The Month That Was in Baseball: August 2019
Home Runs, Non-Stop • What’s Bugging You, Justin Verlander?
The “Player’s Weekend,” in Black and White • Stop This “Mercy Rule” Talk
Thursday, August 1
The Toronto Blue Jays blast away against the Orioles, which comes as no surprise given that almost everyone else has been doing the same to Baltimore all season. Igniting the Jays’ 11-2 charge at Camden Yards is rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who collects two home runs, a double and four RBIs; he now has 16 RBIs over his last five games. The Orioles, meanwhile, extend their long ago-set record for futility by allowing five or more homers for the 14th time this year; the previous record was nine.
The Chicago Cubs are hoping that recently acquired Nick Castellanos can save their season—but tonight at St. Louis, he can only save them from embarrassment. In an 8-0 loss, the ex-Detroit star hitter manages the team’s only hit—a sixth-inning single off of the Cardinals’ Jack Flaherty, who pitches seven shutout frames, and accrues one of two walks given up by St. Louis pitching.
Rookie catcher Will Smith belts a grand slam to give him 19 RBIs over his first 14 career games, and Clayton Kershaw strikes out six to surpass Sandy Koufax as the Dodgers’ all-time strikeout leader among lefties as Los Angeles takes an 8-2 home win over San Diego. With 2,397 lifetime K’s, Kershaw needs 300 more to reach the #1 spot among all Dodgers pitchers, currently held by Don Sutton.
Friday, August 2
With Philadelphia closer Hector Neris serving a three-game suspension, the Phillies blow a 3-2 lead in the ninth to the visiting Chicago White Sox, sending the game into overtime—and then it gets weird. Out of both bench players and relievers in the 14th, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler puts starting pitcher Vince Velasquez in left field and center fielder Ramon Quinn—who earlier had homered and stole two bases—on the mound. Quinn gets out of a jam in the 14th when Jose Abreu is thrown out at home—on a 94-MPH throw from Velasquez—but he can’t escape another in the 15th when the White Sox finally nail down the ultimate winner as Leurys Garcia barely beats another Velasquez throw home to give Chicago a 4-3 triumph.
Velasquez is the first pitcher since the St. Louis Browns’ Ned Garver in 1950 to throw out a runner from the outfield.
The Houston Astros muscle up on Seattle, bashing a Minute Maid Park-record-tying six homers in a 10-2 thumping of the Mariners. Each of the bottom five Astros in the order go deep, including Martin Maldonado—playing his second game with his third team of the year.
Saturday, August 3
The Astros give the ball to Aaron Sanchez, who’s lost his previous 13 decisions for the Blue Jays before being traded to Houston—and responds to his new environs with six no-hit innings against Seattle before being pulled after 92 pitches. Following his departure, three Astros relievers—including Dan Biagini, traded with Sanchez from Toronto—each pitch a scoreless inning and finish off a combined 9-0 no-hitter. It’s the second no-no involving multiple pitchers this season—and the victims in both games have been the Mariners.
The excitement of the combined no-no may have been too much for Houston pitching coach Brent Strom—who is rushed to the hospital after the game to undergo emergency gastrointestinal surgery.
The Twins’ Nelson Cruz is obviously making up for lost time. After hitting three home runs for the first time in his career just 10 days earlier, the 39-year-old slugger does it again—driving in five as Minnesota rampages to an 11-3 home win over Kansas City. Cruz becomes the oldest player to have multiple hat tricks in one season; in 21 days since the All-Star Break, he’s 25-for-72 (.347) with 14 home runs and 26 RBIs.
Only two players have hit three homers in a game twice in a shorter time span: Johnny Mize (eight days) in 1938, and Doug DeCinces (six days) in 1982.
Over the first 115 years of Washington Senators/Twins baseball, there were six games in which one of their players hit three homers. In the three-plus years since, there have been eight.
The defending world champions are officially in trouble. The Boston Red Sox drop a doubleheader at New York against the Yankees by scores of 9-2 and 6-4 to extend their current losing skid to seven; they’re 5.5 games behind Tampa Bay, who currently holds the second AL wild card spot. Boston loses more than just the first game, losing its cool as well when Chris Sale implodes following a borderline non-strike call that would have gotten him out of the fourth inning—but it instead becomes a seven-run rally for the Yankees. The meltdown leads to both Sale and manager Alex Cora getting ejected.
Sale is 0-4 with a 9.90 ERA against the Yankees this season.
The Yankees’ sweep does not come without cost; they lose slugger Edwin Encarnacion (on pace for over 40 homers) to a broken wrist that will cost him at least a month of play, while outfielder Aaron Hicks leaves the second game and will also be admitted to the injury list after a throw to the infield leaves him in pain.
The Dodgers’ Walker Buehler dazzles again, striking out 15 while walking none in a complete-game, 4-1 victory over the visiting Padres. This is the second time this season that Buehler has struck out that many batters without a walk; only Pedro Martinez (in 1999 and 2000) and Dwight Gooden (in 1984) have done the same.
The Arizona Diamondbacks soar to an 18-7 rout of the visiting Washington Nationals behind Eduardo Escobar’s two home runs and career-high seven RBIs. Washington ace Stephen Strasburg also hits the “top performances” section of his Retrosheet.org ledger in a bad way; his nine runs allowed (in 4.2 innings) ties a career high.
Sunday, August 4
It’s a four-game sweep for the Yankees against the reeling Red Sox at New York, as they bulk up on seven early runs off David Price to secure a 7-4 victory. But yet again, the Yankees do not prevail without pain; infielder Gleyber Torres is sent to the hospital with a “core issue” developed during the game and is day-to-day.
Price, like Chris Sale before him, continues to struggle against the Yankees—especially at Yankee Stadium. In eight career Boston starts at the Yankees’ home, Price is 1-7 with a 9.61 ERA.
While the Red Sox flounder, the Tampa Bay Rays strengthen their second-place standing in the AL East—and more importantly, remain a hair ahead of Oakland for the second AL wild card spot—with a 7-2 home win over Miami. Jesus Aguilar hits his first homer for the Rays in his third game since being traded from Milwaukee. It’s the sixth straight win for Tampa Bay, sweeping the four-game season series from the cross-state Marlins.
Shane Bieber—don’t call him “Justin,” Topps—helps wrap up a three-game sweep of the visiting Los Angeles Angels by going the distance for the third time this season (leading all major leaguers) in a 6-2 Cleveland win. The 24-year-old right-hander scatters five hits and walks none on 107 pitches.
Max Muncy’s two-run double—his fourth hit of the day—in the bottom of the ninth sends the Dodgers home as winners in an 11-10 slugfest at Los Angeles over the Padres. This is the first time both teams have scored 10-plus runs in the same game at Dodger Stadium since September 18, 2006—when the Dodgers hit four straight home runs to tie the game in the ninth before winning it in the 10th on another against the Padres. In that same timespan, there have been 25 “Coors Field Specials” in Denver—games with both teams reaching double digits in runs.
