The Month That Was in Baseball: July 2019
The Death of Tyler Skaggs • Four Days, Four Hat Tricks of Home Runs
Why Does MLB Make Teams Take July 4 Off? • Ouch, Jake Marisnick
Monday, July 1
Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs is found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area hours before a game against the Texas Rangers. The news shakes an organization still reverberating from the emotional death of rising young pitcher Nick Adenhart in 2009. “I can’t believe this, my heart and prayers go out to his wife and family!” tweets Skaggs’ teammate Parker Bridwell. “We lost an amazing human being. Rest in Peace, brother.” Skaggs, 27, was having a productive (if not entirely wowing) campaign with a 7-7 record and 4.29 ERA in 15 starts, and was on pace to set career highs in wins, innings and strikeouts. His career record was 28-38 with a 4.41 ERA in 96 games, all of them as a starter.
The Rangers quickly postpone the evening’s game with the Angels. It will be made up later in the season.
The cause of Skaggs’ passing is not immediately known, but within a few days a Santa Monica Observer report says that opioids played a role; that is quickly and angrily shot down by both local authorities and the Angels, who call the story “categorically incorrect.” On August 30, autopsy results will prove the Observer to be correct, stating that Skaggs died from a mixture of opioids and alcohol.
Josh Bell answers those who thinks he’s not worthy of being the starting first baseman for the NL All-Star team with a prodigious performance in Pittsburgh. Against the Chicago Cubs, Bell launches three homers, adds a single and knocks in seven runs as the Pirates binge their way overall to an 18-5 rout. In addition to Bell’s big numbers, Adam Frazier ties a major league record with four doubles, and he and Colin Moran each garner five hits, making the Pirates the first team to have two players with five hits and another with a trio of homers since the Boston Red Sox famously piled it on the St. Louis Browns, 29-4, in a 1950 game.
Frazier is the 44th player (and second Pirate) in the post-1900 modern era to hit four doubles in a game.
Christian Yelich smokes a two-run bomb in the ninth to cap the scoring for the Milwaukee Brewers, who hand the Reds an 8-6 loss at Cincinnati. Yelich becomes the first player to reach 30 homers on the year and breaks the Milwaukee record for the most before the All-Star Break, previously held by Prince Fielder. Since last year’s break, Yelich is batting .347 in 547 at-bats with 55 homers, 133 RBIs, 83 walks and 28 steals.
Tuesday, July 2
In a subdued setting at Arlington’s Globe Life Park in which no walk-up music or home run-celebrating fireworks are used out of respect for the late Tyler Skaggs, the Angels regroup, refocus and pull together a come-from-behind, 9-4 victory over the Rangers with heavy hearts. A subtle, heartfelt tribute to Skaggs precedes the game (there will certainly be a bigger ceremony when the Angels return home to Anaheim), and Angels players were a circular patch with Skaggs’ uniform #45 on their left chests. The Angels take the lead to stay in the sixth with four runs, the final two coming on a double from Justin Bour—who was a member of the Miami Marlins when ace pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in September 2016. “There’s really no playbook for this,” said Bour of the situation. …I know how tough it’s going to be every single day. And it takes a really long time for it to sink in. And…sometimes it just doesn’t.”
Arizona holds a 4-3 lead over the Dodgers at Los Angeles, and Diamondbacks closer Greg Holland gets the first two outs of the ninth and has the Dodgers down to their final strike when he walks Chris Taylor—and the next three batters after that, allowing Los Angeles to tie the game. T.J. MacFarland tries to bail out Holland, but he walks his first (and only) batter as Cody Bellinger draws a bases-loaded, game-winning walk to give the Dodgers a 5-4 victory. No team had previously won on five straight walks since at least 1920.
After a triumphant weekend in London, the jet lag catches up to the Yankees as they drop a 4-2 decision at Citi Field against the Mets—and further suggesting that they’re temporarily sapped, they fail to homer to end their record streak of consecutive games with at least one dinger at 31. James Paxton gives the Yankees six solid innings and departs with a 2-1 lead, but three Mets tallies in the eighth—the final two on a Michael Conforto double off of Zack Britton—is the difference.
The Boston Red Sox, meanwhile, show no exhaust in their return to North America as they pummel the Blue Jays at Toronto, 10-6. Rafael Devers is the evening’s hitting star, collecting six hits including two home runs while driving in six.
A day after collecting five hits against the Cubs, the Pirates’ Adam Frazier knocks out four more (two singles, a double and a home run) in a 5-1 Pittsburgh victory. According to STATS, Frazier is the fourth player since 1950 to record nine hits—six of them for extra bases—over two games.
Wednesday, July 3
Bryce Harper reaches two milestones in one at-bat when his sixth-inning home run for Philadelphia as he notches both his 1,000th career hit and 200th career homer—but the Atlanta Braves respond with six runs in the bottom of the frame to pull away with a 9-2 victory over the visiting Phillies.
Harper is said to be the first player to reach a round number of over 100 for career hits and homers in the same at-bat.
The Dodgers continue to live to Yogi Berra’s famous credo that it’s not over until it’s over. For the fifth straight home game, Los Angeles wins in its final at-bat as Cody Bellinger belts his second homer of the night—a solo shot that wins it in 10 innings over the visiting Diamondbacks, 5-4. Only the 2000 Royals have won more consecutive home games (with six) in walk-off fashion.
Bellinger’s game-winner gives him 29 home runs on the year—breaking a Dodgers record for the most before the All-Star Break.
The Cubs look ready to snap their recent ills against the Pirates, but Craig Kimbrel can’t hold a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth as the Bucs rally for two and defeat Chicago at Pittsburgh, 6-5. The Pirates’ Josh Bell collects both his 30th double and 26th homer of the year; his 59 extra-base hits set a pre-All-Star Break record.
Whatever Lourdes Gurriel Jr. learned in his demotion to Triple-A apparently worked. His third-inning solo home run off Boston’s Chris Sale at Toronto ignites the Blue Jays to a 6-3 win; it’s his 15th homer of the year—with all 15 hit after returning from the minors on May 24. Batting .175 on that day, he is since hitting .350 in 37 games.
Stephen Strasburg strikes out 14 batters, three on them on nine pitches in the fourth inning for his first career immaculate frame, as the Washington Nationals top the visiting Miami Marlins, 3-1. The 14 Ks are one shy of Strasburg’s personal best; the Nationals have won 25 of 35 games since a 19-31 start, and are just a half-game behind Philadelphia for second place in the NL East.
Thursday, July 4
The Yankees are so beat up by injuries that even both of their primary broadcasters are having to sit it out. John Sterling, who’s done radio play-by-play for the team for 5,060 straight games going back to 1989 (his first season in New York), is absent for the Yankees’ 8-4, 10-inning win Tampa Bay on his 81st birthday as he deals with recent health issues. (He’ll remain out of the booth through the All-Star Break.) And Michael Kay, the lead voice in the Yankees’ YES TV booth, also misses out on the game as he undergoes surgery to repair his vocal cords; he’s expected to be out a month.
