This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: August 2021

O’s for 19: Baltimore’s Latest Long Skid    Miggy at 500
Mets vs. Mets Fans    Farewell, J.R. Richard and Bill Freehan

July 2021    Comebacker Index  •  September 2021

Sunday, August 1

A day after hitting a game-winning, walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th against Seattle, Texas rookie Jonah Heim does it again—lifting a solo shot over the fence to complete a three-run rally and give the Rangers a 4-3 win over the Mariners. The 24-year-old Heim is the first MLB rookie ever to hit walk-off homers in consecutive games; overall, he has four round-trippers over his last three games. 

A sour weekend for Cubs fans came to an end—not so much because Chicago loses at Washington, 6-5, on a ninth-inning walk-off homer from Yadiel Hernandez—but because three of their beloved star hitters from the team’s famous 2016 title run, all traded away in the past week, have each hit home runs in their first game with their new teams. On July 30, it was Anthony Rizzo going deep for the New York Yankees; a day later, it was Javier Baez for the New York Mets. Today, it’s Kris Bryant, launching a solo homer in his debut for the Giants in a 5-3 decision over the Houston Astros at San Francisco. This is the first time that three players dealt from the same team have all homered in their first game with their new ballclubs. 

Trying to make it up for the Cubs is outfielder Rafael Ortega, who belts three home runs and knocks in all five runs in their loss to the Nationals. He’s the first Cub to collect a hat trick since Bryant on May 17, 2019…also against the Nationals at Washington. (The Cubs won that game, 14-6.) 

The afternoon deadline to sign players selected in the 2021 MLB amateur goes by with one major name unsigned. Kumar Rocker was projected as the #1 pick before the start of this past NCAA season with Vanderbilt, but he was chosen 10th by the Mets as other teams showed concern over his arm. The Mets appear to regret drafting him; after a physical exam of Rocker led to more skepticism over his arm, they decide to take a $6 million offer off the table. Rocker’s agent, one Scott Boras, disputes the Mets’ position and claims that his client is healthy, citing “independent medical review by multiple prominent baseball orthopedic surgeons.” While the Mets will receive a compensational first-round pick in the 2022 draft, Rocker will have to wait until next year, essentially without a team to test his arm. 

Monday, August 2

A day before he’s scheduled to start against Baltimore, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole becomes the latest star player to test positive for COVID-19. “As of now, he is the only one (with the virus),” New York manager Aaron Boone says, no doubt feeling a little wary after a mini-outbreak struck the team a couple of weeks earlier. Meanwhile, former Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney gets shelled in his Yankees debut, becoming the first player in franchise history to concede four home runs in his first appearance for the team in a 7-1 loss to the visiting Orioles. 

The Brewers have a perfect night going against the visiting Pirates; Eric Lauer tosses five shutout innings and Eduardo Escobar is in the middle of his best game since joining the team from Arizona. But bittersweetness occurs in the ninth when 38-year-old John Axford—a long-ago Brewer making his first major league appearance since 2018—retires one of only five batters he faces in the ninth before departing with elbow pain. An MRI will reveal enough damage to Axford’s elbow that he’ll miss the rest of the season. 

Axford, whose 46 saves led the NL for the Brewers back in 2011, essentially missed all of the 2019-20 seasons as he recovered from elbow surgery; he appeared to have given up on his playing career when he began this season serving as a TV analyst for the Toronto Blue Jays. He then decided to take a crack at the Canadian Olympics baseball team, rediscovered a fastball that was sailing at 98 MPH, and eventually tagged up with the Jays’ Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo—allowing a run on three hits with 14 strikeouts over 10.2 innings. But against the Pirates, he hits his first batter, survives a line out, then gives up two singles and a walk before exiting; he’s charged with both of the Pirates’ runs. 

Tuesday, August 3

The Astros face their loudest music yet since it was revealed that they cheated during their 2017 championship campaign, beginning a two-game series at Los Angeles against the Dodgers—the team they beat at the 2017 World Series—before an MLB season-high crowd of 52,692. Irate Dodgers fans boo lustily, bang on trash can lids and even throw batting practice home run balls hit by Astros players back on the field. But Houston quiets the crowd—and Dodgers bats—with a 3-0 victory. Lance McCullers Jr. throws 6.2 scoreless innings (striking out nine), while Yordan Alvarez’s two-run homer in the eighth caps the scoring and gives Astros relievers breathing room to finish off the shutout. 

It looks like it’s going to be yet another one-sided affair in favor of the Brewers against the visiting Pirates, as Adrian Houser takes a no-hitter and a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning. But with five walks and 104 pitches, there’s no chance he can go the distance in this day and age. Houser leaves, and Gregory Polanco takes over. The Pirates’ right fielder immediately greets Houser replacement Derek Norris with a single, igniting a five-run rally to put the Pirates ahead; robs Eduardo Escobar of a potential walk-off homer in the ninth with a leaping catch over the top of the outfield fence; and knocks in the go-ahead run in the 10th on an infield single, as Pittsburgh racks up three tallies to defeat Milwaukee, 8-5. 

After a listless defeat the night before, the Yankees come storming back to crush the visiting Orioles, 13-1 behind home runs from Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, and six shutout innings from Luis Gil, making his major league debut in place of COVID-stricken Gerrit Cole. Gil is the first Yankee to throw at least six scoreless in his first-ever appearance since Sam Militello in 1992; he’s followed by relievers Stephen Ridings and Brody Koerner, both of whom are also making their big-league debuts. According to Yankees stat maven Katie Sharp, this is the first time in AL history that three pitchers each make their debuts for one team in the same game. 

Atlanta immediately sets the tone at St. Louis with five first-inning runs off Jon Lester (making his Cardinals debut after a trade from Washington), easing to a 6-1 victory. The Braves have gone 17 straight games without consecutive wins or losses—following up a win with a loss, and vice versa. That is said to be the longest such streak in MLB history. 

They win again the following night to finally end the back-and-forth. 

Wednesday, August 4

Round Two of Astros/Dodgers in Los Angeles is a far more satisfying experience for Dodgers fans. Max Scherzer has a very Scherzer-like debut for Los Angeles, allowing two runs on five hits through seven innings with 10 strikeouts—three of them against the Astros’ Jose Altuve, who also commits an error to the utter satisfaction of Dodgers fans. Offensively, Mookie Betts belts two of four home runs hit on the night for the Dodgers, who survive another off-effort from closer Kenley Jansen to earn a split in the two-game series with a 7-5 victory. 

Scherzer’s 95.2 fastball velocity is his highest of the season. 

With Scherzer’s addition, the Dodgers now have seven players with MVP/Cy Young Award experience—the most ever for one team in a single season. No other team even had six. 

The Oakland A’s are also looking to the past, bringing on unemployed slugger Khris Davis on a minor league contract, Davis hit over 40 homers for the A’s in three successive seasons (2016-18) but has since appeared to run out of gas—collecting just two homers over 30 games last year for the A’s and another two in 22 games (along with a .157 average) early this year for Texas before his release from that team. 

The Yankees are certainly getting an early return on investment from Anthony Rizzo. The ex-Cub hits a solo home run in New York’s 10-3 home victory over the Orioles, giving him six straight games with at least one RBI since joining the team. Rizzo is the first player with such a streak since Bobby Murcer for the 1977 Cubs. 

