This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: July, 2016
Rob Manfred’s Latest Dumb Time-Reduction Idea Chris Sale Goes Psycho
AL Over Cubs, er, NL, at the ASG The Armed Forces Get Their Day at the Ballpark

Best and Worst of the Week

Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

95 21 30 7 0 6 21 16 3 2 1

The reigning AL MVP stepped it up in July to put himself back in the conversation of getting a second straight year’s worth of trophy shelf hardware. Part of getting lost in the chatter had much to do with the fact that he won last year—and people see his efforts as a “new normal” and look elsewhere for that “element of wow.” But put it into perspective and you see a guy who’s still excelling in all facets of his game—and pushing the Blue Jays toward a second straight postseason berth.

Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers

99 18 31 8 0 7 21 9 0 1 2

For a guy who not long ago was a bit player for the Mets, the 31-year-old Long Beach native has turned out to be a pretty good player—really good this past month, an extension of a hot bat that actually began around June 10 when his season average was stalled at the .220 mark. Since that moment, he’s hitting .326 with a boatload of power. Turner has kind of become that one guy in the lineup you tend to forget about until you find yourself facing him and remark, “Oh, crap.”

Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians

37 0 2 1 0 0 2 1 0 0 0

The descent of the first Brazilian-born major leaguer, who just a few years ago was All-Star worthy, has gotten so steep that his teammates resorted to channeling the moment from Major League when Indians slugger Pedro Cerrano tries to rid himself of a devastating slump via a chicken sacrifice. In this case, the chicken was already dead (Gomes’ teammates bought it at Target), and Gomes appeared to snap out of it a few days later when a double ended a 0-for-27 rut—but in his next at-bat, he stumbled trying to beat out a grounder and went on the shelf with a bum shoulder. Next time, Yan, try a live chicken. (No, PETA, you didn’t read that.)

Derek Norris, San Diego Padres

73 8 10 3 0 2 7 6 1 0 2

As anyone who’s been reading our Best/Worst for a decade is well aware, we usually give catchers a pass when it comes to the hitting dishonors because the defense they play is so much more crucial and demanding—but Norris isn’t in the majors solely for his work behind the plate. Which makes his rotten July (and his 2016 in general) a bit surprising. While the Padres overall were taught this past month to mash away—they led the NL in homers but also in strikeouts, and were last in hitting—Norris unfortunately exemplified the latter two stats, dropping his season average below .200 while whiffing 35 times (that’s every other at-bat). Norris is said to be on the trading block—heck, just about every Padre is—but it’s going to be hard to find a taker after this.

J.A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays

4-0 31.1 20 5 5 9 0 1 0 0 42

It’s taken ten years through five organizations, but the 33-year-old lefty finally looks to have figured it out. Outside of a slightly shaky effort at Oakland on July 17, Happ was terrific as he finishes the month as one of five pitchers with 14 wins to share the major league lead. In fact, if you want to go back to last August 1—the equivalent of a full baseball calendar season—he’s 21-5 with a 2.75 ERA. Not bad for a guy who many had long since tagged the “journeyman” label upon.

Rafael Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

0-0 18.2 6 0 0 7 0 2 0 0 22

One would have bet that there was a better chance of the sun setting in the east than seeing a Reds pitcher get Best Pitcher honors sometime this year, but the unthinkable has happened—and it ain’t got nothing to do with the sun. The 26-year-old Cuban, who got the call for the Reds on Opening Day, has been a lock-down success since moving to the bullpen after a shoulder injury early in the season. One would assume it won’t be long before Iglesias is shifted back to a rotation that could use quite a few more zeroes on the scoreboard.

Tim Lincecum, L.A. Angels of Anaheim

1-3 21.2 40 25 23 13 0 1 2 0 20

From Freak to Meek. The 32-year-old former everything, his blazing fastball long since slowed to the upper 80s, appears to have hit the wall for good. And that’s a shame, because he’s always been adored (Giants fans certainly still have a soft spot in their heart for him), but it just seems hard to keep him propped up on a mound when he’s consistently disastrous with numbers like those above. Between the hits (.404 average allowed), the walks (too many) and the eight home runs (way too many), it’s tough to find a silver lining in Timmy’s game these days.

John Lamb, Cincinnati Reds

0-3 11.1 23 20 20 6 0 0 1 0 17

In June, the young, long golden-haired pitcher looked to be something of a savior for a wretched Reds rotation, posting a 3.09 ERA in six starts. Then things got off badly for him in July, to say the least. After a horrible outing on July 16 against Milwaukee—in which he conceded nine runs in just two frames—Lamb was given a ticket to Triple-A Louisville to sort things out. With Homer Bailey back and some of the Reds’ other young guns starting to assert themselves (see Rafael Iglesias, above), Lamb needs to get his groove back or else.

Toronto Blue Jays (16-8)

All those rumors earlier in the month of the Blue Jays becoming sellers at the trading deadline seem so distant after a terrific month that put them back into the postseason picture. (And hey, along with Donaldson and Happ above, they’ve swept the AL honors this month!) It was a well-balanced performance, with solid pitching paced by Happ and Aaron Sanchez (a combined 7-0 and 1.52 ERA), seven flawless saves from Roberto Osuna and the usual hitting courtesy of Donaldson and a revived Troy Tulowitzki. At first it seems impressive that the Jays surged for much of the month without Jose Bautista, but that simply testifies to the fact this is a deeply talented team that has the tools to, once again, go deep into October.

Los Angeles Dodgers (15-9)

Without the injured Clayton Kershaw, Dodger fans feared that late-season irrelevancy was just around the corner. But baseball is a strange, unpredictable game—just look at our preseason forecasts—and not only did the Dodgers remain thick in the playoff chase, they made significant ground on a first-place Giants team that has scuffed badly since the All-Star break. The rotation without Kershaw wasn’t great, but it didn’t collapse—all while the offense surged with five everyday players hitting over .300 for the month. We doubt the Dodgers are telling Kershaw to ‘stay home, we’re doing just fine without you,’ but the desperation they once felt sans the future Hall-of-Fame ace has likely diminished a bit

Kansas City Royals (7-19)

Maybe, just maybe, all those metricheads are getting the last laugh on the Royals. Remember, these are the nerds who for the past three years kept picking the Royals to finish below .500—well below .500—while the team kept defying the numbers and won pennants. Well, like a true batting champ, one out of three ain’t bad. Meanwhile, the Royals were just that—bad. They hit and pitched lousy, and all those assertive tricks that caught opponents off kilter last year don’t seem to be working anymore. At the risk of twisting the knife even further, here’s this: the Royals’ .269 win percentage for the month is the lowest ever by a defending world champion.

Arizona Diamondbacks (7-17)

This is clearly not what the Diamondbacks, this year’s mid-market preseason darlings, had in mind when they came into the year looking so good in spring training after a triumphant winter in which they greatly bolstered their rotation. Or so we all thought. From such grand dreams comes the hard reality of July; Zack Greinke is on the shelf, Shelby Miller is trying to figure himself out in Reno, and the Snakes have slithered their way down to the NL West basement. Maybe it’s time for the front office to blame it all on those ugly new charcoal uniforms.

Wild Pitches

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

This Month’s 15 Minutes of Shame
A member of the U.S. Air Force was so excited after issuing a ticket to ex-Yankee superstar Derek Jeter for boating in a restricted area, he posted an image of the ticket on his Facebook page. Suffice it to say that he’ll get reprimanded for more than the $250 Jeter will pay for his ticket—unless his superior is a Red Sox fan.

