This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: July, 2018
Hey Ad Man—Leave Mike Trout Alone Why Are All the Non-Pitchers Pitching?
Washington Experiences Two Home Run Derbys at the All-Star Break


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
90 21 29 8 2 8 25 16 3 1 11

There’s just no getting around the 25-year-old third baseman, who in a few short years has gone from just being another Jose Ramirez to likely AL MVP. It’s rare for anyone to earn this honor in a month that included a seven-game hitless streak—but it’s also rare for anyone to be as productive in the course of a seven-game hitless string as Ramirez, who walked 12 times and was hit once during his “slump.” Overall, Ramirez continues to impress at just about every level; he’s hitting for average and power (his 32 homers is one shy of the most ever by an Indian before August 1), is stealing bases left and right, and has walked more than he’s struck out. If the AL MVP vote was tabulated at July’s end, it would be close between Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout and J.D. Martinez—but it would be awful hard to give Ramirez anything shorter than the long straw.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
93 22 31 8 0 11 21 15 4 1 0

Perhaps the one player who began the trend of leadoff hitters with power but no speed, the 32-year-old Carpenter earns this crown for a mid-month surge that was nearly one for the books. In a six-game stretch interrupted by the All-Star Break, Carpenter homered eight times—including thrice in a five-hit, seven-RBI game at Chicago on July 20. Carpenter is on pace for a fairly prodigious season, by anyone’s standards; at this rate, he’ll collect 40 homers, 45 doubles, 100 runs and 100 walks. So at what point do the Cardinals consider him as a clean-up hitter?


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Delino DeShields Jr., Texas Rangers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
52 4 5 2 0 0 4 4 0 0 2

It’s been an up-and-down career for a legacy ballplayer who can be awfully exciting when at his best—and just plain awful when he’s on a steep downslope, as he was this past month. The wheels completely came off with a 0-for-29 run at the plate that forced the last-place Rangers to send DeShields down to the minors—a move which didn’t sit well with teammates in a clubhouse that’s probably not the most harmonious to begin with. A return to the Rangers at month’s end showed some refresh, and while it gives DeShields momentum for August, it’s far too little, too late to save a rotten July.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Kike Hernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
74 8 11 2 0 3 7 6 1 1 0

The Dodgers like the 26-year-old Puerto Rican because he can do a little bit of everything. But this past month, he did a lot of nothing. His bat was empty as his average sank dangerously close to .200—where it’s frankly been for the past three years—and in the 16th inning at Philadelphia on July 24, Hernandez followed up a 0-for-7 performance at the plate by taking the mound and becoming the first position player to serve up a walk-off home run. (Save the blame on that for Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts, who still had actual pitchers available in the pen and should have known better.) Hernandez is tailor-made to play all nine positions in one game in another one of those publicity stunts—heck, he’s played everywhere but catcher this season—and maybe it will help erase the bad memories of July.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
3-0 25 16 1 1 4 0 2 1 0 43

About a year ago, the tall, lanky lefty was in the driver’s seat for the AL Cy Young Award—but that was before Corey Kluber went on a third-act tear to grab the hardware. The Cy is once again Sale’s to lose—but if he keeps pitching the way he has over the last month-plus, it won’t matter what Kluber or anyone else does. Sale’s numbers above are part of a larger, highly impressive stretch in which he’s allowed just one run over 39 innings with 67 strikeouts and six walks. (That doesn’t include the one scoreless inning he pitched to start the All-Star Game.) The 0.23 ERA over those six outings is the lowest by a Red Sox pitcher since Babe Ruth, way back in 1916. (Of course, the minute we bless him with this honor, he goes on the DL with shoulder inflammation.)


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
4-0 33.2 25 6 6 5 0 0 0 0 35

July is time to fly for Greinke, who’s won 13 straight games during the month going back to 2014. That includes this past month’s series of impressive outings, highlighted by an eight-inning, two-hit gem at home against the Rockies on July 22 in which he struck out a season-high 13 batters. The Diamondbacks stored up on relievers as the trading deadline came to a close, but there’s going to be little need for any of them if Greinke finishes out the season throwing like this.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-3 17 28 24 21 5 0 2 1 1 17

We’re not sure what the veteran lefty is happier about: That he’s now a Chicago Cub, or that he’s no longer a Texas Ranger. If won-loss records equate to happiness, Hamels should have been quite content in Arlington—where he was 33-12 as a Ranger entering this season. But an iffy 2018 fell apart this past month as he got beat up by some pretty bad teams (White Sox, Tigers) and managed his one victory with a shaky outing over the really awful Orioles. The Cubs are crossing their fingers that a new environment for Hamels will equate to a successful restart.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Tyson Ross, San Diego Padres

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-3 23.1 28 23 23 15 0 1 1 0 15

We had our pick of the pitching poison amid the pitiful Padres, as Luis Perdomo and Clayton Richard were among the other top candidates for this dishonor. But at the end of the month we have to stick it to Ross, whose otherwise impressive bounce-back campaign in his return to San Diego hit a crater-sized pothole this past month. True, he had a couple of respectable starts against the Dodgers and Phillies, but he was totally beaten up against the Pirates (seven runs in five innings) and especially the Diamondbacks (eight runs in just two innings of work). For the most part, 2018 can already be considered a positive for a pitcher who had all but lost it amid incessant injury the past few years, but this month serves as an unnerving reminder that he may not be out of the woods yet.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Boston Red Sox (19-6)

The question in Boston has become: What is it that the Red Sox can’t do? What they can do is serve up offense up top (Mookie Betts) and in the middle (J.D. Martinez), catch anything in sight (Jackie Bradley Jr.), stifle opponents from the mound (Chris Sale) and close with authority (Craig Kimbrel). The Red Sox are so good, they can even have the top five guys in the order go 0-for-24 and still win, as they did on July 30 against Philadelphia. With this dominant stretch of play, the Red Sox have bolted out to a six-game lead over the Yankees—whose chances of catching up aren’t getting any rosier with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez out of the lineup for much of August.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Colorado Rockies (17-6)

The trend for the Rockies over the last decade has usually gone something like this: Strong start, a tapering off around the Summer solstice, then a weak second half as the pitching staff wilts under the overwork and lack of mile-high oxygen. This season, the Rockies followed through on the first two parts of that theory, but so far are blowing the third part to shreds with an eye-opening display of pitching this past month to get back in the postseason picture. With a bullpen firmly back on its feet and Jon Gray restored to his normal self, the Rockies rebounded from an awful June (6.20 ERA) to post their best monthly ERA, ever—at 3.16. This, like that crazy Rocktober of 2007, we were not expecting.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Texas Rangers (8-17)

Just when you think the Orioles and Royals (combined record: 65-148) have co-monopolized the market on major league depression, the Rangers came along and claimed, for a month at least, that someone else was actually worse. The warts of this ballclub were laid bare for all to see in July; a lineup with no chemistry, an uneven rotation, and a sad inability to hold late leads—as was memorably illustrated when they blew a 10-2 advantage over Oakland on July 24 and lost in 10 innings, 13-10. The white flag was raised at month’s end as the team traded away ace Cole Hamels and closer Keone Kela, so that leaves Rangers fans little else but to enjoy Adrian Beltre’s growing hit total and Joey Gallo’s wild swings.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
San Diego Padres (5-20)

The Bad News Padres traded closer Brad Hand to the Indians before the trading deadline, because…what’s the point of having a closer when there’s no leads to protect? This is all you need to know about this team in July: Wil Myers hits three home runs in a game that the Padres lose by 10 runs. San Diego could hit, but their rotation was an utter mess—producing a 7.12 ERA during the month. Maybe the Padres ought to think about moving those fences back out at Petco Park.


Wild Pitches

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

Beanballed
An unsuspecting Cardinals groundskeeper wasn’t watching the ceremonial first pitch.

Ses Enrico Palazzo!
The Class-A Lowell Spinners celebrated Canada Day by absorbing a botching of O Canada before the start of the game, blaming an audio delay between the microphone and speakers and inexperience from one of their team employees performing the anthem.

I Was a Camera
A line drive foul smacked by the Indians’ Edwin Encarnacion made a direct hit on a dugout camera.

