The Month That Was in Baseball: May 2021
Saturday, May 1
Is it time for umpires to go back to school? At Philadelphia, the Phillies and New York Mets are tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh when the Phillies’ Matt Joyce hits a grounder to the right side; the Mets’ Francisco Lindor attempts to tag Andrew McCutchen (running from first) then throws too late to first as Joyce beats it out. But umpire Jose Navas calls McCutchen out, claiming that he ran out of the baseline to avoid Lindor’s tag—even though replays show McCutchen’s path to second is virtually a straight line with no evasive deviation into the infield. The play is not reviewable, but the umpires look at it anyway—and still assert that McCutchen is out. By rule, Joyce is also automatically out as well—and a potential rally starter turns into an inning-ending double play. In the ninth, the Mets’ Michael Conforto will break the tie with a solo home run, and the Mets escape with a 5-4 victory.
This is the second awful baserunning call made by umpires over the last four days, after Miami’s Isan Diaz was awarded first after Milwaukee pitcher Zack Godley was said to interfere with him down the baseline. (Godley clearly did not.) Baseball has gotten bad enough with low-scoring games full of strikeouts and dumb experimental rules; we don’t need the umpires to make matters worse.
The White Sox’ Tim Anderson belts his second career grand slam—ending a streak of 15 straight home runs with no one base—to cap a five-run second at Chicago in a 7-3 win over Cleveland. The three runners Anderson brings home on his blast reach on walks from Indians starter Triston McKenzie. Anderson’s 15 straight solo shots represents the longest such streak by a White Sock since Ken Berry also hit 15 in a row from 1965-67.
In 18.2 innings so far this year, McKenzie has walked 18 and given up five home runs—a deadly combination.
Sunday, May 2
There’s maximum cleaning of the bases at the bottom of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ order during a 16-3 rout at Milwaukee. Batting sixth in the order, Matt Beaty has four hits and drives in seven, including a second-inning grand slam; hitting behind him, outfielder A.J. Pollock drives in eight on three hits—a double and two home runs, including a grand slam of his own in the first. Beaty and Pollock are the sixth pair of major league teammates with at least seven RBIs each in the same game, and the first since 2007 when Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez did it for Texas in its historic 30-3 drubbing of Baltimore. Conversely, the Brewers’ Alec Bettinger becomes the sixth pitcher ever to serve up slams in consecutive innings.
It’s a good day all around for Max Scherzer. The Washington ace notches his 12th career complete game—missing out on a shutout when Miami’s Isan Diaz belts a leadoff home run in the ninth—and strikes out nine while walking none in the Nationals’ 3-1 home win over the Marlins. From Nationals Park, Scherzer rushes to the maternity ward where his wife gives birth to their third child.
The White Sox are shut down at home on four hits by Cleveland’s Zach Plesac and three relievers, 5-0—but there’s worse news on the day for Chicago with the loss of second-year outfielder Luis Robert, who tears his hip flexor muscle while beating out an infield single. Robert, who’s batting .316 in 95 at-bats so far this season, is expected to miss up to four months.
The Yankees’ Corey Kluber celebrates his 100th career victory in style, blanking the visiting Detroit Tigers on two hits through eight innings in his best start since August 2018. New York scores twice in the second, and that’s all they need as Kluber takes it from there for a 2-0 win.
Monday, May 3
The Dodgers, like so many other World Series champions over the last 20 or so years, are discovering that trying to defend their title is a pain in the Injury List. They suffer a big blow when it’s discovered that 23-year-old redhead pitcher Dustin May, 1-1 with a 2.74 ERA through five 2021 starts, will miss the rest of the year—and an early chunk of 2022—to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Tuesday, May 4
This is the kind of day that’s going to make Major League Baseball slightly reconsider going back to the universal designated hitter for 2022.
At Washington, Atlanta’s Huascar Ynoa belts the first grand slam by a pitcher since 2018—and the first by a member of the Braves since 1961, when both Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette did it—all while allowing one unearned run through seven innings to lift the Braves to a 6-1 victory over the Nationals. It should also be mentioned that this is the second straight game in which Ynoa has gone deep; he hit a solo homer in his previous start at Chicago against the Cubs.
Ynoa came into the season hitless in 11 career at-bats—but with no strikeouts. He’s thus far 5-for-13 in 2021 with the two home runs and a double.
Meanwhile in Cincinnati, the White Sox’ Dylan Cease tosses six shutout innings, allowing just a hit with 11 strikeouts—and collects three hits (two singles and a double) in the first three major league plate appearances of his career during the White Sox’ 9-0 pasting of the Reds.
Yankees fans welcome the Houston Astros to New York for the first time since 2019 with open arms—and open venom. Knocked out in seven games at the ALCS by the Astros during Houston’s scandal-ridden 2017 championship campaign, the Yankees—buoyed by 9,895 hostile, sign-waving Yankee Stadium spectators who haven’t had the chance to directly confront the Astros for their cheating ways—defeat Houston, 6-3, breaking open a 3-3 tie in the sixth on a bases-clearing infield single and error. That play ends painfully for both contestants at home plate, as the Yankees’ Rougned Odor bangs his knee into the shoulder of Astros catcher Martin Maldonado; Odor suffers a hyper-extended knee while Maldonado crumples to the ground holding his shoulder. Odor will be placed on the injury list while Maldonado will be listed as day-to-day.
The struggling Dodgers are swept in two seven-inning games against the Cubs at Chicago as their two top pitchers badly fizzle. In the first game, Clayton Kershaw lasts a career-low one inning, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks as the Dodgers are knee-capped, 7-1. Trevor Bauer can’t quite turn things around in the nightcap; he lasts just 4.1 innings, allowing just one run but suffers control issues. The Cubs will break a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the ninth on David Bote’s run-scoring single and complete the sweep with a 4-3 win. After a 13-2 start, the defending champion Dodgers have won just four of their last 16 games.
It’s a great start and lousy ending for the San Francisco Giants during a doubleheader in Colorado. They score 10 runs in the first inning of the first game, cruising to a 12-4 win; in the second game, things look bright as Brandon Belt becomes the first Giants player since the team’s 1958 move to San Francisco to go deep in the first inning of both ends of a twinbill—but a 6-2 lead is erased in the seventh (the proverbial ninth in COVID doubleheader times) as the Rockies pile up six runs and earn a split on the day with an 8-6 victory.
Wednesday, May 5
Baltimore’s John Means throws the Orioles’ first “solo” no-hitter since Jim Palmer in 1969, improving to 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA on the year in a 6-0 defeat of the Mariners at Seattle. The 28-year-old southpaw allows just one baserunner when Sean Haggerty reaches first on a strikeout/wild pitch in the third inning; Haggerty is caught stealing during the next at-bat. Means thus becomes the first pitcher ever to throw a no-no while allowing the K-WP runner as the only one to reach base.
The Means no-hitter is the 10th in Orioles/Browns franchise history; the last was a combo no-no in 1991 involving four pitchers.
