Ichiro Suzuki joined an elite group of batters to reach 4000 career hits as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 4 – 2.
Dropped from the starting line up for a cold bat and being fined for turning up to the game 30 minutes late didn’t deter Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig as he came as a substitute in the 6th and gave his side the go ahead lead which would be converted in to a 6 – 4 win over the Marlins, breaking a two game losing slide.
The true test of a top ball club is how they respond to a setback. Pirates fans would have been mildly concerned following the crushing 16 innings defeat at home to Arizona the night before, but the long journey to San Diego didn’t dent the resolve as Francisco Liriano produced an outstanding performance and helped his team to a 3 – 1 victory to maintain top spot in the NL Central. The lefty pitched 7 strong innings, striking out 13 and allowing just 4 hits and 2 walks, whilst Pedro Alvarez hit his 31st home run for the Pirates. The key play of the game was Chris Denorfia’s huge error in the fourth which allowed 2 runs and effectively won the game for the away team. Running in to stop a routine ground ball, his concentration slipped and the ball slid under his glove and to the wall which gave ample time for Andrew McCutcheon and Pedro Alvarez to run in 2 runs.
The mood in Fenway Park was white hot as Ryan Dempster struck Alex Rodriguez in the 2nd to draw warnings from the home plate umpire and incense Yankees manager Joe Girardi to the point he was ejected from the remainder of the game. A-Rod would have the last laugh as he later homered and his obvious delight was clear as he rounded the bases to a huge chorus of boo’s and helped the Yankees to a 9 – 6 victory over their bitter rivals. One thing for sure, Rodriguez clearly feeds off the Red Sox intense hatred, helping himself to three hits, two RBI’s and two runs.
Charlie Manuel looked a lonely figure as he left Citizens Bank Park following his dismissal this week. He unquestionably remains the franchises most successful manager, but the news was treated with mixed responses from the fans and media. Some say that GM Ruben Amaro’s timing was poor and that he should have taken most of the heat for a shocking season, whilst others believed Charlie had just about got the team as far as could get them and at 69, a new face was necessary to spark some positive response during the last quarter of the season.
The timing issue was most probably driven by Charlie himself. It’s likely that Amaro had expressed that he wasn’t going to offer a new contract to the manager but was welcome to a job within the organisation. As Charlie stated, he still feels he has a few years of MLB management left in him and rather than sit as a lame duck leader for the remainder of the season, forced Amaro in to letting him go.
As for Charlie’s legacy, well of course it’s mostly positive. 5 divisional titles and a world series win for a club with a profile that had previously continually under achieved. He was an old fashioned players manager rather than a game plan schemer, nurturing the best from the young and trusting his established stars to work with and for him to gain success. At times he may have been too loyal to certain players and strategies which may explain why he didn’t win more silverware. I believe he always went with his gut and mostly he got it right.
Ultimately, everyone at the organisation has to take the blame. The loss of key staff in the years following the World Series win including bench coach Jimy Williams and 1st base coach Davey Lopes left a hole. Continual injury problems to key players certainly didn’t help either. Letting go of Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino with little outfield support still baffles many and the lacklustre form of tried and trusted starting pitchers have all had an impact. The bullpen has never been stable since the world series, and the obvious ageing leading to less consistent performances of talismanic figures like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have all left an indelible mark on the failings of the 2013 team.
Every dog has his day the old proverb goes, and for that reason the time was right for a tired Charlie Manuel to leave his tired team.
Ryne Sandberg’s position as interim manager for Philadelphia was no joyous celebration following a crushing 4 – 0 defeat to the dominant Dodgers. Limited run support from the Phil’s beleaguered offence which ham strung dismissed leader Charlie Manuel throughout the current season left one wondering what the new man at the top can bring to a high payroll team in a continuing downward spiral. Tonight provided no clues as L.A. starter Matt Greinke ripped through the Phillies line up with 7 1/3 scoreless innings, aided by Hanley Ramirez who homered off Cliff Lee in the fourth.
Best news from yesterday’s games was the return of Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb, Who pitched 5 strong innings to help his side beat Seattle 7 – 1. After being out with concussion for 2 months following a line drive that struck his head during a game against the Royals it was great to see him back on the mound and in form. His addition to an already strong Rays pitching line up will put pressure on Red Sox as the gap between the two teams closes to just 2 games at the top of the AL East.
The late acquisition of Alfonso Soriano may be the last throw of the dice for the Yankees distant play off hopes, and tonight against a faltering Angels he produced another inspired performance with 7 RBI’s including two home runs. In addition, he is one of only three major league batters in the history of the game to score 6 or more RBI’s in consecutive games. Angels starter Jered Weaver was the man put to the sword by the Yankees slugger, giving up 9 runs in 5 innings. The final score was 11 – 3.
As gifts go, Pirates left fielder Starling Marte’s 9th Inning simple catching error gave St Louis the impetus to pull off a miraculous 14 Innings comeback to win 4 – 3. It keeps the heat between the two teams vying for the NL Central title and virtual fever pitch. If St Louis take the title by one game at the end of the season then sadly many will recall Marte’s disaster as a pivotal moment.
Ranger’s starter Yu Darvish produced a stellar pitching performance last night, striking out a career high 15 batters in the 2 – 1 victory over Houston. In what was close to being a shut out performance from the righty his command was impeccable, but it was the nasty breaking ball which really stood out. He’s now 4 – 1 with a 1.31 ERA since coming off the DL, and Texas have won nine of their last ten as they take a grip on the AL West title. Indeed, it’s easy to assume that they can virtually assure a play off berth given that their remaining 16 fixtures for August are all against sub .500 teams.
2 – Milwaukee
6 – Seattle
3 – Houston
3 – White Sox
2 – Minnesota
The only blemish in tonight’s performance was catcher AJ Pierzynski’s ejection for using a “bad word” to the home plate umpire.