MLB PITCH: 8/2/21
(originally written 8/2/21)
MLB PITCH = (PREDICTIONS, INFO, TRANSACTIONS, COMMENTARY, HIGHLIGHTS)
(This will cover MLB PITCH for 29 of 30 clubs; the Giants' past week will receive its own article...maybe.)
Obviously, last week's MLB story begins and ends with the massive upheaval at the 7/30 Trade Deadline...or as Cubs and Nationals fans called it, Huizenga Tribute Day. All 30 clubs were involved in at least one trade, and 10 current All-Stars plus (at least) 10 former All-Stars were among those moved.
We were initially going to cover the Deadline deals in this article, but that was before realizing just how dramatically the baseball landscape would shift the afternoon of 7/30. Check back to TSR for a piece that specifically covers MLB Trade Deadline 2021 and its early impact.
Also making headlines were the growing number of COVID cases around the game, not surprising given the relatively fast re-opening of the 30 ballparks combined with the new Delta strain sweeping the nation. Aside from Washington's postponements during Week 1, this season's first half was largely bereft of COVID distraction.
White Sox C Seby Zavala had just 17 games of MLB experience to his credit, and one RBI, before his offensive explosion 7/31. Each of his three home runs were to a different field!
Since the All-Star break, however, dudes have been testing positive left and right. Last week alone, Miami MGR Don Mattingly, Brewers OF Christian Yelich and RP's Hunter Strickland and Jake Cousins, then-Nationals SS Trea Turner and RP Daniel Hudson, plus five D'Backs players were among those to hit the IL due to a positive test or contact tracing. (As I write this, news came down that Milwaukee CL Josh Hader and Pittsburgh SP Chad Kuhl have also been added to the COVID "injured" list.) At least some of the cases were "breakthrough", which means the infected subject was vaccinated.
⦁ The wildest game of the week? Detroit's 17-14 victory over Minnesota 7/28. The Tigers somehow piled up 17 runs without the aid of a single home run or any contribution from the great Miguel Cabrera, who didn't play. Every Detroit starter registered at least one run, hit and RBI.
⦁ Cincinnati's Joey Votto continued the tear of his life last week. Entering Monday's game, he'd already homered in two straight games. Well the slugging 1B went yard again Monday...and Tuesday...and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, too. That's SEVEN straight games with a bomb, people, just one shy of the all-time record shared by Mattingly, Ken Griffey Jr. and Dale Long. Votto came within inches of homering in his eighth straight game Saturday, but ultimately had to settle for his seven-game streak and NL Player of the Month honors for July.
⦁ AL Player Of The Month for July? Was it really gonna be anybody besides Angels DH/SP Shohei Ohtani? After winning the same award for June, in July Ohtani slugged .671 with nine home runs, went 2-0, 1.35 in three starts, and put on a show during All-Star competition. He may have even rescued a cat from a tree, too. Only an injury at this point could keep Ohtani from the AL MVP award.
⦁ In 2016, 1B Anthony Rizzo, SS/2B Javier Baez and 3B/OF Kris Bryant helped lead the Cubs to a curse-breaking World Series title. Last week, Chicago shipped Rizzo, Baez and Bryant (among others) out of town, and each of them homered in their debuts for the Yankees, Mets and Giants, respectively. That's never happened before, and I don't need anybody from Twitter or Elias to back me up on that.
⦁ Before Baez left town, he and nemesis Amir Garrett (Reds RP) added one more chapter to their ongoing saga. This time, on 7/26, it was Garrett serving up a walk-off drive to CF off the bat of Baez, who was loud and animated toward Garrett off the crack of the bat. Surprisingly, this ended up as little more than taunting; teammates and umpires intervened before it approached skirmish level.
⦁ All was not rosy between the Indians and White Sox, either. It began 7/30 when reigning MVP Jose Abreu of Chicago was drilled twice—including once in the head by Cleveland RP James Karinchak. Sox MGR Tony LaRussa charged onto the field and for whatever reason, half-shoved Indians C Roberto Perez as Abreu was tended to, which wasn't exactly appreciated on Cleveland's side. Making matters worse, on 8/1 Abreu was plunked up high by another pitch. Though there were no ensuing incidents, tensions remained high, and when White Sox OF Brian Goodwin clubbed a walk-off homer, he flung his bat some 10+ feet in the air.
⦁ When noting Abreu's career-low .242 average, remember the guy has taken a beating this year. Besides the beaning, he's been drilled 13 other times, hit by thrown bats, trampled by runners, and still has played 99 of 106 games to date.
⦁ No team went winless last week, and no team went lossless last week. Kansas City entered the week on a five-game win streak, which grew to six 7/26 on the strength of a second straight multi-homer game by OF Jorge Soler (later traded). But the Royals were dispatched 7/27.
⦁ Entering this week, the longest active win streaks belong to Toronto and Tampa Bay (four). Boston and Miami carry the longest active loss streaks (also four). Texas, who had lost 12 in a row (and didn't lead for 105 innings), defeated Arizona 5-4 on 7/27.
