This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: July 2022

Self Over Team: The Unvaccinated Skip Toronto    Aaron Judge Aims for 60
Is Baseball’s Hallowed Antitrust Exemption Finally Doomed?

June 2022    Comebacker Index  •  August 2022

Friday, July 1

Nolan Arenado’s second career cycle is a bittersweet experience. At Philadelphia, the St. Louis third baseman triples in the first, homers in the third, doubles in the sixth, and reaches on an infield single in the eighth to complete the cycle. But his three RBIs are the only ones notched by the Cardinals, who lose by a 5-3 score. Helping out on offense for the victorious Phillies is Darick Hall, whose solo homer in the sixth puts Philadelphia in the lead; he thus becomes the first player to begin his career with three home runs over his first three games for the Phillies.

This is the 17th time in the modern (post-1900) era that a Cardinals’ player has hit for the cycle, and the first since Mark Grudzielanek completed one in 2005; three of the last five have occurred in games the Cardinals lost.

There have been five cycles achieved this season across Major League Baseball; the record for a full season is eight, set in both 1933 and 2009.

Tony Gonsolin’s magical start to 2022 continues, as the former quasi-‘opener’ improves to 10-0 with a 1.54 ERA in the Dodgers’ 5-1 victory over the San Diego Padres at Los Angeles. The 28-year-old right-hander allows a run on four hits over 7.2 innings—the longest stint of his career. In 81.2 innings this season, Gonsolin has allowed 44 hits; he’s the first starting pitcher since Walter Johnson in 1913 to start a season at 10-0 while allowing fewer than 50 hits.

It’s official: Cristian Javier is white hot. The Houston right-hander, who like Gonsolin has been treated like fine china as the Astros have been reluctant to pitch him deep into games, has his second straight remarkable outing—allowing a first-inning home run to the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani but otherwise perfect for seven innings, striking out 14 in the Astros’ 8-1 home romp of Los Angeles. Combined with his previous start—seven innings of hitless pitching with 13 strikeouts against the New York Yankees—it’s confirmed that no other pitcher has allowed just one hit with 27 or more strikeouts over two appearances.

The Ohtani homer in the first ends a streak of 90 straight innings in which the Astros did not trail. (Yes, Houston lost two games during this streak, but they were both walk-off defeats to the Yankees—so in effect, the Astros never trailed during the game.) The all-time record remains the property of the Moneyball Oakland A’s of 2002, who rode a 102-inning streak.

After consecutive games in which a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit three home runs, there will be no third straight game. Most of the mashing is instead done by the visiting Milwaukee Brewers, who hammer away at the Bucs with five homers in a 19-2 rout. An exhausted Pittsburgh bullpen is exemplified by the eighth-inning appearance of Cam Vieaux (pronounced “view”), who concedes eight runs on six hits and three walks; he throws 56 pitches in the inning, the most by any hurler in one frame since the Giants’ Russ Ortiz threw 61 during a 1999 game against St. Louis.

Saturday, July 2

The Cardinals tee it up and knock ‘em out in the first inning at Philadelphia, tying a major league record by belting home runs in four consecutive at-bats off Phillies pitcher Kyle Gibson as part of a five-run rally. The four Cardinals to send it deep are Nolan Arenado, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez and Dylan Carlson; they’re the 11th quartet in MLB history (and first by the Cardinals) enter the record books. It takes a fifth homer—Arenado’s second, leading off the ninth—to break a tie and give St. Louis a 7-6 victory.

Seven of the previous instances of four straight homers took place over the past 16 years; the three before that occurred from 1961-64. The White Sox (2008, 2020) and Nationals (2017, 2019) are the only teams to do it twice.

The Yankees continue to crush and conquer, wielding their nonstop power to sweep a day-night doubleheader at Cleveland over the Guardians by scores of 13-4 and 6-1. Six home runs over the two victories pad the Yankees’ season total to an MLB-best 133; two of those come off the bat of former Cardinals star/current Yankees benchwarmer Matt Carpenter in the first game; of the 12 hits he’s accrued for New York since being picked up on May 26, eight have gone for home runs. Additionally, Giancarlo Stanton’s 20th homer in the second game gives the Yankees three players (Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo being the other two) with at least 20; they represent the sixth trio of major leaguers with 20-plus through a team’s first 79 games, and the first since the 2003 Atlanta combo of Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez.

Only four modern-era teams have had better starts through the first 79 decisions of a season than the 2022 Yankees (58-21): The 1902 Pirates (60-19), and the 1907 Chicago Cubs, 1912 New York Giants and 1998 Yankees (all 59-20).

If you’re paying your good money to see the Minnesota Twins, it’s important to stick around to the end. The Twins win their second straight game via a walk-off hit, as Jose Miranda’s RBI single in the ninth completes a two-run rally in a 4-3 home win over Baltimore. The back-to-back walk-off wins follow back-to-back walk-off losses at Cleveland—the first time in AL history that a team lost two straight games in its final at-bat, then won two in the same fashion.

Sunday, July 3

The Astros sweep a three-game home series against the Angels with a 4-2 victory, as four pitchers combine to strike out 20 batters—setting a Houston record for a nine-inning game, and tying the MLB record accomplished seven previous times, most recently in 2019 by the White Sox against Detroit. (The Angels set their own mark by striking out 20 times on offense.) Framber Valdez starts for the Astros and strikes out 13 over six innings, Hector Neris and Rafael Montero each strike out two batters in an inning of work, and closer Ryan Pressly strikes out the side in the ninth to wrap up the win.

The 48 strikeouts racked up by Houston in the series are the most by any team in a three-game series that didn’t include an extra-inning contest.

Emblematic of the Angels’ travails in the series is star outfielder Mike Trout, who strikes out nine times while going 0-for-11. He’s currently in the midst of a 0-for-14 slump.

The Cincinnati Reds avoid an 11th straight loss at home—but it doesn’t come without suspense. The Atlanta Braves’ Marcell Ozuna and Michael Harris II slam solo homers in the ninth to tie the game off Reds closer Hunter Strickland, but the Reds rebound in the ninth off a highly ineffective A.J. Minter, who hits a batter, walks one and concedes two hits—the final one being a walk-off single by Albert Almora Jr. to win the game, 4-3.

The 10-game skid is the longest since the Reds moved into Great American Ball Park in 2003—and just two shy of the modern franchise record of 12, set both in 1937-38 and 1945-46.

While the Mets defeats Texas at New York, 4-1, all eyes regarding the Mets are on St. Lucie, Florida, where fragile ace Jacob deGrom sees his first action since the start of the regular season in a rehab start against the Class-A Jupiter Hammerheads. It’s difficult to decide if he’s ready to return to the parent club after his two innings of work, but he’s certainly ready to move on from Class-A; he faces six hitters, strikes out five of them and throws six pitches over 100 MPH. His teammates for the moment seem to be in awe, grouping up behind him en masse so they can watch him warm up on the bullpen mound before the start of the game.

Monday, July 4

The Chicago White Sox and MLB mull postponing the team’s scheduled contest at Guaranteed Rate Field against Minnesota in the wake of America’s latest mass shooting, in which a gunman open fire on a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, killing six and injuring 30. But the decision is made for the game to go on, albeit without a planned postgame fireworks display.

While the crowd of 32,000 is disappointed (though understanding) of the fireworks cancellation, it’s still treated to an exciting contest, as the White Sox try to make a dent in the divisional lead of the first-place Twins. Chicago ties a taut game at 2-2 in the seventh on a Yoan Moncada single, but a chance to blow the game open collapses when A.J. Pollock next sends a deep fly that’s caught in front of the right-center field fence by Byron Buxton—and the two runners on base (Moncada and Adam Engel), believing the ball would drop or clear the wall, are both doubled off to result in the 39th triple play in Twins franchise history. (It’s the 22nd triple play the White Sox have hit into.) Moving into extra innings, the Twins get the gift runner home, followed by three others, in a four-run 10th; the White Sox get the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the frame, but can only score once as they succumb to Minnesota, 6-3.

The triple play is said to be the first ever scored 8-5 (center fielder to third baseman).

Though there’s a whole half-year of play to go in 2022, it’s clear that the AL’s top rookie in the season’s first half is Seattle Julio Rodriguez. The 21-year-old center fielder belts his 15th home run to help the Mariners take an easy 8-2 win at San Diego. Having already swiped 20 bases to lead the AL, Rodriguez is the first MLB player to go 15 homers/20steals through his first 81 career games; Ellis Burks had previously done it in his first 82 games.

