The Month That Was in Baseball: August 2020
Saturday, August 1
The St. Louis Cardinals become the latest Major League Baseball team to suffer a COVID-19 outbreak, with up to six players testing positive for the virus that continues to plague the early stages of baseball’s shortened 2020 season. As a result, the entire weekend series between the Cardinals and Brewers in Milwaukee has been postponed. By one’s count, a total of 33 games will be canceled over MLB’s first full week of the season due to the virus.
When the Brewers return to the field, All-Star outfielder Lorenzo Cain won’t be a part of it. Cain decides that he will sit out the rest of the year after starting it with six hits in 18 at-bats.
The Chicago White Sox hammer the Royals at Kansas City, 11-5, on the strength of 21 hits and a starting lineup that boasts an all-Cuban-native lineup from #1-4—a major league first. Those four players (Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal) combine for 11 hits, with rookie Robert collecting four including his second home run of the young year.
Without Mike Trout—who’s on paternity leave as he welcomes in his first child—the Los Angeles Angels survive a three-run rally in the ninth inning at home against the Houston Astros, tie the game up in the bottom of the inning on Jason Castro’s run-scoring double, and triumph 5-4 in the 10th on a Michael Hermosillo’s sac fly that scores gift auto runner Matt Thaiss.
Sunday, August 2
After getting rained out the day before, the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers play the first-ever doubleheader in MLB history consisting of seven-inning games, owing to the tightened 60-game 2020 schedule. The Reds win both games, 4-3 and 4-0, but the individual highlight belongs to Detroit reliever Tyler Alexander, who takes over in the third inning of the first game and strikes out the first nine Reds he faces, tying the American League record held by former Tiger Doug Fister in 2012; his bid to match Tom Seaver’s all-time mark of 10 falls when, on a 1-2 pitch, he plunks Mike Moustakas. Alexander will notch one more strikeout before departing; his 10 total Ks are the most by a reliever in one game since Randy Johnson racked up 16 in a seven-inning non-starting stint in 2001.
Yo, Yo! As the Braves and Mets begin action in Atlanta, everyone wants to know: Where’s Yoenis Cespedes? The veteran Mets slugger has not arrived at the ballpark, has not contacted the Mets on his whereabouts, and a check on his hotel room reveals that he’s packed up and left. The Mets get through to his agent, who finally ends the suspense by stating that Cespedes is opting out for the rest of the season. Thus ends a turbulent, injury-riddled five-plus-year tenure for Cespedes, who hit .161 with a pair of home runs and 15 strikeouts through his first 31 at-bats of 2020. Back on the field, the Cespedes-less Mets are shut down by the Braves, 4-0.
If it’s Sunday, it must be Shohei Ohtani on the mound for the Los Angeles Angels—and maybe for the last time. The two-way star, slated to pitch every seventh day on Sundays, has his second awful start of the young season as he allows no hits through 1.2 innings of work—but walks five and concedes two runs to the Astros at Anaheim. Worse, Ohtani appears to be pitching in pain, as his fastball readings drop from 97 MPH at the start of the game to 89; the Angels announce that he’ll undergo an MRI to see if he’s re-damaged himself more than a year after having Tommy John surgery performed on him. As for the rest of the game, the Astros survive an Albert Pujols grand slam and extra innings to defeat the Angels in 11, 6-5.
Ohtani’s MRI will reveal a flexor strain; while the Angels allow him to keep hitting, he will not pitch for the rest of the year.
The Baltimore Orioles, owners of 47-115 and 54-108 records over the past two years, end a streak of 63 straight series without a sweep by finishing off the visiting Tamp Bay Rays in three games, 5-1. The Orioles last swept a series in August 2018 against Toronto; according to MLBSweeps.com, the all-time record for the most consecutive series without a sweep is 79, set by the Philadelphia Phillies from 1996-97.
The Yankees complete a sweep of their own at home against the archrival Boston Red Sox win a 9-7 triumph, as Aaron Judge homers for the fifth straight game with a two-run shot in the eighth to break a 7-7 tie.
In San Francisco, the Giants fail to clinch a sweep of their own as the Texas Rangers score four times in the seventh to break a 5-5 deadlock and win, 9-5. But the silver lining on the day for the Giants is that Jeff Samardzija goes 5.2 innings, making him the team’s first starting pitcher to notch at least five this season. No team in the history of the majors had gone as long as the nine games to start a year by the Giants without a starting pitcher throwing five or more frames.
Monday, August 3
After a forced week off, the Phillies are finally back in action—and like a re-baptism by fire, they face the Yankees and Gerrit Cole. The final result is no surprise, as Cole improves to 3-0 as a Yankee and extends his win streak to 19 games—one shy of the American League record—by allowing a run over six innings in a 6-3 victory. Aaron Judge has a single and double for the Yankees, but no homers—ending a streak of five straight games in which he’d gone deep.
