This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: June 2021

Search Him! MLB Clamps Down on Illegal Substances
Alas, Poor Diamondbacks    Kyle Schwarber Binges From the Leadoff Spot

May 2021    Comebacker Index    July 2021


Tuesday, June 1

Ironman reliever, Mike Marshall, a unique man on the field and off it during his time, dies at the age of 78. No cause of death is revealed, though his daughter said he had been in hospice care. The Michigan-born right-hander was a cut above even the most tireless of relievers during the 1970s. He impressed in 1973 for the Montreal Expos, throwing 179 innings in 92 appearances—all in relief—and saving 31 games to finish second behind Tom Seaver in the NL Cy Young Award vote. But he openly complained about the defense behind him and asked for a trade; he got it, to Los Angeles—where his first season in 1974 is typically the one everyone talks about. Marshall set major league marks by appearing in 106 games, including 13 straight, then made seven more postseason appearances—including all five World Series games against the A’s. This level of activity seen from the bullpen has never been surpassed; it earned Marshall the Cy he barely missed out on a year earlier. Marshall’s activity rates dropped off in the years to follow, but he had a one-year renaissance with Minnesota in 1979 when he set the American League record for appearances with 90, saving 32 games for the Twins over 142.2 innings at age 36. 

What propelled Marshall on the mound was his belief in applying kinesiology, for which he received a doctorate in. In our interviews with ex-players, Bob Locker called Marshall a “genius, especially about pitching,” while Tommy John believed that Marshall’s advice on preserving his health on the mound was as big a factor in his late-career revival as Dr. Frank Jobe’s groundbreaking surgery (which was named after John). But he could also be difficult; he was called a “loner” by Locker, initially said he wouldn’t report to the Dodgers after his trade from the Expos, and claims he was blackballed by baseball after his active role with the players’ union before the 1981 strike

The Baltimore Orioles begin the new month like turning over a new leaf, upending the visiting Minnesota Twins 7-4 to end a 14-game losing skid that was tied for the second longest since the franchise moved from St. Louis in 1954. It also ends a 16-game losing streak specifically against the Twins. Rookie Bruce Zimmermann improves to 3-3 by allowing two runs over 5.1 innings, while Maikel Franco and Pedro Severino each go deep for the Orioles. 

The Blue Jays welcome themselves back to Buffalo—where the ballclub was stranded during last year’s shortened season, and where they remain stranded with the hopes that Toronto will be their next stop. A crowd of 5,500 witnesses the Blue Jays’ 5-1 win over Miami and a big night for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who goes 4-for-4 with a double, his 17th home run and three RBIs. 

Wednesday, June 2

Three minor leaguers are suspended by MLB for using illegal substances on the baseball, increasing the season total to four; this adds to the pressure and rumors that hurlers at the big-league level may be among the next to face discipline. Recent articles suggest that MLB pitchers have basically gotten away with using foreign substances thus far, even after baseball’s preseason edict that it would clamp down on any pitcher who used them. It’s a possible reason we’ve seen MLB hitters collectively bat under .240 so far in 2021 while six no-hitters—one shy of a season record—have already been recorded. 

The San Diego Padres are swept by the Cubs at Chicago with a 6-1 matinee loss—and perhaps the team’s rare stretch of losing is getting to some of its players. A fourth-inning pop-up with the bases loaded and one out leads to a collision in short left field between shortstop Ha-Seong Kim and outfielder Tommy Pham, knocking both out—but not before Kim manages to get up and throw to third, starting an unlikely, inning-ending double play as Cubs runners on first and second believed the ball was caught and held close to their original bases. Kim walks off woozy and undergoes concussion protocol, while Pham re-awakes and angrily storms into the dugout—a scene that doesn’t sit well with Padres third-base coach Bobby Dickerson, who briefly confronts Pham in the dugout before being separated. 

After the game, Padres manager Jayce Tingler responds to the scene with the standard line that his team has passion and teammates will occasionally get heated at one another. 

A pair of teams get out to fast starts out West. In Phoenix, the first six New York Mets reach via hit against the Diamondbacks and Madison Bumgarner—the first time that they’ve done that since 1979—leading to a four-run first-inning. But the DBacks bounce back and got six of their first seven batters to reach off of New York starter David Peterson before he is removed, taking a 5-4 lead. Things settled down and the Mets prevail, 7-6, on Pete Alonso’s tie-breaking, run-scoring single in the ninth. 

Later out in Los Angeles, the Dodgers do their own first-inning bashing—and make sure that the opposing Cardinals won’t bounce back as they romp, 14-3. Fourteen Dodgers came to the plate in the first frame, scoring 11 times—the last four on Cody Bellinger’s grand slam, giving him six RBIs in the inning. It’s the most runs the Dodgers have scored in any frame since moving to California in 1958. 

Thursday, June 3

It took five years and 18 days, but the Rays’ record-breaking drought without a complete game by a starting pitcher has come to an end at 731 games thanks to Ryan Yarbrough. The fifth-year Tampa Bay hurler goes the distance, allowing two runs (both solo home runs) on six hits and no walks over 113 pitches to easily outduel the Yankees and Gerrit Cole at New York, 9-2. The last Rays pitcher to go CG before Yarbrough was Matt Andriese, on May 14, 2016 against Oakland. 

The Road Worriers continue to do no good away from home. In Colorado, the Rangers go down to their 15th straight road defeat—extending an all-time franchise mark—as the Rockies finish off a three-game sweep with an 11-6 win. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks return to the road and promptly lose to the Brewers at Milwaukee, 7-4, to tie their all-time record with a 14th straight loss away from Phoenix. 

Friday, June 4

Rest assured: That seventh no-hitter is coming. It nearly happens tonight—twice, in fact. 

In Milwaukee, Freddy Peralta celebrates his 25th birthday by taking a no-hit bid into the eighth, before the Diamondbacks’ Nick Ahmed strokes a one-out single; with his pitch count at 109, he’s immediately taken out, but picks up his sixth win (against a single loss) while lowering his ERA to 2.25 in the Brewers’ 5-1 victory. 

One must ask: With a rotation that includes Peralta, Corbin Burnes (2.24 ERA) and Brandon Woodruff (1.27), how are the Brewers just five games above .500 (31-26)? Answer: They’re batting just .211. 

Later in San Diego, the Padres’ Blake Snell takes his own no-hit bid into the seventh when the Mets’ Francisco Lindor ruins it with a leadoff single. Snell gets through the inning, finishes the night at 101 pitches and snags only his second win of the year as the Padres prevail, 2-0. It’s Snell’s longest stint by innings over his last 44 starts; on April 2, 2019, he also pitched seven shutout frames for the Rays at Tampa Bay against Colorado. For the Padres, it’s their 12th straight home win—establishing an all-time team record. 

A night after piling up 11 first-inning runs against the Cardinals, the Dodgers binge again, this time in Atlanta as they rack up eight runs in the fifth—on just three hits, as the Braves generously contribute with four walks and two defensive lapses. Overall, the Dodgers pick up only four hits in their 9-5 victory, as the Braves walk eight batters in total. 

The season’s second immaculate inning is recorded as the Yankees’ Michael King throws nine pitches that results in nine strikes and three outs in the fourth at New York against the Red Sox. It’s the seventh immaculate frame thrown by a Yankees pitcher and the first since Dellin Betances in 2017. But King’s achievement is but a silver lining for the Yankees, who lose 5-2 to Boston in the first meeting between the archrivals this season. 

It’s a completely satisfying night for the Astros in Buffalo against the Blue Jays, blasting Hyun-Jin Ryu and three relievers for 13 runs (including four round-trippers) while Zack Greinke tosses the 17th complete game of his career, scattering a run on six hits, in a 13-1 rout. Greinke needs only 102 pitches to go the distance for the first time since 2017. 

Saturday, June 5

The Mets’ Jacob deGrom and Giants’ Kevin Gausman become the first two pitchers since 1968’s ‘Year of the Pitcher’ to begin a season with one or none earned runs allowed in each of their first nine starts. 

