This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: April, 2018
Who’ll Stop the Rain (And Snow)? MLB Experiences Puerto Rico, Post-Maria
It's Raining Near-No-No’s and Near-Perfectos (Sean Manaea Excluded)


Best and Worst of the Week

Okay, so we're fudging this a bit: It's the Best and the Worst through April 30, so it includes the season's first few days' worth of games played at the end of March.

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Didi Gregious, New York Yankees

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
98 24 32 8 1 10 30 16 2 1 2

Everyone got so worried about how Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in New York, they forgot about Gregorius. The seventh-year shortstop had the plum assignment of hitting between the two towers of Yankee strength and made the most of it, becoming the first shortstop ever to collect at least 10 homers and 30 RBIs in his first 25 games of a season. Sure, go ahead and start paying attention, Yankee foes; that just means someone else—Judge, Stanton, Gary Sanchez—will start getting better pitches. Someone else ought to start paying more as well: The Yankee marketing department, which misspelled Gregorius’ name for an upcoming promotional event


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
116 29 34 12 1 9 20 7 0 2 3

Until the hyped-up arrival of 20-year-old super prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. in Atlanta, the Braves already had the majors’ youngest dude, and a good one as the 21-year-old Albies set the NL on fire to start the season. It’s almost as if it slipped people’s minds that Albies had a solid (if brief) rookie debut in 2017, but the focus became far more intense in April as the second baseman racked up the second most extra-base hits in major league history before May 1. After looking lost for a number of years, the Braves may have the foundation of something great in Acuna and Albies.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Randal Grichuk, Toronto Blue Jays

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
66 6 7 2 0 2 7 7 0 2 1

The Blue Jays stocked up their roster with a bunch of B-list talent over the offseason; some of it (Curtis Granderson, Yangervis Solarte) has so far worked out, while some hasn’t. Grichuk is clearly the worst of those within the “hasn’t” column. The outfielder had power in his time with the Cardinals but never hit well for average, but even those St. Louis numbers look absolutely Ty Cobb-ish after his rotten first month-plus. It took a two-hit game on the last day of April to finally get him back over .100—and it’s then he went on the disabled list with a bum knee. Now he’s got nothing better to do than to rehab and think about what little he’s so far done.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Pat Valaika, Colorado Rockies

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
52 1 5 3 0 0 1 3 0 0 0

There’s only one thing worse than being named to this part of the list, and that’s when you’re wearing the uniform of the Rockies. Playing half of your games at mile-high, stat-happy Coors Field usually gives you the extra bounce needed to avoid even being in contention for the Worst Hitter dishonor, but somehow Valaika managed to find himself right where he’d rather not belong. Oh sure, he hit better at Coors, but a .190 home average will only look good when compared to a .034 (1-for-29) on the road. The irony is that Valaika will get more chances to play in May as regular Colorado second sacker DJ LaMahieu just went on the disabled list.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Sean Manaea, Oakland A’s

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
4-2 43.2 20 6 5 7 0 1 3 0 37

The third-year southpaw from Indiana got off to an excellent start and almost nobody noticed—that was, until April 21 when he no-hit the hottest team in baseball (the Red Sox) with the help of a few dubious scoring/replay calls. Manaea also tamed some of baseball’s other potent offenses, including the Astros and Angels, leaving reporters to praise his efforts while struggling to spell his name right. (We blew it ourselves on our Twitter account—but felt better about it a few days later when The Athletic’s Jayson Stark left out a vowel.) Now that he appears to be established as an ace in Oakland, the question is begged: When do the A’s trade him?


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
3-0 32 16 3 3 6 0 3 0 0 26

Over the last two seasons, Giants fans have seen the best and worst of the crafty veteran, so they’re happy to see he’s back in “best” form to start the year as the only qualifying pitcher with a sub-1.00 ERA. Quick pitches, shimmies and all, Cueto allowed just one run through his first four starts and greatly aided a handicapped Giants rotation missing Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija. Cueto was our pick as the best NL pitcher of 2016, and his efforts so far in 2018 suggest that he’s going to be a very strong candidate for this year’s honor.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Alex Cobb, Baltimore Orioles

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-3 11.2 30 20 17 3 0 1 0 0 4

Could the Orioles be having buyer’s remorse over their very late signing of the former Tampa Bay pitcher? Cobb looked like a good addition to a weak Baltimore rotation after a 12-10 record and 3.66 ERA last year with the Rays, but he bombed in each of his first three starts in an Orioles jersey, failing to make the end of the fifth inning while giving up at least five runs. Opponents are hitting a whopping .484 against him thus far; maybe one can say that Cobb’s late entry is nothing more than belated spring training, but hey—these games count.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
A.J. Cole, Washington Nationals

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-1 10.1 16 15 15 6 0 0 0 0 10

Not too long ago, the young right-hander was supposed to be a solid addition for the Nationals’ already esteemed rotation, but he just couldn’t make it click; it really fell apart to start this year, getting lit up for 10 runs in his first start before an eventual demotion to the bullpen—and then a trade to the Yankees, who’ve used him sparingly thus far. The big problem for Cole has been the home run; he gave up six of them in just over 10 innings for the Nationals before saying bye-bye to D.C.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Boston Red Sox (21-7)

After blowing a 4-0 lead late on Opening Day and losing at Tampa Bay, the Red Sox won 17 of their next 18 to establish their hottest start ever. Then they suffered a bit of a spell as a result of being no-hit by Sean Manaea, but overall it’s quite the acceptable first five weeks for Red Sox Nation thanks to a torrid Mookie Betts and (let’s not forget) J.D. Martinez, who’s proving to be worth the $20 million he’s being paid annually. Let’s also not forget about the rotation, which was tough to crack during those all-but-unbeatable first few weeks and trails only Houston in starter ERA.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Arizona Diamondbacks (20-8)

If someone had told us before Opening Day that, by the end of April, Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray would be sputtering as the Diamondbacks’ two worst starters while the team overall hit just .220, our response would have been: “Well, that 2017 campaign was fun while it lasted.” But despite those above hiccups, the Snakes put up a franchise-best start thanks in great part to a bullpen that posted a stellar 1.92 ERA through the end of April. Sum result: Arizona won all nine of its series to start the year, something no major league team has done since the 1907 Cubs.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Kansas City Royals (7-21)

The doctors who saved manager Royals manager Ned Yost’s life during the offseason were honored before a game at the end of the month; now if these guys can just save the rest of the Royals. The beginning of the post-Lorenzo Cain/Eric Hosmer era has not been pretty, with the team limping off this rotten start, playing horrible ball at home (3-12), scoring the fewest runs in the AL and struggling with a bullpen that posted a 6.42 ERA through April 29. Where would they be if not for the late offseason re-signing of Mike Moustakas (.302, 8 home runs)? Probably suffering a fate that no medic could possibly mend.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Cincinnati Reds (7-22)

We began our 2018 preview write-up on the Reds by referring to “the rebuild that never seems to end.” If there’s a light at the end of this tunnel, they’re going to need the Hubble Space Telescope to spot it. The Reds got off to so dismal a start, the team’s daily notes kept repeatedly referring to it as “worst ever.” As always, pitching continues to be the problem in Cincinnati, with the majors’ worst ERA and the most home runs given up, but even the Reds’ offense—which normally makes games tolerable for its fans—was flat, ranking near the very bottom in round trippers. Keep trying on that rebuild, gang.


Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(April 2018 Edition)

Wind-blown Save
The Astros’ championship banner at Minute Maid Park was unveiled in a pregame ceremony, but only after a guy had to climb up alongside and pry loose a cover with a leaf blower.

Chick Bait
Sure, any newswire line that starts with, “Kate Upton shows off just how massive…” will get the guys interested—but then they’ll lose much of that interest when the line finishes with, “…Astros World Series rings really are.”

The Eagle Has Landed…
…on Seattle pitcher James Paxton.

He’s AA-Okay
Former star quarterback Tim Tebow launched a three-run home run on the first pitch he saw at the Double-A level.

Ah, Soot
Three Korean baseball games were postponed on account of pollution.

We Thought it was Larry Fishburne
A special section on the Rockies published by the Denver Post was headlined “The Ultimate Visitors Guide to Coors Field”—except that a large picture below showed Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park instead.

My Mic is Bigger Than Yours!
A Milwaukee TV reporter punched out another during a Brewers-Cubs game at Miller Park on April 6.

We Actually Don’t Exist Here…
The Marlins insisted that Miami-Dade County’s lawsuit against the team to claim 5% of the profit from last year’s swap of ownership can only be tried in a Federal court—because the team is officially based in the British Virgin Islands.

…And Maybe They’re Right
On April 11, the Marlins drew a home crowd of 6,100 against the Mets—less than what their Double-A affiliate drew on the same day. Maybe they should move to the British Virgin Islands.

