A quartet of big moments highlighted Wednesday's MLB action.
Hair of the Dog
They dug themselves a nice little hole, but the Cubs, and erstwhile ace Jake Arrietta, might finally be rounding into form. Their hitting had turned a corner over the last month-plus, and their pitching is showing some signs of following suit. On Wednesday Arrietta threw 6.2 innings, allowing only two earned runs on just two hits, as the Cubs won 8-3 and clinched at least a split of their four-game series with the White Sox. It was their 10th win in 12 games, putting them a fairly respectable six games above .500. With the Brewers losing to the Nationals, the Cubs moved into a narrow half-game lead in the NL Central.
Not only has newly acquired former White Sox starter Jose Quintana been solid in his first two starts for the Cubs, but Arrietta seems to have turned a corner. His ERA for the season is 4.03, but in five July starts it’s 2.13. He’s not quite recapturing his full-on unhittable 2015 Cy Young form, but if he keeps pitching like this it will go a long way towards stabilizing that rotation and getting the Cubs back on track.
The other half of last year’s World Series also appears to be taking some Tylenol, sipping a Bloody Mary and emerging from their collective hangover: the Indians beat the Angels 10-4 to win their sixth straight game.
Neshek Heads For the Mountains
The Phillies’ All-Star reliever Pat Neshek is heading to Colorado in exchange for a trio of prospects (infielder Jose Gomez and pitchers J.D. Hammer and Alejandro Requena). Neshek has a pitching motion that looks like it should send the ball flying into the stands while shredding his elbow, if not both elbows; on first seeing it, this writer described it as reminiscent of a stork being violently tickled, but with better control. But instead he’s had a long and successful career, and he’s as fun to watch as just about any reliever in the game. (He’s also an avid baseball card collector, and a father who has survived truly heartbreaking tragedy.
This will be Neshek’s 11th team in seven major league seasons. Pitching in Colorado is perhaps the hardest job in baseball, and no one is immune to the effects of altitude, but Neshek is in the midst of the best season of his career—1.12 ERA, 385 ERA+ (!), a 9.00 strikeout to walk ratio. He should give the Rockies’ pen a big boost, even if that ERA doesn’t look so pretty after a few weeks at Coors.
Circle of Life
Adrian Beltre is four hits away from his 3,000th hit. That milestone will cement his case, but he’s already a Hall of Famer. For further proof, see his clearly inner-circle-Hall-of-Fame caliber umpire trolling during Wednesday’s game:
With the Marlins up 18-8, Miami pitcher Drew Steckenrider asked the ump to have Beltre, who had already gone 3-for-3 on the night and was waiting for his next at-bat, move into the confines of the on-deck circle. When asked, Beltre walked over, picked up the literal on-deck circle and dragged it over to where he’d been standing. He was, of course, ejected.
That would turn out to be the clear highlight of the Rangers’ evening. The final score was 22-10; potential trade deadline prize Yu Darvish allowed ten runs, all earned, in 3.2 innings. Texas backup catcher Brett Nicholas pitched the ninth inning, allowing four runs and five hits in his first major-league appearance of any kind this year. While it was a rough night for the Rangers, there are plenty of reasons to look forward to their next games—both to watch Beltre reach 3,000, and to see what happens the next time someone suggests he adjust his on-deck position.
Both the majors and the minors were graced with an appearance by the most exciting play in baseball on Wednesday. Diamondbacks shortstop Ketel Marte kicked off the festivities for the Diamondbacks, when his line drive to the rightfield corner proceeded to bounce all over the outfield like a pinball. He dashed around the bases and made it home easily, standing up, to became the most memorable part of a 10-3 Arizona win:
AAA fans got to see a more dramatic version of the play courtesy of the Phillies’ J.P. Crawford, currently with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Hitting against the Gwinnett Braves with the bases loaded, Crawford hit a liner that took its own unpredictable bounce of the wall and he sprinted for home. The throw beat him there by a comfortable margin, but thanks to some nifty sliding he ended up with an inside-the-park grand slam:
It was a tough night to be a Braves outfielder at any level.