This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: April 2023

What Record Are You Going to Break Today, Tampa Bay?
Are the A’s Really Going to Vegas?    Why is Everyone Getting Hurt?

March 2023    Comebacker Index    May 2023 

Saturday, April 1

The Baltimore Orioles are doing just about everything right to start the year 2-0 at Boston. Austin Hays has five hits, and the team swipes five bases to give it an eye-popping 10 over two games—but it all falls apart at the last possible moment. One out away from sealing an 8-7 win, the Orioles think they have it wrapped up when the Red Sox’ Masataka Yoshida lofts a routine fly to left field—but Baltimore’s Ryan McKenna inexplicably drops the ball to keep the game alive. Next up is Adam Duvall, who already has a double, triple and home run on the day; he lines one just over the top of Fenway Park’s Green Monster for his second homer, completing a sudden and startling 9-8 Boston comeback win. 

Hays’ five-hit game is already the second in as many days for the Orioles, following Adley Rutschman’s similar effort on Opening Day. For the entire 2022 season, the Orioles had just one five-hit game from one of their players. 

No MLB team in the modern (post-1900) era has 10 or more stolen bases over its first two games of a season. 

Trayce Thomspon’s grand slam caps a five-run first-inning for the Dodgers against Madison Bumgarner and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles—but he’s just getting started. Thompson adds a three-run shot in the fifth, and completes the night with a solo blast measuring 440 feet in the eighth as the Dodgers roll, 10-1.  Clayton Kershaw’s first season start is a beauty; he allows a run on four hits through six innings, striking out nine and walking none. 

Thompson’s hat trick is the first for the Dodgers since Mookie Betts in 2020. There have been 26 such performances in Dodgers history—15 of them since 2000. 

All three of Thompson’s homers leave his bat at exactly the same speed—107.5 MPH. 

St. Louis pitcher Jack Flaherty, still trying to regain his late-season breakout form of 2019, has the most curious of season debuts. Against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, Flaherty tosses five no-hit innings, but barely half (49) of his 95 pitches are strikes as he walks a career-high seven. Overall, the Blue Jays will attract 10 walks but only three hits as they bow to the Cardinals, 4-1. 

After stomping on the Philadelphia Phillies 11-7 in their season opener two days earlier, the Texas Rangers don’t let off the gas pedal. Instead, the apply more pressure on it, piling up 16 additional runs in a 16-3 rout at Arlington. Catcher Mitch Garver has the big day for the Rangers, smashing a pair of home runs while driving home a career high-tying six runs. Only the 1951 Chicago White Sox have scored more runs (30) over the first two games of a season. 

While the Rangers are getting drunk on runs, the Kansas City Royals have still yet to cross the plate as they get shut out for the second straight game at home against Minnesota, 2-0. The Royals leave eight men on base—seven of them in scoring position. It’s the first time the Twins have begun a season with two shutout wins; conversely, it’s the first time the Royals have opened with two shutout losses. Only the 2016 San Diego Padres failed to score a run in their first three games of a season. 

Shintaro Fujinami was once considered Shohei Ohtani’s equal in Japan, and against the first six Los Angeles Angels he faces in his major league debut for the Oakland A’s, he looks the part. But then the Angels get a hold of the proverbial book on Fujinami, and figure him out—to say the least: Walk, single, double, single, walk, single, sac fly, walk, single. All eight baserunners allowed by Fujinami in the third inning score, and another three find the plate as part of an 11-run rally; the Angels will coast from there to a 13-1 road win. 

Sunday, April 2

The Tampa Bay Rays just can’t help themselves. The team that uses the bullpen more than any other and rarely allows their starters to go the distance puts a hand up to Jeffrey Springs after six no-hit innings and a career-high 12 strikeouts, demanding, “No more pitching for you,” in a 5-1 home victory over Detroit. To be fair, the 30-year-old Springs has never thrown more than six innings in any of his previous 27 starts, but even with only 81 pitches spent, maybe the Rays should have given him at least one more inning. But no, these are the Rays, who four other times since 2018 have removed pitchers with no-hitters intact after five or more innings. Yes, we know it’s the first week of the season and pitchers are generally still not yet at ‘full arm strength,’ but let’s give a history a shot every once in a while. 

The Cleveland Guardians take a 6-5, 10-inning win at Seattle over the Mariners, with strong assists going to former Seattle catcher Mike Zunino (two doubles and a home run) and reliever Tim Herrin, who makes his major league debut replacing Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill and faces four batters—striking all of them out. Herrin is the first major leaguer to register Ks on each of his first four batters in his debut since at least 1893, when the mound was moved back to its current distance of 60 feet and six inches away from home plate. 

Like the Guardians, the Mets take three out of four games in their season-opening series, also on the road—defeating the Marlins at Miami, 5-1. Getting the win for New York is Kodai Senga, the 30-year-old right-hander from Japan who has a solid MLB debut with just a run allowed on three hits and three walks with eight strikeouts. But Senga gets more attention with his glove, a blue mitt featuring an abstract illustration of a ghost holding a fork; his specialty is what is known as the “ghost forkball,” hence the drawing.  

In the Twins’ 7-4 win at Kansas City, Byron Buxton hits into a double play—his first one since 2020. What makes this particularly significant is that he had hit 57 home runs in the two-plus years in between double plays—the most hit by any major leaguer without a GIDP since at least 1940

Monday, April 3

The Angels’ Anthony Rendon is suspended four games (quickly reduced from five) by MLB for his role in an altercation with an A’s fan at Oakland on March 30. The incident took place at the end of the Angels’ 2-1 loss; as Angels players filtered toward the clubhouse behind home plate at the Oakland Coliseum, Rendon responded to a heckler by climbing up the railing, grabbing the fan’s wrist and heckling back before missing with a slap attempt to the face. 

Earlier in the day, Rendon reaches out and apologizes to the fan—who responds in kind. 

After being shut out in two of their first three games at New York against the Yankees, the San Francisco Giants break out the bats against the White Sox at Chicago and launch seven home runs—five off Chicago starter Michael Kopech—to win going away, 12-3. David Villar punches out two of the Giants’ round-trippers, including a ninth-inning grand slam. The five homers allowed by Kopech ties a White Sox franchise record. 

It’s home run #100 for both Houston’s Yordan Alvarez and the Yankees’ Gleyber Torres, each making a little history in the process. Alvarez’s three-run blast in the fifth inning of a 7-6, 10-inning home loss to Detroit makes him the fifth fastest player (by career games) to reach 100 homers, reaching the milestone in his 372nd game; Ryan Howard remains the fastest, hitting 100 within his first 325 games. As for Torres, his 100th homer—a solo shot delivered in the third inning of New York’s 8-1 home win over the Phillies—makes him the sixth youngest Yankee (at age 26 years and 111 days) to reach triple figures. 

Tuesday, April 4

We have our first pitch clock-related ejection, and the honor goes to the Padres’ Manny Machado. In the first inning at San Diego against the Diamondbacks, the Padres’ All-Star third baseman thinks he’s called time to gather himself on a full count with two outs, but umpire Ron Kulpa apparently doesn’t hear him making the request—and after taking too much time to get back in the batter’s box, Machado is given an automatic strike three. An incensed Machado vehemently argues and gets ejected before manager Bob Melvin can go out and separate him from Kulpa. Machado’s early exit is just part of a frustrating day for the Padres, who blow a 5-1 lead as their bullpen crumbles after Yu Darvish’s five sharp innings; Arizona scores seven times over the final four innings to complete a comeback 8-6 win. 