The Braves lose at home to the Mets, 7-2, but there’s worse news for Atlanta. Mike Soroka, the team’s breakout pitcher from a year ago, tears his Achilles tendon while racing off the mound on a ground ball and will be lost for the rest of the season. Jacob deGrom strikes out 10 over six innings for the Mets and nets his first victory of the year, 7-2.
The Twins tip the Pirates at Pittsburgh, 5-4, on a walk-off double by Nelson Cruz, but they fail to hit a home run in the game—snapping a 25-game streak in which they hit at least one against interleague competition.
Tuesday, August 4
The Miami Marlins haven’t played in eight days, have almost half of their Opening Day roster on the injured list with virtual minor leaguers replacing them—so what do they do? Naturally, they win, defeating the Orioles at Baltimore, 4-0. Pablo Lopez (five innings, seven Ks, no walks) and four relievers combine to silence the Orioles on three hits.
It’s a cool night for the Angels in Seattle—and we don’t mean marine-layer cool. Mike Trout homers in his first at-bat since becoming a father, Albert Pujols follows up with his 659th career blast—making it 10 times that both players have homered in the first inning of the same game (no other AL duo has done it more than five times), and top 21-year-old prospect Jo Adell makes his major league debut with a single in his first at-bat to give the Angels a 5-3 win over the Mariners.
In just their 11th game of the year, the Oakland A’s wrap up a win on a walk-off grand slam, as Stephen Piscotty’s shot in the ninth defeats the Rangers, 5-1. Matt Olson earlier went deep with the bases loaded to clinch a victory on Opening Night, July 24 against the Angels. No team has ever hit three walk-off slams in a season—whether it’s a 162-, 154- or 60-game schedule.
Only two teams have hit walk-off slams in a shorter span than the A’s: The 1952 Red Sox (9 days, with homers by Don Lenhardt and Sammy White), and the 2017 Blue Jays (just three days—with Steve Pearce clouting both base-cleaners).
Wednesday, August 5
For the second time in six days, the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo homers on the game’s first pitch; he did it on July 31 at San Francisco, and tonight he does it across the bay at Oakland in a 6-4 loss to the A’s. What’s really interesting about Choo’s leadoff blast is that it follows a walk-off homer by Oakland the night before; it’s only the third time since 1988 that there’s been homers on consecutive pitches between two teams—one to end the previous game, the other to start the next contest.
Max Scherzer is one and done in his third start of the year, leaving the game after the first inning with a tweaked hamstring. The Washington ace gives up a run on a hit and walk in an eventual 3-1 loss to the Mets at Nationals Park before departing—but says he that there’s nothing to worry about and he’ll be back for his next start. (Sure enough, he’ll be back six days later.) Meanwhile, young Nationals hitting star Juan Soto—playing his first game of the season after getting a positive COVID-19 test he believes was false—has a double and single in four at-bats, driving in the Nationals’ only run.
After Houston’s Lance McCullers Jr. retires the first nine Diamondbacks he faces in Phoenix, the retractable roof at Chase Field is opened—even though it’s still 102 outside and dry as a rock. It leads to improved hitting conditions, especially for the Diamondbacks—who pounce on McCullers for eight of nine runs tallied in the fourth inning. In fact, seven home runs will be hit over the final six innings with the roof opened as Arizona piles up a 14-7 victory over the Astros.
McCullers Jr., after the game: “Opening the roof in the fourth is ass.”
Thursday, August 6
In his first start since opting back in, the Braves’ Nick Markakis unknots a 3-3 tie in the ninth with a one-out solo homer to give Atlanta a 4-3 walk-off win over the visiting Blue Jays. In another moment that all but perfectly defines the fluidity of the 2020 season, Toronto brings on reliever Jacob Waguespack for the sixth inning—but umpires inform the Jays that he can’t pitcher, because…he’s not officially on the roster. The Blue Jays had optioned Waguespack earlier in the day, but then recalled him when pitcher Trent Thornton went on the injured list—but the latter move was not approved in time for the game, thus making Waguespack ineligible.
Just four days after all but re-ruining his pitching elbow, Shohei Ohtani returns to the lineup as the Angels’ DH and smacks his third home run of the year in his first at-bat of a 6-1 victory at Seattle. On the mound, Dylan Bundy goes the distance—allowing a run on four hits with 10 strikeouts and no walks—to give the Angels their first complete-game effort in 275 games.
For the second time over Cleveland’s first 14 games of the year, the Indians’ Jose Ramirez hits home runs from each side of the plate in a 13-0 devastation of the visiting Reds. No other player has achieved that in as few games to start a season.
Friday, August 7
The first arrest in the 2019 death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs has been made. Eric Kay was charged with illegal distribution of opioid drugs to Skaggs, who died as a result in a Texas hotel room. The former Angels director of communications faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.
Coming off of four straight losses to the surprising, handicapped Marlins, the Orioles turn around and blast the Nationals at Washington, 11-0, behind a 19-hit attack (including a 4-for-4 day for Jose Iglesias) and six shutout innings by Tommy Milone. It’s the largest shutout win over a defending world champion by a team that lost 100-plus games the year before.
