04/20/2007 12:03 PM ET
Rich Hill gives Cubs' pen a breather
In the Midwest, the Yankees-Red Sox series wasn't considered the highlight matchup of the weekend. Not when the Cardinals were about to play the Cubs for the first time this season in a grudge match that's been going on for 115 years.
Rich Hill delivers against the Braves on Thursday night. (John Amis/AP)
The bad news for the Cubs is that their most effective starter, Rich Hill, won't be available against St. Louis. The good news is that the bullpen is rested and ready because Hill threw his third straight masterpiece.
Hill ran his scoreless streak to 16 innings with eight shutout innings in a 3-0 victory over the Braves in Atlanta on Thursday night. Only closer Ryan Dempster was needed and he threw just nine pitches to gain his third save.
It was a much-needed breather for the bullpen, which pitched nine of 14 innings on Tuesday night followed by a couple more innings on Wednesday night.
"We really needed some innings to rest our bullpen one more day, and he gave us exactly what we wanted here," manager Lou Piniella told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Neither the Cubs nor Cards, both 6-9, have caught their stride yet this season, entering the series at Wrigley Field. Hill has been credited with three of Chicago's six wins and is 3-0 with an MLB-leading 0.41 ERA.
Buehrle relives no-no:With three outs to go for a no-hitter, Mark Buehrle, the man who had been in command all night, was a bundle of nerves.
"I probably was more nervous coming out of the eighth [inning] and going back to the ninth with the crowd going crazy," Buehrle told the Chicago Tribune. "I could feel my knees shaking."
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski was among those impressed with what he witnessed. "His stuff was the best I've seen in two years," said Pierzynski.
"It's a great feeling," said manager Ozzie Guillen. "We needed that. Buehrle needed that for himself. As a team, I think we were nervous. I heard guys saying they weren't really nervous during the World Series, but they were nervous [tonight]."
Third baseman Joe Crede, who assisted on the final out after fielding a groundball, was happy to be able to be a part of the final play for his teammate.
"It's either going to be an error or get him out," said Crede. "Either way, it was great to see Mark get it. We moved up together in the Minor Leagues and we're both from Missouri.
"To me, it's the way he's always pitched, even in the Minor Leagues. He always kept us in the game and on our toes. He's known for throwing one-hour-50-minute games or two-hour games. And it's fun playing behind him because he keeps you on your toes.
"It was special for me because I came up with him and know how hard he worked."
Moyer leads by example: Jamie Moyer was scheduled to start Philadelphia's day game Thursday against the Nationals. When the Phillies and Washington went deep into extra innings Wednesday, manager Charlie Manuel gave Moyer the option of leaving the stadium early, so he could get proper rest the night before his start.
"He said, 'What do you mean leave? Do I ever leave?'" Manuel told MLB.com. "He stayed for [Wednesday's] game, rode the bus back. He's all about the team and what the game is all about."
And apparently he was more than ready to go on Thursday, as the Phillies and Moyer turned back the Nationals, 4-2, with Moyer allowing two runs over eight innings.
"I can get my rest when I retire," said Moyer. "To me, sometimes I play better when I'm tired. Fatigued is one word. Tired is another. Not that I was tired, but if I can't get up for a Major League game, then maybe I need to question why I'm here."
With the Phillies not playing at their best early this year, Moyer knows that it's part of his job as a veteran to calm the troops through his performances.
"I'm aware that we are where we are," Moyer said. "We haven't played as well as we're capable of playing. Over the course of my career, I've come to realize that if everybody does their job, you're going to win games. We're just not playing good, consistent baseball, and everybody knows it.
"Sometimes, when you get in these ruts, you try to do too much. I can't speak for everybody else, but I just try to stay focused on the task. I'm trying to create a pace, a tempo and have command and control of the game."
Moyer's veteran presence is having a profound effect on young hurler Cole Hamels.
"It's a little uncomfortable, because it puts you in a state where you think, 'Maybe I'm not doing enough,' when a veteran is doing more," Hamels said. "It pushes me to be even better. At the end of the day, if you've realized that, you've done everything you possibly could. You're happy, but if there's one thing you could have done, but didn't, you'll be disappointed. It reminds you."
A first, literally, for Miller: It is never too late to do something for the first time. Damian Miller has been playing in the Majors since 1997, but on Wednesday night, he found himself in an unfamiliar place on the field -- first base.
A catcher by trade, Miller made the only start of his career at first base and the first appearance at first base since playing the position in 2000 for Arizona. Miller, however, knew he may see some time at first base this season, so he has been taking ground balls there during pregame drills.
"You never know," Miller told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "And I didn't know until I got here today."
Manager Ned Yost put Miller at first base for two reasons. One was to have as many right-handed batters in the lineup against Pittsburgh left-hander Paul Maholm. His second reason was to give Prince Fielder a day off.
Tighter mechanics keep Wakefield's knuckler loose: For the third straight start, Tim Wakefield look fantastic on the mound as he helped lead the Red Sox to a 4-1 win over Toronto and lower his ERA to 1.35. For Wakefield, the key to his success this season is his ability to maintain his mechanics on the mound.
