The Chicago Cubs Let Another Game Get Away Late; This Time On The 100th Anniversary Of Wrigley Field

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

For eight innings, the party of the century was going according to script. The Chicago Feds were about to go 1-0, the Chicago Cubs were about to win their third game in a row, and Jeff Samardzija was about to finally get his first win of the season. Then, the ninth inning came along, and the party was over.

After eight innings, the Cubs were cruising along. Samardzija had done his job once again, going 7.1 innings pitched giving up just two earned runs while striking out five. In his fifth start of the season, the stat line was good enough for his fifth quality start of the year, and it should have been good enough for another victory. But again, the effort was wasted in the end before the final three outs could be had.

On a day where the celebration of Wrigley Field’s 100th Birthday was nearly perfect, the bullpen again failed to get the final three outs of a game, costing the team a win. The setting, backdrop and festivities were perfect. There was cake, a sellout crowd, and past legends all returning to what should have been the Cubs’ third straight victory, and first series victory in a long-overdue time. But in true, universe-turning fashion, the ninth inning cost Chicago a seemingly locked win. On this day, it was a team called the Packers stinging Chicago fans once again late in a game that should have been won by the home team.

Going into the start, Samardzija was the first pitcher since 1933 to start a season with four consecutive starts of pitching seven innings and allowing less than three earned runs in each without recording a win. After the team’s longest outing by a starting pitcher this season, the ace right-hander finally appeared to be in line for a win. But with just three outs to go in the game, it all unraveled again for the Cubs.

Samardzija now becomes the first pitcher in history to go winless in his first five starts to a season of pitching at least seven innings and allowing three runs or less. The Chicago Feds now know what has been going on at Wrigley Field for the last 100 years– pure heartache. To allow a team that has been struggling worse then you to come back and win a game in the ninth inning is a gift unwanted on any day.

After another gut-wrenching defeat, the question is now how many more will follow? After another bullpen meltdown, and an injury to one of their outfielders, will the Cubs be making even more changes? This is the type of loss that could spiral into something bigger and far worse. For their fan base, the Cubs cannot afford to have that happen. But, our guts unfortunately could have more to say.

 

For more MLB News and Updates Follow OPSN’s Nick Schaeflein @ptchr2424. 

Video: What is Blocking the Plate?

Oakland, Cali – The Texas Rangers got a lesson in what the catcher is supposed to do while facing a base runner.  In today’s Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics, Prince Fielder hit a weak ground ball to allow Alex Rios to score from third.

In real-time it appeared that Rios was safe and was just able to slide under Derek Norris to reach the plate.  Rios was initially ruled safe, but Bob Melvin, Athletics manager, challenged the call.

Comparison of Norris clearing the base path versus today’s play

After the review, Rios was ruled out because Norris applied the tag before Rios was able to touch the plate. But it does raise the question about whether Norris gave the base path to Rios to allow him to slide.  Rios appeared to have a straight line to the bag, but Norris was standing in the way. The new rule states that the catcher must have the base path clear until he has the ball.  This new rule has the catcher clearing the base path and making a swiping tag of the base runner.  Clearly Norris didn’t do that today.

Next time that happens, Ron Washington should challenge the block at the plate.

Check out the video and you decide.  To me it seems like under the new rule, he was blocking the plate.

Video:  Norris blocking the path, tagging out Rios

Follow OPSN’s David Cash on Twitter for more MLB updates @dwcashMLB

VIDEO: Sanchez’s clutch grand slam lifts Giants over Rockies in 11 innings

Hector Sanchez‘s grand slam in the top of the 11th inning lifted the Giants over the Rockies in 11 innings on Wednesday. Here’s the clutch homer.

VIDEO: Pineda’s Ejection

New York Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda was ejected for having a foreign substance on his neck against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night. Here is how everything went down.

BREAKING NEWS: Michael Pineda Ejected After Foreign Substanced Found on Neck

New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected from the game in the bottom of the second inning with two outs for having a foreign substance smudged on his neck.

Michael  Pineda Pine Tar

Red Sox Manager John Farrell went to home plate umpire Gerry Davis to have Pineda inspected for pine tar. Davis check his glove and hands for the substance, but nothing was found. When the substance was discovered on his right side of the neck, Davis immediately ejected Pineda from the game.

David Phelps was brought in from the bullpen to pitch in long relief for Pineda. Pineda will likely face suspension by the MLB for his illegal actions.

This isn’t the first time speculation of a foreign substance was found on Pineda this season. Earlier this month against the Red Sox, there appeared to be something found on his pitching hand in which the Red Sox didn’t object to. However, the second time around the Red Sox weren’t having it.

Follow OPSN’s Shukri Wrights on Twitter for more MLB updates @Shukri96Yankees

Tracy McGrady makes Skeeters Opening Day Roster

Tracy McGradyFormer NBA veteran Tracy McGrady has made the Sugar Land Skeeters Opening Day roster, according to the manager and former 20-year MLB veteran Gary Gaetti, via My Fox Houston.

