Sunday, August 7, 2022

Seventh Heaven

"Is this heaven?" "No, it's Iowa."

In a week that began with the angels (lowercase) claiming Vin Scully right at the trade deadline, the Angels (uppercase) quickly became That Game We Have To Write About. Plus lots of other adventures around the league. It'll be, uh, heavenly.

All By Myself

Home runs are cool. They're among the easiest, and certainly the quickest, ways to score in our little game here. Swing bat. Feel bat hit ball. Listen to crowd. As long as you remember to touch all four bases, you're good.

We take you to Anaheim, where it will not surprise you to learn that Shohei Ohtani started Thursday's game with a 1st-inning homer. He's got seven of those this year to lead the Angels. Luis Rengifo follows with a double but gets stranded. On to the 2nd, where #7 batter Kurt Suzuki tacks on another solo homer, just the third time this season Anaheim has gone yard in each of the first two frames.

Now it is Oakland's turn to finally wake up. They get a single and two walks to load the bases against Janson Junk, who has another of those unfortunate names for a pitcher. But it came true. Because in the span of 5 pitches, Ramon Laureano 2-run double, Sean Murphy 2-run double, and Seth Brown 2-run homer. This thing just became 6-2 Oakland, and that's as much scoring as the AL West usually sees in a week. This thing might be over early.

But the Angels are back to the top of the order, and Taylor Ward says, not so fast. He cranks a leadoff homer in the 3rd. Laureano comes up again for the A's in the 4th and adds another dinger against Touki Toussaint, now on the mound after Junk was, um, scrapped. It is now 8-3 when Jo Adell leads off the 4th inning with yet another Angels homer. It's the first time since August 19, 2017, that the Angels went yard in each of the first 4 innings of a game. But are you picking up the theme yet?

The Angels get a walk and a single in the 5th but don't score, so at least we won't have one of those "scored in every inning" games. We will, however, watch Jared Walsh hit another homer in the 6th to get within 8-5. Yes, that's 5 runs on 5 homers, and if the Angels just stop now, this will get some attention and at least make the "Bottom Of The Bag" segment later on. After all, 5-on-5 has happened just three other times in the past five seasons.

The only thing that could mess this up is if David Fletcher leads off the 7th by getting hit with a pitch, and then Ohtani hits another homer. Which, naturally, is what happened. But as the baseball gods would have it, there's a batter in between them. And Taylor Ward grounded into a double play that erased Fletcher and made Ohtani's homer another solo shot after all. It's 8-6 and you can stop now please. Yes, there have been three 5-on-5 games since 2017, but there have only been two 6-on-6 games in the live-ball era. The Blue Jays had one in 2010, and these Oakland A's did it at their cavernous park back in 1991.

Neither team scores in the 8th, and Zach Jackson fans Kurt Suzuki for the first out of the 9th. Let's just get two more quick outs and put this thing to bed. It's great that Mickey Moniak, just acquired from the Phillies in the Noah Syndergaard deal, wants to be a hero and all, and yes, the Angels are trailing by 2 runs still. But baserunners are just going to mess this thing up. In fact, there's really only one thing Moniak could possibly do to make this game more interesting. And yes, he did it.

So yes, that is 7 total runs, all on solo homers, a line never before achieved by any team in MLB history. And remember, Oakland still has those 8 runs from the 3rd and 4th innings combined, meaning Anaheim cranked seven dingers and lost. Only six teams in MLB history have pulled that off, and as you might expect, half of those have been in the past 2 years. Thursday's Angels joined the White Sox of June 25, 2016, as the only members of that loss list where all the homers were solo shots.

And the only other time the Angels hit 7 homers in a game-- win or lose, solo or whatever-- was on June 4, 2003, against the Expos when the latter played many of their home games in Puerto Rico.

A Good Run Of Bad Luck

Usually the number 7 is associated with good luck, and a different number is associated with bad. So if that whole "7" thing didn't work out for the Angels, well, let's keep this opposites theme going. Because the number 13 did work out for several teams this week.

Last year we yelled at Dylan Cease of the White Sox to, in our best "annoyed fan" voice, "cease walking people". Two seasons ago he had a memorable outing where he did his best A.J. Burnett impression, allowing 0 hits but having to depart in the 4th inning because he'd thrown 80 pitches and issued seven walks. So it took a little while, but it seems like he finally heard us.

On May 24 Cease was on the very wrong end of a 16-3 beatdown against the Red Sox. Since then, however, it's been record-setting. Literally. There was one hiccup, a 6-run outing against the Dodgers in June, but all those runs came in one inning and were unearned because of a 2-out error. So since May 24 he hasn't allowed more than 1 earned run in any game, regardless of innings (and most of them have been at least 6). On Friday when Cease held the Rangers to 1 run on 2 hits (which isn't hard), it was the 13th game in that streak. And if you throw out the Rays' infamous "openers" who only pitch 1 inning at a time, that's the longest such streak in MLB history. Jacob deGrom rattled off 12 straight last season, and Bob Gibson did it so often in 1968 (including 11 straight) that they had to lower the mound.

I'm Walkin', Yes Indeed

Alas, There was another team that did not hear our pleas this week. If home runs are "one of" the easiest ways to score, perhaps drawing a bunch of walks is truly the easiest. You don't even have to do anything except stand there. No swinging, no running, no effort required. Sure, getting hit by a pitch might be quicker, but that hurts.

While Dylan Cease was busy rattling off his 13th straight 1-run outing on Friday, the Tigers pitching staff was also finding new ways to amaze us. To their credit, it's usually the Detroit offense that gives us grief by failing to get more than 3 hits in a game.

Bryan Garcia has pitched in 74 games for the Tigers over the past four seasons, but until now he's bene relegated to the bullpen as your typical 1-inning mop-up guy. Friday against the Rays was only his second career start. And true to form, he only allowed 1 hit, an infield single to Randy Arozarena. Because it didn't take long for the Rays batters to realize, why are we swinging? If there was a barn behind home plate, Garcia would have trouble finding the side of it. He walked six batters and only escaped with no runs because of a caught-stealing and a double play. The last Tigers pitcher to give up 1 hit but 6 walks was Dontrelle Willis when he set a career high for free passes on April 5, 2008.

Will Vest appears for the 5th and manages to walk the bases loaded without even finishing the inning. Somehow the Tigers get out of that mess with only 1 run allowed, and they cling to a 3-2 lead after Brandon Lowe singles home another run in the 6th. Joe Jimenez walks the first batter he faces in the 7th, but at this point, only 1 walk feels like a victory. And turns out it was, because in the 8th Jimenez will snatch defeat from the jaws of said victory by (what else?) walking the first two batters of the frame. We are already back around to Brandon Lowe, who hits the Rays' first-ever lead-flipping double in the 8th or later against the Tigers.

And by the time this thing is over, the Tigers have gifted Tampa Bay a whopping thirteen walks, the most in any game in Rays history. The Tigers hadn't issued 13 walks in a 9-inning game since a 15-2 thumping by Seattle on June 15, 1991.

Break My Strider

Our roundup of 13's would not be complete without a glance at Tuesday's scoreboard, where we find not just 13, but 26. No, the baseball gods didn't dump another 28-run game on us, although it might have felt that way to the Phillies. Who managed to give up a 13 within a 13.

Darick Hall's double actually put Philadelphia on the board early against Braves starter Spencer Strider. Who then hit his stride and retired 16 of the next 17 batters. By the time Strider leaves in the 7th, he has fanned 13 Phillies hitters, the most by any Braves pitcher in a game in nearly a decade. Kris Medlen struck out 13 Nationals on September 14, 2012; the only team to have gone longer without a pitcher doing it is the Twins (by about 2 months).

Meanwhile, on the other bench, Noah Syndergaard hasn't gotten into town yet, so it's an interesting parade of pitchers who trot to the mound-- and then to the showers-- for the Phils. Nick Nelson puts the first two batters of the 3rd on base and then Connor Brogdon lets them in. Andrew Belatti gives up a run in the 4th. But today's big winner is Corey Knebel, who gives up a 2-out double to Eddie Rosario in the 5th. After which the proverbial floodgates are open. Single, wild pitch, single, 2-run homer by Orlando Arcia. That's 5 runs on 2 outs, the first Phillies pitcher to do that in Atlanta since Luis Garcia on June 7, 2017. Mark Appel then gives up 2 singles and a walk before finally getting out of the inning with the score 9-1. And Francisco Morales-- called up from double-A for this one game while the team awaits Mr. Syndergaard-- issues 2 walks and a hit batter to start the 8th. Rosario then collects his 5th RBI of the game, the first Phillies batter to do that against the Braves since Dansby Swanson on July 4, 2019. By the time this is all over, your final is 13-1, and because these two division rivals play each other constantly, even that wasn't overly impressive. The Braves dropped a 15-1 on the Phillies on June 16, 2019, so that's as far back as the scoring or win-margin notes go. Hey, they can't all be historic.

Afternoon Delight

One thing that does not have much history, however, is the concept of a doubleheader in San Diego. There is the old joke about the easiest job in the world being that of a San Diego weather forecaster. "What's it gonna be like tomorrow?" "Nice." So twinbills in the Gaslamp District are not unprecedented, but they're almost always caused by something else. Heck, in the olden days, doubleheaders were almost always scheduled on Memorial Day or Independence Day because the fans all have the day off and why wouldn't they want to enjoy two games for the price of one? (Owners now: "Wait, you mean we can make them pay twice by not doing this? Sold.")

Anyhow, that little kerfuffle with ownership earlier in the year is what got us a couple weird west-coast doubleheaders this week, caused by the rescheduling of the first week of the season. It's also the reason we saw the Angels play one on Saturday against the Mariners, who have had a roof over their stadium for their entire existence. But while their front office was busy dealing away eleven players (including minor-leaguers) over the course of Tuesday, those players who were left were busy racking up 13 runs against the Rockies.

The Rockies got 3 runs early off Yu Darvish before the Padres offense finally stirred around 2:30 pm and remembered they were supposed to be playing. Number-9 batter Trent Grisham connected for a game-tying homer in the 4th, after which Jurickson Profar's second hit of the day knocked out Colorado starter Ryan Feltner. They each notch another hit in the 6th off Jake Bird and come around to make it 7-3 on Jake Cronenworth's homer. Grisham will be the last batter to face Robert Stephenson in the 7th, drawing a walk, and then Profar greets Ty Blach with a 2-run double. Ha-Seong Kim triples in the 8th and then scores the 13th and final run on Grisham's groundout.

As noted, Trent Grisham hit 9th in this escapade, something that until recently was reserved for Padres pitchers. That ended up making him the first #9 batter in team history to have 3 runs scored and 3 RBI in the same game. Part of the reason he scored those runs is because Jurickson Profar, batting after him, collected 5 hits out of the leadoff spot. Only three other players in Padres history had pulled that off-- Jon Jay in June 2016, and Gene Richards twice (1977 and 1982). Profar and Kim also became the second Padres teammates ever to have 4 hits each with at least 2 of them for extra bases. Ken Caminiti and Jody Reed did that on September 19, 1995, also against the Rockies.

And although home doubleheaders in San Diego are rare anymore, the Padres do go to other cities where it rains, and they have played in over 200 twinbills in their history. Their 13 runs on Tuesday were the most they'd ever scored in the opener of one, topping a 12-8 against the Giants on May 30, 1977.

Two Orders Of Friars, To Go

So what do you suspect the Padres did in the night game of Tuesday's double-dip? Well, it didn't involve scoring 13 runs. But it did involve some NL-style small-ball and provide us a segue to our next section of fun.

Continuing the earlier theme, the Rockies score a pair of early runs off someone named Reiss Knehr, who seems to have appeared in 15 other games for the Padres since last July. But then they go quiet and a parade of bullpen arms works an inning or two each with no other damage. Meanwhile, Jose Ureña starts the game by giving up another single to Jurickson Profar and then walking two more batters to load them up. We'll generously say that it's the 1st inning, the Rockies have a 2-run lead, and they haven't recorded an out yet, but Randal Grichuk decides to catch a foul ball down the right-field line-- with a runner on third-- instead of the old advice to just let it drop and be a foul ball. That results in a sac fly to make it 2-1, plus Manny Machado tags up and goes to third. Four pitches later Wil Myers unleashes another sac fly to center and we're tied up. The Padres hadn't hit 2 sac flies in a home game against the Rockies since September 10, 2015, and only twice in their history had they hit back-to-back ones in the 1st inning. Tony Gwynn Sr and Phil Nevin did it in Houston on April 23, 2000, while Garry Templeton teamed up with Terry Kennedy in Atlanta on September 24, 1982.

