This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: July, 2017
Will it Play in London? MLB Readies Itself for England Adrian Beltre at 3,000
The Legend of Aaron Judge Grows R.I.P., Gene Conley and Lee May

Best and Worst of the Week

Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

99 22 48 10 1 4 21 7 0 1 8

Way back when the American League kicked off its first campaign, Nap Lajoie hit .426 for the entire year—or was it .424, or .422? (That depends on which history stat man you talk to.) One thing is for sure: Jose Altuve has all those averages beat over the last two-plus months—and for July, in particular. Not since Todd Helton in 2000 has any major leaguer managed a higher batting average with 100 or more plate appearances over one calendar month, as Altuve extended a hot streak in which he’s hit .432 since May 27. His July ledger includes nine games of three hits or more, including five in a row—something nobody has done since George Brett in 1976.

Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

93 25 26 6 0 12 23 17 2 1 0

The imposing slugger may have been a bust at the Home Run Derby, but the rest of his month went just swell. He tied a Marlins record with 12 homers for the month—half of them coming amid three multi-homer performances, giving him seven such games for the season; he needs four more braces over the final two months to tie a major league record. The trick for Stanton won’t be so much trying to enter the record book, but staying healthy to get the chances—as the Marlins are crossing their fingers and hoping that he can just finish out a full season without significant time lost, something he hasn’t done since 2011.

Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins

51 7 4 2 0 0 6 5 0 0 3

Every once in a while you’ll find one of these guys who hits .300 at just about every level of the minors, then continues to do so once aboard in the majors. Polanco looked to be one of those, hitting solidly through his first year-plus at the major league level; but then he gradually slipped through the season’s first half—and in July, he fell completely off the rails. This, after netting two hits in the month’s first game; he only managed two more the rest of the month, in 47 at-bats. When Ehire Adrianza has you beat on the depth chart, it’s time to start thinking about a new approach.

Keon Broxton, Milwaukee Brewers

45 4 3 0 1 4 5 0 0 0 3

The 27-year-old Floridian is one of those raw talents who has all the components to be a major star—with the ability to hit, run and steal with impressive frequency. But this past month, as the Brewers clung onto relevancy while the Cubs surpassed them in the standings, Broxton lost it—struggling to reach base or even make contact just in an attempt to get there, as his 20 strikeouts in 45 at-bats illustrate. Maybe he can still shake and bake his game into something beautiful, but he’ll have to push the reset button in the minors after being sent to Triple-A on July 21.

Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

3-1 34.2 21 4 4 6 0 3 0 0 56

This may have been the best month of what’s become a dominant year for the overpowering lefty, allowing no runs in four of his five starts while finishing July off throwing 21.2 consecutive scoreless innings. Beyond that, he also became the fastest pitcher ever (by innings, at 141.1) to reach the 200-strikeout barrier. Unless disaster strikes, he’s likely your American League Cy guy. Why the White Sox gave him up in the midst of a team-friendly contract is still a major head scratcher.

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

3-0 25 15 2 2 4 0 0 0 1 33

So the Dodgers’ ace didn’t get through the month in one piece as his back flared up on him again and cost him up to six weeks of action. But Kershaw still more than proved that there was no one better on the mound among NL arms. The only runs he allowed over four July starts were two in a complete-game win over the Royals, striking out 13 with no walks on just 99 pitches. Even as he sits on the disabled list, Kershaw remains the major league leader in wins with 15.

Lance McCullers Jr., Houston Astros

0-2 18.2 32 22 20 11 0 5 4 0 15

This is the primary reason the Astros searched high and low for a starting pitcher at the trading deadline, finally landing Francisco Liriano. The young Tampa native was looking fine heading into July, posting a 7-1 record and 2.69 ERA, but he struggled to make it through five innings in each of his four starts as he exhibited an abundance of wildness and ineffectiveness in general. Like Kershaw above, McCullers Jr. ends the month on the shelf with a bad back. Unlike Kershaw, he was pitching like it was truly affecting him.

Steven Matz, New York Mets

0-3 20.1 38 21 21 3 1 1 0 0 16

Meet the Mets and Beat the Matz. That was a recurring theme this past month as the young rotation backender endured a wishy-washy July, with more bad washed in amid some pretty good stuff—but the sum total was still pretty miserable, with opponents hitting .400 against him overall. As one of 12 starters the Mets have used through the end of July, Matz appears to be the epitome of all that’s gone wrong with what was to be one of the majors’ premier rotations: Bad luck, bad health, bad numbers.

Houston Astros (15-9)

You could plug the Phillies’ pitching staff from 1930 into this roster and the Astros could still deliver winning results. It’s hard for any group of pitchers—even one with a 5.08 ERA this past month, like the Astros’—to keep the team from collapsing into the wasteland that’s the rest of the AL West, as this team continues to hit like nuts. Even with Carlos Correa and George Springer suffering lengthy injuries, the Astros still hit .323 and slugged .568 during the month. If you like your offense, look no further than this group.

Los Angeles Dodgers (20-3)

This has almost gotten ridiculous. The rampaging Dodgers could once again do no wrong, taking this honor for the third straight month while finishing July having gone 39-6 over their last 45 games. A simple 5-3 loss at San Diego early in the month, followed a few weeks later by a rare hiccup at home (two straight losses to Atlanta) became the Dodgers’ only flaws; otherwise, everyone contributed—even the new guy, Kyle Farmer, collected a walk-off in his first-ever at-bat. The Dodgers look to have that team of destiny about it, much like the 1986 Mets, 1998 Yankees and last year’s Cubs—but the big monkey remains on their backs remains the upcoming postseason, a time of year which has proved repeatedly disappointing for Dodger Blue.

Chicago White Sox (6-18)

It looks like the White Sox’ bubble—which wasn’t all that big to begin with—finally has burst. But that’ll happen when you spend the month letting go of your most esteemed players (Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson) while infusing more youth into an already green everyday lineup. Major league worsts for the month in ERA (5.68), batting average (.229) and runs scored (88) certainly didn’t help.

Cincinnati Reds (8-18)

Like the White Sox, the Reds collapsed after keeping up with the Joneses as best they could through the season’s first half. The only difference here is that the Reds didn’t put on a fire sale; what the team basically started with stayed together and stunk things up. That included young sluggers Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler, who combined to hit .168 in July—while the pitching staff surrendered 44 more home runs, keeping the Reds on pace to easily break the season record of 268 they themselves established just last year. Lean times continue in Cincinnati.

Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(July 2017 Edition)

Get Lost, Anaheim
The Angels officially—and legally—stripped away “of Anaheim” from their full name, as they will henceforth be referred to as the Los Angeles Angels.

Because It’s There
Milwaukee shortstop Orlando Arcia couldn’t catch up to a pop fly hit into the first rows of the Miller Park stands, but he got the consolation prize in the form of a bite of ice cream.

How to Steal a Million
Bobby Bonilla, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2001, received a check on July 1 for $1.19 million from the Mets—as he will every July 1 through 2035, part of a deferred payment plan agreed to with the club that began in 2011.

You Ass For It, You Got It
Cincinnati’s Joey Votto fulfilled a promise and bought a donkey for teammate Zack Cozart as a reward for making the NL’s starting All-Star lineup.

If You Want to be a Spectator, Rook, There's the Bench
Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, holding the Phillies’ Andrew Knapp on base, watched the bat of Andres Blanco fly into the stands—while not realizing that catcher/teammate Elias Diaz was making a snap toss to him. This did not end well for Bell or the Pirates.

He Tweeted It
“I’m built like Gumby, guys. I promise I’m not the one.” —Kansas City pitcher Danny Duffy, in response to being drug-tested 12 times this season. (We tweaked the tweet to meet grammar standards.)

It Only Poured Criticism
The Nationals got a lot of heat—and issued an apology—for holding up a July 6 home game against the Braves for three hours because of heavy rain that never materialized. Atlanta outfielder Ender Inciarte, asked about whether he’d slide on the tarp for fun during the “rain” delay, responded via Twitter: “Can’t. The tarp is dry.” (Congratulations Ender, we didn’t have to ‘grammarize’ your tweet.)

