This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: August, 2018
Jose Urena’s One-Pitch Solution for Ronald Acuna, Jr.
Did Joe Simpson Really Mean That? Bartolo Colon, King of the Latino Pitchers

Best and Worst of the Week

J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox

102 24 38 11 0 7 25 9 5 1 2

Fast rewind to the 2017-18 offseason when the power-laden talent sat quietly, waiting for the phone to ring from someone, anyone willing to offer him a contract for the upcoming year. Finally, in late February, the Red Sox made the call—and everyone else has since been kicking themselves for not doing the same. Martinez has easily affirmed that his late bludgeoning of opponents in 2017 was no fluke, as he ended August tied with the A’s Khris Davis for the major league lead in homers, while leading it outright with 110 RBIs. Propelled by an August in which he hit a season-best .373, Martinez now has reasonable aspirations of winning the Triple Crown; all he needs to do is outslug Davis the rest of the way while passing up teammate Mookie Betts, who’s just eight points ahead at .341, for the batting crown.

Ronald Acuna, Jr., Atlanta Braves

116 25 39 7 1 11 21 12 0 2 6

About a month ago, it was written in many circles (including ours) that Washington’s Juan Soto was a lock for the NL Rookie of the Year. Not so fast, my friend, said the 20-year-old Acuna Jr. The preseason consensus pick for the rookie award, after an uneven first four months, put everything into place in August with a remarkable effort that included 11 homers—tying Mel Ott for the most in a calendar month by a player age 20 or younger—with five those leading off the game. All of them, it seemed, against the Marlins—who got a little testy about it, as we all recall when Jose Urena threw a supersonic fastball at his elbow with a game’s first pitch. It’s currently a close call between Acuna Jr. and Soto as to who will win rookie honors, but Acuna Jr.’s terrific August may be so fresh in the BBWAA’s minds at the end of September, it could sway the vote.

Greg Bird, New York Yankees

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Remember those old-timey footage clips of early airplanes struggling to leave the ground, then rising with promise before hitting the ground once again? That seems a pretty good analogy for Bird, who continues his struggle to take flight. One month, he’ll look like the greatest Yankee since Babe Ruth; the next month, he’s the greatest Yankee bust since Roger Repoz. The lanky, left-handed slugger assumed the nosedive position this past month as he did power a couple of homers but otherwise did nothing, putting himself below the .200 mark for the season; if that persists, he’ll finish his second straight year batting in the .190s or worse. But wait, there’s September—and another chance for Bird to suddenly pick it up again. You never know with this guy.

Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers

41 4 4 0 0 2 5 2 1 0 0

A year ago, Thames returned from Japan and became a savior at first base for the Brewers—but then Jesus Aguilar, who also just happens to play first, rose to greater prominence, shifting Thames to a crowded outfield where he’s been fighting for playing time. That apparently has left him with no fight at the plate, where he struggled badly in August; missing from the above numbers is 25 strikeouts, which was almost good enough to lead the team though he played part-time. It appears that Thames needs to reinvent himself as an American League DH, but first he needs to rediscover his quality power game to convince someone to take him up on it.

Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays

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In a year where the Rays are making news by starting relievers, they have a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate in their presence. No, it’s not Ryne Stanek, but Snell, who finishes August with season-to-date numbers comparable to another prime Cy candidate in the Red Sox’ Chris Sale. The 25-year-old southpaw was given the bubble-wrap treatment in August after sitting out the last two-plus weeks of July with shoulder fatigue; all five of his starts this past month were excellent if brief—and c’mon, Rays, why lift him on August 10 after five perfect innings on 47 pitches? Perhaps the team just wants to protect him for days of greater glory—whether it’s with the Rays, or with someone else after a trade that gives Tampa Bay yet more promising prospects to follow in Snell’s tracks.

Cole Hamels, Chicago Cubs

4-0 39 28 4 3 11 0 3 1 0 38

It’s amazing what a change of scenery will do to a top pitcher. We saw it last year with Justin Verlander, and it appears we’re seeing a repeat with Hamels, who went from our worst pitcher of July (perhaps getting bored with a bad Rangers team) to the best this past month as he resurrected his season with the Cubs. The 34-year-old lefty has always enjoyed Wrigley Field—he threw a no-hitter there in his last start for the Phillies a few years ago, before his trade to Texas—and he’s still a happy guy there after allowing two runs over 21 innings in August. He wasn’t so bad on the road, either. The Cubs, desperate for starting pitching as Yu Darvish can’t stay healthy and Tyler Chatwood can’t throw strikes, clearly rolled the dice on Hamels—and so far have come up with a lucky seven.

Marcos Gonzales, Seattle Mariners

0-4 20 38 23 23 3 0 1 1 0 17

At the end of July, the young right-hander was wrapping up a superlative month but also reached a career season high (majors or minors) in innings pitched. So off went Gonzales into August and the great unknown—where he found himself hitting a wall. He lost all four of his starts and opponents batted .396 off him (as opposed to .196 in July), shooting his season ERA up a full run and doing the Mariners no favors as they try to reach the postseason for the first time in 17 years. Turns out, the wall he smacked into came with some pain; he’s been placed on the disabled list with a cervical muscle strain.

Tyler Anderson, Colorado Rockies

0-4 21.1 35 27 27 8 0 0 0 0 23

We note at left under August 6 that the 28-year-old lefty was near the top of the charts in career ERA at light-aired, heavy-hitting Coors Field. Well, that took a bit of a hit after his last two outings at the ballpark left him a bit beat up—particularly his last start on August 26 against the Cardinals, when he couldn’t make it past the first inning after allowing six runs. The road gave Anderson no solace; he was bombed in August starts at Milwaukee and Houston, surrendering three home runs in each. Overall, Anderson had three starts in the month allowing six or more runs; before that, he hadn’t given up more than five since Opening Day. And that’s a troubling trend for a Rockies team fighting for postseason relevance.

Cleveland Indians (19-9)

Go ahead, blame all of this on a pathetic AL Central that the Indians can walk away with blindfolded—but it should be noted that the Tribe played 13 games out of the division this past month and won 10 of them. And that included a decent four-game split at Boston with the Red Sox, who at some point in October they’ll likely have to run through to get to the World Series. Star Cleveland hitters Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez were not at their best last month, but making up were revived efforts from Michael Brantley and, yes, Melky Cabrera; also lending a hand on the pitching side was, yes, Brad Hand, showing struggling Cody Allen how to properly close by converting all six of his save opps. September looks to be a virtual repeat as the schedule serves up yet another feast of feeble divisional deadbeats; if the Indians can’t post .500+, that will be a major disappointment—and a warning sign for October.

St. Louis Cardinals (22-6)

A lot of people were scratching their heads back in mid-July when long-time, successful Cardinals manager Mike Matheny seemed to be rashly fired despite a 47-46 record. Now, there seems to be more of an understanding. Replacement pilot Mike Shildt has so convincingly catapulted the team to the next level that he’s had the “interim” tag removed from his job description. Key to the upgrade has been a totally out-of-nowhere performance by a young rotation that nobody would have known the names of a year ago, and of course solid, tenacious hitting that might remind older St. Louis fans of Cardinals teams past. Once an afterthought in the postseason discussion, the Cardinals end August as the NL’s top wild card dog—and if they keep playing this well, they might have a shot to steal the NL Central title from the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles (8-20)

It’s hard to believe, but as incredibly awful as the Orioles have been, this is actually their first appearance under this dishonor in 2018. This, despite the fact that the O-No’s finally achieved their first three-game sweep of the year, late in the month against Toronto. That, along with outfielder Cedric Mullins’ fine debut, were among the highlights. The lowlights, as you might expect, were many—mostly on the pitching side. The team registered a major league-worst 6.42 ERA for the month (with six different pitchers posting a 10.00+ figure) while serving up 51 home runs—including eight more from Dylan Bundy, whose 34 for the year are the most in the majors. Hang in there, Orioles fans—one more month, and the nightmare will finally be over.