And then... nothing. It's 2-2 after the 1st inning and it's 2-2 after the 8th inning. Finally, after 9½ hours of baseball that started at 1 pm, and just when you think this is really going to be the definition of a "zombie" game, along comes Trent Grisham again. That's the Padres' first walkoff homer against Colorado since Franmil Reyes on August 30, 2018, and it gives them their second-ever doubleheader sweep of the Rockies. The other was in Colorado's inaugural season, on August 6, 1993. And you might remember that Grisham homered in the day game as well. As mentioned, the Padres don't play many home doubleheaders, especially now. Their only other batters to go yard in both games of one are Manny Machado (August 27, 2020) and Cito Gaston (September 9, 1970).

The Week In Walkoffs

Our week in walkoffs began, however, with the Twins. When the Tigers weren't busy giving up 13 walks to Tampa Bay, they were holders of a precarious 2-0 lead against Minnesota on Monday before Michael Fulmer was told to go pitch the 8th. And while he did get a leadoff strikeout, he then proceeded to give up four straight singles and there goes your 2-0 lead. Jose Miranda's rally-capper was the Twins' first game-tying (not go-ahead) bases-loaaded single in the 8th or later against Detroit since Glenn Adams hit one off Aurelio Lopez on August 22, 1980.

That sends us away to Free Runner Land where the Tigers get a single from Akil Baddoo to score theirs, and Miranda comes up again to knock in Carlos Correa. So we're still at 3-3 but with Miranda now on first base. Cue Gio Urshela for the win. Since Target Field opened in 2010, it's just the second time the Twins have hit a multi-run walkoff homer in extras against Detroit, and the other also involved free runners. Jorge Polanco did it on July 11 of last year.

Saturday also brought us some walkoff magic, this one courtesy of the Kansas City Royals. But long before the walkoff, there were some fireworks, well, right off the bat. Love him or hate him-- and the handful of Royals fans we know seem to have changed their mind in the last couple years-- Whit Merrifield was a fixture at the top of KC's order for quite a while. It eventually became a struggle to find some leadoff achievement that he didn't own the team record for. Every leaderboard is a combination of Whit, Willie Wilson, Alex Gordon, and occasionally an Amos Otis sighting. But he got dealt to Toronto last week for a pair of minor-leaguers, so at least for now, we get the stylings of M.J. Melendez atop the Royals order. And on Saturday against Boston, he started the game this way.

Leadoff homers, as mentioned, not that rare. Whit had 13 of them. Melendez hit another one on Thursday in the first game of the Boston series, a 7-3 Royals win. As mentioned, we have to get to the end of this one for the fun. Bobby Dalbec and Alex Verdugo homer for the Sawx, and we stall out at 4-4 in the 6th. Nate Eovaldi and Garrett Whitlock combine to set down 15 Royals batters in a row. Then with 2 outs in the 9th, on the eighth pitch of an at-bat, welcome Nick Pratto.

We've mentioned Pratto before; he was one of the myriad of call-ups that the Royals had to make in order to travel to Toronto right before the All-Star break, and he just never went back to Omaha. Saturday was not only his first walkoff homer in the bigs, it was just the fourth ever for the Royals against Boston. Those others were by Bob Hamelin (1994), Rey Palacios (1990), and George Brett (1976).

But flash all the way back to M.J. Melendez nearly 3 hours ago. The Royals had a leadoff homer and a walkoff homer in the same game. In team history they'd only done that once before-- July 3, 1973, when Freddie Patek and Paul Schaal did the honors against Minnesota.

And A Bottle Of Rum

For walkoff fun, however, it was hard to beat the Jolly Roger this week. Although "Jolly Roger" may sound like Santa's weird cousin who plays the really bad malls in December (and whose lap you probably don't want to sit on), it's actually the pirate flag that comes out and runs around the field after a Pittsburgh victory. And hopefully they had it ready on short notice.

The flag probably was unfurled and ready to go on Wednesday when the Pirates took a 7-4 lead into the 8th against Milwaukee. Tyler Beede got tagged for all 4 of those Brewers runs while getting just 4 outs, but it was still early enough that Pittsburgh clawed back, with a 2-run homer by Oneil Cruz in the 7th putting them in the, uh, crow's nest. Until Yerry De Los Santos was given that long telescope-looking spyglass and told to protect the 3-run lead. That only led to four singles and a walk and yet another tie game at 7-7.

So we move along to the 9th and Devin Williams enters the game to face leadoff batter Bryan Reynolds. This takes 3 pitches. The Pirates' last walkoff anything against the Brewers was by Josh Bell, who's seen a lot of ink today, when he doubled off Dan Jennings on July 15, 2018. Williams is the first Milwaukee pitcher to give up a leadoff homer immediately upon entering a game since Matt Albers did so to Trevor Story on September 28, 2019. And in the past 35 years only three Pirates batters have had 3 hits and 3 runs scored in a game where they also hit a walkoff homer. Two of them did it this year-- Reynolds on Thursday and Jack Suwinski against the Giants on June 19. The other was Freddy Sanchez back in 2006.

Some 14 hours later PNC Park is active again with the sounds of bats and the smells of, uh, Pittsburgh. This one they might have been less ready for. The Pirates piece together 3 singles and a walk in the 7th to chase Brandon Woodruff and tie the game at 3-3. Proving that baseball folk will try anything at least twice, Devin Williams comes on for the bottom of the 9th. This time his leadoff batter is Cal Mitchell who flies out, and eventually we move along to Free Runner Land. Because it's not like a 12:30 "getaway" game was meant for the teams to, you know, get away.

Duane Underwood gets the 10th for Pittsburgh, and with 2 outs he promptly issues a pair of walks. Hey, if you can't get that third out, might as well set up a force at every base. And that might have worked, except that he ends up plunking Kolten Wong with a pitch to force in the go-ahead run. In Brewers history that's only happened three other times in extra innings; the "lucky" plunkees were Christian Yelich (2021), Mark Loretta (1999), and Don Money (1975).

But if Bryan Reynolds wasn't around to lead off the 9th, he is here to lead off the 10th. He does so with a first-pitch double to score the free runner and make it 4-4. He's the first Pirates batter with a tying or go-ahead hit in the 9th or later of consecutive games since Ryan Doumit did it in Milwaukee in April 2010.

Turns out two teams can play the "force at every base" game. Now that Reynolds is at second with nobody out, the Brewers issue a pair of intentional walks which force Reynolds to third. And then this happens. That's the Pirates' first "bounce-off" victory since a 15-inning affair with Cleveland on June 21, 2003. And Pittsburgh hadn't recorded consecutive walkoff wins over Milwaukee since July 19 and 20 of 1955. Yes, those games were against the Braves.

Spoiler Alert

Never do the shutout notes early.

Walkoffs are fun. They make for fairly easy notes. There's only a couple categories of people who don't like them-- the pitchers who give them up, and the beat writers who can't finish their game stories until somebody decides to do something. Give them an old-fashioned 9-0 beatdown where they're done by the 8th inning, and all they need is to get some pithy manager quote about how [pitcher] had some good stuff and [batter] is starting to get into a groove. Drop that in, file it, we're outta here in a half-hour. The other category that sorta disturbs that game story is when we think this game is going to limp along to its end, and then someone goes off and does something silly in the 9th. It's a lot like when we have this post essentially finished on Saturday night and then someone comes along and throws a no-hitter on Sunday.

The Red Sox were the first team this week-- but not the last-- to throw this wrench. They trailed the Astros 6-0 on Wednesday in the finale of their midweek series, and had only 3 hits to boot. This certainly looks like it is about to be their largest shutout loss ever against Houston. Until it isn't. Will Smith, having just arrived at the ballpark after being traded from Atlanta the day before, gives up a solo shot to Xander Bogaerts with 1 out in the 9th. "X" thus becomes the first Bostonian whose homer broke up a shutout of 6 or more in the 9th since Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit one against Minnesota on May 7, 2013. Their last such homer in a road game was by Orlando Cabrera in Seattle on September 9, 2004.

Not long thereafter, the remaining pieces of the Nationals-- having just sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to San Diego-- were trying to not get blown out by the Mets. And that wasn't going well either; Daniel Vogelbach hit a grand slam, and Jeff McNeil joined Scott Hairston (August 17, 2012) as the only Mets batters to have 3 doubles in a game at Nationals Park. By the bottom of the 9th it's 9-0 and we are approaching position-player-pitching territory. Amazingly that doesn't happen, but maybe it should have. Mychal Givens loses the shutout on a 1-out homer by Keibert Ruiz. That was the team's first homer since the move to Washington that broke up a 9-0 shutout in the 9th. They had three such dingers as the Expos-- by Shane Andrews (1995), Herb Winningham (1986), and Rusty Staub (1971).

Givens, of course, has quite the long leash, but then Lane Thomas homers with 2 outs. And when Givens give-ns up three straight singles to load the bases again, we need Seth Lugo for a cleanup on aisle 9. Those last 3 runs end up scoring as well when Lugo gives up a single to Luis Garcia; it makes Givens just the fourth pitcher in Mets history to give up 5 runs and 2 homers, get no more than 2 outs, and yet not take a loss (because he started with a 9-run lead). The others are Guillermo Mota (2007), Tim Hamulack (2005), and Mark Bomback (1980).

Although Soto and Bell were the big acquisitions for the Padres this week, one of the other returns they got for those 11 players was Brandon Drury of the Reds. He got in on this theme on Friday in his third game with San Diego, which also happened to be the night the Dodgers saluted Vin Scully in their first home game since his passing. Vin had plenty of chances to call a big Dodgers shutout against the Padres; they dropped a 19, a 14, and an 11 just in the Padres' first MLB season in 1969. So Friday's 8-0 score barely moved the needle. Until Drury broke that up with a 9th-inning sac fly after his new buddy, Josh Bell, had drawn a leadoff walk. Only two other batters in Padres history had broken up a shutout of 8 or more with a sac fly in the 9th: Austin Hedges against the Giants in 2015, and Shane Victorino at Coors Field in 2003.

Paper In Fire

And for the ultimate in crumpling up your game story and having to start over, we always have the AL West. Where-- aside from one random outburst where a team hits 7 homers and loses-- most of the games are 3-1, the "star of the game" is somebody who went 1-for-3 with an RBI double, both starters went 6 innings and struck out 5, and we feel for you, beat writers, because we don't know how you can write about nothing 120-ish times a year. So at least maybe crumpling up a blank piece of paper is worthwhile when there's actually something to replace it with.

On the heels of the Angels' 7-homer escapade on Thursday, they got to start that series in Seattle on Friday night. True to form, Patrick Sandoval works into the 6th and strikes out 5. Robbie Ray surrenders back-to-back hits for a run in the 1st but then fans 10 in a solid 7 innings. He also had 10 strikeouts against the Angels back on June 17, and joins Felix Hernandez and Randy Johnson as the only M's pitchers with multiple such games against Anaheim in a season. That said, he's on the hook for a 1-0 loss going to the 9th.

He's really on the hook when Ryan Borucki gives up a 2-run homer to make it 3-0 Angels. Mike Trout also hit a multi-run dinger in Seattle on June 18, marking the first time since 1989 (Chili Davis & Devon White) that the Angels have had two in the 9th or later in the same season there.

In what is already-- as usual-- the last game of the night, all Jesse Chavez has to do is get 3 outs without giving up 3-- yeah, of course he can't be bothered to do that. Walk, single, 2-out double to Adam Frazier, then a 2-run, game-tying single by none other than "Tie" France himself. Three other Mariners batters have hit a game-tying single against the Angels with the team down to its final out: Robinson Cano in 2017, Randy Winn in 2003, and Scott Bradley in 1987. And now Chavez gets the final out which means we get to stay here a little longer.

Happily our free runners go to work here, with Andrew Velazquez bunting Magneuris Sierra over to third, and then Taylor Ward's sac fly driving him in to put the Angels back on top. The Angels hadn't hit a go-ahead sac fly in extra innings of a road game since Erick Aybar did it in Minnesota on September 5, 2014, and they'd never hit one against Seattle. Jimmy Herget finally does what Chavez couldn't, working a perfect 10th, and the Angels do hold on for a win after blowing it in the 9th.