We Won With Sean Again
Sean Rodriguez has knocked in two or more runs 54 times in his career—and the team he’s played (Pittsburgh, currently), has won 52 of those games. The 96.3% win percentage is the highest by any major leaguer with two-plus RBIs in a game

Accept My Watch or Get Clocked
Jose Reyes, back with the Mets, successfully got back his #7 uniform after luring teammate Travis d’Arnaud with a Rolex watch.

Splash Hit
A female fan was either protecting herself from—or stupidly trying to catch—a foul ball falling down upon her. Either way, the surrounding fans paid the price.

This is For the Time You Pantsed Me in Front of the Girls
Home Run Derby participant Wil Myers was hit by a pitch thrown by his brother during the competition.

A Crash Course on Outfielding
When you have some 100 kids chasing down fly balls in the outfield during the Home Run Derby, this was bound to happen sooner or later.

Boomer Blooper
ESPN patriarch Chris Berman, as Giancarlo Stanton beat Todd Frazier to win the Home Run Derby: “In the year we lost Muhammad Ali, ‘down goes Frazier.’” Um, Chris: It was George Foreman who knocked out Joe Frazier and prompted Howard Cosell to utter that memorable line.

You Mean Your Agent Didn’t Tell You This?
Toronto pitcher J.A. Happ told a local sports reporter that the one thing he still gets upset about since moving to Canada is that nation’s decree to sell milk in bags instead of cartons.

Are You Going to Blame Sam or Diane?
Texas reliever Jake Diekman went on the 15-day disabled list after cutting his hand reaching into his suitcase to take out a Cheers souvenir glass mug—which happened to be broken into sharp pieces—following a trip to Boston.

Nacho Libre
San Diego third baseman Yangervis Solarte dove into the front row to (successfully) grab a foul ball and came out with nacho cheese spread smothered over the top of the ball.

Well That Didn’t Work
Chicken meat purchased from Target was “sacrificed” in a Cleveland clubhouse ceremony to cleanse catcher Yan Gomes of a deep slump. A few days later, he was placed on the disabled list with a separated shoulder and not expected to return for six-to-eight weeks.

Burned to a Crisp
The A’s Coco Crisp was in the middle of a home run trot when he suddenly realized that, oops, he didn’t hit a home run.

You Sure You Want to Retire?
David Ortiz hit a ball so hard in batting practice that it got it stuck in the “Pesky Pole” screen down Fenway Park’s right-field line.

Royal Snub
Johnny Cueto, who helped pitched the Royals to a World Series victory over the Mets last October, wasn’t invited to the team’s meet-and-greet with President Obama at the White House—even though he had an off-day to do it and was just up the road in New York, where the Giants were warming up to take on the Yankees. The Royals explained that only players who participated for the full season would be invited; Cueto was traded to Kansas City at the end of last July.

When Monitors Attack
Early during a July 23 game at Boston, gusty winds whipped so wildly around Fenway Park that they unglued a press box TV monitor, which struck Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy in the head. Remy was checked out by the team doctor and was declared AOK, but took the rest of the night off.

The Voters Finally Got Their Say
Cobb County chairman Tim Lee, who helped usher through nearly half a billion dollars in county money without public approval to get the Braves’ new ballpark built, lost big in a re-election campaign against an opponent who spent a micro-fraction of the money he spent to win. At least Lee will likely get Braves season tickets for life—in seats that will be protected from flying fruit.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
Major leaguers struck out 6,057 times in the month of July, a figure that’s down from the 6,491 accumulated in June. But before all you anti-strikeout zealots begin jumping for joy, consider that baseball took four days off to celebrate the All-Stars and time off in general—and that reduced the number of games for sluggers to establish any new monthly record. Except, they actually did; this month’s total surpasses the previous July mark of 5,857, set two years ago.

League vs. League

The All-Star game aside, it was a somewhat positive month for the National League in the interleague wars—but it may be a too-little, too-late effort as it seeks to end the American League’s 12-year run of interleague supremacy. The NL took 26 of 49 head-to-head battles in July, but the AL still owns a rather comfortable 115-99 edge for the entire season. The AL only needs to win 36 of the remaining 86 interleague games to make it 13 winning years in a row.

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The Ballparks on This Great Game

Friday, July 1
The Cleveland Indians set a franchise mark by winning their 14th straight game—but it doesn’t come easy. In a rare Friday afternoon game at Toronto (it’s Canada Day), the Indians and Blue Jays labor for 19 innings before Carlos Santana’s home run off Darwin Barney—the Jays’ second position player to take the mound on the day—becomes the winning blow in a 2-1 contest. Trevor Bauer, who had been scheduled to start the next day, is called upon to pitch the final five innings and earn the win for the Tribe.

Toronto’s chances are handicapped when slugger Edwin Encarnacion, catcher Russell Martin and manager John Gibbons are all tossed for arguing balls and strikes. For Gibbons, it’s his sixth ejection of the year.

While an infielder on the pitcher’s mound can’t get the job done for Toronto, Miami ace pitcher Jose Fernandez comes through in an unlikely hitting cameo for the Marlins at Atlanta. With the bench empty of available players in the top of the 12th, Fernandez is asked to grab a bat and launches a deep double to center that scores two Marlins and gives them a 7-5 win over the Braves.

David Ortiz sets two milestones with one swing of the bat in the Red Sox’ 5-4 win at Boston over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. His fifth-inning solo homer is the 522nd of his career—passing both Ted Williams and Rafael Palmeiro to place 19th on the all-time list—and it’s also his 2,000th hit as a member of the Red Sox.

Bud Norris, traded from Atlanta to fill the void of Clayton Kershaw (currently on the disabled list) gets the job done as he throws six shutout innings and neuters the Colorado Rockies, 5-0, at Los Angeles. Norris becomes the first-ever pitcher to not allow a run in consecutive starts, each for a different team, in the same season.

Saturday, July 2
It’s the end for Jake Arrieta’s all-time record 19 straight wins on the road as Bartolo Colon and the Mets nip the Chicago Cubs ace, 4-3, at New York. For Colon, it’s his 50th win since turning 40—something only four other pitchers (Warren Spahn, Cy Young, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens) can claim to have done.

The Indians finally lose, thanks to a dubious replay overturn and despite a cycle for outfielder Rajai Davis. Tied at 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth at Toronto, the Blue Jays’ Ezequiel Carrera is called out at home trying to score on Josh Donaldson’s one-out single—but the Jays challenge and review officials overturn the call, though whether there was definitive proof that Carrera safely scored could be highly debated. The overturn ignites a three-run rally and gives Toronto a 9-6 win that ends Cleveland’s record 14-game winning streak.

Losers of ten of their previous 11 games, the Angels bust out for the majors’ largest run total on the year to date, destroying the Red Sox at Boston, 21-2. C.J. Cron leads the assault with six hits including a double and two home runs; catcher Carlos Perez adds five hits and six RBIs; and Albert Pujols knocks in five.

Minnesota will have to settle for the second highest run total of the day, despite racking up 17 runs at home—all before the fifth inning is done—against the Texas Rangers. Rookie Max Kepler smacks two homers and knocks in seven for the Twins.

A day after defeating the Braves with a pinch-hit double, the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez takes the mound to do the job he’s paid to do—and gets throttled for nine runs (six earned) in five innings in a 9-1 loss to Atlanta.

