Cleveland's pitchers keep posting zeroes
John Rieger/US Presswire
STARTING WITH ZERO
By Mark Simon, ESPN Research
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Looks like the Indians have turned around what troubled them earlier this season. On this six-game homestand, Cleveland's starting pitchers have allowed one run, including a stunning string of 43 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings. C.C. Sabathia, who normally struggles against the Athletics, beat them Tuesday night with a complete-game, five-hit shutout.
The Indians arrived at the quarter-point of the season with a 21-19 record, not bad considering the struggles over the first few weeks of the season. The starting rotation, which had a great 1-2 punch with Sabathia and Fausto Carmona last season, now also has Cliff Lee and his microscopic ERA. Throw in Wednesday's starter Aaron Laffey, who hasn't looked bad, either. If Cleveland is going to rock again in 2008, this six-game stretch may mark the turning point of its season.
|Current six-game homestand|
|May 14||C.C. Sabathia vs. Athletics||9||0||Sabathia: 6th career shutout|
|May 13||Paul Byrd vs. Athletics||7.1||0||Byrd: 99th career win|
|May 12||Cliff Lee vs. Blue Jays (Game 2)||9||0||Lee: 4 starts this season with 0 R allowed|
|May 12||Fausto Carmona vs. Blue Jays (Game 1)||9||0||Carmona: 3-0, 2.51 ERA|
|May 10||Aaron Laffey vs. Blue Jays||7||0||Laffey: 1st start with 0 runs allowed|
|May 9||C.C. Sabathia vs. Blue Jays||7||1||Sabathia: 7-3 career vs. Blue Jays|
Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: May 13 | May 12 | May 11 | May 8 | May 7 | May 6
THE DIFFICULTY OF HITTING AGAINST BRANDON WEBB
By Eric Young, ESPNLuckily, I didn't have to face Brandon Webb a lot as a major league hitter, but when I did it was tough because he is such a difficult pitcher to get a read on. There are some pitchers that a hitter can pretty quickly tell what they are relying on when they are on the mound and still get after them. That doesn't happen with Webb. To be honest, when my teammates and I faced Webb we hoped he would be a little off with his command so that we could get his pitch count up and force him out early. We wanted to get to the relievers. But even when Webb was a little off, he could rely on that sinker to get him out of trouble and to keep hitters off-balance.
Obviously, this season he hasn't been off at all with his command. Right now, we are seeing the type of start to a season that is normally only seen on video games, not in the major leagues.
Look, we all know Webb's numbers (8-0, 2.41 ERA, 41 K). As amazing as they are, they aren't what's intimidating hitters. It's his sinker that's blowing everyone away. This pitch has always been the best in his repertoire, and this season it is absolutely killing hitters every time he gets on the mound. Against most sinkerballers, a hitter wants to step up a little bit in the batter's box to try to catch the sinker while it's still up. Webb combats that move against right-handed hitters by getting that pitch inside and/or getting it to start sinking earlier so the hitter is still swinging at air.
He also has a very good fastball, one he can blow by a hitter. He also has a curveball and changeup he mixes in to keep a hitter guessing. With three pitches like that to back him up, it's amazing he doesn't start every season like this.
FORWARD THINKING: THURSDAY• Rockies at D-backs, 9:40 p.m. ET: Brandon Webb (8-0, 2.41 ERA) is 8-for-8 this season, but actually heads into this game facing a pitcher with a lower ERA. Aaron Cook (6-1, 2.21 ERA) has gone at least six innings in each of his eight starts and is sixth in the NL in innings pitched. Hitters do have a chance when Cook's on the road, where hitters are batting .256, compared with .192 in Colorado.
• Padres at Cubs, 2:20 p.m. ET: Ryan Dempster (4-1, 2.76 ERA) has thrived as a starter, though control remains an issue, just as it was when he was in the bullpen. Dempster has issued 23 walks, the 10th-highest total in the NL. Right-handed hitters are pounding Greg Maddux (3-3, 3.60 ERA) this season. Righties are batting .299, while lefties are at just .185.
• White Sox at Angels, 10:05 p.m. ET: Jon Garland (4-3, 4.30 ERA) gets his first crack at his old team. Garland was traded to the Angels by the White Sox this offseason for Orlando Cabrera. At the start of play Wednesday, Javier Vazquez was tied for the most strikeouts in the AL. In all but two of his eight starts, he has permitted no more than one walk.
BBTN ON THE AIR: THURSDAY
|12 a.m. ET
|Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Chris Singleton, Tim Kurkjian
|1:30 a.m. ET
|Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Chris Singleton, Tim Kurkjian
BBTN MINUTE: INDIANS' SCORELESS STREAK
WEDNESDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES
|• Todd Wellemeyer, a reliever most of his career, picked up his career-high fourth win by allowing two hits over seven innings in a 4-1 win against the Pirates.||BAD|
|• The Brewers' late-inning problems continued, with Guillermo Mota giving up a three runs in the ninth, turning a one-run lead into a 6-4 loss against the Dodgers.||UGLY|
|• It doesn't happen often, but Ichiro Suzuki had an awful night at the plate, going 0-for-6 against the Rangers. The hitless game dropped his average to .271|
FANTASY: ARE THE RAYS FOR REAL?
FANTASY: PREVIEW OF THURSDAY'S GAMES
Will Harris examines the pitching matchups in store for the 13 games on Thursday's schedule in the American League and National League.
Harris also looks at injuries and details player reports that could help shape your roster for Thursday's games. Daily Notes
NEWS AND NOTES
• Cleveland closer Joe Borowski, who has been on the disabled list since April 15 with a strained right triceps, is set to throw a simulated game Friday.
• Yankees reliever Jeff Karstens, out with a strained groin, pitched five innings at extended spring training. He could begin a minor-league rehab assignment next week.
• Leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano opened the Cubs' half of the first inning with a homer. Soriano, third all-time in leadoff homers behind Rickey Henderson and Craig Biggo, has hit a homer in three consecutive games.
• Arizona pitcher Micah Owings went 0-for-3, dropping his average from .417 to .370. He did, however, pitch well, picking up his fifth win of the year.
THIS DATE IN MLB HISTORY (MAY 15)
• 1941: Joe DiMaggio singled against the Chicago White Sox to start his 56-game hitting streak.
• 1973: California's Nolan Ryan stuck out 12 as he hurled his first career no-hitter in beating Kansas City, 3-0.
• 1981: Len Barker pitched the ninth perfect game in the 20th century. The Indians right-hander tossed the 3-0 perfect game against the Blue Jays.
• 1998: A blockbuster trade involving seven players whose guaranteed contracts combined for a record $98 million was made. The Dodgers got Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson and Jim Eisenreich. They sent Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile to the Marlins. Piazza, a superstar in Los Angeles, had turned down a six-year, $80-million offer to stay with the Dodgers.