For deGrom, that historical plaudit is just the tip of the iceberg after his latest remarkable outing. Against the feisty Padres—winners of 12 straight home games—deGrom gives up three hits, walks one, strikes out 11, escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth and tops 101 MPH on 10 of his pitches, leaving after seven innings and 85 pitches with a lead the Mets will hold to the end for a 4-0 victory. deGrom’s 0.62 ERA is the lowest of any pitcher through one’s first nine starts to a season since the statistic became official in 1912 (NL) and 1913 (AL); there may be someone before that, during the pitcher-friendly Deadball Era, who had a better start—maybe

Gausman, meanwhile, continues his impressive early-season dominance. At San Francisco against the visiting Cubs, Gausman allows two unearned runs on two hits through seven innings with 10 K’s and no walks, lowering his ERA to 1.27 and improving his record to 7-0 with a 4-3 victory. The Giants nearly throw away the victory in the top of the ninth as their infield plays Keystone Cops on one ground ball after another, but submarine reliever Tyler Rogers gets out of the jam by retiring the last two Cubs. 

While deGrom and Gausman shine, Clayton Kershaw uncharacteristically struggles for a second straight start. The Dodgers ace implodes in the third at Atlanta, allowing five runs; he regrouped and lasts six frames overall without allowing any more tallies, but the damage is done as the Dodgers cannot rebound in a 6-4 loss to the Braves. It’s the first time since 2011 that Kershaw has allowed five or more runs in back-to-back starts—a run of 268 starts that’s the longest such stretch in the modern (post-1900) era. 

The Red Sox break a 3-3 tie in the eighth with a four-run rally ignited on a run-scoring double from Kiké Hernandez—ending a 0-for-27 slide—and defeat the Yankees at New York, 7-3. It’s the 20th time this season that Boston has won after trailing at some point; for the Yankees, they now drop to fourth in the AL East, and their offensive woes continue as they’re hitting .227 as a team—tied with the lowly Pirates for the most games (33) scoring three runs or less. 

Sunday, June 6

Behind Dylan Cease’s seven shutout innings, 10 strikeouts and Tim Anderson’s two RBIs, the White Sox shut down the Tigers at Chicago, 3-0, to give Tony La Russa his 2,764th career win as manager—surpassing John McGraw for #2 on the all-time list. The 76-year-old La Russa needs only 967 more wins to tie Connie Mack at the top. Good luck, Tony. 

Jesse Winker’s one-out, tie-breaking solo homer in the ninth—his third blast of the game—hands the Reds an 8-7 victory, one in which they led 7-0 after three innings before the Cardinals tied it with seven tallies in the sixth following the departure of starter Wade Miley. It’s Winker’s second hat trick of the year, following three solo homers on May 21 against Milwaukee; he’s the first Red to go three-deep twice in a year. 

Batting behind Winker, Nick Castellanos goes hitless in five at-bats to end his 21-game hit streak—both the longest of his career and the longest of any major leaguer so far in 2021. 

Albert Pujols surpasses Barry Bonds for fourth on the all-time list in total bases with a solo home run in the ninth at Atlanta—but it’s too little, too late for the Dodgers, as they fall to the Braves, 4-2. With 5,980 TBs, Pujols now needs 86 more to tie #3 Willie Mays (6,066). 

The Twins perform their first triple play since 2019—when they turned two within a 16-day period—to extinguish a third-inning threat by the Royals; the tri-killing proves huge as Minnesota squeaks by with a 2-1 road win. Victory is achieved for the Twins without the benefit of a home run, snapping a team record-tying 16-game streak in which the team hit at least one over the fence. 

The Orioles binge on offense, knocking down Cleveland by an 18-5 count for their highest run total since 2015. Leading the charge is outfielder Cedric Mullins, who extends a streak of consecutive plate appearances safely reaching base to 11 before lining out in his last at-bat. 

Monday, June 7

Too soon, Jarred Kelenic? The highly-touted prospect for the Seattle Mariners was brought up in mid-May and looked to be the real thing when, in his second major league game, he powered two doubles and a home run against Cleveland. Since then? Pffft. The book got out on Kelenic, and opposing pitchers found it an easy read; after collecting two singles on May 25, he’s gone 0-for-39—the longest hitless streak in Mariners history. The team decided that it was best not to crush Kelenic’s psyche any further, so they’ve sent him back to Triple-A Tacoma to get his mental bearings back. 

Slim Pickens once lamented in Blazing Saddles, “We ain’t never gonna get to Rockridge.” The Toronto Blue Jays can relate. Stuck first in Dunedin, Florida, now Buffalo, the orphaned Jays announced that their return to Canada has been officially moved back to at least July 30, as they’ll continue playing in Buffalo (home of their Triple-A side) through the end of a homestand that finishes up on July 21. There are signs sign of hope that, at some point before the end of the season, the Jays will be back at Rogers Centre—as Canadian officials are currently giving an exemption for NHL teams to play U.S.-based teams in Canada as part of the ongoing Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Tuesday, June 8

In a pregame Zoom call with reporters, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is asked point blank: “Have you ever used Spider Tack?” For those not in the know, Spider Tack is one of the more popular substances being used by major league pitchers as MLB supposedly readies to lower the boom on pitchers using this and other ‘illegal’ substances. So, how does Cole answer? By not really answering. “I don’t quite know how to answer that, to be honest,” he replies, adding, “There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players, from the last generation of players to this generation of players, and I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard.” Cole rambles on: “This is important to a lot of people who love the game, including the players in this room, including fans, including teams, so if MLB wants to legislate some more stuff, that’s a conversation that we can have. Because ultimately we should all be pulling in the same direction on this.” Yes, that’s a much longer answer than ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Actually, it’s a long way of saying ‘yes’; of course, had he never used the stuff, he would have just said so in a single, short sentence. 

Some pundits and bloggers are defending pitchers using sticky substances that have improved their control and spin rate while befuddling hitters who are hitting for the lowest combined batting average since the so-called “Year of the Pitcher” in 1968—with some believing that this is all a ruse to pressure the union in advance of talks on a new Basic Agreement. Even though Cole claims that pitchers have been using additives to help their grip over the years, it’s nothing like what they’ve come across in the last three-to-four years. That’s where MLB likely comes in and breaks up the party. And as for the union-pressuring theory? Hitters are complaining just as much as everyone else, so…

Among the more publicized of the feedback to Cole will come a day later from Mets slugger Pete Alonso, who suggests that there’s a bigger scandal at work in regards to the baseballs themselves. Alonso believes that MLB deadened the ball this year because the majority of prized free agents this upcoming offseason will be hitters—and he thinks the powers-that-be want to quell numbers to increase the odds of decreased contract payouts. Similarly, Alonso believes that the home run explosion of 2019, made possible with what MLB admitted was a juiced ball, was intentionally made that way since most of that year’s budding free agents were pitchers. It’s an interesting theory—and one that won’t lead to any smoking guns, but will certainly put MLB, which controls the production of baseballs, on notice if they are up to no good on the subject. 

It’s an historic and highly satisfying night for the Giants’ Brandon Crawford in Texas. It all starts by simply taking the field; he thus becomes the all-time leader in games played by a shortstop in Giants history, surpassing Travis Jackson with his 1,326th appearance at the position. Apart from making several outstanding plays on defense, Crawford also launches two home runs—including a three-run blast in the ninth to provide more than enough insurance to wrap up a 9-4 victory over the Rangers. 

The Dodgers defeated the Pirates at Pittsburgh, 5-3, and they have Ke’Bryan Hayes partly to thank. The promising Pirates outfielder sneaks in a first-inning home run in the right-field corner off Walker Buehler—but he misses first base on the home run trot and doesn’t realize it until the Dodgers successfully appeal. Buehler goes on to pitch seven shutout innings, and the Dodgers withstand a late rally to triumph. 