“Tracy is on the team,” Gaetti said. “He’s just done what needed to be done since the idea came about. He’s showed enough progress. He showed ability and we’re going to see where this goes.”

McGrady’s first start in the exhibition season was against Alvin Community College in which he allowed one run on three hits in one inning of work. He threw 15 pitches, nine for strikes. He did not walk or strikeout anybody.

The club issued a statement about the 6-foot-8 right-hander making the club. The decision was made final on Wednesday.

“We are excited about our team this season and having Tracy McGrady as a part of it,” said Gaetti. “We’re also excited to see what unique opportunities this could present for us in putting a good product on the field and we look forward to Tracy helping us win some ball games.”

Before baseball, McGrady was a 16-year NBA veteran with the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks and San Antonio Spurs. He amassed two scoring titles and seven All-Star game nominations.

Follow OPSN’s Andrew Vigliotti on Twitter for more MLb updates @Andrew_Vig

 

Josh Johnson to undergo Tommy John surgery

Another one bites the dust.

Josh Johnson, who was supposed to have a bounce back, healthy 2014 campaign after signing with the San Diego Padres, will undergo yet another Tommy John surgery that will end his 2014 season, tweets MLB.com’s Corey Brock.

Johnson opened the season on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his right arm, which, after further examination by Dr. James Andrews, led to the diagnosis of the elbow and another call for surgery. He’ll be the 16th member of the Tommy John club for the 2014 season already and the season hasn’t even concluded its first month.

Here is the list of pitchers who are expected to under T.J or already have this season:

Josh Johnson (2nd)

Ivan Nova, Yankees

Matt Moore, Rays

Jameson Taillon, Pirates

Bobby Parnell, Mets

Cory Gearrin, Braves

Brandon Beachy, Braves (2nd)

Kris Medlen, Braves (2nd)

David Hernandez, D-Backs

Patrick Corbin, D-Backs

Jarrod Parker, Athletics (2nd)

Bruce Rondon, Tigers

Luke Hochevar, Royals

Miguel Sano,  Twins (third baseman)

Cory Luebke, Padres (2nd)

There were 24 pitchers total in 2013, so the fact that 16 have already fallen victim to the procedure and it’s not even the end of April could lead to exceeding last year’s total.

Johnson has endured constant arm and elbow problems during his career with the-then Florida Marlins, Toronto Blue Jays and now with the Padres. He signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Padres with a $4 million option for 2015 if he made fewer than seven starts. Brock says that doesn’t automatically kick in and the Padres can still decline it. That looks like the course of action at this point for San Diego.

Follow OPSN’s Andrew Vigliotti on Twitter for more MLB updates @Andrew_Vig

 

 

The Forgotten Prospect: Mulling over Mejia

In a time before Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard were household names, there was another young arm in the Mets farm system drawing praise.

Right hander flamethrower Jenrry Mejia was dubbed the top pitching prospect in the Mets farm system in 2009 at the age of just 20. After the 2010 season he was ranked the 44th best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. He was all set to take the Mets and the league by storm.

Then Mejia was forced to leave a game with elbow discomfort during an April start for the Mets Triple-A Buffalo affiliate. He later underwent Tommy John surgery and as other Mets pitching prospects took off, Mejia was soon forgotten.

Fast forward to 2014.

Mejia sports a record of 3-0 with a 1.99 ERA after winning a spring battle for the Mets fifth rotation spot against John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

The former top prospect can no longer consistently hurl the ball 95+ MPH, but he is making better use of his pitches. His fastball now sits  at 91 MPH on average, but has a natural cut that once drew comparisons to Mariano Rivera‘s cutter from former manager Jerry Manuel. He pairs that with a slider, a curve ball and a devastating change up that sits at 77 MPH.

Mejia has a 13 2/3 scoreless innings streak over his last three starts. It is possible that Mejia’s early season numbers could be even better, if he was not dealing with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand for two starts. The blister plagues him during his start against the Braves in which he allowed four runs. It also plagues him against the Diamondbacks, where he had to be removed after five scoreless innings.

Mejia returned from that start to face the Cardinals at home on Monday. He pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings against one of the more dangerous lineups in the National League. His one blemish has always been his command, which was not an issue until the seventh inning for him. This could be due to fatigue, as Mejia continues to build up his stamina.

Despite the decrease in velocity, Mejia is striking out batters at a prolific rate. His 9.93 K/9 is his highest rate in the majors. He is enduring batters to hit ground balls 50% of the time, which is nearly 10% lower then his career average. Despite the decrease, Mejia is still not plagued by the long ball, as he has only allowed two home runs in 22.2 innings.