Sterling and Kay are not the only folks absent from major league action on the Fourth of July. Using its occasional lack of utter wisdom, MLB decides to give eight teams the day off rather than play for fans who might have had time and extra incentive to enjoy a day or evening at the ballpark (perhaps followed by fireworks). In generations apparently gone by, baseball did everything to make sure everyone played on the Fourth—because the sport is supposed to be all-American, just like apple pies and Chevrolet. But for some reason—perhaps the union’s wish to schedule off-days whenever possible, or perhaps a lack of urgency to pack the house when some MLB houses continue to be packed—eight teams were told to sit home and, well, enjoy a barbecue or watch other games. It’s not right.
After spotting the Phillies four runs in the top of the first, the Braves break out the thunder and provide plenty of Fourth of July fireworks, blasting five home runs in a 12-6 rout at Atlanta. Dansby Swanson has two of the Braves’ homers and knocks in five runs; Freddie Freeman adds his 23rd, matching his entire season total for 2018. The loss knocks Philadelphia into third place behind the surging Nationals.
Hyun-Jin Ryu earns his 10th victory, Cody Bellinger belts his 30th homer, and the Dodgers become the first team this year to reach 60 wins—and they do it all without walk-off theatrics, for a change. Los Angeles eases to a 5-1 home win over San Diego as Ryu tosses six shutout innings and lowers his MLB-best ERA to 1.73.
Friday, July 5
The Twins smash up the visiting Rangers, 15-6, behind a franchise record-tying 13 extra-base hits—four of them home runs, giving them 166 to break the Yankees’ one-year-old record for the most accumulated before the All-Star Break. Former Ranger Martin Perez gets credit for the win and improves to 8-3 on the season.
Recently returned from a two-month injury hiatus, the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman collects three doubles and knocks in two runs to become the first player in Expos-Nationals history to reach 1,000, but his efforts go for naught as Washington, after scoring twice in the ninth to tie, bow to the visiting Kansas City Royals in 11 innings, 7-4.
There’s a whole lot of shaking going on at Dodger Stadium as a 7.1 earthquake centered roughly 100 miles to the north in Ridgecrest sways the structure and the 49,760 fans within it—all while the players on the field barely notice and play on. As for the game, the visiting Padres take a 3-2 win over the Dodgers on Hunter Renfroe’s tie-breaking homer in the eighth.
San Diego had lost its previous 16 games against Los Angeles when Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw started—the longest such stretch by a team against a single pitcher since Arizona against Jason Schmidt from 2003-06.
Cleveland pitcher Carlos Carrasco, struggling this season with a 4-6 record and 4.98 ERA, reveals that he’s been diagnosed with Leukemia. Placed on the injury list at the end of May with what the Indians described as a “blood condition,” Carrasco underwent tests that led to the discovery. But he believes the condition is “under control” and is expected to return to action later this season.
Saturday, July 6
When you don’t like getting hit, hit back. At New York, the Mets are in infuriation mode after Philadelphia starting pitcher Jake Arrieta hits Todd Frazier—his second plunking of the night—in the fifth inning; Frazier gets ejected for snapping not at Arrieta but home plate umpire Tripp Gibson. But even after Gibson issues warnings to both benches, Arrieta plunks his third batter when, with first base open and one out, he nails Amed Rosario—and this time it’s Mets manager Mickey Callaway who goes ballistic and gets thumbed. The Mets get their revenge one batter later when backup catcher Taylor Nido lines a bases-loaded double that will end Arrieta’s night and cap the scoring in a 6-5 New York victory.
In an aftergame response to the incident with Frazier, Arrieta tells reporters: “If Frazier’s not happy about it, he can come and see me and I’ll put a dent in his skull.”
Max Scherzer continues his recent dominance and adds a little on offense to boot. The Washington ace throws seven shutout innings and strikes out 11 Royals in the Nationals’ 6-0 home win, adding a single and a stolen base. He’s the first player in the modern era to have at least a hit, steal and 10+ Ks in a game twice.
Sunday, July 7
The Angels and Astros are going to need the All-Star Break after an exhausting game played between the two at Houston—and the Astros’ Jake Marisnick may need more security detail the next time he shows up in Anaheim. In a wild seesaw game at Houston, Mike Trout goes deep twice, Yuli Gurriel smashes a grand slam to give him five straight games with at least one homer, and the Astros pull out an 11-10 victory on George Springer’s RBI single in the 10th inning. But it’s Marisnick’s attempt to score on a sac fly in the eighth that has everyone talking—and the Angels boiling hot. Apparently forgetting that old-school home-plate collisions are no longer legal, Marisnick has a clear lane to home but nevertheless veers left to flatten Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy—who has to be carted off the field after suffering a broken nose and concussion. Marisnick is called out for the collision and later admits it was a “bad play,” but that’s not good enough for Angels manager Brad Ausmus, who wants Marisnick suspended. He’ll get his wish; MLB will dock Marsinick with a two-game penalty.
Needless to say, this was not a good week for the Angels; it started with Tyler Skaggs’ death and ends with the knockout blow to Lucroy’s that sends him to the hospital.
Gurriel’s five-game homer streak is the second by an Astro this season (Jose Altuve also went five straight with one), but it’s just the fifth in Houston history. He’s also the first Astro ever to score and knock in at least one run each in seven straight games.
Arizona’s Alex Young, in his second career start, becomes the third pitcher this season to take a no-hitter past six innings and be removed with the gem intact, having thrown just 71 pitches against the Colorado Rockies at Phoenix. The Diamondbacks win, 5-3, and secure a three-game sweep of the Rockies—who score just five runs for the series.
The Padres administer a rare sweep of the Dodgers at Los Angeles, finishing off a three-game series with a 5-3 victory. Fernando Tatis Jr. becomes the youngest Padre (at 20 years and 189 days) with a multi-homer game as he drives in four runs; his two homers, along with Manuel Margot’s solo shot, give the Padres 139 jacks at the All-Star Break. They’ll need just 51 more in the season’s second half to break the franchise’s all-time season home run record.
Rookie Eloy Jimenez belts his 16th home run and Ivan Nova finally wins his first game at Guaranteed Rate Field as the White Sox take a 3-1 victory over the intercity rival Cubs. Nova had previously failed to win any of his first seven starts at home for the White Sox, losing four with an 8.31 ERA.
Tensions cool between the Phillies and Mets, but Philadelphia’s bats stay hot as they rake to an 8-3 win at New York. Three home runs include two from Jay Bruce to give him 10 since joining the Phillies in a trade from Seattle; he’s the first player ever to have 10-plus home runs for multiple teams before the All-Star Break.
Monday, July 8
The Mets’ Pete Alonso defeats fellow rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays to win the 2019 Home Run Derby at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. Guerrero sets a blistering pace in the early rounds, belting a HRD-record 29 against Oakland’s Matt Chapman and then another 29 against the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson in the semi-final—but Pederson matches him to send the round to a shortened “swing-off” in which the two again knot up with eight homers apiece; a third period of extra time results in Pederson finally bowing to Guerrero. Perhaps exhausted, Guerrero hits 22 in the final round before Alonso easily eclipses that total with plenty of time to spare. Alonso becomes the third rookie (after Wally Joyner in 1986 and Aaron Judge in 2017) to win the Derby, and he’s the second Met to do it; Darryl Strawberry, who won co-honors with Joyner, is the other. The Pirates’ Josh Bell has the event’s longest blow at 474 feet.
This is one of the more intriguing Home Run Derbys as many of the participants are on the youthful side and making minimum wage—which makes the $1 million in first-place reward money all the more alluring. By winning, Alonso will make twice as much on one evening as he will playing a full season for the Mets.
