Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Stingy hurlers Kennedy, Zimmermann to match up

Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Kennedy have settled in quickly with their respective new teams thanks to strong starts. On Wednesday, they'll get their first experience of the division rivalry the Tigers and Royals built the last few years.
It'll be a test for both, who were the major rotation additions for their respective teams. The Tigers jumped the market by signing Zimmermann to a five-year, $110 million contract over Thanksgiving weekend. Three months later, the Royals found their replacement for Johnny Cueto in Kennedy, signing the former D-back and Padre to a five-year, $70 million deal.
Both additions have paid off big early. While Zimmermann has yet to give up a run in 13 innings, beating the Yankees and Pirates, Kennedy has 13 2/3 innings of one-run ball in wins over the Twins and Astros. They'll get a different test Wednesday night.
Things to know about this game
• Kennedy will face the Tigers for the third time since he was part of their three-team trade with the Yankees and D-backs at the 2009 Winter Meetings that brought Max Scherzer to Detroit and Curtis Granderson to New York. Scherzer's signing in Washington a year ago helped set up Zimmermann's free agency.
• Justin Upton, a former teammate of Kennedy's in Arizona, is 3-for-8 with a home run against him. Ian Kinsler is 5-for-7 with three doubles off Kennedy.
• Zimmermann beat the Royals in their only meeting in 2013, tossing 7 2/3 innings of two-hit ball with seven strikeouts at Kauffman Stadium in Washington's win.

Salvy's 5-RBI night leads Royals past Tigers

Catcher Salvador Perez doubled and homered and drove in a career-high five runs as the Royals held off the Tigers, 8-6, on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Perez doubled in two runs in the third, then blasted a three-run homer off reliever and former Royal Blaine Hardy that gave the Royals an 8-2 lead.
"I didn't know [it was a career high] until after the game," Perez said. "It felt really good."
Added manager Ned Yost: "Salvy had a great night. Big three-run homer."
Right-hander Yordano Ventura started for the Royals and survived five innings, giving up six hits and two runs while walking three and striking out six.
Shane Greene had command issues and was chased with one out in the fifth. He gave up six hits and walked four, while being charged with seven earned runs.
"Leadoff walks, two-out walks, they all come back and haunt you," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said.
Aggressive sends: Royals third-base coach Mike Jirschele tested Tigers left fielder Justin Upton early twice, and it got the Royals' offense going. In the second inning, Jarrod Dyson, just off the disabled list, blooped a single to left and Jirschele sent slow-running Kendrys Morales from second base. The throw from Upton beat Morales easily, but the ball skipped past Saltalamacchia. In the third inning, Perez shot a double down the line in left with runners on first and second. Jirschele sent Gordon, who had been on first, home, and Gordon easily beat Upton's errant throw.
"Jirsch had some really good sends," Yost said.
Saltalamacchia homers again: Saltalamacchia couldn't handle Upton's throw home in the second inning, helping the Royals build their lead, but he handled Danny Duffy's breaking ball in the seventh to try to bring the Tigers back. Saltalamacchia's three-run home run, a 423-foot drive to straightaway center field according to Statcast™, was his third homer in as many games, and his fifth this season.
Herrera puts out fire: Royals reliever Joakim Soria inherited an 8-5 lead in the eighth but quickly got into trouble with two hits and a walk around a strikeout. In came Kelvin Herrerato face Miguel Cabrera, and Herrera promptly struck him out on three straight sliders. Herrera plunked Victor Martinez in the right knee with a slider, forcing in a run, making it 8-6. But Herrera then got J.D. Martinez to pop out.
"Quite frankly, [Soria] is having hard luck," Yost said. "Every ground ball is finding a hole against him."
Herrera and Cabrera matched up in a classic 10-pitch duel at Kauffman Stadium last May, and Herrera won it with a 98-mph fastball for strike three. This time, Herrera went all sliders.
"I remembered that at-bat last year," Herrera said through interpreter Pedro Grifol. "I thought he would be looking for [fastball] again. I thought I would change it up with the slider, maybe get the ground ball. ... He's a great hitter."
Traffic jam for Cabrera: Longtime Royals nemesis Miguel Cabrera, flummoxed for most of the evening by Ventura's changeup, put the Tigers on the scoreboard in the fifth inning with a two-run double into the right-field corner off Ventura's fastball, atoning for a bases-loaded opportunity squandered with a strikeout in the third.
Cabrera later struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth for his fourth punchout of the night, just the fourth time he's fanned that many times in a big league game.
"When you're swinging at balls, that means you make a good pitch," Cabrera said.
"It means the world to me." -- Teresa Thaman, cancer patient from Joplin, Mo., on getting to meet Perez, her favorite player, before Tuesday's game.
Saltamacchia became the first catcher in Tigers history to hit five home runs in the team's first 12 games of a season. He's the first Tigers catcher with a three-game homer streak since Alex Avila in August 2011.
Tigers: Jordan Zimmermann, owner of 13 consecutive scoreless innings to begin his Detroit tenure, gets his first taste of the Tigers-Royals rivalry in the second game of the series Wednesday night at 7:15 p.m. ET. Zimmermann -- then with the Nationals -- tossed 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball at Kansas City in his only meeting with the Royals in 2013.
Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy gets the nod in Game 2 of the series in a 6:15 p.m. CT start on Wednesday. Kennedy has dazzled in his first two starts, both wins, posting a 0.66 ERA.

