This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: April, 2015
Yo, Yordano—Looking for a Fight? That Empty Feeling at Camden Yards
Josh Hamilton Goes Home Again Are the Mets for Real?

Best and Worst of the Week

Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

87 14 28 3 1 10 22 5 2 0 1

So much for the theory that, between fragility and Seattle’s deadened marine air, the veteran slugger would disappoint those expecting a reprise of his marvelous 2014 campaign in Baltimore. In fact, Cruz’s sterling April may well prove that his best is yet to come. He’s the majors’ co-leader in homers (ten) and RBIs (22), and his .337 average is eye-opening given he’s been consistently in the .260s over the last four years. Sure, he’s less impressive at Safeco Field (.271, three homers), but when he’s hitting as good as he is on the road, the Mariners will surely accept the composite.

Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

77 18 26 4 0 5 20 14 1 0 5

The disgraced former MVP had one of the best weeks of his post-Biogenesis baseball life, reaching safely each night with his usual balance of power, speed and clutch game. (He could have done without the moment where he and All-Star teammate Carlos Gomez collided, but what can you do.) Braun doesn’t have the numbers to parallel his superstar, pre-suspension years, but maybe that’ll change if he can leverage this run of success to the second half.

Chris Iannetta, L.A. Angels of Anaheim

54 5 5 1 0 0 1 8 0 0 0

Josh Hamilton said that the Angels should have known what they were getting into when they signed him—and the same could be said of Iannetta, the veteran catcher who spent his first six years at Colorado where he hit just .235 in ideal, mile-high hitting conditions. He had hit about the same in his first three seasons at sea level in Anaheim, but now the bottom has dropped out with a horrendous April. “It’s early in the season,” Iannetta told reporters, “but for me, it feels like it’s been six years.”

Drew Stubbs, Colorado Rockies

20 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1

We normally wouldn’t go after someone who averages one at-bat per game, but a few things to point out about the veteran outfielder: One, he went hitless in 20 at-bats…playing for Colorado? (even Chris Iannetta, above, was never that bad at Coors Field.) Second, he strikes out 12 times in those 20 at-bats? And third, even when he somehow manages to reach base, he has second base stolen…and then gets tagged out because he stumbles and loses control away from the bag? One word must be floating within Stubbs’ mind: Mulligan.

Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros

3-0 37 16 3 3 11 0 0 1 0 22

The Tulsa-born Dallas playing for Houston— almost sounds like a 1960s country song—outdueled reigning AL Cy winner Corey Kluber on Opening Day and hasn’t let up since, confirming that his breakout season of a year ago (12-9, 2.93 ERA) was no fluke. It’s a shame that the 27-year-old southpaw hasn’t won each of his five starts; his very best effort of the month came at Oakland when he threw nine innings of two-hit shutout ball before being taken out of a 0-0 game. He’s a principal reason the Astros are looking so surprisingly good to start the year.

Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds

2-2 37 22 9 8 4 1 2 0 2 38

Some would argue that the Cincinnati ace wasn’t even the best Reds pitcher this month, given Anthony DeSclafani’s 1.04 ERA and 0.77 WHIP. But Cueto gets the nod from this end because, simply, no other NL pitcher looked more dominant. He only lost two games because the Reds scored a mere run in each; if the team really hopes to retain him through free agency, they’d better butter him up with more run support.

T.J. House, Cleveland Indians

0-4 13 21 19 19 12 0 2 0 0 7

This House is not in order. We originally had the Orioles' Brad Norris slotted for this dishonor, but then the second-year Cleveland pitcher stunk things up—again—with his fourth loss in as many starts and finished a month where he was lucky to even reach the fifth inning (only once did he manage to do that, and barely). People making their preseason picks were really riding high on the Tribe, but this is not the Indians' idea of bringing down the House.

David Buchanan, Philadelphia Phillies

0-5 24.2 32 24 24 14 1 2 0 0 12

We knew the Phillies’ rotation would be soft on opponents past Cole Hamels, and the 25-year-old Atlanta native seems to be confirming the darkest fears of Phillies fans who were already bracing for some bad times this season. Buchanan started five games in April and lost them all, allowing almost as many runs as innings pitched, racking more walks than strikeouts; he’s the first Phillies pitcher in 23 years to stumble out of the gate with a 0-5 mark in five shots.

Kansas City Royals (15-7)

Introducing the angriest team in baseball. Even after K.C. grabbed the AL pennant, most everyone in the prognosticator industry (except us) figured it was all a fluke and had the Royals settling back in below .500 this season. That ticked this team off. And so, they have taken it out on everyone, from Mike Trout to Brett Lawrie to all the other opponents they’ve talked trash to; if they’re going down, it won’t be without a war. And by the record, they’ve proved their point—at least for the first month.

St. Louis Cardinals (15-6)

Everyone was talking up the Mets this month—and believe us, the Amazins’ did surprise—but the Cardinals just can’t help being the Cardinals. The status quo is just fine in St. Louis; Matt Carpenter (.372, 13 doubles) continues to pester opponents, Yadier Molina continues to throw out baserunners, and although the season-ending injury to Adam Wainwright is a big blow, the Cardinals have comfort in the fact that the rest of the staff is throwing quite well, as exhibited by a 2.43 team average that’s easily the majors’ best. We said it in our season preview last month: Don’t be fool to leave the Redbirds out of the NL Central conversation. They continue to prove that.