Miami Marlins (7-19)

For a while it looked like the Marlins, who played above-.500 ball from June through the All-Star Break, might be onto something. Well, scratch all that. The Marlins could be a better team in the not-too-distant future—that’s Derek Jeter’s plan, anyway—but the team hit a speed bump toward the goal this past month as its offense laid down and died with the fewest runs scored in the majors. On top of all of that, of course, was the F-you moment when Jose Urena decided that the best way to stop red-hot rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. was to hit him with a 97-MPH fastball on the first pitch of the game. That’ll rally the troops in the clubhouse—the opponents’ clubhouse, that is.

Wild Pitches

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

Whatdayaexpect—He’s Nearly 40
On August 2, once-and-current Diamondback Brad Ziegler finally became the first Arizona player this year to take up the team’s offer to ride the bullpen cart to the mound. He proceeded to give up four runs in one inning of work to the Giants.

It’s a Primal Scream
A New York mental health facility is offering free therapy to Mets fans as their team goes through a terrible season.

Throw This Pen on My Bill
The Brewers’ Mike Moustakas obliged a Brewers fan’s request for an autograph in a Milwaukee department store by ripping open a package of markers and using it to sign. You wouldn’t hesitate to do the same if you had $6 million coming to you this year.

You Like This Rule Now, Manfred?
The Class-A Clearwater Thrashers of the Florida State League managed to defeat the Tampa Tarpons, 1-0, despite their failure to earn either a hit or walk. How? After seven regulation innings, they scored the winning run in an extra eighth frame thanks to the gratuitous rule of automatically placing a runner at second to start each half-extra inning. That runner advanced to third on an error, then scored on a ground out to win, 1-0.

Actually, Manfred Will Probably Like it After Reading This
A few days later, another extra inning ended quickly when the first pitch was lined into a double play (the automatic runner being doubled up at second) and the second pitch lined for the third out. So there you have baseball history: Two pitches, three outs, first time.

Bug Off!
A moth flew into umpire Bruce Dreckman’s ear during a Yankees-White Sox game at Chicago on August 8. He had to get help from the Yankees’ team trainer to get it out.

Signed, Sealed and Auctioned
A ball signed by 11 of the 12 inaugural Hall of Fame members in 1939 sold for $623,000; the only one who didn’t sign was Lou Gehrig, who couldn’t as he at the Mayo Clinic learning of his fate.

More Potent Than “Your Mother”
The Cubs’ Ben Zobrist was ejected from an August 14 game for uttering three new “golden words” to home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi: Computerized strike zone.

That’s So A-Rod of You
The Rays’ Carlos Gomez tossed a baseball with his phone number to a couple of attractive woman seated behind the Tampa Bay dugout at Yankee Stadium.

I’m a Zit—Get it?
Forty years to the day that National Lampoon’s Animal House was released, the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association paid tribute by holding a mass “food fight” at the end of the game. A crowd of 8,000, decked in blue-tinted rain gear, gladly participated.

Fall Down and Go Boom!
The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo didn’t exactly have the most graceful follow-through on a home run against the Tigers on August 21—which made the fact that he actually hit it over the fence that much more amazing.

Faulty Showers
The famed water fountains at Kauffman Stadium sprang a leak that flooded the warning track, delaying an August 24 game between the Royals and Indians for 30 minutes.

Nose Job
The Padres’ Wil Myers, trying to adapt to third base, took a sharp ground ball to the nose during batting practice at Denver’s Coors Field. He fell to the dirt in response, but suffered nothing more than a cut.

Never Mind the Million—$42 for a Chicken Salad?
With his team in the L.A. area, Houston ace Justin Verlander and a friend received a bill at the Beverly Hills Hotel restaurant that included a $1 million tab for a “Dodger killer.” Verlander was off the hook for paying when the hotel said they would ‘comp’ the cost.

Bams Solo
San Diego rookie Franmil Reyes finished the month of August with 13 home runs and 17 RBIs on the season to date. To better absorb those numbers, here's a pretty good explanation; he's hitting .304 when the bases are empty, and .148 when at least one of them isn't.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
There are continued signs that the brakes are at long last being applied to the growth industry known as strikeouts. For the second straight month, the total number of K’s (6,818 in August) is slightly down from that of the previous year (6,906)—suggesting that, just perhaps, hitters are getting wiser and adjusting to how they approach one 95-MPH+ pitcher after another. That said, there’s still some unprecedented numbers to reveal; the Yankees became the first team ever to strike out over 300 batters in a calendar month, totaling 317 in 30 games; and the Astros reached 1,411 pitching strikeouts for the year at the end of the month—which is more than what the Brewers’ 1,402 totaled back in 2012. Why mention that? Because the Brewers’ total was, at the time, the all-time record.

League vs. League

The finish line for interleague dominance is in sight for the National League—and that’s something they haven’t seen in 15 years. Yes, 2003 was the last time the NL finished above .500 against the AL, and even though the AL took the month of August with a 32-28 margin, it doesn’t appear it will be enough to turn the tide in its favor for the season in whole as the Senior Circuit needs to win just eight of its final 30 games to hit the magic 151 total for the year and clinch the season. If the AL is hoping to mount a magical, last-month comeback, it’ll have to rely on four of its worst five teams—the Tigers, White Sox, Royals and Rangers—to take care of it, because they’re the AL representation in 17 of those games.

Wednesday, August 1
Cole Hamels’ debut for the Chicago Cubs is a winner, allowing an unearned run on three hits and nine strikeouts through five innings in a 9-2 victory at Pittsburgh. The veteran southpaw was traded to Chicago by Texas after a three-year stay with the Rangers.

A night after getting blasted at Washington by the Nationals, 25-4, the New York Mets suffer a more respectable 5-3 defeat as former Met Tommy Milone outduels Noah Syndergaard. Hitting two solo homers for the Mets is Jose Reyes, a night after serving up two long balls in emergency mop-up duty; he’s the first major leaguer to hit two homers one game after allowing two since the great Cap Anson in 1884.

The Oakland A’s finish a three-game sweep of the visiting Toronto Blue Jays—wrapping up a 7-0 record against the Jays on the season—with an 8-3 victory that puts them square with Seattle in the race for the second AL wild card spot. Sean Manaea improves to 10-7 with six solid innings.

The San Francisco Giants, who stood completely pat before the trading deadline despite hanging on in the NL West race, announce that top pitcher Johnny Cueto will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2018 campaign and likely any chance of pitching in 2019 as well. Cueto got off to a terrific start in April, but has since bounced on and off the disabled list as he’s dealt with serious elbow issues.

Thursday, August 2
After spotting the Yankees an early 4-0 lead at Boston, the Red Sox come to life and demolish New York, 15-7. The unlikely star for the Red Sox is Steve Pearce, who hits home runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings while driving in six total runs. The win puts Boston 6.5 games ahead of New York in the AL East.

The Dodgers smoke the Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles, 21-5, setting a Dodger Stadium record for runs scored while bashing seven homers—one shy of the franchise record. Four players collect at least four RBIs, including all three starting outfielders (Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson)—the first time a team has managed to do that since a 1964 Milwaukee Braves lineup consisting of Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and Lee Maye.

In the other big blowout of the night, the Texas Rangers beat up on the Baltimore Orioles at Arlington, 17-8. The unlikely box score line belongs to Rougned Odor, who goes 1-for-1 with five walks—an astounding fact given that as recently as 2016, he walked 19 times for a full season. All nine members of the Rangers’ lineup has at least one hit and one run; the team scores in every inning but one.

Friday, August 3
Meet Jacob deGrom, your hard-luck pitcher of the year. The Mets’ ace achieves his 14th straight quality start and maintains his major league-best ERA at 1.85, but drops to 5-7 with a 2-1 loss at New York against Atlanta. Unbelievably, deGrom is now winless in five starts against the Braves despite having allowed just four runs in 33 innings (that’s a 1.09 ERA). Even more astonishingly, deGrom is 1-7 over his last 13 starts with a 1.89 ERA.

With Mike Trout sitting out with a bruised wrist (he’ll eventually be placed on the disabled list), Shohei Ohtani nicely fills the void with his best day yet as an Angel. The 24-year-old Japanese import goes 4-for-5 with his first two home runs on the road, as Los Angeles snares a 7-4 victory at Cleveland. Ohtani had hit his first nine homers at Anaheim; he becomes the first player ever to record at least 10 homers and 50 strikeouts in a season.