The Cardinals are ready to take on the Cubs to start a weekend series, but yet another member of their roster tests positive for COVID-19—leading to MLB calling the whole series off. This means that the Cardinals will have been idle for at least 11 straight days—the longest layoff by any major league team thus far. Nine St. Louis players have tested positive since the start of MLB’s latest team outbreak.
After a four-day layoff owing to having to play (or not play) the sidelined Cardinals, the Tigers show they haven’t collected any rust in their bats as they overcome two early Pittsburgh leads and two late-inning lost leads of their own to outlast the Pirates on the road, 17-13 in 11 innings. Nate Goodrum dives in five runs from the leadoff spot, including the last two of a four-run 11th to secure the win.
On his 29th birthday, the Angels’ Mike Trout gives the gift that keeps on giving: A home run. Trout’s first-inning blast at Texas is the fifth he’s collected on his birthday; only Alex Rodriguez and Mark Reynolds (both with six) have hit more on theirs. Alas for the Angels, Trout’s B-day blast isn’t enough as they lose to the Rangers, 4-3.
Saturday, August 8
In the first game of a seven-inning doubleheader at St. Petersburg, Gerrit Cole comes within one out of tying Roger Clemens’ AL record with his 20th straight win—but he’s removed with a 5-3 lead and two outs in the fifth, leaving him short of qualifying as the pitcher of record. With the Yankees moving on to an 8-4 victory, Cole does extend his lesser-known streak of consecutive starts without a loss to 26.
After rampaging the night before with 17 runs in a 13-inning victory at Pittsburgh, Detroit bats stay hot as four of the first five Tigers batters launch home runs against Pirates starting pitcher Derek Holland. It’s an impressive start to an eventual 11-5 win.
The Giants’ Johnny Cueto is rolling along at Los Angeles with five no-hit innings against the Dodgers, but then the first batter he faces in the sixth, Kiké Hernandez, lifts a routine fly ball to left that drops 70 feet behind outfielder Hunter Pence—who never sees the ball. It begins a meltdown that ends with four Dodgers runs, but Cueto still gets the win as the Giants hang on for a 5-4 decision.
The well-liked Pence, brought back by the Giants after a productive (if injury-riddled) 2019 campaign for Texas, is released 16 days later after a 5-for-52 (.098 start).
Sunday, August 9
Social distancing takes a day off at Oakland, where the A’s finish a three-game sweep of the Astros and win their ninth straight game, 7-2. Proving that you can’t brawl six feet apart, the A’s Ramon Laureano—after getting plunked for the second time on the day—mixes it up with the Astros’ dugout in the seventh inning, leading to a scrum that takes a bit of separating and results in the ejection of two Oakland players (including Laureano)—but no Astros players. Houston manager Dusty Baker was thumbed moments earlier, but for arguing balls and strikes.
MLB means it: No fighting, especially in these viral times. Laureano is handed a six-game suspension, while dropping a whopping 20-game penalty on Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron (who allegedly incited Laureano to charge after saying something rough about his mother). Cintron’s suspension is the longest for an on-the-field act since pitcher Kenny Rogers also received 20 games for mixing it up with two cameramen before a game in 2005.
It’s a day of historical almosts for the Padres. The team belts six home runs within the first three innings against Arizona but hit no more the rest of the way, leaving them one short of the franchise record of seven. Then all eyes turn to San Diego starter Dinelson Lamet; the third-year pitcher takes a no-hitter into the seventh, where he’s immediately and cruelly met with a leadoff home run from Kole Calhoun. The Padres still win, 9-5, but remain the only major league team without a no-hitter, 51 years into their existence.
Fernando Tatis Jr. hits one of the Padres’ six homers, and has collected six over his past six games; he ends the day tied with the Yankees’ Aaron Judge for the major league lead with eight. The next morning, ESPN will run a cover story with the headline: “Fernando Tatis Jr. is bringing joy back to baseball.”
Only one player ever pinch-hit for Ted Williams. That man was Carroll Hardy, who passes away at the age of 87. Hardy played eight years for four different teams, never catching on as an everyday player; he batted a lifetime .225 with 17 homers over 1,117 at-bats. But in retirement from baseball, he made for bigger fame in another sport, piecing together the Denver Broncos’ famed ‘Orange Crush’ roster that reached the 1977 Super Bowl. In case you were wondering: What did Hardy do with that pinch-hit appearance for Williams in 1960? He bunted into a double play.
Monday, August 10
The Mets’ Marcus Stroman is the latest mid-season opt-out, deciding that he’ll sit out the year just days before his first scheduled start after recovering from a torn calf muscle. The pitcher is the second big loss for the Mets in as many weeks, following the departure of slugger Yoenis Cespedes. Meanwhile, the Mets get hammered by the visiting Nationals, 16-4, as former Met Asdrubal Cabrera racks up a pair of doubles and home runs each with five RBIs.