Getting to know you: Ross, Chen face familiar foe

The Nationals and Marlins will already play their fifth game against each other in this young 2016 season when they meet Wednesday night at Marlins Park. The clubs have split the first four matchups.
Right-hander Joe Ross will take the mound for the Nationals, and he has picked up right where he left off from a solid rookie campaign last season with a pair of dominant outings. Through his first two starts, Ross has yielded one run on eight hits in 14 2/3 innings with 10 strikeouts.
The Marlins will start left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who has felt fine physically since taking the mound in his last start after causing some concern when he was struck on the left elbow by a comeback liner on Opening Day. He was actually pitching a gem in his last start, a no-decision against the Braves. Through six innings, he faced the minimum, but he got into trouble with one out in the seventh, and he was lifted. Chen ended up being charged with two runs.
"In the seventh inning, maybe I was trying to be too perfect and hit the corners," Chen said. "I should have done a better job in the seventh. I missed my spots there."
Things you need to know:
• With Baltimore in 2015, Chen faced the Nationals once and lost, giving up three runs (two earned) in eight innings. Ross made his season debut against the Marlins on April 10 at Nationals Park, when he held Miami to one run in seven innings.
• Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a double to begin the second inning Tuesday. He has eight extra-base hits so far this season.
• Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich has reached safely in each of the 12 games he has played this season. He entered Tuesday with the best on-base percentage in the Majors at .510.