Probably did make for a more interesting game story than 1-0, though.

Oh To Be 13 Again

Said pretty much no one ever. But just when we thought we were done with the number 13, Sunday happened.

Remember Tuesday when the Braves dropped a 13-1 score on the Phillies? Well, the Phillies decided to pay that forward against another NL East rival, those hapless Nationals for whom Cory Abbott was making his second start. His previous outing, appropriately enough on Tuesday, went just fine with 5 scoreless innings and a no-decision. Sunday, not so much. After a solo homer in the 2nd and a bases-loaded walk in the 3rd, Abbott got tagged for 5 more runs in the 4th, including 2-run bombs by Nick Maton and Rhys Hoskins, followed by Darick Hall's second dinger of the day. Aside from the 7 runs, Abbott would give up 5 walks and 4 homers, becoming the first pitcher in Nats/Expos history to do that. The last for any team was John Danks of the White Sox on August 5, 2014. Maton would go on to become the second starting #9 batter in Phillies history with a homer, a double, and 4 RBI in a game, the other being actual pitcher Jack Scott against the Giants in 1927. After the Phillies blow up for 5 more runs in the 8th, we have another 13-1 final, their most runs scored against the Nationals since that 17-3 game from April 8, 2017, with the 12-run 1st inning, that always comes up in these situations. It was also the first time ever that all nine Phillies starters scored at least 1 run in a game against the Nats/Expos.

And if you remember, Tuesday's scoreboard had that 13-1 Braves game, but it also had a 13-5 as the Padres swept a rare doubleheader with Colorado. Sure enough, Sunday obliged us with one of those as well, once again from those wacky Kansas City Royals. Our friend M.J. Melendez is still at the top of the order, but he doesn't throw us a leadoff homer this time. Instead he waits until the 3rd before singling home the Royals' second run of the game. No, the homer is going to come in the 5th after a walk and a double to start the inning against Kutter Crawford. But with the Royals poised to win another 7-3 game, just as they did in the series opener on Thursday, along comes Darwinzon Hernandez for the bottom of the 8th. Let's see how that went.

In the interest of brevity, let's just say Hernandez faced 5 batters, walked 4 of them, and in between gave up a 2-run single to Michael Massey. All of those Royals runners would end up scoring, making Hernandez the first Red Sox pitcher to allow 5 runs while getting 0 outs in a road game since Dennis Lamp did it in Detroit on July 28, 1990. And wouldn't you know it, Melendez drove in the 13th and final Royals run with his second sacrifice fly of the game, also giving him 6 RBI out of the leadoff spot. Only three other Royals leadoff batters have posted a 6-RBI game, and you've already heard about two of them-- Whit Merrifield (2019) and Willie Wilson (1979). The other is Brian McRae in 1991. Melendez and McRae are also half of the list of Royals batters to have a homer and 2 sac flies in a single game, along with Melky Cabrera (2011) and Freddie Patek (1977).

You Complete Me

We mentioned Noah Syndergaard's journey from Anaheim to Philadelphia, which finally culminated with his arrival in time for Thursday's series opener with the Nationals. "Thor" apparently did not bring the hammer, we presume because the TSA wouldn't let him, but he did bring the lightning.

The Nats, now with Luke Voit completing the San Diego trade, and a couple of former Phillies (Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez) at the bottom of the order, hammered Syndergaard for 11 base hits in 5 innings, although 10 of them were singles and they ended up scoring only 4 runs. That came one shy of Thor's career high, set against the Phillies back in 2018 while with the Mets. He also became the first pitcher to give up 11 hits in his first appearance for the Phillies since Kent Bottenfield did it in Colorado 22 years earlier to the day.

Meanwhile, Paolo Espino is having his own issues, notably giving up four straight hits to start the 3rd inning. The last of those would be a 3-run Bohm-- er, bomb-- from Alec Bohm to put the Phillies up 5-2. He gets out of the 4th on a double play, and Syndergaard takes the hill for the 5th. Annnnd it starts raining. This is fine for the moment, we need three more outs to make this an official game. That's when Thor gives up four more hits and a pair of runs, with a perfect throw by Nick Castellanos in right being the only thing that saves the lead. That retired Yadiel Hernandez at the plate to end the inning, official-ize the game, and cause us to call for that wonderful tarp.

We're not sure who was in charge of this one, though we assume it's not MLB since it was the first game of the series and not the Nationals' last visit to Philly this year. We (and we presume several thousand people at CBP) stared at the radar and said, it's gonna rain for at least a couple more hours. The fact that they aren't calling this after 45, 60, 90 minutes-- and, as usual, they're not providing any guidance as to the thinking-- hints that they're going to try and restart this game. Which will happen somewhere around midnight. On a night with no west-coast games. Oh boy.

Now, mercifully that ended up not happening. Somewhere around 10:30 they came to their senses and ended the game with the Phillies winning 5-4. But check out these weird stat lines. Thor got a complete-game win despite allowing 11 hits, the first Phillies pitcher to do that since Zach Eflin in another rain-shortened affair on June 24, 2019. Espino only pitched 4 innings because the Phillies didn't bat in the 5th, yet still gets credit for a CG as well. In the last 40 years only three other pitchers have pulled that off-- Ryan Feierabend for Toronto (2019), Steve Trachsel of the Mets, 2006, also in Philly), and Pete Smith for the Braves (1990). And since CGs in general are going the way of the dinosaurs, Thursday's game was technically the first double complete game in the majors this season.

Speaking of the Phillies not batting in the 5th, Thursday was just the second time in the modern era that they won a game where they only batted four times. The other was that same Steve Trachsel game, a 2-0 affair against the Mets on May 11, 2006.

But the baseball gods saw fit to drop another "CG-11" on us on Thursday. This one, a little less dramatic-- or maybe more so-- because it did last all 9 innings. Down in Arlington, Johnny Cueto of the White Sox gave up 2 hits and a run in the 2nd, but then avoided further damage until the 7th. It's tied 1-1 when Cueto gives up two more singles, but his pitch count is still below 80. Plus he's pretty much the best option the White Sox have. Let's let him go. That backfires a little bit when there are two more singles and a sac fly and the Rangers take a 3-1 lead. Still though, 93 pitches through 7.

Cueto retires the Rangers in order in the 8th, and with Texas leading, there is no need for a bottom of the 9th. He thus ends up with a complete game despite having allowed 11 hits, the second White Sox pitcher in the last quarter-century to pull that off. Gavin Floyd did it at Target Field on June 15, 2011. And combined with what is technically a CG-11 by Noah Syndergaard (even though it's only 5 innings long), it's the first time MLB saw two "11-hitters" on the same day since August 11, 1987, when Toronto's Jimmy Key did it at Fenway and Rick Reuschel of Pittsburgh gave up 11 hits to the Cardinals.

Bottom Of The Bag

⚾ Yu Chang, Saturday: Second player in Rays history to hit a homer on offense and also allow one on defense. The other was an actual pitcher, Esteban Yan against the Mets on June 4, 2000.

⚾ Brady Singer & Brad Keller, Tue-Wed: First Royals pitchers to give up 11+ hits in back-to-back games since Bruce Chen & Brian Bannister against Minnesota, July 27-28, 2010.

⚾ Trey Mancini, Friday: Became second batter ever to collect 3 homers within his first 4 games with the Astros. Yordan Alvarez did it when called up from the minors in 2019.

⚾ Jarren Duran, Monday: First Red Sox leadoff batter to have 3+ RBI and account for all the team's runs in a road victory since Wade Boggs at Milwaukee on August 15, 1992.

⚾ Juan Soto, Thursday: First player ever to have both a triple and a double in either of his first 2 games with the Padres.

⚾ Jesse Winker, Fri-Sat: Second Mariners batter to draw 3 walks in back-to-back games against the Angels. Edgar Martinez did it in July of 1998.

⚾ Jameson Taillon, Tuesday: Second Yankees pitcher in past 50 years to be charged with 6 runs while giving up only 2 hits. Scott Kamieniecki tossed in 6 walks against the White Sox on May 12, 1996.

⚾ Jacob deGrom, Sunday: First opposing pitcher to allow 1 hit and strike out 12+ against the Braves since Randy Johnson's perfect game on May 18, 2004.

⚾ Mariners, Wednesday: Second time hitting 4 homers in a game at the current Yankee Stadium. Other was a 7-0 win on June 30, 2010.

⚾ Orioles, Friday: First time converting 10+ hits into only 1 run, but still winning the game, since September 27, 1974, against Milwaukee.

⚾ Andres Gimenez, Monday: First Cleveland batter with 4 hits and 3 steals in a game since Kenny Lofton against Baltimore on September 3, 2000.

⚾ Cardinals, Thursday: First time winning the opener of a doubleheader against the Cubs via walkoff since Curt Flood homered on July 17, 1966.

⚾ Bryson Stott, Saturday: First Phillies #9 batter to hit a triple in the 1st inning since Dick Ruthven at Atlanta, August 25, 1982.

⚾ Taylor Walls, Tuesday: First game in Rays history where the team had multiple hits with all of them coming from the #9 batter.

⚾ Nolan Arenado & Paul DeJong, Sunday: First Cardinals teammates to have a homer, a double, and 4 RBI in the same game since Tommy Glaviano & Eddie Kazak in Brooklyn on May 9, 1949.

⚾ Luke Williams, Wednesday: First Marlins batter with 3 hits, 3 steals, and at least 1 run scored since Emilio Bonifacio against Houston on July 10, 2011.

⚾ Edward Cabrera, Friday: Second pitcher in Marlins history to allow 0 hits and strike out 8+ in a start. The other was Edinson Volquez's no-hitter on June 3, 2017. (Cabrera left after 5 due to pitch count.)

⚾ James Outman, Monday: Became first player in modern era to play his first two MLB games with the Dodgers and have multiple hits and multiple runs scored in both of them. Last for any team was Eric Hinske for the Jays in 2002.

⚾ Adolis Garcia, Saturday: First Rangers batter to have a 5-RBI game without either a homer or a triple since Josh Hamilton against Minnesota on August 23, 2012.

⚾ Keegan Thompson, Tuesday: First Cubs pitcher to give up 10 hits and record 1 strikeout in a game in St Louis since Steve Engel on September 5, 1985.

⚾ Jacob Stallings & Peyton Burdick, Sunday: First Marlins batters to hit back-to-back homers at Wrigley since Luis Castillo & Ivan Rodriguez on July 8, 2003.

⚾ Giants, Wednesday: First home game against the Dodgers where they had 8 hits but failed to score since Bob Welch threw a shutout against them on August 5, 1978.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Tanks For The Memories

You've probably heard a little something-something about Tuesday afternoon. And some kind of "trade deadline". Given that we did not have the usual "hot stove" excitement last December, it's fair to wonder which homegrown talents are going to get uprooted, which fan favorite the Nationals are going to dump, or which aging veterans the Yankees are going to overpay for just so that other teams can't have them.

Now, we're not here to accuse any team of truly "tanking"-- i.e., losing games "intentionally" to secure better draft picks-- especially since that usually happens after the deadline, not before. But let's just say we noticed a lot of lopsided games this week. A lot of our teams that have been not-very-good the entire season, were really-not-very-good this week. And some teams are still in the AL West, which kinda writes itself.

We'll Never Be Former Royals

Was it only six years ago that the Royals had a giant "World Series Champions" banner whitewashed on the back of their videoboard to impress passing motorists on I-70? Yep, that really happened. And for one brief moment this week, there was a 7-0 on the opposite side of the videoboard; that was the score by which Kansas City won its opener against the Angels on Monday. It did take a little while to break through with Noah Syndergaard (speaking of recent trade-deadline moves) on the mound. He finally gave up 2 singles and a walk in the 6th to break a scoreless tie, after which the Royals pounded the Angels' bullpen-- notably to the point where Ryan Tepera became the first pitcher in team history to issue 3 walks and 2 wild pitches while getting no more than 2 outs.

Although he gave up a total of 6 hits, Syndergaard managed to keep the other "damage" to a minimum by walking two batters and hitting one. Turns out all three of those other baserunners came in the form of Nick Pratto, the Royals' first-round pick in 2017 who finally found his way to the majors earlier this month after the Royals paid Seattle to take Carlos Santana off their hands. Pratto would also draw one of those walks off Tepera in the 7th and thus complete the Royals' first complete-game "0-for-0" since Billy Butler also did it against the Angels on July 3, 2010.