Monday, August 5
Jonathan Villar becomes the ninth player in Orioles franchise history to hit for the cycle—but because they’re the Orioles it’s not enough, even against a virtual Yankees B-team that clouts five home runs—the last two in a tie-breaking eighth-inning rally—to win 9-6 at Baltimore. New York sets a major league record for the most homers hit an opposing ballpark within a single season, as their 32 thus far at Oriole Park at Camden Yards; the old mark was 29 by the 1957 Milwaukee Braves at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field.
Less than two weeks after breaking a major league mark by hitting at least two homers in 10 consecutive games, the Orioles have now gone 10 straight games allowing at least two homers in each—setting another record.
The rumors of the Mets’ demise may be premature—the key word here being “may.” With a doubleheader sweep of the Marlins at New York by scores of 6-2 and 5-4, the Mets have now won 11 of 12 games and are above .500 for the first time since May 2. The sweep is secured in the second game when the Mets poke three solo homers in the eighth inning, the last on rookie Pete Alonso’s 35th clout of the season.
In the first game, Jeff McNeil homers and later singles to give him 200 career hits in 599 at-bats. He’s the fifth player in the last 45 years to achieve that milestone in less than 600 at-bats.
Toronto ends Tampa Bay’s six-game win streak thanks to the efforts of yet another one of its rookie legacies. Bo Bichette, son of former major leaguer Dante Bichette, scores both of the Blue Jays’ runs in a 2-0 victory at St. Petersburg after reaching second on his first hit and later belting a solo homer in the third. Bichette has had a hit in each of his first eight games—tying a Toronto record.
The Red Sox finally break out their funk, ending an eight-game skid with a 7-5 victory at Boston over the Kansas City Royals. Two homers by the Red Sox (from Sam Travis and Rafael Devers) clinch the 18th straight game at Fenway Park in which a Red Sox player has gone deep—setting the club record previously held by the 1969 team.
Tuesday, August 6
O’s no, not again! A night after giving up five homers to the Yankees, the Orioles concede six more as New York piles up a 9-4 victory at Baltimore. The Yankees extend their total home run count on the Orioles this season to 47; 10 of New York’s 11 hits on the night go for extra bases.
This is the 14th straight win by the Yankees at Baltimore, the longest streak by a team at another ballpark since the Atlanta Braves won 14 straight at the Houston Astrodome from 1991-92.
When the Blue Jays and Rays get together, no lead is ever safe. A week after both teams won games against each other after trailing by six or more runs, the Rays erase an early 6-0 Toronto lead with six runs in the fourth—then win it in the 10th, 7-6, as Kevin Kiermaier scores on Buddy Boshers’ wild pitch. Despite the loss, the Blue Jays’ Bo Bichette breaks a team record for longest hitting streak (nine) to start a career, and sets an MLB record for the most extra-base hits (10) in a player’s first nine games.
Will the real Anibal Sanchez please stand up? The veteran pitcher, notorious for pitching through extended highs and lows through the past few years, earns his seventh straight win for the Nationals after losing his first six this season, allowing two runs (one earned) over six innings to give Washington a 5-3 victory at San Francisco. In his first eight appearances this season, Sanchez was 0-6 with a 5.27 ERA; since then, he’s 7-0 with a 2.76 figure.
Giants fans are saddened earlier in the day when it’s announced that popular second baseman Joe Panik is designated for assignment. Panik rescued the position during the Giants’ third championship season this decade and made an impact in the 2014 World Series against Kansas City, but his hitting and fielding skills have eroded. This still leaves the Giants with five players—Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford—who still remain from that 2014 team, to say nothing of the 2012 championship team.
After being no-hit twice within the past month, the Seattle Mariners give themselves a late wake-up call to avoid getting no-no’d again—and the visiting Padres nearly get their first such gem, ever. Dinelson Lamet, making his sixth start since Tommy John surgery, holds the Mariners hitless through six innings before allowing a couple knocks in the seventh; he’ll settle for his first win in two years as the Padres prevail, 9-4.
The Mariners are without infielder Tim Beckham, who is suspended 80 games for PED use after hitting .237 with 15 homers in 88 games this season. Beckham extends the curse of top Tampa Bay draft picks who’ve seen their careers detoured, a list that includes Josh Hamilton (drugs and alcohol abuse), B.J. Upton (discipline issues), Rocco Baldelli (stamina woes) and Josh Sale (prison time).
Wednesday, August 7
The Yankee Homer Picture Show finally comes to a nightmarish end for Orioles fans as the modern-day Bronx Bombers scare up yet five homers to romp, 14-2, in their last game played this year at Baltimore. New York now has gone deep 52 times against the Orioles, smashing the season record for a team against another opponent, previously held by the 1956 Yankees against the Kansas City Athletics (48)—and the Yankees still have four more games to play against Baltimore next week at New York. While the Yankees laugh it up rounding the bases, tensions are rising in the Baltimore dugout; at one point, underachieving slugger Chris Davis has to be kept from going after manager Brandon Hyde after Hyde apparently said something to him he didn’t like. (Neither will talk about it with the press after the game.)
This is the second time in major league history that a team has hit five or more home runs in three straight games; the Red Sox are the other, doing so against the Yankees at Boston in 1977.
Two more Yankees—reserves Gio Urshela and Kyle Higashioka—hit two homers each against Baltimore, raising the total of Yankees having multi-homer games against the Orioles this year to 11. That, too, sets a record, beating the 10 previously held by the Giants against the Dodgers in 1958.
The Yankees finish the year winning all 10 games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Their 43 homers against the Orioles at Baltimore is 14 more than the old record by a team at a visiting yard—and it’s four more than the Giants have hit all year at their own home field of Oracle Park.
The Braves outlast the Twins at Minnesota, 11-7, on the strength of four home runs—including back-to-back shots from Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman, setting a franchise record for most back-to-backs in a season with 12. The Twins lose despite turning their second triple play of the season; they last time they had multiple such feats in the same season came in 1990, when they pulled both in the same game at Boston (and lost).
The Astros rip apart the visiting Colorado Rockies, 14-3, on Yuli Gurriel’s franchise record-tying eight RBIs—all on just two hits. He hits a three-run homer in the first, a sac fly in the third, a bases-loaded double in the fourth and brings home his final run on a ground out in the sixth. Gerrit Cole wins his 10th straight decision, striking out 10 over six innings.
Thursday, August 8
Bo knows baseball…but the Yankees know winning. In Toronto, Blue Jays rookie Bo Bichette continues his fast start out of the gate, extending several records as previously mentioned but adding a new one by doubling in his ninth straight game—setting an all-time mark. The nine straight with any kind of extra-base hit also ties a rookie mark held by Ted Williams in 1939. But speaking of nine straight, the Yankees spoil Bichette’s evening with a 12-6 rout to make it nine wins in a row. New York hits three more home runs to total an MLB-record 19 over its last four games. Former Toronto prospect Gio Urshela enjoys his second straight multi-homer game for the Yankees, and now has 16 jacks on the year.
Domingo German improves to 15-2 with the win for New York; he co-leads the majors in victories despite a tepid 4.05 ERA. How? The Yankees are supporting him with an average of 7.3 runs per start.