The Reds squeeze out a 1-0, 10-inning win over the visiting White Sox with the help of the gift runner on second—and a gift decision of sorts by Chicago manager Tony La Russa. The 76-year-old pilot uses Liam Hendriks as the gift runner for the White Sox’ 10th because he was inserted into the lineup spot that batted last in the previous inning—but the rule says a manager can replace any pitcher in that situation with another player. La Russa didn’t know that until a reporter tells him after the game. Not that it really matters too much—Hendriks makes no bonehead moves while on base—but critics playing the ageist card against La Russa nevertheless find fuel for their argument. A bigger pain for the Reds comes in the fourth inning when star first baseman Joey Votto has his thumb broken on a Dallas Keuchel pitch; he’ll miss three weeks of action. Keuchel and the Reds’ Sonny Gray each pitch seven shutout innings with two hits allowed.
Thursday, May 6
Albert Pujols is designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels in a transaction that’s not without controversy. The 41-year-old Pujols was reportedly livid at Angels management and manager Joe Maddon the day before for not batting him against Tampa Bay starting pitcher Ryan Yarbrough, for whom Pujols has always hit the ball well against. Thus, the move suggests that the Angels released Pujols for more than his substandard stats—hitting .198 with five home runs and 12 RBIs through 86 at-bats on the year.
Some baseball greats go out on a high note, like Ted Williams striking a home run in his final at-bat in 1960 or Babe Ruth slamming three homers in one of his final games amid a lost last year with the Boston Braves in 1935. Others like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter announce their retirements in advance and get kingly treatment at opposing ballparks as well as at home, as MLB marketing machines pull out all the stops to celebrate their careers. Then others like Willie Mays and Barry Bonds just…fade away. But few iconic players of the game have been given the shaft like the 41-year-old Pujols, ejected from the Angels in the midst of a season. Experts are skeptical that Pujols will find a new home, especially in the DH-less National League.
Friday, May 7
The fourth no-hitter of the year—and the second in just three days—is performed as 34-year-old Wade Miley, who’s gone the distance only twice over 11 years, locks down the Indians at Cleveland in a 3-0 Cincinnati win. Miley only gets a shot at the win (and the no-no as well) thanks to the Reds scoring all of their runs in the top of the ninth with the help of a Cleveland error and balk—all after the exit of Cleveland starter Zach Plesac, who throws eight shutout innings on 112 pitches, just two less than Miley needs to complete his gem.
The Indians have been the victims of two of the four no-hitters thus far this season, having previously been denied by the White Sox’ Carlos Rodon on April 14. They join the 1884 Pittsburgh Alleghenys and the 1917 White Sox as having been no-hit twice within the first 31 games of a season.
After Miley’s no-hitter, all eyes turn West to Oakland where the A’s Sean Manaea—who threw a no-no back in 2018—holds Tampa Bay hitless through the first seven innings. But visions of two no-hitters on the same day for the first time since 1990 fade as the Rays’ Michael Broussard launches a double into the right-center field gap to start the eighth. Manaea will give up a run in the frame and leave with a 1-1 tie; Seth Brown will win it for Oakland with a two-out, walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the ninth.
Saturday, May 8
Washington ace Max Scherzer is dynamite through 7.1 innings—striking out 14 Yankees at New York while allowing a run on two hits—and departs with a 2-1 lead in the eighth. But Brad Hand blows the save and the win opportunity for Scherzer, the two teams exchange a run in the 10th courtesy of the gift runner, and the Yankees get theirs across again in the 11th to defeat the Nationals, 4-3. While Scherzer doesn’t get the W, he does achieve a milestone by striking out 10 or more batters for the 100th time in his career.
The Brewers’ Adrian Houser progresses the trend that pitchers can still hit. In a 6-2 win at Miami, Houser pitches well—allowing two runs on five hits and no walks with 10 strikeouts over six innings—and aids his own cause at the plate by launching his second career home run off Marlins starter Daniel Castano. Here’s the wild part: Houser’s first career blast, on April 27, was also hit off Castano.
The White Sox storm out to an 8-0 lead in the first inning at Kansas City, on their way to a 9-1 win over the Royals. Of statistical note, Chicago catcher Yasmani Grandal has five plate appearances but officially goes 0-for-0—walking four times and collecting a sacrifice fly. Over the previous four games, Grandal is 0-for-3 with 13 walks; he’s batting a lackluster .121, but holds an impressive .388 on-base percentage on the season.
At Anaheim, the Dodgers build up a 13-0 lead after five innings—then have to sweat out a epic comeback bid by the Angels, who narrow the lead all the way down to three before running out of gas in a 14-11 defeat. Much of the late damage is done by Angels outfielders Jon Jay and Juan Lagares, both of whom were mid-game replacements for Mike Trout and Justin Upton—removed when the game seems easily out of reach.
The Atlanta Braves win an exciting 12-inning contest over the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, 8-7, in a game that features a major scare when Atlanta star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. departs in the seventh inning after being hit on the hand; x-rays will later prove no major damage. Pablo Sandoval sends the game into overtime with his fourth home run (all off the bench), and after exchanging gift runs in the 11th, the Phillies notch three in the top of the 12th before the Braves respond with four runs to triumph. The game is the second played at Truist Park with 100% capacity allowance; the crowd of 39,852 is the largest yet for an MLB game this season.
Sunday, May 9
The Mets give ace Jacob deGrom a rare win as they sustain a 2-1 home lead over Arizona after his departure to the end with a 4-2 final—but fingers are being crossed as deGrom, forced to leave with back pain, will have an MRI performed to see how serious the issue is. Whatever the ails, it doesn’t seem to hurt deGrom’s performance; he allows just a run on one hit and three walks with six strikeouts. He’s now 3-2 with a sterling 0.68 ERA.
deGrom will miss 16 days as a result of the back pain.
Hi Rockies, it’s me, Nolan Arenado—remember? The St. Louis third baseman, rudely (and rather stupidly, in our opinion) dealt to the Cardinals before the start of the year, helps complete a three-game sweep of his former team by scoring both runs and hitting his sixth home run—and first-ever against his old mates—in a 2-0 win. For the series, Arenado is 4-for-12 with two doubles and a home run; Adam Wainwright comes within two outs of his 11th career shutout.
Tuesday, May 11
Frustrated by the lack of movement from Oakland politicians on a new waterfront ballpark, MLB has given the A’s permission to start looking for a new home outside of the Bay Area. The slow progress is not an issue of money—the proposed $1 billion ballpark at Howard Terminal is expected to come from private sources including the A’s—but simply of time; thus, MLB’s public announcement—which slyly references the recent departures of Oakland’s two other pro sports teams (the NBA Warriors and NFL Raiders)—is almost certainly intended to light a match under the powers that be to vote sooner or later on approving the project so construction can move forward.