The Rangers decide to open Globe Life Field’s retractable roof for the first time this season, because they’re “curious” as to how the game will play on the field. Not surprisingly, warmer weather—it’s 95 degrees at first pitch—heats up the offense, as the visiting Mariners trash Texas, 10-2. Seattle’s three home runs—including the fourth of the year from rookie Kyle Lewis, who’s batting .373—are one less than those accumulated by opponents over the first eight games at the Rangers’ new yard, while the 12 total runs and 23 total hits are both the most collected in any game yet at the ballpark.
Houston’s Lance McCullers Jr. takes a no-hitter into the seventh against the visiting Giants and settles for seven frames of one-hit shutout ball, as the Astros repel a late comeback bid to triumph, 6-4.
The Diamondbacks outlast the Rockies at Coors Field, 12-8, despite four more hits by Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon, who’s hitting .484 through the team’s first 16 games of the season. Blackmon already has five games with at least three hits this season; he led the majors last year with 21 such games.
Tuesday, August 11
The Toronto Blue Jays play for the first time at their alternate home of Sahlen Field in Buffalo and defeat the Marlins 5-4 in 10 innings on Travis Shaw’s one-out single, scoring gift auto runner Anthony Alford. The silver lining for Miami is that Brian Anderson becomes the first major leaguer to hit a home run in Buffalo since Hal Chase rounded the bases for the Federal League’s Buffalo Blues on September 8, 1915.
The team puts out a video showing a rather impressive transformation of Sahlen Field—originally named Pilot Field when built in the late 1980s as a precursor to the retro/Camden Yards ballpark movement—into a major league-level facility.
Charlie Blackmon collects three more hits in four at-bats and is hitting an even .500 for the year through his first 68 at-bats, as the Rockies hold off the Diamondbacks in Denver, 8-7. Only four other players have started a season hitting .500 or better since Ted Williams hit .406 for the Red Sox in 1941.
Wednesday, August 12
Is Sahlen Field too small for MLB? In the second game played at the Blue Jays’ temp home in Buffalo, the visiting Marlins—who lead early, 8-0—fight late to survive in 10 innings, 14-11. This, despite home runs in six straight innings from Toronto hitters, and a 5-for-5 night from second-year shortstop Bo Bichette, raising his season average to .352.
Thursday, August 13
The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts ties an all-time mark with his sixth career three-homer game, going 4-for-4 with a walk in an 11-2 home rout of the Padres. Currently tied with Betts with six such games are Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa.
Betts will have plenty of time to achieve a record-breaking seventh hat trick, as he’s still just 27 years of age.
Meanwhile in Boston, the post-Betts Red Sox are a disaster thus far in 2020. The Sox are squashed by Tampa Bay, 17-8; it’s their eighth straight defeat at Fenway Park to the Rays. Boston is 6-13, has the AL’s second worst ERA and the highest total of errors after committing four tonight, including three from third baseman Rafael Devers—who has eight already on the young season.
Friday, August 14
Gerrit Cole pitches seven terrific innings for the Yankees in a 10-3 blasting over the pitiful Red Sox to earn his 20th straight record, tying Roger Clemens for the longest win streak in American League history. The southpaw also makes it 27 straight starts without a loss, tied for the fourth longest in MLB history.
The effort makes up for the loss of Aaron Judge, who joins fellow Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton on the injury list with a strained calf.
The Tigers may be off to a promising (9-8) start given how bad they’ve been over the past few years, but they’re still owned by the Indians. Cleveland scores eight times over the first four innings and breezes to a 10-5 win at Detroit, its 18th straight win against the Tigers; it’s the Indians’ longest win streak against another opponent in franchise history.
Three down, 27 to go: Pitcher Brady Lail, who appeared in one game last year for the Yankees and another earlier this season for the White Sox, tosses three shutout innings for the Mariners in their 11-1 loss at Houston. He’s only the fourth player—and the first since 1921—to play his first three major league games for three different teams.
At San Francisco, the Giants blow a five-run lead in the ninth inning (or later) for the first time since 1929 when the A’s tie them in the ninth—thanks primarily to a grand slam by Stephen Piscotty, the third time an A’s batter cleans the bases on a deep fly in the ninth this year. (No other team has ever done that.) Oakland then gets the gift auto runner home from second in the 10th, the Giants do not, and the A’s take an 8-7 victory.
The Rangers’ Lance Lynn subdues the Rockies at Denver in the first complete-game effort by a pitcher at Coors Field since Pittsburgh’s Jameson Taillon in 2018. In a 3-2 victory, Lynn allows two runs on two hits while going the distance; in five career starts at Coors, he’s 2-1 with a sparkling 2.36 ERA.
Saturday, August 15
A long, forced layoff apparently hasn’t affected the St. Louis Cardinals. Playing for the first time in nearly three weeks, the Cardinals begin the big catch-up with a pair of seven-inning games against the White Sox at Chicago—and win them both, 5-1 and 6-3. Adam Wainwright allows just two hits through five innings of work in the first game, and Paul Goldschmidt powers a home run to help lift the Redbirds in the nightcap.
To reduce the threat of players attracting a new round of COVID-19, the Cardinals had each player and coach drive a rental—40 people, 40 cars—from St. Louis to Chicago.