Hooky Mistake
Evoking Ferris Buehler, a Chicago kid skipped school to go to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field—and ran into his principal, who apparently was also playing hooky. The question is: Who reports who?

That’s a Bad Hat, Harry
The MLB online shop included an Indians cap with the controversial Chief Wahoo icon—and a patch commemorating Jackie Robinson Day. After a social media uproar, it was removed from the web site.

Four Down, 26 to Go
In the space of a month, outfielder Trayce Thompson put on the uniform for four different teams: The Dodgers, who cut him late in Spring Training, followed by the Yankees (who cut him quickly after they signed him), the A’s and then the White Sox, where his major league career began back in 2015.

Great, Let’s Get Major Leaguers Addicted, Too
It was reported that baseball players all over MLB are spending much of their time away from the field playing Fortnite, the latest video game craze. Houston’s George Springer: “We play all day, every day.”

Anagramma
Deadspin was so taken by the major league debut of the Orioles’ Engelb Vilema that the devoted a whole story to phrases that could be spelled from the letters within his full name—that is, if you throw in his middle name, which just happens to be “Stalin.” Among the scrambled sayings: “Meatball Seen Living,” “Eleven Lint Mailbags,” and “Gentle Evil Bailsman.”

Egregius Error
An advertising panel behind home plate at Yankee Stadium promoting Didi Gregorius Bat Day spelled his last name “Gregious.”

Good Thing It Wasn’t Nachos
A kid sitting down the left-field line at Yankee Stadium filled up his glove with popcorn…and then a foul ball came his way.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
You can kind of relate the constant rise in strikeouts to global warming; every year, you can bet there will be more strikeouts in the majors, just as you can bet that, every year, the world will get a little bit hotter. And while scientists think an irreversible tipping point to global weather is at hand, baseball may have reached its own in regards to strikeouts. The total number of Ks in April reached 6,656, smashing the old record for the month…set, but of course, just last year. But here’s the startling fact: For the first time in major league history, there were more strikeouts in a calendar month than there were hits. The question now needs to be asked: At what point do fans start to tiring of the omnipresence of strikeouts? And if they do, does that represent the tipping point for commissioner Rob Manfred to try some silly rule to stop it?

League vs. League

It’s been a long wait for the National League, trying to win the yearly interleague crown from the American League; in fact, they haven’t been able to wear it since 2003, when the circuit last won the majority of games against its junior rival. But there’s hope in 2018, at least so far. Through April 30, the NL has a comfortable 19-12 lead on the AL, thanks in part to Pennsylvania’s two teams (the Phillies and Pirates) racking up a combined 9-2 interleague record. Of course, the NL also had the lead early last season, too, before ultimately finishing 140-160 against the Americans.





Sunday, April 1
Shohei Ohtani’s pitching debut for the Los Angeles Angels is not bad. In Oakland, the young Japanese star pitcher/hitter takes the mound and, outside of a three-run home run hit off him in the second by the A’s Matt Chapman, is quite sharp—allowing no other runs on three hits total with a walk and six strikeouts over six innings. Ohtani does not bat but is well supported by Angels teammates to help give him credit for the 7-4 win.

For the second straight day, a pitcher is pulled after six innings with a no-hitter intact. On Saturday it was Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson; today it’s Pittsburgh’s Trevor Williams, removed after throwing just 85 pitches—but with only 42 of those for strikes. Three Pirates relievers cannot maintain the no-hitter but do keep the Tigers off the scoreboard in Detroit—and that’s crucial as the Bucs can only manage a single first-inning run to win the first game of a doubleheader, 1-0. Pittsburgh will complete both the doubleheader and series sweep with an 8-6 triumph in the nightcap.

This is the first time that a pitcher having thrown fewer strikes than balls is removed with a no-hitter after six or more innings.

The Twins roll to a 7-0 win over the Orioles at Baltimore, as Jose Berrios throws the season’s first shutout by allowing three hits and a walk on 107 pitches. But some of the Twins’ players are upset about Baltimore’s second hit, a ninth-inning bunt single against the shift by catcher Chance Sisco that ignites a bases-loaded rally but fails to produce a run. “I could’ve said something (when Cisco reached second base),” said Minnesota infielder Brian Dozier after the game, “but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there…I’m sure they’ll address it and move forward.”

Perhaps the Twins need to read up on baseball’s unwritten rules. Berrios wasn’t throwing a no-hitter, while the Orioles had the right to, you know, try to win the game? Cisco’s bunt hit actually gave the Orioles life and a shot to steal a victory away from the Twins—a victory which, for some reason, the Twins felt entitlement of ownership over. Plus: If the Twins felt that the result was academic, why put on the shift for Sisco?

Monday, April 2
After a successful three-year stint in Japan, St. Louis’ Milos Mikolas has an all-around successful return to the States in his first major league start since 2014. He allows four runs through 5.2 innings to earn the win in an 8-4 decision at Milwaukee, and his two-run homer in the sixth ignites a four-run outburst that caps the Cardinals’ scoring on the day.

Southpaw Brian Johnson throws six strong innings and helps clinch a franchise first for the Boston Red Sox as they breeze to a 7-3 win at Miami. All five members of the Red Sox’ rotation have allowed one or no runs to start the season, the first time that’s happened in team history.

Attendance at Marlins Park, for an interleague game against a high-drawing opponent: 11,138. As Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets: “What happens when the Reds and Padres come to town?”

After allowing just two runs over their first four games, Dodgers pitching finally bends and, ultimately, breaks at Arizona. In the ninth, closer Kenley Jansen blows a three-run lead—and matches his entire 2017 total with his first blown save—when Chris Owings launches a two-out, three-run bomb to tie the game; moving well ahead to the 15th, the Dodgers unknot the tie but succumb again in the bottom of the frame as the Diamondbacks rally for two runs and win, 8-7. The game time of five hours and 46 minutes makes it the longest in Chase Field history.

An apparently unfazed Jansen, talking about his blown save aftewards: “Who cares? It’s one game.”

Bartolo Colon, making his first start for the Texas Rangers—his record-tying eighth American League team—puts together an agreeable outing by allowing a run on seven hits through six innings. But after the 44-year old’s departure, the Rangers’ bullpen screws it up as Jed Lowrie’s two-run double in the seventh becomes the difference in Oakland’s 3-1 home win.

Tuesday, April 3
In his second game as a hitter, Shohei Ohtani breaks out with three hits and his first major league home run as the Angels roll to a 13-2 romp over Cleveland at Anaheim. The win snaps the Angels’ 12-game losing streak against the Indians, who have just one hit on the day: Jose Ramirez’s home run in the first.

On a chilly day as snow melts outside of Yankee Stadium, the Yankees open up their home schedule and it’s not a desirable welcome for Giancarlo Stanton, who strikes out in all five of his at-bats for the first time in his career and draws boos from the Bronx faithful. But batting behind him is Didi Gregorius, who goes on an absolute rampage with two home runs, a double, a single and a career-high eight RBIs in the Yankees’ 11-4 rout of the Tampa Bay Rays.

San Diego’s Christian Villanueva, one of our Teasers for the 2018 season, becomes the second Padre (after Hunter Renfroe last September) to land three baseballs into the Petco Park bleachers as the Padres snare their first win of the season, 8-4 over Colorado. That makes two home run hat tricks (after the White Sox’ Matt Davidson on Opening Day) within just the first week of the 2018 campaign.

It’s never happened in a major league game until today: The Cardinals get back-to-back homers (from Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham) to start the game, and the Brewers get back-to-back shots (from Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun) to end it, as Milwaukee walks off with a 5-4 home victory.

The last time St. Louis had hit consecutive home runs to start a road game came in a 1958 contest against the Dodgers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Pitching for the Dodgers that day: Sandy Koufax.

The Kansas City Royals sign Tarik El-Abour, the first major leaguer known to have Autism. The outfielder played the past two seasons in the independent Empire Pro Baseball League; he is expected to be assigned to the lower levels of the Royals’ minor league organization.

It’s quite possible that there were autistic major leaguers well into the past, in a time when few even knew what it was; the condition wasn’t even coined with its current name until 1908.

Wednesday, April 4
Cross one potentially lucrative free agent off the market for 2019 as Colorado center fielder Charlie Blackmon is extended by the Rockies for six years and $108 million—that is, should he exercise two player options for 2022-23. If so, he would remain a Rockie through the age of 37.

It’s only been one week, but the Diamondbacks are looking awfully good as knowledgeable baseball types debate whether last year’s 93-69 showing was a desert mirage. Arizona sweeps a three-game series from the Dodgers, scoring a run in each of the first three innings before Patrick Corbin and two relievers settle in and allow just one Los Angeles hit while striking out 15 in a 3-0 win at Phoenix. It’s the Diamondbacks’ ninth straight win against the Dodgers (excluding three straight defeats in last year’s NLDS), and their 5-1 start matches a franchise best through six games, for what’s it worth.