Texas Rangers (7-14)

There’s good luck, there’s bad luck and then there’s the Rangers—synonymous with double secret hard luck. Last year’s kings of the disabled list are defending their title quite well; no other team has more guys currently on the shelf than the Rangers’ dozen, including three of their top starting pitchers. Speaking of disabled, that pretty much sums up the Texas offense, dead last in the majors with a pathetic .210 mark (and they’re supposed to play in one of baseball’s most generous hitters yards). With averages like that, Josh Hamilton will always look good.

Milwaukee Brewers (5-17)

Circa Opening Day, Brewers GM Doug Melvin was offered a contract extension—with the length of the extension totally up to him. In the name of job security, he hopefully acted fast—because the Brew Crew have stunk up Miller Park worse than the foulest smelling brats. The Brewers lost on Opening Day, 10-0 (at home to Colorado, the majors’ worst road team last season), haven’t had a winning streak of more than one and, when they produced a season-high ten runs against Cincinnati on April 21, they still lost by six. After losing first place last August following a totally different (as in great) start to 2014, the Brewers are 14-39. Hurry up and decide, Doug; it may soon be too late.

Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(April 2015 Edition)

Retractable Lapse of Memory
Somebody was asleep at the retractable roof switch when rain infiltrated Marlins Park for Miami’s home opener against Atlanta. That somebody was Marlins President David Samson, whose job is to tell the guys to close the roof when necessary. The ensuing rain delay lasted some 15 minutes.

So That’s What it Looks Like Outside
The Tampa Bay Rays didn’t play outdoors until their 20th game of the season, after performing indoors at their home base in St. Petersburg as well as road series in Toronto and Miami (where the roof, this time, was not accidentally left open).

Plush, to a Fault
While visiting Toronto, the Rays would have found the new turf at Rogers Centre to be very, very slow—and they weren’t the ones most displeased about it. The Baltimore Orioles actually considered boycotting a game there. For now, the Blue Jays say all is well and that nothing will be done to tweak the turf.

No Shard Feelings
After having three of his bats broken by pitches thrown from Los Angeles of Anaheim’s C.J. Wilson, Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre sent Wilson a bill for the bats.

The Whole Urine
The Chicago Cubs installed 74 port-a-potties within Wrigley Field after several upstairs restrooms “went down” on Opening Night, leading to long lines elsewhere within the ballpark.

Close Shave
Milwaukee infielder Scooter Gennett went on the disabled list after slicing his hand on the edge of a shower gel dispenser in the visitors clubhouse at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. The injury required five stitches to sew up.

Should Have Kept Going, Alex
ESPN the Magazine released its annual poll of major league players on various baseball topics and discovered this: Bryce Harper is far and away the game’s most overrated player, 41% are happy to see Alex Rodriguez back —29% are not and 30% don’t give a damn—90% believe Bud Selig deserved a B or better grade as commissioner and 41% believed Alex Gordon should have gone for an inside-the-park home run in Game Seven of the 2014 World Series.

Frivol Disobedience
One guy—not a player—who wasn’t happy with Rodriguez’s return was a middle-aged fan sitting in Oriole Park at Camden Yards who, when the Yankees visited, stood up and turned his back away from the action whenever Alex Rodriguez came to bat. Wonder how he acts when Chris Davis comes to the plate…

Stop Making Nonsense
Three former ushers for the Washington Nationals sued the team for violating their religious beliefs. The three all belong to the Seventh Day Adventists, which forbids working on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons. Perhaps a hint for this trio: Try something that’s Monday-to-Friday, 8.a.m-5 p.m.—like most of us do.

That Took a Lot of Gumption
There were many benches-clearing scrums during April, but the strangest had to take place in San Diego when San Francisco’s Angel Pagan tossed his gum away while at the plate and hit Padres’ catcher Derek Norris. The two exchanged words and the benches briefly emptied before everyone realized how ridiculous it all was. Norris, after the game: “(Pagan) was just being kind of a d**khead.”

This Great Game at CafePress

Bushers Book

Wednesday, April 1
A week after Brady Aiken, last year’s #1 pick in the amateur draft, announced he was going under the knife for Tommy John surgery, it’s learned that this year’s possible #1 pick, Duke’s Mike Matuella, will also have to undergo the ligament replacement procedure.

It’s getting to the point where, someday soon, a little leaguer is going to announce an appointment with Dr. James Andrews.

For all of you who picked Boston catcher Christian Vazquez as the American League’s breakout player in 2015, here’s hoping you have a back-up plan. The 24-year-old sophomore is also due for Tommy John surgery after complaining of a bad elbow. He will miss the entire season.

After Vazquez threw out 15 of 29 attempted basestealers in 2014, the Red Sox were really looking forward to a full year out of him.

Friday, April 3
Pitcher Ervin Santana, signed by Minnesota before the season to a four-year, $55 million contract, tests positive for the steroid Stanozolol and is banned 80 games by Major League Baseball. It’s a huge blow for the Twins, hoping Santana would stabilize a rotation that was baseball’s worst in 2014.

In a statement, Santana pleads ignorance: “I am frustrated that I can't pinpoint how the substance in question entered my body.”

The San Francisco Giants announce contract extensions to manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean through the 2019 season. Sabean is promoted to executive vice president of baseball operations, officially ending an 18-year run as the team’s GM; assistant GM Bobby Evans takes over his role.

Sabean had been the majors’ longest active tenured GM.

Saturday, April 4
Two of the American League’s best young pitchers are given contract extensions even before their arbitration years kick in. Kansas City signs Yordana Ventura to a five-year deal worth $23 million; meanwhile, Cleveland gives reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber a five-year deal worth $38.5 million. Montreal continues to show that it can support major league baseball after all.

