The Weekend Takeaway
The best feature of MLB's inaugural Players Weekend wasn’t the multicolored jerseys, the personalized cleats, or even the poignant stories behind many players’ tribute patches. It was the nicknames. Some, like, Kevin “Plaw” Plawecki and Brandon “B-Craw” Crawford, elected for straightforward abbreviations, while others got more creative. Aaron Judge became “All Rise,” Hunter Pence became “Wawindaji” (Swahili for “lion hunter,” according to Pence’s research), and Kyle Seager became “Corey’s Brother,” while Corey himself went by “Kyle’s Brother,” albeit unofficially.
There was no alias stitched on the back of Rhys Hoskins’ jersey, however, and in a way, it was fitting. The rookie slugger went 4-for-11 in three games against the Cubs’ pitching staff, hitting home runs so quickly and so furiously that any moniker he might have chosen on Friday couldn’t possibly have encapsulated the breadth of his accomplishments by Sunday afternoon.
Hoskins entered Friday with eight home runs in his first 15 big-league games, placing him in rare company as one of just three major-league rookies to amass as many home runs in the same span. He extended that streak on Friday night, answering Kyle Schwarber’s solo home run with a two-run shot off Jose Quintana in the bottom of the first inning.
The homer, a 403-foot bomb to left field, carved out a space for Hoskins in the history books by making him the fastest rookie to reach nine home runs. The Phillies capitalized on the momentum, stockpiling another five runs to back Jerad Eickhoff’s eight-strikeout start and move the needle in the Wild Card and division standings … well, not even a little.
No matter: Hoskins returned on Saturday to further his record, chasing Kyle Hendricks’ 1-2 changeup well beyond the center field wall for a two-RBI shot in the first inning.
This time, the Cubs were better prepared. They pounced on opposing starter Ben Lively, dragging the Phillies to a 17-2 finale to even the series. It looked as though Hoskins’ streak might have come to its final resting place on Sunday, when he opened the series finale 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Chicago struck early and often, putting up a three-spot in the first inning and holding Philadelphia scoreless through four.
The Phillies eventually found John Lackey’s weak spot, though, and drove in five runs of their own in the fifth. In the eighth inning, with no outs and a two-run lead to protect, Hoskins got his chance to make history for a third time.
Hoskins skipped out of the batter’s box. Anyone in his cleats would have done the same. It was the perfect cap to a historic weekend, one that not only tied the all-time franchise mark for the longest home run streak, at five games, but saw him collect 11 home runs in his first 18 games—a league-wide record that dates back to 1913, if not earlier.
In fact, by the end of the weekend’s celebrations, there was only one glaring omission left on the rookie’s resume: a good nickname.
Good Baseball Player
Quick Hits from the Weekend
If you need some Monday morning levity, take a minute and think back to the hype surrounding the Home Run Derby. Think about every time someone underestimated Giancarlo Stanton, every bracket that predicted a first-round knockout, every whispered comparison, no matter how apt or how timely, between Aaron Judge’s 100+ mph, 400+ foot blasts and Stanton’s 100+ mph, 400+ foot bombs. Stanton is no underdog, but his meteoric ascension through the ranks of home run hitters has been astonishing, even by his own impossible standards.
Now, sit back and watch “Cruz” smash his 50th home run of the season.
There, doesn’t that feel better?
While we’re on the subject of home runs, don’t do this. Don’t be this guy.
To be fair, it was a pretty spectacular home run—and it came off of home run-killer Madison “Mad Bum” Bumgarner, to boot. Statcast estimated the blast at 426 feet, a step-in-front-of-your-pal-for-a-high-five-worthy homer if ever there was one.
Despite some uncharacteristic struggles this month, Gerrit Cole and his 3.69 DRA were in perfect control during Saturday’s win. “Cole Train” zipped through seven shutout innings, blowing past the Reds with five hits and six strikeouts as Luis Castillo befuddled the Pirates’ offense.