O Canada, Uproarious and Free
Canadian native Jocelyn Alice let out a giggle during her performance of O Canada before the All-Star Game that obviously perplexed those who heard it; she said she laughed (in pride, we assume) when she saw some “fellow Canadians” on the big video board at Marlins Park.

This is the World We Live In
News of the trade sending the White Sox’ Jose Quintana uptown to the Cubs was said to be broken by two Reddit accounts that go by the names of KatyPerrysBootyHole and wetbutt23.

He’s Not Ready
Khalil Lee of the Single-A Lexington Legends struck out eight times in 10 plate appearances during a 21-inning game on July 14.

Dude, Where’s My Glove?
The Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton leapt high in an attempt to steal a home run away from the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor, but things didn’t quite work out.

Uber Über Alles
Stuck in Albuquerque when their flight to Phoenix was cancelled, four Seattle minor leaguers piled into an Uber vehicle and paid $683 for an overnight ride to Arizona.

Fat Man and Little Ball
Embattled New Jersey governor Chris Christie made a nice grab on a foul ball in the Citi Field stands during a July 18 game—and the cheers from other fans quickly turned to boos once they registered who he was.

Ugly as Shin
A little Reds fan went up to the Marlins’ Dee Gordon before the start of a game in Cincinnati and kicked him in the shin. Turns out, the umpire told the little boy to do it.

Um, Yeah?...
It was reported that the Dodgers’ 9-1 victory over the White Sox on July 19 was their 44th straight win when leading at some point, breaking the all-time record previously held by the 1906 Cubs. All of which leads us to ask: How do you not have a lead at some point and still win? (Perhaps the only scenario where it can be argued is when you trail and/or are tied all game and win on a walk-off, in which case you don’t have a lead because the game is over. But still, it’s weird.)

Vander Meered
The Nationals’ minor league team from the lower-level Gulf Coast League threw back-to-back no-hitters—in one day, during a doubleheader. Both games lasted only seven innings, and they both needed multiple pitchers to get the job done.

Hey, I’m the Guy With 3,000 Hits—I’ll do What I Want
During a July 26 game at Arlington, umpire Gerry Davis told the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, on deck, to stop warming up so close to the plate and get back on the on-deck circle. So what did Beltre do? He moved the on-deck circle closer to home plate. Davis was not amused.

Tooth and Nailed
The Yankees’ Aaron Judge lost one of his teeth, uprooted by a teammate’s batting helmet, while celebrating the Yankees’ walk-off victory over Tampa Bay on July 27.

We’re Guessing a Ring for Alex Gonzalez Will be Completely Out of the Question
Out of the ironic goodness of their championship hearts, the Cubs sent infamous Wrigley Field fan Steve Bartman a 2016 World Series ring. If you think that’s amazing, get this: Bartman actually responded publicly via a statement, saying he was “moved and sincerely grateful” for the gesture.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
The trend continues as major league hitters struck out at a record rate for the month of July, whiffing 6,268 times to topple the old mark for the month—set last year—by nearly 200. It’s far from the most in any one month, as the 6,914 from May remains tops all-time, but that’s because there were much fewer games played owing to the four-day All-Star Break.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Hitting Home Runs
When one looks at the year-by-year total of July home runs, they’ll notice that the 936 slammed this past month trails the all-time high of 961 from July 2004. But hold everything; there were 32 fewer games played this year than in 2004, and so the 2017 per-game rate of 2.49 actually is higher than the 2.36 from 2004. Collectively for the season, there’s this interesting tidbit: The Mets and Astros both broke the pre-All-Star (first half) record of highest home run frequency on the road, with 1.84 and 1.77, respectively. (Yes—the Mets.) Keep alert, bleacher fans, because they’re likely to keep coming your way!

League vs. League

Just when it appeared that the American League was ready to hammer the final nail into the coffin of yet another season of interleague dominance over the National League, the Senior Circuit came bursting to life and took a 38-21 record in July to narrow down the AL’s advantage for the year to a slim 106-102. So dare we say it, it’s a toss-up as we head into the final two months of the season—and a chance for the NL to, at long last, win the interleague wars after a 13-year drought.

This Great Game at CafePress

Bushers Book

The Ballparks on This Great Game

Saturday, July 1
All looks swell for the New York Yankees in Houston; top prospect Clint Frazier collects a home run and double in his big league debut, and the team holds a 6-3 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth. Then it all falls apart; Dellin Bentances allows four baserunners—three via walk—and they all score, the latter two on a Yuli Gurriel double off of Aroldis Chapman. A potential Yankee response in the ninth is snuffed out when, with two outs, Brett Gardner strokes a gap single and fatally hesitates on whether to stretch it into a double; heading back to first, he gets tagged for the final out. Astros, 7-6.

The news on the day isn’t all good for Houston. Rookie pitcher David Paulino is suspended 80 games for testing positive for Boldenone, effectively ending his regular season. He was 2-0 in six starts for the Astros—but with a 6.52 earned run average.

Boston manager John Farrell skips his team’s game in Toronto—where the Red Sox’ Chris Sale dazzles for seven scoreless innings and 11 strikeouts to help tame the Blue Jays, 7-1—and instead is in Kansas City to watch the major league debut of his son, Royals pitcher Luke Farrell. Let’s just say that Sale has the better day; the younger Farrell lasts just 2.2 innings and gives up five runs on seven hits and three walks. The Royals survive without Farrell, bouncing back from the early deficit to smash the Minnesota Twins, 11-6, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader. (The Twins will return the favor in the evening contest, winning 10-5.)

Farrell’s start is one of four by rookie pitchers making their major league debuts. The last time this happened on one day was on April 17, 1914, a quartet that included eventual 254-game winner Red Faber, and two others throwing for the short-lived Federal League. And while some will say that, okay, they had three leagues back in the day, there were still a combined 24 teams between those three circuits—as compared to the 30 between the two existing leagues today.

The original trading papers that sent Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees late in 1919, and the 1927 World Series ring given to Ruth, are both sold at an auction for over $2 million each. The seller is actor Charlie Sheen, who is said to need the money.

The previous high price for a sports-related ring sold is reportedly $460,000, spent on Julius Irving’s ABA Championship ring from 1974.

Sunday, July 2
The starting lineups, reserves and pitching staffs are announced for the upcoming All-Star Game in Miami. There are six first-time All-Stars in the American League lineup, including Toronto’s Justin Smoak, Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez and Tampa Bay’s Corey Dickerson (selected as the designated hitter). On the flip side, Yadier Molina—chosen as a reserve to NL starting catcher Buster Posey—is making his eighth All-Star roster, the most experience among any of this year’s participants; not since 1952 has an All-Star Game not featured anyone with 10 or more appearances. (Robinson Cano, a late addition to the roster, will also make this his eighth go-around.) Finally, a surprise: Only one player from the defending champion Chicago Cubs, closer Wade Davis, made the NL roster—and he wasn’t even with the Cubs last season.

As we mention in our own picks for the All-Star Game, the voters put on their thinking caps and, for once, did a properly educated job of selecting the starters. Just as promising, no one city got carried away and tried to “stuff” the online ballots to get all of their favorite team’s players in the lineup, as we’ve seen in the past few years with fans in Chicago and Kansas City.

Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen, selected to the NL pitching staff, publicly scolds Dodgers fans for not rallying to choose teammate Corey Seager to be the starting NL shortstop over Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart. Perhaps they have just the perspective to understand that Cozart is having the better year, albeit slightly.

In another sign of the times, the Red Sox’ Mookie Betts drives in eight runs on four hits (including two homers) while batting leadoff in a 15-1 rout of the Blue Jays at Toronto. Betts’ 8 RBIs ties a major league record for a leadoff batter, a mark held by four other players (most recently matched by Ronnie Belliard for Colorado in 2003).