A day after drawing 46,000 for an exhibition contest between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds, an even larger gathering of 50,231 show up to watch the same two teams at Olympic Stadium, the former home of the Expos.

The games serve as a homecoming of sorts for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips; he was the Expos’ first-round draft choice in 1999, but was traded away before he ever got a chance to play in Montreal.

Sunday, April 5
The 2015 regular season begins with the St. Louis Cardinals shutting down the Chicago Cubs at an under-construction Wrigley Field, 3-0. Adam Wainwright throws six shutout innings and outfielder Jason Heyward, traded to the Cardinals from Atlanta, collects three hits including two doubles.

Mike Olt, keeping third base warm for rookie-to-be Kris Bryant, goes 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Just when you thought the San Diego Padres were done improving their roster, they deliver a shocker—trading outfielders Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin and two minor leaguers to the Atlanta Braves for elite closer Craig Kimbrel and outfielder Melvin Upton Jr.

When you think about it, it’s a no-brainer solution for both teams; the Padres had no set closer and a surplus of outfielders, with Maybin nor Quentin the odd men out; the Braves, meanwhile, all but solidify their status as a team reloading for the future.

Lon Simmons, the Hall-of-Fame broadcaster who did nearly 50 years’ worth of play-by-play split between the Giants and Oakland A’s, dies at the age of 91. He began his major league career in 1958 when the Giants arrived from New York, pairing up with Ross Hodges (he of the legendary “The Giants win the pennant!” call in 1951.)

Washington is awarded the 2018 All-Star Game, the first time the Nation’s Capitol will hold the Midsummer Classic since 1969. This also means that NL cities will host the game four straight years—and like the 2016 game in San Diego, the American League will serve as the official “home” team and bat last.

Monday, April 6
If the first full day of the season is any indication, the pace-of-game rules put into effect to speed up games will be a success. The 14 games average two hours and 48 minutes—15 minutes shorter than the typical 2014 contest. For the entire month of April, the average game will last 2:54.

If MLB is looking to increase offense as well, then it still has some work to do. Among the 15 “first” games (the Cardinals’ 3-0 win at Chicago on Sunday included), there were six shutouts—the most in major league history, according to Elias.

Oakland’s Sonny Gray has the best effort of the night, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Texas’ Ryan Rua ends the bid with a single. The A's easily coasts to an 8-0 win.

Alex Rodriguez has a walk and a deep single in three trips to the plate in his first regular season action since the end of 2013, but it’s a weak silver lining in an otherwise lousy day for the New York Yankees, who are pounced on early by the visiting Toronto Blue Jays and suffer a 6-1 defeat.

The Boston Red Sox get two home runs each from Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez—the latter of whom caps an 8-0 whitewashing of the Phillies with a ninth-inning grand slam at Philadelphia.

While the performance of first-year Red Sock Ramirez is grand, that’s not the case for another Boston newbie, Pablo Sandoval—who is 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox announce a four-year contract extension for pitcher Rick Porcello worth $82 million.

Porcello is still only 26, and the Red Sox sense that his best years are yet to come—but that a pitcher with a career 4.30 ERA has joined the $20 million-a-year club must have general managers across the majors recoiling with a case of heartburn.

Tuesday, April 7
Mat Latos’ debut for the Miami Marlins is one he’ll try best to forget. The visiting Atlanta Braves pile up seven runs on the Former Cincinnati hurler in the first inning, and he’s removed after just two-thirds of an inning. The Braves coast from there to a 12-2 rout.

For the second straight night, the Colorado Rockies knock out six doubles on the Brewers at Milwaukee; the last time that happened in a team’s first two games was in 1912 when the New York Giants accomplished the feat. The Rockies use the two-bag muscle to defeat the Brewers, 5-2.

In the A’s 3-1 loss to Texas, Oakland infielder Brett Lawrie strikes out four times in four at-bats—on 12 total pitches. All four times, he goes down swinging on the third strike.

Wednesday, April 8
The Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez launches three homers, giving him five for the first three games and setting a major league record to start the year. Gonzalez’s four hits overall and four RBIs lift Los Angeles over the visiting Padres, 7-4.

The Rockies, who lost 60 games on the road in 2014, match the total number of series sweeps away from Coors Field last season with a 5-4, 10-inning win over Milwaukee at Miller Park.

Thursday, April 9
Cleveland pitcher Trevor Bauer has a no-hitter through six innings at Houston—but has to be removed because he’s thrown 111 pitches, with five walks and 11 strikeouts. The Indians’ bullpen takes the no-hitter into the ninth when, with one out, Jed Lawrie smacks a home run off Nick Hagadone. The Indians still prevail, 5-1.

Proving that his terrific spring camp effort was no fluke, Matt Harvey—making his first regular season start since mid-2013—throws six shutout innings and strikes out nine as he and the New York Mets easily outduel Washington ace Stephen Strasburg at Nationals Park, 6-3.

Alex Rodriguez hits his first home run of 2015 in front of 32,152 home fans at Yankee Stadium, but again his contributions are not enough as New York falls to Toronto, 5-2.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are still intent on denying Rodriguez his $6 million bonus payments for passing Willie Mays on the all-time home run list, as well as future home run milestone achievements.

The Detroit Tigers sweep the Minnesota Twins with an easy 7-1 victory at Comerica Park; the Twins’ lone run of the game, in the seventh inning, is their only tally of the entire series. The 24 scoreless innings to start a season is the longest in AL history.