Thursday, August 5

J.R. Richard, whose pitching career was cut down at its apex when he suffered a stroke in 1980, dies at the age of 71. The announcement of his passing is made by the Astros, the team he played his 10-year career with, with no further details as to how he died. The tall (6’8”) right-hander had a superior fastball, but his best pitch was a slider considered one of the most unhittable of his time; opponents barely batted .200, and struck out often, against him. But Richard was also wild, three times leading the NL each in walks and wild pitches. Richard hit peak form starting in 1978, striking out 303 batters; a year later, he struck out another 313 while winning the NL ERA title with a 2.71 ERA. In 1980, he was experiencing a dream season (10-4 record, 1.90 ERA) when, in late July, he suffered his stroke. Richard recovered well enough to attempt a comeback, reaching as far as Triple-A before hitting a wall. After giving up on the game, everything else that could go wrong did; he went through a divorce, made bad investments and failed at several attempts to start a business—leaving him broke and, briefly, living under a freeway overpass near the Astrodome where he had earlier shined. He gradually got back on his feet, and in his later years served as a minister. 

The Cleveland Indians/Guardians agree to a 15-year extension at Progressive Field which will keep them at the downtown facility through 2036; two five-year options could extend their stay to 2046, 52 years after the first game played there. The agreement with the city, Cuyahoga County and the State of Ohio also calls for $435 million in maintenance upkeep and renovations, including a rethinking of the ballpark’s upper deck—which hopefully means the end of the odd looking, container box-like hangouts behind right field. 

The Cardinals, whose pitching staff has had control issues all season long, reach an awful nadir in their 8-4 loss to the visiting Braves. The last four of six runs tallied by the Braves in the eighth inning come courtesy of bases-loaded walks—three of them from closer Alex Reyes, doing rare eighth-inning duty. The eight walks conceded by the Cardinals overall adds to their MLB season-high total—and the 26 they’ve allowed with the bases loaded are the most in a season since the 1999 Mariners (28). 

The Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly is the first pitcher to throw eight innings in a game over the past 11 days, departing with a 4-0 lead over the visiting Giants—and on cue, the Arizona bullpen screws it up. San Francisco rallies for four runs in the ninth to tie, followed by another courtesy of the gift runner in the 10th to escape Phoenix with a 5-4 victory. 

Friday, August 6

Oakland outfielder Ramon Laureano is banned for 80 games after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone. Like just about everyone else caught using PEDs, Laureano releases a statement claiming he had no idea how he ingested the drug. The fourth-year player ends his season batting .246 with 21 doubles, 14 home runs, 39 RBIs and 12 steals. 

We have a new leader atop the NL East. The Phillies, with a bit of help from a couple of ex-Rangers, defeat the visiting Mets 4-2 to wrestle first place away from New York, which had held on to the top spot in the East for three straight months. Kyle Gibson, in his second start for the Phillies since being traded from Texas, pitches six solid innings to earn the win; his former Rangers teammate Ian Kennedy gets the save, his first in a Phillies uniform. 

Their rotation handcuffed by recent COVID-19 positives, the Yankees rely on nine relievers to hold off the visiting Mariners in 11 innings, 3-2. Aaron Judge’s sac fly in the eighth ties the game; Brent Gardner’s single in the 11th wins it after the two teams had traded gift runs in the 10th. It’s the Yankees’ fourth win of the year in five games against Seattle this season, ensuring that they’ll go an 18th straight year (2020 excluded, because the two teams did not play each other) without losing the season series against the Mariners. 

This is the first time that an MLB team has won an extra-inning game using multiple pitchers—neither of whom threw two or more innings. 

Saturday, August 7

The Astros shut down the visiting Twins, 4-0, behind Luis Garcia’s six shutout innings and Yordan Alvarez’s 50th career home run, a solo shot in the fourth. Alvarez’s milestone blast occurs in his 186th game, easily setting a Houston franchise record; he also extends the Astros’ streak of consecutive games with at least one homer to 17, the longest in the majors since 2019.

Sunday, August 8

On the day the Phillies retire the uniform of the late Roy Halladay, Zack Wheeler does his best to mimic the former ace by dealing a two-hit shutout, striking out 11 while walking just one as Philadelphia finishes a three-game home sweep of the Mets, 3-0. It’s the third career blanking for Wheeler, who retires 22 straight Mets at one point—the longest such streak for the Phillies since Halladay threw a perfect game in 2010. Of the 108 pitches thrown by Wheeler, 80 are for strikes. 

Controversy rears its ugly head late during the Rockies’ 13-8 victory over Miami in Denver when a fan allegedly shouts the “n-word” twice toward Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson, who’s black. Regional sports networks covering the game pick up the audio, and the broadcasters immediately apologize to viewers who may have heard it. Rockies management quickly puts out a statement condemning the use of the epithet…but after reviewing the video and talking to the fan in question, the Rockies say that he actually was calling out for the team mascot Dinger—a near rhyme to what everyone thought they heard—hanging out nearby. Fans seated nearby confirm the ‘Dinger’ reference. 

Brinson, who didn’t hear the racial slur (or “Dinger”) while at the plate, later views the clip some 50 times, over and over—and is still convinced that the fan was using the racial slur. 

Maybe Anthony Rizzo regrets holding out on a COVID-19 vaccine because he repeatedly claimed he wanted to see “more data.” The first-week New Yorker, recently traded from the Cubs, becomes the latest Yankee to test positive for the virus and thus is absent from the lineup in a 2-0 home loss to the Mariners.  

Detroit infielder Jonathan Schoop, having a revival year with the Tigers—batting .289 while on pace for nearly 30 homers and 100 RBIs—signs a two-year, $15 million extension to stay in Motor City. Schoop has had an up-and-down career, putting up All-Star numbers for the 2017 Orioles before plummeting to subpar batting averages and constant subject of trades until settling back in at Detroit. 

The United States Olympic baseball team is defeated in the gold medal game by the host nation of Japan, shut down on six hits by Masato Morishita and four relievers, 2-0. In the first Olympics to include baseball since 2008, the U.S. fielded a roster full of unemployed major leaguers and prospects. The silver medal for the U.S. is the sixth honor for the nation in baseball; it’s the first gold for Japan. 

Monday, August 9

The Chicago White Sox have it easy with the Twins at Minnesota, crushing their way to an 11-1 rout. Lucas Giolito throws eight solid innings while Eloy Jimenez becomes the first player since the start of the live ball era in 1920—and thus, probably ever—to collect two homers and five RBIs through the first five innings of consecutive games. The White Sox’ 10.5-game lead in the AL Central is the largest of any of MLB’s six divisional leaders. 

The Yankees spend much of the evening at Kansas City struggling to keep the Royals at arm’s strength. Breaking a scoreless tie in the seventh on a Luke Voit RBI single, the Yankees then concede a run to the Royals in the bottom half of the inning; the Yankees then score single runs in the eighth and ninth, and two more in the 10th—only to have the Royals match them in the bottom half of each of those frames. Finally, the Yankees say enough in the 11th and plate three, whereas the Royals can only net one in New York’s 8-6 victory. The Royals’ efforts don’t go for naught from a historical perspective; according to STATS, they’re the first team since the start of the modern era (1900) to erase deficits in the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th innings. 

It’s only the second time a team has suffered four blown saves in a game. The Yankees are the first to win in spite of it. 

Tuesday, August 10

Where have you gone, Ed Walsh? The ironman pitchers of baseball are few and very far between these days; in fact, you can’t even find one on this day as no single starting pitcher logs more than six innings, the first time that’s happened in MLB history over one day of action. Ten pitchers threw exactly six frames, which now appears to be the limit as pitching coaches, managers and (perhaps most significantly) analytical number crunchers are riding the ‘less is more’ bandwagon. 

Back to Ed Walsh; for those not invested in baseball history, he threw 464 innings in 1908. That’s double what this year’s leader in that category will likely accrue. Yes, it was definitely a much different game back then, when relievers were considered spare tires, dead balls made for easy pitching and—analytics, what the hell is that? But let’s look back at more recent times. The Phillies two days ago retired Roy Halladay’s number. He threw 67 complete games over a 16-year career and averaged 6.9 innings per start. By comparison, the A’s lead the majors this year in innings per start, at 5.7. The Orioles, in last place in this department (and many others, for that matter), average just 4.6. 

