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The Smallest Sample Size 8/5/13: Burnett's big year

A.J. Burnett's complete game last night was just another cherry on top of an incredible year for the veteran and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is still holding onto first in the NL Central but the St. Louis offense is apparently seeing nothing but beachballs at the plate.

Justin K. Aller

A.J. Burnett is enjoying the greatest season of his career at 36 years old and is the anchor of a surprisingly dominant pitching staff in Pittsburgh. Kenley Jansen is officially on perfect game watch and is there any other reliever more unlucky than Danny Farquhar this season? Also, will somebody please tell Ruben Amaro Jr. to start trading some assets and look to the future?

The Smallest Sample Size -- Game Results for 8/4/13

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Rangers 4, Athletics 0

A.J. Griffin has a 49.1% flyball rate. Pair that with a 12.8% HR/FB rate and it's a pretty bad combination. The Rangers were able to take an early lead in the first after Ian Kinsler reached second on an error and Adrian Beltre singled him home. From there, Griffin gave up homeruns to Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland and basically stuck a fork in Oakland's chances to come back. After Moreland's homerun in the 7th, the Rangers win expectancy jumped to 94.9%. The Athletics simply couldn't get anything going against a dominant Derek Holland who tallied 10 strikeouts in eight innings, good for a small-sample-size FIP of 1.29.

More on the Rangers at: Lone Star Ball More on the Athletics at: Athletics Nation

Blue Jays 6, Angels 5

Dane De La Rosa and Ernesto Frieri struggled to close out the game for the Angels, again. After C.J. Wilson was able to get Jose Reyes to ground out to start the eighth, the Angels had a win expectancy of 95.8%. Tiring and becoming more hittable, Rajai Davis and Jose Bautista tallied singles and suddenly Wilson was about to face the tying run at the plate. Edwin Encarnacion reached on an error that allowed Davis to score after a stolen base and then Maicer Izturis was able to hit a single to bring Joey Bats home. After five pitchers used in one inning, the Angels saw their lead dissipate from 5-2 to 5-4 but their win expectancy was still high at 87.4%. Brett Cecil and Neil Wagner ran through Mark Trumbo, Erick Aybar and Chris Iannetta in the bottom half. Frieri struggled with his control to start the ninth and allowed two baserunners before giving way to De La Rosa who promptly gave up two singles and a clutch stolen base from Rajai Davis. The tables had turned and Anaheim was staring at an 18.8% win expectancy. There was still hope but Casey Janssen hurled a perfect inning in an intense situation (2.53 pLI) while recording his 21st Shutdown.

More on the Blue Jays at: Bluebird Banter More on the Angels at: Halos Heaven

Dodgers 1, Cubs 0

Nate Schierholtz and Dioner Navarro tried to get something going for the Cubs offense but Stephen Fife and the lights-out Dodgers bullpen proved to be too much. Carlos Villanueva pitched excellently, only allowing one run on five baserunners through six innings yet was still hung with a loss (#killthewin). Fife was chased after five and a third since he allowed nine baserunners but gave way to Chris Withrow (2.77 pLI), who provided the most WPA for either team (.36) via one and two-thirds perfect innings. Kenley Jansen lowered his FIP AGAIN somehow (down to 1.94) with his eighth consecutive inning without allowing a hit or walk. One more inning without a hit or a walk and Jansen will have thrown a perfect game. With a 1.94 FIP, 2.02 xFIP and a 1.55 SIERA to go along with 30 Shutdowns and an absurd 8.78 K/BB, Jansen has been absolutely incredible at the back-end of the Los Angeles bullpen.

Hanley Ramirez has easily been the Dodgers' best player this year as he's accumulated 3.5 fWAR in only 206 plate appearances. Yesterday, he left the game after crashing into the stands and jamming his shoulder. Scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday, Dodger and baseball fans alike should be holding their breath in hopes that another extended absence isn't required for one of the most exciting players in baseball right now.

More on the Dodgers at: True Blue LA More on the Cubs at: Bleed Cubbie Blue

Brewers 8, Nationals 5

Taylor Jordan and the Nationals were cruising until the sixth inning (82.2% win expectancy) when the wheels fell off. Jordan only allowed six baserunners in five and a third but four of them came across home plate to score. Fernando Abad (-.43 WPA) relieved the rookie in the sixth and proceeded to melt down, allowing both inherited runners and two more to score. Kyle Lohse pitched decently with six baserunners in five innings to go along with two strikeouts. Somehow, John Axford recorded a Meltdown (-.06 WPA) in his inning of work but still got the win (Kill the win).

