This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: May, 2018
Is ‘Bullpenning’ Here to Stay? Supreme Court: Go Wager on the Majors
MLB’s Response to the HR Epidemic: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Albert Pujols at 3,000


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
107 26 36 12 0 11 25 16 1 1 5

After a chilly April to match the weather, the 25-year-old’s bat warmed up and quickly burned hot in May as Ramirez got his game back on a par with his near-MVP levels of last season. Included among the numbers were monthly personal bests in home runs and RBIs, putting him on a full-season pace for over 50 and 120, respectively. Too good to be true? Someone in Ramirez’s native Dominican Republic tried to convince people that it was, claiming that an 80-game steroid suspension was upcoming; the Indians and MLB denied the charge.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
101 21 33 7 1 7 21 15 1 0 1

The Rockies’ offense continues to drag itself out of an early-season slumber—they’re only hitting .240 as of the end of May—but don’t blame Arenado, who’s profitably contributed to what little has otherwise been generated in Colorado. The third baseman has maintained his All-Star play and helped push the Rockies into first place in a surprisingly stagnant NL West, and his .319 season average to end the month puts him on pace to set a career high. One wonders how much better he can get if his teammates batting around him the order can just pick it up a little.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
74 4 8 1 0 0 1 8 0 0 2

For those who thought the 30-year-old outfielder had hit rock bottom in April (.163 average, no extra-base hits), we got some news: It just got a bit deeper. If it gets any worse, he’ll find himself in China. Calhoun has been something of an under-the-radar plus for the Angels over the last three years, averaging 21 homers and 75 RBIs, but his dreadful May is merely a continuation of a puzzling start in which he’s wielded no power, no discipline (just 11 walks) and seemingly no hope. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about using Shohei Ohtani in Calhoun’s place until he gets it figured out.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Lewis Brinson, Miami Marlins

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
95 4 13 0 0 3 8 2 0 1 0

If misery loves company, Calhoun might want to share some bar space with the 24-year-old, former first-round draft choice who’s also failed to deliver from Opening Day on. At least Brinson is flashing some power, with six homers on the year to date—but it’s all coming an at expense of a terrible batting average which sat at .137 in May, just a hair worse than his .139 reading in April. Brinson might be a bench player or even still in the minors if he were somewhere else, but the Marlins are so talent-depleted, he remains their best option at center field. You just hope that this awful start doesn’t beat him down emotionally to the point of no return.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
3-2 41.2 22 5 4 7 0 2 0 0 50

The Astro-nomical surge of the tall veteran fireballer continues in Houston. With six more high-quality starts in May that included a five-hit shutout at Anaheim and 14 strikeouts over eight innings of zeroes against the Yankees, Verlander ran his record at Houston since joining the team last summer to 12-2 with a mind-boggling 1.09 ERA and .152 batting average allowed. Here’s what’s even more frightening for opponents; at 35, Verlander believes he still has plenty left of gas in the tank. Never mind being a millionaire; there should be a game show called “Who Wants to be Verlander?” If you win, you go to the ballpark, stifle ever batter you face, smile after the game and go home to Kate Upton. Man, life can be sweet.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 26 17 2 2 8 0 2 0 0 37

The one Mets ace who manages to stay healthy—or barely, this month—may look unrecognizable these days with his long locks a thing of the past, but his numbers remain brilliantly the same. The 29-year-old ace dealt with a hyperextended right elbow four innings into his first start of the month—then lasted only an inning in his next outing 11 days later. The pain must have gone away; he allowed just two runs over his next three starts and 21 innings. In fact, they’re the only two runs deGrom has allowed over his last 40.1 innings. He has yet to lose as of the end of May—but he sure has pitched well enough to win more than four games.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Carson Fulmer, Chicago WHite Sox

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-3 7.1 13 18 17 11 0 3 1 0 11

The highly touted White Sox pitcher was terrible in the Cactus League (five starts, 11.81 ERA), and hasn’t been much better since Opening Day. His three May starts were so wild and ineffective, the White Sox had no choice but to send him back to the minors at mid-month, where he continues to have control issues (10 walks in his first 11 innings at Triple-A). There was a lot going wrong in general at Chicago this past month, but Fulmer’s implosion was the most spectacular sight.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-4 27.2 50 32 30 9 4 0 1 0 17

