The Weekend Takeaway
The only way we know how to pay homage to the best player in baseball is by evoking the legends of the past. Mike Trout’s career has been Ruthian—the 49.7 WARP and .354 TAv, his Rookie of the Year decoration and, somehow, only two MVP distinctions—and now he’s incurring a level of fear from opposing managers and players that was most recently evident with Barry Bonds.
On Saturday, Mets skipper Terry Collins mulled over a particularly perplexing bases-loaded situation. The Mets were up 7-2 in the top of the ninth inning, and Neil Ramirez had yet to retire a batter after loading the bases. The right-hander walked in a run, then surrendered an RBI single to Kole Calhoun, and now Trout was approaching the plate. It mattered little that Trout had gone hitless in three plate appearances, striking out in the first inning and taking two walks (surprisingly, neither of them intentional).
The defending MVP was batting .348/.458/.741 entering Saturday’s contest and had reached base in each of his previous seven games. “The first thought is, ‘I’d almost try to walk this guy than pitch to him,’” Collins told reporters following the game. “Those are the kinds of situations where you look back at the time when Buck Showalter walked [Barry] Bonds with the bases loaded rather than pitch to him.”
While Trout didn’t get the Bondsian treatment, the Mets still lost a run to the star slugger. Collins allowed Ramirez to pitch to Trout and four pitches later, a sac fly was deposited in Jay Bruce’s glove to score the Angels’ fifth and final run of the night.
The next day, Trout punished the Mets’ hesitation with his 14th home run of the season, going 2-for-3 at the plate with a homer, double, and two walks.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
Strikeouts aren’t the definitive measure of a dominant pitcher, all streaks are unsustainable, and life as we know it will slowly but surely come to its inevitable end. None of that diminishes Chris Sale’s impossible run right now, however. The lefty is riding eight consecutive starts with 10-plus strikeouts, a historic feat that was cemented by his seven-inning, 10-strikeout performance on Friday night.
Pedro Martinez set this particular record in 1999, but Sale has since made it his own, becoming the only MLB hurler to do it twice in three seasons. Another 10-plus strikeouts will make him the lone standout in major-league history should he repeat those numbers against the Rangers this week.
Ten strikeouts weren’t enough, however, and the Red Sox fell in the 10th inning after Canha converted an 0-2 slider into a game-winning leadoff home run.
The loss aside, Sale has amassed 95 strikeouts in nine starts and 65 2/3 innings, improving his 9.3 K/9 in 2016 to a career-high 13.0 K/9 in 2017 and maintaining a league-best 1.27 DRA. It might not last much longer, but at least for the time being, the Red Sox’s new ace is showing no signs of slowing down.
It’s one thing to toss a two-hitter against one of the worst teams in the league, and quite another thing entirely to do it against one of the best. Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger proved he could hang with the best of them on Saturday, crafting seven shutout innings against the league-leading Astros in his finest start to date.
Clevinger carried a perfect game into the fourth inning, when Josh Reddick reached first base after Edwin Encarnacion botched a routine ground out for an error. Two batters later, the right-hander issued his first walk of the game, then was swiftly bailed out by Carlos Beltran, who left both runners on base after grounding out to end the inning.
The no-hitter continued until Jose Altuve’s first-pitch single in the seventh inning, but Clevinger didn’t lose his cool a second time. He induced a double play from Carlos Correa and retired Beltran to finish his outing with two hits, two walks, and a career-high eight strikeouts.
Braves third baseman Rio Ruiz wasn’t going to settle for any humdrum home run during Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Nationals. If he was going to club his first major-league homer, it was going to be against one of the Nationals’ most fearsome pitchers. Ruiz bided his time through four pitches in the first inning, working a 2-2 count before catapulting a Max Scherzer fastball 372 feet to the edge of the right field bleachers:
Besting Scherzer wasn’t the only thing that made Ruiz’s home run special. His father, Rudy, was in attendance for the first time after missing his son’s major-league debut during a rain delay last September.
"Him and I are just bros doing everything that we can together" pic.twitter.com/FxEa9QmWp1
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) May 21, 2017
Defensive Play of the Weekend
Through rain and shine,
over puddles, on warning tracks,
diving, tripping and sprinting,
Kyle Schwarber is here for all your fly ball- and pop up-related needs.
What to Watch on Monday
The Diamondbacks snapped a five-game winning streak on Sunday after taking a 5-1 loss to the Padres, but their hunt for the top spot in the NL West is far from over. Zack Greinke (5-2, 1.92 DRA) will look for his sixth win of the year against the visiting White Sox, who are prepared to counter with Miguel Gonzalez (3-4, 6.10 DRA) and the third-worst offense in the American League (9:40 ET).
Over in Houston, the Astros were swept for the first time since July 2016, giving hope to mortals and AL West contenders everywhere. The Tigers will attempt to stretch Houston’s losing streak even further when Michael Fulmer (5-1, 2.02 DRA) takes the mound for Monday’s series opener. Facing him: No. 5 starter Brad Peacock (2-0-, 5.32 DRA), who will be making his first start of the year in lieu of an injured Dallas Keuchel. The Tigers have yet to face the Astros so far this season (8:10 ET).