The Mets defeat Philadelphia in a 4-2 game at New York that will go down in (perhaps) obscure baseball history as the first to be exclusively broadcast on Facebook. It’s not your typical telecast; viewers are exposed to many Facebook tactics such as comments and floating emojis, while the screen also tells you how many people are watching. (The audience reportedly peaks at 85,000). Also: No commercials. This is the first of 25 planned telecasts this season on the social media app.

Thursday, April 5
Adrian Beltre has two hits to pass Rod Carew as the majors’ all-time hit leader among Latin American natives as the Rangers earn a four-game split at Oakland with a 6-3 win. The veteran third baseman, who turns 39 in a few days, now has 3,055 career hits.

In the first game between what many believe will be the NL Central’s top two teams, the Chicago Cubs administer an 8-0 pounding on the Brewers at Milwaukee. Jon Lester pitches six shutout innings for the Cubs and guns down attempted basestealer Ryan Braun with an intentional one-hop throw to third, as he attempts to overcome his reputation for wild pick-off deliveries.

If the one-sided loss isn’t bad enough for the Brewers; they lose closer Corey Knebel for a month after he collapses on the mound clutching his hamstring in the ninth inning. Why is Knebel even participating in a game with his team down eight runs? He needs the work, having not pitched in six days.

The Miller Park crowd of 24,310 is greatly populated with Cubs fans, proving for at least one day that the Brewers’ scheme to limit Chicago fans by giving first priority to Wisconsin residents isn’t working.

Friday, April 6
The Angels trail the A’s at Anaheim in the second inning, 6-0, when Shohei Ohtani crushes a 449-foot laser to straightaway center, jumpstarting the Angels on their way to 13-9 comeback win. It’s Ohtani’s third home run in as many games in which he has been in the starting lineup.

It’s a cold, wild and crazy night at Yankee Stadium. Baltimore survives a five-hour, 20-minute marathon in 14 innings, 7-3, on a Pedro Alvarez grand slam—the latest (by innings) ever hit by an Oriole—but there’s plenty to note before that moment. It includes the departure of four Yankees to injury (including starting pitcher CC Sabathia), back-to-back replay reviews, a botched rundown that becomes a botched call—umpires after the game confess that the Orioles should have gotten two outs on the play instead of the one granted—and a home run-robbing catch by Aaron Judge in the 13th.

Phil Coyne, who has worked as an usher for the Pirates since 1936, is announcing his retirement at the tender age of 99. He has worked every year since his debut at Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park with the exception of two years during World War II; he turns 100 at the end of this month.

Saturday, April 7
Bundle up, everyone—it’s freezing at the ballpark. A relentless late-winter cold snap deepens in the Eastern half of the U.S., leaving ballplayers to look like bank robbers with ski masks while multi-layered fans shiver over hot chocolate in the stands. No games are postponed because of the cold, but everyone’s uncomfortable nevertheless.

In Minnesota, the Twins’ 11-4 loss to Seattle starts with the temperature at 27 degrees, the coldest first-pitch reading for a Twins home game; it’s so cold, relievers choose to warm up in the heated batting cages instead of the bullpen outside. It’s 34 degrees in Cleveland where the Indians lose to Kansas City, 1-0; after the game, Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer blasts the new MLB rule for reduced warm-up time between innings, suggesting that there needs to be an exception in colder weather when pitchers need to loosen up more. St. Louis sets a first-pitch temperature low with 37 for the Cardinals’ 5-3 win over Arizona, and they can’t even escape the chill in Arlington, Texas, where it’s 42 degrees with a wild chill in the 30s for the Rangers’ 5-1 victory over Toronto.

The Red Sox ease to their seventh straight win, a 10-3 romp of the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, thanks to J.D. Martinez’s first homer in a Boston uniform and a six-RBI day for Xander Bogaerts that includes the Red Sox’ first grand slam since September 2016. Rick Porcello allows three runs over 7.1 innings and becomes the first Boston starter this year to allow two or more runs; the seven games with one or none given up to start a season had set a major league record.

The Rays’ 1-7 start is their worst ever after eight games.

Perhaps Philadelphia fans will go easier on beleaguered rookie Phillies manager Gabe Kepler. Two grand slams—one in the first inning by Maikel Franco, the other in the third by Aaron Altherr, catapults the Phillies to a 20-1 thrashing of the visiting Marlins. Of the 12 Phillies who make a plate appearance, 11 of them have at least one hit and one run—only the sixth time that has occurred in a modern major league game.

Andrew McCutchen starts the day having registered just two hits in his first 24 at-bats for the Giants, but ends it making good with a bit of catch-up. The former Pirates star has six hits including a three-run walk-off homer on the 12th pitch of a tense at-bat with Los Angeles reliever Wilmer Font to give San Francisco a 7-5, 14-inning home victory. It’s only the second time in history that a player has accumulated six hits, the last being a game-winning homer.

It’s the second time this week that the Dodgers have gone deep into extras on the road, scored a run to put themselves in a position to win—only to lose it in the bottom half of the inning.

In the first week-plus of the regular season, nine games have already gone 12 or more innings. Meanwhile, the minor leagues are using the “man-on-second” rule in which every half-inning past the ninth will begin with a runner automatically placed at second as a forced (and, in our opinion, ill-conceived) way to get the game done more quickly. One hopes that this rash of marathon games doesn’t entice commissioner Rob Manfred, who’s championing the rule, to pressure owners to except it in the near future.

Another extra-inning game at Houston looks to be headed beyond the 10th when the Astros’ Alex Bregman pops one straight up near home plate. The Padres’ Eric Hosmer readies to make the third out, but overruns the ball; it drops behind him, Derek Fisher scores from third and the Astros escape with a 1-0 victory.

Sunday, April 8
Slowly but surely, Shohei Ohtani is starting to look like the real thing. In his second appearance as a pitcher this season, the 23-year-old Japanese phenom retires the first 19 Oakland batters he faces at Anaheim before allowing a hit and walk in the seventh inning of a 6-1 victory; overall, he throws seven frames and strikes out 12 for his second win. Between his previous start and this one—both against the A’s—Ohtani retires 33 batters in a row before Marcus Semien’s single with one out in the seventh.

The Elias Sports Bureau says that the last guy to win two games pitching and hit three home runs within a team’s first 10 games of the season was not Babe Ruth but, instead…wait for it: Jim Shaw, in 1919. They were the only three homers he would hit on the year, while going 16-12 on the mound.

Giancarlo Stanton, the other big early newsmaker in the transaction department this past offseason, isn’t having as great a second week as Ohtani. In the Yankees’ 12-inning, 8-7 home loss to Baltimore, Stanton goes 0-for-7 with five strikeouts—the second time he’s accrued 5 Ks in a game this week while going hitless. No other player in major league history has done that twice in an entire season.

Arizona gets out of chilly St. Louis with a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals, but not without enduring some chilly relations with the Redbirds—and star catcher Yadier Molina in particular. After the Diamondbacks’ David Peralta and A.J. Pollock are rung up in the second inning by umpire Tim Timmons on pitches that were definitely below the strike zone, Arizona manager Torey Lovullo vehemently complains and gets tossed—but not before calling out Molina and accusing him of tricking Timmons into the strike calls by framing the pitches. This would seem to sound like a complement, but Lovullo also calls Molina a few chose R-rated words, sending the catcher into a fury that nearly turns into a full-scale brawl. Cooler heads prevail, and so do the Diamondbacks as both Peralta and Pollock later go deep in the eighth to break a 1-1 tie.

After scoring in six consecutive innings to take a 7-2 lead over the Red Sox at Boston, the Rays look primed to end their seven-game losing streak. But the Red Sox, winners of seven straight, have different ideas. Andrew Benintendi’s double caps a six-run rally—with all tallies scored with two outs—to give Boston an 8-7 victory. The Sox’ 8-1 record is the best after nine games in 118 years of Red Sox baseball.

The Pirates extend their hot start to 7-2 with a 5-0 home win over Cincinnati behind Jameson Tallion, who throws a one-hit shutout. The Reds’ only hit comes off the bat of pitcher Tyler Mahle in the third inning; Tallion also walks two, hits a batter and throws 110 total pitches.

Kansas City reaches base 12 times but only scores one run in a 3-1 defeat at (still) chilly Cleveland, where the first-pitch temperature is 32 degrees. Finally warming up, however, is the Royals’ Jorge Soler—who collects three hits to snap an 0-for-34 drought that extended all the way back to last July.