Friday, August 9
The Mets, who a month earlier couldn’t do anything right if their life depended on it, suddenly can do no wrong. At New York, the Mets are trailing divisional rival Washington 6-3 going to the bottom of the ninth—but Todd Frazier’s three-run jack ties it up, and Michael Conforto’s deep-fly, outfielders-drawn-in single four batters later wins it, 7-6. It’s New York’s 14th win in their last 15 tries and brings it 1.5 games behind the second-place Nationals in the NL East—and a half-game out of the second wild card spot.
Until tonight, the Mets had not won a game this season when trailing after eight innings.
Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, who left the game after seven innings with the lead, strikes out six batters to surpass Steve Rogers as the all-time strikeout leader in Expos/Nationals history.
The Indians, who were 11.5 games out of first place on June 3, gain a share of the AL Central lead with the Twins as they take a 6-2 victory at Minnesota. Shane Bieber strikes out 11 over seven sharp innings while a five-run rally in the fifth propels the Tribe offensively. The Indians are 41-16 since June 3; the Twins are 30-28.
The Twins’ only two runs on the night come on solo home runs from Jason Castro and Eddie Rosario, giving the team 226 for the year—breaking the franchise season record of 225 set in 1963. This, with 46 games to still to play in 2019.
Two streaks end tonight in Toronto as the Blue Jays snap the Yankees’ nine-game run with an 8-2 victory. The Jays’ eight runs come on just six hits—none of them by Bo Bichette, who goes hitless for the first time in 12 career games at the major league level and, thus, ends his record nine-game streak with a double.
With four homers tonight, the Blue Jays have hit 38 in their last 14 games—matching an MLB record held by four other teams, including the Twins earlier this season.
Meanwhile, the Orioles don’t give up any home runs to the visiting Astros, ending a record 12-game streak in which they had allowed at least two. And yet, they still lose; Houston rallies for two runs in the first and hang on from there to edge Baltimore, 3-2.
Edwin Jackson, given new life with Detroit—one of his former 14 teams—gives up an inside-the-park homer to the first batter he faces (the Royals’ Whit Merrifield) in his first start back with the Tigers, but then doesn’t allow another run in a six-inning stint that earns a 5-2 home win over Kansas City. Jackson’s last win with the Tigers came on September 22, 2009.
Mike Fiers continues to be, well, on fire. The Oakland pitcher dials in seven shutout innings as the A’s ease to a 7-0 victory at Chicago over the White Sox. Starting with a no-hitter he threw on May 7, Fiers is 9-0 with a 2.12 ERA.
Saturday, August 10
The Astros pile on a franchise-record and MLB season-high 23 runs—and of course, it’s the poor old Orioles who absorb the brunt of the batting brutality in a 23-2 rout. Yordan Alvarez’s three home runs—the first hat trick by an Astro since Carlos Lee in 2007—represent half of Houston’s six on the day; his seven RBIs give him 51 for the year—the most by a rookie through his first 45 games, breaking Ted Williams’ old mark of 47 in 1939. The Astros also set franchise marks for margin of victory (21), total bases (50) and ties the team mark with 25 hits.
The Astros’ +63 run differential in their last eight games—all victories—is the highest since the 1939 Yankees won eight in a row with a +71.
In what is evolving into a staggering record, the Orioles have now allowed five or more homers in 18 games this season; again, the old record is nine.
Alvarez is not the only rookie making hat trick noise on the day. In Cincinnati, the Reds’ Artimides Aquino—playing in just his 10th major league game—belts solo home runs in his first three at-bats during a 10-1 thrashing of the Chicago Cubs. It’s the 25-year-old Aquino’s fourth straight game with a homer—tying Eric Davis’ team rookie mark from 1984—and with seven homers in his first 10 games ties the major league mark set by Trevor Story in 2016.
Only Bobby Estalella, in 1997, had a three-homer performance within his first 10 games of a career—doing it in his 10th game as well.
This is the first time in major league history that two rookies have gone deep three times on the same day.
The Angels end an eight-game losing streak with a 12-4 victory at Boston, fueled by Mike Trout’s first-ever home run at Fenway Park after 89 at-bats. Trout has homered in each of the 14 other active AL ballparks at least four times.
The never-say-die Mets come from behind once again against the visiting Nationals, this time saving their theatrics for the eighth inning. With New York trailing 3-2, pinch-hitter Luis Guillorme belts his first career homer to tie the game—and after that, Joe Panik, playing his second game for the Mets after being picked up from the Giants, reaches on an error and later scores the game-winner on a J.D. Davis sac fly. Fernando Rodney takes the loss for Washington; the 42-year-old reliever is now 0-5 with a 6.30 ERA split between two teams this season.
Sunday, August 11
The Rampaging Astros have ace Justin Verlander on the mound against the floundering Orioles, and nobody is giving Baltimore any chance to win—not even the sportsbooks, which have the Orioles as high as +420 underdogs. But anyone who puts $100 down on the Orioles ends up $320 richer, thanks to Rio Ruiz—whose three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth erases a brief Houston lead and wins the game at Baltimore, 8-7. According to ESPN, no team in the past 15 years has ever won a game with worse odds.
The Rays, who haven’t had a starting pitcher throw a complete game in their last 570 starts (an ongoing MLB record), have Ryan Yarbrough one out away from a three-hit shutout in Seattle on just 99 pitches…when he gets pulled by Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash in favor of reliever Emilio Pagan—who retires Omar Narvaez to complete a 1-0 victory. Tampa Bay has won seven straight games on the road, one shy of a franchise record.
San Francisco closer Will Smith is called on to get a five-out save in the eighth and can’t execute when the visiting Phillies immediately tie it up at 6-6—but after Kevin Pillar’s run-scoring triple gives the Giants the lead back in the bottom of the frame, Smith adds insurance with a two-run single in the first at-bat of his seven-year career to secure a 9-6 victory. The Giants win despite conceding 11 walks to the Phillies.
The Twins, hoping for a four-game split with divisional rival Cleveland, erase a 3-1 deficit in the ninth with a two-run rally to send the game into overtime. But the Indians grandly rebut in the 10th as Carlos Santana’s grand slam wins it at Minnesota, 7-3. The two teams finish the series tied at the top of the division with identical 71-47 records.
Monday, August 12
The Yankees take a pair from the Orioles at New York in the only way they know how—by continuously going deep on them. In 8-5 and 11-8 victories, the Yankees bomb away with seven more jacks—three of them off the bat of Gleyber Torres, who has hit half (13) of his 26 homers against the Orioles this year. That’s the most against one team in a season since Roger Maris dropped 13 on the White Sox in 1961; the major league record is 14 by Lou Gehrig against Cleveland in 1936.
The Orioles’ home run count against them is now up to 248—setting an AL record. They’re 10 short of tying the 2016 Reds for the most allowed by any team in history.
In the Reds’ 7-6 loss at Washington, rookie Aristides Aquino belts a two-run shot that’s his eighth in 12 career games; that’s the most by any major leaguer in his first dozen games.
A day after being shut out at home by the Yankees, the Blue Jays return to Rogers Centre and annihilate the Texas Rangers, 19-4. Toronto nabs a franchise-record 13 extra-base hits including nine doubles, while rookie Bo Bichette adds four more hits to his stellar early resume.
