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The Weekend Takeaway

Lest Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw and heck, even Mike Foltynewicz, make you forget it, baseballs are still traveling further and more frequently than they have before. Home runs are up, thanks in part to juiced balls and Aaron Judge, and at no point was that clearer than on Friday.

Justin Smoak did the thing for the Blue Jays, clobbering a 1-1 heater off of Doug Fister and dropping it over the left field wall for the 1,070th home run by a major-league batter in the month of June.

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If that sounds like a lot, it is. The last time the league combined to hit as many homers in a single month was in May of 2000, when they totaled 1,069 home runs during an era that was similarly renowned for the rise of the long ball.

Baseball being what it is, and home run hitters being what they are, Friday’s new record continued to climb. Brett Gardner lifted a grand slam over the heads of the Astros in the Yankees’ 13-4 win, his 15th blast of the season:

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In Phoenix, Rockies rookie Raimel Tapia stepped into the spotlight with the first home run of his big-league career, thumping a solo shot in the sixth inning to break a 2-2 tie:

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Joey Gallo, meanwhile, blasted his 21st homer of the year, sending a Mike Pelfrey sinker an estimated 454 feet to center field for the longest opposite-field home run of 2017:

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The final home run of the night—and the historic month of June—was delivered by Padres pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez, who evaded the strikeout-slinging Sergio Romo on an 0-2 bomb to right field:

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By the time the ball ricocheted off of the right field wall at Dodger Stadium, the new record stood even at 1,100 home runs: a full 31 more than the Sammy Sosas and Barry Bonds of 2000 managed to muscle in a month’s time. Don’t get too attached, though. Given the 42 additional homers swatted on July 1, it’s doubtful this record will last another 17 weeks, let alone 17 seasons.

Quick Hits from the Weekend

You know what they say: it’s all fun and games until a leadoff home run from Matt Olson spoils your no-hitter in the ninth inning.

Mike Foltynewicz was cruising on Friday night, exercising 110 pitches to keep his no-hitter intact against the Athletics with four walks and eight strikeouts through eight scoreless frames. In a season where Foltynewicz has actively struggled to keep his DRA below 5.00 and produced inconsistent results from one start to the next, he looked fantastic. He recovered from a leadoff walk in the fifth inning, needing only eight pitches to retire the side, and induced two swinging strikeouts to prevent Franklin Barreto from scoring from second base in the sixth.

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The Braves’ offense was fairly quiet against Oakland right-hander Sonny Gray until the third inning, when Dansby Swanson landed an RBI double for the club’s first run of the night. They did their worst damage with a pair of RBI singles against Sean Doolittle in the ninth, giving their starter a modest three-run cushion while he attempted to extend his no-hit bid.

In the end, however, a long at-bat against A's first baseman Matt Olson proved to be Foltynewicz’s undoing. He battled through nine pitches, working a full count before Olson found a sinker sitting in the middle of the strike zone and crushed it to spoil the no-no.

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The Braves went on to win, 3-1, but Foltynewicz was pulled before he could polish off the first complete game of his career.

<center>***</center>

Get yourself a rookie who can do it all: Stay cool under pressure …

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craft an eight-strikeout performance in just five innings …

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and furnish his first win of the year with a tie-breaking, two-RBI single.

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(In other words, get yourself a rookie who looks exactly like Jackson Stephens.)

<center>***</center>

Justin Verlander didn’t look quite himself on Sunday. The Tigers’ ace turned in 3 1/3 innings of work, steering the club to an 11-8 loss after giving up seven runs on nine hits and failing to strike out a single batter.

Take a moment and try to recall the last time Verlander exited a game without at least one strikeout under his belt. Was it during his nine-run debacle in 2014, during which he labored through 109 pitches in 5 1/3 innings and allowed a season-high nine runs? No, he caught the Rangers’ Robinson Chirinos swinging on a high fastball. Was it during his two-inning appearance this June, cut short when he suffered groin tightness and was forced off the mound? No, somehow he still managed to whiff three of 15 batters before leaving with head trainer Kevin Rand in the third.

If you’re finding it a difficult task, that’s probably because Verlander recorded at least one strikeout in each of his last 331 games before taking the mound on Sunday. It’s a streak that ranks right up there with the all-time greats, tying Curt Schilling’s own 331-game streak from 1993 through 2005. The Indians brought it to a surprising end during their series finale, however, hitting almost everything Verlander served up and becoming the first team since the 2007 Twins to beat the hurler at his own game.

<center>***</center>

While Verlander struggled to subdue his division rivals this weekend, fellow American League ace Chris Sale put on a show in his third-best start of the year. Sale handcuffed the Blue Jays to four hits and one run in seven innings on Saturday, fanning 11 of 28 batters en route to his 11th win of the season. It was the 11th outing in which Sale logged at least 10 strikeouts, making him the first Red Sox pitcher to do so before the All-Star break since Pedro Martinez dominated the AL East back in 1999.

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<center>***</center>

Sometimes, even baseball players need a break. Sometimes, even baseball players long to sit in the stands, kick back with a cold beer or a souvenir helmet full of chocolate ice cream, and cool off while 10 other men run around the field in 78-degree weather. Sometimes, even baseball players attempt to field pop flies in foul territory and stop for a spoonful of a fan’s ice cream before returning to the field.

Wait, what?

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Defensive Play of the Weekend

Sure, the Astros’ walk-off pickoff play should technically be attributed to the overeager baserunning of one Brett Gardner, but everything here—the quick reflexes of Josh Reddick in left field, the perfectly-timed leap by Carlos Correa, and the precise, lightning-fast tag of Yuliesky Gurriel—deserves honorable mention:

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Over in St. Louis, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Drew took a no-holds-barred nosedive into the stands to snare a wayward fly ball, in what was one of the more superb catches of the week:

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What to Watch on Monday

Martin Perez (5.30 DRA, 99 cFIP) is poised to take on Rick Porcello (5.39 DRA, 95 cFIP) when the Red Sox roll into town for a three-game set on Monday. It’ll be Perez’s first start after rehabbing a fractured right thumb, and if the left-hander has anyone to fear in the Sox’s lineup, it’s Mookie Betts. Betts went 4-for-6 with eight RBIs during Sunday’s 15-1 win over the Blue Jays (8:05 ET).

Over in the NL East, where the division race isn’t nearly as tight, the Mets and Nationals will have a meeting of the minds—er, arms—when Steven Matz (4.14 DRA, 105 cFIP) and Stephen Strasburg (2.53 DRA, 78 cFIP) face off in Washington. Matz is coming off of his best performance of the season, during which he tossed seven shutout innings against the Marlins, while Strasburg recently broke out of a slump with a quality 13-strikeout start last week (6:05 ET).

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GreenvilleGent
7/03
FYI, something goofy in the HTML of this page. Embedded videos are showing as code, not images. I tried in a couple browsers to confirm, and looked at the prior "What You Need To Know" to verify that it is only today's that has this problem.
markedits
7/05
Looks as if the frameborder and height specs were put after the src instead of before in the code for framing each video.