While one NL Central team is back in action, another two are sidelined this weekend. The final two games of a series between the Reds and Pirates are called off after a Cincinnati player tests positive for COVID-19.
A night after blowing a five-run lead in the ninth, the Giants provide an unflattering encore by blowing a three-run lead in the final frame, bowing again to the visiting A’s, 7-6. The culprit in both games is ‘closer’ Trevor Gott, who blows another save opportunity; in the past two games, he’s pitched a total of one inning, allowing nine runs on five hits—four of them home runs—while walking two and hitting another batter.
The A’s are the fourth team in post-1900 baseball history to come from three runs or more in the ninth to win on successive days.
Sunday, August 16
The Cardinals’ Roel Ramirez has a major league debut he’ll probably want to forget—forever. Taking over for starter Dakota Hudson in the fifth inning at Chicago, Ramirez has two outs with a pair of runners on base when the White Sox’ Yoan Moncada belts a three-run homer. Yasmani Grandal then goes deep, followed by Jose Abreu, and finally Eloy Jimenez. At that point, Ramirez is mercifully removed. He becomes the first pitcher to give up four straight homers in his first appearance.
The White Sox become the 10th team—and the seventh since 2006—to go back-to-back-to-back-to-back. They’re also the second team, after the Nationals, to pull off the feat twice.
Cleveland breaks a 4-4 tie in the sixth with three runs and pull away to an 8-5 victory over the Tigers at Detroit. It’s the Indians’ 20th straight win over the Tigers, a streak that’s tied for the fourth longest in major league history. Four Cleveland home runs include a pair from Franmil Reyes.
Monday, August 17
What’s up with the White Sox? A day after hitting home runs in four consecutive at-bats, the Pale Hose set a more obscure but intriguing mark when Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada begin the night with back-to-back homers against the Tigers’ Matthew Boyd. Just five days earlier, Boyd had a starting assignment against the White Sox and also gave up home runs to the first two batters he faced (Anderson and Eloy Jimenez); this is the first time a team has hit two home runs to start a game against the same pitcher in the same year.
Washington rookie Luis Garcia, 20 years of age, becomes the first major leaguer born after the First of January, 2000 to hit a home run as his two-run shot breaks the ice in the second inning at Atlanta. But it’s all for naught as Dansby Swanson’s two-run homer of his own in the bottom of the ninth erases the Nationals’ 6-5 lead and wins it for the Braves, 7-6.
The Yankees sweep a four-game series from the Betts-less Red Sox and are still undefeated at Yankee Stadium with a 6-3 victory. Luke Voit has two home runs and knocks in three for New York; the Yankees are 10-0 at home and have won each of those games by at least two runs. No team in the modern era has ever accomplished that. It’s also the first time since 1953 that the Yankees have won at least 10 straight games against the Red Sox.
Tuesday, August 18
The Twins’ Kenta Maeda takes a no-hitter into the ninth inning, but gives up a leadoff single to the Brewers’ Eric Sogard. That’s enough, says Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli, who replaces Maeda with Taylor Rogers—who immediately allows the Brewers to tie the game at 3-3. The contest goes into extras, where the Twins will prevail in the 12th on a fielder’s choice that brings home gift runner Byron Buxton.
Meada strikes out 12 in his no-decision—eight of those consecutively, a Twins record.
The Red Sox just get worse and worse and worse. On Tuesday night, Boston gets pummeled again—at home, to the Phillies, by a 13-6 count—for their ninth straight loss, their longest skid since 2014. They have given up nearly 10 runs per game during this slide.
They’ll finally win a day later against the Phillies, 6-3, to end the slump.
Wednesday, August 19
Longtime Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman—one of the best in the business—delivers a shocking hot mic moment in Cincinnati when, as he comes on the air earlier than he apparently realizes, is plainly heard to say, “One of the f*g capitals of the world.” (That word was not “fog” or “fig”.) The loud conviction in Brennaman’s voice makes his statement all the more sobering to viewers. The gaffe is committed toward the end of the first game of a seven-inning doubleheader at Kansas City, but it isn’t until the fifth inning of the nightcap that Brennaman acknowledges his awful moment on air, gives a fairly heartfelt apology which includes the line, “I don’t know if I’m going to be putting on this headset again”—and turns over the play-by-play duties to others, likely by order of the Reds.
Brennaman will be suspended by the team and lose his Fall-time gig as NFL broadcaster for Fox; it’s not known if and when he’ll return, but in our current “cancel culture” it’s possible we’ve heard the last of this top baseball voice talent. Hopefully not; no one is perfect, and forgiveness is often a soulful ingredient in life.
The Padres continue to be the hit of pandemic-era baseball. After the visiting Rangers take the lead in the 10th with the scoring of the gift runner, the Padres loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame, setting up a walk-off grand slam from Manny Machado for a 6-3 victory. San Diego has now gone deep with the bases full in three straight games—the first such feat since 2006, and the first by a NL team since way back in 1895.