The majors’ first complete-game effort of the year is achieved by the guy most everyone would have bet on: Miami’s Sandy Alcantara. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner goes the distance at Miami, scattering three hits and a walk with five strikeouts to edge the previously undefeated Twins, 1-0. Offensively for the Marlins, the difference on the scoreboard comes courtesy of an Avisail Garcia solo homer in the second inning. 

Minnesota’s defeat leaves the Rays as MLB’s lone remaining undefeated team, improving to 5-0 with a come-from-behind 10-6 win at Washington. Trailing by a run entering the ninth, the Rays greet Nationals closer Kyle Finnegan with back-to-back homers from Luke Raley and Josh Lowe to claim the lead; Yandy Diaz’s three-run blast will cap a five-run rally and provide unneeded insurance. This is the first time the Rays have won each of their first five games to start a season. 

A day after getting squashed at Milwaukee, 10-0, the Mets are boat-raced once more by the Brewers, this time by a 9-0 count. Not even ace Max Scherzer can save the Mets on this one; in the sixth inning, he allows home runs to three consecutive Brewers batters (Rowdy Tellez, Brian Anderson and Garrett Mitchell), accelerating his departure from the game; in the next inning, the Brewers will get back-to-back blasts from Anderson and Mitchell again, this time off Mets reliever Brooks Raley

According to STATS, this is the first time that a team has hit back-to-back-to-back homers in one inning followed by back-to-back shots inthe very next frame. Speaking of back-to-back, the Mets tie a franchise record for the most runs allowed (19) over two consecutive shutout losses. 

Wednesday, April 5

Elvis Andrus joins three other active major leaguers (Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto and Nelson Cruz) with 2,000 career hits, passing the milestone with a fifth-inning single in the White Sox’ 7-3 home win over San Francisco. The Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen is the next closest to 2,000, with 1,952 hits. 

Tampa Bay continues to roll, defeating the Nationals at Washington 7-2 to improve to 6-0 on the year. In each of their six wins, the Rays have won by at least four runs; the last team to accomplish that to start a season was the St. Louis Maroons of the short-lived (one year) Union Association, winning their first 13 games by at least four on their way to a 20-0 start and 94-19-1 record. Shane McClanahan allows two runs through six innings for the Rays, while Wander Franco continues his hot start with two hits including his second home run. 

It’s not a perfect day for Shohei Ohtani, but it’s good enough. Throwing a major league season-high 111 pitches, the Angels’ ace/slugger allows three hits through six innings but also walks four and hits two others—yet only one run crosses the plate for the opposing Mariners at Seattle, and the bullpen will barely hold after his departure for a 4-3 victory. At the plate, Ohtani collects a single and two walks; he also becomes the first major leaguer in the pitch clock era to be called for violations as both a pitcher and a hitter—though, come to think of it, there’s very little other candidates for the tarnished honor, given that no other pitchers hit in either league anymore. 

Thursday, April 6

In 28 previous home openers at Coors Field, the Rockies and their opponents averaged a combined 12 runs per game. That figure will go down after Colorado’s first home game of 2023—a 1-0 victory over the Nationals. Kris Bryant knocks in the game’s only run on a fifth-inning single, giving Kyle Freeland and two relievers the lead that they’ll keep to the end. It’s the 11th 1-0 game in Coors history, and only the second over the last 13 years; the Rockies have won eight of them. 

The Giants continue to run hot and cold to start the year. Today, they’re in flaming mode, launching five home runs in a 16-6 rout of the White Sox in Chicago. San Francisco’s 13 homers in three games against the White Sox tie a franchise record for the most in a three-game series; that took place April 1961 against the Braves at Milwaukee, with eight in one game (Willie Mays smashed four of them) while being no-hit in one of the two other games by Hall of Famer Warren Spahn

In three wins thus far, the Giants have scored 35 runs, crushed 14 homers and are batting .365; in their three losses, they’ve notched only three runs, hit one homer and batted .121. 

Friday, April 7

The Texas Rangers will be without one starting pitcher for the rest of the season as Jake Odorizzi undergoes shoulder debridement surgery to eliminate pain he began feeling shortly after being traded from Atlanta for pitcher Kolby Allard. Usually reliable before 2020, Odorizzi has made only 49 starts over the last three seasons, resulting in a 12-14 record and 4.45 ERA. If it makes the Rangers feel any better, the Braves are on the hook for $10 million of the $12 million owed to Odorizzi in 2023—while Allard has been dealing with his own pain, out until at least June with an oblique injury. 

There may be a little bit of a spring in the step of the Pirates and their fan base as they open at home with a 13-9 victory over the White Sox before an overflow crowd of 39,167 at PNC Park. Bryan Reynolds, off to a roaring start, finishes a double shy of the cycle with a career-tying six RBIs; Connor Joe collects three doubles; and 36-year-old Andrew McCutchen proves that you can go home again, heartily welcomed back to Pittsburgh by the fans who fondly remembered his MVP-level play for the Bucs in the mid-2010s—before being traded to San Francisco in a deal that brought a then-unknown Reynolds to Pittsburgh. With the win, the Pirates improve to 5-2, their best start since 2018—their last winning season to date. 

The Angels hold their home opener against Toronto, and their two megastars don’t disappoint; Mike Trout hits a two-run home run, and Shohei Othani knocks out two hits including a double. The rest of the Angels’ lineup, however, is a collective no-show—going 0-for-22 with no walks. Also letting the fans down is the bullpen, which quickly coughs up a 3-1 lead in the seventh after starter Patrick Sandoval’s departure, as Bo Bichette’s three-run homer tips the balance the Blue Jays’ way, 4-3. 

According to STATS, Trout and Ohtani are the first pair of players to each have an extra-base hit while the rest of the lineup goes hitless since 1962, when Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris did all they could for the Yankees in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Senators. 

Saturday, April 8

The Rays continue to pounce on the weak, destroying the A’s at St. Petersburg, 11-0, to improve to 8-0 on the year. A week after throwing six hitless innings in his season debut, Jeffrey Springs fires seven shutout frames allowing three hits; the Rays’ lineup collects only eight hits, but three of them are for home runs; they also get help from wild Oakland pitchers who walk six and hit three. 

Tampa Bay is only the third team to win its eight games since 1990; not since the 1939 Yankees has a team started 8-0 with a bigger run differential (+46). Since 1900, only four teams have won eight straight—winning by at least four runs in each—regardless of the time of season. 

The Guardians drop a 3-2 decision at home to Seattle, resulting in Cleveland pitcher Cal Quantrill’s first loss in 35 career starts at Progressive Field. The 28-year-old right-hander doesn’t have a bad night—he allows three runs over five innings—but his mates can’t support him at the plate, especially in regards to missed opportunities as the Guardians strand 12 runners on base. In his previous 34 starts at Cleveland’s home park, Quantrill was 14-0 with a 2.88 ERA. 

