This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: June, 2019
Fargo II, Starring David Ortiz as the Victim The ‘Pill’ That’s Making the Ball Fly
London & Omaha Get Their Big-League Baptisms The Tampa Bay-Montreal Rays?


Best and Worst of the Week

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

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
114 26 45 8 2 6 29 8 0 0 2

When the Yankees signed the former Rockie, batting champ and multiple Gold Glove winner for a relative pittance (two years, $24 million), they must have been expecting a muted version of his past success, especially given his career .264 road average. So imagine the Yankees’ surprise as they look at the ROI and see something more akin to vintage Derek Jeter. LeMahieu absolutely ate up the opposition this past month, setting personal monthly bests for hits, homers and RBIs; he’s on pace for roughly 25 homers and 120 RBIs to go along with a .345 average, all of which is nothing like he produced back at Coors Field.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
115 24 37 10 1 9 33 12 3 3 2

There were a number of Braves in the running for this honor thanks to an unstoppable offense, but Freeman earns the acme shield with a rock-solid performance. His 33 RBIs set a Braves franchise record, padding his season numbers to 22 homers and 65 RBIs—both easily on pace to set career highs. Freeman has always been a dependable asset since his 2011 rookie effort for Atlanta, but nationwide acclaim has largely eluded him. Maybe that’s changing; he just got named to his second straight NL All-Star starting lineup.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
John Hicks, Detroit Tigers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
54 2 6 3 0 0 1 1 0 0 0

Almost nobody’s hitting very well for the Tigers these days, so there’s little surprise in seeing the fifth-year catcher tagged with this month’s Shame of Fame for a job not so well done. This is especially disappointing for a guy who’s been pretty decent at the plate in the past, but his June started rough and only got worse…way worse, as he finished the month hitless in his last 25 at-bats. Bench him, you say, right? Well, no. The other Detroit catchers were a combined 4-for-47.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Tyler Austin, San Francisco Giants

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
45 6 5 0 0 2 4 5 0 0 0

Like Hicks’ Tigers, the Giants are looking for someone, anyone to pump up their offense. Unfortunately, the right-handed slugger hasn’t been the answer. Austin did pop a few home runs this past month, but otherwise he was doing his best Chris Davis impersonation—barely connecting on anything else and striking out half the time (22 over 45 at-bats). The Giants face so many lefties in the NL West that it seems a no-brainer to bring in a guy like Austin, but they may be starting to figure out why the Yankees and Twins before them gave him up.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Mike Minor, Texas Rangers

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
3-0 37 23 7 7 13 0 2 0 0 30

It took awhile, but the 31-year-old southpaw has found his groove back after his career was derailed—and nearly ended—some four years ago. Minor was sharp in all five of his starts this past month, including his second complete-game effort of the year on June 26 against the Tigers; all of this has earned him a much-deserved spot on the AL All-Star roster—and if it were up to us, we’d make him the starter. It’s been quite the long and winding road back to respectability for Minor, who missed 2015 due to major shoulder issues, struggled in the minors in 2016 and did set-up work for Kansas City in 2017 before returning to the rotation for Texas last year.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
6-0 45 25 5 5 4 1 3 0 0 68

At some point, this guy’s going to start pitching his age, right? Age 34 and still going strong, Scherzer was practically better than ever in June; you can’t find another month over his 12-year career in which he won more games or struck out more batters. The six wins in particular make up for the first two-plus months of the year, where Scherzer was getting no respect whatsoever from his own offense. The 68 strikeouts, meanwhile, have been eclipsed by others within a month, but never by anyone with an ERA as low as Scherzer’s 1.00. With a league-leading 170 Ks, he’s well on his way to erasing his previous career season high of 300, set just last year.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-6 27 44 37 36 18 1 0 1 0 16

The headline on a Yahoo! Canada Sports article says it all: “Aaron Sanchez is completely and utterly lost right now.” Injuries had been a problem for the Barstow, California native since posting a sterling 15-2 record and AL-best 3.00 ERA in 2016, but he’s made every start so far this season—and is probably beginning to wish he hadn’t. Sanchez lost all six of his starts this past month; he didn’t make it past the fourth inning in three of his last four outings, and he walked more batters than he struck out. This is but a brutal extension of a lousy stretch for Sanchez, who’s 0-10 since the end of April; his 11 losses on the season lead all major leaguers.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Matt Strahm, San Diego Padres

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-2 18.2 24 21 21 5 0 1 0 0 20

The conversion from good reliever to hopefully-better starter has been a rough one so far for the 27-year-old right-hander. Strahm’s June got off to a rocky start when he got battered about by the low-octane Marlins, followed by a short stint on the injury list. When he returned, he got caught up in that crazy four-game series at Colorado where the hits (and runs) just kept-a-coming; besides getting wrecked apart by the Rockies, he also got ejected for yelling at the umpire from the dugout (he claimed he was cheering on a teammate) and, on the more positive side, walked in a game-winning run while doing rare pinch-hit duty. Of particular concern for Strahm is his predilection for the gopher ball; he gave up two homers in each of his four starts in June.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Texas Rangers (18-11)

The Indians were in pretty good position to snatch this honor away from the Rangers—but when you lose consecutive 13-0 games to the god-awful Orioles, you’re out. So that does leave us with the Rangers, who have unexpectedly risen into strong wild card position on the strength of reclamation projects (born-again DH Hunter Pence and the aforementioned Mike Minor) and slugger Joey Gallo—who’s actually hitting for an impressive (.286) average to go with his usual power. First-year manager and Dave Roberts disciple Chris Woodward got the Rangers to do what good teams should always do—feast on bad teams. Now they have to go after the good ones to truly make a play for October ball.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Atlanta Braves (20-8)

Powered by a lucrative offense that led the majors in runs (187) and home runs (a franchise-record 56), the Braves won all five series against divisional opponents and surged to the top of the NL East, ending June with a 5.5-game lead. It’s a good thing the lineup was 100% charged, because the rotation beyond Mike Soroka (4-0, 3.71 ERA) was a disaster and constantly bailed out by a strong bullpen. If the Braves are truly going to make a run at the postseason again, they’ll need far better results from their starters—because Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Company can’t keep this pace up forever.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Detroit Tigers (5-20)

On the flip side of the offensive charts from the Braves sit the Tigers, who scored the fewest runs (82) this past month and showed that whatever improvements are being made are, for the moment, invisible. Awful pitching didn’t help; one wonders what all the fuss over Matt Boyd’s reported impending trade to the Yankees is all about when he couldn’t even win any of five starts this past month with a 5.90 ERA. But with this team, it still comes down to the offense—or lack thereof; they continue to produce the majors’ lowest batting average (.216) with runners in scoring position. The Tigers have only won three of their last 25 home games; no wonder manager Ron Gardenhire is on pace to set the season record for ejections (seven thus far).


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
New York Mets (10-18)

There were worse teams, by the record, in the majors this past month—but you wouldn’t know that being an everyday member of the Mets, who are performing their usual brand of self-afflicted debacle. The status woe remains; Jacob deGrom is back to not being able to buy a victory (2.70 ERA in six June starts, but just one win), the veterans are underwhelming, and not a day seems to go by without hearing that manager Mickey Callaway is about to be fired. It all came to a head on June 23 when Callaway (along with pitcher Jason Vargas) confronted and nearly came to blows with the media. Goodness sakes—where would this team be without inspiring young cadets Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso?


Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(June 2019 Edition)

O’ Catcher, Where Art Thou?
A day after the Mariners traded outfielder Jay Bruce, Seattle fans were probably wondering if the team had dealt its catcher as well—because he wasn’t there for a rather important play against the Astros.

Perhaps “Tommy Boy” was Already Taken
Nine-time Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady wanted to patent the nickname “Tom Terrific.” Perhaps he needed to read up on Tom Seaver.

Word Games
Pirates TV analyst (and former Pittsburgh pitcher) Steve Blass muttered the word “prick” to describe Ronald Acuna Jr. while in the midst of a subtle, on-air rant against the Braves’ star.

Ouch of the Month
The Mariners’ Mitch Haniger went on the injury list with a ruptured testicle after fouling a ball into his groin.

