keyboard_arrow_uptop

The Thursday Takeaway

Marwin Gonzalez of the Astros hit his ninth home run of 2016 on July 26 in a game against the Yankees. It was a solo shot off CC Sabathia in the bottom of the first inning. The Astros went on to lose the game, 6-3. If you’re wondering why this is pertinent information it’s because Marwin Gonzalez hit his ninth home run of 2017 on Thursday afternoon against the Rangers. It was a solo shot off A.J. Griffin in the bottom of the fourth inning.

While everyone is paying attention to and writing about the big boppers like Aaron Judge, Eric Thames, and Ryan Zimmerman, Gonzalez is quietly climbing up the home run leaderboard himself. And heading into Thursday’s action, Gonzalez had 11 hits in his previous 22 at-bats.

The Houston broadcasters joked that Gonzalez’s home run hitting has become a daily occurrence. The 28-year-old made his debut five years ago and in 2016 he batted .254/.293/.401 with 13 homers and 56 RBIs.

Ultimately, the Rangers won the game 10-4 thanks in part to Griffin’s seven strikeouts.

And thanks to home runs by Joey Gallo

Elvis Andrus

… and Rougned Odor.

Even with the loss, the Astros are off to their best start in team history at 19-9. They also started 19-9 in 2006. That year, they finished 82-80 and missed the playoffs a year after getting swept in the World Series.

Quick Hits

The heated series between the Red Sox and Orioles finally came to an end on Thursday night, and the Orioles prevailed in the finale, 8-3. And because nothing is better than a juicy storyline in this type of series finale, Manny Machado played a big role in the O’s win. Because of course he did! He broke a 3-3 tie in the fifth inning with a three-run homer over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Street.

The Red Sox were leading 3-1 when the fifth inning began and found themselves down 6-3 when it was over. They had a chance to make it a much closer game in the seventh but Joey Rickard came to Mychal Givens’ rescue after Givens loaded the bases. Andrew Benintendi hit a line drive to right field that could have easily cleared the bases if it got the right bounce. Instead, Rickard made a diving play and ended the inning.

Here’s a fun fact about Thursday’s game: The Orioles scored their first run on a double steal. Last year they stole only 19 bases, which was the lowest total in the majors since the strike-shortened 1972 season. The lead runner (i.e., the guy who stole home) was Seth Smith and it was his first stolen base since May of 2014.

***

The Royals and White Sox also wrapped up a series on Thursday, though it was a lot less explosive than the O’s-Sox series. At least when it came to beanballs and expletive-filled rants.

Well, there was a record-setting hit by pitch in Thursday’s game when White Sox starter Derek Holland hit Alex Gordon in the seventh inning. It was the 79th time Gordon has been hit by a pitch, which set a Royals record.

The teams ended up splitting the four-game series. The Royals won both of their games 6-1, while the White Sox won their two games 6-0 and 8-3. The Royals have only scored 75 runs through their first 26 games of the season, which is the lowest mark at this point of the season in the franchise’s history. And there was more bad news for the Royals, as starter Ian Kennedy exited the game in the fifth inning with a grade one hamstring strain, which means the disabled list will be inevitable.

***

Jesus Aguilar of the Brewers hit his first career home run in the seventh inning of Milwaukee’s 5-4 win over the Cardinals. And because it was his first major-league dinger, Aguilar's teammates had a little fun with him when he returned to the dugout by giving him the silent treatment. Aguilar had just as much fun giving high fives to no one.

After the game the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Aguilar’s teammates put him in a laundry cart and rolled him into the showers in the visitor’s clubhouse at Busch Stadium, where they poured basically every liquid they could find onto the squealing and squirming Aguilar as an even bigger celebration.

The 26-year-old first baseman from Venezuela slugged his way onto the Brewers' roster, hitting seven home runs in spring training to earn a spot as Eric Thames’ backup. But as Thames kept hitting, Aguilar’s playing time shrunk. With the limited playing time, Aguilar had trouble at the plate until a pinch-hit single in Tuesday night’s game. His home run on Thursday proved to be the game winner.

Defensive Play of the Day

Ben Gamel of the Mariners, or as some baseball fans like to call him, Benny with the good hair, lays out and makes a diving catch against the Angels.

What to Watch For Friday

The red-hot Yankees (17-9) start a weekend series with the defending champion Cubs (16-12). The first game of the series is an early 2:20 PM EDT start that will see Michael Pineda facing off against Kyle Hendricks. Pineda has been better for the Yankees this season. So far, he is 3-1 with a 3.14 ERA/1.34 DRA and 34 strikeouts and only four walks. His one issue has been the home run. He’s surrendered five so far and it will be interesting to see how he pitches against guys like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber. Hendricks is 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA/6.34 DRA. He’s also surrendered five home runs. He’ll have to navigate a lineup with the newly activated Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge.

Dallas Keuchel of the Astros seems to have found his way again. After a down 2016, Keuchel is looking to become the first six-game winner in baseball. He will be facing off against Jesse Chavez and the Angels on Friday night in Anaheim. Keuchel’s numbers so far this season have been pretty incredible. Aside from the perfect 5-0 record, he has a 1.21 ERA and a 1.03 DRA. Keuchel has struck out 36 batters in 44 â…” innings while walking 11.

On the flip side, both Jason Hammel of the Royals and Mike Foltynewicz of the Braves are still looking for their first win of the season. Both pitchers are 0-3 entering play on Friday. Hammel will be facing Danny Salazar (2-2) and the Indians, while Foltynewicz will be facing Lance Lynn (3-1) and the Cardinals.