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Launch angles — August 4, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-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

Steven Souza Jr. rips a go-ahead double down the line — +.314 WPA

Gif via

Entering the 2017 season, Chris Devenski was a darling of the sabermetric community. And with good reason; he was a dominant, multi-inning reliever who could potentially help to usher in the new era of bullpen management. Devenski is still fantastic, but he’s had a rough stretch of late. Since July, the Astros reliever is sporting a 5.11 ERA and a 5.99 FIP. The trend continued on Thursday night against the Rays.

Entering the game in the seventh inning with two Tampa Bay baserunners and a one run lead, Devenski threw a wild pitch and then saw the tying run score on an error by Alex Bregman at shortstop. Not entirely his fault. He then struck out home-run-derby-opinion-haver Logan Morrison on four pitches to bring Steven Souza Jr. to the plate.

With runners on the corners, Souza swung through a changeup and took a high fastball as the count ran to 1-1. Devenski’s third pitch was a slider on the inner-third that missed it’s spot badly. Wilson Ramos was set up away, but the pitched stayed over the inner third of the plate, allowing Souza to drive it down the left field line. Lucas Duda walked home from third and Evan Longoria was about to score all the way from first with a little help from an off-line relay throw from Bregman.

The win allowed the Rays to keep pace with the Royals and Red Sox and gain a game on the Yankees. Not only is Tampa Bay very much in the wild card hunt, they’re only three and a half games back in the AL East.

Yesterday’s best game score

Corey Kluber — 88

Gif via

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.

Sonny Gray’s Yankees debut was spoiled by a heartless, unflinching Klu-Bot. Save for one middle-middle cutter to Gary Sánchez that traveled 427 feet, Corey Kluber dominated the Bronx Bombers. He went the distance on Thursday, allowing one run — the aforementioned Sánchez dinger — and three hits while walking one and striking out 11. In addition to the double digit strikeouts, he also generated nine ground ball outs. That’s how you get it done.

Kluber needed just 106 pitches for his complete game, and racked up 19 swinging strikes along the way. His curveball was baffling to Yankees hitters as it accounted for 11 of those 19 whiffs, and since he threw just 26 total curves on the night, his swinging strike rate on the pitch was an astronomical 42.3 percent. With the exception of three curveballs in the heart of the zone, Kluber was able to keep the offering down and on his glove side consistently. Just look at this zone chart, Kluber’s curveball was diving all night long.

Zone Chart via Baseball Savant

This is Kluber’s sixth appearance as the winner of the day’s best game score, tying him with Max Scherzer for the most in baseball.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Justin Upton — 452 feet

Gif via

Bat flips are great. They allow the batter an instinctual, cathartic expression of joy upon mashing a righteous tater. A good bat flip is a treat for everyone not in the opposing dugout. But I posit to you, dear Launch Angles reader, that a bat drop is every bit as satisfying as a bat flip.

The bat drop does not revel in the celebration of a giant dinger, it instead conveys the knowing satisfaction of accomplishment. Dropping the bat — much like dropping the mic — says to everyone involved, “my work here is done.” Observe as Justin Upton executes a perfect bat drop after taking a Chris Tillman cutter 452 feet to dead center field.

Gif via

It was a dinger worthy of a bat flip, but Upton chose the bat drop because the home run — along with his knowing, stoic expression — spoke for itself. A good bat drop is almost an extension of a hitter’s natural recoil. Upton let his swing play out and then, at the very end, simply released his grip and began his jog.

The bat drop is the ultimate expression of confidence. While much is rightly made about a well-executed bat flip, make sure to leave room in your heart to appreciate a good bat drop; baseball’s unheralded home run reaction.

SABRy tidbits

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Yu Darvish (3.62 projected ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (3.49 projected ERA)

I’m going to quote BtBS co-managing editor Henry Druschel from yesterday’s best pitching matchup between Jose Quintana and Zack Greinke:

One of the most fun parts of the trade deadline are all the matchups that take you by surprise. Quintana and Greinke haven’t been in the same league before this year, and now they’re running into each other in the regular season.

This sentiment applies again today as we get another new and exciting matchup! Yu Darvish has started two interleague games against the Mets in his career — once at Citi Field against Jon Neise in 2014 and earlier this season against Zack Wheeler in Arlington — but he and Jacob deGrom have never gone head to head. Just as it was yesterday, not only is this matchup something we’ve never seen before, it is between two starters who have very similar projections.

Yes, the Mets are out of the playoff picture and just playing out the season at this point, but deGrom is still an ace. As if Darvish’s debut as a Dodger wasn’t enough reason to watch, it also has the potential to be a legitimate pitcher’s duel.

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