The Red Sox defeat the Yankees, 4-1, in a very un-Red Sox-Yankee game; the two teams that usually take longer than anyone else to finish a nine-inning game get it done in just two hours and 15 minutes. The primary reason for this swiftness is Boston’s Rick Porcello, who allows just one hit—a third-inning homer to Miguel Andujar—and strikes out nine without a walk in a complete-game, 86-pitch effort, the fewest thrown by a pitcher throwing nine since Porcello himself back in 2016. There is controversy in the other baserunner Porcello allows, when he hits the Yankees’ Brett Gardner on a 0-2 pitch to lead off the game; a half-inning later, Yankee starter Luis Severino buzzes the head of Boston’s Mookie Betts, prompting a warning to both benches from the umpires and an explosion of anger from Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who is ejected for the first time in his managerial career.

It’s déjà blew all over again for the Colorado Rockies, who for the second straight day take a one-run lead into the bottom of the ninth…and lose. A day after the Cardinals deal the Rockies with a walk-off loss, the Brewers triumph on a three-run blast by Eric Thames with two outs in the ninth off Colorado closer Wade Davis to win, 5-3.

It’s the second straight blown save for Davis, who has six overall on the year with a 5.09 ERA—but his 31 successful saves are easily on pace to break the Colorado record of 41, co-owned by Jose Jimenez (2009) and Greg Holland (2017).

At Los Angeles, the Astros and Dodgers hook up for the first time since the 2017 World Series, with Houston once again proving—on this night at least—that it’s still the better side. The Astros’ Justin Verlander overcomes a leadoff homer in the first by Joc Pederson and throws 7.2 shutout innings afterward, striking out a season-high 14 batters in a 2-1 victory.

Pederson, who also led off the bottom of the first the night before against Milwaukee, becomes the first Dodger since Carl Furillo in 1951 to do so in back-to-back games.

The A’s survive a no-hit bid by Detroit’s Blaine Hardy—who allows his first hit in the seventh on Jed Lowrie’s leadoff infield single—and triumph 1-0 in 13 innings thanks to Ramon Laureano, whose walk-off, RBI single is his first career knock. He thus becomes the first American Leaguer since Toronto’s Tomas Perez in 1995 to have his first hit be a game-winner in extra innings.

Jung Ho Kang, who played two promising seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates before DUI and visa issues derailed his career, will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his left wrist. The 31-year-old infielder hasn’t played with the Pirates since the end of 2016, plying his trade this year for a pair of their minor league teams—hitting .310 with three homers in 16 games.

Saturday, August 4
In Minnesota, Twins reliever Oliver Drake throws a perfect ninth to nail down an 8-2 victory over the Royals. His appearance is noteworthy for one reason, as he has now thrown for five teams this season—something no major leaguer has done since 1884. Drake has also pitched this season for the Angels, Indians, Brewers and Blue Jays; between all five team, he has a 1-1 record with a 7.31 ERA.

The Astros continue to have the Dodgers’ number, and tonight at Los Angeles it’s a pretty big one: 14-0. It’s the worst shutout defeat in Dodgers history going back to 1923, when the Brooklyn Robins (as the Dodgers were then called) bowed to the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field by a similar score. The only sour moment for the Astros comes when starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. is forced to leave after four shutout innings with elbow discomfort.

On an evening in which The Athletic is reporting that Mike Scioscia plans to step down as Angels manager at season’s end after 19 years in Anaheim—something Scoiscia will deny the next day—the Angels are further bummed by Indians ace Corey Kluber, who needs just 98 pitches to dispense of Los Angeles with a three-hit, 3-0 shutout at Cleveland. Kluber, who has never won 20 games in his terrific career to date, is on pace for 21; this is his seventh lifetime shutout.

In their doubleheader split against the Reds at Washington, Nationals rookie Juan Soto has multiple hits in each game—making him the first teenager since Robin Yount in 1975 to do so. Soto has a single and double in each game and raises his season average to .313. The game gets tense toward the end when Cincinnati All-Star first baseman Joey Votto gets hit for the second time, and the first after Nationals All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper is forced to leave the game after getting plunked himself; Votto barks at pitcher Ryan Madson as he hobbles to first base and continues to bark from first, all while Madson offers no response.

Sunday, August 5
The Yankees are still in good shape to make the postseason, but their hopes of winning the AL East take a virtual death blow in Boston as the Red Sox finish a four-game sweep of New York and increase their lead over the Yankees to 9.5 games—the largest first-place advantage in any division. With a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth, New York closer Aroldis Chapman walks the bases loaded, serves up a two-run single to J.D. Martinez, then is the victim of a wild throw from third baseman Miguel Andujar that Greg Bird can’t handle at first, allowing the Red Sox to tie the game. An inning later, Andrew Benintendi’s RBI single wins it, 5-4.

Chapman’s last five appearances collectively read like a Nuke LaLoosh box score line: Four innings, three hits, six runs (five earned), seven walks and 11 strikeouts.

The Nationals’ Juan Soto continues to set teenage records, even when he doesn’t get a hit. In Washington’s 2-1 home win over Cincinnati, the 19-year-old Soto is 0-for-2 but walks twice—surpassing Mel Ott for the most multi-walk games (10) before turning 20.

The post-trading deadline period, in which players can still be exchanged via waivers, begins with the last-place San Diego Padres shedding two of their top arms. Tyson Ross is sent to St. Louis, while the Brewers pick up reliever Jordan Lyles. Additionally, Shawn Kelley—last seen throwing a fit (and a glove) in anger after conceding a home run with a 24-run lead for the Nationals, is picked up by A’s, while Washington fills the void left behind by Kelley by inking veteran reliver Greg Holland, recently released by the Cardinals after posting a 7.92 ERA in 32 appearances.

Monday, August 6
One out away from being shut out without Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa, the Astros rally for three runs on two walks and a Marwin Gonzalez three-run homer to defeat the Giants at San Francisco, 3-1. Getting the win after throwing just five pitches in the eighth for Houston is Roberto Osuna, making his first appearance in three months after his arrest for domestic abuse that led to a 75-game suspension by MLB; he has yet to be tried in court.

It’s the sixth time this year that the Astros have won a game when trailing in the ninth inning; they’re also an MLB-best 40-18 on the road.

While the Giants (57-57) may be fading from a crowded NL West race, the Colorado Rockies are hanging in tough with a second wind of strong starting pitching. Kyle Freeland deals at least seven shutout innings for the fourth time in a start at Coors Field, and two relievers easily hold it up as the Rockies earn a 2-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Freeland’s 3.08 career home ERA is easily the lowest among any pitcher with at least 25 starts at Coors Field since its 1995 opening. Second is Tyler Anderson, another current Rockie, at 3.48; Ubaldo Jimenez is third at 3.67.

Tuesday, August 7
After suffering five straight defeats on the mound, the Rangers’ Bartolo Colon finally gets copious offensive support and nabs his 246th career victory to become the winningest Latin-born pitcher in major league history, surpassing Dennis Martinez, in Texas’ 11-4 home triumph over Seattle. Taking the loss for the Mariners is Felix Hernandez, #11 on that list of Latino pitchers—but after his season ERA rises to 5.73 with a career-high 11 runs (seven earned) allowed in six innings, he’ll be demoted to the bullpen.

The Yankees find that the White Sox (41-72) are easier than the rampaging Red Sox, with a second straight win at Chicago—though tonight it doesn’t come so easily. Giancarlo Stanton’s two-run homer in the 10th gives New York a 3-1 win, but the Sox even it back up a half-inning later on Jose Abreu’s two-run shot of his own; Miguel Andujar’s RBI single in the 13th does hold up as the game winner, 4-3.

Yankees starter CC Sabathia strikes out 12 batters in 5.2 innings, becoming the oldest American Leaguer (at 38) to collect at least a dozen Ks since the White Sox’ Thornton Lee racked up 13 in 1945.

Another day, another historically noteworthy—but officially brief—effort from 19-year-old Nationals rookie Juan Soto. In the first game of a doubleheader at Washington against the Braves, Soto will become the youngest player since (again) Robin Yount in 1975 to reach base five times, with two singles and three walks, to propel the Nationals to an 8-3 win. A day later, Soto will be deprived of the honor as the official scorer rethinks one of his hits and gives an error instead, meaning he safely reached based only four times.

