MLB PITCH: 5/24/21
(originally written 5/24/21)
MLB PITCH = (PREDICTIONS, INFO, TRANSACTIONS, COMMENTARY, HIGHLIGHTS)
The second quarter of the 2021 MLB season is in full swing, if you can believe that. Tampa Bay (10-game win streak) San Diego (nine) and the Dodgers (seven) were all undefeated last week, while Arizona (eight-game loss streak) Seattle (6) and Baltimore (6) all went winless last week. Tampa moved into a tie atop the AL East, while both the Padres and Dodgers shot past the formerly first-place Giants. Two more no-hitters were spun. Albert Pujols returned to action. Read on for more:
⦁ For some reason, the MLB Network 5/23 ticker felt San Diego SS Fernando Tatis Jr.'s 200th career hit deserved acknowledgement. Huh? Wake me when he has 200 hits in 2021. Or when Johnny Cueto reaches 200 career hits.
⦁ Speaking of my Giants...
⦁ On 5/20, they completed a four-game sweep at Cincinnati with a 19-4 thrashing of the Reds (that ended with TWO Reds position players pitching). That was the major league high for runs this season...until the next day, when Atlanta clubbed visiting Pittsburgh 20-1.
SP/DH Shohei Ohtani's velocity was down in his 5/19 start against Cleveland, but on 5/23 he delivered a game-tying, PH sac fly against Oakland.
⦁ In that game, Pirates IF Wilmer Difo allowed eight earned runs in one inning of work. Every Braves starting position player drove in at least one run...except reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman, who obviously saves his best for when it's needed most.
⦁ Padres 2B Jake Cronenworth supplied the week's only inside-the-park homer 5/20 (off Colorado's Chi Chi Gonzalez). Actually, that might be the month's first inside-the-park homer; I'm not totally sure.
⦁ On 5/18, out of nowhere, Detroit's Spencer Turnbull no-hit the Mariners in Seattle, walking two in his first career CG. And the "Klubot", Corey Kluber of the Yankees, fired a no-hitter the very next day at Texas (for whom he pitched once last season). Kluber walked one hitter in MLB's sixth no-no of 2021.
⦁ The last time no-hitters were thrown on consecutive days? According to NBC Sports, 1969, when Jim Maloney threw one for Cincinnati 4/30 and Don Wilson added another 5/1 for Houston. (Two were thrown on 6/29/90, by Oakland's Dave Stewart and Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers. Of COURSE a Dodger couldn't let Stewart have all the glory that day...typical.)
⦁ Complete Game Watch: there were no CG last week besides the no-hitters. More pitchers seem to be allowed to go six and seven innings as of late, however, and I take a little comfort in that.
⦁ Among those pitchers: the New York Yankees starters. Domingo German followed Kluber's no-hitter with seven shutout innings, a feat then duplicated by Jordan Montgomery and Gerrit Cole. Jameson Taillon closed the week with five shutout innings 5/23—that makes 35 consecutive zeroes by the Yankee starters entering this week. Even George Steinbrenner himself couldn't complain about that.
⦁ The last time four MLB teammates each threw seven-plus scoreless innings in successive starts? 1932. That predates Franklin Roosevelt's presidency, people.
⦁ New York needed some good news, after losing DH Giancarlo Stanton (quad) and OF Aaron Hicks (wrist surgery) to the IL last week—Hicks possibly for the season. Look for ancient Brett Gardner to handle the bulk of Hicks' CF duties...IF he can get his numbers up.
⦁ Other notables to hit the IL last week include Angels OF Mike Trout (calf) Rangers SP Kohei Arihara (shoulder aneurysm) Twins SP Kenta Maeda (adductor) Blue Jays OF Cavan Biggio (cervical spine ligament sprain...huh?) Phillies C J.T. Realmuto (hand) and Indians OF Franmil Reyes (abdominal strain). Season-ending surgeries were announced for Padres RP Keona Kela (UCL) and Orioles 1B Chris Davis (hip).
⦁ COVID sent five Mariners to the IL last week, with at least one confirmed to have the virus. Again, I want to express how ridiculous the "COVID Injured List" sounds.
⦁ Returning to the majors after a 4.5-year absence: SP Scott Kazmir of the Giants, who threw four innings of one-run ball vs. the Dodgers 5/22. That same day, Cardinals SP Miles Mikolas, out since the 2019 postseason, started against the Cubs—only to depart early after experiencing forearm tightness. (But not before he did this.)
