MLB 2018: Last Week In Baseball July 2-8

(originally written 7/9/18)

This article IS overdue.

This article IS interesting, as well.

So please pretend it's still July 9, okay?

One day, I hope to have the time and focus to give you weekly, on-time baseball columns. But putting out the type of quality I expect of myself requires an effort I'm usually too busy to supply. So for the time being, please enjoy my totally random, sporadic, but hopefully enjoyable LWIB pieces.

 

 

  • What a week for San Diego's Wil Myers. Relatively ordinary in his 10-game return from a two-month DL stint (oblique), Myers burst out with three bombs on July 7...which kept his Padres from losing to Arizona 20-1 rather than 20-5. The next night, however, his go-ahead bomb in the 16th powered a Padres victory.

  • That last home run was hit off Arizona C Jeff Mathis, who became the eighth position player this decade to earn a pitching decision (and along with Kike Hernandez, the second of 2018).

  • What a week for Avisail Garcia of the White Sox. After returning from a two-month DL stint to power three homers in his first week back, Avi ripped five more over the next seven days—but got little help from his teammates, as Chicago went 1-6.

  • The ultimate week, however, belonged to Washington IF Mark Reynolds. In AAA until May 12, Reynolds smoked a walk-off homer against Miami's Kyle Barraclough 7/6, registered 10 RBI in an 18-4 Nats win 7/7...then took the mound and induced the final out on 7/8! After Reynolds' performance, people pretty much forgot Trea Turner's eight RBI vs. Miami 7/5.

  • Other top performers: Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt ripped two 3-run homers and enjoyed a 4-for-4 during the week, while Boston's Andrew Benintendi reached base in 10 straight PA, helping Boston join Houston as last week's only undefeated MLB teams.

  • You don't know who he is. But before long, if Byron Buxton can't get right at AAA, you might be hearing this name on a regular basis—Minnesota OF Jake Cave stole hits from Baltimore's Chris Davis, Tim Beckham and Adam Jones in very impressive fashion July 5-7. His bat wasn't too shabby either, as he went 3-for-3 with two doubles in Minny's 7/5 win over Baltimore.

  • Speaking of Baltimore—who went 0-6 during the week—Davis broke Cal Ripken's franchise strikeout record on 7/7, reaching 1,306 K in 2,028 fewer games than it took Ripken to reach 1,305.

  • Remember how P Sonny Gray, then with Oakland, excelled for his first two-plus years but couldn't get anybody out for practically all of 2016? Remember how Gray recovered so well in '17 that the contending Yankees traded for him? You do? Great. Just know that on 7/6, Gray was knocked out without completing three innings for the second straight outing, hammered by a Toronto team that had tallied four total runs in a four-game losing streak to New York. On the year, Gray is averaging less than 5 IP in his 17 starts..

  • Speaking of low inning counts...

  • Pirates starters completed three or fewer innings thrice in a four-game span 7/3-6. Not good for a pitching staff.

  • Usually, marathon extra-inning games aren't good for a pitching staff, either. But at least in the short term, Tampa's wasn't phased—following a 16-inning win over Miami 7/3, the Rays allowed a sum of eight runs over its final four games of the week...including consecutive road shutouts of the Mets.

  • On the flip side, how did Miami's pitching staff respond to the aforementioned 16-inning marathon? By shutting out the Rays the next night...then allowing 35 runs in a three-game series at Washington.

Andrew Benintendi on-base streak

In order, Andrew Benintendi's on-base streak: BB, BB, BB, BB, HR, 2B, 1B, 1B, 1B, 2B. It ended with a K by KC's Jason Adam July 8.

  • The first game of that Marlins-Nats clash proves how silly baseball's unwritten rules can be—Washington overcame a nine-run deficit in beating Miami 14-12, yet if any of the Fish had dared try to steal a base, stretch a single, swing 3-0, etc. while still up big, they're in the wrong. (Maybe that rule should only apply to teams over .500 since they're less likely to blow such a lead. Oh, wait, the 2001 Mariners.)

  • On 7/6, Mets ace Jacob deGrom threw eight innings and allowed but one run to Miami. This marked the fourth consecutive start in which deGrom pitched seven or more innings, allowed one or fewer runs...and did not receive a win.

  • Upon reading the newly-named 2018 All-Star rosters, I just about seized up when I got to Joe Jimenez
    Let's use movie commercials as a tie-in. Every year, in one or two premiering film ads, a mostly all-star cast is announced. It'll be something like, "Liam Neeson! Meryl Streep! Chris Hemsworth! Amy Adams! Samuel L. Jackson! Zac Efron! Cameron Diaz! Horace Wiggins!" 
    And you hear that last name and freeze up—huh? WHY is one of the crew members being announced with the stars? Or worse yet, IS he a star and you're just that out of touch? And it bothers you and ends up ruining your day.

    This is the case with Jimenez, a setup man who did not have off-the-chart numbers setup men need to make the All-Star team (especially when on a mediocre club like Detroit). True, the second-year man has been good, especially early in the year. And yes, Detroit needed an All-Star rep. But it should not have been Jimenez, one of the least-deserving selectees this century. With a little shuffling to find a new pitcher, OF Nick Castellanos would have made a fine Tigers rep. Oh, well.