Veteran Braves broadcaster Joe Simpson—who was grilled by social media last month for complaining about the Dodgers’ informal batting practice apparel—says exactly this on air while Soto’s at the plate: “If he’s 19, he’s certainly got his man growth. He is big and strong.” Many people hear that as innocuous or even complementary, but others in the blogosphere pounce on Simpson for implying that Soto is lying about his age—a problem involving some Latino players in the recent past that apparently has been cleaned up. The alleged implication gains legs and mushrooms online criticism via an endless parade of exaggerated clickbait. It’s likely that Simpson wasn’t thinking age-based conspiracy; as Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes: “Had this been a one-time thing (for Simpson), would it have caused the same stir?”

It’s noted that the Braves have three runs on seven hits with no errors and six men left on base in both games of the doubleheader. They win one game, lose the other.

For the second time this season in the minors—and the second time in organized baseball history, period—two players from the same team both hit for the cycle in the same game. Kevin Newman and Jacob Stallings of the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians each gather a single, double, triple and home run in a 12-5 win over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Earlier in April, two members of the Class-A San Jose Giants (Gio Brusa and Jalen Miller) also hit for the cycle in the same game.

Wednesday, August 8
The Red Sox make it 10 wins in their last 11 games—and officially assure a non-losing season with their 81st victory of the season, defeating the Blue Jays at Toronto, 10-5. Only the 2001 Mariners (August 6) and 1998 Yankees (August 7) won their 81st games on an earlier date of the season than the Red Sox.

The Orioles, trying to avoid their 80th loss, commit five errors—their most in 19 years—and still manage to win at Tampa Bay, 5-4, on a two-run Trey Mancini double in the ninth. Two of the four runs allowed by Baltimore are unearned.

San Diego’s Brett Kennedy is excited to be making his major league debut at Milwaukee; after his first inning of work, the air is definitely out of his balloon. The 24-year-old right-hander becomes the first major league pitcher to give up three straight home runs in his first career inning (and first career start) as the Brewers’ Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw and Eric Thames all go deep consecutively as part of a five-run first. Kennedy will last four innings and give up six runs overall in the Padres’ 8-4 loss.

The Mets’ Jacob deGrom is once again excellent, throwing six shutout innings against the Reds at New York. That’s not a surprise. What’s surprising is that he gets more than enough support to finally win his first game since June 18 with an 8-0 triumph. deGrom had thrown seven straight quality starts without a win; the last guy to go eight such starts without a victory was the Yankees’ Ray Keating, way back in 1914.

Thursday, August 9
Despite a cycle by Mookie Betts achieved with a home run in the ninth inning, the Red Sox lose at Toronto, 8-5, as the Blue Jays pile up seven runs over four innings on Rick Porcello. Betts raises his MLB-leading batting average to .347 and becomes the second player, after Johnny Mize in 1940, to have a cycle and a pair of three-homer games in one season.

Houston ace Justin Verlander, hoping for his 200th career win, instead takes his roughest loss in a year since joining the Astros—and caps the evening by getting ejected after arguing a balk—in an 8-6 home loss to third-place Seattle. The Mariners begin the night against Verlander with a home run, triple, double and single—the first time since 1920, according to STATS, that a team has led off a game with a reverse cycle. James Paxton allows four runs in 5.2 innings and is the pitcher of record in all four of Seattle’s wins over Houston thus far in 2018.

The Mariners’ top three batters—Mitch Haniger, Denard Span and Jean Segura—combine to go 10-for-13 with three doubles, a triple and three homers.

The Nationals continue their struggle to stay relevant in the NL East race, defeating second-place Atlanta 6-3 to move with 5.5 games of first-place Philadelphia. Earning the win is Gio Gonzalez, who allows a run in seven innings for his first victory since May 28; in 11 outings in between, he had gone 0-6 with a 6.37 ERA.

Friday, August 10
Ronald Guzman becomes the first Texas rookie to smash three home runs in a game—and the first rookie, period, to do it against the Yankees—as his trio of blasts, all solo, help the Rangers to a 12-7 win at New York. Guzman has 12 homers on the season—half of them against the Yankees.

The Orioles become the first American League team to accrue at least 10 runs and 15 hits in four straight home games—but on this night it’s not enough, because they’re the Orioles. Baltimore blows an 8-3 lead at Camden Yards against Boston, which piles up 14 tallies in the last four innings to knock down the Orioles 19-12 and officially knock them out of the AL East race. J.D. Martinez knocks in two of the Red Sox’ run to become the first major leaguer to reach 100 on the season, while Mookie Betts follows up his cycle from the night before by reaching base five times (single, two doubles and two walks).

Only two teams have been eliminated from winning a league/divisional title on an earlier date than the 2018 Orioles: The 1932 Red Sox and the 1962 Mets.

One silver lining for Baltimore is that center fielder Cedric Mullins, hitting in the #9 spot, becomes the first Oriole to collect three hits in his major league debut; he also adds three runs and a pair of RBIs.

In his second start since missing three weeks with shoulder woes, Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell throws five perfect innings on just 47 pitches—and then gets removed, as the Rays worry that he may get overworked. (Workhorse aces of the past collectively roll their eyes in disgust.) Two Tampa relievers combine to allow three hits but sustain the shutout as the Rays roll to a 7-0 victory at Toronto. Third baseman Joey Wendle, part of an all-rookie infield for the Rays, knocks in three runs.

The Nationals’ Jeremy Hellickson can relate to Snell—sort of. The former Ray is pulled after 5.2 no-hit innings against the Cubs at Chicago, but he’s also charged with two runs as he walks four. The Cubs will quickly seize upon his replacement, Sammy Solis, notching a run on two hits before the sixth is over; it’s just enough for Chicago to eke out a 3-2 win and increase its lead in the NL Central to three games.

The Phillies snatch Miami first baseman Justin Bour off the waiver wire for a minor leaguer. Bour was hitting a subpar .227 for the Marlins but was displaying power (19 homers) and patience (69 walks) in 112 games.

Saturday, August 11
The Giants officially retire Barry Bonds’ #25 in an elaborate pregame ceremony at AT&T Park that includes members of Bonds’ family and numerous players and coaches, ranging from Willie Mays to Bonds’ former Pittsburgh boss Jim Leyland to former teammate Will Clark. There’s some grumbling that the Giants broke from their policy of retiring numbers only for those currently in the Hall of Fame, but an energetic, 87-year-old Mays perhaps speaks for the team by eloquently pleading with Cooperstown voters to “just put him in.” In the game to follow, the Giants could use Bonds, never mind that he’s 54; the Pirates’ Trevor Williams and two relievers combine to shut San Francisco down on six hits in a 4-0 victory that takes just two hours and 18 minutes.

The Dodgers, without closer Kenley Jansen for several weeks as he deals with an irregular heartbeat, take a 2-0 lead to the bottom of the ninth at Colorado—but Ryan McMahon’s three-run, two-out homer—his second blast in as many days—delivers a 3-2 walk-off for the Rockies. It’s the first time that Colorado has ever won a game on a game-winning homer after being shut out prior to that at-bat.

If the Jansen heart issue sounds like a case of déjà vu, you’re right. Jansen also suffered from an irregular heartbeat in August 2012—ironically, when the Dodgers were also playing a road series at Colorado. He missed three weeks then.

Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman, back to being chronically hurt and generally subpar after a renaissance 2017 campaign, comes briefly back to life at Chicago as he drives in six runs on a two-run homer, three-run double and sacrifice fly to give the Nationals a 9-4 victory over the Cubs.

Sunday, August 12
It’s become a horse race in the AL West. The Mariners finish off a four-game sweep of the Astros in Houston as Ryon Healy nails a solo homer in the ninth off of current Astros closer Hector Rondon—and then Ryan Haniger wins it with an RBI double in the 10th off Roberto Osuna. Houston’s lead is reduced to 2.5 games over Oakland (8-7 winners at Anaheim over the Angels) and four over Seattle.

Seattle closer Edwin Diaz saves all four games in the series sweep, the first pitcher to do so since the Twins’ Joe Nathan in 2004. Diaz is far and away the major league leader in saves with 46—the Red Sox’ Craig Kimbrel is second with 35—and is on pace to top Francisco Rodriguez’s all-time season mark of 62 in 2008.