⦁ In what could be a devastating blow for the Padres and the whole league, SS Fernando Tatis Jr. re-injured his troublesome shoulder while sliding into 3B 7/30. He was placed on the IL and fans can only hope his history of quick healing repeats itself.
⦁ Cabrera clubbed career homers #496 and #497 on 7/29 vs. Baltimore. The 38-year-old entered this week 58 hits shy of 3,000.
⦁ Who is this guy? On 7/7, Orioles SP Matt Harvey carried a 7.70 ERA after 18 starts. But on 7/30 he fired 6+ shutout innings for the third straight start!
⦁ Speaking of notable ex-Mets, on 8/1 former SP's Ron Darling and Jon Matlack, plus former IF Edgardo Alfonso, were inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame.
Athletics SP Sean Manaea threw 5.1 perfect innings at San Diego 7/28 before ex-teammate Jurickson Profar drew a walk. The veteran lefty has allowed a total of just four hits in his past two starts covering 13 innings.
⦁ Before we get into last week's Gold Glove defense, we have to discuss last week's Mold Glove defense—specifically, a play from 7/30. White Sox 3B Yoan Moncada blasted one to the warning track, but Indians OF's Bradley Zimmer and Daniel Johnson collided, knocking the ball off one of their mitts and over the wall for a Chicago homer. At least this Indians outfield collision resulted only in embarrassment rather than broken bones.
⦁ As for some of the week's finest defense: check out Toronto 3B Santiago Espinal making a barehanded catch of a popup from Jarrod Dyson of the Royals 7/30. Then view Baltimore's Maikel Franco's throw while slipping at third base 8/1.
⦁ On 8/1 at Tampa Bay, the Red Sox might have executed the best start-to-finish defensive inning I've ever seen. To open the B8th, 3B Rafael Devers, playing in, snagged Brandon Lowe's grounder; his hard one-hop laser to first was somehow corralled by 1B Bobby Dalbec to retire Lowe by a step.
Next, LF J.D. Martinez charged full speed and slid to track down Austin Meadows's shot down the line. Then, RF Hunter Renfroe unleashed a perfect one-hop throw to retire Nelson Cruz trying to stretch a single into a double. A trio of big league plays that I wouldn't have fully appreciated years ago.
Now for last week's notable home run exploits:
⦁ On 7/28, rookie Pirates IF Rodolfo Castro became the first to homer for his first FIVE major league hits. Cubs OF Rafael Ortega (8/1 at Washington) and White Sox C Seby Zavala (7/31 vs. Cleveland) enjoyed unlikely three-homer games. Phillies OF Bryce Harper drilled a legit ITPHR 7/27 at Washington. On 8/1, Rangers C Jonah Heim became the first to rip consecutive walk-off homers since Albert Pujols in 2011. And on 7/31, the Astros and Giants combined for eight home runs at the increasingly hitter-friendly Oracle Park.
⦁ The Mets designated SP Jerad Eickhoff for assignment for the third time this season. After being tagged for five walks and 10 ER in 3.1 innings 7/27 vs. the Braves, this DFA was probably warranted. And final.
⦁ White Sox OF Eloy Jimenez (torn pec) returned to action 7/26; remember, he was thought out for the year back in March. But Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg will undergo season-ending neck surgery, per the 7/27 announcement.
⦁ Holy Frank Tanana! The Angels enjoyed Throwback Weekend, splitting a pair against Oakland in their 1970's getup 7/30-31.
⦁ In a way, the Blue Jays enjoyed a Throwback Weekend of their own, returning to Toronto's Rogers Centre for the first time since September 2019. The re-opening was attended by 13,446...but the Rogers Centre holds over 50,000 and the Jays are good this year. I hope the pandemic, rather than disinterest, is to blame.
⦁ On 7/28, Rays OF Randy Arozarena's popup stuck in the Tropicana Field catwalk. One day later, Renfroe's popup did the same. Both balls were ruled foul and both batters were eventually retired. Maybe that's why Charlie Morton signed with Atlanta.
COMPLETE GAME WATCH
⦁ On 7/29, Philadelphia's Zack Wheeler took the seven-inning CG loss to Washington 3-1. It was Wheeler's second, and MLB's 38th, complete game of 2021.
MAJOR LEAGUE LEADERS THRU 8/1
HOME RUNS: Shohei Ohtani, LAA (37)
AVERAGE: Michael Brantley, Astros (.331)
RBI: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays (83)
STEALS: Whit Merrifield, Royals (27)
WINS: Kyle Hendricks, Cubs/Julio Urias, Dodgers (13)
ERA: Lance Lynn, White Sox (2.07)
STRIKEOUTS: Gerrit Cole, Yankees (176)
SAVES: Mark Melancon, Padres (32)
The week opened with Rockies SS Trevor Story getting drilled HARD by Angels SP Shohei Ohtani. And surprisingly, the week closed with Story—the subject of fierce trade rumors all season—still wearing a Rockies uniform.