The old saying, “loved or hated, but never ignored,” certainly applies to Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz. The man is treasured in Boston for leading the Red Sox to three World Series championships (he was the World Series MVP twice). But he’s brash, bold and has been implicated in the use of performance enhancing drugs (something he vehemently refutes). Those factors leave others cold about the designated hitter.
Well, whatever you think of him and his legacy, the 39-year-old Ortiz reached a magic milestone this past week, hitting his 500th career home run. Even with the inflated numbers of the steroids age, he becomes just the 27th player to deliver that many homers in a career. With the aforementioned disagreements over Ortiz, it will be interesting to see if reaching that hallowed number will make him a more viable Hall-of-Fame candidate. Only time will tell; but for now, let’s talk week 24:
Pitchers’ duel alert: The Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers are in a heated battle for the American League West lead. This week, they square off and a dominant performance by either team in their four-game series (Monday through Thursday) at the Rangers’ Globe Life Park could be difference-making in this race. But of all the games in the clash, the one to consider for our purposes is the one on Wednesday when the Rangers and Astros are bound to engage in a low-scoring affair.
Both clubs give in-form pitchers the baseball in this match-up. Texas’ Derek Holland spent much of the year battling injury, but his return has help key the Rangers’ resurgence. In six starts, Holland is 3-2 with a 3.13 ERA. Though Holland’s last outing was a bit dicey (seven innings pitched, five runs allowed), it’s essential here to look at his most recent game at home. In that contest against the Baltimore Orioles on August 30, he pitched a complete-game three hitter and struck out 11 batters. Considering the Astros are a bad-hitting road team, Holland should be well-place to throw well. His opponent on the pitchers’ mound will be Dallas Keuchel. The Astros ace has been magnificent this year and should be a top Cy Young Award candidate. He’s 17-7 with a 2.22 ERA. In his three starts against the Rangers in 2015, he’s dominated. Keuchel has pitched 22 innings and allowed just three runs in those games.
Lefty curse: There’s little doubt that 2015 has been a forgettable one for the Colorado Rockies. Going into this week they have the second-worst record in the National League. While you can point to many factors for their poor play, one statistic that stands out is how woeful they are against left-handing pitching. The club owns a dismal 6-26 record against lefties. That’s by far the worst record against left-handers in the NL (the next worst are the Atlanta Braves at 10-19). Knowing that, it’s big-time bad news for the Rockies that they go to Los Angeles to play a three-game set against the Dodgers this week. In all three of those contests, Colorado faces a lefty. Clearly, they’re in for a world of hurt when they face Clayton Kershaw on Monday, but if you want a little less obvious match-up go with the Dodgers to beat the Rockies on Tuesday.
The lefty getting the call for Los Angeles that day is Brett Anderson. Not nearly as heralded as Kershaw (nor, frankly, nearly as good), Anderson remains a tough lefty. In seven seasons, he has a respectable 3.64 ERA, and this year he’s pitched at an even more solid 3.36 ERA over 27 starts. Most notable this campaign has been his run of consistency. He’s only allowed more than three runs three times in those starts. The same can’t be said for Rockies pitcher Chris Rusin. He possesses a miserable 5.14 ERA in 20 appearances.
Game score: Another week, another game score. A reminder: each week I take a look at this Bill James statistic that distills a pitcher’s chances in an upcoming game down to one number. A score over 70 means expect a dominant performance; something below 50 suggests a less-than-quality start. On Friday, we’ll see a massive game score mismatch when the San Francisco Giants host the Arizona Diamondbacks. Giants’ star Madison Baumgarner earns a 73 game score for this contest, while all the Diamondbacks can muster is Robbie Ray, who comes in with a 43 on this scale. That big difference should result in a Giants’ win.