If the A’s do follow through on their threat, where would they go? The likeliest destination at this point could be Las Vegas, which has thus far proven it can support major league sports with the recent birth of the NHL’s Golden Knights. (The verdict on the transplanted Raiders is still TBD since the pandemic shuttered a sparkling new stadium from fans last Fall). Portland, Oregon is another possibility but, like Vegas, a new ballpark has to be built. Same thing in the Austin/San Antonio market, though that could be appealing to MLB with two intrastate, divisional rivals (the Rangers and Astros). Anywhere further East, such as Montreal, Charlotte or Nashville, would require geographical divisional shifts which may not thrill other MLB teams; leave those markets to the Tampa Bay Rays, also frustrated by lack of progress on a new ballyard.
Tuesday was another hard reminder that baseball hasn’t yet entirely escaped the pandemic. Two potential outbreaks made news: Five members of the Yankees’ coaching staff test positive for the virus, though all are asymptomatic—for now. And three Padres—star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., Jurickson Profar and Jorge Mateo—are placed in quarantine after Tatis tests positive; they are joined by outfielder Wil Myers, who’s removed from the Padres’ 8-1 win at Denver after being told he tested positive as well.
A day later, first baseman Eric Hosmer will be added to the Padres’ COVID-19 inactive list.
Meet the Mets’ new folk hero: Patrick Mazeika. A long-time minor leaguer getting his first taste of the majors this season, the 27-year-old catcher collects his second walk-off RBI in five days—both without the benefit of a hit—as his ground ball to first in the bottom of the 10th scores gift runner Jonathan Villar to give the Mets a 3-2 home win over Baltimore. On May 7, Mazeika also grounded home the winning run in extras—and additionally, on May 9, he walked in a run with the bases loaded. He’s the first player in the modern, post-1900 era to have two walk-off plate appearances before his first career hit, and the first since Cincinnati’s Joe Brovia in 1955 to knock in three runs before his first hit.
Two-time All-Star pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, so good during his early career with the Washington Nationals—and so awful since signing a five-year, $110 million contract with Detroit in 2016—calls it quits after an unimpressive start to 2021 with Milwaukee. With the Nationals, Zimmermann was 70-50 with a 3.32 ERA—winning 19 games in 2013, followed by a 14-5 mark in 2014 capped with a no-hitter against Miami on the final day of the regular season. That was followed by an utterly bittersweet postseason start against the Giants where he was removed one out from completing a 1-0, NLDS Game Two shutout; Pablo Sandoval doubled off closer Drew Storen to tie the score, and the Giants went on to win the game, the series and the championship. Signing with the Tigers for 2016, Zimm was off to an impressive start—allowing just two runs through his first 34 innings—before it rapidly fell apart; he never returned to Nationals-era form, producing a 16-34 and 5.86 ERA from 2017-21. In two appearances with the Brewers this season, he allowed five runs over 5.2 innings.
Wednesday, May 12
Matt Harvey faces the Mets, the team for which he enjoyed his salad days, for the first time in his career—and suffers his worst start of the season by allowing seven runs through 4.1 innings in Baltimore’s 7-1 loss at New York. Mets fans, which can be a biting sarcastic lot, give Harvey three standing ovations—perhaps somewhat jokingly, because he generously aids the Mets’ cause in the uniform of the enemy. But in truth, the fans probably miss the big guy.
After the red-hot starts for Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes and the Mets’ Jacob deGrom cooled because of their brief sidelining, it appears that the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole has taken over as the pitcher of the moment. Cole is once again electric for New York, shutting down the Rays at St. Petersburg with eight shutout innings, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out 12; the Yankees need every zero out of him to squeeze through a 1-0 win. It’s Cole’s fifth game of the young season in which he’s struck out 10 or more while allowing no walks; the record for any one season is seven—set by Cole himself while pitching for the Astros in 2019.
Tigers fans get to double their pleasure tonight, as Detroit wins its third straight game with a 4-2 victory over the visiting Royals thanks to Miguel Cabrera’s two RBI singles. The twin knocks give the future Hall of Famer 2,878 for his career, passing Omar Vizquel for the most by a Venezuelan-born big leaguer. Even with the small winning streak, the Tigers still own the majors’ worst record at 12-24; meanwhile, the Royals have lost 10 in a row.
It’s a night of double frustration for Cincinnati pitcher Sonny Gray. He blows a slim 1-0 lead in the fifth inning at Pittsburgh when Gregory Polanco’s single knocks in Kevin Newman, leading to his removal one batter later without a chance to get the win. Polanco’s single is also the seventh hit allowed by Gray on the night, breaking a major league-record streak of 49 straight starts in which he’d given up six or fewer.
Thursday, May 13
Making his first start in 17 days after contracting COVID-19, Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes strikes out nine more batters without a walk to extend his K/BB ratio on the year to an astonishing 58/0—breaking Kenley Jansen’s 2018 record (51/0) for the most strikeouts without a walk to start a season. But the streak ends as he walks the Cardinals’ Tommy Edman—who earlier had reached base via single and scored the only run Burnes allowed through five total innings of work. The Brewers cannot bounce back and suffer a 2-0 home loss against St. Louis and Jack Flaherty—who throws six shutout frames and becomes the majors’ first seven-game winner by improving to 7-0. Burnes, meanwhile, drops to 2-3 despite a stellar 1.57 ERA.
The struggling Mariners—losers of 11 of their last 16—are hoping for a feel-good-for-the-future night with the major league debuts of top prospects Jarred Kelenic and pitcher Logan Gilbert, both of whom get starting assignments against Cleveland at T-Mobile Park. But instead, the Mariners nearly got no-hit for a second straight home game as the Indians’ Zach Plesac steals the show; he holds the Mariners hitless into the eighth before J.P. Crawford leads off with a single, in advance of a Dylan Moore home run. The Crawford single breaks a 0-for-49 slump by Mariners hitters at home—the longest such drought by any major league team in 40 years—but Plesac still finishes eight strong and earns the victory with a 4-2 decision. Kelenic, meanwhile, is 0-for-4 with a strikeout while Gilbert gives up all four Cleveland runs in four innings of work.
Friday, May 14
The second time is the charm for Jarred Kelenic, who after a hitless major league debut on Thursday punches it up big time at Seattle, knocking out a home run and two doubles while bringing home three runs to lift the Mariners to a 7-3 victory over Cleveland—ending a five-game Seattle skid. The heralded 21-year-old prospect is the youngest player in Mariners history with three extra-base hits since Jose Lopez in 2004, and the youngest AL player to do so from the leadoff spot since Rickey Henderson in 1979.
The Royals break an 11-game losing streak with a 6-2 mini-win at Chicago over the White Sox, but also break Kansas City third baseman Hunter Dozier and reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu when the two collide violently down the first-base line after Dozier pops up nearby. Abreu avoids the injury list following the smash-up, but not Dozier, who’ll miss the next two weeks. The White Sox earn a split in the seven-inning doubleheader with a 3-1 win in the nightcap.
