Headley, Lucroy walk offs headline night filled with late drama
In less than 12 hours, Chase Headley went from preparing to start a game for the Padres in Chicago to being a walk-off hero for the Yankees in New York. The third baseman found out he was traded around 11:30 a.m. CT, 12:30 ET, hopped the first available flight to New York and made his Yankee debut as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of a scoreless game against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium. Headley struck out in place of Zelous Wheeler in that at-bat and grounded out to first in his next turn in the 11th. His next opportunity came with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th, but he again grounded out, ending the Yankee rally.
After the two teams exchanged runs in the 13th, with the Rangers’ Joakim Soria blowing just his second save of the year, the Yankees put runners on the corners with one out against repurposed Texas starter Nick Tepesch in the bottom of the 14th via a ground rule double by Brian Roberts and a Francisco Cervelli single. That brought Headley up with the winning run on third base for the second time in as many at-bats. This time, just after midnight in New York, he cashed it in, shooting an opposite-field flair into left just in front of Rangers outfielder Jim Adduci to score Roberts and give the Yankees a 2-1 win.
Headley’s was not the most rousing walk-off of the night. In Milwaukee earlier in the evening, the Brewers beat the Reds 4-3 with all four of their runs coming on solo home runs. Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez hit back-to-back two-out homers off Reds starter Homer Bailey in the bottom of the first, after which the Brewers offense consisted almost entirely of All-Star catcher and MVP candidate Jonathan Lucroy. While the Reds battled back against Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson, Brewers not named Lucroy managed just two singles and two walks over the remaining eight innings. Fortunately for Milwaukee, Nelson and three relievers held the Reds to three runs and Lucroy took care of the rest with a pair of solo home runs, the first coming against Bailey in the sixth, and the second a walk-off shot down the left-field line off Cincinnati reliever Sam LeCure leading off the bottom of the ninth.
Lucroy has been slumping of late, a trend belied by his two doubles in the All-Star Game. Coming into Tuesday’s action, he hadn’t had a multi-hit game since July 8, hadn’t homered since July 4 and had just one home run in his last 25 games, during which he hit .221/.324/.337. His performance on Tuesday is not guaranteed to rejuvenate his bat, but with Troy Tulowitzki hitting the disabled list on Monday, Lucroy’s MVP candidacy got a considerable boost on two fronts.
When Josh Beckett hit the disabled list on July 7, his injury was labeled a hip impingement. A subsequent MRI revealed two cysts and a small tear in the labrum in his left hip, but Beckett and the team agreed that he could try to pitch through the injury. His first attempt to do so Tuesday night was not encouraging. Beckett lasted just 3 2/3 innings and gave up four runs, three of them on solo home runs by Neil Walker, Ike Davis and Gregory Polanco in a game that Pittsburgh ultimately won 12-7.
It was the first time since he was traded to the Dodgers in August, 2012 that Beckett had allowed three home runs in a game and marked his second-shortest outing as a Dodger, trailing only the injury-shortened start that proved to be his last of 2013. Beckett did not blame his poor performance on his ailing hip after the game and did manage to strike out four against no walks in his brief time on the mound. But as an early indication of his viability for the second half of the season, Tuesday’s outing raised significant concerns and could prompt the Dodgers to be more aggressive in their pursuit of rotation reinforcements in the remaining eight days until the non-waiver trading deadline.
Of course, sometimes bad outings just happen. Adam Wainwright has been the best pitcher in the National League this season (at least among those who pitched in April) and entered his start at home against the Rays on Tuesday with a 1.83 ERA. He’s allowed two or fewer runs in 16 of his 19 starts this season. When he’s been bad, however, he’s been awful with two of his non-quality starts prior to Tuesday night being outright disasters: six runs in five innings against the Cubs on May 2 and seven runs on 4 1/3 innings against the Giants on May 30. Tuesday put another in the disaster column as Wainwright, after holding Tampa Bay to one run over the first four innings, gave up five runs in the fifth and failed to escape the inning.
Wainwright was his own worst enemy in that inning as he walked three men, hit a fourth and allowed another to reach on his own fielding error. In fact, the Rays contributed just two hits in the process, an RBI double by Matt Joyce and a two-RBI ground rule double by Yunel Escobar later in the inning. When Wainwright walked opposing American League pitcher Jake Odorizzi to bring a tenth man to the plate, he mercifully got the hook. The Rays went on to win the game 7-2, while Wainwright’s ERA “ballooned” to 2.02. I’m guessing he’ll be just fine.
Attention teams looking for shortstop help: don’t be dissuaded by Stephen Drew’s .178/.254/.346 line on the season. After sitting out spring training and the first two months of the regular season, his bat is starting to heat up and making him a viable trade target. Drew homered for the second consecutive game on Tuesday in the Red Sox’ 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays and is now hitting .244/.367/.610 over his last 49 plate appearances, dating back to Boston’s July 5 double-header in which he homered in both games. Drew has hits in five of his last six games, with multiple hits in three of them, and reached base in each of his last seven games. There’s a lot of secondary production (read: walks and homers) in his July split, even if you take out his two intentional walks, which is particularly encouraging. Drew is never going to make anyone forget Troy Tulowitzki, but it’s no surprise he was rusty in June. Given his strong play in the field, the fact that his bat is showing signs of life should make him a sought-after commodity over the next week. Keep an eye on him.