Tuesday, July 5

Max Scherzer is back; now if only the Mets’ offense would follow suit. In his first start since suffering an oblique injury on May 18, the 37-year-old ace throws six shutout innings, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out a season-high 11 batters—but gets a no-decision as the Mets drop a 1-0 decision at Cincinnati on a ninth-inning sac fly for the Reds’ Mike Moustakas. The Mets have scored 22 runs over their last eight games.

This is the 28th time that Scherzer has struck out at least 10 while allowing no runs; only Randy Johnson (36) has accomplished that feat more.

The Orioles blow leads over the Texas Rangers in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings—allowing home runs to, respectively, Mitch Garver, Nate Lowe and Corey Seager—but get even in the ninth with a two-out, game-tying homer from former Ranger Rougned Odor before winning it in the 10th, 10-9. Cedric Mullins provides the game-winning hit, a two-out double to bring home the gift runner. Per STATS, this is the first time an MLB team has blown leads in the seventh, eighth and ninth—and still won.

The Orioles’ win virtually duplicates their 7-6 triumph from the day before, also achieved in 10 innings after tying the game in the ninth. Texas closer Joe Barlow is charged with blown saves in both; the Rangers are 4-16 in one-run games this season—and 33-26 in all others.

The Diamondbacks plate five runs—the final three on a Daulton Varsho home run—in the bottom of the eighth to slither past San Francisco, 6-2, handing the Giants their sixth straight loss.  In defeat, Austin Wynns lays down the Giants’ first sacrifice hit of the season, leaving only the Braves without one at this, the halfway point of the season. Discounting the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the fewest sac bunts produced by an MLB team in one year is four by the 2019 Los Angeles Angels.

Wednesday, July 6

The marveling of Shohei Ohtani continues. The Angels’ dual-purpose star is victimized with a first-inning unearned run, but otherwise concedes only a pair of hits and three walks while striking 10 over seven innings—and at the plate is credited with the ultimate game-winning run on a two-run, fifth-inning double in a 5-2 victory at Miami. (For good measure, he also steals a base.)

Ohtani is the sixth pitcher with three straight starts of 10 strikeouts and zero earned runs allowed. The other five are Ray Culp (1968), Nolan Ryan (1972), John Lackey (2006), Clayton Kershaw (2015) and Jacob deGrom (2018). 

Since June 3, The Angels are 5-0 when Ohtani pitches; they’re 6-20 when he doesn’t.

The Yankees annihilate the Pirates at Pittsburgh, 16-0, in a game that’s scoreless until the fifth inning. The Yankees’ late-inning runaway offense is highlighted in the eighth when Aaron Judge belts a grand slam for his 30th homer of the year—making him the first player to reach 30 on the year, and the first Yankee to twice reach the number before the All-Star Game.

Contributing to the rout is emergency pitcher Josh VanMeter, who takes the mound in the ninth and yields six runs on eight hits, including another grand slam to Aaron Hicks. VanMeter has been called upon from his usual spot at second base to pitch three times this year, and in a combined three innings has given up 13 runs on 15 hits—five of them home runs. To quote the only three words uttered from the Pirates’ broadcast booth when Hicks clears the bases off a professional baseball player who should have no business pitching in a major league game: “This is ridiculous.”

The Pirates have suffered the 2022 season’s three worst defeats: This one, a 19-2 home loss to Milwaukee on July 1, and a 21-0 loss to the Cubs at Chicago on April 23.

The Astros ride an eight-game win streak into Minute Maid Park against lowly Kansas City with Cristian Javier (14 hits, one hit, 27 K’s over his previous two starts) on the mound for Houston. But the upset bug prevails; the Royals belt two homers in the first and ultimately rack up five runs on Javier before his removal after five innings. The Astros have no comeback magic in them and suffer a 7-4 defeat.

After striking out the side in the first (aside from giving up three runs), Javier collects one K in the second—ending a streak of 13 straight innings in which he had multiple strikeouts. The record, since 1961, remains that of Aroldis Chapman (15).

The Oakland A’s will not have to sweat out a public vote on their proposed new waterfront ballpark, as the Oakland City Council votes 5-2 against putting public approval of the ballpark on the ballot. Public votes have generally been considered a death sentence for teams seeking a new yard—unless it’s Arlington—and that’s especially true in California, where everything is expensive and Oracle Park, the Giants’ home across the bay, was built with private funds. Meanwhile, the A’s are on pace to draw just under 700,000 fans this season at the Coliseum.

Thursday, July 7

Mookie Betts belts two homers, including his 19th career leadoff blast in the first to tie Alfonso Soriano’s career record, while Tony Gonsolin improves to 11-0—matching Alex Wood in 2017 for the most wins by a Dodger to start a season without a loss—in Los Angeles’ 5-3 home win over the Chicago Cubs. Gonsolin is tied with the Astros’ Justin Verlander (who also wins, against Kansas City), with an MLB-best 11 victories; his 1.62 ERA is tops among all pitchers.

The St. Louis Cardinals survive six innings of continued rookie brilliance from the Braves’ Spencer Strider and take a 3-2 overtime win at Atlanta on Dylan Carlson’s infield single in the 11th. The 23-year-old Strider throws six shutout innings, allowing two hits while striking out 12—nine of them in the first three innings; he’s the first rookie in the modern era to strike out 11-plus batters while allowing two or fewer hits in consecutive starts. Of the 16 pitchers who’ve struck over 100 batters this season, Strider is by far the one with the fewest innings (65.2); Houston’s Cristian Javier is next at 74.2.

Odd but fun stat; 42-year-old Albert Pujols brings home a run on a seventh-inning sac fly for St. Louis, while 21-year-old Atlanta rookie Michael Harris II raps out an RBI single in the bottom of the inning. This is the first time that MLB’s current oldest and youngest players each collect an RBI in the same game since 1975, when future Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Robin Yount did the same.

The Padres edge the visiting Giants by a 2-1 score in 10 innings, but also bear witness to a scary sequence in the fifth inning in which left fielder Jurickson Profar and rookie shortstop C.J. Abrams collide on a pop fly, with Abrams’ knee banging into the head of the diving Profar. While Abrams gets up after a brief moment of pain, Profar stays on the ground, conscious—but on the second attempt to walk off under his own power, he collapses back to the ground, prompting a stretcher to come help him leave the field. Profar is taken to a hospital; he will miss a week of action.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser tweets this while Profar is laid out on the ground: “Goodness. They should have all this stuff ready to go at a moment’s notice. That’s what emergency equipment is for.”

Baseball fans of the 1970s and 1980s will surely remember the mustached man who stood behind the home plate netting at Dodger Stadium wearing sunglasses and a Panama hat, chomping on cigars and holding up a radar gun with every pitch thrown. That man was Mike Brito, the longtime Dodgers scout who, while he wasn’t writing down the speed of every pitch, was out and about discovering the likes of Fernando Valenzuela, Ismael Valdez, Yasiel Puig and Julio Urias. Brito passes away at the age of 87, leaving a lot of heavy hearts inside and outside of Dodgertown. Brito never played in the majors, reaching as far as the Washington Senators’ minor league system and a stint in the Mexican League. He began his scouting career in 1968 for the Dodgers.

Friday, July 8

Starters for the upcoming All-Star Game in Los Angeles are announced, along with two sentimental picks forged by MLB for old vets Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Four teams have two starters represented: The Yankees (Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton), Blue Jays (Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and catcher Alejandro Kirk), Angels (Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani) and Dodgers (Mookie Betts and Trea Turner). First-time starters include Kirk, Turner, Miami second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr., and White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson. Trout leads all starters with his 10th All-Star appearance; for Cabrera and Pujols, “legacy selections” handpicked by MLB in a first-of-its-kind inclusion, it will be their 12th and 11th appearances, respectively.

Cabrera has been a man of milestones over the past year—his 500th home run, his 3,000th hit—but here’s another that won’t be celebrated by MLB. In Detroit’s 7-5 win over the White Sox at Chicago, Cabrera strikes out twice to become the seventh player in major league history to reach 2,000 for his career. It’s part of a 0-for-4 night for Cabrera, ending a 13-game hit streak—with all of his hits during the streak being singles. Only Cal Ripken Jr., at age 40 in 2001, had as long a streak without an extra-base hit an at older age.

