This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: April, 2016
Colorado’s Big Story Tsk-tsk, Dee Gordon
Riff-Raff in the Yankees' Legends Suites Baseball’s Latest New Father


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
96 24 28 8 1 8 20 13 0 2 1

Last year’s AL MVP is showing no hangover from that stellar performance, staying consistently around the .300 mark with power throughout April. Thus he spread the damage around, and he was particularly tough when Oakland—the team that let him go over a year ago—came to town. Donaldson, along with the Blue Jays, just can’t thank the A’s enough for allowing him to split to Ontario. (It bears repeating; Donaldson is not a free agent until 2019.)


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
77 16 22 6 0 9 24 13 4 0 5

Like Donaldson, the reigning National League MVP is off to a great start defending his crown as well. Harper is doing all the things we’ve come to expect of him; he’s hitting for average, power, is showing a good eye at the plate (17 walks, only 13 strikeouts) and the opportunity to swipe an extra bag has returned with five steals—one shy of his total for all of last year. It is true: Harper is making baseball fun again. Enjoy him. (Unless you’re a Mets fan.)


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Logan Morrison, Tampa Bay Rays

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
60 2 6 2 0 0 0 4 0 0 1

So the Rays let go of James Loney and are still paying him $8 million—which is a lot of money for this team—so this guy could take over? Granted, Morrison has put up some decent numbers over the year, but even his career .241 average coming into the season looks absolutely Ty Cobb-ish compared to what he struggled through this past month. Making matters worse is that he’s virtually struck out in every other at-bat. If this keeps up, you’ll see a whole lot more of Steve Pearce at first for the Rays.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Dodgers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
53 5 8 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0

The 32-year-old veteran infielder has been such a reliable rock at the plate all these years—his average has always buzzed around the .290 mark—and that makes his month-long slump all the more of a head scratcher. Injury held up his season debut by a week, but perhaps he never fully healed; he didn’t accrue an extra-base hit, didn’t knock in a run and only walked twice. Maybe sticking him in left field (where he’s rarely played) is wigging him out, who knows. With Chase Utley looking vintage at Kendrick’s usual second base spot, Kendrick may see more of the bench than any position in the near future.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
5-0 33 28 4 2 7 0 0 0 0 23

When it came to picking up the veteran pitcher via free agency this past winter, the Tigers, as the old knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade opined, “chose wisely.” Zimmermann gave Detroit a heck of a debut, winning all five of his April starts while not allowing a run until his fourth appearance. With the Royals being the Royals and the White Sox looking unexpectedly sharp to start the year, the Tigers will need Zimmermann to keep up the supreme work so as to increase their chances of being relevant in the season’s final weeks.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
5-0 36 18 3 3 10 0 0 0 0 32

There’s nothing like picking things up from where you left off. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner looks like he could be ready to grab more postseason hardware after a terrific start to 2016, highlighted by his second no-hitter in less than a year. Arrieta set a Wrigley Field record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched (52.2) and currently has an overall streak of 16 straight wins, the majors’ longest in ten years. He’s so good right now, some can’t believe it, like ESPN smackerbox Stephen A. Smith—who more than intimated that it must be the steroids. Even Skip Bayless must have said, “Whoa there, Stephen,” before fleeing the network.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Liam Hendriks, Oakland A's

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-0 11.2 23 13 12 0 0 1 1 0 14

The A’s bullpen is off to a strong start—and that’s especially impressive considering how completely it collapsed in the final months of 2015—and its reliever ERA might be first in the majors instead of sixth if not for Hendriks, who the A’s received last winter in their latest lousy trade with the Blue Jays. The right-hander from Perth, Australia has certainly been throwing strikes—14 strikeouts, no walks—but maybe that’s the problem; opponents have been hitting those pitches to the tune of a .434 average. As a SB Nation headline states: “’Jim Johnson II’ Wasn’t the Idea, Liam”.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Alfredo Simon, Cincinnati Reds

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-3 13.1 28 22 20 10 0 3 1 0 16

There were about as many candidates from the Reds for this dishonor as there were Oscar nominees for Best Supporting Actor from The Godfather, Part II—but Simon gets the tin cup for his wild and wretched work. This is not what the Reds were envisioning when they brought back the Dominican native, who served time in Detroit last year after a terrific (15-10, 3.44) 2014 season in Cincinnati. If Simon said there was a comeback in the offing, he has far from delivered to this point.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chicago White Sox (17-8)

If you’re one of those rare Chicagoans who root for both local MLB teams, this may be your year. Of course you have the Cubs and all the bravado they’ve latched onto, but out of nowhere we also have the White Sox, who seem to have put Adam and Drake LaRoche aside and are playing their best baseball in years. The rotation has been sterling—and speaking of out of nowhere, Mat Latos at 4-0 with a 1.84 ERA?—while the bullpen has been even better, posting a MLB-best 1.69 ERA. 1906 redux, anyone?


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Chicago Cubs (17-5)

So far, so good—as in, very, very good—for the team most everyone thinks will go all the way this year. Even with a season-ending injury to Kyle Schwarber, a DL stint for catcher Miguel Montero and a month-end scare to Kris Bryant (sprained knee), the Cubs just aren’t missing a beat at this point. Sure, they’ve played a lot of lousy teams, but they’ve clobbered them just as one would expect—otherwise, their run differential wouldn’t be an enormous +79. The last time this team got off to as good a start was in 1907—back when winning world titles was the rule, not fantasy.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Houston Astros (7-17)

Sure, the Twins had just as lousy a month, but nobody picked them to reach the World Series. The same can’t be said for the Astros, who unlike the Cubs above are far from meeting lofty expectations after a truly disappointing month. Beyond Jose Altuve, nobody’s hitting the ball with authority, the supporting cast is AWOL, the starting rotation’s ERA is the league’s worst and it looks like that Ken Giles trade could prove disastrous on a Jim Fregosi-for-Nolan Ryan level. It’s early, but the Astros need to quickly snap out of it before they start disbelieving their own hype.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Atlanta Braves (5-18)

Any way you slice it, the Braves were terrible. They lost their first nine games, then had time for an eight-game slide later in the month. They didn’t hit a home run for three weeks. They couldn’t hit, pitch or field; Adonis Garcia fielded .824 at third base (translated, he botched it up every fifth time he did something with the ball). And people are complaining about the condition of Turner Field, probably because this is the Braves’ final season there and nobody’s caring to look after it. For an organization that’s committed to tanking its roster and starting from scratch in advance of its new ballpark, this is about as lame as lame duck can get. And with the historically fickle nature of Atlanta sports fans, expect a lot of empty seats unless this turns around, and fast.



Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(April 2016 Edition)

Thanks for the Memories
The Mets’ Lucas Duda, who made the errant throw that helped the Royals score the tying run in the deciding game of last year’s World Series, was cheered by Kansas City fans during the pregame introductions on Opening Day.

Make-A-Wish? How ‘bout Wishing These Guys Will Rot in Jail
The scooter for Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, stolen (and returned) in 2014, was pilfered yet again along with laptops and other valuables at the Bay Area offices of Make-A-Wish Foundation. The culprits were arrested a few days later, and the scooter was once again returned.

Remember a Little Something Called 9-11?
The promo for the MLB Network show MLB Central is sweet and shows some nice New York City scenery, but couldn’t the ad wizards have done without CGI-ing in a low-flying airliner above the skyline?

