This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: June, 2017
Will 2017 be the Year of the Home Run? Scoot the Moon, Gennett!
Joe West at 5,000 Goodbye, Jimmy Piersall


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
102 30 33 5 1 10 25 28 2 1 2

Back on Opening Day, Greg Bird was the word amongst the Yankee prospects ready to break out, while Judge was ready to be judged for dismissal into the Kyle Blanks category of Kong-sized sluggers who just couldn’t turn it on in the majors. Prognosticators be shamed: Bird is 6-for-60, and Judge is baseball’s most frightening basher with a chance of winning the MVP, Rookie of the Year and the hitters’ triple crown. The big man only got better this month and his reputation has grown along with pitchers’ reluctance to throw to him—hence all the walks. You know that the ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle are starting to watch this behemoth with full awe.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
105 22 30 9 0 13 27 9 4 0 4

Let’s go back to April 25 in San Francisco when all the hoopla was over Christian Arroyo, the big Giants prospect being introduced to the major league level. Quietly inserted that night into the opposing Dodgers lineup was Bellinger, another 21-year old with a bit of promise. You see another Bird-Judge comparison coming? Arroyo is back at Triple-A and on the disabled list, while Bellinger has become the NL’s version of Judge, pacing the circuit in home runs after a prodigious month. In one ten-game stretch, the kid with one of the sweetest uppercut swings you’ll ever see went deep ten times. Bellinger’s six multi-homer performances on the year to date is already just one shy of the rookie record, held by Mark McGwire in 1987.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
54 4 10 5 0 0 4 1 0 1 0

The veteran shortstop, one of the Orioles’ unsung heroes of recent years, was more unseen this past month—first with an invisible offense that produced the non-productive set of numbers above, and then just simply invisible after being plunked on the wrist by the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn. But have no fear, Hardy fans; he’s likely to get his job back when he returns from the disabled list circa the end of July, for the guys currently taking his place have been hitting even worse.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jett Bandy, Milwaukee Brewers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
38 1 2 0 0 0 0 3 0 1 0

As often stated in this column, we tend to give a benefit of a doubt to catchers who hit poorly by the month because of the hard work they have to put in behind the plate. But Bandy was hitting the ball so well to start the year, batting .269 with six jacks entering June…and then June came and went, and so did Bandy, banished to the minors after a dismal month shown above with 17 strikeouts. His early-season numbers are bound to get him a second look somewhere—maybe it won’t be in Milwaukee—but he’ll obviously have to do better than this.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
4-0 43 22 8 6 6 1 1 0 0 64

The 31-year-old ace virtually took all of May off to rest a bad back. Apparently it has healed. Kluber won four of his six starts in June but deserved to win them all, striking out 64 batters along the way—the most in one month by a Cleveland pitcher since Sam McDowell racked up 71 in 1970. He’s also sat down ten or more batters in his last four starts, tying a club record long held by the great Bob Feller. The Indians have struggled all year to kick it into high gear, and they’ll get much closer to that goal if Kluber can keep clicking consistently on his own.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
3-2 36.1 14 8 4 6 0 5 1 0 51

The Washington ace has been the source of much pitching greatness in years past, but he’s on target to, easily, put together his greatest campaign yet in 2017. This past month is a graphic reminder of that notion, as opponents hit just .114 against Scherzer, while his two losses were a result of a lack of offensive support. (You’d think the Nationals would slice off a little bit of that prodigious run output they give Joe Ross and reserve it for him.) Scherzer’s nearly 33, but his fastball is as alive as ever, averaging nearly 95 MPH; the Nationals, bruised up by injury and a clueless bullpen, are crossing their fingers that his arm doesn’t suddenly implode.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-4 27.2 42 28 28 8 0 0 3 1 16

With Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ—remember them?—unable to duplicate their 2016 successes, Blue Jays fans would at least think they can put their trust in Estrada, who over the past few years has been one of the majors’ more dependable backend rotation guys. It looks like they’ll have to look elsewhere after the 33-year-old Mexican native suffered through a series of unfortunate starts this past month. Three times he failed to get past the fourth inning, and his control (or lack thereof) became more alarming, with seven walks in just 4.1 innings of work on June 30 against Boston. For the Blue Jays to make a serious run at another postseason, they’ll need Estrada to return to top form.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Amir Garrett, Cincinnati Reds

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-3 13.1 21 19 18 9 1 1 0 0 14

Once upon a time—say, back in April—the Reds were actually pitching like a major league team, and the 25-year-old right-hander who hails from California’s High Desert was part of the reason, with five of his first six starts registering as “quality” in the major league guidebook. That was then; this is now. As Garrett goes, so goes the Reds—and both have been dunked into the toilet, or, in Garrett’s case, Triple-A, after a rough June. “I still think I’m one of the best,” Garrett claimed to reporters as he was being demoted. Unfortunately, he’ll have to prove that all over again.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Kansas City Royals (17-9)

Threatened with an early break-up of their core players with free agency looming for Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar, the Royals got a renewed lease on life as they recovered from a dismal start to put themselves back in the postseason conversation after a strong June. Jason Vargas continued his career-year performance with a 6-0 record, but the key to the Royals’ success was the effort of the four pending free agents listed above, who combined to hit .311 with 22 home runs and 63 RBIs in 395 at-bats. Maybe they’ll all be somewhere else by this time next year, but at least now there’s hope for K.C. fans that this group will give them one last hurrah.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Los Angeles Dodgers (20-7)

Make it two months in a row in this category for Commander Cody and His Not-so-Lost Planet Airmen, as the Dodgers continue to keep arms’ length above the upstart Rockies and Diamondbacks in the NL West. The month’s highlights are many: The Dodgers won 15 of 16 games at one point, fielded the majors’ second best ERA in June, were lifted offensively by the aforementioned Cody Bellinger and a revived Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig and, lastly, ganged up to smack over 50 homers—something even Brooklyn’s legendary Boys of Summer could never do back at Ebbets Field.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Detroit Tigers (10-15)

The Tigers were in the same boat as the Royals on Opening Day; win quick, or look to unload. The Royals have since sailed into safer waters, while the Tigers are starting to plug the leaks. It’s true that Detroit finished the month only five games out and it hit the ball well (.281), but a flagging bullpen and some inopportune breaks sank the team to within percentage points of last place—and that’s the part that’s likely spooking some of the veteran players who’ve heard all the rumors that if the Tigers didn’t get into contention, a big midseason sell-off will follow. The whole AL Central has been a toss-up of sorts, so who knows where this will all go—but right now, it’s not very promising for the Tigers.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Philadelphia Phillies (9-18)

The Phillies must be thinking, damn that Ken Rosenthal—he had to get the Giants mad over some dumb article about refusal to do pregame stretches, and they go out and win four straight games to saddle the Phillies with their second straight appearance here (via run differential, for those wondering how we broke the tie between two teams who finished June at 9-18). Philly actually got off to a good start to the month, winning four of its first five games while Edubel Herrera hit everything in sight—but that euphoria quickly evaporated as the team lost 13 of its next 14. Adding frustration, the Phillies went into extra innings six times—and lost them all, including three straight at home; no major league team had ever done that latter achievement before. And to think: We had this team finishing the season at 83-79 back in March.


Wild Pitches

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

Not Quite as Potent as Tom Cruise’s Stick of Gum
The supposedly break-proof backstop at Marlins Park that doubles as an aquarium nearly did break on June 2, as Miami’s J.T. Realmuto lined a foul ball that cracked the fish tank. Officials were able to patch up the ding, continue play and cross their fingers that the whole thing wouldn’t suddenly burst open.

The Ultimate Man Cave Bling
The marriage license for Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe sold for $122,500 at an auction.

They’ll be No Fighting Over This Uniform
MLB put a stop to an online auction in which the jersey worn by San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland the day he instigated a fight with Washington’s Bryce Harper was being sold. The high bid was at $1,500

Blame it on Greinke
Longtime Arizona senator John McCain blamed his utterly confusing and incoherent questioning of former FBI head Jim Comey on staying up too late the night before watching the Diamondbacks play on TV.

While You Were Sleeping…
The Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista drew a walk, then noticed that none of the opposing Mariners players were minding second base.

Woodshock
Tim Tebow may never make it to the majors, but he likely has secured the top spot on the leaderboard of the Foul Bat Tracker.

Making Vin Scully Young
Rafael “Felo” Ramirez, the 94-year-old Spanish-language broadcaster for the Marlins who’s called the team’s games since its 1993 inception, returned to the booth after spending two months recovering from a fall while stepping off of the team bus.