The Astros continue to be world beaters everywhere…except in Houston. Eleven teams have a better home record than their 32-28—and against the AL West, the Astros are 8-17 this season at Minute Maid Park, including an 0-9 mark in their last nine games. On the road, they’re 24-5 against divisional opponents.

Have you ever had this dream? You’re a rookie, your team’s being shut out and you come to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded—and you win the game with a grand slam. The Cubs’ David Bote lives the dream tonight in Chicago, as the first-year infielder cleans the bases on a pinch-hit slam, wins the game over the Nationals, 4-3, and gets a postgame, on-field hug from Cubs superfan Bill Murray. All this, after a terrific pitching duel between the Nationals’ Max Scherzer (seven shutout innings, 11 strikeouts) and Cubs’ Cole Hamels (seven innings, one run allowed on one hit).

Chris Sale’s return to the Red Sox after a brief absence is one of his most dominant (albeit short) efforts yet. The lanky southpaw throws five shutout innings at Baltimore, allowing just one hit while striking out 12 in 68 pitches; no pitcher has previous struck out that many in fewer pitches. The Red Sox’ offense somewhat struggles against Baltimore starter Alex Cobb, who valiantly tries to avoid dropping to 3-15 on the year but settles for the inevitable. The Red Sox’ 4-1 victory and four-game sweep at Baltimore improves their major league-best record to 85-35—while the Orioles cement their major league-worst record to 35-84.

Sale’s return will be short-lived; he’ll be placed on the disabled list six days later with continuing shoulder woes.

The Yankees use home runs from Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius to defeat the Rangers at New York, 7-2. The seven-game season series ends with the Yankees having hit 23 home runs in 270 at-bats against the Rangers; the resulting average of one homer per 11.73 at-bats is exceeded in the majors individually only by the Dodgers’ Max Muncy (11.42).

Monday, August 13
Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. has a historically memorable day as the Braves easily sweep a doubleheader from the visiting Miami Marlins, 9-1 and 6-1, and take a one-game lead over the idle Phillies in the NL East. The 20-year-old Acuna Jr. homers to lead off both games for the Braves, becoming the fourth player ever to do so in a double-dip; the others are Harry Hooper (1913), Rickey Henderson (1993) and Brady Anderson (1999). He has also homered in four straight games and six of his last seven.

The Dodgers are really, really missing Kenley Jansen. With the All-Star closer out with an irregular heartbeat, Los Angeles flubs another ninth-inning lead as the visiting Giants rally for four runs off Scott Alexander to grab a 5-2 victory. The Dodgers bullpen has now lost four straight games—all of them blown by the bullpen in one way, shape or form.

Jacob deGrom takes his major league-leading ERA act to Yankee Stadium and survives well, allowing three runs (two earned) over 6.2 innings with 12 strikeouts while, more importantly, being backed by five Mets home runs to topple the Yankees, 8-5. Taking the loss for the Yanks is Luis Severino, who’s struggled in five starts since the All-Star Break with a 1-4 record and 7.96 ERA.

The Nationals relive the nightmare of the previous night all over again, as they surrender four runs and the lead to the Cardinals in St. Louis in the eighth inning—and then after tying the game with a two-run rally in the ninth, watch as Paul DeJong belts a leadoff, walk-off homer in the bottom of the frame to give the Cardinals a 7-6 win. St. Louis has won six straight and 10 of their last 12, and are just two games behind in the chase for the NL wild card slots. After being given a day of rest as he’s struggled at the plate,

Detroit’s Nick Castellanos refreshes in a big way as he goes 5-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs to give the Tigers a 9-5 home victory over the White Sox. Amid what’s become a forgettable season overall for the Tigers (50-69), Castellanos leads the team with a .291 average, 33 doubles, 17 home runs and 64 RBIs.

Tuesday, August 14
In regards to the many who’ve pre-anointed Washington’s Juan Soto as NL Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna Jr. says not so fast. The Braves’ budding star blasts two more home runs from the leadoff spot to propel the Braves to a 10-6 win over the Marlins at Atlanta. With his pair of homers, Acuna Jr. becomes the youngest player ever to go deep in five straight games, twice on back-to-back days, eight times over an eight-game span and three straight games from the leadoff spot.

Not even the return of Seattle’s Robinson Cano from his 80-game PED suspension can stop the A’s, as Oakland makes it two of two in crucial three-game AL West series with a 3-2 win over the Mariners to move within a single game of first-place Houston (which bows 5-1 at home to Colorado). Seattle starter James Paxton is KO’d by a linebacker to the forearm just three batters in and is taken over by Felix Hernandez, who allows two runs over 5.2 innings; it’s the first career relief appearance for Hernandez after 398 starts, second only to Mike Mussina’s 498.

The A’s out-of-body play over the last two months is not bringing baseball fans out of their house, as only 17,000 show up to the Oakland Coliseum. Some blame the aging stadium and lack of a new ballpark, but in truth the problem is a fan base that has been jaded by an organization that continually frustrates it by sending away star performers and reloading with younger prospects in the name of limited payroll.

The Giants have had enough of Yasiel Puig’s antics. In Los Angeles, Puig shows disgust after a foul ball by throwing his bat in the air and grabbing at it; Giants catcher Nick Hundley tells Puig to cool it, and Puig responds by twice shoving Hundley—instigating a brief melee in which both players will ultimately be ejected. In the end, the Dodgers’ bullpen comes up lame yet again, as converted reliever Kenta Maeda allows a tie-breaking run in the ninth to give San Francisco a 2-1 victory—keeping the Giants, in fourth place but just five games back, hanging on in an ever-tightening NL West race.

Puig will be suspended two games, but the Giants suffer a bigger cost when it’s learned that rookie pitcher Dereck Rodriguez—6-1 with a 2.25 since making his major league debut in June—strains his hamstring in the melee and will go on the disabled list.

Wednesday, August 15
Miami pitcher Jose Urena is apparently fully intent on stopping Ronald Acuna Jr.’s home run binge in the worst way. With the red-hot Braves rookie leading off in the first—a situation in which he’s homered in the past three games against the Marlins—Urena drills him in the left elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5-MPH fastball. While Acuna Jr. squats down and absorbs the pain, the Braves’ bench explodes, with some players and coaches rushing out to confront Urena—who’ll be ejected after some soul-searching from the umpires. Without Acuna Jr., the Braves bounce back from an early deficit to defeat the Marlins at Atlanta, 5-2—their sixth straight victory over Miami.

It’s the first time ever that a starting pitcher leaves the game after one pitch in which he hits a batter.

After the game, Urena will tell reporters that “I made the bad pitch” and “missed my spot on the corner.” Others don’t buy it. The Braves certainly don’t, and the Associated PressPaul Newberry certainly doesn’t—writing a piece the next day calling for Urena to be suspended for the rest of the season. He’ll be disappointed to learn that MLB will quickly administer a six-game ban—roughly the equivalent to one start—upon Urena.

Urena does have a few defenders on the night. One is former major leaguer and current Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez, who says on air that “you gotta hit him…seriously knock him down…never throw at anybody’s head or in the neck.” So, the elbow’s fair game, right?

According to the baseball rulebook, Acuna Jr.’s hit-by-pitch does not constitute an official at-bat and thus his streak of leading off games with a home run remains intact. It’ll end the next night anyway—but at least he’ll be back in action, after it was feared he’d lose significant time with his injured elbow.

The Astros take out their aggressions on a nine-game home losing skid by thrashing the Rockies, 12-1, with a season-high five home runs—and in the process move back to two games above the A’s, who lose 2-0 in 12 innings against Seattle. Houston was just one loss shy of the all-time record for consecutive defeats at home by a defending champion; that record remains the property of, naturally, the talent-depleted 1998 Florida Marlins (54-108).

Two weeks after being acquired at the trading deadline, All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos finally makes his Philadelphia debut after recovering from injury and makes quite the impact, doubling twice, tripling and driving home three runs in the Phillies’ 7-4 home win over the Red Sox. Ed Freed, in 1942, was the last player with three extra-base hits in his Phillies debut.

Umpire Joe West moves into second place on the career games list as he works third base during the Twins’ 6-4 win over the Pirates at Minnesota. The 65-year-old West’s 5,164 games are now second only to Hall of Famer Bill Klem, with 5,375.