Betts’ performance echoes a growing trend in which leadoff hitters are no longer reserved for quick, light-hitting talent but, instead, players worthy of the classic #3 or #4 spot; other power-laden leadoff hitters this year include the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, the Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon and the Astros’ George Springer.

For the first time in two months, Arizona closer Fernando Rodney is mortal. He blows a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth as the Rockies rally on a single by the aforementioned Charlie Blackmon. But Rodney is credited with the ‘accidental win’ as the Diamondbacks bail him out in the bottom of the frame on Ketel Marte’s walk-off single to win, 4-3, and move Arizona 4.5 games ahead of Colorado for second place in the NL West. Since gaining U.S. citizenship on May 1, the Dominican-born Rodney had not given up an earned run in 19.1 innings—and he hadn’t even allowed a hit since May 26.

With the buzz around baseball currently focusing on the rise in home runs at a record pace, Major League Baseball sends a memo to all 30 teams attempting to debunk the evolving theory that this year’s baseball is juiced—or, at least, one with flattened seams that is said to travel farther as a result. The statement claims that the ball has been repeatedly tested with no evidence of an extra punch, concluding: “The baseball in use today tests well within the established guidelines on every key performance metric. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the composition of the ball has changed in any way that would lead to a meaningful impact on on-field play.”

A day after the auctioning off of the Babe Ruth collectibles, the ball hit by Pete Rose to break Ty Cobb’s all-time record in 1985 is sold on an online auction to an unnamed buyer for $403,000. The previous owner, also unnamed, held ownership of the ball for 30 years.

Monday, July 3
As MLB finds itself increasingly defending its new baseball against juicing accusations comes another angle: That the new ball is also leading to more blisters. Toronto’s Marcus Stroman, one who’s normally not afraid to speak his opinion, called the increase in pitching blisters an “epidemic” and its relation to the new ball is “not a coincidence.” Stroman allows two runs through five innings at New York before having to be removed with a blister, the first of his career; he is charged with the loss as Toronto bows, 6-3.

Veteran umpire and Cuban native Angel Hernandez, who has worked in the majors since 1991, files a racial discrimination lawsuit against MLB—saying that he has been denied promotion to crew chief because of his race. He also claims that he’s been the ongoing target of a grudge held against him by MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre since being criticized for a balk call against the Yankees when Torre managed the ballclub. Asked for comment, MLB declined to give one.

A couple of things here. First, any personal vendetta Torre has toward Hernandez is more likely based on performance than race. Second, Hernandez does not have a sterling reputation and his volume of egregious calls over the years seems to easily outpace those of his fellow umpires. Hence, that could be an honest reason he has failed to earn the title of crew chief. If Hernandez has a case, we’d be curious to see the evidence.

The Rockies, losers of 10 of their last 11 games, return to the home comfort of Coors Field after a long and disastrous road trip and right themselves with a 5-3 victory over the Reds. Jeff Hoffman throws seven solid innings to earn his fifth win on the year—and makes Colorado the first team ever to have four rookies with five wins before the All-Star Break.

On their way to a 14-6 romp at St. Louis, the Cardinals rack up 11 runs in the first two-plus innings off Miami starter Jeff Locke before his removal. It’s the second time in 13 months that Locke—0-5 with an 8.16 ERA thus far in 2017—has allowed 11 runs in a start; the Marlins will not wait for a third time, as they designate him for assignment the next day.

Tuesday, July 4
Clayton Kershaw’s bid to complete the majors’ first no-hitter on the Fourth of July since Dave Righetti’s 1983 gem is stopped with one out in the seventh when Arizona’s Chris Owings reaches on an infield single at Los Angeles. The Dodgers ace will finish the night allowing two hits and striking out 11 through seven shutout innings as the bullpen narrowly avoids blowing the lead and survives with a 4-3 win, increasing Los Angeles’ hold of the NL West over the second-place Diamondbacks to 3.5 games.

The Red Sox’ David Price hurls six shutout frames and gets more than enough support from his teammates—especially rookie Andrew Benintendi, who goes 5-for-5 with a double, two homers and six RBIs to help quash the Rangers at Texas, 11-4. It’s the sixth straight win for Boston, which commands the AL East by four games over New York.

Benintendi, the consensus preseason pick for AL Rookie of the Year, is playing will enough to earn the award—but so is the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Baltimore’s Trey Mancini.

Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer outlasts the Cubs’ Jon Lester in Chicago as the Rays send the defending champions a game back below the .500 mark with a 6-5 victory. It’s the first time the Rays have faced Chicago since Joe Maddon left St. Petersburg to manage the Cubs.

Milwaukee slugger Eric Thames, hitting well below .200 since his hot start peaked in mid-May, revives a little bit of that early-season magic by drilling two homers to give the Brewers a 6-2 home win over Baltimore and increase their lead in the NL Central over the Cubs to 3.5 games.

The Giants’ six-game win streak—easily their longest of the season—comes to an end at Detroit as the Tigers’ Michael Fulmer throws eight frames to lock down a 5-3 victory. He does allow a first-inning home run to Hunter Pence, the first he’s conceded in his last 74 innings; that had been the majors’ longest streak since the Giants’ Chris Heston went 78.1 frames without giving up one in 2015.

Gene Conley, who won championship rings for both the Milwaukee Braves and basketball’s Boston Celtics during the 1950s, dies at the age of 86. The 6’8” pitcher experienced the initial love given by Milwaukee fans who flooded County Stadium after the Braves’ move from Boston, excelling as a rookie in 1954 with a 14-9 record and 2.96 ERA; he never quite matched that effort in nine ensuing big league years but remained a competent starting pitcher, ultimately posting a 91-96 record and 3.82 ERA. Early in his baseball career, Conley played offseason hoops for the Celtics, focusing full-time on baseball from 1953-58; he returned to the Celtics after a poor 1958 season in Milwaukee, angering the Braves—who released him. Conley played three more seasons with the Celtics, winning NBA titles each time for legendary coach Red Auerbach, but also continued to pitch elsewhere, with the Philadelphia Phillies (1959-60) and the Boston Red Sox, post-Ted Williams (1961-63). After his playing days, he helped establish a pension for NBA players who performed before 1965.

Wednesday, July 5
The Yankees erase an early 5-0 lead at home against Toronto with the help of Aaron Judge, whose 29th home run of the year ties the franchise rookie home run season mark held by Joe DiMaggio in 1936—still, with essentially half the season to play. But the Blue Jays counter late and emerge victorious, 7-6, with the help of Yankee set-up reliever Dellin Betances—who walks four in the eighth and allows the ultimate winning run to score.

In his last four appearances totaling 2.2 innings, Betances has walked 10 batters and been charged with three losses.

Judge’s homer is his 20th in 39 home games this season, breaking the major league record for the fewest games needed to reach the milestone.

There’s no stopping the Astros, who improve to 58-27—and 31-9 on the road—with a 10-4 blitzing of the Braves in Atlanta one night after a 16-4 romp. Houston’s top three batters in the lineup—George Springer, Jose Altuve and Josh Reddick—combine to go 18-for-31 with five doubles, three homers and two steals in the short two-game sweep.

Only two teams started a season with a similar or better record on the road: The 1906 Cubs and the 2001 Seattle Mariners, both of whom finished the year with 116 wins.

Thursday, July 6
In Miami’s 4-3 loss at St. Louis, the Marlins’ Ichiro Suzuki collects two hits to pass Rod Carew for 24th on the all-time list—and becomes #1 among all foreign-born players. Suzuki is certain to leap two more spots as he’s six hits behind Craig Biggio at #22; with a little more everyday play this summer, he could enter the top 20 as he’s 61 hits behind Alex Rodriguez, at #20.

Forced to spend a scheduled off-day in Chicago for a make-up from a May “rainout” in which Cubs officials predicted more rain than actually occurred, the surprising, first-place Brewers make a one-and-done statement on the current status of the NL Central by thumping the Cubs, 11-2. The win increases the Brewers’ lead to 4.5 games and drops the defending champions back below .500.

