Posts Tagged Jeff Francoeur

April 12 MLB Roundup: Full Count to Cano…Hey Look, Cars!

I mentioned in yesterday’s roundup that last night’s Yankees-Red Sox game was one of the weaker recent offerings involving the two teams. The game was close, but there wasn’t a lot of drama, and the atmosphere was surprisingly dull given the blood feud between the clubs.

Saturday’s game was more along the lines of what to expect when the Sox and Yanks square off. Like Friday’s game, both starting pitchers put forth pretty solid efforts to keep their respective teams in the game. Unlike Friday’s game, this game was actually enjoyable to watch.

I’ve already made most of my comments on Chien-Ming Wang, but I’ll throw out one more. He’s just not very interesting to watch as a pitcher. He goes in there, gets a ton of ground balls, eats innings, and that’s about it. He’s not very flashy, though he’s sure as hell effective. On the other side, you had Clay Buchholz, who has electric stuff but can’t always control it. The result was Buchholz throwing 99 pitches in six innings before giving way to the bullpen. It’s widely accepted that a pitcher’s pace has one of the biggest effects on a game, and when the home crowd sees its stud rookie pitcher laboring through six innings while the opposing team’s bland starter is mowing the home team down, it’s understandable that they’re not going to demonstrate a lot of enthusiasm, even with the game as close as it was yesterday.

This afternoon was a different story. Boston had its ace on the mound in Josh Beckett, and he was going up against the corpse of Mike Mussina. Beckett was arguably the best pitcher in the American League last season, whereas Mussina has been steadily declining for years and is often forced to rely more upon guile than skill at this stage of his career. Still, the Stanford graduate is far from an idiot when it comes to the art of pitching, and has been able to get by for the most part with his diminished stuff. Of course, he’ll take his lumps from time to time.

The Fenway faithful seemed to expect this to be one of those times, and was pumped up every time the Sox threatened to score. To Mussina’s credit, he held the Red Sox in check every time, but this crowd wasn’t as easily demoralized as Friday night’s. Even when Beckett coughed up the lead in top of the sixth inning, it wasn’t like dread set like it had on Friday. Sure enough, the Sox rallied back and the crowd went nuts.

(Say what you will about my placing this much emphasis on the crowd, but really, it’s Red Sox Nation and the Yankee fanbase that drive the rivalry. Everyone’s heard it already, but it’s not like the players on these teams legitimately hate each other (for the most part, anyway). Seeing a crowd that is actually into the game adds to the atmosphere, if nothing else.)

So we’ve established that the game was at least as dramatic as your typical close ballgame. Still, it wouldn’t be a Yankees-Red Sox game without at least some strange managerial decisions and a general sense of controversy.

The bad calls were primarily generated by Joe Girardi today. He allowed Mussina to pitch to Manny Ramirez with runners at second and third with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. At the time, the Yankees were clinging to a 2-1 lead. After Manny’s at-bat, the Yankees trailed 3-2. The second-guessing began almost immediately, as Ramirez could have been walked to load the bases for Kevin Youkilis.

Later, Girardi used LaTroy Hawkins in a one-run game in the 8th inning. The move worked out, but seriously, LaTroy Hawkins?

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Me Against the NL Central, Day Three

Once again, there’s only one game on the slate tonight, the National Game of the Week between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals.

So far, I’m 1-1 in my picks for the year, while there have been no games played yet by NL Central teams. In the big picture, these single-game dates are relatively meaningless to my overall goal of having a better prediction winning percentage than the best team in the National League’s Central division. Still, 2-1 looks a lot better than 1-2, even at this early stage.

Therefore, my pick for tonight’s game is the Atlanta Braves. Braves starter Tim Hudson has been outstanding against the Nationals throughout his career, racking up a 5-1 record in eight starts against the Nats while posting an ERA just over 1 and allowing less than a baserunner per inning. Historically, the most successful Nationals against Hudson are newcomers Rob Mackowiak and Paul Lo Duca.

Nationals opening day starter Odalis Perez hasn’t been quite as successful against the Braves. He enters tonight’s game with an earned-run average over 5 and just one win in seven career appearances (six starts) against his former team. Jeff Francoeur, in particular, has had a lot of success in his limited number of meetings against Perez, going 4-for-6 with a triple and a home run against the southpaw.

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