Tuesday, August 13
In Seattle’s 11-6 victory at Detroit, the Mariners’ Kyle Seager becomes the latest major leaguer to smack three homers—though his final blast comes with a little help from his opponents, as his deep drive to left center pops in and out of the glove (and over the fence) of the Tigers’ Niko Goodlum, distracted by onrushing teammate Brandon Dixon. It’s Seager’s first career hat trick, and only the second by a Mariner (Jose Lopez, 2010), since 2000.
The Red Sox squeak out a 7-6, 10-inning win at Cleveland thanks to a couple of record-related performances. Chris Sale strikes out 12 batters over 6.2 innings, including his 2,000th of his career in just 1,626 frames—beating Pedro Martinez (1,711.1) for the fewest frames to reach the milestone; and Rafael Devers becomes the first player ever to have six hits with four of those being doubles.
This will be Sale’s last start of the 2019 season; he will develop major elbow inflammation and be shelved, though he will not undergo Tommy John surgery as is heavily rumored.
The NL’s best team predictably hammers away at the worst as the Dodgers come to Miami and punish the Marlins, 15-1. In their rout, the Dodgers establish Marlins Park records for runs and home runs (six), and set a franchise mark for a nine-inning game with 13 extra-base hits—with only two singles added to the mix.
Ten days later, the Marlins will reset the ballpark mark for runs when they pile 19 upon the Phillies.
Wednesday, August 14
Albert Pujols has two singles in the Angels’ 7-4 home victory over Pittsburgh to give him 3,168 career hits—surpassing Adrian Beltre for #16 on the all-time career list and making him #1 among foreign-born players.
Even though the Angels’ Mike Trout goes hitless, he does steal a base after forging a walk and thus becomes the first American Leaguer ever to have 25+ homers and 10+ steals in each of his first eight seasons. Only three players—Willie Mays, Darryl Strawberry and Barry Bonds—have done it playing in the NL.
Another nightmarish Orioles season is far from over, but at least they’re done playing the Yankees. At New York, a four-run first fueled by Gary Sanchez’s home run gives the Yankees a 6-5 victory over Baltimore—their 16th straight against the Orioles. Overall, the Yankees finish the year 17-2 against the O’s with 61 home runs—easily the most by one team against another within a season. Sanchez’s blast is his 10th off of Baltimore pitching, joining Gleyber Torres as Yankees with double-digit homer totals against the Orioles; the only other two teammates to do that on one team for a season was Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig against the Red Sox for the fabled 1927 Yankees.
On the day former Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel is brought back as the team’s hitting coach at age 75, the Phillies squash the visiting Cubs 11-1 as every member of the starting lineup gets at least a hit. Leading the charge is Bryce Harper—who was said to be instrumental in bringing Manuel back—with two home runs among three hits.
The Cubs drop a game behind Washington for the #1 NL wild card spot as the Nationals pound the visiting Reds, 17-7. The Nationals bust open a tight game in the fifth with 10 runs, followed by six more an inning later.
Thursday, August 15
Down 5-0 after seven innings, the Phillies score one in the eighth off the Cubs—then explode for six in the ninth, capped by a walk-off grand slam from Bryce Harper to stun Chicago, 7-5. The Cubs’ loss denies starting pitcher Yu Darvish a shot at victory despite throwing seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks; in his last four starts, he’s struck out 36—and walked zero batters.
Two more ballparks see home run records set. At Yankee Stadium, the Indians clobber New York by a 19-5 count, hammering seven homers—the most by one team at the 10-year-old ballpark; Cleveland also becomes the first team to have each member of its starting lineup garner two hits since the Rangers trounced the Orioles in a record-setting 30-3 rout in 2007. Meanwhile, down in Atlanta, the Braves knock six homers over the fence for a SunTrust Park record, but even that’s not enough as the visiting Mets snare a 10-8 decision on the strength of 23 hits—five each by Amed Rosario and Pete Alonso, whose 39th homer ties the NL rookie season mark.
Yankees “opener” Chad Green sees an end to a 10-game streak in which his team had won when he started—one shy of the Yankee record still owned by Joe Cowley from 1984. Green lasts just a third of an inning, allowing five runs on four hits—including the first two of Cleveland’s seven homers.
Cody Bellinger, who for now co-owns the rookie season home run mark with Alonso, uncorks his 40th of 2019 to set a career high—but after two easy wins in Miami, the Dodgers fall to the Marlins, 13-7.
Matching Bellinger with his 40th homer of the year to co-lead the majors is Mike Trout, whose solo shot in the third is one of four hits on the night to lift the Angels to an 8-7 home win over the White Sox. Trout will his 41st the next day to tie a career high.
For the first time in major league history, two players from opposing sides each enjoy multiple-homer games as the Oakland A’s edge out the visiting Astros, 7-6. Carlos Correa and Michael Brantley each go deep twice for Houston; Matt Olson and Matt Chapman do the same for the A’s—with Chapman’s second blast unlocking a 6-6 tie in the eighth.
Overall on the day, there are nine players with multiple home runs—tying the major league record for the most in one day. Here’s the kicker: Ten teams had the day off.
Friday, August 16
Another day, another batch of home run records in what is clearly becoming a record month for round-trippers.
In Phoenix, San Francisco’s Mike Yastrzemski belts three homers, including the ultimate game-winner in the 11th, as the Giants repel the Diamondbacks, 10-9. There are 12 homers hit between the two teams—one short of the all-time mark set earlier in June between the Phillies and Dodgers—with each team hitting six, thus both tying the Chase Field record for most by one team in a game.
Yastrzemski’s hat trick is the third by a major league rookie in the past seven days. He’s played 70 career games at the big-league level; his grandfather, Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, had one hat trick himself—over a 3,308-game career.
In Atlanta, the Dodgers send four over the fence—including Cody Bellinger’s league-leading 41st, Max Muncy’s 30th and rookie Will Smith’s 10th in just his 25th game—to give the team 22 over its last five to set a major league record. It’s easily enough to beat Mike Soroka and the Braves, 8-3.
The Reds’ Aristides Aquino keeps his record pace going with his 10th homer in 16 career games—the fewest ever needed to reach 10, breaking the mark previously set by Rhys Hoskins (10 over 17 games in 2017). But the visiting Cardinals—who entered the night with a major league-low nine homers on the month—catch up with four jacks to crush the Reds, 13-4.
Minnesota’s Max Kepler, a native of Berlin, Germany, drills a two-run shot in the first inning of the Twins’ 4-3 win at Texas, giving him 33 for the season—the most by any major leaguer born in Europe.
Finally, there’s a pitching feat to report on. At Oakland, the Astros’ Justin Verlander strikes out 11 over seven solid innings to record his sixth straight start with at least 10 Ks—setting a Houston mark while becoming the oldest pitcher (at 36) to do it since 38-year-old Randy Johnson in 2002. But Verlander leaves the game with the score knotted at 2-2; the A’s will prevail in the 13th on a Robbie Grossman RBI single.