Wednesday, June 9

A day after his evasive responses on Spider Tack, Gerrit Cole goes out and picks up his seventh win of the year in Cole style, allowing but a couple of runs with nine strikeouts and no walks over six innings as the Yankees defeat the Twins at Minnesota, 9-6. New York has won the first two games of its three-game series at Target Field; they haven’t lost a season series to the Twins since 2001, a period in which they’re 89-35—104-37 if you want to include postseason games. 

Jake Odorizzi wins his first game of the 2021 season, conceding three runs over five innings as the Astros triumph at Boston, 8-3. It’s Odorizzi’s first win since his last start of 2019 while pitching for the Twins; he was winless in four starts last year and his first five starts of this season. 

The members of 2020’s Hall of Fame class will have to wait just a little longer to be ceremonially inducted into Cooperstown. Delayed from last year because of the pandemic, Derek Jeter, Larry Walker and Ted Simmons were expecting to finally be introduced on July 25, but that date has been pushed back to September 8 to give attendees a little more time to put the pandemic behind them. 

Thursday, June 10

The Diamondbacks—losers of 19 straight road games and 31 of their last 37 overall—gratefully have the day off, but that doesn’t relieve the tension of hitting coaches Darnell Coles and Eric Hinske, both of whom are fired as the offense has consistently sputtered. Some might see this as a sign that manager Torey Lovullo is next, but Arizona GM Mike Hazen publicly states that his job is airtight safe. For now

It all seems like a done deal for the Yankees at Minnesota, up 5-3 headed into the bottom of the ninth against the Twins—a team they seem to never lose to—with closer Aroldis Chapman taking his 0.39 season ERA to the mound. But as they often say about baseball: “On any given day….” Sure enough, Chapman endures a quick and very painful blown save, his second of the year. Jorge Polanco singles in a five-pitch at-bat; Josh Donaldson next homers to tie the game on two pitches; Willans Astudillo then singles on the first pitch he sees, and Nelson Cruz takes Chapman’s first delivery, too—sending it 457 feet to give the Twins a shock victory, 7-5. 

According to so-called ‘Queen of Stats’ Katie Sharp, no Yankee has ever blown a save allowing four runs on two homers without getting an out—and likely on as few as the nine total pitches Chapman threw to get utterly rejected. 

It’s hard to get MLB and the players’ union to agree on anything these days, but it took a Hail Mary of a lawsuit by Atlanta businesses—suing baseball for moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver—to get the two on the same side of the fence. And they’re both happy with the decision of a Manhattan judge that throws out the suit, claiming that the plaintiffs had failed to provide proof that they would lose money by having the game played elsewhere. 

Friday, June 11

The Mets’ Jacob deGrom extends what has turned into an historic, unprecedented start to his season. In six innings against the visiting Padres, deGrom allows just one baserunner—a fifth-inning single by Wil Myers (who is promptly thrown out attempting to steal second), strikes out 10 and lowers his season ERA to an astonishing 0.56 as the Mets prevail, 3-2. But with the great came the cautionary—as deGrom leaves after 80 pitches with elbow tendinitis. No worries, says deGrom after the game; he thinks he’ll be fine for his next start. 

How good has deGrom been thus far in 2021? His 0.56 ERA is the lowest for any pitcher after 10 games; he’s the fastest pitcher by innings (61.1) to reach 100 strikeouts to begin a year; and he’s knocked in more runs (five) than those earned that he’s allowed (four). 

For the first time since joining the National League in 1890, the Reds homer in each of their first five innings—and scored in each of their first six to demolish the visiting Rockies, 11-5. It’s the 10th time this year that the Reds have gone double-digit at Great American Ball Park, already the second most such games in any season at the 18-year-old ballpark—second only to the 14 achieved in 2005

While 22 of the 30 MLB teams having reached the 85% vaccination threshold allowing them to relax COVID restrictions, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo—whose club is one of the other eight—is one of those stiff-arming the needle. In a chat with The Athletic, Rizzo says that he supports the vaccine and the science, and is happy a lot of other people are getting it, but he’s holding out because he feels the need to “see more data on it.” 

We’re sure Rizzo can find plenty of data, and quickly, to change his mind. Yes, there have been side-effects to the various vaccines—but that’s the case for virtually every vaccine ever created; the fact is, > 99.99% of those receiving the vaccine are A-OK. The vaccine has made us safer, allowed everyday life to return almost to normal, and allowed 35,000 people to watch your team, Anthony, play on Friday at Wrigley Field. Don’t hem and haw on the truth. Get the damn vaccine. 

Saturday, June 12

The Rangers end a franchise-record 16-game road skid in unlikely fashion, bashing the Dodgers and Trevor Bauer at Los Angeles, 12-1, behind nine extra-base hits and four steals (three from Isiah Kiner-Falefa). Jason Martin hits the last of those XBH, a ninth-inning home run off the Dodgers’ Andy Burns—doing emergency pitching duties after being giving the start at shortstop in his first game in the majors since 2016 with Toronto. 

While one road snap ends, another is extended as the Orioles are edged out at Tampa Bay, 5-4, for their 14th straight defeat away—tying the all-time franchise mark previously set in 1934 and 1940 when they were the St. Louis Browns. Austin Wynns’ fifth-inning grand slam off Rays starter Rich Hill (ending his streak of 17 straight scoreless innings) accounts for all of Baltimore’s run-scoring offense, but it ultimately isn’t enough. 

The Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. becomes the first major leaguer this year to reach the 20-homer plateau as he belts one of Toronto’s five round-trippers in a 7-2 win over the Red Sox at Boston. One of the other four blasts was supplied by Marcus Semien, who extends his hitting streak on the road to 25 games. 

The Giants split a seven-inning doubleheader at Washington, becoming the first NL team to reach 40 wins on the year with a 2-1, eight-inning ‘overtime’ win in the nightcap. They lose the first game, 2-0, as Kevin Gausman suffers his first defeat of the year and ends a streak of nine straight starts in which he gave up one or none earned runs. Only one other pitcher has had a similar stretch since 1969, and it’s still an active streak (Jacob deGrom, 10 starts). 

The Mariners become the last team this season to suffer in extras, losing at Cleveland in 10 innings, 5-4; they were previously 5-0 past the ninth. Gift runner Cesar Hernandez tallies the winning run for the Indians on a bases-loaded, no-out comebacker from Harold Ramirez that Seattle reliever Paul Sewald cleanly fields—but wildly throws home. It’s the capper in a bad night for the Seattle bullpen, which can’t cover for Yusei Kikuchi’s seven shutout innings as the Indians score once in the eighth, three in the ninth to tie, and the one in the 10th to win it. 

Finally, we say a sad goodbye to Mudcat Grant, who passes away at the age 85. The Lacoochee, Florida native became the African-American to win 20 games in the AL in 1965 when he went 21-7 with a 3.30 ERA for the Twins; he won another two games for Minnesota, hitting a home run in the second of those triumphs, in that year’s seven-game World Series loss to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers. Overall, Grant finished a 14-year career with a 145-119 record and the respect of many of his peers. Here’s our interview with Grant from several years ago. 

Sunday, June 13

The Blue Jays snag an impressive 18-4 win at Boston behind the strength of eight home runs—the most ever given up by the Red Sox. It’s also tied for the most homers hit by a team at Fenway Park; the Red Sox also hit eight in 1977 and 2013. Teoscar Hernandez collects two of Toronto’s homers, driving in six runs; Vladimir Guerrero Jr. adds his MLB-leading 21st of the year. The Blue Jays finish the day with a MLB team-leading 99 homers. 

The Astros also enjoy a big day at the plate, thanks in large part to Michael Brantley—who for the third time this year collects three doubles in a 14-3 romp of the Twins at Minnesota. Brantley is the first Astros player to hit three doubles in three different games over one season; Cesar Cedeno (1977), Chris Burke (2006) and Alex Bregman (2018) did it twice. 