Sunday, July 3
In a special tribute to the U.S. Armed Forces on the eve of Independence Day, Major League Baseball and the players’ union arrange for a regular season matchup between the Marlins and Braves at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, inside a 12,500-seat ballpark built just for the occasion. Behind six shutout innings from Adam Conley and three hits (including a home run) from leadoff catcher J.T. Realmuto, the Marlins prevail as the official “road” team, 5-2.

The game is attended, as intended, by a near-100% majority of military members as tickets could not be resold unless redistributed through the military. Yet some manage to crash the scene—including veteran ballhawk Zack Hample, who catches a lot of heat on social media for being there—and then lying about how he got his ticket, initially saying he got it through a serviceman/friend whose girlfriend disliked baseball. Hample later apologizes.

In his first appearance in 18 days, Washington’s Stephen Strasburg quiets the visiting Cincinnati Reds on no hits through 6.2 innings—but is removed at that point by manager Dusty Baker as he has thrown 109 pitches and walked four. Victory is pretty much in the bag already, with the Nationals leading 9-0 on their way to a 12-1 rout behind shortstop Danny Espinosa—who just three days after collecting a pair of homers and seven RBIs nearly duplicates the feat, clubbing two more jacks with six RBIs.

Strasburg, who now has won a Montreal/Washington-record 14 straight decisions, is the third pitcher this year removed from a potential no-hitter in the seventh inning or later, following rookies Ross Stripling of the Dodgers and the Marlins’ Adam Conley. So why would Baker, known for sticking with his guys almost to a fault, not allow Strasburg to get the final seven outs? The answer can be best summed up in two words and a number. The two words: Johan Santana, who stayed in to finish his no-no for the Mets (the franchise’s first ever) in 2012 on 134 pitches, went 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA in his remaining ten starts of the year and, at age 33, never pitched in the majors again. The number: $175,000,000, the amount of money owed to Strasburg by the Nationals after they gave him a seven-year extension in May. Do the math and you can easily understand Baker’s thinking.

Espinosa’s 15 RBIs for a four-game series is one shy of the record, held by the New York Yankees’ Tony Lazzeri at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park in 1936 (a series that included the game in which he knocked in an AL-record 11 runs).

The Mets finish off a four-game home sweep of the Cubs with a 14-3 demolition paced by Wilmer Flores franchise record-tying six hits, which include two of the five home runs hit by the Mets. It is, in fact, the second time in three days the Mets have gone deep five times at Citi Field—the first two games they’ve ever done it at the eight-year-old ballpark, and matching the total number of such games done at each of the Mets’ previous two venues, the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium.

A day after having their long winning streak snapped, the Indians really take a dive, getting trashed at Toronto, 17-1. Russell Martin cracks two homers for the Blue Jays, and Josh Donaldson reaches base safely six times (four hits, two walks) while scoring four runs.

Mark Teixeira belts a pair of homers (both in each of the last two innings) and becomes the fifth switch-hitter in major league history to reach 400 career home runs as the Yankees triumph at San Diego over the Padres, 6-3.

In his first appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery 14 months earlier, Brandon McCarthy delivers with five shutout innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out eight as the Dodgers finish a three-game home sweep of the Rockies, 4-1.

Monday, July 4
In the traditional late-morning Fourth of July contest at Washington, Milwaukee rookie Junior Guerra outduels the Nationals’ Max Scherzer with 7.1 shutout innings of two-hit baseball, and the Brewers survive with a 1-0 triumph. The Milwaukee win comes despite a first-inning bonehead move by Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell in which he has Ryan Braun bat in front of Jonathan Lucroy—although the official lineup had Lucroy batting before Braun. After Braun’s single, Washington manager Dusty Baker comes out to complain, and umpires call Braun out for batting out of turn.

After Matt Harvey surrenders six runs on 11 hits through just 3.2 innings to the visiting Marlins, the Mets strike for eight unanswered runs to hand the Marlins an 8-6 loss. Yoenis Cespedes hits a pair of doubles and knocks in multiple runs for the first time in 38 games.

Harvey, who had appeared to turn things around after a dismal first two months—he had allowed nine runs in his previous six starts, though winning only one due in large part to pathetic support—will undergo season-ending injury for thoracic outlet syndrome, an unusual compression in the midsection that is commonly rectified by removing a rib. Other recent players—all pitchers—undergoing the treatment include the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia, and retired players Josh Beckett, Chris Carpenter, Kenny Rogers and Noah Lowry.

Tuesday, July 5
The rosters for the upcoming All-Star Game at San Diego are announced, with few snubs of deserving players. Like with the Kansas City Royals last year, Chicago Cubs fans stuff the online selections by selecting five of their players to the starting National League team. This includes the entire infield, the first to be represented by one team since the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals; first baseman Anthony Rizzo picks up the most votes among all NL candidates, while second baseman Ben Zobrist gets the nod over Washington’ Daniel Murphy by a mere 88 votes out of 6,026,726 cast between the two.

On the American League side, Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez gets the most votes (five million) of any player and will start his third straight All-Star Game. The Boston Red Sox get four players on the AL’s starting lineup, including 40-year-old David Ortiz (at designated hitter).

Overall, 11 of the starters are first-timers, the most since 2005; 25 players, over a third of the combined two rosters, are foreign born; the Cubs lead all teams with seven All-Stars, while the Red Sox have six to pace the AL.

Jose Reyes makes his return with the Mets to a “warm” ovation from New York fans, but goes 0-for-4 as the Mets fall to Miami and two Giancarlo Stanton homers, 5-2.

Eric Fryer, released just days earlier by St. Louis, is picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates and starts his first game for the Bucs, collecting two hits and three RBIs. The opponent: The Cardinals, who bow to Fryer and the Pirates, 5-2.

Kansas City pitcher Chris Young takes the mound at Toronto leading the majors with 22 home runs allowed on the year—and serves up four more before being lifted in the third inning of an 8-3 loss. No pitcher has ever giving more over his first 15 appearances in a season than the 26 given up by Young.

Here’s an odd stat that only the Elias Sports Bureau could dig up: The Yankees’ 9-0 win over the White Sox at Chicago represents the first time that the fabled franchise has ever scored less than ten runs on 20 or more hits. Brett Gardner leads the hit parade with four.

Wednesday, July 6
The Tigers defeat the Indians with a 12-2 drubbing that ends Cleveland’s latest record-winning streak—a 13-game run at home that was also the majors’ longest since the Marlins ran off 13 straight in 1995—and is also Detroit’s first win over the Tribe in 12 tries this season.

In a rare midweek day game at Dodger Stadium that may have starts in front of a official paid crowd of 40,000 but appears to be settled 14 innings later before a fraction of it, the visiting Baltimore Orioles leave with a 6-4 win over Los Angeles. The game features 36 total strikeouts (a ballpark record) and a six-hit performance from the Dodgers’ Chase Utley, already the third such effort from a major leaguer this month, tying a major league record just six days into July.

The Mets defeat the Marlins at New York, 4-2, with the Marlins’ only two runs courtesy of solo homers from Giancarlo Stanton in his first two at-bats; along with a pair of homers in his last two at-bats the day before, Stanton ties a major league record by homering in four straight at-bats.

Stanton’s first homer on the day is officially measured at a Citi Field-record 470 feet.

Minnesota’s Ervin Santana tosses a two-hit, 4-0 blanking of the Oakland A’s at Target Field, snapping a run of 453 games in which a Twins starting pitcher had not thrown a shutout—easily the longest in franchise history.

Somewhere, the ghost of Walter Johnson must be muttering, “You got to be kidding me.”