The only bright spot for the Angels in this one was Jared Walsh, who managed to connect for a pair of doubles but get stranded both times. He was the first Anaheim batter to do that in a road game where the team got shut out since Garret Anderson in Seattle on April 8, 2003. And as for that 7-0 shutout? The Royals hadn't done that in a home game against the Angels since dropping a 13-0 score on June 18, 1975!

Alas, that would be about the last bright spot for the Royals this week. On Tuesday it would be Jose Suarez on the mound for Anaheim, and Kansas City back to its usual ways of getting only 3 hits against him. Two of those came in the 6th and loaded the bases before Jose Quijada escaped the inning, and since Wyatt Mills had a nice easy 10-pitch frame right before that, let's leave him out there for the 7th also. Mm, yeah. Single, sac bunt, stolen base, walk, hit batter, double, lineout, walk, hit batter. By the time Joel Payamps gives up a homer in the 9th, we are close to having another 7-0 on the board, just the opposite direction. Instead the Angels will win this one by a 6-0 count, which is actually their fifth-largest shutout ever at Kauffman Stadium. And along the way the Angels decided to make a run for it, swiping five bases off the combination of Royals pitchers. They hadn't recorded 5 steals in any road game since April 12, 2012, in a 10-9 loss at Minnesota.

Wednesday's series finale, while slightly closer, was more of the same. Phil Gosselin started the scoring for the A's with an RBI triple in the 5th, and then Brandon Marsh singled him in. Marsh would then add his own triple to begin the 7th and knock starter Brad Keller out of the game. That was the first time the Angels hit multiple three-baggers against the Royals since Erick Aybar did it by himself on September 6, 2009. And the 4-0 final on Wednesday marked the second time the Angels had ever shut out the Royals in consecutive games, by any score; they posted a 4-0 and a 12-0 in Kansas City on June 13 and 14 of 1987.

As for all those zeroes, the last time a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium ended with all shutouts (by either team) was the final homestand of 1995 against the White Sox (0-7, 0-6, 4-0).

Queens Of Hearts

The Royals, unfortunately, still had a lot more week left. And possibly a very awkward plane ride to New York, not simply because they were staring right into the teeth of an angry Yankees squad, but because they had just told Andrew Benintendi not to bother packing for the return flight. In another wacky deadline deal, the Royals traded "Beni" for three minor-leaguers and sent him off to the other dugout, similar to the Abraham Toro/Kendall Graveman trade that happened in mid-series in Seattle last year.

As for the Yankees being "angry", we'll explain. You can only cry so many crocodile tears for a team that's going to clinch a playoff spot in August. Especially when every loss is somehow an umpire's fault for missing that strike-2 call in the 4th inning with nobody on base or whatever. But you might have noticed, New York has another pretty decent baseball team this year. And in our weird 2022 schedule where the "rivalries" are being played as 2-and-2 home-and-home series, it was time for another installment of The Yankees Ride The 7-Train.

Yes, while the Royals were back in Missouri getting blown out by the Angels, the Yankees were opening Tuesday's game by watching Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo crush back-to-back homers in the 1st inning. That was only the third time the Yankees had done that against the Mets, and the others were both at the old place in the Bronx. Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter did it in the 1st inning on June 28, 2003, and a mere 365 days later, Jeter teamed with Gary Sheffield to start off an 8-1 win.

However, if you've been watching all season, you know this is not the Yankees' usual mode of operation. They don't usually score early and just hang on to leads. They do nothing, or even get behind, by the 6th inning, get Yankees Twitter all panicked, and then erupt for a bunch of runs in the 8th. (Spoiler alert, just not for this particular game.) So let's see how the Mets answer Tuesday's mini-outburst against Jordan Montgomery. That would feature Starling Marte hitting a solo homer, and combined with Judge, it's the first game in Citi Field history where the second batter for both teams went yard. (Interestingly enough, because baseball, the exact same thing happened at Rogers Centre in Toronto on Tuesday, also the first time it had ever been done at that stadium.)

However, the Mets weren't done either. Another recent trade, Francisco Lindor, follows Marte with a double, and then Pete Alonso does likewise. Eduardo Escobar, who signed with the Mets on the day of the lockout last December, then also homers to put New York ahead of New York by a 4-2 count. Tuesday thus became the first game in Citi Field history, and the first Subway Series game at any stadium, to have a total of 4 homers in the 1st inning. The only other time the Mets hit multiple dingers in the 1st against the Pinstripes was by Todd Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera on June 9, 2018.

But just when you thought this might turn into a barnburner, everyone settles down. Each team manages a run on a groundout and that's basically it. The Yankees run themselves out of the 7th when Rizzo gets hit by a pitch and then caught stealing. The Mets erase one of their own runs on a double play in the 7th as well. The Yankees get the tying run to the plate on an error in the 9th, but Rizzo and Gleyber Torres both strike out to end the game with a 6-3 Mets win. Alonso (who did it Tuesday) and Lindor (who did it last September) are two of the four Mets players ever to have 3 hits and a walk in a home game against the Yankees; the others are Kaz Matsui (2004) and Rickey Henderson (1999).

So on to Wednesday where we get the old argument about what really consititutes a "series" in baseball. Yes, the dictionary definition only requires two items, but these weird little half-and-half rivalry things don't really feel like something to get excited about. Even if it is going to result in a "series sweep".

The Yankees are back to their usual mode of scoring late instead of early, although that might be more a function of having Max Scherzer on the mound against them. Scherzer shut the Bombers down for 6 innings, including 3 strikeouts of Aaron Judge, which gave the latter the Yankees' all-time record for hat tricks (70, passing Mickey Mantle). Meanwhile, Alonso homered to lead off the 2nd and Tomas Nido doubled to lead off the 3rd, and the Mets sit on a 2-0 lead for most of the game. Until the start of the 8th when Not Max Scherzer is suddenly on the mound. And "Not"-- aka David Peterson-- walks Rizzo and then surrenders a tying 2-run bomb to Torres. The only other time the Yankees hit a game-tying homer in the 8th or later at Citi Field was on September 11 of last year, and it was (of course) by Aaron Judge.

But since we already used the word "sweep", you know that the Yankees are not quite going to pull off another comeback in this one. They waste a 2-out single in the 9th, after which Escobar leads off the bottom half with a double off Wandy Peralta. Shortly thereafter, it's a Marte party on the Special Events platform back to Grand Central. At this point, these two have played each other so much that a walkoff win is not rare, although you might remember that wacky Amed Rosario homer at Yankee Stadium in the "home team bats first" game from 2020. That wasn't even the most recent one. Pete Alonso hit a walkoff homer against Albert Abreu a few days later (September 3).

Aaron Supply

But now we've set up that Yankees/Royals series over the weekend. Kansas City is coming off back-to-back shutouts by a team that is just as bad as themselves, and the Yankees are coming off a pair of close losses just off the east end of the Triborough Bridge. What could happen.

Glad you asked. Because on Thursday that answer was, absolutely nothing. Jameson Taillon and Brady Singer matched wits for 6 innings, the latter allowing only a 7-pitch walk to Judge and a seeing-eye single to Torres in the 4th. Singer would end up striking out 10 while giving up just the 1 hit, joining Danny Duffy (2016), Luke Hochevar (2012), and Kevin Appier (1993) as the only pitchers in Royals history to do that. Meanwhile, Taillon worked around an error in the 1st and a triple by New Guy Nick Pratto in the 2nd. Happily for him, the Royals have issues getting more than one hit per inning, and another rookie, Ron Marinaccio, works two perfect frames after Taillon leaves. That means we are still scoreless heading to the 9th, the first time that's happened at Yankee Stadium since last year's season finale against the Rays-- also a Jameson Taillon start. Who says baseball doesn't repeat itself?

Clay Holmes walks a pair of Royals batters in the 9th but yet again, Kansas City is incapable of getting the ball out of the infield. Andrew Benintendi, now sitting in the other dugout, has the chance to hit a walkoff against the team he just played for yesterday. Yeah, he doesn't do that. He fouls out. But on the next pitch Aaron Judge does this.

Yes, that's Judge's third walkoff homer of the season (we told you they do this a lot), and you probably saw some accolades about that tying Mickey Mantle's Yankees record. But remember that season finale last year? Care to take a guess how that one ended?

While that wasn't a nice big dramatic home run, it was a walkoff hit to win a 1-0 game for the Yankees (and clinch them a wild-card spot). And we have to go well before Mickey Mantle to find the only other player in Yankees history to do that twice. In fact we have to go to their first two seasons of existence, when they were still known as the Highlanders or Hilltoppers or just the "Americans" to distinguish them from the NL's Giants who also played in Manhattan at the time. Jimmy Williams had a pair of 1-0 game-winning singles on June 17, 1903, against Chicago, and again on August 30, 1904, against Cleveland.

Sorry, no video links on these.

Saved By Zero

If you're scoring at home, that means the Royals lost 6-0 on Tuesday, 4-0 on Wednesday, and 1-0 on Thursday. Only twice before had the Royals lost three straight games via shutout-- August 2017 (also their last time being on either side of four straight shutouts), and a 3-game sweep by Minnesota in July 2004. So at least the good news is that they're not going to get shut out on Friday.

This one starts out much the same, with Rizzo and Judge connecting for early homers against Kris Bubic, and Gerrit Cole being basically Cole-ian. Except for that One Bad Inning which seems to jump up and bite many pitchers at some point in a game. (CC Sabathia was famous for this in his Yankees days.) On Friday that was the 5th when, with 2 outs, Maikel Garcia dumps a single to center, Nicky Lopez shoots one through the hole, and then Lopez beats a force at second which has to be overturned by replay to keep the inning going. It's always those pesky replays. Whit Merrifield bloops a 2-run single to right, and Sal Perez follows with a 3-run homer to turn a 0-3 deficit into a 5-3 lead. Perez also hit a 3-run dinger off Michael Pineda on May 11, 2016, and is the first Royals batter to hit two such homers at the Yankees' current park. That, however, is going to be the last good news for Kansas City, in a week that didn't have much of it to begin with.

Scott Barlow is summoned to pitch the 8th with Aaron Judge leading off. If you watched the clip, you might have seen Scott Barlow before. Because he gave up the walkoff homer to Judge on Thursday night. On the up side, he can't do that again because, A, it's the 8th inning, and B, it's a 2-run game. In fact Judge strikes out. But we're going to see him again soon. Because the next four batters take Barlow for three singles and an error, including Andrew Benintendi's first RBI with the Yankees, and when Aaron Hicks draws a 7-pitch bases-loaded walk, we're suddenly tied up at 5. Good time to not take Barlow out of the game, instead allowing another hit and an RBI groundout before Jackson Kowar is called upon to mop up. It's already 7-5, this is your classic 2022 Yankees comeback, what more do you need.

Why of course you need an Aaron Judge grand slam. That's the first one the Yankees have hit against Kansas City since Lyle Overbay went deep on July 10, 2013. It also gave Judge 2 homers and 6 RBI on the day, joining Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Ruben Sierra, and Roy Smalley as the only Yankees batters to do that against the Royals. The Yankees hadn't scored 8 runs in an inning numbered 8 or higher since Hideki Matsui chipped in a grand slam against the Orioles on September 13, 2009. And after giving up the 1-0 walkoff on Thursday, Scott Barlow got tagged with 6 runs and another loss on Friday. Only two other pitchers in Royals history have given up 6 runs and received both a blown save and a loss while getting just 2 outs. Doug Henry did it against the White Sox on August 22, 2001, and Dan Quisenberry lost to the Brewers on September 4, 1980.

But at least they didn't get shut out again.

Waiting For A Tar To Fall

The Yankees rolled to another easy 8-2 win over the Royals on Saturday, which left only the question of whether they would sweep on Sunday. In "games we weren't planning on writing about" news, Jordan Montgomery got himself into trouble in the 5th with 2 walks and a single by M.J. Melendez. That sets up our new friend Nick Pratto for a 2-run single, and when Maikel Garcia follows that with a double for the fifth straight baserunner of the inning, it's clear it's bullpen time. Pratto is also eventually going to score to give Kansas City a 4-0 lead.