A few years ago, the standard pitch limit for a starter was 120 pitches. But these days, MLB teams are ‘playing the percentages’ and limiting starters to 80, 90 or, if they’re very generous, 100 pitches. And thus, the decline of the starting pitcher continues. 

The Colorado Rockies are shut out for a franchise-record 14th time this season, blanked by the Astros, Jake Odorizzi (five innings, 81 pitches) and four relievers, 5-0 in Houston. Here’s the wild part; all 14 shutouts suffered by the Rockies have occurred on the road, away from the hitting spoils of Coors Field. The Rockies have the majors’ worst road record (13-41), and are dead last away from home in batting average (.211), slugging percentage (.329) and OPS (.614). Conversely, the Rockies are first (.285), second (.486) and first (.834) in those same departments when at home, respectively. 

Despite the win, the Astros’ streak of 18 straight games with at least one home run came to an end. That was the longest run by an MLB team this season. 

Speaking of road woes, the Rangers snap their latest dry spell away from Arlington with a 5-4, 10-inning win at Seattle. The 14-game road skid was the second longest by the Rangers this year, following a franchise-record 16-game slide. The twin streaks represent two of the three worst in the team’s 61-year history. Helping to get the Rangers over the top is Adolis Garcia, whose ninth-inning home run gives the Rangers a temporary 3-2 lead before the Mariners force extra innings. It was Garcia’s fourth go-ahead homer belted in the ninth or later this season, setting an MLB record for rookies. 

Wednesday, August 11

The Cubs are only eight runs away from becoming the first in MLB history to reach 100,000—but if they keep pitching against guys like Corbin Burnes, they’re never going to get there. The Brewers’ ace, who got off to an electric start this year before sliding into a relative midseason recession, becomes the third major league pitcher—and second this season—to strike out 10 straight batters in a 10-0 rout of the Cubs at Chicago. Overall, Burnes strikes out 15 and allows four hits through eight shutout innings. 

Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, having a far worse second stay with Chicago than during the peak of his career in 2015, allows eight runs over four innings against the Brewers—dropping him to 0-6 with a 10.44 ERA over his previous 10 starts. The Cubs will release him the next day; he’ll hook on with the San Diego Padres. Overall in 2021, Arrieta is 5-11 with a 6.88 ERA. 

The Red Sox end the Rays’ five-game winning streak with a bludgeon, laying down a score of scores with a 20-8 rout of Tampa Bay at Fenway Park. The result could have been more one-sided, but the Rays ‘rallied’ for seven runs in the ninth to prove they could put up some offense. Boston had long since proven they could do the same; Xander Boegarts belts the Sox’ lone home run of the night among 19 hits including seven doubles and a pair of triples; he was one of three players with at least four RBIs. 

The 20 runs allowed are tied for the third most ever allowed by the Rays; starter Josh Fleming lasts just 3.1 innings, allowing 10 runs on 11 hits and six walks, tying Tanyon Sturtze’s 2002 mark for the most baserunners allowed in a start at 17—though Sturtze lasted much longer (seven innings) in his outing, also against the Red Sox. 

On a purely trivial note, it’s pointed out and confirmed that this is the first-ever MLB game in which there are half-innings of one, two, three, four, five, six and seven runs each.  

The Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright goes full vintage on the Pirates at Pittsburgh, throwing a two-hit shutout on just 88 pitches while collecting a pair of hits himself (including an RBI single) as St. Louis prevails, 4-0. It’s the fewest pitches Wainwright has thrown in a complete-game victory, and the fewest thrown by a Cardinal dealing a shutout since Bob Tewksbury needed just 79 in a 1990 one-hitter against Houston. The Pirates, meanwhile, have gathered three hits combined over the past two games—tying the franchise record for the fewest in such a stretch, matching consecutive games on October 4-5, 1907. (Because it was the Deadball Era, it’s not surprising to note that one of those games was a 1-0 victory over the Reds.) 

Thursday, August 12

It’s not heaven—it’s Iowa. The White Sox and Yankees participate in MLB’s first Field of Dreams game, played in the same setting as the famous 1989 film in which Kevin Costner hears voices whispering, “Build it, and they will come.” Though the iconic playing field from the movie still exists, MLB built another ballpark (for logistical reasons) amid the corn fields just a short walk away with 8,000 seats—all of them occupied by fans who pay an average of $1,400 per ticket, the highest ever for a regular season baseball game. 

The first game, delayed a year because of the pandemic (it was supposed to be the White Sox and Cardinals in 2020) prove to be almost as big a hit as the movie, Fox’s TV ratings notwithstanding. On a beautifully serene summer evening in Iowa, the two teams wear throwback jerseys (adapted by Nike) and play power ping-pong throughout, combining for eight home runs disappearing into the corn fields behind symmetrical field dimensions (335 down the lines, 380 to the gaps and 400 to deep center). The last of the round-trippers comes off the bat of the White Sox’ Tim Anderson, who upends the Yankees’ bid for a comeback victory (scoring four runs to overcome a 7-4 deficit) by blasting a two-run shot off Zack Britton to win the game, 9-8. 

Of the 17 runs scored in the game, 16 came directly off of home runs. 

Bench coach Miguel Cairo substitutes as White Sox manager as Tony La Russa is attending the funeral of his brother-in-law. 

Ineffective and hurt, slugger Chris Davis decides to retire—to the utter relief of the Orioles, who owed him over $30 million on a contract that ran through 2022. Davis struggled in his early years with Texas, but found his swing after a trade to Baltimore; he twice led the majors in home runs, peaking in 2013 when he mashed a franchise-record 53 while driving in 138 to finish third in that season’s AL MVP vote. But in the years to follow, gradual statistical recession became all-out, into-the-abyss descent as Davis set a couple of records he’d rather forget; a .168 batting average in 2018 that’s the lowest ever by a qualified (503+ plate appearances) player, and a hitless slump extending to an embarrassing 54 at-bats early in 2019

The Brewers are simply having too much fun with the Cubs these days. Picking up from a 10-0 drubbing on Wednesday, Milwaukee pounds the Cubs anew by a 17-4 count. Luis Urias smacks three doubles and a pair of home runs to become one of 16 players in MLB history to collect five extra-base hits in a game, while also scoring and driving in five runs each. Jace Peterson, batting behind Urias, also has five hits (a double, homer and three singles) and catcher Manny Pina, the next guy in the lineup, smokes two homers himself while driving in six. 

In losing all four games of the series to the Brewers, the Cubs are outscored by 28 runs—the biggest deficit suffered by Chicago in a series of any length at 107-year-old Wrigley Field. Overall, the Brewers have won eight straight against the Cubs, out-notching them in the process by a 74-21 count. 

The Cubs do have one feel-good moment when shortstop Andrew Romine comes in to pitch the ninth with brother Austin Romine behind the plate. They’re the first pair of siblings to form a battery since Larry and Norm Sherry for the 1962 Dodgers. In his one inning of emergency pitching work, Andrew gives up a run on two hits. 

Neither of Connie Mack’s dynasties, nor the Charles Finley run of championships in the early 1970s, nor even the Bash Brothers of the late 1980s could achieve what the A’s managed as they record their largest shutout victory in franchise history, demolishing the Indians at Cleveland, 17-0; it ties the Indians’ record for the worst shutout defeat, matching 1987 and 2015 losses. Cleveland pitchers contribute greatly to the A’s rout, with 13 of Oakland’s 27 baserunners reaching safely either via walk (10) or hit-by-pitch (three). The odd box score line of the day belongs to the A’s Matt Chapman, who officially goes 0-for-1 with five walks and three runs scored. 