  • 12-game winner Blake Snell, also the AL ERA leader, proved no matter how you tweak the All-Star selection process, there will always be glaring snubs—although his is among the worst of the century (especially in the light of the Jimenez selection). Snell was later added to the team as an injury replacement, but being a fallback option isn't the same.

  • Speaking of the Tigers...

  • Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre's march to 500 homers was interrupted in spectacular fashion by Tigers OF JaCoby Jones on 7/7; Jones stole one back in the 6th inning of Detroit's eventual 7-2 win, leaving Beltre stuck on 466 lifetime...it's looking more and more like the 39-year-old will max out in the 480's at best.

  • In that 7-2 win, the Tigers dropped seven in the first inning that day, knocking out Rangers SP Cole Hamels after only two outs. Did MLB Network's Quick Pitch foresee this beating when it quietly replaced Hamels with Houston's Justin Verlander in their opening sequence last month?

  • I wonder if the 2018 Rangers are MLB's first team with two guys whose last names start with "Gall" (IF/DH Joey Gallo and SP Yovany Gallardo)...

  • Few bloopers have ever made me laugh like Cardinal OF Marcell Ozuna's unnecessary wall climb from last month. On 7/8, Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees practically duplicated it in RF, leaping at the wall for a Justin Smoak fly that wound up hitting the wall low. This gaffe wasn't as funny as Ozuna's and got far less attention, unfortunately.

  • What year is it?! Cardinals starters completed at least six innings in each of their first six games of the week before Jack Flaherty was knocked out in the third inning 7/8 (by the Giants).

As a hardball fan of nearly 30 years, obviously I long for the days when a starter might (YIKES!) complete a game every couple of months at least...or at least be allowed to go through the opposing batting order three times (which has suddenly become cancerous to most starters in recent seasons).

With these shorter-than-ever leashes for starters comes a trend that irks the crap out of me—blowout games won by relievers because the starter was pulled before completing five innings. 
Yes, I know teams often pile it on late against enemy bullpens.
Yes, I know there's times when a wobbly starter MUST be pulled before completing five frames.
But I also know there's been a ton of dudes, veteran dudes, pulled from games in which they're still effective and well below 100 pitches. 
As a result, the number of starters receiving no-decisions in their team's blowouts continues to increase. I don't have official data yet, but trust me, I will. Because I'm right.

Turner_drilled.jpg

Justin Turner reacts to being plunked in the shoulder/face by Pittsburgh's Tyler Glasnow 7/4. He did stay in the game and eventually scored on Chris Taylor's single. LA won 6-4.

  • Just last week alone, David Price (BOS), Robbie Ray (ARI), Nick Pivetta (PHI) and Trevor Richards (MIA) received no-decisions in games their team won by at least eight runs. Ray was pulled from a start in the 5th with his team leading 15-4. He'd struck out five of the previous eight hitters and left with a man on first and 96 pitches. Ray could have thrown ONE lousy ground ball and completed his five. I don't care what (D-Backs manager) Torey Lovullo's reasoning was—unless Ray asked out of the game, he was getting those two outs.

  • It wasn't a good week for Atlanta (2-5) and especially OF Ender Inciarte and P Sean Newcomb. On 7/8 at Milwaukee, Inciarte's failure to hustle got him thrown out on a grounder that was bobbled, and he was removed from the game by manager Brian Snitker (not helping: Inciarte's poor baserunning decision earlier in the game.) Newcomb—who entered the week 8-2, 2.71—lost both his starts, totaling 6.1 innings.

  • This Giants fan, by rule, loathes the Dodgers as a whole. But I got nothing against Dodger 3B Justin Turner as an individual, and in fact he actually earned sympathy from me last week. Turner—who seems to get drilled or nearly drilled every time I watch him play—missed the first seven weeks of '18 after an errant pitch broke his wrist during Spring Training, and entering last week, he'd been plunked thrice more since returning (and narrowly avoided at least one other that I witnessed.)

    On July 4, Pirates P Tyler Glasnow came up and in on Turner; his fastball ricocheted off Turner's shoulder into his face. To Turner's credit, he shook it off, but how much more can the guy take? He doesn't even stand that close to the plate and yet, he's been plunked 65 times during the regular season and seven more in postseason play (plus the disabling one from the Spring).

  • Maybe the Bucs should have thrown inside a bit more. On 7/2-3, the Dodgers homered against them nine times combined, blowing them out 17-1 on July 2.

  • Andrew Knapp became the first Phillies C in the live ball era to bat leadoff 7/8 at Pittsburgh; he went 0-for-4, contributing to Philly's only loss of the week. Two days earlier, Knapp's club beat the Bucs 17-5, tying a NL record for nine-inning games by taking 4:30 to do so.

  • Justin Turner wasn't the only big leaguer feelin' the pain last week—on 7/7, Cubs OF Jason Heyward had to leave after chopping a Matt Harvey (Reds) fastball into his groin. It wasn't as rough as Leonys Martin's from April, nor did the at-bat end in a home run as did Martin's...but a ball to the groin is a ball to the groin.