"I think his success is mechanical," catcher Doug Mirabelli told the Boston Globe. "When he has good mechanics, the ball comes out of his hand very well and it does what he wants it to do."
There was a point in the game when Wakefield struggled with his mechanics, leading to three straight walks in the fourth inning. That drew a visit from pitching coach John Farrell. Wakefield made an immediate adjustment and struck out Jason Phillips with a knuckleball to get out of the inning.
"I think, regardless of the knuckleball, it's still pitching mechanics, it's still body position, where a pitcher releases the ball," pitching coach John Farrell said. "With Wakefield, it's more accentuated because he deals with so much movement with the knuckleball, so if his timing and his delivery are off a little bit, it will make a bigger difference where his pitch location ultimately lands or is received.
"Tonight, his head and upper body were just getting out there a little quick and, like any pitcher, his arm drags a little bit. And with Wake's knuckleball, he ends up pulling across his body and not getting to the side of it, which is why a lot of those knuckleballs were finishing in the left-handed hitter's batter's box."
While Wakefield is off to a good start this season, he knows there are still a lot of games to be played. So he isn't ready to proclaim that he can keep this start up for the entire season.
"It's too early," Wakefield said. "I'm feeling good now. The ball feels good in my hand. I've got my mechanics down good. And, hopefully, I can keep it going."
Frasor small in stature, big in velocity: When Jay Frasor takes the mound, he doesn't strike fear into opposing hitters. Frasor, who is currently the Toronto closer while B.J. Ryan is on the disabled list, is only 5-foot-10 and weighs 170 pounds.
But Frasor can blow the ball past opposing hitters.
"He's got one explosive fastball," manager John Gibbons told the Toronto Star.
Right now, Frasor is just enjoying pitching for Toronto. He entered Spring Training battling for a spot on the Opening Day roster. By the time the Blue Jays broke camp, he earned a role as setup man for Ryan. Now, he is closing games, at least temporarily.
"What a great opportunity for me," Frasor said. "Unfortunate circumstances for B.J., but I know I'm just the interim closer till he gets back."
Frasor, who has a 1.23 ERA through his first seven appearances, isn't unaccustomed to being a closer. He recorded 17 saves for the Blue Jays as a rookie in 2004. However, this time he feels more prepared for the role.
"I kinda have an idea of what I'm doing now," Frasor said with a grin. "In '04, I was out there completely numb. I was just whippin' the ball and wherever it went, it went."
Bonderman wants to do more: Detroit Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman has been outstanding this season, maintaining a 2.25 ERA after four starts. But Bonderman has still not recorded a victory -- or a loss -- and says that he feels like he should be doing more.
"I'm not getting it done," Bonderman told the Detroit News. "Seven innings, one run, but we didn't win. That's the bottom line. You have to win. And in my starts we haven't won. I have to find a way to change that."
While it's been the struggles of the Detroit offense that are the main cause for his lack of a win, Bonderman said after his last start that there is no excuse.
"Throwing the ball doesn't mean you're getting the job done. Today, I threw the ball well, but we scored three runs, and I gave up one. That's not acceptable," he said.
In other words, he's not much into a moral victory coming from a good outing that doesn't result in a win.
"I'm not a hitter, but it's something similar to guys hitting the ball on the screws, but right at people," he said. "That doesn't make you happy. I don't want to just pitch good and not win. I want to have 18, 19, 20 wins a year. I have to find a way to win some games."
A little hesitation helps Beimel: A hesitation added to his delivery has helped make the Dodgers' Joe Beimel one of the top relievers in the game. Facing his second season in Triple-A, Beimel added an inward turn in his delivery and the results have been fantastic.
"It allows my arm to catch up to my body," Beimel told the Los Angeles Times. "It adds to my deception and gives more sink to my sinker."
The change was suggested to Beimel by pitching coach Joe Coleman. Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt likes what the new motion does for the lefty.
"He has an unusual delivery," Honeycutt said. "There's almost a pause, and it's very difficult for hitters to pick up the ball."
Beimel has also improved his control and his willingness to throw his sinker, his best pitch, at any point in the count.
"I'm a lot more aggressive, pitching to contact instead of trying to strike guys out," Beimel said. "I'm trusting my sinker even in fastball counts. When I was in the Minors, the pitching coach would make you throw a certain number of changeups and breaking balls. Now I'm sticking with my best pitch."
It wasn't pretty, but it was a triple for Klesko: The Giants emerged with a 6-2 win over the Cardinals on Thursday and one of the biggest moments came when Ryan Klesko hit an RBI triple.
Klesko, not known for his speed, did a belly flop at third base. Giants third base coach Tim Flannery did everything in his power to get Klesko to slide, going so far as to get down on his own stomach to give Klesko a visual of what he needed to do.
"It wasn't a slide," Klesko told the San Francisco Chronicle of his less-than-graceful move into the bag. "I think it was a fall. ... I usually don't dive headfirst, as you can tell."
When asked to describe Klesko's slide, Giants manager Bruce Bochy quipped, "On the Richter scale?"
Flannery's move in the coaching box was nothing new for Klesko, as the duo also performed similar roles for the Padres before both joining the Giants this season.
"When Flann slides, you slide -- that's the rule of thumb," Klesko said.
-- Red Line Editorial