Cut Him Some Slack—Just Not Like This
Pablo Sandoval's belt busted while at bat for the Red Sox.

Territorial Flights
The A’s flew home from Seattle on an airliner decked out in the Giants’ logo and slogan (“We are Giant”).

Ball Hawk
A fan experienced at catching foul balls caught five of them in one game alone at Detroit's Comerica Park. Of course, when you sit in a section reserved for handicapped fans and you're fit enough to move around, your competition is fairly non-existent.

U Got it Wrong
A fan at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park held up a sign when the Nationals came to town saying, “I came 4,000 miles for Bruce Harper.”

Branding 101 (MPH)
The Mets’ Noah Syndergaard threw a pitch so hard that when it bounced off the dirt and above the chest protector of catcher Kevin Plawecki, it made an impression of Plawecki’s necklace on his skin.

Dude, it's Just a Walk
The Cardinals' Matt Holliday flung his bat high in the air after taking ball four during a game at San Diego, and it nearly hit umpire Tim Timmons on the head.

Time to Rap it Up
Rapper Warren G. was given the mic to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame at Wrigley Field. As the fans listened in and sang better than he, they must have thought: This guy’s a professional singer?

Somebody Sure Was Billbored
A 14-foot, 3D representation of a Royals outfielder leaping over the top of a Kansas City billboard made to look like a section of Kauffman Stadium’s outfield wall was stolen and, a day later, found lying in the bushes alongside a road. An autopsy is thus far inconclusive.

You Still Need More Hare
Even with a few new wrinkles thrown in to speed up baseball even further in 2016, the average game time in April checked in at a sluggish three hours and five minutes—an eight-minute rise from all of 2015. It was worse in the National League, where the average game length was 3:09.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
When the 2015 season revealed that total strikeouts had leveled off and remained steady over 2014, people saw that as a sign that, perhaps, the eternal trend of increased K’s will start to reverse itself. If this past month is any indication, forget about it. There were a total of 5,710 strikeouts in April, well short of the all-time monthly record (6,591) set last September—but that’s because there were fewer games played, owing to the start of the season on April 3 and the numerous off-days to avoid cold weather. But here’s the troubling figure: There was an average of 16.2 strikeouts per game in April, easily higher than the record 15.4 registered per game for all of 2015. So here we go again.

This Month’s Proof That Nobody’s Bunting
There were 143 sacrifice bunts recorded in April, the lowest total for a full calendar month since April 1966—and that’s when there were ten fewer teams and the season didn’t begin until the 11th. (So it wasn't really a full calendar month—but that just drives the point home even more.)

League vs. League

It’s a run of success few talk about: For 12 straight years, the American League has gotten the best of the National League in interleague play. Is this the year the AL’s bubble bursts? Well, the NL is off to a guardedly good start, taking the month of April by a 16-13 edge. But brace yourself: The NL’s three worst teams from April (Atlanta, Milwaukee and San Diego) all have interleague games in May, so we’ll see if the NL’s early advantage holds over the next 30 days.

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The Ballparks on This Great Game

Friday, April 1
This is not how the Arizona Diamondbacks, trying to make a big move up in the NL West ladder this season, wanted to end spring training: outfielder A.J. Pollock, one of the game’s rising stars, fractures his elbow while sliding head first into home during an exhibition against Kansas City and will require surgery to fix it. Pollock had already missed a good chunk of spring training due to the elbow, but now is likely to miss a good chunk—if not the whole—of the regular season.

It’s only spring training, but it’s worth noting: The New York Mets snap a 14-game winless streak with a 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs in Las Vegas, home of the Mets’ Triple-A team.

Catcher Taylor Teagarden, currently unemployed in the majors, will likely stay out of work indefinitely after being given an 80-game suspension for PED use. He didn’t fail a drug test; rather, he’s handed the punishment from Major League Baseball for admitting PED use on camera during Al Jazeera America’s investigative report earlier in the winter on steroids in sports, a piece that also implicated Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard and Washington infielder Ryan Zimmerman—both of whom have since sued Al Jazeera.

Saturday, April 2
The home of the Oakland A’s has simply been called “The Coliseum” by most fans who frequent it—which is probably why Overstock.com is opting out of its naming rights deal with the facility. Until further notice, the 50-year multi-purpose stadium will go from formally being named O.co Coliseum to just the Coliseum.

The City of Montreal once again shows that it’s capable of hosting a major league team, finishing off a two-game set of exhibitions at Olympic Stadium between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds before crowds of over 50,000. Montreal mayor Denis Coderre uses the short series to announce a ten-year, $32 million plan to re-generate baseball interest in the city through improved ballfields, minor league teams and establishing “regional hubs for ball sports.” If successful, the plan hopes to spur interest in a return of MLB to Montreal in the near future.

Drawing 50,000 to Olympic Stadium is great—but where were all these people when the Expos were threatening to leave town over a decade ago?

Sunday, April 3
Baseball’s 2016 regular season begins with three games. An early afternoon affair between the St. Louis Cardinals and Pirates at Pittsburgh—where it’s sunny with a 32-degree wind chill—is won by the Bucs, 4-1, behind six shutout innings and ten strikeouts from Francisco Liriano.

Liriano knocks in the first run of the season with a second-inning single against the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. According to baseball-reference.com, it’s the first time since 1973 that a pitcher has been credited with the season’s first RBI.

It’s a good day for Pittsburgh outfielder Gregory Polanco. Not only does he go 2-for-3 with a pair of runs against St. Louis, but it’s reported after the game that he’s been signed to a five-year, $35 million extension, with club options for two additional seasons. If fully realized, the Pirates will have contractual control over the blossoming outfielder through 2023.

In the second game of the day at St. Petersburg before a non-sellout of 31,000 fans, the Toronto Blue Jays take care of the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-3. Marcus Stroman is solid for eight innings, Troy Tulowitzki homers and Edwin Encarnacion—who didn’t appear once in spring training while resting from oblique and dental issues—has a pair of hits and two RBIs. Chris Archer takes the loss for the Rays despite 12 strikeouts over just five innings. Before the game, the Rays release first baseman James Loney despite the fact that they owe him $8 million; only Evan Longoria is due more from Tampa Bay’s bank account this season.

The marquee contest of the day features a rematch of last year’s World Series opponents, the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals—the first such Opening Day rematch in history. The Mets can’t do anything about having to watch the pregame ceremony celebrating the Royals’ world title, and they can’t overcome the Royals once the action begins. Kansas City gradually builds up a 4-0 lead and then withstands a late New York rally to win, 4-3, at Kauffman Stadium.

The Associated Press releases its Opening Day list of major league payrolls and determines that the Los Angeles Dodgers remain the top spender at $233 million, with the New York Yankees right behind at $225 million; 18 other teams now have payrolls of over $100 million. At the low end of the totem pole is Milwaukee at $62 million. Overall, the average player is making $4.38 million—a 4.4% increase over 2015.

Monday, April 4
Dave Roberts’ debut as Los Angeles manager is one for the books. The Dodgers hand the San Diego Padres their worst-ever defeat at Petco Park with a 15-0 shellacking; it’s also the most lopsided shutout victory by any team in Opening Day history. Clayton Kershaw allows just a hit and a walk through seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts.

Former Dodger Zack Greinke’s debut is far less pleasant than Roberts’. Colorado pummels the $34 million-a-year Arizona pitcher—who is later said to be performing with the flu—for seven runs on nine hits in the first four innings before he departs. Greinke also concedes three homers—two by rookie shortstop Trevor Story—for the first time since 2009. The Rockies triumph by a 10-5 score.