Friday, August 13

It’s all about the runs, good and bad, for the Cubs at Miami. On the bad side—the very bad side—the Cubs gave up 11 runs in the second inning to the Marlins as Adbert Alzolay becomes the latest in a string of Chicago starters to crash and burn early; with three additional runs allowed by Cubs pitching through the first three frames, that runs up the total of tallies conceded by the team to 47 over a 24-inning stretch. On the good side, the Cubs eventually score 10 runs on their own—and while that’s not enough to overcome the Marlins’ early offensive binge as they lose, 14-10, it does put them over the historic hump as the first team in major league history to score 100,000 runs since their inception. There is interpretation involved in this milestone; some believe the six-figure total was achieved a couple of years back, because they counted the Cubs’ early years as a team in the National Association (1871, 1874-75), which others don’t count because they don’t consider the NA as a major league circuit. 

For the Marlins, the 11-run outburst in the second inning ties a franchise mark. For the Cubs, it’s their ninth straight defeat, and the third time this season they scored 10 runs in a game…and lose. 

After blowing a late 4-0 lead and being dragged into extra innings at New York, the Dodgers plate a pair in the 10th while the Mets could only reply with one to capture a 6-5 victory. It snaps a streak of 11 straight overtime losses for Los Angeles—one short of the major league mark within one season, established in 1969 by the first-year Montreal Expos. 

San Francisco extends shortstop Brandon Crawford, one of several big-name Giants due for free agency after the season, for two years and $32 million. The slick-fielding Crawford, having his best year at the plate at age 34, undoubtedly is happy to take the hometown offer as he was born in nearby Mountain View and grew up as a big Giants fan. 

Saturday, August 14

The Diamondbacks’ Tyler Gilbert becomes the fourth pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his first major league start (yes, pending inclusion of Negro League stats) as he shuts down the visiting Padres, 7-0, on 102 pitches and five strikeouts. The 27-year-old southpaw, who had appeared in three previous games as a reliever, walks three—two of whom are erased on double plays. Overall, it’s the eighth no-hitter thrown in the 2021 season, establishing a modern (post-1900) season record, while tying the overall mark set back in 1884; this year’s total doesn’t include two additional no-hit efforts thrown in seven-inning “mini” games, halves of doubleheaders reduced by two frames per MLB’s temporary pandemic-era rules. 

None of the other three pitchers who threw no-hitters in their first starts went on to have stellar careers. Ted Breitenstein, the first in 1891, at least had something of an extended career, pitching 11 seasons and accumulating 160 wins—but also 170 losses, including a major league-leading 30 in 1895. Bumpus Jones is the only one on this short list who, in 1892, threw his gem in his first ever appearance (sans previous relief outings); it was one of just two wins in his career, as he never acclimated himself to the extended distance between the mound and home plate established the following season. And Bobo Holloman’s masterpiece for (of all teams) the sadsack St. Louis Browns in 1953 was one of only three MLB victories in a career that lasted all of 22 appearances, 10 starts and one year. 

It’s a funny thing about the Diamondbacks; they achieve their best pitching gems during really awful seasons. Randy Johnson threw a perfect game for the Snakes in the midst of a wretched (51-111) 2004 campaign, and now here’s Gilbert, the Santa Cruz, California native, throwing the first-ever no-hitter by a Diamondback at Chase Field as the team plunges toward a likely second 100-loss season in franchise annals. In fact, the .316 win percentage held by the Diamondbacks in advance of Gilbert’s effort is the lowest by a team prior to a no-no since 1916, when Bullet Joe Bush no-hit Cleveland on a day the A’s began with a 25-91 (.216) record. 

Earlier in the day, the Phillies also flirt with a no-hitter as veteran southpaw Matt Moore—trying to retain traction at the big-league level and struggling to do so with 17 runs allowed over his previous 14.1 innings—keeps the visiting Reds silent for six innings on 76 pitches before being removed. Reliever Hector Neris throws an additional hitless frame before giving way to Archie Bradley—who gives up a home run to the first batter he faces in the eighth, Tyler Stephenson. That will be the only tally on the night for the Reds, as the Phillies maintain a share of the NL East lead with Atlanta in a 6-1 victory. 

For the first time in two years and a day, Chris Sale takes the mound in a regular season game and skips nary a beat—allowing two runs on six hits over five innings with eight strikeouts and no walks, picking up the easy victory as his Red Sox teammates pummel the visiting Orioles, 16-2. Sale, working his way back to action after Tommy John surgery, is temporarily dinged in the third when he gives up back-to-back home runs, but otherwise holds firm. 

The defeat is the 10th straight for the Orioles; the 98 runs they’ve allowed are the most given up by any team during a 10-game skid since the 1936 St. Louis Browns, who surrendered 109 runs. The major league record is 113 by the Phillies during their offensively ubiquitous 1930 season. 

While the Orioles and Cubs (5-4 losers at Miami) both possess 10-game losing streaks, the Pirates avoid joining them by winning the first game of a mini-doubleheader at Pittsburgh against the first-place Brewers, 14-4—stopping their skid at eight games. Doing the damage for the Bucs is shortstop Kevin Newman, who smacks four doubles to tie a ML record accomplished 47 previous times; he’s the third Pirate, after Adam Frazier in 2019 and Paul Waner in 1932, to hit four in a game. Newman is the first player in over 50 years to double in four consecutive innings. 

Toronto’s red-hot offense is frozen shut by the Twins, who ease to a 12-0 spanking at Minnesota behind four home runs and six shutout innings from Kenta Maeda. The blanking ends a run of seven straight games—all on the road—in which the Blue Jays had scored at least eight runs. Only two other teams had done that over a single road trip since 1900, according to STATS. 

Unfortunately, this violent play fetish Trevor Bauer seems to enjoy looks to be something of a trend for the sidelined Dodgers pitcher. The Washington Post reports that another woman, in Ohio, asked for a restraining order in June 2020 against Bauer after he got too physical with her in bed; unlike the California woman who’s legally challenging Bauer in court, the Ohio woman did not give her consent to Bauer to get rough; worse, according to the story, Bauer texted her afterward, saying—rather ominously—that he doesn’t “feel like spending time in jail for killing someone…and that’s what would happen if I saw you again.” Perhaps sidestepping his lawyers and agents, Bauer himself goes straight to Twitter to dispute the Post story. “Despite my representatives providing a wealth of contradictory evidence, documents, statements, and background information showing the pattern of disturbing behavior by this woman and her attorneys, The Washington Post opted to ignore much of this information and to run a salacious story disseminating defamatory statements, false information, and baseless allegations,” he wrote. 

Sunday, August 15

On the ninth anniversary of the majors’ last perfect game—by Seattle’s Felix Hernandez in 2012—Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie goes 7.2 innings without allowing a baserunner at Detroit before Harold Castro ends the bid with a single. McKenzie finishes the day with eight shutout innings, 11 strikeouts and no walks as the Indians coast to an 11-0 rout of the Tigers. 

The Cubs and Orioles continue to show that they’ve thrown in the towel—though truth be told, the consistently awful Orioles threw it in years ago. In Boston, Baltimore is swept by the Red Sox for its 11th straight defeat, 6-2; adding insult to injury, Cedric Mullins goes hitless in five at-bats to end his 20-game hit streak, which had been the majors’ longest active run. The Orioles are 38-78 on the season, and 164-336 since the start of 2018. Meanwhile in Miami, the Cubs also drop their 11th straight with a 4-1 loss against the Marlins, leaving nine runners on base—five of them in scoring position. 

The current droughts by the Orioles and Cubs represent two of eight losing streaks of 11 or more losses in the majors this year. There hasn’t been that many since 1899, when there were also eight—six of them alone by perhaps the worst team in baseball history, the NL’s Cleveland Spiders. 