…And Debt Forgiveness For All
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had built up a $200,000 credit card debt as late as 2016, primarily because of season tickets he bought to Washington Nationals games. He did eventually pay most of it off.

Two-Base Souvenir
Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco fielded a ball hit by the Marlins’ Starlin Castro down the third-base line and then lobbed it to a fan in the Marlins Park stands…all before being told that it was a fair ball. (We’re trying to figure out what’s more incredible: Franco’s boo-boo, or the fact that there was someone in the seats at Miami to take the ball.)

Free Homer!
After the mascot for the Class-A Peoria Chiefs was suspended one game for firing a squirt gun at an umpire, other mascots came to the park to picket his plight—in full costume.

Aye-Aye-Aye
An umpire in a Mexican League game ruled that a batter did not go around on a check swing when it was very apparent to everyone else that it was a complete swing and miss. Everyone else, that is, except the first base umpire—who astonishingly agreed with the home arbiter on appeal. Both umpires were suspended for the rest of the season. Maybe this is why MLB doesn’t want to associate with this league any longer.

There’s No Escape From the Basement
After the Orioles’ 8-7, 10-inning loss to the Blue Jays on July 20 dropped their record to 28-70, Baltimore teammates Chris Davis and Adam Jones got stuck in a Toronto elevator.

Saved by the Bucket, Rather than Kicking it
A fan seated in the Wrigley Field bleachers was struck in the head by a metal tile that fell from the ballpark’s hand-operated scoreboard above. He was treated at a nearby hospital and released; the injury would have been worse had he not been wearing a bucket on his head.

Purist Idiocy
The Braves’ TV announcers got bashed in the blogosphere on July 28 after calling out the visiting Dodgers for wearing informal, non-team apparel during batting practice. There are many traditions currently under assault in the majors; wearing your uniform during warm-ups is not one worth fighting over.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
Or, maybe just a little less. We’ve gotten to the point where we simply expect to see the monthly strikeout totals break a new record for that particular month, so we’re a little stunned to see that July’s 6,195 Ks are actually down from the 6,268 registered a year earlier. It’s a slight decline, yes, but the operative word here is “decline.” Could this be the beginning of a new trend? Find out next month.

League vs. League

Is the National League for real? Could they actually hold the majority of interleague victories over its American League counterpart for the first time since 2003? The AL had 73 shots this past month to erase the NL’s slim margin for interleague bragging rights, but they blew it—winning only 31 of those games to increase the NL’s record on the year against AL competition to 115-95. For the AL to make it 15 straight years of interleague dominance, they’re going to have to win at least 56 of the remaining 90 games between the two circuits. Yes, that means the NL will have to go 34-56 or worse—and that’s Orioles/Royals bad.





Sunday, July 1
The Yankees take the rubber match of a three-game series at New York against Boston, hammering the Red Sox 11-1 behind six home runs—three from Aaron Hicks—to take the AL East lead by percentage points over the Sox. Hicks is the youngest Yankee to homer thrice against the Red Sox, and the first to ever do so at Yankee Stadium (old or new). One of the Yankees’ other round-trippers comes off the bat of 28-year-old rookie Kyle Higashioka, who had gone hitless in his previous 22 at-bats to start his career.

The losing pitcher is David Price, who allows five of the Yankees’ six home runs; he had never allowed more than three in 275 previous starts. Additionally, the eight runs he allows matches a career worst; of the five times he’s given up eight, three of them have been against the Yankees.

The Yankees’ 137 home runs are the most they’ve ever hit before the All-Star Break—which, by the way, is still two weeks away.

Maybe the Detroit Tigers should hold a pregame ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting every day. The team gets together in the clubhouse, air their grievances behind closed doors, then go out and defeat the Blue Jays at Toronto, 9-1, to end an 11-game losing skid. Jordan Zimmermann—stating to look his old Washington Nationals self—throws seven shutout innings, while Nick Castellanos belts a fifth-inning grand slam. The 11 straight losses had been the longest by the Tigers since 2003, in the midst of their franchise-worst 43-119 campaign.

The Baltimore Orioles stop their own losing streak of seven games—and win for the first time this season against an AL West opponent after a 0-15 start—by defeating the Los Angeles Angels at Camden Yards, 8-2. The Orioles smash four homers, including two from Mark Trumbo—who’s hit seven of his 10 homers on the year in just the last two weeks.

It’s the Orioles’ first win over an American League opponent in the last 37 days. They had won five games during this stretch—all in interleague play against National League teams.

Chicago Cubs ace Jon Lester, who’s been all but perfect at Wrigley Field over the last few months, has one his weaker starts of late—allowing four runs (two earned) on nine hits through five innings against Minnesota. But his three-run homer (the second of his career) ignites an eight-run outburst in the second inning and he gets credit for an 11-10 victory over the Twins. It’s the fourth straight game in which the Cubs have scored at least 10 runs—the first time they’ve achieved that since 1930, when Hack Wilson reigned with his 191 RBIs.

Monday, July 2
The Red Sox’ Rick Porcello pitches—and hits—his way to a 4-3 victory over the Nationals and Max Scherzer at Washington, staying sharp for seven innings while delivering a big blow at the plate with a three-run double off of Scherzer in the second inning. It’s Porcello’s first RBIs since his 2009 rookie season with Detroit. In defeat, Scherzer picks up his 1,000th strikeout, making him the fifth pitcher to record at least 1,000 for teams in both leagues. The others? Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Cy Young and Jim Bunning.

Scherzer is 0-4 over his last five games, mostly through no fault of his own; during this stretch, he has a 2.73 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP and his team has scored a total of seven runs.

Miller Park becomes Miller’s Park tonight in Milwaukee, as Brad Miller scores the tying run in the ninth against Minnesota on a Travis Shaw sac fly, then wins it in the 10th on a walk-off walk, 6-5. The Brewers survive despite a fifth-inning grand slam by the Twins’ Robbie Grossman—the third straight game in which the Brewers have surrendered a bases-loaded homer. Only three teams previous have done that: the 1895 Boston Beaneaters (Braves), 1901 Cincinnati Reds and 2006 Houston Astros.

Once-and-current Dodger Matt Kemp bolsters his case for NL All-Star participation with a 5-4-5-4 night in the box score as the Dodgers destroy the Pirates at Los Angeles, 17-1. Kemp, whose tailing offense and subpar defense had made him an afterthought entering the season at age 33, is hitting .323 with 15 homers and 55 RBIs in a resurgent campaign for Los Angeles.

Caleb Ferguson pitches three shutout innings after starter Alex Wood’s departure for the Dodgers and officially earns a save…in a game Los Angeles wins by 16 runs.

Francisco Lindor belts a grand slam in the fourth and adds a three-run shot in the sixth to give the Cleveland Indians a 9-3 victory over the hapless Royals (25-59) at Kansas City. The seven total RBIs for Lindor, batting leadoff, represent a career high.

Tuesday, July 3
The Dodgers continue to hammer away at the Pirates in Los Angeles. They don’t pile up the runs, but their 8-3 win includes 11 hits—nine of them for extra bases, and six of those for home runs. Two come from rookie Max Muncy, who reaches 20 on the year—and sets a Dodgers record for the fewest at-bats (183) to reach that figure, breaking Cody Bellinger’s mark of 189 set just last season. Clayton Kershaw picks up his first win in his last five starts, covering 10 weeks.

Pittsburgh starter Ivan Nova sets a Pirates record by allowing five home runs.

After tying the game in the ninth on an Avisail Garcia solo homer, the Chicago White Sox notch four runs in the 12th on back-to-back triples from Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez to defeat the Reds at Cincinnati, 12-8. The White Sox had been the only team left in the majors who hadn’t won a game when trailing after eight innings (0-54).

In his first game back in Toronto since his contract with the Blue Jays expired last year, the New York’s Jose Bautista receives a standing ovation and then reaches base four times (a single and three walks) in five plate appearances—but it’s not enough as the Mets blow a 6-1 lead in the eighth and lose, 8-6. The Mets are 9-30 since Bautista joined the club in late May, despite his nifty .912 OPS (13 extra base hits and 27 walks among 86 official at-bats).

Wednesday, July 4
It’s almost time to press the ‘red alert’ button in Washington. The Nationals finish getting swept in three games by the Red Sox, 3-0, and drop below .500. Since June 1, the Nationals are 9-20, are hitting .238 and have been shut out eight times; they weren’t shut out in 2017 until July 8.

