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The Monday Takeaway
For the first month and change of the 2015 season, Carlos Beltran looked every bit of 38, the age he turned on April 24th, two days before his third straight 0-fer sent his OPS plunging below .500. Playing in over 2,000 major-league games had taken a toll on the switch-hitter’s bat speed, and hitting quality fastballs was no longer a picnic, by Beltran’s own admission.

According to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, many scouts saw a month’s worth of feeble swings from Beltran and pronounced him dead. A minority thought his dormant bat might yet show signs of life. And suddenly, those vocal few have a bit more evidence on which to build their case.

Beltran went 2-for-2 on Sunday with two walks and his first home run of the year. After that game, the Yankees left the Bronx for Tampa, where Alex Colome, whose 94.8-mph fastball velo ranked among the league’s top 25 starters, eagerly awaited Beltran’s previously sluggish swing.

What Colome wasn’t counting on was a rejuvenated Beltran ready to pounce on first-pitch heat.

That 94 mph offering was no mistake: Colome fired it right through catcher Rene Rivera’s middle-in target. Beltran just didn’t let it get there. Instead, he walloped it out to right field for his second big fly in as many days and the Yankees’ third of the night.

Beltran’s bomb came in the fifth inning, one frame after Chase Headley’s three-run job, and one before Brett Gardner plated a trio with a tater of his own. All of this must have come as something of a shock to Colome, who’d faced 109 left-handed batters in the majors before taking the hill and kept every last one of them in the park.

Monday just wasn’t the right-hander’s night, as he was shelled essentially from the get-go. Three batters into the game, Alex Rodriguez rolled the windows down and sent this one on a cruise to the Florida-Georgia line:

The Rays climbed out of that 1-0 hole in the last of the first, but their back-to-back seventh-inning homers off CC Sabathia were no match for the Yankees, who cranked five into the outfield seats. Mark Teixeira’s two-runner in the ninth was the last of the scoring in this 11-5 rout.

But on a night when Sabathia earned his second straight win at the Trop for the first time in more than a decade, and when Teixeira notched four hits for the first time in nearly three years, the most promising development for the Bombers was Beltran, now the proud owner of six extra-base hits in 10 games since the calendar flipped to May.

Quick Hits From Monday

Beltran wasn’t the only Carlos scuffling to begin the year. Slowed by a hamstring injury that put him on the shelf for the bulk of April, Carlos Gomez, some nine years Beltran’s junior, was toting a .613 OPS at first pitch on Monday. And he had former division rival Jeff Samardzija to contend with in the series opener at Miller Park.

But much like Beltran, Gomez found a 0-0 offering to his liking and clobbered it:

That got the Brewers off and running, and by the fifth inning, when Gomez came to bat for the third time, they were up 6-2 and looking to run away. The center fielder did his part to further that effort with a triple

that became a Little League round-tripper when Avisail Garcia turned in The Defensive Non-Play of the Day,

a seven-hopper past both cutoff men and all the way to left fielder Melky Cabrera, whose heave home was a split-second too late.

It’s safe to say Gomez’s hamstring is intact after that 360-foot sprint, but there was nothing safe about the 7-2 lead it granted the Brewers. They were all set to cast more misery upon the 29,886 in attendance when a three-run seventh and a two-run eighth drew the South Siders even at seven apiece. But then old friend Zach Duke—who served up only three homers all of last year—gave his former mates a helping hand.

With one out in the bottom of the penultimate frame, Duke walked Martin Maldonado, then fell behind Elian Herrera and put one right in the utility man’s wheelhouse:

Game untied. Two batters later, Khris Davis unloaded, too:

His mammoth solo shot made it 10-7, the eventual final score.

***

Also struggling to keep the ball in the yard was Mets starter Jacob deGrom, whose shoddy command returned just five days after he stifled the Orioles. DeGrom took the mound at Wrigley Field, now equipped with a shiny new scoreboard and reopened left-field bleachers, which Kris Bryant, um, Kristened, in the bottom of the first:

I’d show myself out for that awful pun, but then I wouldn’t be able to tell you about Anthony Rizzo’s blast on the very next pitch.

The first baseman left a souvenir for the construction crew still working on the right-field seating area and put the Cubs up 3-0 in the process.

After the sides traded tallies in the fourth, the Mets showed they had a back-to-back set in them, too.

