Notes From the Weekend

Hee! Seop! Choi! … Hee! Seop! Choi! … Hee! Seop! Choi!

The chants at Dodger Stadium kept getting louder and louder this weekend. As a Twins fan, it was painful to watch. As a Hee Seop Choi supporter, it was nice to see.

Choi is putting together one of streakiest seasons in recent memory, but at least he’s making it easy to fill column space across the country. When Choi began the season in a funk, hitting .200 through the Dodgers’ first 19 games, the mainstream media in Los Angeles was all over him. Then he went on a tear at the plate, hitting .365 over a 23-game stretch, and I conveniently decided it was time to write something in his defense.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Choi then immediately went into another extended funk, dropping his totals from a season-high .312/.407/.570 on May 16 to .243/.323/.410 on June 9. About midway through Choi’s second lengthy slump of the season, the e-mails starting rolling in from people who found it humorous (among other things) that he went in the tank as soon as I wrote something taking people to task for criticizing him so much.

And then came this weekend’s series against the Twins.

Friday night, Choi hit a two-run homer off Minnesota starter Joe Mays in the bottom of the first inning to put the Dodgers on top 2-1. Then, after the Twins came back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the game, Choi hit a game-winning, walk-off homer off lefty reliever Terry Mulholland in the bottom of the ninth.

Hee! Seop! Choi! … Hee! Seop! Choi! … Hee! Seop! Choi!

Saturday night, Choi hit a solo homer off Minnesota starter Carlos Silva in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Hee! Seop! Choi! … Hee! Seop! Choi! … Hee! Seop! Choi!

Sunday afternoon, Choi homered off Minnesota starter Brad Radke in the bottom of the first inning to put the Dodgers up 1-0. Then he homered off Radke in the bottom of the fourth inning to tie the game. And then he homered off Radke in the bottom of the sixth inning to put the Dodgers up 4-3.

Hee! Seop! Choi! … Hee! Seop! Choi! … Hee! Seop! Choi!

TIME PERIOD        AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS      AB     HR     RBI
Through 6/9       .243     .323     .410     .733     144      6      19
This Weekend      .500     .500    2.000    2.500      12      6       7

Torii Hunter wrapped things up nicely after Sunday’s game: “I’ve never seen that with my eyes. Six home runs in three games. That’s very impressive. I’ve never seen that, even in Little League.”

Or, as Choi explained: “I swung good this weekend.”

In three games, Choi doubled his homer total, increased his RBI total by 37%, and raised him OPS 140 points. He also hit his first homer of the season off a lefty and raised his overall season totals to .265/.337/.535. And while it is silly to say that any baseball player, particularly a hitter, can single-handedly win a game, Choi came about as close as you can come both Friday and Sunday, as the Dodgers took two out of three games from the Twins.

Some other notable weekend performances …

  • After hitting .194/.276/.312 in April and .239/.276/.321 in May to punish me for picking him as the American League MVP, Eric Chavez started June with 10 hits in 23 at-bats (.435) to raise his season totals to .240/.308/.378. Then he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against the Nationals Thursday to fall back down to .236/.303/.371. And then, like Choi against the Twins, Chavez feasted on the Braves this weekend.

    He went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs Friday night and 5-for-5 with a double, two homers, and four RBIs Sunday afternoon. Even with an 0-for-3 Saturday in between, Chavez was 7-for-12 with three homers and six RBIs during the three-game series. He’ll need a few more five-hit games this month to make my preseason MVP pick look anything other than silly, but Chavez has at least brought his season totals back into the realm of respectability at .253/.318/.423. He’s even on pace for 25 homers and 95 RBIs.

  • Adam Bernero was looking like Leo Mazzone‘s latest reclamation-project success story. He came to Mazzone and the Braves with a career ERA of 5.82 ERA in 314 big-league innings, and had a sub par strikeout rate (5.67/9) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.66-to-1) to go along with it. Then Mazzone sprinkled his magic pitcher dust on Bernero and he went 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 12-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 April innings. Even after some struggles of late, Bernero carried the following numbers into Sunday’s game against Oakland:
     G       IP     W     L      ERA     SO     BB     HR
    26     34.0     3     1     3.97     27     10      2

    And then he imploded against Chavez and the A’s yesterday:

    A Hardball Times Update
    Goodbye for now.
     IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR
    1.0     5     6      6      1      2      2

    So much for that. Bernero’s ERA for the season is now 5.40.

  • Eric Gagne picked up the win for the Dodgers with a scoreless inning Friday and then got a save with another scoreless inning Sunday, holding the Twins hitless in both outings. Much was made about Gagne serving up two homers in his first game back off the disabled list last month, but take a look at how he’s done since then:
     G       IP     W     L     SV     SVO      ERA     SO     BB     HR     OAVG
    13     12.1     1     0      8       8     1.45     19      3      0     .159

    He’s not going to get to 82.1 innings pitched for the fourth straight season (seriously, go look at his innings totals from 2002-2004), but Gagne is still very much Game Over.

  • Scott Kazmir got rocked by the Pirates for nine runs in 4.2 innings Saturday, raising his ERA from 3.86 to 4.70. Amazingly, Kazmir’s horrible start wasn’t even the worst of the weekend. Actually, it wasn’t even close. Take a look at Zack Greinke‘s line from his start against Arizona Friday night:
     IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR
    4.1    15    11     11      2      2      3

    Early on this season Greinke was the victim of poor run support, starting the season 0-4 (with four no-decisions) despite a 3.09 ERA. Greinke has been a mess of late, however, culminating with his disastrous outing against the Diamondbacks this weekend.

    Here’s what Greinke has done since holding the Devil Rays to one run over 6.2 innings in a no-decision May 15:

    GS       IP     W     L      ERA     SO     BB      H     HR
     5     23.2     1     3    11.79     14      9     43      7

    Wait, here’s where it gets really interesting. Greinke gave up 11 runs in 4.1 innings and didn’t even lose. Down 11-2 after five innings, the Royals scored once in the sixth inning, six times in the eighth, and then tied things up and took Greinke off the hook with two more runs in the top of the ninth.

    Sadly, it was all for naught when Troy Glaus hit a walk-off solo homer on the fourth pitch Mike MacDougal threw in the bottom of the 11th. And as if all of that weren’t enough, Greinke also hit his first career homer (in just his fourth career at-bat) off Russ Ortiz in the fifth inning, after he had already given up seven runs.

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