Welcome to a Father’s Day edition of the Triple Play. This week, we take a closer look at a first-time dad on a hot streak, a team that has picked a bad time to slump, and our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. Off we go:
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Longoria, who became a father a few months ago, is on an impressive hot streak. In the past two weeks, the Rays’ leader has slugged five homers, driven in 11, scored 9 runs and batted .333/.375/.725. For the season, Longoria has accumulated 14 home runs, 42 RBI, 46 runs scored, putting him on pace for over 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 100 runs scored – elite numbers from one of the best third basemen in baseball. Thus far, Longoria is slugging a career-best .556, and his park-adjusted OPS+ is a career-best 155. What’s even more impressive is that he has been on this tear while dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot (that same injury has nagged at Albert Pujols for years), which has limited Longoria to designated hitter duties this past weekend. After enduring an injury-shortened 2012, fantasy owners are hoping that the foot pain doesn’t send Longoria back to the disabled list. There was some good news Sunday for Longoria owners (and, really, all fantasy owners): top prospect Wil Myers is finally being called up, presumably to play every day for the Rays. Adding one of the top five hitting prospects in the game should bolster a Tampa Bay lineup that has had trouble scoring runs at times this season. Longoria should see a benefit regardless of whether Myers ends up batting before or after the Rays third baseman.
How do you know your team has issues? When they’ve been swept by the Toronto Blue Jays. At home. In a four-game series. Outscored 24-4. Shut down by a pitcher who is on his third organization in the past year. That pretty much sums up where the Rangers are after this past weekend. Only a father could love this team right now. Sunday’s loss to Toronto was the Rangers’ sixth loss in a row – all at home. It’s a team-wide slump. A starting pitcher hasn’t won a game since Derek Holland (who was knocked around by the Jays on Sunday) was credited with a win on May 31. Yu Darvish has continued to pitch well, but he hasn’t won a game since May 16. In June, the team is slugging a ghastly .359, with 39 runs scored in 15 games. The team desperately misses first baseman Mitch Moreland, who was hitting .288/.338/.561 with 12 homers and 29 RBI when he was injured. Primary DH Lance Berkman, so good in April, is mired in an awful June, batting just .182/.294/.250 with one home run. Left fielder David Murphy, who was touted by a national baseball writer just last week for always being a “tough out,” has actually been one of the easiest outs in the lineup this month (.143/.250/.265, one home run). Now that the Blue Jays are headed out of town, the Rangers can look forward to their next opponent: red-hot division rival Oakland, which has surged into the division lead during the Rangers’ skid. When the Athletics last visited Texas (just before Memorial Day), Oakland took two of three, but still trailed the Rangers by 5 ½ games. Things will be a little more urgent for the home team this time around.
Playing the Name Game
Player A: .232/.286/.357, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 5 SB, 27 runs
Player B: .284/.341/.346, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB, 8 runs
Player A is Josh Rutledge, recently called back up by the Rockies following the injury to Troy Tulowitzki (more on him below). Player B is utility infielder Jonathan Herrera. Both players have started at shortstop for Colorado since Tulo’s injury. Suffice it to say that they eagerly await the return of their MVP-caliber shortstop.
Player A: 1-1, 6.25 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 24 Ks
Player B: 3-7, 3.79 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 72 Ks
Player A is Matt Garza of the Cubs. Player B is Miami’s Ricky Nolasco. Garza’s stats aren’t very pretty in his five starts since being activated from the DL, but he spun seven shutout innings Sunday against the Mets. Nolasco’s game Sunday was a little more impressive, holding the powerful Cardinal lineup to one run over seven innings to pick up the win. Both pitchers are expected to be dealt before the July 31 deadline. Both pitchers would provide a boost to a pitching-needy team in the playoff hunt (Rockies, Padres, Giants, Yankees, Orioles, Pirates, Diamondbacks). Which pitcher gets traded first? Or will Cliff Lee be dealt before either?
- Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright pitched 37 consecutive innings before issuing his first walk of the season. All season long, we are keeping track of how few free passes are handed out by the Cardinals’ ace. After 14 starts, Wainwright has walked nine batters in 103 innings (two intentionally). Twice, he has walked two batters in a start. Each of those games included an intentional walk and the following batter was retired. Those two IBBs have dropped his K/BB ratio a bit, but at almost 11-to-1, he still leads the National League.
- Thursday, June 13. That’s the date that Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki landed on the disabled list after diving for a routine ground ball and breaking a rib. It’s also the date the Rockies will point to as the date the season fell apart. Or will it be the date that they galvanized themselves to overcome the latest injury to their team leader? Rockies management has raved about the leadership skills of rookie manager Walt Weiss – here is his first big test.
- Carlos Beltran, 2012: 32 HR, 97 RBI, 83 runs, .842 OPS. 2013: 16 HR, 44 RBI, 34 runs, .889 OPS. If there has been a bigger bargain free-agent signing the past several years, I don’t know who it is.
- Don’t look now, but the San Diego Padres are above .500 for the first time since the final day of the 2010 season. If Chase Headley ever gets it going, the Padres could challenge for the NL West title.
- Congratulations to Zack Greinke, who successfully made it through an outing without plunking an opposing batter, being plunked himself, or being body slammed to the field.
- News: Yovani Gallardo and three relievers combine on Milwaukee’s first shutout of the season Saturday night. Views: the fact that the Marlins, Mets, Astros and Rockies all tossed shutouts before the Brewers this year tells you all you need to know about how hideous their pitching staff is.
- I know Albert Pujols isn’t the same guy he was when he was with the Cardinals, come on now. Bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, facing Mariano Rivera – that was still must-see TV.
- Here’s hoping that Rays starter Alex Cobb is able to come back with no ill effects from the line drive that struck him in the head Saturday. It was reported that the ball’s velocity at impact was 102 mph. Absolutely terrifying.
- Finally, on this day after Father’s Day, a personal note: over the weekend, I played catch with my kids, who are 12 and 10. You always see fathers playing catch with their sons in the movies, but I’m here to tell you that it is every bit as great with daughters.
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