Even with a full slate of baseball games, the opening of the NHL playoffs, and a bunch of scrubs getting major minutes in NBA finales, there still weren't really any eye-popping stat lines out there last night. So, instead of pretending that Yunel Escobar's 3-5 night with a run scored and an RBI was so monumental, we're going to look exclusively at the wild world of pitching and pick the best and the worst from Wednesday's action.
Josh Johnson (FLA): 7.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K vs. Braves
The Marlins' ace could hardly have been more dominant last night, as he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in Atlanta. The Fish gave Johnson (see left) a 5-0 lead early and he cruised, not letting a Braves' runner past first base until the double in the 8th that finally chased him. Johnson likely would have left the game earlier (109 pitches and a five-run lead) had he not been working on a no-no. Brian McCann and Chipper Jones--two All-Stars who were batting over .300 coming into the game--looked silly against Johnson's fastball all night long. Besides the lack of hits surrendered, the most impressive part of Johnson's night was definitely the strikeouts. He struck out a Braves batter in all seven innings he completed, including two in the 3rd and two in the 7th. Not only that, but each of his nine strikeouts came against a different Braves batter, meaning that every Brave to start last night's game against the Marlins struck out against Josh Johnson once. Against power hitters and contact hitters, lefties and righties, Josh Johnson got strike three time and again.
S. Marcum (MIL): 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K vs. Pirates
Sean Marcum was another good National League pitcher last night, also shutting out the opposition through seven innings. Though he was not as dominant against the Pirates as Johnson was against the Braves, Marcum still managed to shut out the Pirates while only allowing two runners to reach second base (and none to third). Marcum actually retired the first 12 Pittsburgh hitters he faced (only two of whom even hit the ball out of the infield), and his pitch count was only 94 when he came out. Had the Brewers not been winning 6-0 at that point, Marcum likely could have continued for at least one more inning. The impressive outing dropped his ERA all the way from 4.22 to 2.55, and he even contributed a hit, run scored, and RBI at the plate for good measure.
A. Heilman (ARI): 1.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R (6 ER), 1 BB, 12 total bases allowed vs. Cardinals
When Aaron Heilman entered the game at the start of the 4th inning last night in Arizona, his job was simply to salvage some dignity for his pitching staff after Ian Kennedy had given up nine runs in three pathetic innings. All Home Run Heilman (as my fellow Mets fans and I call him) did was leave his Diamondbacks in an even-more-depressing 13-run hole through 4.2 innings. During his painful 53-pitch outing last night, Heilman gave up seven hits and recorded only five outs. His WHIP for the game was 6.00, and he raised his season ERA from 5.40 to 12.15. Heilman allowed 12 total bases (two doubles, a home run, and four singles) and a walk to the 13 batters he faced. That comes out to a 1.000 slugging percentage against, as well as a .615 on-base percentage. That, our loyal readers, is a 1.615 OPS against. Enough said.
Chicago White Sox Bullpen: 2.0 IP, 6 H, 6 R (6 ER), 3 BB, BS vs. Athletics
Though Sox manager Ozzie Guillen didn't leave any of his relievers in long enough to suffer the same fate as Aaron Heilman, his bullpen as a whole imploded in a rather Heilman-esque fashion. White Sox starter John Danks left the game after eight innings of one-run ball and a 4-1 lead. The guys in the bullpen must have had a grudge against Danks, though, because they did everything possible to ruin his strong effort. Chris Sale (see right) started the 9th inning; he gave up three hits and a run, and he departed with two men on base and zero outs in the inning. Jesse Crain came in and struck a guy out--but he also walked a batter to load the bases. Matt Thornton came in and got a strike out--but then he gave up a single to ninth-place hitter Cliff Pennington to tie the game. In the top of the 10th inning, then, Thornton returned to the mound, determined to do more damage. After getting the first out, we walked the next two batters he faced. Thornton then gave up a go-ahead single, a stolen base, and a two-run single before being mercifully pulled with a three-run deficit. Though he was only charged with three runs in all, Thornton allowed five Athletics to score while he was on the mound. Then Tony Pena had to come in and clean up the mess, and the White Sox went down to a 7-4 defeat--all thanks to their bullpen.