The Giants, meanwhile, are having their own troubles scoring…in Coors Field, of all places. A barely-fair, 453-foot solo smash down the left-field by the Rockies’ Chris Iannetta accounts for the game’s only scoring as Colorado wins the first 1-0 game held at the mile-high ballpark since 2010. San Francisco scores just three total runs in getting swept in three games by the Rockies, just one run more than the all-time worst offensive showing in any three-game set at Colorado (Pittsburgh, 2002).

It’s the 10th 1-0 game in the 24-year history of Coors Field; all nine previous games took place between 2005-10.

The Indians score three early runs, then rely on Trevor Bauer (7.2 innings, two runs conceded) and closer Cody Allen to top the Royals at Kansas City, 3-2. By earning the save in the ninth, Allen becomes the all-time leader in Cleveland history with 140.

Behind three hits from a resurgent Kole Calhoun and a historic double for Albert Pujols, the Los Angeles Angels triumph at Seattle, 7-4, and end the Mariners’ eight-game win streak. The fourth-inning double not only ties Pujols with Alex Rodriguez for #6 on the all-time extra-base hits list with 1,275, it also ties him with David Ortiz for #10 on the doubles list with 632.

Calhoun is 15-for-49 (.306) since a miserable stretch when he went 11-for-117 (.094).

The Cubs outlast the Detroit Tigers in Chicago, 5-2, thanks in part to Javier Baez’s rather crafty steal of home, his second this season; moments earlier, he had reached second and advancement to third via a miserable display of Detroit defense. Baez is the first Cub to swipe home plate twice in a season since 1972.

Thursday, July 5
The Nationals hold the obligatory “We’re losing, so let’s close the clubhouse door and air everything out” meeting before hitting the field at Washington against Miami—then promptly fall behind 9-0 after just three and a half innings. From that moment, something suddenly kicks in; the Nationals score 14 unanswered runs and then repel a late Marlins uprising to survive, 14-12. Fueling the Washington comeback is Trea Turner, who belts two home runs, including a sixth-inning grand slam; his eight RBIs tie five others for the most by a leadoff hitter in a game. The win matches the largest comeback victory in Expos/Nationals history; it’s the largest lead ever blown by the Marlins, ever.

Friday, July 6
The Rangers’ Bartolo Colon goes the distance, but the Tigers’ Jordan Zimmermann is better. In Detroit’s 3-1 home victory over Texas, Zimmermann continues a recent run of success that he has rarely been able to enjoy since leaving Washington at the end of 2015, and outduels Colon in a game played at a crisp two hours and five minutes. The 45-year-old Colon becomes the oldest pitcher to throw a complete game since Jamie Moyer delivered one in 2010 at age 47. But in losing, Colon surrenders two homers—one each to James McCann and JaCoby Jones; he has now allowed homers to 300 different players in his career, a total surpassed only by, wait for it…Jamie Moyer.

In his last six starts, Zimmerman is 3-0 and has allowed just five runs on 21 hits through 37 innings.

Jose Bautista’s two-out, ninth-inning grand slam breaks a 1-1 tie and gives the Mets a 5-1 victory at New York over his former teammates, the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s Bautista’s 337th career home run, but his first that’s a walk-off; only Norm Cash (377) had more lifetime homers without one.

The number 100 is the sweet figure for the Red Sox, who crush the Royals at Kansas City, 10-5. Chris Sale picks up his 100th career win (he’s only lost 62) with 12 strikeouts over six solid innings, while Mookie Betts hammers his 100th career homer with a solo shot to ignite an eight-run spree over the first two innings.

Pitcher Jenrry Mejia, the first major leaguer to be permanently banned from the game due to steroids, is being given a “final chance” by commissioner Rob Manfred and “conditionally” reinstates him for the 2019 season. Mejia’s third positive test early in 2016 resulted in the lifetime ban, but as we recall from the days of Steve Howe, a permanent ban sometimes really isn’t one.

Saturday, July 7
Washington’s Mark Reynolds becomes only the 15th player—and the third in the last two years alone—to accrue double-digit totals in RBIs, knocking in 10 for the Nationals in an 18-4 rout of the Marlins at Nationals Park. It’s the first time players from the same team had a 10-RBI effort in back-to-back years, after Anthony Rendon’s 10-RBI performance early in 2017. All of this is sweet news for Max Scherzer, who allows four runs in seven innings but gets his first win after five previous unsuccessful starts—a streak in which the Nationals had combined for just seven total runs.

The Nationals’ win is their 14th straight over Miami; that streak will come to an end the next day when the Marlins romp, 10-2.

The Arizona Diamondbacks set a franchise mark for runs as they annihilate the San Diego Padres at Phoenix, 20-5. The silver lining for the Padres come from Wil Myers, who homers three times on the night; he becomes the first player in the modern era to perform a hat trick for a team that loses by 10 or more runs.

The Tampa Bay Rays are the only major league team left that has never scored 20 or more runs in a game.

This is the first day in history in which a player has homered three times and another knocked in 10 runs.

In the third game of the day to feature a team scoring at least 15 runs, the Red Sox overcome an early 3-0 deficit to hammer the Royals, 15-4. Andrew Benintendi has the odd (but productive) stat line of the day, going 2-4-2-2 in the box score with four walks, a single and a home run. The Royals, meanwhile, have 26 of their last 30 games.

Sunday, July 8
MLB announces the rosters for the 2018 All-Star Game, with only a few surprises. The top vote-getter is Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, with 4.8 million; he’s followed by Boston outfielder Mookie Betts (4.2 million) and Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman (4 million). The Astros, Indians and Red Sox are the most represented teams, with five players each; the surprising Braves have four. The Angels’ Mike Trout, age 27, wins the seniority award by being named for the seventh time.

The most publicized snub is that of Tampa Bay pitcher Blake Snell, who doesn’t make the AL squad despite having the AL’s best ERA (2.09) and second-best win total (12). Snell’s teammate Chris Archer takes great offense to Snell’s absence, criticizing MLB players who vote for the pitchers: “Something like that can’t happen…we have to do a better job with the selection process so we can put the best talent out on the field for the fans of the Midsummer Classic.” Later in the week, Snell well be named to the team as a replacement for Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.

Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar, who’s appeared in 421 straight games—but is hitting just .103 in the last 29 of those—is asked to take the day off at home against Boston. Escobar’s streak was nearby double the previous Royals record for the most consecutive games played (212 by Paul Schaal), and it was the longest active streak in all of baseball. Escobar’s absence does nothing to help the Royals, who lose yet again to the Red Sox, 7-4, despite a 5-for-5 day from Whit Merrifield.

The Rangers shut down the Tigers in Detroit, 3-0, with the noteworthy moment coming with two outs in the Texas ninth when Shin-Soo Choo knocks out an infield single to reach base for the 47th straight game—breaking, most say, the all-time franchise record previous held by Julio Franco in 1993. The true record actually belongs to Will Clark, who reached in his last 23 games of 1995 and the first 35 of the following year to total 58.

So why don’t people acknowledge Clark’s 58 as the standard? Because it was split over two seasons. And how exactly does that make sense? Clark appeared in 58 straight games and reached base in all of them—should it not count as the record simply because it was interrupted by an offseason? Using that logic, should Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,630 straight games played be reduced to 162 because of all the offseasons that interrupted that historic number? This “it doesn’t count because it happened over two seasons” malarkey has got to come to an end.

For the third time in eight starts since returning from Tommy John surgery, the Rays’ Nathan Eovaldi takes a no-hitter or perfect game past the fifth inning. In Tampa Bay’s 9-0 victory at New York, Eovaldi retires the first 18 Mets before allowing a leadoff single to Brandon Nimmo in the seventh; it’s the only hit he’ll allow in seven total frames pitched on the day.

A day after smacking three homers in a 15-run loss, the Padres’ Wil Myers hits only one—but it’s the game-winner, a solo shot in the 16th to give San Diego a 4-3 win at Arizona. More curiously, the home run comes off of Diamondbacks catcher Jeff Mathis, forced to take the mound after all other available Arizona pitchers had been used.

