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News » NL has an outbreak of complete games Four occur in two days after league witnessed only 61 all of last season.


NL has an outbreak of complete games Four occur in two days after league witnessed only 61 all of last season.


NL has an outbreak of complete games Four occur in two days after league witnessed only 61 all of last season.
A stunning trifecta took place last Sunday in the National League, with three complete games being pitched on the same day, including one by the Cardinals' Kyle Lohse, and then Pittsburgh's Zach Duke hurled a complete-game shutout the next day. Four complete games in two days? The National League, where a complete game is as rare as a dodo bird or a triple, had just 61 complete games in 1,294 games played last season.

Florida's Josh Johnson had one of the complete games Sunday, working a five-hitter to beat New York and Johan Santana 2-1. The Marlins, who set a major league record with 301 starts over two years without a complete game, had three in a span of 42 games after Johnson's nine-inning effort.

One possible explanation for pitchers being able to go nine innings, often in inclement weather, this early in the season is that spring training was a week longer this year because of the World Baseball Classic. When the first WBC was held in 2006, players did not have much time to spend in the camps of their original teams either before or after the WBC competition, so extra time was added this year, with major league teams playing some 35 exhibition games apiece.

This means most starting pitchers got six starts in the spring and a few got seven, and they could build up their endurance.

But, interestingly, none of the five complete games pitched in the first week or so (Boston's Tim Wakefield also had one) were by anybody who participated in the WBC, where pitchers probably didn't get the same regular work they would have gotten if they had stayed in their camps.

In fact, many of the star pitchers on those WBC teams have struggled.

USA ace Roy Oswalt had a 6.23 earned-run average after his first two starts. Japanese pitching hero Daisuke Matsuzaka already is on the disabled list. Dominican Republic righthander Edinson Volquez of Cincinnati had a 9.64 ERA after two starts. And Puerto Rican starters Javier Vazquez, Ian Snell and Jonathan Sanchez were a collective 0-4 for Atlanta, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, with a collective ERA of 7.00, while the Cardinals' Joel Pineiro, passed over for the Puerto Rican rotation, stayed home and went 2-0 in his first two starts.

An exception to the rule was Venezuelan righthander Armando Galarraga, who was 2-0 with an 0.68 ERA for Detroit in his first two starts.

NEWS ITEM - The Marlins won eight of their first nine games, tying the best start in their history, and took over the lead in the tough National League Eastern Division.

HUMMEL'S TAKE - This is not to be overlooked because the Marlins rarely have led the division in their 17 seasons in the league and, in fact, never have won the division, although they have won two World Series championships.

Both times the Marlins won the World Series - in 1997 and 2003 - they did it as wild cards.

Of the 30 major-league teams, the Marlins and Colorado Rockies are the only teams not to have won a division title, although the Rockies went to the 2007 Series as a wild card. The Washington Nationals haven't won a division either, but their predecessors, the Montreal Expos, technically were National League Eastern Division champions in the strike year of 1981 because, after the season was split, the second-half champion Expos beat the first-half champion Philadelphia Phillies in a divisional playoff series.

The Milwaukee Brewers never have won a division in the National League, but they were 1982 champions in the American League.

One of the reasons the Marlins got off to such a fast start was the starting pitching quartet of Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad and Anibal Sanchez. Another was an apparent improvement, or more generous official scoring, relative to the Marlins' often porous defense. In a three-game sweep of the Braves at Atlanta, the Marlins, the second-worst defensive team in the league last year, weren't charged with an error while the Braves made five.

NEWS ITEM - Former University of Missouri star Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers became the first player in modern history (after 1900) to have six hits in a nine-inning game while hitting for the cycle (at least one single, double, triple, home run).

HUMMEL'S TAKE - The last Cardinals player to have six hits in a game was Skip Schumaker last July 26. All were singles, and the game lasted 14 innings. Earlier last week, Orlando Hudson ended a 38-year stretch without a cycle for the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the Cardinals' last cycle? Mark Grudzielanek did it on April 27, 2005, against Milwaukee.

Neither Stan Musial nor Albert Pujols ever had six hits in a nine-inning game, although Musial had four games of five hits in 1948, when he batted a league-leading .376 and had a phenomenal 103 extra-base hits, including 18 triples. Only Musial, of the two, hit for a cycle - in 1949. Ken Boyer is the lone modern-day Cardinal to hit for the cycle more than once, in 1961 and again in 1964. Jim Bottomley had two six-hit, regulation-length games in 1924 and 1931.

Kinsler actually achieved his feat in eight innings since the Rangers were the home team in a 19-6 mauling of Baltimore. He did it by wearing No. 42.

"It's more special to do it on Jackie Robinson Day," Kinsler told Dallas-Fort Worth reporters. "He's the guy who could do everything in this game - hit triples, hit home runs, steal bases, score runs."

NEWS ITEM - The Los Angeles Angels started out 3-5, marking the first time they had been more than one game under .500 since April 20, 2007. They hit .200 with runners in scoring position, and their bullpen had a 7.33 ERA

HUMMEL'S TAKE - And they had one player die during that time. Clearly, the Angels seemed to be struggling mightily with the tragic death of pitcher Nick Adenhart in an auto accident.

Pitcher Jered Weaver told Southern California reporters, "You try not to think about it as much as possible, but, yeah, it's in the back of your mind - in the front of your mind, really. Every day kind of gets a little easier, but it's still tough. I'm not going to lie. It's tough to go out there and not think about it."

Outfielder Torii Hunter said, "We're human, too. Yeah, that tragedy knocked us down last week. We're still professionals. We're trying to find it. You can tell at the plate by what guys look like. You can tell guys are trying to find it. We're better than what we're showing. You can feel the energy is kind of low in the clubhouse right now. I don't want to make an excuse, man. But it was a hard week, a tough week." '


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 19, 2009

david-eckstein
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