
Mark Prior (W4-1) twirled a 126-pitch complete-game as Cubs skipper Dusty Baker continued to manage like it was 1959. Jason DuBois hit a sixth-inning three-run home run off reliever Luis Vizcaino (L 2-2) to spoil Sox rookie Brandon McCarthy’s debut. McCarthy was dominant in place of the injured Orlando Hernandez, allowing only four hits, striking out six and walking one in 5.1 innings of work. The 21-year-old McCarthy used to be email-buddies with Prior, but a hastily fired missive on game-day received no response; perhaps Prior will now be magnanimous in victory. Prior struck out seven against one walk in going the distance, allowing 6 hits—three of them solo homers to Jermaine Dye, Tadahito Iguchi and Paul Konerko—in helping the Cubbies avoid a series sweep to their cross-town rivals. The victory brings the Cubs (19-22) within seven games of the Central leading Cardinals.
Seattle Mariners 5, San Diego Padres 0
Aaron Sele (W 3-4) threw a four-hit complete game for the Mariners, and Jeremy Reed supplied the offensive firepower, going three-for-four with two RBI’s as the Mariners took two-of-three at home from the Padres. Tim Stauffer (1-1) pitched 5.2 uneven innings for the loss as the cooling Padres fell a half-game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
Boston Red Sox 5, Atlanta Braves 2
Matt Clement ran his record to 5-0, hurling a 110-pitch complete game to lead Boston to a series victory over the Braves at home. Clement allowed 4 hits, walked none and struck out seven in the course of his work. He retired his first nine batters before running into trouble in the fourth, as the Braves put together two singles, a double and a hit batsman to bring two men across the plate. Boston answered right back in the fifth with two runs of its own off John Smoltz, who labored in only 4.1 innings of work. Boston put the game away in the fifth off reliever Roman Colon (L 0-1) behind David Ortiz’s RBI double and Manny Ramirez two-run tater. Clement didn’t allow another base-runner until Pete Orr’s leadoff single in the ninth as Boston coasted to the win. Atlanta falls to 24-19 with the loss, 1.5 games behind Florida in the NL East.
Los Angeles Dodgers 6, …Angels of Anaheim 2
The Dodger’s salvaged a win against their suburban rivals, getting seven effective innings from Derek Lowe (W 4-4) and a big day at the plate from JD Drew, who went two-for-four with two RBI’s after being shifted from third to second in the lineup by Dodger manager Jim Tracy. Paul Byrd took the loss for Anaheim, dropping his record to 4-4. The Dodgers stand at 23-20 with the home win, 3 games behind Arizona in the NL West.
Philadelphia Phillies, 7, Baltimore Orioles 2
The Phillies took two-of-three in Baltimore as Cory Lidle (W 4-3) went the full nine in earning the win. Lidle walked only one, struck out four, and allowed 6 hits against the AL’s best offense. Pat Burrell paced the Phillies attack, going three-for-three with a three run homer, and Bobby Abreau went one-for-four a day after seeing his consecutive-game hitting-streak snapped at thirteen. Brian Roberts hit a triple for the Orioles, running his own streak to thirteen games. Sidney Ponson (L 5-2) struggled in defeat for the Charm City Nine, giving up four runs on seven hits and four walks in seven innings. The Phillies (21-24) have won 3-of-4 and stand 5.5 games behind the Florida Marlins in the NL East.
Washington Nationals 9, Toronto Blue Jays 2
Tomo Ohka (W 3-3) went eight solid innings as the Nationals (24-20) pummeled the Blue Jays in Toronto. Tony Blanco hit a three-run homer for the Nats in only his twenty-second big league at-bat, earning himself diamond earrings from team-mate Jose Guillen and a Rolex from Vinny Castilla. Guillen and Castilla had promised the gifts to the rookie if he hit a round-tripper within his first fifty at-bats. Josh Towers was saddled with the loss for Toronto, dropping his record to 5-2.
And finally…. Because fifteen games is too damned much
Minnesota Twins 6, Milwaukee Brewers 5
San Francisco Giants 2, Oakland Athletics 1
Texas Rangers 2, Houston Astros 0
Cleveland Indians 9, Cincinnati Reds 2
New York Yankees 5, New York Mets 3 (this series got enough coverage)
And Colorado Rockies 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 3
Your standings at the close of last night’s action:
East W L PCT GB
Florida 24 16 .600 ---
Atlanta 24 19 .558 1 1/2
Washington 24 20 .545 2
NY Mets 23 21 .523 3
Philadelphia 21 24 .467 5 1/2
Central W L PCT GB
St. Louis 27 16 .628 ---
Milwaukee 20 23 .465 7
Chicago Cubs 19 22 .463 7
Pittsburgh 19 22 .463 7
Cincinnati 15 28 .349 12
Houston 15 28 .349 12
West W L PCT GB
Arizona 27 18 .600 ---
San Diego 26 18 .591 1/2
Los Angeles 23 20 .535 3
San Francisco 21 22 .488 5
Colorado 13 28 .317 12
Well, interleague play is mercifully behind me till June, so starting tomorrow I’ll be able to cover the league as I would like. If you have any comments or suggestions or spot the inevitable error, feel free to contact me at NLeRoy@baseballguru.com . Cheers, and enjoy tonight’s games!