Monday, July 9
A day after being named to the All-Star team for the first time, Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola does it all for the Phillies with a 3-1 victory in the nightcap of a doubleheader at New York over the Mets. The 25-year-old right-hander allows just one hit through seven scoreless innings and knocks in all three of the Phillies’ runs with a fifth-inning, bases-clearing double— the only hit allowed over six innings by Mets starter Corey Oswalt (no relation to former Houston ace Roy Oswalt), making his third career start. In improving to 12-2 on the season, Nola has more wins by a Philadelphia pitcher before the All-Star Break since Curt Schilling in 1999.

In the first game of the doubleheader, the Mets claw out a 4-3, 10-inning win on Wilmer Flores’ pinch-hit home run. For Flores, it’s his 10th career walk-off hit—tying David Wright for the most in Mets history.

The Astros, the City of Houston and Harris County agree in principle to extend the current lease of Minute Maid Park 20 years to 2050, ensuring that the team will call its present ballpark home for 50 seasons. Originally called Enron Field, the ballpark opened in 2000.

Wednesday, July 10
It’s smooth sailing for the Indians through eight innings against the Reds at Cleveland, leading 4-0 on the strength of home runs from Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez and an utterly dominant performance by Trevor Bauer (three hits allowed, 12 strikeouts). Then comes the ninth—and total disaster. Cody Allen gives up three runs and loads the bases, leading Cleveland manager Terry Francona to call for Oliver Perez—only that the bullpen thinks he’s asking for Dan Otero, who enters the game too late for Francona to correct the error. Otero’s first opponent—Cincinnati masher Joey Votto—clears the bases with a double, the big blow in a stunning seven-run rally that gives the Reds a 7-4 victory.

Since Bryan Price was fired with a 3-15 record, Jim Riggleman, his successor, has gone 38-36 with the Reds.

The AL West-leading Astros cool off the red-hot A’s (17 wins in their last 21 games) in bizarre fashion. After blowing a 4-0 lead in the ninth and falling behind in the 11th on a Stephen Piscotty home run, the Astros rally to tie it back at 5-5 in the bottom half of the frame. Alex Bregman, who earlier hit two homers, next nubs one five feet down the first-base line, barely fair; Jonathan Lucroy attempts to tag him but somehow misses—and his backup option to retire Bregman fails when his throw to first glances off Bregman’s helmet, allowing Kyle Tucker to score the winning run from second base.

Houston closer Ken Giles gives up three straight hits to start the A’s ninth and is promptly removed by Astros manager A.J. Hinch—but on his way off the mound, Giles appears to curse at Hinch. In a perhaps related move, the Astros send Giles—who has a 4.99 ERA—to Triple-A after the game.

The Royals end two streaks: A 10-game skid overall, and a 30-game stretch in which they did not score more than six runs, as they easily outpace the Twins at Minnesota, 9-4. Six Royals snare two hits each in the win.

The streak of five or fewer runs was the majors’ longest since the Mets went 40 games in 1979.

The benefits of “bullpenning”: The Tampa Bay Ray send reliever Ryan Stanek to start his 11th game of the season—none of which he has gone more than two innings—and he throws a pair of shutout innings to launch the Rays to a 5-2 home win over Detroit. Stanek has not allowed a run in 10 of his starts—tying Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Adam Wainwright for the most such starts before the All-Star Break.

Off the field, the Rays reveal architectural renditions for a new ballpark to be built southeast of downtown Tampa Bay in the Ybor City district. It calls for a 30,862-seat yard with a translucent roof covered by a visor-like shield on the southwest (home plate) side to protect the structure from hurricane-force winds. The team also projects the facility’s price tag at $892 million; where that money is expected to come from, no one quite knows yet—although local politicians are stating that the Rays shouldn’t hold their breath and expect public funds to cover the costs.

Wednesday, July 11
A night after blowing a 4-0 lead in the ninth, the Indians make really sure that they won’t blow another. After just four innings, the Tribe build up a 17-0 lead, then breeze to a 19-4 victory over the Reds at Cleveland. Jose Ramirez belts two of the Indians’ four homers on the day and now has 27 for the year; Carlos Carrasco gets the easy victory in the minimum five innings, and Adam Plutko pitches the final four frames—and gets credit for a save.

The Colorado Rockies mimic the Indians’ early surge and topple the Diamondbacks at Denver, 19-2—scoring all of their runs within the first five innings. Things get so bad so early for Arizona, they resort to using a position player (infielder Daniel Descalso) in the fourth inning; after he pitches 2.2 innings (allowing three runs), he gets succeeded by catcher Alex Avila—the third position player to pitch for Arizona in less than a week. Carlos Gonzalez hammers two homers with six RBIs for the Rockies, while Ian Desmond adds five RBIs on three hits; the win is the Rockies’ first at home against Arizona after nine straight losses.

Descalso’s fourth-inning appearance was the earliest by a position player in any game since Milwaukee’s Sal Bando in 1979. He allows two home runs, including one to starting Colorado pitcher German Marquez; it’s the first time since 1986 than a pitcher has a hit a homer off a “non-pitcher.”

It had been 10 years since any team had taken a 17-run lead after four innings; tonight, two teams—the Indians and Diamondbacks—both accomplish the feat.

Thursday, July 12
Mookie Betts ends a 13-pitch at-bat with a fourth-inning grand slam to give the Red Sox the momentum in an eventual 6-4 home win over Toronto. The win is Boston’s 10th straight and 66th overall on the year—breaking the all-time record for the most before the All-Star Break, surpassing the 1969 Orioles. It’s also the first time the Red Sox have been 37 games over the .500 mark since 1949.

In the Angels’ 11-2 rout of the Mariners at Anaheim, Albert Pujols busts two home runs to reach 630 in his career and tie Ken Griffey Jr. for #6 on the all-time list. It’s the 50th time Pujols has gone deep at least twice in a game. The effort is perhaps too much for the 38-year-old Pujols; A day later, he’ll be placed on the disabled list with knee inflammation.

Off the field, the Angels announce that would-be ace Garrett Richards—who has struggled to stay healthy since 2015, making just 28 starts over the last three years—will undergo Tommy John surgery, meaning he may not pitch again until 2020.

The Dodgers edge the Padres at San Diego, 3-2, and take sole possession of first place in the NL West for the first time this season. Ross Stripling, recently named to the NL All-Star team as a substitute, throws six shutout innings to improve to 8-2. Los Angeles is 35-16 since May 16.

The high-flying A’s finish off an impressive series at Houston, taking three of four games against the defending champions with a 6-4 victory after trailing early, 4-0. Mark Canha’s two-run, tie-breaking single in the eighth proves to be the winning blow. The A’s had lost eight straight games to the Astros coming into the series.

Friday, July 13
The Blue Jays overcome four errors (leading to three unearned runs) and two Mookie Betts triples in the first two innings to defeat the Red Sox, 13-7, and end Boston’s 10-game win streak. Justin Smoak, who had been quiet for much of 2018 after a breakout 2017, drives in four runs on two homers, giving him seven over his last 13 games; he’s also had at least one extra-base hit in seven straight games.

Only three times coming into tonight, the Mets had scored three or more runs in the first inning—and in each of those games, they had lost. Not tonight. Their three runs in the opening frame helps to topple the sagging Nationals (47-47), whose bad vibes are best exemplified when Bryce Harper fails to run out a double play that kills a fifth-inning rally. Washington manager Dave Martinez says after the game, “that’s a conversation I’ll have with Bryce tomorrow.”

With two games to spare before the All-Star Break, the Astros’ Alex Bregman sets a career high in home runs with his 20th of the year, a two-run shot in the first inning that sets the tone for Houston’s 3-0 home victory over Detroit.

Since clawing their way to a 36-37 record in mid-June, the Tigers have lost 19 of their last 23 games.

Saturday, July 14
The St. Louis Cardinals, stagnating at the .500 mark and beset by clubhouse issues that have recently gone public, fire manager Mike Matheny after six-plus years at the helm. The former catcher has never guided the Cardinals to a losing record and has taken them to four postseasons (including one NL pennant, in 2013), but he failed to make the playoffs in each of his last two years—and his team sits firmly in third place in the NL Central, having won only 12 of its last 31 games following an 8-2 home loss to Cincinnati.

