St. Louis Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright has always been one of the best big game pitchers in baseball. Even dating back to his days as a rookie out of the bullpen, Wainwright has never let a big moment get to him. Facing Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded, 2 outs, and a trip to the World Series on the line? That’s no big deal for Wainwright, just unleash the nastiest curveball you can possible throw. How about taking on a red-hot Giants lineup with your team staring down the possibility of a 3-1 hole? No big deal, just throw 7 dominant innings.
Wainwright’s always been a big game pitcher, which made his struggles in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals a season ago all the more puzzling. In 2 separate starts the Nationals were able to chase Wainwright from the game in the early going as they piled up 13 hits, 3 homers, and 7 total runs in just 8 innings against the Cards’ ace.
Well, on Tuesday evening Adam Wainwright went out and got his revenge. The right-hander thoroughly dominated the Nationals’ lineup, throwing 8.1 breezy innings, allowing 5 hits and 1 walk to go along with 9 strikeouts. He blew through the Nationals lineup with ease, using his fastball to get ahead of hitters before finishing them off with his trademark biting curveball.
Wow! Is there any better way to kick off a season than with 12 exciting, competitive games? I don’t think so. From Bryce Harper’s pair of homers, to Kershaw putting the Dodgers on his back, Opening Day was full of big performances as well. These are my starting nine from Opening Day 2013:
1) Josh Reddick’s beard
It’s majestic. I mean just look at the thing. Can his eyes even make their way through that hairy forest to see the pitches opposing hurlers throw? Is he going for the Johnny Damon circa-2004 look? I’m not really sure but I know I like it.
2) Clayton Kershaw as a dual threat
In the best game of the day the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw dualed the Giants’ Matt Cain to a draw through 8 innings. Neither offense could muster much more than a bloop single or two as the starters combined to strikeout 15 batters. By the start of the 8th inning the game was handed over to the Giants’ bullpen and George Kontos with Clayton Kershaw scheduled to lead-off. In a bold move Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly decided to leave Kershaw in the game, eschewing a pinch hitter, and boy did it pay off. Kershaw hit an absolute blast to centerfield some 400-odd feet away for his 1st career homer, sending Dodgers’ fans into a frenzy. Los Angeles added 3 more insurance runs in the inning but Clayton Kershaw didn’t need them as he pitched a perfect 9th to grab the 4-0 victory.
When the Washington Nationals selected Bryce Harper 1st overall in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft, the only questions anybody seemed to have were how quickly will this kid develop into a superstar and what position will he play. The D.C. brass answered question #2 fairly quickly, deciding to move Harper from catcher to the outfield in hopes that his power, speed, and bazooka arm would hold up better without the rigors of working behind the plate daily. After 130 largely successful minor league games (only 21 at Triple-A) and with the need for another outfielder at the big league level, Washington called the 19-year-old prodigy up to the show.
Sorry for the delay this month on the Rookie Report. We’re attempting to move to Springfield and it’s a little difficult to find time to do the research and catch up on games while I’m busy packing, interviewing (I got the job!!), and still going to work at my current job. But anyway, enough about me, let’s take a look at the league’s best rookies:
I have somewhat of a problem with the final vote for the “last” roster spot available in both leagues. First of all the American League is no contest. Yu Darvish will win in a runaway, because Ranger fans have stuffed the ballot box thus far and will continue to do so. And unless the large contingent of fans in Japan suddenly decide Jason Hammel or Jonathan Broxton is their guy, Darvish will win in a landslide. No, the more interesting (and maybe odd) case is over in the National League, where we more than likely have a two horse race between Chipper Jones and Bryce Harper.
Every team has at least 62 games under their belts this season, and we’ve seen quite a few impressive performances out of rookies from nearly every position on the diamond thus far. One quick note, in last month’s rankings we had Lance Lynn of the St. Louis Cardinals included, but this month he has been taken out because he does not qualify as a rookie. He was on the Cardinal roster for a few too many days last season to qualify for this season’s award, so his removal has nothing to do with performance. In fact Lynn has been one of the National League’s elite pitchers this season, and would rank 1st or 2nd if he qualified as a rookie. Now on to the list, which has some fresh faces and a more offensive outlook this month:
One disturbing trend I’ve been noticing more and more this season is the inability of scorekeepers to give anybody an error. The official Major League Rulebook, listed on-line on MLB.com, is pretty cut and dry when it comes to determining errors, saying they should be prescribed when a player:
whose misplay (fumble, muff or wild throw) prolongs the time at bat of a batter, prolongs the presence on the bases of a runner or permits a runner to advance one or more bases, unless, in the judgment of the official scorer, such fielder deliberately permits a foul fly to fall safe with a runner on third base before two are out in order that the runner on third shall not score after the catch.