Toronto avoids a sweep by the Mariners at Seattle behind Steven Matz and four relievers, 8-3. The third of those relievers, Adam Cimber, gives up his first home run of the year when Kyle Seager launches a two-run bomb in the eighth. Cimber’s run of 59 straight innings without a home run, dating back to last year, was the majors’ longest active streak. Also in spite of the win, the Blue Jays’ Bo Bichette strikes out in all five of his plate appearances, making him the first major leaguer with 5 K’s in a game this season—and only the second player in Toronto history to whiff five times in a nine-inning game. Alex Rios—who did it twice, in 2006 and 2009—was the other. 

Monday, August 16

The price for Honus Wagner continues to go up. One of the precious few T206 Wagner baseball cards from 1909 is sold for a staggering $6,606,000, the highest sum ever paid for a sports trading card. The previous high was $5.2 million, for a 1952 Mickey Mantle Topps card and a 2003-04 Upper Deck LeBron James card signed by the basketball icon. Both the buyer and seller of the Wagner card were listed as anonymous. 

The Mets’ Pete Alonso lines a two-run triple in the fifth inning at San Francisco and, moments later, scores to give New York a 3-2 lead over the Giants. The historical significance of Alonso’s hit is that it snaps a 68-game drought for the Mets without a triple—the longest in major league history. Overall, it’s the Mets’ seventh three-bagger of the year; only the Astros (six) have fewer. As for the rest of the game, the Mets’ 3-2 lead cannot be held as the Giants score five unanswered runs and survive with a 7-5 decision. 

The Cubs and Orioles continued their bad news ways, as both teams got crushed on the road to extend their separate losing streaks to 12 games. Chicago is smoked 14-5 at Cincinnati as Joey Votto becomes the fifth Reds player in the post-1900 modern to reach 2,000 career hits while rookie Jonathan India drives in five runs from the leadoff spot. The Cubs have allowed 64 runs in their past six games; the team record for the most allowed over any six-game stretch is 82, set back in 1999

As for the Orioles, their 12th consecutive defeat comes courtesy of the first-place Rays, who run away with a 9-2 win behind five home runs—including an inside-the-park job from 2020 World Series hero for a night Brett Phillips. Baltimore has been outscored by 77 runs during this streak; that matches the biggest differential for any team suffering 12 straight losses in modern times, equaling the 1902 Reds, 1936 A’s and 1977 Braves. 

This is the first time since 1935 that two teams finish the day with active losing streaks of 12 or more games. 

Tuesday, August 17

Oakland pitcher Chris Bassitt takes a 100-MPH line drive to the right side of his face from the White Sox’ Brian Goodwin at Chicago, dropping him to the ground in intense pain; he’s alert and conscious as he’s carted from the field holding a towel to his face. He’ll eventually undergo surgery for a fractured jaw and cheekbone. As for the game, the blow to Bassitt loads the bases with no one out in the bottom of the second; A’s reliever Burch Smith next allows hits to the first two players he faces, the second being a three-run homer to Jake Lamb that caps a five-run rally and launches the White Sox to a 9-0 victory. 

The floundering Cubs finally find a stopper as Kyle Hendricks throws six sharp innings—and just as importantly, three Chicago relievers hold a slim lead as the team ends a 12-game skid and defeats the Reds at Cincinnati, 2-1. Ironically, despite the Cubs’ losing ways of late, Hendricks’ win gives him a major league-leading 14 on the year. 

The Orioles, meanwhile, continue their latest dry spell by getting hammered at Tampa Bay, 10-0, for their 13th straight loss. Coupled with a 14-game slide in late May, the Orioles are the first team in AL history to suffer multiple streaks of 13 losses in one season. Worse, they’ve now been outscored by 87 runs in their skid, the largest differential for any 13-game streak since the God-awful 1899 Cleveland Spiders

It may not have the historical equivalency of the 1978 Boston Massacre, but the Yankees are nonetheless feeling good after taking a mini-doubleheader from the visiting Red Sox by scores of 5-3 and 2-0—putting them percentage points ahead of Boston for second place in the AL East. The Yankees are 17-5 since July 30; the Red Sox are 6-12. Though second-game Yankees starter Luis Gil does not get the victory because he’s removed one out shy of qualifying for the win, he does secure a place in major league history by becoming the first pitcher, period, to not allow a run in either of his first three career starts. In those three games, Gil has totaled 15.2 scoreless innings, conceding nine hits and seven walks while striking out 18. 

San Diego’s Tommy Pham belts the majors’ longest home run of 2021 so far with a 486-foot blast that clears the left-field bleachers at Coors Field, and teammate Jake Cronenworth hits his second inside-the-park home run against the Rockies this year—but none of that is enough as the Padres suffer a 7-3 defeat. It’s San Diego’s sixth loss over its last seven games, dropping the team 12 games behind the first-place Giants (3-2 winners against the Mets); it holds a mere 1.5-game lead over Cincinnati for the NL’s second wild card spot. 

Cronenworth is the first player to have multiple inside-the-park homers in one season against one team since the Rangers’ Ruben Sierra against the Royals in 1987. 

While Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer spends his time in a courtroom in a case of sexual abuse, another former All-Star pitcher, Felipe Vazquez, is sentenced to two-to-four years for engaging in a carnal relationship with a 13-year old back in 2017. He’s already spent two years in jail while awaiting his fate, so the minimum penalty could set him free—but perhaps only temporarily as he’s also facing similar charges in Missouri and Florida related to the same case. 

Wednesday, August 18

The Braves’ Freddie Freeman collects his second career cycle, accomplishing the effort before the seventh inning as he doubles in the first, triples in the fourth, singles in the fifth and homers in the sixth as Atlanta hold off the Marlins at Miami, 11-9. In his final two plate appearances, Freeman is intentionally walked and flies out. He’s the second Braves player with multiple cycles, following Herman Long (1896 and 1900); overall, it’s the ninth cycle achieved in franchise history. Atlanta has won 13 of its last 15 games, and leads the NL East by 3.5 games over second-place Philadelphia. 

Foreign substance checks rear their ugly heads after a prolonged period out of the spotlight, with a couple of players ejected. In Arizona, reliever Caleb Smith is tossed after umpires see what they believed is an illicit substance on his glove; Smith heatedly argues that it’s nothing more than a smudge of dirt. MLB will have the final say in New York as Smith’s glove is sent there for further analysis; they’ll agree with the umpires and make Smith the second pitcher handed with a 10-game suspension since the checks began in June. Smith’s ejection ends a fairly good stint in which he gives up a run over 2.2 innings of work in the Diamondbacks’ 3-1 home win over Philadelphia. 

Meanwhile in Chicago, the White Sox’ Lance Lynn is also ejected—not for being caught with any substances, but for his angry response to the search. After finishing the fourth inning against the A’s, Lynn places his cap and glove on the dugout railing—rather than handing it to the umpires as is often the protocol—and when asked to take his off his belt, he throws it at the umpire, prompting a quick ejection. After Lynn’s departure, the White Sox hang on to defeat Oakland, 3-2. 

At Detroit, the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is the first major leaguer this year to reach 40 home runs while pitching eight excellent innings to improve to 8-1 on the season in a 3-1 win over the Tigers. Ohtani caps the scoring in the eighth with a solo homer, then finishes his day on the mound a half-inning later, allowing a run on six hits with eight strikeouts and no walks to lower his ERA to 2.79. 

The Angels’ first two runs are supplied by Justin Upton on a first-inning home run; he later strikes out twice to up his career total in that department to 1,938, passing Willie Stargell for #7 on the all-time list. 

The Twins, or more pointedly Jorge Polanco, have made for some fun ninth-inning theatrics of late. With one out in the 11th, Polanco rips a single that scores the winning run and gives Minnesota an 8-7 victory; it’s the Twins third straight win in which Polanco has brought home the winning run—following a double on two days earlier and a sac fly a day after that. He’s the third player in the last 100 years—after Tony Pena in 1982 and George Scott in 1973—to have walk-off RBIs in three straight wins. 