Monday, April 9
It’s a good day for the reigning Cy Young Award winners. In Washington, Max Scherzer throws a two-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts and no walks in the Nationals’ 2-0 win over Atlanta, but the thing everyone’s talking about is his stolen base in the seventh—the first swipe of his 11-year career and the first by a pitcher tossing a shutout since Andrew Cashner in 2013. Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Indians’ Corey Kluber deals eight shutout innings, allowing a pair of hits and striking out 13 as the Tribe seal a 2-0 win over Detroit.

In Kansas City, the Royals’ Jacob Junis takes a no-hitter into the seventh before giving up a one-out infield single to Seattle’s Daniel Vogelbach—the only hit he’ll allow in seven shutout innings as the Royals breeze to a 10-0 win. Junis does walk two while hitting three Mariners—and Royals manager Ned Yost is so concerned about such wildness that he nearly pulls him early before being told that he’s throwing a no-hitter.

While the Chicago Cubs’ home opener is postponed because of snowy conditions, baseball continues ten miles to the south at Guaranteed Rate Field where groundskeepers are able to shoo away the powder and get in an afternoon game between the White Sox and Rays before an announced “crowd” of 10,377. (The Tampa Bay TimesMarc Topkin claims to get inside information that the actual in-house attendance is 974, but other witnesses believe even that figure is too high.) “Game on” gives Tampa Bay the opportunity to finally shed an eight-game losing streak, and it makes good on it—holding off the White Sox for a 5-4 victory.

In the Angels’ 8-3 win at Texas, Albert Pujols belts a solo home run that gives him 1,923 career RBIs, putting him ahead of Jimmie Foxx for ninth on the all-time list. That’s the good news for Los Angeles: The bad news is that JC Ramirez, one of the Angels’ better pitchers last season, will miss the rest of the 2018 season after tearing his UCL. The injury is perhaps likely related to a partial UCL tear Ramirez had last year that ended his 2017 campaign in August. He was 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA to start this season.

What’s in a name? Pittsburgh closer Felipe Rivero legally changes his name to Felipe Vazquez, saying that’s the surname of his sister who’s been something of a close business confidant in his baseball dealings. Vazquez publicly apologizes to Pirates fans who bought his jersey likeness with “Rivero” on the back.

Tuesday, April 10
Two first-year managers are off to chart-topping starts. In Miami, the New York Mets rally for four late runs—the last two on a Yoenis Cespedes double in the ninth—to top the Marlins, 8-6, before a scant crowd of 6,500. Under rookie manager Mickey Callaway, the Mets are 9-1—their best start in franchise history after 10 games.

It’s the same story in Boston for Red Sox manager Alex Cora, as he reaches 9-1 in the most optimal of ways—a 14-1 drubbing of the archrival Yankees at Fenway Park. Chris Sale strikes out eight in six typically solid frames of work, while Mookie Betts has a prodigious day leading off—going 4-for-4 with a grand slam, two doubles, a walk and five runs scored.

The 9-1 starts for Callaway and Cora represent two of the four best starts by a first-time manager in major league history; only Joe Morgan (10-0 in 1988 for the Red Sox) and Pat Moran (9-1 for the 1915 Phillies) had similar or better debuts.

Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez takes a no-hitter into the eighth inning at Baltimore but quickly gives up three hits in succession as the Orioles tie the game at 1-1; Curtis Granderson’s homer in the ninth gives the Jays the lead back, and closer Roberto Osuna retires the Orioles in order to become the youngest major leaguer (at 23) to reach 100 career saves in a 2-1 victory.

The Indians may be lobbying to become the 21st Century version of the Hitless Wonders. Two solo home runs—a first-inning shot from Jose Ramirez and a tie-breaking clout by Roberto Perez in the eighth—give Cleveland a 2-1 win over the Tigers at Progressive Field. With the win, the Indians improve to 6-5 on the year despite a .158 team batting average that’s the lowest ever by any major league team after 11 games; a look at the box score shows that of the 10 players who bat on the day for the Indians, all but one are hitting below .200. (The one exception is Rajai Davis, who’s batting an even .200.)

In their four home wins so far in 2018, the Indians have collected exactly four hits.

Wednesday, April 11
Major leaguers have found one way to get over the winter chill: Get hot under the collar. It happens today at two ballparks. At Denver, the Padres are upset over losing Manuel Margot to the DL after being plunked in the ribs the night before—and pitcher Luis Pedromo lets the Rockies and star third baseman Nolan Arenado know about it. And after Arenado has a fastball sail barely behind his back in the third, he lets Pedromo know he’s upset as well—by rushing the mound and instigating a brawl that lead to the ejection of those two players and three others. The fracas also ignites a five-run rally for the Rockies off Pedromo replacement Buddy Baumann, all they will need to defeat San Diego, 6-4.

Arenado and Pedromo each receive five-game suspensions for their actions.

Later in the evening at Boston, the Red Sox and Yankees get into it. In a game already loaded with plenty of action—from Gary Sanchez’s two home runs for New York to the Red Sox’ first error of the season (in their 11th game) to their third grand slam (they had none for all of 2017), things get testy in the third when the Yankees’ Tyler Austin slides into second and comes in spikes high on Red Sox shortstop Brock Holt, who doesn’t appreciate it; the benches clear put no punches are thrown. That changes in the seventh after Austin gets drilled in the back on a 98-MPH fastball from Joe Kelly; Austin slams the bat down and charges Kelly, emptying out both dugouts again but this time leading to more fisticuffs. Kelly, Austin, Yankee reliever Tommy Kahnle and third base coach Phil Nevin are all tossed. Oh—the Yankees win, 10-7.

Boston’s David Price lasts just one inning—the shortest start of his career—after conceding four runs and complaining of a tingly feeling in his pitching hand. It ends a streak of 29.1 straight innings he had thrown without a run (postseason included) since returning from the shelf last September.

Thanks goodness the Rangers and Angels don’t play again until June 1 because they may have been set up for a retaliatory brawl as well. With Los Angeles in control 5-1 in the ninth, Mike Trout gets plunked to spark a two-run Angels rally; they perhaps rebut by drilling the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus in the bottom of the inning, fracturing his elbow and costing the Texas star shortstop up to two months. It’s a crucial loss for the Rangers, who also become the majors’ first team to lose 10 on the year with a 7-2 defeat at Arlington.

For the third time in the season’s first two weeks, a pitcher is removed with a no-hitter intact after six innings. Miami’s Jarlin Garcia, making his first major league start after appearing 70 times as a reliever, allows just two walks to the visiting Mets through six hitless on 77 pitches, but is pulled by manager Don Mattingly. In the eighth, a relieved Mets squad tees off on Marlins relievers, scoring four times to triumph, 4-1.

This is the third time in the last year-plus that Mattingly has pulled a starting pitcher with a no-hitter after at least six innings.

The crowd of 6,150 is the smallest in Marlins Park history—and nearly 500 fewer than attendance for the home opener of the Marlins’ Double-A affiliate up in Jacksonville that same night.

The White Sox avoid losing six straight home games to start the season for the first time in franchise history—and avoid an embarrassing three-game sweep to the lowly Rays—with a 2-1 victory in Chicago. Matt Davidson’s two-run homer in the eighth accounts for all of the White Sox’ runs.

Forbes comes out with its annual ranking of baseball’s most valuable franchises. For the 21st year in a row, the top spot belongs to the Yankees, whose value rises 8% to an even $4 billion. The Dodgers are second at $3 billion, followed closely by the Cubs ($2.9 billion), Giants ($2.85 billion) and the Red Sox ($2.8 billion). Only one team, the Tampa Bay Rays, are estimated to be worth under a billion dollars—and barely, at $900 million. More interestingly, Forbes’ flow chart also includes the amount of debt each team is carrying; six teams (Yankees, Giants, Red Sox, Mariners, Blue Jays and Angels) carry none at all, while the Marlins 40% is far away the most.

Thursday, April 12
The Giants breeze past the Padres in San Diego, 7-0, as Chris Stratton and two relievers hold the Padres to just one hit—a third-inning, pinch-hit single by pitcher Clayton Richard, batting for starter Bryan Mitchell. It’s the first time in the modern era (post-1900) that a team’s only hit has come from a pitcher in a pinch-hit appearance.

The Padres are 1-7 at home, a slight exaggeration of the difficulties major league teams are experiencing at home; at the end of the day, the combined home record for all 30 teams is 86-100.

Joe Mauer’s two-run single in the seventh at Minnesota not only gives the Twins insurance as they defeat the White Sox, 4-0, but it’s the 2,000th hit of his career—joining six other players in Senators/Twins franchise history who’ve done the same. Barring injury, trade or sudden inability to hit, Mauer should finish the 2018 season in fourth place on the team’s all-time hit list, behind Sam Rice, Kirby Puckett and Joe Judge.

Cincinnati’s Joey Votto is told to take a day off, ending a streak of 202 straight games played. This doesn’t necessarily help the Reds in the short run, as they’re blasted at home by the Cardinals, 13-4, for their fifth straight loss—dropping them to 2-10, their worst start since 1955.