The Orioles take an early 1-0 lead over the Rays at St. Petersburg, but who are they kidding? Not the Rays, who respond with seven unanswered to easily prevail, 7-1—in the process handing Baltimore its 15th straight loss on the road to set a franchise record. Randy Arozarena’s seventh-inning grand slam is the killer blow for the Rays, who improved to an MLB-best 42-24. 

The White Sox’ Carlos Rodon, already with one no-hitter on the year, is smelling a second as he holds the Tigers hitless through 6.1 innings before Eric Haase breaks it up with a seventh-inning double. Haase will later score and Rodon finishes the seventh without any further damage, picking up his sixth win as the White Sox triumph, 4-1. 

Monday, June 14

The Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homers in his fourth straight game at Boston, becoming the youngest player (at age 22) to do so in a four-game road series; history aside, it also squares Toronto with the Red Sox as his ninth-inning, two-out blast ties the game at 1-1. But the Red Sox respond; Rafael Devers singles home Alex Verdugo in the bottom of the frame to earn a 2-1 walk-off victory. Guerrero’s 22 homers on the year put him three ahead of the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. in the MLB home run race—and his .346 batting average is second only to the Reds’ Nick Castellanos

In the season’s first meeting between early-season AL titans at Chicago, the Rays emerge with a 5-2 victory over the White Sox. But the triumph is tarnished as Tampa Bay ace Tyler Glasnow, dispensing of the sunscreen he’s been using to help him grip the ball as MLB prepares to crack down on pitchers using ‘foreign substances,’ leaves after four innings after suffering a partial tear in his elbow that may require Tommy John surgery. After Glasnow’s departure, four Tampa Bay relievers combine to deny the White Sox on two hits over five shutout innings, while Austin Meadows and Randy Arozarena each go deep for the Rays. 

A day later, Glasnow fumes that without the sunscreen, he found himself having to naturally grip the ball so hard that he was “choking the s**t out of (his) pitches.” 

Tuesday, June 15

Back on March 24, MLB said it would crack down on pitchers using foreign substances that increase spin rate and make life tougher for hitters. Pitchers would be subject to fines or suspensions, as would be their coaches and managers if they were found to be acting as accomplices. But then the season began, pitchers dominated at a level not seen since 1968’s “Year of the Pitcher” campaign, with overall batting averages mired in the .230s while strikeouts easily outpaced hits. MLB’s March threat seemed like a lost memo, as the league’s “gameday compliance monitors” supposedly enforcing the clampdown where nowhere to be found; meanwhile, pitchers yawned and played on undeterred, all while there was ample, broad-daylight evidence that they were lathering their hands with the sticky stuff. The optics have not been looking favorable to MLB, so it finally decides to come out of the shadows and bare its teeth—this time, definitely. Or, maybe. 

Starting on June 21, umpires will be told to perform multiple mandatory checks on starting pitchers, with at least one check on each reliever either once they are removed or at the end of an inning, whichever comes first. Anyone caught with foreign substances will be outright ejected and suspended, with pay, for 10 days. Repeat offenders will be subject to “progressive discipline.” Any pitcher who refuses a search will be assumed to be in possession of such substances and face ejection as well. Catchers and even other position players could also be searched and face similar punishment if it’s proven that they are abetting the pitcher. If all of this is not considered deterrent enough, this might: Teams cannot replace suspended players on the roster. 

In a statement, MLB says it needed the first two months of the regular season to collate statistical data and on-field testimony to make its determinations. But asking pitchers to clean up while essentially in midseason form could lead to some serious withdrawal performance effects, if not worse. (See Tyler Glasnow, June 14, above.) Complaining about MLB’s perceived kneejerk response to begin sudden enforcement, Glasnow wishes that the league had decreed the new rules during the offseason so that pitchers would have properly prepared without the physical stress of having to do it in the midst of a regular season. 

So, who to blame? Yes, MLB should have done as Glasnow had asked; announcing the crackdown even a week before Opening Day would not have given pitchers time to adapt. But let’s be honest; the pitchers were cheating, just as hitters were during the Steroid Era. If you can’t use sunscreen or Spider Tack or whatever wonder ‘stick ‘em’ products are available out there, don’t do like Glasnow did and replicate his success at the risk of major injury. Adapt to the rules, just like the juiced sluggers did some 10-to-15 years ago. It will reduce their level of quality, but it will make the game more legitimate and even the playing field—allowing hitters to be more successful at things they previously had trouble with, like putting the ball in play, perhaps more competently away the shift. Thus, less shifts. 

The Diamondbacks burst out to a lead so big—7-0, at San Francisco—that they had never lost a game leading by more runs. But these are the Diamondbacks—the lowly, sad Diamondbacks. The Giants scratch and claw at the Arizona lead and, in the bottom of the eighth, Mike Yastrzemski lofts a two-out grand slam into McCovey Cove outside of Oracle Park to give the Giants an ultimate 9-8 win. The Diamondbacks have now lost 12 straight and 21 in a row on the road—one shy of the modern (post-1900) major league record. 

On the day California eliminates all COVID-19 safety protocols and fully reopens for the first time since the start of the pandemic 15 months earlier, Dodger Stadium is back up to full capacity and a crowd of 52,078—the largest for an MLB game since 2019—takes advantage. The home team makes the experience a pleasant one, as the Dodgers score single runs in the seventh and eighth innings to pull away with a 5-3 win over the Phillies. Julio Urias fails to get his 10th win for Los Angeles, but he does contribute with the bat, punching out an RBI double; it’s the fifth straight game in which he’s had at least one RBI, three games short of the major league record set by Carlos Zambrano in 2008

Wednesday, June 16

Forget the Year of the No-Hitter, or the Year of Spider Tack. The 2021 season is evolving into the Year of the Losing Streak. 

Three of the 25 worst road skids in major league history have taken place this year, with a tie at the top reached at San Francisco as the Diamondbacks are blown out by the first-place Giants, 13-7. The Snakes’ 22nd straight road defeat matches them with the 1943 A’s and 1963 Mets for the longest since 1900. Additionally, Arizona has lost 13 straight games overall, their second streak of that length this season. Only four other teams—the 1909 Boston Doves (Braves), 1919 Phillies, 1935 Braves and, but of course, the 1962 Mets—have had multiple losing streaks of at least 13 in one year. 

The 20-49 Diamondbacks have lost 36 of their last 41 games; among NL teams, only those same 1909 Doves from above have had a similarly bad stench…er, stretch. 

Trying not to be outdone, the Orioles are playing Sammy Sosa to the Diamondbacks’ Mark McGwire in the chase to avoid history. The Birds are outlasted 8-7 at Cleveland by the Indians and Aaron Civale (thus becoming the season’s first 10-game winner) to extend their road skid to 18 straight—tied for the eighth worst modern streak. 

As both the Diamondbacks’ and Orioles’ streaks remain active, there’s this intriguing bit of trivia from stat hound Jessica Brand: The last road wins for both teams were no-hitters—Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning gem* for Arizona at Atlanta on April 25 (52 days earlier), and John Means’ no-no on May 5 at Seattle. (*—As you’ll recall, Bumgarner’s no-no is not officially recognized as a no-hitter because it went only seven innings as part of an MLB-mandated shortened doubleheader.) 

Then there’s the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lose 3-1 at Washington for their 10th straight defeat, home or away. Nationals reliever Paolo Espino, age 34, makes his 29th career appearance and fifth career start and makes it look easy against the 2021 edition of the Bad News Bucs, tossing five shutout innings to set the tone. The Pirates have suffered four separate losing streaks of at least five games this year. 

One of these days, Jacob deGrom won’t have to leave early with some sort of pain—because what he’s doing before his exits continues to be incredible. The Mets’ ace lasts only three innings against the visiting the Cubs, but he’s absolutely electric—striking out every batter he faces except for one. Also, again, deGrom stars with the bat—knocking in the Mets’ second run with a soft single, giving him a .432 batting average and six RBIs on the year. A shoulder issue leads to deGrom’s early departure, and more mortal Mets relievers hold on easily enough to lock down a 6-3 victory. 

