What’s Happening in Baseball Today

The First Pitch: July 30, 2021

Less than a week ago, Washington all-World talent Juan Soto was surrounded by All-Star teammates. Now, he must be thinking of changing his walk-up music to The Police’s So Lonely. As Baseball entered the final 24 hours before the trading deadline (which ends today at 4:00 Eastern time), the Nationals unloaded outfielder/top NL June hitter Kyle Schwarber to the Red Sox, closer Brad Hand to the Blue Jays, and starting pitcher Daniel Hudson to the Padres. Above all of that, its’s about 99% confirmed at upload time that ace Max Scherzer and All-Star shortstop Trea Turner are headed to the defending champion Dodgers. In total, the Nationals are receiving eight minor leaguers in return, which will considerably boost Washington’s last-place standing among MLB’s minor league systems. 

Between the exit of all of these top players and the season-ending activity of ace Stephen Strasburg (neck injury) and infielder Starlin Castro (domestic abuse investigation), will the Nationals even have enough players to field tonight when they take on the Cubs at Washington? Juan Soto will be there; the Nationals consider him the roster’s lone untouchable, but he must also feel as the team’s remaining lone star. He’s not a free agent until 2025, so he has no choice but to hang and watch the team rebuild around him. 

While the Nationals have cleaned house, the Cubs might be next. Anthony Rizzo, the team’s first baseman of the last 10 years and the #6 on the franchise’s all-time home run list, was traded to the Yankees, bulking up after acquiring Texas slugger Joey Gallo the day before. Though Rizzo’s average has slipped of late—since the start of last season, he’s batting .237—he remains a viable power threat and a Gold Glove-level presence at first. Going Chicago’s way in the deal are two high-end prospects, pitcher Alexander Vizcaino and outfielder Kevin Alcantara

The Cubs may not be done yet as, like the Nationals, they have a sea of top stars who turn free agents at season’s end. Third baseman Kris Bryant and closer Craig Kimbrel are certainly on the clock, as might be shortstop Javier Baez

With Rizzo and Bryant both sitting, the Cubs took a 7-4 loss to the visiting Reds and Joey Votto, who continued his recent rampage. Rizzo homered for the sixth straight game, going deep in his first at-bat—making him the first player since Willie Mays in 1954 to collect a first-plate appearance homer in five consecutive games. Overall, Votto has eight homers during his six-game power binge; only six players have hit more over such a span, led by the Washington Senators’ Frank Howard, who crushed 10 in 1968

Rizzo’s arrival in New York may not come soon enough. The Yankees were blasted by the Rays at St. Petersburg, 14-0, as not even ace Gerrit Cole could contain Tampa Bay hitters—charged with eight runs (seven earned) over 5.1 innings despite striking out 10. This was the Rays’ largest shutout victory ever, eclipsing a 13-0 defeat of the Red Sox on April 30, 2009

The Brewers easily swept the Pirates at Pittsburgh, as their 12-0 clubbing brought their aggregate for the three-game series to 28-3. Manny Pina had the big day offensively with three hits including a pair of homers and five RBIs, but on the mound it was Freddy Peralta, who for the 12th time this year allowed two hits or less, besting Nolan Ryan’s MLB mark (openers excluded) of 11 from 1991. Opposing batters are hitting an insanely low .128 against Peralta this year—but his ERA remains a not-so-insane (but still quite good) 2.17, because he’s given up the same number of walks (47) as hits over 108 innings. 

This wasn’t the Brewers’ worst beating against the Bucs at PNC Park; in an April 2010 series, Milwaukee outscored Pittsburgh by a 36-1 count over three games. 

Sammy Sosa was once exposed a double-cheat—allegedly—in 2003 when he was caught with a corked bat while later being revealed as one of the names on the supposedly secret list of PED-positive players that MLB used to determine whether to enact steroid testing. Now Sosa has company in Seattle pitcher Hector Santiago. A month ago, Santiago served a 10-game suspension when he was caught as, so far, the only pitcher ejected using foreign substances while on the mound. Now he has bigger problems; MLB docked an 80-game suspension upon the 33-year-old southpaw for use of external testosterone. 