Thursday, July 7
Maybe they should move the fences back out at Citi Field. The Mets outslug the Nationals, 9-7, in a game that features a ballpark-record eight homers, four by each team. Among them is the fifth in five games for the Mets’ Wilmer Flores, and the fifth of the year against New York by ex-Met Daniel Murphy (who will hit two more before the series is over).

There have been 106 homers hit at Citi Field in 2016, a figure which is easily on pace to topple the existing record of 164—set just last season.

Nick Markakis, who hit just three homers in 612 at-bats last year and two coming into today’s game against the Cubs, goes deep twice—including a game-tying shot in the ninth to help give the Atlanta Braves a 4-3, 11-inning victory at Chicago.

Friday, July 8
Stephen Strasburg tosses seven sharp innings and improves to 12-0 on the year—becoming the first NL pitcher since Rube Marquard (who started the 1912 campaign at an all-time record 19-0) to win his first 12 decisions in a season in the Nationals’ 3-1 win over the Mets at New York. Washington extends its NL East lead to four games over the Mets, who may have bigger problems; two of their biggest stars exit the game, with Noah Syndergaard departing in the fifth after an alarming drop in his velocity (he is later said to have a “dead arm”) and slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes leaving with a strained right quad. Both will likely not return until after the upcoming All-Star break.

Despite Strasburg’s excellent start, his fragile status will keep him out of the All-Star Game—which some say he was likely to start—even as it will be held in his hometown of San Diego.

The Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal smokes three home runs and knocks in six runs, part of a five-hit night as Los Angeles outlasts the visiting San Diego Padres, 10-6. Grandal is the majors’ 11th player this season with three homers in a game—matching the entire total from last year. The record is 22, set in 2001.

Are Jake Arrieta and the Cubs in general beginning to fade after their enormous start? Chicago loses for the eighth time in its last nine games at Pittsburgh, 8-4, as Arrieta gives up six runs over six innings and has now allowed 15 runs over his last 16.1 frames.

Chris Sale is aiming for his major league-leading 15th win at home and his White Sox defense turns a triple play against Atlanta and its league-worst offense. Easy win for Chicago, right? Nope. The Braves throttle Sale for eight runs on ten hits—seven for extra bases, including three homers—over five innings and become the last team this year to score ten runs in a game by defeating the White Sox, 11-8.

The White Sox’ triple play, turned in the third inning, is the third of the year for Chicago. According to a database provided by SABR (Society for American Baseball Research), no team has ever turned four in a season.

After losing 6-2 at San Francisco to drop to a NL West-worst 38-50 on the year, the Arizona Diamondbacks essentially raise the white flag on what was supposed to be a promising season by trading closer Brad Ziegler to Boston, as the Red Sox need a stopgap for the injured Craig Kimbrel (out for roughly a month).

The Diamondbacks made more noise than anyone else during the offseason, paying heavily to bring in pitchers Zack Greinke ($34 million a year) and Shelby Miller (sending .300 outfielder Ender Inciarte, 2015 #1 pick Dansby Swanson and pitching prospect Aaron Blair to Atlanta).

Most preseason prognosticators drank the Kool-Aid and predicted a playoff performance for Arizona, but we were far more wary—in our preview, we said this of the Diamondbacks: “Give the D-Backs some love, but don’t fall head over heels for them.” A this moment, nobody is.

Saturday, July 9
Despite being outhit 14-9, the Pirates double up the Cubs at Pittsburgh, 12-6; it’s the fifth straight loss for Chicago (which is now 5-15 since June 19) while the Bucs have now won 12 of 15 since slipping to a season-worst 34-39 on June 23. Josh Bell, in only his second major league at-bat, crushes a fifth-inning grand slam that results in the game’s killer blow.

Cody Stanley, a free agent pitcher suspended for 80 games last year under MLB’s PED policy while playing for St. Louis, has been suspended again for the same drug—it’s called dehydrochlormethyltestosterone for all of you spelling bee enthusiasts—and will now have to sit out 162 games should any team ever bother to sign him. A defiant-sounding Stanley releases a short statement: “I will never apologize for something I didn’t do. We will not stop searching for why all of this has happened.”

There seems to be a lot of bewilderment and/or anger that surfaces from the written statements of players testing positive—notice that they rarely face the media. This suggests one of two things: That they truly don’t understand how the offended drug ended up in their system, or that they’re ball-faced lying. It would be nice if some of these guys would start to open up more on the subject, so that they, their nutritionists and baseball in general might be able to better learn what goes on behind closed doors and within closed vials.

The unthinkable happens: Derek Jeter is a married man. The 42-year-old former Yankee shortstop ties the knot with 26-year-old model Hannah Davis in California’s Napa Valley in a ceremony that, in sync with Jeter’s appetite for a private life, is secretly kept under wraps form the public and media.

Sunday, July 10
The Giants’ Madison Bumgarner takes a no-hitter into the eighth inning before the Diamondbacks’ Jake Lamb disrupts it with a one-out single, but it’s the only knock on the night as Bumgarner settles for a one-hit shutout in a 4-0 home win. San Francisco enters the All-Star break with the majors’ best record at 57-33.

The Dodgers manage to keep from falling farther behind their archrivals with a 3-1 victory over San Diego at Los Angeles. Kenta Maeda is superb, allowing a run on two hits while striking out a career-high 13 Padres.

David Ortiz’s two-run homer caps a three-run first that sets the tone for the Red Sox’ 4-0 win at Fenway Park over the Rays—who have now lost six straight and are 3-22 since June 15. With 57 extra-base hits, the 40-year-old Ortiz becomes the oldest player ever to lead the majors in that category going into the All-Star break.

The Texas Rangers may have the AL’s best record (54-36), but the All-Star break couldn’t have come at a better time for a starting rotation that has lost it so far this month. The bottom-feeding Twins pound starter A.J. Griffin and a taxed Texas bullpen at Arlington, 15-5; over its last nine games, the Texas rotation has a 10.50 ERA, and no starter has pitched past the fifth inning during this stretch.

Monday, July 11
Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton matches Roger Maris on a single night, smashing 61 balls over the Petco Park fences (and sometimes, bleachers) at San Diego to easily win the 2016 Home Run Derby over runner-up and reigning champion Todd Frazier. It’s not just the number of homers Stanton hits, but the length; he belts the competition’s ten longest homers (and eight of the nine after that), topping out with a 497-foot blast.

The Marlins apparently didn’t understand how the current derby format allows for so many home runs to be hit as compared to years past. Before the competition starts, they promise to shave off a percentage point for each homer Stanton hits in the derby for a future Marlins game—but backtrack after realizing that his performance would result in a 61% reduction, citing a MLB-enforced ceiling of 25% for online offers.

Tuesday, July 12
The defending champion Kansas City Royals (45-43) may be struggling to return to postseason form, but they make a major impact in the American League’s 4-2 win in the All-Star Game at San Diego. Second-inning home runs from the Royals’ Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez—both off the Giants’ Johnny Cueto—result in three runs and puts the AL in front to stay, as ten total pitchers combine to hold down the NL. The AL wins its fourth straight and 16th in its last 19 (discounting the infamous 2002 tie) and ensures that the AL champion will get home field advantage at this year’s World Series. It also closes the NL’s all-time margin in the series to a mere game, at 43-42-2.

Hosmer, who is the game’s MVP, and Perez become the first pair of teammates to homer in the same inning at an All-Star Game since the Dodgers’ Steve Garvey and Jim Wynn in 1975.