Story’s two blasts make him the sixth major leaguer to homer twice in his debut, and the first National Leaguer to do it on Opening Day.

The Texas Rangers notch just one hit, but it’s enough to edge the Seattle Mariners at Arlington, 3-2. Prince Fielder’s fifth-inning single is part of a three-run rally off Seattle ace Felix Hernandez that includes two walks, two Mariners errors and a stolen base. It’s only the second time since the Rangers began as the Washington Senators 56 years earlier that they won on just one hit.

With snow flurries blowing outside of enclosed Miller Park in Milwaukee, the San Francisco Giants begin their quest for a fourth straight even-numbered World Series season with a 12-3 rout of the Brewers. The Giants’ scoring is capped in the eighth with back-to-back-to-back homers from Denard Span, Joe Panik and Buster Posey; only twice before have three straight round-trippers been launched in an Opening Day contest.

In Toronto’s second straight 5-3 win at Tampa Bay, Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil pitches a scoreless seventh in what is his 38th straight appearance without giving up a run—tying the major league record held by Craig Kimbrel.

Cecil will fail to break the record when, the very next day, he allows two runs and is charged with a loss.

The Chicago Cubs, in their opening game at Anaheim, look very much the part of a world champion as many prognosticators expect them to be by season’s end. Jake Arrieta pitches seven scoreless innings and he’s well backed by Cubs bats in a 9-0 whitewashing of the Angels before 44,000—half of whom seem to be rooting for Chicago.

Yes, Cubs fans generally travel well—but expect them to be everywhere this season.

Tuesday, April 5
Baseball’s new “Utley Rule” barring baserunners from sliding into infielders rather than second base costs the Blue Jays a chance to earn a come-from-behind win at Tampa Bay. Trailing 3-2 in the ninth with the bases loaded and one out, Edwin Encarnacion hits a grounder to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who throws to Logan Forsythe to retire Jose Bautista at second—but Forsythe’s throw to first goes wild, scoring two Blue Jays. The Rays protest and ask for a video review, and replay officials in New York overturn the initial ruling, saying Bautista did not slide directly at the bag and intentionally interfered with Forsythe. The reversal results in a double play to end the game.

Maybe we need a better understanding of this new rule; we’ll give that Bautista reached out with his hand to disrupt Forsythe, but he was clearly within range of the bag—which we believe to be a legal part of the new rule’s wording.

Toronto manager John Gibbons takes out his anger on the new rule by questioning its masculinity. “Maybe we’ll come out wearing dresses tomorrow. Maybe that’s what everybody’s looking for.”

After a mix of rain and snow the day before, the Yankees belatedly start the season at New York and lose to Houston, 5-3. The Astros’ Carlos Correa, in his 100th career major league game, goes deep and steals two bases in the win; his 23 blasts are far and away the most by any shortstop over one’s first 100 games.

Perched behind home plate in Yankee Stadium’s expensive Legends Club seats are two fans dressed as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Why? It’s all part of a dare dreamt up by HBO comedian/newsman John Oliver, whose Sunday night show bought and offered the choice seats for 25 cents to those who would come dressed to the game as if “you’ve never sat in a premium location before.” This, in response to the Yankees’ offseason decision to stop online ticket sales and keep less affluent fans from scoring Legends Club seats for a fraction of their base price so as not to offend the richer fans who paid full price, as inferred by Yankees COO Lonn Trost. But then again, the Yankees have always had a snobbish opinion of who should sit where, going back to the 1950s when then-GM George Weiss, in response to why the team didn’t bring on black players, said “It would offend boxholders from Westchester to have to sit with niggers.”

In his Boston debut, David Price nabs an Opening Day victory with ten strikeouts and two runs allowed in six innings, and David Ortiz—beginning his 14th and final season with Boston—doubles and homers to defeat the Indians at Cleveland, 6-2.

Ortiz’s home run is the 504th of his career, tying Eddie Murray for 26th on the all-time list; his double gives him 585 to tie Rafael Palmeiro for 17th.

Colorado’s Trevor Story homers for the third time—making him only the second player since 1900 to collect a trio over his first two career games—and the Rockies build up a 6-2 lead at Arizona, but the Diamondbacks rally for nine unanswered runs to win going away, 11-6.

A day after Zack Greinke’s far-from-stellar effort, Shelby Miller—the Diamondbacks’ other prime pitching pickup for 2016—allows six runs in six innings; only once last year did Miller allow six or more earned runs in a game.

Story will homer again the next day, making him the first player ever to begin a career with four homers over his first three games.

Wednesday, April 6
It’s all Dodgers once again at San Diego, as first-year Japanese import Kenta Maeda throws six shutout innings, walks none and connects on a solo home run to help Los Angeles to its third straight shutout of the Padres, 7-0. The 1963 Cardinals are the only other major league team to begin a season with three straight blankings; the Padres are the first team ever to be shut out in their first three games.

Miami ace Jose Fernandez strikes out 13 Detroit batters in 5.2 innings, but also concedes five runs and loses for the first time at Marlins Park in 28 appearances, 7-3. Fernandez previously had been 17-0 at home, the most wins without a loss for any pitcher to begin his career at home.

The Tigers’ Victor Martinez comes off the bench for the second straight night and—for the second straight night—delivers a pinch-hit homer. He’s the first player ever to do that in a team’s first two games of the season.

Robinson Cano, who didn’t belt his fourth home run last season until Seattle’s 71st game, matches that total before the end of the team’s first series of 2016 is complete in Arlington. Cano’s second blast of the day caps a five-run, come-from-behind ninth to give the Mariners a 9-5 victory over the Rangers, snapping a streak of 80 straight games in which the Mariners failed to win when trailing after eight or more innings.

Not to be outdone, the Reds break their own skid of trailing in the ninth when Scott Schebler’s two-run double in the bottom of the ninth gives Cincinnati a 3-2 win over Philadelphia. The Reds had gone a club-record 102 home games without a walkoff victory when trailing after eight innings.

David Ortiz homers for the second straight day to pass Eddie Murray on the all-time home run list, and becomes the second player at age 40 or older to go deep in the first two games of a season. The other? Former Red Sock Ted Williams, who did it at the start of his final campaign in 1960. However, Ortiz’s solo shot in the sixth isn’t enough on the day for the Red Sox, as they’re edged by the Indians at Cleveland, 7-6.

Thursday, April 7
First it was Abner Doubleday who everyone thought invented baseball. Then they thought it was Alexander Cartwright. Now, common wisdom might suggest that it’s Doc Adams. A series of papers from 1857 cementing down the game’s rules have been authenticated and verified from numerous sources including top MLB historian John Thorn; if true, these papers predate Cartwright’s involvement by three years. The papers were overseen by Adams, the president of the New York Knickerbockers ballclub, in a meeting with 13 other local teams.

The Hall of Fame, which currently acknowledges Cartwright as the father of the game, says it will take a look at the new findings.

Somebody sure believes in the validity of these papers; they'll be sold for $3.2 million at an auction later this month.

The Dodgers extend their streak of consecutive scoreless innings pitched to start the year to 31—one shy of the all-time record—before the opposing Giants explode for 12 runs over the next four innings to win their home opener over Los Angeles, 12-6. Hunter Pence’s grand slam in the eighth caps the Giants’ scoring.