Injury and Insult, All at Once
The Yankees’ Brett Gardner angrily reacted to a deep fly out by slamming his helmet at a dugout wall. The dugout wall fired back.

Hi, My Name is Ida Burstyn
A woman was arrested at Cleveland’s Progressive Field after jumping from the bleachers into the Yankees bullpen during the middle of a game. Why did she do it? She said she just wanted to meet the players.

On-Deck Father
The Mets’ Wilson Ramos learned that he was about to become a father for the third time when his wife flashed a sign giving him the news—while he was on deck.

Shove Your Shift
The Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter laid down a primer on how to force teams to stop using the shift.

Soul Searching, Perhaps?
Former major leaguer and serial oddball Lenny Dykstra claims he spent nine hours in a dumpster trying to find his dentures—which he said were valued at $80,000—outside of a Jersey Mike’s shop after he left them behind. He eventually found them.

The “New” Oriole Way?
The Baltimore-affiliated Norfolk Tides of Triple-A lost a game in the ninth when right fielder Anderson Feliz, believing there was two outs, took a fair ball down the line and lobbed into the stands. But there was actually only one out, and Feliz’s goof allowed an additional runner to score and win the game for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Aw, Pawtucket
Roger Clemens finally got into the Hall of Fame—not the one in Cooperstown, but the one belonging to Pawtucket PawSox, the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate. He pitched nine games for the club.

Maybe He’s Getting Treatment for Suspension Syndrome
Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman said on air that Cubs shortstop and accused wife beater Addison Russell “had to suffer through” his suspension for domestic abuse.

They’re Not Dead Yet
A pregame ceremony honoring the 50-year anniversary of the 1969 world champion Mets turned embarrassing when an “In Memoriam” video montage from that team included fringe players Jesse Hudson and Jim Gosger—both of whom are actually still alive. (Adding insult to near-death, the Mets spelled Hudson’s first name “Jessie.”)

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Hitting Home Runs
After breaking the all-time monthly home run record in May, major league sluggers nudged the power button up a little further and accomplished another reset in June—hammering 1,142 long balls over a 30-day month. It seemed that a day didn’t go by without some sort of home run record, however obscure, making the newswire. Looking out at the big picture, we see some startling projections: Fifty-seven players are on pace to hit 30 or more homers, while roughly half of those are looking to reach 40—and that somewhat shorter list includes big-time names such as Franmil Reyes, Daniel Vogelbach and Max Kepler. Welcome to the new world.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
Baseball took another collective whiff in June, and although it didn’t set a new monthly record for total Ks, the 6,986 for the month would have broken the existing mark set in May (7,137) had there been a June 31st. As it is, this is the highest number of strikeouts recorded in June, easily surpassing the mark set last June (6,776), as the month-by-month chart continues its slow climb to more record territory.

League vs. League

There was no letting up for the National League in June, winning 31 of 50 interleague games to increase its season lead over the American League to 83-65. Unless the Junior Circuit can turn summer’s dog days in its favor, the NL will claim its second straight year of interleague bragging rights after 15 straight years of AL domination.





Saturday, June 1
Justin Verlander continues to show prime form at age 36. The Houston ace quells the A’s at Oakland, allowing just a run on four hits through eight innings while striking out 8—surpassing Cy Young for 21st on the all-time list with 2,809. Verlander’s gem, along with two-run homers from Josh Reddick and Robinson Chirinos, guides the Astros to a 5-1 win.

In this day and age when pitchers are thrilled to go six innings—or unhappy because their managers won’t let them go deeper into a game—let’s appreciate what we have in Verlander, one of the precious few hurlers who can still bring it at an advanced age. Of his 13 outings this season, 11 have been branded as quality starts; he leads the majors in innings pitched (87.1), WHIP (0.74) and is tied for the lead in wins (nine) with the New York Yankees’ Domingo German. And although he’s using his fastball less than ever (Fangraphs.com has him at 52%), his velocity remains sharp at 94.9 MPH on average.

The Nationals say hello to former Washington pitcher Tanner Roark—facing his old team for the first time since his trade to Cincinnati—with a 5-2 road victory over the Reds. Roark, who had allowed just two homers over his first 56.1 innings this season, doubles that total thanks to shots from the Nationals’ Gerardo Parra and Matt Adams—but he does his best to compensate on offense, knocking in both of Cincinnati’s runs on an RBI single and his first career home run in 294 at-bats.

Sunday, June 2
The Seattle Mariners, who gutted out their roster in the name of rebuilding during the offseason, look ready to do it again. They trade veteran outfielder Jay Bruce, hitting .212 with 14 home runs on a $13 million salary, to Philadelphia for a minor leaguer and cash considerations. It’s assumed that Bruce will fill the outfielding void left by Odubel Herrera, who’s off to a poor start and is currently on leave after assaulting his girlfriend a week ago.

On the field, the Mariners continue their steep descent into the depths of last place with a 13-3 blowout home loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Marco Gonzales gives up a career-high 10 runs, and the Angels’ Albert Pujols drives in five runs for the 25th time in his Hall-of-Fame career. The Mariners are 12-35 since a 13-2 start.

For the second time within a month, a swarm of bees puts the brakes on a major league ballgame. This time it happens in San Diego’s Petco Park, where the buzzers decide that a crowd mic attached to the backstop is a good place to form a temporary hive. The bee-lay, which begins during the third inning of Miami’s eventual 9-3 win over the Padres, lasts 28 minutes before an exterminator can show up and, yes, kill the swarm.

Stung not be bees but by a failing bullpen, Washington ace Max Scherzer tells beleaguered Nationals manager Dave Martinez to get lost in the midst of a tight game at Cincinnati, stays in and finishes his most dominant outing this season—allowing a run on three hits with 15 strikeouts in a 4-1 victory over the Reds. It’s only Scherzer’s third win of the year; four other times, he’s been removed with the Nationals tied or in the lead, only to watch his team eventually lose.

St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright turns back the clock and deliver a vintage effort, throwing eight innings of two-hit shutout ball in a 2-1 home victory over the Chicago Cubs. Wainwright does walk seven and ends up tossing 126 pitches; he’s the oldest pitcher since Phil Niekro (age 44 in 1983) to walk seven or more while giving up no runs. The Cardinals sweep the Cubs in three and extend their win streak to four, after going virtually the entire month of May without winning back-to-back games.

The Minnesota Twins get six shutout innings from ex-Ray Jake Odorizzi (who lowers his season ERA to 1.96), and the Twins survive a late blowup from its bullpen to outlast Tampa Bay at St. Petersburg, 9-7. With the win, the Twins own a 40-18 record that’s their best start in 119 years of franchise existence.

Monday, June 3
The 2019 MLB Amateur Draft begins with the Baltimore Orioles selecting Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman as the #1 pick. Rutschman is the first catcher since Joe Mauer in 2001 to be the top choice, a year after leading the Beavers to a College World Series title with a series-record 17 hits; he also earned supreme, rare respect by being intentionally walked with the bases loaded in a game last month. Selected second by Kansas City is high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., son of the former major league pitcher who compiled a 142-157 lifetime record.

Beyond Witt Jr., there is (as always) a healthy representation of legacies within the full draft. Included is Braden Halladay (pitcher, Blue Jays, 32nd round), son of the late Hall-of-fame pitcher Roy Halladay; Trei Cruz (SS, Astros, 35th round), son of Jose Cruz Jr. and grandson of Jose Cruz; Glenallen Hill Jr. (SS, Diamondbacks, fourth round); Branden Fryman (SS, Mets, 21st round), son of Travis Fryman; Mason Greer (2B, Diamondbacks, 37th round), son of former Ranger Rusty Greer; and Grant McCray (OF, Giants, third round), son of Rodney McCray—best remembered for literally running through a wall in the minors.

The draft is always full of fun and colorful names. Among those this year: Brett Baty (pitcher, Mets, first round); Matthew Barefoot (OF, Astros, sixth round); Cameron Junker (pitcher, Pirates, 10th round); and, the Rays chose Wisely—literally (Brett Wisely, 2B, 15th round). Bravo to the Rays—literally (Zach Bravo, pitcher, 29th round).