The Yankees, who are on pace for nearly 80 homers in July, do not go deep at home against the Indians—but they win a taut 3-2 battle for their 82nd victory of the year, ensuring their 27th straight winning record. That’s the second longest streak in major league history, behind the Yankees’ own 39-year run from 1926-64.
While chatting with reporters before the game, Yankees manager Aaron Boone—fresh off a 19-5 blowout loss to the Indians the day before—thinks that a mercy rule might actually be a good idea. “If you get to this point after seven innings or whatever, there may be something to (a mercy rule), some merit to that and worth exploring,” Boone states, “because it’s not fun to have to put in a position player in that kind of situation.” With his team badly behind, Boone preserved his bullpen by using designated hitter Mike Ford for the final two innings of the game.
Stop it, Aaron. First of all, you’re a professional, and so are your players. Play to the end. If you’re being blown out, don’t blame the system; it’s on you. You’re the manager. Manage it. Second, MLB teams will never submit to a mercy rule because ending a game early will financially hurt them in the concession stands (less time for fans to buy food, drinks and souvenirs), on the air (less ad revenue from radio and TV) and in the long run as fans sour on the prospect of shortened games because…we have no chance of coming back. News flash: You do get a chance, and it sometimes happens. Remember when the A’s broke the AL record for consecutive wins, edging Kansas City 12-11? Had there been a mercy rule, it would have ended at 11-0 before the Royals scored 11 straight to tie. Remember when the Indians were down 14-2 to the Mariners in 2001 on Sunday Night Baseball? Mercy rule applied, right? Wrong. The Indians came back and won with 13 unanswered ones in one of the most thrilling games, ever. Which leads us to our third reason not to apply the mercy rule: It’s embarrassing. It’s juvenile. And it’s wrong. Save the mercy for the little leaguers.
Saturday, August 17
After trailing at various points by scores of 5-0 and 8-5, the Nationals come back and have the visiting Brewers on the ropes in the ninth with an 11-8 lead in the ninth—but Washington reliever Sean Doolittle gives up four runs on three homers to give Milwaukee a 12-11 lead. The Nationals tie the game in the bottom of the frame, and the two teams trade a run in the 13th before the Brewers finally get the edge on a two-run Eric Thames homer—a franchise record-tying seventh on the night for Milwaukee—to win in 14 innings, 15-14. The 11 home runs between both teams tie a Nationals Park record—a mark which will last less than 24 hours.
One of the Nationals’ homers is hit by 20-year-old Juan Soto, who on the play collects both his 150th career RBI and 150th career run. He is the second youngest player (after Mel Ott) to reach 150 in both categories.
In another long extra-inning affair that, in stark contrast to Brewers-Nationals, features almost no offense whatsoever, the Rays shut down the Tigers at St. Petersburg 1-0 in 13 innings on Michael Brosseau’s deep run-scoring single with the Detroit outfield drawn in. The Rays’ run is their first after 29 innings without one while their pitchers strike out a franchise-record 24 batters with zero walks—setting a major league mark for the most strikeouts without a walk. (The old record: 22 by the Red Sox on May 8 against Baltimore.)
Aristides Aquino continues his rampage in Cincinnati. The 25-year-old rookie hammers his 11th career homer in his 18th game and ties a Reds mark with his 10th blast over 11 games (matching Frank Robinson in 1962) as his three-run shot helps elevate Cincinnati to a 6-1 home win over the Cardinals. Only two other rookies have hit 10 homers over an 11-game spread: Cody Bellinger in 2017, and Rudy York in 1937.
The Yankees get “savage” again, as manager Aaron Boone, outfielder Brett Gardner and pitcher CC Sabathia are all ejected in the sixth inning after begging to differ with home plate umpire Ben May’s strike zone. Following their departures, the Yankees hold on to edge the visiting Indians 6-5 on a pair of home runs from Gleyber Torres—who becomes the youngest player (at 22) to have seven multi-homer games on one season.
Sabathia is ejected despite spending his last day on the injury list.
Life as a Pittsburgh Pirate is getting pretty frustrating, both inside and outside the lines. In a 2-0 home loss to the Cubs, the Bucs strand 11 men on base—and in six different at-bats with the bases loaded can’t bring anyone home. Since the All-Star Break, Pittsburgh is 7-26—and the tension is hitting the clubhouse as The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel writes of “rifts caused by envy, charges of favoritism, and overt insubordination against manager Clint Hurdle and his staff.”
Sunday, August 18
The Mets’ Pete Alonso adds the cherry on top in an 11-5 victory at Kansas City with his 40th home run of the year—breaking Cody Bellinger’s two-year-old NL rookie season mark. Alonso is now just one blast shy of tying the all-time Mets season record.
Zack Greinke becomes the third active pitcher with 200-plus wins as he reaches the milestone in a 4-1 Houston victory at Oakland. The 35-year-old right-hander allows a run through seven innings and has won each of his first three outings for the Astros, who avoid a four-game sweep at Oakland and extend their lead over the A’s in the AL West to 7.5 games. Alex Bregman leads the charge offensively with four hits including his 30th homer, making him the first Astro with back-to-back 30-homer seasons since Lance Berkman in 2006-07.
A day after grouping up to send 11 balls over the outfield wall, the Nationals and Brewers get back together and send a dozen more out to once again reset the Nationals Park record for combined home runs in a game. Washington belts out eight of the homers to tie a franchise mark, with seven within the first five innings on its way to trouncing Milwaukee, 16-8. Juan Soto once again has us referencing Mel Ott, as his two jacks give him five multi-homer games—tying the Giants legend for the most before turning 21.
After gifting the Orioles with an early 6-0 lead, the Red Sox get serious and score 13 unanswered runs to win a 13-7 rout at Boston. Rafael Devers sweetens his AL MVP odds with four hits and four RBIs—making him the first major leaguer to top 100 this season; he becomes the youngest Red Sock to reach triple-digits since, yes, Ted Williams in 1939.
Seattle’s Yusei Kikuchi, the first-year Japanese import struggling to establish himself in the majors, throws a two-hit shutout on 96 pitches at Toronto in a 7-0 win. Kikuchi came into the game with a 4-8 record and 5.56 ERA in 25 starts.
The Reds bow to the Cardinals at home, 5-4, but Cincinnati reliever Kevin Gausman makes history by becoming the seventh pitcher to throw two career immaculate innings as he retires the St. Louis side in order on nine strikes in the ninth. Gausman, who strikes out all six batters he faces over the game’s final two innings, previously threw an immaculate inning on April 23, 2018 for Baltimore.
Gausman joins some lofty company among the other six who’ve recorded two immaculate innings: Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax (who had three), Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Max Scherzer and Chris Sale.
Monday, August 19
The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson is removed from a no-hit bid after 6.2 innings and 111 pitches—one shy of a season high—and two Cardinals relievers allow just one hit the rest of the way in an important 3-0 home victory over divisional rival Milwaukee to retain first place in the NL Central. The Brewers’ lone hit comes on a ground-rule double by Yasmani Grandal with two outs in the eighth off St. Louis reliever Giovanni Gallegos.
This is the fifth time this season that a pitcher has been removed with a no-hitter intact after six or more innings.