Castillo may have had the rest of Pittsburgh’s lineup fooled, but he didn’t faze Cole, who returned in the sixth inning and unloaded his first home run of the season on a first-pitch heater that cleared the left field perimeter with room to spare.
Bradley Zimmer was exactly the kind of wingman Mike Clevinger needed on Saturday. “Sunshine” may have lost his no-hitter in the fourth inning, but he wasn’t about to lose the shutout—at least, not if the “Machine” had anything to do with it.
Zimmer returned in the sixth to play spoiler to Jason Hammel’s perfect game, snapping both the perfecto and the no-hitter with a blooper up the middle.
Roberto Perez’s home run sank the Royals’ shutout hopes in the next at-bat, and the Indians capped their third consecutive win with another 4-0 finish.
Every now and then, the seasoned pros take it upon themselves to remind us that even the best of them have trouble getting it right. Enter the Mariners, who committed five errors in the first inning of Sunday’s 10-1 loss to the Yankees. The first was an understandable blunder: left fielder Ben Gamel scrambled for Gary Sanchez’s line drive into left field, just grazing the ball with his glove as it caromed to the warning track.
The third gaffe was uglier. Chase Headley lashed a ground ball to third base, where Kyle Seager reached out, netted the ball, then bobbled it.
Result: Sanchez scores, Headley reaches first base safely, Seager yells a little. Yankees 2, Mariners 1.
The fourth and fifth errors came as a set, again courtesy of Jean “El Mambo” Segura. Segura dropped the relay from Gamel on Jacoby Ellsbury’s RBI single to left field, then threw the ball wide of the plate as Headley barreled toward home plate.
Result: Aaron “All Rise” Judge scores, Didi “Sir Didi” Gregorius scores, Chase “Head” Headley scores. Ellsbury is ruled safe at third with a double. The Yankees’ PR person starts subtweeting. Yankees 5, Mariners 1.
Maybe they were up late watching the fight? ¯_(ãƒ„)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/0dh4x9HkIR
The Yankees scored again on Ronald Torreyes’ RBI single, boosting them to a 6-1 advantage and bringing them full-circle as leadoff hitter Aaron Hicks closed out the first inning. Another four runs gave them a nine-run lead, one the Mariners had no hope of scaling against the combined powers of Masahiro Tanaka and Caleb Smith.
Not surprisingly, no major-league club has managed five errors in a single inning since the 1977 Cubs. Baseball isn’t easy, folks.
Defensive Play of the Weekend
It probably goes without saying that any team capable of executing a triple play deserves top billing in this section. This weekend, that team was the Phillies, who turned a 7-4-3 triple play to exit the fifth inning of their 6-3 win over the Cubs.
Triple plays are a rare and beautiful breed, and this one was made all the more spectacular by record-setting rookie Rhys Hoskins, whose shoestring catch started the play:
What to Watch on Monday
Max Scherzer (2.09 DRA, 63 cFIP) appears to have made a full recovery from a bout of left neck inflammation, so he’ll make his next outing when the Nationals close out their homestand against the Marlins. Jose Urena (5.30 DRA, 116 cFIP) will be on the bump for Miami, and if the pitching matchup doesn’t catch your fancy, Giancarlo Stanton’s push toward home run No. 51 should do the trick (7:05 ET).
Another week has come and gone, and the AL wild card race is no closer to resolving itself. The Twins hold a one-game lead over the Angels and a 1.5-game lead over the Mariners, each of whom will make a push for the second wild card on Monday night. The Mariners, still without Felix Hernandez, will send left-hander Marco Gonzales (6.82 DRA, 117 cFIP) up against the Orioles’ Chris Tillman (7.73 DRA, 124 cFIP) at 7:05 ET, while the Angels’ Andrew Heaney (3.76 DRA, 95 cFIP) will round out the day’s slate with a nightcap against Athletics’ rookie Daniel Gossett (5.78 DRA, 111 cFIP) at 10:07 ET.