Saturday, May 15
Nine days after being unceremoniously jettisoned by the Angels, Albert Pujols finds a new employer just up Interstate 5 at Chavez Ravine, where the Dodgers reel him in. It’s an unorthodox fit, given that the Dodgers utilize so many players who can play multiple positions—whereas Pujols, at age 41, can only play first base, DH (when allowed) or pinch-hitter. (He hasn’t played the outfield since 2003, and has only made rare cameo appearances at third base over the last 10 years with the Angels.) Pujols’ value of providing sage will also be minimal as the Dodgers are defending champions.
Pujols does not get any activity in the Dodgers’ 7-0 home win over Miami, but at some point he may be the only healthy Los Angeles player left on the roster. A day after outfielder A.J. Pollock is admitted to a voluminous Dodgers injury list, star shortstop Corey Seager joins him after a Ross Detwiler pitch breaks his left hand. But the Marlins are no threat to the Dodgers thanks to Trevor Bauer, who tosses seven scoreless frames and strikes out 10 batters; it’s the eighth time this season that a Dodgers pitcher has reached double-digits in K’s, the first time that the team has done that within the first 40 games of a season.
Seager’s injury continues a worrying trend of players getting hit at record rates. Through today, there have been 536 cases of a hitter getting hit by a pitch this season; if it continues at that pace, 2021 will easily set a record with over 2,200 HBPs, over 200 higher than 2019’s current record sum of 1,984.
The gift runner may still be largely assailed—for good reason—but it’s gaining converts in the Reds, who win in extras for the seventh time this year, scoring twice in both the 11th and 12th innings to defeat the Rockies at Colorado, 6-5. No other team has won more than four overtime games so far in 2021.
The Rays tie a team record with eight doubles in crushing the Mets at St. Petersburg, 12-5. Joey Wendle collects three of the team’s two-baggers among four total hits on the day.
Sunday, May 16
Cleveland ace Shane Bieber fails to go five innings for the first time in his last 40 regular season starts—and fails to extend an MLB-record streak of 20 straight starts with eight or more strikeouts—as he’s removed just an out shy of five frames and a strikeout shy of eight in a 3-2 loss at Seattle. Mitch Haniger doubles twice, walks twice and scores twice for the Mariners.
Atlanta pitcher Huascar Ynoa, having a solid season thus far with both his arm (4-2 record, 3.02 ERA) and bat (two home runs), apparently responds to a bad outing at Milwaukee by taking on an inanimate object (the bench) in the dugout. But, as we have always advised to major league players, if you take on such an object, such an object will always, always win. Ynoa doesn’t take our advice and will now miss up to two months with a broken hand. The Braves lose the game as well as Ynoa, 4-2.
Monday, May 17
When Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes broke the record for the most strikeouts (58) to start a season without a walk, few knew that it was also the record for any time of the season, not just from Opening Day. But now Gerrit Cole owns the mark. The Yankees ace strikes out five batters at Texas to extend his walkless run of strikeouts to 61 before snapping it with a third-inning pass to the Rangers’ Joey Gallo. Beyond the record, it’s not a good night for Cole, who gives up five runs over five innings and fails in his bid to set a Yankees record for most consecutive starts allowing two or fewer runs (which remains at 12), as the Rangers end a six-game losing skid and pull away with a 5-2 victory before 28,040 at Globe Life Field.
In his first appearance for the Dodgers, Albert Pujols starts at first, bats cleanup and picks up an RBI single in four at-bats to aid in a 3-1 home victory over Arizona. Pujols wears #55—a combination of the 5 and 5 he wore for both the Cardinals and Angels—and it makes us wonder why the Dodgers are taking their time retiring Orel Hershiser’s uniform number.
The red-hot White Sox (major league-best 25-15 record) pummel the ice-cold Twins (major league-worst at 13-26) at Minnesota, 16-4, with another curious performance at the plate for catcher Yasmani Grandal. For the second time this month, Grandal is 0-for-0 despite five plate appearances; as in a May 8 game against Kansas City, he walks four times and brings home a run with a sac fly. On the year, Grandal has 10 hits—and 33 walks.
According to Twitter stat hawk Jessica Brand, only two other players have compiled two games with five plate appearances but no official at-bats in the same year: Wally Schang in 1915, and Barry Bonds in 2002.
There are three more players hit by pitches to add to a record pace of HBPs this season, but none is more painful than the shot the Mets’ Kevin Pillar takes on the nose from a rising 94-MPH fastball thrown by the Braves’ Jacob Webb in Atlanta. Blood streams from Pillar’s nose as he lays on all fours following the incident; he walks off under his own power and is later told he has multiple nasal fractures. Pillar’s HBP places a sobering pall on a two-run Mets rally in the seventh that hoists them to a 3-1 win.
Tuesday, May 18
Baseball’s fifth no-hitter of the young season comes courtesy of Detroit’s Spencer Turnbull, who enters Tuesday’s game at Seattle with a lifetime 9-25 record and proceeds to clamp down on the Mariners, allowing two walks and striking out nine on a career-high 117 pitches. It’s the first no-hitter thrown by a Tigers pitcher since Justin Verlander in 2011, and only the eighth in franchise history. For the Mariners, it’s the second time they’ve been no-hit this month, having been previously squelched by Baltimore’s John Means on May 6; it could have been three games, but they ended the bid of Cleveland’s Zach Plesac on May 13 in the eighth inning. (All three of these games have come in front of the home fans at T-Mobile Park.) The 5-0 Detroit win comes with a strong assist from third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who singles, homers, scores and knocks in two runs each and provides Turnbull with the defensive play of the night when he snares a searing one-hop grounder (measured at 108 MPH) from the Mariners’ Mitch Haniger and throws him out in the seventh.
The only other team to get no-hit twice at home within as short a span was the Philadelphia A’s, on September 4 and 7, 1923.
The Mariners’ Kyle Seager has been involved in nine no-hitters playing for the same team—more than any other ballplayer in major league history. He’s been on the losing side of five of those.
It’s the first no-hitter called by controversial umpire Angel Hernandez.
This is the first time Turnbull has pitched at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, and he obviously enjoys the experience. So have a lot of other pitchers; this is the sixth no-hitter thrown at the ballpark since 2012. No other venue has witnessed more than three during this same time.
While a 9-25 pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, Miguel Sano—batting .141 on the season—produces the majors’ fourth home run hat trick of the year in the Twins’ spirited 5-4 win over the White Sox at Minnesota. Sano’s third homer in the eighth ties the game; Jorge Polanco wins it an inning later when he singles home Andrelton Simmons. The Twins are ticked off after White Sox DH Yermin Mercedes homered on a 47-MPH pitch on a 3-0 count off emergency pitcher Willians Astudillo the night before, when the game was well out of hand in Chicago’s favor. But even a pregame apology from Tony La Russa isn’t enough for the Twins; reliever Tyler Duffey—and moments later, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli—are both ejected in the seventh after Duffey throws behind the legs of Mercedes.