Lucas Duda

and Wilmer Flores did the honors for the road nine at Jon Lester’s expense, but those one-run jabs were too little, too late to save deGrom.

The home lefty and the visiting righty both allowed five hits, two of them homers, and uncharacteristically issued four walks, but Lester lasted an inning longer and permitted a run fewer. Justin Grimm, Zac Rosscup, and Hector Rondon did the rest to secure the 3-2 win for the Cubs.

***

If Colome, Samardzija, Duke, and deGrom go searching for sympathy, they won’t find it from Diamondbacks starter Josh Collmenter, who suffered the worst case of the Mondays by a desert mile.

Denard Span gave the right-hander the rudest of greetings

on the second pitch of the day, and boy, was that a harbinger for things to come.

Batting second was Yunel Escobar, who singled, the first of five hits for the third baseman, who also went 5-for-5 on May 4th. Up third was Jayson Werth, who drew a walk, as Collmenter did himself no favors with the sizzling Bryce Harper on deck. That nearly proved disastrous when Harper launched one to the wall, and while Collmenter was busy counting his blessings that Harper’s fly was caught, Ryan Zimmerman touched ‘em all:

The D’backs starter got himself through that inning without any further damage, only to return for the second and be greeted with back-to-back infield singles, the latter by his counterpart, Max Scherzer. Then Denard Span singled, and well, since nobody was getting Escobar out on Monday, he singled, too. By then it was 5-0. Werth’s sacrifice fly made it 6-0, and Harper, who came oh so close in the first inning, got into the hit column with an RBI single that sent Collmenter to the showers.

Vidal Nuno, fresh up from Triple-A, relieved Collmenter and tossed 6 2/3 strong innings—but not before doing further damage to his battered teammate’s ERA. Nuno walked Zimmerman to begin his outing, then served up a bases-clearing double to Wilson Ramos:

That, mercifully, closed the book on Collmenter at 1 1/3 IP, 8 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2 HR. Before we go any further, let’s give that calamity the Play Index treatment it deserves. Per the indispensable Baseball-Reference tool, Collmenter is the first pitcher in at least a century to turn in precisely that line, and he’s also the first Diamondbacks starter ever to stuff nine or more runs and two or more homers into 1 1/3 or fewer innings without recording a strikeout. On the bright side, he can form a support group with rehabbing now-D’back Bronson Arroyo, who happens to be the most recent big-league starter to withstand that sort of beating, having endured it on May 6th, 2009.

As for Nuno, he went on to log 6 2/3 innings of seven-hit, two-run (two earned), two-walk, eight-strikeout work, about as much as the Snakes could’ve asked of their newly recalled long man, who saved the rest of the bullpen amid the 11-1 drubbing.

Along the way, Nuno became the second pitcher in Diamondbacks franchise history to rack up eight or more Ks in relief. Can you name the first? (Hint: He’s also the only reliever in franchise history to pitch more than 6 2/3 innings.)

Before revealing the answer to that, it’s worth examining the ending of this one, which isn’t often the case for games that go final 11-1. The game’s last batter was Chris Owings who dribbled one right beside home plate

and was hit by the ball on his way out of the box. Home-plate umpire Joe West ruled that Owings had left the box before the ball made contact with him, calling Owings out and the game over on batter’s interference. And if you thought Hale would let that slide so that everyone could go home, well,

you’d have been wrong. Turns out, though, the call was not reviewable. And, all things considered, perhaps that’s for the best.

As for the trivia question, the answer is Randy Johnson, who K’d a reliever record 16 on July 18th, 2001.

***

Out in Los Angeles, the closer carousel landed on Yimi Garcia on Monday, and deservedly so, considering the flame-throwing righty had limited foes to four hits and four while fanning 23 in just 14 1/3 innings. But Don Mattingly’s best-laid ninth-inning plans went awry, when Christian Yelich turned a one-run deficit into a one-run Marlins lead with one swing:

Yelich’s first home run of the year redeemed an earlier fielding error and put the Marlins in a save situation. For better or worse—mostly worse—their ninth-inning man has remained the same since Opening Day. Manager Mike Redmond has stuck with beleaguered closer Steve Cishek, who entered last night with three saves and three blown saves, the most recent a 2-1 edge turned 3-2 walkoff defeat on Sunday afternoon. He called on the sidewinding righty again at Dodger Stadium last night.