The Cubs’ Kris Bryant gives the NL an early lead with a first-inning solo homer, but the irony surrounding his blast is that it comes off of the White Sox’ Chris Sale—for whom Bryant is 0-for-6 with six strikeouts against in regular season play.

The trend of vanishing All-Star Game viewers continue. The rating for the Fox telecast is 5.4, with 8.7 million viewers—down roughly 20% from last year, and half of what it was just 19 years ago when Fox broadcast the game for the first time.

In his annual All-Star break press conference with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, commissioner Rob Manfred speaks on the game’s various hot topics. Among them: That this year’s spike in home runs is not due to juiced players and/or juiced balls, believing that it has more to do with “the way pitchers pitch and the way hitters are being taught to play the game”; that the lack of Latino managers in the majors is a “glaring” problem; that he is committed to keeping the A’s in Oakland through a new ballpark; and that a reduction in the league’s schedule to 154 will mean lower salaries for players.

Thursday, July 14
The Boston Red Sox, who last week attempted to fix their bullpen by acquiring Brad Ziegler from Arizona, go after upgrading an ailing rotation through a deal with another NL West team. The Padres agree to send Drew Pomeranz, whose 2.47 season ERA earned him a spot on the NL All-Star team but just surpassed 100 innings for only the first time in his six-year career, to Boston in exchange for top-tier 18-year-old pitching prospect Anderson Espinosa, currently throwing in Class-A ball.

MLB is sued by one-time player and former anti-aging clinic owner Neiman Nix, claiming that his business went bankrupt as a result of Biogenesis investigators who not only spread false allegations about him but also hacked into his company’s social media accounts. Among the investigators who allegedly ruined his business, DNA Sports Labs, were those fired by MLB for possible misconduct. To note: Nix previously sued MLB in 2014, but a judge dismissed it.

Friday, July 15
Make it 13-0 for Stephen Strasburg, who easily tames the Pirates by allowing a run on three hits through eight innings to give the Nationals a 5-1 victory at Washington. He’s the first pitcher in all of the majors to start a season at 13-0 since teammate Max Scherzer did it with Detroit in 2013.

The Dodgers are elevated over the Diamondbacks at Arizona, 13-7, behind a career night for oft-used infielder Chris Taylor—who knocks in six runs with a double, triple and home run. His opportunity to complete the cycle is denied when, with a five-run lead in the eighth, he attempts to bunt his way on and is thrown out on a close play. Taylor had ten career RBIs in his previous 96 games.

Amid rumor of a power struggle within the Yankees’ front office—general manager Brian Cashman wants to raise the white flag on the year and sell some of the team’s stars for future prospects, while ownership does not—New York loses at home to the Red Sox 5-3 and is below .500 (44-45) for the first time after the All-Star Game since 1995.

Because nothing’s going right for the Atlanta Braves this season, this had to be the year that they lose their first game after the All-Star break in ten years, ending an obscure winning streak that had been the longest since the All-Star Game was invented 83 years ago. The Braves’ 11-2 loss to Colorado at Turner Field takes place with the active presence of hitting star Freddie Freeman, who earlier in the week had a cancerous mole removed from his back.

Saturday, July 16
The Angels notch a first-inning run and let pitcher Matt Shoemaker do the rest, shutting down the Chicago White Sox on six hits, no walks and 13 strikeouts in a 1-0 victory at Anaheim. The shutout is the first of Shoemaker’s career, while the White Sox have now gone 32 innings since scoring a run.

Also getting a shutout, for the tenth time in his career, is the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, who silences the Miami Marlins at St. Louis, 5-0, on three hits and two walks.

Buster Posey hits the first extra-inning home run of his career to give the Giants a 6-5 lead at San Diego, but closer Santiago Casilla can’t hold it, again—allowing the first three Padres to reach base in the tenth and then committing a balk to the fourth, when he stumbles off the mound while delivering a pitch, bringing home Derek Norris to give San Diego a 7-6 win. It’s the first “balk-off” in the majors since June 2015 and the first ever to give the Padres a win.

Casilla now has five blown saves on the season, and Giants fans are increasing unsure that he should continue being their closer.

Trailing 3-0 headed into the eighth at Atlanta, the Rockies wake up and rally for four runs over the final two frames to defeat the Braves, 4-3. It’s the first time this season that Colorado has won a game when trailing in the eighth inning or later; every other team has managed to win such a game at least twice.

Sunday, July 17
Daniel Murphy’s pinch-hit homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth results in a tie game and only the second blown save on the year for Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon, but the Pirates survive nine more innings to defeat the Nationals in 18, 2-1. Starling Marte knocks in both runs for the Bucs—one on a sixth-inning double, the other the game-winner solo shot in the 18th.

Jacob deGrom, quietly having a nice year for the Mets, fires his first career shutout—a one-hit, 5-0 gem at Philadelphia with the only knock a third-inning single courtesy of Phillies starting pitcher Zack Eflin. It’s the fifth time in Mets history that an opposing pitcher has supplied the only hit in a game against a pitcher throwing a shutout.

Of the 82 hits allowed by deGrom, eight of them have come off the bat of pitchers—the highest total against any pitcher so far this year.

Veteran pitcher Edwin Jackson, suiting up for his 11th team (not including two minor league clubs earlier this season) and making his first start in two years, takes a no-hitter into the seventh at San Diego against the Giants before Conor Gillaspie’s three-run, pinch-hit home run rudely breaks it up. But the Padres back Jackson up with three home runs, setting a club record by hitting at least one in 15 straight games, and finish a sweep of San Francisco with a 5-3 triumph.

Jackson has now won at least one game as a starter for nine different teams, tying an all-time record held by Mike Morgan and David Wells.

There’s three 1-0 games played on the day as home run hitters take a break, and the most unlikely one takes place at Cincinnati where the pitching-poor Reds and Milwaukee Brewers take a scoreless contest into the bottom of the ninth—where Reds speedster Billy Hamilton draws a two-out walk, moves to second on another walk to Joey Votto, steals third and scores the winning run on a passed ball charged to Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

Monday, July 18
Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan becomes the first major casualty of the Twins’ awful (33-59) season to date as he is given his walking papers. Meanwhile, Twins manager Paul Molitor gets a vote of confidence by being told he’ll return for the 2017 season.

Chris Correa, the Cardinals’ scouting director who hacked into the Astros’ computers seeking inside information from 2013-14, receives a 46-month prison sentence and a $279,000 fine for his actions. Though the Cardinals have publicly washed themselves of the incident, they’re not out of the woods; MLB may still yet discipline the team for Correa’s crimes.

In closing out a 2-1 Yankee victory over Baltimore, Aroldis Chapman throws a 105.1-MPH pitch—matching the all-time mark for the fastest ‘officially’ recorded pitch, ever, equaling his own delivery from 2010. Helping out offensively is Alex Rodriguez, whose second-inning solo shot is his first in a month, his first at Yankee Stadium in three months and the 696th—and last—of his career.

After the White Sox’ Chris Sale sails for eight shutout innings (allowing just a hit), closer David Robertson gives up four runs in the ninth, the last three on Adam Lind’s pinch-hit, walk-off homer to give the Mariners a 4-3 win at Seattle.

The Indians’ Corey Kluber also feels the sting of a strong shutout effort all for naught thanks to a lousy bullpen. After leaving with a 2-0 lead through seven innings, Kluber watches as two Cleveland relievers combine to concede seven Royals runs in the eighth—four on Jarrod Dyson’s unlikely grand slam (it’s only his seventh career homer in 506 games)—and the Royals wind up easily on top at Kansas City, 7-3.