With a remarkable 0.54 ERA through 11 starts, the question is not whether deGrom will have a good enough number at year’s end to take the ERA title—but rather, will he have enough innings to even qualify? The rule is at least one inning for every game your team plays—so for deGrom, with 67 frames in 60 Mets games, he’s above water, for now.  

The Astros’ Jose Altuve picks up where he left off the night before against the visiting Rangers, becoming the first player ever to hit a leadoff homer a day after belting a walk-off grand slam. Altuve’s blast—his first of two on the night, giving him 15 on the year—put the Astros on point for an 8-4 win. 

Thursday, June 17

The Diamondbacks have reached the unwanted destination called the Land of Shame, dropping their 23rd straight road game to set an all-time MLB record. There’s hardly any suspense in the record-breaking achievement; the opposing Giants scored early and often on an unusually toasty day at San Francisco, coasting to a 10-3 victory behind Kevin Gausman’s eight sharp innings on the mound. If there’s any silver lining to be found on this forgettable day for the Diamondbacks, there’s this: With a pair of runs in the seventh inning, the Snakes manage to end a streak of 41 straight at-bats in which opponents had failed to get a hit with runners in scoring position against Gausman, the longest such run against a pitcher since Don Sutton in 1976

The Orioles, meanwhile, continued to run up its own record road rut, losing their 19th straight away from home at Cleveland by a similar 10-3 score; that puts Baltimore in a tie for the fifth worst road skid in the modern era. 

The Yankees finish a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays at Buffalo playing the role of Comeback Kids, winning all three despite trailing in the seventh inning of each. A four-run rally in the seventh, initiated by a two-run Giancarlo Stanton home run, pulls the Yankees ahead to stay in an 8-4 win. But New York wins the game as much with their gloves as their bats; they turn two double plays and their second triple play of the year, the first time they’ve ever accomplished multiple such web gems in a single season. 

The Seattle Mariners are the 29th of 30 MLB teams to announce that they’ll return to 100% capacity at T-Mobile Park, beginning with a July 2 game against Texas. That leaves only the Toronto Blue Jays, who still aren’t even allowed back at their own ballpark across the border in Canada, let alone perform at 100% capacity. 

Friday, June 18

The Pirates end one of many long losing streaks currently taking place in MLB—but in typical Bad News Bucs fashion, they nearly choke away a big lead. After building up an 11-1 cushion on the strength of two five-run rallies in the first and sixth innings, the visiting Indians quickly make a game of it—scoring six in the seventh and three more in the eighth to cut the Pittsburgh lead down to a single run, at 11-10. But that’s the way it will end, even as Cleveland places runners at second and third to no avail in the ninth. Chad Kuhl picks up his first win in eight tries this season for the Pirates, allowing a run over six innings before the bullpen nearly blows it for him. 

Perhaps the Pirates should apply for a switch to the American League; they’re 6-5 in interleague play, 18-39 against the NL. 

Washington pitching continues a hot run of late, giving up very few of them. Erick Fedde runs his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 20, and Yan Gomes’ RBI single in the ninth results in a 1-0 walk-off victory over the visiting Mets. In their last eight games, the Nationals have allowed just seven runs; that’s the fewest they’ve given up in any eight-game stretch in franchise history. 

Saturday, June 19

The Diamondbacks, losers of 15 straight games, face the Dodgers and Walker Buehler, who hasn’t lost any of his previous 22 starts—30, if you count postseason games. What else would you expect to happen? Buehler takes a no-hitter into the eighth inning before the Diamondbacks get to him for two runs, but by then the game is hardly in doubt as the Dodgers build up a 9-0 lead, on their way to 9-3 victory at Phoenix. For Buehler, his 23-game unbeaten streak ties Kirby Higbe for the longest in Dodgers franchise history; for the Diamondbacks, the 16 straight losses (home and away) extend an all-time franchise record. 

It’s a virtual Home Run Derby at Baltimore, where the Orioles go deep with each of their first six hits—including three from Ryan Mountcastle—against the Blue Jays. Toronto starting pitcher Alek Manoah gives up the first four—the last two, back-to-back by Mountcastle and D.J. Stewart—before he can’t take it anymore, plunking Maikel Franco high in the back with the very next pitch and instigating a benches-clearing anger session that leads to Manoah’s ejection from the game. All this, and the Orioles still can’t win; they blow a three-run lead in the ninth as the Blue Jays storm back with six tallies—taking the lead on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s two-run double—to give Toronto a 10-7 victory. 

The Orioles are the first team since Cleveland in 1989 to have their first six hits of a game all be home runs. 

The Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins, entering the day making a bid for our pick as the NL’s worst hitter of the month, elevates himself out of that conversation with a double, two home runs and a career-high six RBIs as Philadelphia booms its way to a 13-6 win at San Francisco, ending a five-game win streak for the Giants. 

The notoriously hot-and-cold Adam Duvall remains hot for a second straight day, homering twice again as the Marlins pummel the Cubs at Chicago, 11-1. It’s the 10th career multi-homer game for Duvall, who last year had a pair of three-homer games just seven days apart. 

Sunday, June 20

The Yankees pull off their second triple play of the week—and the third of the year to tie a major league record—as Oakland’s Sean Murphy’s sharp grounder to third turns into a game-ending, around-the-horn tri-killing to preserve a 2-1 victory at New York. It’s the first triple play to end a game with the potential go-ahead run on base since the Dodgers won in similar fashion over the Padres on April 15, 2012. The Yankees’ two runs both come on a sixth-inning double off the bat of Gary Sanchez

The Nationals defeat the Mets at Washington, 5-2, thanks to three home runs from Kyle Schwarber—not exactly your prototypical leadoff hitter, but never mind. Schwarber starts the Nats’ first with the initial round-tripper, makes it two in the fifth with another solo shot, and caps the scoring with a two-run blast in the seventh. Combined with two homers the previous day, Schwarber’s five homers over two days tie a major league record. 

It’s the 12th time a member of the Expos/Nationals has gone deep thrice in a game, and the first since Anthony Rendon in 2017

The Rays drop their sixth straight game and are swept in a four-game series for the first time since 2016 as the Mariners shatter a 2-2 tie in the 10th on Shed Long Jr.’s first career grand slam to prevail, 6-2. Seattle wins three of their four games against the Rays via the walk-off, two in extra innings; the M’s have won seven of eight overall and are two games above the .500 mark at 38-36. 

With the Rays collapsing, the Astros end the week with the AL’s best record at 43-28 after beating up on old friend Dallas Keuchel and the White Sox at Houston, 8-2. It’s the first time Keuchel has faced the team he played for through his first seven seasons (2012-18), and it isn’t pretty—allowing six runs (three earned) on seven hits and four walks through just 2.2 innings. 

Keuchel drops to 6-2 to match his 2020 record—yet his 2021 season ERA (3.98) is double that of last year’s (1.99). 

Monday, June 21

It’s indeed a rare thing these days, but the Diamondbacks actually win a game—defeating the visiting Brewers, 5-1, to snap a franchise-record 17-game losing skid. Merrill Kelly pitches seven solid innings, and the Snakes pile up all five of their runs within the first four innings to finally get in the win column. They’re not out of the historic woods yet; they still have an active losing streak of 23 games on the road, an all-time modern (post-1900) record. 

How ironic it would have seemed, on the day umpires officially began checking pitchers for foreign substances, that we might have our record-tying seventh no-hitter of the year. The Astros take a no-no deep into the evening at Baltimore behind the strength of multiple pitchers—starter Jake Odorizzi (five innings) and Cristian Javier (two) before a third Houston pitcher, Brandon Bielak, gives up a pair of runs on two hits in the eighth. It provides little suspense toward the outcome, however, as the Astros storm to their eighth straight victory, 10-2 over the Orioles. 

