Trevor Bauer Jersey

Trevor Bauer doesn’t really care if you like him.

“Like me. Love me. Hate me. Whatever. Hopefully, you just remember who I was,” he told reporters last week at the All-Star Game in Washington, D.C.

He’s certainly making his 2018 season worth remembering. Bauer threw seven scoreless innings in the Cleveland Indians’ 4-0 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday, snapping Pittsburgh’s 11-game win streak and improving his season numbers to 9-6 with a 2.32 ERA.

In a crowded American League Cy Young field, Bauer is right up there alongside Chris Sale, Justin Verlander and Luis Severino as one of the favorites, with Corey Kluber, Blake Snell and Gerrit Cole also in the mix. Bauer leads the league in innings (3 2/3 more than Verlander), is second to Sale in strikeouts (197 to 192), ranks fifth in ERA (2.32 to Sale’s 2.13) and is fourth in OPS allowed.

Bauer has long been a favorite of statheads for his obsessive dedication to analytics, but he never put everything together over his first four full seasons, with a 4.30 ERA and zero seasons with an ERA under 4.00. He made the news less for his pitching and more often for his off-the-field pursuits (playing with drones) and his Twitter spats (earlier this season, he accused Astros pitchers of illegally doctoring baseballs to improve their spin rates).

Some believed Bauer made improvement in the second half of last season, when he lowered his first-half ERA from 5.24 to 3.01. I wasn’t buying that because the big difference in his splits was mostly a result of sequencing. Check his opponents’ batting line:

First half: .269/.333/.454
Second half: .263/.324/.436

This year’s improvement is real, however, and it comes courtesy of an improved slider that he’s throwing a lot more often, giving him a big strikeout weapon. Against the Pirates, five of Bauer’s 10 strikeouts came on the slider, but adding another weapon to his arsenal has made his fastball more effective. Last season, he used his slider just 1.7 percent of the time; this year, he has used it nearly 15 percent of the time, and batters are hitting just .081 against it in 138 plate appearances that have ended with the pitch.

As a result, he has increased his overall strikeout rate from 26.2 percent to 31.6 percent while lowering his batting average allowed from .266 to .212. His results with two strikes are vastly more dominant:

2017: .188/.252/.318, 45% SO rate, 2.8% HR rate
2018: .120/.193/.170, 55.3% SO rate, 0.3% HR rate

As you might expect, Bauer went to the slider only after more intense study in the offseason. He used high-tech tools to monitor its spin rate and talked about comparing his slider to those of teammates Kluber and Mike Clevinger, giving him the confidence to throw it more often. That has taken him to a new level — maybe a Cy Young level.

Fun baseball strategy! The Rays beat the Yankees 3-2 to take two of three in the series, holding New York without a home run in the three games.

Manager Kevin Cash employed an old trick to finish off the game. Sergio Romo got the final two outs of the eighth inning, but with lefty-hitting Greg Bird leading off the ninth, Cash brought in Jonny Venters while moving Romo over to third base. Venters retired Bird on a grounder to second, then Romo went back to the mound and got the final two outs, striking out Brett Gardner to end it:

The Rays once again used an “opener,” as Ryne Stanek pitched the first inning. Since first using the opener strategy on May 19, the Rays are 31-28 (they were 21-22 through May 18) and lead the majors with a 3.16 ERA. Of course, we don’t really know if the opener strategy is a reason for that or if the staff would have fared just as well with a more conventional approach.

I was thinking about this as the Chris Archer trade rumors heat up, on the day the Rays traded starter Nathan Eovaldi to the Red Sox and starter/reliever Matt Andriese to the Diamondbacks. One reason against trading Archer would be that the Rays need somebody to start and soak up innings in the non-bullpen games — not just for the rest of 2018 but for 2019, too. If Archer is traded, the only conventional starter left would be Snell (who is on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue).

What would a pitching staff with no starting pitchers look like? We’re close to finding out. Put it this way: You need about 1,450 innings to get through a season. If you divide that equally among 12 slots on a staff, you would need 120 innings from each slot, though you will be moving guys up and down from the minors.

You can see one issue there: One reason modern relievers are so effective is because their innings are so limited. Rollie Fingers averaged 116 innings as a reliever from 1972 to 1980, but new Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman averaged just 54 innings over his final seven seasons. Modern relievers rarely get to 80 innings, so asking them to go 120 is likely to decrease their effectiveness.

That is why the Rays have been collecting back-of-the-rotation starter types, guys used to pitching multiple innings. For Eovaldi, they acquired Jalen Beeks, a lefty starter with great numbers at Triple-A. Anthony Banda, Andrew Moore and Wilmer Font fit this mode. Ryan Yarbrough and Hunter Wood were starters in the minors.

Maybe this strategy can work with an entire staff of these guys pitching two- and three-inning stints. We’ll see. It’s an interesting experiment, and so far it has worked.

Hoskins heating up: The Phillies took two of three from the Dodgers with a 7-3 victory, and Rhys Hoskins hit his fourth home run in five games:

Hoskins is up to a solid line of .255/.367/.486, which includes a terrible May in which he hit .161 and struck out 32 percent of the time. Since returning from a DL stint on June 9 (he had a small hairline fracture in his jaw), he has cut his K rate to 19.4 percent. That’s the Hoskins I envisioned before the season, and I think you’ll see excellent results from him the rest of the way.

Carlos Santana Jersey

Carlos Santana #41 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates with Odubel Herrera #37 after hitting a three-run home run in the second inning during a game against the San Diego Padres at Citizens Bank Park on July 20, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Phillies’ bullpen and first baseman Carlos Santana have been often maligned this season.

