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Friday night was a thrilling night for baseball in the state of Ohio.
We'll start in Cincinnati where the Reds played host to the Milwaukee Brewers in a low-scoring division battle. Starting pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Kyle Lohse weren't exactly dominant throughout — especially Arroyo, who allowed 12 hits in seven innings — but kept the opponents off the board and their teams in the game. That type of game would end up benefiting Milwaukee as they received a game-tying home run from Martin Maldonado in the eighth that ultimately sent us to our 111th extra-inning game this season.
Once there, a familiar hero emerged for the hometown Reds as outfielder Jay Bruce connected for his fifth career game-ending home run.
''I told somebody earlier it never gets old,'' said Bruce, who has 11 homers. ''I hit homers, but walk-offs are completely different. They're a little sweeter, especially this one because of yesterday.''
In case you're wondering what yesterday means, the Reds dropped a tough one to Chicago Cubs in 14 innings at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon. A second straight gut punch would have been a lousy feeling, but Bruce made sure that didn't happen with his latest walk-off. Reds win it 4-3.
Meanwhile, in Cleveland: Not long before Bruce's game-ending blast, fans at Progressive Field in Cleveland were also going crazy as their Indians pulled out a 2-1 win over the visiting Washington Nationals. Tied at one entering the bottom of the ninth, Drew Stubbs reached with a one out single. Michael Bourn followed with a single of his own, allowing Stubbs to advance to third. After Bourn stole second to take the double play out of order, Jason Kipnis pulled one hard on the ground that first baseman Adam LaRoche fielded cleanly and came up firing to home. It was a bang-bang play at the plate — literally and figuratively — but Stubbs, who was off immediately on contact, got in ahead of the tag.
Upset special: It what might be considered the equivalent of a 16-seed knocking off a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Miami Marlins rode the right arm of 20-year-old Jose Fernandez on their way to a 5-4 victory over the team with the best record in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Over seven innings of work, Fernandez would strikeout a career-high 10 while holding St. Louis to three runs (two earned). That was more than enough to spoil the return of Jake Westbrook, who made his first start for the Cardinals since May 8 following an elbow problem. Fernandez also helped his cause with an RBI single in the second while Giancarlo Stanton contributed three hits and two RBIs.
Wrong side of history: Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale was brilliant on Friday, striking out 14 in an eight-inning complete. It wasn't good enough, though, as his squad dropped a 2-1 decision to the lowly Houston Astros. That means Chris Sale became the first White Sox pitcher to lose a game with 14 or more strikeouts since Jim Scott in 1913. Exactly 100 years.
Orioles 2, Red Sox 0: Chris Davis hit his major-league leading 22nd home run for Baltimore.
Pirates 3, Dodgers 0: Jeff Locke rebounds from his seven walk performance against the Cubs to throw seven scoreless on only 75 pitches. Dominant and efficient.
Cubs 6, Mets 3: Chicago wins their second in a row thanks to David DeJesus' bases clearing triple, but then lost their center fielder to a sprained right shoulder after a collision with the Citi Field wall.
Giants 6, Braves 0: In 14 innings against Atlanta this season, Madison Bumgarner has allowed one run while striking out 21.
Blue Jays 8, Rangers 0: A resurgent Mark Buehrle is 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA over his last five starts. He's also 13-5 lifetime against Texas.
Tigers 4, Twins 0: Make that five shutouts on the night in baseball. Rick Porcello and three Detroit relievers combined on a three-hitter.
Phillies 8, Rockies 7: Despite four hits from Carlos Gonzalez and a home run from Troy Tulowitzki replacement Josh Rutledge, Colorado falls after once leading 7-2.
Angels 5, Yankees 2: One day before his 41st birthday, Andy Pettitte allowed 11 hits. That's the most he's allowed in a game since June 13, 2009.
Padres 2, Diamondbacks 1: Eric Stults went the distance for San Diego and allowed a career-best two hits.
Mariners 3, A's 2: Mike Zunino's first career home run provides the difference.
''That is awkward for us because we normally, on a nightly basis, feel really good about your matchup, your starter versus theirs. We haven't had that feeling in a bit.''
