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Launch angles — October 7, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: ALDS-New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians
When you have a chance to put the Powerade dump as the featured image, always take it.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB season lasts half the year, and it can be hard for the average fan to keep up. That’s where we come in. Every day during the 2017 regular season, Beyond the Box Score will be recapping all the biggest action from the previous day — with a sabermetric slant, of course — and looking ahead to what today will bring.

Yesterday’s biggest play

Jay Bruce ties things up — +.298 WPA

GIF via MLB.com

When a team takes a big lead early, then gives up a big hit that narrows the advantage, a foreboding feeling will often permeate the stadium. I (an Orioles fan) felt this back in April, when the Birds pulled ahead 9-1 against the Yankees before giving up a boatload of runs to make the score 11-9. They still had a two-run lead in the ninth inning, but it just didn’t feel safe — and sure enough, Brad Brach blew it.

This time around, New York found itself on the receiving end of the comeback. After staking themselves to an 8-3 lead, the Bombers made things interesting in the sixth inning, as Chad Green gave up a grand slam to Francisco Lindor. While Cleveland still trailed 8-7, the game — the “momentum,” if you will — seemed to be heading in their direction.

Sure enough, the Tribe didn’t stay behind for long. Leading off the eighth inning against David Robertson, Bruce laid off some close pitches to work the count in his favor, then laid this slick swing on a 3-1 heater:

GIF via MLB.com

The dinger — from a player the Yankees tried and failed to trade for — knotted the score at eight, confirming the apprehension of the New York faithful. The game went into extras, where Yan Gomes delivered the walk-off single to give Cleveland a 2-0 series lead. Crazy what a little momentum swing can do to you.

Yesterday’s best game score

TIE: Stephen Strasburg/Kyle Hendricks — 78

Game Score was developed by Bill James as a quick way to evaluate a starting pitcher’s performance. The score begins at 50, with points added for outs and strikeouts, and subtracted for walks, hits, and runs. A score of 70 is very good; a score of 90 is outstanding.

GIF via MLB.com
GIF via MLB.com

While the Indians and Yankees piled up runs, their counterparts in the Senior Circuit endured a pitcher’s duel. Strasburg went seven strong, giving up two unearned runs on three hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts, but it was Hendricks’s seven scoreless frames that won out in Washington.

Strasburg kept the Cubs on their toes with a diverse array of pitches. His 45 four-seam fastballs led the way, but he supplemented those with 15 changeups and 15 curveballs to retire lefties and righties alike:

Image via Baseball Savant

With both his primary secondary pitches working, Strasburg had an uber-efficient outing, requiring only 81 pitches overall through seven innings. Still, that wasn’t enough for the Nationals.

Hendricks, by contrast, simplified things for his start. Of the 106 pitches he threw, 82 were fastballs: 70 sinkers, and 12 four-seamers. Interestingly enough, he wasn’t living below the zone with those — he lobbed quite a few two-seamers up around the letters:

Image via Baseball Savant

The stripped-down approach worked well for Hendricks, who gave the Cubs a crucial Game 1 victory on the road. Chicago and Washington ranked eighth and ninth, respectively, in wRC+ during the regular season, but with arms like these, we should see some more low-scoring affairs in this series.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Justin Turner — 424 feet

GIF via MLB.com

This was a pretty wild game for both teams. Clayton Kershaw somehow gave up four home runs — but none of them with men on base. You might say he was pitching to the score, as the Dodgers pinned him to a big lead early on. Taijuan Walker put Chris Taylor and Corey Seager on base to start the game, bringing Turner to the plate. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, the Dodgers got their “in play, run(s)”:

Image via Brooks Baseball

The 2-2 four-seamer wasn’t a bad pitch, down and in against a hitter who’s usually not that great in that area. Turner managed to turn on it, though, giving the Dodgers a 3-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Too bad none of those four Diamondback homers went more than 424 — or knocked in more than one run.

SABRy tidbits

  • That Lindor grand slam didn’t happen in a vacuum, obviously — Cleveland had to load the bases first. For that to happen, Lonnie Chisenhall had to reach base despite quite obviously striking out. Joe Girardi was happy to lend a hand.
  • Three of the Royals core players — Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain — are set to be free agents pretty soon. Does a small-market team like Kansas City stand any chance of bringing them back? Yes, argues Royals Review’s Matthew LaMar.

Today’s best pitching matchup

Rich Hill (3.51 projected ERA) vs. Robbie Ray (3.75 projected ERA)

All four pitchers taking the hill today are lefties, but ZiPS and Steamer aren’t as fond of Gio Gonzalez and Jon Lester, so the crown goes to this L.A.-Arizona matchup. Both Hill and Ray are high-strikeout, somewhat-high-walk pitchers who have slanted more toward fly balls this season. The result is not many runs on the board — each of them ranked in the NL’s top 10 in ERA this year.

Of course, Walker and Kershaw also pitched well this year, and yesterday’s game featured a combined 14 runs, so who knows? Maybe Ray can dominate the Dodgers and Hill can dice up the D-backs, or maybe we’ll get another shootout. That’s the beauty of October.


Ryan Romano is the co-managing editor for Beyond the Box Score. He also writes about the Orioles for Camden Depot, sometimes. Follow him on Twitter if you enjoy angry tweets about Maryland sports.