Bad Cujo!
A dog won a race of the bases against a bunch of fans at a Frisco RoughRiders game in Texas, but not before bowling over one of the poor participants.

You Could Have Forfeited and Lost by the Same Score
The Twins really wanted to get in their June 22 game against the White Sox, and got their wish after forcing everyone to sit through a 4:50 rain delay, the longest in franchise history. Then they played the game—lost, 9-0.

The True Definition of a Die-Hard Fan
An obituary printed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch reads that Patrick Killebrew—no relation, we assume, to the late Harmon Killebrew—died on June 20 “after watching the Washington Nationals blow yet another lead.” It continued: “In lieu of flowers, send ‘donations’ to the ‘Nationals Bullpen Fund.’”

Safe!
Umpire John Tumpane prevented a suicidal woman from jumping off the Roberto Clemente Bridge while on his way to PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

More Fake News
As the Cubs visited the White House for the second time since winning the 2016 World Series—owner Tom Ricketts wanted President Donald Trump, a political ally, to get his chance to honor the team—the blogosphere erupted at the sight of a photo showing the Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. with all but his outstretched middle finger inside his pants pocket alongside Trump at his Oval Office desk. Almora later claimed it was unintentional and didn’t even know about it until someone showed him the image on social media.

And Joe Still Didn't Call it a Strike
Perhaps to help celebrate umpire Joe West’s recent milestone of working his 5,000th major league game, a fan at Milwaukee’s Miller Park threw a ball out of the stands and hit West in the back of the head.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
So the slow-moving, seemingly unstoppable glacier that’s overall monthly strikeouts had a mild recession in June, with 6,744 total Ks registered. While that’s 170 fewer than what we witnessed in May, it’s still the third highest monthly total in history. Maybe the hitters got lucky and just connected more, as we’ll learn next.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Hitting Home Runs
The emerging story coming out of baseball circles this past month was certainly the rise of home runs at a record pace; the numbers prove that it’s not fake news. There were 1,101 homers hit in June, shattering the record of 1,068 previously set in May 2000; with the 1,060 hit this May—nearly breaking that old mark—it’s the first time that 1,000 have been hit in consecutive months. There were also monthly marks set for leadoff home runs and individual multi-homer performances; in fact, there were 28 straight days in which someone, somewhere in the majors hit at least two, establishing another record.

The reason for all of this? Exterior research says that a new baseball being used this year has flatter seams—theoretically making it more lively. If it’s the players who are more juiced, we’ve yet to be given any evidence of it; baseball has handed down only one steroid-related suspension of note this year, to Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte. So if you dig the long ball, enjoy. It’s your year.

League vs. League

The National League took baby steps to recover from the American League’s early onslaught of success over the season’s first two months, posting a 27-25 record against its rival in interleague play in June. But it’s going to need to take bigger steps—even a few leaps—to overcome the AL’s current advantage of 85-66 to win the interleague wars for the first time since 2003.



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The Ballparks on This Great Game


Thursday, June 1
Adam Wainwright throws six scoreless innings for St. Louis—and provides the game’s only offense in the second inning with a two-run, 413-foot home run—the longest hit by a Cardinal this year—in a 2-0 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s the tenth career homer for Wainwright.

Two days after establishing a nine-inning team record for most strikeouts thrown, the Indians sit down 17 more Oakland A’s on strikes in an 8-0 whitewash at Cleveland. Corey Kluber, in his first start for the Tribe after spending a month on the disabled list, gets credit for ten of the Ks; the 59 for the series sets another team mark.

The game is delayed a few minutes after the sprinklers accidentally came on in the outfield.

Milwaukee defeats the Mets at New York, 2-1, to salvage a four-game series split. The evening’s memorable highlight comes in the second inning when, with one run in and the bases loaded for the Brewers, Eric Sogard’s pop foul near the third base dugout appears catchable for the Mets’ Wilmer Flores—until he bumps into the Brewers’ bat boy, trying to move a chair out of the way. Initially called out, the umpires reverse themselves and claim a sort of non-interference interference, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage and leading to his quick ejection. In hindsight, the Brewers probably would have wished for the original out call; given a second chance, Sogard hits into an inning-ending double play.

Friday, June 2
If you want honest-to-goodness, unadulterated proof that everybody is striking out, look no further than tonight’s game between the Dodgers and Brewers in Milwaukee, won in 12 innings by Los Angeles, 2-1. A National League-record 42 strikeouts are totaled between the two teams, with 26 of them by the Brewers, tying a major league mark set three previous times (most recently in a May 7 game between the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees). The Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is the only one of 14 players to go the entire night without once striking out, while eight others go down on strikes at least three times. Overall, one out of every two at-bats (42 of 84) results in a K. The Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson strikes out 11 over eight shutout innings while walking none; Clayton Kershaw collects 14 Ks—the eighth of which is the 2,000th for his career—while allowing a run on two hits through seven innings.

Only Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson needed fewer innings than Kershaw to reach 2,000 career strikeouts.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, who throws the final two innings to record the win, strikes out four and now has 39 on the year without a walk—breaking the record to start a season previous held by Adam Wainwright (35 in 2013).

Giancarlo Stanton’s solo home run in the fifth inning breaks a 5-5 tie and puts the Miami Marlins ahead to stay in a 7-5 home win over Arizona. In the process, Stanton becomes the Marlins’ all-time RBI leader with 579, surpassing Mike Lowell.

Dexter Fowler, returning to Wrigley Field for the first time since helping the Cubs to their long-overdue world title last season, receives his World Series ring in a pregame ceremony and then thanks the Cubs by belting a leadoff homer in the top of the first for his new team, the Cardinals. But the Cubs rebound, as ex-Cardinal Jason Heyward doubles in the sixth to tie the game, then brings home the eventual game-winning run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly to end Chicago’s six-game losing streak—its longest since September 2014—with a 3-2 triumph.

San Francisco rookie Ty Blach throws his first career shutout, a six-hitter, and becomes the first pitcher in eight years to draw three walks in a game to aid the Giants’ prodigious offensive effort in a 10-0 rout of the woeful (17-35) Phillies at Philadelphia.

Take away a dreadful May 6 effort at Cincinnati (ten runs allowed, eight earned), and Blach’s season ERA is at 2.11.

Jason Vargas, continuing his renaissance campaign at age 34, throws his seventh career shutout as he blanks the visiting Indians on seven hits in Kansas City’s 4-0 victory. Vargas’ ERA through 11 starts this season is 2.08; his previous career low was 3.71 in 2014.

Saturday, June 3
Albert Pujols becomes the ninth player in major league history with 600 career home runs, as he passes the milestone with a grand slam in the fourth inning of the Angels’ 7-2 win over Minnesota at Anaheim. It’s the highest “round number” milestone homer to be a slam, surpassing the bases-cleaning 400th blast by Carlos Delgado in 2006.

Pujols’ slam is one of a major league-record seven hit on the day.

How far up the home run ladder can the 37-year-old Pujols go? He’s not the All-World star of lore from his days with the Cardinals, but he appears durable enough to give 700 a shot. But to do that, he’ll have to keep modestly cranking it past his 40th birthday—or 42nd or 43rd, if you recall all the rumors from a few years back that he lied about his age. Beyond that, any chance of reaching Barry Bonds’ all-time mark of 762—a record he looked to have a decent shot at during his superdays with the Cardinals—appears quite unrealistic.

The Marlins’ Edinson Volquez, entering the day with one win and a major league-high seven losses, throws the majors’ first no-hitter in 13 months, nullifying the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-0 at Miami. The 33-year-old Volquez faces the minimum 27 batters, walking two batters but having them erased on double plays. It’s the sixth no-hitter in Marlins history.

The no-no also comes exactly three years to the day that the Marlins last had a starting pitcher go the distance, when Henderson Alvarez threw an eight-hit shutout against Tampa Bay. (Interestingly, Alvarez was the last Marlin to throw a no-hitter, on the final day of the 2013 season.) The 480 games without a complete-game performance was the longest-ever stretch by a major league team, breaking the old record of 301—set also by the Marlins, from 2006-08.

Volquez dedicates the no-hitter to friend and fellow Dominican countryman Yordano Ventura, the late Kansas City pitcher who would have turned 26 on this day.

Seattle catcher Mike Zunino, batting ninth and continuing his struggle to keep his career batting average over the Mendoza Line (a.k.a. .200), has three hits and knocks in a career-high seven runs—four on a grand slam—to hoist the Mariners to a 9-2 home win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Zunino had five RBIs in his previous 103 at-bats on the season; his three hits lift his lifetime average to .196.

This is the start of a remarkable month for Zunino, who will hit ten homers with 31 RBIs in June. His career high for home runs in one season is 22.