The Nationals travel to Pittsburgh and pick up right where they left off the day before at home against the Brewers, scoring 11 runs over the first four innings en route to a 13-0 smashing of the Pirates. Washington socks four more homers, has scored 60 runs over its last five games, and are the first team since the 1996 Rockies to score at least 13 in three straight.
Tuesday, August 20
In the first game of a doubleheader that’s a makeup of the one postponed on July 1 after the death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney delivers the Angels’ most dominant start of the year—allowing a run on four hits thrown eight innings with 14 strikeouts—in a 5-1 victory at Texas. Mike Trout homers for a career-best 42nd time, adding a triple.
It’s the first time this season that an Angels starting pitcher has completed at least eight innings.
Seattle catcher Tom Murphy is quickly shedding the “reserve” label as he homers for the sixth time in his last four games, this one a two-run blast that unlocks a late tie and helps give the Mariners a 7-4 win at Tampa Bay. Murphy has 16 homers on the year after never accruing more than 100 at-bats in any of four previous seasons with Colorado.
Clayton Kershaw allows three solo homers to the visiting Blue Jays—including two from Bo Bichette to make him the first rookie with a multi-homer game against the future Hall of Famer—but that’s the only damage done by Toronto as the Dodgers pile up in a 16-3 rout. With his 166th career win for the Dodgers, Kershaw passes Sandy Koufax for fourth on the all-time franchise list.
In a suspicious case of déjà vu, Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. is nailed in the back on the first pitch thrown by Miami starting pitcher Elieser Hernandez—prompting flashbacks to a similar incident last season when Jose Urena drilled Acuna and prompted nationwide outrage. Braves manager Brian Snitker goes nuts in the aftermath (because umpires issue warnings to both teams) and is tossed, but without him Atlanta moves on to a 5-1 home win.
Authorities in the Dominican Republic say that former major leaguers Octavio Dotel and Luis Castillo have been implicated in assisting a drug kingpin with running narcotics from the island nation to the United States and Europe. Dotel, a reliever who played for 13 teams, is arrested in the D.R.; Castillo, a one-time infielder not to be confused with the current Reds pitcher of the same name, is presently living in Florida and publicly bewildered at the charges—asking why anyone would think he would do such a thing after making $50 million in wages over a 15-year career.
Ten days later, the cases against both players will be dropped due to a lack of evidence.
Wednesday, August 21
Ten days after failing to defeat the Orioles at Baltimore despite highly strong odds of him winning, the Astros’ Justin Verlander takes on another weakened AL side at Houston against the 37-86 Tigers—and allows just two hits with 11 Ks and no walks in a complete-game effort. But, he doesn’t get the win; both of Detroit’s hits are home runs (by Ronny Rodriguez and John Hicks), and the Astros’ prodigious offense can’t match it as they drop a 2-1 decision. The odds against the Tigers are even higher (anywhere from -435 to -560, according to ESPN) than in Verlander’s loss at Baltimore on August 11.
In defeat, Verlander throws his 25th career complete game and becomes the third pitcher since 1920 with seven straight starts striking out at least 10 batters while allowing two or fewer walks. In those last seven outings, Verlander has struck out 79—and walked six.
After the game, Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech is denied access to the Astros’ clubhouse by the Astros per a request from Verlander, who cites Fenech’s past “unethical” behavior towards him. Everyone involved seems coy as to what that behavior might have been, but the Baseball Writers Association of America rightfully makes it clear that barring a credentialed reporter is against the rules of the current collective bargaining agreement.
In his first ever game batting against Verlander—his teammate of nine-plus seasons—the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera goes hitless in three at-bats with a strikeout.
The White Sox’ Lucas Giolito matches Cleveland’s Shane Bieber with his third complete games and second shutout of the year, taming the Twins at Minnesota, 4-0. Giolito improves his season record to 14-6 and lowers his season ERA to 3.20—good for sixth-best in the AL after producing the major’s worst mark (6.13) in 2018.
Thursday, August 22
For the sad-sack Orioles, the unavoidable and inevitable become reality as they set the major league record for most home runs allowed in a year, surrendering two long flies to the visiting Rays in a 5-2 loss to up their season total to 260. With 34 games to play, the 41-87 Orioles may be facing another unavoidable inevitability: An unprecedented 300 jacks given up in a season.
Hard to know if it’s related to the dubious distinction above, but Baltimore general manager Mike Elias will fire 11 members of his front office, including some scouts, the next day in what is said to be the beginning of an overhaul to the organization.
For the Dodgers of late, it’s all about the ninth inning. Trailing 2-0 headed to their final at-bat, Los Angeles rallies for three runs—capped by a bloop single from Kiké Hernandez—to defeat the Blue Jays, 3-2. It’s their second straight walk-off win—and their 12th of the season.
The Red Sox and Royals, originally scheduled to have a day off, instead regroup to finish a tie game in the 10th inning halted by rain 15 days earlier at Fenway Park. Fans with tickets to the August 7 game are allowed in, and others are gained admittance for either $5 (adults) or for free (kids). It all adds up to a crowd of 16,000 to watch what turns out to be 12 minutes of baseball, as the Red Sox quickly rally for a run to defeat the Royals in the bottom of the 10th, 5-4.
Logistically speaking, the quick trip back to Boston was no problem for the Royals, who had just finished a series in Baltimore and were on their way to Cleveland.
Acting on orders from the Trump administration, MLB bars current players from performing in the upcoming Venezuelan Winter League season in an attempt to place added pressure on the despotic regime of Nicolas Maduro. The decree does not bar Venezuelan players from returning to their homeland after the season—though given the nation’s violent climate, they might be wise to stay out.
Friday, August 23
In a highly anticipated interleague matchup pitting storied franchises with the majors’ top two records, the Yankees tee off on the Dodgers at Los Angeles 10-2 behind five home runs—including three off of MLB ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu—and establish a team monthly record with 57 in August. One of the five dingers comes off the bat of Gary Sanchez, who becomes the second fastest player by games (after Ryan Howard) to reach 100 career home runs.
The seven earned runs and three homers conceded by Ryu matches his total output in 11 previous starts this season at Dodger Stadium.
This may not have been the ideal weekend to pair two marquee teams who frequently wear iconic uniforms with few if any alternates in the locker stalls. It’s “Player Weekend,” where major leaguers choose the names they want on the back of their jerseys (within reason, of course), and although there’s popular thumbs-up consensus on the nicknames, the choice of uniform design—with all home teams wearing pure white jerseys (with the player numbers and team insignias all but invisible) while away teams wear almost all black—is universally derided. The Dodgers themselves are not fans of the uniforms, and even petition MLB to at least allow themselves and the Yankees to wear their regular unis for the upcoming series finale on Sunday Night Baseball. MLB says no dice.
Against the NL East-leading Braves, New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom does everything he can to cement victory; he allows a run on four hits with 13 strikeouts through seven fantastic innings, and supplies some lumber with his second homer of the year, a sixth-inning solo shot. But as has been the case for a year-plus, deGrom gets no support, and a 1-1 tie trods on into extra innings—where the visiting Braves secure victory in the 14th on a RBI single by ex-Royal Billy Hamilton, his first hit since being acquired by Atlanta. In losing, deGrom and seven relievers combine to strike out 26 Braves—tying a major league record.
