There were FIVE vultures this week. This was lot of work.
May 4th. Erasmo Ramirez of the Tampa Bay Rays. This particular specimen of carrion eater is a bit different than what we usually see here in this periodical. Most of the time the offending pitcher gets charged with at least some of the damage caused by his outing. But in this case… noooope. So how do you vulture a win without getting charged an earned run? Simple, let the previous pitcher’s runner score and that’s it. Nyak, Nyak,Nyak.
Sally went to this game with her little retoños (God, I need to stop channeling Old Gator) so she can probably tell us better how things went down but the play by play doesn’t lie: Up by 1 in the top of the sixth Smyly was up against the heart of the Dodger order for the third time around and he ran into trouble by allowing Puig and Gonzalez to hit consecutive singles setting up first and third with no outs.
Since the Rays aren’t being managed by Robin Ventura, Erasmo Ramirez entered the game in relief. Erasmo is actually a pretty good pitcher. He’s the longman/spot starter for the Rays but was actually a fixture in their rotation last year starting 27 games (out of 32) for 163 IP and a 3.75 ERA. I figure he’ll be a regular in the Rays rotation soon enough when one of the other guys loses their spot due to performance or injury.
In any case, he’s now facing Justin Turner. The count is 1-2 when he unscrews a wild one allowing Puig to score:
Oh dear, location, location, location. Just like that. Blown Save. A-Go would go to second on the play. To his credit Erasmo shrugged it off and got a pair of ground outs (on the left side of the diamond preventing A-Go from advancing to third) before issuing a walk to Chase Utley. Grandal grounded out to end the inning.
Then that offensive powerhouse known as the Tampa Bay Rays went to work scoring 6 unanswered runs in the next two innings. The dodgers added three of their own later in the 8th but by then Erasmo was gone having pitched a relatively clean 7th marred only by Corey Seager’s double.
On the one hand Erasmo didn’t fail in a particularly egregious manner. Only one hit allowed, one walk and one strikeout. No runs other than Puig’s scored. On the other hand when you’re the stopper, you’re supposed to plug the drain. On the gripping hand Symly had to do more work than him. Call this one a small v.
May 5th. Nick Vincent of the Seattle Mariners. Another case of no-charged-run-itis, Up by 1 run Joel Peralta relieved Wade Miley to start off the inning against the ‘Stros. Tyler White promptly hit a double. Preston Tucker came in to pinch hit for Erik Kratz. Didn’t work. The man struck out swinging. Next Jason Castro comes in to pinch hit for Jake Marisnick. That worked better. Castro got on base via Walk. At this point there was no more confidence in Peralta so Nick Vincent is called in to face the dangerous Jose Altuve.
Altuve did not disappoint:
I have several observations here. Did Nick really try to fool Altuve with 88 MPH slider over the plate? (at least I think it was a slider, I am super terrible at pitch recognition unless it’s a fastball or a curve). Also, what is up with that little hill in Minute Maid Park? I thought they were removing it this season? Might have been a ground rule double someplace else. Also, what the hell were the Astros thinking sending Jason Castro home? Did they forget it was him and not Jake Marisnick running the bases?
Faced with an obvious disaster A.J. Hinch did what I used to do as a kid when I was losing a board game: find a rule to screw my opponent with. In this case home plate collision rules. Alas, Chris Ianetta was in front of home plate, he only moved to his left to field the ball. Castro had an ample sliding corridor and once Castro had the ball he has the right to block the plate anyway.
Did I mention MLB’s recent catcher collision rule was just a reinforcement of the old one but without “umpire judgement” mixed into it?
Vincent managed to retire Springer to ensure no more damage occurred (after all, Altuve went to third on that play). In the next inning Vincent would walk Correa but get out of the problem by inducing a double play from Evan Gattis (guess they should have bunted Correa over?). Car-Go struck out swinging.
At the top of the 9th the Mariners broke through thanks to Leonys Martin, Norichi Aoki, Seth Smith and Robinson Cano. The latter hitting a bases clearing double. Maybe that 10 year contract won’t turn out so bad. BTW a while back I saw a fantastic skit on Jimmy Fallon’s show where Yankees fans booed a cardboard cutout of Cano in Mariner’s uniform placed in Central Park (IIRC). When Jimmy distracted them they were confronted by real life Robinson Cano. The reactions were absolutely hilarious.
Back to Nick. By my count he owes about 20 beers to his team-mates after he nearly Altuve-d into a Loss.