The Diamondbacks’ Alek Thomas ended last season going hitless in his final 11 at-bats; he started this year without a hit in his first 16 at-bats. Was he due for a hit? You betcha. Against the Dodgers at Phoenix, Thomas breaks out of his extended slump in a big way, going 4-for-4—three singles and a triple—to lift the DBacks to a 12-8 win. STATS says that that’s the longest hitless slump in advance of a 4-for-4 (or better) night since Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt snapped a 0-for-30 slide in 1988

In minor league action, the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts defeat the Rocket City Trash Pandas (yes, that’s their name) in the first game of a seven-inning doubleheader, 7-5—without getting a single hit. All seven runs score in the final inning; Rocket City pitchers lend a wild hand with seven walks, four hit batsmen and two wild pitches. 

Sunday, April 9

The Pirates defeat the visiting White Sox 1-0 to improve to 6-3, but it’s a costly victory. In the sixth inning, promising shortstop Oneil Cruz fractures his ankle while making a late, awkward and rather brutal slide into home plate and Chicago catcher Seby Zavala—who turns and barks back at Cruz, who’s writhing on the ground in pain. That irks the Pirates’ Carlos Santana, who’s next to bat and immediately confronts Zavala in a sequence that leads to a benches-clearing moment between both teams. Zavala is upset because he felt the nature of Cruz’s slide put him at risk—not knowing, at the moment, the severity of Cruz’s injury. How severe? Cruz will be sidelined for four months with a fractured ankle. 

There’s no stopping the Rays—so long as they keep playing weak teams. A day after stomping on the A’s at St. Petersburg by an 11-0 count, they hammer Oakland again by the same exact score; it’s only the fourth time that a major league team has won consecutive games by shoutout while scoring at least 10 runs in each. Seven of the Rays’ 12 hits are for extra bases, including three home runs; Drew Rasmussen allows just one baserunner (a Ramon Laureano double in the second) over seven otherwise flawless innings, his second scoreless start to begin the season. 

Tampa Bay has swept three-game series thus far against Detroit, Washington and Oakland—three awful teams from a year ago who haven’t shown much improvement to being 2023. This is not to say that the Rays are phoning it in; any team goes 9-0 against with an aggregate 75-18 score is worthy of major praise, regardless of the level of competition. 

Monday, April 10

The Rangers’ Andrew Heaney ties an American League record by striking out nine straight batters, on his way to allowing two runs (one earned) over five innings with 10 total Ks to grab his first victory in a Texas uniform, 11-2 over the visiting Royals. Heaney’s streak starts with one out in the first inning, and ends an out into the fourth; he shares the strikeout mark with two Detroit pitchers, Doug Fister (2012) and Tyler Alexander (2020). The major league record is 10, shared by Tom Seaver (1970) and Aaron Nola and Corbin Burnes (both in 2021). The losing pitcher for the Royals is veteran Zack Greinke, who’s now 0-3 on the year; he’s 0-11 over his last 18 road starts dating back to 2021. 

Tampa Bay finally plays a worthy opponent in divisional rival Boston and, not surprisingly, get drawn into a more competitive battle. Yet the Rays still prevail; Brandon Lowe’s one-out solo homer in the eighth provides the game’s only run in a 1-0 home victory to give Tampa a 10-0 record. The Red Sox earn a symbolic victory by becoming the first team this season not to lose to the Rays by four or more runs. 

The Rays’ start has been good in so many ways. They’re the seventh team since 1900 to start a season 10-0, but none of the other six had a better run differential (+58). The 25 home runs are the second most ever hit through a team’s first 10 games. And the shutout of the Red Sox is their third straight, an unprecedented feat in Tampa Bay franchise history. 

Part of the Red Sox’ difficulty at the plate against the Rays could be linked to the absence of veteran slugger Adam Duvall, who was confirmed to have a broken wrist after a diving attempt on a catch the day before. In eight games thus far, Duvall is hitting .455 with four homers and 14 RBIs; he’s likely to miss at least a month. 

Tuesday, April 11

The Miami Marlins were the only active MLB team never to have one of their players hit for the cycle…until tonight at Philadelphia. Luis Arraez, the reigning AL batting champion traded to the Marlins during the offseason, goes 4-for-5 with a single, double, triple and home run to help lift the Marlins to an 8-4 win over the Phillies. It’s all part of a fantastic start to the year for Arraez, who’s got 22 hits in 41 at-bats thus far for an MLB-leading .537 average. 

The Orioles outlast the visiting A’s, 12-8, behind a superlative effort from Ryan Mountcastle—who ties a franchise record with nine RBIs. Seven of his runs brought home come on the strength of two home runs: A three-run shot in the fifth, and a grand slam two innings later. Mountcastle ties Jim Gentile (1961) and Eddie Murray (1985) for the most RBIs in a game for the Orioles/St. Louis Browns. 

It’s 11-0 for the Rays, who punish the Red Sox at St. Petersburg, 7-2. Four home runs give the Rays 29 on the year, tied for the most ever by any MLB team through its first 11 games. The Rays are two wins without a loss way from tying the record for the longest undefeated start in modern MLB history. 

Wednesday, April 12

It keeps happening for the Rays, who improve to 12-0—one victory shy of the modern record for the longest win streak to begin a season—with a 9-7 home triumph over the Red Sox. They keep the streak going even as they throw out Taj Bradley—making his major league debut—easily outlasting Boston ace Chris Sale, who continues to struggle out of the gate with an 11.25 ERA after three starts. Bradley allows three runs over five innings and strikes out eight. 

Can someone tell us where the Rays’ fans are? The first three games of this series have drawn a total of 43,000 spectators, with a fair chunk of them probably rooting for the visiting Red Sox. You would think that the Rays’ juggernaut-like start would finally pull in an optimal number of fans, but it just isn’t happening. It makes one wonder if St. Petersburg, so far out of range for many residents in the Tampa/St. Pete market, is really a smart choice for a new ballpark, as has been floated of late. 

Silver-lining congrats are in order for the Red Sox, who despite the loss score two runs in the fifth inning. It’s the first time this year that a team has scored multiple runs on the Rays in a single inning at St. Petersburg, ending a record-setting string of 76 straight home frames for the Rays in which no opponent scored two or more tallies. The old mark was held by the 1919 Reds, on their way to winning the World Series over a half-tainted White Sox team. 

Ian Happ, arguably the Cubs’ best player last season and off to a solid start this year, agrees to a three-year extension worth $61 million—wiping away his availability on the free agent market this coming fall. In six-plus years with the Cubs, Happ is batting .250 but has a career .800 OPS while playing strong defense in the outfield. 

The A’s snap a six-game losing skid and defeat the Orioles at Baltimore, 8-4, with Chad Smith earning his first major league victory in relief. But should he get credit? The A’s take the lead in the top of the seventh with reliever Jeurys Familia considered the pitcher of record and Smith taking over in the bottom of the inning—but the official scorer cites MLB Rule 9.17(c), which states: “The official scorer shall not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain the lead.” Familia can’t hold a slim 4-3 lead in the sixth, but he isn’t that awful; he allows a run on two hits and retires two Baltimore batters. Smith pitches the final two innings, allowing no runs on a hit with three strikeouts. 