The umpires also check up on Mets super-ace Jacob deGrom in the first game of a mini-doubleheader at New York against the Braves, and find nothing—while the Braves get nothing off him, like everyone else facing deGrom this season. deGrom pitches five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and two walks with six strikeouts on 70 pitches, to gain credit for his seventh victory of the year, 4-2. The Mets lose the second game on a solo homer by the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr., 1-0. 

deGrom’s stretch of mound magnificence continues to be unparalleled in MLB history. His 0.50 ERA is tied for the best ever over 12 straight starts, matching Bob Gibson from 1968; his 0.51 WHIP and .113 opposing bat average is tops among any hurler over a dozen such starts. 

The Twins and Reds engage in the majors’ longest game of the year by time (five hours and 14 minutes) as it takes 12 innings to decide a 7-5 victory for Minnesota. The two teams trade a pair of runs in the 10th and each go scoreless in the 11th—but the Twins put the game away in the bottom of the 12th on Miguel Sano’s 14th homer of the year. The win comes at a cost; Twins outfielder and once-upon-a-time super-prospect Byron Buxton, just three days back after missing six weeks due to a hip injury, suffers a broken hand after getting hit by a pitch. Expect him to be out roughly another six weeks. That’s a shame, because Buxton is in the midst of one of his better years, batting .369 with 10 home runs over just 103 at-bats. 

Tuesday, June 22

It was a wondrous debut for the Rays’ Wander Franco, MLB’s top-ranked prospect. Against the Red Sox at St. Petersburg, the 20-year-old Franco walks and scores in the first, belts a three-run home run in the fifth to tie the game at 5-5, and doubles in the seventh; his true chance for first-game heroism eludes him as he grounds out in the ninth, and is left on deck in the 11th as the Rays failed to respond to a four-run Boston rally and lose, 9-5. 

There was some history left over for another player making his very first appearance in the majors. Connor Wong enters the game in the 11th as a pinch-runner and scores the go-ahead tally for the Red Sox; it had been 40 years since an AL player making his debut did the same in extras. That player? Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. 

After a relatively quiet start on Monday to MLB’s visible crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances, things got a little more tense—especially in Philadelphia. Making his first start in 11 days, Washington ace Max Scherzer has already been checked twice by umpires but, in the fifth, is searched a third time—in the middle of the inning—this time at the request of Phillies manager Joe Girardi. An incredulous Scherzer walks off the front of the mound, throws his cap to the ground and looks noticeable peeved as umpires try to calm him down while checking him out one more time. 

After finishing what would be his final frame of the night—he allows a run on two hits with eight strikeouts over five innings—Scherzer engages in a dugout-to-dugout shouting match with Girardi, enraging the Phillies’ pilot into storming out toward home plate and challenging him to something beyond words. Scherzer doesn’t take the bait, Girardi is ejected, and the Nationals held on to defeat the Phillies, 3-2, giving Scherzer his sixth win of the season. 

Despite such theatrics, no pitcher has yet been ejected since the crackdown began—which likely means that the new law of the land is being followed by pitchers. Yankees ace Gerrit Cole certainly appears to be abiding. In his first start with umpires closely checking up on him, Cole’s spin rate is at his lowest since 2017—and yet he still pitches well, conceding two runs on three hits over seven innings against the visiting Royals. The same cannot be said for Jonathan Loaisiga, the reliever who follows him; taking over for Cole in the eighth, Loaisiga is pelted for four runs in two-thirds of an inning, allowing the Royals to come back and steal a 6-5 victory. 

Early in the 2019 season, veteran infielder Ben Zobrist took a leave of absence from the Cubs—who carefully shielded his reasons as to why. Apparently, the whole story has now come to light. The Kansas City Star reported that Zobrist’s wife Julianna—who was in the middle of divorcing him—was sleeping with the pastor of the church the couple attended. It gets worse: The pastor was serving as the couple’s marriage counselor. It gets even worse than that: The dude also reportedly embezzled $5 million from Zobrist’s charity. In response, Zobrist has filed a $6 million lawsuit against the pastor—who, by the way, is no longer a member of the church. Gosh, we wonder why. 

Wednesday, June 23

The Astros demolish the Orioles at Baltimore, 13-0 for their 10th straight win, the strengthening of their AL-best record (46-28), and an increase in their lead over the A’s to two games in the AL West. Jose Urquidy tosses seven shutout innings for the Astros, who hit four home runs—including the 10th this month and 17th overall for Jose Altuve

Houston’s rout is its third largest-ever shutout victory on the road—and the third largest shutout defeat suffered by Baltimore at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. During their 10-game streak, the Astros have outscored their opponents by 60 runs, and outhit them by 62; according to STATS, only three other teams have achieved both thresholds over a 10-game win streak: The 1922 Pirates, 1939 Yankees and 1979 Angels. 

A highly anticipated pitching duel between the Giants’ Kevin Gausman and the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani in Anaheim ends a virtual draw, both departing by the seventh in a 1-1 tie—and that’s when things get interesting. The two sides exchanged gift-runner tallies in the 12th, before the Giants finally say “enough” and pile on seven runs in the 13th to leave with a 9-3 victory. Mike Tauchman delivers the big blow in the big rally, drilling a three-run home run after having struck out all previous five times at bat; by then, the Angels have handicapped themselves personnel-wise, exhausting their bench and placing Turner Ward as an emergency catcher after Kurt Suzuki gets hurt, while starting pitcher Griffin Canning is asked to be a body in left field. 

Tauchman’s home run comes on a two-strike pitch; had he struck out, he would have tied the all-time MLB record for the most K’s (six) in one game. 

Ohtani’s presence in the lineup as a pitcher makes this the first game since the introduction of the designated hitter in 1973 in which an NL team uses a DH—and the AL team doesn’t. 

This is only the second MLB game this season to reach 13 innings; only two such games went into the 13th last season with the introduction of the gift runner on second base in extras. 

Thursday, June 24

A season record-tying seventh no-hitter is accomplished with four Cubs—Zach Davies, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and closer Craig Kimbrel—combining to neutralize the Dodgers at Los Angeles in a 4-0 victory. Davies’ opportunity to complete the no-no on his own ends when he’s removed after six innings, five walks and 94 total pitches; the three relievers to follow each give up an additional pass to total eight on the night. When Kimbrel strikes out the side in the ninth to end the game, he’s startled to see his teammates surround him more jubilantly than normal; he had no idea that the Dodgers had just been no-hit. 

It should be noted that the seven no-hitters in 2021 is a modern era (post-1900) mark. It also should be noted that the non-modern mark of eight took place in 1884—when batters walked on six balls, fouled out even if the ball bounced once before being gloved (American Association only) and overhand pitches were allowed for the first time. And this should definitely be noted: Pitchers have three whole months to make it eight no-no’s in 2021. 

This is the Cubs’ 17th no-hitter—the first using multiple pitchers. It’s their first since Jake Arrieta’s 2015 gem—also against the Dodgers at Los Angeles; it thus makes them the first visiting team with multiple no-hitters at Dodger Stadium. Finally, this is the first no-no completed against a team whose lineup has three players with MVP experience: Albert Pujols, Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger

The loss is tagged on Walker Buehler, who suffers his first defeat after 23 straight unbeaten starts (31, if you include the postseason) dating back to late 2019. That mark had tied a franchise record set in 1943-46 by Kirby Higbe

Zach Davies isn’t the only pitcher on the night removed with a no-hitter intact. At St. Petersburg, the Red Sox’ Nick Pivetta takes a no-hit bid two outs into the seventh against the Rays before being removed on 100 pitches (only 58 of which are strikes), two walks and a hit batsman. But unlike the Cubs, Red Sox relievers couldn’t keep the Rays hitless—and Boston hitters couldn’t produce, getting blanked 1-0. The denouement is interesting, to say the least; the Red Sox’ Matt Barnes strikes out Francisco Mejia to, apparently, end the ninth—but the ball gets away from catcher Christian Vazquez, and Manuel Margot races home from third on the wild pitch to score the game-winner. 