Matheny is the first manager to be fired in spite of a winning record since Milwaukee’s Ned Yost in 2008.

Trailing after six innings at Minnesota, 6-4, the Rays pile up five runs in the seventh—and five more in the eighth, and still five more in the ninth, to register a 19-6 rout over the Twins. They’re the first team since the 1991 Giants to score at least five runs in three straight innings—and the first team, ever, to do it in the final three innings of a game.

The 19 runs scored by Tampa Bay ties a franchise record, but the Rays still remain the only team never to have scored 20 in a game.

The Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts scores the tying run in the ninth on a Jackie Bradley Jr. double—then belts a walk-off grand slam an inning later to give Boston a 6-2, 10-inning home win over the Blue Jays. It’s the ninth slam of the year for the Red Sox, who had none for the entire 2017 season; it ties the 2010 Yankees and this year’s Reds for the most ever before the All-Star Break.

The Pirates sweep a doubleheader from Milwaukee at Pittsburgh, 2-1 and 6-2—with Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco hitting back-to-back home runs in each game. It’s only the third time in history that the same two players have hit consecutive homers in both ends of a twinbill. The double defeat sends the Brewers 1.5 games back of the Cubs, 11-6 winners at San Diego.

Back in Denver after a two-week demotion to the minors, the Rockies’ Jon Gray holds the Mariners scoreless into the eighth inning and picks up the win in Colorado’s 4-1 victory. Wade LeBlanc lasts 4.1 innings and loses for the first time in 22 starts for Seattle; that had been the third longest such streak to start a tenure with a new team since 1920.

Sunday, July 15
The Pirates score a thrilling come-from-behind, 7-6 victory in 10 innings to finish a five-game home sweep of the Brewers, making them the first team to sweep a five-game series since the Red Sox dominated the Yankees in August 2006. Trailing 5-2 in the eighth, the Bucs notch one run in the eighth, two in the ninth to tie and then the game-winner (after the Brewers had re-taken the lead in the top of the 10th) on Josh Bell’s two-run double.

After spotting the Rangers four first-inning runs on a Ronald Guzman grand slam, the Orioles rebound with a 6-5 victory at Baltimore to improve to 28-69—and put themselves percentage points ahead of Kansas City (10-1 losers at Chicago against the White Sox) for the second worst team in the majors. Manny Machado homers and walks in two plate appearances for the Orioles before being removed from a close game on a wet day as ownership likely protects his trade value. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter explains: “A month ago, he wouldn’t have come out of the game. We know that. You know it.” Three days later, Machado will be dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Machado batted .315 for the Orioles and was on pace to hit 40 home runs with 109 RBIs.

It’s all or nothing for the Tigers against the Astros’ Justin Verlander in Houston. The All-Star pitcher strikes out 12 and walks none over six innings, but also allows six hits—four of them for home runs as Detroit takes a 6-3 victory. In his first 12 starts this season, Verlander was 7-2 with a 1.11 ERA; since then, he’s 2-3 in nine outings with a 3.99 mark.

Monday, July 16
Amid a difficult year in which he’s hitting just .214, the Nationals’ Bryce Harper finds solace in the Home Run Derby. Surging from a weak start, Harper wins the competition with a strong finish, edging the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber on his own home soil in Washington. Harper is the sole headliner in an event that otherwise lacks serious marquee sparkle, as Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Mike Trout all sit out. There are a record 221 long balls hit, the longest of which is a 479-foot blast from the Cubs’ Javier Baez during his first-round defeat to Dodgers rookie Max Muncy.

Off the field, the other traditional pre-All-Star Game event takes place as commissioner Rob Manfred meets the press and talks about the state of the game. Among his statements: He declares an end to the steroid era, expresses concern about legalized sports gambling, blames the weather (but not a plethora of tanking teams) for the 5.5% drop in MLB attendance this season, is open to seeing a female player in the majors, and sees expansion on the distant horizon. Manfred also suggests that aggressive analytical research, which has led to more things such as defensive shifts, may be preventing it from “making the product something different than what it has been traditionally.” Likely translation: We’re going to look into banning the shift.

Tuesday, July 17
The Home Run Derby is officially over, but fans in Washington wouldn’t know it while watching an All-Star Game slugfest that yields a record-shattering 10 home runs in the AL’s 8-6, 10-inning win over the NL. The game is only 2-2 after seven innings, but the fireworks truly begin in the eighth when Seattle’s Jean Segura launches a three-run homer to give the AL a seemingly safe lead. But that margin—and Segura’s chances of winning the game’s MVP award—crumbles in the ninth when the Reds’ Scooter Gennett ties the game with a one-out, two-run shot. The AL immediately responds in the 10th when, employing shades of the 2017 World Series, Houston’s Alex Bregman and George Springer hit back-to-back homers off the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling to lead off the inning. Cincinnati’s Joey Votto gives the NL one back in the bottom of the frame with his solo blast—bringing the home run total on the night to 10, long since surpassing the old ASG record of six—but it’s all the Senior Circuit can muster as it falls for the sixth straight time to the AL.

This is the first time in any major league game—All-Star, regular season or playoff—that five players from each side have homered.

Sign of the times: 48.9% of the plate appearances in the All-Star Game result in either a strikeout, walk or home run. That’s the highest such rate in 85 years of Midsummer Classic play.

This is the fourth straight year that a National League city has hosted the All-Star Game. Cleveland, an American League city, will host the 2019 contest.

The AL’s six straight wins come on top of three straight from the NL (2010-12), that on top of the AL’s undefeated run of 13 games (including the infamous 2002 tie) from 1997-2009. The AL thus takes the all-time lead in the series at 44-43-2.

It’s a bad night for supersonic Milwaukee reliever Josh Hader. Not only does he serve up Segura’s three-run homer in the eighth, but when he returns to the clubhouse he faces a mass of reporters asking about seven-year-old tweets unleashed during the game that show a 17-year-old Hader spouting thoroughly racist and homophobic thoughts. Hader immediately apologizes and explains away the tweets as those of a younger, more immature and insensitive self—but many believe he shouldn’t get off with nothing more than with a quick apology. MLB agrees, to an extent; it tells Hader to undergo sensitivity training rather than suspend him.

News of the tweets spread so fast, Hader’s parents seated in the stands during the game are advised to take off jerseys with his name to avoid possible retribution by nearby fans in the know.

Wednesday, July 18
Baseball’s biggest midseason trade chip is moved as Baltimore’s Manny Machado goes to the Dodgers for five minor leaguers, including top Los Angeles prospect Yusniel Diaz, an outfielder from Cuba. Machado, having a solid year for a sinking Orioles team, will fill in the slot vacated by the injured Corey Seager (Tommy John surgery), and is expected to boost the Dodgers’ fortunes in the second half as they try to win the NL West for the sixth straight season—and their first world title since 1988.

So why is Mike Trout, the game’s best player, playing in relative anonymity in a highly visible, media-intensive market (greater Los Angeles)? A frustrated Rob Manfred would also like to know. Baseball’s commissioner sounds off on Trout for his lack of pursuing marketing opportunities to give himself and the game more exposure. “Mike's a great, great player and a really nice person, but he's made certain decisions about what he wants to do and what he doesn't want to do, and how he wants (and) doesn't want to spend his free time," Manfred said. “I think we could help him make his brand really, really big. But he has to make a decision that he's prepared to engage in that area. It takes time and effort.”

But Trout, who the Washington Post claims has about as much national identity as reserve NBA players and isn’t even among the top 10 in MLB jersey sales, later publicly responds that the only spotlight he’s interested being in is on the field. “I do as much as I can,” he says. “But it’s a long baseball season. I got to pick and choose when I want to do things and go from there.” The Los Angeles Angels—yes, Trout plays for the Angels—back the All-Star slugger, praising his prioritization of his “personal values over commercial self-promotion” in a statement.

True, the marketing of major league players has been abysmal in recent years. Outside of Bryce Harper and Buster Posey, few players regularly show up in commercials or other forms of media promotion. Other top advertising prospects, past and present, are considered either too scandal-plagued (Pete Rose, Alex Rodriguez), too private (Derek Jeter), or not “American” enough (Manny Machado, Jose Ramirez). Perhaps today’s ad men can tap into those challenges and turn a negative into a positive—for instance, use Shohei Ohtani with subtitles to promote something exotic. After all, creativity is what they’re supposed to be known for.

