First Pitch 07/08/13: Greatness, assigned

USA TODAY Sports

First Pitch is ready for the last full week of baseball before the All-Star Break. How ready? So ready.

The All-Stars have been announced and the weekend holidays are over. But still, baseball!

One Quick Thing -- Oh Man, All-Star Game Selections

I love the idea of the All-Star Game. The best players in each league deserve a chance to be recognized -- and the ASG doesn't just allow for the very best of the best to be recognized, you also get to see the best player on each team (since each team gets a representative) and the best player (or two) at each position.

While I think the elections-and-selections process got a lot of things right -- the American League starters are one player away from who I would've chosen, given the voting requirements -- there are a couple of completely indefensible things that happened.

Let's start with the voting. While I don't think that Adam Jones for the AL or Carlos Beltran from the NL actually deserve to be All-Stars this year, I have a bit of trouble faulting the voters for their choices overall*. Beltran and Jones both have the fame and the track record of success to be non-egregious selections. While some players are having better years, these guys are just fine. (Carlos Beltran starting an All-Star game being played in Citi Field is kind of awesome in this Mets fan's book, as well.)

[ * - I firmly believe Bryce Harper should be an All-Star this year. In this case, I'm siding with the voters of America against the rest of the BtBS writers. Sorry guys.]

When we get to the player selections and manager choices, that's where things tend to get a little dicier. In the NL, I'm actually perfectly okay with the choices for position players. Someone always gets snubbed, and while I'd rather see Shin-Soo Choo or Starling Marte on the team, at the expense of a Domonic Brown or Michael Cuddyer, there's a lot of good choices here. Looking at the pitchers, I feel a little different -- Patrick Corbin and Madison Bumgarner wouldn't be my fits over guys like Homer Bailey and Shelby Miller, but it's cool. And I LOVE that the teams didn't feel beholden to ratcheting up the number of relief pitchers in the game! We get Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Jason Grilli, and nobody else. While I'd vote for Mark Melancon over Chapman, three relievers only is fantastic. And Yasiel Puig is likely to dominate the Final Vote, so that's a win in my book.

The American League is, how can I put this, more problematic to me. The biggest issue is in the Final Vote, where the fans have the opportunity to vote for their favorite middle reliever. Don't get me wrong, I respect the middle reliever, who can often have more value than the "proven closer" as much as the next guy. But these are guys who often appear as the fifth-, sixth-, seventh-best pitcher on their team. They're guys who even fans of their team probably aren't jacked up to see throw in the All-Star Game. I mean, do you think there's a lot of Red Sox fans who feel incredibly strong about Koji Uehara's All-Star case? Or Jays fans who're really hoping that Steve Delabar can be the second Toronto reliever en route to Citi Field?

Beyond that, there's a couple of small things that could use adjustment. Specifically, the lack of Evan Longoria (in favor of Ben Zobrist) and Josh Donaldson (in favor of Bartolo Colon) -- two third basemen who are having all-world seasons. And in the case of Longoria, he's as much of a superstar as the next guy. And then there's Torii Hunter. I', not here to tear anyone down -- Hunter's having a fine season, but bringing on a guy who's not hitting more than 20% better than league average (.309/.348/.443) and a negative defensively and a baserunner? Come on. Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury would have been a much better choice.

The Smallest Sample Size -- Game Results for 07/07/13

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Tigers 6, Indians 9

Michael Brantley probably had the best offensive night of his life last night, bonking two home runs -- including a go-ahead blast in the eighth inning -- as well as a double to drive in five runs in this Cleveland win. Carlos Santana (not an All-Star, but a BtBS All-Star, forget about Sal Perez) and Lonnie Chisenhall added dingers for the Indians as well. And Corey Kluber dealt in his six-plus innings, striking out 10 and giving up just two runs.

For Detroit, Miguel Cabrera continued his assault on all-time hitting lines, going 4-for-4 with a homer, three singles, and a walk. Both Cabrera and Prince Fielder were able to steal bases in this game, so it's probably safe to assume that Kluber, for all his strikeouts, had some trouble controlling the running game along with Santana. Torii Hunter, though not necessarily deserving of his All-Star berth, did hit a home run. Every member of the Tigers' lineup was able to record a hit.