In Cincinnati, a tie game in the bottom of the 10th is decided in the Reds’ favor against Tampa Bay in the most subtle of ways: A balk, and a rather curious one at that. With runners at first and third and one out, the Rays’ Matt Wisler is ready to deal and taps his glove on his thigh—a move, he says, he’s used many times without penalty to get a new pitch signal. But home plate umpire Edwin Moscoso claims it’s a balk, and thus the winning run scores in what the Elias Sports Bureau says is the 23rd “balk-off” win since 1920, and the first since 2018.

Wisler isn’t the only one perplexed by the call. Mark Kolozsvary, who scored the game-winner on the balk, says, “I have no idea what (Wisler) did.” Reds manager David Bell adds, “I didn’t see the balk at all, but we’ll take it.”

Adam Wainwright goes the distance against the visiting Phillies, tossing all nine innings for the Cardinals allowing a pair of runs—but they’re the only runs of the game, created via two Alec Bohm solo homers, and thus Wainwright has to settle for the L in a 2-0 defeat. Interestingly, Wainwright is the first pitcher to suffer a complete-game, nine-inning loss since…Wainwright, on April 26, 2021—a game also played in St. Louis against the Phillies. The winning pitcher for the Phillies, then and now: Zack Wheeler.

This is Wainwright’s 28th career complete game, leading all active major leaguers.

Are the Baltimore Orioles starting to feel it? For the third time in four days, the Orioles enter the ninth inning trailing but ultimately come away with a victory, as Trey Mancini’s RBI hit caps a three-run rally for their sixth straight win, 5-4 over the visiting Angels. Only the Yankees (10) have more walk-off wins this year than the Orioles, who have eight; at 41-44, this is the best 85-game start for Baltimore since 2016.

Saturday, July 9

On the day the New York Mets retire Keith Hernandez’s #17 uniform, the team channels his peak days with the help of a bungling Miami defense in a 5-4, 10-inning win. After the gift runner scores in the top of the 10th to give the Marlins a 5-4 lead, the Mets get theirs to tie the game back up in the bottom of the frame—and then, Brandon Nimmo’s comebacker to the mound is dropped by Miami reliever Tanner Scott, who hastily picks it up and rushes a one-hopper past first to allow the winning run to score.

It’s the first time the Mets have won a game in extras on a two-out error since…the legendary Game Six of the 1986 World Series, when Mookie Wilson’s grounder went through the legs of Boston first baseman Bill Buckner to tie up a series that Hernandez’s Mets would win in seven.

In another wild finish up in Boston, the Red Sox emerge on the victorious side with three runs in the bottom of the 10th to overcome the two plated by the Yankees in a 6-5 decision. The Red Sox force extras in the eighth when pinch-runner Jeter Downs—the Columbian youngster named, ironically, after Yankee legend Derek Jeter and playing in only his second major league game—scores on Alex Verdugo’s single. After the Yankees rebound to take a 5-3 lead in the 10th, Downs singles to knock in the first run of the inning, then scores the game-winning third tally on Verdugo’s two-run single.

Downs and Verdugo are the two prime assets nabbed by the Red Sox in the trade that landed former Red Sock star Mookie Betts in Los Angeles.

It’s the first time all year that the Yankees lose a game when leading after seven innings.

Cleveland snaps a five-game losing skid with authority, blasting the Royals at Kansas City behind 22 hits, 13-1. Five Guardians collect three hits; it’s the second time this year that Cleveland has amassed 20-plus hits against the same team on the road within a season, something that’s not happened since the Yankees twice did it at Philadelphia against the A’s in 1939.

Sunday, July 10

Two of MLB’s more recently misbegotten—the Orioles and Mariners—are baseball’s two hottest teams. The Orioles collect on their eighth straight win—the franchise’s longest since 2005—as they finish off a four-game home sweep of the Angels, 9-5, before a paid Camden Yards crowd of (only) 19,521. Meanwhile out in Seattle before a much bigger gathering of 37,000, the Mariners survive a leadoff homer by Toronto’s George Springer—the 51st of his career to place him in sole position of fourth on the all-time list—and rally in the eighth on Carlos Santana’s second homer of the day to defeat the Blue Jays, 6-5. Seattle is in second place in the AL West with a 45-42 record; if the playoffs were to begin today, the Mariners would be a participant for the first time in 21 years.

The Angels are only the second team to have gone 11 games above .500 and 11 under the mark at some point in the season before the All-Star Break. The other team is the 2019 Mariners.

Detroit outfielder Robbie Grossman commits his first error in 440 games—a major league record at any position—and it costs the Tigers in a 4-2 loss at Chicago against the White Sox. Grossman’s two-out, bases-empty drop of a pop fly sets up a two-run rally that breaks up a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning. Grossman had earlier set the record for consecutive errorless games, surpassing Nick Markakis (393).

Rosters for the upcoming All-Star Game in Los Angeles are completed, with pitchers and reserves announced. Of the 66 total players named, 30 are first-timers, and 28 are born outside of the United States—11 of them from the Dominican Republic; the Yankees lead all teams with six All-Stars. For the second straight year, the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is named as both a DH and pitcher for the American League. Of note on the National League side is the inclusion of starting catcher Willson Contreras (Cubs) and younger brother William Contreras (Braves) who will fill in for the injured Bryce Harper as the starting DH. They are the fifth set of brothers to make an All-Star roster in the same season, and the first since Sandy Alomar and Roberto Alomar from 1991-92.

Monday, July 11

Cal Ripken Jr. can breathe a little easier now, as the dim light in his proverbial rear-view mirror has totally faded. That light belonged to the Royals’ Whit Merrifield, who a day after hurting his toe is forced to sit out Kansas City’s doubleheader sweep of Detroit by scores of 3-1 and 7-3. Thus, Merrifield’s consecutive-game streak of 553 games—the longest since Miguel Tejada played in 1,152 straight games from 2000-07—is broken. The longest active streak now belongs to Atlanta’s Matt Olson, who’s played in 221 consecutive contests.

The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera strikes out three times in the twinbill to pass Andres Galarraga for sixth on the all-time list with 2,004 career strikeouts.

In the Cardinals’ 6-1 home win over the Phillies, Albert Pujols smacks a seventh-inning double to pass Stan Musial for #3 on the all-time list of career extra-base hits at 1,378. Only Barry Bonds (1,440) and Hank Aaron (1,477) have more over a major league career. Pujols is just 42 total bases behind Musial for #2 on that list.

The Mets, feeling increased heat from the Braves in an NL East race they once looked to be running away with, cool off Atlanta in the first contest of a three-game series behind another superb performance from Max Scherzer. The 37-year-old ace, in his second start after a month-long absence from an oblique issue, easily outduels Max Fried with seven innings allowing just a run on three hits, no walks and nine K’s as the Mets win on the road, 4-1, and increase their lead over the Braves to 2.5 games. Scherzer moves past CC Sabathia for the #18 spot in career strikeouts with 3,099; he’s just 12 behind active career leader Justin Verlander.

Cleveland scores an 8-4 home win over the White Sox, with half of their runs knocked in by rookie outfielder Nolan Jones. The 24-year-old Pennsylvania native has collected a franchise-tying eight RBIs through his first four games; the major league record remains 11, by Trevor Story in 2016.

Tuesday, July 12

The Orioles win their ninth straight game to even their season record to 44-44, benefitting from Ramon Urias’ three hits and Jordan Lyles’ seven sharp innings to hand the Cubs their fifth straight loss, 4-2 at Chicago. Every team in the AL East is at or above .500; the last time that occurred this late into a calendar year was in 2005, when all five teams from (again) the AL East did not field a losing record.

No team has won nine straight games a year after losing 110 since 1889.

In a battle for second in the AL East, Boston ace Chris Sale makes his season debut after being shelved with a rib fracture and throws five shutout innings, striking out five against the Rays at St. Petersburg. But immediately following his departure, the battered Rays (an MLB-high 16 players on the Injury List) scrounge for three sixth-inning runs, just enough to get past the Red Sox, 3-2.

Though comfortably ahead in the East, the Yankees are shaken up by a rare late-inning meltdown from All-Star reliever Clay Holmes. Cruising into the ninth with a 3-0 lead over the visiting Reds thanks in large part to Gerrit Cole’s seven shutout innings, the all-but-automatic Holmes (0.46 ERA) enters and fails to retire any of five Cincinnati batters he faces—hitting two of them and walking another. Four of them score, and the Yankees suffer their first loss of the year when leading after eight innings, 4-3.

The A’s are the last team to reach 30 wins on the year—and the last to win in extra innings, as they pile up eight runs in the 12th to run away with a 14-7 victory at Arlington over the Rangers. Capping the outburst is a grand slam from Chad Pinder, only the third hit of the inning; the other baserunners come courtesy of four walks and the dreaded gift runner. It’s the most runs scored by Oakland in an extra inning since 1999.