Thursday, July 19
Cleveland’s struggling bullpen is given a Hand. San Diego trades closer Brad Hand, its only All-Star Game participant, to the Indians along with rookie reliever Adam Cimber (3.17 ERA in 42 games); in exchange, the Padres receive top catching prospect Francisco Mejia, best known for a 50-game hitting streak at the Double-A level in 2017. Mejia is hitting .279 at Triple-A so far this season.

While everyone else gets Thursday off, the Cubs and Cardinals play the first game back since the All-Star Game as Chicago beats up on Carlos Martinez for a 9-6 victory. The win extends the Cubs’ lead in the NL Central to three games over the Brewers.

Friday, July 20
St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter has the best offensive day of any major leaguer this season in the Cardinals’ 18-5 rout of the Cubs at Chicago, smashing three homers and adding two doubles as part of a 5-4-5-7 day in the box score. It’s the first three-homer performance by a Cardinal since Albert Pujols in 2010, and the first time any Cardinal has accumulated five extra-base hits in a game; Carpenter’s 21 leadoff home runs for his career ties Lou Brock for the all-time franchise record. (He’ll break that record on July 31.)

Manny Machado’s debut for the Dodgers is a pleasing one. Wearing #8 as a bow to former Los Angeles basketball star Kobe Bryant, Machado becomes only the second player (after Vic Wertz in 1952) to reach base four times in his first game following a midseason trade, collecting two singles and two walks in the Dodgers’ 6-4 win at Milwaukee. For the Brewers—who were said to be highly involved in trying to snatch Machado themselves—it’s their seventh straight loss.

The Astros’ Dallas Keuchel becomes the latest player to take a no-hitter beyond six innings only to lose it shortly thereafter, as an infield single by the Angels’ Justin Upton ends his bid with two outs in the seventh. Keuchel will settle for 7.2 innings of two-hit ball as the Astros win at Anaheim, 3-1.

After a disappointing first half, the Nationals’ quest to get off to a good start in the second half fares no better even with Stephen Strasburg back on the mound for the first time in six weeks. Strasburg allows six runs on eight hits over 4.2 innings against the Braves at Washington, and is so disgruntled after his removal that he refuses high-fives from his teammates—leading to a dugout scolding from fellow rotation ace Max Scherzer that gets carried behind closed doors in the clubhouse. The Nationals’ 8-5 loss drops them back below the .500 mark and six games back of second-place Atlanta in the NL East.

Among the five home runs in this game are one each from the Nationals’ Juan Soto and the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr.; their combined age (40 years, 117 days) makes them the youngest pair of players (one on each side) to ever homer together in the same game.

Amid a sizzling heat wave at Arlington’s Globe Life Park—with a 107-degree first-pitch temperature that’s one degree below the all-time major league mark of 108, tied just weeks earlier at Anaheim—the Indians survive a two-run rally by the Rangers in the ninth and win 9-8 on an Edwin Encarnacion single in the 11th. Jose Ramirez’s sixth-inning homer makes him the first to reach 30 this season in the majors.

Saturday, July 21
About the only thing hotter than the weather at Arlington (where the first-pitch reading again reaches 107 degrees) is the Cleveland offense. The Indians pummel the Rangers, 16-3, as eight different players register two hits. Not reaching base at all is Texas’ Shin-Soo Choo, ending a streak of 52 straight games in which had either a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch. It had been the longest streak by a major leaguer since Kevin Millar also reached in 52 straight games in 2007.

Playing the role of Texas pitching punching bag is reliever Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who gives up 11 runs on 13 hits over four innings. It’s the most runs allowed by a reliever since Vin Mazzaro’s infamous outing (14 runs allowed over 2.1 innings) for Kansas City in 2011.

Before a crowd of 56,310 that will likely be the majors’ largest this season, the Oakland A’s survive a ninth-inning disturbance by the crosstown Giants and win 4-3 on Jonathan Lucroy’s two-out RBI single in the 11th. The Giants walk nine batters on the night, including six from starter Madison Bumgarner to set a career high; four of those come in a three-run Oakland fifth and usher out his early exit—ending a streak of 89 straight starts in which he lasted at least five innings, the longest active run in the majors and the longest in Giants modern history.

Oakland closer Blake Treinen, despite a 1.08 ERA, does not pick a good day to blow his fourth save opportunity of the year. That’s because the A’s finalize a deal to send two prospects and $1 million in international pool money to the New York Mets in exchange for their closer, Jeurys Familia.

The Royals defeat Minnesota at Kansas City, 4-2, to win consecutive games for the first time since winning back-to-back at home against the same Twins nearly two months earlier, on May 29-30. It also clinches their first series win since that set against the Twins.

Sunday, July 22
The Red Sox easily dispense of the Tigers at Detroit, 9-1, behind Chris Sale’s six shutout innings of two-hit ball with nine strikeouts. For the Red Sox, they become the first team to reach 70 wins on the season, reaching the figure in fewer games (101) since 1946. For Sale, he’s won his last five starts, allowing a run on 17 hits and four walks with 57 strikeouts over 33 innings.

The Cubs defeat the Cardinals at Chicago, 7-2—and just as importantly, stop Matt Carpenter from going deep on them again. Carpenter does get one hit—a bunt single to lead off the game as the Cubs stuff four players into the outfield—but his six-game streak with at least one home run, which ties a team record, comes to an end. His bunt hit also ends a string of 12 straight hits that had gone for extra bases.

Tampa Bay scores five runs in the ninth against Miami closer Kyle Barraclough—whose 40th and last pitch of the inning is sent over the left-field wall by Daniel Robertson for a walk-off grand slam, the first in Rays history, for a 6-4 win. There have now been a major league-record four game-ending slams hit in July.

Monday, July 23
Fourteen months after suffering a frightening injury when hit by a comebacker during a Triple-A game—resulting in a fractured skull, bleeding of the brain and emergency surgery—Daniel Poncedeleon makes his major league debut and throws seven no-hit innings for the Cardinals. But with 116 pitches, he’s removed at that point with a 1-0 lead over the Reds. St. Louis relievers are not as sharp; Jordan Hicks allows the Reds’ first hit in the eighth, and then closer Bud Norris collapses in the ninth by allowing two runs on four hits as the Reds walk off with a 2-1 win.

Poncedeleon is the fifth pitcher since 1961 to throw seven no-hit innings or more in his debut; but after this memorable gem, he’ll be sent back to Triple-A.

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has a horrible night amid a miserable (.188) season at Tampa Bay. The Rays score their first run when Sanchez commits a passed ball and lazily jogs after it—all while Jake Bauers is charging all the way home from second. And Sanchez will kill a legitimate ninth-inning rally when he fails to hustle down the line on what ends up being a game-ending double play, as the Yankees lose, 7-6. There is an explanation for Sanchez’s reticence to run hard; he’ll be placed on the disabled list after the game with an aggravated groin.

Tuesday, July 24
For the second straight night, a St. Louis pitcher making his first big league start takes a no-hitter past six innings. But Austin Gomber’s bid for glory ends under interesting circumstances; while warming up to pitch the seventh, the fire alarm is accidentally set off at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, causing a seven-minute delay. When play resumes, he promptly gives up two runs and will shortly thereafter be removed. But the Cardinals survive in 11 innings as Dexter Fowler’s two run-shot in the 11th gives St. Louis a 4-2 victory over the Reds.

This is the first time that pitchers making their first career start have taken a no-hitter past six innings in back-to-back games since Blue Moon Odom and Bob Mayer did it for the 1964 Kansas City A’s.

The Oakland A’s are, in a word, hot. Trailing 10-2 after six innings, they rally for three in the seventh, four in the eighth, one in the ninth and three more on Stephen Piscotty’s three-run jack in the 10th to complete a 13-10 comeback victory over the Rangers at Arlington. It’s the A’s 25th win in their last 32 tries, and they now trail Seattle (4-3 losers at home to San Francisco) by 1.5 games for second place in the AL West and a likely wild card spot. It’s the first time since 2012 that any team has come from eight runs down this late to win; the last time the A’s did it was back in 1939 when the Philadelphia Athletics came from behind to down the St. Louis Browns. The Rangers (and the Washington Senators II before them) had never lost a game when leading by eight or more runs after six or more innings.