More on the Tigers at: Bless You Boys More on the Indians at: Let's Go Tribe

Orioles 2, Yankees 1

Adam Jones celebrated his All-Star selection on Sunday by taking Mariano Rivera deep in the ninth inning. His two-run blast off the celebrated closer was just enough to put the O's over the Yankees, and hand Rivera his second blown save of the season. Jason Hammel pitched quite well for the Orioles, giving up six hits and one run over five innings, but then the Baltimore Bullpen came on and completely shut the Yankees down. Nick Markakis also added a double and two singles. Oh, and Manny Machado made a world-class defensive play, like always.

Hiroki Kuroda did everything he could to carry the Yankees to victory, with seven innings of three-hit ball, a single walk, and four stirkeouts. The only substantial New York offense came from Chris Stewart's efficiency explosion: two singles and a walk in three plate appearances, plus a stolen base. Eduardo Nunez scored Zoilo Almonte on a sacrifice fly, so boring.

More on the Orioles at: Camden Chat More on the Yankees at: Pinstriped Bible

Twins 5, Blue Jays 11

The Blue Jays once again got starting pitching help from an unlikely place, as Todd Redmond pitched five innings of one-hit ball in a spot start for the Blue Jays. Granted, it probably didn't matter who was going to pitch, as the Jays' bats went wild on Scott Diamond and the Twins*. Colby Rasmus and Rajai Davis both had a double, a homer, and a walk -- though Rasmus threw in another hit for good measure. Jose Reyes, who's been flashing some real power since coming off the DL, added his fourth homer as well.

[ * - Scott Diamond and the Twins sounds like an indie faux-new wave band from Brooklyn.]

For the Twins, both Aaron Hicks and Trevor Plouffe homered, but despite five runs, there wasn't much else of offensive note. Clete Thomas is still in the everyday lineup, so that's a sign that things aren't going so well.

More on the Twins at: Twinkie Town More on the Blue Jays at: Bluebird Banter

Mariners 3, Reds 1

Joe Saunders was able to shut down the Reds on the road to give the Mariners a nice little series win against Cincinnati. You'd think that a Saunders outing in the cozy Great American Ballpark could be a disaster, but the Mariners hurler scattered six hits over seven innings, and only gave up two runs. Nick Franklin -- who has been an offensive revelation at second base -- homered for the sixth time on the season, while Justin Smoak added a dinger of his own.

For Cincy, Chris Heisey hit two doubles, including the one that drove in the only Reds run of the day. And Bronson Arroyo had a quality start, giving up three runs in six innings off of those two dingers, while striking out six. Both starters, Arroyo and Saunders, had an error in the game ... which is probably pretty rare.

More on the Mariners at: Lookout Landing More on the Reds at: Red Reporter

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Padres 7, Nationals 11

Robbie Erlin probably wishes that July 7 never happened, as he got absolutely torched by the Washington Nationals. The Padres hurler gave up nine runs in just over four innings of work, walking four and throwing two wild pitches. He wasted solid offensive performances by Alexi Amarista (a homer and two singles in five PAs) and Chase Headley (two doubles and a single in five PAs) and a rare San Diego offensive outburst in this one.

On Washington's side, Stephen Strasburg wasn't at his best, giving up four runs in six innings plus of work, but Stras did fan nine. He didn't need to be elite, however, as the Nats poured on the offense, led by Bryce Harper's three singles and walk, plus two stolen bases. Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon helped out with homers themselves, while Denard Span reached base three times.

More on the Padres at: Gaslamp Ball More on the Nationals at: Federal Baseball

Braves 3, Phillies 7

Domonic Brown looked every bit the All-Star, kicking off the scoring against Atlanta with an RBI triple in the first inning, then hitting a solo home run in the fifth to help the Phillies to victory. Jonathan Pettibone turned out another solid outing, giving up one run and striking out six in five and a third innings.

On Atlanta's side, Brian McCann stayed hot with three hits, and Chris Johnson hit his sixth homer of the season, but that wasn't enough to compensate for a rough outing by Kris Medlen. Medlen gave up seven runs on eight hits and three walks, and couldn't make it out of the sixth inning.