Between 1901-2015, there were six three-homer performances filed by Twins/Senators players; with Sano’s effort, there have now been nine more in just the five-plus years since.
The Angels, who lose 6-5 at home to Cleveland despite another strong night from Shohei Ohtani (who launches his major league-leading 14th homer), could have used Mike Trout. But they can’t, and they won’t for the rest of the year as Trout goes on the shelf with a calf strain suffered a day earlier. Trout was off to another stellar start, batting .338 with eight home runs and a 1.090 OPS; his absence hurts not only the Angels—who are currently 18-23 and have allowed more runs in the majors with the exception of the dismal Rockies—but it will also hurt baseball, which has had a hard time keeping its star players healthy thus far in 2021.
Rennie Stennett passes away at age 72 after a battle with cancer. Stennett is best known for his seven-hit performance in 1975 during the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 22-0 rout at Chicago over the Cubs, and for being part of the first all-minority lineup ever fielded in a major league game in 1971. Born in Panama, Stennett exploded onto the scene late in that 1971 season, hitting .353 over 50 games—including nine straight with multiple hits—to help lift the Pirates to the playoffs; yet he was inexplicably left off the postseason roster as they charged to a world title. He was the Bucs’ primary second baseman for the 1970s, peaking in 1977 with a .336 average before breaking his right ankle sliding into second base; he was a career .285 hitter up to that point, but the ankle never fully healed and he suffered through the next (and final) four years of his career, batting just .241 split between the Pirates and Giants.
Wednesday, May 19
Last season, the Texas Rangers paid Corey Kluber $6.48 million and all they got in return was a single inning of work and a torn shoulder muscle. Today, Kluber returns to the mound in Arlington wearing the uniform of the visiting Yankees—and throws the majors’ sixth no-hitter of the season, allowing just a third-inning walk to Charlie Culberson while striking out nine and throwing 101 total pitches as New York prevails, 2-0. It’s the second no-hitter thrown in as many days, following Spencer Turnbull’s gem for Detroit the day before.
It’s the first time that no-hitters have been dealt on back-to-back days since 1969. It’s the first no-no by a Yankees pitcher since David Cone pitched a perfect game in 1999. It’s the fourth in May alone, tying June 1990 for the most in a calendar month. And for the first time in any season, three teams have been no-hit twice: The Rangers, Indians and Mariners.
The most no-hitters thrown in an entire season, post-1900, is seven. Only one more needs to be tossed this season to tie that mark. Note the date; it’s only May 19.
Kluber’s no-no is the third by a pitcher against a team he played for the previous season. The other two are the Red Sox’ Ray Caldwell in 1919 against the Yankees, and the Phillies’ Terry Mulholland in 1990 against the Giants.
A little viral rest apparently does Fernando Tatis Jr. some good. In his first game back in action for the Padres since testing positive for COVID-19 10 days earlier, the flashy shortstop goes 4-for-4 with two doubles, a home run and a stolen base to help San Diego to a 3-0 home win over the Rockies. Joe Musgrove, who threw the other no-hitter against the Rangers on April 9, shuts down Colorado for seven innings, allowing just two hits while striking out 11. It’s the seventh time this season that the Rockies have been blanked; the team record is 13, from their inaugural 1993 season. Again, note the date; it’s only May 19.
Chris Davis’ season is over before it really ever began. The beleaguered (but well paid) Orioles bopper, who’s horribly struggled over the past three years, has been declared out for the season after undergoing hip surgery. Davis had all of two at-bats in spring training before feeling the pain. Speaking of pain—the financial kind—the Orioles still owe him $23 million in 2022, wrapping up a seven-year contract that will go down as one of the biggest wastes of payroll dollars in major league history.
Thursday, May 20
The Giants pile up 19 runs—the highest total in baseball thus far in 2021, and the fourth most by the team since moving to San Francisco 63 years ago—and finish off a four-game sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati with a 19-4 drubbing. Steven Duggar belts a grand slam as part of a nine-run third, Brandon Crawford drives in six runs, and one-time Reds ace Johnny Cueto is the benefactor, picking up his first win in three tries at Cincinnati since signing with the Giants in 2016. San Francisco surprisingly has the majors’ best record at 28-16.
The Dodgers defeat the Diamondbacks at Los Angeles, 3-2, as Albert Pujols connects on his first home run since signing with the Dodgers; it’s his 668th career clout and 3,256th hit, the latter number passing Eddie Murray for #13 on the all-time list.
Two years ago, Felipe Vazquez was a star closer for the Pirates. Today, he’s a convicted felon. A jury finds Vazquez guilty on 15 counts revolving around his tryst with a 13-year-old girl back in 2017; he was arrested two years later when the girl’s mother found out what was going on. Vazquez’s defense was that the girl had lied about her age.
In March, MLB sent a warning to all pitchers that it would sniff out and punish anyone doctoring baseballs. So almost two months into the season, here we are with hitters on pace for an all-time season-low batting average and six no-hitters already in the books—and the only whiffing resulting from MLB’s sniffing is more strikeouts suffered by the batters. An article in The Athletic by Ken Rosenthal and Brittany Ghiroli details a lot of frustration and head-shaking from hitters, coaches and even pitchers over what appears to be an epidemic of sticky stuff being used on baseballs that has given pitchers an obvious advantage so far in 2021. Some are even comparing the current use of foreign substances to the hitters’ abundant embracing of steroids starting in the 1990s.
So what of MLB’s preseason threats? According to The Athletic article, the league claims it’s taking its time accumulating evidence, unwilling to bring down any punishment until it has smoking-gun information that can withstand resistance from the players’ union. It’s thus postulated that no discipline may be administered until next season, leaving pitchers to basically do what they want this season. “Most players, if you go into a clubhouse and see a pitcher putting stuff on his glove, the hitters give him a hard time but that’s it,” said an anonymous AL pitcher to the writers. “They don’t like it but they won’t stop it. They know everyone is doing it and they want to win. What good is only stopping your guy from cheating? Makes no sense.”
Here’s one kneejerk thought as we read through the article: If pitchers are using the substances for better control—all while MLB is on a record pace for batters being hit—how much worse could it get if they were stripped of those substances?
Friday, May 21
A day after the Giants rack up 19 runs, the Braves do one better—pounding the Pirates, 20-1, in Atlanta behind seven home runs, two of them grand slams from Ronald Acuna Jr. and pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza. Eight of the Braves’ 20 runs came in the eighth off shortstop/emergency pitcher Wilmer Difo, on six hits and three walks; it’s the most runs given up by a position player since the Giants’ Hank Lieber conceded nine while starting (and finishing) the final game of a September 25, 1942 doubleheader at New York’s Polo Grounds against the Phillies. (It was the last game of Lieber’s 10-year major league career.)
The Braves have won games by 19 or more runs three times since 1900; two of those contests have taken place in the last eight months. Besides tonight’s romp, there was the team’s 29-9 thrashing of Miami last September 20. For the Pirates, it’s the second-worst loss in modern times—exceeded only by a 20-0 home defeat to Milwaukee on April 22, 2010.
