The Weekend Takeaway
Good pitchers flourish at the intersection of dominant pitching and plentiful run support, and on Sunday afternoon, Chris Sale hit the coveted sweet spot.
For someone less accomplished, racking up double-digit strikeouts would be noteworthy, but the 10 whiffs amounted to Sale’s second-lowest single-game total this year. He carries 73 strikeouts in 51 innings, 20 more than Clayton Kershaw’s second-place total of 53.
The only blemish on the left-hander’s outstanding totals so far this season, in fact, is the meager run support he’s received over his first six starts. Entering Sunday’s series finale, Sale averaged just 2.44 runs of support per game, which underscored the two losses he took during which the team produced one or fewer runs.
The ninth inning was a different story altogether. The Sox pressed Minnesota’s bullpen for 10 runs, going back-to-back-to-back-to-back on Hanley Ramirez’s bases-loaded single, two doubles from Mitch Moreland and Chris Young, and yet another home run off of Sandy Leon’s bat:
Xander Bogaerts followed his teammates' efforts with a two-run triple, clearing the bases for three consecutive walks from Twins relievers Justin Haley and Craig Breslow. The last, a bases-loaded, six-pitch walk to Moreland, sank the Twins with the Red Sox’s 10th and final run of the inning–and their 17th of the afternoon.
The Sox’s impressive outburst did little to move the needle in the AL East standings, but Sale’s 1.92 ERA lived to see another day. His run support average, on the other hand, will enjoy a temporary inflation until the club’s next offensive drought takes effect.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
Saves are silly things. Contract figures are decided by them and awards are won because of them, but as a benchmark for greatness, they fall short in many ways. Still, it was of considerable relief when Matt Albers notched a save against the Phillies on Friday night, and not only because it secured the Nationals’ 20th win of the season.
Albers veered dangerously close to a record set by right-handed reliever Ryan Webb for the most consecutive games finished without a save, recording 102 games to Webb’s 105. Webb, now a minor-league reliever in the Giants’ system, has still never logged a save in the majors, though his record is waiting for him should he get promoted in the future.
While Webb managed his record-setting 105 games finished over eight years in the majors, it took Albers 12 years and 460 missed opportunities before the right moment surfaced.
Against the Phillies on Friday, Albers looked his usual self. He did exactly what he’d done in his previous eight outings in 2017, excepting a wayward hit by pitch to start the ninth inning. He allowed a single baserunner, labored through a six-pitch strikeout against Aaron Altherr, wrestled another strikeout out of an eight-pitch at-bat against Odubel Herrera, and induced a ground out from Maikel Franco to earn that elusive, long-awaited save.
Next in line, you ask? The Giants’ George Kontos, who has yet to produce a save in seven seasons and 63 games finished.
As it turns out, we’ve all been misusing the term "moonshot." Javier Baez provided the textbook definition of such a home run on Sunday night, launching a 2-2 pitch from Luis Severino 143 feet into the air before it descended into the left field stands.
Aaron Hicks, like any mortal tasked with corralling a meteoric home run, was understandably flabbergasted on the play. He did his due diligence, waiting patiently in left field on the off chance that the ball veered anywhere close to him. Baez’s blast put the Cubs on the board in the third inning, but they were forced back down to earth after the Yankees stormed back to a 5-4 finish … five hours and 15 innings later.
“He is fast. Faster than you can believe. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And don’t blink.” It’s a speech the Doctor might as well have scripted for Billy Hamilton during Sunday’s matinee against the Giants.
Blink, and you might catch only the flash of Hamilton’s cleats on infield soil, dust clouds stirred up by the 10.58-second dash from home plate to third base. Blink, and you might miss Gorkys Hernandez scooping the ball on the warning track and firing it to third baseman Conor Gillaspie, who definitely blinked, because Hamilton was safe at third base long before the ball hit Gillaspie’s glove. Blink, and you might miss the triple altogether, a sprint that is still, impossibly, shy of Statcast’s all-time 10.45-second record, which was established last August by none other than Hamilton himself.
Defensive Play of the Weekend
Yunel Escobar utilized every part of his glove to snare a line drive during the Angels’ 2-1 win on Saturday night:
What to Watch on Monday
The Nationals look good this year. Like, really, ridiculously good. Case in point: Their no. 3 starter, Gio Gonzalez, carries the lowest ERA among National League starters with a 1.64 mark. Sure, his DRA is closer to 4.00 and his 3-0 record has gotten a significant boost from an average run support of 6.49 per outing, and he gave up a career-high seven walks in his last start … and maybe we’ll stop talking now.
Against the Nationals, the Orioles will send out Kevin Gausman, whose 3.90 run support average fed into a 1-3 record, and 9.72 DRA and was ejected for throwing at Xander Bogaerts in the second inning of his last appearance against the Red Sox. All the same, these are two of the strongest teams in their respective divisions, and if nothing else, there will be strikeouts (Gonzalez’s) and runs (Gausman’s) for all (7:05 ET).
Elsewhere in the Nationals’ League—er, the National League—the Mets’ ailing rotation will take on the Giants’ ailing rotation. For the Mets, it’s Jacob deGrom, the last viable starter left in a group that has seen Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Seth Lugo felled by injuries and Matt Harvey lost to a three-day suspension on Saturday. For the Giants, it’s Matt Moore, who jacked his DRA up to a mind-boggling 10.11 mark after delivering nine runs, five walks, and three strikeouts against the Dodgers last Tuesday. Viewer discretion advised: this game isn’t going to be an easy one to watch (7:10 ET).