Of course, all the other teams who did it before will sneer at the Padres and suggest that all of their runs were earned, not gifted on second.
The Yankees’ Gerrit Cole is outstanding as usual against Tampa Bay, scattering two runs on six hits while striking out 10 over 6.2 innings, but it isn’t enough as the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow and (more importantly) the five relievers who follow him pin the Yankees down for a 4-2 defeat. Cole’s 20-game win streak remains intact because he leaves with the score tied—but his streak of 27 straight starts in which his team wins comes to an end.
Another streak of 27 comes to an end when the Rays’ victory clinches the series at Yankee Stadium, having won the first two games of the three-game series. It’s the first time in 27 home series that the Yankees have either failed to win or split; it was the tied for the third longest such streak in major league history.
Albert Pujols ties Alex Rodriguez for third on the all-time RBI list with a run-scoring single in the sixth inning of the Angels’ 7-2 loss at San Francisco. Both players have 2,086 career ribbies; second on the list is Babe Ruth at 2,214, so Pujols—currently at age 40—has a way to go before reaching that next target.
Detroit pitcher Casey Mize, one of the game’s top prospects, makes his major league debut at Chicago against the White Sox and allows three runs on seven hits over 4.1 innings. The more promising stat is that he strikes out seven and walks none. The 23-year-old right-hander gets a no-decision, as the White Sox break up an eighth-inning tie and prevail 5-3 on solo homers from Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion.
Thursday, August 20
Yet another reminder that the virus has the last say on all baseball matters this year: Two Mets, a player and staff member, test positive for COVID-19 before their series finale at Miami, postponing the evening game against the Marlins as well as the weekend series between the Mets and Yankees back at New York.
The Padres make it an unprecedented four straight games with a grand slam, as Eric Hosmer cleans the bases in the fifth to give San Diego a 5-2 lead over the Rangers. Texas comes back to tie things up after nine, but the Padres and the gift auto runner prevail with an 8-7, 10-inning victory.
The Dodgers ease past the Mariners at Seattle, 7-1, behind Clayton Kershaw’s seven solid innings and 11 strikeouts—moving him ahead of Don Drysdale for second on the all-time franchise list. The veteran lefty now needs 203 more Ks to tie Don Sutton at the top of the charts.
Friday, August 21
The Tigers finally defeat Cleveland, scoring 10 unanswered runs after spotting five early tallies, to end a 20-game skid against the Indians. That had been the second longest slide by one team against another since the Royals lost 23 straight to Baltimore from 1969-70. It also ends Detroit’s overall nine-game losing snap. Jonathan Schoop stars offensively for the Tigers with four hits, including a double and home run.
The Marlins win their 2,000th game since beginning play back in 1993, defeating the Nationals at Washington, 3-2. Knocking in all three runs on one swing for Miami is Miguel Rojas, playing his first game since being one of many Marlins diagnosed with COVID-19 nearly a month ago.
Saturday, August 22
The White Sox and Padres continue to make home run news, highlighted with a hat trick performed by a player from each team.
At Wrigley Field, the White Sox’ Jose Abreu breaks up a 2-2 tie in the sixth with his first homer, then adds additional blasts in the eighth and ninth to help the White Sox pull away from the Cubs, 7-4. It’s Abreu’s first three-homer game of his career.
The White Sox as a team have hit 27 homers over their past seven games (all victories, by the way), the most ever by any team in such a stretch.
Out at San Diego, the Padres crush the Astros 13-2 behind Trent Grisham’s trio of taters and a grand slam from rookie Jake Cronenworth. Grisham is the 11th Padre to hit three homers in a game; four of the 10 other instances have taken place in the past three years. Meanwhile, Cronenworth’s slam is the fifth by the Padres this week and sixth this year; the other 29 MLB teams have combined to hit 16 so far in 2020.
Only four other teams—all of them since 1996—have hit six slams in a calendar month.
It’s not a great day for the Washington Nationals. The best news for the defending champs is that they split a pair of seven-inning games with the Marlins, but they’re positioned a half-game out of last place in the NL East with a 10-14 record, lose All-Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg for the season with a wrist issue, and one of their administrators at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic is fired after surveillance video at a convenience store shows him angrily emptying out two cups of hot coffee onto the face of an employee behind the counter.
The Indians appear to have no shortage of bright young pitchers. Yet another makes his mark at Cleveland against Detroit as 23-year-old right-hander Triston McKenzie, making his major league debut, allows a run on two hits through six innings and strikes out 10 Tigers in a 6-1 victory.
Sunday, August 23
The walloping White Sox are finally tied down, but not after making a little history. In a 2-1 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field, Jose Abreu scores the Sox’ only run on his sixth home run of the series, tying the individual Pale Hose mark for most homers in a series. Abreu’s shot also ties the team record of 12. The other time the Sox hit 12? In their previous series against the Tigers.
A Mike Trout rookie card from 2009 sells for $3.936 million—the highest price for any sports card, ever. Part of the reason it’s so high? Trout himself actually autographed it. No word on who bought it, but the seller was one Dave Oaneca, who purchased the card in 2018 for $400,000.