On the day he’s named a starting All-Star Game pitcher for the second time, Houston ace Justin Verlander sounds off on the baseballs being used in a season dominated by home run feats. Speaking to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Verlander rants: “It’s a f@#king joke. Major League Baseball’s turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you’ve got (commissioner Rob) Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f@#king company…We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what’d he say? He said we want more offense. All of sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It’s not coincidence. We’re not idiots.”
Victor Conte, founder of the notorious BALCO facility that helped Barry Bonds and other steroid-using players 20 years ago, tells USA Today that the balls aren’t all that’s juiced these days. “There are guys using these drugs, really as many or more than ever before,” Conte said. “The difference is these guys not only understand how and when they take it, but what dosage and delivery level, and not test positive…Guys can’t take the large dosages they used to, but they’ve figured out how to circumvent the system rather easily, and are flying under the radar. That’s why you have so many guys (on pace for) 40 homers, but nobody is hitting 80.”
Tuesday, July 9
The American League continues its mastery of the National League at the All-Star Game, winning 4-3 at Cleveland for its seventh straight win and 19th over the last 23 games. The Indians’ Shane Bieber, pitching in his home park, earns MVP honors for striking out the side in his one inning of work in the fifth; the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman also strikes out all three NL batters he faces to close it out in the ninth, on fewer pitches (12) than Bieber; he’s now struck out an ASG record-tying six consecutive batters. Home Run Derby winner Pete Alonso gives the NL one of its few offensive jolts by collecting a two-run single in the eighth to narrow the AL’s lead to one; his two RBIs matches the total output of all previous NL rookies at the Midsummer Classic.
Nine pitchers each throw one inning for the AL and combine to strike out 16, the most in any nine-inning All-Star Game.
The TV ratings for the game present a mixed bag. The 6.2 rating accumulated by Fox matches the lowest in All-Star Game history, but it’s still good enough to win out the evening over the other three “broadcast” networks.
In his annual presser with the media, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred finds himself to be in frequent denial mode. No, he insists, the balls have not been juiced on purpose; no, we didn’t give Cleveland the All-Star Game in exchange for the Indians putting controversial mascot Chief Wahoo to rest; and no, we’re not going to give minor leaguers something beyond minimum wage (though he claims he’s working on it.). Among other topics, Manfred says that MLB will not mandate to have all teams extend protective netting from pole to pole, and will continue to press owners to pass a new rule for 2020 that any reliever who enters a game will have to pitch to a minimum of three batters (end of inning excepted).
Wednesday, July 10
Jim Bouton, one of baseball’s more controversial figures, dies at the age of 80. The right-handed pitcher from Newark, New Jersey was yet another shining prospect for the almighty New York Yankees in the early 1960s, and he initially follow through on the promise by posting a 21-7 record and 2.53 ERA in his second season (1963), followed by an 18-13, 3.02 campaign in 1964. Then his career crashed; he developed a sore arm and never recovered, going just 15-33 over the next six years before dropping out of the majors at age 31. But Bouton’s claim to fame—or infamy, as some might insist—is the 1970 release of his book Ball Four, which was the first publication that dared to reveal the behind-the-scenes antics of ballplayers (which in this case involved sex and drugs). Commissioner Bowie Kuhn pressured Bouton to edit out the book’s sizzle, to no avail. In 1978, Bouton attempted a comeback with the Braves at age 39; only his lack of control (21 walks in 29 innings) kept him from performing better than his 1-3 record and 4.97 ERA would indicate.
The independent Atlantic League’s All-Star Game is held in York, Pennsylvania, where the true star of the night is the computerized umpire, used for the first time. A real umpire still remains behind the plate and makes the call after it’s relayed to him via headphones, though he has the option to overrule any “errant” call—though some players wonder, if that’s the case, what is the point of the robot? Overall, the process goes off without too many hitches—though it takes some time for players to get used to the delayed calls, given the time it takes for the umpire to receive the computer’s edict. The Atlantic League had entered into an agreement with MLB before the season to begin using the robotic zone.
That’s not all the Atlantic League is trying out. Also in play is a “stealing first” rule, in which a batter can attempt to take first on any pitch that gets away from the catcher; if the catcher throws him out, it’s the end of the at-bat. It admittedly lends more intrigue than some of the other dopey concepts being tested out (including the ridiculous automatic runner on second to start every half-inning in overtime), but let’s just say that the game is fine enough without needing to add it to the rules.
Thursday, July 11
While everyone else gets an extra day off after the All-Star Game, the Astros and Rangers are told to get back to work and open the season’s second half at Arlington. Lance Lynn becomes the season’s first 12-game winner with seven shutout innings and 11 strikeouts, and the Rangers back him up with four first-inning runs to defeat Houston, 5-0.
Friday, July 12
It’s quite the performance for the Los Angeles Angels in their first home game since the death of Tyler Skaggs, who would have turned 28 tomorrow. With the entire team wearing #45 in Skaggs’ honor, Taylor Cole (two innings) and Felix Pena (seven) combine to throw a no-hitter, allowing just one baserunner (a fifth-inning walk) while Mike Trout leads the offensive charge with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs in the Angels’ 13-0 rout of the Seattle Mariners. Interestingly, it’s the first combined no-hitter to take place in California since July 13, 1991—the day Skaggs was born in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills.
Pena’s seven no-hit innings are the longest by a reliever in a no-no since the Red Sox’ Ernie Shore famously took over for Babe Ruth (ejected after just one batter) and retired all 27 Washington Senators he faced in a 1917 game.
Saturday, July 13
The Twins make it two straight at Cleveland with a 6-3 win over the Indians, who are desperately trying to close the gap on Minnesota. Part of the problem for Cleveland—and especially Indians starter Trevor Bauer—is the Twins’ Max Kepler, who homers in his first two at-bats against Bauer; it’s the fifth straight at-bat that Kepler has gone deep against the Indians’ ace, the first time ever that a hitter has done that against the same pitcher in one year. Minnesota leads the Indians in the AL Central by 7.5 games with the victory.
The Cincinnati Reds, who were involved in arguably the wildest slugfest in Coors Field history when they downed the Rockies by a 24-12 count in a 1999 game, go nuts again in Denver—albeit not at quite the same intensity. In their 17-9 thrashing of Colorado, the Reds get help from oft-used Phillip Ervin, who compiles a franchise record-tying six hits, two of them for triples—part of five hit by the team overall, the most in a game for Cincinnati since 1929 and the most ever by one team at Coors. Jared Hughes gets credit for the victory despite throwing just one pitch—getting Chris Iannetta to fly out after relieving starter Tanner Roark.
This is the first time in major league history that a team has accumulated at least five triples and three home runs in a game.
After getting thrashed the night before by Tampa Bay, 16-4, the Orioles wise up and edge the Rays, 2-1. But that’s just the first game of a doubleheader at Baltimore; the nightcap sees the Orioles regress to their awful selves and worse, allowing six home runs as the Rays rampage to a 12-4 victory to earn the split. The home run bonanza extends the number of games the Orioles have allowed at least five homers this season to 11—already a major league record.
If the Orioles are hoping to shore up their wretched pitching, they’ll have to do it without starting pitcher Andrew Cashner, who gets traded to the Boston Red Sox for two minor leaguers. Cashner was 9-3 with a 3.83 ERA for the Orioles; the rest of the staff is 19-61.