For the first time this season, baseball’s two most celebrated free agents of the past winter face off in San Diego. The winner, on this night, is Manny Machado and the Padres; the All-Star shortstop clubs a grand slam as part of a seven-run sixth in an 8-2 win over the Phillies. Bryce Harper, who got the most money between the two players, is 0-for-4 on the evening—but by far the worse news for the Phillies is that veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen tears his ACL trying to survive a first-inning pickle and will miss the rest of the season.

Tuesday, June 4
For one day—and certainly one inning—the Miami Marlins play like juggernauts. At Milwaukee, the Marlins rack up a franchise-record 11 runs in the fifth inning, the centerpiece of a 16-0 rout of the Brewers. All nine Miami hitters collect at least one RBI in the inning, the first time a major league team has performed that feat since the Dodgers in 1952; it’s also the most runs scored in a frame by a team entering the day last in the majors in runs since the Boston Bees (Braves) also plated 11 at St. Louis against the Cardinals on August 25, 1936.

This is the worst loss by run differential for the Brewers since Miller Park opened in 2001.

The Orioles get three home runs from catcher Pedro Severino and six RBIs from Dwight Smith Jr.—and still they have to sweat out a furious ninth-inning rally by the Texas Rangers to survive a 12-11 win at Arlington. The Rangers have six runs in with a runner on first in the ninth with just one out, but the next two batters strike out—with Severino having to chase down a wild pitch to complete the last K and end the threat.

Severino is the first American Leaguer to have a hat trick entering the game with less than 10 career homers since a young Al Kaline in 1955.

The Giants bust open an overtime battle with six runs in the 10th, leading to a 9-3 victory at New York over the Mets. It’s the 1,000th win for Bruce Bochy since taking over as manager of San Francisco in 2007; only John McGraw (2,583) has more wins in a Giants uniform.

The game is held up in the fifth when home plate umpire Tom Hallion departs with a possible concussion. Hallion is just one of three umpires on the day who have to leave their games; Scott Barry exits the Miami-Milwaukee game with a leg injury and, in Washington, Mike Everitt leaves after getting hit directly by a 95-MPH pitch from the White Sox’ Reynaldo Lopez.

The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera may not be happy being “demoted” to the team’s everyday designated hitter, but perhaps he’ll change his mind after producing the best day of his season at the plate. The future Hall of Famer has a single, double and home run in four trips to the plate and drives in five runs as Detroit takes a 9-6 home victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Wednesday, June 5
Craig Kimbrel’s extended offseason is over. One of two high-profile free agents still available (starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel being the other), the veteran closer signs a $43 million deal with the Chicago Cubs that will guarantee him work through 2021, with a team/vesting option for 2022. Chicago has been lacking a true closer this season as they maintain a slim NL Central lead, utilizing Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop for the ninth inning; only four teams have fewer saves on the year, and the Cubs have almost as many opportunities blown (12) as they have converted (13).

Cishek struggles to earn his sixth save of the year for the Cubs, allowing one run in the ninth and leaving the tying run stranded at first as Chicago escapes with a 9-8 home victory over the Colorado Rockies. David Bote is the Cubs’ hero at the plate, knocking in seven runs—three on a first-inning homer, three more on a bases-clearing double in the sixth.

Boston ace Chris Sale joins Lefty Grove (in 1928) as the second pitcher with two immaculate innings in one season, retiring the Royals on three outs and nine strikes in eighth inning. It’s all part of a three-hit, 12-strikeout, no-walk shutout for Sale, his third career blanking as the Red Sox sail to an 8-0 victory at Kansas City.

Since starting the year with a 0-5 record and 6.30 ERA, Sale is 2-2 in his last seven starts—but owns a 2.28 ERA and has struck out 78 in 47.1 innings while walking just nine.

Sale is not the only pitcher with a complete-game gem on the night. In New York, the Mets’ Jason Vargas hurls his eighth career shutout—only Clayton Kershaw has more since 2011—as he allows five hits and a walk while throwing 117 pitches in a 7-0 win over the Giants.

There have been 20 complete games registered this season, which puts the majors on pace to surpass the 42 thrown for all of last season—and that would reverse a recent trend that has seen the number of CGs reduced each year (setting all-time major league lows in the process) since 2011.

Tampa Bay hasn’t had one of its own go the distance in three years, and Charlie Morton is on target to end that streak tonight and make it three complete games on the day—if only the Rays would let him. At Detroit, Morton improves to 7-0 with a 4-0 victory over the Tigers, throwing seven shutout innings—but he is also asked to depart after throwing just 83 pitches. Morton has a 1.70 ERA over his last eight starts.

In his first start since 2017, Milwaukee’s Jimmy Nelson shows rust as he gets roughed up for five runs on four hits and three walks through just three innings as the Brewers fall to the visiting Marlins, 8-3. Miami is 13-5 since a franchise-worst 10-31 start.

Thursday, June 6
To no one’s surprise, Dallas Keuchel follows Craig Kimbrel’s lead and jumps back in to action, signing a $13 million deal to play the rest of the season with Atlanta. The Braves are hoping that Keuchel’s addition will be just the extra push it needs to recalibrate the NL East’s balance of power in their favor, as they’re currently a close second to Philadelphia.

So why were teams more apt to suddenly go after Kimbrel and Keuchel? Because with the just-concluded amateur draft, anyone that signs these two players no longer have to surrender a draft pick to their former teams.

Minnesota’s Max Kepler busts out of a 0-for-21 slump with three home runs, knocking in four runs to crucially aid the Twins to a 5-4 win at Cleveland—avoiding a three-game sweep by the second-place Indians. It’s the second time Kepler has produced a hat trick; he also hit three in 2016…against the Indians. The Twins’ win pushes up their lead over Cleveland to 10.5 games.

Kepler and teammate Eddie Rosario are the two Twins in franchise history to have two three-homer performances.

Colorado also avoids a three-and-out at Chicago, stymieing the Cubs by a 3-1 count behind an excellent debut for Peter Lambert. The 22-year-old right-hander allows just one run on four hits through seven innings, and sets a Rockies first-game record with nine strikeouts. He’s also the player since Dutch Reuther in 1917 to allow one or fewer runs while striking out nine pitching his debut at Wrigley Field.

Friday, June 7
The Dodgers’ unbeaten streak of Clayton Kershaw starts ends at 17 in San Francisco, as the Los Angeles ace drops a tough 2-1 decision. Both Giants runs score in the sixth, a rally that begins when Brandon Belt—who’s 4-for-56 lifetime against Kershaw—gets new life at the plate and walks after Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor stumbles on the Giants’ bullpen mound in foul territory and can’t make a catchable play. The 17-game streak had been the longest by one team with a lefty on the mound since Arizona won 17 with Brian Anderson starting from 1999-2000.

Oracle Park is just one of three major league venues remaining with bullpen mounds in foul territory; the other two—the Oakland Coliseum and St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field—have the mounds because they both possess large foul territories, and both the A’s and Rays respectively are desperate to find a new place to play locally. The Giants have already announced that they will likely make changes to the ballpark’s dimensions in 2020.

The Phillies win their third straight again behind the power bat of the newly-arrived (from Seattle) Jay Bruce, whose two-run shot is part of a three-run fifth in their 4-2 home triumph over Cincinnati. Bruce is the first player since 1920 to homer four times in his first games with a team after a midseason trade.

His recovery from offseason Tommy John surgery complete, Didi Gregorius returns to the Yankees’ fold and contributes two singles, but it’s not enough as New York suffers a 5-2 loss at Cleveland. Domingo German fails to win his 10th game of the year for the Yankees, while Indians starter Zach Plesac—son of former reliever and current MLB Network in-studio analyst Dan Plesac—picks up his first win in two starts with seven impressive innings.

The Rockies take a 5-1 decision at New York against the Mets, but tempers flare shortly after former Met Daniel Murphy sends one deep for the Rockies in the eighth inning. Ian Desmond, the next batter, gets plunked hard in the back by the Mets’ Drew Gagnon—and Murphy comes bolting out of the dugout to protest, leading to a benches-clearing, non-fisticuffs scrum.

Saturday, June 8
The Los Angeles Angels break an early, tight game against Seattle wide open when Tommy La Stella, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning, in an eventual a 12-3 rout at Anaheim. Ohtani’s blast comes in his second at-bat of his highly anticipated duel with fellow Japanese export Yusei Kikuchi; it’s the first homer from one Japanese native off another since the Cubs’ Kosuke Fukudome went deep off Atlanta’s Kenshin Kawakami on July 8, 2009.