While we’re on the subject of fair scoring, let’s also consider the bottom of the ninth inning at Toronto, where the Blue Jays defeat Detroit in 10 innings, 4-3. The Blue Jays rally for two runs in that ninth inning to tie, with great help from Detroit reliever Trey Wingenter—who loads up the bases with no outs on a hit, walk and hit batsman; he also throws a wild pitch for good measure. Wingenter is removed for Chasen Shreve, who surrenders two fly balls that are caught but result in sacrifice flies, tying the game. Shreve gets officially tagged with a blown save—but should it really have gone to Wingenter, who got the Tigers into that awful mess to begin with? As with Rule 9.17(c), is there another obscure rule somewhere where due credit—or in this case, blame—should rightfully be given? 

Thursday, April 13

The Rays tie the all-time modern record for the best start in MLB history, improving to 13-0 with a come-from-behind, 9-3 home win over the Red Sox before 21,175 at Tropicana Field. It’s also the longest win streak in Rays franchise history, breaking the old mark set by the 2004 team that won 12 straight on its way to a 70-91 record. Things don’t look good for the Rays early on. Starting pitcher Jeffrey Springs, who allowed only three hits through 13 shutout innings to start the year, leaves after three innings by what will be a season-ending elbow injury—and the Red Sox take advantage by scoring single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 3-1 lead. But the Rays erase one of the rare deficits they’ve faced all year, exploding for seven runs in the bottom of the fifth, never looking back. 

While one team hits a streak of 13, a rookie fails to do the same. The Cardinals’ Jordan Walker goes hitless in four trips to the plate in a 5-0 home loss to Pittsburgh, ending his hitting streak to start a career at 12 games. The 20-year-old outfielder ends his run tied with Eddie Murphy of the 1912 Philadelphia A’s for the longest to begin a career among players aged 20 or younger. The all-time mark, regardless of age, remains a tie between Chuck Aleno in 1941 and David Dahl in 2016, at 17 games each. 

It’s an historic—and downright awful—first inning for the Yankees at home against the Twins. New York gives up nine runs, tying a franchise record for the most tallies conceded in the initial frame; for the Twins, Edouard Julien collects his first two career hits in the inning, becoming the fourth player since 1961 to do so; he’s the first player in the modern era to achieve the feat in the first inning. After the nine-run outburst, the Twins glide to an 11-2 victory to improve to 9-4, the majors’ second-best record—after the 13-0 Rays. 

Friday, April 14

The Rays lose—and that’s something we haven’t said in quite some time. Tampa Bay’s bid for a record-setting 14-0 start on the year fails as it bows at Toronto, 6-3; the Rays settle for tying the modern mark of 13 wins to begin the season, with the 1982 Braves and 1987 Brewers. The Blue Jays waste no time getting a jump on the Rays thanks to a leadoff home run in the first inning from George Springer, his 53rd such homer—tying Craig Biggio for third on the all-time list. An RBI double in the second from Bo Bichette—one of his five hits on the night, and the 500th of his young career—makes it 2-0, and then in the fifth the roof caves in on the Rays, as they walk three and then absorb a brutal error by second baseman Brandon Lowe on what could have been an inning-ending double play; instead, four runs score in the frame and the Jays never look back, as the Rays don’t have enough fight in them for a comeback. 

The Mets run all over—or, more succinctly, walk all over—the A’s at Oakland, 17-6. Despite being outhit 13-11, the Mets draw a franchise-record 17 walks, while two others reach base getting hit by pitches; of the 19 freebies, 14 of them score. The Mets notch six runs each in two innings—the second and fifth—on just one hit in both; only once since 1974 have two instances of six runs on a hit been accomplished in the same season (1998), though not by the same team nor in the same game. 

The 17 walks given up by A’s pitching is one short of their franchise mark; on May 9, 1916, the A’s walked 18 against the Tigers in a 16-2 loss—one of 117 defeats on the year for a truly horrible A’s team in Philadelphia led by legendary manager Connie Mack. 

Oakland reliever Hogan Harris, making his MLB debut, is largely responsible for the Mets’ six-run rally in the fifth, surrendering all six runs on a hit and five walks. According to STATS, he’s the first pitcher to allow five-plus runs and five-plus walks while getting one out or less in his first appearance since Joe Nuxhall—who did it for the 1944 Reds at the age of 15, as talent availability was highly scarce in a time of war

It’s been a tough start for Giants ace Logan Webb—who’s lost all three of his outings this year with a 4.76 ERA—but San Francisco still has enough faith in him as they hand the 26-year-old right-hander a five-year extension worth $90 million. The deal buys out the first three years of Webb’s free agency, which he was due to be eligible for after the 2025 season. In four-plus years with the Giants, Webb has compiled a 31-22 record and 3.53 ERA. 

Saturday, April 15

Through the first three innings at Yankee Stadium against Minnesota, New York’s Domingo German is pitching really well—but the umpires and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli believe he’s pitching too well. German doesn’t allow a baserunner through those first three frames, with six strikeouts—including three swing-and miss Ks in the first. Upon leaving the mound at the end of the third, German gets the routine check for illegal substances from the umpires and, although he’s not in violation of the current rules, is nevertheless told to “clean” up his hands. When German starts back to the mound for the fourth, crew chief James Hoye checks him again and isn’t satisfied, saying that his pitching pinky is still too “tacky.” Hoye’s fellow umps come over, confer and determine that the pinky is tackiness from the rosin bag, which is legal—and allow him to continue. This quickly brings out Baldelli, whose conversation with Hoye grows increasingly heated until he’s tossed from the game. German continues on, but Statcast reveals a noticeable (but not precipitous) reduction in his spin rate. He’ll pitch a total of 6.1 innings, allowing a run on three hits with a career-high 11 strikeouts and no walks, as the Yankees breeze to a 6-1 win. 

On Jackie Robinson Day—with every major leaguer wearing #42 in honor of the man who broke baseball’s color barrier in the modern era—the Dodgers are laying one goose egg after another, trailing 1-0 to the visiting Cubs. Keeping Los Angeles off the board is former Dodgers center fielder and current Cub Cody Bellinger, who leaps high above the wall to steal a second-inning, two-run homer from Jason Heyward—ironically, a former Cubs stalwart. Down to their last out in the bottom of the ninth—but with runners at second and third—David Peralta comes off the bench and strokes a first-pitch single to right, scoring both baserunners to secure a 2-1 walk-off victory. It’s the eighth straight win for the Dodgers on Jackie Robinson Day. 

According to STATS, Peralta is the first pinch-hitter to connect on a walk-off, come-from-behind single when his team is one out from being shut out since the A’s Harry Davis on May 29, 1915. The pitcher that day for the opposing Red Sox? Babe Ruth. 

It’s a hazardous day to be a pitcher on the mound, with three hurlers getting zapped by return fire from batters. In Toronto, Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano can’t react fast enough to avoid a liner from the Rays’ Wander Franco that strikes his ribs; he still manages to quickly pick up the ball and throw Franco out to complete the Blue Jays’ 5-2 win over the Rays—Tampa Bay’s second straight defeat after a 13-0 start. Romano will be checked out and is given the okay, besides a contusion on his rib cage. Meanwhile, in Houston, the Rangers’ Jon Gray is sure his arm is broken after taking a 109-MPH shot from the Astros’ Yainer Diaz in an 8-2 loss, but X-rays reveal nothing more than a bruised forearm. He won’t miss a start. And out in San Diego, Milwaukee reliever Gus Varland takes a 105-MPH drive from the Padres’ Manny Machado, first striking his hand—then ricocheting off his jaw. He, too, emerges from the x-ray room without a fracture. “Don’t hang your sliders middle-middle,” Varland said of the moment after the game, which the Brewers lost 10-3. “Lesson learned.” 