It what could be a crippling loss for the Phillies, a 3-2 lead with two outs in the ninth vanishes when the Nationals’ Juan Soto drills a two-run homer off Philadelphia closer Hector Neris, and Washington leaves with a 4-3 road victory. It’s the third time Soto has hit a go-ahead homer in the ninth inning or later; all three have come against the Phillies. The Nationals increase their lead over Philadelphia for second place in the NL East by 2.5 games.
From starting All-Star to out of work in one year; welcome to Matt Kemp’s life. The 36-year-old outfielder, traded by the Dodgers to Cincinnati before the start of the year and released by the Reds after hitting a paltry .200 in 60 at-bats, is let go by the Mets after they had picked him up in late May. Kemp never played for the Mets, instead being asked to prove his major league mettle over all over again with Triple-A Syracuse—where he hit .235 with a home run in 34 at-bats. Three different teams—the Reds, Dodgers and Padres—are all paying a portion of his $21.75 million salary this year.
Sunday, July 14
Two days after the Angels’ combined no-hitter, the Rays nearly pull off a combo perfecto at Baltimore. Ace opener Ryne Stanek starts by retiring the first six Orioles he faces, and then he’s followed by Ryan Yarbrough—who doesn’t allow a baserunner of his own until the bottom of the ninth, when Hanser Alberto singles to break up what would have been the first perfect game in major league history authored by multiple pitchers. The Orioles rally a little but end up on the short end of the stick, 4-1.
Homer Bailey, who’s stabilized his game after years of poor, injury-wracked results, is warming up for a home start against Detroit when he’s notified that he’s been traded to Oakland for a minor leaguer. Without Bailey, the Royals do the bullpenning thing and get thrashed for eight runs in the first three innings by the Tigers, who eventually triumph, 12-8. Bailey had been 3-0 in his last six starts for Kansas City with a 2.83 ERA.
After going hitless in his first seven at-bats this season against his former team, the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt connects on his first homer against the Diamondbacks and ace pitcher Zack Greinke, one of two hits on the day as St. Louis takes a 5-2 home victory.
Although Goldschmidt is having an okay first year for the Cardinals, it would be a lot worse had it not been for his work thus far against the Brewers, who he’s 17-for-39 (.436) with six homers and 13 RBIs; take away those numbers, and Goldschmidt is batting .228 with 11 homers and 26 RBIs against the rest of baseball.
Call it compensation of sorts for the Dodgers, who grind for 12 innings and nearly six hours at Fenway Park to defeat the Red Sox, 7-4, and take the rubber match of a three-game series in their first get-together since the 2018 World Series. Ex-Boston reliever Joe Kelly strikes out the two batters he faces to close out the Dodgers’ win.
Monday, July 15
The suddenly explosive Giants sweep a doubleheader at Denver with Brandon Crawford leading the way. In the first game, the veteran shortstop has five hits including two homers and becomes the first Giant since Willie Mays to knock in eight runs in a 19-2 demolition of the Rockies. In the nightcap, Crawford hits the second of two consecutive solo homers in the fourth inning that account for all the scoring in the Giants’ 2-1 win. San Francisco has won 10 of its last 12 games (averaging eight runs per game) and is making its presence known in the crowded NL wild card race.
The Yankees are one strike away from defeating AL East rival Tampa Bay at New York, but Rays catcher Travis d’Arnaud—all but forgotten after being released earlier this season from the Mets—cracks his third home run of the night, a three-run blast off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman to give the Rays a 5-4 victory. d’Arnaud drives in all five runs for Tampa Bay; he’s the first opposing catcher to hit three dingers at either Yankee Stadium.
The Cardinals’ Miles Mikolas tosses the majors’ first complete game and shutout in three weeks, scattering eight hits on 100 pitches in a 7-0 win over Pittsburgh at St. Louis. Youngster Tyler O’Neill smashes two homers among three hits with four RBIs for the Cardinals.
For the second straight day, the Royals send off one of their players as catcher Martin Maldonado is traded to the Cubs for reliever Mike Montgomery. A Gold Glove-level catcher, Maldonado was signed on by the Royals at the start of the year to replace Salvador Perez, out for the year with a torn UCL; he’ll now be asked to fill in for injured All-Star backstop Willson Contreras in Chicago.
Tuesday, July 16
It’s a wild finish in Philadelphia between the Phillies and Dodgers. Trailing from the first inning on, the Dodgers rally for three runs in the ninth on Matt Beaty’s pinch-hit, three-run homer off of beleaguered Phillies closer Hector Neris to take an 8-6 lead. (Neris will take his frustrations out when he plunks the next batter, David Freese, high in the upper back—leading to a quick ejection and a three-game suspension.) The Phillies respond in kind in the bottom of the ninth against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen with three runs of their own, the final two on Bryce Harper’s walk-off double—giving him five RBIs on the night—to give Philadelphia a 9-8 victory and much-needed emotional boost after recent struggles. The Dodgers lose despite five home runs, including a major league-leading 34th from Cody Bellinger.
This is not the homecoming Jake Marisnick was looking forward to. The Riverside, California native, who a couple of weeks earlier went old-school collision with Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy at home plate and got suspended two games for it, comes to Anaheim with the Astros and is vociferously booed by a near-sellout crowd of 42,000 at every opportunity. The Angels make their own protest, as Noe Ramirez drills Marisnick with a high fastball that leaves Houston manager A.J. Hinch incensed while benches momentarily clear. Overall it’s a satisfying night for Los Angeles beyond the plunking of Marisnick, as it score six runs in the first and roll to a 7-2 victory; the Angels are thus far 5-0 in their first homestand since the death of Tyler Skaggs, and are a season high four-games above .500.
Hinch, after the game: “Wasn’t everybody expecting something to happen to Jake tonight? I mean, the entire industry was probably expecting it. Our guy got suspended for an unintentional act, and (the Angels) got a free shot. I feel bad for players nowadays. There’s a lot of gray area in what to do.”
Ramirez will be suspended for three games for his action.
Marisnick is 2-for-3 in the game, and the Astros in general collect 13 hits but score only twice, leaving 14 men on base.
After trading their (temporary) top catcher and one of their top pitchers on consecutive days, the 33-62 Royals are looking for a spark—so naturally to the rescue comes Glenn Sparkman. The second-year pitcher who’s bounced between the bullpen and rotation gets a start at Kansas City and makes the most of it, throwing a five-hit shutout on 116 pitches as the Royals throttle the White Sox, 11-0. Whit Merrifield enlivens the offensive attack with his 12th home run, an inside-the-park job.
Here’s a memo to the 16 teams that have yet to employ Edwin Jackson: He’s available. The veteran pitcher who’s played for a record 14 teams is released by the Blue Jays after a 1-5 record and 11.12 ERA; he allowed 12 home runs in just 28.1 innings.
Ernie Broglio, a solid pitcher until he was traded for Lou Brock in what’s regarded as one of the most lopsided trades in major league history, dies at the age of 83. A 21-game winner in his second season (1960) and owner of an 18-8 record with a 2.99 ERA for the Cardinals in 1963, Broglio was traded as part of a six-player deal after a mediocre start to the 1964 season for Brock, who at the time was being misused by the Cubs as a power threat. While Brock was quickly converted into a Hall-of-Fame speedster by the Cardinals, Broglio flamed out almost instantly with Chicago—admitting, in our very first They Were There interview, that he was damaged goods and that the Cardinals knew it. For the next two-plus years—the last of Broglio’s career—he was 5-13 with a 5.40 ERA.