The Cubs score ten unanswered runs over the final six innings to clobber the Diamondbacks at Phoenix 14-6 and remain undefeated in three games, but they pay a heavy price when outfielder Kyle Schwarber tears two knee muscles and will miss the rest of the regular season after colliding with Dexter Fowler while chasing after Jean Segura’s deep fly ball in the second. (Segura will round the bases on the play for his second homer of the night.) After a flashy 2015 debut in which he hit 16 homers in 69 games, Schwarber “finishes” 2016 with no hits and a walk in four official at-bats.

Schwarber will return just in time for the World Series, which the Cubs advance to in late October.

Friday, April 8
The Dodgers’ Ross Stripling, a 26-year-old rookie who’s two years removed from Tommy John surgery and has never pitched above the Double-A level, has a no-hitter through 7.1 innings and 100 pitches on a wet evening in San Francisco—and that’s when he’s removed from the game by manager Dave Roberts following his fourth walk. The very next batter, Trevor Brown, greets reliever Chris Hatcher with a two-run home run—it’s Brown’s first career blast—to tie the game; the Giants will win it in the tenth, 3-2, on Brandon Crawford’s solo shot. Stripling is striped of a chance at history and become the second pitcher, since Bumpus Jones way back in 1892, to toss a no-hitter in his first major league appearance.

Most levelheaded experts say that Roberts made the right decision in taking out Stripling. The baseball season is, as many often say, a marathon and not a sprint—and thus, Roberts was thinking about the long term and wanted to save Stripling from possible early overuse of his arm—especially one that underwent major reconstruction just a few years earlier. The bulk of the 42,000 in attendance at AT&T Park, more inclined to react emotionally, booed Roberts’ decision to take him out. Yes—even Giants fans were hoping to see what Stripling had in him.

On perhaps an unrelated note, Roberts is ejected a few batters after Brown’s game-tying homer for arguing balls and strikes.

Another day, another record set by Colorado shortstop Trevor Story. In his fourth game—and first at mile-high Coors Field—Story blasts two more home runs to give him six on the young season, setting not only a new standard for a player in his four career games but the most in the first four games of a season by any player, regardless of whether he’s a rookie or not. But Story’s blasts are not enough; the visiting Padres, after being shut out for the first 30 innings this season (another newly established all-time mark), break out for 11 runs over the next three frames and go on to smash the Rockies, 13-6.

Elias says that the Padres’ 13 runs match the most scored by a team after being shut out the previous three games; the 1913 Philadelphia Athletics also did that.

After a 0-3 start, the Cardinals win their first game of the season at Atlanta, 7-4, with the help of not one, not two, but three pinch-hit home runs, something never done before in a major league contest. Just as amazing is the timing and anonymity of those clocking the homers; Jeremy Hazelbaker hits the first pinch-hit shot in the seventh to tie the game at 4-4, Aledmys Diaz puts the Cardinals ahead with a solo blast in the eighth, and Greg Garcia leads off the ninth with another solo homer. All three players came into the game with a combined total of three career home runs.

For the second time in the season’s first week, a game ends via the Utley Rule. The Astros enter the ninth at Milwaukee trailing 6-0 but get four runs across and have runners at first and second with one out when Colby Rasmus, running from first on a Jose Altuve grounder, overslides the second base bag and slightly disrupts Brewers shortstop (and former Astro) Jonathan Villar, all of which is now illegal per the changing of the rules to protect middle infielders on plays at second. The infraction leads to an automatic double play and the end of the game; the Astros appeal via replay but are denied.

Houston ace Dallas Keuchel responds via Twitter afterward: “Are we even playing baseball anymore???”

The ruling here was more black-and-white than the previous game-ender earlier in the week between Toronto and Tampa Bay. Rasmus aggressively overslid the bag. According to the new rules, you just can’t do that anymore. Nevertheless, the use of the Utley Rule in the first week of the season is leading to rants from baseball writers as to whether the new interpretation is going too far.

Even though the Astros drop to 1-3 with the controversial loss, they may have a first baseman they can feel good about (while keeping a vigil on when Jon Singleton will finally break out). Rookie Tyler White belts a three-run homer among three hits on the day and now is 9-for-13 with a pair of homers and seven RBIs in the Astros’ first four games—setting a franchise mark for the most hits in his first four games.

Saturday, April 9
The Padres continue to make up for lost time offensively, hammering the Rockies again at Denver 16-3 behind a pair of homers and six RBIs from Matt Kemp. San Diego has now scored 29 runs in its last two games after being shut out three times back home to start the season, proving once again that Coors Field is the ultimate cure for a struggling offense.

The Rockies’ fifth game of the year is the first in which rookie Trevor Story does not homer.

Kansas City, the majors’ only team without a home run in this first week of the season, belts three while Ian Kennedy tosses 6.2 shutout innings in his first Royals start to whitewash the visiting Minnesota Twins, 7-0. The Twins (0-5) and the Braves (0-4 after a 12-2 home loss to St. Louis) remain baseball’s only two winless teams.

It’s the worst start for the Twins since moving from Washington in 1961.

CC Sabathia, in his first regular season appearance since undergoing alcohol rehab, allows three runs on four hits through six innings, Alex Rodriguez rockets his first home run of the year (and 688th of his career) and Starlin Castro collects his 1,000th hit in the Yankees’ 8-4 win at Detroit.

For all of Castro’s warts, consider this: He needs to average a little over 150 hits per season over the next 13 years (when he’ll be 38) to reach 3,000.

Giants ace Madison Bumgarner hits his second lifetime home run off Dodgers counterpart Clayton Kershaw—whom no other pitcher has ever gone deep on, once—but Los Angeles turns the tables on San Francisco with a come-from-behind, ten-inning 3-2 victory a day after the Giants came away with the same exact result.

Sunday, April 10
For only the third time in franchise history, the Baltimore Orioles start the season at 5-0 after a 5-3 victory over the visiting Rays. All five wins have come at home.

The Orioles reached the World Series the previous two teams they started off at 5-0—in 1944 when they were the St. Louis Browns, and in 1970.

Trevor Story continues to be the story in Colorado, if not throughout all of baseball. The rookie shortstop goes deep again in the Rockies’ 6-3 win over San Diego, giving him seven homers in six games. This stretch of power sets all sorts of standards; Story is the first major leaguer to have seven homers in his first six games of a season, the first to go seven in six to start a career, and the first rookie to belt seven in any six-game stretch.

In case you were wondering: Story never hit more than 20 homers in any of four previous seasons spent in the minors, collecting exactly 20 in 2015 split between Double-A and Triple-A.

Jered Weaver’s fastball may be a thing of the past, but the veteran Angels pitcher still knows how to win on occasion, allowing a run on just hits through six innings in his first start of the year to secure a 3-1 victory over Texas at Anaheim. The only player giving Weaver trouble on the day is 20-year-old outfielder Nomar Mazara, who nabs three hits (including a home run) in his first major league game for the Rangers.

Mazara gets the call after star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is placed on the disabled list.

Jake Arrieta picks up his second win in as many tries for the Cubs and does some impressive damage with the bat as well, clocking a 442-foot home run in a 7-3 victory at Arizona. Of the 196 homers hits during the season’s first week, Arrieta’s is the fourth longest according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker.