Monday, August 24
The Indians’ Cesar Hernandez leads off Cleveland’s first inning with a home run against the Twins, a day after doing the same against Detroit. Not only is it Hernandez’s first two homers of the year, but it’s the first time in Indians history that a player has gone deep to start consecutive games. The irony out of all of this? Cleveland loses both games, tonight’s being a 3-2 loss to first-place Minnesota.
In the Angels’ 11-4 loss at Houston, Albert Pujols surpasses Alex Rodriguez on the all-time RBI chart with his 2,087th, knocking in Mike Trout on a fifth-inning single.
Tuesday, August 25
The White Sox’ Lucas Giolito throws the year’s first no-hitter, striking out 13 and walking one over 101 pitches to lock down the Pirates at Chicago, 4-0. It’s the 19th no-no thrown by a White Sox pitcher, the last two of which were perfect games (Mark Buehrle in 2009 and Phil Humber in 2012); only the Dodgers (23) have thrown more. Considerably helping Giolito’s cause is the presence of the bad new Bucs, with a starting lineup collectively hitting .208 at the start of the night.
After five days off to muffle MLB’s latest COVID-19 outbreak, the Mets return to action—while the offense remains AWOL. New York is dispensed in two games without scoring a single run, bowing to the Marlins, 4-0 and 3-0. It’s the first time the Mets have been held scoreless throughout an entire doubleheader since 1975, though an asterisk needs to placed upon this ‘achievement’ since both games lasts only seven innings. Making the highlight reel for the Marlins is Jon Berti, who in a single inning of the second game steals three bases—the last of which taking place while the Mets are napping.
The Giants trail in each of the ninth, 10th and 11th innings, but still prevail at home over the Dodgers, 10-8, thanks to Donovan Solano’s two-run, walk-off homer. STATS notes that it’s the first time in 22 years that a team trails in each of those three innings and still wins—but we suggest an asterisk be put on this one, too, since the last team, the Phillies against the Marlins, had to overcome deficits of runs not gifted to their opponent.
The majors’ longest hitting streak of the year to date, at 17 games, ends when the Orioles’ Anthony Santander goes hitless over four at-bats in Baltimore’s 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay. Santander strikes out three times trying, twice against Rays starter Tyler Glasnow—who overall whiffs a career-high 13 Orioles in seven frames.
Wednesday, August 26
Three MLB games are postponed on due to players taking a stand of solidarity against systemic racism, all in the wake of yet another police shooting of a black man caught on video—this time in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The games affected are Cincinnati at Milwaukee, Seattle at San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco.
Gerrit Cole’s 20-game win streak, tied for the longest in American League history, is over. Cole surrenders five runs on five hits, including two absolute bombs by the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. (473 feet) and Marcell Ozuna (469), while being outdueled by Atlanta’s Ian Anderson—no, not the Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull fame, but the 22-year-old right-hander making his major league debut. What a debut it is; over six innings, Anderson allows just one hit—a Luke Voit homer—and walks two to snatch the win from Cole and the Yankees at Atlanta, 5-1. Cole’s streak of 20 will remain in the record book with that of Roger Clemens (1998-99), and finishes four short of Carl Hubbell’s all-time mark from 1936-37.
Thursday, August 27
Seven more games are boycotted by players to protest racial injustice. Of course, leave it to the Mets, one of those boycotting, to spice the action with controversy; there’s talk of the Mets and Marlins making a collective symbolic gesture on the field at the scheduled first pitch, leaving and then returning an hour later to play their game. Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen detests the thought of any game being played and, in a hot mic moment, criticizes MLB commissioner Rob Manfred for making the decision. It turns out that Manfred has nothing to do with it; the idea is thrown out by Mets ownership, which angrily fires off a PR note a couple of hours later admonishing “Brody (sic) Van Wagenen” for his misunderstanding. Van Wagenen later apologizes.
When the dust backstage settles, the Mets and Marlins go forward with their protest—taking the field, standing silent for 42 seconds (to match Jackie Robinson’s uniform number), laying down a “Black Lives Matter” shirt at home plate and leaving back to the dugout. No game is played.
Meanwhile, the Players’ Alliance, made up of over 100 current and former African-American major leaguers, say that their members will donate their paychecks from games of August 27-28 to charities that help to overcome racial inequalities.
All six teams that boycotted the previous day’s games were back in action. All of them, except for the Giants—or their bats, at least. In San Francisco, the Dodgers end the Giants’ seven-game win streak with a pair of shutout victories, 7-0 and 2-0; it’s the first time since 1943 that the Giants are completely blanked in a doubleheader, though again the asterisks need to be broken out since both games last seven frames each.
Friday, August 28
There’s one more boycott-related postponement as the Astros, who hadn’t had the chance to get in on the inaction action because of Hurricane Laura—which passed through during the week and postponed two games)—lobby the visiting Oakland A’s to call it a night before it ever starts. Thus, the A’s become the first team to formally boycott two games due to social unrest. Both teams will make it up with a mini doubleheader.
The Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen finally gets a win—let alone a decision—in his seventh start of the season, allowing just a run on five hits through seven innings as the Snakes snap an eight-game losing streak with a 7-4 home win over the Giants. With the effort, Gallen sets a major league record for the most consecutive starts (22) to begin a career allowing three or fewer earned runs in each. Interestingly, Gallen has won four of those 22 starts, despite a 2.56 ERA and .208 opposing batting average; he’ll soon get a call from Jacob deGrom and have it explained how this exercise in frustration works.
The Yankees’ vaunted bullpen gets smacked around not once but twice by the Mets, losing the first game 6-4 as Chad Green gives up three solo homers in the sixth inning. In the second game of the mini-DH, it’s Aroldis Chapman’s turn to crumble as he blows both the lead and the save in the seventh inning on Amed Rosario’s two-run shot to give the Mets a 4-3 victory. Adding insult to injury is that because the Mets are designated as the home team for the nightcap at Yankee Stadium, as it’s a make-up of an earlier game postponed at Citi Field, the Mets get to walk off on the Yankees’ own turf. What else can you say? It’s 2020.
In the Angels’ 3-2 home win over Seattle, Albert Pujols makes more milestone news as his ground rule double in the sixth ties George Brett for sixth on the all-time two-bagger list with 665. Next on the list, with 668, is Craig Biggio—but beyond that it will take some time for Pujols to catch Ty Cobb, #4 with 724.
Saturday, August 29
The Brewers’ Josh Hader, who hasn’t allowed a hit all year, is called on to protect a 5-4 ninth-inning lead over the Pirates at Milwaukee. The good news for Hader? He still hasn’t allow a hit. The bad news? He walks five, two of which score to give the Bucs a 6-5 lead. The comforting news for the Brewers? They quickly answer back in the bottom of the ninth as Eric Sogard’s two-run homer with no one out gives the Pirates (9-21) their latest setback, 7-6.
The White Sox fall to Kansas City at Chicago, 9-6, and hit ‘just’ one home run—but it’s a record-breaker, as Edwin Encarnacion’s fourth-inning, two-run shot sets a franchise record for the month with 52.
Sunday, August 30
The Dodgers punch out three home runs to break the all-time NL record for a month with 57 during a 7-2 win at Texas. Not surprisingly, the mark they break was set last year, the Latest Year of the Home Run, when the Braves launched 56 in June. The Yankees easily retain the all-time major league mark with an absurd 74 collected last August.
The Cubs also make home run news on the day in their 10-1 rout over the Reds at Cincinnati. In an unprecedented feat, all three of Chicago’s outfielders—Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward—each hit two home runs and combine to knock in all 10 runs.
The Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, the majors’ oldest active player, gives himself the best present he can ask for on his 39th birthday: A complete-game victory. He allows two runs on four hits and two walks with nine strikeouts on 122 pitches—the most thrown by any pitcher this season—in St. Louis’ 7-2 home win over Cleveland. The game is also noted for Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who bceomes only the third player in franchise history to play 2,000 games, joining Stan Musial and Lou Brock.
Bespectacled 25-year-old rookie Dane Dunning, making his second-ever major league appearance, throws five no-hit innings for the White Sox against the visiting Royals before being pulled at 79 pitches. Unfortunately for Dunning, the 2-0 lead he leaves will be erased by, denying him his first victory as the White Sox come back and triumph, 5-2.
Monday, August 31
This year’s trading deadline, moved back a month to fit more comfortably into the halfway point of the shortened season, comes and goes with an unexpected flurry of activity.
The one team looking clearly hungrier than the rest is the Padres, who in separate trades land Cleveland pitcher Mike Clevinger, rising Seattle star catcher Austin Nola (hitting .306 with five homers in 98 at-bats thus far in 2020), veteran first baseman/DH Mitch Moreland from Boston (where he was hitting .328 with eight homers over 67 at-bats) and a host of new relievers, including a (maybe) reborn Trevor Rosenthal from Kansas City. The sum total of these deals leaves no mistake that the Padres—one of six teams never to win a World Series—are going for it, lock, stock and barrel.
Other transaction news on Monday is notable for two teams cleaning house. The Texas Rangers, struggling with a 12-21 record, trade pitcher Mike Minor to Oakland, and catcher Robinson Chirinos and third baseman Todd Frazier to the Mets (where Frazier previously played). In Phoenix, the 14-21 Diamondbacks send starting pitcher Robbie Ray to Toronto, reliever Archie Bradley to Cincinnati, and—in a surprising move—outfielder Starling Marte to Miami, where the Marlins sense playoff aspirations despite a 15-15 record.
The Rays get six innings of two-hit shutout ball from Tyler Glasnow (who doesn’t allow any hits through his first five frames), a big night from Ji-Man Choi (3-for-3 with two walks and a home run) and withstand a late rally from the Yankees to defeat their closest AL East rivals at New York, 5-3. Tampa Bay ends August with the AL’s best record (24-11) and a 4.5-game lead over the Yankees.
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