Tuesday, July 19
It won’t score a publicity factor of 10, but the Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury sets an all-time season record by being rewarded first base via catcher’s interference for the ninth time, breaking the old mark held by former Yankee Roberto Kelly in 1992. His record-breaker has little impact in New York’s 7-1 home win over the Orioles except to peeve off Baltimore manager Buck Showalter, who says after the game, “There’s probably nine catchers that would like to see something change. It just doesn’t seem fair to the defense.”

Despite the win, the Yankees set a franchise record by failing to score in the first inning for the 23rd straight game.

At Anaheim, Albert Pujols smashes two home runs for his 54th career multi-homer game, tying him with Frank Robinson and Manny Ramirez for tenth on the all-time list, as part of a 3-for-3, six-RBI night—and the opposing Rangers congratulate him when, in his fourth plate appearance of the night, he gets drilled in the side of the head by reliever Tony Barnette, who goes out of his way to profusely apologize and let Pujols know that it wasn’t intentional. The Angels win their fifth straight, 8-6, as Huston Street picks up the team’s first save in 29 games.

The Mets edge the Cubs at Chicago, 2-1, with a ninth inning that’s not for the faint of heart. Rene Rivera’s bloop hit down the right-field line with two outs in the final frame brings home the go-ahead run, giving Jeurys Familia a chance to earn his 49th consecutive save—but the Cubs load the bases with two walks and a bunt single with no one out before Familia snuffs it out on two ground balls, the last resulting in a game-ending double play to preserve the win.

Wednesday, July 20
The Red Sox outscore the Giants (who have now lost five straight) 11-7 behind a three-homer, six-RBI night for Hanley Ramirez—and, coupled with the Orioles’ 5-0 loss at New York, take first in the AL East. Ramirez’s final homer caps the scoring on the evening after the Red Sox shoot out to an 8-0 lead, have it trimmed to a mere run before pulling away late.

The Giants still have not won a game at Fenway Park since the 1912 World Series, during the first year of the fabled ballpark’s operation.

Also making a move in the AL East is Toronto, winner of 11 of its last 14 games. With a 10-4 rout at Phoenix over the Diamondbacks, the Blue Jays are now a game out of first in the AL East. Marcus Stroman pitches eight strong innings and Edwin Encarnacion goes deep—again—at Chase Field, for the tenth time in 61 career at-bats at the ballpark.

Only one other active player has as many homers in fewer at-bats in a single ballpark—and that’s Encarnacion, with ten in 59 at-bats at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park.

A night after being rained out in St. Louis, the Cardinals sweep a doubleheader over San Diego, 4-2 and 3-2, thanks to former Padre Jedd Gyorko—who knocks in the eventual winning run in both games with a home run. In fact, Gyorko has now gone deep against the Padres in each of the last five games in which he’s played against them.

Thursday, July 21
Stephen Strasburg suffers his first loss of the year as the Dodgers’ Justin Turner knocks in five runs on a pair of homers through the first three innings to defeat the Nationals at Washington, 6-3. Strasburg had won 13 straight to start the year and 16 straight dating back to late last year, setting a franchise record.

The Pirates’ Francisco Liriano is as sharp as ever, striking out 13 batters over 6.2 innings and, just as impressively, walks none—a bit surprising given he easily leads the majors with 62 coming in—in Pittsburgh’s 5-3 home win over Milwaukee. Matt Joyce buoys the Bucs offensively with four RBIs, including a three-run homer in the first.

There’s been some post-All-Star buzz about how to speed up the game once again, and commissioner Rob Manfred speaks out and seems to agree with one of the ideas: To limit the number of relievers in a game, and/or their time on the mound to one inning each. “You know the problem with relief pitchers is that they’re good” Manfred said on ESPN Radio. “I've got nothing against relief pitchers but they do two things to the game; the pitching changes themselves slow the game down and our relief pitchers have become so dominate at the back end that they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game. So…we’re talking about that a lot internally.”

This is another desperate thought that shouldn’t see the light of day, just like the earlier idea of banning defensive shifts. Teams are trying to win games, and they have rosters that include eight or so relievers who are paid to help when the starter no longer can. If a manager needs all of them to help win a game, he should have the right to do so.

Setting arbitrary limits on relievers to save a few minutes and give hitters a better chance late in the game (as Manfred suggests) is utterly absurd and messes with the fabric of the game’s strategies. It also opens a potential can of worms in forcing starting pitchers to throw longer, or the dilemma of using relievers in long extra-innings games or when a starter can’t make it out of, say, the first inning. Hopefully Manfred’s just playing with us to light a fire under the managers to speed things up, but for baseball’s top guy to even suggest this is a bit alarming.

Friday, July 22
In his first game back in over a month, Dexter Fowler sets the tone for the Cubs’ 5-2 win at Milwaukee with a leadoff home run, one of three hits and three RBIs on the night for the All-Star outfielder. The win maintains Chicago’s 6.5-game lead in the NL Central.

The Cardinals, however, are letting the Cubs know that they’re not to be forgotten. It takes 16 innings at Busch Stadium, but St. Louis extends its winning streak to five with a 4-3 victory over the Dodgers, as Matt Adams belts the latest (by inning) walk-off homer in franchise history.

The Cardinals’ winning streak, at the very least, gives the folks at a rest from their wry obsession with each St. Louis loss, which for some reason leads it to post the blurb, “The Cardinals lost their (XXth) Game.” Rumor has it that this is being done to poke fun at the site’s founder, who is a big Cardinals fan.

The Dodgers fail to gain ground on the NL West-leading Giants, who lose to the Yankees at New York, 3-2. The Bizarro second half continues for San Francisco, as Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford commits a career-high three errors, All-Star catcher Buster Posey leaves early with a foot injury (X-rays are negative, which is a positive) and the Giants are now 0-6 since the All-Star break.

Only one other first-place team, the 1991 Dodgers, had dropped six straight to open the second half of a season. They finished the year in second place—one game behind Atlanta.

Miguel Cabrera’s four-hit night at Chicago includes a two-run single in the seventh that is the difference-maker in Detroit’s 7-5 win over the White Sox. The two RBIs push Cabrera pass the 1,500-RBI barrier, joining 55 other players. Of the seven on that list who are active, Cabrera (33) is easily the youngest of the lot.

The Blue Jays just can’t seem to handle the close games. With a 2-1 loss to the visiting Mariners, Toronto is now 24-46 since the start of 2015 in one-run games. Otherwise, they are 123-66.

The Phillies’ Zack Eflin hums a three-hit, no-walk, 4-0 shutout of the Pirates at Pittsburgh in his eighth major league appearance. Since a miserable debut (eight earned runs allowed over 2.2 innings) at Toronto on June 14, Eflin is 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA.

Saturday, July 23
It’s a stormy day in Chicago, both outside and inside the White Sox’ clubhouse. Ace pitcher Chris Sale, scheduled to start against the Tigers and looking for his major league-leading 15th win, refuses to wear the White Sox’ collared throwback uniforms from the late 1970s—and when White Sox brass tell him he must because it’s all part of a planned promotional giveaway, Sale channels Lefty Grove and goes on a tirade, slicing up all the throwback uniforms in the clubhouse with a knife. Sale is asked to go home, Matt Albers takes his place on the mound and the White Sox and Tigers embark on a game that doesn’t end until midday Sunday due to multiple interruptions from thunderstorms, with the White Sox winning 4-3 on Adam Eaton's RBI single in the ninth.