Friday, April 10
Leave it to the Yankees and Red Sox, who historically entangle one another in marathons, to wreck havoc on the new pace-of-play regulations. The two teams spar for 19 innings, 658 pitches and six hours, 49 minutes—not including a 16-minute delay in the 12th when the Yankee Stadium lights go out—but it finally comes to an end when Mookie Betts’ sacrifice fly gets the Red Sox in the win column by a 6-5 count.

This is the longest game, by time, in 115 years of Red Sox baseball.

It’s like a bad nightmare that just wont end for the Texas Rangers, who last year were decimated by injuries. In their home opener against the Astros, starting pitcher Derek Holland leaves after just one inning with a shoulder pain that will land him on the disabled list for two months; the Rangers also lose outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Rua during a 5-1 loss, but their injuries are not expected to be as significant.

Saturday, April 11
New York Mets closer Jenrry Mejia is suspended 80 games after testing positive for the steroid Stanozolol. As with others who recently have received similar bans for the same drug, Mejia releases a statement saying he had no idea how the drug ended up in his system.

This recent rash of similar steroid usages prompts MLB to investigate whether the cases are more than just coincidental.

Arizona pitcher Archie Bradley, making his major league debut, stymies the visiting Dodgers on a hit through six shutout innings and easily outduels Clayton Kershaw (who allows six runs on ten hits over 6.1 frames) as the Diamondbacks easily slide away with a 6-0 win.

Sunday, April 12
The two teams who battled for the AL Central title last year end the majors’ first week of regular season action as the only who remain undefeated.

In Cleveland, the Tigers move to 6-0 as Miguel Cabrera hits his first two home runs, doubles, singles and is given an intentional walk in an 8-5 win over the Indians at Cleveland.

Cabrera’s 11 hits (in 14 at-bats) set a career high for any three-game series; he’s the first Tiger to earn 11-plus hits over three straight games since Walt Dropo in 1952.

Meanwhile out in Anaheim, the Kansas City Royals also reach 6-0 with a 9-2 rout of the Angels and, so far, are proving wrong many of the prognosticators who declared them a one-hit wonder a year ago and have passed on them for 2015.

Starring for the Royals is rookie Paulo Orlando, who legs out two triples; with a three-bagger for his lone hit of the year coming into the game, he becomes the first player in major league history whose first three career hits are triples. He’ll later add two more triples to become the first player with five in his first seven games.

Despite the loss, the Angels’ Albert Pujols moves into sole possession of 18th place on the all-time home run list with his 522nd career shot in the first inning.

The Atlanta Braves’ bid for 6-0 is stopped by the Mets and 41-year-old Bartolo Colon, who picks up his second win of the year and his first RBI since 2005 (on a fourth-inning bloop single), giving New York a 4-3 victory.

Colon will add another RBI in his next start with a sacrifice fly.

For the second straight day, the Colorado Rockies rue letting go of outfielder Dexter Fowler. The former Rockie, who tripled twice the day before for the Cubs at Coors Field, drills a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to give Chicago a 6-5 victory.

Colorado closer LaTroy Hawkins, who blows his second save opportunity in as many chances to start the year, is relieved of his ninth-inning duties following the game.

Monday, April 13
The Red Sox’ home opener is a peach. Second-year outfielder Mookie Betts knocks in four runs on a three-run homer and infield single, steals two bases on one play (because the shift is on for David Ortiz and no one’s covering third) and robs Bryce Harper of a home run as Boston clobbers Washington, 9-4. The losing pitcher is Jordan Zimmermann, who the Sox coveted during the winter—and for whom they wallop today for eight runs in just 2.1 innings.

Detroit’s frantic ninth-inning rally falls short at Pittsburgh, as the Pirates hand the Tigers their first loss of the season with a 5-4 win. This leaves Kansas City as the majors’ lone undefeated team after jarring the Twins in their Target Field home opener, 12-3.

The Twins had the worst ERA among starters in 2014, and after six games this year are posting a 6.87 figure—a full run worse than 29th-ranked Seattle. Why Ervin Santana, Why!

The New York Mets win their home opener against Philadelphia, 2-0, behind 6.1 shutout innings from Jacob deGrom. The locals do not lack for hubris; a fan throws a beer through a chain-linked outfield fence at Phillies outfielder Grady Sizemore, while two billboards just outside Citi Field implore Mets owner Fred Wilpon to sell, with one paraphrasing Tug McGraw by stating, “Ya gotta leave.”

The Cubs thrill the Wrigley Field faithful with a 7-6, ten-inning win over the visiting Cincinnati Reds thanks to rookie Jorge Soler’s first two home runs of the year and a walk-off hit from Alfonso Alcantara, his first safety after an 0-for-16 start.

Soler also bails out Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester—who painfully shows why he hasn’t tried a pickoff attempt in two years—by firing a strike to third and nabbing Cincinnati baserunner Zack Cozart, trying to advance from first on the play.

Tuesday, April 14
Another wild day at Fenway Park between the Red Sox and Nationals sees Boston jump out to a 5-1 lead, only to lose it in the fifth when Washington tallies six times; but the Red Sox rally in the seventh with three runs without the benefit of a single hit to win, 8-7.

The Nationals are 2-6 with the NL’s worst offense and defense, by the numbers. Small sample size to be sure, but the Nats are the prohibitive favorite to win it all.

It’s a rough night for the Indians—and scary in the first inning when Cleveland starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco is nailed in the jaw by a line drive from the White Sox’ Melky Cabrera. Carrasco will leave the game with nothing more than a bruised jaw, but the Indians’ offense looks even more battered in a 4-1 loss with just three hits and 14 strikeouts.

Max who? The Tigers get back on the winning track behind the unlikely excellence of Shane Greene, who in his second start of the season does exactly what he did in his first: Throw eight innings without an earned run. Detroit etches out a few late runs to win, 2-0.