More on the Braves at: Talking Chop More on the Phillies at: The Good Phight

White Sox 1, Rays 3

Hey guys, David Price is fixed. We can all stop worrying now. Making his second strong start after returning from the DL, Price looked every bit the reigning Cy Young winner in a complete game victory. He scattered eight hits, gave up one run, walked one hitter and struck out five. The Rays didn't show any flashy offense -- a Desmond Jennings double and Luke Scott triple were the team's only extra-base hits -- but three runs is enough when your ace is ace-ing.

Meanwhile, John Danks was solid in his seven innings of three-run ball, but no match for Price. Sox catcher Josh Phegley hit his first big-league home run in the sixth, but the White Sox still lost their ninth game out of the last 11. It's getting pretty dark on the South Side.

More on the White Sox at: South Side Sox More on the Rays at: DRays Bay

Athletics 10, Royals 4

Josh Reddick led the way for Oakland in this one, hitting a homer and a double in this brutalizing of the Kansas City Royals. Additional homers came courtesy of Eric Sogard and Jed Lowrie, who brought middle-infield power to the ballgame on Sunday. A.J. Griffin wasn't efficient, and gave up two homers in his five innings of work, but they were both solo shots, which helped mitigate the damage. And Jesse Chavez did something cool, pitching four scoreless innings of relief to record a save and help his team's bullpen recover.

It didn't matter which marginal starting pitcher / long relieve the Royals ran out there yesterday. Luis Mendoza was awful. Bruce Chen got lit up. Will Smith starred in Independence Day gave up three runs. Home runs by George Kottaras and Alex Gordon are good, but they're just not good enough.

More on the Athletics at: Athletics Nation More on the Royals at: Royals Review

Mets 2, Brewers 1

Both starters pitched well in this outing, but two errors by Juan Francisco were the keys to two New York runs and a win for the Amazin's. While the Mets' hitters were doing their best to take advantage of defensive miscues, Jeremy Hefner sparkled, going seven innings, giving up two hits and just walking one, and striking out eight. Baller. Josh Satin, who will not be denied despite the return of Ike Davis, went three-for-four with two doubles and is dangerously close to getting a Satin Watch segment here at First Pitch.

Jonathan Lucroy went yard for the Brewers' only run, and Tom Gorzelanny was strong in his spot start. Gorzelanny threw six innings, gave up no earned runs, and matched each of the eight hits he allowed with a strikeout. He's got a sneaky-good 2.12 ERA this season in 46-and-two-thirds innings of work.

More on the Mets at: Amazin' Avenue More on the Brewers at: Brew Crew Ball

Marlins 2, Cardinals 3

Lance Lynn continues to show #want, going seven innings and giving up just two runs, while striking out seven for the Cardinals in the win. Matt Holliday kicked things off in the first with his 12th homer of the season, and added a walk and a stolen base to that later in the game. Holliday continues to chase history, however, grounding into his 22nd double play of the season, hot on the trail of Jim Rice's record of 36 GIDPs in a season. If the Cardinals continue to win, though, I'm sure no one will mind too much.

Newly-minted All-Star Jose Fernandez wasn't at his best, throwing six innings and giving up three runs while walking four and striking out five. And fellow rookies Derek Dietrich and Marcell Ozuna hit a double and triple, respectively. Dietrich also had a rough time of things, getting hit by a pitch first by Lynn, then by fireballer Trevor Rosenthal. Giancarlo Stanton both had a double AND a nice outfield assist, nailing Allen Craig at home plate.

More on the Marlins at: Fish Stripes More on the Cardinals at: Viva El Birdos

Pirates 3, Cubs 4

The Pirates and the Cubs took it to extra innings, where a Dioner Navarro pinch-hit sac fly was able to plate Anthony Rizzo and walk it off in the 11th inning. Navarro has been sharp as a pinch-hitter this season, going 6-for-14 with two home runs before Sunday.

Scott Hairston hit a home run for the Cubs, then was promptly traded to the Washington Nationals. Thanks, Scott!

All of the Pirates' starting outfielders had some success in this game, as Jose Tabata had a pair of doubles and a pair of walks, Andrew McCutchen reached base three times, and Starling Marte hit a two-out homer in the ninth off Kevin Gregg to send the game into extras. A.J. Burnett looked pretty good in his return from the DL, throwing five innings and giving up two runs on three hits and two walks.