This may be the last straw for the White Sox in regards to Sale, who is heavily rumored to be on the trading block. It was Sale who led the silly spring training rebellion against the White Sox after they banned Adam LaRoche’s son from the clubhouse, and now this. The team will suspend him five games for this latest action, just enough time for him to get one more start before the trading deadline. (Sale will be traded following the season to Boston.)

Our opinion: You’re a professional, Chris. Pitch with the jersey you’re given.

Anyone who thinks that Trevor Story has faded after his historic big start in April had better rethink for the long term. The rookie shortstop has a big night for the Rockies at Coors Field, going 4-for-4 with two homers, five RBIs and a stolen base in an 8-4 win over Atlanta. At the end of the day, his 26 homers on the year leads all National Leaguers.

Story is somewhat afflicted with the Rockies’ usual Jekyll-Hyde splits, hitting .308 at home but only .237 away at sea level—but he has hit 11 of his homers on the road.

And to think: If not for Jose Reyes’ roughing up of his wife in Hawaii, he might not even be on the Rockies’ roster this season.

Houston’s Evan Gattis rewards a home crowd of 35,119 receiving gnomes of his likeness by drilling home runs in each of his first two at-bats, propelling the Astros to a 7-2 victory over the Angels. It’s the team’s tenth straight victory against Los Angeles of Anaheim and it moves to a season-high nine games above .500, 2.5 behind AL West leader Texas (a 7-4 winner at Kansas City).

Not to be forgotten in the Quest for the West are the Seattle Mariners, who remain 5.5 games back and improve to 50-47 after a 14-5 thrashing of the Blue Jays in Toronto. The big stick is provided by Nelson Cruz, who blasts a pair of home runs—including a third-inning grand slam that opens the scoring on the day—and knocks in seven runs. It’s the fourth time that Cruz has knocked in at least seven—and three of those games have come against the Blue Jays.

Ralph Kiner is the only other player to knock in at least seven runs against the same opponent (in this case, the Brooklyn Dodgers) three times.

The Orioles, who briefly fell into second in the AL East earlier this week, are back on top by 1.5 games after taking care of the AL Central-leading Indians for the second straight night, 5-2. A three-run first is capped by a two-run shot by Mark Trumbo, who becomes the first major leaguer to reach 30 on the year.

Only one other Oriole has hit 30 homers before the end of July: Frank Robinson, who achieved the status in his triple crown-winning season of 1966.

Sunday, July 24
The Hall of Fame officially welcomes in Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza on a beautiful warm day at Cooperstown before 50,000 onlookers. Griffey Jr., who was inducted with a record 99.2% of the vote, discusses the “misconceptions” that he took the game in stride, saying, “Just because I made it look easy doesn’t mean that it was and you don’t work hard and become a Hall of Famer without working day in and day out.” Piazza, who went in as a member of the Mets instead of the Dodgers (for whom he began his career with and played two fewer seasons than at New York), addresses the Mets fans in the crowd. “We didn’t get off on the best foot, but we both stayed with it,” he said. “At first, I was pressing to make you cheer and wasn't doing the job. You didn't take it easy on me, and I am better because of it…The eight years we spent together went by way too fast…No fans rock the house like Mets fans. You are passionate loyal, intelligent, and love this great game.”

Also honored is writer Dan Shaughnessy, winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, and the late Graham McNamee, who is given the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence.

Making his major league debut in front of a nationally televised ESPN audience, the Cardinals’ Mike Mayers sets a record he’d rather not talk about for a while—giving up nine runs in just 1.1 innings to become the first pitcher ever to debut with so many runs allowed in so few innings. The Dodgers are the benefactor and defeat the Cardinals at St. Louis, 9-6, to shorten the Giants’ NL West lead to three games.

The Astros destroy the Angels at Houston, 13-3, behind a big day for Jose Altuve. The 5’6” second baseman belts two homers—giving him a career-high 17 on the season—knocks in six runs and is now 18-for-30 over his last seven games to raise his batting average to a major league-leading .360.

With both David Ortiz and Mookie Betts being rested, the Red Sox continue to stay potent at the plate, as Hanley Ramirez belts his fifth homer over his last five games and Rick Porcello improves to 10-0 at Fenway Park on the year as the Red Sox edge the Twins, 8-7.

Monday, July 25
Yankeee closer Aroldis Chapman, among those most highly rumored to be on the trading black a week before the trading deadline, is dealt to the Chicago Cubs for reliever (and former Yankee) Adam Warren and three minor leaguers, including two of baseball’s top 100 prospects. Some say Chicago pays a big price to receive a top reliever who’s eligible to become a free agent after the season, but it firmly re-establishes the Cubs as the team to beat in the NL.

Chapman, in flight to Chicago, could have been used by the Cubs tonight. After tying the White Sox, 4-4, in the top of the ninth, the Pale Hose bounce back as Tyler Saladino knocks out a RBI single in the bottom half of the inning off Mike Montgomery—also recently acquired, from Seattle—to defeat the Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field, 5-4.

On the day it is learned that Prince Fielder will miss the rest of the season with a recurring neck issue, Adrian Beltre helps pick up the slack for the Rangers. Beltre’s second homer of the night is a two-run shot that gives Texas a walk-off 7-6 victory over Oakland. The Rangers extend their AL West lead to 3.5 games as the Astros lose at home to the Yankees (with Andrew Miller picking up the save in place of the departed Chapman), 2-1.

The Blue Jays’ Aaron Sanchez picks up his tenth straight victory, a 4-2 triumph over the Padres at Rogers Centre. It’s the first time San Diego has ever played at Toronto; with that, all 30 teams have now played at least one game against each other, both home and away.

The stay in Toronto for Melvin Upton Jr. will be longer than any of the other Padres; he’s dealt to the Blue Jays following the game.

It’s a day that Colorado reliever Jordan Lyles will probably want to quickly go to sleep and forget about. After hearing news during the day that Pittsburgh pitcher Ryan Vogelsong—who Lyles hit in the face earlier in the year—is upset over Lyles’ failure to check up on him and apologize, he takes the mound in the tenth at Baltimore, drops a comebacker and throws wildly home, allowing Adam Jones to score the winning run in the Orioles’ 3-2 victory over the Rockies.

Tuesday, July 26
The Mets and Cardinals, two teams fighting to stay relevant in the playoff chase, split a day-night doubleheader at New York. Jedd Gyorko homers in both games for St. Louis, just six days after doing the same thing in a double-dip against San Diego; he’s the first Cardinal to do it twice in a season since Stan Musial in 1949. In the second game, won by the Mets, 3-1, Asdrubal Cabrera’s two RBIs help snap a personal 0-for-32 drought with runners in scoring position, while Jeurys Familia picks up his 52nd straight save, the third longest streak in major league history.

Perhaps the kids at PECOTA were right about the Royals all along. The defending champions are slaughtered at home by the Angels, 13-0, as Yunel Escobar has his fourth five-hit night since the start of the 2015 season. Since holding first place in the AL Central on June 1 with a 30-22 record, the Royals have won only 18 of 47.

Matt Kemp’s two-run homer gives the Padres a 6-4 lead in the 12th at Toronto, but the Blue Jays scratch and claw their way back in the bottom of the inning, capping a three-run rally when Paul Clemens’ wild pitch to Edwin Encarnacion brings home Cecil Travis to win, 7-6.

Despite the loss, the Padres extended their streak of games hitting at least one home run to 24—three shy of the all-time record established by the 2002 Texas Rangers.