Wednesday, July 17
San Diego rookie Chris Paddack is six outs away from the Padres’ first-ever no-hitter, but Starlin Castro ruins it with a leadoff homer in the eighth at Miami. It’s the only blemish (outside of a walk) over 7.2 innings for Paddack, who lowers his season ERA to 2.70 as the Padres edge the Marlins, 3-2.
The Mets win their fourth straight with a 14-4 punishing of the Twins at Minnesota behind three home runs—including a 474-foot bomb by rookie Pete Alonso, his 31st of the year. It’s the first time this season that the Twins have lost three straight games.
The distance on Alonso’s home run, hit halfway up the second deck at Target Field, is longer than any of the 57 he belted at the Home Run Derby a week earlier.
The Indians, meanwhile, stay hot and close the gap on the Twins to four games in the AL Central with a 7-2 home win over Detroit. Mike Clevinger strikes out 12 in just six innings for Cleveland, which has gone 25-10 since a season-low 29-30 on June 2.
It took Yu Darvish a year and a half, but he finally posts his first home win for the Cubs after signing a six-year, $126 million deal. The 32-year-old Japanese native allows just two hits and walks none over six shutout innings as Chicago takes a 5-2 win over the Reds and maintains a 2.5-game lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central. In 13 previous starts at Wrigley Field, Darvish had been 0-5 with a 5.50 ERA.
Arizona gets off to a roaring start at Texas, notching 14 runs over the first three innings on their way to a 19-4 rout of the Rangers. Adam Jones has four of the Diamondbacks’ 21 hits, which tie a franchise record for a nine-inning game.
Pumpsie Green, the first African-American player to suit up for the Boston Red Sox in 1959, passes away in San Leandro, California at the age of 85. The Oklahoma-born infielder had a nondescript five-year major league career, hitting .246 over 344 games. But he’s remembered for being the player that broke the color line at Boston, making the Red Sox the last team to integrate its roster—13 years after Jackie Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Thursday, July 18
The surging Nationals (32-13 since May 23) start a crucial series in Atlanta against the NL East-leading Braves and get a statement effort from Stephen Strasburg—and not necessarily because of his pitching. In the midst of an eight-run second, Strasburg has two hits—including a three-run, 420-foot home run—and adds a two-run single in the fifth to total five RBIs on a 3-for-3 night in Washington’s 13-4 rout. He also strikes out seven over 5.1 innings and improves to 12-4 on the season.
Strasburg is the first pitcher in five years to knock in five or more runs in a game.
It took a while, but the Red Sox’ Chris Sale finally emerges a winner at Fenway Park for the first time in a year and a week, firing six shutout innings with 12 strikeouts and two hits allowed as Boston sails to a 5-0 win over Toronto. Offensively for the Red Sox, Mookie Betts extends his streak of consecutive games with at least one run scored to 13—tying a franchise record—and Rafael Devers continues his season-long domination against the Blue Jays with a three-run homer, giving him eight jacks and 28 RBIs against Toronto on the year; the latter total is the most ever collected by one player against the Jays in one season.
Sale had been 0-3 with a 4.11 ERA in his last 13 regular season outings at Fenway.
The Yankees sweep a day-night doubleheader against the second-place Rays, 6-2 and 5-1, and extend their lead in the AL East to a comfortable eight games. But if you ask New York manager Aaron Boone how he feels, you might want to put on some armor; in the second inning of the first game, Boone tears out of the dugout to argue balls and strikes with home plate umpire Brennan Miller and launches into an epic rant, which is picked up by a YES Network field mic to the chagrin of viewers expecting G-rated entertainment.
If you want to hear Boone’s rant to Miller in all of its profane glory, here’s the link—but don’t say we didn’t warn you.
In what may (or may not be) his last start as a Giant, Madison Bumgarner faces the Mets at San Francisco and goes nine innings for the first time since shutting down New York in the 2016 NL Wild Card game—but he doesn’t get the decision as the game plods well into extra innings. The Mets appear to have it won when Pete Alonso homers in the top of the 16th, but the first five Giants reach safely in the bottom of the frame with two runs to secure their sixth straight win, 3-2.
Bumgarner will remain a Giant following the trading deadline, but signs with Arizona after becoming a free agent in the following offseason.
Friday, July 19
Facing an Angels team that a week earlier blasted him for seven runs on eight hits in just two-thirds of an inning, the Mariners’ Mike Leake turns the tables and takes a perfect game into the ninth inning at Seattle. That’s when Luis Rengifo pokes a single through the infield to end the bid. Leake completes a one-hit shutout as the Mariners ease to a 10-0 rout of Los Angeles, with offensive support from Daniel Vogelbach (two home runs, six RBIs).
This is the 19th shutout thrown by a major leaguer this season—matching the entire total for 2018.
Not watching all of this from the Angels’ dugout is Matt Harvey, who earlier in the day is released by the team after a poor showing (3-5, 7.09 ERA). Harvey hasn’t been the same since begging (and, unfortunately, getting his wish) to try and finish off Game Five of the 2015 World Series. In 80 starts since, he’s 19-31 with a 5.65 ERA.
The Reds storm out to a 7-0 lead over St. Louis after four innings at Cincinnati—and the Cardinals respond with a “hold my beer” moment, notching 10 runs in the sixth and two more an inning later before holding off a furious late comeback to prevail, 12-11. The Reds lose despite a terrific Cincinnati debut for spare catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who punches out a double, two homers and six RBIs after being released from the Yankees’ minor-league farm system earlier in the week. Lavarnway is the first Red ever to belt multiple homers in his first game for the team.
Colorado travels to Yankee Stadium and suffers at the hands of numerous ex-Rockies. DJ LeMahieu has two hits and two RBIs, Mike Tauchman produces a career-high three hits along with a steal and an assist from the outfield, and Adam Ottavino strikes out the side in a scoreless eighth to easily lift the Yankees to an 8-2 win.
Don Mossi, a veteran pitcher of four different AL teams from 1954-65 and one of our most recent They Were There subjects, dies at the age of 90 in California. The dog-eared southpaw excelled as a rookie for a 1954 Cleveland team that romped through the regular season before being swept in the World Series by the New York Giants—though Mossi did his part, pitching four shutout innings in three relief appearances. Once traded to Detroit in 1960, Mossi became more of a starter and pitched exceedingly well from 1960-62, peaking in 1962 with a career-best 2.96 ERA. He finished his career as a reliever and left the game with highly respectable numbers: A 101-80 record and 3.43 ERA over 460 appearances.
Saturday, July 20
Severe heat gripping the eastern half of the U.S. forces to Red Sox to skip batting practice at Baltimore—but they end up mimicking the routine in the game to follow, smashing five homers in a 17-6 rout over the Orioles. Jackie Bradley Jr. has two of Boston’s homers, with six RBIs; Rick Porcello gets the win despite allowing six runs on 11 hits over five innings. It’s the 12th time this season the Orioles have allowed five or more homers in a game, extending their major league record for one season.
This is the 19th time this year the Orioles have allowed 10 or more runs in a game. It could be worse; the 1930 Phillies conceded double-digit run totals 45 times.