Wednesday, July 13

Despite a 46-42 record in a division where no team—not even the Orioles—are below .500, the Blue Jays feel that they’re underperforming under manager Charlie Montoyo and fire him—with bench coach John Schneider (no, not the former co-star of Dukes of Hazzard) taking over as the interim coach for the balance of the season. Montoyo is let go with a career 236-236 record at Toronto, having been at the Jays’ helm since the start of the 2019 season. Under his direction, the Blue Jays made the postseason once, during the expanded 2020 pandemic tournament played in front of cardboard cutouts; Toronto went two-and-out against the eventual AL champion Tampa Bay Rays.

Tweets ESPN’s Jeff Passan: “This sentiment is echoed throughout the Blue Jays organization. People love Charlie Montoyo as a person. He was a stabilizing force during covid. ‘A truly good man,’ one person told me. But the Blue Jays are in win-today mode. Expectations change. Thresholds differ. A now move.”

Without Montoyo, the Blue Jays ease to an 8-2 home win over the Phillies behind seven innings of two-hit work from Ross Stripling and a pair of home runs from Teoscar Hernandez.

Fans hoping to see strikeouts—lots of them—come to the right place in Anaheim where the Angels send Shohei Ohtani (34 K’s over his last 20.2 innings) and against Houston’s Cristian Javier (34 over his last 17). Ohtani prevails in a 7-1 decision, striking out 12 Astros in six innings; Javier lasts only 3.2 innings but sits down 10 Angels batters—making him only the third pitcher in MLB history with that many K’s in less than four innings (the other two also threw 3.2 frames). The 32 combined strikeouts between both teams set an AL record for a nine-inning game, toppling the 31 previously held by the Rangers and Mariners in 1997. The MLB record is 35, between the Mets (with Max Scherzer throwing a no-hitter) and Mets in 2015.

The one run allowed by Ohtani ends a streak of 31.2 consecutive innings without an earned tally. He’s only the fifth pitcher to have a stretch of five starts giving up one earned run with 50 strikeouts; Clayton Kershaw, one of the other four, did it twice (in 2014 and 2015).

The rampaging Orioles and Mariners—yes, those two teams—extend their winning streaks into double-digit territory. Seattle sweeps a doubleheader over the Nationals at Washington by scores of 6-4 and 2-1, with Jesse Winker going deep in both games. The Mariners’ 10-game win streak is tied for the second longest in franchise history. The Orioles, meanwhile, make it 10 straight as well, again shrugging off the Cubs in Chicago by a 7-1 count. Spenser Watkins, our pick for the AL’s Worst Pitcher of 2021, continues a recent healthy stretch of his own by allowing a run over five innings; since coming off the Injury List at the end of June, he’s 3-0 in four starts with a 1.19 ERA. (He was 0-1 in eight starts with a 6.00 ERA beforehand.)

Thursday, July 14

Seemingly against all odds, the last-place Royals—without 10 roster players unable to enter Canada because they remain unvaccinated from COVID-19—defeat the star-studded (and full-strength) Blue Jays at Toronto, 3-1. Four of the nine players in the Kansas City lineup are called up from the minors, with Nick Eaton providing insurance in his major league debut with a ninth-inning solo homer. Sebastian Rivero, brought up from Double-A, draws catching duties and helps guide starter Angel Zerpa and three relievers to restrict the Blue Jays to a run on seven hits.

Among the 10 Royals absent (and not being paid during the four-game series) are the team’s top two hitting stars, infielder Whit Merrifield and outfielder Andrew Benintendi; also declared ineligible are outfielder Michael Taylor, first baseman Hunter Dozier, catcher MJ Melendez and starting pitchers Brady Singer and Brad Keller. Kansas City’s representation of the unvaccinated is easily the biggest among teams that have come to Toronto, where authorities bar anyone unvaccinated outside of Canada from entering; no other team has had to leave behind more than four players. This leads to a distinct home field advantage for the Blue Jays, whose 27-19 home record is the majors’ seventh best. And, in the Royals’ case, it has led to a revival of social media debates between “follow the science” and “my body, my choice” which, two years on, is starting to grow a little old. Never mind that the choices of these 10 players show regard of self over team, and hurt one’s chances in the coming chase to the postseason—not that the Royals (36-53) expect to figure in that chase.

Interestingly enough, the ‘outing’ of the 10 Royals players may reduce some of the affected players’ options as the trading deadline looms. It’s widely being reported that the Yankees have been interested in trading for Benintendi, a free agent following the season—but may be backing off now because of his unvaccinated status as New York still has games to play in Toronto this season. Merrifield, meanwhile, ruffled feathers in the Royals’ front office by inferring that he’d get vaccinated if traded to a contender—a comment he will later come to apologize for.

The Cubs say that the rebuild of 108-year-old Wrigley Field is “now more accessible than ever” for people with disabilities. But the Federal government believes they haven’t made it accessible enough, and it files a lawsuit claiming that the team has failed to bring ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance at the ballpark to an acceptable level. It is asking for compensatory damages, civil penalties, and demands for the Cubs to fix the problem. Among the government’s issues is that the team relegated disability seating to the back of the bleachers, where drink rails and standing fans make viewing difficult.

Friday, July 15

For the second time this year, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw has a perfect game going after seven innings—and for the first time, manager Dave Roberts allows him to try and complete it. But the Angels’ Luis Rengifo says ‘not so fast,’ lining a double down the left-field line to lead off the eighth and spoil Kershaw’s bid. The veteran lefty is removed after eight innings and the one hit, as the Dodgers ease their way to a 9-1 win over their local rivals at Anaheim.  Kershaw is the first pitcher with multiple starts of seven perfect innings within a season; he was removed after seven in his first start of the year, on April 13 at Minnesota.

It’s been nearly 10 years since the last perfect game, when Seattle’s Felix Hernandez joined the list on August 15, 2012. In the 10 years before that, there were seven. This is the longest drought since a 13-year dry spell between 1968 (Catfish Hunter) and 1981 (Len Barker).

The Mariners continue to roll, as Robbie Ray strikes out 12 through 6.2 innings and rookie Julio Rodriguez drills a grand slam in the eighth to pull away from the Rangers at Arlington, 8-3, for their 12th straight win. Rodriguez’s five-RBI night gives him 50 for the year—making him the first rookie with 50 RBIs and 20 steals before the All-Star Break; he’s the youngest Mariners player to hit a slam since Alex Rodriguez in 1996.

While one surprising win streak continues, another ends as the Orioles finally fall back into the loss column with a 5-4 loss at Tampa Bay. The Rays’ big inning comes in the sixth, turning a one-run deficit into a 5-2 lead thanks in large part to Christian Bethancourt’s two-run, pinch-hit homer—his first in just his third game for the Rays since being acquired from Oakland.

Looking positively hopeless for eight innings with Keystone Cops-level defense and anemic hitting, the Giants look dead in the water going to the bottom of the ninth as the visiting Brewers send All-Star closer Josh Hader to the mound with a three-run lead. That’s when the spinach finally kicks in for the Giants; they shell Hader for five hits, three of them home runs—the last a walk-off grand slam from Mike Yastrzemski to deliver an 8-5 win. It’s the Giants’ first walk-off slam since Bobby Bonds busted one in 1973; every other MLB team has had at least one since 2010. (Bonds’ slam wasn’t against the Brewers, but it was against Jim Brewer, pitching for the Dodgers.)

The Giants are the first team ever to hit three homers in an inning that included a walk-off grand slam.

Since putting together a streak of 41 consecutive scoreless appearances (tying an MLB record), Hader has given up 13 runs on 19 hits—seven of them home runs—over 12.1 innings, losing four games in the process.

Facing the potential of a financially massive loss in court, MLB cuts its losses and agrees to pay $185 million in an out-of-court settlement after minor league players sued the league for not meeting minimum wage and overtime requirements. Nearly two-thirds of the payout, $120 million, will go to the following minor leaguers: anyone participating in Florida Spring Training since 2009, Arizona Spring Training since 2011, and the California League (Class A) since 2010. Also, as part of the deal, all minor leaguers will be paid by their parent clubs for activity in Spring Training, extended Spring Training and instructional leagues based either in Arizona or Florida. The suit was filed in 2014 by former minor leaguer Aaron Senne and two other retired minor leaguers.