Wednesday, July 27
Jeurys Familia blows his first save opportunity after successfully converting 52 in a row (as mentioned above, the third longest in baseball history) when the Cardinals rally for two runs in the ninth to topple the Mets at New York, 5-4.

A day later, Familia will blow his second straight save, against Colorado.

Jay Bruce’s stock is rising, and the Reds are very happy about it. His seventh-inning solo home run off the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner ultimately serves as the winning stroke, securing a 2-1 victory at San Francisco. Bruce, who’s been the subject of numerous trade rumors, has homered in five straight games for Cincinnati.

Adam Dickerson has his own home run streak going as well, going deep for the fourth straight game while his Padres tie a NL record by homering in 25 straight. Dickerson’s solo shot is just one of three hit on the day by San Diego, which pummels the Blue Jays at Toronto, 8-4.

San Diego’s streak will come to an end in their next game when they are shut out by the Reds, 6-0.

Controversy dogs a four-run Kansas City rally in the seventh that gives them a lead it’ll never give up in a 7-5 win over the Angels. Raul Mondesi Jr.’s first career base hit is a bunt single that Angels manager Mike Scioscia protests because he believes Mondesi was running inside the baseline; between his discussion with the umpires, the umpires discussing among themselves and a video review back in New York, the stoppage lasts 12 minutes and Scioscia is denied, leaving him to protest the game. A day later, MLB will deny that protest.

All this, and commissioner Rob Manfred wants to limit relievers to speed up the game?

Thursday, July 28
In his first game back from an 80-game PED suspension, Miami second baseman Dee Gordon goes hitless in four at-bats, and Marlins ace Jose Fernandez loses for only the second time in 38 career home starts (he’s won 26 of them) as the Cardinals emerge with a 5-4 victory at Marlins Park.

Chris Sale makes his first start since his clubhouse outburst and ensuing five-game suspension by the White Sox, but he is outdueled at Wrigley Field by the Cubs’ John Lackey, who ends a career-long eight-start winless drought with a 3-1 victory. Aroldis Chapman retires the last four White Sox to earn his first save for the Cubs.

David Price’s eight shutout innings for the Red Sox go to waste at Anaheim when the Angels load the bases on Boston closer Brad Ziegler in the ninth, and first baseman Hanley Ramirez throws wild past home on a one-out grounder from former Red Sock Daniel Nava, bringing home two runs and giving the Angels a 2-1 victory.

Friday, July 29
The Giants are officially snake-bit. In dropping to 2-11 since the All-Star break, San Francisco experiences an exhausted, hands-up-in-the-air moment in the eighth inning of their 4-1 home loss to Washington when, with the bases loaded and no one out, Brandon Crawford scorches a liner that’s snagged by first baseman Ryan Zimmerman—who then steps on first to double off on one runner and throws to third to triple off a second, resulting in the Nationals’ first triple play since the team moved to D.C. in 2005.

The Dodgers, who just a month ago were eight games back of the Giants, are now within a mere game as they do take advantage of a big rally while overcoming a huge one put forth by the visiting Diamondbacks. Arizona erases a 3-0 lead in the seventh with a seven-run outburst, but the Dodgers quickly counter with five runs of their own a half-inning later and ultimately triumph, 9-7.

Home runs are sure to be expected between the Orioles and Blue Jays in Toronto, and the Jays in particular do not disappoint—knocking three out of the park in the first inning alone to take a lead they will never relinquish. The 6-5 triumph moves Toronto to within a half-game of Baltimore in the AL East race.

The Twins’ Joe Mauer—remember him?—comes up with the bases loaded in the 12th inning of a 1-1 tie against the visiting White Sox, and draws a walk for only his second walk-off RBI (and first in nine years) to give Minnesota the win.

The Marlins attempt to advance their postseason aspirations by netting starting pitchers Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from the Padres, who continue to clean house. Miami also gets a minor leaguer while sending four of their own players the other way, including up-and-down pitcher Jarrod Cosart and top prospect Josh Naylor, the Marlins’ first-round draft pick from last year.

Saturday, July 30
The exchange wire heats up as the trading deadline nears. The most significant deal of the day involves the NL East-leading Nationals, who secure the services of Pittsburgh closer (and impending free agent) Mark Melancon for reliever Felipe Rivero and a minor leaguer.

The trade raises eyebrows on both fronts. It shows that the Nationals have lost faith in veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon, who’s had a bad last week with a season ERA shooting up to 4.41; it also signifies that the Pirates, just three games out of wild card range but fourth in line to grab that last spot, may be folding up shop for the season.

The other big trade of the day is surprising in that it involves two teams that are completely out of the playoff chase. The Padres, who’ve been unloading talent unlike any other team this summer, deal veteran outfielder Matt Kemp to Atlanta for Cuban émigré Hector Olivera—who’s currently serving an 82-game suspension for violating baseball’s domestic abuse policy.

The Cubs discover that Aroldis Chapman is not God. Asked to execute his second straight four-out save and preserve a 1-0 shutout started by Jake Arrieta, Chapman gives up a two-run double to Seattle’s Leonys Martin—who then scores on a wild pitch by the recent acquired closer. The Mariners will add an additional run in the ninth to defeat the Cubs at Chicago, 4-1. It’s only Chapman’s second blown save of the year—and the first involving an earned run charged to him.

The Yankees, who dealt Chapman away and are a day from also sending reliever Andrew Miller to Cleveland, lose 6-3 at Tampa Bay as Alex Rodriguez fans all four times he comes to the plate. Rodriguez is the first major leaguer to strike out four times in a game both as a teenager (in 1995) and as a fortysomething.

The Tigers’ Justin Verlander can’t preserve his own shot at a 1-0 win when the visiting Astros rally for two runs off him in the ninth, but Detroit strikes back in the bottom of the frame with two runs of their own—all after the first two batters were retired—on a walk, two singles, a throwing error by Houston rookie Alex Bregman and a video-confirmed infield hit that Jose Iglesias barely beats out to bring home the winning run in a 3-2 Tigers victory.

It hasn’t been a wonderful first week for Bregman, recently reclassified as the majors’ top prospect while being called up to the Astros. Besides the error against the Tigers, Bregman is thus far hitless in his first 17 major league at-bats.

The Rangers, rebounding to end an otherwise dreadful July, get seven innings of solid starting work from Martin Perez and a solo walk-off homer from Mitch Moreland to defeat the sinking (49-54) Royals at Arlington, 2-1, and increase their AL West lead to five games over the Astros.

Sunday, July 31
The Yankees’ formidable three-headed monster bullpen is now just one-headed (Dellin Betances) after Andrew Miller is shipped to Cleveland for four minor leaguers. The AL Central-leading Indians also agree to a trade with Milwaukee for catcher Jonathan Lucroy—but they’re on the short list of teams Lurcoy can veto being sent to and exercises that right, keeping him with the Brewers.

Miller is far from a loaner for the Indians; he’s theirs through 2018, at $9 million a season.

Three of the Giants’ starting pitchers chip in to help defeat the Nationals at San Francisco, 3-1. Matt Cain manages to throw five no-hit innings on 93 pitches—barely half of them for strikes—and when he’s pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth, it’s Madison Bumgarner—who doubles and later scores (with Jeff Samardzija pinch-running) with the ultimate game-winning run.

The Angels keep the potent Red Sox offense in check for eight innings, handing closer Huston Street a 3-0 lead to save in the ninth. Street in turn hands the Red Sox five runs, a devastating rally capped by home runs from Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts, to defeat the Angels at Anaheim, 5-3.

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