Sunday, April 16

The Yankees’ Gerrit Cole throws the second complete game and shutout seen thus far in 2023—it’s the fourth blanking of his career—as he allows two hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts in going the distance against the visiting Twins at New York, 2-0. DJ LeMahieu knocks in both runs for the Yankees, with an RBI single in the third followed by a solo homer in the sixth. With the win, the Yankees earn a four-game split with the Twins; they play three more games at Minnesota in late April, hoping to secure a series victory and stretch their streak of non-losing records against the Twins to 22 seasons—the longest active streak by one team over another. Including postseason games, the Yankees are 114-41 against the Twins since 2001

After getting hammered 13-0 the day before at Cincinnati, the Phillies respond in kind by drubbing the Reds, 14-3. Eleven of those 14 runs are notched in the first three-plus innings against Reds starter Luis Cessa; no other Reds pitcher has ever given up that many runs (along with the 14 hits) in an appearance of three innings or less since 1900. Leading the way for the Phillies is Bryson Stott, who hits a leadoff homer in the first and adds two more hits among the 23 collected by Philadelphia on the day. Stott has at least one hit in each of his first 16 games on the year, tying a franchise mark held by Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones in the Phillies’ “Whiz Kids” season of 1950

The Tigers and Giants have their series finale at Detroit postponed—not on an account of rain, but bad weather forecasting. The first pitch is delayed because of what is thought to be impending bad weather—except none ever comes, at least not for three hours. Given the effect of the pitch clock so far this year, that would be plenty of time to get in nine innings—or maybe 11, as the first two games of the series managed to reach. After that oops moment, a late start is not going to happen as the rain does finally begin to fall. The Giants now have to return to Detroit on July 24 on what was to be a scheduled day off, on their way back from a 10-game road trip in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Washington. 

Monday, April 17

What’s wrong with Jacob deGrom now? The high-priced Texas Rangers ace, who’s become as fragile as fine china, exits after four no-hit innings at Houston with a sore right wrist in what’s considered a “precautionary” move. His replacement on the mound, Dale Dunning, pitches almost just as well—allowing a hit over four shutout innings of his own in a 4-0 win over the Astros. 

Two other big-name pitchers also leave their starts due to injury. In Milwaukee’s 7-3 win at Seattle, the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes departs midway through the sixth inning with a left pec strain, and Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene is done after three shutout innings shortly after being struck in the leg from a comebacker by Tampa Bay’s Yandy Diaz in the Reds’ 8-1 win. Both will not miss any time. 

The question these days seems not so much to be “Who’s hurt” but, rather, “Who isn’t hurt?” We looked it up: There are currently over 200 players on all 40-man MLB team rosters who are on the injured list. And that doesn’t count the myriad of players listed as day-to-day. Maybe it’s us, but it just didn’t seem that so many players used to be on the shelf at one time. Has the game become too tough? Are the players’ muscles too tight? Has their conditioning gone haywire? We mean, what’s going on here, folks? 

Shohei Ohtani lasts only two innings in his latest start for the Angels, but his short start has nothing to do with injury and everything to do with bad weather, as a rain delay of 142 minutes forces him out of a game eventually won at Boston over the Red Sox, 5-4, in the annual late-morning Patriots’ Day game at Fenway Park. Because of the rain, Ohtani sees an end to a streak of seven straight starts in which he pitched at least five innings while giving up three or fewer hits—one short of the modern record held by, yes, Jacob deGrom. 

Four starts seem to be enough to convince the Twins to consider pitcher Pablo Lopez a keeper. The 27-year-old right-hander, traded from Miami for Luis Arraez this past offseason, is close to finalizing a four-year, $73 million extension to stay in Minnesota. Originally eligible for free agency after 2024, Lopez is 1-1 in his four outings for Minnesota, but has a 1.73 ERA and an MLB-leading 33 strikeouts. 

Tuesday, April 18

Clayton Kershaw picks up his 200th career win, tossing seven shutout innings allowing three hits and no walks with nine strikeouts, as the Dodgers ease to a 5-0 home win over the Mets. J.D. Martinez contributes offensively with four hits including a pair of homers, knocking in four of the Dodgers’ five runs. The milestone win gives Kershaw a lifetime ledger of 200-88; only two other pitchers—Al Goodwill Spalding (251-65) and Bob Caruthers (218-99)—have career marks of 200-plus wins and less than 100 losses. 

In the second game of a bad weather-created doubleheader at Chicago, the White Sox’ Lucas Giolito throws six no-hit innings against the Phillies but is denied a chance to go further because he’s thrown 102 pitches. Three relievers have Giolito’s back, allowing just one hit the rest of the way to complete a 3-0 shutout win to earn a split, after the Phillies win the first game, 7-4. Philadelphia second baseman Bryson Stott goes hitless in four at-bats in the nightcap, ending a team-record 17-game hitting streak to begin the season. 

Taj Bradley becomes the first pitcher in AL history to grab a win and at least eight strikeouts in each of his first two career starts, proving that teams are still scrambling to find the book on him—or that the right-hander who just turned 22 is simply legit. The Los Angeles native allows three hits and strikes out nine over 5.1 innings to improve to 2-0 as the Rays romp over the Reds at Cincinnati, 10-0. Backing Bradley at the plate is Taylor Walls, who has two homers and a triple among four hits. 

There is good news on the day for the Reds, as they lock in highly-touted flamethrower Hunter Greene to a six-year, $53 million extension. The deal buys out Greene’s first two years of free agency and perhaps a third, should the Reds activate a team option for a seventh year worth $21 million. In four starts this season, the 23-year-old Greene has yet to get a decision, producing a 4.24 ERA through 17 innings with 24 strikeouts. 

Wednesday, April 19

With his latest wish that’s bound to be a non-starter, commissioner Rob Manfred tells a sports conference in Los Angeles that MLB owners want to put a cap on contract length. “Obviously players love it, it gives them financial security for a very long period of time,” Manfred said. “The difficulty — and I think players will come to appreciate this as time goes by—those contracts result in a transfer from the current stars to yesterday’s stars. At some point, that has to be true. And I think it is an issue that is important for us to stay focused on, because it creates inflexibility that affects the quality of the teams that you put on the field.” Union head Tony Clark quickly bashes the idea, telling The Athletic that the length limit is “just one more in a series of statements attacking fundamental aspects of baseball’s free market system” and that “anyone who believes that players would ever endorse an assault by management on guaranteed contracts is badly mistaken.” 

We’re guessing that after dreaming up the gift runner in extra innings and giving serious thought to a mercy rule, Manfred feels confident that he can just blurt out anything he desires and see what kind of legs it gets. But if he and the owners want to aggressively pursue a length limit on contracts, a future work stoppage is certain. 

