Match-ups to Watch
Cardinals vs. Braves:
Atlanta’s pitching has remained strong throughout the season. It’s the offense that has struggled as of late—and has led to a Braves’ tailspin of six straight defeats. In that stretch, they’ve scored just 10 runs and managed only three while being baffled by San Francisco’s arms in a Turner Field sweep.
It’ll be quite difficult to put crooked numbers on the scoreboard when facing a deep pitching staff such as St. Louis. Shelby Miller takes the hill in Monday’s series opener, with a determination yet to be made on the rest of the starters.
The Cardinals have also had their share of difficulty scoring, totaling just the 12th best offense (as far as runs scored) in the National League.
Rangers vs. Rockies:
Hitting will be the primary focus in this match-up of clubs each aiming to win their respective Western divisions. Texas newcomer Shin-Soo Choo leads the AL in batting average, while the Rockies boast the two best averages in all of baseball in the form of Troy Tulowitzki (.400) and Charlie Blackmon (.362)
Colorado finished off April strong and started off May quite nicely by taking two of three from the Mets. And, as a nice little bonus, the Rockies NL-best offense won’t have to deal with Yu Darvish. However, Texas can feast on a pitching staff that has a hefty team earned run average (ERA) of 4.29. The Rangers are coming off a series win over the Angels. In the Sunday finale, they pounded out a season-high 14 runs.
Dodgers vs. Nationals:
Just a half-game separates L.A. and D.C. Neither is wowing us, but neither has been disappointing overall. One shared flaw is the lack of strength at home. Matt Williams’ club is 9-8 at Nationals Park, while the Dodgers are somehow only 6-9 at Chavez Ravine.
The Nation’s Capital will be the setting for this three-game set, the much-anticipated return of the two-time Cy Young Award winner being a major attraction. Clayton Kershaw will be given the Tuesday night start, but you can bet that Don Mattingly will have a watchful eye and a short leash on the valuable (and rich) left-hander. He does, though, possess a 5-2 career record versus Washington.
Zack Greinke vs. Jordan Zimmermann:
Perhaps the more intriguing dual of strong-armed starters in this series is the one that comes up on Monday. Zimmermann, with 19 victories to his name last season, has had just one poor start in 2014—but possesses only a record of 2-1. His ERA is just about at last year’s number, but he’s capable of bringing it down even lower.
Greinke has found more immediate success this season—temporarily taking the ace role from Kershaw. With a 5-0 mark and not having allowed more than two runs in any start, he’s a prime candidate to be named National League Pitcher of the Month.
Last Wednesday (April 30) at Target Field against Minnesota, Greinke only allowed the Twins to plate an unearned run in six-plus innings.
Cliff Lee vs. Mark Buehrle:
With the emergence of Jose Fernandez and Sonny Gray, it is quite apparent that there is no lack of young ace pitchers. But a pair of older southpaws still has plenty left in them.
Lee’s ERA sits at a respectable 3.00 with just six walks allowed in 48 innings of work. His offense was unable to generate much in the way of support in two outings, including one on April 16 in which he went nine innings—only to lose 1-0 to the Atlanta Braves.
The second year in Toronto is off on the right track for Buehrle—with a 5-1 record and a 2.25 ERA. The lone outlier in a rather superb opening month came at home against Boston. On that night, he surrendered six earned runs and was given an early ticket to the showers.
Game of the Weekend
While all the talk in the NL West has centered on Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Colorado Rockies have quietly made an early season run in the division. And there were plenty of runs scored on Saturday night against the visiting New York Mets.
A 6-0 deficit after two-and-a-half innings didn’t distill Colorado, which countered with an eight-run burst of offense in the bottom of the fifth.
The back-and-forth affair leaned towards the New Yorkers by the ninth, when they took a 10-9 lead on the strength of a Juan Lagares single to right field that drove in Eric Young, Jr.
But all that did was set the stage for walk-off drama. With a runner on, one out, and Kyle Farnsworth on the mound, Charlie Culberson stepped up.
The home run to dead center gave the Rockies their 13th win in 18 games, and booted their Coors Field record this year to 11-4.
There were a number of accomplishments reached on this night. Troy Tulowitzki notched his 1,000th hit, while Nolan Arenado extended his hitting streak to 23 games with a fifth inning grand slam. But it was Culberson’s first career walk-off homer that will be the enduring image from this classic—and undoubtedly one of the foremost highlights of this 2014 season.
This Week in MLB History
On May 5, 1978, Pete Rose collected his 3,000th hit of Montreal Expos pitcher Steve Rogers. Rose would go on to have a record 4,256 over the course of his long career.
On May 6, 1953, St. Louis Browns pitcher Bobo Holloman tossed a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics in his first career start. He would never have a complete game again.
On May 7, 1959, more than 93,000 gathered at the Los Angeles Coliseum to honor former Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella, paralyzed in a car accident the previous year, during an exhibition game against the Yankees.
On May 8, 1968, Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter pitched a perfect game as his A’s topped the Minnesota Twins.
On May 8, 2001, Randy Johnson, pitching with the Arizona Diamondbacks, matched Rogers Clemens and Kerry Wood by striking out 20 Cincinnati Reds in nine innings. The D-Backs managed to win the game in 11 innings.