Monday, April 11
At a further renovated Wrigley Field, the Cubs open their home season by nearly getting no-hit—and then winning. Cincinnati’s Brandon Finnegan doesn’t give up a hit until two outs in the seventh, but the Cubs rebound for two runs in the inning and three more in the eighth on Addison Russell’s first homer of the year to defeat the Reds, 5-3.

The Red Sox aren’t as fortunate in their home opener. A 6-6 tie is broken up in the ninth by Baltimore’s Chris Davis, who hammers a three-run shot off Boston closer Craig Kimbrel to give the Orioles an ultimate 9-7 victory to retain their perfect record (6-0).

It’s the 19th career home run allowed by Kimbrel—but the first with runners on base.

Michael Wacha fires six shutout innings, rookie Jeremy Hazelbaker has a four-hit day and the Cardinals punch out ten extra-base hits—eight doubles and two triples—to wallop the Brewers in their 2016 Busch Stadium opener, 10-1.

Tuesday, April 12
The Orioles improve to 7-0 and build their longest winning streak since manager Buck Showalter took over the team in 2010 with a 9-5 triumph at Boston. J.J. Hardy hits a pair of home runs that are the two shortest hit in the majors so far this season, with each tucked into the seats just past the “Pesky Pole” barely 300 feet down the right-field line at Fenway Park.

Miami wins a highly promoted pitching duel of aces at New York pitting the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard by a 2-1 count. The winning tally is scored by Dee Gordon, who reaches base on a single after a 16-pitch at-bat against Syndergaard.

Ichiro Suzuki, restricted to the bench these days at age 42 but hoping to reach 3,000 MLB hits, earns his 2,936th knock with a pinch-hit single—surpassing Barry Bonds, his Miami hitting coach, for 33rd on the all-time list.

The Mets are 2-5 with just two homers and a .187 team batting average to start the year.

Wednesday, April 13
How much worse can it get for the Braves? After a winless homestand to start the year, a painful departure for reliever Daniel Winkler when he breaks his elbow throwing a pitch and a bloody gash to the forehead of rookie Mallex Smith (playing his first major league game) from his own batting helmet, Atlanta drops to 0-8 with a listless 3-0 loss at Washington. More troubling news comes off the field; police arrest Braves outfielder Hector Olivera for assault and battery on a female companion at the team’s hotel. MLB, which is cracking down on players involved in domestic abuse, immediately place the Cuban native on “administrative leave” pending a possible suspension.

Colorado ties a franchise record with 12 extra base hits including a club record-setting four triples and two homers from Nolan Arenado, who drives in seven runs, to outlast the visiting Giants 10-6. Ten of the long hits are conceded by San Francisco starting pitcher Jake Peavy, the most allowed by a pitcher in ten years.

Two of the Rockies’ four triples are hit by rookie Trevor Story—and they would have been home runs except for the fact that they were hit off of Coors Field’s newly raised fencing in center and right-center field.

This is the first time in nine games involving the Giants this season that the team that gave up the first run didn’t win. The 1977 A’s hold the record for such games to begin a year, with nine (the A's won seven of them, en route to a 63-98 record).

The Orioles finally lose, dropping a 4-2 decision at Boston as they scuttle numerous early chances that lead to nine men being left on base through the first five innings.

Thursday, April 14
Vince Velasquez, one of five pitchers gathered by Philadelphia in the trade that sent reliever Ken Giles to Houston, fires a magnificent three-hit, 3-0 shutout against San Diego that includes 16 strikeouts and no walks. Only three other pitchers since 1900 have thrown a shutout allowing on three or fewer hits with 16 or more strikeouts and no walks: Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens (both in 1998) and Max Scherzer in 2015. Velasquez has started the year with 15 shutout innings and 25 K’s.

The Padres become the first major league team to be blanked at least five times within its first ten games of a season—yet because of a splurge of runs tallied the previous weekend at Colorado’s Coors Field, they’ve scored more runs than 14 other teams to date.

The news isn’t all great for Phillies pitching on the day. Reliever Daniel Stumpf is tagged with an 80-game suspension for PED usage. The offending drug is a little something called dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, which, by the way, is only four letters shorter than “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

The fragile Jaime Garcia, who’s started only 36 games for the Cardinals over the past three seasons, blanks the visiting Brewers on just one hit—a sixth-inning single by Domingo Santana—in a 7-0 victory.

Bryce Harper connects on his 100th career home run—and his first grand slam—to help lift the Nationals to a 6-2 win over the still winless (0-9) Braves at Washington. Only seven other players reached the 100-HR mark at a younger age than Harper, who is 23 years and six months old.

In his first appearance since being removed from a no-hitter last week, the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling shows that he might be no fluke. In six innings against high-powered Arizona, he allows just a pair of runs on five hits but does not get credit for the win at Los Angeles, as the Dodgers rally for all five of their runs in the seventh during a 5-2 result.

The Cubs are showing, so far, that all the prognosticators picking them to win it all may just be right. Chicago once again toys with youthful (and not very good) Cincinnati pitching, breezing to an 8-1 victory at Wrigley Field. Speaking of 8-1, that’s the Cubs’ record, for their best start since 1969. Furthermore, they’ve outscored their opponents thus far, 64-21; their +43 run differential is far and away the best in the majors, with St. Louis’ +24 next in line.

Friday, April 15
Yes, Braves and Twins fans—there is a God. Both teams, entering the day with identical 0-9 records, finally grab their first triumphs of the season. Atlanta, down 3-0 at Miami after six innings, counter with six unanswered to defeat the Marlins, 6-3; the Twins also strike from behind, scoring three in the final three innings to hold off the Angels at Minneapolis, 5-4.

Maybe Eduardo Nunez should get more action for the Twins. In the two games in which the backup infielder has started (including tonight’s game), he’s 7-for-7.

The Orioles trail the Rangers at Arlington 5-1 when they bust out for nine seventh-inning runs—five of them coming off two home runs hit by Mark Trumbo—to pull away with an 11-5 win. Trumbo becomes the second player in franchise history—after Ken Williams in 1922—to hit two homers in one inning.

There is good news to report for Texas fans: Third baseman Adrian Beltre is given a two-year extension worth $36 million. With 2,780 career hits to the moment, it is now assumed that Beltre will reach the 3,000-hit club in a Rangers uniform.

The Rays are shut down on two hits by the White Sox’ Chris Sale, 1-0, in a game that’s painful for both Rays players and fans. Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier and second baseman Logan Forsythe collide chasing a pop fly in the fourth, ending the night for both players; in the seventh, a slashing line drive from the Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. finds its way through an opening in the extended protected netting and hits a female fan in the left eye. The game is delayed ten minutes while she is carted off in a stretcher; Souza Jr. even enters the stands to make sure she is okay.

The gap in the netting, near the camera well, is there on purpose so photographers can have an unobstructed view of the action. Nevertheless, it’s likely all hands on deck for lawyers representing the Rays and the city of St. Petersburg.

The Cardinals blast away at home against the Reds, drilling a Busch Stadium-record six homers (including the first two of the year from Matt Holliday) to win big, 14-3. Two of the homers are pinch-hit shots, giving St. Louis six through their first ten games; only two teams hit as many off the bench during the entire 2015 season.

Saturday, April 16
In the Cubs’ 6-2 win over Colorado at Chicago, Jake Arrieta throws eight shutout innings and increases his streak of consecutive scoreless innings at home to 48.2, the longest by any major leaguer in front of his fans since the White Sox’ Ray Herbert racked up 54 straight from 1962-63.