Thursday, August 19

While the Detroit Tigers of the 1960s are remembered for names like Al Kaline, Denny McLain and Norm Cash, the heart and soul of the team may very well have been 11-time All-Star catcher Bill Freehan, who passes away at the age of 79 after battling dementia. He was a reliable and tireless force behind the plate, four times leading the AL in games played at the catcher spot and earning five Gold Gloves (1965-69), while collecting 200 home runs with a .262 average over 15 seasons, all of them played for the Tigers. In the face of overall offensive decline across the AL in 1968, Freehan stepped up and batted a respectable .262 with a career-high 25 home runs, 84 RBIs and 24 hit-by-pitches as Detroit went on to win the World Series over the Cardinals. After his playing days were done, Freehan worked in the auto industry until 1989 when he returned to his alma mater at the University of Michigan and managed its baseball team for six years.   

There seems to be no stopping the Orioles—from stopping themselves. Baltimore drops its 15th straight game with a 7-2 defeat at Tampa Bay; the only longer slide in franchise history is the Orioles’ infamous 21-game streak to start the 1988 season. How bad has this skid been for the Orioles? They’re the first team in the modern era to lose 15 straight games by multiple runs; only twice has the opposing team called upon their closer to finish a victory. 

Down 10-2 at Detroit after five innings, the Angels came back with 11 unanswered runs, taking the lead with three in the eighth, to hand the Tigers a 13-10 defeat. It’s tied for the biggest comeback history in Angels history. 

Friday, August 20

The Yankees continue to crush it since the All-Star Break—and continue their seemingly eternal dominance over the Twins. Luke Voit has four hits including a home run, and Aaron Judge and DJ LeMahieu add deep shots to defeat Minnesota at New York, 10-2, securing their eighth straight win. The Yankees are 25-9 since the All-Star Break—and by taking their fourth victory over the Twins in five tries this season ensures their 19th straight year without a losing record against Minnesota. Including the playoffs, the Yankees are 106-37 against the Twins since 2001

Two teams going in opposite directions produce a highly predictable result as the Braves take their seventh straight win at Baltimore over the Orioles—who suffer their 16th straight defeat. Max Fried goes the distance for the Braves, scattering four hits with no walks for his first career shutout on just 90 pitches. In producing a “Maddux,” Fried became the first Braves pitcher to throw so few pitches while blanking his opponent since…Greg Maddux, who needed 89 in completing a shutout on September 13, 2000

The victory is the 11th straight on the road for Atlanta, one shy of a franchise record; as for the Orioles, only the 1876 Cincinnati Red Stockings have lost more games (18) by multiple runs. 

Saturday, August 21

Two pitchers take hitless outings into the seventh, only to experience frustrations of a different kind. 

In Chicago, the Royals’ Kris Bubic walks just one batter through his first six innings against the Cubs, but just as he’s about to take the mound for the seventh, the umpires call everyone inside as they got word of an approaching downpour…which never develops. Iced for 34 minutes, Bubic returns to the mound, walks the first batter he faces (Frank Schwindel) and then gives up a home run to the second (Patrick Wisdom), ending his no-hit bid. Bubic is removed one batter later and gets credit for a 4-2 win over the Cubs, as Wisdom’s homer is the only Chicago hit of the game. The Cubs have lost a franchise record-tying 12 straight at Wrigley Field; Wisdom’s home run is his 20th of the year—in just 229 at-bats. 

Later out in San Diego, the Phillies’ Aaron Nola takes a perfect game into the seventh, but first baseman Brad Miller ruins it on a fielding error that allows the Padres’ Trent Grisham to reach; two batters later, Nola’s hopes for a no-hitter and shutout vanish when Manny Machado’s single beings home Grisham. Still pitching in the ninth, Nola’s hope for a complete-game victory are dashed by Jake Cronenworth, whose two-run, two-out homer knocks the Phillies ace out and sends the game into extras; in the 10th, Adam Frazier scores on a Connor Brogdon wild pitch to seal a 4-3 win for the Padres. 

According to ESPN, Nola’s two fastest pitches of the game—and of his season—both occur when the opposing batter is the Padres’ Austin Nola, his brother. The recorded velocities were 96.2 and 95.9. 

Sunday, August 22

It takes nine games, but Miguel Cabrera becomes the 28th member of the 500 Home Run Club when he launches an opposite-field drive 400 feet over the fence at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, erasing the goose egg off the board for the Tigers as they go on to defeat the Blue Jays in 11 innings, 5-3. Cabrera is the first player to reach the milestone since David Ortiz in 2015, the 12th player to reach since 2000, and the first to reach while wearing a Detroit jersey. 

Cabrera’s not done chasing milestones. He needs 45 hits to get to 3,000 in his career; with 36 games left to play in the Tigers’ season, Cabrera will need to get hot to achieve the mark before Opening Day 2022. 

As for the game, it’s the sixth straight time that a Detroit win over Toronto is decided in extra innings. According to STATS, that’s the longest such streak in the modern (post-1900) era. 

Three big team streaks continue. The Braves finish off a 9-0 road trip—and extend their run of consecutive road wins to a franchise-record 13—with a 3-1 victory over the Orioles at Baltimore. Again according to STATS, it’s the third time in NL history that a team has finished a road trip of nine or more games undefeated; the other two were the 1957 Cincinnati Redlegs (12-0) and the 1992 Braves (10-0). As for the Orioles, it’s consecutive loss #18—three shy of the franchise mark, and five shy of the all-time major league mark set by the 1961 Phillies. 

The Cubs, meanwhile, are flattened by the visiting Royals, 9-1, for their 13th straight defeat at home—also setting a team mark. Kansas City scores at least one run in each inning between the second and sixth, while 24-year-old Venezuelan native Carlos Hernandez holds down the Cubs for seven innings to improve his season record to 4-1. The Cubs are 12-39 since June 24; even the Orioles (15-33) have a better record during this stretch. 

Never rest on the Giants. For the second straight day, San Francisco nets a pinch-hit, come-from-behind, go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later to defeat the A’s at Oakland, 2-1; no team in major league history had previously ever done that. A day before, it was LaMonte Wade Jr. who delivered a two-run blast in the ninth to win, 6-5; today, it’s Donovan Solano—pinch-hitting for Wade—who gets the job down with a two-run shot off A.J. Puk. The Giants thus become the first team in the majors this season to reach 80 wins; it’s their eighth straight series victory. 

Monday, August 23

For the first time since 1901, a pair of clubs riding win streaks of at least nine games clash against one another as the Yankees came to Atlanta to face the Braves. Thanks to Giancarlo Stanton and fine pitching, it’s New York emerging as the victor with a 5-1 win, extending the Yankees’ current string to 10 straight triumphs. Stanton homers in the second to break the ice, then launches a two-run double that breaks a 1-1 tie in the sixth, keeping the Yankees ahead to stay. 

The Cubs have the perfect antidote for shedding a record 13-game losing streak at home: The Colorado Rockies, afflicted with the majors’ worst road record. Yet even that doesn’t look to cure the Cubs, who find themselves trailing 4-1 after seven innings. Then comes a spark; they rally for three runs in the eighth to tie, then win it in the ninth on Rafael Ortega’s two-run walk-off blast, 6-4. 

The Padres dismiss 67-year-old pitching coach Larry Rothschild as the apparent fall guy for the team’s recent struggles. Though the Padres have the NL’s fourth-best team ERA (3.76), it’s grown progressively worse as injuries and a faulty bullpen have slumped the club 13 games behind the front-running Giants and 10.5 behind the second-place Dodgers. 

The Blue Jays announce that they will increase capacity at Rogers Centre for their final 12 home games of the season—but fans will need to show evidence of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test to enter. They are the first MLB team to lay down this requirement. 