Another of the seven grand slams hit on the day comes off the bat of Atlanta’s Matt Adams, who will also add a solo shot in the 12th to give the Braves a 6-5 win at Cincinnati. Adams’ slam is the first by a Brave in 339 games; Jace Peterson was the last to clean the bases, on May 16, 2015 at Miami.

The Yankees shut down the Blue Jays at Toronto, 7-0, largely on the strength of four solo home runs—all hit in the eighth inning. Three of the four dingers are successive, with Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius all going deep.

Boston’s David Price earns his first win of the year with a 5-2 victory over the Orioles at Baltimore, with Craig Kimbrel netting a four-out save—but when Mark Trumbo singles in the ninth, it ends a stretch of 51 hitless at-bats by right-handed batters against Kimbrel to start the season.

Sunday, June 4
Jimmy Piersall, the talented outfielder whose promising career was derailed by mental health issues, passes away at the age of 87. The Connecticut native played 17 years in the majors and collected 1,604 hits along with two Gold Gloves, and that was considered a remarkable achievement given his ultra-turbulent 1952 rookie campaign that led to confinement in a mental hospital, a stay for which he underwent shock therapy—and served as the basis for his book Fear Strikes Out, which in turn served as the basis for the awful movie of the same name starring Psycho’s Anthony Perkins as Piersall.

A parade of nonstop antics led to Piersall’s leave of absence. He mixed it up with both opponents and teammates; his fight with the Yankees’ Billy Martin forced the Red Sox to build separate clubhouse tunnels for the home and visiting teams at Fenway Park. He also mimicked player’s moves on the field and was routinely ejected from games, exhausting Red Sox officials to no end—but the fans seemed to get a kick out of him. After his treatment, Piersall never quite went off the rails again but continued to amuse, for better or worse; most famously, when he hit his 100th career homer for the New York Mets in 1963, he ran backwards around the bases. Piersall’s post-playing days were no less bumpy; the Chicago White Sox dared to pair him in the radio booth with the equally colorful (though less combative) Harry Caray, but ultimately got fired for a series of controversial on-air statements and altercations with team officials, including young manager Tony La Russa.

Are the Astros last year’s Cubs? The team continues its astronomical start, sweeping Texas with a 7-2 victory at Arlington, running up its win streak to ten and improving its record to 41-16—the best start in franchise history. George Springer hits two of Houston’s four home runs on the day as the Astros score in each of their first five innings to easily finish off the Rangers.

With three late runs to erase a slim San Francisco lead, the Phillies defeat the Giants 9-7 and take their first series in their last 11 tries. The ten straight series losses had been their longest such skid since 1941.

The Royals are shut down 8-0 by the visiting Cleveland Indians, but three of their seven hits come off the bat of Whit Merrifield, who extends his hitting streak to 19 games—the longest in the majors so far in 2017. Merrifield is hitting .409 during his streak with three home runs and nine RBIs. (He’ll go 0-for-5 the next day to end the run.)

A 3-3 tie after seven in Oakland between the A’s and the Washington Nationals gets increasingly chaotic over the next two innings. Ryan Zimmerman’s home run gives the Nationals a 6-3 lead in the eighth, while the A’s rebound with a single run in the bottom of the inning. In the ninth, Washington piles up five runs of abundant insurance; it will need it all, as Oakland tallies six times in the ninth with just one out before petering in the Nationals’ 11-10 win.

Monday, June 5
The Phillies and center fielder Odubel Herrera, both of whom had an awful May, are revving it up in June. Herrera doubles twice for the third straight game and is 8-for-13 in June with eight RBIs, and the Phillies blast the Braves at Atlanta, 11-4, for their third straight win. It’s the first time they’ve won consecutive games of any length dating back over five weeks.

As bad as the Phillies have been over the last month, they can’t be much worse than Braves pitcher Bartolo Colon, who continues to stink it up after another brutal outing. The 44-year-old Colon is ousted before the fourth inning, having given up eight runs; over his last nine starts, he’s 1-5 with a hideous 10.03 earned run average—and that doesn’t take into account nine additional unearned runs. Perhaps it’s time for the majors’ active oldest player to hang it up.

The A’s are proving that, although they may still be in last place in the AL West, they don’t lack for excitement. They knock off the visiting Blue Jays 5-3 behind second-year slugger Ryon Healy, who homers twice and knocks in all five runs.

While the A’s possess a substandard pitching staff—with an AL-worst 4.65 ERA—they are among the majors’ top mashers with 86 homers, a figure currently surpassed by only three other teams. Among those leading the charge is Yonder Alonso, whose 16 homers are already nearly twice his career high for an entire season (nine in 155 games for the 2012 San Diego Padres) and Healy, who debuted some 11 months ago and is hitting .295 with 26 home runs and 70 RBIs over 128 career games.

Tuesday, June 6
The Reds’ Scooter Gennett becomes the 17th—and perhaps most unlikely—major leaguer to rip four home runs in a game as part of a five-hit, 10-RBI performance in Cincinnati’s 13-1 romp of St. Louis at Great American Ball Park. The less-than-imposing (5’10”, 193 lbs.) infielder had come into the game with 38 career homers through his first four-plus years, and just three through his first 46 games this season. Gennett’s first blast is a grand slam off of Adam Wainwright, who took a 17-inning scoreless inning streak into the game; it’s the first slam he’s allowed since 2012. Gennett also homers in fourth, sixth and eighth innings, and adds a run-scoring single for the night.

It’s the first four-homer game since Josh Hamilton in 2012, and the fifth this century.

Gennett’s even more rare feat of knocking in ten runs is just the 14th in major league history—and the second this season, after Anthony Rendon’s 10-RBI performance on April 30.

Not that it evens things up, but Gennett on the next night will hit into two double plays for the first time in his career.

Vying to win a franchise record-tying 12th straight win, the Astros jump out to a 7-1 lead at Kansas City—but the Royals score eight unanswered runs, including four in the eighth to tie the game and two in the ninth on Mike Moustakas’ 15th homer of the year to win it, 9-7. It’s the first time a team with at least ten straight wins has blown a lead of six or more runs and lost.

Arizona’s Robbie Ray ups his consecutive scoreless inning streak to 27.2 before a solo shot by Padres rookie Hunter Renfroe ends in the fourth, but it’s the only blemish on the night upon Ray, who strikes out 11 and improves his record to 6-3 in the Diamondbacks’ 10-1 romp at Phoenix.

For the second time in less than two weeks, Boston closer Craig Kimbrel officially records more strikeouts than outs. In sealing the Red Sox’ 5-4 win over the Yankees at New York, Kimbrel strikes out five in 1.1 innings—one of those Ks a strikeout/wild pitch when Didi Gregorius reaches first after catcher Christian Vasquez cannot make or assist on a putout. (As the rule states, Kimbrel gets credit for the strikeout—but not an out.)

Chuck Finley, in 1999, is the only other pitcher to strike out more batters than outs recorded twice in a season. Kimbrel also ties Finley with his third such “achievement” of his career, having also struck out four batters in an inning for Atlanta in 2012.

A side note to our continuing proof that major leaguers are striking out more than ever: Of the 82 times in which a pitcher has struck out four batters in an inning (or in Kimbrel’s case, five batters over 1.1 innings), all but 36 have taken place in the 21st Century. It only happened five times before 1950—once by Orvie Overall for the Cubs in the 1908 World Series.

The day is laced with attacks on baseball’s bilingualism. In an interview on a Philadelphia sports talk station, Hall-of-Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt suggests that the Phillies’ Odubel Herrera can never be a team leader because he doesn’t speak English, while during Boston’s broadcast of the Red Sox-Yankees game, analyst (and former Red Sox infielder) Jerry Remy doesn’t like the idea of translators being brought to the mound to help communicate with New York pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, that he should “learn baseball language.” Both Schmidt and Remy will later apologize for their comments.

The reality is that Major League Baseball has become so international and diverse, with roughly 30% of its player base born outside of the United States, that whatever efforts can be made to break down communication barriers will work toward the betterment of the game. Some will blindly paint Schmidt and Remy as racists, but their views come from an old-school era when players not proficient in English somehow managed, whether right or wrong, without aid. It’s a different game and a different world than the 1970s when the likes of Schmidt and Remy ruled; perhaps their only offense here is not understanding that.

Wednesday, June 7
Clayton Kershaw outduels Stephen Strasburg in a matchup of top aces in Los Angeles, as a two-run rally in the sixth boosts the Dodgers to a 2-1 win over the Nationals. In defeat, however, Strasburg ties Kerry Wood for the most strikeouts (1,166) by a starting pitcher over his first 1,000 career innings.