After a decent solid start to the year (3-1, 3.43 ERA in his first 11 appearances), Kikuchi has lasted exactly 3.1 innings in each of his three starts—losing all three with a 14.40 ERA.

The Phillies’ Nick Pivetta, in his third outing since being recalled from Triple-A, hurls his first career complete game as he scatters a run on six hits (and no walks) against Cincinnati in a 4-1 win at Philadelphia. Jay Bruce continues to contribute on offense, stroking a two-run single in the third to put the Phillies ahead for good.

In the second game of a doubleheader at Arlington, Rangers rookie Adrian Sampson also goes the distance, conceding a run on four hits and a walk through 109 pitches in Texas’ 3-1 win over Oakland. It’s part of a twinbill sweep for the Rangers in which they exclusively use rookie arms; three others combine to shut down the A’s in the first game by a 10-5 count. After a 17-22 start, the Rangers have won 17 of their last 24 and are second in the AL West.

Sunday, June 9
Former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz is shot in the abdomen at a restaurant/bar in his native Dominican Republic. He’s rushed to a hospital where he undergoes a six-hour surgery, and is listed in stable condition. The alleged assailant is captured by a crowd of angry witnesses who beat him up before authorities ultimately arrest him. In the days and weeks to follow, the background of the shooter, co-conspirators and story evolves in the public with enough head-shaking grist to give the Coen Brothers quirky plot fuel for a Fargo sequel. It’s initially reported that Ortiz is the target of a robbery, but surveillance video shows that it’s nothing more than a hit job; it’s soon revealed that it’s more of a hit job performed by a goon being paid a mere $7,800 for the job—and then it’s announced that Ortiz is mistaken for another man who was supposed to be target. Over 10 people will eventually be arrested for their various roles in this bizarre crime.

Perhaps for his own safety, Ortiz is flown to Boston within 24 hours and given a police escort to a hospital where he’ll be given further treatment.

The Washington Nationals become the ninth team in major league history to hit home runs in four straight at-bats—all belted off former Nationals reliever Craig Stammen as part of an eighth-inning home run derby that breaks a 1-1 tie and helps give the Nats a 5-2 win at San Diego. The four Washington homers are hit by Howie Kendrick, Trea Turner, Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon.

Stammen is the second pitcher—after the Angels’ Paul Foytack in 1963—to allow all four homers, and he does it in just a seven-pitch sequence.

The Mariners’ Edwin Encarnacion drills two homers—the second for the 400th of his career—to give Seattle a 9-3 victory at Anaheim over the Angels. Encarnacion is third on the active home run list behind Albert Pujols (644) and Miguel Cabrera (468).

Former manager Frank Lucchesi dies at the age of 92 in the Dallas area. A native of San Francisco, Lucchesi never made it to the majors as a player—toiling for 13 years as a minor league outfielder—but he was a quick study as a manager, beginning his piloting career at age 24 with the Medford Rogues of the Class-D Far West League in 1951. He continued to manage in the minor league ranks, latching on with the Phillies’ organization before taking over the parent team in 1970 with subpar results as he led a young, talented and raw Philadelphia team that would later blossom after his departure in 1972. A fiery individual, Lucchesi is dubiously best remembered for being assaulted by second baseman Lenny Randle in the Spring of 1977 while in his third season managing the Rangers; knocked unconscious with a fractured cheekbone, Lucchesi sued Randle and never forgave him even as the player attempted time and time again to reconcile. Lucchesi was fired that season by Texas, and only once more did he manage in the bigs when he led the Chicago White Sox on a brief basis in 1987.

Monday, June 10
Juiced ball conspiracy theorists gain credibility after events in Philadelphia. The first three batters for the visiting Diamondbacks —Jarrod Dyson, Ketel Marte and David Peralta—all go deep, the first three of an Arizona franchise-record eight homers on the night; throw in five more from the Phillies, and both teams set an all-time mark of 13 total. Eduardo Escobar and Ildemaro Vargas each clout two for the Diamondbacks, who storm to a 13-8 victory.

This is the sixth time that a team has begun a game with back-to-back-to-back home runs; the Diamondbacks were the last team to do it, in 2017. It’s also the third straight day that a team has hit at least three homers in a row at any point of a game, the first time that’s ever happened.

It’s about time that MLB fesses up and just admits that they’ve pumped up the baseball this year. About 10 days later, commissioner Rob Manfred kind of, sort of does—telling Newsday’s David Lennon that this year]s ball has less drag and therefore less resistance to traveling through the air due to a “pill” at the ball’s center. Manfred did not say if he would do something about it.

In Atlanta, the Braves and Pirates have to be separated after a nothingburger spat between Pittsburgh’s Joe Musgrove and the Braves’ Josh Donaldson mouth off when the former barely grazes the latter with a first-inning pitch. Both players will be ejected, as will Pirates manager Clint Hurdle for arguing that warnings would have been better, especially since he needs to use his bullpen for the final 8.1 innings of the game. The fireworks—the kind fans come to see—continue afterward, as the Braves hammer five home runs in a 13-7 drubbing; Ozzie Albies belts two for Atlanta, while Ronald Acuna Jr. adds a grand slam.

Injured Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon sounds off after the game on Twitter, stating: “Ump show…(Musgrove) prepares harder than anyone, and you just took away his start day. No accountability. The pen is messed up for the series now. Guys will get sent down because they will have to eat these innings. Unbelievable.”

Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds goes 0-for-5 in the game, ending a 17-game hitting streak—one short of the Pirates’ rookie record held by Neil Walker in 2010.

Tuesday, June 11
After fighting their way back over the .500 mark, the Red Sox appear to be stuck in reverse again. At Boston, they drop a 9-5 decision to the Rangers and lose both outfielder Andrew Benintendi and manager Alex Cora to umpire Angel Hernandez’s thumb when they’re both ejected in the fifth. The top video highlight is an inside-the-park home run from Texas’ Hunter Pence—enjoying a revival after appearing to run out of gas a year earlier in San Francisco—as he rounds the bases before anyone could even get to the ball in right field as it eludes Boston’s Brock Holt. The Red Sox are 34-34 after the loss.

A night after collecting five home runs, the Braves hit five more—all of them off of Pirates pitcher Chris Archer (the most he’s ever allowed), four of which come in the second inning alone on pairs of back-to-back homers in Atlanta’s 7-5 home win. It’s the first time since the team moved to Georgia that they’ve gone back-to-back twice in the same inning.

The Twins add two more homers to their season total—which is now at 127 to set a franchise-record, post-All-Star Break mark—but it’s a three-run homerless rally in the eighth that lifts Minnesota to a 6-5 home win over Seattle. All 70 games the Mariners have played in this year have included at least one home run by either themselves or their opponents, setting a major league mark for any time in the year.

The Mariners’ plunge after a fast start continues; they’re 15-40 since starting the year at 13-2.

The Houston Astros add to the home run madness by clouting five of their own in a 10-8 slugfest over the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. Yordan Alvarez, who was leading the minors with 23 homers before being called up a few days ago, becomes the first Astro—and the second youngest major leaguer, after Joey Gallo in 2015—to homer in each of his first two games. On the Milwaukee side, Christian Yelich adds to his major league-leading home run total with his 25th; he now has 50 in his last 125 games played since last year’s All-Star Break.

Wednesday, June 12
On the 12-year anniversary of his first no-hitter, Justin Verlander strikes out a career-high 15 Brewers through seven innings at Houston—but leaves with a no-decision as three of the four hits he allows are solo home runs. Six Astros relievers will carry on for the next seven innings and extend the strikeout total to a Houston-record 24, but it again results in nothing more than a loss as Milwaukee’s fourth homer of the night, a two-run blow by Mike Moustakas in the 14th, aids a three-run rally to give the Brewers a 6-3 win.

After hitting just three homers in their first eight games of the month, the Reds lead off their game at Cleveland with back-to-back dingers from Nick Senzel and Joey Votto; it’s two of four homers Cincinnati will hit on the night in a 7-2 win over the Indians.