This is the first time that two pitchers were removed from a game with no-hitters intact after six-plus innings on the same day. 

Kyle Schwarber continues his recent reign at the top of the batting order for the Nationals. In a 7-3 victory over the Marlins at Miami, Schwarber drills two more home runs and knocks in four to give him eight taters with 15 RBIs over his last five games. Only three other players—Frank Howard (1968), Manny Ramirez (1998) and Shawn Green (2002)—have collected as many homers and RBIs over a similar stretch of games. 

For the month, Schwarber has 12 home runs—one shy of the all-time franchise mark co-owned by Vladimir Guerrero (September 2000) and Bryce Harper (May 2015). 

Friday, June 25

The Phillies’ Aaron Nola becomes only the second major league pitcher to strike out 10 consecutive batters, joining the Mets’ Tom Seaver (in 1970) during the first game of a mini-doubleheader at New York. Overall, Nola strikes out 12 Mets over 5.1 shutout innings while allowing two walks, but New York notches single runs in the seventh and eighth (overtime) innings to secure a 2-1 victory. The Phillies mirror-image that result in the second game, defeating the Mets in eight, 2-1; Bryce Harper’s sixth-inning home run is his 11th of the year—all solo, setting a Phillies record for the most to start a season previously held by Fred Luderus in 1914

There have been 15 instances of pitchers striking out 12 or more batters in 5.1 innings or less; 13 of them have taken place in the last nine years. 

The Mets have allowed three or fewer runs in 21 of their last 22 home games. The last team to claim a similar stat was the 1917 White Sox. 

On the day he announces that he will not participate in the upcoming Home Run Derby, the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. puts on his own exhibition—drilling three homers within the first four innings to propel San Diego to an 11-5 win over the visiting Diamondbacks. It’s the first hat trick in Tatis’ career, the 12th by a Padre—half of which have taken place in the last four years—and gives him 25 homers on the year, tying the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Tatis has two more chances to make it four round-trippers on the night, but he singles and grounds out. 

While the loss to the Padres extends the Diamondbacks’ record-road streak of consecutive defeats to 24, the Orioles end a slightly less insufferable run, getting the gift runner across in the 10th and then holding down the Blue Jays for a 6-5 victory at Buffalo to end their road skid at 20. The Orioles set themselves up for extras thanks to a four-run rally in the eighth, capped by Austin Hays’ two-run double. 

In the Cubs’ 6-2 loss to the Dodgers at Los Angeles, Javier Baez whiffs twice to become the first major leaguer this season to reach 100. Baez is easily on pace to break his career mark of 167, racked up in 2018

Saturday, June 26

Under the category of Life Isn’t Fair, the Braves’ Mike Soroka, so good (13-4, 2.68 ERA) in 2019 before tearing his Achilles three starts into the 2020 season, tears it again…while walking through the Braves’ clubhouse. This is Soroka’s second setback from last year’s injury—but this one is far worse, and will force him to miss the rest of the season. 

Jacob deGrom proves to be (somewhat) mortal. The Mets’ ace gives up one run in the second inning against the visiting Phillies to end a career-high scoreless string of 31 straight innings, then concedes another in the sixth after finding himself in a bases-loaded, no-out jam; that ended a record streak of 12 straight starts in which he allowed no more than one earned run. deGrom is done after six innings with the Mets trailing, 2-1—but his teammates rallies for a 4-3 win with two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning as Phillies closer Hector Neris is tagged for his sixth blown save to tie Seattle’s Rafael Montero for the MLB lead. 

For the first time in two months, the Diamondbacks win on the road—and with crushing resonance, as they blitz the Padres at San Diego, 10-1. To end their unprecedented skid of 24 straight road defeats, they turn to their record-killing stopper, Merrill Kelly—who pitches six shutout innings five days after throwing seven solid frames to end an overall 17-game losing streak. (Those two wins are the only ones the Diamondbacks have had in their last 22 games.) Offensively, Eduardo Escobar collects four hits and five RBIs, while catcher Stephen Vogt becomes the sixth-ever Arizona player to notch three runs without the benefit of a hit. 

The Giants are the upset winner in the race to 50 victories, as San Francisco is the first MLB team to get halfway to 100 with a 10-inning, 6-5 home win over the A’s; while gift runners score for both teams in the 10th, the Giants get the important second tally as Steven Duggar, who earned his way on with a single, scores on Curt Casali’s double. 

So how have the Giants crashed an NL West which was supposed to be exclusively reserved for the Dodgers and Padres? They’re doing it with unexpected power (a NL-leading 114 home runs), strong pitching (only the Mets have a better team ERA) and an ability to wear down opposing hurlers by drawing more pitches per plate appearance that most other teams. Then there’s this: The Giants have a well-balanced roster of left-handed and right-handed hitters that has allowed manager Gabe Kapler to shrewdly make mid-game lineup changes that not only give hitters favored status against opposing pitchers, but keeps most everyone on the roster from rusting on the bench. If the season were to end today, Kapler would be the hands-down choice to win NL Manager of the Year—an honor that will surely rile fans back in Philadelphia who criticized his brief time piloting the Phillies. 

Sunday, June 27

MLB finally catches one. In the continuation of the Mariners/White Sox game halted the night before by heavy rain, Seattle pitcher Hector Santiago is checked by umpires for illegal substances—and gets ejected once they determine that he possesses sticky stuff of some type inside his glove. He’s the first pitcher tossed after being checked on the field; his glove is confiscated for further examination, and from that he’ll receive a 10-game suspension. (Remember: As a result of the suspension, the Mariners cannot replace him on the roster.) 

Santiago claims afterward that all he was using was rosin, and that the heat and humidity at Guaranteed Rate Field made the combination of the rosin and his sweat sticky inside his glove. 

Despite the Santiago hubbub, the Mariners defeat the White Sox, 3-2; they lose the regularly scheduled game, reduced to seven innings, 7-5. 

Down in St. Louis, rain interferes with a potentially historic performance from Max Kranick, making his major league debut with the Pirates. The 23-year-old right-hander retires the first 15 Cardinals he faces on a total of just 50 pitches, but then the rains come; after a one-hour delay, the Pirates decide to move to the bullpen, which continues the perfecto until the Cardinals’ Dylan Carlson doubles off Duane Underwood Jr. to lead off the seventh. The Pirates easily hold on for a 7-2 win; St. Louis is 6-17 since June 1. 

Kranick is the first pitcher since the mound was moved back to its current 60’6” distance from home plate in 1893 to pitch five perfect innings before being removed. He’ll be rewarded for his effort the next day by being demoted back to Triple-A. 

With apologies to Pedro Martinez, the Red Sox look to be the Yankees’ daddy this season. At Fenway Park, Boston completes a three-game sweep of the Bronx Bombers, jumping on New York ace Gerrit Cole for six runs through the first three innings before coasting to a 9-2 victory. Combined with an earlier three-game sweep at New York, the Red Sox are 6-0 this season against the Yankees. The six runs allowed by Cole (five of which were earned) are the most he’s allowed in any of his last 50 starts. 

Cleveland not only loses a game, 8-2 at Minnesota, but also its left fielder, Josh Naylor, to a gruesome injury. (Click at your own risk.) In the fourth inning, Naylor runs in on a pop fly off a check swing from the Twins’ Jorge Polanco, while second baseman Ernie Clement runs out. The two didn’t so much collide but glance off one another, spinning Naylor out of control; he lands on his right knee, bending back his foot in a way no contortionist would dare attempt. Naylor screams in agony and is carted off minutes later; Cleveland manager Terry Francona said after the game that Naylor has broken a bone—he just doesn’t know which one.