More on the Pirates at: Bucs Dugout More on the Cubs at: Bleed Cubbie Blue

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Astros 4, Rangers 5

Justin Grimm may not have been too impressive during this one, but the Rangers bullpen locked things down after he left the game, pitching five scoreless. In addition, Joakim Soria made his first MLB appearance in nearly two years, and threw a one-two-three inning in the sixth. A.J. Pierzynski and Adrian Beltre provided the power, with each hitting homers off of Erik Bedard. And one might say that Jurickson Profar had the worst game of his nascent MLB career, going 0-for-3 (with a walk!), but also making an error and getting caught stealing after said walk.

For the Astros, Bedard was not particularly sharp, and neither were most of the bats. Left fielder Marc Krauss hit his first big-league homer, a two-run shot, J.D. Martinez hit three singles. and Jose Altuve stole two bases.

More on the Astros at: The Crawfish Boxes More on the Rangers at: Lone Star Ball

Dodgers 4, Giants 1

Clayton Kershaw continues to absolutely crush opposing hitters, but Chad Gaudin may have had an even more impressive outing, despite a Giants loss. While Kershaw went eight one-run innings with three hits, one walk, and three strikeouts, Gaudin went seven frames, gave up four hits, a walk and a single run, while striking out nine. Nevertheless, the Dodgers got to Sergio Romo, as A.J. Ellis hit a three-run double to put the game away. Earlier in the game, Hanley Ramirez hit a double and triple for L.A.

The Giants really couldn't muster up any offense at all, so doubles by Guillermo Quiroz and Joaquin Arias count as "highlights" for San Francisco.

More on the Dodgers at: True Blue LA More on the Giants at: McCovey Chronicles

Rockies 1, Diamondbacks 6

Patrick Corbin continues to wipe out his competition, throwing eight phenomenal innings with 10 strikeouts and giving up just one run. He even helped his own cause with a an RBI double in the sixth. Other doubles by the Snakes include ones by Paul Goldschmidt, Eric Chavez, and two by Aaron Hill.

Meanwhile, just about everything went wrong for the Rockies. Roy Oswalt left the game in the second inning with a hamstring injury. The next two relievers pitched poorly, and the team only mustered three hits total -- two courtesy of Jonathan Herrera. Herrera hit a solo home run, but that's about it -- and then Carlos Gonzalez left the game in the ninth with a hand injury. Ugh.

More on the Rockies at: Purple Row More on the Diamondbacks at: AZ Snake Pit

Red Sox 0, Angels 3

The Angels are continuing to roll, winning for the 10th time in their last 12 games, thanks to Mike Trout and Jered Weaver. Trout homered in the first inning to kick the game off, then Weaver started off a four-pitcher shutout by going six-and-two-thirds with six strikeouts, five hits, and two walks. Hank Conger also added a solo homer, but one run was all the Angels needed to put away their Sox.

John Lackey was pretty sharp again for Boston, but the two solo homers he gave up were still too much. Lackey went seven innings, striking out nine, walking one, and giving up only five hits. Unfortunately, Jacoby Ellsbury was the only Boston hitter capable of getting anything for extra bases (a double) and the Sox went one-for-nine with runners in scoring position.

More on the Red Sox at: Over The Monster More on the Angels at: Halos Heaven

Weekend Lineouts

  • The Marlins traded away Ricky Nolasco! The deal kind of looks like a salary dump, with the Fish getting back low-ceiling relief arms! I am the least surprised.
  • Grant Green will be called up on Monday by the Athletics. As far as post-hype prospects go, I really like Green ... but I'm admittedly biased towards players who can play all over the diamond. But if he hits, watch out.
  • Derek Jeter began a rehab assignment in Triple-A, meaning that he could return to Yankees rather shortly.

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Puig Watch

Opposing Starter: Chad Gaudin, San Francisco Giants

Daily Stat Line: Two singles in four plate appearances, with a stolen base and a caught stealing.

2013 Season Stat Line: .409/.437/.677 -- 8 HR -- 212 wRC+

Today's Puig Status: The Puig giveth, and the Puig taketh away. His ways are mysterious.

So that's it! Don't forget to follow up with feedback, and we'll see you tomorrow!

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Bryan Grosnick is the Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @bgrosnick.

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