The Weekend Takeaway
Over the weekend’s 45-game spread, major-league batters combined for 116 total home runs. A few, like John Hicks’ ninth-inning blast off the Twins’ Ryan Pressly, were career firsts. Other came in pairs, like Stanton’s twin homers during Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Padres, one landing 381 feet in left-center field and the other, 417 feet in the second deck of PETCO Park.
No home run was hit further than Gallo’s two-run shot, however, which traveled an estimated 462 feet at a record-shattering 116 mph. for the longest and fastest home run of 2017. Gallo hit two bombs before the night was over and propelled the Rangers to a 6-2 win on Friday, the first of a three-game sweep against the Royals.
Adam Rosales set another home run record on Saturday as well, though the record he broke was his own. Following a game-tying homer in the second inning, Rosales sprinted around the bases in just 15.9 seconds, the fastest home run trot ever recorded by Statcast. That’s only 0.06 seconds faster than the record-setting home run trot he established last September, and it should come as little surprise that the speedy shortstop currently holds eight of Statcast’s 10 fastest home run sprints.
Five of this weekend’s 116 home runs landed for grand slams, and no one did it better than the Rockies. On Friday, Story executed his third home run of the year and first career grand slam against the Giants, a Johnny Cueto fastball airmailed to the right-field corner. Three at-bats later, Colorado found themselves in the history books when Charlie Blackmon exploited a changeup for a line drive to right field, narrowly missing Hunter Pence and giving himself just enough time to score his first inside-the-park home run.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
Manny Machado got into hot water on Friday when the Red Sox attempted to turn a double play in the eighth inning. Seconds before Dustin Pedroia was about to flip the ball to first base, Machado executed a late slide, catching Pedroia’s left calf with his cleats and causing the second baseman to crumble on the basepaths.
Machado was called out at second base after the slide, and the decision was immediately challenged by Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who claimed that Pedroia had stepped off the base. That didn’t sit well with Red Sox skipper John Farrell, who countered that Machado’s cleat-first takeout slide was “extremely late” and called for a double play ruling as compensation for an illegal play.
The umpires upheld their initial call, which didn’t appear to satisfy either party. Tempers flared throughout the remainder of the series, escalating on Sunday when Matt Barnes appeared to throw behind Machado’s head in the eighth inning of the Red Sox’s 6-2 win. Pedroia, meanwhile, made it clear to Machado that he didn’t take the slide personally or condone extreme retaliatory measures, but he’ll still need to undergo an MRI exam after experiencing residual swelling in his left knee and ankle.
Dan Straily quashed any talk of grand slams and inside-the-park home runs on Saturday, unleashing the full force of his fastball-slider combo against the Padres for a record-smashing 14-strikeout start. Straily’s slider was irresistible, generating eight of 16 swings-and-misses over the first seven innings of the 11-inning marathon.
Not only were the 14 whiffs a career-high for Straily, his pitch count placed him in rare company. He retired 25 batters on just 97 pitches, joining Javier Vasquez and Stephen Strasburg the three major-league hurlers to rack up at least 14 strikeouts with fewer than 100 pitches in an outing.
There’s nothing all that unusual about a pitcher hitting. We’ve seen Madison Bumgarner home runs and Adam Wainwright triples, RBI knocks from Daniel Hudson and Kyle Hendricks, and the rare but cherished extra-base hit from CC Sabathia.
Zach Wheeler tried his hand at something a little different on Friday night. With limited options on the bench, Mets skipper Terry Collins called on Wheeler and fellow right-hander Robert Gsellman to pinch-hit during an 11-inning marathon. Wheeler rose to the task in the seventh inning, replacing starter Matt Harvey and promptly whacking a double into right field.
It was just the third time in franchise history that a Mets pitcher recorded an extra-base hit after entering the game as a pinch-hitter. Unfortunately for Wheeler, his seventh-inning heroics were all for naught. Jay Bruce left the bases loaded with an inning-ending lineout to Bryce Harper and the Mets fell in the 11th inning after Jeurys Familia walked in the Nationals’ winning run.
Defensive Play of the Game
Just so we’re clear, Kevin Pillar is the only person allowed to both hit and catch home runs.
What to Watch on Monday
Matt Garza appears to be in fine form after rehabbing a right groin strain, and is set to make his first start of the season when the Reds come to town on Monday. Facing him is rookie left-hander Amir Garrett, who boasts a 1.83 ERA through 19 2/3 innings after amassing four runs, 14 hits, and 21 strikeouts in his first three major-league appearances. It’s a fine opportunity for the Reds to catch up to the Cubs, who sit just half a game over them for the NL Central lead (7:40 ET).
Over in the NL West, both the Giants and Dodgers have something to prove in Monday’s series opener. Down an ace, the Giants will send right-hander Matt Cain to the mound against Dodgers southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu. Neither pitcher has done much to inspire confidence in recent years. Cain lost his status at the front of the rotation after succumbing to a series of injuries, while Ryu’s shoulder and elbow issues have prevented him from recording a full season’s worth of starts since 2014.
Despite the sharp dropoff in his stats, however, Cain is 1-0 in three starts this season and has appeared relatively stable after allowing two runs, nine hits, and striking out nine batters in back-to-back wins with the Giants. Things look a little worse for Ryu, who has given up 4-plus runs in each of his 2017 appearances and is currently averaging just 1.33 runs of support per outing (10:15 ET).
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