More on the Brewers at: Brew Crew Ball More on the Nationals at: Federal Baseball

Photo credit: Getty Images

Twins 3, Astros 2

Justin Morneau quickly put the Twins on top of the Astros during the first inning but the lead was gone by the sixth after consecutive singles from Brett Wallace and Chris Carter. Both teams bounced around in win expectancy until Oswaldo Arcia homered (78.5% WE) off of Brad Peacock. Speaking of Peacock, he struck out ten over seven innings and only allowed four hits but two of them ended up being homeruns. Four members of the Twins bullpen were able to record Shutdowns in relief of Mike Pelfrey.

More on the Twins at: Twinkie Town More on the Astros at: The Crawfish Boxes

Rays 4, Giants 3

Evan Longoria finally got a hit! And didn't strike out! Wil Myers started off the game with two-run shot off of Guillermo Moscoso but the Rays saw their lead disappear and win expectancy plummet after Brandon Crawford tripled in the fourth. Both Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon were quick to pull the hook on their struggling starters as each threw less than five innings. Alex Torres continued to be a serious difference maker for the Tampa Bay bullpen, striking out two over an inning and a third and recording his ninth Shutdown in just 34.1 innings. Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney were able to throw Shutdowns during their high leverage situations too. As a group, the Rays bullpen only allowed one baserunner in four innings whereas San Francisco's Sandy Rosario and Jose Mijares allowed five in just over three innings.

More on the Rays at: DRays Bay More on the Giants at: McCovey Chronicles

Mariners 3, Orioles 2

After blowing a gigantic lead earlier this week, the Mariners bullpen shut out the Orioles over three innings yesterday. Joe Saunders and Wei-Yin Chen were neck and neck until Henry Blanco (.35 WPA) hit a two-run homer in the seventh. The Orioles had a short-lived expectancy to win (76.6%) during the sixth only for their chances to plummet during the seventh (35.5%).

Speaking of Mariners bullpen, Danny Farquhar has a 1.97 FIP, 2.13 xFIP and 2.15 SIERA but a .368 BABIP that leads to a ballooned 5.09 ERA. With a 14.1% swinging strike rate and a 36.1% strikeout percentage, it's safe to say that his ERA will regress. Tom Wilhelmsen may be ousted from the closer role for an extended amount of time if Farquhar continues to excel.

More on the Mariners at: Lookout Landing More on the Orioles at: Camden Chat

Pirates 5, Rockies 1

The Pirates aren't showing any signs of slowing down as they ran through Juan Nicasio and the Rockies Sunday. They were in complete control before the first inning ended. Their lowest win expectancy after Andrew McCutchen's run scoring single leveled off at 55.4% in the third. Thanks to another dominant performance from a wily ol' veteran, they were never in danger of losing this game.

A.J. Burnett's career resurgence during his twilight years in Pittsburgh continues! Hurling nine innings of one-run ball, Burnett, 36 years old, is fourth in strikeout percentage in the National League. The three pitchers ahead of him are an average of 22.3 years old. Old school baseball lives!! Sporting the lowest FIP (2.94), xFIP (2.99) and SIERA (3.25) of his career, Burnett is the real deal in 2013.

More on the Pirates at: Bucs Dugout More on the Rockies at: Purple Row

Red Sox 4, Diamondbacks 0

Brandon McCarthy's first start off of the disabled list came at an inconvenient time. The Red Sox are playing some extremely motivated baseball and they ran the tall right-hander's pitch count up quickly. Arizona skipper, Kirk Gibson, pulled McCarthy after four and a third, having allowed eight baserunners and two runs but struck out five. Meanwhile, Felix Doubront posted yet another quality start, this time pitching seven shutout innings and striking out five. The teams were evenly matched until the fifth when things seemed to fall apart for Arizona. By the end of the inning, the Red Sox went from having a 45.4% win expectancy to 76.4%.