Billy Wagner, primarily a closer throughout his career, struck out 1,196 in 903 innings before retirement.

Two games are decided by players whose game-winning homers are their second shots of the game. In Baltimore, the Orioles’ Trey Mancini homers with two outs in the ninth to tie the Pittsburgh Pirates; two innings later, he’ll win it with a three-run blast. A few hours later out in Seattle, Mike Zunino—who’s suddenly coming alive—strokes a two-run, walk-off shot after earlier hitting a solo homer to defeat the visiting Minnesota Twins, 6-5.

The Mariners make news off the field by giving infielder Jean Segura a five-year extension for $70 million. The deal covers Segura’s final year of arbitration and first four years of free agency. After his highly productive 2016 campaign with Arizona, the Mariners traded for Segura and he’s played no less exceptionally, hitting .341—though he’s also been on the disabled list twice.

Thursday, June 8
The Reds finish off a four-game sweep of the Cardinals (26-32), who finish off a miserable 0-7 road trip to place them a mere game out of last place in the NL Central. Powering up for Cincinnati is Joey Votto, who goes 4-for-4 with his 16th home run of the tear; Scott Feldman tosses seven shutout innings.

In the wake of their disastrous road trip, the Cardinals shake things up. They release shortstop Jhonny Peralta (hitting a powerless .204 with no RBIs in 54 at-bats), replace three of their coaches (bringing in an assistant to the coaching staff named—no joke—Pop Warner) and publicly announce that no one’s job—not even that of manager Mike Matheny—is safe.

DJ LeMahieu’s three-run blast caps a four-run second, and Tyler Chatwood settles in four six strong innings after serving up a first-inning solo shot to Kris Bryant to give Colorado a 4-1 victory at Chicago over the Cubs. Taking the loss is Jon Lester, who has a 12-game win streak at home snapped.

In a week of prodigious single-game efforts from catchers, the Diamondbacks’ Chris Iannetta doubles twice, homers and drives in a career-high seven runs as Arizona runs away with a 15-3 rout of the Padres in Phoenix.

Friday, June 9
Could we be seeing a changing of the guard at Wrigley Field? The Cubs, who had lost six straight only to bounce back with a five-game win streak, lose for the third consecutive day at home, 5-3 to the Rockies—who take their sixth straight victory while becoming the National League’s first team to reach 40 wins on the year. Meanwhile, the defending champion Cubs drop back to an even .500 at 30-30.

The Cubs’ three-game slide is in sync with the absence of starting shortstop Addison Russell, who’s the subject of spousal abuse accusations by his wife, who will soon file for divorce—and refuse to talk to MLB about her allegation. Russell denies her claim, but his vacancy in the lineup—along with a similar claim against Tampa Bay catcher Derek Norris earlier in the week—reveals a potential, troubling side effect of MLB’s aggressive domestic abuse policy: That a vindictive wife or girlfriend could frame a major leaguer and get him suspended. This is not to say, of course, that Russell and Norris are innocent and their loved ones are lying, but MLB needs to carefully examine all the facts before making rash or unfortunate decisions.

Ervin Santana throws his third shutout of the year, four-hitting the Giants on just 91 pitches, while the AL pitcher greatly contributes to the offense by clearing the bases on a fourth-inning double to solidify the Twins’ 4-0 win at San Francisco. The 34-year-old’s three RBIs from one swing match his career total over 93 previous at-bats.

Santana’s 91 pitches are the fewest thrown in a complete-game shutout since September 2015.

The last Twins pitcher to throw three shutouts for an entire season was Rich Robertson in 1996.

Tampa Bay uses a deadly combination of power and speed to build up a 13-0 lead after five innings over the A’s before settling in for a 13-4 drubbing at St. Petersburg. The Rays blast five home runs—tied for the most they’ve ever hit at Tropicana Field—and leadoff hitter Mallex Smith, subbing in for Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, just placed on the disabled list for what may be a two-month stay, steals three bases and scores three times.

Not to be outdone by Smith, Los Angeles of Anaheim center fielder Cameron Maybin—also doing fill-in work for another injured starter, super-duper-star Mike Trout—swipes a career-high four bags and scores four runs as the Angels run away with a 9-4 victory at Houston.

Saturday, June 10
The Yankees continue to be the week’s hottest team, blitzing out to a 14-0 lead after five innings at home against the Orioles before breezing to a 16-3 rout. The Bronx Bombers conk out five homers—including the major league-leading 19th of the year from rookie Aaron Judge, which leaves his bat at a MLB Statcast-record 121.1 MPH. The Yankees have won their last four games by a combined score of 41-6.

A very thin silver lining on an otherwise lousy day for the Orioles comes in the ninth when Caleb Joseph’s RBI single breaks a skid of 45 hitless at-bats with runners in scoring position against the Yankees. That was the longest such run since opponents also went 0-for-45 against the Montreal Expos in 1982.

At St. Petersburg, the A’s and Rays split the first scheduled doubleheader since 2011. The Rays win the first game in ten innings, 6-5, on Evan Longoria’s walk-off single; Oakland gets even in the nightcap with an easy 7-2 victory. The official attendance at the Tropicana Dome: 17,775.

So why did the Rays schedule the double-dip? Apparently because they just felt like it.

For a day, at least, all is right in the New York Mets’ universe. In a day-night doubleheader at Atlanta, the Mets welcome back the return of Yoenis Cespedes—who belts a ninth-inning grand slam in his first game after six weeks on the disabled list—and Steven Matz, making his season debut with seven sharp innings in the second game after being sidelined with an elbow injury. The Mets breeze to easy wins in both contests, 6-1 and 8-1.

The Nationals and Gio Gonzalez ride a 3-1 lead into the ninth against the visiting Rangers, but a faulty bullpen—the NL’s second worst by ERA—does them in again as Texas rallies for two in the ninth and three more on a Robinson Chirinos homer in the 11th to take a 6-3 victory. Koda Glover, who blows the save opportunity in the ninth, later admits he had hurt himself in the shower before the game but failed to let anyone know about it.

The only bullpen worse than the Nationals in the NL is that of the Padres, and it badly shows at San Diego against the Royals. Leading 5-3 after seven frames, Padres relievers allow 12 men to come to the plate in the eighth, with nine of them scoring; Lorenzo Cain bookends the inning with an infield single to ignite the rally, and a grand slam (his second homer of the game) to cap it.

Sunday, June 11
The Yankees continue to bomb away—and folks who by now haven’t been convinced that Aaron Judge is for real need to take their heads out of the sand. The herculean rookie slugger makes Statcast history again, powering his first of two home runs on the day 495 feet to left-center, the longest ever recorded by an American Leaguer since MLB began using the app-driven data, as New York once again demolishes the Orioles at Yankee Stadium, 14-3. Judge assumes the AL lead in all three Triple Crown categories—average (.344), home runs (21) and RBIs (47).

Proving that Statcast may not be the exact science people make it out to be, ESPN’s Home Run Tracker claims that Judge’s titanic shot—which it measures at 496 feet—is not the longest, apparently claiming that Giancarlo Stanton’s moonshot from 2015, which Statcast measured at 504 feet, actually went 484. You be the judge (not Aaron Judge).

The Cubs finally pull out a win at home over the rampaging Rockies, securing a 7-5 victory behind four home runs. The loss to Colorado ends a seven-game win streak, its longest in four years.

Another streak mercifully comes to an end when the Rockies’ Trevor Story flies out after having struck out in his previous nine at-bats. After his fantastic (and injury-abbreviated) rookie campaign of a year ago, Story his struggled so far in 2017—batting .208 with eight homers.

Nine days after Clayton Kershaw records his 2,000th career strikeout, the Nationals’ Max Scherzer joins him—reaching the milestone after sitting down 12 Rangers on strikes through 7.1 innings of work at Washington. But it’s not enough, as the Rangers get to Scherzer and several Nationals relievers for four runs in the eighth to break a 1-1 tie and give Texas a 5-1 victory.

Only Randy Johnson (262 games) and Kershaw (277) reached the 2,000-K barrier in fewer games than Scherzer (287), who ties for third with Nolan Ryan.

Monday, June 12
The first day of the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft yields its top picks. The Twins select at #1 California prep shortstop Royce Lewis, who in a showcase game once hit a ball completely out of Wrigley Field. Two of the next four picks are reserved for players who excel both with the bat and with a strong pitching arm: Hunter Greene, selected second by Cincinnati out of the same Los Angeles-area high school as Giancarlo Stanton; and University of Louisville pitcher/slugger Brendan McKay, who’s hit 17 homers and won ten games on the mound, selected by Tampa Bay as the #4 pick.