Saturday, July 16

The Washington Nationals come closer to the realization that they may not be able to include young star hitter Juan Soto in their long-term plans. It’s reported that Soto has turned down a 15-year extension worth $440 million, a yearly average of $29 million that, as the New York Post’s Peter Botte notes, would rank him 38th among NBA players. Word now is that the Nationals, as a result of Soto’s latest rejection, are more likely to trade him sooner than later. Soto is earning $17 million this season via arbitration; he doesn’t become eligible for free agency until 2025. All things being equal, he should expect to fetch the majors’ first half-billion-dollar contract.

Even as Soto continues to heat up after a slow start to 2022, the Nationals continue to lose. They suffer their ninth straight loss—their 10th straight at home—with a 6-3 defeat to Atlanta. Soto has a pair of singles; in 40 July at-bats, he’s accrued 17 hits (five of them home runs) with 16 walks.

Justin Verlander earns his MLB-high 12th win of the year and strikes out 10 A’s through six shutout innings in the Astros’ 5-0 home win. Increasing his career strikeout total to 3,121, Verlander leapfrogs over Curt Schilling (3,116) and Bob Gibson (3,117) to place himself at #14 on the all-time list. He’s also the oldest pitcher, at 39, to lead the majors in wins entering the All-Star Break.

Add Cubs reliever Mychel Givens to the voluminous list of those who despise the gift runner. In both games of a home doubleheader against the Mets, Givens is given the ball in the 10th inning—and is charged with the loss in both as the gratuitous baserunner placed on second base to start each extra inning scores on his watch. He thus earns the strange ignominy of being the first pitcher to lose both games of a doubleheader…despite not allowing an earned run in either. (Gift runners are scored as unearned runs, which pretty much says it all when discussing their legitimacy.)

On the thank-you-very-much side of Givens, the Mets’ Pete Alonso is credited with the go-ahead-run in each game during the 10th—the first on a sac fly, the other on a bases-loaded HBP—making him the first to do so in both ends of a road double-dip since Hank Aaron in 1956.

Sunday, July 17

The 2022 MLB Amateur Draft gets off to a most interesting start. The Orioles, with the first selection, pull off an upset by ignoring consensus #1 center fielder Druw Jones and go instead with prep shortstop Jackson Holliday, who batted .685 with 17 home runs and 79 RBIs in just 40 high school games this past year in Oklahoma. Jones becomes an easy #2 choice for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Both Holliday and Jones are MLB legacies; Holliday is the son of former Colorado/St. Louis star Matt Holliday, while Jones is the son of perennial Gold Glove outfielder Andruw Jones. Equally surprising is the third pick. The Rangers opt for pitcher Kumar Rocker, who was picked #10 last year by the Mets before backing away and not signing him when his troublesome shoulder became an issue. Rocker was not expected to be picked any higher than #15, so his selection at #3 comes as a bit of a surprise.

Upon its completion several days later, the draft will yield more familiar names such as pitcher Mason McGwire (Cubs, eighth round), son of Mark McGwire; outfielder Justin Crawford (Phillies, first round), son of former Tampa Bay speedster Carl Crawford; pitcher Marquis Grissom Jr. (Nationals, 13th round); and pitcher Jared Karros (Dodgers, 16th round), son of former Dodger Eric Karros. Meanwhile, the Orioles select seven-foot left-hander Jared Beck in the 13th round out of Saint Leo University; should he make it to the majors, he would become the tallest pitcher in major league history. Then there’s prep pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje from Hialeah, Florida, chosen by the Brewers in the 18th round; he can throw both right-handed and left, both at velocities in the 90s. 

Among the best names taken in the draft are pitcher Orion Kerkering (Phillies, fifth round), pitcher Gary Gill Hill (Rays, sixth round), pitcher Chance Huff (Nationals, eighth round), pitcher Bo Bonds (Blue Jays, 13th round), shortstop E.J. Exposito (Braves, 16th round) and third baseman Skyler Messenger (Rockies, 19th round).

Chris Sale just can’t seem to get a break—except for those to his bones. Making only his second start of the year after suffering a rib fracture in Spring Training, Sale is facing his sixth Yankee in an already-rough first inning at New York, and takes a sharp Aaron Hicks comebacker off his pitching pinky. Between the pain and the right turn his pinky is suddenly making, Sale instantly knows it’s broken and exits the field; it will likely be quite some time before he returns to the mound. The three-run first for the Yankees is just the start of another demolition against the Red Sox, adding eight runs in the fourth before settling for a 13-2 rout.

The Red Sox are 12-26 against AL East teams; they’re 36-19 against everyone else.

Baseball’s two longest active streaks come to an end. In Washington, the Nationals defeat the Braves, 7-3, to break not just a nine-game skid overall but a 10-game slide at Nationals Park. It’s the longest of three home losing streaks lasting at eight games that the Nationals have suffered this year alone. The only other MLB team in the modern era that can claim such a dubious distinction is the 1939 St. Louis Browns, who suffered four such losing streaks at Sportsman’s Park on their way to a 43-111 record. The Browns’ skids were of 10, 10, nine and eight games; they finished the season with an 18-59 record at home, the worst ever recorded by an MLB team.

Even with today’s win, the Nationals are still an eye-wincing 8-36 against NL East teams. They’re 23-27 against everyone else.

Also ending a nine-game slide are the Cubs, who rally for two runs in the bottom of the eighth to edge the visiting Mets, 3-2. The Cubs are still on pace to be one of four teams to lose 100 games this season; the other three are Oakland, Washington and Cincinnati.

Seattle keeps its winning streak alive at 14 games—one short of the all-time franchise record, tied for the longest in MLB this season, and the longest run by any team entering the All-Star Break. The Mariners finish off a four-game sweep of the Rangers at Arlington by a 6-2 count, as rookie Julio Rodriguez and Ty France each collect a pair of hits and RBIs at the top of the order.

Monday, July 18

There are plenty of storylines to the 37th Annual Home Run Derby at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium. There’s the Mets’ Pete Alonso, trying to win his third straight derby. There’s Albert Pujols, brought in at age 42 to compete against players barely half his age—such as Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez, the majors’ most exciting and hottest rookie through the first half of 2022. And there’s the Nationals’ Juan Soto, trying to have some fun amid off-field distractions of contract talk and trade rumors. All four advance out of the first round—with the biggest surprise likely being Pujols, who tips current NL home run leader Kyle Schwarber, before succumbing in the second round to Soto. Rodriguez, meanwhile, pounds away at an impressive rate—smashing 32 homers in the first round against Texas’ Corey Seager and 31 over Alonso in the second round, depriving the two-time champ of an unprecedented three-peat; those two totals are the highest by any player in any round on the night. In the end, Soto outlasts Rodriguez with a 19-18 advantage in the final round, becoming the second youngest Derby winner—by one day, behind Texas’ Juan Gonzalez in 1993. He’s also the second Nationals player to win the honor, after Bryce Harper in 2018.

Rodriguez finishes second despite easily hitting more home runs on the night than Soto, 81-53. But here’s 750,000 reasons Rodriguez is truly smiling from ear to ear; the three-quarters of a million dollars he earns for his runner-up spot is more than he’s making playing 162 games for real with the Mariners.

Soto uncorks the longest home run of the Derby with a 482-foot blast; Alonso has the next two longest, at 480 and 479, with two others within the Derby’s top 10. The fourth-longest, from the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr., is the most impressive looking drive of the night; in the midst of bowing out of the first round against Alonso, he smokes a 472-footer over the bleacher pavilion roof in left field, joining five other long balls that did the same in regular season action over Dodger Stadium’s 60-year history.

Tuesday, July 19

The American League makes it eight straight victories—and 21 over its last 25 attempts—at the All-Star Game, ascending from an early hole to defeat the National League at Los Angeles, 3-2. After the NL notches its two runs in the first off Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan, the AL grabs all three of its runs in the fourth on back-to-back home runs from MVP Giancarlo Stanton (a 457-foot blast good for two runs) and Minnesota’s Byron Buxton. The NL can only poke out one single over the final eight innings; Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase closes it out in the ninth, striking out the side on 10 pitches (nine strikes). All three AL runs are charged to the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin; he’s the first pitcher to take the loss at an All-Star Game before his own fans since the Astros’ Roger Clemens in 2004 at Houston. Gonsolin, 11-0 for the Dodgers thus far, is also the first starting pitcher to lose an All-Star Game after having not lost during the regular season beforehand.

It’s interesting to note; the AL’s dominance at the All-Star Game is somewhat in sync with its rule over the NL since interleague play began in 1997; during that time, they’ve won more interleague games in 19 years, bowing only in six other seasons with one split (2020, when no All-Star Game was played). 