Votto has two longer consecutive-game streaks: A 226-game run from 2012-14, and 204 games from 2011-12. The Reds’ record remains the property of Pete Rose, who played in 370 straight games from 1973-76.

As tempers cool a day after the Yankees and Red Sox brawl, Boston’s Rick Porcello takes a no-hitter into the seventh before allowing two hits and settles for seven frames of shutout ball. New York avoids an overall blanking with three in the ninth but still bow to the Red Sox at Fenway Park, 6-3.

DJ LeMahieu, putting on his best Charlie Blackmon imitation as the latter sits with a quad injury, goes 4-for-5 with two doubles, two homers and four RBIs from the leadoff spot to all but single-handedly boost the Rockies to a 5-1 win over the Nationals at Washington.

Friday, April 13
Despite losing their two top catchers in the past few days—Travis d’Arnaud to Tommy John surgery and Kevin Plawecki to a broken hand—the Mets make it nine straight wins and become the first New York-based team to start 11-1 since the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers with a 6-5 home victory over Milwaukee. Todd Frazier is 3-for-3 for New York with a pair of solo home runs, and the bullpen holds off the Brewers and gives Steven Matz his first victory after 11 straight winless starts.

George Springer belts two home runs off of Texas starter Cole Hamels—all three of his homers early this season have been belted against Hamels—and Marwin Gonzalez’s eighth-inning single brings home the tie-breaking run in a 3-2 Houston victory over the visiting Rangers. Gerrit Cole starts for the Astros and gets a no-decision, but his 14 strikeouts through seven innings give him 36 for the year—and that’s the most by any player, ever, in his first three starts for one team.

Cole throws 93 pitches, the fewest ever by a pitcher striking out 14.

The woebegone Marlins cool off the hot Pirates at Miami, 7-2, thanks in large part to a sacrifice fly gone awry by the Pittsburgh defense. In the Marlins’ fifth with the bases loaded, Starlin Castro hits a routine fly to right field that’s caught by the Pirates’ Gregory Polanco, whose throw home is too late to score Dillon Peters; catcher Elias Diaz then tries to nab Miguel Rojas, running from first to second—but the throw goes high and wide of the mark and splits the outfielders in right-center all the way to the wall, allowing the other two baserunners to score.

Saturday, April 14
Down 10-2 at Chicago, the Cubs score one in the sixth, two in the seventh and then nine in the eighth to complete a stunning 14-10 comeback victory over the Braves before a crowd of 36,000—most of whom miss it because they had left early due to the cold, windy weather and Atlanta’s fast start. The Cubs get help in the nine-run eighth from Atlanta relievers who walk five, hit two and throw a wild pitch.

Two AL teams continue to begin the season with franchise-best starts. At Boston, the Red Sox improve to 12-2—their best record after 14 games, ever—with a 10-3 pounding of Baltimore and Alex Cobb, making his first start of the year after signing a late contract with the Orioles. (Cobb allows eight runs—seven earned—in just 3.2 innings.) Later out in Kansas City, the Angels easily survive the Royals and snow flurries to win 5-3 and improve to 13-3—their best start after 16 games in 58 seasons.

The Diamondbacks make it 11 straight regular season wins against the Dodgers with a 9-1 victory at Los Angeles, but it comes with some embarrassment. In the third with two men on and Arizona up 3-1, the Diamondbacks’ Deven Marrero belts a home run to left—but he gets a step ahead of Alex Avila, the runner on first, between first and second. After further review, Marrero is credited with a single but is ruled out, while the two baserunners are allowed to score.

The Dodgers’ 11-game skid against Arizona is the longest they have suffered against one team since losing 12 in a row to the New York Giants from 1937-38.

Sunday, April 15
Before a nationally televised audience, the Rangers’ Bartolo Colon—all 44 years and 285 pounds of him—takes a perfect game into the eighth inning against the defending world champion Astros at Houston. But in that eighth, he loses the perfecto on a walk to the first batter he faces (Carlos Correa), the no-hitter on a double to the second (Josh Reddick) and the lead on a sac fly to the third (Yuli Gurriel). But the Rangers ultimately prevail in the 10th when Robinson Chirinos—who had earlier homered off of the Astros’ Justin Verlander for the only run in regulation—doubles in two to give Texas a 3-1 win.

Colon is so sharp, he throws first-pitch strikes to the first 17 Astros he faces. But as great as Colon is, Verlander is his equal—allowing just one other baserunner on a walk outside of the Chirinos homer and striking out 11 over eight innings.

It's the first time since 1982 that each starting pitcher went a minimum of 7.2 innings and allowed just one hit.

Clayton Kershaw becomes stopper for a flailing Dodgers team that finally gets it right against Arizona after 11 straight regular season losses to the Diamondbacks. The Los Angeles ace strikes out 12 while allowing just a run on two hits through seven innings as the Dodgers coast to a 7-2 victory, improving their record on the year to 5-9.

The Pirates take a three-game series from the Marlins at Miami and improve to 11-4 with a 7-3 victory behind Starling Marte’s five hits and Josh Bell’s three RBIs. But the news isn’t all good for Pittsburgh; infielder Josh Harrison has his hand broken on a Jose Urena pitch and will be out for six weeks.

The late wintry weather that’s roughing up the Midwest and Northeast portion of the country claims six games today, including a doubleheader between the Yankees and Tigers in Detroit. It’s the most postponements seen since September 12, 2008.

Monday, April 16
Playing against his former team for the first time, the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton is 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts against the Marlins at New York—but the two guys surrounding him in the lineup do a bit better. Didi Gregorius launches two home runs, and Aaron Judge adds another to become the fastest player to reach 60 for a career as the Yankees run away with a 12-1 rout.

Judge needed 197 games to reach 60; the old record was 202, set by Mark McGwire in 1988.

Across town at Citi Field, Bryce Harper breaks his bat on a first-inning swing yet still manages to send the ball over 400 feet for a solo home run, but it’s the Nationals’ only tally through seven innings as they fall behind the Mets after seven innings, 6-1. In the eighth, they awaken with six runs—two on a single from Harper, whose bat stays intact this time—and add insurance in the ninth to topple the Mets, 8-6.

The Reds net three runs in the second and six more in the sixth on their way to a 10-4 win at Milwaukee, snapping an eight-game losing streak that had sent their season record to 2-13—their worst start since 1931.

In a opening month socked by postponements, not even a domed stadium is enough to protect everything underneath from the elements outside. The scheduled game between the Blue Jays and Royals at Toronto’s Rogers Centre is postponed when falling ice from the adjacent CN Tower creates a hole in the stadium’s roof. It’s the second time a game has been postponed at the 29-year-old facility; in 2001, a game was called before it started after two of the roof panels accidentally collided.

This episode of falling ice was a relative nuisance for the Royals compared to an incident the night before that briefly imperiled everybody aboard one of the team buses. After arriving in Toronto, one of the buses has a sheet of ice fly off its roof and into the windshield of the one behind—briefly “incapacitating” the driver. Kansas City reliever Blaine Boyer lives up to his job in a more crucial way, taking over the wheel and helping to bring the bus to a stop. Besides the driver, who sustains several cuts from broken windshield glass, no one else is injured.

Tuesday, April 17
Just possibly, the Marlins may have found themselves a diamond in the rough. Jarlin Garcia, whose first career start wrapped after six no-hit innings, keeps the Yankees hitless through 4.1 frames before allowing a Miguel Andujar double that what will be the only knock given up in five innings before his removal. With 10.1 no-hit innings to being a career as a starter, Garcia goes into the record book by a third of an inning, breaking Bobo Holloman’s previous mark from 1953. The Marlins ease to a 9-1 victory at New York behind Garcia and catcher J.T. Realmuto, who has a single, homer and four RBIs in his first appearance after starting the season on the DL.

The booing at Yankee Stadium continues for Giancarlo Stanton, the ex-Marlin who goes 0-for-4 and is 3-for-35 with 20 strikeouts at home this year for New York.

The Twins and Indians—two teams battered by wintry weather in the season’s first few weeks—are happy to escape to balmy Puerto Rico for a special two-game series, while Puerto Ricans are happy to see major league baseball on their front yard as a welcome distraction from the brutal aftereffects of Hurricane Maria seven months earlier. Before an enthusiastic crowd of 19,516 at San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium, the Indians score a 6-1 victory behind Corey Kluber’s 6.2 sharp innings and four home runs, including a two-run shot from Puerto Rican native Francisco Lindor.

A pregame ceremony featuring numerous Puerto Rican baseball stars of the past is capped with a nice touch when former Yankee Bernie Williams performs the Star Spangled Banner.

