Wednesday August 5th, 2015

Carrasco and other one-hit wonders

Carlos Carrasco pitched a gem on Tuesday night in Anaheim, holding the Angels to one hit and a total of three base runners over nine innings, striking out seven. Alas, opposite number Matt Shoemaker and the three relievers who followed him were essentially as effective, holding the Indians scoreless for nine innings amid six hits and three walks, and so the game carried into extra innings. The Indians ultimately won, 2–0, via Giovanny Urshela's two-run homer off Cam Bedrosian in the top of the 12th, a blow that sent the Angels to their 10th loss in 12 games. That slide has knocked them from two games ahead of the Astros atop the AL West to three behind.

Carrasco is just the third pitcher in the past decade to throw the equivalent of a one-hit shutout—but without a resolution. The last time it was done was by the Mets' Matt Harvey on May 7, 2013 against the White Sox, and it's happened just 13 times in the post-1960 expansion era:

player date team opp. bb hbp k
Carlos Carrasco 8/4/15 Indians Angels 1 1 7
Matt Harvey 5/7/13 Mets White Sox 0 0 12
Travis Wood 7/10/10 Reds Phillies 0 0 8
Ben Sheets 6/8/04 Brewers Angels 0 0 5
Miguel Batista 5/28/02 D-Backs Giants 1 0 3
Ryan Rupe 5/23/99 Devil Rays Angels 0 1 8
Alan Benes 5/16/97 Cardinals Braves 3 0 11
Pedro Martinez 6/3/95 Expos Padres 0 0 9
Vida Blue 8/26/86 Giants Expos 3 0 6
Don Carman 8/20/86 Phillies Giants 1 0 9
Jose DeLeon 7/31/83 Pirates Mets 3 0 11
John Denny 10/1/82 Phillies Mets 3 0 7
Charlie Lea 5/26/82 Expos Astros 0 0 6

The most famous such outing is that of Martinez, who as a wiry 23-year-old was perfect for nine innings against the Padres but yielded a leadoff double to Bip Roberts to start the 10th and was promptly pulled by manager Felipe Alou. Fortunately, the Expos at least won that game. The same can't be said for the teams of six of the aforementioned pitchers: Wood, Batista, Rupe, Benes, DeLeon and Denny. All of the above games ended 1–0, save for those of Carrasco, Rupe (0–4), and Lea (4–0).

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​DeLeon actually had one other such game, yielding just one hit without walking a batter over 11 innings for the Cardinals against the Reds on Aug. 30, 1989. He's one of 10 pitchers to take it beyond nine innings in such fashion. Four of them completed 10-inning shutouts: the Pirates' Bob Veale ('65), the Padres' Randy Jones ('75), the Rangers' Bert Blyleven ('76) and the Mets' Terry Leach ('82). Among the six who didn't are Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan (9 1/3 innings for the Astros in '86) and Don Sutton (10 innings for the Dodgers in '72). The complete list is here; note that only the outings of Ryan, Leach and DeLeon overlap chronologically with those in the table above. Thanks to workload concerns, it simply isn’t fashionable to keep a pitcher in such a game past nine innings no matter the extent to which he’s dealing, though to be fair, the criteria above probably miss some outings in which a pitcher surrenders his second hit or even a run (or runs) beyond the ninth.

As for Carrasco, his stellar performance followed a two-hit complete game thrown against the Athletics on July 30. After yielding two hits and one run in the first inning of that contest, he held the A's hitless over the final 8 2/3. On Monday night, he didn't yield a hit until former teammate David Murphy singled to lead off the fifth, giving him 12 2/3 consecutive hitless innings. That's not quite Max Scherzer level (16 consecutive hitless innings across his June 14, 20 and 26 starts, including a no-hitter in the middle), but it's quite impressive, and part of a larger hot streak via which the 28-year-old righty has allowed two or fewer runs in six of his last eight starts, a span over which he's yielded a 2.91 ERA. That streak also includes his July 1 no-hit bid against the Rays, where he came within one strike of finishing the job, only to yield an RBI single to Joey Butler and then depart.

Overall, Carrasco is carrying a 3.76 ERA but just a 2.80 FIP; he's struck out 9.7 per nine and walked just 1.8, but he's been burned by a .309 batting average on balls in play (.347 before the streak, .246 within it). Via Monday's outing, he set a new career high in innings (136 1/3) and is on track to qualify for the ERA title for the first time in his six big-league seasons.

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David Zalubowski/AP

Nelson is Cruzin' again

Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz homered against the Rockies on Tuesday night, just as he had on Monday, and that after going yard in all three weekend games against the Twins, running his streak to five straight games with a home run. If that sounds familiar, it's because Cruz already put together such a streak earlier this season—from April 11 to 15 against the A's and Dodgers, to be exact. With two such streaks in the same season, the now-35-year-old slugger joins select company. Via the Elias Bureau and ESPN Stats & Info, just four other players have managed such a feat: the Twins' Harmon Killebrew in 1970, the White Sox' Frank Thomas in '94, the Giants' Barry Bonds in 2001 and the Phillies' Chase Utley in '08.

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As noted previously, Cruz is particularly binge-prone, though he only has one such streak of longer than three games in his career (the first four games of the 2011 season while a member of the Rangers). He began this season with 14 homers in his first 26 games and now has 10 in his last 15, a span during which he's gone bonkers: .433/.479/.940. He also homered 13 times in May 2014 en route to a career-high (and MLB-high) 40 for the season.

For this year, Cruz's 31 homers are second in the majors to Mike Trout's 32. He's currently setting career bests in the slash-stat department, hitting .323/.387/.597 for a 175 OPS+, and he's already matched last year's career high of 4.6 WAR. Not a bad start to his four-year, $57 million deal, though the story isn't as happy for the Mariners as a team. At 50–58, Seattle is fourth in the AL West, 10 games out of first place and with just a 3.6% chance at reaching the postseason, according to the Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds.

Cruz’s pair of five-game homer streaks joins that of the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson as the longest in the majors this year. The five games is also tied for second in franchise history. Jay Buhner (1995 and '96) and Alex Rodriguez ('99) both have five-gamers as well, but they’re all significantly short of the franchise record: Ken Griffey Jr.’s eight straight from July 20 to 28 in '97—a streak that matched Dale Long ('56) and Don Mattingly ('87) for the longest in major league history.

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