There’s a wonderful pregame tribute to Jackie Robinson, narrated by Denzel Washington; on this, the 100th birthday of Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson. (She does not attend the game.) 

Had the game been tied after nine innings, it would have not gone to extra innings but, instead, a Home Run Derby, using a rule change instituted for the first time.

As he does every All-Star Game, Commissioner Rob Manfred faces the press and public; he might as well be facing a firing squad. He takes tough questions from the media, gets booed by Dodger Stadium fans, and is savaged on social media for his responses to the questions he’s asked. Manfred receives his harshest criticism when asked to weigh in on the financial stability of minor leaguers, many of whom continue to work for below-poverty wages. Having just settled a lawsuit with various minor leaguers (past and present) for a whopping $185 million, and feeling the heat from both sides of the Congressional aisle in regards to the game’s antitrust exemption, Manfred categorically denies the assertion that minor leaguers are underpaid, concluding, “I reject the premise that they’re not paid a living wage.”

In a wicked rebuttal, Harry Marino, director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, states: “Most Minor League baseball players work second jobs because their annual salaries are insufficient to make ends meet. The commissioner makes an annual salary of $17.5 million. His suggestion that Minor League pay is acceptable is both callous and false.”

Additionally, Manfred acknowledges that MLB uniforms will have ads placed upon them starting next season, confirming another unpopular move; feigns remarkable ignorance over how the baseballs themselves have evolved (or devolved, or both) over the last few years; again expresses urgency for Oakland to build a new ballpark for the A’s, sooner than later; is also rooting for a new ballpark for the Rays to be built soon, preferably on the Tampa “side of the causeway,” as opposed to the virtual near-island of St. Petersburg; and will only consider expansion to 32 teams once the A’s/Rays ballparks situations are resolved.

Wednesday, July 20

TV ratings for the previous day’s All-Star Game are revealed, and the news is both good and bad. Viewership hits a record low with an average of 7.5 million viewers watching on Fox, and while that number pales considerably to the largest-ever audience of over 36 million in 1976, perspective is in order. Back then, people only had a choice of watching the game on NBC, the Democratic National Convention on the two other networks of the time (ABC and CBS), old movies on local UHF stations or whatever dribble was being imported from England on PBS. Today, there’s practically an infinite number of options to choose from on TV and the Internet, so it’s hardly surprising that the share has been spread very thin across so many platforms. Also to mention: while MLB’s All-Star ratings seem low, they’re still higher than any of the other All-Star games put out by the three other major sports leagues, including the NFL’s pathetic Pro Bowl and the NBA affair that one would think would snag the most viewers.

Thursday, July 21

Making up for lost time due to the lockout, a pair of games between the Yankees and Astros originally scheduled for April are slotted into what originally was to be an off-day following the All-Star Game—and the Astros sweep, winning by scores of 3-2 and 7-5. Houston thus wins the season series against New York, five games to two, limiting the Yankees to a .151 batting average—the lowest ever recorded by the Yankees in a season series (minimum of five games). Overall, the Astros’ 61-32 record is 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the majors’ best record.

The first game, decided on J.J. Matijevic’s infield single to break a 2-2 tie, is the fifth walk-off loss of the year for the Yankees; Jordan Montgomery has been the starter in all five. Of his 19 starts this season, Montgomery has only won three, losing twice.

Friday, July 22

The Toronto Blue Jays put on a record-setting display of offense, plating a franchise-high 28 runs—27 within the first five innings alone—at Boston in a 28-5 rout. It’s the most runs ever allowed by the Red Sox; only four other games in MLB’s modern era have seen more runs scored by a single team. The game reaches the point of no return in the third when the Blue Jays, already up 6-0, have Ramiel Tapia loft a high fly ball to deep center; Boston sophomore center fielder Jarren Duran doesn’t see the ball, which lands well behind him. Worse, as Tapia is flying around the bases for what will be the first inside-the-park grand slam since 2017, Duran turns around and simply stares at the ball; he later says that he failed to hustle because he knew left fielder Alex Verdugo would get to it before he would, but still admits to the bad optics by stating, “Next time, I know to take one or two steps.”

All nine players in the Blue Jays’ starting lineup collects at least two runs and two hits—only the second time that’s happened in modern times (the 1979 Angels were the other team to do it); Loudres Gurriel Jr. becomes the second Toronto player ever with six hits (the other being Frank Catalanotto in 2004); Tapia and Danny Jansen each drive in six runs.

Suffering this horrendous defeat after being smashed up by the Yankees by scores of 14-1 and 13-2, the Red Sox have a run differential of -47 over their last three games—the worst such spread since the 1894 Louisville Cardinals. The 55 runs allowed over their last three contests is just one less than the modern-era record of 56, set by the 1950 St. Louis Browns while being famously blown out by the Red Sox at Fenway Park by scores of 29-4 and 20-4 before salvaging a 12-7 victory.

It appears the All-Star Break has finally cooled off the Mariners. Before a full house at Seattle, the team’s bid to match an all-time franchise record of 15 straight wins fails as the Astros (17-5 over their last 22 games) take a 5-2 victory behind Jose Urquidy’s six solid innings and Jose Altuve’s three hits, including a leadoff homer in the first. Seattle doesn’t go down quietly, loading the bases in the eighth with one out before the rally fizzles.

The Marlins finally score some runs—eight of them, in fact—to ease past the Pirates at Pittsburgh, 8-1. But they don’t erase the goose egg from the scoreboard until the fourth inning, thus tying a franchise mark by going scoreless for 37 straight frames. While the win is good news for the Marlins, the (very) bad news is that they’ll be without All-Star second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. after a scan reveals a stress fracture in his lower back; he’ll miss the rest of the season. 

The Mets bow at home to the Padres, 4-1, despite the best efforts of Max Scherzer—who allows two runs over six innings and strikes out eight, moving up two slots on the all-time list past Curt Schilling and Bob Gibson into 15th place; with 3,118 career K’s, he’s just three behind active leader and #14 Justin Verlander. The Padres’ Yu Darvish (seven innings, one run) outlasts Scherzer to improve to 9-4 on the year.

Meanwhile, the Mets make a trade by grabbing 6’0”, 270-pound slugger Daniel Vogelbach—the guy who looks like The Sandlot’s Ham Potter grown up—from the Pirates for rookie reliever Colin Holderman, who’s having a fine year with a 4-0 record and 2.04 ERA in 15 appearances. The 29-year-old Vogelbach is batting .228 with 12 homers and 40 walks over 75 games, and could figure to be an important asset off the bench for New York.

Dwight Smith, one of two shining rookies for the 1989 Cubs whose career never took flight but nevertheless consisted of eight major league seasons and a World Series ring with the 1995 Braves, dies at the age of 58 from congestive heart and lung failure. With Chicago, Smith batted .324 in 109 games in his maiden season, finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year vote behind teammate Jerome Walton (whose own career never took off) while helping to lead the Cubs to the NLCS, where they bowed to the Giants. But the left-handed-hitting outfielder found it difficult to stay in a starting role over the next few years and soon was bouncing around the majors following his release from the Cubs in 1993, performing mostly off the bench for his remaining three major league seasons. Off the field, Smith had a decent singing career and raised three kids including his son Dwight Smith Jr., who played for Toronto and Baltimore from 2017-20.

Saturday, July 23

NL MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt becomes the 10th active major leaguer with 1,000 career RBIs, passing the milestone with a third-inning RBI single followed by a solo homer an inning later in the Cardinals’ 6-3 win at Cincinnati. Goldschmidt is the third active Cardinal, after Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, with 1,000-plus career RBIs.

The Astros continue to derail the Mariners’ wagon that fans had been jumping on, notching their second straight win at Seattle, 3-1. Justin Verlander records his MLB-best 13th win, allowing a run on four hits with nine strikeouts through seven innings—with several pitches reaching 99 MPH in his final frame. His 1.86 ERA trails only Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan (1.71) in the AL. Seattle’s only run off Verlander is a solo homer from Carlos Santana in the seventh; it’s Santana’s ninth career blast against Verlander, the most by any player past or present against the future Hall of Famer.