More on the Red Sox at: Over The Monster More on the Diamondbacks at: AZ Snake Pit

Cardinals 15, Reds 2

Mike Leake was due for some regression and it came in a big way yesterday in Cincinnati. Chased after five innings and seven earned runs, Leake gave way to the bullpen only for Pedro Villarreal, Sam LeCure and Logan Ondrusek to combine for another eight allowed runs.

Lance Lynn has been getting some tremendous run support throughout most of his starts but yesterday was just a whole other story. David Freese (1.060 wOBA yesterday), Matt Adams (.595) and Tony Cruz (.733) all hit homeruns but practically everybody up and down the St. Louis lineup was getting on base. Lynn was dominant and clearly not pitching to the score. In eight innings, he struck out eleven while only allowing four hits, two walks and two runs.

More on the Cardinals at: Viva El Birdos More on the Reds at: Red Reporter

Photo credit: Getty Images

Royals 6, Mets 2

Zack Wheeler and the Mets had a fair chance at coming back and winning the game against the Royals until the fifth inning. After Marlon Byrd misplayed a fly ball and allowed David Lough to reach second, the run eventually scored thanks to a sacrifice out that moved pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson to third followed by a poorly-timed wild pitch. Then, Wheeler's lack of command and another error by Byrd led to two more runs crossing home plate. At the end of the fifth, the Mets win expectancy was 10%. They were able to load the bases against Ervin Santana but could only squeeze one run out of their rally in the sixth. From there on out, the Royals were in complete control with an 88.2% win expectancy that increased as the game went on.

More on the Royals at: Royals Review More on the Mets at: Amazin' Avenue

Indians 2, Marlins 0

Scott Kazmir mowed through the Marlins, racking up seven strikeouts and only allowing four baserunners over six shutout innings. Bryan Shaw allowed two hits but struck out the side in a high-leverage situation (3.12 pLI). Kazmir, Shaw, Joe Smith and Chris Perez combined for the complete game shut of the hapless Marlins with all three relievers racking up Shutdowns. Nate Eovaldi pitched well as he only allowed one run in seven innings to an intimidating offense but Miami only really threatened to make this a game during the seventh inning. Also, Chad Qualls allowed his first earned run since June 30th.

More on the Indians at: Let's Go Tribe More on the Marlins at: Fish Stripes

Tigers 3, White Sox 2

The AL Central is on a tear right now. Detroit, Cleveland and Kansas City just can't stop winning whereas the White Sox just can't stop losing. But, at first, it didn't look Detroit would keep its hot streak alive. The White Sox took an early lead after Adam Dunn hit an absolute bomb to center field but saw their win expectancy fade in the seventh. Andre Rienzo pitched another decent game as he went six innings while striking out three and allowing two runs. Rick Porcello hurled 7.2 innings of one-run ball only for Drew Smyly to take over and melt down with a homerun to Paul Konerko in relief. Torii Hunter (.375 WPA) had a walk-off single in the 12th to complete Dylan Axelrod's Meltdown (-.224 WPA).

More on the Tigers at: Bless You Boys More on the White Sox at: South Side Sox

Padres 6, Yankees 3

Phil Hughes had no trade value before the July 31st trade deadline and it doesn't look like he'll have much more before the August 31st revocable waivers deadline. Lasting only two and two-thirds yesterday at Petco Park, Hughes gave up five runs on nine baserunners. Ian Kennedy, making his first start with the Padres, struggled with control but was able to limit the damage to just two runs in over five innings. Curtis Granderson was able to get on base in each of his plate appearances via three walks and a hit but the lower half of the New York lineup just couldn't bring him across home plate. By the third inning, San Diego had an 82.9% win expectancy.The Yankees never threatened after Hughes' disastrous two-plus innings.

More on the Padres at: Gaslamp Ball More on the Yankees at: Pinstriped Bible

Phillies 1, Braves 4

Alex Wood shined on Sunday night, only allowing four baserunners and one run in six innings. Meanwhile, Cliff Lee, making his first start in almost two weeks as he dealt with a strained neck, struggled early on and ran into too many three-ball counts. After Chris Johnson singled and brought home two runs in the first, the Phillies were out of it. Their win expectancy was at 32.1% after those two runs were scored and it never eclipsed 40% throughout the rest of the game. The Phillies are down to a .1% shot at making the playoffs and have no choice but to be very active in the August revocable waivers period.

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

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All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.

Mike Mulvenna is a writer at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @mkmulv.

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