Piscotty’s homer is the fourth of the night for Oakland, the third straight game in which they’ve hit at least four. That’s a franchise first.

The Phillies outlast the Dodgers at Philadelphia, 7-4 in 16 innings, when Trevor Plouffe strikes a three-run homer off infielder/outfielder/emergency pitcher Kike Hernandez, who had managed to get one out but walked two before serving up the blast. It’s the first time a position player has ever allowed a walk-off home run.

In these times, it seems a day doesn’t go by without a team utilizing a position player on the mound—either because they’ve run out of relievers or there’s reluctance to use a paid pitcher when trailing by umpteen runs. In fact, with barely two-thirds of the season done, there have already been more position players (42) used on the mound than in any other season. Perhaps today’s managers should ask their predecessors from 20 or more years ago how to properly manage a bullpen, because it’s not working these days as coaches and general managers continue to obsess over potential overuse and fragility of their staff arms. There needs to be more faith in the durability of these pitchers and allow them to go more than a third or two-thirds of an inning, specialties be damned—or it won’t be long before Rob Manfred does indeed institute the runner-on-second rule to start all extra innings, already currently in use in the minors.

By the way: Just 12 years earlier, in 2006, not one position player pitched in a regular season game.

On the day the Yankees receive Baltimore closer Zach Britton for three minor leaguers, their bullpen gets a rest. That’s because Masahiro Tanaka throws his third career shutout, a three-hit, one-walk 4-0 gem over the Rays at St. Petersburg. It’s only the second shutout thrown by a major leaguer in the last seven weeks.

Look who’s come out of nowhere. The Pittsburgh Pirates defeat the Indians at Cleveland, 9-4, for their 11th straight victory, their longest win streak since 1996. Home runs by Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco help build up a 7-1 lead after just two innings, ensuring the Bucs’ seventh straight game scoring at least six runs—something they haven’t done since 1946.

Tony Coninger, a brief ace for the Braves who’s best known for being one of 13 players—and the only pitcher—to hit two grand slams in a game, dies at the age of 77. From 1964-66, the North Carolina-born right-hander took over for the departed Warren Spahn as the Braves’ #1, highlighted with a 24-11 record in the team’s last year at Milwaukee in 1965. But he was wild; he twice led the NL in walks, and in 1966 threw 27 wild pitches—the most seen in the majors since Red Ames’ modern-record 30 in 1905. But it was in that same year that he went on a tear as a hitter; twice within a month, he had multiple-homer performances at the plate—including his pair of grand slams at San Francisco on July 3. In his later years, Cloninger served as a coach for the Yankees, then served as a consultant for the Red Sox until his passing.

Wednesday, July 25
Albert Pujols continues to make milestone news, surpassing Ken Griffey Jr. with his 631st career home run, a second-inning shot in the Angels’ 11-3 home win over the White Sox. Mike Trout goes deep twice and Shohei Ohtani adds one long ball himself, becoming the first AL rookie since Detroit’s Bill Akers in 1930 to hit his first nine career homers at home.

The Tampa Bay Rays may be 52-50 and somewhat relevant in the AL wild card discussion, but it’s not enough to keep the team from unloading two top pitchers in trades. Nathan Eovaldi—whose recent return from Tommy John surgery has yielded some impressive results—is dealt to the Red Sox, while Matt Andriese (3-4, 4.07 ERA), is sent to Arizona. On the field, meanwhile, the Rays go the “bullpenning” route for the 42nd time this season and start reliever Ryan Stanek in Eovaldi’s place as they defeat the Yankees at St. Petersburg, 3-2. Earning the save is Sergio Romo, the fifth and, sort of technically, seventh pitcher of the game; after retiring the last two batters in the eighth, he begins the ninth situated at third base as Jonny Venters takes over on the mound—and one batter later returns to pitching and earns the save.

The Yankees suffer only their second series loss in nearly two months. Both have come against the Rays.

The Rangers can simply do no right against the A’s in the late innings. For the second straight night, they blow a big lead after six innings, as Khris Davis caps an Oakland comeback with a two-run homer—his second blast of the night—to give the A’s a 6-5 victory. Davis, who has five RBIs on the night, has smacked 24 homers in the last three seasons against the Rangers—the most by any major leaguer against one team during this time. The Rangers, meanwhile, lose back-to-back games in which they had a ninth-inning lead; they were previously 42-0 in that scenario this season.

In the past two games, the Rangers outscore the A’s 15-3 in the first six innings—and are outscored 16-0 from the seventh on.

Yoenis Cespedes, who has played just one game for the New York Mets since May 13—garnering two hits including a home run against the Yankees on July 20—announces that he will need to have surgery done on both of his heels and will miss the rest of the season. Cry not for the Mets; they have insurance on Cespedes’ contract and will collect 75% of the money he makes while on the disabled list. But Cespedes’ impact on the Mets is undeniable; with him in the lineup this season, New York is 20-18. Without him, it’s 22-39.

Thursday, July 26
Even though the trading deadline is still five days away, some teams can no longer wait to snare their prize targets. The Chicago Cubs deal for Texas ace Cole Hamels, who has a career 1.76 ERA with a no-hitter at Wrigley Field; the Yankees acquire Toronto pitcher J.A. Happ, who was 10-6 with a 4.18 ERA for the Blue Jays; the Braves bring back reliever Jonny Venters, who played for Atlanta from 2010-12, after a trade with Tampa Bay, and the Astros receive AL Gold Glove catcher Martin Maldonado from the Angels.

With Maldonado gone from Anaheim, the Angels call up Francisco Arcia to take his place—and the 28-year old, who’s spent 12 years in the minors without a single call-up, makes good on his debut with a pair of hits included a three-run homer to help lift the Angels to a 12-8 home victory over the White Sox. Nick Tropeano gets the win for the Angels despite allowing five Chicago homers—all solo—over 6.1 innings.

The Yankees easily take care of the woeful (31-71) Royals at New York, 7-2, but suffer a big loss when slugger Aaron Judge suffers a fracture of his wrist after being hit by a Jakob Junis pitch. The team believes that Judge will miss only three weeks.

The dark side of social media will be exposed following the game as Junis receives a cascade of angry tweets, with one even threatening his family. As a result, he puts his Twitter account on ‘private’ mode. And as for the guy threatening Junis’ family: The police need to check him out, because technically one can get arrested for making such a vow.

The Phillies tie a franchise record with seven homers—including two each from Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco and Nick Williams—to defeat the Reds at Cincinnati, 9-4. It’s the first time since 2003 that a trio of players from the same team have had multiple-homer efforts in the same game.

Friday, July 27
On a rollercoaster night in Boston for the Red Sox, Chris Sale becomes the fastest major leaguer (by innings) ever to reach 200 strikeouts in a season while throwing six scoreless innings, Craig Kimbrel blows his first save in 23 attempts going back to May 9—and Mookie Betts ends it with his first career walk-off homer, a solo shot in the 10th to give the Red Sox a 4-3 victory over the Twins.

Sale’s 200 Ks in 136 innings beats the old record he himself set just last year, at 141.1 innings.

Washington ace Max Scherzer joins Sale in the 200 Club, reaching the milestone with his 11th and final strikeout of the night in a thoroughly satisfying effort on his 34th birthday. Scherzer allows one unearned run on three hits over eight innings as the Nationals coast to a 9-1 victory at Miami. Helping out offensively for the Nationals is Juan Soto, who homers for the third straight game; he’s the first teenager to do so since Jimmy Sheckard in 1898.

It’s an all-around good night for Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers ace fires 7.2 strong innings and becomes the first pitcher to reach base four times since Mike Leake in 2010 as Los Angeles takes a 4-1 victory at Atlanta. Kershaw walks three times and strokes a two-run single in the fourth.

After clawing back to tie the game in the late innings, the Mariners fall to the Angels at Anaheim in 10 innings, 4-3, to end a 14-game win streak in overtime that began over a year ago. Kole Calhoun’s leadoff homer off Seattle’s Juan Nicosio in the 10th wins it for Los Angeles.