The Reds, who once passed on Derek Jeter, use their second pick (and 32nd overall) on a prep shortstop named Jeter Downs.

The draft continues the next day with the Nationals picking pitcher Trey Turner—no relation to current Washington shortstop Trea Turner. A day after that, in the 27th round, the Nationals select Darren Baker, the son of manager Dusty Baker; he was the little Giants batboy whose life was saved by J.T. Snow during the 2002 World Series.

It is becoming readily apparent that for the Nationals to win the NL East and go deep into the postseason, they’ll need a proven closer—and fast. Washington lets yet another one get away, blowing a 9-6 lead in the eighth as the visiting Atlanta Braves pile up five runs over the final two innings to edge out an 11-10 victory. The Braves hit five of a Nationals Park-record eight home runs in the game, including two in those late frames.

This is the sixth time this season the Nationals have blown a multiple-run lead after seven innings; no other team can claim more than three such blown leads.

The Mets’ Jacob deGrom, coming off of two horrendous outings, goes the distance and stifles the Cubs with a run allowed on five hits and four walks in a 6-1 home victory. It’s the sixth straight game in which a Mets starting pitcher has allowed a run or less; it also ends a drought of 293 home games without a complete-game performance from a Mets pitcher, falling 16 short of the major league record set by Colorado at Coors Field from 2011-14.

New York’s stretch of starting pitching excellence will come crashing to an end the next day when Zack Wheeler gives up eight runs in less than two innings in a 14-3 blowout loss to the Cubs.

Four weeks after undergoing surgery for testicular cancer, Pittsburgh pitcher Jameson Taillon returns to the mound and fires five shutout innings to help propel the Pirates to a 7-2 win over the Rockies at PNC Park.

Tuesday, June 13
After getting shellacked for 27 runs over their last two games, the Twins rev up and get even, annihilating the visiting Mariners, 20-7, on a franchise record 28 hits. The further down the lineup, the heavier the damage from the Twins; four of the bottom five batters collect at least four hits, and Eddie Rosario, batting ninth, belts three of the team’s five home runs. Seattle starting pitcher Christian Bergman, who faced the Twins in his last start and gave up a run on four hits through five innings, is gone before the third, having allowed nine runs on ten hits. Catcher Carlos Ruiz gets garbage relief duty as the Mariners’ fifth pitcher of the game, giving up Rosario’s third blast of the game.

Los Angeles rookie Cody Bellinger goes deep twice for the second straight day, his second homer a three-run shot in the ninth that proves crucial as the Dodgers survive a bottom-of-the-ninth scare from the Indians and prevail at Cleveland, 7-5. Bellinger is the first major leaguer under the age of 21 to have back-to-back multiple homer performances—and the first player, regardless of age, to have four such games within his first 50 of a career.

The Dodgers’ other home run on the night comes courtesy of Yasiel Puig, who celebrates by double-flipping off Cleveland fans who had been heckling him behind the on-deck circle. “It happened suddenly. It came out,” Puig explains to reporters after the game. He’ll soon be getting an invoice from the commissioner’s office in the form of a fine—and a one-game suspension on top of that.

Wednesday, June 14
With a pinch-hit single in the Marlins’ 11-6 home win over Oakland, Ichiro Suzuki passes Derek Jeter to become the all-time hit leader in interleague action, notching his 365th knock. In 301 career games against the opposing league, Suzuki is hitting .318.

The Astros, somewhat sputtering of late, salvage a win to end their three-game series against the Rangers with a 13-2 rout at Houston. Joining the fun during the Astros’ big inning of the game—a nine-run sixth—is Derek Fisher, who homers and singles to become the first rookie to connect on his first two major league hits in the same inning since Adam LaRoche in 2004.

Three days before a statue of Pete Rose in Cincinnati, it is revealed by the Los Angeles Times—and confirmed by the Hall of Fame—that the banished all-time hit king petitioned this past December to be placed on a future Cooperstown ballot only to be denied. This means he is likely shut out of any chance of ever making it to the Hall…at least until roughly 100 years from now, after we’ve all been dead and buried/cremated, when people who look less emotionally and more wistfully at what got people like Rose and Joe Jackson banned will give them a pass and, finally, entry into the Hall. Just a guess.

Thursday, June 15
Chris Sale does everything he can to win his eighth straight game, nullifying the Phillies with ten strikeouts over eight games while supplying the Red Sox with their only extra-base hit of the night on an eighth-inning double—but a run-scoring two-bagger by Philadelphia pinch-hitter Ty Kelly in the eighth gives the Phillies their only run of the game to deny Sale and end their latest losing streak (at eight), 1-0.

In yet the latest example that no lead at Coors Field is safe, the Giants come from eight runs down to tie the Rockies and hand Greg Holland his first blown save of the year after successfully converting his first 23 attempts. But Colorado punches back with a walk-off single from rookie Raimel Tapia in the bottom of the ninth to survive, 10-9.

The Rockies’ win is one of four such games among ten played on the day in which the final result is decided in the ninth inning or later. Miguel Cabrera’s tiebreaking, ninth-inning homer, giving Detroit a 5-3 victory over Tampa Bay, is his first walk-off RBI since 2014; Eric Thames’ 18th homer of the year unlocks a 4-4 tie in the ninth and gives Milwaukee a 6-4 road result in St. Louis; and in wild game out in Oakland in which the Yankees bounce back to tie the A’s in each inning between the sixth through ninth—before taking a 7-6 lead in the tenth—the A’s prevail on a two-run single from Khris Davis in the bottom of the frame.

Washington’s Nationals Park is the scene of the annual baseball game played between Republican and Democratic members of Congress, which this year garners much more national attention in the wake of a shooting by a lone gunman the day before at a Virginia ballfield that leaves Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise in critical condition. Under tight security, the Democrats defeat the Republicans 11-3 before a record crowd of 24,959, which helps bring funds raised from the event for local charities over $1 million for the first time.

This is the 80th such game played between the two parties, dating back to 1909. The Democrats now lead the series 40-39-1.

There is a source of bipartisanship rarely exhibited from the two parties as a result of the shooting; between the sharply divided opinions on policy between the two parties, and President Donald Trump’s continued online ranting, don’t expect it to last very long.

Friday, June 16
At Pittsburgh, Anthony Rizzo’s bid for a third leadoff home run for the Cubs in as many games—the first three in which he’s ever batted in the #1 spot—is denied by the umpires, who after further video review reverse their initial fair ruling. Rizzo’s blast, which bounces into the Allegheny River, comes that close to tying Brady Anderson’s all-time mark of three straight leadoff homers from his remarkable (yet suspect) 50-homer season of 1996, and Chicago manager Joe Maddon is ejected for arguing the reversal. It’s all the beginning of a strange but ultimately satisfying night for the Cubs; starting pitcher Eddie Butler is forced to have the long sleeve of a bright white undershirt cut off after Pirates hitters are complaining that they can’t pick up the baseballs he’s throwing, and the Cubs bounce back from a one-run deficit in the ninth, notching six runs to defeat the Bucs, 9-5, to return to the .500 mark (33-33).

Remaining ahead of the Cubs in the NL Central are the Brewers, who maintain their 2.5-game lead over Chicago with a 6-5 win over San Diego thanks to Eric Thames—whose solo blast in the tenth against the visiting Padres is his second game-winning shot in as many days.

Mookie Betts, who like Rizzo is another #3 spot guy converted to leadoff, scores both of Boston’s runs and provides a go-ahead solo homer in the eighth to help sink the Astros at Houston, 2-1. The win goes to reliever Joe Kelly, who has won 15 consecutive decisions—the majors’ longest active streak, and the longest since Stephen Strasburg’s 16-game run that ended in 2016.

Five of Kelly’s 15 victories have come out of the bullpen.

Saturday, June 17
In a lavish pregame ceremony that includes the unveiling of a statue for Pete Rose outside of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, the Reds get beat up in front of a sellout crowd by the visiting Dodgers, 10-2, for their eighth straight loss. Los Angeles rookie Cody Bellinger hits his 19th homer and ties Gary Sanchez for the most long balls hit through the first 50 games of a career.

Though it mentions the Rose statue within its game recap, MLB.com does not highlight the sculpture or ceremony in any of its headlines either on its app or website. That Rose is still banned from the game likely has much to do with it.

A night after giving up five home runs, the Orioles get even with the Cardinals and smash five of their own in a 15-7 rout of St. Louis at Baltimore. Adam Wainwright suffers through the worst start of his tenured career, allowing nine runs in just 1.2 innings; in fact, it’s the second time in his last three starts that he’s allowed nine runs.