And with two aboard and one away, Scott Van Slyke, who’d already delivered on defense by gunning Yelich down at the plate, sent the crowd home happy

with a three-run walkoff bomb.

You know how most closers have a patented celebration when they convert a save? This is the opposite of that:

This is the look of a man searching for answers, while his team falls to 15-18 and his 10.32 ERA begs for a lower-leverage role.

The Defensive Play of the Day

If Dee Gordon weren’t batting .425, he might consider giving basketball a try. The Marlins second baseman now has a behind-the-back pass to go with his postgame-interview dunk:

What to Watch on Tuesday

Already excited about their team’s strong start to the season, Mets fans have also been eyeing their Triple-A affiliate in recent weeks, thanks to the dominance of pitching prospects Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Both have loudly stated cases for promotion, but because the major-league rotation was full, they were forced to bide their time, awaiting an opening. Opportunity finally knocked over the weekend, when Dillon Gee was placed on the disabled list with a groin strain, creating a chance for the next horse to leave the team’s still-stocked stable of high-end arms.

Upper-minors experience made Syndergaard the choice, and after collecting three hits—including a home run to dead-center field—while tossing eight strong innings in his most recent outing for the Las Vegas 51s, the 22-year-old will take his two-way talents to Wrigley Field for a date with Jake Arrieta and the Cubs. One of the highest-floor pitching prospects in baseball, per the scouting report from our own Chris Crawford in the afore-linked post, Syndergaard boasts the present stuff and control to enjoy big-league success in short order. His showdowns with fellow rookies Kris Bryant and Addison Russell are appointment television this evening (8:05 p.m. ET).

***

Just how much confidence does Collin McHugh have in his ability to throw quality strikes with his breaking ball? Well, consider this: The spin-happy right-hander has shaved his walk rate from last year’s already-solid 6.6 percent to 4.5 percent, good for 15th among qualifying starters, tied with Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw. And he’s done this while employing a positively peculiar pitch mix in three-ball counts.

If you’re one of the select few hitters lucky enough to earn a 3-0 advantage, for instance, don’t bother dialing up for a center-cut fastball

because you’re just as likely to see a slider.

If the count’s 3-1, forget sitting dead red,

because based on the early returns, 10 times out of 11, you’re going to guess wrong.

Oh, and by the way, should you run the count full,

the payoff pitch probably won’t be straight, either, and the ball’s in your court to figure out which of the breaking balls is coming your way.

McHugh’s pitch selection might be quirky, but it’s hard to argue with the results. The league is batting .239/.558/.401 in three-ball counts this year, but that drops to .200/.407/.250 when McHugh is on the hill. Not only are his sliders and curves more difficult to square up and drive than fat fastballs, they’re also tougher to lay off of, even when he misses the zone.

Tonight, McHugh faces a Giants club that, as of Sunday, ranked 28th in batting average in three-ball counts (.187) and 29th in slugging (.262). Will McHugh’s bizarro approach wake up the Giants’ bats, or will he hook and slide his way out of count trouble again? Tune in to find out (8:10 p.m. ET).

***

When Dan Haren crossed the 180-inning threshold in 2014, the workload triggered a $10 million player option in his contract, which the right-hander exercised with the intention of contributing to his hometown Dodgers’ rotation. Then the Dodgers shipped him off to the Marlins, as part of the two-part, Dee Gordon-to-Howie Kendrick reshuffling, despite Haren’s indication that he’d only pitch for a Southern California-based club, and suddenly, the 34-year-old’s future was up in the air.

In the end, all of that was just an empty threat, as the Marlins talked Haren into moving to Miami, where he’s rolled to a 2.68 ERA start. Haren’s underlying numbers—notably a 3.94 DRA and 105 cFIP—portend regression, but he’ll need to ward it off for one more start to make the Dodgers rue shipping him east (10:10 p.m. ET).

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jwferg
5/12
Just a whisker away from a classic 9-7-2 putout in that Sox-Brewers game.
bhalpern
5/12
I for one am greatly disappointed we didn't get a 9-7-2 putout. I'm going to guess that would be a first.
bsroufe
5/12
There's gotta be a Ben Revere joke in here somewhere.