Shohei Ohtani is battered and blistered in his third start on the mound for the Angels. Before a full house in Anaheim, the young Japanese phenom allows a leadoff home run to Boston’s Mookie Betts and lasts only two innings, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks before being removed with a blister. Boston doesn’t let up after his departure, rolling to a 10-1 smashing as Betts adds two more homers to tie Ted Williams for the most hat tricks (three) in franchise history.

Betts is the third player, after Ralph Kiner and Boog Powell, to hit three homers in a game thrice at age 25 or younger. He is also only the second player (after Alfonso Soriano) to do it multiple times from the leadoff spot.

Arizona’s Patrick Corbin allows just one hit—a check-swing roller down an unguarded third-base line from the Giants’ Brandon Belt with two outs in the eighth—and completes a one-hit, 1-0 shutout on 100 pitches at Phoenix. Corbin only gets the win thanks a two-out, eighth-inning hit from David Peralta—an inning after the Giants removed Johnny Cueto, who tossed seven innings of two-hit shutout ball with 11 strikeouts and no walks.

The win improves Arizona’s start on the year to 12-4, but there is bad news to report on the day in DBackLand. Starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, decision-less in three starts despite a solid 3.49 ERA, has a partially torn UCL and will undergo Tommy John surgery to end his season.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first game played at Oakland after their move from Kansas City, the A’s open up the Coliseum with free admission. A crowd of 46,000 is treated with the A’s blasting away the White Sox, 10-2 behind seven shutout frames from once-and-current Athletic Trevor Cahill, making his first appearance of the season.

This is the first of four straight games in which the White Sox will allow 10 or more runs, tying a franchise record.

Wednesday, April 18
The Twins and Indians experience, first-hand, the difficulties of life in post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico when the entire island plunges into a blackout the morning before their second scheduled game. Plan B is activated as backup generators kick into action and allow the game to go on—and they’ll be needed for quite a while. The contest is scoreless all the way to the 14th when the Indians finally get on the board with an Edwin Encarnacion solo homer—but the Twins rebut with one of their own, by Miguel Sano, to keep it tied. In the 16th, Ryan LaMarre wins it for Minnesota, 2-1, when he brings home Eddie Rosario on his third hit of the night—all of them coming after he enters the game in the 10th.

For the second day in a row, the Brewers slide past the Reds at Milwaukee by a 2-0 score; as with the game before, the game’s only runs come courtesy of a two-run homer from Eric Thames. The Reds drop to 3-15.

It’s only the second time since 1900 that a single player has provided the contest’s only runs via a home run in consecutive games. The other time? Just three weeks earlier, when the Giants’ Joe Panik hit solo shots to beat the Dodgers in back-to-back 1-0 victories.

A week later, Thames will undergo thumb surgery and miss the next six-to-eight weeks.

Unable to land a big contract this past winter as a free agent, former Toronto star Joey Bautista signs a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves. The pact grants him $1 million if he gets activated to the parent team; the Braves say they plan to play him at third base, a spot he has only performed at 12 times in his previous five seasons.

Bautista's stay with the Braves will only last a month; after hitting .142 with a pair of homers over 35 at-bats, Atlanta will release him on May 20.

Thursday, April 19
After a horrendous 3-15 start at Cincinnati, manager Bryan Price is fired by the Reds. Price had piloted the previous four years at Cincinnati, with his best season being his first—a 76-86 record in 2014. That was followed by three last-place finishes; overall, he won 279 games and lost 387. Jim Riggleman takes over on an interim basis.

Matt Harvey’s struggles continue as the Mets are clubbed by the Braves in Atlanta, 13-5, for their first road loss of the year after winning their first six of the year away from New York. Leading the way for the Braves is Preston Tucker, whose five RBIs give him 18 on the year to tie him for the NL lead with Washington’s Bryce Harper.

In six innings, Harvey gives up six runs on eight hits—and his 6.00 ERA to start the season ultimately leads Mets manager Mickey Callaway to demote him to the bullpen. A defiant Harvey, when asked about the possible switch: “I’m a starting pitcher…that’s my mindset.”

A mint version of Topps’ 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card, owner by former pro football player Evan Mathis, sells for $2.8 million—the second highest fee ever played for a baseball card, after the $3.12 million sum paid for a 1909 Honus Wagner card in 2016. Just two years ago, the Mantle card was sold for no more than $1.1 million; in 1988, at the beginning of the baseball card craze, the top price was $3,300.

Friday, April 20
So close—and yet, again…the Padres, who’ve never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter in nearly 50 years of existence, come tantalizingly close once more. Once-and-current Padre Tyson Ross, off to a strong start, holds the Diamondbacks hitless in Phoenix through 7.2 innings when, on his 127th (and last) pitch of the night, he gets Christian Walker to hit a catchable deep fly to center—except San Diego outfielder Franchy Cordero has a late jump and can’t catch up to it. The Padres snap a 1-1 tie in the ninth with three runs to win the game, 4-1.

The Astros romp at Chicago, 10-0, as Justin Verlander and three relievers combine to shut down the White Sox on two hits while Carlos Correa goes deep twice. The first of those homers is belted off of Chicago reliever Danny Farquhar in the sixth; after finishing the inning, Farquhar returns to the dugout—and collapses from a brain hemorrhage. He is able to regain consciousness moments later but is taken to the hospital for observation, where he’ll eventually undergo brain surgery to relieve swelling.

The Royals get 17 strong innings from starting pitching in a doubleheader at Detroit but come away with only a split—yet it’s at least enough to end a nine-game losing streak. In the first game, Jason Hammel throws nine innings but gets no decision and no credit for a complete game as the contest goes into extras and the Tigers’ JaCoby Jones walks off with a solo, one-out homer in the 10th off of Brad Keller. In the nightcap, Jacob Junis departs after tossing eight solid frames and the Royals are looking at a 2-1 deficit, but rally with three straight singles in the ninth to defeat the Tigers, 3-2. Junis gets credit for the win, his third of the year; the rest of the Royals (4-14) have just one. Loudres Gurriel Jr., the younger 24-year-old brother of Houston’s Yuli Gurriel, makes his major league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays at New York—and it’s a good one. Called up straight from Double-A (where he was hitting .347), Gurriel Jr. knocks in three runs on two singles as the Jays defeat the Yankees, 8-5, and improve to 13-6 on the year.

The Giants, desperately looking for someone to jumpstart its woebegone offense, get it from Mac Williamson—who had begun the Triple-A season on fire with a .487 average, 6 home runs and 16 RBIs in 11 games. After an apparently successful offseason series of sessions with a swing doctor, the 27-year-old borderline minor leaguer launches a blistering 434-foot homer to right-center at Anaheim to ignite a six-run, fifth-inning rally and give San Francisco an 8-1 victory over the Angels. Jeff Samardzija, making his first start of the year after dealing with tendinitis, throws five shutout innings to secure credit for the win.

In a highly anticipated battle of, arguably, baseball’s top two pitchers, the Nationals’ Max Scherzer gets the better of the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw at Los Angeles. Scherzer allows a run on four hits with nine strikeouts over six innings, while Kershaw concedes four runs through seven as the Nationals triumph, 5-3.

Saturday, April 21
Baseball once again proves that on any given day, it’ll jump up and surprise you. The 17-2 Red Sox enter Oakland with an eight-game winning streak and the majors’ most potent offense. So what happens? They get no-hit by the A’s Sean Manaea in a 3-0 loss. It’s the year’s first no-hitter, and the first suffered by the Red Sox since 1993. In improving his season record to 3-2 with a 1.23 ERA, Manaea walks two and strikes out 10—though he admittedly also gets help twice from officials off the field. With two outs in the fifth, A’s shortstop Marcus Semien drops a Sandy Leon pop fly on a somewhat difficult play as he has to run into short left-center and make a behind-the-shoulder grab; the official scorer gives him an error. In the sixth, Andrew Benintendi is initially ruled safe on an infield hit when he eludes a tag down the first-base line by Matt Olson—but after further review, Benintendi is called out from running out of the base line.

Manaea’s gem is the first no-hitter tossed by an Oakland pitcher since Dallas Braden threw a perfect game in 2010. (Braden interviews Manaea after the game as part of the A's regional broadcast team.) The A’s, by the way, have the longest run of games without being no-hit, at 4,243 games.

The Red Sox had collected at least 10 hits in each of their previous seven games.

The Tigers blast the Royals, 12-4, as they score in all but two innings to drop Kansas City to an AL-worst 4-15 mark. Detroit even gets to Royals rookie reliever Tim Hill, who allows his first career hit—a bunt single by Leonys Martin—in his eighth appearance covering 6.2 innings. Hill thus falls one stint short of tying the major league record for the most games to start a career without allowing a hit.