One of the Reds’ biggest albatrosses—yes, they’re still paying him $21 million—lived up to his first name in the worst of ways this past month, leading the NL in homers allowed with nine. Bailey also gave up a lot of other hits, too; opponents hit .391 against him in May. This is all only slightly worse than what the 32-year-old righty has had to tolerate over the last three-plus years; since the start of 2015, he’s 9-20 with an atrocious 6.49 ERA. Trust us on this one; the Reds are counting the days until they have to stop paying him like the All-Star they envisioned him being back in 2014. They’ll have to keep counting until the end of 2020.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
New York Yankees (17-7)

The Yankees bookended a sweet May with a pair of series conquests against the Astros, beating the defending champions five out of six times as an advance reminder that, should the two teams meet up again in October, history may not repeat itself. New York wasn’t entirely dominant; they were just tough in the clutch—with six of their wins coming in their last inning at bat. The month’s big star: Not Aaron Judge, not Giancarlo Stanton, and not Didi Gregorius (who collapsed after a brilliant April)—but 21-year-old rookie Gleyber Torres, whose nine homers in May included five over a four-game stretch. All of this, and the Yankees remain in second place behind the Red Sox, coasting after their hot start.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Washington Nationals (19-8)

A nice start to the month (seven wins in their first eight games) soon gave way to a bumpy stretch where they couldn’t win a game over a week’s period—in part because they couldn’t get in a game due to lousy weather. Compounding the problem was the mid-month losses of veteran offensive stalwarts Ryan Zimmerman and Howie Kendrick. But coming to the rescue was forgotten slugger Mark Reynolds—who hit six homers over 44 at-bats in Zimmerman’s place—while 19-year-old Juan Soto, who just six weeks earlier was plying his trade in Low-A ball, completed a remarkably quick ascension to the majors and went 12-for-36. But through thick and thin, it was pitching that carried the Nationals, registering a major league-best 2.51 ERA for the month as Max Scherzer, Stephen Starsburg and Gio Gonzalez combined to go 11-1 with a 2.08 ERA.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chicago White Sox (8-19)

In an era where tanking is hip, there seems to be a lot of bad teams in baseball—but arguably nobody’s worse the Pale Hosed, who end May with fewer wins (16) than any other ballclub. There was genuine hope this season that the White Sox’ esteemed youth movement would elevate the team upward in the standings, but the major pieces of that next generation—infielder Yoan Moncada and pitchers Lucas Giolitto and Carson Fulmer—all had lousy showings in May. Adding injection to injury, veteran catcher Welington Castillo got busted for steroid use. Star bopper Jose Abreu, one of the precious few to have a good month in Chicago, stated that he wants to stay with the White Sox forever. At this point, he’s quite the optimist.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Arizona Diamondbacks (8-19)

That must be one potent humidor they’ve installed at Chase Field. After an awesome April where the Diamondbacks bolted well into first place and couldn’t lose a series, they suddenly couldn’t score a run if they bet the new ballpark they’re dreaming of building on it. The Snakes slithered to an appalling .193 average in May—and in one stench-filled stretch scored just 34 runs in 17 games, winning just two of them. You know something’s really wrong in Arizona when even Paul Goldschmidt, Mr. Automatic at the plate, hits an anemic .144 for the month.


Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(May 2018 Edition)

Not Fake News…But Fake Names?
The New York TimesMike Schmidt broke the story that lawyer Ty Cobb was quitting his job as President Donald Trump’s lawyer. No word on whether Pete Rose would take over—and whether Greg Luzinski will write about it.

Java Script
While the Rockies were in Chicago, rookie outfielder Noel Cuevas was asked to go get coffee outside of Wrigley Field—for the whole team, in full uniform. Final tab: $111.55. (The Dodgers’ Joc Pederson can relate; he had to do the same thing a few years back.)

Truly Green
The Mets’ PJ Conlon was called up to start in place of the injured Jacob deGrom on May 7—and thus became the first Irish-born major leaguer since Joe Cleary in 1945. Conlon gave up three runs on four hits through 3.2 innings of work and got a no-decision in New York’s 7-6 win at Cincinnati.

Room Service!
In Manchester, New Hampshire, top Toronto prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a home run into a Hilton Garden Inn hotel located behind the left-field fence during a Double-A game.

What a Shohei
It doesn’t count, but it won’t get unnoticed: The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani smashed a batting practice ball 517 feet to the back of the upper deck in right-center field at Denver’s Coors Field.

Video Difficulties
The Red Sox’ David Price had to deny “rumors” that he missed a start as a result of carpel tunnel from playing too much Fortnite, the latest video game rage.