The Indians sweep a day-night doubleheader at Minnesota and take over first place in the AL Central, a position the Twins had held for over five weeks. Jose Ramirez belts two home runs in the day game, a 9-3 romp; Lonnie Chisenhall belts a pair at night, driving home four runs to give Cleveland a 6-2 win.

For the seventh straight day, an average of over ten runs per game is scored across the major league scoreboard, the longest such streak since 2000. For the year, an average of 9.32 runs are crossing the plate per game, as compared to 8.96 for all of 2016—and we’re not even officially into the summer yet, when the hitters typically warm up.

Sunday, June 18
Coming to bat in the bottom of the ninth down a run and with two men on base, the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado—with three-quarters of the cycle complete—drives in the fourth nail with a first-pitch home run to give Colorado a 7-5 win over the visiting Giants. It’s the first time a player earned a cycle by hitting a walk-off homer when his team was behind; and it’s the 17th cycle performed at Coors Field, matching Boston’s Fenway Park—which opened 83 years earlier—for the most among active major league ballparks.

This is the ninth straight win for the Rockies over the Giants, matching their longest win streak against one opponent in team history.

Giants closer Mark Melancon, who serves up Arenado’s home run, has not quite been the tonic the Giants were looking for to solve their ninth-inning woes of last year. This is his fourth blown save, matching his entire 2016 total, and his season ERA now stands at 5.09.

The Rockies’ win only helps to accelerate what’s turning into an amazing three-team race in the NL West. Though Colorado’s 46-26 record is second only to Houston for MLB’s best, it is being trailed closely by the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, both of whom win tight games today and are tied for second in the West—and tied for the majors’ third-best record—with 44-26 records.

The Dodgers reach 44-26 by finishing off a three-game sweep at Cincinnati over the Reds, who score six unanswered runs at the finish but fall short by an 8-7 count for their ninth straight defeat. Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen continues his remarkable season, retiring the Reds in order in the ninth and extending his active MLB record run of strikeouts without a walk to start a year to 50.

Almost lost in the all the headline-inspired talk regarding the Rockies and Dodgers are the Diamondbacks, who stay even with Los Angeles and one game back of Colorado with their seventh straight win, a 5-4 comeback triumph in ten innings at Philadelphia. A Gregor Blanco single ties the game in the ninth; a solo homer from Reymond Fuentes, the first of his career, wins it in the tenth.

Arizona closer Fernando Rodney strikes out the side to secure the save, and has now pitched 16.2 scoreless innings—allowing just two hits—since becoming a U.S. citizen on May 2. Before taking the oath of the country, he had a 12.60 ERA through his first 11 games. To quote Michael Keaton from Night Shift: “Is this a great country or what?”

The Indians finish off an important four-game sweep of the Twins at Minnesota to up their lead in the AL Central to two games. Edwin Encarnacion, waking up after a slow start with Cleveland, homers twice and knocks in all five runs for the Tribe. The Twins remain above .500 at 34-33, but they’re only 14-24 at home.

Also in the AL Central conversation for the moment are the Royals, who climb to within 3.5 games of the Indians with a 7-3 win over the Angels at Anaheim. Jason Vargas becomes the majors’ first ten-game winner in the majors while Salvador Perez contributes on offense with three hits, including his 14th home run.

What’s happened to the Yankees, who could do no wrong a week earlier? The Bronx Bombers bomb at Oakland, getting swept in four by the A’s and extending their losing streak to six with a 4-3 defeat. The Yankees certainly couldn’t be faulted for trying; they led in all four games—losing three of them by a single run.

With New York dropping, archrival Boston rises to within a half-game of the Yankee lead in the AL East by surviving a 6-5 victory at Houston. Xander Bogaerts doubles his home run total on the year with a pair of blasts.

Despite the win, the Red Sox’ bullpen allows its first run after 26 straight scoreless innings—the majors’ longest streak so far in 2017—when reliever Heath Hembree gives up a home run to the first batter he faces, the Astros’ George Springer.

In a rare low-scoring affair involving the Brewers, Jimmy Nelson goes the distance by scattering an unearned run on six hits with ten strikeouts to give Milwaukee a 2-1 victory over the visiting Padres. It’s Nelson’s first complete game of his career, and the first by any Brewer after a 305-game drought, which had become the majors’ longest active streak since the Marlins’ record run of 480 ended earlier this month; Tampa Bay now takes over as the team that’s gone the longest without a CG, at 200 and counting.

Monday, June 19
The majors’ home run epidemic of 2017 comes to Dodger Stadium. Rookie Cody Bellinger takes over the NL home run lead with two more blasts to give him 21 on the year—while Justin Turner goes 4-for-4 to up his season average to .399 as the Dodgers slam the Mets at Los Angeles, 10-6. The Dodgers’ power trip (17 hits including four total homers) bails out Clayton Kershaw, who gives up all six Mets runs on four homers—the most he’s ever allowed in a game—but nevertheless becomes the NL’s first 10-game winner.

Not even Kershaw is immune to the record pace of home runs being belted in the majors. With the season not even halfway over, Kershaw has allowed 17 homers—already, the most he’s allowed in any one year.

Bellinger’s 21 homers in his first 51 career games establishes an all-time record; Wally Berger had previously been the fastest to get to 21, within his first 55 games.

Corey Kluber throws his second shutout of the year, a three-hit, no-walk, 11-K masterpiece as the Indians stay hot and drub the Orioles at Baltimore, 12-0. The Tribe scores 11 of its runs between the fourth and sixth innings. Contributing is Jose Ramirez, whose two doubles gives him 14 extra-base hits over his last seven games—something no other major leaguer in the modern era has ever accomplished.

A two-run rally in the seventh inning puts the Cubs ahead to stay over the visiting Padres in a 3-2 win, but everyone’s talking about a play an inning before. After tripling to lead off the inning, the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo attempts to score on a sacrifice fly and is tagged out, but not before applying an old-school knockdown of San Diego catcher Austin Hedges, who doesn’t appear to be blocking the plate and suffers a bruised thigh on the play. Padres manager Andy Green fumes in a postgame conference over the play, calling it a “fairly egregious violation of the rule” that was put in place to protect catchers in 2014. The Cubs and their manager Joe Maddon, of course, beg to differ.

The MLB discipline police will disagree with Maddon, saying Rizzo violated the so-called “Posey Rule” named after the Giants catcher whose ankle was broken in a vicious slide in 2013. Yet, Rizzo will not be fined or suspended—but one wonders how MLB would have reacted had it been a relative no-name player (like Hedges) bowling over a relative All-Star like, say, Posey or Yadier Molina.

You know that outspoken Padres owner Ron Fowler wasn’t going to sit quietly without comment. On a San Diego sports talk radio show, he says of Rizzo’s slide: “…to do that with no repercussions, I think, is pure B.S. I told baseball that.”

Tuesday, June 20
The Dodgers continue to go nuts with the bats. Corey Seager drills three homers for the second time in as many seasons and knocks in six runs, while Cody Bellinger goes deep for the tenth time in as many games—setting a MLB rookie record—as Los Angeles steamrolls the Mets, 12-0. It’s the third straight home game that the Dodgers have hit at least four home runs, equaling an all-time mark accomplished by six other teams (most recently, by the Yankees this season).

Only Boog Powell had multiple three-HR games at an earlier age than Seager’s 23 years and 54 days.

The Rockies maintain a slim half-game lead over the Dodgers thanks to Nolan Arenado, who once again comes to the rescue by crushing a go-ahead, two-run triple off Zack Greinke in the bottom of the eighth to give Colorado a 4-3 win over Arizona in the first game of a crucial early-season series at Denver. The Diamondbacks drop two games back in the NL West with the loss.

The game is noted for being the 5,000th worked by veteran umpire Joe West. It’s the third highest total in major league history, 369 shy of the #1 spot long held by Hall-of-Fame arbiter Bill Klem. The first two games that West umpired occurred during a September 1976 doubleheader between the Braves and Astros at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Among the players in uniform that day were Cesar Cedeno, Jim Wynn, Ken Henderson, Joe Niekro and Willie Montanez; a young catcher named Dale Murphy made his second major league appearance for the Braves. The teams split the twinbill before a crowd of 970.

A day after his controversial knockout home-plate “slide” over San Diego catcher Austin Hedges, Anthony Rizzo gets no payback by the Padres—and, leading off, reaches base safely for the 11th straight game batting in the first inning with a home run that sets the tone for a 4-0 Cubs win at Chicago. Jay Bruce, in 2011, was the last player to fashion an 11-game streak in the first frame.