Bringing the heat: Harper's slam fuels Strasburg

 Stephen Strasburg and Adam Conley were making quick work of hitters on Tuesday until the Nationals erupted for a record-setting seventh inning, smashing four home runs, punctuated by Jayson Werth's career No. 200 blast and Bryce Harper's two-out grand slam.
Werth and Wilson Ramos went back-to-back on solo shots off Conley with one out in the seventh, and Harper and Ryan Zimmerman connected off Chris Narveson in the Nationals' 7-0 win over Miami at Marlins Park. It marked the first time Washington had belted four dingers in an inning, and the first time the Marlins surrendered that many.
"That just shows what we're capable of doing," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "I've always said once we can get everybody swinging the way they're capable of swinging, that we're capable of a lot of those innings, which goes to show us that we should never be out of a ballgame if we're capable of striking like that."
The Nationals' power-surge shocked the Marlins, as they scored seven times in what had been a scoreless pitchers' duel. Conley, brilliant through six innings, had struck out eight batters. He was victimized by one-out shots from Werth and Ramos. Keeping the inning alive was Strasburg's two-out single, his second hit of the night.
"He just seemed to run out of gas a little bit," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of his young lefty. "That's something we've got to watch. We've got to find out where that spot is. I thought he was really good tonight."
Strasburg was brilliant on the mound, as well, striking out 10 batters in eight innings, as he improved to 11-7 all-time against the Marlins.
Fab four: The Nationals ripped four homers in the seventh inning, the first time in franchise history (2005-present) they have homered four times in a single frame.
Werth got things started with a solo home run with one out, launching a 3-2 fastball 435 feet for his second homer of the year and 200th of his career. Ramos homered on the very next pitch, driving a slider to left-center field. Harper continued his stellar start to the season with his second career grand slam -- and fifth homer in the past six games -- followed by a solo dinger from Zimmerman.
The last MLB team to hit back-to-back homers twice in an inning was Milwaukee vs. Arizona on Aug. 11, 2010, via the Elias Sports Bureau. More >
Conley's learning curve: His final line didn't tell the whole story of just how effective Conley was, at least until the Nationals broke things open with their homerfest in the seventh. In the first inning, the lefty stranded Anthony Rendon at third by striking out Harper and getting Zimmerman to bounce to second. Conley racked up eight strikeouts and was at 82 pitches through six innings. No Marlins starter had gone deeper than 6 1/3 innings, until Conley went 6 2/3 innings, but the lefty was unable to close out the frame. He had his string of 12 straight scoreless innings snapped on Werth's homer. And by surrendering the single to Strasburg that extended the seventh, he ended up having four runs charged to him.
"This guy, he's pitching like your ace," Mattingly said. "He's attacking on the inside. He came after these guys like he had no fear of them. He got the ball in there. You could see how that set up his pitches later in the game. Then, they get him there in the seventh. But everything he did early in the game really sets up the rest of his game for him." More >
Dominant Strasburg: Strasburg is off to a stellar start for the Nationals this season, and he may have delivered his best outing to date Tuesday. He held the Marlins to three hits, two of which did not leave the infield, through eight shutout innings while striking out 10, the 22nd double-digit strikeout game of his career.
In his last 16 starts dating back to last season, Strasburg owns a 1.65 ERA and 0.80 WHIP with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 131-to-19.
"He's coming into his own. It's incredible," Harper said. "You see what he did in college. He had so much pressure going through the Minors, coming up and everything, got hurt, trying to get back into it with his ankle and things like that. Then the second half last year, [he] was absolutely ridiculous. Now, he's putting up video game numbers again." More >
Stanton robs Harper: Through six innings, Conley was pretty much in command. The lefty struck out Harper in the first on an 83 mph changeup. In the fourth, Conley again got Harper, this time striking out the reigning NL MVP Award winner on a 94 mph fastball. With one out in the sixth, Harper was in attack mode early. He turned on Conley's 92 mph fastball and drove a sinking liner to right field, but Giancarlo Stanton got a good jump and made a diving catch, robbing Harper of extra bases. According to Statcast™, the exit velocity on Harper's liner was 85 mph, and the ball projected 292 feet from home plate, which meant Stanton needed to cover ground in a hurry.
"That's probably the best I've seen him. I haven't seen him too much. But to me, he had a lot of stuff working tonight. His changeup was really good. He uses all of his pitches. He's not a guy just out there throwing. He's using all of his weapons." -- Mattingly on Strasburg
"It's fun for us. We have a better seat than most. He's continuing on what he did last year. Playing every day, and the way he prepares, hopefully he can do it all year. It's fun to watch. Obviously, he's a big reason why we're playing the way we are right now." -- Zimmerman on Harper
With the game out of hand in the top of the ninth, the Nationals reviewed a close play at first on Michael Taylor's grounder to short. Miguel Rojas made the long throw, and Taylor thought he was safe. But after a review of 1 minute, 9 seconds, the call was confirmed, and Taylor was out.
First-base umpire Jerry Layne left the game limping in the second inning after he appeared to tweak something while dodging a leadoff double down the right-field line by Daniel Murphy. The rest of the game went on with three umpires, forcing Hunter Wendelstedt and Scott Barry to man the field by themselves. More >
Ichiro Suzuki's infield single (initially ruled an error on Rendon) was career hit No. 2,940 of his career, leaving him three shy of Frank Robinson for 33rd place all-time.
Nationals: Joe Ross takes the mound after two dominant starts to begin the 2016 season. Ross owns a 0.60 ERA with 10 strikeouts so far this season, including a victory over Miami at Nationals Park in his first start of the year after allowing one run over seven innings.
Marlins: Wei-Yin Chen makes his third start at 7:10 p.m. ET Wednesday, and the lefty seeks his first win as a Marlin. The former Orioles lefty had a hard-luck no-decision in his last outing, when he gave up two runs in 6 1/3 innings against Atlanta. His ERA is 5.56.