The Yankees defeat the White Sox at New York, 2-1, in a thrilling game that has a little bit of everything. Carlos Rodon, off to a sensational start for Chicago, strikes out the first five batters he faces—the first time that’s happened to a Yankees team since Sandy Koufax’s memorable Game One performance in the 1963 World Series—and collects 13 K’s overall through six shutout innings before departing with 95 pitches. Rodon’s opponent, Jordan Montgomery, strikes out a career-high 11 White Sox batters in seven shutout frames—and with both pitchers not walking anyone, they became the first pair of hurlers in the same game to each allow no runs, no walks and strike out at least 10 in the modern era. Gleyber Torres finally breaks the ice in the seventh when he homers off Rodon’s replacement, Michael Kopach; the White Sox notch a run in the eighth—snapping a string of 29 straight scoreless innings by Yankees pitchers—then look ready to take the lead in the ninth when they place runners at first and second with no one out against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. But the next batter, rookie Andrew Vaughn, hits a sharp grounder to Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela—who starts an around-the-horn triple play, the first by New York since 2014, to quickly extinguish the threat. The Yankees win in the bottom of the ninth when the first three batters reach—the last being Torres, who singles home Aaron Judge for the game-winner.
The Reds end a four-game losing streak thanks in large part to Jesse Winker, who launches three solo home runs from the leadoff spot and scores four times in a 9-4 home win over the Brewers. Winker is the 31st Red to hit three homers in a game.
Their bullpen depleted with four relievers placed on the COVID-19 inactive list, the Mariners are hoping for a lengthy start in San Diego from Chris Flexen, who leads Seattle with four wins. So the 26-year-old right-hander picks a fine time to have his worst career performance to date. The Padres shell Flexen for eight runs on 10 hits over 1.2 innings before being removed, and they don’t stop there as they club the Mariners, 16-1. Only twice have the Padres scored more runs at Petco Park, with both of those games occurring in 2010.
The game features an historical side note as Seattle catcher Jose Godoy makes his debut as a sixth-inning replacement—and becomes the 20,000th player to appear in an MLB game. We don’t know if this gets him any bonus or a cameo on a late-night TV show, but at the very least he’ll have something cool to tell his grandkids.
The Padres’ win brings them into a first-place tie with the Giants in the West—and the Dodgers are now a game back after Los Angeles posts a 2-1 win at San Francisco. Chris Taylor’s two-run homer off of ex-Dodger Alex Wood in the third is the difference, but the story on the night is Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer, who’s asked to take it as far as he can to preserve a depleted Los Angeles pen. Bauer racks up 126 pitches—the most by any MLB pitcher thus far in 2021—before being removed one out into the seventh, having allowed just one run (unearned, on his own error) on two hits with 11 strikeouts. Bauer leaves to the boos of archrival Giants fans, responding a la the late Tommy Lasorda by holding his hand to his ear before raising both arms in the air to ask the fans to ‘bring it on.’ After the game, Bauer says he enjoys the acrimonious energy, stating that it “just feeds me.”
Saturday, May 22
The Twins are emerging as a prime candidate to lobby against the gift runner on second rule in extra innings. They’re now 0-8 in overtime games this season after dropping a 5-3, 10-inning decision at Cleveland, as Cesar Hernandez’s two-run homer is the deciding blow. Overall, Minnesota holds the majors’ worst record at 16-29.
The next day, Minnesota finally nabs a win in extras by defeating the Indians in 10 innings, 8-5.
The Dodgers make it two in a row over the Giants at San Francisco with a 6-3 win, tying the Giants for second place in the NL West while still trailing the (now) front-running Padres by a game. (San Diego wins its eighth straight with a 6-4 home win over Seattle.) The Los Angeles win spoils the return of former Tampa Bay ace Scott Kazmir, who at age 37 makes his first appearance in a big-league uniform since 2016; he pitches briefly but nobly for the Giants, allowing a run on two hits and no walks through four innings and 55 pitches.
Sunday, May 23
The Rays come into the day with a nine-game winning streak that looks to be in jeopardy as they enter the ninth trailing the Blue Jays by a pair of runs at Dunedin, Florida. But thanks to the generosity of Toronto relievers, the streak continues at 10—the second longest in franchise history. Four runs cross the plate for Tampa Bay on two hits and four walks—the last three of which, from Travis Bergen, force home runs with the bases loaded. The Blue Jays can’t respond in the bottom of the ninth and the Rays move into a first-place tie in the AL East with Boston (6-2 losers at Philadelphia).
This is why the “hold” statistic is worthless: Tyler Chatwood, who starts the horrendous ninth for the Blue Jays, is credited with a hold—but also takes the loss for putting on the runners that Bergen ultimately walk in.
Monday, May 24
Another wacky game—and another win—for the Rays against the Jays. After bolting out to a 5-0 first-inning lead, the Rays gradually let it slip away, and into overtime they go—where after the two teams trade a pair of runs in the 10th, Tampa explodes for seven tallies in the 11th to win their 11th straight, 14-8. Toronto, playing its final home game at Dunedin before shuffling on to Buffalo, lose despite outhomering the Rays, 5-1—with two of them collected by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
A couple of former Cardinals had a nice evening catching up with—and defeating—their former team. Lance Lynn pitches seven superb innings to give the White Sox and former St. Louis skipper Tony La Russa (facing his old team for the first time) a 5-1 home victory. Rookie DH Yermin Mercedes adds two more singles to raise his AL-leading batting average to .353.
Tuesday, May 25
Joe West works home plate in the White Sox’ 8-3 victory over the visiting Cardinals at Guaranteed Rate Field to become the all-time leader in games umpired at 5,376, breaking Bill Klem’s long-held record from the early 20th Century. The ornery West, nicknamed “Country Joe” for his love of country music, is given his wish to have the Oak Ridge Boys sing the National Anthem; a video tribute is played on the ballpark’s digital screen, and he’s embraced by the San Diego Chicken, making a rare appearance. A hefty minority within the crowd of 16,380 congratulates West by booing him.
West’s first game as an ump took place on September 14, 1976 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium for a doubleheader between the Braves and Astros. Among the players on the field that day were Cesar Cedeno, Bob Watson, Jim Wynn and Joe Niekro.
The Dodgers and Astros reconvene for the first time in front of fans at Houston’s Minute Maid Park since it was revealed that the Astros cheated their way to the 2017 world title. The result is most satisfying for the visitors and a healthy portion of the crowd of 34,443 wearing Dodger Blue, as Los Angeles rolls to a 9-2 victory; Clayton Kershaw throws 7.2 crisp innings and finds Astros hitters swinging at his off-speed stuff after somehow managing to not swing at any of 49 such pitches he threw back in the famed Game Five, 13-12 Houston win back in 2017.
The Astros’ Jose Altuve is hitless in four at-bats, ending a 17-game hit streak that’s the longest in the majors so far in 2021.
