The Weekend Takeaway
There are losses and then there are the colossal, dumpster-fire-verging-on-apocalyptic-disaster losses that the Mets experienced on Sunday afternoon.
Let’s get this out of the way first: the Nationals scored 23 runs on Sunday. That’s bananas. That’s more runs than the Mets scored in an entire week. That’s more than a lot of teams scored in a week, except for the Nationals, whose 23-run deluge was their third double-digit win in a week’s worth of games. That’s also more runs than a major-league team has scored in a game since 2007, when the Rangers dismantled the Orioles with 30 runs and a man named Kason Gabbard one fine afternoon in late August.
The featured players in yesterday’s hit parade were led by Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon, who entered the game batting .226/.316/.250 with zero home runs and five RBI and exited with a .278/.356/.768 batting line, three home runs, and 15 RBI.
In the first inning, with Mets ace Noah Syndergaard pitching through an arm injury, Rendon nabbed his first hit, following Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI single with a two-run base hit to score the Nationals’ second and third runs of the inning.
The club coasted on a five-run lead after batting around in the first, and when Syndergaard was removed from the mound in the second inning, their attention shifted to the bullpen. Not a single reliever escaped without serious damage.
Sean Gilmartin took the next three innings in hand, only to be burned by Rendon’s first home run of the year, a changeup postmarked to the left field bleachers in the third inning:
Things didn’t get better for Gilmartin, who was finished for the afternoon after the Nationals returned for a four-run spread in the fourth inning, helped by another RBI hit from Zimmerman and another home run from Rendon.
In the fifth, it was Fernando Salas’ turn. The right-hander pushed Rendon to his first two-strike count of the evening, but lost on a bases-clearing double that inflated the Nationals’ lead to 13-5:
Josh Smoker took the ball for the sixth and seventh innings, leaving with five hits, six runs, and two homers on his pitching line, and finally signaling to manager Terry Collins that it was time to send the first position player to the mound.
Catcher Kevin Plawecki got the nod, becoming the first pitcher to escape his outing without issuing a single walk. Unfortunately, that was less an indication of his ability to control the ball and more an indication of the Nationals’ slap-happy approach. They sprayed the field with hits, beginning with Bryce Harper’s record-setting home run and ending, naturally, with Rendon’s third home run of the day. When the dust settled and the box score was finalized, Rendon had three home runs, 10 RBI, and a couple of marks in the history books.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 30, 2017
Quick Hits from the Weekend
While the Nationals celebrated a historic win, the Mets lost one of their prized arms on Sunday. Noah Syndergaard was pulled from his fifth start of the season after sustaining an arm injury in the second inning. Syndergaard grabbed underneath his right arm, which suggests that the discomfort was located in his lat area and not, as had been the case several days earlier, in his biceps.
Underscoring Syndergaard’s removal was the treatment of his biceps tendinitis last week. The right-hander was scratched from his start on Thursday with a sore right biceps and opted for an anti-inflammatory medication to accelerate the healing process. He was feeling well enough to pitch through a bullpen session on Friday and insisted on resuming his pitching schedule against the Nationals on Sunday, refusing an MRI exam on the grounds that he was feeling fine.
That backfired badly in the first inning of the Nats-Mets series finale, when the Asgardian right-hander was tabbed for five runs and two walks before walking off the field with trainer Ray Ramirez in the second inning. He had difficulty locating the strike zone with consistency and his two walks were the first he’d given up in 32 1/3 consecutive innings dating back to September 19, 2016. Of more pressing concern, of course, is his status for the remainder of the 2017 season. Without Thor, the Mets’ rotation looks almost human.
The Dodgers may not have had 20-plus runs at their disposal on Saturday night, but they found a way to construct their own storybook ending against the Phillies.
Philadelphia right-hander Zach Eflin frustrated the Dodgers’ efforts through the better part of seven innings, allowing two runs on Andrew Toles’ leadoff homer in the first inning and Cody Bellinger’s first major-league homer in the seventh.
Bellinger was subject to the customary silent treatment following his career milestone, but there was scarcely a moment for contemplation in the ninth inning. With the Phillies leading 5-2, Yasiel Puig fought through an eight-pitch at-bat for a leadoff home run of his own, skying a low-hanging fastball to the center field bleachers:
Not one to waste an opportunity, Bellinger jumped on the next pitch from Hector Neris, pinging his home run off the right field foul pole and into fair territory:
Still down by one run, the Dodgers brought in pinch-hitter Justin Turner, who promptly dispatched another fastball to tie the game, 5-5. Neris settled down to strike out Chris Taylor, but was quickly removed from the mound after Austin Barnes recorded a base hit. Joely Rodriguez entered, retiring Toles and bringing the Dodgers to their final out of the game. Luckily for Los Angeles, one of their best hitters had yet to bat. Corey Seager roped a line drive into left field, and Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI single provided the last run needed to clinch a nail-biting finish in regulation.
Judging by their home run totals this weekend, the Yankees are ready to run away with this year’s Home Run Derby. Aaron Judge, Jacoby Ellsbury, Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday, Brett Gardner, and Austin Romine combined for 10 home runs during their series win over the Orioles, including a two-homer game featuring Gardner’s first and second blasts of the season …
… Ellsbury’s first career grand slam and 100th career home run …
… this three-run walk-off shot by Holliday …
The group effort concluded with Holliday’s first-inning smash on Sunday, lifting the Yankees’ cumulative total to 37 home runs for the month. No Yankees squad has hit more home runs in April since 2011, when the club recorded 43 homers during their first month.
Defensive Play of the Weekend
Good defense doesn’t always turn on madcap dashes and acrobatic flourishes. Case in point: Yadier Molina primed this pickoff play so casually that it caught nearly everyone off guard.
What to Watch on Monday
Dylan Bundy is missing two miles per hour off his fastball and no one, least of all Bundy himself, seems to know where they’ve gone. The dip in velocity–not just on his heater, but across the board–is something that manager Buck Showalter continues to monitor as the 24-year-old enters his second month of the season, but it doesn’t appear to be a major cause of concern just yet.
That’s likely due to Bundy’s results, which hinge on a 1.65 ERA, good for ninth-best among starters, and five consecutive quality starts. His 3.92 DRA tells a slightly different story, however, and it’ll take more time to determine whether the Orioles’ second-best starter can sharpen his command and recover some of the heat he exhibited during his 2016 run (7:10 ET).
Location is a driving force in both real estate and baseball, and no one has felt its effects more strongly than the Astros’ Lance McCullers. In two road starts against the Athletics and Indians this season, McCullers scattered 10 runs over 9 1/3 innings, allowing four walks and striking out 11 of 45 batters faced, good for a 9.64 ERA. Whether the temperate clime of the Bay Area or the hitter-friendly environment of Progressive Field is to blame, McCullers hasn’t looked himself on the few days he’s spent away from Houston. At home, he’s often dominant and occasionally outstanding, allowing four runs, striking out 25 of 45 batters, and touting a 1.83 ERA through four starts and 25 1/3 innings.
Thankfully for the Astros, it’s the latter pitcher who will take the mound when the Rangers come into town on Monday night. Facing them: veteran right-hander Andrew Cashner, whose 6.80 DRA conceals less drastic home-road splits and who has taken two losses after averaging 0.59 runs of support per outing (8:10 ET).