Rookie Kendall Graveman and four Oakland relievers combine to blank the Astros at Houston, 4-0, giving the A’s their fourth shutout win over their first nine games of the year; only the 1910 White Sox, among AL teams, can vouch for a similar start. The Astros certainly have their chances to score, but leave 11 men on base.

Apparently not all medical care for major leaguers goes right. Or you certainly don’t think so if you’re Nolan Reimold. The once-and-current Oriole, stuck at the Triple-A level, sues John Hopkins Hospital for negligence, saying he was prematurely discharged after spinal surgery in 2012—leading to continued problems trying to stay healthy.

Wednesday, April 15
Jackie Robinson Day—celebrating the 68th anniversary of his first day in the majors—the Dodgers announce they will erect a statue of Robinson, the first-ever sculpture at 53-year-old Dodger Stadium. On the field, the Dodgers sweep the visiting Mariners with a 5-2 victory—despite the fact that Seattle DH Nelson Cruz homers in his fifth straight game. The Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez also extends a streak of nine straight games to start a season safely reaching base at least twice; he’s one shy of the team record—held by Robinson, in 1952.

Gonzalez will tie Robinson’s mark but not break it.

The Colorado Rockies finish off a three-game sweep of the defending champion Giants in San Francisco with a 4-2 victory, improving their 2015 road record to 6-0. That matches their win total over their last 45 games played away from Coors Field last season.

The Giants, now 3-7 and losers of their last six games, are likely to influence the rules committee about mandatory off-days to start the season as they continue a 14-day stretch without a day off.

The Royals finally lose—and the Twins finally get some strong starting pitching courtesy of Kyle Gibson’s quality effort in a 3-1 win at Minnesota. Oswaldo Arcia’s two-run homer in the fourth inning is the difference.

Thursday, April 16
The New York Mets overcome an early 3-0 Miami lead—partially fueled by a first-inning home run from Giancarlo Stanton to give him sole possession at the top of the Marlins’ all-time list—and bounce back with a 7-5 victory at Citi Field for their fifth straight win.

Stanton, who’s still just 25, had been tied with Dan Uggla.

Friday, April 17
All eyes are on Wrigley Field and top prospect Kris Bryant, finally making his major league debut for the Cubs after being controversially held back in the minors to start the year for contractual reasons. But it’s not a stellar debut for the 23-year-old slugger, who swings and misses at all three pitches he sees in his first at-bat from San Diego’s James Shields—and then strikes out in his next two at-bats before finishing an 0-for-4 day with a force out. The Cubs lose to the Padres, 5-4.

Mike Trout becomes the youngest player ever to accumulate 100 home runs and 100 steals when he goes deep twice at Houston, aiding the Angels in a 6-3 win over the Astros. Alex Rodriguez, who was an older 23 in 1999, held the previous mark.

Eric Davis reached 100/100 in fewer games (459) than Trout (503) but was older.

As for Rodriguez, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. The two-time steroid cheat nails two home runs, including a mammoth 477-foot shot that’s a mere foot shy of the longest ever hit at Tropicana Field; but it’s his eighth-inning single that finally puts the Yankees in the lead to stay as they defeat the Rays at St. Petersburg, 5-4.

Rodriguez is hitting .344 with four homers and 11 RBIs through his first ten games.

Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jimenez has a slim 1-0 lead and has yet to allow a hit in the fourth inning when, with two outs, he hits Boston’s Pablo Sandoval in the back—and is ejected by home plate umpire Jordan Baker. A perplexed Jimenez pleads his case—as does equally perplexed Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who argues that no prior warnings have been issued. The Red Sox tally twice in the next inning and score a walk-off knock in the ninth on Xander Bogaerts’ one-out single to win, 3-2.

Baker’s contention is that Jimenez was retaliating for a harsh slide by Sandoval into second base earlier in the game.

Saturday, April 18
Perhaps inspired by receiving their 2014 World Series rings in a lavish pregame ceremony, the Giants end an eight-game losing skid by defeating the Diamondbacks at San Francisco, 4-1. It’s the first home win for the Giants after an 0-5 start—the worst by a defending champion.

After not allowing a run over five appearances and 3.2 innings to start the year, past-and-current Tampa Bay reliever Grant Balfour has a meltdown in the Rays’ 9-0 loss to the Yankees—allowing three runs on a hit (a grand slam by Chris Young), three walks, a hit batsman and a wild pitch—and just like that, he is summarily designated for assignment after the game.

There will be no takers for Balfour, and the Rays will be responsible for the $7.5 million owed to him for the rest of the season.

In a situation somewhat similar to the Sandoval-Jimenez duel a day before in Boston, the A’s and Royals clear the benches after Kansas City pitcher Yordano Ventura plunks the A’s Brett Lawrie, who the previous night had slid hard—over-aggressively from the Royals’ point of view—into second base trying to break up a double play. Ventura is quickly ejected, the often intense Lawrie avoids a confrontation, and the A’s move on to a 5-0 victory. It’s Oakland’s fifth shutout win over its first 12 games, setting a modern major league record.

Between this and an earlier brush with Mike Trout, Ventura is quickly earning a reputation as an over-intensive pitcher—and he’s not done for the month. See April 23.

The Texas Rangers have been something akin to kryptonite to Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, but on this night King Felix finally gets the lone star monkey off his back with a masterful performance at Safeco Field. He allows a run on two hits while striking out 12 through seven innings, producing a 3-1 win that’s his first after nine straight winless starts against Texas.

