The Thursday Takeaway
It would be a massive understatement to say that things escalated quickly and got out of hand in a hurry for the Brewers against the Nationals on Thursday afternoon. Milwaukee went into bottom of the third down by two. They were always going to face an uphill battle with Max Scherzer as the opposing pitcher, but they were still very much in the game at that point.
By the end of the bottom of the fourth inning, the Nationals had unleashed great vengeance and furious anger on Michael Blazek and the rest of Milwaukee’s pitching staff. The carnage started with a leadoff walk of Scherzer, and apparently the baseball gods were furious with Blazek walking the pitcher and channeled this fury into Washington’s bats.
Brian Goodwin sent one flying into the right field seats. Wilmer Difo, who had a .078 ISO going into this game, skied one into right-center for his third homer of the season. Bryce Harper got under a changeup and deposited it into the red seats in center field for a dinger. Ryan Zimmerman then gave the visitor’s bullpen a souvenir. That’s right, the Nats went back-to-back-to-back-to-back on the Brewers.
Oh, and Anthony Rendon added a dinger later on in the frame for good measure. That’s five home runs in a single inning (which tied a major-league record) and seven overall by the two teams in the third inning alone.
The good news for Milwaukee is that the next home run in this game was hit by them instead of Washington, as Travis Shaw went deep on Scherzer to put Milwaukee on the board. Unfortunately for the Brewers, the next two dingers belonged to the Nationals because they weren’t done with their offensive onslaught.
The Nats scored six runs in the very next inning, but I’m sure everybody was disappointed to learn that only two of them came via the long ball. Slackers!
So just like that, the Brewers were in a 15-1 hole and still had Scherzer to deal with. He ended up finishing his day with what had to have been the least-stressful 100-pitch six-inning outing that you’ll ever see. He even picked up nine strikeouts, so it was a regular day at the office for Scherzer.
As far as poor Milwaukee was concerned, it was anything but a regular day for the Brewers pitching staff. Earlier this month, the Brewers forced the Cubs into using Jon Jay as a pitcher. Today, Milwaukee learned that life comes at you fast.
Yep, that’s Hernan Perez throwing a bouncer to the plate in the ninth inning of a 13-run blowout. The good news for Milwaukee was that the carnage didn’t get worse: 15-2 is how the game ended. That’s good because even Nationals fans had become horrified with how bad the beating had gotten.
The Brewers aren’t this bad and the Nats aren’t going to hit eight home runs a game, but for Washington, this is one mighty warning shot to the rest of the National League. Their bats can put a very crooked number on the scoreboard at any time, and on Thursday they did it twice.
Thursday was a lovely night for the Cubs. For starters, the Brewers beatdown in D.C. meant that the Cubs were afforded a golden opportunity to put some breathing room between themselves and Milwaukee in the NL Central. Kyle Schwarber decided that he was going to be the man in Cubbie Blue who’d take the initiative to hoist his team to victory, and I’d say that two home runs and a triple is a productive night.
Schwarber’s monster night at the plate somehow managed to overshadow a huge night from Jose Abreu as well. Abreu made the Land of the Downward Arrow look a bit small as he hit a couple of homers that got out of there in a hurry.
So despite Abreu’s best efforts, the Cubs were able to take the series and also picked up the Crosstown Cup. Who cares about that meaningless golden trophy that they won in October last year when they can celebrate this shiny, silver trophy that they won in July of this year?
2017 Crosstown Cup champs: pic.twitter.com/jbpmKjZLl0
— Cubs Talk (@CSNCubs) July 28, 2017
The first half of this game didn’t go well for the Blue Jays. The A’s got off to a 3-1 lead following the first inning, and then the Blue Jays managed to lose their starting pitcher, their catcher, and their manager to ejections in the span of two minutes.
The trio of ejections may have lit a fire under the the Blue Jays, because they proceeded to score in the next two innings to tie the game, and then when Oakland was up 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth with one out, Kendrys Morales picked a lovely time to hit his second dinger of the day.
In extra innings, the Blue Jays took their first and only lead in the grandest manner possible. Toronto only needed one run, but Steve Pearce went ahead and gave the Blue Jays four of them.
J.D. Martinez must have watched the game in Toronto earlier on Thursday, and went into his game for the Diamondbacks against the Cardinals with a bit of inspiration. Arizona’s big trade acquisition got a chance with the bases loaded in the top of the fourth inning and he got the ball over the fence in the right field corner to clear the bases and plate himself. That made it 4-0, and that was all the Diamondbacks needed to pick up the win and continue to sit comfortably in the Wild Card position.
Following nine innings of back-and-forth regulation baseball that honestly deserved extra innings, the Yankees decided it was time to get serious about things, because they had Aroldis Chapman pitch the 10th and 11th innings for his first multi-inning appearance since last October. His final pitch of the 11th inning was clocked at 102 mph, so I’d say that he was more than capable of taking on the extra work.
Brett Gardner (whose leadoff triple in the ninth helped bring the two teams to this point) was the leadoff hitter for New York in the bottom half of the 11th, and he also ended up being the final hitter for New York in the entire game. He sent the third pitch he saw from Andrew Kittredge into the right field seats for a walk-off win over the Rays.
Defensive Play of the Day
You could argue that Ketel Marte’s running throw in the fourth inning deserves to be in this spot, but it’s pretty hard to top the theatrics of seeing a player of Jake Lamb’s defensive ilk stumble and bumble all the way into the seats in foul territory in order to make a dramatic catch.
What to Watch on Friday
There are going to be a handful of teams facing off against each other this weekend trying to firmly place themselves in the playoff conversation. Masahiro Tanaka (4.15 DRA, 99 cFIP) will be getting the ball for the Yankees as they continue their four-game series against the Rays, who added Lucas Duda and Dan Jennings to their squad with a couple of trades on Thursday.
The AL East-leading Red Sox will have the much-maligned David Price (4.54 DRA, 95 cFIP) going for them against a resurgent Royals squad that has played their way into contention. Boston’s been playing pretty well, but they’ll have a tough task on their hands when dealing with a team that’s won eight straight. When you add a Cubs-Brewers series and an interesting series between the Rockies and Nationals to the mix, then you now have ample reason to fire up the multi-box feature in MLB.tv tonight.