There is reason for regression, as opposing batters are only hitting .193 and their BABIP sits at an even .250. The most alarming stat is Mejia is stranding 90% of the batters that get on base, a number that surely will be difficult to uphold throughout the season.

Despite this it is also possible to see improvement. Mejia is walking 5.56 batters per nine, which quite frankly, is terrible. It’d be difficult to imagine that number sustaining throughout the season, yet alone increasing. His command should only get better the more he pitches. Less walks, mean less base runners, which means less runs. If Mejia could cut down on the number of walks he issues, he could sustain an ERA under three this season.

The safe bet is to say Mejia comes back down to earth. But as a 24-year-old with a chip on his shoulder and nasty movement, it is not hard to see Mejia succeed this season. He will certainly have his replacements breathing down his neck as Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Jacob deGrom are all ready, willing and able to take his spot.

If he is able to stay healthy, Mejia could pitch his way into the Mets rotation of the future along with Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard.

Make sure to follow OPSN reporter Michael Florio on twitter @MichaelFFlorio

Is Aaron Harang For Real?

Flashback to March 31st.

Braves’ fans are in an absolute frenzy, Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen are well on their way to their 2nd Tommy John surgeries, and Fredi Gonzalez is singing “I Wish You Would Step Back From That Ledge My Friend” to general manager Frank Wren.

Alright so it wasn’t that bad.

But there were certainly some major concerns–particularly in the starting rotation–to start the 2014 season. With Beachy and Medlen going down so late in Spring Training, damage control started and ended with the signing of Ervin Santana, but that still left the Braves with gaping holes in the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation with Mike Minor expected to miss the first month of the season.

1397875529000-04-18-2014-Aaron-Harang

Enter Aaron Harang.

No, I’m serious.

Harang has been one parts godsend, one parts knight in shining armor, and one parts superhero to Braves’ nation so far this season, and for the sake of this argument, he’s made up of three parts.

Through five starts, the soon to be 36-year-old is sporting a video game-like 0.85 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. Even more head-scratching, Harang has 33 strikeouts in his 31.1 innings of work this season, eye-opening considering he hasn’t posted a K/9 over 7.1 since 2009.

While most would consider Harang’s unbelievable start to the season about as likely to continue as me not burning the roof of my mouth the next time I eat a hot pocket, there are some signs that the veteran right-hander can continue to be an impact arm in the Braves’ rotation moving forward.

For example, Harang’s velocity and swing and miss rates have all increased this season compared to the previous four seasons. According to Fangraphs.com, Harang has a 22.2% swing and miss rate on his fastball in 2014, up from 19.6% in 2013, and his slider and curveball have both seen jumps of over 5% this season, as well.

In addition, Harang is pitching more effectively down in the zone and inside, and throwing all four pitches for strikes. After allowing 26 home runs in 143.1 innings last season, the former 6th round pick hasn’t allowed a single ball to leave the yard so far in 2014.

Although his peripherals support the early success might not be entirely a fluke, some regression is certainly expected over the course of the season.

But if the regression is only slight, then the Braves’ may have found just what they needed at the back end of their rotation to make a run at another division title in 2014.

Follow OPSN Lead Writer Shawn Ferris @RealShawnFerris for more MLB news, updates, and analysis.  

Evan Gattis’ clutch hit sends Braves home Winners

Evan Gattis was given the afternoon off at the catcher position after a quick turnaround from Tuesday’s pitcher’s duel 1-0 loss against the Miami Marlins. However, he was a factor late in Wednesday’s matinee.

Evan Gattis

El Oso Blanco ripped an two-run double down the left field line which scored Ramiro Pena and Dan Uggla in the eighth inning on a pinch hit appearance that brought in the go-ahead runs for the 3-1 victory on Wednesday. Gattis has drowned the Marlins in this series as he walked off a winner after he lined a two-run homer into the left field seats on Monday night in the 10th inning.

The Braves catcher is gaining a reputation for being a clutch hitter in a pinch. Through July of last season, he blasted four pinch hit home runs and was a total 6-for-8 in that same span last season. He’s starting to show the same magic again with his bat coming off the bench for a day after a night game.

So far this season, Gattis is off to a strong start batting .286/.310/.589 with five homers and nine RBI entering play on Wednesday. Add two more RBI after the clutch double on Wednesday and he’s showing his “white bear” strength at the plate as the starting catcher for the Braves as Brian McCann departed in free-agency to the New York Yankees.

After a combined 28 strikeouts between the Marlins and the Braves on Tuesday, another pitcher’s duel occurred in Atlanta on Wednesday as Nathan Eovaldi and Aaron Harang squared off. Eovaldi fanned seven Braves over six innings and gave up five hits and an unearned run. Harang, who entered into this start with an ERA under one and throwing seven scoreless frames last week, struck out 11 Marlins in seven innings of one run ball.

 Follow OPSN’s Andrew Vigliotti on Twitter for more MLB updates @Andrew_Vig

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