Almost immediately the Yankees get back within 4-3 because that's just what they do, and this time it includes knocking Zack Greinke out of the game. And then in the 7th, after someone named Jose Cuas walks the first two batters, it's time for Dylan Coleman to try and save this thing. Mmm, nope. Three-run blast by Anthony Rizzo just like you were expecting. The Yankees hadn't hit such a homer against Kansas City since Derek Jeter flipped the lead against Ambiorix Burgos on April 11, 2006. Suddenly it's 6-4 Yankees and the brooms are out. But so is Clay Holmes, entrusted with what has become a 6-5 lead in the top of the 9th. With 1 out he walks Whit Merrifield, then hits Bobby Witt. That sets up Sal Perez for a deep drive to center field that turns 5-6 into 8-6 and will prove to avoid the sweep and not only get the Royals their 40th win on the last day of July, it will keep the Yankees from getting their 70th. (Parity!) But then we went to look up some notes about this dinger. And welp, check this out.

It turns out that the Royals have only ever hit three lead-flipping homers in the 9th inning against the Yankees. Perez had the third one on Sunday, and quite frankly, we wished it were more exciting. Because check out the other two. They're both off Rich "Goose" Gossage. Amos Otis hit a walkoff inside-the-parker on May 12, 1978, when Reggie Jackson and Paul Blair collided and the latter dropped the ball as a result. The other such lead-flipping homer by the Royals against the Yankees was on July 24, 1983, by George Brett. Yes indeed, you know that one as The Pine Tar Game, and it's a story unto itself.

Rox Steady

We haven't spent a lot of time at Coors Field this year, and that might have something to do with the Rockies-- at the end of July-- still staring up at the glass ceiling of not having 50 wins yet.

The Chicago White Sox have never spent an enormous amount of time at Coors Field, mostly because they're in the other league and another time zone. But in another of these strange 2-game home-and-home sets, the Sox and Rox traded 1-run victories on Tuesday and Wednesday, with both games decided in the bottom of the 9th.

Maybe on Tuesday both teams were just tired, having both played on the shores of Lake Michigan the night before (the Rockies were in Milwaukee). But despite that inherent "home field advantage" at Coors, Colorado was unable to solve... *checks notes*... Michael Kopech? After pitching less than 70 innings out of the bullpen last year, Kopech has been converted into a starter this year and admittedly the Rockies have never faced him. Not like we have scouting reports and videotape and nine-dimension analysis of 600 million data points about every pitch. But be that as it may, Kopech allowed only 6 hits to the Rockies, three of them with 2 outs, and then induced 3 double plays behind him to escape any damage. The White Sox also manage to score only 2 runs for whatever reason, but hang on to win after Ryan McMahon leads off the bottom of the 9th with a solo homer. The last Rockies homer to break up a shutout in the 9th was by Charlie Blackmon against the Mets on September 17, 2019.

On Wednesday we've finally made that altitude adjustment, and Chicago has to turn right around and fly home, so the aforementioned Charlie Blackmon will not wait until the 9th this time. He hits the first-ever leadoff homer for the Rockies against the White Sox, leaving six opponents (all in the AL, of course) against whom they do not have one. They pile on another 3 hits against Lucas Giolito and hold a 3-0 lead until the Sox match those 3 hits in the 4th. Eventually the Sox string together 4 singles and a walk in the 7th to go ahead 5-3. But that's just setting up the walkoff.

Remember Kendall Graveman, part of that trading-dugouts thing in Seattle last July? Yeah, that didn't last. He was a free agent after 2 months and has now signed on with the White Sox. He gets to pitch the bottom of the 9th at Coors with what is now a 1-run lead. Brendan Rodgers, 5-pitch walk. Jose Iglesias, 4-pitch walk. Ryan McMahon, 7-pitch walk. This is going well. Elias Diaz, not going to wait for 4 pitches. The first one ends up in right field, Iglesias beats the play at the plate, and the Rockies have their second-ever walkoff against the White Sox. Ty Wigginton had the other back on June 28, 2011. But it was also just the second walkoff hit in Rockies history against an AL opponent when trailing. Terry Shumpert had the other one of those, to defeat Texas on June 9, 2000.

But as fun as this little 48-hour visit by the White Sox was, the real reason for our trip to Coors Field is Thursday's game. In which the Dodgers come to town. And although the Padres and Mariners are hovering a few games above .500, the Dodgers are pretty much the only team on the west coast worth writing home about. They also have a very good shot at locking up a playoff spot by the end of August, especially if they continue to pound the rest of their division. Like, say, the Rockies.

Jose Ureña had sort of fallen off the radar after leaving the Marlins in 2020. He made 18 starts for Detroit last year and won 2 of them. The Brewers gave him four relief appearances in April before cutting him. And maybe he rode that plane back on Monday night, because he's been with the Rockies since the start of July. He actually gave up 6 runs in one of those games with the Brewers last weekend. That at least took him 6 innings.

On Thursday the Dodgers start with a Trea Turner single and a walk to Freddie Freeman. They both score on a combination of a double steal, an error, and a wild pitch. Another error loads the bases with Dodgers in the 2nd and Turner unloads them with a 3-run double, their first such hit at Coors since Adrian Gonzalez on May 10, 2015. It's 6-0 when Will Smith doubles home Turner, still with Ureña having recorded only 4 outs.

The bottom of the Dodgers order goes quietly in the 3rd, but here we go again. Mookie Betts and Turner single to start the 4th, followed by yet another fielding error. That leaves Smith to drive in two more runs and Austin Gomber to trot in from the bullpen. Although he's going to get out of the inning, those last two inherited runs will score along the way to make it 10-0. Ureña thus became the first Rockies pitcher to give up 10 runs while getting 9 outs since German Marquez-- who took the loss in that 2-1 game on Tuesday-- did it on July 15, 2019.

The Rockies bullpen manages to not make this too much worse, allowing only a 2-run double to Freeman in the 7th. By the time the 9th inning rolls around it's 13-0 and backup catcher Brian Serven has made his MLB pitching debut for Colorado. Meanwhile infielder Hanser Alberto gets called upon to "protect" the 13-run lead (which he does despite three long fly balls and a couple of hits). The Dodgers thus record their largest shutout ever against the Rockies, home or road, topping an 11-0 at Dodger Stadium on September 27, 2013. They'd never had a double-digit one in Denver. It was also the Rockies' largest shutout loss at Coors since the Marlins beat them by another 13-0 count on June 3, 2006.

The Rockies did finally rebound for their 46th win of the year on Saturday despite going up against Clayton Kershaw. That game flipped on Randal Grichuk's 6th-inning triple, just the second one Colorado had ever hit that late in any game against Los Angeles. Matt Holliday had the other one off Duaner Sanchez on April 24, 2005. Kershaw would leave Saturday's game one batter later having given up 8 hits and only recording 3 strikeouts. In his long and storied career, he's only done that five times, and three of them have been at Coors Field.

'Cause The Weasel Goes Pop

Now if you prefer your teams to only have 40 wins by the end of July instead of 50, and the Royals aren't your cup of tea, might we remind you that the Cincinnati Reds also still exist. Of course we remember that the Reds started this season by losing 22 of their first 25 games. They've faded into the background and have actually played at nearly a .500 pace since then. But as .500 teams tend to do, some days you hit and some days you miss. And some days the Marlins spear you.

Yes, Miami was in town on Monday for a 4-game series between teams that started the week with 81 wins. That's half a season. That's .500 ball. Except... ummm... that's 81 wins combined. They'd played a total of 189. So let's say it's pretty easy to get tickets for Monday's matchup of homegrown 1st-round draft picks, Trevor Rogers and rookie Nick Lodolo.

Lodolo is going to surrender two early runs, but both of them are via some aggressive baserunning by the Marlins. Nick Fortes advances on a stolen base and an error, and J.J. Bleday scores after a pickoff throw gone bad. So both the runs are going to be unearned; Lodolo will join Mike Leake (July 10, 2015) as the only Reds pitchers ever to strike out 9+ and allow 0 ER against the Marlins. And he'll get a win because the Reds offense is dominating Rogers the second time through. Donovan Solano makes it 3-0 with a double in the 3rd, and runs out of the inning trying to stretch it into a triple. Brandon Drury hits a 3-run homer to finally knock Rogers out in the 4th after 6 runs. But Rogers gives way to Zach Pop, for whom we are still working on cute puns. It could be the sound that Jonathan India's bat makes when he hits a grand slam in the 5th. Cincinnati hadn't recorded a slam against Miami since Tucker Barnhart on August 16, 2016, and it's only the second game ever where the Reds hit both a slam and a 3-run dinger against the Marlins. The other was a 22-8 win on August 31, 1996 (Lenny Harris hit the slam), which remains the Reds' biggest win over the Marlins. Monday's 11-2 thumping ends up tied for fourth on the list.

But as we say, save some runs for Tuesday. Or at least some hits. Pablo Lopez-- who briefly emerged as the only player on the Marlins' roster who might generate some trade rumors (at least before he gave up 12 hits on Sunday)-- is on the hill, and at least we get the no-hitter off the board immediately. India ropes a leadoff single to right, but then Lopez sets down 12 in a row with only one ball leaving the infield. Mike Moustakas works a 9-pitch at-bat, the longest of the game, before beginning the 5th with a homer to right-center. And then Lopez shuts it down again, with nine more consecutive outs before leaving after the 7th. Lopez would finish the game with 11 strikeouts and 0 walks, something he also did on May 13 against Milwaukee. The only other pitcher in Marlins history to have multiple such games is the late great Jose Fernandez.

Anthony Bass and Tanner Scott also have 1-2-3 innings, meaning the Reds finish with only the 2 hits, even though one was a dinger. Their only other 2-hit home game against the Marlins was a shutout by Tommy Phelps on May 26, 2004. And we should also point out that, while Lopez was clearly dominant, Hunter Greene and Buck Farmer worked out of quite a few jams for the Reds as well. Except for the one where they didn't, in the 5th when Greene got tagged for 4 hits and 2 runs. The Marlins scored only those 2 runs despite collecting 11 total base knocks, something they had not done in a 9-inning victory since September 12, 2015, against the Nationals.

And the Marlins will take one for the road on Thursday. After seeing Daniel Castano knocked out of the game in the 1st inning-- literally, by a comebacker from Donovan Solano-- they had to piece together a bullpen game and claw their way back to a 5-4 deficit with a couple of well-placed extra-base hits from Jesús Aguilar. He would end up as the second batter in Marlins history to have a homer, a double, a single, and a sac fly in the same game, joining Hanley Ramirez (July 27, 2007, at San Francisco).

Hunter Strickland is given the 1-run lead and the save chance in the 9th, and promptly blows that on a pinch-hit homer by Jesús Sanchez. It was the Marlins' first tying or go-ahead pinch-hit homer in the 9th since Curtis Granderson had one in Atlanta on April 7, 2019, and their first one ever against the Reds. But it was really the next two batters that did Strickland in. He walked Luke Williams on 8 pitches and then plunked Jacob Stallings. Then he left. That's 3 batters faced, a homer, a walk, and an HBP. No Reds pitcher in the modern era had ever pulled off that exact line before. And when Buck Farmer allows both those runs to score, Strickland also becomes the second pitcher for any team to post that line, have all three batters score, and get a loss. Aroldis Chapman did it against the Mets on Independence Day last year (though in the 7th inning, not the 9th).

The Miami pitcher who was in the game at the end of the 8th and thus got the win out of this? That's Zach Pop. Likely a much nicer popping sound heard Thursday on the way out of GABP than was heard Monday in the opener.

Orange Crush

The Marlins may have had to Pop back home to face the Mets for the weekend, but instead another strange combatant came to GABP and at least got to say hello to Buck Farmer. There's always plenty of Bengals orange on display at the football stadium right up the street from GABP, but not so much at the baseball field where the Giants are the only primarily-orange team to visit. And their fans tend to be a long distance away. Enter that other bright-orange team, the Baltimore Orioles. The last time they were in Cincinnati, there was another "Buck" involved-- their manager Mr. Showalter. So it's been a little while.

Dylan Bundy was still pitching for the Orioles back then, although he didn't appear in that Reds series in 2017. Joey Votto is still hanging around from that previous matchup, and he opened Friday's game with a 2-run homer off Kyle Bradish, one of the prospects who got traded from the Angels in return for Dylan Bundy. That turns out to be the first multi-run homer that the Reds have hit in the 1st inning against Baltimore since Frank Motz did it on September 18, 1893-- when both cities still had National League franchises.