— Rays manager Joe Maddon following his team's 7-2 loss to the Royals. The Rays have now lost five out of six with a stunningly dreadful team ERA of 9.29 over that stretch.
Cameron Smith over at Prep Rally brings us this startling photo of the Colorado wildfires as they provide a backdrop for a high school baseball game around Colorado Springs.
• 21 of the last 22 days have featured at least 1 extra-inning game.
• Jose Fernandez's 10 strikeout performance was the first by a pitcher under age 21 since Felix Hernandez in 2007.
• Manny Machado became the youngest player in Orioles history with 30 doubles in a season. He also joined some elite company.
Most 2B Thru 68 Team Games Under Age 22 Since 1920 2013 Manny Machado 30 1939 Ted Williams 25 1936 Joe DiMaggio 24
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 15, 2013
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Rangers' Jeff Baker sprains thumb doing a high-five
• Brewers' Ryan Braun lands on DL for first time in his career
• Diamondbacks ruled aggressors in fracas with Dodgers
You've been waiting for a good ol' profane manager rant and Detroit Tigers skipper Jim Leyland wants to be the one to give it to you. Leyland, obviously frustrated with the criticism the Tigers' closer role has gotten, blew off some steam in an expletive-laced rant to Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
"Some fans believe [Jose] Valverde is a Leyland creation," Leyland says. "They think the manager loves him or he wouldn't be here. I don't understand who they think we should be closing with. I'm asking that question, 'Who the (expletive) should I be closing with?' I mean, do they want some rookie kid? I don't understand that.
"Who the (expletive) should I close with? Who do you want me to close with? Who the (expletive) do you want to be the closer? … I don't know what the (expletive) these people want. They just throw stuff out there. People just talk, they don't think about it.
"Sometimes it boggles my mind."
So, Jim, you're telling us that asking for Miguel Cabrera to also be the closer is NOT a valid idea? Fine, noted for the record.
The Tigers closer role has been a mess since baseballs were first thrown this season. Bruce Rondon was handed the closer role in spring training, but blew it and didn't make the opening day roster. The Tigers went to a "bullpen by committee" plan, but eventually signed Jose Valverde and gave him the closer job after a brief minor-league stint.
This incensed many Tigers fans who look at Valverde has a save-blower extraordinaire and meltdown master. He's saved nine games and blown three since joining the Tigers in late April. Overall, the Tigers 'pen has blown nine saves, but the team is still 36-28 and in first place thanks to some of the best starting pitching in baseball. Oh, and that Cabrera guy and his buddy Prince Fielder too.
What's amplified this latest round of Tigers closer hysteria is a Valverde blown save from Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals, in which he soiled a strong start from ace Justin Verlander. The Tigers were up 2-0 until Valverde gave up a ninth-inning homer. The Royals went on to win in 10 innings.
After the game, Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan summed up how the Tigers bullpen has been holding back its otherwise stellar team:
"Never is it good when the list of what's right with a bullpen runs two deep and what's wrong hogs the remainder. Coke's ERA jumped to 5.49, Valverde's stuff was, in one scout's eyes, 'flat as Kansas,' and he now has allowed five home runs in his last 5 1/3 innings. Bruce Rondon and Al Alburquerque, the two best stuff guys in the organization, are at Triple-A."
So, in other words, Jim Leyland was overdue for an expletive or 14. And until you hear otherwise, Jose Valverde is still his expletive-ing closer.
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Eight suspended for their role in Dodgers-Diamondbacks brawl
• Rockies lose three players to injury in one game
• Giants fan Bryan Stow back home after insurance stops rehab facility coverage
"It's not far fetched" Leyland says. But it's not going to happen, either.
Justin Verlander will go for his ninth win of the season and the ninth win of his career against the Baltimore Orioles tonight. Lefty Zach Britton will start for Baltimore... we think.
With confidence in Jose Valverde giving way, Tigers manager Jim Leyland's going to piece things together as necessary.
Tiger bullpen is average by most stats, worse in the late innings, but could be better utilized.
The importance of the closer role, the Tigers come to terms with Corey Knebel, and should the Tigers call up Nick Castellanos? These stories and more in today's Morning Prowl.
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