Seattle ace Felix Hernandez labors for five innings at New York, tying a career high with six walks—but he only allows one run, earns credit for a 3-2 Mariners win over the Yankees, and his four strikeouts give him 2,162 for his career, tying him with Randy Johnson for the most in Seattle history.

The Nationals thump the Phillies at Philadelphia, 8-1, improving their record to 9-1—the best in franchise history after ten games. Bryce Harper goes deep for the fifth straight game against the Phillies, and has nine RBIs over his last three games overall.

Sunday, April 17
Bryce Harper’s tenth-inning home run at Philadelphia not only gives the Nationals a 2-1 lead, it also ties a major league mark for the most consecutive games (six) a player has gone deep at the same visiting ballpark. But Washington closer Jonathan Papelbon can’t hold down the lead, allowing the Phillies to rally twice and defeat the Nationals, 3-2.

Since being traded from Philadelphia late last year, Papelbon has given up eight runs (five earned) in 3.2 innings against the Phillies.

Shades of 1991, sort of: The Braves and Twins, who met in the World Series 25 years ago after worst-to-first campaigns, both finish a sweep of their weekend opponents with an extra-inning victory after starting the year at 0-9. Atlanta nabs a run in the tenth at Miami to edge the Marlins, while the Twins need 12 innings to defeat the visiting Angels, 3-2.

No team had previously won three straight games after losing its first nine.

Nolan Arenado provides all the offense in a 2-0 Rockies win at Wrigley Field with two solo homers while Tyler Chatwood holds the high-powered Cubs at bay with just two hits allowed through seven shutout innings.

Carlos Gonzalez goes hitless in four at-bats for Colorado, ending a 21-game hitting streak dating back to the end of last season.

Monday, April 18
This is not the homecoming the Cardinals were hoping for. The Cubs make their first visit to St. Louis and ease to a 5-0 win behind two ex-Cardinals: John Lackey, who throws seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts, and Jason Heyward, who answers the boos with some fine outfield defense.

Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez haven’t been in the same lineup together often over the past few years—but when they do, victory usually ensues for the Marlins. Fernandez is sharp through six innings and Stanton knocks out his third homer of the year, giving Miami an easy 6-1 victory over the visiting Nationals.

It’s the first home win for the Marlins this season after five losses.

The Diamondbacks are down to their last strike in the ninth inning at San Francisco when Jake Lamb powers a home run off Giants closer Santiago Casilla; they add two more runs in the 11th to win, 9-7.

Tuesday, April 19
Milt Pappas, a 209-game winner and the last Cub to throw a no-hitter at Wrigley Field, passes away at the age of 76. The right-hander from Detroit was one of many young pitchers breaking into the bigs with the Baltimore Orioles in the late 1950s, and he evolved into a solid if not spectacular performer; he’s currently ninth on the franchise list for wins, fifth in shutouts and sixth in strikeouts. His trade to Cincinnati after 1965 made him the unfortunate scapegoat for Reds fans angered over the player headed the other way: Frank Robinson, who immediately propelled the Orioles to their first world title with a triple crown performance. After brief stays with the Reds and Braves, Pappas settled into Chicago and made his biggest claim to fame on September 3, 1972 against San Diego by securing a no-hitter—but only after losing out on a perfect game with two outs in the ninth when a borderline 3-2 pitch was called a ball by young umpire Bruce Froemming. Pappas didn’t cheat himself at the plate; he struck out 510 times in 1,073 career at-bats, but hit 20 home runs.

When all else fails for the Mets’ offense, there’s always Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. A night after sending four long balls over the fence against the Phillies, the Mets ramp it up even more in an 11-1 rout, racking up six more homers including two from Neil Walker (who has six in the young season to date). In their last nine games at the Phillies’ home park, the Mets have bashed 27 homers; their 17 over the last five games (all on the road) establish a franchise record.

It’s another frustrating night for the Cardinals and their fans—and another thumbs-up night for the visiting Cubs. Jason Hammel is solid for six innings and gives the Cubs all the offense they’ll need when he singles home two runs in the fourth to help give Chicago a 2-1 victory.

The Nationals erupt for seven runs in the seventh inning on four home runs—including Bryce Harper’s second career grand slam, both hit over the past week—while Stephen Strasburg is dominant for eight shutout innings with ten strikeouts in a 7-0 victory at Miami.

The Reds use speed, not power, to score all the runs they’ll need in one inning to defeat the Rockies at Cincinnati, 4-3. In the second, the Reds pile up four runs thanks to five stolen bases.

The last team to swipe five bags in a single inning was the Texas Rangers in 2010.

Wednesday, April 20
Curt Schilling just can’t himself—and this time, it costs him. ESPN fires the ex-pitcher, broadcast commentator and, on occasion, controversial conservative online commentator, after his latest rant criticizes transgender bathroom politics. Past online commentary had already led to Schilling being demoted to weekday broadcasts on ESPN, but the network was tiring of his continued insensitivity toward political correctness—whether right or wrong. This, to them, is the last straw as far as Schilling is concerned.

This, from the same network that turned a blind eye when Tony Kornheiser compared the Tea Party to ISIS on air. It’s sometimes hard to defend Schilling’s rants—it’s probably best if he had just kept quiet—but ESPN needs to be careful, maintain the balance and not expose its true political colors.

It’s early, but for Detroit it appears that signing Jordan Zimmermann was the right move. The ex-Washington pitcher becomes the first Tiger ever to pitch scoreless baseball in his first three starts for the club, silencing the Royals over 6.1 innings in a 3-2 victory. Zimmermann gets help from Victor Martinez, whose run-scoring single gives him 1,000 career RBIs, and (to a lesser extent) closer Francisco Rodriguez, who allows two runs in the ninth but still grabs his 390th save, tying Dennis Eckersley for sixth on the all-time list.

Like the Tigers with Zimmermann, the Rangers look awfully content with having traded for Cole Hamels late last year. The veteran lefty pitches Texas past the visiting Astros 2-1; the Rangers have won the last 14 games in which he has started, one shy of the franchise mark established by Ferguson Jenkins from 1978-79.

The A’s continue to impress on the road, defeating the Yankees at New York, 5-2, to start the year 5-0 on the road. Oakland has allowed two runs or less in all five of its road wins—something no team has accomplished since the 1915 Phillies.

In their last seven games, the Yankees are hitting .074 (5-for-68) with runners in scoring position. But at least they’re throwing the ball well; in gunning down Danny Valencia at home plate, Aaron Hicks rockets a throw from left field at 105.5 MPH, the fastest such throw ever recorded by the MLB app Statcast.

The Phillies, entering the day with a .211 team batting average, manage to collect ten hits for the first time all season thanks to extra innings; Peter Bourjos races out an infield single to being home Freddy Galvis and defeat the Mets at Philadelphia, 6-5. The Mets themselves were the last team, in 1978, to go at least 15 games to start a year with nine or fewer hits in each.

Despite the loss, New York hits two more home runs, both in back-to-back fashion; it’s the third straight game in which they’ve hit consecutive homers, a franchise first—and Lucas Duda has been involved in all three.

