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The First Pitch: May 22, 2024

Ranger Suarez—and by extension, the Phillies—stays hot. In a 5-2 home defeat of the Rangers, Suarez—a Ranger in name only­—improves his record to 9-0, allowing a run over seven innings with 10 strikeouts. His 1.36 ERA is MLB’s second best after the Cubs’ Shota Imanaga (0.84), and the best within the first 10 games by any Phillies starting pitcher not named Pete Alexander—who registered 1.24 and 1.31 ERAs in, respectively, 1915 and 1916

The Phillies’ offense pitches in as well, with Bryce Harper banging out a double and 11th home run of the year, while Alec Bohm brings in two more runs to increase his season RBI total to an NL-leading 44. The victory improves the Phillies’ record to 35-14, tying the 1976 franchise mark for the best 49-game start; their 27 wins over the last 33 games are the most for any such span in team annals. 

With the loss, the defending champion Rangers drop to 24-25; it’s the first time the team has been below the .500 mark since Bruce Bochy took over as manager at the start of last season. 


The Pirates’ Oneil Cruz is in overpower mode, striking three hits (a single and two doubles) that each register over 115 MPH off the bat—a Statcast Era first—with the last hit bringing home the tying run in a four-run ninth against the visiting Giants. An inning later, Nick Gonzales will need just one pitch to send a single up the middle and score the gift runner, securing a 7-6 triumph for the Bucs. 

Two of Cruz’s hits are recorded at 120+ MPH, which too is something no one has ever done since Statcast went into business in 2015. Here’s the impressive part of that; only two other players—Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge—have had multiple hits leaving the bat at 120+ MPH…in their careers.


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

4-3-3-6—Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City
In the Royals’ 10-3 home hammering of the Tigers, the well-paid (and deservedly so) Witt showed off the long ball—with two homers including a 468-footer that’s the longest of his career—and some small ball with an infield single, driving home six runs to tie a career mark. Witt is on course to bat .304 with 45 doubles, 19 triples, 23 homers, 100 RBIs, 146 runs and 49 steals. Yeah, the 23-year old is definitely an early AL MVP favorite.


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

7-3-0-0-2-6—Joe Ryan, Minnesota
The 27-year-old right-hander continues to be one of the game’s more underrated and reliable pitchers, tossing seven scoreless and thus providing major contribution to ending the Twins’ seven-game skid with a 10-0 thrashing of the Nationals at Washington. This is the sixth time in Ryan’s three-plus-year career that he’s allowed zero runs over seven or more innings.


It Was Whatever-Something Years Ago Today

1962: A year after Roger Maris hits 61 home runs without a single intentional walk—thanks primarily to the presence of Mickey Mantle, who always bats behind him in the Yankees lineup—Angels pitchers oblige him with an AL-record four free passes, as they would rather face Johnny Blanchard and (later) Hector Lopez as the next batter with Mantle unavailable due to injury. The Yankees will win at home in 12 innings, 2-1. For the year, Maris will set a career high with 11 intentional walks. 

1963: For the second time in his career, Mantle comes tantalizingly close to hitting a ball out of Yankee Stadium. He connects on a pitch from Kansas City’s Bill Fischer that, many say, is still rising when it makes contact just under the right field roof. Mantle claims the ball was the hardest he ever hit—so hard, he tells teammate Dale Long that his bat is actually bent from the blast. It is estimated that the home run, which gives the Yankees an 8-7 win in 11 innings, would have easily traveled over 600 feet had it completed its arc. Mantle hit a similar home run to the same spot in 1956. 

1990: The Reds want little to do with Cubs slugger Andre Dawson, so they intentionally walk him five times to establish a major league record. There is an asterisk to discuss; the game lasts 16 innings and Dawson receives three of his free passes after the ninth. The Reds finally run out of luck when, right after Dawson is given his fifth walk, Dave Clark singles home the winning run to win the game, 1-0.


You Say It’s Your Birthday

Recent outfielder of 11 seasons Corey Dickerson is 35; reliever of 828 appearances Julian Tavarez is 51; closer with 328 saves Jose Mesa is 58; 288-game winner and TGG interview subject Tommy John is 81. Born on this date is Hall-of-Fame outfielder Al Simmons (1902).


Shameless Link of the Day

As mentioned above, only Pete Alexander had a better start to a season (two of them, in fact) for the Phillies than Ranger Suarez. How good was Alexander? Check it out.


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