Thu Sep 01 07:42am EDT
Nine innings and nine items, (plus an extra inning — on us!) to get you going. Ladies and gentleman of the Stew, take a sip of morning Juice.
1. Slow and Lowe: Welp, it took Atlanta Braves pitcher Derek Lowe(notes) over 500 plate appearances in his career and 38 years on Earth, but he finally hit his first-ever home run on Wednesday — and it counted. Not since 2003, when Randy Johnson(notes) smacked his first homer in his grizzled 40th year, has a pitcher broken a lifelong homerless drought at such an old age. Lowe went yard in the Braves' 3-1 win over the Washington Nationals and, oh, he also pitched six strong innings for the win. That's what he's paid for — not that long ball nonsense.
The Braves bullpen did its part, too: Irish Eric O'Flaherty(notes) and H-less Jonny Venters(notes) contributed a perfect inning each while Craig Kimbrel(notes) set the MLB record for most saves by a rookie closer at 41, breaking the high mark set just last season by the Texas Rangers' Neftali Feliz(notes). Mazel tov, Craig!
2. Westbrook won't be ignored: Lowe was not the only old-ish right-hander to connect for a big homer. With the score tied and the bases loaded in the fourth inning, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jake Westbrook(notes) hit his first career home run (a grand slam!) off Randy Wolf(notes). The Cardinals went on to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-3, moving within 8 1/2 games of first place. That's not very close, but hey, they've got pitchers hitting grand slams now, so anything can happen.
3. Save the last out for me: He hasn't been the most dominant shutdown closer in the game (31 BB in 58 IP!) but Jose Valverde(notes) is a perfect 40 for 40 in save opportunities for the Detroit Tigers, who beat the Kansas City Royals 5-4 with a three-run eighth. Valverde becomes just the second Tigers reliever ever to record a 40-save season after Todd Jones, who cried when he lost the closer job in 2008. But Big Potato don't cry!
4. You, sir, are no bum: Finally rid of the dual scourge that was Aaron Rowand(notes) and Miguel Tejada(notes), the San Francisco Giants announced their intentions to not walk away from the playoff race quietly behind a career-high strikeout day (11!) from Madison Bumgarner(notes). The Giants avoided a sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs — those brutes! — by the score of 4-0 behind Bumgarner's eight shutout innings in which he allowed but four men to reach base. Pablo Sandoval(notes) sent a home run out of AT&T Park, the only good news for the stadium sponsor Wednesday.
For the second straight night, the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff combined to shut down the Cincinnati Reds' worsening offense, winning 3-0. This time, it was Cliff Lee(notes), who came within one out of snagging the complete-game shutout, along with Ryan Madson(notes), who entered the game with the bases loaded in the ninth but retired Yonder Alonso(notes) on a harmless foul pop-up. Lee didn't lose a game in August and hasn't allowed a run on the road since space shuttle Atlantis touched down on Earth for the final time. Who knew that keeping Americans out of space would be key to Lee's away dominance?
6. Hey, it was under 4 hours!: Josh Beckett(notes) did what Josh Beckett does best. No, not the Times crossword puzzle, he led his Boston Red Sox to a 9-5 win over the New York Yankees. Although Beckett gave up five runs in seven innings, the three home runs his teammates clobbered gave him more than enough run support to move him to 4-0 on the season over their division rivals.
7. Misery loves company: Remember when the Pittsburgh Pirates were in first place? This must be a brand-new, terrible version of the Pirates, as they just got swept by the last-place Houston Astros, owners of baseball's worst record — and it wasn't even close. J.A. Happ(notes) threw a masterful seven innings in the 2-0 win and prevented the Bucs from even getting a runner into scoring position.
8. What could have been: Matt Kemp(notes), who collected his career-high 102nd RBI, has been hot lately and so have the rest of his teammates. The Los Angeles Dodgers swept the San Diego Padres with a 4-2 win as the Dodgers finished up August winning 17 games and scoring over six runs per contest. Too little? Too late? Too bad, the Dodgers are aiming for a respectable .500 record now, which would be quite the salve for an otherwise regrettable year.
9. From a Buick 6: Take away the first inning of the Minnesota Twins' daytime 7-6 victory and you've got a 6-1 White Sox win instead. But any attempt to tear off the first column of your scorecard and ingest it will probably get you rapped on the knuckles by Bud Selig. Instead, Chicago starter Jake Peavy(notes) allowed a six-spot to the Twinkies in the first and it stuck. The two-run rally by the Sox in the ninth came up just short and the South Siders sit at six full games behind the Tigers, and in third place, in the AL Middle.
10. One little, two little, 16 little Indians innings: Jim Thome(notes) started a rally in the bottom of the 16th with a single, and after a pinch runner and another single by Carlos Santana(notes), new baby daddy Jack Hannahan(notes) brought in Cord Phelps(notes) with the winning run on another single. Jeez, couldn't they have done likewise in the ninth or 10th or 12? Hannahan also hit two home runs in Cleveland's 4-3 win against Oakland, so he's probably your Indians player of the game. Voting is closed, however.
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