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Wednesday Takeaway

After the first week of the season played itself out, the Dodgers and Marlins were never supposed to have the same record. Los Angeles has been a 90-win team five years running, and had no reason not to expect more of the same. Meanwhile, Miami jettisoned its stars, slashed their payroll for the new ownership group, and seemed bunkered down for 90 losses this year—if not more.

The Marlins came out looking like the team to beat Wednesday night, though. A three-run fifth inning, including a two-run home run from Justin Bour, stretched Miami out a 5-1 lead and spelled the end of the line for rookie standout Walker Buehler. But in the top of the sixth, the Dodgers stormed back. Yasmani Grandal, who had opened the scoring for Los Angeles with a solo home run in the fourth inning, beat the shift to open up the scoring in the inning.

Cody Bellinger doubled, and Chris Taylor greeted Drew Steckenrider to the game by plating Grandal with a single, advancing to second on the throw home. The next batter was Max Muncy, who completed the four-run comeback with a ground-rule double.

The big inning was ultimately for naught, however, as J.T. Realmuto broke the tie in the bottom half of the inning off of Pedro Baez:

Improbably, through 42 games, both the Dodgers and Marlins are 16-26. Furthermore, the defending NL Champion Dodgers are in last place in their division. Elieser Hernandez was named Miami’s starter at the last minute after Caleb Smith was scratched and he made the most of the opportunity, lasting five strong innings in his first Major League start with only the Grandal home run as the real damage on his record.

Quick Hits

Is there anything Bartolo Colon can’t do? Earlier this year, the portly pitcher outran Dee Gordon to first base in the biggest upset on foot since Rocky came back to beat Apollo Creed on the beach in Rocky III. Against the defending champion Astros, pitching in front of a national TV audience, he took a perfect game deep into the contest. But in terms of sheer Bartoloness, we might have found the summit last night:

Bartolo Colon‘s stomach is where 102mph line drives go to die, it’s official now. Big Sexy pitched 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball, surrendering four hits and striking out two. Not to mention making a compelling case for MLB to introduce the Gold Gut Award this year.

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Odubel Herrera‘s on-base streak has been one of the more randomly compelling storylines of the early 2018 season. On Wednesday, Herrera ended the suspense in the very first inning, extending the on-base streak to 42 games with a single off of Andrew Cashner: 

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From 2014-15, Justin Verlander looked done. His strikeout rate cratered, his run-prevention abilities suffered, and given his age it was easy to write him off as past his prime. However, since the Astros traded for him last year, Verlander has been arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball again. Including postseason appearances, Verlander is 14-3 with 20 quality starts, 139 and 1/3 innings pitched, a 1.36 ERA, and an 0.70 WHIP.

Wednesday night, Verlander toed the rubber for the Astros against the Angels, needing a perfectly reasonable seven strikeouts to hit 2,500 on his career. Verlander had six Ks when none other than Shohei Ohtani dug in:

 

The night would have been special for Verlander even without that milestone, however. He tossed a complete game shutout with seven strikeouts, five hits and just one walk. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t strike them out anymore three full years ago.

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The Mets had absolutely no answer for J.A. Happ. The Blue Jays’ starter struck out ten and surrendered just two hits in seven innings of work, arguably the most dominant pitching performance of the night. But that wasn’t all Happ contributed on the night: he also reached base three times, including a pair of singles. Happ single-handedly matched his opponents offensively which is—well, downright offensive.

Defensive Play of the Night

Tyler Flowers led off the home second against the Cubs with a blast to left-center, the type of hit that looks like extra bases—if not a home run—from the instant of contact. Cubs’ centerfielder Albert Almora Jr. is known for his glovework out in center, and he held onto the ball as he crashed into the outfield wall he was scaling:

Major props to the Atlanta organist, who greeted Almora with a rendition of Jump by Van Halen when he came to the plate next. I see what you did there, my man, and I approve.

What to Watch on Thursday

The Dodgers and Marlins play at noon ET to get the ball rolling on a ten-game slate. Caleb Smith and Kenta Maeda are the tentative starters. If Smith were to get bumped again, after the same thing happened the day before, I’d wonder if something more serious were at play. He’s been a surprisingly fun find for the Marlins this season.

Six evening games are in play: Padres-Pirates, A’s-Jays, Orioles-Red Sox, Phillies-Cardinals, Cubs-Braves, and Rangers-White Sox. Jon Lester vs Mike Soroka in Atlanta will likely go down as one of the most interesting cross-generational pitching matchups.

Later on at night the Rays face the Angels, the Tigers take on the Mariners, and the Rockies will meet with the Giants. Chris Archer for the Rays against Tyler Skaggs for the Angels is probably the best pitching matchup of the whole slate.

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Michael
5/17
You know, I recently mentioned on a DK Pittsburgh Sports comment board that it is quite clear the Astros found something with Cole and Morton that the Pirates were unable or unwilling to unlock with those two. Here in this article, I'm reminded they've apparently done the same with Verlander. Is it all just philosophies and and mechanics? Kudos to the coaching staff if it is.