Kyle Schwarber, exiled to the minors for two weeks, returns to the Cubs and goes 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, dropping his season average to .168.

Down 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers rally by sending seven men to the plate, all of whom reach safely—with the first four scoring to ice a 5-4 win and secure a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks, giving Los Angeles a 5.5-game lead in the NL West. Arizona’s Fernando Rodney, about as hot-and-cold as a closer can be, follows up his first blown save in two months from a couple days earlier with a dreadful effort in which he is charged with all four ninth-inning runs on two hits and four walks (one intentional).

Pittsburgh rookie first baseman Josh Bell makes up for an egregious fielding gaffe at Philadelphia by launching a two-run home run and, later, a tie-breaking double in the eighth to ignite a three-run rally and cement a 6-3 win over the Phillies. Although hitting .229 on the year, Bell’s 16 homers are the most before the All-Star Break by a Pirates rookie, toppling the 1946 mark previously held by Ralph Kiner.

Friday, July 7
Two days after tying Joe DiMaggio’s franchise season record for home runs by a rookie, the Yankees’ Aaron Judge breaks it with his 30th of the season, thus becoming the first major leaguer this year to reach the milestone. But it’s again not enough, as the Yankees drop their 17th game in their last 23 to the visiting Brewers, 9-4. Milwaukee’s win comes in spite of five errors—four within the first four innings alone—and thanks to Jesus Aguilar, who drives in seven runs with two homers, one a seventh-inning grand slam that breaks the game open.

Judge becomes only the second rookie to have 30 homers before the All-Star Break; Mark McGwire (with 33 in 1987) is the other.

Toronto pitcher Aaron Sanchez makes his first appearance in seven weeks and gets the unfortunate task of facing the rampaging Astros—who show no mercy to last year’s 15-2 breakout star with eight runs (five earned) over just 1.2 innings on their way to a 12-2 rout over the Blue Jays. George Springer has a prodigious night for Houston, going 4-for-4 with four runs, five RBIs, a double and two homers.

The Texas Rangers spank the Los Angeles Angels at Arlington, 10-0, as Adrian Beltre becomes the 21st major leaguer to reach 5,000 career total bases with a home run and single. Only Albert Pujols has more among active players; it’s possible that Beltre could reach as high as #17 on the list before season’s end.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona undergoes a heart procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat that’s been bedeviling him for much of the season. He is asked to rest up and miss his date managing the AL All-Star team in the next week.

Saturday, July 8
The Dodgers continue to be handed victories in the clutch. A few days after being gifted a win by Arizona closer Fernando Rodney, the Kansas City Royals do the same by walking the first four Los Angeles batters in the 10th inning—the final pass, to Clay Bellinger, sending Chase Utley home with the winning run in a 5-4 Dodger triumph. Los Angeles becomes the majors’ first team to reach 60 wins; it only needs to go 40-33 the rest of the way to establish its first 100-win season since 1974.

In one of those days where the home fans shout out in unison, “We paid top dollar for this?”, the Nationals suffer their worst shutout loss at Nationals Park since its 2005 opening as the Atlanta Braves administer a 13-0 punishment. Stephen Strasburg is done after three innings, allowing six runs (three earned) on two walks and no strikeouts while getting hit in the hip by a comebacker; Julio Teheran, his counterpart, tosses seven shutout innings and drives in three runs on a pair of singles. Teheran is 6-0 on the road with a 2.53 ERA; in nine starts at Atlanta’s SunTrust Park, he’s 1-6 with a 7.58 mark.

It’s a big day—and the continuation of a big series—for St. Louis rookie Paul DeJong at home against the Mets. The 23-year-old second baseman, after a 3-for-4 effort with a home run and double the night before, goes 4-for-4 with three doubles and a homer in the Cardinals’ 4-1 victory over New York. Adam Wainwright improves to 10-5 on the year with 6.2 strong innings of work, but his ERA remains at a shaky 5.20.

DeJong will add another homer the next day to become the first rookie in the modern era (since 1900) to collect seven extra-base hits in a three-game series.

Sunday, July 9
Rookie Colorado pitcher Kyle Freeland takes a no-hitter into the ninth inning at Coors Field before the Chicago White Sox’ Melky Cabrera breaks it up with a one-out single on his 126th pitch of the day. The Rockies still romp, 10-0, as Freeland takes a no-hitter deeper into a game at Denver than any pitcher except for Hideo Nomo, who completed the only no-no ever thrown at Coors Field in 1996.

The only no-hitter ever thrown by the Rockies remains Ubaldo Jimenez’s 2010 gem at Atlanta.

The All-Star Break couldn’t come at a worse time for the Astros, whose bats are flaming hot. Houston bludgeons the Blue Jays at Toronto, 19-1, behind 17 hits, nine for extra bases. The carnage includes a four-hit, five-RBI day for Carlos Correa and the fifth straight three-hit effort for Jose Altuve, who now leads all major leaguers with a .347 batting average. The rout gives Houston a 60-29 record; their 96-66 mark since the end of last year’s break is the AL’s best.

It’s been quite a week for Houston’s offense. In their last six games, the Astros have collectively hit .359 with 25 doubles, 15 homers, 60 RBIs and eight steals in 234 at-bats. That’s Willie Mays-like.

It just gets worse for the defending champion Cubs, limping into the break with a 43-45 record and virtually no All-Star presence. The visiting Pirates gang up for 10 first-inning runs on Jon Lester, who suffers through his shortest start ever by outs (two), and sail from there to a 14-3 victory. Six of the 10 runs allowed by Lester are unearned, thanks to two errors—including the 13th of the year by Willson Contreras, who’s well on pace to become the first catcher since Benito Santiago (in 1989) to be tagged with at least 20 in one season.

Clayton Kershaw racks up his major league-leading 14th win with a complete-game effort on 99 pitches, Justin Turner smokes two home runs and the Dodgers roll into the break having won 26 of their last 30 games with a 5-2 triumph at Los Angeles over the Royals. It’s the first time this year—and the 25th time in his career—that Kershaw has gone the distance; he also threw nine innings against St. Louis on May 23, but that game went into extra innings.

The Dodgers’ +163 run differential is the highest at the All-Star Break in NL history.

Seattle ace Felix Hernandez caps an otherwise forgettable first half on a positive note against, who else, the Oakland A’s—who he shuts down over six shutout innings to lift the Mariners to a 4-0 home win. It’s Hernandez’s 24th victory (with nine losses) against the A’s, the most by any active pitcher versus one opponent.

Monday, July 10
This year’s Home Run Derby, one of the more anticipated in recent times, ends all too appropriately with heralded rookie Yankees slugger Aaron Judge defeating Minnesota’s Miguel Sano in the final round to win the competition. Judge hits four balls over 500 feet, including the longest at 513—no other participant reaches 500—and another towering shot is rejected by the Marlins Park retractable roof ceiling, which doesn’t count as a home run.

Two home-team stars suffer frustrating first-round exits in the Derby. Defending champion Giancarlo Stanton is ousted in the first round by the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez (who loses to Sano in the second round), while Stanton’s Miami teammate Justin Bour—experiencing a “life is unfair” moment—has the second highest total of any player in a single round with 22 homers, but is eliminated by Judge and his 23 blasts.

In a town hall meeting at Miami, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is asked numerous questions about the state of the game and what changes may be on the horizon. For the most part, Manfred’s answers reflect a status quo tone; he doesn’t “foresee” the designated hitter being used in the National League, dodges the question on whether baseball will retire Roberto Clemente’s #21 jersey, likes the current unbalanced schedule versus the concept of a more balanced one, and expects no draconian rule changes on the horizon under his watch. Manfred also intimates a frustrating lack of progress with the players’ union on pace-of-play improvements, and won’t touch expansion until Oakland and Tampa Bay resolve their lack-of-new-ballpark situations. He does, however, call out three cities as possible future expansion options: Montreal, Charlotte and Mexico City.