Bradish, however, would settle down and match Mike Minor until the 6th inning, when the latter gave up his own 2-run shot to Anthony Santander. That leaves us tied going to the 9th, and as mentioned, the Orioles are going to greet Buck Farmer. Walk, double, shallow fly ball that's not deep enough to chance it. Instead Cedric Mullins, 2-run single for the lead. Then another walk, an infield single that forces Farmer back to the barn, and although Dauri Moreta gets the final 2 outs, he does so via a sacrifice fly that completes Buck's line-- and the game's-- at a 6-2 Orioles win. Farmer is the third pitcher in Reds history to give up 4 runs while getting 1 out in an interleague game, and take a loss; Blake Wood did it against Seattle back in 2016, and the other is another familiar name from this week-- Hunter Strickland against the Guardians back in April.

Before the Birds found their way to Cincinnati, however, they were back in Birdland for a series with the Rays earlier in the week. Two more teams that are hovering around .500, and given that they're in a division with the Yankees, it certainly appears that the Orioles are headed for their 40th straight season without a pennant. (That 10-game win streak right before the break is the only thing still keeping them mathematically alive.) And that series had a little bit of fun as well.

Cedric Mullins began Tuesday's game by hitting his third leadoff homer against the Rays. All other batters in O's history have combined for five of them against Tampa Bay. However, the Rays fought back against Spenser Watkins, who spent six seasons in the Tigers organization before the Tigers-- yes, the Tigers-- released him. He spent 2021 with Baltimore but was granted free agency in November. After 5 days of failing to get a bite from any other teams, he said, can I come back?, and they said, yeah, sure. But he's been able to eat up some innings, even if he did allow 10 hits on Tuesday-- in a game the Orioles would end up winning. Their last pitcher to do that was Alex Cobb on May 18, 2018. And that win came courtesy of Ramon Urias's 2-run dinger in the 8th. The O's had only hit two other lead-flipping homers that late in a game against Tampa Bay, by Melvin Mora in 2006, and a walkoff from Jerry Hairston in 2001.

Wednesday's game would be the Rays' only win of the 4-game set, and even that required overtime. Ji-Man Choi gave them an early boost with a 2-run homer, the first multi-run dinger by a Rays DH in the 1st inning at Camden Yards since Corey Dickerson on June 24, 2016. Luke Raley also homered to lead off the 2nd, and Tampa Bay clung to a 4-3 lead after Trey Mancini singled home a run in the 5th. Our free runners, however, came courtesy of Jorge Mateo, whose tying homer in the 9th was just the third ever by the Orioles against the Rays. Jonathan Schoop hit one in 2015, and Nick Markakis drilled one at The Trop in 2008. Mateo also hit that dinger off Colin Poche, who also gave up Urias's lead-flipper on Tuesday. He's the first Rays pitcher to surrender a tying or go-ahead homer in the 8th or later on consecutive days since Brad Boxberger did it against Seattle (Kyle Seager & Nelson Cruz) in May 2015.

Yandy Diaz leads off the 10th inning with a single up the third-base line, such that free runner Taylor Walls can get to third but no more. Randy Arozarena will then double home both of those runs to give the Rays their eventual 6-4 victory. Obviously in our New World Order it is becoming easier to have multi-run hits in extra innings, but Arozarena also had a 2-run double on May 24 of last season against Toronto. He's the first player in Rays history to do it twice, and also the first one ever with such a hit against the Orioles.

And if you're going to be the last game to end on Wednesday, why not be the first one to start on Thursday? Less than 14 hours later the O's and Rays were back at the Yards to conclude the series with a 3-0 Orioles win in which Tampa Bay managed just 4 singles. The last time the Rays were shut out on 4 hits at Oriole Park was May 4, 2019, by none other than Dylan Bundy (of the earlier Kyle Bradish trade). But that wasn't the fun story out of Thursday's game. It's a day game. Trey Mancini hits a white ball into the white sky. It's too high for Josh Lowe and hilarity ensues. This got a lot of complaints from Baseball Twitter because the ball basically hits Lowe on the glove and/or head, but if you watch him while it's in flight, you can kinda tell that he's lost it. If it had fallen 5 feet behind him there would be no clamoring for a 4-base error. So we're okay with this one being called an inside-the-park homer, the second IHR by an Orioles batter ever at Camden Yards. At the very least, it seems to us like a better call than the other one, by Robert Andino against Boston on September 26, 2011. In that case Jacoby Ellsbury actually catches the ball briefly but then slams into the wall and the impact jars it loose. You decide.

Much like a lot of these teams are going to do some deciding before Tuesday afternoon.

Bottom Of The Bag

⚾ Pablo Lopez, Sunday: Second pitcher in Marlins history to allow 12 hits in less than 3 innings pitched. Pat Rapp did it at Coors on April 22, 1997.

⚾ George Springer, Tuesday: First grand slam ever hit by Blue Jays against the Cardinals (they don't play much).

⚾ Eric Haase, Monday: First grand slam ever hit by Tigers against the Padres (they don't play much either).

⚾ Luis Rengifo, Thursday: Second Angels batter ever to triple, double, and single in a game where the team got shut out. Jim Fregosi did it against Boston on August 1, 1970.

⚾ Ranger Suarez, Saturday: First Phillies pitcher to allow 0 runs, 3 hits, and strike out 8+ in a game in Pittsburgh since Steve Carlton on September 3, 1979.

⚾ Luis Urias, Tuesday: Brewers' first walkoff sac fly against an AL opponent since they were also in the AL. B.J. Surhoff against Oakland, April 28, 1995.

⚾ Yordan Alvarez & Mauricio Dubon, Friday: Second teammates in Astros history to each have 2 hits, 2 walks, and a homer in the same game. Norm Larker & Bob Aspromonte did it at Cincinnati on July 8, 1962.

⚾ Rowdy Tellez, Wednesday: Second batter in Brewers history to hit a 3-run homer as the team's third batter of a game against Minnesota. Dave Nilsson did it at the Metrodome on August 20, 1996.

⚾ Austin Riley, Sunday: Braves' first walkoff double to win a 1-0 game since Jim Wynn against San Diego on August 4, 1976.

⚾ Josh Rojas, Monday: Second player in Diamondbacks history to steal 3 bases in a game and yet not score a run. Tony Womack did it in Cincinnati on May 15, 2001.

⚾ Rhys Hoskins, Friday: Phillies' first batter with 4 hits including a homer in Pittsburgh since Scott Rolen on July 1, 1999.

⚾ Victor Robles, Tuesday: First Nationals leadoff batter with 3 hits in a win at Dodger Stadium since Delino DeShields Sr, July 17, 1993.

⚾ Clarke Schmidt, Saturday: Became first Yankees pitcher to record two 3-inning saves in less than a week since Lance McCullers Sr in 1989.

⚾ Garrett Whitlock, Mon/Thu: First Red Sox pitcher to get multiple 2-inning saves in the same series since Greg Harris against Baltimore in September 1993.

⚾ James Outman, Sunday: Second player ever to make his MLB debut with the Dodgers and have 3 hits and 3 RBI in it. Packy Rogers against the Giants on July 12, 1938.

⚾ Miguel Rojas, Friday: Marlins' first 3-run double in the 1st inning since Cody Ross at Dodger Stadium, August 16, 2006.

⚾ Victor Reyes, Wednesday: Tigers' first walkoff double when trailing since Miguel Cabrera against the Rockies on June 28, 2008.

⚾ White Sox, Saturday: First bounce-off win against the A's since June 19, 1985, when Rick Langford uncorked one to score Ozzie Guillen.

⚾ Reyes Moronta, Monday: First Dodgers reliever to issue 2 walks, 2 wild pitches, and hit a batter since Mike Strahler at Atlanta on July 30, 1972.

⚾ Hunter Renfroe, Sunday: First Brewers batter with 4 hits in a loss at Fenway Park since Kevin Seitzer on June 7, 1996.

⚾ Phillies/Pirates, Thursday: First game to have a multi-run triple in the 1st inning and a multi-run triple in the 9th inning (by either team) since Chicago's Rick Reichardt and Vada Pinson of the Angels traded them on August 2, 1972.

⚾ Bobby Dalbec, Wednesday: Second Red Sox batter ever to have 2 homers and a sac fly in a loss. Adrian Beltre, also against Cleveland, August 2, 2010.

⚾ Alex Cobb, Friday: First Giants pitcher to strike out 11+, allow 1 run, and lose, since Juan Marichal got walked off by the Mets in the 14th inning on August 19, 1969.

⚾ Reid Detmers, Sunday: Became first pitcher to throw a no-hitter and an immaculate inning (3 strikeouts on 9 pitches) for the same team in the same season since Sandy Koufax in 1964.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Perfect Storm

Normally when we discuss "perfection" in baseball we mean the number 27, and we mean it in a pitching sense. To quote John Sterling (which is generally not something one should do often), "27 up, 27 down-- baseball immortality!". It's coming up on 10 years since the last perfect game in the majors, although you might remember Clayton Kershaw threatening us with one just last weekend.

However, ask your local mathematician (because naturally we all have one on speed dial), and you will hear that the list of perfect numbers does not include 27-- but does include 28. In that discipline, a "perfect number" is one that is the sum of all its divisors-- in this case, 1, 2, 4, 7, and 14. There are only a few dozen of these known to exist, even with supercomputers which have done the calculations out to millions of digits. So when the baseball gods dropped a 28 in our lap on Friday, the only imperfect thing about it was the scoreboard at Fenway.

Mass. Hysteria

You know The Game We Have To Write About. Heading into Friday, we actually wondered what this post was going to look like, considering we lost half a week's schedule to the All-Star break. Never fear, those baseball gods always seem to figure it out.

Oh sure, it starts innocently enough; to paraphrase a proverb, a journey of 28 runs begins with a weak groundout to the pitcher. That's what Toronto's Bo Bichette did in the 1st after Nate Eovaldi gave up back-to-back 1-out hits. (1) But then Teoscar Hernandez strikes out and this seems to be just another game.

We move on to the 2nd where Lourdes Gurriel leads off with a single. (Keep track of his hits too while you're at it.) Matt Chapman then works a 7-pitch at-bat before homering to left-center. (3) Boston gets a pair of singles in their half but Kevin Gausman strikes out the next two batters to end any threat. But still 3-0 is a perfectly normal score, even for 2 innings.

It's appropriate that we're at Fenway, with its famous center-field triangle, because 28 is also what's called a "triangular number", the sum of (in this case) the first seven positive integers. You often see it depicted as a pyramid of dots or balls or whatever, with one on top, two in the next row, three in the next row, and so forth. So after 1 in the 1st and 2 in the 2nd, the Jays just need to keep this going and they will land on 28 after a 7-run 7th. They will end up getting the 4 in the right spot. And they got the 7-run inning too-- just a little early.

Eovaldi, who seems to enjoy giving up 2 hits each inning, puts runners on second and third with 1 out again. This time he walks Hernandez to load them up before Gurriel unleashes a 2-run single to center. (5) Two batters later Santiago Espinal singles home Hernandez and takes second on the throw home (which fails). (6) Hey, there's our 3-run 3rd (and another perfect number, 6). Except this now leaves first base open for Danny Jansen to draw a 4-pitch walk and reload the bases. So if you thought there might be a grand slam coming next, well, you'd be right-- but with a little wrinkle.

That Fenway triangle is already famous for long doubles and triples when hits bounce off the sidewalls-- and that's when the center fielder can actually find the ball. When he loses one in the air and it ends up behind him, well, there's just no chance. Raimel Tapia has just recorded the second inside-the-park grand slam in Jays history (10); Junior Felix also hit one at Fenway on June 2, 1989, also in the famous triangle where it "caromed away from Ellis Burks" according to the AP recap. It was the third IGS in the majors this century, and the first not in a Phillies/Nationals game: Michael Taylor's 2017 hit answered one by Aaron Altherr from two years prior.

We already mentioned that the Jays were going to get their 4 in the 4th; those come on a solo homer by Teoscar Hernandez (11)and a 3-run bomb by Danny Jansen (14). Also, Eovaldi has long since left the game; the grand slam came on the first pitch from reliever Austin Davis. But that means Eovaldi gets tagged for 9 runs in less than 3 innings, which he also did on May 17 against the Astros. Only two other pitchers in Red Sox history have pulled that off twice, Greg Bird (both in 1983) and Luis Tiant (1974-76).

Boston gets a pair of homers in the 4th so at least they're not getting shut out anymore. But this is already reaching "game we have to write about" status. And then the 5th inning happens.