He’ll make it two in a row over the Rangers 11 days later.

Sunday, April 19
The Royals just wont let it go. Still fuming over the Brett Lawrie slide from a few days earlier, they’re irate when A’s starter Scott Kazmir clips Lorenzo Cain on the foot in the first inning—and when the umpires issue warnings to both benches, Kansas City manager Ned Yost erupts (because he won’t get a legitimate chance to strike back) and is ejected. When Lawrie later has a 100-MPH pitch sail behind his upper back from Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera, the benches again clear, Lawrie does his best to avoid trouble—though he gets irate when Herrera points to his own head—and four more Royals are ejected. Kansas City gains some satisfaction when it overcomes a late 2-1 deficit with a three-run, eighth-inning rally capped by a two-run double from Kendrys Morales to prevail, 4-2.

Herrera will be suspended five games for his actions.

The A’s and Royals reconvene in Oakland on June 26-28. Get your tickets now.

A seven-run outburst in the fourth inning is enough—barely—for the Mets to secure their eighth straight win, outlasting the Marlins at Citi Field, 7-6. With victory comes cost: Rising star catcher Travis D’Arnaud breaks his wrist after being hit by a pitch, and reliever Jerry Blevins fractures his arm after being nailed by a comebacker.

The Mets have the NL’s best record at 10-3, but with today’s injuries coupled with a DL stint for veteran slugger David Wright and PED suspension for closer Jenrry Mejia, the road to maintain the fast start might be a bit bumpy.

Trailing 10-5 after the seventh-inning stretch, Seattle rallies for six runs over the next three innings, capped with a ninth-inning, two-out RBI single from Nelson Cruz—who earlier in the day belts two homers to reach eight on the year—as the Mariners clip the Rangers, 11-10.

Cruz’s eight homers on the year have come over the last eight games—but not consecutively.

Detroit’s Yoenis Cespedes drills two homers and drives in six runs in the Tigers’ 9-1 rout of the visiting White Sox. Cespedes has now homered in his last four-at-bats against Chicago starting pitcher Jose Quintana.

Monday, April 20
A game at Pittsburgh between the Pirates and Cubs is halted for 22 minutes when the Cubs’
Starlin Castro lines a foul ball to the backstop—knocking unconscious the head of a woman returning to her seat when she was too close to the netting that flexed from the drive. She is carted off on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital, where she undergoes tests before being released.

Kris Bryant has three hits and three RBIs in a 5-2 Chicago win; since his inglorious 0-for-4 debut last Friday, the Cubs’ ballyhooed phenom is 6-for-10 and will end up batting over .300 for April—albeit without a home run.

Trevor Bauer (seven shutout innings) and the Indians give closer Cody Allen a 3-0 lead to preserve in the ninth inning—but after striking out his first batter, Allen allows the next seven batters to reach safely, and four of them score, handing the White Sox a 4-3, walk-off victory. Melky Cabrera’s deep-fly single brings home the inning run.

It’s the first time in ten years that the White Sox have overcome a three-run lead and won in the ninth. The victim back then: Also the Indians.

Tuesday, April 21
The Brewers score a season high ten runs but still lose—and badly, 16-10 to the visiting Reds, who tally two or more times in five consecutive innings for the first time in franchise history while blasting five home runs, including grand slams from Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier. The 26 combined runs are just one shy of the Miller Park record; the Brewers slump to 2-12, the majors’ worst record.

Cincinnati is now 2-0 since manager Bryan Price went on an Ed Harris-as-Dave Moss five-minute tirade with the media consisting of 77 F-bombs.

At Toronto, the Blue Jays get two homers from Edwin Encarnacion and one from Jose Bautista—a seventh-inning shot right after rookie Jason Garcia throws a pitch behind his back—to thump Baltimore, 13-6. Bautista’s homer is the 250th of his career, but he’s in no mood to celebrate, verbally lashing out at several Orioles as he rounds the bases.

Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle becomes only the second pitcher since 1900 to win his first three starts with at least 12 runs of offensive support in each.

The A’s get flattened in Anaheim by the Angels, 14-1—but a silver lining is provided from first baseman Ike Davis, who relieves a totally ineffective Oakland bullpen and pitches a 1-2-3 eighth inning on just nine pitches. He’s the first position player to pitch for the A’s since 2000.

Wednesday, April 22
Barry Bonds is no longer a felon. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturns the one charge the disputed home run king was convicted of related to the BALCO scandal—that of obstruction of justice—putting all of his legal troubles totally behind him after ten-plus years.

It’s curious to wonder how much less the Department of Justice spent on BALCO—they racked up $50 million alone going after Bonds—than they did going unsuccessfully after the crooks on Wall Street who swindled the American public and plunged the country into its worst recession since the Great Depression. (And the Feds are still thinking of appealing the court's ruling to the Supreme Court.)

In a game at Detroit’s Comerica Park played at times amid snow flurries form a late winter storm, the visiting Yankees pile up on Tigers starter David Price, scoring eight runs on ten hits and three walks before the veteran ace is finally removed in the third inning of a 13-4 rout.

Price’s performance is hauntingly similar to his last appearance against the Yankees last August—when he allowed eight runs on 12 hits in two innings.

The Phillies gift the visiting Marlins a 6-1 win as Miami scores five of their runs on two errors and a balk. The Fish’ one RBI on the night—on a Martin Prado double that caps the scoring in the eighth—represents the first time in 40 years that as many as six runs have been scored by a team while netting only one official RBI.