Sunday, July 24

It’s a busy day in Cooperstown, where seven new Hall of Famers—six of them via various Era (Veterans) Committees—are formally enshrined. The one general vote electee, former Boston designated hitter and three-time world champion David Ortiz, steals the show in front of a crowd full of Red Sox fans and those of Dominican heritage, as Ortiz is the fourth player from that island nation to be admitted into the Hall. Besides having fun with the audience, he gives a whole-hearted thanks to the Red Sox’ organization for making him “the man I am today.” The two other living inductees from this year’s class are present to give their thanks. Tony Oliva, a three-time batting champion, waxes surprise at age 84 by stating, “I can’t believe I’m here.” He could probably say the same for his brother, who along with the rest of Oliva’s family never got to see him play because they were forcibly ensconced in Cub—but was granted a special visa to witness the ceremony. Oliva also made a pitch for fellow Cuban expatriate Luis Tiant to be voted into the Hall. Jim Kaat, Oliva’s 83-year-old teammate who won 283 games and faced both Ted Williams (who debuted in 1939) and Julio Franco (who retired in 2007), does his own lobbying by asking, “Is any pitcher more famous than Tommy John?”

Also inducted on the day are Brooklyn “Boys of Summer” slugger and 1969 Mets manager Gil Hodges, 1950s White Sox/Indians star Minnie Minoso, popular former Negro League star Buck O’Neil, and Bud Fowler, noted as the first African-American to play in professional baseball.

Paul Goldschmidt exposes why he will be sorely missed when the Cardinals play a two-game series in Toronto this coming week. In a 6-3 loss at Cincinnati, Goldschmidt has two of the Redbirds’ three hits—both of them home runs, accounting for all of the team’s runs. So why will he be sorely missed in Toronto? Because he’s unvaccinated and won’t be allowed into Canada, as will not fellow star infielder Nolan Arenado. As the Cardinals are in the midst of a dogfight for both the NL Central title and one of three wild card spots, the two stars’ absence in Toronto could prove fatal to the team’s postseason chances down the stretch.

The Braves, who’ve been breathing down the necks of the Mets to the point that they begin the day a half-game back of first-place New York in the NL East, suffer a double loss. They get pounded at home by the struggling Angels, 9-1, and discover that a wrist injury suffered the day before by slugger Adam Duvall when he ran into the outfield wall will require season-ending surgery. The 33-year-old Duvall was batting only .213 with 12 homers, but he’s a year removed from being the NL RBI leader and has the ability to explode, much as he did late last year as Atlanta charged toward a world title.

Monday, July 25

MLB owners and players fail to come to an agreement on an International Draft as a deadline passes. The issue had been one of the reasons the spring lockout dragged on into March, but the two sides agreed to punt together on the issue while agreeing on everything else. With both sides still in disagreement, the existing rules for signing international players remain in effect. Owners argue that an international draft would provide better protection for players, reducing corruption and assuring better financial balance for all draftees. The union disagrees—stating that, as always, MLB’s position is based on money, pure and simple, with a cap on total spending similar to what’s currently in place with the domestic draft. Latin America players in particular are adamant against MLB’s stance, believing that prospects overall stand to lose more money while also expressing concern about how developmental camps would be affected.

While one deadline passes without a resolution, MLB faces another one it cannot ignore: A request from a group of U.S. Senators to defend baseball’s antitrust exemption, and how it applies to minor leaguers. While Republicans have historically given MLB a pass on the antitrust issue, such support has waned in recent years—perhaps exacerbated by MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest over the State of Georgia’s passing of voter restrictions forged by Republicans. The Congressional group, led by Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Chuck Grassley, has given commissioner Rob Manfred until July 29 to explain himself.

If the playoffs were to start today, the Tampa Bay Rays would be the #5 seed out of six—but it may be tough to maintain that position. A roster already slammed by injuries takes a double hit with the news that Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier and veteran catcher Mike Zunino will both miss the rest of the season. Kiermaier, who hasn’t played since July 9, is scheduled to undergo hip surgery; Zunino, out since early June and batting a paltry .148, will have thoracic outlet syndrome surgery performed upon him. Of the Rays’ remaining 66 games, 49 of them are against teams either in position to qualify now for the postseason, or those (Cleveland, Baltimore, Boston) close on their tails.

Tuesday, July 26

The Cardinals, without unvaccinated star infielders Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, are hammered by the Blue Jays at Toronto, 10-3, as three of the Jays’ All-Stars (George Springer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Alejandro Kirk) each go deep. Albert Pujols and Brendan Donovan, each playing in the place of Goldschmidt and Arenado (respectively), are a combined 1-for-6 with two walks—but that’s basically moot given the Cardinals’ poor pitching on the evening.

The win gives Toronto a seven-game win streak under interim manager John Schneider, their second longest after an eight-game run in late May—when Charlie Montoyo was the pilot. The Jays thus become the first team to produce multiple win streaks of seven or more games, each under a different manager, in the same season.

Baltimore’s come-from-behind 5-3 win over the visiting Rays and ace Shane McClanahan puts it above the .500 mark and out of last place, surpassing the Red Sox (8-3 losers at home to Cleveland) by a half-game in the AL East. This is the first time since 2017 that the Orioles have been out of last place during the season’s second half (discounting the ‘we’re-trying-to-forget’ 2020 season). With a 49-48 record, the Orioles need just three wins to match their entire season total (52) from last year.

When it’s close, don’t count on the Texas Rangers. After breaking a tie to take a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth, the Mariners rally for two in the bottom of the frame, the last on Carlos Santana’s sac fly to center, to triumph, 5-4. Texas is now an MLB-worst 5-23 in one-run games.

In their first meeting against each other this season, the Mets defeat the Yankees at Citi Field, 5-3, overcoming first-inning home runs by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge (his MLB-leading 38th on the season) and Anthony Rizzo (his 23rd). On a historical note, Taijuan Walker earns the win by allowing three runs through six innings—but he’s the Mets’ first starting pitcher to allow more than two earned runs over the team’s last 14 games, which had set a franchise mark.

Wednesday, July 27

On his 38th birthday, the Mets’ Max Scherzer tosses seven shutout innings and strikes out six Yankees—including slugger Aaron Judge three times—but after leaving with a 2-0 lead, reliever David Peterson immediately blows it up by allowing the Yankees to tie it up in the eighth. To the rescue in the bottom of the ninth comes Starling Marte, who delivers a one-out, walk-off RBI single—his 11th since 2014, two more than any other major leaguer during that time—giving the Mets a 3-2 win. For what it’s worth, Scherzer has struck out 41 batters on his birthday—more than any other MLB pitcher, past or present.

After the game, the Yankees make the first significant trade of the transaction season as the trade deadline approaches, acquiring Kansas City outfielder (and former Red Sock) Andrew Benintendi for three minor league pitchers. Though the 28-year-old Benintendi is light on power this season—he has only 19 extra-base hits, including just three home runs—his .320 batting average is good for third in the AL. And yes, Benintendi says he may get vaccinated, after word had gone around that the Yankees were not going to acquire him unless he got the jab.

It takes the A’s nearly 100 games, but they finally secure their first season sweep—and against the first-place Astros, of all teams—with a 4-2 win at Oakland. Cole Irvin throws seven sharp innings to pick up the win, while Stephen Vogt and Stephen Piscotty both go deep for the A’s.

The total attendance for the three Oakland wins at the Coliseum: 18,602.

Thursday, July 28

Aaron Judge breaks a scoreless tie with one out in the bottom of the ninth by sending a deep drive over the center-field fence to give the host Yankees a 1-0 win over the Royals. It’s the third walk-off homer for Judge this season, tying Mickey Mantle (1959) for the most by a Yankee in one year. Andrew Benintendi, batting in front of Judge in his Yankee debut—and performing against his former team—goes hitless in four at-bats.

The Giants, the only team winless since the All-Star Break, triumph over the Cubs—the only undefeated team since the break—with a 4-2 home victory fueled by Alex Wood’s six no-hit innings before being touched up in the seventh. The seven-game skid ended by the Giants was their longest since 2019; the Cubs’ six-game win streak—which followed a nine-game losing streak—was their longest of 2022.

If Trey Mancini, due to be a free agent this winter, is to be dealt by Baltimore at the trading deadline, then his likely last at-bat in front of the home fans is one to remember. The popular Oriole and cancer survivor lofts a high fly to right field, but Tampa outfielder Josh Lowe is fighting the sun and can’t find the ball—which caroms off the top of his head toward the right-field corner; Mancini legs it out for his first career inside-the-parker, and the first seen in Oriole Park at Camden Yards since 2011. The two-run play in the eighth gives the Orioles insurance as they defeat the Rays, 3-0.