Kaleb Ort is the next unlucky Sawx pitcher to stick his hand in this buzzsaw. He actually starts by getting two quick outs and maybe there's a chance. Mmm, nope. Bichette, Hernandez, and Gurriel all single in quick succession. (15) Matt Chapman brings in another run when the entire Boston infield converges on a popup but nobody bothers to try catching it. (16) After another walk reloads the bases, Danny Jansen singles home a third score. (17) Raimel Tapia-- of inside-the-park-grand-slam fame, has the bases loaded again. And there's just no way he could... no, could he even possibly?...

Well, no, he doesn't. He does drive another double off the Green Monster (ignore MLB's caption that says it went to "right-center", because interns) to bring in 2 more runs. (19) And Vlad Guerrero Jr, who started the inning with a strikeout, will not end it with a strikeout. Instead he ends Ort's fascinating outing with a 2-run single to left (21). Ort will end up charged with 8 runs on only 2 outs, joining Rob Stanifer (2000) and Marv Grissom (1953) as the only pitchers in Red Sox history to post such a line.

Darwinzon Hernandez gets tapped to be next, basically only because he hasn't seen action in a week. He's already trailing by 18, so what's the harm if Bichette and Teoscar add on two more singles (23). Then Gurriel, who drove in the first run of the inning with 2 outs, gets to drive in the 10th and 11th! runs of the inning, still with 2 outs. His double (25) gives him 4 hits and 5 RBI if you've lost count, and it ties the Jays' franchise record for runs in a single frame (they've now done it six times). However, that 25th run also gave Toronto its largest single-game output in team history, breaking a 24-10 victory over Baltimore on June 26, 1978.

Starter Kevin Gausman (yes, he's still out there) now has a 22-run lead, so not only does he have the proverbial "long leash", he might just be roaming the neighborhood freely and darting into traffic. He's going to end up striking out 10 Boston batters before departing in the 6th, something he also did on June 27. Only two other Jays pitchers have had multiple 10-K games against the Sawx in the same season; they were Ted Lilly in 2004 and Roger Clemens in 1997. And from the "no lead is safe" file (more on the Yankees later), that 22-run margin is about to become 24. Santiago Espinal reaches on an error to start the 6th (perhaps the Red Sox have just given up caring by now), and then Danny Jansen blows yet another homer over the Green Monster. (27) You probably haven't been counting his stats along the way, but he's now got 2 homers and 6 RBI, joining Teoscar Hernandez (2021), Lyle Overbay (2010), and Ernie Whitt (1988) as the only Jays with such a game at Fenway Park. More importantly, though, he's also scored 4 runs and he's batting 9th. Only four other players in MLB history have had a 4-and-6 game out of the 9-hole: Seby Zavala of the White Sox last year, Jackie Bradley (who is watching from the other dugout) in 2015, Ramon Vazquez for Texas in 2007, and Micah Owings in his 2-homer game for the Diamondbacks. Plus, thanks to the grand slam and the double, Raimel Tapia has also driven in 6 runs; it is the first time since RBI became an official stat in 1920 that the #1 and #9 batters for the same team each had 6 of them in the same game.

Those last two tallies for Toronto also mean Darwinzon Hernandez has gotten charged with 4 runs, after Nate Eovaldi's 9, Austin Davis's 5, and Kaleb Ort's 8. Only four other teams in the live-ball era have sent four different pitchers to the mound and had them give up 4+ runs in fewer than 3 innings. The last of those was the Rockies against Cincinnati on May 19, 1999, and of course there's a Coors Field asterisk on that one. So at this point the only remaining suspense is whether the Rangers' 30-3 record is going to fall.

Well, you already know that it's not. Gurriel does get a leadoff single in the 7th but the Jays fail to score and thus lose their chance to become the first-ever American League team to score in all 9 innings of a regulation game. Hirokazu Sawamura works a 1-2-3 8th. And it's up to infielder Yolmer Sanchez, playing only his second game with Boston after coming over from those other Sox last winter, who does the "position player pitching" honors in the 9th. And like so many before him, he gives up two more base hits, including the sixth of the day to Lourdes Gurriel. The only other 6-hit game in Jays history was posted by Frank Catalanotto against the White Sox on May 1, 2004. And the last player for any team with 6 hits and 5 RBI in a game was Anthony Rendon of the Nationals in that wild 23-5 game with the Mets on April 30, 2017.

By now all nine Jays starters have also recorded multiple hits and multiple runs scored, although several of them are also out of the game because, well, 27 runs. Only one other squad in the modern era has had all nine starters do that, the Angels against Toronto in a 24-2 beatdown on August 25, 1979. So the only way to finish this off is to have Matt Chapman atone for striking out to end the 11-run inning, by driving home Cavan Biggio with a 1-out single. (28!) And that also broke a Red Sox record for most runs allowed in a game; Cleveland beat them 27-3 a mere 99 years ago (July 7, 1923).

If you're more into the scientific uses of the number 28, a glance at your Periodic Table will tell you that an atom with 28 protons is the element nickel. Which is also neat, because the Red Sox scored a nickel's worth of runs. We didn't mention that Rob Refsnyder homered in the 7th to give us our 28-5 final, because, well, at that point who really cares. But Refsnyder did deny us what's called a "scorigami", a final tally that has never happened in the history of whatever sport is under consideration. 28-4 and 28-8 would have been unique; the ones in between are not. Although you can put a big asterisk next to the only other 28-5 game in MLB history. It happened on August 25. 1891, between the Dodgers and Cubs (neither of whom went by those nicknames yet), when pitches were thrown on flat ground at 55 feet.

(Screen would not accommodate the entire article, but it's enough to
get the idea of how farcical this game seemed at the time.)

Only six times since 1901 (considered the famous "modern era") has a team scored 28 runs in a game; we all know that 30-3 Texas mess in 2007. There have been three 29's, most recently the Braves against Miami in September 2020. Boston was on the front end of one of those, against the Browns on June 8, 1950. And the White Sox did it against the Kansas City Athletics on April 23, 1955. The only other 28 in the mix is a Cards/Phillies drubbing from July 6, 1929.

And as much as we'd like to throw in a couple notes about Sunday's series finale, in which the Jays piled up 15 more hits and won 8-4, we really can't because everything was done already. But we will give a shout-out to Raimel Tapia, who had another 4 RBI on a triple and a pair of singles. Only one other Toronto batter has had multiple 4-RBI games in the same series against Boston-- and it's the guy who hit the other inside-the-park grand slam in team history. Junior Felix followed up that 1989 outing with 3 more hits in a 10-2 win the next day.

What About Me

Of course we all remember that 29-9 game from a couple years ago. (Even the cardboard cutouts can tell you exactly where they were. Especially since they really didn't move much.) However, unless you're the Brewers, there's a good chance you don't remember what else happened that day. Before that game blew up in the evening, Milwaukee had an afternoon tilt in Detroit and hung an incredible 19-0 shutout on the Tigers. We thought that was The Game.

This week the Cubs may be having similar thoughts. Because lost in the 28-5 scrum, they were down the road in Philadelphia posting a fairly impressive win that nobody noticed because it barely had half as many runs. Reset your counting devices, here we go again.

The first damage of Friday's game actually comes from Kyle Schwarber, who has become no stranger to leadoff homers since joining the Phillies. He's got four of them so far this season; the last Phils batter with more was Jimmy Rollins in 2012. And Kyle Gibson escapes any damage the first time around the Cubs order, so it seems fairly calm for now. Willson Contreras matches Schwarber's homer in the 4th so we're tied. Until we're not.

Gibson surrenders 2 walks, a double to Chris Morel, and a pair of singles while getting 1 out in the 5th. Jeurys Familia gets called upon to stop the bleeding and proceeds to rip the scab off. Back-to-back doubles to his first two batters result in a 6-run inning. It's worth noting that Gibson didn't strike out a single batter before leaving; he's the first Phillies pitcher to gave up 6 runs to the Cubs with 0 K's since Cole Hamels on August 24, 2006.

The Phils' bullpen gets through a few more innings, it's still 7-1, and then JoJo Romero gets called upon for the 8th. We had to look him up too; he's made 25 appearances over the last 3 seasons, averaging basically one inning per game because The Rules now say he has to. He would probably be that "lefty specialist" if that were still a thing. Next thing you know, he's given up a 2-run pinch-hit homer to Nelson Velazquez, then a walk and two more hits to make it 10-1. And now it's time for another post-break installment of Position Players Pitching. Backup catcher Garrett Stubbs thought he had the night off. Chuckle.

Stubbs got inserted into a 12-1 blowout against Arizona back in mid-June and surrendered only 1 run. On Friday he is greeted by Chris Morel's third hit of the game; Morel will end up scoring his third run of the game as well in just a moment. Morel also did that out of the 9-hole on June 30 against the Reds, given our new world order where pitchers don't bat anymore. Only one other Cubs #9 batter in the modern era has had multiple games in the same season with 3 hits and 3 runs scored; that was actual pitcher Don Cardwell in 1960.

That third run for Morel is going to come on Nelson Velazquez's second homer of the night, and remember, he just hit the first one as a pinch hitter last inning. Only one other batter in Cubs history has recorded 2 homers and 5 RBI in a game he didn't start; that was Thad Bosley against the Expos on August 12, 1985. P.J. Higgins then doubles before Seiya Suzuki cranks another dinger to give the Cubs their final total of 15 runs. Suzuki, along with Ian Happ-- who followed with a single but got erased on a double play to end the inning-- each ended up with 4 hits in the game, the first time any Cubs teammates have done that in Philadelphia since Rick Monday and Don Kessinger on May 16, 1972.

And the Phillies end the game the same way they started it, with a solo homer-- this time by Darick Hall with 2 outs in the 9th. That makes our final tally 15-2, exactly matching the score from the Cubs' previous 13-run win over the Phillies. That was on June 8, 1990.

The Phillies at least decided to be consistent and score 2 runs again on Saturday. (And lose again.) This one did not involve a leadoff homer, nor did it involve Chicago dropping 15 on them. It was notable in that Marcus Stroman and Zack Wheeler battled to a 1-1 tie which sent us off to Free Runner Land. In which the Cubs have some fun with Jose Alvarado.

Frank Schwindel reaches on a fielder's choice which fails to get the free runner. David Bote doubles. Chris Morel singles and then steals second; today his special accolade is that he's the first Cubs #9 batter in (at least) the live-ball era to have 2 hits, a steal, and get hit by a pitch all in one game. An error and a double by Willson Contreras eventually clear the bases and the Cubs hang a 5-spot in the top of the 10th. That's the first time they've posted 5+ in an extra inning since they started getting help from the new rules; their last such game was June 11, 2018, at Milwaukee. Alvarado got only 1 out and ate the loss; even though two of his runs were unearned, all five of them still count. No Phillies pitcher had posted that line since Joaquin Benoit against Seattle on May 10, 2017.

If You Love Runs Set Them Free

For as much as the free runners were supposed to eliminate long slogs of games where nobody scores (looking at you, AL West!), the system isn't perfect. While the Brewers were scoreboard-watching the 28-5 and the 15-2, they couldn't seem to get their own board unstuck from 3-3.

Charlie Blackmon hit a 2-run homer for the Rockies, which Milwaukee promptly answered with jacks by Willy Adames and Andrew McCutchen. It's 3-3 by the 6th, and the Brewers can't inch themselves back ahead despite having multiple baserunners in both the 6th and the 8th. Blackmon singles home the Rockies' free runner in the 10th, and Brendan Rodgers later hits a sac fly to score Blackmon so it's 5-3. Just as the Brewers are down to their final strike in the bottom half, Hunter Renfroe does this. It's only the third time the Brewers have hit a multi-run homer in extra innings of a home game and had it not be a walkoff; the others were August 7 of last year by Luis Urias (in another "free runner" situation), and June 17, 2017, when Keon Broxton matched 2-run homers with Yangervis Solarte of the Padres.

So we're not stuck on 3-3 anymore, but we are stuck on 5-5. Only one of the next 12 batters gets the ball out of the infield; Rockies runner Ryan McMahon thinks he can make it to third on a grounder to short and is proven wrong. C.J. Cron whiffs for the fifth time in the game to end the top of the 12th. The Rockies issue a pair of intentional walks in the bottom half to set up a force at home, which ends up actually working. Finally in the 13th it is time for Luis Urias to come through again, with a walkoff single after (yet again) the Rockies can't get the ball out of the infield in their half. Although the list of 13-inning "free runner" games has grown to seven with Friday's addition, we've still only had one go beyond that; it was the 16-inning Dodgers/Padres affair from last August.