Thursday, April 23
Another Yordano Ventura start for the Royals, another melee. In Chicago, the young Kansas City firebrand—who early in the game plunks White Sox star Jose Abreu with a 99-MPH pitch—fields a wicked comebacker from Adam Eaton and, while throwing to first, shouts out an unprovoked expletive toward Eaton that leads to another clearing of the benches. Several pockets of brief fighting ignite from the ensuing scrum, and five players are ejected, including Ventura.

Baseball puts its foot down on those involved, most heavily with a seven-game suspension upon Ventura—who wasn’t directly involved in the physical fighting but instigated the whole thing. Also penalized is Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez (five games), reliever Kelvin Herrera (who adds two games to the five he received from last week’s confrontation with the A’s Brett Lawrie) and outfielder Lorenzo Cain (two games); suspended on the White Sox’ side is their two best starting pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Chris Sale—who reportedly tries to continue the dispute by attempting to charge into the Royals’ clubhouse—at five games apiece.

Not since Albert Belle in 1995 has someone been involved in a rash of confrontational events as has Ventura, who—by design or not—has established himself as baseball’s new bad boy. Perhaps it’s helping to keep the fire hot under a Royals team out to prove it’s not the one-year wonder many believe it was in 2014, but it begs to wonder if the Royals have the mental and physical capacity to maintain this caustic edge over 162 games.

The Mets finish a 10-0 homestand—the first such undefeated, double-digit occurrence since Minnesota did it in 1991—and tie a franchise record with their 11th straight win as they defeat the visiting Braves, 6-3. Bartolo Colon picks up his fourth win in as many starts.

The Angels are outhit by the visiting A’s, 8-1, but win—thanks to a two-run, third-inning homer by Kyle Calhoun that gives them a 2-0 victory. It’s only the third time in franchise history that the Angels have won with a single hit.

Pete Rose has been given the green light to participate in official activities during the upcoming All-Star Game at Cincinnati, where he’s still embraced as a hero. Those hoping that this may be the first step in Rose’s inclusion back in the game may want to pump the brakes, as this is hardly the first time the all-time hit king has been allowed within MLB’s ropes—having been a part of the All-Century team celebration in 1999.

Veteran closer Joe Nathan, on a minor league rehab assignment, tears several elbow ligaments and is told he’ll need Tommy John surgery, the second of his career. At age 40, he would not return until mid-2016—and although he vows to continue playing when recovered, the question is whether anyone will want him; the Tigers will likely spend $1 million to buy out the final year of his contract rather than pay him $10 million in 2016.

Friday, April 24
Josh Hamilton is going home, of sorts. The troubled ex-MVP, who over the last three months has suffered a drug relapse, been handed divorce papers and put his Orange County home on the market, is traded from the Angels back to the Texas Rangers, where his career hit peak form in the early 2010s. The Angels will eat most of his remaining $83 million salary, as the Rangers will pick up the tab for, at most, $7 million of it.

Several days later, Hamilton will have this to say about the Angels and owner Arte Moreno: “He knew what the deal was when he signed me. Hands down. He knew what he what he was getting, what the risks were. Under the JDA (Joint Drug Agreement), it is was it is.”

C’mon, Josh—really? That’s like a parolee who is allowed into a halfway house, does something criminal and then tells the judge, “The landlord knew the deal when he brought me in.” Granted, the Angels haven’t followed the P.R. playbook to perfection in publicly dealing with Hamilton, but he should at least try and take some responsibilities for his failings of the last three months and not put all of this on Moreno.

Just when the Angels thought they were done paying out $20 million to players no longer on their roster (see Vernon Wells), now they’ll have to dole out roughly that amount to Hamilton each year through 2017.

The Mets’ bid for a franchise-record 12th straight win falls across town at Yankee Stadium, as the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira belts a pair of two-run homers through the first three innings to lift the Bronx Bombers to a 6-1 victory.

Teixeira has 12 hits on the year—11 of them for extra bases.

The Indians rack it up on the Tigers at Detroit, 13-1, as Brandon Moss goes deep twice and, with a double added, knocks in seven runs. His two homers both come with men on base for the Tribe, who had come into the game with 11 dingers—all solo—to start the year.

After going scoreless through the first nine innings at Oakland, the bats for both the Astros and A’s finally wake up in extra innings—exchanging two runs in the tenth, followed by a three-run 11th-inning Houston outburst; the A’s two runs in the bottom of the frame are one two few and the Astros survive with a 5-4 triumph.

With the win, Houston is currently the only above-.500 team in the AL West.

Saturday, April 25
The Orioles survive a pair of late Boston rallies and defeat the Red Sox in ten innings, 5-4, on a David Lough home run. The game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards is played all but adjacent to a march consisting of several thousand protesters who rally, sometimes violently, against the death of a black citizen allegedly at the hands of Baltimore police a week earlier.

The crowd of 37,000—aware of the turbulence outside as sirens blare and helicopters buzz nearby—is not allowed to leave the ballpark during the ninth inning as a safety precaution; when the game ends an inning later, it is allowed outside but warned to be careful. No postgame incidents are said to occur.

It will get worse in Baltimore before it gets better.

The Cardinals defeat the Brewers, 5-3, and drop Milwaukee to a major league-worst 3-15 record, but the win comes at great cost. Ace Adam Wainwright, with four shutout innings in the book, bats in the fifth and, after popping up, stumbles in pain out of the batter’s box. It will later be discovered that he has torn an Achilles muscle and will miss the rest of the year.

The Wainwright injury, coupled with a sore thumb for Washington ace Max Scherzer days earlier while trying to bunt, amplifies the chatter from fans and reporters who think it’s time for the NL to adopt the DH.