Archer seeking better results from slider

A quality pitching matchup will be featured Wednesday night when the Rays send ace Chris Archer to the mound and the Red Sox go with Rick Porcello.
Neither has been in top form this season, but that could turn around at Fenway Park.
Archer took the loss against the Indians on Thursday, dropping him to 0-3 with a 5.87 ERA in three starts. He is now 0-6 with a 5.83 ERA in nine starts since picking up his last win on Aug. 31 at Baltimore. Opponents are batting .289 (55-for-190) over that stretch.
"I haven't had my A slider yet and I've still had some pretty decent results," Archer said. "I'm thinking that I can definitely use my changeup a little more. My fastball's been OK, but I think at the end of the day, the sharpness of my slider has been the difference maker. Look at the balls that I've had damage on. They're not-executed sliders. Maybe decent action, but not in the right location."
Archer maintains that he has not lost confidence despite the streak.
"How do you navigate through that?" Archer said. "Trust yourself, period. Just like any other walk of life when you're struggling. You look in the mirror and say, 'I can do this. I can get this done.' And then you typically get it done with that attitude."
Archer is 1-6 in 11 career starts against the Red Sox with a 5.14 ERA.
Porcello recorded wins in his first two starts of the season, both against the Blue Jays even though he has a 5.11 ERA. The long ball was Porcello's only problem in both outings. He gave up two to Jose Bautista in his first start and two to Edwin Encarnacion last time out.
"He did a really nice job with throwing his fastball to both sides of the plate," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Against a powerful, right-handed hitting lineup, I thought he pitched in effectively. He used enough secondary pitches to set up his fastball."
Porcello is 5-4 in 11 career starts against the Rays.
Three things to know about this game
• Rays manager Kevin Cash said there was a good chance Hank Conger will start at catcher for the Rays. He is 0-for-7 throwing out would-be basestealers this season and 0-for-44 dating back to May 27.
• After starting nine of the first 10 games this season, Brock Holt was out of the lineup for the last three. He will return to left field for this one against Archer. Holt had a strong road trip to start the season, but he is 1-for-13 on this homestand.
• Brad Miller has two at-bats against Porcello and homered in each during a game last season. David Ortiz has had success against Archer over the years, going 9-for-26 with two homers and 11 RBIs.

Rays have plenty of reasons to smile

 Kevin Kiermaier roped a homer deep into the right-field seats to open the top of the 10th and lead the Rays to a 3-0 victory over the Red Sox on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
It was Kiermaier's first homer of the season, and it came on a 2-2 curveball from Matt Barnes. The long ball was projected by Statcast™ to land 402 feet away from home plate, and then the Rays padded their lead on a two-run ground-rule double by Desmond Jennings that came after a two-out error by third baseman Travis Shaw.
Lefty Drew Smyly was magnificent for the Rays, firing eight innings of one-hit ball. After a single by Jackie Bradley Jr. loaded the bases with nobody out in the third, Smyly retired 17 batters in a row before giving way to the bullpen in the ninth.
"[Smyly] made it look pretty easy tonight, and I know it's not," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "That lineup is very deep and has a bunch of solid hitters. So you can get tricked into thinking it looks easy, but we know it's not."
Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly was forced out of the game after recording just two outs in the first with a right shoulder impingement and will be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Despite the overpowering performance by Smyly, the Red Sox stayed in the game thanks to a stellar performance from the bullpen. Manager John Farrell deployed four relievers over 8 1/3 scoreless innings.
"Outstanding," Farrell said. "They were efficient, they had good stuff and they threw a lot lot of strikes. All of them threw the ball exceptionally well."
That stretch ended abruptly when Barnes came on to start the 10th against Kiermaier. It was the third loss in a row for the 6-7 Red Sox. The Rays have the same record, but have won three in a row.
Smyly dominates: The left-hander extended his scoreless streak against the Red Sox to 20 1/3 innings. Smyly threw 105 pitches, 71 of them for strikes, and he tied a career high with 11 strikeouts for the second consecutive start.
"Yeah, I was just real sharp today," Smyly said. "I had command of all four of my pitches. I was able to get ahead and work the counts." More >
Missed opportunity in third haunts Sox: It seemed all but certain the Red Sox would jump out first when they loaded the bases with nobody out in the third. Chris Young and Ryan Hanigan opened with walks, followed by Bradley's single to center. But Mookie Bettsfollowed with a crisp grounder to third, and Evan Longoria easily cut down the run at the plate. Dustin Pedroia hit into a 6-4-3 double play, and the Rays were out of the jam.
"I'm trying to just drive the ball to the middle of the field," said Pedroia. "I fouled off some pitches and he threw kind of like a cut fastball down in the zone. I was trying to stay inside of it. It cut at the last second. I pulled my hands in and just kind of hit a ground ball to short."More >
Kiermaier jump-starts offense: The outfielder was sitting fastball in the 10th, but he reacted quickly enough on a curveball to break the scoreless tie.
"I didn't want to get beat on a fastball, so I was looking fastball," Kiermaier said. "I was ready for the fastball. I had my foot down and reacted to the curveball. So I was not sitting on that, but that's what I had and I saw it really well out of his hand and just put a really good easy swing on it and it jumped off good enough to go over right there." More >
Hembree strong in return: After Kelly departed, reliever Heath Hembree was pressed into emergency duty on the same day he was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket. The righty came through in a big way, firing 3 1/3 shutout innings while walking none and striking out four.
"When I come into that situation there, I know I have to eat some innings and help the bullpen out," said Hembree. "I was just trying to get quality innings and go as far as I could."More >
"He does so many good things for us. He can be quiet at the plate and impact us. We all see what he does defensively. When he does get on base, the havoc that he can create. ... It's just a matter of time before he gets going." -- Cash, on Kiermaier's offense
When Red Sox lefty Robbie Ross Jr. fielded a Longoria grounder and threw to first in the top of the sixth, Hanley Ramirez was initially pulled off the bag. Farrell challenged the call, and it was overturned after a review of one minute and 13 seconds. Though Ramirez did come off the bag, he got his foot back on an instant before Longoria arrived.
In the top of the ninth, Farrell again tried his luck on a challenge play. Brad Miller hit a grounder to second and the Red Sox tried to turn a 4-6-3 double play. The throw by Xander Bogaerts pulled Ramirez off the bag at first, but Farrell challenged that the takeout slide by Jennings was illegal. However, the call stood.
This was just the second time in the past 100 years the Red Sox were held to one hit or fewer in an extra-inning game. The last time was Sept. 18, 1934, in a 2-1 win against the St. Louis Browns. The last MLB team to be held to one hit or fewer in an extra-inning contest was the White Sox in a game against the Mets on May 7, 2013.
Smyly has a 0.00 ERA in the first innings of his last 11 starts.
Rays: Chris Archer (0-3, 5.87 ERA) is looking to find the magic in his fourth start of the season on Wednesday against the Red Sox at 7:10 p.m. ET after a disappointing beginning to 2016. The Rays' ace has not won since Aug. 31. The deepest he has pitched in a game this season was 5 1/3 innings in his last start on Thursday against the Indians.
Red Sox: Righty Rick Porcello (2-0, 5.11 ERA) will face someone besides the Blue Jays for the first time this season. Porcello's only problem so far has been the long ball. He gave up two homers to Jose Bautista in his first start and two more to Edwin Encarnacion last time out.