The Yankees, despite home runs from the young slugging duo of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, drop their seventh straight game and lose hold of first place in the AL East when the visiting Angels score five late runs to break a tie and triumph, 8-3.

Taking over the helm in the East are the Red Sox, who prevail at Kansas City, 8-3, behind Chris Sale’s 8.1 innings and ten strikeouts.

Wednesday, June 21
The Orioles lose at home to the Indians, 5-1—but it’s two Cleveland insurance runs in the ninth that make the game noteworthy from a historical standpoint, as it runs Baltimore’s streak of consecutive games allowing at least five runs to 18, setting an American League record. The previous mark was held by the Philadelphia Athletics during their inaugural 1901 campaign.

At Miami, Washington ace Max Scherzer takes a no-hitter into the eighth inning—when an infield hit, error, hit batsman, wild pitch and simple single has him emerge a tough-luck loser as the Marlins survive with a 2-1 victory. The silver lining for Scherzer is that he strikes out 11 for his sixth straight start with at least ten, setting a franchise mark.

Philadelphia blows a one-run lead in the ninth and then concede two more runs in the tenth, giving the visiting Cardinals a 7-6 victory. Not only is it the Phillies’ 13th loss over their last 14 games, it’s their third straight setback at home in extra innings, something no other National League team has ever done.

What’s probably more amazing than the Phillies establishing the record is that, in the long, long history of the NL, not one team had previously lost three straight home games in extras.

The Diamondbacks equal up their series at Colorado with a 16-5 pounding of the Rockies, scoring ten runs for the first time ever on the road in the fourth inning. Brandon Drury leads the barrage with six RBIs.

Thursday, June 22
In a surprising move, the Cubs—barely skirting the .500 mark—demote catcher-turned-outfielder and Wrigley fan favorite Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa. Although Schwarber has contributed power with 12 homers over 222 at-bats, his .171 batting average ranks dead last among all qualifiers in the majors.

The Astros stay red hot, scoring ten runs over the first two innings on their way to a 12-9 victory over the A’s at Oakland to become the majors’ first team to reach 50 wins on the season. Former Oakland star Josh Reddick finishes a single shy of the cycle, scoring four times for Houston.

This is the quickest the Astros have ever gotten to 50 wins in their 56 years of play; they have also won ten straight games at Oakland.

Before the game the A’s designate for assignment former All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt, who’s been struggling at the plate (hitting .217) and behind it, throwing out only seven of 46 would-be basestealers. Three days later, the Milwaukee Brewers will pick him up.

The surprising Brewers remain a game and a half ahead of the Cubs in a NL Central no one appears to want to take control of, defeating the visiting Pirates, 4-2. Shutting down the door once again for Milwaukee is closer Corey Knebel, who strikes out one to set a major league record for the most consecutive relief appearances (38) to start a year with at least one K recorded.

Aroldis Chapman remains the holder of the record for consecutive relief appearances with at least one strikeout, regardless of the time of year, working up a run of 49 games from 2013-14.

Los Angeles sweeps the Mets and ups its lead in the NL West to 1.5 games with a 6-3 victory. Home runs continue to be the Dodgers’ weapon of choice; with three to run their total in the four-game series to a Dodger Stadium-record 15.

To put the Dodgers’ power binge in perspective, check this out: As recently as three years ago, the Dodgers twice hit less than 15 homers for an entire month.

Friday, June 23
The suspense is killed early on as the Orioles, two days after breaking an AL record for the most consecutive games giving up five or more runs, try to avoid tying the all-time, post-1900 record of 20 held by the 1924 Phillies. At Tampa Bay, the Orioles and Ubaldo Jimenez are scorched for nine runs before the third inning is over, and the Rays don’t stop there as they pile on more offense en route to a 15-5 blowout.

Baltimore starting pitchers have a 9.45 ERA over these 20 dubious games.

Veteran catcher Derek Norris has a big night for the Rays, going 3-for-3 with a single, double and home run—yet is designated for assignment after the game, as his .201 season average and the activation of former Washington backstop Wilson Ramos for his season debut likely will be spelled out as the primary reasons for his dismissal. One must wonder, however, if recent accusations (as yet unfounded) by Norris’ former fiancée that he abused her had something to do with the decision as well.

The Orioles will not take sole ownership of this record as they defeat the Rays the next day, 8-3.

For the first time, two top Japanese pitching imports—the Rangers’ Yu Darvish and the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka—face off in a major league duel. Neither disappoint. Darvish allows just two hits through seven scoreless innings with ten strikeouts, while Tanaka goes one inning further and also concedes no runs, giving up three hits with nine Ks. But after both pitchers are removed, each team scratches a run in the ninth—and Ronald Torreyes’ single in the tenth brings home the winning run to give New York a 2-1 home victory.

David Ortiz becomes the tenth Red Sox player to have his uniform retired in a pregame ceremony, and an inspired Boston team follows with a 9-4 victory over the Angels at Fenway Park as Rick Porcello avoids losing his tenth game before the season’s midway point. Catcher Sandy Leon stars on offense for the Red Sox, smacking three hits (including his fifth home run) with four RBIs.

Saturday, June 24
It’s a good news-bad news kind of day for the White Sox’ James Shields. The good news: He becomes the third pitcher this month to reach 2,000 strikeouts for his career, notching five on the day against the A’s in Chicago. The bad news: He is otherwise beaten up, allowing six runs in just three innings of work as the A’s pound the Sox, 10-2. The historical news: The first three of Oakland’s four homers on the day are belted by rookie players each collecting the first of their career: Matt Olson, Jaycob Brugman and Franklin Barreto. That has never happened in a major league game before—except in 1914, by the Kansas City Packers’ Duke Kenworthy, Art Kruger and John Potts of the short-lived Federal League, during a late April game that was the third ever played at Wrigley Field (then called Weeghman Park, which was built to house the FL’s Chicago Chi-Feds).

Kenworthy, Kruger and Potts played a combined 180 games in the NL and AL before or after their time with the Packers—but never hit a home run in either circuit.

Homer Bailey, the Reds’ pricey ($20 million due this year) and oft-injured veteran pitcher, makes his first start of 2017; it does not go well. In Washington, the Nationals break Bailey down to the tune of eight runs over 1.2 innings, and they further pummel three more Cincinnati relievers to finish off an 18-3 rout. Trea Turner has five hits with four runs, while Michael Taylor has four hits including the Nationals’ two homers on the day. Earning the win is Joe Ross, who has received at least ten runs of support in six of his ten starts for Washington this season.

Bailey’s bad effort is, alas once more for Reds fans, more rule than exception; the Cincnnati rotation ERA of 6.26 is the majors’ worst, and the entire staff in general is on pace to allow 268 home runs on the season—which would break the all-time record it set just last year.

At Kansas City, Jason Vargas earns his major league-leading 11th win (the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw will match him later in the day) as the Royals defeat the Blue Jays, 3-2. The win puts the Royals, victors of 11 of their last 13, above the .500 mark for the first time all season.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have remained below .500 for the entire year, but not without opportunity for escape; they are 0-6 when attempting to reach the .500 mark.

Sunday, June 25
The Dodgers spot Colorado an early 5-0 lead—then rampage back to crush the Rockies, 12-6, to finish a three-game sweep and extend their winning streak to ten. Powering the offense for Los Angeles, once again, is Cody Bellinger—who drills two more home runs to give him a NL-best 24 on the year. (Not bad for a guy who didn’t play his first game until April 25.) Contributing on the Rockies’ side is reliever Adam Ottavino, who allows six runs in one inning of work—five of them scoring directly on four wild pitches. There are eight wild pitches in the game overall, the most in a major league contest since 1913.

Bellinger’s two homers, along with a pair earlier in the day from the Mets’ Rene Rivera against the Giants, makes it 27 straight days with someone in the majors hitting multiple homers—setting an all-time record. The mark will be retired after the 28th day.

It’s a weird day personally for Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. He gets a rare chance to hit in the Los Angeles five-run eighth and doubles for the first extra-base hit of his career; pitching in the ninth, he throws low to Nolan Arenado on a 3-2 pitch to suffer his first walk of the entire year, ending a record streak of strikeouts (51) without a walk to begin a season.

Ichiro Suzuki, at age 43 the majors’ oldest active position player, becomes the oldest player in history to start a major league game in center field when he gets the assignment for the Marlins against the Cubs at Miami. He’ll go 0-for-4 but does reach on an Addison Russell error in the first—opening the door for three unearned runs that set the pace for a 4-2 Marlins victory.

The Marlins’ other run will be supplied on a seventh-inning solo shot by Giancarlo Stanton, giving him 20 on the season; he becomes the 11th major leaguer to hit at least 20 in each of his first eight years.