Tuesday, July 11
Robinson Cano, a late entry to the All-Star Game roster after several other players bowed out, delivers for the American League in the 10th inning with a solo home run off Wade Davis to give the junior circuit a 2-1 victory over the National League. It’s the AL’s fifth straight All-Star victory and 17th in its last 21 attempts, and it evens up the all-time record between the two leagues at 43 wins apiece, with two ties. Cano’s extra-inning homer comes 50 years to the day of the last one in All-Star Game annals, when Tony Perez clocked one in the 15th to give the NL a 2-1 win at Anaheim in 1967.

Underscoring how disappointing a year it’s been for the Cubs, Davis gets tagged with the loss as the lone participant for the defending champions.

Fox has a rather interesting way of making the All-Star Game more personable, sending sideline reports Ken Rosenthal and Alex Rodriguez literally out onto the field to interview players seconds before the action begins, while micing up NL left fielder Bryce Harper and having him converse with Joe Buck during one inning. Outside of Harper, the other players interviewed have almost nothing to say, rendering the whole exercise somewhat worthless.

Thursday, July 13
The first major trade of the 2017 season takes place as White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana, heavily rumored to be on his way out of Chicago earlier in the year, is staying in town—but moving up to Wrigley Field as the Cubs snag him for four minor leaguers. One of those is outfielder Eloy Jimenez, currently ranked as baseball’s #5 prospect. Quintana is 4-8 with a 4.49 ERA, but the Cubs, two games below .500, are desperate for back-end rotation help to boost their chances of passing the first-place Brewers in the NL Central in defense of their 2016 world title.

The Tampa Bay Rays cryptically announce that outfielder Colby Rasmus is taking the rest of the year off to “step away from baseball.” Nothing more is said, except that the Rays are asking the media to respect the “privacy of Colby and his family” and that there will be “no further comment” on the matter. Though nagged with hip issues, the 30-year-old Rasmus has otherwise put together strong numbers by his standards thus far in 2017, hitting .281 with nine home runs and 23 RBIs in only 121 at-bats.

Rasmus’ brother will later reveal there’s no crisis in Colby's life, and that he just didn’t want to go through the rehab process on his hip—even if it made him earn the remaining $2.2 million owed to him.

Friday, July 14
The Red Sox give up on and designate for assignment Pablo Sandoval, who has struggled from the moment he signed a five-year, $95 million deal with Boston. You name it, Sandoval’s gone through it over the past two-plus years: Bad hitting, bad defense, injuries, busted belt buckles, and so on. The 30-year-old Sandoval has played 161 games for Boston, hitting .237 with 14 homers, 59 RBIs and 21 errors at third base.

After being released, Sandoval will find one taker for reclamation: The Giants, his former team, who sign him to a minor league deal.

The Yankees, looking to turn a new leaf after winning just seven of their last 25 games before the All-Star Break, are stunned at Boston as closer Aroldis Chapman faces five Red Sox players in the ninth—and they all reach, with two scoring to win, 5-4. The winning run comes home on a bases-loaded walk to Andrew Benintendi.

The news only gets worse for the Yankees off the field, as pitcher Michael Pineda is revealed to have a partial tear in his elbow and will need to undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2017 campaign. Pineda was 8-4 with a 4.39 ERA.

The majors’ two best first-half teams, by the record, show no let-up as the second half begins. The Astros hit double digits for the 15th time this year, smashing the Minnesota Twins at Houston, 10-5; Jose Altuve has two hits but ends a streak of five straight games in which he had collected at least three. Meanwhile in Miami, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig belts two home runs—the second a three-run shot in the ninth—to pull Los Angeles to a 6-4 win over the Marlins.

After a 39-game layoff, Mike Trout returns to the Angels and has a single in five at-bats during a 2-1, 10-inning loss to Tampa Bay. The Angels’ lone run comes courtesy of Albert Pujols’ 605th career homer; nine of his shots have come in the first game after the All-Star Break, the most for any major leaguer past or present.

Saturday, July 15
It feels like the first time for a couple of Dodgers as Los Angeles takes down the Marlins at Miami, 7-1, for their 28th win in their last 32 tries. Cody Bellinger becomes the first Dodger rookie to hit for the cycle, while Alex Wood throws six shutout innings to become the first Dodger ever to start a season at 11-0.

On the mound for the first time in nearly three months since wrecking his shoulder in an off-day dirt bike accident, San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner tosses seven solid innings against the Padres at San Diego before leaving with the game deadlocked at 3-3. That tie is broken in the ninth by former Giants back-up catcher Hector Sanchez, whose two-run homer sends the Padres home as 5-3 victors.

This is the second time this season that Sanchez, hitting .196 with scant play, has foiled his ex-teammates. On April 30, his two-run homer in the ninth erased a 2-0 Giants lead at San Francisco, and the Padres went on to win in 12, 5-2.

After Chris Sale’s latest gem—7.2 innings, no runs and 13 Ks—Boston closer Craig Kimbrel is asked to record a four-out save, but he serves up a leadoff, game-tying homer to the Yankees’ Matt Holliday in the ninth, setting up a long extension on the afternoon that will last until the 16th frame. That’s when New York rallies for three runs that the Red Sox will not be able to answer, and the Yankees prevail, 4-1.

For Kimbrel, the blown save is the first of his career at Fenway Park after successfully converting 30 opportunities.

Both bullpens total 17.1 innings and 280 pitches, one day before a scheduled day-night doubleheader.

Sunday, July 16
In his first start for the Cubs since being traded from the White Sox earlier in the week, Jose Quintana throws seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits while striking out 12 in Chicago’s 8-0 win at Baltimore. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo each go deep to aid Quintana offensively.

The Rangers are an out away from forcing extra innings at Kansas City, but a fly ball to right from Lorenzo Cain is dropped by Texas outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who loses his fight with the sun to score the winning run for the Royals from third base. The 4-3 loss for the Rangers ends a 12-game winning streak against the Royals, one shy of the franchise record for consecutive victories against one team.

In a day-night doubleheader, the Yankees and Red Sox exchange 3-0 results as starting pitching from both sides excels and keeps rested a bullpen exhausted from a 16-inning battle the day before. The Yankees’ CC Sabathia allows just two hits through six scoreless innings in the day affair, while Boston’s David Price returns the favor at night, dealing eight shutout frames to outduel Masahiro Tanaka.

The Washington Nationals, desperate for relief as their bullpen lags without a proven closer and the majors’ worst relief ERA at 5.34, send reliever Blake Treinen and two minor leaguers to the Oakland A’s for Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle—two relievers with closing experience.

Monday, July 17
The Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman belts his first home run in five weeks, his 20th of the season—and the 235th of his career to become the all-time Expos/Nationals franchise leader in Washington’s 6-1 victory at Cincinnati. Zimmerman had shared the record with Vladimir Guerrero.

The Astros rally late at home but lose to Seattle in 10 innings, 9-7. But that’s not all they lose; All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa aggravates a thumb injury suffered a few days earlier and leaves the game—and it’s determined afterward that he will miss up to eight weeks.

Nelson Cruz registers his 20th homer for the Mariners, the ninth straight year he has reached the milestone. He is matched among active players only by Houston catcher Brian McCann—though with 11 dingers this year, he is a tad behind pace to keep his streak going.

The Giants are defeated at home to Cleveland, 4-3, before a crowd of 39,538—some 1,000 short of capacity at AT&T Park to officially end a streak of 530 consecutive sellouts, the longest in National League history and the second longest ever after the Red Sox’ run of 820 straight earlier this decade.

Many claim that the Giants’ sellout streak is bogus, because on numerous occasions the team has provided hundreds of complimentary (and otherwise unsold) tickets per game that lead to a technical sellout, even if all those passes aren’t used. It’s also easy to note something fishy when a “full” ballpark includes swathes of empty seats in the farthest reaches of the upper deck, a common sight during the Giants’ sellout run.