  • Jason, despite whatever your financial advisors tell you, an athletic cup is a GOOD investment.

  • About those Reds: though they've been playing SO much better as of late (36-36 under Jim Riggleman including 14-6 in their past 20 through 7/8), Cincinnati allowed a very winnable one to slip away 7/7. They frittered away an early 5-0 lead, losing in a four-run Cubs 8th extended when RP Jared Hughes bobbled a comebacker and fell while picking it up.

  • If that weren't enough folly, the next night Chicago's 9th-inning rally was extended when Reds 1B Joey Votto fumbled the ball while jogging to the first base bag for a 3-unassisted putout. The next batter drew a game-ending RBI walk.

  • Let's be clear: Chicago wasn't bumble-free in that series. Reds speedster Billy Hamilton scored from 1B on a steal on 7/8, aided by a couple of Cubs errors.

  • More news out of Wrigley Field, or as it's known to Tyler Chatwood, the Unfriendly Confines: in that July 7 game, the Reds built that early lead with huge help from Cubs P Chatwood, whose successive first-inning wild pitches to Jesse Winker scored Cincy's first TWO runs. Already no fan favorite, the $37M pitcher absorbed the boos from his home crowd after WP #2. Chatwood has not completed 6 IP in a start since April 29.

  • Giants starter Chris Stratton has won eight times, three more than any other SF pitcher. He's thrown 96.1 innings, more than any other SF pitcher. And still, he was demoted to AAA on Independence Day—with Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija off the DL, the Giants had tough choices to make. Rookies Andrew Suarez and Dereck Rodriguez have kept their starting jobs, Ty Blach and Derek Holland have gone to the bullpen, leaving Stratton—who started strong but carries a 5.12 ERA and .312 BAA since May 13—the odd man out.

  • San Francisco's 13-run explosion vs. St. Louis on July 8 topped their combined run total for July 2-7 (10).

  • Some more unbalanced scoring figures: Arizona scored 3, 20 and 3 runs, respectively, in their series vs. San Diego. Miami allowed, in order, 2, 9, 0, 14, 3, 18 and 2 runs this week. The White Sox allowed 11 and 12 runs in consecutive Astro blowouts, then held them to two in the finale...and lost again anyway.

  • On 7/8, Tampa Bay's Nate Eovaldi, a legit Comeback Player Of The Year candidate if he maintains health, beat the Mets. This is noteworthy because it was Eovaldi's third 2018 start of at least 6 IP with one or fewer hits allowed—matched only by Cleveland's Trevor Bauer.

  • Speaking of Cleveland, closer Cody Allen tied and broke Bob Wickman's franchise save record. At week's end, the veteran righty had nailed down 140 wins for the Tribe since debuting in 2012.

  • From the anger pile: Dodgers reliever Daniel Hudson was tossed 7/4 not for throwing at a batter, not for arguing the strike zone, not for a foreign substance. Just like you might expect from a Dodger, Hudson was tossed for arguing with an umpire (Jeff Nelson) who was trying to help him. Hudson's motion is apparently only legal with the bags empty, and when a runner reached and Nelson calmly warned Hudson, he mouthed off to the point of ejection...typical.

  • More anger: on 7/4 Carlos Gomez bunted at a pitch that hit him...and as is the rule, was charged with a very painful strike. Gomez, never known for his serenity, took a called strike three and proceeded to smash the dugout cooler with all his might. Chances are, you've seen the clip; Gomez's outburst even made local news highlight reels.

  • From my personal anger pile: I've always dug Astros 3B Alex Bregman, but when he took White Sox P James Shields deep 7/7 and walked the first 15 feet to first base in admiration, it irked me. For all his early achievements, Bregman is still a youngster, and pimping one against a respected veteran who's got enough going against him these days...it wasn't called for. Just picture Jadeveon Clowney taking Joe Flacco down and standing over him in conquest...it wouldn't sit well with the sensible fan.

  • Or maybe I'm just too damn sensitive for the year 2018.

Gordon_Dee_catch.jpg

Mariners 2B Dee Gordon robs Anaheim's Ian Kinsler, helping Seattle to victory 7/5.

  • Best brain farts of the week go to the Giants' Pablo Sandoval for jogging to 1B on a 3-ball count on 7/6, and to the Angels' Andrelton Simmons, who lingered at second base after his 7/5 "double", unaware his deep fly ball had actually been caught.

  • Give 'em the D: On 7/5, as the Angels threatened the Mariners late, LA's Ian Kinsler lined one up the middle, destined for an RBI single. Until Seattle 2B Dee Gordon channeled his inner Superfly Snuka and ripped it from the sky! Remember, Gordon had played CF until Robby Cano's suspension; it's a safe bet Cano does not reach this ball.

  • Close runner up: Milwaukee's Keon Broxton, back from AAA and obviously not wanting to return, went up high at the wall to steal Brian Dozier's 9th-inning HR at Miller Park. Even better than the grab: Broxton's unabashed exuberance as Brewers fans (and teammates) rained down applause...this guy loves to play.