A week after getting swept at home by the front-running Indians, the Twins get even—traveling to Cleveland and finishing off a three-game sweep of the Tribe with a 4-0 win, reclaiming first place in the AL Central. Ervin Santana spreads nine hits out over six shutout innings and earns his tenth win of the year; it’s the first time that Minnesota has swept a series of at least three games at Progressive Field, which opened in 1994.

Monday, June 26
On paper, it’s not a fair fight: The Dodgers, with a ten-game win streak, hosting the Angels and starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco, who has lost each of his last seven starts. But sometimes in baseball, you just have to expect the unexpected. Nolasco fires 6.2 scoreless innings before being ousted by a Kiké Hernandez comebacker, and the Angels otherwise tame the streaking Dodgers, 4-0. Not only is the Los Angeles winning streak over, but the Dodgers also do not homer for the first time after belting at least one in 17 straight games—a streak that’s tied for the longest since the club moved to California in 1958.

In taking the loss for the Dodgers, Rich Hill at least works deep into the game; his seven innings clinch his first start of the year in which he’s worked at least five. No other pitcher had ever made as many starts (nine) to begin a season without recording at least one out in the sixth.

With Cole Hamels making his first start in two months, the Rangers take a 9-2 lead at Cleveland headed into the bottom of the fourth inning—then proceed to give up 13 unanswered runs as the Indians pound away to a 15-9 decision. Eight of Cleveland’s nine hitters collect at least two hits; the vaunted Indians bullpen cools off the Texas bats after Carlos Carrasco’s shaky (3.1 innings, eight runs allowed) start by allowing just a run on three hits the rest of the way.

The Cubs have leadoff wonder Anthony Rizzo step aside and allow catcher Willson Contreras to bat first for the start of a series at Washington—and the results are the same. Contreras becomes the first backstop in the modern era (again, since 1900) to homer in his first appearance as a leadoff hitter in the first inning. The blast proves vital as Chicago thwarts a ninth-inning rally by the Nationals and triumphs, 5-4.

Tuesday, June 27
The Nationals run all over Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, stealing seven bases—four from leadoff speedster Trea Turner, who takes over the major league lead with 32 on the year—in four innings before Arrieta is ousted from the mound. Max Scherzer takes it from there, throwing six solid innings (though he fails to fan ten batters for the first time in seven starts) as Washington breezes to a 6-1 home win.

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero, behind the plate for all seven Washington steals, publicly puts the blame on Arrieta, telling reporters after the game: “It really sucked because the stolen bases go on me but when you really look at it the pitcher doesn't give me any time.” Those comments will cost him his job; an irate Cubs front office will designate him for assignment the next day.

This is the fifth time this year that Arrieta hasn’t made it to the end of the fifth inning.

The Angels, 12-0 on Tuesdays this season, finally bow to defeat with a 4-0 loss at Los Angeles. Kenta Maeda throws seven scoreless frames for the Dodgers.

The University of Florida wins the College World Series for the first time in school history with a 6-1 triumph over LSU. Leading the way for the Gators is Alex Faedo, who throws 14.1 scoreless innings in the tournament; the Detroit Tigers recently made him the 18th pick of the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft.

Anthony Young, who established a major league record no one wants to break—losing 27 decisions in a row—passes away at 51 from a brain tumor, 24 years to the day that he broke Cliff Curtis’ 82-year-old mark with his 24th straight loss. Despite the infamous skid and a eye-wincing 15-48 career record, Young produced a respectable lifetime ERA of 3.89.

Wednesday, June 28
The struggling Giants finish off their first three-game sweep of the season and extend Colorado’s losing skid to eight with a 5-3 victory at San Francisco. Former Korean star Jae-Gyun Hwang, making his major league debut, belts a solo homer for the Giants to break a 3-3 tie in the sixth.

So will the real Rockies please stand up? After running out to a 47-26 start that put them ahead in the NL West, the pitching has crashed while the team’s usually reliable hitting has quieted down. They’ll start hitting again, no doubt—you can’t help yourself but bulk up on stats playing at Coors Field—but the pitching could continue to be a problem. The rotation is talented, but also heavily inexperienced; as these young pitchers ride into uncharted territory as the innings rack up, don’t expect the wondrous results of the first two months—and the bullpen, absorbed and punished by the rigors of Coors Field, will get little chance to be refreshed. There’s also this: Not since 2009 have the Rockies put together a better record after June 30 than before.

Youth continues to spring eternal for the Yankees. Miguel Andujar sets a Yankee record by knocking in four runs in his team debut and rookie sensation Aaron Judge blasts his 27th home run to extend his major league lead as New York brutalizes the White Sox at Chicago, 12-3. Carlos Rodon, making his White Sox season debut after spending the first two months of the year on the shelf with arm issues, has a strange line to say the least—allowing three runs, all unearned, on two hits and six walks plus two wild pitches; of the 94 pitches he throws, only 41 are for strikes.

The Angels are gifted a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers at Anaheim when Cameron Maybin strikes out for the third out of the ninth—but the ball skirts away from Los Angeles catcher Yasmani Grandal, who chases it down and throws wildly past first base. Ben Revere, who had taken third on the wild pitch, scores the winning run on the wild throw.

Three weeks or rest and recovery apparently is not the tonic for 44-year-old Bartolo Colon. The majors’ oldest active player retakes the mound for Atlanta and is pounded for six runs in four innings by the Padres in a 7-4 loss at San Diego. With a 2-8 record and atrocious 8.14 ERA, Colon is designated for assignment after the game.

Thursday, June 29
It’s déjà vu all over again for the Nationals, who lose another star speedster and suffer another blown save. (Sorry, Patrick Killebrew.) After stealing two bases early in the game to pad his major league lead to 35, Trea Turner is struck on the wrist by Cubs reliever Pedro Strop and suffers a fracture that will keep him out of action for some time to come. Two innings later, with Washington ahead 4-2 in the ninth, the Cubs strike for three runs against Blake Treinen and depart with a 5-4 victory.

The potential long-term loss of Turner is a major blow to the Nationals, already without speedy center fielder Adam Eaton for the rest of the year. And, they still need a closer to boot. If you’re a Washington fan, thank goodness your lead in the NL East is still a healthy 9.5 games—but bigger leads have been blown in less time.

A day after Miguel Andujar’s dreamy debut for the Yankees, Dustin Fowler endures a more nightmarish baptism in pinstripes at Chicago. The right fielder, in the first inning of his first major league game, crashes into the retaining wall running after a Jose Abreu foul ball and suffers a major knee injury that requires “immediate surgery”; he is likely out for the rest of the year. It’s part of a frustrating night for the Yankees, who after a three-hour rain delay lose, 4-3, as Aaron Judge is walked three times and robbed of a home run from the White Sox’ Melky Cabrera.

Friday, June 30
The Braves’ Mike Foltynewicz takes a no-hitter into the ninth inning at Oakland, but the A’s Matt Olson ruins it with a leadoff home run. Jim Johnson will pick up the save from there and ensure Atlanta’s 3-1 victory over the A’s—who currently have gone longer than any other MLB team from being no-hit, having not been on the wrong side of one since 1991 (when it took four Baltimore pitchers to do the trick).

While the A’s are nearly embarrassed in their own home park, they may be regretting the recent release of Stephen Vogt. The veteran catcher, playing his third game for Milwaukee, homers twice and knocks in all three runs for the Brewers in their 3-2 win over the visiting Marlins.

Alex Wood improves to 9-0 on the year and Austin Barnes brings home seven runs on a pair of homers (including a first-inning grand slam) to pace the Dodgers to an easy 10-4 romp of the Padres in San Diego. But the most memorable visual takeaway of the night come after the first inning when both managers—the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts and the Padres’ Andy Green—nearly get physical with one another after arguing over an earlier sequence in which Wood got vocally angry with Padres baserunner Jose Pirela for what he thought was an attempt to steal signs. Both managers are ejected.

The Rangers, who in 2016 excelled at winning the close ones—often from behind—are finding that payback is a bitch. At Chicago, Texas blows a 7-5 lead in the ninth as Melky Cabrera’s two-run double caps a three-run rally to give the White Sox an 8-7 win. The Rangers have been charged with 16 blown saves in 80 games this season; they blew 17 for all of 2016.

Early in the game, the White Sox’ Jose Abreu—with 13 home runs on the season, all hit on the road—finally drills his first at home.

The Yankees, trailing 3-1 after five innings before a full house in Houston, bust out for 12 unanswered runs and crush the Astros, 13-4. Brett Gardner finishes a triple shy of the cycle and knocks in six runs for New York.


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