Tuesday, August 24

There are now only six losing streaks longer in MLB history than what the Orioles are currently going through. Baltimore’s 19th straight defeat is established early on as the visiting Angels rack up 13 runs through the first four innings, then hold off a few late Orioles skirmishes to win, 13-8. 

The Orioles’ team ERA during the long skid is an atrocious 8.50. 

All is well between the Cardinals and future Hall-of-Fame catcher Yadier Molina, as the two sides agree to a one-year, $10 million extension for 2022. This ensures a 19th season for Molina in St. Louis that will take place during his 40th birthday; only Stan Musial and Lou Brock have played more games for the Redbirds. The signing also suggests that Molina is over the bitterness of the recent past, when he publicly raged over the Cardinals unwillingness to sign him before hitting free agency last winter. 

ESPN, which has been writing up a series of recent articles discussing current and possible upcoming rule changes in baseball, let the players have their say. Granted, it only talks to 20 major leaguers—or roughly 2% of the MLB workforce—so the small sample size should be taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, here’s the basic breakdown: A majority of those polled want the shift banned, don’t like the omnipresence of analytics, and say that game doesn’t need fixing—except for a comment by Cardinals reliever and vocal union proponent Andrew Miller, who says that the only thing that needs to be mended is baseball’s financial system, which is “outdated” and needs to foster better competition among all 30 teams. 

Wednesday, August 25

To quote Charlton Heston on the beach at the end of Planet of the Apes: “You finally, really did it.” Yes, the Orioles finally, really win a game—one almost no one thought they had a chance at winning. Opposing Baltimore on the mound is the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, who hadn’t lost a start in nearly three months—and although he’s not at his best, he at least leaves with a 6-4 lead after five innings. Clearly not at its best is the Angels’ bullpen, which coughs up a run in the seventh and five in the eighth—giving the Orioles a 10-6 lead which they’ll hold to break their 19-game losing streak, tied for the seventh worst in major league history. 

Commissioner Rob Manfred’s worst nightmare lives out late in San Diego where the gift runner repeatedly fails to produce a speedy result to an extra-inning game between the Dodgers and Padres. It takes 16 innings, more than any other game since the auto runner on second was instituted (temporarily, we hope) in 2020 for the game to be decided, as the Dodgers came away with a 5-3 victory. After the first five frames of extras go scoreless and a 1-1 tie continues into the 15th, the Dodgers think they have the win in the bag with two runs in the top half of the inning—but Fernando Tatis Jr.’s two-run homer with one out re-knots the score. The Dodgers counter with a two-run shot of their own (a 426-foot shot from A.J. Pollock) in the 16th that goes unanswered and finishes the game. 

There are many achievements to take place during the marathon at Petco Park. The Dodgers set a major league record by intentionally walking eight Padres batters—though they all came after the ninth and are likely driven by the gift runner to create double-play scenarios. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, who pitches a scoreless ninth to help send the game into extras, becomes the second major leaguer—after Craig Kimbrel, just a week earlier—to reach 1,000 career strikeouts in less than 700 innings. And the game is the first ever in which a pair of multi-run homers are hit in the 15th inning or later. 

At Philadelphia, Tampa Bay rookie Wander Franco doubles twice and singles to extend his streak of consecutive games safely reaching base to 26, the longest by any major leaguer age 20 or younger since Frank Robinson (43) in 1956. His efforts are enough to keep the Rays even with the Phillies and workhorse Zack Wheeler going into the ninth—and that’s when the rest of the team, notably Francisco Mejia, takes over. Mejia’s three-run homer in the ninth off Wheeler puts the Rays ahead to stay, 7-4. For all the focus on the Yankees and their current win streak, the Rays quietly and securely remain first in the AL East by 4.5 games, holding the league’s best record at 79-48. 

Falling 7.5 games behind Tampa Bay are the Red Sox, who fight back from a late 4-0 deficit against the visiting Twins to send the game into extras—but that’s where Minnesota explodes for five runs in the 10th behind round-trippers from Josh Donaldson and Jake Cave to win, 9-6. But the Twins’ most noteworthy homer of the night belongs to Miguel Sano, whose titanic third-inning blast soars 495 feet uninterrupted past left-center field and outside Fenway Park onto Lansdowne Street; it’s the longest hit this year in MLB, surpassing the 486-foot shot by the Padres’ Tommy Pham just eight days earlier in Colorado. 

Earlier this season on June 6, the Blue Jays’ Robbie Ray tied a Toronto team record for lefties with 13 strikeouts against the White Sox. Tonight, he breaks the mark, collecting 14 K’s in a rematch with Chicago at Rogers Centre. Oddly, he fails to win either game; he allowed a run in the Jays’ 6-1 loss back in June, and he leaves tonight’s start with the game tied at 1-1. After his departure, Toronto rallies for two runs in the eighth to triumph, 3-1. 

Thursday, August 26

In his second start since coming off a long injury-related absence, Chris Sale throws his third career immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes, three outs), tying Sandy Koufax’s all-time record as the Red Sox blitz the Twins at Boston, 12-2. Only three of his pitches in the immaculate third inning are fastballs, with his highest velocity at 94 MPH; five of his nine are swung on and missed. Overall, Sale strikes out eight batters over 5.1 innings of work. 

Washington star hitter Juan Soto, quietly having another superb year amid a down season for the waive-the-white-towel Nationals, is the first player this season to reach 100 walks with a pair of passes in a 7-5 loss at Miami. He’s thus the third player to twice accrue triple-figure walk totals before his 23rd birthday; the other two are Hall of Famers Mel Ott and Ted Williams

Soto probably would have gotten to 100 in his other two seasons of play—had he not been called up two months into the 2018 campaign (79 walks in 116 games) and had the 2020 season not been curtailed to 60 games due to the pandemic (37 walks in 47 games). 

Soto’s one hit on the night is a bruiser: A 114.1-MPH home run in the fifth that’s the hardest hit of his career. 

Friday, August 27

The Cubs score six runs in the first against the White Sox on the South Side of town, but the quick rally doesn’t set the tone as much as it sets the stage for a wild night won by the Sox, 17-13. Yasmani Grandal, back in action for the first time since tearing a knee ligament on July 5, enjoys his first four-hit (let alone three-hit) game of the year and knocks in eight runs as the White Sox plate 13 unanswered through the sixth inning—all while Reynaldo Lopez, relieving for Dallas Keuchel, hurls five perfect innings of relief. After Lopez’s departure, the two teams ping-pong on runs until the White Sox prevail at the end. 

Grandal is the first catcher in MLB history with multiple games knocking in eight or more runs; no player had also previously driven in as many in his first game back after an absence of similar or longer length with an injury. On the Cubs’ side, Patrick Wisdom joins 44 other major leaguers of the past who homer twice on their birthday. 

Grandal isn’t the only catcher enjoying a noteworthy night at the plate. At Seattle, Salvador Perez’s fourth inning grand slam gives him two in as many nights—joining Bill Dickey in 1937 and Mike Piazza in 1998—as his Royals outlast the Mariners in 12 innings, 8-7. It’s the third straight game in which a Kansas City player has belted a slam—tying an AL record shared by the 1978 Brewers, 1993 Tigers and 2006 White Sox. 

The game is the 1,755th for the Mariners at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, matching the total number played at their previous home, the Kingdome. 

Leading off the bottom of the eighth, Detroit’s Victor Reyes sprints around the bases for the first pinch-hit, tie-breaking inside-the-park home run since at least 1961, ultimately giving the Tigers a 2-1 home win over Toronto. 

