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The Monday Takeaway

Way back in the summer of 1990, my best friend saw Days of Thunder without me. And it wasn’t just that she saw it without me. She saw it with a girl who was a rival of mine and they saw it together after my best friend told me that we would see it together. Well, guess what? It’s 2017, I still haven’t seen Days of Thunder, and I’m still annoyed that my best friend not only went without me but went with my semi-rival.

Hunter Strickland also knows about holding a grudge. Back in 2014, Bryce Harper hit two monster home runs off the Giants reliever in the NLDS—in Games 1 and 4—and Strickland never forgot about. After nearly three years—and even after Giants World Series win—he decided to "settle" the grudge by hitting Harper with a pitch on Monday afternoon.

The Nationals were up 2-0 in the top of the eighth inning, there were two outs, and Strickland decided to unload a 98 mph fastball on Harper, hitting the slugger on his right hip. Harper, who already hit a home run in the game, immediately let Strickland know that he wasn’t exactly pleased with his actions, Strickland let Harper know that he didn’t care that Harper didn’t like it and then all hell broke loose.

Harper threw his bat down, approached Strickland, and—as it looked like he was going to throw his helmet at Strickland and as the reliever turned away, preparing for the impact—threw the helmet way off toward the foul line like he was 50 Cent throwing a first pitch at CitiField. The two players clumsily traded punches, only landing a couple of them, and then their teammates got involved.

As the brouhaha continued, a pile of bodies formed in front of the mound. Harper somehow escaped relatively unscathed. Strickland was so fired up that he had to be restrained by what looked like five teammates who forced him back into the home dugout and held him there for a few minutes. Harper was held back at one point by teammate Ryan Zimmerman, who kept him by the visiting dugout.

The melee caused a delay, and both Harper and Strickland were ejected from the game. Brian Goodwin replaced Harper and ended up scoring the Nationals’ third run. Isn’t that always the way? After the game, Strickland denied that he was throwing at Harper and claimed he was only throwing inside. No one actually believes him; no one watching the game, no one working the game, and no one playing the game.

Quick Hits

David Price returned to the Red Sox on Monday and made his first start of 2017. Things were looking good when he struck out his first batter of the season, Tim Anderson, and set the White Sox down in order in the first inning. Then Price surrendered two walks in the third, which set up a two-on, one-out situation for Melky Cabrera. Price threw a first-pitch, two-seam fastball that was clocked at 95.3 mph. It was over the plate, a little inside, and Cabrera turned on it. The Melkman delivered a three-run shot to put the White Sox up 3-1.

Boston would tie the game in the next inning and take the lead in the fifth, but the White Sox mounted their own comeback and ultimately won the game, 5-4. Price pitched five innings. He gave up those three runs on two hits, two walks, and he struck out four. He also hit two batters. He didn’t factor in the decision. The most important thing for him and for the Red Sox was that he felt healthy after his performance.

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Okay, let’s just say it. The Astros are insane right now. They were down 8-2 to the Twins in the eighth inning at Target Field on Monday afternoon and when their half of the eighth inning ended, they were winning the game 13-8. But they weren’t even finished. They scored three more runs in the top of the ninth and scored a total of 14 unanswered runs against the poor Twins, who could do nothing more than shrug their shoulders when all was said and done.

The Astros have won five straight, and during that streak Carlos Correa is 12-for-21 with five multi-hit games. And here’s a tidbit from MLB.com that made Twins fans cringe when it flashed on their phone screens: The Astros were 0-659 all time when trailing by at least six runs to start the eighth inning before yesterday’s game. As for the Twins, they can’t seem to win at home. They’re 12-16 at Target Field and 14-5 on the road. They’re also still clinging to a one-game lead over Cleveland in the American League Central.

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Aaron Judge hit his league-leading 17th home run in a 3-2 Yankees loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards (home to the first BP Ballpark Event of 2017, on June 17). Orioles starter Dylan Bundy, who won his sixth game of the year, surrendered the dinger to Judge on a belt-high fastball that was over the plate a bit too much.

Eight of Judge’s home runs have gone at least 425 feet. All of the other Yankees have seven such home runs combined. Yesterday’s shot went 429 feet. All rise, indeed.

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Albert Pujols bashed home run no. 598 on Monday night against the Braves. He’s two away from becoming the ninth player in history to reach 600 home runs and the first to do it since Alex Rodriguez in 2010.

Pujols is now 11 away from tying Sammy Sosa for eighth on the all-time home run list.

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Mike Morse and Jeff Samardzija. Ouch. This GIF is mesmerizing and I cannot stop watching it. Every time they smash into each other, I keep hearing the noise that’s used in cartoons when people knock their heads together. And Bryce Harper doesn’t know what to do. I do like the spin move, though.

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Defensive Play of the Day

Mariners catcher Mike Zunino makes the play on a bunt as he spins and falls to the ground. Pretty nifty.

The Mariners beat the surprising Rockies at home, 6-5. The Rockies still lead the NL West and are 33-20. Who saw that coming? No one did. You’re lying.

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What to Watch on Tuesday

Chris Sale (5-2) makes his triumphant return to the mound at Guaranteed Rate Field against the White Sox. He will be facing off against Jose Quintana (2-6) who hasn’t had a great start to his 2017. He has a 4.82 ERA, a 4.12 DRA, and his cFIP is 95. Meanwhile, Sale is pitching like Chris Sale and has a 2.34 ERA with a 1.40 DRA and a 61 cFIP. It’s not even June 1—yes, I know it’s close, but humor me—and Sale is already at 101 strikeouts, and with the way he’s been pitching you can tack on at least another 8-10 before this month even ends. Sale is like a strikeout robot.

The matchup out in San Francisco on Tuesday night will be interesting no matter who is pitching just because of what happened on Monday. Gio Gonzalez (3-1) and Jeff Samardzija (1-6) just happen to be the starters and it will be intriguing to see what unfolds and if anything else happens between the Giants and Nationals. Hopefully, there won’t be any spillover into Game 2 of the series and they can just have a clean contest.