Thursday, August 16
The Mets set a franchise record for runs scored with a bit of help from a couple position players for the Phillies trying their hand at pitching. In the first game of a doubleheader at Philadelphia, the Mets score early and, in the fifth inning, very often—posting a 10-spot—and then add nine more runs off outfielder Roman Quinn and second baseman Scott Kingery over the final three innings to complete a 24-4 demolition of the Phillies. The most impressive stat line offensively for the Mets is for a guy who doesn’t even start the game; Jose Bautista replaces an injured Brandon Nimmo in the third and proceeds to rack up a walk, single, double and home run while knocking in seven runs. He’s the first National Leaguer in the modern era to collect seven RBIs after coming off the bench.

With 16 runs the night before at Baltimore, the Mets total 40 over consecutive games—the most since the Red Sox piled up 40 in 1953. Individually, seven different Mets score at least three runs; the last team to do that was the 1950 Red Sox in their memorable 29-4 rout of the St. Louis Browns. Finally: The Mets are the first team since 1894 to both win and lose a game by 20 runs in the same season.

The Rangers overcome a five-run first by the visiting Angels, scoring four in the eighth to win, 8-6. Key is a fourth-inning triple play turned by Texas; with the bases loaded and nobody out, the Angels’ David Fletcher hits a sharp grounder that Texas third baseman Jurickson Profar dives and gathers on a very short hop—so short, the other Angels runners believe he’s made a line out. That allows Profar to force one runner at third, tag the runner (Taylor Ward) who had come back to the bag, then throws to Rougned Odor to force Kole Calhoun. (A confused Odor chases down and tags Calhoun, though he does not need to.) The 5-4 triple play is the first in which the batter is not directly retired since 1912.

Like the Angels, the Diamondbacks rack up five runs in the first—but unlike the Angels, Arizona holds the lead to the end thanks to Clay Buchholz, whose hot-and-cold career is firmly back on the warm side. The 34-year-old veteran throws his first complete game since 2014, limiting the Padres to a run on five hits and improving his season record to 6-2 with a 2.47 ERA in a 5-1 win at San Diego.

Tampa Bay finally wins a series at New York against the Yankees, but it doesn’t come easy. Leading 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Sergio Romo allows the Yankees to load the bases with nobody out—but rookie lefty Adam Kolarek, who’s never had a legitimate save opportunity, is given the ultimate test—and retires the three batters he faces to complete the victory. The Rays had lost 12 straight series at Yankee Stadium dating back to 2009.

Friday, August 17
The Chicago Cubs turn a record-tying seven double plays in posting their second straight 1-0 victory at Pittsburgh, as Cole Hamels throws seven shutout innings to lower his ERA in four starts with the Cubs to 0.72. Kyle Schwarber belts a solo homer in the second for the game’s only run, a night after Ian Happ does the same; the Cubs are thus only the fourth team in history—and the second this year—to win back-to-back 1-0 games on solo homers.

In a thrilling start to a crucial series at Oakland between the AL West’s top teams, the A’s overcome a game-long edge by the Astros to tie the contest in the ninth thanks to replay—and then win it in the 10th on Matt Olson’s solo homer, 4-3. The tying run initially is ruled an out as Ramon Laureano attempts to score on Nick Martini’s one-out double, but a review correctly overturns the close call. The A’s move to within a single game of Houston with the win.

Saturday, August 18
It’s all even in the AL West after the A’s beat up on Houston and tie the Astros for first place with a 7-1 win at Oakland. Trevor Cahill, part of the A’s miracle reclamation rotation, allows just one hit through seven shutout innings to improve his home ERA to 0.85—best in the majors among pitchers with 50 or more innings. Offensively, four different A’s each smack a pair doubles, the first time that’s happened for the franchise since 1929.

The Mariners overcome a late Dodgers rally and triumph in 10 innings on, of all things, a walk-off balk by Dylan Floro. After taking early command with a first-inning home run by Kyle Seager—brother of injured Dodgers infielder Corey Seager—the Mariners run into trouble late when the Dodgers crank two solo homers in the eighth and then another in the ninth when Max Muncy unloads on Seattle closer Edwin Diaz to tie the game; it’s Diaz’s first blown save after converting 28 straight. With the win, the Mariners stay within 3.5 games of first place in the AL West.

The Mets’ Jacob deGrom lowers his season ERA to 1.71 and wins his third straight start to improve his record back over the .500 mark at 8-7 with a 3-1, complete-game effort at Philadelphia. deGrom allows just an unearned run on seven hits as he goes the distance for the first time since shutting out the Phillies in the very same ballpark two years earlier.

For better or for worse, the Rockies continue to make the third act must-see-TV. Trailing 3-0 at Atlanta with two outs and no one on base in the ninth, the Rockies rally with four straight hits and three runs to tie the Braves; an inning later, they’ll win on a two-run blast by DJ LaMahieu, 5-3. It’s the eighth time this month that a game involving Colorado has been decided in the ninth inning or later.

Sunday, August 19
Rested up after just throwing a single pitch in his previous start, the Marlins’ Jose Urena tosses his first career complete game—allowing a run on just two hits over 108 pitches as Miami romps to a 12-1 victory at Washington. Most impressively for Urena, he doesn’t hit anyone. Starlin Castro sets a career high with five hits for the Marlins.

The Astros avoid a three-game sweep at Oakland and retake first in the AL West by a game as Justin Verlander collects his 200th career victory, 9-4. The 35-year-old veteran is backed by five Houston home runs. Only Bartolo Colon (247 wins) and CC Sabathia (244) have more wins among active pitchers.

The Rockies avoid ninth-inning dramatics and hold on to defeat the Braves at Atlanta, 4-2. It’s the 46th straight game in which Colorado has faced an opponent who came into the day with a record above .500—tying the NL record held by the 1926 Phillies. Of those 46 games, the Rockies have won 30.

The record will be snapped when the Rockies play their next game at San Diego against the lowly Padres.

J.A. Happ faces the Blue Jays for the first time since he was traded by Toronto—and holds his own for 5.1 innings, earning his fourth win in as many starts for New York as the Yankees roll to a 10-2 victory. The day is not all roses for the Yankees; Didi Gregorius injures his left heel after a collision at first base and will miss the next 10 days.

The second Little League Classic is held at Williamsport, Pennsylvania before a crowd of 2,500 kids, with the Mets easing to an 8-2 win over the Phillies. Three participants from both teams—the Mets’ Todd Frazier and Michael Conforto, and the Phillies’ Scott Kingery—all have previous experience playing in the Little League World Series, the latest installment of which is taking place at this time in Williamsport.

Monday, August 20
For the fifth straight game, the Pirates allow just one run—but three of those games have resulted in 1-0 losses, the latest today as they drop a 1-0 decision against the Braves at Pittsburgh. Keeping the Bucs at bay is Atlanta’s Bryse Wilson, who makes his major league debut at age 20 and allows three hits and three walks through five shutout innings; he’s the youngest starting pitcher to throw a scoreless debut since Scott Kazmir in 2004.

Back earlier than expected after suffering an irregular heartbeat two weeks ago, Kenley Jansen returns to the mound for the Dodgers—and probably wishes he didn’t. Brought into a 3-3 tie at Los Angeles against the Cardinals, Jansen allows home runs to the first two batters he faces—Jedd Gyorko and Matt Carpenter—and the Dodgers can’t counter as they fall, 5-3.

Tuesday, August 21
The Washington Nationals all but throw in the towel on a very disappointing season in which they were predicted to phone in the NL East title. The Nationals place second baseman Daniel Murphy and first baseman Matt Adams on waivers—and except the claims by the Cubs (for Murphy) and the Cardinals (for Adams). The Dodgers also make a claim on Bryce Harper, who is also placed on waivers—but the Nationals pull him back, meaning he will likely spend the rest of the season with Washington before hitting the free agent market. A 10-4 victory over Philadelphia later in the evening will even the Nationals’ record at 63-63, but they’re still in a somewhat-distant third place, 5.5 games behind the Braves and seven back of the Phillies.

Adams returns to the Cardinals after spending his first five-plus seasons; Murphy, meanwhile goes to the Cubs—the team he single-handedly demolished during the 2015 NLCS for the Mets.

