Dallas Keuchel is shining as bright as his namesake these days.
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Fresh off a complete-game shutout of the division rival Rangers his last time out, Keuchel twirled another gem on Monday, limiting the Angels to five hits and a walk in a 5-2 victory that came within an out of being Keuchel's second shutout in as many starts. Keuchel punched out eight in the outing.
Keuchel kept the Angels under wraps the same way he's done it all season, inducing 14 ground ball outs compared to just two flyouts. Keuchel appeared to have gotten his 15th and final ground ball out as well, but Mike Trout beat the throw from Jose Altuve to extend the game. An Albert Pujols single followed, chasing Keuchel after a career-high 128 pitches. A two-run triple by Howie Kendrick off reliever Josh Zeid served to tarnish what was otherwise a thing of beauty from the 26-year-old.
Even with the late blemish, the stellar start was the continuation of one of the most unexpected breakouts for any player this season. The southpaw has been nothing short of dominant in posting a 2.92 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 55/12 K/BB ratio over 61 2/3 innings to begin the year. Perhaps most impressive, Monday's win moved Keuchel to 5-2 on a team that's won just 17 games all season. He isn't just feeding on bottom dwellers, either -- Keuchel's five wins have come against the Angels, Rangers, Tigers, Mariners and Blue Jays, teams that are a combined 16 games over .500.
According to Fangraphs, Keuchel has found sustainable success by using his four-seam fastball sparingly, opting instead for a two-seamer that has induced a 65.1 percent ground ball percentage. That rate is the highest in baseball among qualified pitchers this season. He's also used his slider, easily his best swing-and-miss pitch, more frequently this year, resulting in a swinging strike percentage over three percentage points higher than his career average.
Even with his ridiculous run of strong pitching and underlying numbers that suggest he can keep it up to an extent, Keuchel is owned in just 35 percent of Yahoo leagues. After Monday's outing, that number will continue to rise. It wouldn't be surprising to see Keuchel's star continue to rise as well.
Bad News On CC's Knee
Monday's news equated to kicking CC Sabathia while he's down.
The lefty, who's already dealing with diminished velocity and was recently placed on the disabled list with a right knee injury, will be out until July at the earliest, according to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
"It's an unpredictable time frame," Cashman told ESPN. "I'd say you're talking at least six weeks until you see him on a major league mound again."
Sabathia was placed on the disabled list on May 11 due to some breakdown of cartilage in his right knee, and he was given a stem cell injection in the knee during his visit to Dr. James Andrews last week. Sabathia won't put any weight on the knee for a period before beginning exercises to strengthen and rehab the knee.
Despite such a conservative time frame, Cashman said it's not a given that Sabathia will be ready to go once July rolls around. On the contrary, Cashman said six weeks is likely a minimum time frame for Sabathia's return, saying expecting anything less is "probably setting ourselves up for disappointment."
Even before the injury, this year's version of Sabathia was a shadow of his former Cy Young self. In 2011, Sabathia had an average fastball velocity of 93.9 mph, according to Fangraphs' PITCHf/x data. That number has been in steady decline in the years since, and this season's 89.6 mph is the lowest of his career.
Sabathia had a 5.28 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in eight starts before hitting the DL, numbers inflated by the fact that Sabathia has allowed 10 home runs in those eight starts. Insult preceded injury in this case, but the final product remains -- Sabathia's years of being a top flight starter are long gone.
The Yankees turned to Chase Whitley to start in Sabathia's place the first go-round, and his 4 2/3 innings of shutout baseball garnered him at least one more start. With Sabathia's absence now expected to be extended, though, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Yankees make a more aggressive move to fill the hole in their rotation in the next few weeks.
Lindstrom Down; Out?
White Sox closer Matt Lindstrom was spared the insult after a left foot injury caused him to leave Monday's game.
Lindstrom was heading in a bad direction after allowing a single to Norichika Aoki to lead off the ninth inning and turning his ankle while trying to field Alcides Escobar's bunt, a play that left two runners on with no outs and forced him from the game.
Fortunately for Lindstrom, his bullpen mates picked him up and spared him from his fourth blown save of the season. Lefty Scott Downs struck out Eric Hosmer, and after Jarrod Dyson was caught stealing, Jake Petricka got Billy Butler to ground out to end the threat.
Though most managers are hesitant to take a guy's job away from him due to injury, Monday's result has the potential to force White Sox manager Robin Ventura to rethink his late-inning roles. Lindstrom's struggles are a theme for him this season, as the right-hander has a 3.32 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in his 19 innings. He's converted six of nine save opportunities, but even some of his successful saves come with high-wire acts.
Nate Jones remains sidelined, but Ventura has plenty of other options in Petricka, Daniel Webb, Ronald Belisario and even the recently signed Frank Francisco. Of course, if Lindstrom's injury requires him to miss some time, all of those options will likely be in play for Ventura going forward. Either way, it's worth monitoring who's coming out of the White Sox bullpen at what time over the next few games.
National League Quick Hits: An MRI on Andrew Cashner's right elbow showed only soreness and irritation, revealing no structural damage. Cashner will simply rest the elbow for now, with no clear-cut timetable for his return at this point ... The Reds remain undecided on what they're going to do with Joey Votto. The first baseman continues to receive treatment on his left knee in Cincinnati while his teammates are in Washington, D.C. on a road trip. After Monday's 15-inning affair, that decision could come as soon as Tuesday ... Despite shagging fly balls in left field in recent days, Ryan Zimmerman said he's not preparing to make the switch to the outfield. The outfield work is simply part of his rehab while he recovers from a broken thumb suffered in early April ... Todd Frazier hit a two-run home run, his third hit of the night, in the 15th inning to lead the Reds to a 4-3 win over the Nationals ... Carlos Gomez returned to the Brewers' lineup on Monday. He'd been dealing with lower back and stomach issues over the weekend ... The Marlins released Carlos Marmol and signed Miguel Tejada to a minor-league deal, because just when you think the Marlins make a good move, they remind everyone they're the Marlins.
American League Quick Hits: X-rays on Salvador Perez' right thumb came back negative, but the catcher will still likely miss a few games as a result of the injury. Perez hurt the thumb during Monday's game and was replaced behind the plate by Brett Hayes in the ninth inning ... Jason Kipnis (oblique) appears to be nearing a rehab assignment. Kipnis was hitting live pitching, doing fielding drills and sprinting before Monday's game, an indication that he's close to being game-ready. Kipnis said the hope is to be on a rehab assignment "by the end of the week" ... Alex Cobb (oblique) is expected to be activated and start Thursday against the Athletics. Cobb threw a bullpen session Monday, his last hoop to jump through before being cleared to return ... Martin Perez underwent Tommy John surgery Monday. Assuming his recovery goes well, he'll be back near midseason next year.
Dallas Keuchel is shining as bright as his namesake these days.