Thursday, April 21
Less than a year after throwing a no-hitter, Chicago’s Jake Arrieta does it again—silencing the Reds at Cincinnati in a 16-0 thrashing. The Cubs’ ace walks four and throws 119 total pitches on the night. It’s the first no-no thrown by an opponent at Great American Ball Park since its 2003 opening, and it ends a 7,110-game streak dating all the way back to 1971 in which the Reds were not no-hit. (The Cubs own the record at 7,921, snapped last year by Cole Hamels in his final start for the Phillies.) The longest active streak now belongs to the Oakland A’s, who haven’t been no-hit in 3,913 games going back to 1991.

The 16-run margin is the largest for a no-hitter since 1884.

The Red Sox score five runs in the first inning against Tampa Bay, but Boston ace David Price and three relievers can’t hold it up as the Rays power back to win, 12-8. Here’s the weird part: Boston has now lost its last four games at Fenway Park when it scores five or more runs in the first frame.

The Giants are swept at home in a four-game series for only the second time since moving into AT&T Park in 2000, as the Diamondbacks take a 6-2 decision. Overall, it’s the fifth straight loss for San Francisco, and eighth in its last nine games.

Friday, April 22
Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone rears its ugly head again, and Toronto’s Chris Colabello claims to be none too happy about it. The part-time infielder is suspended 80 games after testing positive for the drug—which also goes by the more pronounceable name of Turinabol. Colabello releases a statement claiming ignorance: “I have spent every waking moment since (being told of the positive) trying to find an answer as to why or how?”

Whether knowingly using the drug or not, it apparently wasn’t helping Colabello; he had two hits in 29 at-bats to start the year for the Blue Jays.

Solo home runs from Cleveland’s Carlos Santana and Marlon Byrd are just enough to ruin a winning bid for Justin Verlander, who otherwise allows just two hits and strikes out ten over seven innings, in a 2-1 Indians victory at Detroit. The game, however, serves as a source of pride for the Dominican Republic; Ramon DeJesus makes his major league umpiring debut at second base and thus becomes the first Dominican native ever to ump a big league game.

The White Sox shut down the Rangers at Chicago, 5-0, but not before completing one of the wildest triple plays you’ll ever see. Texas has the bases loaded with nobody out in the seventh, but Adam Eaton snares Mitch Moreland’s drive down the right-field line, causing Texas runners to scramble back to base; two of them don’t make it back. It’s the first 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play ever recorded.

Saturday, April 23
First there was Fernandomania, then Nomomania; could Maedamania be next? First-year Japanese import Kenta Maeda delivers yet another sharp performance for the Dodgers, with this one perhaps the most impressive yet: At mile-high Coors Field, he takes a no-hitter into the sixth inning and settles for 6.1 innings of shutout ball, giving Los Angeles breathing room to defeat the Rockies, 4-1. Maeda is now 3-0 in four starts with only one earned run allowed.

The Dodgers tweet that Maeda is the first pitcher ever to allow no more than an earned run through his first four starts, but that’s not true. Their own Fernando Valenzuela gave up a single run in his first five-plus starts (totaling 52.2 innings) in 1981, and the Phillies’ George McQuillan allowed one through his first 33 innings in 1907.

The A’s are finally defeated on the road, losing at Toronto 9-3 as Troy Tulowitzki has his first multi-hit game of the season—with both hits launched over the fence. Oakland’s 7-0 road start was shy of the franchise record of 11-0 in 1981.

Blake Snell, one of baseball’s most closely watched prospects after registering a minor league-best 1.41 ERA last season, makes his major league debut for the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium and allows just a run on two hits with six strikeouts over five innings. But after he leaves with a 2-1 lead, the Yankees fight back and win 3-2 on Brett Gardner’s walk-off homer in the ninth.

Tanner Roark, trying to resettle back into the Nationals’ rotation after the arrival of Max Scherzer bumped him from it last season, allows two hits through seven shutout innings and strikes out a career-high 15 batters in Washington’s 2-0 home victory over Minnesota. Roark strikes out each member of the Twins’ batting lineup at least once through the first four innings, something no pitcher has done in four years.

While the rest of the AL East flounders out of the gate, the Baltimore Orioles remain heads and shoulders as the division’s best with an 8-3 triumph at Kansas City behind Mark Trumbo’s four RBIs. The Orioles are now 11-5 while everyone else in the AL East is below .500.

Odd stat on Trumbo to date: He’s 12-for-34 with five homers and 15 RBIs on the road—but has no homers or RBIs in eight games at home, despite a .414 (12-for-29) average.

Sunday, April 24
After missing two weeks to deal with both mild lat pain and an issue regarding a newborn child, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom returns to the mound and allows a run in 5.2 innings to help New York defeat the Braves at Atlanta, 3-2.

The Twins think they have it easy when they arrive at Nationals Park and see that Bryce Harper’s name isn’t in the lineup. And all is going well for them until the bottom of the ninth, when Harper comes off the bench and hits a leadoff homer—his major league-leading ninth of the year—to tie the game at 4-4. The game continues well into extras and is decided, finally, on the 16th when Chris Heisey ends it with a solo home run to win, 6-5.

At five hours and 56 minutes, it’s the longest game in Nationals history.

The Mariners launch three homers at Anaheim to ease over the Angels, 9-4, but the most noteworthy blast of the day comes off the bat of Albert Pujols, who breaks a career-worst 0-for-26 slide with his 563rd homer, tying Reggie Jackson for 13th on the all-time list.

Pujols will add two more homers the next day to move ahead of Jackson.

Only at Coors Field: The Rockies score five runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 10-7 lead over Los Angeles, but the Dodgers counter with five of their own in the ninth to win, 12-10.

This is the 66th time since Coors Field opened in 1995 that both teams have scored ten or more runs. By contrast, there have only been nine 1-0 results at the ballpark.

Monday, April 25
From sluggish to slugging: Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera, mired a mini-funk to start the season, has a 4-for-4 night including two homers and a double to pace the Tigers to a 7-3 victory over the A’s at Detroit. The win goes to Jordan Zimmermann, who in his fourth start allows his first run and improves to 4-0.

Detroit outfielder Tyler Collins ruins the Tigers’ feel-good mood when he gives the home crowd of 21,671 the finger after being booed for losing a fly ball in the night sky. Collins apologizes after the game, and although MLB announces that it will not suspend him, he'll suffer a worse fate when the Tigers demote him to Triple-A a few days later.

The Diamondbacks erupt for nine runs in the sixth to erase a 5-2 deficit and defeat the visiting Cardinals, 12-7. Zack Greinke gets credit for the win despite allowing seven runs in 6.2 innings; he’s now given up 18 runs at Chase Field this season, one less than he conceded all last year at Dodger Stadium while playing for Los Angeles.

The game carries some noteworthy historical significance in that St. Louis shortstop Aledmys Diaz gathers two more hits to maintain a .500 (26-for-52) season average, thus setting a rookie record for the highest mark through the first 50 at-bats to start a career.

In Don Mattingly’s first game against the Dodgers since being fired by them this past offseason, the Marlins squeak out a 3-2 decision at Los Angeles behind a home run, double and two RBIs from Giancarlo Stanton.

Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer gets back on track after four rotten starts to begin the year, firing 6.2 shutout innings and striking out ten Orioles in the Rays’ 2-0 win at St. Petersburg.

Tuesday, April 26
Andrew McCutchen belts three home runs as the Pirates throttle the Rockies at Denver, 9-4. It’s the second time McCutchen has gone deep thrice in a game, having previously done it in 2009.

With the hat trick, McCutchen by himself does in one night what the entire Atlanta Braves roster has mustered up in its first 20 games of the season.