Both delivered in a big way in Friday’s 11-5 victory over the San Diego Padres, which allowed the Phillies to maintain their half-game hold on the National League East. The Atlanta Braves kept pace by beating the Washington Nationals, 8-5.

Jake Arrieta, the Phillies’ lone veteran starting pitcher, had a rough start to the second half but the bullpen picked him up with 5 2/3 scoreless innings. The relief corps had struggled at times this year but has been picking up the pace in July.

Meanwhile, Santana’s second-inning three-run homer broke a 4-4 tie and helped the Phillies pull out of an early 4-0 hole.

After seven shutout innings in his last start before the break a week ago, Arrieta gave up four runs in the first inning and five overall before being pulled with one out in the fourth inning.

Often the victim of poor run support, the Phillies picked up Arrieta Friday night even if he didn’t stay in the game long enough for the win.

The first three batters of the game reached base with Carlos Asuaje doubling home a run and Wil Myers knocking in a run with a single. Myers scored on a wild pitch and an RBI single by former Phillie Freddy Galvis made it a 4-0 game before the Phillies came to bat.

But the Phillies battled back with a run in the first and a six-spot in the second. The big inning stayed alive when Galvis’ throw pulled first-baseman Eric Hosmer off the bag as he tried to turn an inning-ending double play on a grounder by Arrieta.

Two batters later, Rhys Hoskins drew a bases-loaded walk and Odubel Herrera tied the game with a two-run single. Santana then slammed a pitch into the left-center field seats for a 7-4 lead.

Santana has been somewhat maligned for a first-half batting average of .209 – not to mention forgetting the number of outs in Sunday’s loss to the Marlins – though his power, run production and on-base percentage have all been solid.

The first three Padres reached base in the fourth, and Arrieta was pulled after striking out Raffy Lopez. Austin Davis (1-0, first major-league win) escaped the jam and pitched a scoreless fifth before Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek and Adam Morgan followed without allowing a run.

The Phillies erupted for four runs in the eighth to put the game away.

Arrieta gave up an unearned run in the first, the result of catcher Jorge Alfaro’s throwing error, for his 16th unearned run of the year. No other pitcher in baseball has allowed more than eight.

A boisterous crowd of 30,034 took in the first game after the All-Star break. Galvis, who played all 162 games for the Phillies last year, had three hits in his return to Philadelphia.

Cody Allen Jersey

Boone High School alum Cody Allen has recorded at least 30 saves in each of the last three seasons.

Cody Allen went from the bullpen wild card to the Cleveland Indians’ all-time saves leader.

Not bad for a 23rd-round draft pick.

Allen, a graduate of Orlando’s Boone High School, earned career save No. 140 after striking out the side to close out a 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals on July 4.

Allen, who originally was drafted in 2010 by the Indians in the 16th round but did not sign, moved past Bob Wickman into the top spot.

“This is something I’m gonna be extremely proud of, and I am extremely proud of,” Allen told MLB.com after the game. “It’s one of the things that — hopefully I get to do a few more — I get to hang my hat on for my career, get to look back on. This will be one of those trademark moments.”

After saving 24 games in his first season as the closer in 2014, Allen recorded at least 30 saves each of the next three seasons. He currently has 18 saves for the Indians, who lead the American League Central.

The record-setting save marked the fifth time this season Allen has worked more than an inning to earn a save. The 29-year-old is now 17-for-18 in save chances with a 4.66 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.

Allen, who is set to be a free agent after the season, said he never envisioned where his baseball career in Cleveland has taken him. He also credited the Indians for helping mold him into the effective closer he has become.

“I think the organization probably believed in myself more than I did at the time. And I’ve had some very, very high character and great people within the organization help me get to this point,” Allen told cleveland.com after the July 4 win. They saw potential in me and gave me the confidence I needed and helped my grind through some tough times. Honestly, I couldn’t be more privileged to be in an organization like Cleveland. I can’t imagine myself doing this anywhere else.”

In nine postseason appearances, Allen has seven saves and an ERA of 0.47.

A 2011 draft pick out of High Point University, Allen began his Indians’ career under Manny Acta before Terry Francona quickly established a new role for the right-hander. Francona saw Allen as his wild card, in part because the club already had established late-inning relievers but also because Allen was a pitcher who could work in multiple roles and thrive in pressure situations.

“I saw Cody as a guy we could use as a wild card because of his youth,” Francona told cleveland.com. “It worked well because he seemed to be at his best when there was traffic on the bases and he could get to his best stuff right away.

Abraham Almonte Jersey

Almonte is not in the lineup Friday against the Astros.

Almonte will sit for the second straight game. He’s hitting a disappointing .179/.246/.276 in 42 games. The Royals will get creative filling their hole in center field Friday, with Alcides Escobar starting in center for the first time in his career.

Almonte is not in the lineup Wednesday against the Rangers, 610 Sports Radio – KC reports.

Almonte will grab a seat on the bench following a tough five-start stretch during which he collected just one hit in 15 at-bats (.067). Rosell Herrera will start in center field and hit second in this one.

Danny Salazar Jersey

Danny Salazar injury update: Indians pitcher to have shoulder surgery

Danny Salazar has struggled to progress with his shoulder injury, so the team is taking a precautionary step.

The Indians right-hander is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder Monday, the team announced Saturday.

There is no timetable for his return, though the team will be better able to determine a plan for his rehabilitation after the procedure.

Salazar, who has been on the disabled list all season, had an MRI and received a cortisone shot in May before resuming his throwing program. Still, manager Terry Francona hinted Friday that something still isn’t right with his shoulder.

Salazar, 28, hasn’t been healthy since the first half of the 2016 season but avoided arbitration by signing a one-year contract worth $5 million during the offseason.