Five Cuts: Padres offense receives awaited boost from leadoff spot
1. It took until their 144th game of the season, but the Padres may finally have found their leadoff hitter. In defeating the Rockies 7-6 on Tuesday night to maintain its 1 1/2-game lead over the Giants in the National League West and push Colorado to 3 1/2 games back, San Diego relied on one of its finest offensive performances of the season with 16 hits, including three by left fielder
Leadoff has been a problem area for the Padres all season. Their No. 1 hitters -- most commonly
Tuesday was Cunningham's first crack at leading off this season, and he proved worthy of at least another game there, given his .327 average and .366 OBP in 114 plate appearances this year. Add in the two games he started batting second, and he's reached base in half (8-of-16) of his plate appearances in the top two spots. It's a terribly small sample size, but given that the Padres haven't scored any fewer than six runs in any of those three starts, and Cunningham has earned an extended look atop the Padres' middling lineup.
2. Back in July, Giants Hall of Fame broadcaster
While Coors Field remains friendly to offense, much of the video-game scoring has been depressed since baseballs used in Denver were stored in a humidor that kept them at Major League Baseball specifications. The Rockies went from averaging 128 home runs at home each year to 97 homers per season since. The humidor works.
Though Miller has presented a fascinating conspiracy theory given the Rockies' late-innings heroics (they have 25 come-from-behind wins this season) it is only that -- conspiracy. The numbers this season suggest little deviation in the later innings.
Because the home team, of course, doesn't bat in the bottom of the ninth in games they win -- and the Rockies have won 50 games at home -- a comparison of Colorado's production in innings six, seven and eight at Coors Field and in those same innings on the road ought to illustrate the difference. It's expected that a club with an even distribution would have roughly 33 percent of its production in those three innings.
The Rockies have hit 100 home runs at Coors Field this year, but only 30 -- i.e. 30 percent -- came in the sixth, seventh or eighth inning. On the road, the Rockies have hit 57 home runs, of which 21 (or 36.8 percent) of them have been in the sixth through eighth innings.
Similarly, the Rockies have 764 hits at home, with 267 of them coming in innings six through eight, which is 34.9 percent of the total. They have 551 hits on the road -- 170 have come in innings six through eight, which is 30.9 percent.
Nevermind the logistical impracticality of implementing such a plan -- sneaking baseballs not stored in a humidor into the game and having no one notice -- the numbers are pretty comparable, seemingly debunking Miller's allegation.
3. Twins reliever
With the emergence of Crain, who has a 2.59 ERA and 19 holds, along with
Those five constitute the deepest back end of any bullpen in the majors, even without a star closer like
4. The importance of Tuesday night's Yankees-at-Rays game in the AL East race didn't dissuade either team's manager from letting rookie late-season call-ups determine the outcome of that game from the mound. In other words, neither seems to care if they win the division title or take the wild card.
The Yankees -- who won 8-7 in 10 innings and are now a half-game ahead of the Rays in the division -- started
The Rays started
The second reliever used by the Rays was
While both clubs received contributions from their in-their-prime stars -- New York's
5. The Phillies are leaving nothing to chance. By flipping
The Braves and Phillies play two more series against each other -- a three-game set starting Monday in Philadelphia and three more games in Atlanta on the season's final weekend starting Friday, Oct. 1 -- and manager
Over the weekend in New York, Manuel expressed his concern about pitching Hamels on short rest because he's never done it. Halladay and Oswalt both have started games on only three days' rest -- and both done it well -- but as durable as they've been for most of their careers, they've already logged a lot of innings with potentially four more starts for each if the Phillies' playoff hopes does come down to the final series against Atlanta.
The heavy loads of Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt are a product of their success this season, but it could be a small concern if the Phillies make another run to the World Series. Halladay has averaged a hefty 233 innings and 3,333 pitches the past four seasons but in 2010 has already thrown 228 2/3 innings and 3,261 pitches, meaning he'll blow by his yearly averages. With four long starts, he could approach the career-high 266 innings and 3,630 pitches he threw in 2003 -- before injuries ravaged his '04 and '05 seasons.
Oswalt, meanwhile, has averaged 206 innings and 3,109 pitches in each of his last four seasons. In 2010 he has already logged 192 2/3 innings and 2,914 pitches, meaning he too will easily exceed his normal workload.
Similarly, Hamels -- who threw a career-high 127 pitches to defeat the Marlins on Tuesday night -- has already thrown 194 2/3 innings and 3,137 pitches this year while averaging 201 innings and 3,111 pitches in his three full seasons.
And so while the Phillies have set their rotation perfectly to throw their best against the Braves, it comes with a heavy burden, so Philadelphia's solution should be simple: clinch before the final weekend.