Danny Castano’s start for the Marlins at Cincinnati ends in the first inning when Donovan Solano’s 104-MPH liner painfully ricochets off his forehead and high into the air, landing in the glove of third baseman Joey Wendle for an out. Castano is in obvious pain and removed with a welt on the left side of his forehead; he’s later diagnosed with a mild concussion, but no breaks in his skull. The play, in an 8-7 game won by Miami, is reminiscent of a sequence in a 1935 contest when the Washington Senators’ Ed Linke had a liner bounce off his head and into the glove of a teammate, who turned it into a double play against the Yankees; Linke spent two days in the hospital for his unintentional assist.

Shohei Ohtani strikes out 11 Rangers for his MLB-best 10th start of 2022 with 10-plus K’s—the last six of those consecutively—but takes a 2-0 loss at Anaheim. Almost as disappointing as the Angels’ offense is the crowd, which totals 29,718—not much higher than the typical midweek count at Angel Stadium. One would think that a player of Ohtani’s star caliber—a superb pitching/hitting talent the likes of which haven’t been seen since, oh, Babe Ruth—would pack the house every time he takes the mound. Perhaps with this in mind, the Angels are now saying that they are open to a trade deadline megadeal involving Ohtani.

The Rangers’ Jonah Heim goes 2-for-2—and is 6-for-6 in his career—against Ohtani. If the Angels are open to acquiring the 27-year-old catcher, they already have a name suggestion for a future daughter of his, per a message on the ballpark scoreboard: Ana Heim.

The Blue Jays announce a multi-year, $230 million renovation of Rogers Centre that will begin this coming winter. When it’s all completed, the ballpark’s capacity will be reduced, the field dimensions changed, the seats repositioned for better baseball-specific viewing (since football is no longer played there) and bars and lounges will be added behind the outfield walls. Specifics on much of the above’s scope have yet to be solidified.

Friday, July 29

The only thing rising faster than inflation is Aaron Judge’s free-market value. The massive slugger, in his final year of contractual control under the Yankees, stays white hot with a pair of home runs and six RBIs, the last four coming on a grand slam to cap an eight-run eighth that gives New York an 11-5 home win over the Royals. It’s Judge’s ninth multi-homer game of the year—no one else has five—setting an all-time Yankee team record previously shared by Babe Ruth (1927), Mickey Mantle (1961), Alex Rodriguez (2007) and Gleyber Torres (2019). All this, and Judge still has two months to add to his total.

With 41 homers on the year, Judge is the third Yankee to reach 40 before the end of July; the other two were, not surprisingly, Ruth with 41 in 1928 and Mantle with 40 in (again) 1961.

The Mariners make their move before the trading deadline, acquiring Cincinnati pitcher Luis Castillo for four minor leaguers including top hitting prospect Noelvi Marte, currently in A-ball. The 29-year-old Castillo was one of the most discussed in trade discussions; he’s a much better pitcher than his 44-53 career record would suggest. He finished at 8-16 last season despite a decent 3.98 ERA, and despite that figure being down to 2.86 in 14 starts for the Reds this year, he’s only 4-4.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred provides a 17-page explanation to U.S. Congressional members as to why baseball’s antitrust exemption, gifted in 1922 by the Supreme Court, is still good for the game. The focus once again is on the poor salary compensation of minor leaguers, which MLB has been under siege over the past few years and recently led to a $185 million out-of-court settlement with players past and present. But Manfred admits that the process is one of risk and reward, stating: “…for the non-prospects in particular, they chose to devote several years after high school or college to pursue their dream of becoming professional baseball players before starting their non-baseball careers—not at all dissimilar to the millions of young adults who devote several years trying to break into acting, music, or politics before moving on to other occupations.” Senator Dick Durbin, one of four Congressmen requesting the statement from Manfred, is not impressed. “Commissioner Manfred’s response…raises more questions than answers, and the discrepancies between today’s letter and the reality that minor league players are experiencing reinforce the importance of the Committee’s bipartisan review of the century-old baseball antitrust exemption.”

Expect a hearing in the next few months in which Manfred will be grilled in person by the committee.

Saturday, July 30

The Giants retire Will Clark’s #22 in a pregame ceremony before the team’s matchup with the Cubs—the team he devastated in the 1989 NLCS. On brand, Clark let’s everyone know the score as he wraps up his speech. “This is my Hall of Fame,” he exhorts to the sellout crowd at Oracle Park. “I am Will ‘The Thrill’ Clark. I am part of San Francisco. And I am forever a Giant!”

Perhaps inspired by Clark’s enthusiasm, the Giants bolt out to a fourth-inning, 5-0 lead capped by back-to-back home runs from the bottom of the order (Luis Gonzalez and Joey Bart) before surviving a ninth-inning meltdown as the Cubs plate three and leave the tying run at second base in a 5-4 contest. The Giants’ win is not without pain; infielder Thairo Estrada is drilled in the head and needs to be helped off the field; he’ll be placed on the seven-day list for concussion.

Another day, another home run (yes, just one) for the Yankees’ Aaron Judge. His 42nd clout of the year—putting him on pace for 67 at season’s end—is the 200th of his career in his 671st game; only Ryan Howard (658) reached the milestone in fewer games.

Before New York’s 8-2 win over Kansas City—ensuring their 14th straight series win over the Royals, tied for third longest in Yankee history—the team resumes its mid-summer tradition of holding an Old Timer’s Game, shelved since 2019 because of the pandemic. But for the first time, there is no game; the ceremony instead consists of famous Yankee players simply being introduced to the crowd. The famous festivities are held for the first time without Bobby Brown, who was present at every Old Timer’s event since the very first one held in 1947, when he watched as a second-year player from the dugout.

It’s an ironic win for the Mariners at Houston, but a badly needed one as Seattle ends a five-game skid against the Astros. Trailing 4-3 headed to the ninth, Abraham Toro—a former Astro who enters in the game after replacing star rookie Julio Rodriguez, hit in the wrist an inning earlier—cranks out a two-run single to give the Mariners a 5-4 lead which will hold for the final score. It’s the ninth time this season that the Mariners have won a game when trailing after eight innings; no MLB team has ever won more in that situation before the end of July.

After the game, all Seattle eyes turn to the status of Rodriguez, the likely (at this stage) AL Rookie of the Year; an MRI the next day reveals that the 21-year old does not have a break, but will still be placed on the 10-day injury list.

Until he finds a new home with stronger support in the lineup, the Nationals’ Juan Soto will keep racking up the walks—but also, opposing teams need to realize that a guy named Josh Bell bats behind him. At home against the Cardinals, Soto is walked for the third time on the day in the seventh—and the switch-hitting Bell, the next batter, blasts out a three-run homer that will prove to be the decisive blow in Washington’s 7-6 victory. Bell is batting .305 and is on pace for 20 homers and 90 RBIs; as for Soto, this is the 30th time in his career drawing at least three walks in a game—passing Ted Williams for the most before turning 24 years of age.

The Rays, who at day’s end hold the third and final wild card spot in the AL, gain outfield insurance by trading for Arizona’s David Peralta. Only Luis Gonzalez and Paul Goldschmidt played more games as a member of the Diamondbacks than the 34-year-old Peralta, who logged 961 games in an Arizona jersey; he was batting .248 with 12 homers for the Diamondbacks this season. He figures to fill in one of many roster holes at Tampa Bay created due to injury.

Sunday, July 31

For the first time in five weeks, a starting pitcher for the Red Sox is credited with a victory. The lucky guy is Josh Winckowski, who goes the minimum five innings needed to qualify; he’s only ensured of the W as the Red Sox pile on five runs against the visiting Brewers in the bottom of the fifth, erasing a 2-0 deficit on their way to a 7-2 victory. The 29-game span without a starting pitcher earning a win was the third longest such drought in major league history.

Angels pitcher Reid Detmers is building up quite a nice list of achievements for his rookie year. He threw a no-hitter on May 10 and, on this day, he becomes the fourth pitcher this season to throw an immaculate inning—nine pitches, nine strikes, three outs—as part of a 12-K effort while allowing two runs (one earned) over seven innings. But these are the Angels; after Detmers’ departure in the seventh, the bullpen gives up three in the ninth to the visiting Rangers, who take a 5-2 victory.

Detmers’ immaculate frame, accomplished in the second inning, is the third thrown in Angels history—following Nolan Ryan (1972) and Garrett Richards (2014). For the Rangers, it’s the fourth time they’ve been the victims—three of them this year alone, with the two previous occurrences coming in the same game against Houston on June 15. Ezequiel Duran has the dubious honor of being one of the three strikeout victims in all three immaculate innings.

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