The Angels rebound from nearly getting no-hit the night before, defeating the Mariners at Seattle 6-2 on a four-run, ninth-inning rally capped by Mike Trout’s three-run dinger. In 154 career games against the Mariners, Trout has 40 homers—making him the youngest player (at 27) to reach that milestone against a single opponent since the start of the expansion era in 1961.
Trout’s dominance is not just restricted to the Mariners; his 1.067 OPS is actually lower than what he’s done against four other AL teams, topped by the Rangers (1.092).
Sunday, July 21
Baseball’s Hall of Fame officially welcomes six new members on a postcard-perfect summer afternoon at Cooperstown. Not unexpectedly, the most poignant of all the speeches comes from Brandy Halladay, the widow of former ace pitcher Roy Halladay, who died in plane crash off the coast of Florida in 2017. “Roy was a very normal person with a very exceptional, amazing job,” she said. “These men doing these outstanding things are real people, but they still struggle….Sometimes it’s hard to present the image what people want to see.” Closing out the speeches, naturally is all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera, the first unanimous inductee who recalled his own struggle just to learn English as a young ballplayer so he could better fit in with teammates. The other new members inducted on the day include Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith and Harold Baines.
Atlanta earns a four-game home split with Washington with a 7-1 victory to maintain the 6.5-game lead it brought into the series over the Nationals. The loss goes to Joe Ross, who becomes the first Washington starter to get tagged with a loss in 27 games—ending what had been the longest such streak since the 1916 Giants went undefeated in 27 straight games.
The Nationals lost seven games during the 27-game streak, but all losses were charged to a reliever.
In a stark example of how every day is a new one for baseball teams, the Orioles—less than 24 hours after getting slaughtered for 17 runs by Boston—use three pitchers to toss a one-hit, 5-0 shutout over the Red Sox at Baltimore. Asher Wojciechowski, the first of those three pitchers, takes a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Rafael Devers greets him with a leadoff double.
Tampa Bay snaps a five-game skid thanks to red-hot Travis d’Arnaud, whose grand slam in the second inning accounts for all of the Rays’ runs (and one of three hits) in a 4-2 home win over the White Sox. d’Arnaud is the first catcher in history to have a slam, lead-off home run and walk-off homer in the same calendar month—and he’s done it in over a three-game stretch.
Monday, July 22
Eleven is the magic number for the Astros as the team celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing wearing special caps with that mission’s logo. The Astros send the visiting A’s into orbit with an 11-1 rout, scoring their 11th run in the third on the 11th hit of the game from the 11th batter of the inning; meanwhile on the mound, Gerrit Cole wins his 11th game with 11 strikeouts.
Cole reaches 200 strikeouts in his 133rd inning of work this year; only Randy Johnson in 2001 did it in fewer innings (130.2).
With two RBIs, Houston rookie Yordan Alvarez sets a MLB record for the most (35) within the first 30 games to start a career.
A day after hitting his first career grand slam, the Brewers’ Tyler Saladino hits his second—an eighth-inning blast that gives Milwaukee a 5-4 lead over the visiting Reds. Alas for the Brewers, the lead is a temporary one; in the top of the ninth with two outs, Eugenio Suarez cracks his second homer of the night off of Milwaukee’s Jim Jeffress to give Cincinnati a 6-5 win.
Saladino is the first player since 2010 to hit slams on consecutive days—and he’s the first ever to hit a game-tying and go-ahead slam on successive days.
With the big-boy Yankees in town, the upstart Twins turn a triple play in the first inning, turn two double plays later in the game and smash five homers—bringing their total on the year to 187, easily on pace to dethrone New York from the record book—in an 8-6 victory.
Ivan Nova is getting the hang of Guaranteed Rate Field. His second win in as many tries at home after a long drought to start his White Sox tenure is a four-hit, 9-1 Chicago win, the ninth complete game of his career. He throws 112 pitches while the Sox back him with four homers.
Tuesday, July 23
For the second time in three seasons—and against the same team—Washington’s Trea Turner hits for the cycle as the Nationals roll to an 11-1 home victory over the Rockies. Turner completes the feat with a RBI double amid a seven-run outburst in the eighth inning. He’s the first player in Expos/Nationals history to hit for the cycle twice, the 26th player overall in MLB history to do it—and the fourth to earn it against the same team.
In what will certainly go down as a candidate for the Game of the Year, the Yankees win a wild 14-12 game in 10 innings at Minnesota over the Twins. Down 8-2 after four innings and 9-5 after seven, the Yankees rally for five in the eighth to take the lead—but lose the lead when Miguel Sano’s two-run homer gives Minnesota the lead back. New York retakes the lead in the ninth on Aaron Hicks’ two-run blast—but the Twins send it to overtime on Jorge Polanco’s sac fly in the bottom of the frame. After the Yankees rally for two in the 10th, the Twins get two on with two outs for Max Kepler—whose deep line drive is snared several feet above the fence by a leaping Hicks to save the game for the Yankees. Individually, New York’s Didi Gregorius stands out with a 5-for-5 night and seven RBIs; he’s the first American League shortstop ever to accomplish such numbers in one game.
This is the first time since 2000 that a game has seen blown leads in the top of the eighth, the bottom of the eighth, the top of the ninth and the bottom of the ninth.
Elsewhere in the AL East, the Red Sox overtake (albeit by percentage points) the Rays for second place with a 5-4 win at Tampa Bay. Chris Sale gets the win with 10 strikeouts over six innings, and the Boston bullpen holds off a frantic Rays rally in the ninth.
Demonized by many Mets fans for a lackluster season performance while youngsters Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil dominate, veteran infielder Robinson Cano enjoys the first three-homer performance of his long career, knocking in all five runs in the Mets’ 5-2 home victory over the Padres.
Trevor Bauer throws 7.2 scoreless innings for the Indians, but the bullpen can’t lock down his 1-0 lead at Toronto as the Blue Jays’ Justin Smoak goes long (home run) in the ninth to tie the game and short (RBI infield single) in the 10th to win it, 2-1. Aaron Sanchez starts for the Jays and, although he doesn’t get credit for the victory, snaps a streak of 10 straight starts in which he had been tagged with the loss without achieving “quality start” status (at least six innings with three or fewer runs allowed). That had been the majors’ longest such streak since Early Wynn in 1942.
On the day the Dodgers publicly show off the logo for the 2020 All-Star Game to be held at Dodger Stadium, they also announce the latest upgrade to be done to the 57-year-old ballpark, this one to cost in excess of $100 million. It will consist of an expansive fan interaction area behind the bleachers—a less ambitious play on a similar attempt back in 2012 to create a massive fan experience.
Wednesday, July 24
Cleveland’s Shane Bieber throws his second shutout of the year—a one-hitter on 102 pitches—in a 4-0 win at Toronto, with the only knock coming on a ground-rule double by Eric Sogard to lead off the seventh. Bieber’s attempted no-no comes in what is the 6,105th straight game played by the Indians since their last such gem—three shy of the AL record held by the Tigers from 1912-52.
Bieber is the first pitcher since 2017 with multiple shutouts in a season.
The Cardinals go long-hitting in historic fashion at Pittsburgh. A nine-run second includes eight extra-base hits—tying an all-time record held by four other teams—and the Redbirds carry on from there to a 14-8 victory over the Pirates. Individually, Paul DeJong has the big night for St. Louis, scorching a double and three home runs along with five RBIs.