With a stolen base, the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. ensures a season with 30 homers and 30 steals; only Mike Trout, in 2012, was younger when he reached the milestone.
Milwaukee’s Jordan Lyles is the latest to be denied a shot at glory, pulled from a no-hitter against Arizona after six innings and 99 pitches. Devin Williams, the first to relieve Lyles, gives up a hit in the seventh, and Jim Jeffress allows an unearned run in the ninth, but the Brewers still ease to a 6-1 home victory.
Trailing 7-0 to the Phillies after 2.5 innings, the Marlins rev it up and notch 15 runs over the next four innings and sail to a 19-11 victory. Starlin Castro smokes two homers and drives in five runs for Miami despite not even appearing in the game until the fifth as a pinch-hitter. The Marlins’ 19 runs easily sets the mark for the most tallied by a team at Marlins Park—breaking the record set just 10 days earlier by the Dodgers.
The Red Sox hammer the Padres at San Diego, 11-0, behind two homers and a career-high seven RBIs from J.D. Martinez. Eduardo Rodriguez throws seven shutout frames for Boston in improving his season record to 15-5.
Saturday, August 24
The Indians, who’ve played so well this year despite serious injuries to key players, suffer another big blow tonight in a 4-2 home win over Kansas City. Jose Ramirez, who after a slow start (.218 pre-All-Star Break) has returned to top form (.327 post-break), fractures his hand while fouling out a pitch, and will miss up to seven weeks. The hope is that Ramirez can return for the postseason—assuming that the Indians, who’ve also seen Francisco Lindor and top pitchers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco go down for significant amounts of time this year, get there.
The Yankees get a home run from Aaron Judge to tie an all-time MLB record for home runs (58) in a month while securing the second longest shutout-less streak (213 games), yet bow to the Dodgers at Los Angeles, 2-1, behind a controversial ninth-inning call by umpires that denies them a game-tying run. With runners at first and second with one out, Gio Urshela hits a potential game-ending double play ball, but Brett Gardner is safe at second on a rough (and legal) slide that takes out the Dodgers’ Max Muncy; as Muncy sprawls to the ground, Gleyber Torres rounds third and heads home—but Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen alertly calls time, and is granted it by umpires, stopping Torres from scoring the run. The Yankees complain, the umpires gather and review is initiated—but they confirm the play stands as is. With the bases loaded, Jansen strikes out the next two batters to nail down the win.
Sunday, August 25
The Yankees keep slugging away, depositing three more home runs at Los Angeles—all off of Clayton Kershaw—to set yet another record with 61 for the month in a 5-1 win over the Dodgers. The Orioles (May 1987) and Mariners (May 1999) co-owned the old mark with 58. The homers off of Kershaw are three of just four hits he allows through seven innings with 12 strikeouts and no walks; it ends a 22-game unbeaten streak for the ace at Dodger Stadium.
The Braves garner just three hits at New York, but two of them are home runs off the bat of Josh Donaldson—while Dallas Keuchel holds the Mets scoreless for seven innings in a 2-1 win. Atlanta finishes off a three-game sweeping, extends a win streak to eight and ups its season record to 80-52.
Donaldson has hit nine of his 32 homers this season against the Mets; he’s hitting .393 against New York this season while he’s .245 against the rest of baseball.
The Padres avoid a three-game sweep at home against Boston with a 3-1 victory, as Manny Machado’s two-run homer in the first gives San Diego a franchise-record 190 for the season.
The White Sox’ Reynaldo Lopez, struggling for much of the season after a solid 2018 campaign, has five no-hit innings on 87 pitches in the books at Chicago against the Rangers—but he’s also suffering from the flu and dehydration, so the Sox decide to let the bullpen take over the rest of the way. Four relievers combine to wrap up a one-hit, 2-0 shutout. Jose Abreu knocks in both runs on a pair of singles and reaches 100 RBIs for the fifth time in six major league seasons.
Vince Naimoli, the first owner of the Tampa Ray (Devil) Rays, dies at the age of 81 after a five-year struggle with a brain disorder. A Tampa-based businessman, Naimoli led the long fight to bring major league baseball to St. Petersburg, but quickly alienated local businesses and fans with his brash and often confrontational style—a poor man’s George Steinbrenner, minus the aptitude to bring in talent and build a winner, despite the good college try on his part. Naimoli sold the franchise in 2004 to Stuart Sternberg, who continues to run the Rays today.
Monday, August 26
The A’s go down in order in the first at Kansas City, but that’s as good as it gets for Royals pitching on this night as Oakland scores in each of the next eight innings—chalking up five in the second frame, and another five in the third—to rack up a 19-4 rout. Marcus Semien, batting leadoff for the A’s, knocks in seven runs; Homer Bailey, who began the year with the Royals, throws six quality innings to improve to 12-8 on the year, including a 5-2 mark for Oakland in eight starts despite a 5.52 ERA.
Arizona pulls away from the Giants for a 6-4 win at San Francisco to retake second in the NL West with an even 66-66 record. It is, in fact, the 57th straight game in which the Diamondbacks have finished the day with a record within two games of .500, the longest such streak in MLB history.
Tuesday, August 27
In a 5-2 home loss to the Cubs, New York rookie Pete Alonso hits a fourth-inning solo home run to set the Mets’ franchise mark with 42 in a season. Alonso becomes the first rookie to establish an all-time team high since Johnny Rizzo hit 23 for Pittsburgh in 1938. Todd Hundley (1996) and Carlos Beltran (2006) held the old Mets mark with 41.
It seems a day doesn’t go by without the Yankees experiencing some kind of home run milestone. While Masahiro Tanaka (seven shutout innings) easily outshines fellow Japanese expatriate Yusei Kukuchi in Seattle, Aaron Judge belts his 100th career home run in his 371st game to become the third fastest to triple-figures—just days after Gary Sanchez (355 games) became the second fastest. The Yankees ease to a 7-0 win over the Mariners.
After going undefeated in his first 16 road starts, the Braves’ Mike Soroka finally suffers a loss despite a good effort in a 3-1 loss at Toronto. The 22-year-old right-hander gives up two runs on eight hits and no walks through six innings, but gets no support from his Atlanta teammates—including Josh Donaldson, who goes hitless in his first appearance back at Toronto since his popular four-year run as a Blue Jay. In his first 16 road outings, Soroka was 7-0 with a sparkling 1.67 ERA.
Scenes of position players taking the mound are no longer restricted to hopeless, one-sided defeats. At San Diego, the Dodgers take a 9-0 lead over the Padres to the bottom of the ninth and fetch catcher Russell Martin to mop up—and he does, allowing one hit in a scoreless inning. It’s Martin’s fourth appearance this season as a pitcher—and he’s yet to allow a run over four innings.
It’s the first time a position player has taken part in a game his team has won by shutout since the New York Giants’ George Kelly pitched the last five innings of a throwaway season finale in 1917 against the Phillies at Philadelphia.