The Mets’ Jacob deGrom is back after a brief stay on the shelf, pitching the minimum five innings, striking out nine—and again not getting the win, departing in a 1-1 tie at home against Colorado. Of course, once the relievers take over, the Mets quickly rack up two runs and hold on to defeat the Rockies, 3-1. deGrom leads the majors with a 0.80 ERA; he’s the first Met to allow one or none earned runs and five or fewer hits in each of seven straight starts, and only the second pitcher (along with Johan Santana in 2004) to accumulate 70-plus strikeouts while allowing 20 or less hits over a seven-game stretch.
In his first start since throwing a no-hitter last week at Texas, the Yankees’ Corey Kluber lasts only three innings, departing with shoulder tightness; an MRI will later be taken and he’ll miss the next two months. His counterpart, Toronto’s Steven Matz, strikes out 10 over 6.2 innings to lift the Blue Jays to a 6-2 win at New York.
Kluber allows two runs in the third before leaving, ending the Yankees’ streak of consecutive scoreless innings from their starters at 37—second longest in team history.
Tampa Bay fails to match its all-time longest winning streak of 12, bowing to the Royals at St. Petersburg, 2-1. This, despite an electric effort from Rays starter Rich Hill, who strikes out 13 Royals while walking none over eight innings; he’s the fourth pitcher—after usual suspects Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens—to have multiple 10-K outings after his 41st birthday.
After a decent start, the Pirates are starting to become the team we all thought they were. Building an early 3-0 lead, the Bucs concede four unanswered runs to the visiting Cubs to drop a 4-3 decision, giving them just six wins over their last 24 games after starting the year at 12-11. Chicago’s Joc Pederson doubles his home run total on the year to four; it’s the fourth straight game in which the Pirates have allowed an opposing player to enjoy a multi-homer game, something only four other teams have not enjoyed in major league annuls.
Wednesday, May 26
It took MLB a while, but apparently it has done all the due diligence on the matter of Angels pitching coach (and former Mets manager) Mickey Callaway’s indiscretion with various women and have suspended him through the end of the 2022 season. Immediately upon being informed of the news, the Angels fires Callaway; pulling trigger on that act is all the less difficult given that the Angels have the majors’ worst team ERA (5.26).
The Rays haven’t seen one of their starting pitchers go the distance since Matt Andriese fired a two-hit shutout against Oakland on May 14, 2016. That run of 725 games since—the longest in major league history—continues despite the efforts of Tyler Glasnow, who’s rolling through eight terrific innings and 102 pitches at St. Petersburg against the Royals. But for the ninth, with the Rays up 1-0, Glasnow is removed and the ball given to J.P. Feyereisen—who immediately gives up a home run to the first batter he faces, Andrew Benintendi. That’s the extent of the damage, as the Rays win it in the 10th courtesy of the gift runner, 2-1.
It’s not as if the Rays should have been warned about Feyereisen; in his last game as a Milwaukee Brewer before being traded to Tampa Bay a week earlier, he blew another save…also against the Royals.
With the chatter growing over MLB’s perceived lack of a crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances, Joe West—he who has now umpired more major league games than anyone else—looks like he’s starting to get to the bottom of it. During the Cardinals’ 4-0 win at Chicago over the White Sox, West notices a substance on the bill of St. Louis pitcher Giovanny Gallegos’ cap and asks him to switch it. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt overreacts, racing out and getting ejected over West’s request.
Shildt later carries his anger to the media, saying that the substance enforcement is “baseball’s dirty little secret” and opines that Gallegos might have had sunscreen on his cap “at some point in his career to make sure he doesn’t get some kind of melanoma.” Between the ejection and his postgame rant, Shildt makes West come off as a reasonable human being; the crusty umpire tells a pool reporter after the game that he asked Gallegos to switch the cap to keep him from being accused of cheating. “The whole point of this is we’re trying to protect (Shildt’s) pitcher,” West said, “and (Shildt) got ejected.”
Interestingly, Shildt releases a statement after the game taming his earlier comments, but still professes, “(Umpires) have a lot of challenges to doing their job and they do it well. Having to police foreign substances, candidly, shouldn’t have to be a part of their job.” Well, if not them…who?
Thursday, May 27
The Pirates, sinking to a new low as they’re getting swept at home by the Cubs and running their losing streak to six, commit perhaps the most inexplicably boneheaded play seen in recent memory during their 5-3 defeat to Chicago. With the Bucs trailing 1-0 in the third with two outs and Willson Contreras on second, the Cubs’ Javier Baez hits a routine grounder to third baseman Erik Gonzalez, who throws to Will Craig at first—but Baez stops running, trying to induce Craig into a rundown in a desperate attempt to buy time for Contreras to score. Astonishingly, Craig—who has 333 games’ worth of professional experience as a first baseman—forgets that a rundown between home plate and first is usually a no-win scenario for the baserunner, because the baserunner’s only option is to reach first. All Craig has to do is ignore Baez and tag the base to end the inning. But Craig takes the bait, chases Baez back to the plate, then makes a quick lob to the catcher to tag out Contreras—who slides under safely.
The nuttiness is just beginning. Baez quickly hops up and tears back from home to first—we can’t believe we’re even saying those words—where no one is manning the base. The throw goes past second baseman Adam Frazier, racing over to cover, and into the outfield. Baez scrambles to second, where another throw errantly passes by before the Pirates finally put a lid on the play. Ian Happ next singles, bringing home Baez to make it 3-0; another error by Craig—his second of the inning, game and season—comes next, but then the inning finally and, for the Bad News Bucs, mercifully, ends.
There are two no-hit bids taken into—and broken up—in the seventh inning. In Detroit, Cleveland ace Shane Bieber throws six hitless before the Tigers’ Jonathan Schoop belts a leadoff home run; it’s the only knock against Bieber over seven frames, as he strikes out 12 in a 5-2 victory. Later out in Phoenix, the Cardinals’ Carlos Martinez also takes a no-no into the seventh, where his bid ends with a leadoff hit from the Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte, igniting a three-run rally. Arizona ties it an inning later at 4-4, but the Cardinals sneak the gift runner across in the 10th on a Yadier Molina double to hand Arizona its 11th straight defeat—the second worst skid in franchise history, trailing a 14-game plunge in 2004.
mlb.com makes a big story out of the fact that the Rockies’ German Marquez sets a team record for the fewest pitches (62) in a complete-game effort—but a giant asterisk needs to be applied here. Marquez does indeed go the distance, but it’s six innings in the first game of a seven-inning doubleheader at New York won by the Mets, 1-0.
It’s still common sense-defying that MLB counts complete games in these seven-inning affairs while not counting Madison Bumgarner’s no-hitter on April 25 in a pandemic-shortened contest. It needs to be one or the other.
Overall, it’s a good day to be a starting pitcher; the combined WHIP of all starters on the day is 0.94, the lowest for any one day with at least 15 games played, according to STATS.