Monday, June 28

Kyle Schwarber continues to be a madman at the top of the order for the Nationals. Against the visiting Mets, he powers out two more home runs in Washington’s 8-4 victory, giving him a major league-record 15 over just his last 17 games. With his fifth multi-homer effort since June 13, Schwarber sets a franchise record for the most round-trippers (15) in one month. 

The first of Schwarber’s two blasts on the evening, leading off the first, is followed by another dinger from teammate Trea Turner. Later out in Los Angeles, the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts and Max Muncy also open up the first with back-to-back shots against the Giants, making it the first time in MLB history that such an instance happens twice on the same day. The double-blows by Betts and Muncy sets the tone, albeit barely, for a 3-2 Dodgers win in the first game of an important series between the NL West’s two top teams. 

The Diamondbacks (22-58) are indeed awful, but it’s not just the players who are badly failing the grade for Arizona. In the top of the sixth of a 1-1 tie at St. Louis, the Snakes load the bases with two outs; relief pitcher Alex Young is due up. Get a pinch-hitter to the plate, most everyone would think—right? Apparently that’s not what manager Torey Lovullo thinks. He calls on Young—with one hit in 28 career at-bats with 21 strikeouts—to make good on a big opportunity for the Diamondbacks to break open the tie. Does he? Of course not. He doesn’t even try. Young strikes out without even lifting the bat off his shoulder. Young returns to the mound, and an inning later is charged with six runs that plate for the Cardinals—including a two-run homer from Paul DeJong—to pick up a loss in a 7-1 defeat. 

After the game, Lovullo defends his head-scratching move to let Young bat in a critical situation usually reserved for players who are paid to hit, suggesting that he was short on available relievers. But the point of baseball, as with all other sports, is to win. Not to pass up a big-time chance, say “oh well” and hope for the best later. Frankly, it’s almost as if Lovullo just wants to be fired at this point. 

A double-whammy of heat and humidity at Yankee Stadium proves too much for Angels pitcher Dylan Bundy, who in the second inning is so overwhelmed by the conditions—sweat is literally dripping off his cap as if someone has just thrown a bucket of water on him—that he took a few steps off the back of the mound, leans over—and pukes his guts out before a crowd of 25,054 and any other unfortunate viewers watching on their devices. (You can become one of those by clicking on the link.) Needless to say, Bundy is removed from the game, which the Angels go on to win, 5-3, behind yet another Shohei Ohtani home run (his 26th of the year, to tie for the MLB lead). 

Anyone who vomits in public knows how embarrassing it can be. But Bundy shouldn’t feel like some unfortunate trail-barfer; some might remember that Brewers pitcher Adrian Houser upchucked during a 2019 game—and Detroit’s Beau Burrows, in his one and only appearance this season on June 12, lost it in the midst of an otherwise forgettable outing. So join the crowd, Dylan Bundy—and enjoy your next cup of chowder. 

Tuesday, June 29

Colorado’s German Marquez is three outs away from MLB’s record-breaking ninth no-hitter of the year—and only the second ever thrown at Coors Field—but settles for a one-hit shutout on 94 pitches as the Pirates’ Ka’ai Tom punches out a leadoff ninth-inning single. Not only does Marquez lead the Rockies with his arm in the 8-0 win, but also with his bat; he doubles twice, scores twice and knocks in a run. According to STATS, he’s the first pitcher to throw a ‘Maddux’ (sub-100 pitches) while collecting multiple extra-base hits since pitches officially began being tracked in 1988. It’s Marquez’s second career shutout and fourth complete game—three of them this season to lead the majors. 

This is not the closest a Rockies pitcher has come to a no-hitter at Coors Field; in 2017, Kyle Freeland was two outs away before conceding his first hit against the White Sox. 

There’s a new allegation of physical assault upon a woman by a major league player, but this one’s a bit out there—and thus it only seems natural that the defendant in this case is Trevor Bauer. A woman claims that she was a victim of violent sexual play by the Dodgers’ ace and was granted a restraining order after suffering “severe physical and emotional pain.” But a spokesperson for Bauer says that the violent nature of the acts between the two wasn’t only consensual, but it was requested by the woman—and that there’s texts to prove it. Additionally, Bauer’s camp claims that he hasn’t attempted to contact the woman for six weeks, which would conflict with the woman’s need to ask for a restraining order, MLB, which has never met a domestic violence rumor it wasn’t curious about, will certainly check in on this—and it’s going to be interesting to see where this one goes. 

The family of deceased pitcher Tyler Skaggs files lawsuits against the Angels, former team communications director Eric Kay and his former boss, Tim Mead. The suits are filed in Texas, where Skaggs died on July 1, 2019 after digesting a mix of alcohol and opioids while the Angels were preparing for a series against the Rangers. The suits ask for financial damages equivalent to the salary Skaggs would have received had he remained alive. The Angels criticize the suit against them, saying that it is “without merit” while claiming they were not aware of Kay’s role as an opioids bagman to Skaggs. 

The Blue Jays and Marlins complete one of the year’s more substantial trades to date, as Toronto acquires outfielder Corey Dickerson and reliever Adam Cimber in exchange for infielder Joe Panik and a minor league pitcher Andrew McInvale. Cimber brings a solid 2.88 ERA over 33 games to the Blue Jays, while Dickerson has contributed a relatively scant two home runs and 14 RBIs over 62 games. On his way to Miami, Panik has hit .246 in part-time play for the Blue Jays, but could see more everyday action with the Marlins. 

Wednesday, June 30

It’s a career trey for Trea Turner, who on his 28th birthday hits for the cycle for a major league record-tying third time as his Nationals cruise to a 15-6 demolition of the Rays at Washington. Turner finishes up his achievement by the sixth inning with a triple, joining four other players—Adrian Beltre, Babe Herman, Bob Meusel and 19th Century star Long John Reilly—at the top of the career list in cycles. Turner previously hit for the cycle in 2017 and 2019—both of those games against Colorado. 

The Cubs make life miserable for Brewers starting pitcher Aaron Ashby—making his major league debut—as he becomes the first major leaguer to last less than an inning while giving up seven or more runs in his first appearance, though Ashby himself doesn’t help with three walks. Yet Ashby survives the day without taking the loss, as the Brewers storm back to score 15 answered runs and blast the Cubs at Milwaukee, 15-7. This gives the Brewers eight straight wins and a three-game sweep of the divisional rival Cubs, padding their lead in the NL Central over second-place Chicago to six games with a 48-33 record at the season’s halfway point. 

As misery loves company, Ashby finds an unlikely companion in Shohei Ohtani, taking the mound for the Angels at New York against the Yankees. Like Ashby, Ohtani is wild, inefficient and gone before the end of the first inning—allowing seven runs on two hits, four walks and a hit batsman. But also like Ashby, Ohtani escapes defeat as the Angels, waiting out a pair of rain delays, take advantage of a rusty and ineffective Aroldis Chapman—notching four runs off the New York closer as part of a seven-run rally in the ninth to overcome the Yankees, 11-8. Chapman finishes a rough month in which he blew three saves and gave up 11 earned runs over 8.2 innings. 

This is the first time in major league history that two teams on the same day scored seven first-inning runs—and lost. 

Overall, the average number of runs scored per game on the day is 13.6—the third highest number for any day with at least 15 games played since the moving back of the pitching mound to 60’6” in 1893. There were 13.7 runs per game on April 5, 2000 and September 26, 2009, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. 

Contributing the most tallies on the night are the Braves, who stagger the visiting Mets to the tune of a 20-2 rout. Ozzie Albies packs the most punch for Atlanta, registering five hits including two home runs along with a career-high seven RBIs. It’s only the fourth time in Mets franchise history that they’ve allowed 20-plus runs. 

Odd line of the night: The Phillies’ Aaron Nola pitches 4.2 innings against the visiting Marlins, striking out 11 and walking none—but also gives up seven runs on nine hits as the Phillies lose, 11-6. The only other pitcher to strike out at least 10 batters in less than five innings while walking none and giving up seven-plus runs was the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard on June 2, 2015 against the Padres.

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