May 7th. Steve Cishek of the Seattle Mariners. This man used to be lights out in Florida. No seriously, Cishek had been playing for the Marlins so long he was there when they were still called the Florida Marlins waaay back in 2010-2011 which was like… decades ago I think. He must be a really old man by now.
Anyways, in his last two years with Miami Steve was no longer a Wonder and was breaking down. He was traded to St. Louis mid 2015 where he got some patented Cardinal Magic Pixie Dust and started pitching fairly well again. For some reason he was not tendered a contract and Cishek signed a 2 year deal with Seattle. So far he’s been worth every penny, pitching lights out baseball again. I have a theory that Steve was pitching worse on purpose just to get out of Miami. I mean, who wouldn’t right?
Moving along, he came in on the bottom of the 9th to do Closer Stuff. Trying to preserve a one run lead the first batter he faced, Luis Valbuena (1-3 lifetime against Steve, with a K and a HR) did this:
Now it’s 2 for 4 with 1 K and 2 HR. You can only throw so many sinkers in a row without getting hit. If this had been a two or three run game it would have been but a mere blip in Steve’s performance. Alas, it was just a margin of one run and therefore it is a blown save, no matter the fact that Steve then retired six in a row (he pitched the 10th after Seattle took back the lead). Deja Vu, Groundhog Day, Mulligan, call it what you will but Steve returned in the bottom of the 10th to close out a one run lead again. Not everyone gets a do-over! And he owes it go Robinson Cano’s home run in the top of the inning. They should start calling HIM the Closer, he keeps saving his fellow pitchers from Ls.
Unfortunately for Steve, you can’t save a game from yourself so he gets the W instead. I guess a clean 10th is deserving of that but the unclean 9th still sticks out like a sore thumb.
May 7th. Trevor Rosenthal of the St. Louis Cardinals. Trevor’s own pixie dust must have temporarily lost its edge. He wasn’t lights out. Of course, Aledmys Diaz’s throwing error leaving David Freese on first is not his fault. Walking John Jaso, that’s his fault. Then he had brief high when he struck out MuCutchen. Gregory Polanco’s grounder might have ended the game but it was just a force out. And then came the blown save when Starling Marte hit a ground rule double, could have been worse I guess. For the most part he induced weak contact when needed except for the Marte double. Such is the thin line between being a Hawk and a Vulture.
In the bottom of the 9th the Cardinals walked off on a Matt Carpenter bomb. These Matts are dangerous guys. I wonder if a fantasy baseball team comprising only Matts would work. It has to be better than what I’m doing anyway.
May 7th. Adam Warren of the Chicago Cubs. Right now the Cubs are baseball’s version of the Terminator: They can’t be bargained or reasoned with. They don’t show pity, remorse or fear. They absolutely will not stop until your team is ground into a pulp.
Adam Warren used to pitch for the Yankees. He did middle relief pretty well. The Empire tried to use him as starter and that usually didn’t go well. He went to the Cubs in a trade for Starlin Castro along with the Player To Be Named Later (that guy sure gets traded a lot doesn’t he?).
The Cubs have no shortage of great starters so Warren has gone back to middle relief. He’s been performing so far and was called into the 7th when Travis Good surrendered a triple to Ben Revere. It’s a tough spot to be in, man on third and no outs? You got to stop him from scoring or else the game is tied?
Start out by striking out Danny Espinoza. This is a situation where you’re looking for the fascist strikeout because it prevents the hitting team from putting the ball in play and possibly allowing the run to score on any number of outcomes even if it includes an out. Since Bryce Harper is tricky to strike out and a dangerous hitter to boot you walk him. He would walk 10 million more times in that weekend. They should just call him Bryce Walker, D.C. Ranger.
As an added bonus you set up for a double play to end the inning. It nearly worked. Zimmerman has been almost useless at the plate lately with RISP but he did enough to hit this little ground ball and beat the throw to first to let the run score:
Gotta feel for Adam Warren, he did the best he could. He executed his pitches. He got the K for the first out. The walk was Joe Maddon’s call. He induced the ground ball for the DP. I guess he could have run from the mound and tripped Zimmerman over but I’m sure that’s illegal. (hesitates, checks the MLB rule book) Yeah, it’s illegal.
Jayson Werth lined out to Dexter Fowler to end the inning but the damage was done. The Cubbies then continued to grind Washington pitching into little pieces. It’s almost unfair to call Warren’s effort a Vulture. But I don’t make the rules. I enforce them. Collect your win Adam, it’s one of the few I actually consider deserving. But you get the V treatment anyway.