Fans showing up to the A’s-Angels game at Oakland are disappointed to discover that two-way Angels star Shohei Ohtani, slated to start on the mound, has his role reduced to DH because he doesn’t make it to the ballpark in time to adequately prepare to pitch. The whole Angels team arrives later than expected because of a traffic accident on the Bay Bridge from San Francisco; in an effort to get Ohtani to the Coliseum more quickly, the Angels hustle him onto a BART train, but even that doesn’t speed up his arrival. Ohtani goes 0-for-3 at the plate with a walk, replacement pitcher Patrick Sandoval admirably throws five shutout innings before the bullpen takes over and caves, and the Angels fall 5-0 as the A’s and Chris Bassitt throws a two-hit shutout.
This isn’t the first time a team has been held up by traffic trying to get to Oakland from San Francisco. Memo to MLB teams coming to the Bay Area to play the A’s: There’s a real nice international airport and some decent hotels across the freeway from the Coliseum. We suggest you use them.
Friday, May 28
Just when it looks like the Dodgers will continue to be the Giants’ Kryptonite, Miss Teschmacher—er, Mike Tauchman—comes to the rescue. At Los Angeles, the Giants take a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but a series of unfortunate events—namely, a double play ball botched by second baseman Mauricio Dubon that’s somehow ruled a hit—allows Austin Barnes, the last position player available on the Dodgers’ bench, to pinch-hit as the tying run with two outs. So of course, Barnes—who rarely ever homers—ties the game on a blast off of Giants submarine reliever Tyler Rogers, who himself rarely gives up a home run. The next batter, Albert Pujols—who unlike Barnes has hit more than a few dingers in his career—also crushes one to left field, but Tauchman reaches over the top of the Dodger Stadium wall and snares it away, stealing a Dodgers win. The Giants respond to Tauchman’s gem by notching three in the 10th—the last two on Evan Longoria’s gap double—and Los Angeles can’t respond, giving San Francisco its first win in five tries this season against the Dodgers, 8-5.
It happens again: A batter walks after taking ball three, and nobody bothers to challenge the count. In the top of the sixth inning at Detroit, the Yankees’ Gio Urshela engages in a nine-pitch at-bat with Tigers reliever Kyle Funkhouser, but only three of those pitches are called balls. After the last one, Urshela calmly puts the bat down and walks to first, while Funkhouser nor anyone else on the Tigers’ side stands up and says, “Hang on a minute…” Urshela eventually makes it to third before the inning ends; the Tigers survive the gaffe to win in 10, 3-2.
Saturday, May 29
It took MLB 99 years to score a million runs—but only 46 to score the next million. Baseball’s two millionth tally is officially recorded by the Twins’ Josh Donaldson on Nelson Cruz’s first-inning, ground-rule double in the Twins’ 6-5 home win over Kansas City. We say “officially,” as Donaldson’s run is blessed by the Elias Sports Bureau as the milestone moment—while baseball-reference.com acknowledged Ketel Marte’s run from a May 27 game for Arizona against St. Louis as #2,000,000. The difference between Elias and BR is roughly 100 runs.
Atlanta’s Marcell Ozuna, the 2020 MVP candidate off to a relatively slow start, is arrested while in the act of attacking his wife inside his home. He’s charged with aggravated assault by strangulation and battery; though his wife sustains injuries, she does not require hospitalization. Ozuna broke two fingers sliding into third base at Boston earlier this week and was not expected to return to action for at least a month; you can bet that any return to the ballfield will now come much later as MLB will investigate the matter and, given its recent crackdown on domestic abuse, serve Ozuna with a lengthy suspension.
If the Braves are hoping to get their fans’ minds off the Ozuna incident, well…they don’t. They get crushed in New York by the Mets, 13-2.
Coors Field has become something of an illicit drug for the Rockies; they’re a mile high when they’re in it, but go through major withdrawals when away from it. The Rockies’s offense isn’t so much in need of a hit as they are a simple run, but get none as they’re swept and blanked by the Pirates at Pittsburgh in a mini-doubleheader, 7-0 and 4-0. JT Brubaker pitches six scoreless against Colorado in the first game; Mitch Keller follows with five innings of shutout ball in the second. The Rockies on the day net just six hits in getting double-blanked; on the year, they’ve already been shut out 10 times—all of them on the road, where they’re hitting .197 with 12 home runs and 59 runs scored, as opposed to .267, 37 and 165 at Coors Field.
It’s the first time since 1976 that the Pirates sweep a twinbill with two shutouts—but again, seven-inning games…
Fenway Park becomes the latest major league venue to reopen at full capacity, and a crowd of 25,089 take advantage by showing up to witness the Red Sox’ 3-1 victory over Miami. Six pitchers, led by Nathan Eovaldi’s 5.1 scoreless frames, combine to limit the Marlins to just the one run on 10 hits. Boston remains a half-game behind Tampa Bay for first in the AL East.
Sunday, May 30
After trailing early on 2-0, the Diamondbacks score nine unanswered runs and get solid pitching from starter Matt Peacock (six innings, two runs allowed) and reliever Riley Smith (three scoreless innings) to avoid a franchise-tying 14th straight loss with a 9-2 home win over the Cardinals. Arizona still has an active losing streak of 13 games on the road.
Filling the Void of Shame left behind by the Diamondbacks are the Orioles, who drop a 3-1 decision to the White Sox at Chicago to lose their 13th straight—their worst skid since 2009. A 1-1 tie is broken up in the seventh when the White Sox’ Nick Madrigal triples in one run, then scores on Yoan Moncada’s single.
For the first time since 2000, the Tigers sweep the Yankees in a home series consisting of three or more games, piling up all six of their runs within the first three innings and then riding on Tarik Skubal’s six scoreless to triumph, 6-2. The clutch is not the Yankees’ best friend in getting three-beat; they’re 1-for-25 with runners in scoring position. After a 9-24 start, Detroit has won 15 of its last 22 behind some surprisingly good pitching.
The Yankees become the first team ever to score three or fewer runs while striking out 12 or more times in each game of a three-game series.
Albert Pujols continues to impress for the Dodgers, going deep for the second straight game—it might have been three, but the Giants’ Mike Tauchman stole a walk-off homer two days earlier—and passes Babe Ruth to rank #4 in career extra base hits with his 1,357th. But Pujols’ ninth-inning dinger is too little, too late to save the Dodgers, who lose their third straight to San Francisco as Giants starter Kevin Gausman easily outduels an ineffective Clayton Kershaw, 5-4.
Sunday, May 31
The Rays continue to roll, extending the Yankees’ recent miseries in the process. Behind five more sharp innings from 41-year-old Rich Hill, Tampa Bay triumphs at New York by a 3-1 count, winning its 16th game in its last 17 tries. The Rays are the first team since the 1933 Braves to start a month below .500 and finish it 15 games above water. The Yankees, meanwhile, have lost six of seven—and have scored only 13 runs during the stretch.
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