The Weekend Takeaway

July didn’t start out so great for the Pirates, who dropped five of six in the first week, falling three times to the Dodgers and twice to the Phillies. After taking two out of three from the Nationals to get their bearings, the Bucs hosted the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park for five games. And who knew the Brewers would be the cure for Pittsburgh’s ills, and turn their July around?

After getting big performances from right-hander Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco in the first two games, the Pirates swept a doubleheader Saturday. Perhaps the biggest key to the sweep: Starling Marte and Polanco hit back-to-back home runs in both games.

They are only the third pair of teammates in MLB history—and second pair of Pirates—to accomplish this feat, and it has been over 50 years since it last happened. The other Pirates were Frank Thomas (not that one) and Dick Groat in 1957. Eleven years later, teammates Sal Bando and Reggie Jackson did it for the Athletics.

Now, that’s a pretty exciting weekend for the Pirates even without Sunday’s game but, of course, more magic occurred in the last game of the series.

The Pirates found themselves down 5-4 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and a runner on third. David Freese stepped in to pinch-hit for reliever Steven Brault and got down 1-2 to closer Corey Knebel. On Knebel’s 28th pitch, Freese hit the ball of the top of the fence in right field. Josh Bell scored easily from third to tie the score. Corey Dickerson grounded out to end the inning, but they were heading to extras.

Milwaukee scored a run in the top of the 10th on a Brett Phillips RBI single, and the Pirates, once again, found themselves down a run heading to the bottom half.

Polanco hit a one-out single, and Elias Diaz popped out, and the Brewers were once again an out away from a win.

Dan Jennings came on to face Colin Moran, who hit a single to advance Polanco to third. Bell, who scored the tying run in the ninth, strode to the plate in the midst of a downpour and drilled a 1-0 offering from Jennings over Lorenzo Cain’s head in center. Polanco scored easily and Moran sprinted around third. He could have been out at the plate or it could have been a really close play but the relay throw skipped past home plate and Moran scored the winning run.

What a way to head into the All-Star break.

Quick Hits

The Rockies also completed a sweep on a walk-off. In their series against the Mariners, the Rockies swept Seattle in three games and Trevor Story sent everyone home happy in the bottom of the ninth.

Story was 0 for 3 heading into the at bat and he knew it as soon as it was in the air. He looked into his dugout as if to say, “See? I got you.” And now he’ll get to play in the All-Star game. The Rockies are 10-3 in July.

As for the Mariners, they finished 1-5 heading into the All-Star break, and don’t look now, but the red hot A’s (whom I mentioned a week ago) are only three games in back of Seattle for the second wild card. I told you it would be an interesting race.

The A’s won their last three series heading into the All-Star break, including winning three out of four against the defending champs and AL West-leading Astros. They swept the Giants over the weekend.

On Saturday, Mark Canha hit a big pinch hit home run in the seventh to put the A’s up 4-3.

And the A’s bullpen pitched 5 2/3 innings of scoreless ball.

Brandon Belt also had an eventful game on Saturday as well but not for good reasons. He was called out on a check swing and well, he didn’t agree with the call. Belt had good reason to be upset. The replay clearly showed that it was a check swing and that he didn’t go around. Belt had words for third base ump Greg Gibson on the way back to the dugout and again when he was taking the field for the top of the fifth. Gibson threw out Belt—who then ran up to him to continue yelling.

The A’s and the Giants are playing next weekend in Oakland to open up the “second half.”


There were two walk-off grand slams this weekend. First up is Xander Bogaerts against the Blue Jays:

Bogaerts hit his grand slam to dead center in Fenway off Chris Rowley to win the game 6-2.

On Sunday, the Twins beat the Rays on a walkoff grand slam by Brian Dozier in the 10th inning of Matt Andriese:

Dozier’s was a bomb to left field, and the Twins won three of four against the Rays.


Justin Verlander had a strange outing against his former team. The good: He pitched six innings and struck out 12, passing Warren Spahn for 26th all-time in K’s.

With that information alone, you’d figure Verlander would have picked up the win. Well, his other numbers were not as good. He gave up six runs—five earned—and six hits, including four homers to John Hicks, Jeimer Candelario, Niko Goodrum and Jim Adduci. Verlander is 0-3 in his past five starts

Verlander’s season high had been two home runs allowed, which happened three times. It wasn’t a positive way lead into the All-Star game but Verlander had more important things to worry about. He’s becoming a daddy! Last season he won a World Series ring and got married and now he’s starting a family with wife Kate Upton.

Say it with me, “Awww.” Best of luck to them.


The Yankees split a four-game series with the Indians and find themselves 4 ½ games in back of the Red Sox for the AL East lead. This was after their split a series with the lowly Baltimore Orioles. It’s not exactly how they wanted to head into the All-Star break. Brett Gardner, who just celebrated 10 years with the Yankees, told reporters, “Ultimately we have to be better if we want to win the division and get to where we want to be, which is to win the World Series. I’m pleased with the way that we played in the first half, but I’m not pleased that we’re not in first place in the division.”

The good news for the Yankees is that Gary Sanchez is already playing rehab games and it looks like Gleyber Torres is also on his way back. July is still too early for scoreboard watching and being down four and half games is nothing. Especially with the teams playing six head-to-head down the stretch in September.

The Yankees will have to hope that they’re within reach at that point.

Defensive Play of the Weekend

Kevin Pillar made a spectacular catch and turned a double play against the Red Sox on Saturday.

But it wasn’t just a catch, Pillar ended up getting injured on the play. But it was no ordinary injury. In fact, it could have been life-threatening according to the Blue Jays’ trainer. Pillar’s collar bone popped out. It didn’t dislocate but it pushed the ligaments out. Apparently, Pillar is very lucky his injury went that way because trainer Nikki Huffman let reporters know that the injury was already an emergency situation but if it had gone the other way and the collar bone had pushed those ligaments in, Pillar would have had to be rushed to hospital and it would have required surgery.

Thankfully, Pillar didn’t have to have surgery. He will be out 4-6 weeks.

What to Watch Monday

The Home Run Derby is on! You can watch hometown boy Bryce Harper compete along with Jesus Aguilar of the Brewers, Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies, Alex Bregman of the Astros, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez of the Cubs, Freddie Freeman of the Braves and Max Muncy of the Dodgers!

How exciting! Last year’s champ, Aaron Judge, won’t be participating but he’ll be a spectator.

Here’s the seeding:
Aguilar (1) vs Hoskins (8)
Harper (2) vs Freeman (7)
Muncy (3) vs Baez (6)
Bregman (4) vs Schwarber (5)

The derby starts at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. You can also watch it online on the ESPN Watch app.

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Joseph Dolney
I was at Sunday's Pirates Brewers game and what a great finish. It covered for Hurdle leaving Musgrove in to start the 8th inning and inserting Tanner Anderson to pitch the top of the 10th.

At the 55 second mark of the video there is a guy in the 3rd row wearing a black shirt and waving a towel. It is Pirates President Frank Coonelly.