Santiago’s explanation, in a statement provided by the players’ union: “In 2020, while I was not on the roster of an MLB club, I consulted a licensed physician in Puerto Rico who diagnosed me with a condition and recommended hormonal replacement therapy. Because I did not play in 2020, I did not consider that this therapy could ultimately lead to a positive test under MLB’s joint drug program. That said, I alone am responsible for what I put in my body, and I was not careful. Therefore, I have decided for forgo my right to an appeal in this matter and accept the suspension.” 

Cleveland manager Terry Francona is stepping aside for the rest of the season as he continues to deal with both toe and hip issues that have made it physically difficult for him to do his job. Francona manned the Cleveland dugout only 14 times last year due to blood-clotting problems; he needs just six wins to supplant Lou Boudreau (728) as the winningest manager in franchise history. 

The Indians are 50-49, eight games behind the first-place White Sox in the AL Central—but they’re also fifth in line for the final AL wild card, 5.5 games behind Oakland, making their chances of reaching the postseason in doubt. Bench coach DeMarco Hale will navigate Cleveland the rest of the season as Francona’s replacement.

Congrats, Your Box Score Line Was the Best (Hitters Edition)

5-3-3-5Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay
The Atlanta native provided the biggest punch in the Rays’ 14-0 demolition of the visiting Yankees, cranking two home runs among his three hits. While Meadows’ batting average (.243) is not where he wants it to be, the power has returned as he’s on pace to collect over 30 homers, more indicative of the 33 he launched in 2019 before collapsing to a mere four in last year’s pandemic-shortened schedule.

Congrats, Your Box Score Line Was the Best (Pitchers Edition)

7-3-0-0-1-11Joe Musgrove, San Diego
The 28-year pitcher has started three games against the Rockies in 2021—and the Padres have won each of them by a 3-0 count. In fact, Musgrove’s effort last night was hauntingly similar to his May 19 start against Colorado, as he also threw seven shutout innings with 11 K’s. Musgrove’s 2.94 ERA is easily on target to be a career high.

It Was Whatever-Something Years Ago Today

1936: The Red Sox usher in the aviation era for baseball when they’re the first full squad to fly by plane, trekking between St. Louis and Chicago. AL president Will Harridge accompanies the team for the ride; five Red Sox players stick to the ground and prefer to take a train. 

1959: Twenty-one-year-old Willie McCovey has a memorable debut for the Giants, belting two triples and two singles in a 4-for-4 performance against Phillies’ ace Robin Roberts as San Francisco secures a 7-2 home victory. 

1968: Washington Senators shortstop Ron Hansen turns the majors’ first unassisted triple play in 41 years, snaring a line drive off the bat of Cleveland’s Joe Azcue, doubling up Dave Nelson at second base—and then waiting at second to tag Russ Snyder, caught dead on a hit-and-run attempt from first base. The play hardly helps the Senators, who lose 10-1. 

1980: Houston pitching ace J.R. Richard, working on an excellent 10-4 record and 1.90 earned run average that merits him a starting role at the All-Star Game, suffers a stroke during a workout. He makes a complete recovery at the hospital but not on the mound, where an attempted 1981 comeback fails. 

2017: Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre becomes the latest player to reach the 3,000-hit plateau with a fourth-inning double against the Orioles at Arlington. Beltre is the first Dominican Republic native to reach the milestone, and the first with at least 750 of his hits collected playing for each of three different teams (the Rangers, Dodgers and Mariners).

Shameless Link of the Day

With Max Scherzer’s imminent departure from Washington, where does he stand on the Nationals’ list of top five pitchers? Find out here.

You Say It’s Your Birthday

Rising Angels star hitter Jared Walsh is 28; 12-year Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi is 59; infielder of 1,376 hits Scott Fletcher is 63; former Rockies/Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is 64; supporting Expos star of the 1970s Ellis Valentine is 67; solid Astros infielder of the 1970s Doug Rader is 77. Born on this date is 15-year first baseman Jim Spencer (1947), his one-time White Sox teammate Pat Kelly (1944), catcher and colorful TGG interview subject Gus Triandos (1930), 15-year-old debutante and eventual Reds pitching/broadcast stalwart Joe Nuxhall (1928), and Hall-of-Fame outfielder/manager Casey Stengel (1890).

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