Mets ace Max Scherzer is ejected after three innings of shutout work against the Dodgers at Los Angeles when umpires led by Phil Cuzzi aren’t satisfied with his explanation for why his hand and glove is so sticky. Scherzer vehemently argues with the umps, saying he had washed his hands in “front of an MLB official” between innings and that the stickiness is due to rosin, rubbing alcohol and sweat. After the game—won by the Mets, 5-3—Scherzer tells reporters that he would “have been an idiot” to try and cheat when he had been intensely scrutinized in the previous inning. Regardless, his ejection will be accommodated with an automatic 10-game suspension. 

There have been three ejections of pitchers over illegal substances since enforcement began two years ago. All three ejections have been made by Cuzzi. 

Are the Pirates for real? After back-to-back 100-loss seasons—and a 19-41 record before that, in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign—the Bucs continue to play well above their heads, finishing off a three-game sweep of the woeful Rockies (eight straight losses), 14-3. It’s Pittsburgh’s second road sweep of the season—matching its total for all of 2022; Johan Oviedo’s six solid innings gives the Pirates nine straight games in which their starting pitcher has produced a quality start, their longest such streak since 2015; and for the series, the Pirates outscore the Rockies, 33-9. 

Thursday, April 20

The tipping point appears to have been reached in the Oakland A’s desire to move to Las Vegas. The team announces that it has a binding agreement to buy 49 acres of land near Allegiant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Raiders—who also relocated from Oakland—and will work with local business and political leaders to consummate a $1.5 billion budget to build a ballpark with a retractable roof for the transplanted A’s. The hope is to break ground next year and begin play in 2027. Upon hearing the news, the City of Oakland and its frustrated mayor Sheng Thao publicly throw up their hands and throw in the towel on efforts to build a waterfront ballpark for the A’s. “The A’s have not been a good partner,” Thao says at a press conference. “(The Vegas ballpark) announcement happened mid-negotiation, and it shows they have no interest in making a deal with Oakland at all.” She also states that the City will cease negotiations with the A’s, something she reiterates to A’s owner John Fisher in a phone call between the two. The Vegas land deal stuns Oakland, because officials there were working closer to a final deal with the A’s for the waterfront ballpark. And while nothing has been finalized or approved with either Las Vegas of MLB, the A’s announcement will certainly cripple—or outright terminate, as Thao states—momentum toward an Oakland ballpark to replace the rotting Coliseum

The A’s appear to have gone past the point of no return, though they still could be using Vegas as leverage for a new Oakland ballpark. If anything, Thao may be using her declaration of ceased negotiations as her own form of leverage. The team certainly hasn’t been making friends with its dwindling fan base, with sharply increased season ticket prices and elimination of roster talent that has resulted in a 63-118 record and embarrassing attendance since the start of 2022. With this move, crowds could shrink even smaller at the Coliseum. This is basically the plot of Major League played out in real life—except in this version, the villainous owner may get away with it.

After an awful start that’s resulted in a 10.26 ERA and 0-3 record in four starts, Madison Bumgarner is designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks. It hasn’t been the best of tenures for Bumgarner; in fact, his 5.23 ERA over three-plus years in Arizona is the worst in franchise history for pitchers with a minimum total of 162 innings. The DBacks still owe Bumgarner $34 million for the remainder of his contract.

Fernando Tatis Jr. returns to the Padres’ lineup after serving his 80-game PED suspension, going hitless in five at-bats in a 7-5 win at Arizona. In a warm-up stint, Tatis had torn apart the Pacific Coast League as a member of the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate at El Paso, batting .515 (17-for-33) with seven homers and 15 RBIs. 

Friday, April 21

The Cubs’ Drew Smyly is six outs from a perfect game, and it looks he’ll narrow that down to five outs as the Dodgers’ David Peralta leads off the eighth with a dribbler down the third base line. But as Smyly reaches down to pick up the ball, catcher Yan Gomes bumps into and tumbles over him, knocking Smyly to the ground and making him unable to complete the play and ruining the perfecto. It will be the only baserunner allowed by Smyly on the day, as he gets two more outs before being removed in what otherwise is an easy 13-0 victory for the Cubs in Chicago. 

Smyly is one of five pitchers on the day who logs at least five shutout innings; two of those other four, the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani in a 2-0 home win over Kansas City, and the Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen in a 9-0 home victory over San Diego, each allow two or fewer hits and strike out at least 10. The gems by Smyly, Ohtani and Gallen represent the first time in modern big-league history that has happened thrice on the same day. 

Baltimore’s Tyler Wells is also on the list of those tossing seven scoreless innings, helping to run up a streak of 34 straight zeroes by Orioles pitchers—the longest streak seen in the majors since the 1995 Orioles put up 45 consecutive scoreless frames. That string ends in the ninth when the visiting Tigers tie the game against closer Felix Bautista, but the Orioles bail him out when Adam Frazier knocks out a grounder that scores Ryan Mountcastle from third to win the game in walk-off fashion, 2-1. 

The Mets’ Pete Alonso becomes the first major leaguer to punch out 10 home runs on the year, and in the process sets the franchise mark for the fewest games (21) needed to reach double figures as New York takes an easy 7-0 win at San Francisco. Seldom-seen Joey Lucchesi is the fifth pitcher with seven scoreless frames, scattering four hits and two walks with nine strikeouts. 

Saturday, April 22

Tampa Ray is not done streaking. Randy Arozarena’s RBI single in the bottom of the 10th gives the Rays a 4-3 victory over the White Sox, extending their unbeaten record at home to 12-0—tying the 1911 Tigers for the longest such start to begin a season in AL history. Arozarena’s home run in the first, one of his three hits on the night, is the 21st straight game in which the Rays have homered to begin the season—breaking the all-time mark set by the 2019 Mariners. On the mound, Tampa starter Shane McClanahan goes six innings and strikes out 10 batters—but more impressively, 32 of his 88 pitches are swung on and missed by Chicago batters. That’s the most registered by a pitcher totaling 90 or fewer pitches since 2008

Texas outfielder Adolis Garcia has a day for the ages, smashing three home runs, adding two doubles and knocking in eight runs as the Rangers toy with the visiting A’s, 18-3. The 30-year-old Cuban ties all-time Rangers marks in runs (five) and extra-base-hits (five); he could have tied Ivan Rodriguez’s 1999 RBI record with nine on his fifth hit and second double, but Travis Jankowski—trying not to rub it in on the A’s as they’re employing infielder Jace Peterson to pitch the eighth—jogs his way to third base rather than hustle home, which he easily could have done with his speed. 

Garcia is the 14th major leaguer to have five extra-base hits in a game, the first Ranger with a hat trick of homers since 2018, and his eight RBIs catapult him to the top of the leaderboard with 28—easily the most by a Texas player in the first 20 games of any Rangers season. 

The Pirates celebrate a contract extension given to manager Derek Shelton by taking their sixth straight victory, a 2-1 home victory over the Reds. While one streak continues with the win, another ends for the Bucs; starting pitcher Rich Hill is pulled after five solid innings and 96 pitches, ending a run of 11 straight games in which a Bucs starter had recorded a quality start (six-plus innings, three or fewer earned runs allowed). That’s their longest streak since 2015

The Pirates’ 15-7 start is their best since 1992, when they got to within one game of the World Series; while they’ve particularly feasted on weak teams during a 6-0 week (three wins each against the Reds and Rockies), that’s what good teams are supposed to do. 