The sea breeze is blowing out hard at Petco Park. Seven home runs are hit—one shy of the ballpark record—with four of them belted by the visiting Dodgers, who bludgeon the Padres by an 11-8 count. Former Padre Adrian Gonzalez hits his seventh homer of the year and knocks in three for Los Angeles.

Sunday, April 26
Free agent pick-up Evan Gattis, mired in a .136 start with one RBI through his first 15 games, wakes up with four RBIs, two on a ninth-inning double that puts Houston ahead to stay of the A’s in Oakland, 7-6, finishing a three-game sweep. It’s the first time in franchise history that the Astros have swept the A’s in a series.

All is peaceful in Baltimore—for the moment—and the Orioles take advantage, scoring in six straight innings to rout the Red Sox, 18-7, behind 20 hits. It’s the highest run count the Orioles/Browns franchise has ever posted against Boston.

Monday, April 27
It gets scarier in Baltimore. Full-scale riots break out around the city as the Orioles are scheduled to begin a week of home games, including tonight’s contest against the White Sox—which is postponed. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, some two miles from the worst of the violence, is safe. With a 10:00 p.m. city curfew set for the rest of the week, it will be difficult for the Orioles to get in any of their night games.

Tuesday’s game will also be postponed due to the continued unrest, but a Wednesday afternoon contest is on—behind closed gates, as no fans will be allowed in the ballpark. A weekend home series with Tampa Bay will be switched to St. Petersburg.

There had been talk of moving the rest of the Orioles’ homestand 40 miles south to Nationals Park in Washington, but that might have been scuttled due to the ongoing dispute between the Orioles and Nationals over regional TV revenue.

Eight days after a Pittsburgh fan is hit and hospitalized from a foul ball, the Pirates and Cubs cringe again as a Wrigley Field fan is struck from a bat accidentally flown into the stands from Chicago rookie Addison Russell. The fan is personally cared for in the stands by Cubs owner Tom Ricketts (among others) before being taken, conscious, to a hospital. On the field, the Cubs defeat Pittsburgh, 4-0.

Russell, yet another highly-touted prospect in the Cubs’ organization, has played four games for the parent team thus far—and has lost his grip on the bat three times.

Tuesday, April 28
This was a night the Atlanta Braves could have used Craig Kimbrel—and Dan Uggla, of all people. The visiting Nationals, trailing 10-2 after four innings, mount the second largest comeback in franchise history, capping a wild 13-12 victory with a three-run, ninth-inning homer from Uggla, the former Brave who fell quickly on hard times last year. Uggla also has a single, triple and knocks in five runs.

The real irony is that the Braves were beat by the player who’s currently the highest paid on their payroll; Uggla was released by the team in early 2014 with a year-plus left on his contract.

Arizona blasts the Rockies at Phoenix, 12-5, but the Diamondbacks watch in horror as stellar rookie pitcher Archie Bradley takes a Carlos Gonzalez line drive off the left side of his face in the second inning. Bradley walks off the field with a swollen bruise, but X-rays otherwise reveal no major damage.

On a day when good pitching mostly has the day off—seven teams score ten or more runs and there are no shutouts—there’s always Madison Bumgarner vs. Clayton Kershaw. Bumgarner, the reigning postseason hero and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year outduels reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Kershaw with eight terrific innings as the Giants edge the Dodgers in Los Angeles, 2-1.

The 9-12 Giants might still be in last place in the NL West, but they’re now 4-1 against the Dodgers.

Wednesday, April 29
In the first major league game closed to the public, the Orioles run up a 6-0 first-inning lead and coast from there to defeat the visiting White Sox 8-2 at an empty Oriole Park at Camden Yards, closed off out of safety concerns after recent riots around Baltimore. Staffers and those with media credentials are allowed in, and the public address announcer introduces the players when they come to bat, but the only ones listening are several dozen fans standing outside the outfield gates with a partial view of the action.

Some players have difficulty focusing on the action amid total silence, as the game takes on the feel of a spring scrimmage. It also lasts just two hours and three minutes, perhaps because there are no usual in-game sideshows such as player intro music.

Aha, says commissioner Rob Manfred, there’s our solution to speeding up the games—don’t let anybody in to watch!

It’s so quiet at Oriole Park, viewers watching the White Sox broadcast can hear Baltimore play-by-play man Gary Thorne, in the next booth, shout out “Goodbye!” when Chris Davis belts a first-inning home run.

James Loney’s 13th-inning single brings home Steven Sousa to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 overtime win over the Yankees at New York. Of note is Alex Rodriguez’s performance, which isn’t good; he’s hitless in six at-bats with four strikeouts and a grounder turned into a double play. After a strong first few weeks, he’s now hitting .232.

After falling behind at Minnesota 7-3, the Tigers score seven unanswered runs thanks to four home runs, including two from Miguel Cabrera and the first career shot, an inside-the-park job, for catcher James McCann (no relation to Yankees catcher Brian McCann). The 10-7 win improves the Tigers’ record to 15-7, best in the AL.

Thursday, April 30
The Astros are back home in Houston, but they’re still playing like they’re in orbit. After tying the Mariners in the sixth, Houston nabs victory in the 10th on Jose Altuve’s run-scoring double for their seventh straight win, 3-2. The Astros finish the month at 15-7—their best showing since August 2008.

After spotting the Mets to an early 2-0 lead, the Nationals power up and score eight unanswered to hand New York its first loss at Citi Field this season, 8-2. The Mets had won their first ten games at home.

The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.

share this page with a friendShare this page with a friend.

Have a comment, question or request? Contact us at This Great Game.

© 2019 This Great Game.