Former Marlin Giancarlo Stanton has two hits (a double and single) in his first game back at Miami since being traded to the Yankees, as he receives an enthusiastic reception from a crowd of 26,275—the second largest of the year at Marlins Park, but still 10,000 shy of a sellout. Miguel Andujar’s sac fly in the 12th inning gives the Yankees a 2-1 victory.

The Tampa Bay Rays deliver a 4-1 home victory over Kansas City, extending a string of consecutive scoreless innings to 27—tying a franchise record—before the Royals finally tally in the fifth inning. Blake Snell strikes out 11 as he improves to 15-5 with a 2.07 ERA, second best in the AL.

Jose Altuve returns to the Houston lineup for the first time since July 25—a four-week stretch in which the Astros were 9-13 without him—and despite going 0-for-3 with a walk, the Astros still snag a 3-2 victory at Seattle to maintain a tie for first in the AL West. Starting on the mound for the Astros is Brad Peacock, who becomes the sixth different starter this year after the original five rotation members had continued to pitch without injury or demotion; he only goes 1.2 innings before being removed for eventual winner Framber Valdez.

Wednesday, August 22
Major League Baseball announces its 2019 schedule, its most ambitious on an international scale. In the “been-there, done-that” category, the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners will officially kick off the season on March 20 in Japan, and there will be two series of two games each in Monterrey, Mexico—one pitting Cincinnati and St. Louis in April, the other matching up Houston and the Los Angeles Angels in May. But the marquee series outside of the U.S. and Canada will take place on May 30-June 2 when the Red Sox and Yankees take their storied rivalry to London Stadium in England; it will be the first regular season games ever held in Europe.

Oops, I doo’d it again; a night after serving up two home runs to lose in the ninth, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen repeats the defeat as the Cardinals’ Paul DeJong belts a two-run homer in the final frame to break up a 1-1 tie and give St. Louis a 3-1 victory at Los Angeles.

Jansen has allowed home runs in consecutive games twice this season. He did it just once in eight previous years.

Daniel Murphy has a nice debut for the Cubs, collecting two hits from the leadoff position and helping Chicago to an 8-2 victory at Detroit. His RBI single in the fifth breaks a 0-for-30 slump by Cubs hitters with runners in scoring position.

The Pirates’ offense continues to fall flat, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Braves—who finish a three-game sweep of the Bucs at Pittsburgh. In their last seven games, the Pirates have averaged exactly one run per.

Thursday, August 23
How do you get firmly entrenched in the NL Cy Young Award conversation? Beat the guy everyone thinks will win it. At Washington, the Phillies’ Aaron Nola throws eight shutout innings to outduel the Nationals’ Max Scherzer, 2-0, improving to 15-3 on the year with a 2.13 ERA—tying Scherzer for second in the NL behind the Mets’ Jacob deGrom. Odubel Herrera’s two-run homer off Scherzer in the seventh accounts for the game’s only runs.

In the first game between the Braves and Marlins since Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. was rudely hit by Jose Urena a week earlier, Acuna Jr. gets even by going deep for the sixth straight game against Miami—but also gets hit again in the sixth by Marlins reliever Javy Guerra, though this time everyone stays put in the dugout. The Braves ease to a 5-0 victory behind Sean Newcomb’s six shutout innings, and win for the 72nd time this year—matching last season’s total with 35 games to play.

By the way: Urena is not scheduled to start against Atlanta during this four-games series at Miami, as Marlins manager Don Mattingly believes doing so would make the public, blogosphere and opposing players too “crazy.” Memo to Don: Remember who threw that pitch. (Hint: It wasn’t the public, blogosphere or opposing players.)

Former Colorado star slugger Matt Holliday, back with the Rockies for the first time since 2008 after signing a midseason minor league deal with the team, goes 0-for-3 in his first game back in purple—but the Rockies claw from behind to defeat the Padres at Denver, 4-3, on a two-out, two-run walk-off homer from Ian Desmond to improve to 70-57 on the season.

Cole Hamels continues to thrive in a Cubs uniform as he goes the distance, scattering a run on eight hits as Chicago takes a 7-1 home victory over the Reds. Since arriving at Chicago after a trade from Texas, Hamels is 4-0 in five starts with the Cubs with a 0.79 ERA.

Friday, August 24
The Giants’ Buster Posey singles and walks twice in five plate appearances in what will be his last game of the 2018 season, as he opts for hip surgery in the next few days. Though hitting a solid .284, Posey’s power game has dwindled as he finishes the year with just five homers and 41 RBIs in 105 games; the recovery for his surgery could take him beyond next Opening Day. As for the fading Giants, they blow a 6-0 lead when the visiting Rangers slowly bounce back and, in the ninth, tie it on a two-run Rougned Odor home run after San Francisco shortstop Joe Panik botches what should have been the final out a batter before. Texas will win the game an inning later on a bases-loaded walk to Robinson Chirinos.

In the Mariners’ 6-3 win at Arizona, closer Edwin Diaz records his major league-leading 49th save of the year, breaking the Seattle season record of 48 previously held by Fernando Rodney in 2014. Diaz will make it 50 the next night in a 4-3 win, matching Francisco Rodriguez (he of the all-time-record 62 in 2008) for the earliest date reaching the milestone; no one else has ever recorded 50 saves before the end of August.

After three weeks inactive due to injury and bereavement over the death of his brother-in-law, Mike Trout returns to action and collects his 100th walk in just his 110th game of the season. That, along with a single and triple, is not enough as the Angels lose at home to the Astros and Jose Altuve, another recent returnee from the shelf who doubles and homers in a 9-3 victory.

Also coming off the DL is Toronto’s Loudres Gurriel Jr., who returns with an 11-game multi-hit streak intact—until nine innings later, when it ends as he could only muster one single in the Blue Jays’ 4-2 home victory over Philadelphia. Another streak emerges in Toronto as veteran slugger Kendrys Morales goes deep for the fifth straight game.

Saturday, August 25
The Yankees beat up on every team’s favorite opponent, the Baltimore Orioles—who are now an abysmal 37-93 following a doubleheader loss at home to New York. Of historical note in the first game, J.A. Happ gets the win in a 10-3 decision, his fifth victory in five starts for the Yankees since being traded from Toronto. That matches the best start by a lefty in Yankees history since…Babe Ruth, who won his five and only five starts in pinstripes after being traded by the Boston Red Sox in 1919.

The Nationals, all but checked out of the postseason picture, are shut out for the third straight game—at New York against the lowly Mets, no less—to tie a franchise record. Zack Wheeler deals seven shutout innings for the Mets to administer the latest blanking upon the Nationals, 3-0.

It’s the 66th loss of the year for the Nationals, who eclipse their entire 2017 total with five weeks left to play in 2018.

Is it not too late to count the Tampa Bay Rays out of the wild card chase? Behind Ryan Yarbrough’s five sharp innings and a string of late-inning scoring from the Rays’ no-name offense, the Rays defeats Boston at St. Petersburg, 5-1, for their seventh straight win to improve to 69-61—and while that’s still nine games behind the current holder of the second wild card (Oakland), history shows that such a debt can be overcome.

Some might suggest: Maybe the Rays shouldn’t have given up on star players such as Chris Archer and Wilson Ramos. Our response: They’ve actually been winning more since getting rid of those guys.

The recent past rears its ugly head at Los Angeles as Kenley Jansen disappoints again in the ninth—serving up a game-tying homer to San Diego’s Austin Hedges—and a second power outage within a month hits Dodger Stadium in the bottom of the 12th. But after a 20-minute delay, Justin Turner says enough of this and, on the very first pitch after play resumes, strokes a game-winning double to give the Dodgers a 5-4 victory.

The first outage was caused by a stray balloon; this one is caused by a “disruption in the city’s power feed” to the ballpark.

Sunday, August 26
One streak continues and another ends at Toronto. Kendrys Morales belts a two-run homer in the third inning, the seventh straight game in which he has homered—one shy of the major league record—but Marco Estrada fails to keep the visiting Phillies in check by allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks through two innings and change. The 8-3 loss ends the Jays’ season-best five-game win streak. Morales’ streak will end the next night in a 7-0 loss at Baltimore.