The Indians’ Mike Clevinger, who never seems to be trusted to go more than five or six innings no matter how well he’s pitching, is allowed to go the distance for the first time in his career as he shuts out the Orioles on two hits at Baltimore, 4-0. Clevinger throws 107 pitches, walks two and, in a bit of a surprise for this day and age, only strikes out three. Baltimore starter Chris Tillman, trying to right himself after disastrous 2017, drops to 0-4 on the year—but at least he drops his season ERA below 10.00 by allowing four runs through six innings.

It’s the third complete game thrown by an Indians pitcher this season. No other team has more than one.

Sunday, April 22
The Giants’ Brandon Belt has three hits including a home run in his fourth straight game to help give San Francisco a 4-2 win at Anaheim over the Angels, but it’s his first at-bat against Los Angeles starter Jaime Barria that has everyone talking. Belt draws the count full and then proceeds to foul off one pitch after another until—in the 21st pitch of the at-bat—he finally lines out to right. Barria, making his second big league start, ends up throwing 49 total pitches in the first—while somehow not giving up a run—and by the third will be replaced when the Giants finally notch a few runs off of him. Johnny Cueto, meanwhile, earns the victory for the Giants and improves his MLB-best ERA to a microscopic 0.35.

Belt’s 21-pitch at-bat is the longest recorded since MLB began keeping official track of such numbers in 1988. The previous record was 20 in 1998, when Houston’s Ricky Guiterrez batted against a young second-year pitcher for the Indians named Bartolo Colon.

The Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin throws his second gem of the week, allowing just two runs on two hits with 11 strikeouts through six innings to improve to 4-0 as Arizona takes a 4-2 home win over the Padres. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant gets nailed in the head by the Rockies’ German Marquez in his first at-bat at Colorado and looks stunned as he is escorted off the field, but doctors will later confirm that the All-Star third baseman has no signs of concussion. (Yet he will still miss a week of action.) That’s just the beginning of an interesting day on which the Cubs will escape with a 9-7 win despite Charlie Blackmon’s eighth homer of the year—oddly, only his first at home—a game of “no you don’t” in which the Cubs’ Javier Baez tries to block the view of home plate from Colorado baserunner DJ LaMahieu (who Baez believes is stealing signs), and a replay reversal to end the game in which Blackmon is ruled out at home when he was initially given the run.

The Royals, 0-for-15 with the bases loaded this year, finally get in the hit column in a big way as Abraham Almonte’s fifth-inning grand slam propels them from behind to an 8-5 win over the Tigers at Detroit.

Monday, April 23
The Yankees pummel the Twins at New York, 14-1, behind Giancarlo Stanton’s 4-for-4 day including a home run and the seventh straight game in which Miguel Andujar collects at least one extra-base hit with a double in the sixth. The 23-year-old rookie third baseman, who was hitting .107 when his streak began, becomes only the third Yankee under 25 to rack up that long a run; the other two were Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

A two-run homer by Yonder Alonso in the second gives the Indians all they’ll need to defeat the Orioles at Baltimore, 2-1. Carlos Carrasco throws 7.1 sharp innings and wins for the 10th consecutive time; a first-inning strikeout for the Indians’ Michael Brantley ends a long run (for this day and age) of 42 plate appearances in which he had not whiffed.

Move over, Noah Syndegaard and Shohei Ohtani—here comes Walker Buehler to deliver some heat from the mound. The Dodgers prospect makes his first major league start and eight times over the first two innings hits 99 on the radar, tossing five shutout frames overall to help lift Los Angeles to a 2-1 home victory over Miami. Cody Bellinger’s sac fly in the bottom of the eighth proves to be the game winner.

Taking the loss for the Marlins is Jarlin Garcia—yes, Jarlin rhymes with Marlin—but again he delivers with a strong effort, allowing just a run on four hits through six. His ERA through his first five appearances (three starts) this year is a terrific 1.00; he’s allowed just 10 hits in 27 innings.

After losing their previous seven games by a combined score of 61-16, the White Sox get back on the winning track—and in a bug hurry, becoming the first team since 2014 to open a game with seven straight hits, scoring five times on their way to a 10-4 thrashing of the Mariners in Chicago. Jose Abreu has four hits including two home runs.

The Padres and Rockies meet up again at Coors Field just two weeks after they engaged in a series of fisticuffs, and Nolan Arenado—suspended five days for his actions on that day—welcomes back the Padres with a two-run homer in the first. But a 5-4 Colorado lead is rudely erased in the seventh with San Diego rallies for nine tallies and runs away with a 13-5 victory.

The game is noted for the appearance in the TV booth of Jenny Cavnar as the first female play-by-play announcer since 1993, working the game for the Rockies’ regional sports network.

Tuesday, April 24
The Angels tie a franchise record with their 11th straight road win, though it’s not entirely as they would have liked it to be scripted. At Houston, Shohei Ohtani gets the start on the mound and, despite a fastball reaching speeds of 101 MPH, struggles through 5.1 innings as he allows four runs on seven hits and five walks—but his teammates more than compensate. Mike Trout becomes the first major leaguer this season to reach 10 home runs, and Andrelton Simmons drives in five runs—the final three on his second dinger of the night in the seventh—to secure an 8-7 win over the Astros.

According to NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra, the Angels are the first team this year to use up all six of their allotted mound visits before the ninth inning. We’ll have to take Craig’s word for this, since no one seems to be statistically tracking mound visits online.

In their first game against each other (Spring Training excluded) since Game Seven of the 2016 World Series, the Cubs bash the Indians 10-3 behind four home runs—two from Kyle Schwarber—and six sharp innings from Tyler Chatwood. Despite the attraction, the crowd count at Progressive Field is only 16,408, in part due to a steady, cold rain throughout the game.

The Yankees win their fourth straight, 5-1 over the visiting Twins—who’ve lost five in a row—as two streaks come to an end. New York’s Miguel Andujar fails to extend his extra-base-hit streak to eight games, while Minnesota’s Brian Dozier fails to reach base in four plate appearances, ending both a 24-game hit streak and 34-game streak with a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch, both going back to the end of the 2017 season.

Cincinnati rookie Tyler Mahle, who threw a no-hitter in Single-A ball in 2016 and a perfect game in Double-A last year, takes a no-no into the seventh against Atlanta before losing it on a three-run Braves rally. Even his chance for a win is washed away when the Braves rally anew for four runs in the ninth, sending the game into overtime at 7-7—but the Reds rebound in the 12th on Scooter Gennett’s two-run shot, his second of the game, to give Cincinnati a 9-7 home win.

Lorenzo Cain returns to Kansas City in the uniform of the Milwaukee Brewers and rudely says hello to his old teammates with two hits, including an insurance-sealing homer in the seventh, to give the Brewers their seventh straight win, 5-2 over the Royals.

Postponements in Baltimore and Pittsburgh raise the total number of games cancelled this season to 28, setting a pre-May record for any year since MLB began officially counting such events in 1986.

Wednesday, April 25
The much-anticipated major league debut of top prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. takes place in Cincinnati as the 20-year-old Atlanta outfielder singles and scores in five trips to the plate in the Braves’ 5-4 win. Also contributing for the Braves is Ozzie Albies, the second youngest active major leaguer after Acuna, who hits a home run and ties the franchise record for most extra-base hits (at 17) before May 1; and Ender Enciarte, who raps out three hits and makes a bizarre catch in center field to end the game.

After a rotten 4-13 start, the Tampa Bay Rays secure their fifth straight win with an 8-4 victory at Baltimore over the Orioles—who have now dropped 10 of 11 and are last in the AL East with a 6-18 mark. The game has further significance as it marks the return of reliever Jonny Venters, a three-time Tommy John surgery patient making his first major league appearance since 2012 when he was a top set-up man for the Braves. The 33-year-old southpaw retires the only batter he faces.

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has an unusually difficult time finding the strike zone as he walks a career-high six batters in five innings before being removed, trailing the Marlins at Los Angeles, 3-0. His counterpart, Trevor Richards—who worked as a substitute teacher just this past offseason—strikes out 10 batters in 4.2 shutout innings while allowing just one hit, but is pulled one out shy of earning credit for the 8-6 win because his pitch count hits 100.

Thursday, April 26
Ronald Acuna Jr.’s second day on the job as a major leaguer gets everyone’s attention. He hits his first career home run and falls a triple shy of the cycle as the Braves topple the Reds at Cincinnati, 7-4. Teammate Ozzie Albies also goes deep and sets the franchise record for extra-base hits before May 1 with 18.

With the loss, the Reds drop to 5-20—their worst start after 25 games. Only 16 teams in major league history have started a year with as bad or worse a record.

The Yankees continue to be Minnesota’s Kryptonite. The Twins are three outs away from avoiding a four-game sweep at New York and ending a six-game losing skid, but the first two Yankees reach against closer Fernando Rodney—and then Gary Sanchez ends it with a three-run, walk-off blast for a 4-3 victory. Since 2002, the Yankees are 94-33 (including postseason games) against the Twins.

