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Launch angles — August 16, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Oakland Athletics John Hefti-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

Matt Joyce clears the bases to put the A’s ahead — +.650 WPA

Gif via

The A’s entered the bottom of the eighth inning on Tuesday night trailing the Royals by four runs and owning a paltry 3.4 percent win expectancy. Cue the rally. A leadoff double by Jed Lowrie followed by three straight singles from Khris Davis, Ryon Healy, and Matt Olson cut the lead in half. Kansas City looked to have stopped the bleeding with two straight strikeouts, but in between them, a wild pitch allowed the runners to move up to second and third.

Royals reliever Mike Minor threw the next batter Rajai Davis two pitches — both balls that weren’t close to the zone — before Ned Yost decided to intentionally walk him. The base was open, and with his pitcher falling behind in the count 2-0, it seemed Yost wanted a force out at any base, a clean slate for his pitcher, and the platoon advantage with left-hander Matt Joyce on deck. All understandable reasons, but Davis — a speedster who can score from first on most extra-base hits — represented the go-ahead run. It was an incredibly risky move by Yost.

With the bases now loaded, Minor fell behind immediately as Joyce was able to lay off a first pitch slider away. The second pitch was a 95 mile per hour four-seam fastball that remained away, but caught the outer part of the plate. Joyce went with the pitch and drove it off of the left field wall to clear the bases. Rajai Davis, fleet of foot as he is, made it home without so much as a throw to challenge him.

Zone chart via MLB Gameday

There were plenty of reasons for Ned Yost to intentionally walk Davis, but are any of them strong enough to overcome the reality that by doing so, the go-ahead run was put on base in the form of an exceptionally fast runner? Probably not.

Yesterday’s best game score

Danny Salazar — 83

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Game Score was developed by Bill James as a quick way to evaluate a starting pitcher’s performance, and recently updated by Tom Tango. The score begins at 40, with points added for outs and strikeouts, and subtracted for walks, hits, runs, and home runs. A score of 70 is very good; a score of 90 is outstanding.

In his four starts since returning from an injury and an extended rehab assignment in the minors, Danny Salazar has been awesome. He still walks too many batters, but the home run troubles that plagued him in the early part of the year have not yet resurfaced. Facing the Twins on Tuesday in his fifth start back in the majors, Salazar continued his dominating resurgence with seven innings of one-run baseball. He struck out 10 and allowed just three hits while — most impressively — walking none.

Salazar induced 11 swinging strikes, which isn’t an overwhelming number — especially for the pitchers who usually end up in this space — but he was able to generate a lot of weak contact from the Twins hitters. Salazar collected seven ground ball outs and allowed a measly average exit velocity against of 73 miles per hour.

After a rocky start and injury forced him back to the minor leagues for a spell, Cleveland probably had no idea whether or not Salazar would be able to help in this year’s playoff run. But now, after his fifth straight excellent start, Salazar seems back and better than ever. Look at the knowing smile on his face after he misses his spot but still manages to blow a fastball by Miguel Sanó (gif below). Things are good for Danny Salazar right now.

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Yesterday’s biggest home run

Joey Gallo — 459 feet

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While Giancarlo Stanton had homered in five straight games, he and Joey Gallo entered Tuesday having each captured the biggest home run of the day three times in August. Stanton extended his dinger streak to six games — which is incredible — but Gallo hit one as well that beat Stanton’s by nearly 30 feet. The month is only half over, but Gallo has appeared in this space four times in August and has now collected nine home runs this month. He and Stanton — who has 11 home runs this month — are in a tight race for August dinger supremacy.

This particular home run from Gallo was especially impressive for two reasons. First, because while you do see plenty of homers reach the second deck in Arlington, they are rarely hit to right-center field like this one was. A second deck shot typically requires a ball be pulled to straight-away right field, but no section is safe when Gallo is at the plate.

Second, and most important, was the eight pitch at-bat that Gallo was able to put together against Justin Verlander.

via MLB Gameday

Gallo fell behind 0-2, and battled his way back, fouling off borderline pitches and refusing to bite when Verlander tried to make him chase. Then, on the eighth pitch, Gallo got a 96 mile per hour fastball over the middle of the plate and in the upper third of the zone. He proceeded to demolish it to cap off an impressive at-bat against a tough pitcher and collect his 34th home run of the season.

Perhaps more than any other current player, Gallo embodies the three true outcome trend in baseball. After Tuesday’s action he owns a meager .208 average but a .368 wOBA and a 127 wRC+, and that’ll play. Incredible game power really does make up for his other glaring deficiencies and hopefully that continues to be the case, because Joey Gallo is a lot of fun.

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SABRy tidbits

  • Bradley Zimmer has shown the potential for five-tool stardom in his rookie season, but since the all-star break he has struggled mightily. Over at Let’s Go Tribe, Beyond the Box Score contributor Merritt Rohlfing took a look at what’s wrong with Zimmer and whether or not Cleveland fans should be overly concerned.
  • After missing over a month with an injury, Aaron Hicks has returned to help the Yankees as they make a playoff push. With their offense struggling, Hicks is a welcome sight in the Bronx and as Tyler Norton of Pinstripe Alley details, he’s picked up right where he left off.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Carlos Rodón (4.19 projected ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (3.53 projected ERA)

Once finally healthy, it took a few games for Carlos Rodón to find his footing upon joining the White Sox rotation in late June. In his last three starts, the promising young southpaw has come on strong, allowing just five total earned runs while with 24 strikeouts to just two walks in 22 1/3 innings. Rodón faced the powerhouse Dodgers in Chicago on July 19th and was roughed up, but he’s taken his game up a notch since then.

Opposing Rodón will be Yu Darvish, who will be making his first career start at Dodger Stadium. He’s made two starts on the road with the boys in blue and so far has not disappointed, throwing 12 innings while allowing only two earned runs. Last week I wrote about how Darvish should benefit from his new catchers, and the early returns are positive as he’s collected 20 strikeouts and just three walks in his first two starts as a Dodger.

The White Sox aren’t good and the Dodgers are a juggernaut, so while on the surface the game is not all that intriguing, the pitching matchup of Rodón and Darvish should provide plenty of incentive to watch.

Chris Anders is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can find him on Twitter @MrChrisAnders.