Sunday, April 23

Heading into the eighth inning trailing by a run at Milwaukee, the Red Sox—and more specifically, Masataka Yoshida—power up and spank the Brewers for nine runs on their way to a 12-5 rout. Yoshida’s solo home run follows a Justin Turner shot to give Boston the lead; he returns to the plate later in the inning with the bases loaded and delivers a grand slam to cap the big rally. The 29-year-old Yoshida, playing in his first season stateside after seven years in Japan, is technically the fourth “rookie” to hit two homers in an inning, and the first since Joe Pepitone in 1962

The Angels get back-to-back-to-back homers from Taylor Ward, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the sixth to overcome a narrow deficit to the visiting Royals, keeping the lead to the end in a 4-3 decision. It’s the first time since 2019 that the Angels have hit three consecutive homers. The Royals drop to 5-17, MLB’s second worst record after the A’s (4-18), who lose again at Texas, 5-2. 

Monday, April 24

The Rays continue to make history virtually with every game. In an 8-3 win over the visiting Astros—handicapped with the absence of slugger Yordan Alvarez, sent back to Houston with neck issues—the Rays extend their unbeaten record at home to 14-0. That officially sets a modern major league mark; it had originally been thought that the 1907 New York Giants had won their first 15 games at home, but it turns out that the Giants’ home opener that season was actually a forfeited loss, which wasn’t previously acknowledged. Before 1900, the all-time mark for the longest undefeated start to a season at home belongs to the 1880 Chicago White Stockings, who won their first 21 home games. (In an 86-game season, the White Stockings finished 37-5 at home.) 

While one streak continues, another ends. Despite racking up 14 hits, the Rays do not count a home run among them—ending their record-breaking run of 22 straight games to start the year with at least one round-tripper in each.  They do knock out four doubles and a triple. 

The Giants’ Alex Cobb throws the season’s third shutout, blanking the visiting Cardinals on six hits, a walk and 109 pitches. It’s Cobb’s fifth career complete game and his second shutout; his other came way back in 2012 while pitching for the Rays. 

While Spencer Strider doesn’t go the distance for the Braves in a 11-0 home rout over Miami, his performance is almost as impressive—in some facets, more so—as Cobb’s. The second-year fireballer takes a no-hitter one out into the eighth when Jean Segura breaks it up with a single; Strider will allow one more hit and strike out 13, with no walks, before being removed with eight shutout innings. Strider has struck out at least nine batters in nine straight starts; the major league record is held by Nolan Ryan, with 11 consecutive such starts. 

Commissioner Rob Manfred chimes in on the recent announcement that the A’s are all but on the way to Las Vegas, telling the Associated Press that “I feel sorry for the fans in Oakland. I really do.” He adds: “(But) for the city of Oakland to point fingers at (A’s owner) John Fisher, it’s not fair. We have shown an unbelievable commitment to the fans in Oakland by exhausting every possible opportunity to try and get something done in Oakland. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t seem to have the will to get it done.”

Manfred’s words of disappointment toward Oakland officials will certainly lead to eyerolls from the city’s point of view, as it has labored hard to get a waterfront ballpark built as the key beacon of a much larger redevelopment project. City officials had made it clear that the two sides were closing in on an agreement for that project, just before the A’s were ready to pull the rug out from under their feet with the binding purchase of the Vegas property. 

Tuesday, April 25

So much for all the rumors of Bryan Reynolds being an imminent trade chip at Pittsburgh. The star Pirates outfielder has agreed to an eight-year, $106.75 million extension, going well beyond his free agent eligibility that was set to take place after the 2025 season. It’s the first nine-figure contract ever doled out by the Pirates, leaving only three MLB ballclubs—the A’s, Royals and White Sox—as those who have still yet to contract a player for that much money. Reynolds is off to a typically good start, batting .294 with five home runs and 18 RBIs; over four-plus seasons, he’s batting .282 with 79 home runs and an .844 OPS. 

For the first time since 2001, the Twins are assured of a season series victory over the Yankees. Joe Ryan throws seven sharp innings to improve to 5-0 on the year, and Byron Buxton and Trevor Larnach each belt two-run homers to outpace the Yankees at Minnesota, 6-2. It’s the Twins’ fourth win in six tries against New York this season, with one left to play between the two teams in 2023. 

The Yankees’ 22-year dominance over the Twins is far from the longest in MLB history; for that, see Yankees vs. A’s, 1931-70—yes, 40 straight years in which New York won more than it lost against the A’s, whether they were in Philadelphia, Kansas City or Oakland. 

A day after setting the record for the most home wins (14) without a loss to begin a season, the Rays rest—thanks to the Astros and pitcher Luis Garcia, who fires six shutout innings in a 5-0 win at St. Petersburg. All five Houston runs score in the fifth off Tampa Bay starter Dennis Rasmussen

Attendance at Tropicana Field: 9,916. Maybe the Rays should look into moving to Vegas, too. 

Wednesday, April 26

The Mariners aren’t getting positive returns on Robbie Ray, who they signed for five years and $115 million after he won the 2021 AL Cy Young Award. He was a middling 12-12 with a 3.71 ERA in 2022, gave up five runs and three homers in 3.2 postseason innings last October, and after one poor start to 2023 will undergo elbow surgery and miss the rest of the year. Ray got injured on a cold night in Seattle on March 31, giving up five runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks over 3.1 innings. 

Nick Senzel’s two-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth not only gives Cincinnati a 5-3 victory and three-game series sweep of the visiting Rangers, but it also ends a streak of 79 straight innings without a Reds home run—their longest such streak since 1991. Interestingly, most of those innings took place at Great American Ball Park, the Reds’ home yard that’s traditionally been one of the majors’ better home run parks. 

After 13 years and 1,155 games in the minors with six different organizations, Drew Maggi finally makes his major league debut as he bats late in the Pirates’ 8-1 home win over the Dodgers. Maggi strikes out, with the help of home plate umpire Jeff Nelson—who gives him an extra strike after a pitch clock violation. The 33-year-old Maggi will get his first start a day later and go hitless in three at-bats against the Dodgers; two days later, as a late-inning fill-in during the second game of a doubleheader at Washington, he’ll knock out his first two major league hits including a double. 

In a somewhat surprising move, the Cardinals send rookie Jordan Walker—who had a hit in each of his first 12 games to start the year—to their Triple-A affiliate in Memphis. Though the 20-year-old outfielder has cooled since that hot start, he’s still batting .273 with two homers and 11 RBIs through 20 games at St. Louis—but the St. Louis outfield is crowded and the struggling Redbirds need help on the rest of the depth chart, so Walker serves as the odd man out for the time being. 

Thursday, April 27

Dick Groat, a five-time All-Star shortstop, two-time World Series winner and 1960 NL MVP for the Pirates, has passed away at the age of 92. Part of Branch Rickey’s rebuilding program at Pittsburgh during the 1950s, Groat—born in suburban Wilkinsburg—was one of many members of that movement who took time to gel with one another. But once they did, it resulted in a memorable 1960 world title in seven games over the almighty Yankees. Traded to the Cardinals in 1963 after the Pirates said they couldn’t win another pennant with him, Groat responded with his best overall year—batting .319 with an MLB-leading 43 doubles, 11 triples, six homers and 73 RBIs; Sandy Koufax was all that stood in the way of Groat winning a second MVP. A year later, Groat was instrumental in helping the Cardinals to a seven-game triumph of their own over the Yankees at the World Series. Over a 14-year career, Groat batted .286 with 2,138 hits; a good contact hitter, he only struck out 50 or more times in three separate seasons. 

