The Weekend Takeaway
We’ve all had bad birthdays before. Maybe some other kid blew out the candles on your cake, or your grandma bought you itchy socks instead of the Nintendo game you pinned your hopes on, or no one remembered to call to wish you a happy day. Still, there’s a decent chance that your worst birthday memory isn’t quite as bad as Jeremy Guthrie’s last birthday.
To be fair, Guthrie had the odds stacked against him on Saturday. He hadn’t pitched a single inning at the major-league level since his four-year stint with the Royals expired in 2015, and that didn’t end on a particularly high note. Prior to the club’s championship run, the right-hander delivered some of the worst results of his career to date, including -3.1 WARP and a 6.78 DRA.
Guthrie cobbled together several minor-league gigs in 2016 and entered the 2017 season on a minor-league contract with the Nationals. He impressed the club enough that when they needed a fifth starter to slot in for Joe Ross, they recalled the veteran righty from Triple-A Syracuse, presumably both for a spot start and an audition for his services throughout the year.
Nothing went according to plan. After five pitches, the 38-year-old had given up a leadoff double to the Phillies’ Cesar Hernandez and a single to Howie Kendrick. After 14 pitches, Guthrie had walked Odubel Herrera, allowed Kendrick to steal second, and retired Maikel Franco on a sacrifice fly that plated the Phillies’ first run of the afternoon. After 20 pitches, Michael Saunders and Tommy Joseph brought in another two runs on RBI base hits, and by the time Guthrie had hurled his 47th pitch, six more came home to score following three walks, a sac fly, triple, and base hit.
When the dust settled, the Phillies were standing atop a 10-run lead and Guthrie was nowhere in sight. Enny Romero entered to give Philadelphia two bonus runs, bringing their total to 12 in one inning and establishing a new franchise record. Guthrie, meanwhile, was designated for assignment the next day.
Felix Hernandez and Mike Trout entered a 14-pitch standoff on Saturday afternoon, well before the Mariners eventually collapsed in a 5-4 defeat. They battled, as Westley once explained to the petulant Prince Humperdinck, not to the death, but to the pain.
Hernandez began with a sinker, then threw the whole kitchen sink at Trout, working around the edges of the strike zone with his signature changeups, sliders, curveballs, and fastballs to induce an eventual strikeout from the 25-year-old AL MVP.
Trout vs. King. An epic 14-pitch battle.
— MLB (@MLB) April 9, 2017
The duel ate up 14 percent of Hernandez’s total pitch count for the night and set a personal record for most pitches thrown in an at-bat. Trout returned in the seventh inning to get his revenge with a two-run homer off Evan Scribner. The Mariners were left trailing by one run after running into Cam Bedrosian in the eighth and ninth, who set down four consecutive strikeouts to preserve the Angels’ fourth win of the week.
An old feud was revived on Sunday afternoon when the benches cleared during the Rays’ 7-2 win over the Blue Jays. In the second inning, Justin Smoak and Troy Tulowitzki turned a double play, catching Steven Souza at second base after the Rays’ outfielder made a late slide into the bag.
Tulowitzki exchanged heated words with Souza, which looked reminiscent of the pair’s first altercation during a misunderstanding involving Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin last September.
The benches cleared, but nothing came of the incident. Tulowitzki said later that he wanted to warn Souza about the risks of making a hard slide. “Not so much for myself,” the shortstop told reporters, “but for other guys maybe in the future, try to save injuries.”
Souza, on the other hand, would rather forget the whole thing. He returned in the third inning with a three-run shot off Toronto right-hander Marco Estrada, catapulting his first home run of the season over the left field fence. The Blue Jays not only lost their chance to even the series, but may have lost Josh Donaldson to another disabled list stint after the slugger was seen leaving the field with a right calf strain in the sixth inning.
The Astros aren’t running away with the AL West as quickly as expected, but they still managed to enter two names in the history books this weekend.
Carlos Beltran recorded his 1,537th career RBI on Friday night, tying Joe DiMaggio for the 49th-most among all major leaguers (it's also fourth-most among active players). He’s still two RBIs shy of catching up to Tigers Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann and three short of Pirates Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, and it may take him considerably longer to tie Miguel Cabrera (1,553) or Adrian Beltre (1,571), let alone Albert Pujols (1,820).
Beltran reached the milestone on a double in the seventh inning, putting the Astros on the board for the first time in their 5-1 loss to the Royals.
On Sunday, Astros speedster Jose Altuve reached a career milestone of his own. In the bottom of the eighth, with two outs and the score knotted 3-3, Altuve collected his 200th career stolen base, sliding into second just ahead of the tag from Alcides Escobar.
— LasMayores (@LasMayores) April 9, 2017
The base will be preserved in the team’s archives while Altuve hunts down another 30-50 stolen bases this season. He’s just the seventh player to record at least 200 stolen bases with the Astros, joining Cesar Cedeno, Craig Biggio, Jose Cruz, Joe Morgan, Terry Puhl and, most recently, Jeff Bagwell.
Defensive Play of the Weekend
Reasons why Alex Bregman probably isn’t Spider-Man:
1. He isn’t that fast.
2. Definitely can’t climb a wall.
3. Still can’t transform into a spider.
Reasons why he could be Spider-Man:
Look at Dallas Keuchel’s face. He’s not so sure a regular human could have made that catch, either. And hey, just because you can’t see the web-shooters on his wrists doesn’t mean they’re not there.
What to Watch on Monday
The Red Sox are coming out of a stomach-turning weekend … literally. Several strains of the flu infected the clubhouse, landing Hanley Ramirez and Robbie Ross on the disabled list with influenza, while milder forms of the illness cropped up in Mitch Moreland, Brock Holt, Pablo Sandoval, Joe Kelly, and Mookie Betts, among others. Andrew Benintendi vomited between innings of Saturday’s game, but was physically able to resume his station in left field despite feeling unwell.
All that to say, the injury-ravaged club used some creative maneuvering to engineer Sunday’s win against the Tigers and will be looking to gain any advantage they can when Justin Verlander takes the hill for Monday’s finale. Going toe-to-toe with Detroit’s ace is Chris Sale, who is coming off of a seven-inning, seven-strikeout shutout against the Pirates last week. (1:10 ET)
Jacob deGrom appeared to be in fine form last Wednesday when he took the Braves down in six scoreless innings for his first outing of the season. Any hint of lingering elbow pain seems to have vanished by this point in the year, and it’s looking more and more like the Mets will be able to rely on their trifecta of aces after injuries hampered their postseason run in 2016.
The Phillies will send out right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, who last pitched the club to a 2-0 loss against the Reds on Wednesday. Working in Philadelphia’s favor, however, is a dynamic run by their offense. They surged back from a three-game losing streak to win their weekend series against the Nationals and scored 21 runs in their last two games. The Mets, by comparison, have produced just six runs since Saturday. (7:05 ET)