Thursday, June 13
Shohei Ohtani becomes the first Japanese-born major leaguer—and the seventh Angel overall—to hit for the cycle, wrapping up the feat with a seventh-inning single in a 5-3 win at Tampa Bay. The game also features Albert Pujols’ 200th home run since joining the Angels, making him the sixth player with at least 200 for two different teams.

Ohtani is the second player (after George Sisler) to have multiple pitching wins and a cycle on his major league resume.

The game is halted in the fourth inning when a power outage—the second in a month at Tropicana Field—cripples the facility. The teams have to wait it out for 36 minutes before play can resume.

It’s not an outage but rain that stalls Arizona’s 5-0 win at Washington, ruining Zack Greinke’s bid for a shutout shortly after losing a shot at a no-hitter in the seventh. But Greinke isn’t intrigued with the idea of throwing a no-no, telling reports afterward that it would have been a “hassle” that comes “with a bunch of nonsense.” The Diamondbacks have won seven of their last eight games and are tied for a distant second to the Dodgers in the NL West.

As the trucker on the CB radio yells at the end of the 1970s song “Convoy”: “Omaha!?” Yes, major league baseball plays for one night at the site of the College World Series, as the Royals’ Homer Bailey fires six shutout innings and Nicky Lopez hits the first (and only, until MLB returns) big-league homer in Nebraska during a 7-0 win over Detroit. Part of the Royals’ lure in playing in Omaha is that it’s the home of the organization’s only Triple-A affiliate since its 1969 inception—though the Storm Chasers play in a much smaller ballpark (9,000) than TD Ameritrade Park (24,000), the latter of which is used for the game.

Friday, June 14
Jake Bauers’ eighth-inning home run not only caps the scoring in the Indians’ 13-4 rout of the Tigers at Detroit, it secures a cycle after earlier doubling, singling and tripling in sequence. Bauers’ feat comes a day after Shohei Ohtani’s, marking the first time since 1912 that there have been cycles on back-to-back days—though it should be noted that it’s also happened twice in the same day as well, in 1920 and 2008.

It’s another Coors Field special, as the Padres once again prove that no lead is safe at the Rockies’ home ballyard by scoring six in the ninth to tie Colorado at 11-11; they’ll score five more in the 12th to complete a 16-12 slugfest. Hunter Renfroe, whose second homer of the game aided San Diego in its ninth-inning rally, goes deep for the third time to add insurance in the 12th.

The Padres are the first team since the 1976 Yankees to score five or more runs in the ninth, and again in extra innings.

Humidor, schmumidor: This is the third time this year—and the 75th time since Coors Field opened in 1995—that both the Rockies and their visitors have scored 10 or more runs in the same game. They’ll be a fourth such game very, very soon.

Four thousand feet lower in Atlanta, the Braves put on an impressive comeback of their own and are really feeling it as they capture their eighth straight win in dramatic fashion. The Braves score seven times over the last three innings—including three in the ninth, capped by Brian McCann’s two-run, two-out single—to snatch a 9-8 victory from the Phillies. McCann’s winning hit gives him 1,000 career RBIs.

The Yankees have seen the future—and it might be the Chicago White Sox. Eloy Jimenez knocks in six runs and becomes the first rookie to smash multiple homers in one game against the Yankees since Luke Easter in 1950, while Lucas Giolito wins his eighth straight start (and 10th overall on the year) to give the Pale Hose a 10-2 victory at Chicago and a .500 (34-34) record in the AL Central standings.

For the eighth time this year, the Baltimore Orioles surrender five-plus home runs as the Red Sox come to town and put on a 13-2 thumping with six round-trippers. Dan Straily, pitching in relief of failed starter Luis Ortiz (making his second career start), gives up four of the bombs in just 1.1 innings of work. J.D. Martinez goes deep twice for the Red Sox.

Saturday, June 15
The New York Yankees enrich an already powerful lineup by trading for veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion, whose 21 homers with Seattle lead the AL charts. The Mariners throw in roughly half of the $16 million Encarnacion is guaranteed in his current contract; they receive a minor leaguer in return. With Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton close to returning to action after extended, early-season injuries, the Yankees will certainly field baseball’s most thunderous lineup.

To make room for Encarnacion, the Yankees demote Clint Frazier—hitting .283 and on pace for 25 home runs and 79 RBIs—to Triple-A.

A day after blowing a six-run lead in the ninth, the Rockies come up against the same situation against the Padres—but this time get a 1-2-3 ninth from Bryan Shaw to wrap up a 14-8 victory at Denver. Charlie Blackmon sets a Rockies record with his third straight four-hit game, and Ian Desmond continues a memorable homestand with a fifth-inning grand slam, all in the same week that he also collects and inside-the-park homer and the majors’ longest-to-date (486 feet) blast of the year. Any chance for the Padres to make another counter-punch at the end is neutered by the fifth-inning ejection of Manny Machado for arguing a borderline strike call; pitcher Matt Strahm and manager Andy Green are also thumbed for arguing balls and strikes an inning later.

Machado, who is accused of bumping home plate umpire Bill Welke before firing his batting helmet at the backstop screen in anger, will receive a one-game suspension from MLB. That’s not enough, says the umpires’ union—and in a fiery social media response will release a statement critical of the decision, accompanied on Twitter by 12 hashtags and three @’s that draws rebukes from MLB, fans and even the players’ union.

In his first start at Dodger Stadium since a rotten half-year wearing a Dodgers uniform in 2017, the Cubs’ Yu Darvish answers the loud boos of 51,596 fans by throwing seven superb innings—but departs after seven innings trailing 1-0, as Walker Buehler outduels him with seven shutout frames, allowing just two hits. The Dodgers hold that thin margin until the ninth, when Kenley Jansen surrenders a two-run homer to Anthony Rizzo to give Chicago a 2-1 victory.

The Angels hand Charlie Morton his first loss in his last 21 starts, scoring four times in the first four innings and holding off the Rays for a 5-3 victory at St. Petersburg. Morton was 11-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his previous 20 assignments.

In news off the field, the Angels designate reliever Cody Allen for assignment after a poor start in his first and what will appear to be only year at Anaheim. After five years closing for Cleveland, Allen had converted all four of his save opportunities for the Angels, but did so with a 6.20 ERA and 20 walks in just 23 innings.

Allen will hook on with the Twins a week later.

A Yankees road uniform wore by Babe Ruth circa 1929 is sold at an auction at Yankee Stadium for a record $5.64 million. The previous high for any baseball jersey was $4.4 million for a 1920 Ruth jersey.

Sunday, June 16
Another day, another wild get-together at Coors Field between the Rockies and Padres. Colorado knocks out starting San Diego pitcher Nick Margevicius with nine runs over the first 1.1 innings and leads 9-5 after two innings and, after eight, are holding onto a 13-10 advantage. But the Padres, who two nights earlier erased a six-run deficit in the ninth, rally again with four—the last plating on a bases-loaded walk to pinch-hitting pitcher Matt Strahm—to take a 14-13 victory. For the series, the two teams total 92 runs—breaking the all-time record for the most in a four-game set, erasing the 88 tallied up between the Phillies and Dodgers in May 1929 from the record book. Individually, the Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon collects three more hits to total 15 against the Padres—setting another four-game series record.

If this series was reimagined as a game log for one player, this is how good he would be: In 72 games, he would be batting .379 (131 hits in 346 at-bats) with 27 doubles, seven triples, 17 home runs and 80 RBIs.

This is the second time in major league history that a team won after its starting pitcher (Margevicius) allowed nine runs in less than two innings.

Because, Coors Field: Rockies closer Wade Davis entered the series with a 2.16 ERA and no blown saves on the year—and leaves it with a 5.21 ERA, two blown saves and his second loss after allowing a combined seven runs on six hits and three walks over 2.1 innings in three appearances against the Padres.

There are two delays in this game; one before the first pitch when a sprinkler pipe fails and floods the right-field warning track area, and the second in the sixth inning when lightning ignites around the ballpark.

The Yankees earn a four-game split at Chicago with a 10-3 win over the White Sox, in the process setting a major league record as both they and their opponents hit at least one home run for the 15th straight game. Cameron Maybin supplies the power for New York with its lone homer in the seventh; Jose Abreu and James McCann hit solo shots for the White Sox.