Stripling out to slow surging Braves for LA

Part-time stockbroker and current Dodgers right-hander Ross Stripling will attempt to add to the excitement surrounding his blossoming career when he takes the mound to oppose Julio Teheran and the Braves on Wednesday night at Turner Field. Atlanta, which won the series opener, is going for its fifth straight win.
Stripling gained the attention of the baseball world as he flirted with a no-hitter during his April 8 Major League debut. The 26-year-old right-hander tossed 7 1/3 hitless innings against the Giants and was lifted after 100 pitches, with the Dodgers wanting to protect his arm. Stripling is two years removed from Tommy John surgery.
The Braves will be getting their first look at Stripling, who limited the D-backs to two runs over six innings on Thursday in his second start.
Teheran was scheduled to start on Tuesday, but the Braves pushed him back a day because he had developed a fever while battling a cold on Monday night. Teheran limited the Nationals to two solo home runs over six innings on Opening Day, but he has allowed 10 earned runs over 11 innings in his past two starts.
Things to know about this game
• Teheran has posted a 5.56 ERA and surrendered 1.82 home runs per nine innings on the road since the start of the 2015 season. But at Turner Field during that span, he has posted a 3.10 ERA and surrendered 0.83 HR/9.
• Yasiel Puig hasn't seen much of Teheran, but he has found success against him. Puig has four hits in six at-bats against the Braves' ace, with a double and a homer. He's also drawn two walks. The current Dodgers actually have feasted on Teheran, batting .329 and slugging .494 with an .894 OPS. Their two weakest hitters against Teheran are Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis, neither of whom will be in the lineup Wednesday.
• Stripling is a licensed stockbroker who does money management during the offseason in the New York office of Wunderlich Securities. Stripling was a finance major at Texas A&M and a fifth-round pick of the Dodgers in 2012. He invested his signing bonus in Facebook, Under Armor and Apple.