If the first-place Twins are truly to return to championship form, they’ll have to get a Yankee-sized monkey off their backs. At Minnesota, the Yankees takes the rubber match of a three-game series with a 10-7 win, as Didi Gregorius continues his hot hitting with a single, double, triple and three RBIs while Edwin Encarnacion belts his 30th home run—giving him eight straight seasons reaching the mark. For the 13th straight season, the Yankees win the season series against the Twins with four wins in six meetings; since 2002, they’re 100-37 against Minnesota (and that includes a 13-2 postseason mark).
For the fourth straight game, the Yankees’ starting pitcher (in tonight’s case, J.A. Happ) gives up at least six runs. And yet the team has won three of those games.
The 20 home runs hit between both teams in this series ties the AL record for the most in a three-game set.
The Rays regain second place from Boston and avoid a three-game sweep by the Red Sox with a 3-2 victory—but hold everything before officially putting this in the win column. The Red Sox protest the game in the seventh as Rays manager Kevin Cash pulls off some lineup trickery. Reliever Adam Kolarek retires one batter, then is moved to first base for fellow reliever Chaz Roe; after Roe gets Mookie Betts out on a fly ball, Kolarek returns to the mound while Nate Lowe takes over at first. Boston manager Alex Cora smells a rat because, after all of this maneuvering, the Rays still maintain a DH spot in the order—which, once a pitcher moves to another position, technically should not happen. Or should it? Even the umpiring crew is confused by the moves, which only figures because Angel Hernandez—often ridiculed as the majors’ worst umpire—is heading up the crew. The ensuing discussions take up nearly 15 minutes and involve a call to replay officials in New York; in the end, Hernandez allows the substitutions, and says after the game that because Cash didn’t state where Kolarek would go in the order, he made the final call on where the reliever would bat in the lineup.
The Red Sox announce the next day that they will not file a formal protest.
Thursday, July 25
At age 39 and with 382 career homers under his belt, the Twins’ Nelson Cruz smacks three dingers for the first time—part of five overall homers hit by Minnesota in a 10-2 rout of the White Sox in Chicago. This gives the Twins nine games this season with at least five, eclipsing the major league record previously held by the 1977 Red Sox.
This is the third straight day that a major leaguer has hit three homers, something that has never happened before.
In what is finally the first game at Fenway Park against the Yankees this season, the Red Sox roll up a 19-3 stomping on 23 hits, with an AL record-tying eight players snatching up at least two RBIs. Taking the beating for New York is Masahiro Tanaka, who surrenders 12 runs in 3.1 innings—the most tallies allowed by a Yankee pitcher since Carl Mays gave up 13 to Cleveland in 1923, three years after one of his pitches struck and killed the Indians’ Ray Chapman.
Rick Porcello is gifted another win for Boston, as he’s now been supported with 10 or more runs in a modern era-record five straight starts; he’s 4-0 in that stretch with a 9.67 ERA.
The Red Sox officially had an earlier home series against the Yankees, but that was the one played in London.
The Orioles survive a 16-inning, six hour, 19-minute marathon at Anaheim by a 10-8 score thanks to outfielder Stevie Wilkerson—who becomes the first-ever position player to officially record a save. After the Orioles and Angels exchange single runs in the ninth to send the game into extras, no one scores until the 15th when Baltimore snags three runs—only to have the Angels counter with three of their own. After scoring two more in the 16th to retake the lead, and with its bullpen exhausted, Baltimore summons Wilkerson to the mound—and he responds with a 1-2-3 frame.
The NL Central continues to be a dizzying exercise in musical chairs as the Cardinals win for the 11th time in 13 tries, defeating the Pirates at Pittsburgh 6-3 to tie the Cubs for first place in the division. Paul Goldschmidt’s solo homer gives him five straight games against the Bucs with one.
Fed up with constant injuries, former All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki announces his retirement at age 34. Once the prime mover of the Colorado Rockies, and front-and-center in their pennant-winning “Rocktober” run of 2007, Tulowitzki was a stellar talent when healthy—but staying healthy was the problem. Only three times in 13 years did he ever log more than 140 games; he was absent for all of 2018 while nursing a bad back, and after signing with the Yankees for 2019 appeared in only five games. Tulowitzki leaves the game with a career .290 average, 225 homers and two Gold Glove awards; he’ll become an assistant coach for the University of Texas baseball team.
Friday, July 26
Another day, another hat trick of homers for another major leaguer. Tonight it’s the Red Sox Mookie Betts, who goes three-deep for the fifth time in his career—one shy of the all-time career record co-held by Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa. Betts adds a double and drives in five runs as the Red Sox clobber the Yankees again at Boston, 10-5. This is the fourth straight day that a major leaguer has hit three home runs in a game.
The Yankees’ rotation is suddenly a mess. In their last seven games, starters have an ERA of 15.80. James Paxton, tonight’s loser, has allowed a leadoff homer in each of his last three starts. Only three other pitchers have done that in MLB history.
The Red Sox will eventually score 44 runs in this four-game series, the most by either team in their long, storied rivalry over a four-game set. The previous mark was 42 by the Yankees in their memorable “Boston Massacre” 1978 sweep at Boston.
The Twins easily glide past the White Sox again, 6-2, adding two more homers to increase their season total to an even 200—in just their 103rd game of the year. They are thus the fastest team to reach the milestone, beating the old record held by the 2005 Rangers—who needed 122 games. At their current pace, the Twins will collect 315 homers on the year—obliterating the season mark of 267 set by last year’s Yankees.
Pablo Sandoval’s 11th-inning homer is the difference as the Giants post a 2-1 win at San Diego. It’s the sixth time in their last 10 games that the Giants have won in extra innings, the most occurrences in such a stretch since 1920.
Saturday, July 27
For a team that’s been giving up a record share of home runs, the Orioles haven’t been all that bad at hitting them as well—especially of late. Pedro Severino and Jonathan Villar both go deep for Baltimore in an 8-7 victory at Anaheim, making it an all-time-record 10 straight games in which the Orioles have homered at least twice. The consistent bashing is also helping the Orioles do something they haven’t done much of in the last year and a half: Win. They are 7-3 in the 10-game streak.
Seattle eases to an 8-1 home victory over the Tigers (who drop to 30-70), but that’s not what makes the news. For the first time this season, the Mariners are involved in a game in which there are no home runs—ending a record-smashing streak of 107 games. Of the Mariners’ 16 hits on the day, six of them go for extra bases—but none of them leave the yard.
Down 9-3 in the eighth inning, the Blue Jays punch it up against the visiting Rays. They hit two solo homers in the eighth, and get four runs in the ninth to tie on two more clouts, including a three-run blast from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It stays 9-9 until the 12th when Teoscar Hernandez hits his second homer of the game to win it, 10-9. Toronto is the first team since the Dodgers in 2006 to hit five homers from the eighth inning on.
The Mets’ Steven Matz throws his first career shutout (and complete game) with a five-hit, 99-pitch gem over the Pirates at New York, 3-0. Matz is buoyed offensively with two home runs—a solo homer by Michael Conforto, and a two-run shot from J.D. Davis.