The Giants’ Johnny Cueto earns his 100th career victory—the seventh by shutout—by blanking the visiting Padres on seven hits, 1-0. Cueto strikes out 11 and walks one while throwing 119 pitches.

Chris Sale wins his fifth game in as many tries as the White Sox bash the Blue Jays at Toronto, 10-1. Chicago owns the AL’s best record at 15-6, and its best team ERA at 2.35.

Wednesday, April 27
Nintendo announces it will sell its majority interest in the Seattle Mariners as its net profit in the gaming business has dropped 60% over the past year. According to Forbes, the Mariners are said to be valued at $1.2 billion.

Maybe the Mariners’ next lord will at least show up for a game; Hiroshi Yamauchi, in charge of Nintendo from the time it bought the Mariners in 1992 to his death in 2013, never saw the team in person—even passing up a regular season visit by the Mariners to his Tokyo base in 2012.

The Braves lose at Boston, 9-4, and drop to a major league-worst 4-17 on the year…but at least they finally hit a home run. Freddie Freeman’s solo shot in the eighth is the first hit by a Brave over their last 15 games, the longest such drought since the 1991 Cardinals went 18 games without a round-tripper.

Also to be noted from the Atlanta side: A.J. Pierzynski joins nine other active players in the 2,000-hit club—a list for which he is the only catcher.

The Marlins get 7.1 strong shutout innings from Justin Nicolino, making his season debut after being called up from the minors—but he has to sweat it out from the dugout as the three Miami relievers that follow him all walk the only batter they face (the third, David Phelps, is tossed after pleading with the umpire over the placement of ball four). Jose Urena closes out the 2-0 victory for the Marlins, but the Elias Sports Bureau says it’s the first time ever that a team has completed a shutout using three pitchers who each failed to record an out.

Thursday, April 28
“Rookie” phenom Kenta Maeda suffers his first loss of the year for the Dodgers, as he is tagged for three of four Miami runs scored in the seventh; the Marlins roll to a 5-3 win. But the glow of the Marlins’ four-game sweep at Los Angeles is greatly diminished after the game when it’s learned that Miami second baseman Dee Gordon, the reigning NL batting champ, has been handed down with an 80-game suspension for use of two different PEDs.

Gordon, batting .266 through 21 games with six steals, pleads ignorance by stating, like so many other accused players, of not knowing how the offending drug got into his system. Yet, he accepts responsibility and will serve the suspension.

An angry Justin Verlander tweets upon hearing the news: “This PED s**t is killing me.”

Assuming that players are knowingly taking PEDs—most who get caught deny it—it must apparently still be worth the risk of an 80-game suspension and the eternal stigma that will be attached to their names. This raises the question of whether the players’ union—increasingly pressured by the clean players—would say yes to an increased first-time penalty if management brings up the topic at upcoming labor talks. (You know the union won’t.) But if suspended players are truthfully saying that they don’t know how these drugs got into them, then they need to what happened and pass the word onto other players possibly going through the same “regimen” so they don’t get suspended for unintentional usage.

Any suspense related to a possible second straight no-hitter thrown by Jake Arrieta is vanished right away when Milwaukee’s Jonathan Villar singles off him to lead off the first inning at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs’ ace will allow just three hits overall in five innings of work as Chicago breezes to a 7-2 victory over the Brewers. It’s Arrieta’s 16th straight win dating back to last season, tying a Cubs record (Rick Sutcliffe, 1984-85) and it becomes the longest in the majors over the last decade.

In allowing one run, Arrieta sees the end of a streak of 52.2 innings without conceding a run at home—just 1.1 innings shy of the all-time record, which remains the property of the White Sox’ Ray Herbert from 1962-63.

The Braves don’t homer, but do snap an eight-game losing skid with a 5-3 win at Boston. Nick Markakis has four hits and three RBIs to pace Atlanta.

Friday, April 29
In their first game without the suspended Dee Gordon, the Marlins are wishing they had him. Miami starting pitcher Adam Conley is taken out of a no-hitter at Milwaukee after 7.2 innings and 116 pitches—that’s the longest anyone has gone throwing a no-no before being removed, eclipsing by a third of an inning the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling from just three weeks earlier—and the Miami bullpen keeps the Brewers hitless one out into the ninth when Jonathan Lucroy’s bloop pop eludes second baseman Derek Dietrich in short right-center. It is thought that the speedy Gordon, had he played, might have caught up to that ball. From there, the Marlins have to sweat out just winning the game as A.J. Ramos snuffs out a bases-loaded rally for a 6-3 Miami win.

Ichiro Suzuki gets the start in the outfield for Miami and nets two hits to bring his career total to 2,945, while stealing his 500th base. Should he get to 3,000 hits, he’ll become the sixth player with at least 3,000 hits and 500 steals.

The Brewers get a consolation prize by pulling off their seventh triple play in history, and their first since 2011, in the fifth inning.

It’s a big, record-setting third inning for the Mets at Citi Field against the Giants. In notching 12 runs as part of a 13-1 romp, the Mets set a franchise record for the most tallies in one inning, with six of those runs coming off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes (four of those on a grand slam)—establishing a team mark for RBIs in one frame. Cespedes also extends to nine a streak of consecutive games with at least one extra-base hit, another Mets record.

The Mets’ 12-run third also includes a double by Neil Walker, his first extra-base hit on the season that is not a home run.

Colorado rookie Trevor Story, back again in Phoenix where he and the Rockies began the regular season just four weeks earlier, makes news again. In a 9-0 plunking of the Diamondbacks, Story goes deep for the tenth time this season, becoming the first player to hit double figures in his first calendar month.

Jose Abreu also hit ten homers in April of his rookie 2014 campaign, but—and, yes, we’re getting technical here—he officially debuted on March 31 of that season.

David Ortiz’s fourth homer of the year breaks a 2-2 tie in the eighth and gives the Red Sox a 4-2 win over the Yankees at Fenway Park. Also going deep for the fourth time this season is Alex Rodriguez; this becomes the first time in major league history in which each team in the same game gets a home run from a player age 40 or over.

Ortiz pulls a Babe Ruth and follows through on his promise to hit a home run for a young Wyoming boy born with a serious heart defect. Here’s proof of his pledge.

Felix Hernandez, who earlier this month became the Mariners’ all-time strikeout leader, fires 7.2 scoreless innings and ties Jamie Moyer on the franchise list for career wins with his 145th triumph, a 1-0 squeaker over the visiting Royals. Seth Smith’s solo shot in the sixth inning accounts for the game’s only run—and the Mariners’ only hit.

Saturday, April 30
The Mets keep winning, and the Giants’ Matt Cain keeps losing—in April, at least. New York survives a late San Francisco rally to capture its eighth straight win, three shy of a franchise record; Yoenis Cespedes’ streak of extra-base hits ends, but Michael Conforto collects a double in his sixth straight game to tie yet another Mets record. Cain, meanwhile, has now gone 18 April starts without a win, last defeating the Pirates on a one-hit shutout in 2012 (he’s 0-9 during this stretch).

Brett Cecil’s season got off to a fine start when he broke the all-time record for most consecutive scoreless appearances, but it’s been trouble ever since. To wit: He serves up a game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth to Tampa Bay’s Curt Casali (batting .128) and is charged with a major league-leading fifth loss, a 4-3 Toronto defeat. No reliever had lost five games in a month since Oakland’s Brian Fuentes in May 2011.


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