The streak will end the next day when the Yankees shut out Tampa Bay, 3-0.

Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer pitches his third career complete game—and first shutout—as he blanks the Tigers at Detroit, 8-0, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out eight on 117 total pitches.

The Nationals’ Matt Adams smokes a three-run homer in the third and caps the day’s scoring in the eighth with a grand slam to push Washington to a 15-5 rout of the visiting Diamondbacks. The seven RBIs represent a personal best for Adams.

Monday, June 17
The Angels welcome Justin Upton back to the fold as the veteran slugger, making his season debut after dealing with turf toe since spring training, hits a leadoff second-inning homer and later singles as part of a seven-run outburst during the frame in a 10-5 victory at Toronto. Mike Trout adds to the fun with four hits (two singles, double and home run). On the Blue Jays’ side, rookie Cavan Biggio has his second multi-homer performance in just his 19th game.

The Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka produces his fourth career shutout as he blanks the visiting Rays on two hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts over 111 pitches to give New York a 3-0 victory.

Tuesday, June 18
The A’s become the latest team to take advantage of Baltimore’s batting-practice pitching, launching six homers in a 16-2 rout at Oakland. It’s the ninth time this season that the Orioles have allowed five or more homers in a game—tying a major league season mark with a little more than half the season still left to play.

The Red Sox and Twins knot up well into overtime at Minneapolis, and it appears Boston has the win when Mookie Betts goes solo in the top of the 13th—but the Twins’ Max Kepler equals him with his own round-tripper to tie it back up, and in the 17th wins it with a run-scoring single. The contest is the longest by innings in Target Field history.

The Cardinals are still looking for the book on Miami’s Jordan Yamamoto. The 23-year-old Hawaiian native, who debuted with seven shutout innings against St. Louis on June 12, mimeographs the effort at Busch Stadium as he allows two hits over another seven shutout frames in the Marlins’ 6-0 win. Yamamoto is the first pitcher since the Washington Senators’ George Dumont in 1915 to go seven or more innings allowing no runs and no more than three hits in each of his first two major league starts.

The Chicago White Sox announce that they will become the first major league team to extend protective netting to each foul pole. All MLB teams had recently extended the nets past the dugout in the last couple of seasons, but fans seated further down the line remained extremely vulnerable to sharp line drives—most recently recalled when a young girl was nailed in the head at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.

Wednesday, June 19
CC Sabathia is buoyed by six first-inning runs—all scored off of reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell—to pick up his 250th career win in the Yankees’ 12-1 drowning of the Rays at New York. Though 47 pitchers have more wins than the 38-year-old Sabathia, none of them are active; Justin Verlander (213) is next on the latter list.

A day after breaking his nose while doing bunting drills, Max Scherzer locks down the visiting Phillies in the second game of a rainout-induced doubleheader as the Nationals get a 2-0 win and a sweep on the day. Scherzer throws seven shutout innings and strikes out 10.

There’s a good reason Mike Trout leads the majors in walks—and the Toronto Blue Jays don’t seem to be learning the lesson. Two days after a four-hit effort at Toronto, the Angels’ superstar knocks in a career-high seven runs on a single and two home runs, including a fourth-inning grand slam, in leading Los Angeles to an 11-6 triumph over the Blue Jays.

Thursday, June 20
MLB gives the Tampa Bay Rays permission to “explore” a scenario in which they would play home games in the first half of the year at St. Petersburg—and the second half in Montreal. Nobody apparently sought the permission of St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman, who says that since the Rays will not be allowed to make any move—temporarily or otherwise—as they are fully bound to Tropicana Field through 2027.

This is all probably nothing more than the Rays’ attempt to light a fire under Tampa-St. Pete officials to restart new ballpark conversations, which are back at square one after recent failures to secure even a site to talk about. But if the team is serious about the split-season concept and is floating a trial balloon for a reaction, it gets popped pretty quick. Besides Kriseman’s edict, there’s feedback of how crowds at early-season games in Florida would be virtually non-existent (given that fans would have no emotional stake in how the team performs in Montreal in late-season games), of how such a split-city scenario would make it far more tough for the Rays to sign free agents because of residential arrangements, and of how the players’ union would probably veto the idea.

On the field, the Rays find no solace at Oakland. They break a 1-1 tie in the ninth with three runs—but then lose a half-inning later when the A’s Matt Chapman drills a three-run shot to cap a four-run rally, giving Oakland a 5-4 victory.

The Reds easily handle the Brewers at Milwaukee, 7-1, with the only blemish on the night coming in the fourth when Cincinnati starter Tanner Roark serves up a solo homer to Christian Yelich. It’s a noteworthy moment in that Yelich’s blast is his 20th in just 29 games at Miller Park this season; the previous mark for the least number of home games needed to reach 20 homers is 39.

In a game that features eight home runs, the Yankees stick it to the visiting Astros with a 10-6 decision; it’s a season-high fifth straight loss for Houston, which had won 27 of their previous 35 games. Two star players get back in the hit column after lengthy injuries; the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton, in his second game back since the season’s opening series in March, garners three hits including a double, while the Astros’ Jose Altuve—in his second game after missing nearly six weeks—has a single in five at-bats.

Friday, June 21
The Dodgers’ Walker Buehler dominates the visiting Rockies with 16 strikeouts and no walks through nine innings—and then gets rewarded for his efforts when rookie Matt Beaty launches a two-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-2 Los Angeles win. No previous pitcher in modern Dodgers history had struck out as many batters in a game with no walks.

Former Cy Young Award winner and first-half vacationer Dallas Keuchel hits the mound for the first time in an Atlanta jersey, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits through five innings in the Braves’ 4-3 loss at Washington. Rookie Austin Riley’s 12th homer (in just 134 at-bats) is wasted in defeat.

In his first game back at Busch Stadium since departing St. Louis for the Angels, Albert Pujols gets a huge, positive reception from Cardinals fans before going 1-for-2 with a single and walk in Los Angeles’ 5-1 loss. A night later at St. Louis, Pujols will homer in a 4-2 Angels loss and will get the rare honor of a visiting player receiving a curtain call from the opponents’ crowd.

Pujols’ homer in the second game gives him 5,754 total bases to move up to eighth on the all-time list, surpassing Pete Rose.

The Oakland A’s are dealt a big blow as starting pitcher and potential AL All-Star Frankie Montas, leading the team in wins (nine), ERA (2.70) and strikeouts (97), is given an 80-game PED suspension. As usual, Montas pleads ignorance through an official response, stating: “While I never intended to take any prohibited substance, I unfortunately and unknowingly ingest a contaminated supplement that I had purchased over-the-counter at a nutrition store here in the United States.”

Saturday, June 22
The Reds’ Derek Dietrich has made some enemies with his method of admiring his home run—and apparently the Brewers don’t like him, either. After getting plunked twice on Thursday and a Cincinnati-record-tying three times on Friday, Dietrich gets hit again in the Reds’ 6-5 loss at Milwaukee, putting him in the record book for the most times hit (six) in a single series. Dietrich on the year has been nailed 15 times to lead the majors.

There appears to be no stopping Pete Alonso. The Mets’ rookie first baseman continues to flex his muscles, hitting his 26th homer of the year in a 10-2 rout of the Cubs at Chicago. That gives him more homers than any NL rookie ever before the All-Star Break—and it already ties him, four games before the Mets’ halfway point of the season, with Darryl Strawberry (in 1983) for the most homers by a rookie in franchise history. (He’ll go deep again the next day to break Strawberry’s mark.)

Hyun-Jin Ryu’s record streak of 14 starts allowing two or fewer runs and one or none walks comes to an end—just barely—in the Dodgers’ 5-4, 11-inning victory over the Rockies. Pitching six innings, Ryu allows three runs—though only one of those is earned—and walks one. So, his new streak is a 19-game run in which he’s allowed two or fewer earned runs; that’s the longest stretch since Zack Greinke went 22 straight such outings from 2013-14.

The game is won in the 11th on rookie Alex Verdugo’s solo home run. Following Matt Beaty’s game-winner the night before, this is the first time in major league history that a team has won consecutive games on walk-off homers hit by rookies.