Rhys Hoskins’ year is done, as might be that of the Phillies. Back on August 5, the slugger aggravated an abdomen that’s been giving him pain all year while attempting a diving catch; though returning to the lineup for three games this past week—and homering three times—it’s been revealed that he has an abdominal tear that will require surgery. Hoskins’s 27 homers, 71 RBIs and 29 doubles are all tops for the Phillies, who are 5.5 games behind Atlanta in the NL East and six games behind Cincinnati for the second NL wild card spot. 

Saturday, August 28

The A’s finally stop the Yankees, whose 13-game winning streak was the longest since their fabled 1961 season. Oakland’s Frankie Montas has his second straight start allowing two hits over seven shutout innings, and the A’s survive a two-run homer from Aaron Judge to triumph, 3-2. The A’s remain 3.5 games behind Boston for the second AL wild card spot. 

If St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright wins the NL Cy Young Award this year, the first people he’s bound to thank are the Pittsburgh Pirates. For the third time this month, the 39-year-old right-hander faces the Bucs and has no problem whatsoever, tossing seven shutout innings while easily being backed by his teammates in a 13-0 demolition at PNC Park. Wainwright is 13-7 with a 2.97 ERA; four of those victories have come against the Pirates, allowing just one run over 30 innings. 

The Pirates, meanwhile, release veteran outfielder Gregory Polanco, a one-time top prospect who had some strong years during better times in Pittsburgh before falling apart over the past couple of seasons. He hit just .153 in 50 games last year, and improved to only a .208 mark with 11 homers, 36 RBIs and 104 strikeouts in 2021 while earning the wrath of frustrated Pirates fans. Polanco is eligible to sign with any ballclub for the minimum salary and, at age 29, likely still has some gas in his tank—so long as he can figure out how to maximize it. 

There were a couple of milestones to speak of in the Angels’ bounce-back, 10-2 thrashing of the Padres in Anaheim. Shohei Ohtani steals his 20th base to make him the 21st player in MLB history to have at least 20 swipes to go with 40 home runs in a season; teammate Justin Upton, meanwhile, joins eight other active major leaguers in the 1,000-RBI club with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly. 

Logan Webb has quietly emerged as the most reliable starter on the majors’ best team, the Giants—who improve to 84-45 with a 5-0 victory at Atlanta. The 24-year-old right-hander from California’s Sierra foothills throws seven shutout innings, scattering five hits and a walk; it’s his 13th straight start allowing two or fewer runs, the second longest such streak in Giants history after Ferdie Schupp (16, in 1917). 

Sunday, August 29

A cold war has flared up between the Mets and their fans. During their 9-4 victory over the Nationals at New York, several Mets players—notably slumping infielders Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor—are seen celebrating big plays with double thumbs down, a gesture of rebuttal towards Citi Field fans who’ve been mercilessly booing them. In a postgame presser with the media, Baez explains: “We’re not machines. We’re going to struggle seven times out of 10. It just feels bad when…I strike out and get booed. It doesn’t really get to me but I want to let them know that when we’re successful, we’re going to do the same thing to let them know how it feels.” Mets management is not impressed. In fact, it’s ticked off. Shortly after Baez’s comments, team president Sandy Alderson fires off a statement condemning the gestures and Baez’s comments as “totally unacceptable” and that they will “not be tolerated.” First-year Mets owner Steve Cohen later tries a little levity on his Twitter feed, typing out, “I miss the days when the biggest controversy was the black jerseys.” 

Salvador Perez remains hot, and historically so. The Kansas City catcher ties Royals franchise marks for the most consecutive games going deep (five) and the most in a calendar month (12, tying John Mayberry in July 1975, and Chili Davis is August 1997); he also sets the AL record for the most home runs in a season by a catcher with his 38th in the Royals’ 4-3 loss at Seattle; the old mark belonged to the White Sox’ Carlton Fisk in 1985

Jose Abreu’s two-run ground-rule double made him the first MLB player this season to reach 100 RBIs, just part of the White Sox’ 13-1 home thrashing of the Cubs. This is the sixth time Abreu has added up triple-digit RBI totals, tying Paul Konerko for the second-most by a White Sox player; topping that list is Frank Thomas (10 seasons). 

Tampa Bay is going to miss the awful Orioles. In their final meeting of the season, the Rays outlast Baltimore at Camden Yards, 12-8, to finish the season with an 18-1 record against the Orioles. Only two other teams have finished a season series against another team with the same record: Cleveland against Detroit, and Houston against Seattle—both in 2019. Joey Wendle has the big day for the Rays, setting a career mark with six RBIs on a pair of home runs and a single. 

Congratulations to the Little League team from Taylor, Michigan, which captures the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pennsylvania by defeating the best from Hamilton, Ohio, 5-2. It’s the first time that a team from Michigan has won the title since 1959

Monday, August 30

Back on the road after a week at home, the Braves see their franchise-record 13-game road win streak come to an end as the Dodgers surge to a 5-0 lead on four home runs through the first three innings before surviving with a 5-3 decision. Julio Urias pitches six innings to record his major league-leading 15th win of the year; Los Angeles is now 1.5 games behind the Giants, who bow at home to Corbin Burnes and the Brewers, 3-1. 

The Blue Jays triumph over the Orioles (40-90), 7-3, behind two home runs from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and another strong effort from Robbie Ray, who sets an MLB record by recording the most career strikeouts (1,241) through his first 1,000 innings pitched. The old record was held by Yu Darvish, who collected 1,222. 

The Rangers (46-85) aren’t much better than the Orioles at this point, but at least they may have some good young pitchers to chat about. In his major league debut, A.J. Alexy allows just one hit through five shutout innings as Texas edges the visiting Rockies, 4-3; along with Glenn Otto—who gave up all of two hits while also throwing five scoreless on August 27—the Rangers are the first team to have two pitchers not allow a run over five or more innings in their big-league debuts during the same season. 

Tuesday, August 31

All is well again in Metsville between the Mets’ players and their fans. In the first game of a doubleheader at New York, the Mets rally for five runs in the bottom of the ninth to stun the Marlins, 6-5, in a game picked up from the top of the first inning after being suspended on April 11. Javier Baez, who along with Francisco Lindor apologize to the team and fans before the game for disrespecting an August 29 Citi Field crowd, scores the winning run on a Michael Conforto single and an error from Miami outfielder Jorge Alfaro. In the originally scheduled game at night—shortened to seven innings—fourth-inning homers from Conforto and Jeff McNeil is all the Mets need to secure a 3-1 victory and a daily sweep of the Marlins. 

Cleveland’s Amed Rosario collects five hits including two home runs—one inside the park, the other over the fence—while knocking in five runs to lift Cleveland to a 7-3 win over the Royals at Kansas City. He’s the first player since RBIs became an official stat in 1920 to do all of the above in one game. 

Somebody always finds a way to deny Blake Snell when he’s rolling. In Arizona, the first-year Padre is lifted after seven no-hit innings, walking two and striking out 10 but also raising his pitch count to 107—limitation enough for San Diego. David Peralta’s one-out single in the eighth off Padres reliever Pierce Johnson breaks up the combined no-hit bid and there are two more hits from the Diamondbacks, but no runs as they get silenced, 3-0. 

Snell, as many will remember, was controversially pulled by Tampa Bay in the sixth inning of Game Six in the 2020 World Series even though he showed no signs of wilting; the Rays went on to lose the game and the series to the Dodgers. In 2018, Snell was also taken out of a game in which he threw five perfect innings. 

Without Snell, the Rays continue to do just fine. They win their ninth straight over the Red Sox, 8-5, despite netting just five hits; the victory increases their margin over the second-place Yankees to eight games in the AL East. For Boston—third in the division, 10 games back—the loss pales in comparison to a potentially bigger problem, as the team is suffering from a COVID-19 outbreak that has claimed eight players. The latest addition to that list is All-Star infielder Xander Bogaerts, who’s removed in the middle of the loss to the Rays after it’s learned he tested positive for the virus.

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