Sunday, July 28
The first major domino falls in what is expected to be a frenzied trading period as MLB teams face a hard July 31 deadline for the first time. Toronto pitcher Marcus Stroman, whose deceiving 6-11 record is offset by a 2.96 ERA that’s the AL’s fifth best—is traded to the Mets for two prospects. It seems a bit of a head scratcher as to why the Mets, who are struggling to stay afloat in a crowded NL wild card race, would deal for a win-now type.
The media reports a “clubhouse commotion” in Toronto shortly after news of the trade is announced; it is later confirmed that the source of the commotion is Stroman, who is said to be unhappy that he’s not going to a contender.
On the field, meanwhile, the Blue Jays are repaid in kind by the Rays at Toronto a day after coming back from seven runs down to win 10-9. Today it’s Tampa Bay’s turn; down 8-1 in the sixth, the Rays fight back and notch nine runs over the final four innings to prevail by the same 10-9 count. It’s the first time in major league history that a team has come from seven down one day to win, and then blow a seven-run lead the next.
The Angels rally to keep the visiting Orioles from completing their first sweep of the season thanks to Albert Pujols, who drills his 650th career homer in the sixth to erase a 4-2 Baltimore lead; rookie infielder Matt Thaiss wins it in the ninth, 5-4, with his second homer of the game.
With his round-tripper, Pujols becomes the first player ever with 650 homers and 650 doubles; he also ties Babe Ruth for eighth on the all-time list with 5,793 total bases.
The Cubs avoid a three-game sweep at Milwaukee and an attempt by the Brewers to tie Chicago for second in the NL Central with an 11-4 thumping. The first seven runs scored by Chicago all come off the bat of Kyle Schwarber, who follows up a second-inning grand slam with a three-run shot in the fourth.
Monday, July 29
It’s the latest bad day for the Orioles, who continue to give away home runs the way a car salesman hands out business cards. In San Diego, Baltimore starter David Hess surrenders home runs on the first two pitches he throws, as Fernando Tatis Jr. and Franmil Reyes take him deep for a quick 2-0 lead; he’ll give up two more homers before being removed in the fifth, and the Orioles overall give up five blasts on the night—the 13th time this year they’ve given up at least five—in an 8-1 loss.
Since being pulled from a no-hitter in his first start of the year, Hess is 0-10 with an 8.25 ERA in 13 appearances.
It’s a Zimm win for Detroit! Jordan Zimmermann allows two runs over 5.1 innings and the Tigers back him up with actual offense as they defeat the Angels at Anaheim, 7-2. It’s the first victory for Zimmermann, who’s making $25 million this season, after 17 winless starts going back to late last year; in that time, he had gone 0-10 with a 7.54 ERA. (No, we’re not confusing these numbers with those of David Hess above—even though they’re awfully close to being the same.)
The Reds demolish the Pirates at Cincinnati, 11-6, behind a 10-run third inning in which everyone contributes. All nine Reds in the starting lineup score at least once in that frame, the first time they’ve managed to do that since the midst of the Big Red Machine’s reign in 1975.
Tuesday, July 30
In the latest trade that we didn’t expect, the red hot and wild card-worthy Indians decide to trade top pitcher Trevor Bauer to the Reds in a three-team deal that nets the Tribe outfielders Yasiel Puig and (from San Diego) Franmil Reyes. Cleveland also picks up two pitchers—Logan Allen from the Padres and minor leaguer Scott Moss from the Reds, as well a fifth player from San Diego (minor league infielder Victor Nova). For all of their troubles, the Padres receive the Reds’ top prospect, outfielder Taylor Trammell.
At the moment that the Reds are completing their deal, Puig provides one last burst of spontaneous combustion, part of a nasty brawl between the Reds and Pirates that’s a reignition of their season-long feud. The boiling point is reached in the ninth when Reds pitcher Amir Garrett, in the midst of a mound visit, stalks off toward the Pittsburgh dugout and attempts to take on the entire team; the Reds join in—including Puig, who as with the last scuffle between the teams in April re-heats the brawl after everyone else had cooled down, and manager David Bell, who re-enters the field after being ejected an inning earlier. As for the game, the Pirates run away with an 11-4 victory at Cincinnati.
MLB obviously doesn’t take kindly to this sort of kerfuffle, suspending eight players/coaches with a combined 40 games. The biggest individual penalty is laid upon Pirates pitcher Keone Kela, who is docked with a 10-game suspension after instigating the tension by throwing toward the head of the Reds’ Derek Dietrich.
Toronto rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. helps the Blue Jays cap off a 9-2 win at Kansas City with a ninth-inning grand slam, his second of the season (and thus his career). At age 20 years and 136 days, Guerrero Jr. becomes the youngest player ever with multiple grand slams.
Wednesday, July 31
It’s D-Day for major league teams who face a hard trading deadline with no waiver deals allowed afterward, unlike in past years. Thus, many key players are sent packing as general managers furiously make one last stab to mold their rosters for the stretch run.
While the Yankees are surprisingly unable (or unwilling) to bolster a suddenly shaky rotation, the Astros strengthen an already ace-heavy staff by acquiring Zack Greinke (10-4, 2.90 ERA) from Arizona for four minor leaguers including 2018 top draft pick Seth Beer. Houston also takes a chance on beleaguered Toronto pitcher Aaron Sanchez, the one-time ERA champ who is 3-14 with a 6.07 mark this year, and, in a fit of déjà vu, bring on catcher Martin Maldonado—who they also acquired last year. Maldonado began this year in Kansas City before a brief stay at Chicago with the Cubs.
Greinke’s void in Arizona will be filled by Mike Leake (9-8, 4.27), dealt by Seattle to the Diamondbacks for a minor leaguer.
Nick Castellanos (11 home runs, 37 RBIs in 100 games), who’s due for free agency but has seen his statistical growth backtrack after years of steady improvement, is sent by Detroit to the Cubs for two minor leaguers.
The Brewers send first baseman Jesus Aguilar, struggling after a solid .274-35-108 campaign in 2018, to Tampa Bay for pitcher Jake Faria. On the take side, Milwaukee garners two pitchers from San Francisco—veteran Drew Pomeranz and fireballing reliever Ray Black.
The Giants aren’t done dealing. They also send from their bullpen Mark Melancon (who never lived up to his past closing greatness) to Atlanta and Sam Dyson (2.47 ERA in 49 games) to Minnesota. They do receive from Cincinnati infielder Scooter Gennett, trying to get himself back on track after injuries—but most notably, they hold onto ace Madison Bumgarner and closer Will Smith, both of whom impending free agents who were heavily rumored to be on the move.
Besides Melancon, the Braves also pick up Detroit closer Shane Greene, who’s 22 of 25 in save opportunities with a stellar 1.18 ERA.
Ryne Stanek’s days as an ‘opener’ appears to be over as the Rays send the early-innings reliever along with a minor leaguer to Miami for pitchers Trevor Richards and Nick Anderson, who are a combined 5-16 for the Marlins.
Finally of note, the Reds send pitcher Tanner Roark (6-7, 4.21) to Oakland. Roark learns of the trade while at an Arby’s.
Minnesota finishes off another prodigious power month with a 7-4 victory at Miami. The Twins add three homers to give them 52 for the month—their third straight with at least 50. Not only is the first time that a team has hit 50 homers in three different months in one season, but for the Twins it matches their franchise total coming into the year.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits Take a look back at the daily doings of baseball with the TGG Comebacker archive.