The Seattle Mariners turn back the clock and pose as the 1969, one-year Pilots—and naturally, they play to character by losing 8-4 to the visiting Orioles, who end a 10-game losing streak. Andrew Cashner throws six solid for Baltimore.

Alex Dickerson, stuck in the San Diego minor league system for the past two-plus seasons and just recently traded to San Francisco, continues to make a great first impression for the Giants. A night after knocking in six runs—four on a grand slam—the 29-year-old outfielder knocks in three more with a pair of doubles in a 7-4 victory at Arizona. Dickerson ties a major league record for the most RBIs (nine) in his first two games with a new team.

After spotting the Red Sox a 6-1 lead through six innings, the Blue Jays storm back with four in the seventh and three in the eighth to prevail at Boston, 8-7. The Red Sox counter with one in the ninth on a Xander Bogaerts double—the seventh straight game in which he’s collected a two-bagger to tie an AL record—but they ultimately fall short.

It’s better late than never for Wilkin Castillo. Ten years and two days after getting his last major league hit, the 35-year-old Dominican native who had since played for 14 different minor league, independent and winter league teams returns to the majors with the Marlins and knocks in two runs—including the ultimate game-winning run—on a seventh-inning double in Miami’s 5-3 triumph at Philadelphia. It’s the longest span of time between hits for a major leaguer since Minnie Minoso came out of retirement and collected one in a publicity stunt for the 1976 White Sox—12 years and 94 days after his previous knock.

Sunday, June 23
It’s yet another rookie rally for the no-can-do-wrong Dodgers. Will Smith—not the Men in Black star nor the soon-to-be-traded Giants closer—launches a three-run homer in the ninth to break a 3-3 tie and give the Dodgers yet another walk-off win, 6-3 at home over Colorado. It’s the third straight game in which a rookie has won it for Los Angeles by going deep, extending the major league record set the previous night; the four such wins overall on the year is also an all-time mark. It’s the sixth straight win for the Dodgers and the 11th straight over the Rockies going back to last season; they own the majors’ best record (54-25), home record (34-9), largest division lead (13 games, over the second-place Rockies) and best run differential (+133).

The Dodgers will likely become the latest team to extend the protective netting down the lines after a woman is struck in the head by Cody Bellinger’s sharp line foul in the first inning. She was alert but taken to a hospital as a precaution.

DJ LeMahieu’s three-run home run off the Astros’ Justin Verlander in the fifth inning extends the Yankees’ streak of consecutive games with at least one homer to 26 to set a franchise record—and leave them one shy of the all-time MLB mark held by the 2002 Texas Rangers. But it’s the only major blemish on the day against Verlander, who becomes a desperately-sought stopper for Houston as he helps snap the Astros’ seven-game losing skid in a 9-4 win at New York. (It also ends the Yankees’ eight-game win streak.) Aiding Houston on offense is Tyler White’s grand slam in the fourth, and the seventh home run in just 12 games for recent call-up masher Yordan Alvarez.

The heat is starting to get to the struggling Mets, who drop a 5-3 decision at Chicago and remain in fourth place in the NL East at 37-41. After a particularly tense postgame news conference, embattled Mets manager Mickey Callaway confronts Newsday reporter Tim Healey when he misinterprets Healey’s parting comment of “see you tomorrow” as something more sarcastic; pitcher Jason Vargas then gets in Healey’s face and has to be separated by other teammates. Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, who must be none too pleased by this chain of events, personally calls Healey afterward and apologizes on behalf of the team.

Meanwhile, there’s a report circulating that the Mets’ front office is calling down to the dugout and telling Callaway what to do during games. General manager Brodie van Wagenen denies the story. This is all so…Mets.

Atlanta rookie pitching sensation Mike Soroka, looking for his ninth straight win, departs in the third at Washington after taking a shot on the arm from a liner struck by opposing Nationals pitcher Austin Voth in the third. But it appears Soroka will survive, as do the Braves—who outlast the Nationals in 10 innings, 4-3. Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman has a double but doesn’t knock in a run, ending a streak of 10 straight games with at least one RBI; that had tied a franchise record set by Sid Gordon in 1951.

In a wild game at Pittsburgh, there are five lead changes through the first eight innings between the Padres and Pirates…and then things really get interesting. Down 7-4 in the bottom of the ninth, the Bucs rally for three runs off of San Diego closer Kirby Yates—his first blown save of the year after successfully converting 26 saves—then fall behind in the 11th when the Padres bust out for three runs, then rally anew in the bottom of the frame with four tallies, the game-winner coming on a bases-loaded walk to Kevin Newman to prevail, 11-10.

Here’s a fact that’s totally counter to all that’s happening this season; this is the first game since 2008 in which both teams scored 10 or more runs…without a single home run.

Monday, June 24
The Phillies snap a seven-game skid with a bludgeon while extending the Mets’ recent miseries, punishing New York by a 13-7 count at Philadelphia. Four Phillies garner at least three hits, including Jean Segura—who finishes a triple shy of the cycle.

No rookie can save the Dodgers at the 11th hour today as Los Angeles falls at Arizona 8-5 to end a six-game win streak. Zack Greinke’s solo homer off Clayton Kershaw is an early offensive contribution for the Diamondbacks, but it’s a four-run eighth off Dodgers relievers that breaks the game open.

Supersonic St. Louis reliever Jordan Hicks, who’s thrown 49 of the fastest 50 pitches in the majors this season (with a top reading of 104.3 on May 31) is revealed to have a torn elbow muscle and will miss the rest of the season. Hicks had emerged as the Cardinals’ closer, saving 14 of 15 opps with a 3.14 ERA in 29 games this season.

Tuesday, June 25
The Yankees waste little time establishing yet another home run record, as DJ LeMahieu’s leadoff homer in the first at New York against Toronto gives the team a 28-game streak with at least one homer—breaking the all-time mark previously held by the 2002 Rangers. Aaron Judge follows up with a deep fly of his own; the Yankees will hit two more solo homers, accounting for all of their offense in a 4-3 victory. But with victory comes more bad news; Giancarlo Stanton, barely back in action for a week, sprains his right knee while sliding into third base. He is expected to roughly miss another five weeks.

STATS notes that there are five leadoff home runs in the majors today—tying an all-time mark previously set on August 17, 2006 and August 19, 2016.

Home run history is also made at Wrigley Field involving one of the four other leadoff homers. The Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. goes deep to open the proceedings against the Cubs, and Ozzie Albies later adds a round-tripper, a two-run shot in the seventh that ultimately gives Atlanta a 3-2 win. This is the seventh time that Acuna and Albies have each gone deep in the same game, breaking a record for the youngest duo age 22 or younger to do so. The old mark of six was shared between the Red Sox’ Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, and the Reds’ Johnny Bench and Bernie Carbo.

Acuna Jr. has 12 career leadoff home runs, which already ties him for second in Braves history; only Mike Trout had as many as five before turning 22.

Manny Machado returns to Baltimore for the first time since being traded during last year’s All-Star Break, gets a rousing welcome from Orioles fans, then clocks his 100th career home run at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in his second at-bat to help lift the Padres to an 8-3 victory.

Arizona’s Ketel Marte has two hits to break Luis Gonzalez’s franchise record of eight consecutive multi-hit games, but it’s not enough as the Diamondbacks fall to the visiting Dodgers, 3-2. During this run, Marte is batting an insane .636 (21 hits in 33 at-bats).

Marte’s streak will end in rather uncharacteristic fashion the next day when he gets one hit…in a pinch-hit appearance.

Wednesday, June 26
Another day, another home run-related record. In Baltimore, the Orioles surrender five dingers to the Padres in a 10-5 loss, the 10th time they have allowed at least five in a game this year. That’s the most such games racked up by a team in a single season—and the dismal Orioles (22-58) have the entire second half of the year to add to their dubious total.

Franmil Reyes belts two of San Diego’s homers, giving him 22 for the year and 45 for his career—yet it comes with just 79 career RBIs. Twenty-seven of his homers have come with no one on base.

It’s another Minor gem for the Rangers, who defeat the Tigers at Detroit 4-1 and are 27-14 since May 14. Mike Minor improves to 8-4 with an AL-best 2.40 ERA as he goes the distance for the second time this season, scattering a run on five hits over 108 pitches.