Tuesday, July 18
Two sizeable trades take place as contending teams begin to make their moves prior to the trading deadline. The Arizona Diamondbacks, in an attempt to help solidify their standing as a wild card participant, acquire Detroit slugger J.D. Martinez for three minor leaguers. The Yankees, meanwhile, trade reliever Tyler Clippard and three prospects to the White Sox for third baseman Todd Frazier, reliever Tommy Kahnle and once-upon-a-time Yankees closer David Robertson. The idea is that Frazier will take over at third in New York and move Chase Headley to first, a spot that’s been a glaring weakness for the Yankees this season with the fizzled promise of young Greg Bird.

Bartolo Colon, released last month by Atlanta, doesn’t impress in his first start for his new team, the Minnesota Twins, during a 6-3 home loss to the Yankees. The 44-year-old Colon allows four runs on eight hits through four innings before being lifted and is charged with the loss.

For the second time this season, the Dodgers run up a win streak to 10 as they top the White Sox in Chicago, 1-0, behind Clayton Kershaw’s seven shutout innings. The Los Angeles ace matches a career high by winning his eighth straight start. Justin Turner has a double in five trips to the plate and now has enough at-bats to qualify for the league lead in batting—which he does, with a .370 clip.

Only twice before have the Dodgers had multiple win streaks of 10 or more wins in one season, in 1953 and 1955.

The good news for the Mets is that St. Louis rookie Paul DeJong finally doesn’t go deep against them after he had done so the previous four games. The bad news is that they are shut down at home by the Cardinals’ Michael Wacha, who fires a 5-0, three-hit shutout for his career complete game.

Baltimore slugger Chris Davis, whose .197 career batting average against Texas (his original team) is the lowest among all AL teams he has faced, makes up with two home runs—including a fourth-inning grand slam—and six RBIs as the Orioles trample over the Rangers at Camden Yards, 12-1.

Arguably the game’s two best hitters—Washington’s Bryce Harper and the Angels’ Mike Trout—get the rare chance to face off against one another in Anaheim, and neither disappoint. Especially Harper, whose four hits include two singles, a triple and a home run to lift the Nationals to a 4-3 win. Trout drives in two of the Angels’ runs, one on a solo homer in the first.

Wednesday, July 19
Nolan Arenado has a massive game even by Coors Field standards, as the Rockies’ All-Star third baseman bangs out five hits including three home runs and drives in seven during Colorado’s 18-4 clobbering of San Diego. It’s the 20th time a major league has hit three homers at 22-year-old Coors; among active ballparks, the only two that have seen more such performances are Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park—both of which are over 100 years old.

The game is not televised locally by the Rockies’ regional sports network, AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain as one of 12 not on the 2017 TV schedule. That seems strange in a day and age when RSNs rule and practically exist for the sole purpose of getting every game on the air.

Another day, another Dodgers win. Kike Hernandez’s two home runs are among four hit on the day by Los Angeles in a rain-shortened, 9-1 romp at Chicago over the White Sox. The Dodgers have won 31 of their last 35 games; the last team to do that was the 1977 Kansas City Royals.

The game is noted as the White Sox debut of highly touted prospect Yoan Moncada, the 22-year-old Cuban émigré who played briefly at the end of last year for Boston. Moncada is 0-for-2 with a walk.

The first-place Brewers may be starting to sweat looking at the out-of-town scoreboard. Breakout closer Corey Knebel blows a 2-1 lead in the ninth at Pittsburgh, and then Milwaukee loses an inning later, 3-2, on Max Moroff’s run-scoring single. It’s the Brewers’ fourth straight loss, and combined with the Cubs winning their sixth straight at Atlanta, 8-2, their lead in the NL Central is now down to 1.5 games.

Knebel not only suffers his fifth blown save of the season, but also fails to record a strikeout after doing so in his previous 46 appearances. He thus falls three games shy of the all-time major league mark held by Aroldis Chapman, from 2013-14.

The first day of the J.D. Martinez era in Arizona doesn’t go well. The ex-Tiger, playing his first game for the Diamondbacks, strikes out twice and then is hit on the hand in his third plate appearance; he’ll be listed as day-to-day. His late absence perhaps hurt the Snakes, who lose in 11 innings at Cincinnati, 4-3; it’s the first extra-innings loss for Arizona, which had won a franchise-record six straight games that had gone past the ninth.

Thursday, July 20
The Pirates make it a clean four-game sweep of the Brewers at Pittsburgh, prevailing 4-2 to reach the .500 mark for the first time since April 16. Speaking of comebacks, the Bucs win all four games against Milwaukee while trailing at some point in each.

Jake Lamb belts two of Arizona’s four homers at Cincinnati, and drives in six runs to ease the Diamondbacks to a 12-2 spanking of the Reds—despite outhitting them by only a 9-8 margin.

Friday, July 21
Atlanta pitcher Jaime Garcia, heavily rumored to be on the trading block, gains some positive publicity in Los Angeles—but more for what he does with the bat. Garcia tames the Dodgers over seven innings, but his fifth-inning grand slam off of Alex Wood breaks open the game and coasts Atlanta to a 12-3 cooling of the Dodgers—who lose two straight for the first time in six weeks. It’s the first grand slam hit by an Atlanta pitcher since Tony Cloninger famously hit two in a 1966 contest—and it’s only the third hit by a pitcher on an 0-2 count since 1930.

The loss is the first for Wood after running off 11 straight wins to begin the year, and his ERA jumps from 1.56 to 2.17. Because of an early-season injury, he still doesn’t have enough innings to qualify for the ERA lead—though at this point, he’d now be second behind teammate Clayton Kershaw (2.07).

Garcia will be traded three days later to the Minnesota Twins—and then a week later, he’ll be dealt again, to the Yankees.

The Diamondbacks give Washington ace Max Scherzer, who began his career with Arizona, a rude welcome back in Phoenix, with their first three batters (David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb) all going deep in the first inning. Scherzer manages to last five innings and the Nationals eventually tie the game, but the Diamondbacks break it up and win in the ninth on Brandon Drury’s game-winning single, 6-5.

This is the fifth time in major league history that a team has started a game with three consecutive homers. All five occurrences have taken place since 1987.

The Red Sox strike for five runs in the first off of the Angels’ Ricky Nolasco, and Chris Sale takes it from there by striking out nine over six scoreless innings as Boston breezes to a 6-2 victory at Anaheim. Sale is the first pitcher this season to eclipse 200 Ks—and he’s only the fourth ever to do it in 20 or fewer starts; the other three are—no surprise here—Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

The Cubs’ high-flying start to their second half crashes and burns in the eighth inning at Wrigley Field against the Cardinals, who rally for nine runs to turn a small Chicago lead into an 11-4 St. Louis rout. The Cubs had won their first six games since the All-Star Break, their longest unbeaten post-ASG run since 1935.

Saturday, July 22
Houston rookie Colin Moran, playing just his second game of the season, hits a ball in the sixth inning at Baltimore that ricochets off his left eye, sending him to the hospital. Marwin Gonzalez takes his place and immediately cranks out a three-run homer, putting the Astros head of the Orioles to stay in an 8-4 win.

The Brewers snap a six-game losing streak, but it doesn’t come easy—blowing an 8-1 lead to the Phillies at Philadelphia before rebounding to win in the ninth, 9-8, on a Domingo Santana single. Ryan Braun goes 3-for-3 with a single, double, home run and four RBIs, and has a lifetime .367 batting average against the Phillies; only Rogers Hornsby has a higher mark against Philadelphia.

On a day when MLB sees 10 or more triples for the second straight day—the first such two-day occurrence since 2010—some of the three-baggers take on either a historical or intriguing note. To wit:

As the Mets scratch back from a 5-0 deficit to win 6-5 on Wilmer Flores’ walk-off homer in the ninth, Jose Reyes hits two triples for his ninth multi-triple game of his career. Willie Mays and Arky Vaughan are the only two players who debuted after the end of the Deadball Era—when triples were abundant—to have had as many as 10 such games.

Reyes is the active leader in career triples with 127; Ichiro Suzuki is second on that list with 96.

Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon collects his 20th double and 13th triple of the year in the Rockies’ 7-3 home win over Pittsburgh, ending the Pirates’ six-game win streak. With 22 homers on the year, Blackmon now needs seven more triples to become only the fifth player ever to have 20 doubles, triples and homers each on the year; at his current pace, he’ll have 21 triples by year’s end.

In the Padres’ 5-4, 12-inning loss at San Francisco, San Diego starting pitcher Luis Perdomo hits his third triple of the year—and he’s done it in just 24 at-bats. His three three-baggers match the total of all other pitchers on the year to date.

Sunday, July 23
Recently activated from the disabled list, Baltimore closer Zack Britton earns his first save since April 14—and his 55th straight without a blown save to set an AL record—in the Orioles’ 9-7 win over Houston. Britton still needs 29 straight successful saves to tie the major league record held by Eric Gagne.

It’s bad news for two of the game’s premier pitchers whose starts are curtailed by injuries after a few innings. In Los Angeles, major league ERA leader Clayton Kershaw departs after two scoreless frames of the Dodgers’ 5-4, 10-inning win over Atlanta with lower back pain; he is expected to miss the next six weeks of action. Over in Phoenix, Washington’s Stephen Strasburg also departs after two shutout innings in the Nationals’ 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks with forearm stiffness; he’ll be placed on the 10-day disabled list.

The Cubs defeat the Cardinals at Chicago, 5-3, and coupled with Milwaukee’s 6-3 loss at Philadelphia now take over the NL Central lead by percentage points. It’s the first time they’ve been technically ahead in the division since June 6.

Brett Gardner belts a leadoff homer in the first and Didi Gregorius adds two blasts as the Yankees overcome the Mariners, 6-4, and take three of four games at Seattle—their first series win after losing or splitting 10 in a row, their longest winless streak since 1991.

Monday, July 24
Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton belts two homers to tie Aaron Judge for the major league lead with 32, and the Marlins shut down the Rangers at Arlington, 4-0, behind Adam Conley’s seven shutout innings. Despite the blanking, the Rangers get a 4-for-4 night from Adrian Beltre, who ups his career hit total to 2,993.

The White Sox snap a nine-game losing skid in most satisfying fashion, defeating the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field, 3-1. It’s also the first win for the Pale Hose since trading Jose Quintana to the Cubs.

Tuesday, July 25
The Yankees defeat the Reds at New York, 4-2, as their first run scores under the most unusual of circumstances: On a triple play in the second inning by Todd Frazier, in his first at-bat at Yankee Stadium wearing pinstripes since his trade from the White Sox. You might ask: How is it possible to score on a triple play, since it usually ends the inning? Because the run would count if the baserunner scored before any out that would have to be the result of a tag, not a force play.

Cleveland’s Bradley Zimmer highlights a seven-run second against the Angels with a grand slam—and after the Indians blow that lead, Edwin Encarnacion wins it in the 11th with another slam, 11-7. It’s the first time in major league history that a team has won a game with two grand slams, one in walk-off fashion.

Wednesday, July 26
What may be the last appearance for Yu Darvish (source of many trade rumors) in a Texas uniform doesn’t go very well. He serves up a first-pitch home run to the Marlins’ Dee Gordon—his first of the year—and then gets shelled off the mound in the fourth, having allowed a career-high 10 runs in 3.2 innings. The Marlins don’t stop there, ultimately destroying the Rangers, 22-10, behind eight doubles, two triples and four homers—including the 33rd of the year for Giancarlo Stanton, who takes the major league lead over Aaron Judge.

The 22 runs set a Marlins franchise record; the 32 combined runs are just one short of the all-time mark in an interleague contest, when the Marlins lost 25-8 in a 2003 game at Boston.

The Royals win their eighth straight game by bashing the Tigers at Detroit, 16-2, behind Eric Hosmer—who has five hits including his first career grand slam, and six RBIs. However, the Royals make up no ground on the front-running Indians, who win their sixth straight with a 10-4 home trouncing of the Angels.

The A’s are discovering why the Giants weren’t anxious to re-sign Santiago Casilla. Oakland takes a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth at Toronto, but Casilla serves up a game-tying homer to Justin Smoak—and then the game-winner to Kendrys Morales, giving the Blue Jays a 3-2 win. Casilla has 22 save opportunities on the year for Oakland—and has blown six of them, while his season ERA stands at a wobbly 4.66.

J.D. Martinez is making up for lost time after being hit on the wrist in his first game with Arizona following a trade from Detroit. The slugger drills a pair of two-run homers, and the Diamondbacks cruise to a 10-3 rout of the Atlanta Braves to take a one-game lead over Colorado (who gets swept in St. Louis) in the NL wild card race.

Thursday, July 27
The Washington Nationals, who’ve enjoyed more than their share of prodigious offensive displays this year, add to their season’s achievements by bashing a franchise record-tying eight homers—including a major league record-tying five in the second inning alone—in a 15-2 home rout of Milwaukee. All eight homers are hit before the end of the fourth inning; the five in the second are all surrendered by Brewers pitcher Michael Blazek, making his first major league start after 108 relief appearances over parts of four seasons. For that, he goes in the record book for the most homers allowed in one inning by a single pitcher, ever.

In 120.1 career innings entering this start, Blazek had allowed 13 home runs—one per 9.2 innings pitched.

Max Scherzer coasts to his 12th victory and reaches 200 strikeouts for the sixth successive season.

With the Brewers losing, the Cubs move up 1.5 games into the NL Central lead with a 6-3 road win over the White Sox on the South Side of Chicago. Kyle Schwarber belts two home runs and a triple while knocking in four runs for the Cubs; despite a .191 batting average, Schwarber is slugging .434 and his OPS (slugging and on-base percentages combined) is .742.

J.D. Martinez continues to prove his immediate worth to the Diamondbacks. The ex-Tiger accounts for all of the game’s runs on one swing of the bat—a fourth-inning grand slam—to give Arizona a 4-0 win at St. Louis.

The Indians finish a 7-0 homestand—they’ve never gone undefeated in one of eight or more games—with a 2-1 victory over the Angels. Francisco Lindor’s RBI single in the seventh proves to be the game-winner, and Trevor Bauer pitches eight innings to earn the victory on the mound.

Friday, July 28
The Yankees win their fifth straight game, 6-1 over Tampa Bay, and take over first place in the AL East over the Red Sox behind three home runs (by Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge) and a dazzling performance by Masahiro Tanaka, who allows a run on two hits with 14 strikeouts and no walks over eight innings. The Yankees are 16-0 this season in games in which Gardner has homered.

The lone Rays run is supplied on a home run by Lucas Duda, playing his first game with Tampa Bay after being traded by the Mets.

Arizona pitcher Robbie Ray, enjoying something of a breakout year, takes a direct shot to the left side of his head from a Harrison Bader line drive in the second inning at St. Louis; writhing in pain for several moments, Ray will be carted off the field and taken to a hospital where he is said to be doing okay. The Cardinals prevail, 1-0, on a Jedd Gyorko RBI single in the sixth.

Before a packed house at Milwaukee’s Miller Park—with many in the crowd rooting for the visiting Cubs—a crucial three-game series begins with the Brewers edging Chicago 2-1 behind seven shutout innings from Brent Suter. The Brewers skim the Cubs’ lead in the NL Central down to a half-game.

Houston ace Dallas Keuchel makes his first appearance in nearly two months and struggles, allowing three runs over three innings at Detroit before being removed. But the Astros’ bats, so potent throughout the year, get the job done again to win, 6-5; Josh Reddick’s three-run homer in the eighth—part of a five-RBI night—is the deciding blow.

Saturday, July 29
MLB sends an international schedule to all 30 teams that confirms that baseball will be going places over the next three years—and, for the first time starting in 2019, will venture into Europe. There are plans to hold multiple series in Mexico in April and/or May from 2018-21, in Puerto Rico next April and again in 2019, and perhaps in the Dominican Republic for the first time.