The Brewers had not recorded a walkoff win in the 13th or later since Ryan Braun singled against the Mets on May 4, 2019. And those 5 strikeouts by C.J. Cron?, well, he's only the second batter in Rockies history with 5 K's and a base hit in the same contest, joining Roberto Mejia on August 9, 1993. (Four others-- Ryan McMahon, Trevor Story, DJ LeMahieu, and Carlos Gonzalez-- have had the 5 K's without the hit.)

Back And Forth

After a fairly easy 9-4 win on Saturday, the Brewers narrowly escaped with another 1-run victory to end the week on Sunday, in a game that might have gotten more attention if not for, oh, say, a 28-5 game and the fact that it happened on Sunday after the rest of this post is already written. Christian Yelich leads off the game with a triple, joining Kolten Wong (April 14 vs Cardinals) as the only Brewers to hit one this season. Their last such hit against the Rockies had been by Corey Hart off Kevin Milwood on September 14, 2011. But that also sets up Willy Adames to hit the team's first sac fly by their second batter of the game since Hernan Perez scored Jonathan Villar against the Cubs, 6 years earlier to the day (July 24, 2016).

That's going to lead to 3 Milwaukee runs in the 1st and a 5-2 lead by the 3rd. Kris Bryant doubles and scores one of the Colorado runs, and then shortens the lead to 5-4 with a 2-run homer in the 5th. The Rox briefly take the lead in the 6th but then Tyrone Taylor's pinch-hit homer makes it 6-6. The Brewers hadn't hit any game-tying pinch-hit homer since Eric Thames took the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen deep on April 21, 2019, and they'd never hit one against Colorado.

The Rockies, however, are going to get that lead back again with a 2-run single by Elias Diaz in the 7th. Their only other go-ahead, bases-loaded single in the 7th or later against Milwaukee had been by Jeff Barry on August 9, 1999, and that only scored 1 run. Rox lead 8-6 when Mike Brosseau connects for a pinch-hit double in the bottom half to get back within 1.

In the 8th Kris Bryant connects for his third extra-base hit of the game, another double, but fails to score. Still, though, he joins Ian Stewart (2010) and Todd Helton (2001) as the only Rockies batters with 3 XBH in a game in Milwaukee. And that lack of runs comes back to haunt Colorado in the bottom half when Alex Colome gets tapped to pitch. With 2 outs, Yelich walks. Adames singles. Rowdy Tellez ties the game with another single. Then Andrew McCutchen hits his second double of the day to put the Brewers back up by a 10-8 count. There have only been two other multi-run, go-ahead doubles hit by Milwaukee in the 8th or later against Colorado; they were on Opening Day 2013 by Aramis Ramirez, and June 20, 2010, by Rickie Weeks.

The ending was not without drama either, however. With 2 outs in the 9th, Garrett Hampson ends the game the same way we started it, with a triple. He had a sac bunt earlier in the contest, which creates a weird batting line; the last Rockies batter with both of those things in a road game was... none other than Garrett Hampson, on April 12, 2019, in San Francisco. The only other Rockies batter with multiple such games on the road is Darryl Hamilton in 1998-99. And even though he scores on a single by Yonathan Daza, that still leaves Colorado 1 run short and our game ends 10-9. The last time the Rockies scored 9 runs on the road and lost was a 16-9 slugfest at Dodger Stadium on September 2, 2019... and they'd never done it in Milwaukee.

Can't Buy Me Runs

When last we left the Miami Marlins, they were planning on using their All-Star break to search for some numbers other than zero. They headed into the break on back-to-back shutouts (10-0 and 4-0) by Philadelphia, meaning it was somewhere around 7 pm on Friday the last time the Marlins scored a run. Lately we never know what product is going to have a supply crisis on any given week, and apparently this time all the local shops in Miami were sold out of positive numbers.

The Marlins are already having some weird schedule shenanigans; they were scheduled to be one of the two interleague series during that first week of the regular season that got postponed. So it's hard to make up any of those games because the scheduled opponent, the Rangers, is not someone they would normally play in the course of the season. So there was one stray game added on Thursday, and at least Texas was ready for it. They connected for three straight singles off Pablo Lopez in the 3rd and then knocked him out of the game with a homer by Adolis Garcia in the 5th. Meanwhile the Marlins manage just 4 singles off Jon Gray, two of them with 2 outs, and lose another on a double play. They do manage to get Avisail Garcia to third with 2 outs in the 9th, but Jacob Stallings grounds out to end the game, and the scoreboard folks might want to make sure the button still works. Because it hasn't changed off that zero in nearly a week. The 8-0 final was the Rangers' third-largest win over the Marlins, and Adolis Garcia was their first batter to have 3 RBI in a game at their current stadium (Ian Kinsler, in 2010, was the last at the old place). But more notably, it was the third time in Marlins history that they'd been shut out in three straight games, the previous being 8 years ago and involving several of the same dates (July 19-21). They also did it 11 months prior to that, in August 2012.

After their stray game with Texas, the Marlins then get to hop a plane to Pittsburgh, where the local stores do have non-zero numbers. Or, at the very least, if life is going to hand you zeroes, stick two of them together and make an 8. Miami connected for 9 hits off Zack Thompson to end their scoreless streak at 37 innings, and the performances extended all the way down to catcher Nick Fortes in the 9-hole. He became the second #9 batter in Marlins history to have 3 RBI in game without an extra-base hit; pitcher Josh Johnson did it against San Diego on April 26, 2010. And from Miami's side, it was Braxton Garrett shutting down the Pirates, who notched their fourth home game this season with 2 or fewer hits. That ties their modern record for such a thing, at any stadium-- and it's still only July.

Saturday's contest would bring together two familiar themes. The Pirates scored 1 run again, manufacturing it on three singles off Tanner Scott in the 6th. This time, however, they won-- because, yep, Miami is back to scoring 0 again. It was the third 1-0 win ever for the Pirates over the Marlins; Corey Dickerson's bunt single in the 9th provided the lone RBI on April 14, 2018, while Carlos Garcia made a leadoff homer stand up for a win on September 14, 1993.

As for the nine days dating back to the Friday before the break, that marked the first time in Marlins history that they had been shut out four times in any five-game span.

Sweepin' Down The Plains

Another one of those strange Thursday scheduling quirks was that the Yankees got to go to Houston and play not one, but two games with the Astros. The Astros, of course, have become something of a nemesis for New York over the past few years, especially some October memories that fans would like to throw in a conveniently-placed trash can.

In the day game of the twinbill, Jordan Montgomery starts by giving up 3 singles and a run in the 1st, then a walk and a double in the 2nd. He settles down and records 8 strikeouts, and it's only 2-0, and the Yankees have spent the entire season rallying from deficits much larger than 2 runs. Sure enough, they load the bases in the 3rd but then Aaron Judge gets doubled off first base. They hit four fly balls in the 5th but only DJ LeMahieu is able to clear the fence, so it's still 2-1. Phil Maton works past an infield single in the 6th, the Yankees do nothing in the 7th or 8th, so it must be Hector Neris's job to blow this somehow.

Aaron Hicks singles and ends up at second with 2 outs. Which also means he's going on contact. Which pinch hitter Isiah Kiner-Falefa somehow makes. He shoots one through the hole at short, Hicks beats the play at the plate, and we're tied. "IKF" as they call him also had a game-tying hit on April 23 against Cleveland when the Yankees were down to their final out. His runner, Aaron Hicks, is one of only four other Yankees in the past 40 years to have two of those in the same season (2019); the others are Curtis Granderson in 2011, Gary Sheffield in 2005, and Roberto Kelly in 1991.

But the Astros still have one more turn at-bat before more free runners get involved. We would find out that Michael King had a season-ending elbow fracture when he left Friday's game, but perhaps something was already brewing on Thursday. He started the 9th with two hard liners to left field which put Houston runners at second and third. He did induce two strikeouts to keep it that way. But then pinch hitter J.J. Matijevic, who made his debut in April and was making only his 44th plate appearance, rolls one to deep short and Marwin Gonzalez effectively has no play. It goes as a walkoff infield single, the Astros' first of those since the Padres' Eric Hosmer overran an infield popup on April 7, 2018.

As for the "pinch hit" aspect, the Astros had never before had any pinch-hit walkoff against the Yankees; the last against New York by any team was, well, also by New York. It was that famously-bizarre homer by the Mets' Amed Rosario when the Yankees got walked off in their own stadium thanks to the "home team bats first" rule for 2020 doubleheaders. As for a pinch-hit walkoff single against the Yankees, that goes back to David Ortiz off Armando Benitez on July 26, 2003.

The night game had a little less drama as Domingo German gave up 5 early runs and the Astros took a 7-2 lead into the 9th. Except there are now two things at play: Houston used a bunch of pitchers in the day game, and the Yankees just being the Yankees. The Astros are trying to extend Brandon Bielak into a 4-inning save, of which they've had one in the last quarter-century. They still do, because Bielak gives up a pair of singles to start the inning, and then a 3-run dinger to Aaron Judge. Judge became the first Yankees leadoff batter not named Alfonso Soriano to have 3 RBI but also 3 strikeouts in a game. And then it is up to Rafael Montero to finish things out, which he does by getting Matt Carpenter to ground into a game-ending double play. Astros escape 7-5 and record their first-ever doubleheader sweep against the Yankees (not that they have played all that many, given that Houston just joined the AL in 2013). Those 5 runs off German were partly due to back-to-back homers by Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman, who joined Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve (June 27, 2015) as the only Astros to do it in a home game against the Yankees. And because Bielak would have been eligible for that 4-inning save if he had stuck around, and he did still leave with the lead, he also "earns" a hold despite giving up 3 runs, hitting 2 batters, and throwing a wild pitch. Not shockingly, no pitcher in Astros history had managed to pull off that line previously.

Bottom Of The Bag

⚾ Cody Bellinger, Friday: First go-ahead grand slam for Dodgers against Giants in the 8th or later since Steve Finley walked off to win the NL West on October 2, 2004.

⚾ Nelson Velazquez & Garrett Stubbs, Sunday: First National League game in (at least) modern era where both starting #9 batters had 2+ hits, a homer, and 2+ runs scored.

⚾ Tigers, Thursday: First time scoring 7+ runs in the first game of a doubleheader, and then getting shut out in the second, since July 27, 1984, against Boston.

⚾ Aaron Judge, Saturday: First Yankees batter with 4 hits in a loss at Camden Yards since Johnny Damon on May 27, 2008.

⚾ Jose Altuve & Jeremy Peña, Sunday: Second time Astros have ever led off a road game with back-to-back homers. George Springer & Josh Reddick went deep against the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka on May 14, 2017.

⚾ Zac Gallen, Friday: First D'backs pitcher to throw 7 scoreless innings with 0 walks and 2 hits allowed in a home game since Brandon Webb 1-hit the Cardinals on September 9, 2006.

⚾ Brady Singer, Saturday: First pitcher in Royals history to allow 3 or fewer hits, strike out 12+, and not get a win.

⚾ Darrin Ruf, Thursday: First Giants batter ever to hit a grand slam at Dodger Stadium in a game he didn't start. Last to do it at Ebbets was Ken O'Dea on August 4, 1941.

⚾ Dylan Cease, Sunday: Second pitcher in White Sox history to give up 7+ hits, throw 2+ wild pitches, and not get charged with a run. Ned Garvin did it in Baltimore on August 26, 1902!

⚾ Tyler Naquin, Friday: First Reds batter with a triple and 4 RBI against St Louis since Todd Benzinger on August 18, 1989.

⚾ Victor Robles, Saturday: First #9 batter in Nats/Expos history to score multiple runs and score every run for the team in a game.

⚾ Dodgers, Thu & Sun: First time collecting 5 doubles in multiple games of the same series against the Giants since July 6-7, 1934, at Ebbets Field.

⚾ Padres, Saturday: Second road game in team history where they scored 2 runs, struck out 15 times, and won. Other was a 12-inning win in Atlanta on August 25, 2009.

⚾ Shohei Ohtani, Friday: First Angels pitcher to strike out 11 and lose since Joe Blanton against Houston on June 3, 2013.

⚾ Athletics, Sunday: First time hitting back-to-back-to-back homers since Eric Chavez, Frank Thomas, and Milton Bradley did it on April 15, 2006.