The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani improves to 4-0 despite an iffy effort on the mound, allowing five runs on three hits and two walks through six innings against the visiting A’s in an 8-7 win. But it’s his hitting performance that people are talking about; he singles in the first, doubles in the third, triples in the sixth and, in the eighth, looks to have the cycle wrapped up—but his deep fly to right-center is caught at the top of the wall. Ohtani would have become the first major leaguer to hit for the cycle while also being the starting pitcher. He’ll have to wait for another day—but the way he continues to impress, that day may yet still come. 

After trailing all day at New York to the Mets, the Nationals take an 8-7 lead in the eighth thanks to a grand slam from Cal Abrams—his first for Washington at the age of 22 years and 206 days. The day had begun with Ryan Zimmerman being the youngest Expos/Nationals player to hit a slam—also at the age of 22 years and 206 days. Alas for Abrams and the Nationals, the lead won’t last as the Mets rally for a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth and hold on to win, 9-8. 

Friday, April 28

A spotlighted game between the Rangers and Yankees at Arlington is noted for injury concerns to each team’s star player. Jacob deGrom gets the call on the mound for Texas, but once again sees his evening come to a premature end as he departs in the fourth inning—this time due to forearm tightness; he’ll go on the 15-day injury list. As usual, he had been pitching well—allowing a hit and a walk through 3.2 scoreless innings. His replacement, Dane Dunning, gets credit for the 5-2 Rangers’ win. 

Out for the Yankees is Aaron Judge, whose only activity on the day is to get an MRI to check on a sore right hip sustained a few days earlier in Minnesota. It will be revealed as a mild hip strain that should not lead to an extended stay on the IL, if any at all. 

In their first get-together since last year’s World Series, the Phillies defeat the Astros at Houston, 3-1, in an honest-to-goodness pitching duel between winning pitcher Aaron Nola, who throws eight excellent innings, and Framber Valdez, who goes seven and is tagged with an unfortunate loss. The Houston defeat is also the end of Mauricio Dubon’s 20-game hit streak, the longest so far this season in the majors; the fill-in second baseman for the injured Jose Altuve goes hitless in four at-bats, but is still batting a team-leading .315. 

Saturday, April 29

Hey Coors Field, you’ve met your match. At Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú, the first MLB game played in Mexico City contains an orgy of power as the Padres outlast the “visiting” Giants, 16-11, before a sellout crowd of 21,000. The game features 11 home runs, six by the Padres; eight of the big flies come via four sets of back-to-back homers, the most ever in a major league game. Additionally, nine of the four-baggers are 434 feet or longer, with five of those from the Giants; only twice during the Statcast Era (since 2015) has a team previously hit four homers of that length or longer in a game—and both times, it was the Rockies at Coors Field. 

The Padres’ Xander Bogaerts, going deep in the fourth inning, is the first player to hit an MLB regular season home run in four different countries: The U.S., Canada, England and now Mexico. Another San Diego homer from 42-year-old Nelson Cruz, an inning earlier, is part of a five-hit game; only Pete Rose, in 1986 at age 45, collected five hits at an older age. 

Two pitchers take no-hitters into the seventh innings—and not only do their bids for fame falter in that frame, but their teams go on to lose as well. According to STATS, that hasn’t happened twice in a day since 1883. 

At Toronto, the Mariners’ Easton McGee—making his second MLB appearance and first-ever start—has a no-no going before Matt Chapman breaks it up with a double two outs into the seventh. With that hit, the 25-year-old McGee is promptly removed despite having thrown just 64 pitches. A 0-0 game stays that way until the 10th and the introduction of the dreaded gift runner at second base; the Blue Jays take advantage of both that and ineffective Seattle reliever Trevor Gott to notch a 1-0 win. In defeat, the Mariners strike out 19 times in 35 at-bats. 

At Chicago, the White Sox’ Lance Lynn throws six hitless innings against Tampa Bay before being greeted with a leadoff homer in the seventh from Wander Franco. That’s just the beginning of a big-time inning for the Rays, who knock Lynn out and pummel the two relievers who follow to rack up 10 runs on their way to a 12-3 victory. 

The A’s are an out way from their first daytime victory of 2023, but the opposing Reds have the bases loaded—and Jake Fraley delivers with a two-run double to give Cincinnati a 3-2 lead that will end up as the final score. Oakland is 0-13 in day games this year, matching the 1904 Washington Senators and 1920 Tigers for the worst such start to a regular season. 

They’ll win on a walk-off hit the next day to end the record-tying slide. 

The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw allows just two singles through seven shutout innings at Los Angeles, walking none and striking out nine in a 1-0 victory over the Cardinals. It’s the 42nd time that Kershaw has struck out at least nine batters with no walks, breaking a record previously held by Randy Johnson

Sunday, April 30

Nobody sees this one coming: The Rays, the majors’ best team, have a 9-5 lead over the White Sox—losers of 10 straight games—heading to the bottom of the ninth. Easy wrap-up? Nope. Instead, the Sox break out with a seven-spot—with the final three runs delivered on Andrew Vaughn’s three-run homer to walk off a stunning 12-9 victory. It ends Chicago’s longest slide in 10 years. 

A day after MLB’s first-ever regular season game in Mexico City resulted in a near-record home run derby and a final score of 16-11, oddsmakers sense that the second and final game of the series played at 7,300 feet above sea level will be no different—setting the over/under at an incredible 20.5. But the final score will be half that, as the Padres come from behind to defeat the Giants by a far more ordinary score of 6-4. The Padres rally for their final three tallies in the eighth without the benefit of a long ball; in fact, they hit just one all day after clubbing six the day before. 

For the record, the high mark for the over/under at an actual MLB ballpark is 14.5 for a 2010 game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, as gusting winds flowing straight out to center field likely accounted for that high guestimate. An even higher over/under (16.5) was set for the second game of a 2019 series in London between the Red Sox and Yankees, after the first game ended in a 17-13 New York victory with six total homers. Those picking the over on that day got their money; the Yankees won, 12-8. 

Mike Shannon, one of the most beloved people in Cardinals history, passes at the age of 83. Outside of a half-season spent in the Red Sox’ minor league system, the tall, skillfully sound third baseman/outfielder spent practically his whole life as a Cardinal—first as a player for nine seasons, followed briefly by a front-office stint and finally, for 50 years, as part of the Cardinals’ broadcast team. Shannon put up decent numbers in his playing days, batting .255 while averaging roughly 15 homers and 70 RBIs per year as a regular; he participated in all three of the Cardinals’ World Series during the 1960s, hitting a home run in each. Beginning his long tenure as a play-by-play man in 1972, Shannon partnered with both Jack Buck and, later, his son Joe Buck; a shameless homer, Shannon appealed to Cardinals fans listening both near and far throughout the Midwest.

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