The Diamondbacks pile up on the Phillies and Blake Lively for eight runs in the first three innings, then breeze from there to an 8-2 win at Philadelphia. Arizona is the first team since the 2001 Mariners (on their way to a 116-46 record) to win its first eight series of a season. The major league record is 11, held by the 1907 Chicago Cubs.

After a year-plus of off-field issues including a DUI, Jung Ho Kang is back with the Pittsburgh Pirates as he is allowed to return to the U.S. from his native South Korea. In a statement, Kang says, “I will not disappoint anyone anymore.” After three arrests in Korea, hopefully not.

It’s official: The City of Boston decides to rename Yawkey Way outside of Fenway Park in the wake of protests targeting the former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey as racist. (Among other things, the Red Sox were the last major league team to bring an African-American ballplayer onto their roster in 1959—12 years after Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.) The road will now go by Jersey Street, as it was before it was named after Yawkey in 1977.

The Yawkey Foundations, the charity organization named after Yawkey and his wife Jean, do not take the news well. “The effort to expunge Tom Yawkey’s name has been base on a false narrative,” it states. “The drastic step of renaming the street…will unfortunately give lasting credence to that narrative and unfairly tarnish his name.”

Friday, April 27
Oakland’s Sean Manaea shows little let-up in his first start since no-hitting the Red Sox, silencing the Astros on an unearned run and four hits through seven innings to help give the A’s an easy 8-1 victory at Houston. Manaea doesn’t allow a hit until the fourth, extending a streak of hitless frames to 14—the most by an A’s pitcher since the team moved to Oakland 50 years earlier. The A’s have won nine of their last 11 games, with Manaea—now sporting a AL-best season ERA of 1.03—the winner of three of those.

For one night at least, the old Chris Tillman shows up. The Baltimore pitcher once considered the leader of the rotation before falling on rock-hard times in 2017, throws seven shutout innings of one-hit ball to snap a streak of 22 winless starts in the Orioles’ 6-0 home victory over Detroit. Offensively, the Orioles are powered by two home runs from Pedro Alvarez, and Manny Machado’s ninth (all solo) of the season.

When Matt Davidson becomes a free agent, the Royals might want to consider grabbing him. The young White Sox slugger goes deep twice at Kansas City—his last shot a two-run job that breaks a 4-4 tie in the 11th—to give him seven homers in just five games this season at Kansas City in Chicago’s 7-4 victory. No player in major league history has ever hit more home runs at a visiting ballpark in April; with six more games to play at Kaufmann Stadium this season, Davidson has a shot of breaking the all-time season mark set by the Tigers’ Harry Heilmann at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park in 1922.

Colorado starter Tyler Anderson departs after 1.1 innings at Miami from an irregular heartbeat, and Antonio Senzatela comes to the rescue by firing 3.2 shutout innings in his place while adding a RBI double to lift the Rockies to a 1-0 win over the Marlins. Senzatela becomes the first reliever since Joe Niekro in 1980 to earn a win and collect the sole RBI in a 1-0 game.

The Yankees hit the road and win their seventh straight game, a 4-3, 10-inning nail-biter over the Angels at Anaheim as Didi Gregorius continues his white-hot start to the year. The shortstop knocks out three hits, including the game-winner in the tenth with his 10th home run to tie Mike Trout for the major league lead; because there are so many Yankee fans at the game, Gregorius takes the unusual step of a visiting player making a curtain call from the dugout.

The Angels suffer more than just a loss. Two-way rookie star Shohei Ohtani departs midway with a mild ankle sprain and is listed as day-to-day; and Ian Kinsler, after leading off the Angels’ first with a walk, is tagged out trying to steal second—becoming the first Angel this season to be caught stealing in this, their 26th game.

Saturday, April 28
In his fourth start of the season, Bartolo Colon nets his first win with Texas—allowing three runs over seven innings in the Rangers’ 7-4 victory at Toronto. That makes it the 11th team Colon has registered a win for, tying the all-time record held by three other pitchers: Mike Morgan, Ron Villone and LaTroy Hawkins.

The Twins end an eight-game losing streak by defeating the Reds at Minneapolis, 3-1. Catcher Mitch Garver, getting more playing time as Jason Castro (.135) continues to struggle, doubles and homers for the Twins, Jake Odorizzi keeps Reds star Joey Votto from homering for a fifth straight game (which would have tied a Cincinnati record) and Fernando Rodney gets the save for Minnesota after blowing three previous opportunities.

The White Sox take the first game of a doubleheader at Kansas City, 8-0, to improve to 5-0 on the year against the Royals—while they’re 3-16 against everyone else. But in the nightcap, Chicago starter Dylan Covey can’t keep the unbeaten streak alive and, instead, extends his own run of winless starts to begin his major league career to 13 as the Royals grab a 5-2 victory.

This is apparently not your father’s Tampa Bay Rays team of a few weeks earlier. After a 3-13 start, the Rays have won eight straight—tied for the third longest in franchise history—with a 12-6 victory at Boston over the Red Sox, who are still trying to drag themselves out of a funk started a week earlier by Sean Manaea’s no-hitter. The game’s signature moment occurs in the second when the Rays’ Denard Span hits a line drive up the middle that curls past Jackie Bradley Jr. and goes all the way to the wall, allowing Span to complete an inside-the-park circuit for his second homer of the year.

This is the first time that a team has racked up both an eight-game win streak and eight-game losing streak before May 1 since the 1985 Minnesota Twins.

The Dodgers win the first game of a day-night doubleheader at San Francisco, 15-6, as they knock erratic Giants starter Chris Stratton off the mound after just 1.1 innings—leaving a nightmare scenario for the Giants in which they have to exhaust their bullpen and then play a second game afterward. Coming to the rescue, at least for an inning, is third baseman Pablo Sandoval—who takes the mound in the ninth for the Giants and retires the Dodgers in order on three ground balls. San Francisco will win the night game, 8-3.

Sunday, April 29
The Pirates’ Nick Kingham, finally reaching the majors after eight years in the minors with one Tommy John surgery, retires the first 20 Cardinals he faces at Pittsburgh before giving up a Paul DeJong single with two outs in the seventh. Kingham finishes the inning without any other blemishes, is removed from the game and watches as the Pirates complete a 5-0 victory over St. Louis.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no pitcher since 1961 had not retired up to his first 20 batters in his big-league debut.

This is the 14th time this month that a pitcher has taken a no-hitter or perfect game into the seventh inning. Last year for the entire season, there were 27 such instances.

Gerrit Cole wraps up a remarkable first month in a Houston uniform by striking out 12 A’s over 6.2 innings, but he can’t get the victory as the tying run he puts on base scores on a base hit given up by reliever Will Harris. The Astros rebound with five runs over the seventh and eighth innings to defeat Oakland, 8-4. Cole finishes the month with 61 strikeouts and a 1.73 ERA; he had four 10-K starts in April, compared to six over his five previous full seasons with Pittsburgh.

The Cubs sweep a four-game series from the Brewers at Wrigley Field, shutting them out for the fifth time already this season with a 2-0 blanking. Tyler Chatwood throws seven shutout innings; the two runs allowed for the entire series are the fewest conceded by Cubs pitching in a four-game series since 1919.

For the series, the Cubs themselves tallied only seven total runs; it’s the first time since 1908 that they’ve won four straight games while not scoring more than three runs in any of them.

Monday, April 30
The Brewers rebound from a four-and-out at Chicago and defeat the Reds at Cincinnati, 6-5, thanks in large part to an eight-out save from reliever Josh Hader—with all eight outs being strikeouts, something no other reliever had previously ever done. Hader has struck out 39 of the 61 batters he has faced this season—and allowed only four hits.

Boston ties a major league mark for the most grand slams hit before May 1 when Xander Bogaerts, in his third game back since missing 19 days due to injury, clears the bases in the third inning to give the Red Sox a lead they will not relinquish in a 10-6 home drubbing of Kansas City. The Red Sox’ six slams ties the 1996 Montreal Expos, who also hit six before the end of April.

It takes nine tries, but someone finally cools off the red-hot Yankees as the Astros score a 2-1 home victory over the team they eliminated last year in the ALCS. Charlie Morton strikes out 10 for Houston to help end New York’s nine-game win streak, while giving the defending champions their best start (20-10) after 30 games in club history, matched only by the 1973 team.

The Dodgers lose at Arizona, 8-5, as A.J. Pollock hits a trio of solo homers for the Diamondbacks, but worse news comes to Los Angeles off the field; All-Star shortstop Corey Seager will be lost for the rest of the season and quite possibly the beginning of 2019 as he undergoes Tommy John surgery.


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