MLB also aims to begin the 2018-20 seasons in the Orient—with Japan specifically scheduled for 2019—but the stunner is its first foray across the Atlantic to England, where it plans to schedule games in 2019 and 2020. The likely setting will be London’s Olympic Stadium, which is large enough to fit a baseball field in without too much cutoff of outfield territory. The two teams most discussed for play in London are the Yankees and Red Sox—in part due to their worldwide rivalry, their proximity to Europe, and because the owners of both teams hold ownership ties to Premier League soccer teams in England.

Good thing or bad? Well, good in that it will showcase baseball in exotic environments, just as it previously has in locales such as Australia, Japan and Mexico. Bad, because the long travel and severe jet lag could mess up a team’s rhythm once they return to North America. And then there’s this: If the London games won’t be considered season openers, then when would they be played? You have to give the participating teams time to acclimate via flights of least seven hours and absorb all the extra public relations stunts that’s sure to come with such a special occasion.

The question coming into the day is which if two divisional rivals—the Royals and Indians—with long winning streaks will blink first. Turns out it will be Kansas City, but not without major effort to keep its run of nine straight wins alive. The Royals hold an 8-6 lead after six innings at Boston, but the Red Sox chip away, take the game into extras and win it on Eduardo Nunez’s ground out that brings Sandy Leon home on a daring sprint that somehow eludes the tag of Royals catcher Drew Butera. It’s the culmination of a memorable night for Nunez, traded just a few days earlier from San Francisco; he also belts two solo homers to aid the Red Sox’ victory.

While the Royals lose, the Indians keep their winning streak alive, taking their ninth straight by breaking up a 4-4 tie in the ninth when Brandon Guyer gets hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Cleveland leads Kansas City in the AL Central by three games.

Bryce Harper and Jose Altuve, two of baseball’s elite players, both see personal 19-game hitting streaks come to an end; both had been the longest active runs in baseball, and both occur in close losses for their teams. Harper is 0-for-4 in the Nationals’ 4-2 home defeat to Colorado, as German Marquez takes a perfect game into the sixth inning and lasts seven to improve to 9-4; Altuve is also 0-for-4, failing to spark the Astros in their 5-3 loss at Detroit.

Jacob deGrom fails in his shot to own his own spot in the Mets’ record book, being charged with the loss in a close 3-2 defeat at Seattle. He had won each of his previous eight starts to tie the franchise mark shared by three others.

For the Mariners, it’s the first time in over a month that they had won with three or fewer runs scored.

Sunday, July 30
Adrian Beltre smacks a fourth-inning double at Arlington against the Orioles for his 3,000th career hit, joining 30 other players who’ve reached the milestone, in the Rangers’ 10-6 loss. The 38-year-old third baseman becomes the first Dominican native to reach 3,000, and the fifth born outside of the U.S.; what’s also unusual about his achievement is that it took him fewer games to earn each of his “next” 1,000 hits—needing 1,020 games for his 1,000, 919 for his second, and 831 for the third.

This is the first time a player wearing a Rangers uniform has stroked his 3,000th hit. Nine teams have never seen one of their players reach the milestone, including three century-old franchises: The A’s, Dodgers and Phillies.

Beltre is the first 3,000-hit man to share at least 750 of those hits among three teams each: The Dodgers (949), Mariners (751) and Rangers (1,111). Only one other player, Doc Cramer, in major league history has done that, regardless of whether they reached 3,000 or not.

Down six runs headed in the bottom of the ninth, the Blue Jays rally with seven tallies, the final four coming on Steve Pearce’s grand slam—his second walk-off slam of the week—to defeat the Angels at Toronto, 11-10. No other major leaguer has ever had two walk-off grand slams in a year.

The Angels lose despite a good—and dubious—day for Albert Pujols, who snaps a 0-for-24 slump with three hits including two home runs. But he also grounds into his 350th career double play, tying Cal Ripken Jr. for the most in major league history.

Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen produces the third three-homer game of his career, all solo shots in a 7-1 beating of the Padres at San Diego. Only Willie Stargell and Ralph Kiner (with four each) have more hat tricks in Pirates history.

Everything the Dodgers seem to touch these days becomes magic. Falling behind 2-1 to the Giants at Los Angeles in the 11th, they get two runners on base but are down to their final strike when Kyle Farmer—making his major league debut—slaps a double down the right-field line to score both and win the game, 3-2. Farmer is the first player to win a game in his first career at-bat since 1995 since Tomas Perez did it for Toronto—and even Perez wasn’t walking up cold, having previously entered his first game as a pinch-runner.

The Dodgers’ win does end an all-time record streak of 51 straight victories in which they led at some point. In other words, they at no point had led in this game until the winning hit.

Two late solo home runs from rookie Victor Caratini (the first of his career) and Kris Bryant lift the Cubs to a 4-2 win at Milwaukee, giving Chicago a 2-1 series victory and a 2.5-game lead in the NL Central over the Brewers.

Lee May, a prodigious but all-but-forgotten slugger who collected 354 career homers, dies at the age of 74. The Birmingham, Alabama native played 18 years, starting with the Reds in 1965 and wrapping with the Royals in 1982. In between, he had three years of 30-plus homers—all in succession, for the 1969-71 Reds—three All-Star Game appearances and two World Series trips; he might have gone down as the hero of the 1970 Fall Classic for the Reds, hitting .389 with two homers and eight RBIs, had it not been for Brooks Robinson’s third base theatrics for the opposing Baltimore Orioles. May never got to taste any of the Reds’ championship glory to come; he was the main piece of a critical trade that sent him and two others to Houston after 1971 for Joe Morgan, Jack Billingham and three others.

As the trading deadline looms, several notable trades take place. For the second straight year, catcher Jonathan Lucroy changes addresses at the deadline, dealt from Texas (who grabbed him from Milwaukee a year ago) to the Colorado Rockies. The Cubs, meanwhile, acquire Detroit closer Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila for two minor leaguers, including top prospect Jeimer Candelario. And the White Sox continue their veteran purge, sending outfielder Melky Cabrera to Kansas City, where he enjoyed one of his finer years back in 2011.

Monday, July 31
There is expected movement in the hours and minutes up to the trading deadline at noon. The biggest takeaway from the activity is that the Dodgers—in supreme command of both the NL West and home field advantage for the postseason—nevertheless take no chances, bringing in Texas ace pitcher Yu Darvish, reliable Pittsburgh reliever Tony Watson and young Cincinnati reliever (and one-time top prospect) Tony Cingrani.

It more than appears that the Dodgers, who can play below-.500 baseball the rest of the way and still win 100 games, are going for the kill. This perhaps come from the anxiety of not having won a NL pennant of late, despite winning the NL West each of the past four seasons.

The other team making a major push is the Yankees, who after bringing in Jaime Garcia from Minnesota further bolster their rotation by dealing three minor leaguers to Oakland for Sonny Gray, who’s been rumored to be on the trading block since, well, almost the day he broke through at the major league level with the A’s.

Among the other last-minute transactions includes a deal that sends Toronto starting pitcher Francisco Liriano to Houston; the Red Sox picking up Mets reliever Addison Reed; and the Nationals adding Brandon Kintzler, who’s been the closer for Minnesota since Glen Perkins’ health struggles.

Washington’s Gio Gonzalez takes a no-hitter into the ninth inning at Miami, but the Marlins’ Dee Gordon breaks it up with a leadoff single. Sean Doolittle replaces Gonzalez and allows another hit, but finishes off the 1-0 shutout for the Nationals.

The Blue Jays, who’ve specialized in providing walk-off comebacks over the past week, taste the more unfortunate side of such dramatics—blowing a 6-0 lead after six innings at Chicago as the White Sox rally for two in the bottom of the ninth to win, 7-6. The White Sox suffer the game’s most physical painful moment when hotshot rookie Yoan Moncada and All-Star outfielder Avisail Garcia collide in pursuit of a pop fly; Moncada has to be carted off the field.

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

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

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

© 2018 This Great Game.