Vanderbilt wins its second College World Series title in six years with an 8-2 win over Michigan in Omaha. Though he doesn’t pitch in the finale, Vanderbilt freshman pitcher Kumar Rocker emerges as the tournament star, producing a 4-0 record, 0.96 ERA and 44 strikeouts over 28 innings. Overall, Vanderbilt finishes the year with 59 wins against 12 losses; that’s the most victories by a CWS-winning team since Wichita State in 1989.

Thursday, June 27
In the aftermath of what must be one of the most inconspicuous procedures in recent memory, Major League Baseball announces the starting lineups for the upcoming 2019 All-Star Game at Cleveland. The recent trend of youth shining among the starters continues, with only three players—the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu, the Indians’ Carlos Santana and the Rangers’ Hunter Pence (anointed as the AL’s DH) currently over the age of 30. The Astros get the most representatives among the starters with three (Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley and George Springer), while the Cubs (Willson Contreras, Javier Baez) and Braves (Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr.) are the NL only teams with multiple reps. The Angels’ Mike Trout garners the most votes.

The pomp and circumstance behind this year’s voting was practically non-existent; whoever is behind MLB’s publicity engine for the All-Star Game vote needs to be, how should we say, reassigned, as the process and announcement of the starting lineups barely registered a ripple in the sports mainstream. Perhaps that’s a function of a new two-tiered process, in which candidates for each position are pared down to three per position, per league—followed by a final vote choosing the starters based on those more select groups.

In lieu of our once-traditional Opinion piece on our picks for the All-Stars, here’s our selections as chosen by Comebacker editor Eric Gouldsberry—with names in parentheses representing what the voters chose, if they chose differently:

American League
Catcher:
Gary Sanchez, New York
First Base:
Carlos Santana, Cleveland
Second Base:
DJ LeMahieu, New York
Third Base:
Matt Chapman, Oakland (Alex Bregman, Houston)
Shortstop:
Xander Bogaerts, Boston (Jorge Polanco, Minnesota)
Outfield:
Mike Trout, Los Angeles
Outfield:
George Springer, Houston
Outfield:
Joey Gallo, Texas (Michael Brantley, Houston)
Designated Hitter:
Hunter Pence, Texas
Starting Pitcher:
Mike Minor, Texas (TBD by Manager)

National League
Catcher:
Willson Contreras, Chicago
First Base:
Josh Bell, Pittsburgh (Freddie Freeman, Atlanta)
Second Base:
Ketel Marte, Arizona
Third Base:
Nolan Arenado, Colorado
Shortstop:
Trevor Story, Colorado (Javier Baez, Chicago)
Outfield:
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee
Outfield:
Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles
Outfield:
Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta
Starting Pitcher:
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles (TBD by Manager)

In his Cubs debut, closer Craig Kimbrel allows two baserunners but keeps the Braves from scoring as he closes out a 9-7 win at Chicago. Jason Heyward, who was Kimbrel’s teammate during each of their first five years in the majors (2010-14), singles, triples and drives in three runs for the Cubs.

After exchanging two runs over the first two innings at Minnesota, the Twins and Rays go scoreless for the next 15 frames until Tampa Bay rallies for three in the top of the 18th to finally triumph, 5-2. It’s the longest game in Target Field history by innings—topping the 17 endured by the Twins against the Red Sox just a week earlier—and the 15+ innings between runs by both teams is the longest such drought in an AL game since a 1906 affair between the Philadelphia A’s and Boston Americans (Red Sox).

The 22 strikeouts recorded by the Rays are the most they’ve ever amassed in a game; it’s also the most the Twins have been punched out in a game of their own.

There have been 71 games in major league history in which a team has struck out 20 or more times; eight of them have occurred this year alone.

After being blown out the day before at home by Pittsburgh, 14-2, the Astros are double-digited again by the Bucs, 10-0. It’s the first time in Astros franchise history that they have lost consecutive home games by 10 or more runs. The Pirates smack five homers in victory, including one by Kevin Newman (who’s riding a 17-game hit streak).

Friday, June 28
The Rockies finally defeat the Dodgers, Hyun-Jin Ryu finally is made mortal for a night, and the thin air of Coors Field continues to reign over all. Ryu is roughed up by the Rockies and the elements, allowing seven runs over four-plus innings—ending a 19-game streak in which he had allowed no more than two earned runs; the Rockies keep the Dodgers at arm’s length from there to prevail, 13-9, for their first win over Los Angeles after 12 straight losses.

Six is the magic number for a variety of reasons. It’s the sixth straight home game in which the Rockies have scored at least eight runs, tying a NL record set five other times—all by the Rockies. It’s the sixth straight game at Coors Field in which there’s been a total of at least 20 runs, the longest such stretch in modern history; the pre-1900 record (11 games) belongs to the 1894 Cleveland Spiders. And it’s the sixth straight home game in which Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon has at least three hits, setting an MLB record.

In five career starts at Coors Field, Ryu is 1-4 with a 9.15 ERA.

The Padres take a 3-1 decision at San Diego over the Cardinals as Fernando Tatis Jr. becomes the first shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra (in 1997) to accrue 10 homers and 10 steals before the All-Star Break—a fact all the more impressive given that Tatis Jr. is hitting .327 and missed over a month due to injury. With the win, the Padres reach the season’s halfway point with a winning record (41-40) for the first time since 2010.

Saturday, June 29
And now for something completely different: The Yankees and Red Sox get together in London for the first-ever regular season game played in Europe. For all the blokes in the stands looking for offense, there will be no disappointment. Both teams score six runs in the first inning—the first time that’s happened in a major league game since 1989—and the Yankees add six more in the fourth to pull away and ultimately outlast Boston, 17-13. The game is played at London Stadium (home of soccer’s West Ham United) before a crowd of 59,659, which includes Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex; it’s the largest crowd for an MLB game since the Padres closed out San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium in 2003. That there’s so much offense is not a big surprise given the stadium’s dimensions; it’s an average 330 feet down the lines but a relatively cozy 385 to dead center. Thus there are six home runs hit, including two from the Red Sox’ Michael Chavis, who drives in six runs. The Yankees’ Luke Voit has three doubles in a 4-for-4 game before departing with a minor injury.

The game lasts four hours and 42 minutes—three minutes shy of the all-time record for a nine-inning game.

Neither starting pitcher—the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka nor the Red Sox’ Rick Porcello—make it out of the first inning. That’s the first time that’s happened in a major league game since 1989.

According to commissioner Rob Manfred, 70% of the tickets for the two-game London series were sold in England; the rest were purchased in the U.S.

The Orioles, of all teams, become the first to win consecutive shutouts while scoring at least 13 runs. Baltimore follows up a 13-0 mashing of the visiting Indians on Friday with another 13-0 rout, as Andrew Cashner throws seven shutout innings and Renato Nunez smacks two home runs.

Brendan McKay is okay as a Tampa Bay Ray. The 23-year-old, two-way southpaw, the #4 overall draft pick in the 2017 amateur draft, makes his major league debut and takes a perfect game into the sixth before surrendering his lone hit. That, and a walk, represents his lone blemishes over six innings as the Rays take a 5-2 decision over the Rangers at St. Petersburg.

Sunday, June 30
London, Day II: The union jacks continue as the Red Sox bust out three homers in the first inning against the Yankees and opener Stephen Tarpley, but New York responds with 12 unanswered runs—including nine in the seventh—to leave England with a two-game sweep of Boston, 12-8. The Yankees cap the scoring on a Didi Gregorius solo homer, keeping the team’s record streak of consecutive games with at least one dinger going at 31.

The Pirates lose another tight one at Milwaukee, 2-1, as the Brewers’ Eric Thames belts a solo homer in the eighth to decide the contest. The game is also noted for a 0-for-4 performance by Pittsburgh’s Kevin Newman, ending a 19-game hit streak that had been the majors’ longest this season to date, and the longest by a Pirates rookie in the modern (since 1900) era.

The A’s finish the month of June in surge mode, sweeping a three-game series from the Angels at Anaheim 12-3 to move seven games over the .500 mark (46-39). All-Star reserve Matt Chapman caps a seven-run eighth with a bases-clearing double, giving him six RBIs on the night to go with a triple and home run hit earlier in the game.


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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