The Cardinals continue their post-Mike Matheny surge toward the postseason, while Matt Carpenter continues his toward MVP consideration. The St. Louis leadoff hitter becomes the 17th National Leaguer in the modern era—and the second Cardinal, after Joe Medwick in 1937—to hammer out four doubles in a nine-inning game as the Cardinals roll to a 12-3 victory at Colorado. Under replacement skipper Mike Shildt, St. Louis is 27-12—and Carpenter in that same period is hitting a modestly good .296 but with a 1.107 OPS thanks to 16 home runs, 29 RBIs and 10 doubles.

It takes the Nationals awhile to respond to three straight shutout losses, breaking a 0-0 deadlock in the sixth off the Mets’ Steven Matz—but once he’s removed in the eighth, the Nationals pound away upon a clueless group of New York relievers, racking up 14 runs in the final two frames to finish off a 15-0 assault at Citi Field. It’s the second largest shutout win in Expos/Nationals franchise history.

Give the Mets credit; once their bullpen began to spectacularly fail and the final victor became academic, they didn’t play the majors’ current version of the mercy rule by throwing a position player on the mound.

For some reason, ESPN decides to schedule the shockingly bad Orioles on Sunday Night Baseball—granted, the competition is the Yankees—and baseball’s version of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players play the part well as they suffer a 5-3 home loss to New York. The Yankees’ Luis Severino picks up his major league-leading 17th win with 5.1 innings against the Orioles.

Stunningly, the Orioles’ 37-94 record—translated to a .282 winning percentage—is still better than the 43-111 mark and .279 figure posted by the 1939 St. Louis Browns (as the Orioles were known back then).

Monday, August 27
The feel-good A’s ride into Houston for the last regular season series against the Astros this season and take a 4-0 lead on a pair of two-run homers from Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman—but the Astros, back at full strength after a recent spate of injuries to key players, respond and then some. A five-run third and a six-run eighth powers Houston to an 11-4 drubbing to increase its AL West lead to 2.5 games over the A’s. Alex Bregman goes 4-for-5 with four RBIs.

Tuesday, August 28
Mike Shildt celebrates the Cardinals’ removing of his “interim” tag earlier in the day by defeating the Pirates at St. Louis, 5-2, and enhancing their standing in the NL wild card race. Now 28-12 since replacing Mike Matheny, Shildt receives a three-year extension beyond 2018.

Jose Bautista’s tour of the NL East continues. After starting the year with the Braves and then being traded to the Mets, the 37-year-old slugger hitting .196 with 11 homers is picked up on waivers by the Phillies as an added asset for their run toward the postseason.

With Bautista, however, the night is not a good one for the Phillies despite another sparkling effort from Aaron Nola, who for the second time in a week gets the better of Washington counterpart Max Scherzer; after leaving with a 3-2 lead in the seventh, Nola watches helplessly as the Nationals tally three times in the ninth to burst ahead at 5-3. In the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies notch a run back with Wilson Ramos’ run-scoring double—but then decide to pinch-run Ramos with pitcher Vince Velazquez, who is called out on a Jorge Alfaro fly ball when he leaves the bag too early attempting to move to third.

Let’s make this clear: Position players have no business pitching, and pitchers have no business pinch-hitting or pinch-runner for position players.

In the Mets’ 2-1, 11-inning loss to the Cubs at Chicago decided the next day when rain stops the action in the 10th inning, Jacob deGrom has yet another fine effort that will go for naught. By allowing just one run through eight innings, deGrom sets a major league record as his team loses for the eighth time when he allows one or none runs.

The Royals’ Jakob Juris goes the distance in Kansas City, allowing two runs on six hits and no walks in a 6-2 victory over Detroit. It’s the 37th complete game thrown by a major leaguer this season; another 22 will be needed to match last year’s 59—currently the lowest season total in major league history.

Wednesday, August 29
In a wild, 13-12 Milwaukee win at Cincinnati decided in 10 innings, Christian Yelich becomes the eighth Brewer to hit for the cycle—and is the first of those to do so with six hits. Among the game’s many twist-and-turn moments is a three-run homer from Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen (his fourth of the year) that follows a controversial bunt attempt when a Taylor Williams pitch comes right at him and is fouled off for an apparent third strike. But home plate umpire Tony Randazzo says that because Lorenzen was trying to protect himself and not put the ball in play, it’s not worthy of a third strike even if, technically, it is a foul ball.

Should Lorenzen not start a game the rest of the year, he would become the first major league pitcher with four or more homers in a season in which he didn’t make a single start.

The Astros take the rubber game of their important three-game series against the A’s as Tyler White’s one-out solo homer off Jeurys Familia in the bottom of the ninth gives Houston a 5-4 victory. The walk-off blast is the 81st to decide a game in the ninth this year in the majors, setting an all-time season record.

It’s interesting to note: Houston star second baseman Jose Altuve has an RBI single but otherwise strikes out a career-high four times.

Trailing Miami 5-3 going to the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox rally for 11 runs as 15 batters come to the plate in their eventual 14-6 victory at Boston. It’s the second time the Marlins have allowed 11 or more runs in an inning; the other occurrence also took place at Boston, in 2003—when they gave up 14 tallies in the first inning to the Red Sox.

Stop the presses! The Orioles finish off a three-game sweep—their first of the year—with a 10-5 home rout of the Blue Jays behind Adam Jones’ five RBIs to improve to 40-94. Not only do the Orioles win all three games, they do it with ease—outscoring Toronto 29-10 in the series.

The Albert Pujols milestone watch is put on hold as the 38-year-old Angels slugger is declared all but out for the remainder of the regular season with a bum knee that will require surgery. Pujols ends the year 18 RBIs shy of the 2,000 mark and 27 home runs short of Willie Mays’ 660 for fifth on the all-time list; for the season, he hit .245 with 19 homers and a career low-tying 64 RBIs. The Angels, by the way, still owe him $87 million over the next three years.

Thursday, August 30
The Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton, who has raised his game to make up for the loss of the injured Aaron Judge, belts his 300th career home run—but a 7-5 New York lead turns into an 8-7 Detroit victory when the Tigers’ Victor Martinez and Niko Goodrum smack back-to-back homers in the ninth off Dellin Betances, subbing for injured closer Aroldis Chapman. Yankees starter J.A. Happ allows five runs in 4.1 innings and does not get a win for the first time in six New York starts.

Only Ralph Kiner, Ryan Howard, Alex Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez hit 300 home runs in fewer games than Stanton (1,119).

After the game, the Yankees fill the hole of the missing Judge—whose return to the lineup seems to be anyone’s guess—by acquiring Andrew McCutchen from the Giants off waivers for two minor leaguers. McCutchen is not the MVP-level performer he once was but is still potent, with 15 homers, 55 RBIs, 73 walks and 13 steals for the Giants in 130 games.

In what has become a familiar theme this month, the Cardinals win and the Pirates’ offense contributes nothing. In St. Louis’ 5-0 home win over the Bucs, pitcher John Gant throws 5.2 shutout innings and homers in the third off of Joe Musgrove right after Harrison Bader does the same. It’s Gant’s second career hit, both of them home runs; he is only the third pitcher in modern times to have both of his first two hits leave the yard.

Musgrove isn’t messing with the strike zone before Bader and Gant go back-to-back; his first 21 pitches of the game are all strikes—the most thrown without a called ball to start a game since baseball began officially tracking pitches in 1988.

Friday, August 31
The last call for players put on waivers yields quite a bit of transactional activity. After three-plus years and one MVP for Toronto, Josh Donaldson is sent with $2.7 million to the Indians for a player to be named later; the question is whether Donaldson, who’s been nagged by injuries all season long, will be able to adequately contribute for Cleveland. Meanwhile, two NL teams in the postseason hunt make multiple moves; Milwaukee scoops up Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Blue Jays outfielder Curtis Granderson—making the Brewers his fourth team in less than two years; and the Dodgers land Pittsburgh infielder David Freese and Nationals reliever Ryan Madson.

Without both Donaldson and Granderson, Justin Smoak picks up the slack for the Blue Jays. The switch-hitting slugger becomes the second pinch-hitter this month—and the second in the last 27 years—to unload a ninth-inning grand slam with two outs and his team down three runs to cap a five-run rally and give Toronto a 6-5 win at Miami. The Cubs’ David Bote was the other to clean the bases in the ninth, back on August 12.

The latest Marlins collapse is the epitome of an August in which the team’s bullpen posts a 6.34 ERA and blows seven of 11 save opportunities.

The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.

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