Braves 3B Austin Riley (pictured) was named NL Player Of The Week after batting .462 with six HR and 11 RBI. No-hit authors Spencer Turnbull of the Tigers and Corey Kluber of the Yankees were named AL co-winners.
⦁ Veteran OF Josh Reddick also rejoined MLB; he was called up by the Diamondbacks 5/20 and got in three games last week. Fans haven't forgotten he played for the 2017 Astros.
⦁ New Dodgers 1B Pujols debuted for the team 5/17; he went 5-for-19 with his 668th career home run and five RBI last week (some of that at my Giants' expense). After 20 years of red uniforms, I thought Pujols would look anywhere from strange to ridiculous in Dodger blue...but I was wrong. Legends can pull off any look, evidently.
⦁ On 5/22, Washington's Ryan Zimmerman received an ovation when he passed the great Tim Raines as the all-time Montreal/Washington runs leader. Hey, Washington—make up your mind. Are you acknowledging your Expos roots or not?!
⦁ On 5/21, Tampa Bay sent SS Willy Adames and P Trevor Richards to Milwaukee in exchange for RP's J.P. Revereisen and Drew Rasmussen. Adames wasn't hitting, and the Rays—as proven during the 2020 World Series—have a fetish for pitching changes.
⦁ On 5/17, two members of the 2016 World Champion Cubs returned to Wrigley Field as Washington Nationals. Both SP Jon Lester and OF Kyle Schwarber received hearty ovations, but the Cubs prevailed 7-3.
⦁ AL Hot Rookie Watch: Detroit's Akil Baddoo, who tore up the league in early April before drastically cooling off, continued to see reduced playing time last week. In the last of his two starts (5/22 at KC) Baddoo went 3-for-3 with two RBI, raising his season average to .247—the highest it's been since 4/26. Yermin Mercedes of the White Sox went 7-for-24 with a HR, and continues to lead the AL with a .347 average. And Adolis Garcia of the Rangers homered four times last week, moving into a tie with Angels DH Shohei Ohtani for the AL lead (14).
⦁ In Kazmir's start, Dodgers IF Max Muncy became the fourth visiting player to launch three career home runs into McCovey Cove behind the RF wall at San Francisco's Oracle Park. This time, no war of words with the opposing pitcher.
⦁ Indians SP Triston McKenzie, who showed so much promise in 2020, had another rough start last week and was demoted to AAA practically during the pitching change. McKenzie, 23, is 1-3, 6.89, with 30 BB in 31.1 innings. Meanwhile, onetime Pirates regular SS Cole Tucker was summoned back to the majors after opening 2021 in AAA.
⦁ Twins closer Alex Colome allowed a walk-off home run to Cleveland's Cesar Hernandez 5/22. My reaction? "That's what you get for wearing Torii Hunter's number!"
⦁ Milwaukee's Daniel Robertson belted his first major league home run in over two years, off Cincinnati's Heath Hembree 5/22. Robertson last went yard on 5/1/19.
⦁ Cincinnati's Jesse Winker homered thrice against the Brewers 5/21 , then for good measure he went deep again the next day!
⦁ Seattle's Jose Godoy made major league history just by existing. Godoy became the 20,000th player to take the field in a major league game on 5/21. Generations from now, who'll be more closely linked with that number: Godoy or Wilt Chamberlain?
⦁ Uniform Watch: on 5/23, the Royals and Tigers turned back the clock, with KC sporting Monarchs uniforms from the Negro Leagues and winning 3-2 on a Carlos Santana walk-off bomb. And all weekend vs. the Mets, Miami sported bright red jerseys meant to honor...something, I forgot. They weren't awful, but I personally hope to not see them again.
⦁ And in undoubtedly the best news of last week: ex-Pirates RP Felipe Vazquez was convicted in Pennsylvania of 15 counts of bad stuff with a minor. No word on sentencing yet; he still must face similar charges in two other states.
MAJOR LEAGUE LEADERS THRU 5/23
HOME RUNS: Ronald Acuna, ATL (15)
AVERAGE: Nick Castellanos, CIN (.356)
RBI: Trey Mancini, BAL (41)
STEALS: Whit Merrifield, KC (13)
WINS: Jack Flaherty, STL (8)
ERA: Brandon Woodruff, MIL (1.58)
STRIKEOUTS: Shane Bieber, Indians (98)
SAVES: Mark Melancon, SD (16)
Wearing a special tribute uniform, Marlins !B Garrett Cooper smoked a two-run, walk-off home run 5/22 versus the Mets. Drew Smith served up the full-count blast.