What’s gotten into Justin Verlander? After feuding with a Detroit reporter last week, the veteran Astros ace is cruising in the sixth inning at Houston with a comfortable 9-0 lead over the Rays and former teammate Charlie Morton when he gets ejected. Why? Because he was upset he didn’t get a strike three call on Tommy Pham before giving up a double on the next pitch. With Verlander in the showers, the Astros’ onslaught continues—as rookie sensation Yordan Alvarez doubles and homers twice with four RBIs to wrap up a 15-1 victory.
The lopsided loss is far from the worst news of the day within the Rays’ organization. In Keeling, Virginia, the wife, son and mother-in-law of Class-AA pitcher Blake Bivens are murdered by the wife’s brother at their home. Adding a bizarre twist to the triple-homicide, the brother is apprehended while trying to evade authorities by running naked near the Virginia-North Carolina border. Bivens was the Rays’ fourth-round draft choice in 2014.
Wednesday, August 28
In his second start since returning from a month-long injury, Nationals ace Max Scherzer strikes out eight Orioles over 4.1 innings and surpasses 200 Ks for the eighth straight season in an 8-4 win at Washington. Only Tom Seaver (1968-76) has struck out at least 200 in nine straight years.
While the Nationals coast, the Orioles—who drop to 44-89—continue to show that life is anything but a dream in their dugout, as reliever Richard Bleier and pitching coach Jose David Flores get loud and argumentative debating defensive positioning.
The out-of-nowhere legend of Artistides Aquino continues. The 25-year-old Cincinnati slugger connects for his 13th homer of the month—tying a rookie record held by Cody Bellinger from June 2017—while Anthony DeSclafani throws seven shutout innings to give the Reds a 5-0 win at Miami over the reeling (20 losses in their last 25 games) Marlins.
In a 7-3 win at Seattle, the Yankees plunk four more homers over the fence—giving them an eye-popping 70 for August—and former Mariner James Paxton allows one hit over five imperfect (two runs, five walks) frames in his first start against his old teammates to sweep a three-game series. New York finishes the year 6-1 against the Mariners and has not lost a season series to them since 2002.
Taking his first major league loss in his sixth appearance is Justus Sheffield, the former top Yankee prospect traded to Seattle over the past offseason for Paxton.
The Cubs blow the Mets’ Noah Syndegaard out of the box at New York, racking up 10 runs on the long-haired ace before he departs in the third; they’re the most runs he’s allowed in a game, and the most surrendered by a Met since Johan Santana in 2010. A Mets’ comeback falls short as Chicago prevails, 10-7.
Thursday, August 29
Another day, another handful of home run achievements to report:
In Miami, Artistides Aquino knocks in all three runs for the Reds with three hits including his 14th home run—all of them occurring in August to set an all-time rookie record. But the Marlins bounce back and survive in 12 innings, 4-3, on a walk-off shot from Harold Ramirez—making him only the fifth rookie (and second this year, after the Dodgers’ Will Smith) to belt a game-winning homer twice within a calendar month.
In Chicago, the Twins gather up three dingers—including two from Nick Cave—to set an MLB season mark with 140 on the road as they blast the White Sox, 10-5.
With 31 homers on the day, MLB resets a monthly record with 1,145 for August; there’s two days still left to play in the month. The old mark was 1,142, set just this past June.
File this one under “know your rulebook”: In Kansas City, the A’s net an insurance run—which turns out to be the game-winner—in the ninth when Corban Joseph pops up in foul territory, but the catch by the Royals’ Chester Cuthbert takes him over the railing and into the third-base dugout. As such, umpires allow both runners on base—including Seth Brown, on third—to automatically advance one base. Oakland wins, 9-8.
Friday, August 30
Two months after the passing of the Angels’ Tyler Skaggs, an autopsy report is released that indicates that the pitcher died choking on his own vomit after ingesting a mixture of opioids and alcohol. This essentially verifies a report by the Santa Monica Observer published just two days after Skaggs’ death, a story blasted at the time by the Angels as “categorically incorrect.” Skaggs’ family releases a statement intimating that an Angels “employee” is connected, and hires former Roger Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin to look into the matter.
The optics of this are not good. The autopsy is released late on a Friday before a three-day holiday weekend, suggesting that MLB and/or the Angels wanted it that way so that any public chatter would evaporate into the jet stream of Labor Day activities. Regardless, the Angels need to answer as to why they would have quickly and angrily denied the Observer’s reporting. Did the team know what actually happened? If so, why did it slam the Observer when it clearly knew the paper was right? The Twitterverse, meanwhile, harshly (and perhaps rightfully so) responds to the family’s suggestion of an Angels accomplice, with many saying that Skaggs by himself is responsible for his fatal actions. Yet something isn’t quite right, and it needs to be investigated—and we’re not sure if MLB, which says it will look into this, is the right entity to do it.
The Kansas City Royals are sold for roughly a billion dollars to a group of local investors headed by John Sherman. He’ll become the third owner in Royals history, following Ewing Kauffman and David Glass; for the past several years, Sherman has owned 30% of the Cleveland Indians—an investment he’ll now have to sever to avoid conflict of interest. Glass, who bought the Royals in 2000 for $96 million, believes he has found in Sherman an owner who embraces the local angle and is loyal to the game.
The Yankees may have the majors’ best record (at 88-48 following an 8-2 home loss to the A’s), but they’ve had to do it while keeping a stitched-up roster together. Infielder Gio Urshela today becomes the 29th Yankee this year to go on the injured list—setting the season record previously held by the 2016 Dodgers.
Saturday, August 31
With still a month to go in the season, the Twins break the all-time season home run record as they launch six against the Tigers at Detroit to reach 268, one more than the 267 hit last year by the Yankees. They also tie the season mark for most games with six or more, matching the 2000 Astros. All of this—and the Twins lose, 10-7, as Ronny Rodriguez smokes a pair of homers with five RBIs for Detroit.
This is the first time in Senators/Twins history that the Twins have hit five or more homers in a game and lost.
The Yankees, who will likely also surpass their 2018 total but probably won’t catch the Twins, belt four solo shots—including the game-winner in the 11th from DJ LaMahieu—to account for all of their runs in a 4-3 victory over the A’s. New York finishes August with an astounding 74 homers—16 more than the previous high by any team in any month.
On the flip side, the Marlins cave to the Nationals at Washington, 7-0, conceding four homers to total 69 for the month—tying the Orioles’ mark set back in April. Stephen Strasburg is electric for the Nats, allowing two hits and no walks over eight innings while striking out 14.
The Diamondbacks are one of four teams (joining the Yankees, Twins and Astros) to set a team mark for monthly homers in August, as Eduardo Escobar’s 32nd blast of the year—Arizona’s 47th of the month—in the bottom of the eighth is the difference in a 6-5 home win over the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw takes defeat for Los Angeles and fails to complete six innings for the first time in 23 starts, a streak which had been the majors’ longest active.
In sharp contrast to all of the deep-fly news of the day, the Royals go small ball to help defeat the Orioles at Kansas City, 7-5. In an eighth-inning, two-run rally that unlocks a 5-5 tie, the Royals successfully lay down three straight bunts to load the bases with no outs; a sacrifice fly and ground out bring home two of the runners to provide the winning margin.
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