The trade wire remains active today, with the woebegone Mets sending infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to Philadelphia, while the Twins—in second place in the AL Central but resigned to the fact that they likely won’t catch Cleveland—deal third baseman Eduardo Escobar to Arizona after six years with Minnesota.

Saturday, July 28
The Angels are starting to wonder: Why did we keep Francisco Arcia down in the minors for all these years? The rookie catcher, who knocked in four runs in his MLB debut a few days ago after toiling in the minors for 12 seasons, adds six more RBIs on three hits (two doubles and a home run) in his second major league game, an 11-5 victory over Seattle at Anaheim. Arcia’s 10 RBIs over his first two games sets a major league record.

Toronto rookie Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has two singles to break a franchise record with his 10th straight multi-hit game in the Blue Jays’ 9-5 loss against the White Sox at Chicago. The streak is tied for the longest by a rookie in modern major league history, shared with the great Joe Jackson in 1912; the all-time post-1900 record by any player is held by Rogers Hornsby, with 13 in 1923.

Starting and throwing three shutout innings for the Blue Jays is veteran reliever John Axford, making his first career start. According to STATS, he’s the eighth pitcher to make his first start after at least 530 relief appearances; two of the others—Sergio Romo and Jerry Blevins—have also done so this season.

The Rangers’ Rougned Odor has a banner night at Houston. The second baseman goes 5-for-5 with two home runs—one inside the park—to give Texas a 7-3 victory. The Astros’ loss comes after the announcement that All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career with knee issues. A couple of home run streaks come to an end around the majors.

In Baltimore, the Orioles go on a rampage for the second night in a row against Tampa Bay as they pound the Rays, 11-2—but Jonathan Schoop fails to go deep for a sixth straight game, which would have set an all-time record among second basemen. Meanwhile at Cincinnati, the Reds’ 6-2 win over Philadelphia does not come with the benefit of a Eugenio Suarez deep fly, ending his streak of five straight games with a homer. His run had tied a franchise mark shared by seven other Reds.

The Brewers make several positive moves on the day. They acquire Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas, who quickly suits up and contributes a single in Milwaukee’s 7-1 win at San Francisco. With that victory, the Brewers move to within a half-game of the NL Central-leading Cubs, who are defeated by the Cardinals at St. Louis, 6-2.

Just when we thought we might had heard the last of Matt Holliday, he signs a minor deal with the Colorado Rockies, the team where he enjoyed his most productive seasons from 2004-08. The 38-year-old slugger all but faded from the scene after a somewhat forgettable (.231, 19 home runs) one-year ride with the Yankees in 2017.

Sunday, July 29
Atlanta’s Sean Newcomb is one out away from the Braves’ first no-hitter since 1994…and then the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor ruins it with a single, ending his bid after throwing a MLB season-high 134 pitches. Newcomb is removed after the hit as the Braves manage to lock up a 4-1 home victory. But after the game, Newcomb feels Josh Hader’s shame and is confronted by evidence of homophobic, racist and sexist tweets he sent in an earlier life, some seven years ago. Like Hader, he will apologize for “saying some stupid stuff with friends.”

Newcomb isn’t the only one facing his recent tawdry social media past. The Nationals’ Trea Turner finds himself apologizing for offensive tweets he sent out, also some six-to-seven years ago. Right about now, you got to imagine the number of young major leaguers who might be scrambling to scrub through their social media accounts just in case they too get “caught.”

Two recently traded starting pitchers do very well in debuts with their new teams. In Boston, ex-Ray Nathan Eovaldi fires seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and no walks, as the Red Sox shut down the Twins, 3-0. Down in New York, former Blue Jay J.A. Happ allows a run on three hits through six solid as the Yankees take care of the Royals, 6-3.

Happ is feeling good during the game, but a day later he’ll come down with hand, foot and mouth disease—something usually reserved for young children. The Yankees believe he may have contacted the malady while on a commercial flight to join the team from the Blue Jays.

In what may be his final appearance in a Mets uniform as trade rumors swirl, Zack Wheeler throws six shutout innings and doubles in the game’s only run in the fifth as New York defeats the Pirates at Pittsburgh, 1-0. It’s the first time since 1977 that a Mets pitcher has knocked in the only run of a game.

After getting swept in a four-game series at home against Oakland, the Rangers put the finishing touches on an about-face by sweeping a three-game set from the Astros in Houston, 4-3—surviving a ninth-inning Houston rally with the game-tying and game-winning runs left stranded on base. It’s the first time since 2006 that a team 20 games below .500 has swept another that was 20 games over the mark.

It’s enshrinement day at Cooperstown as six new players—Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jim Thome, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell—are formally inducted into the Hall of Fame. A crowd of 53,000—the second largest in induction history, after the 82,000 that jammed the proceedings in 2007 to welcome Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn—are on hand to witness the largest incoming class since 1971. Providing some suspense is Jones, who isn’t sure he’d be available to make his speech with the imminent birth of his seventh son; he even has a prerecorded speech at the ready in case his wife’s water breaks early. For the record, the new child’s name is Cooper—after the town Jones is being inducted into.

Monday, July 30
On baseball’s penultimate day before the trading deadline, several more deals are done. The Yankees acquire another starting pitcher, receiving Minnesota’s Lance Lynn for reliever Adam Warren and infielder Tyler Austin; the Reds’ Adam Duvall goes to Atlanta in exchange for three minor leaguers; and the Blue Jays ship closer Roberto Osuna, just coming off of a suspension for domestic violence, to Houston for beleaguered closer Ken Giles and two minor leaguers.

The trade for Osuna doesn’t sit terribly well with some Houston players, including ace Justin Verlander, who’s been among the most public in his criticism of ballplayers involved in domestic violence. “Obviously, I’ve said some pretty inflammatory things about stuff like this in the past, and I stand by my words,” said Verlander. “…It will be interesting. I think (Osuna) plans to talk to us when he gets here and we’ll go from there and see what happens.”

Two games in the southwest are briefly halted by power outages. At Arizona, there’s a partial outage during the Diamondbacks’ 9-5 loss to Texas as a transformer outside of Chase Field is zapped from a summer thunderstorm; it stops the action for 23 minutes. Out at Dodger Stadium, meanwhile, a 21-minute delay takes place after a Mylar balloon makes contact with electrical equipment, causing the ballpark’s lights to knock out during the Dodgers’ 5-3 loss to Milwaukee.

Tuesday, July 31
The trading deadline passes by at mid-afternoon—but not without a flurry of last-minute movement. Among the biggest sellers are the Rays, who send All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos to Philadelphia while finally dealing star pitcher Chris Archer—who’s been rumored to be traded, like, forever—to the Pirates for reliever Tyler Glasnow and promising young outfielder Austin Meadows (.292, five homers in 49 games). Also unloading are the Orioles, who exchange one second baseman named Jonathan (Schoop) to Milwaukee for another (Villar), while also shipping away pitchers Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta. Ian Kinsler, batting .240 at age 36 for the Angels, is sent to Boston; the Twins trade second baseman Brian Dozier (hitting .224 after two superior seasons with Minnesota) to the Dodgers for their second sacker, Logan Forsythe, and two minor leaguers; and Arizona re-acquires reliever Brad Ziegler from the Miami Marlins.

Archer’s departure from Tampa Bay means that the Rays, for the moment, technically have no starting pitchers on their active roster. So the “bullpenning” experiment the team started earlier this year has now become something of an unavoidable fact of life.

Arizona boosts its pitching staff even further by trading for Texas lefty Jake Diekman, whose journey to the Diamondbacks is a short one; the Rangers are current playing a series at Phoenix.

Despite some wild last-minute rumors, Bryce Harper stays with the Nationals—and is part of a record-setting day at Washington against the Mets. The Nationals score seven times in the first inning—the most any NL team in the initial frame this season—but the fun is just starting for them; they’ll score three runs in each of the next four innings, then pile on six more tallies in the eighth off emergency pitcher/infielder Jose Reyes in a 25-4 rout. It’s the worst loss in Mets history, while Washington becomes the first NL team since 1920 to score at least three times in each of its first five innings.

The 19-0 lead after five frames is also the most after five innings by a team without allowing a run.

Among the many players collecting at least two hits for the Nationals is Ryan Zimmerman, who’s two knocks (including a home run) give him 1,696 for his career—passing Tim Wallach for the most in Expos/Nationals history.


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