Time to Whip Some Asp
A Double-A game in San Antonio was interrupted by a slithery invader in center field.

Did Statcast Time the Throw?
Boston reliever Carson Smith went on the disabled list after angrily throwing his glove in the Red Sox’ dugout following a bad inning.

Indian Taker
A man who routinely protested in public about the Indians’ Chief Wahoo logo as being racist pled guilty to stealing money from Federal grants designed to help Native Americans.

You Can Check in Anytime You Like…
The Yankees went to Washington, couldn’t get either of two games in against the Nationals because of foul weather, and then were forced to sleep overnight at the airport when neither their plane (mechanical snafus) nor flight crew (too many hours) could take them home.

Come Back, Jeffrey Loria!
Miami sports talk host Andy Slater had his press credentials revoked by the Marlins after he exposed the team’s “headquarters” in the British Virgin Islands as nothing more than a post office box.

Did Anyone Explain That Ground Rule?
The Twins’ Brian Dozier hit a deep fly to center that became something of a sticky situation.

The Name Game
It was pointed out that on May 22, winning pitchers in the majors included Gerrit Cole (Astros), Jason Hammel (Royals) and Cole Hamels (Rangers).

Six Flags Over Short
Through the end of May, the Blue Jays started seven players at shortstop, representing six different countries: Yangervis Solarte (Venezuela), Gift Ngoepe (South Africa), Gio Urshela (Colombia), Richard Urena (Dominican Republic), Aledmys Diaz and Loudres Gurriel (Cuba) and Russell Martin (Canada). If Troy Tulowitzki (United States) ever makes it back to the field, it will be seven countries.

No, No, Rudy, They’re Just Yelling “Ruuud…”
The Yankees’ public address folks took time during their May 28 game against Houston to wish former New York City mayor and current Donald Trump legal bulldog Rudy Giuliani a happy birthday. The crowd responded with a massive chorus of boos.

Man, That’s a Spitting Image
On the day of his major league debut, Giants pitcher Dereck Robinson had an ESPN player page that showed a profile picture not of himself but, instead, his father—Hall-of-Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez.

If This is Your Rally Goose, God Help You
A goose was shooed off the Comerica Park field during a game, and it flew off—right into a scoreboard.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
Okay folks, it’s time to reset the bar on monthly strikeouts once again. Yet another all-time mark for a calendar month was set with 6,971 Ks registered in May, surpassing the 6,941 recorded last September. At least the ignominy of a second straight month with more strikeouts than hits was spared when major league hitters began to finally find their offensive traction late in the month—but boy, it was close. And here’s another hint that there’s more misses among the swings; home runs have tapered off and are down 2% from last year at this time, a noticeable blunting against three years of rapid rises. We’re itchingly close to our first 7,000-K month; care to bet on a new reset in June?

League vs. League

Attempting to prove that April was no mirage, the National League continued to outpace the American League in interleague competition, winning 27 of 48 games to improve its season record to 46-33. Should the NL finish above .500 against the AL at season’s end for the first time in 15 long years, they might want to thank the incredibly weak AL Central—with five teams combining for a 14-24 record against it.





Tuesday, May 1
Astros ace Justin Verlander is masterful through eight shutout innings at Houston against the Yankees. Closer Brad Giles is not. After striking out a career high-tying 14 batters and allowing just three hits on 105 pitches, Verlander is replaced in the ninth by Giles, who proceeds to cough up four runs—three on a Gary Sanchez home run. The Astros’ offense, meanwhile, are shut down by six Yankee pitchers, including five relievers who are forced to combine for eight innings after the early exit of starter Jordan Montgomery due to elbow issues. New York, 4-0.

Giles is so upset about his performance that on his way back to the dugout after the inning, he punches himself in the face.

Frustrated by a lack of protection in the lineup that led to 38 walks through his first 29 games, Bryce Harper forces the issue by being placed in the leadoff spot, and belts his first home run in 12 games—while knocking in his first RBI in nine—during the Nationals’ 12-4 rout over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Major League Baseball announces that the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners will begin the 2019 season with a two-game series in Tokyo. This will be the fifth time that Japan has hosted regular season action, and the second time that such a series will pair the A’s and Mariners, who last grouped together at Tokyo in 2012.

Wednesday, May 2
Boston’s Mookie Betts hits solo home runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings to help lift the Red Sox to a 5-4 home victory over Kansas City. It’s the second time this year that Betts has gone deep thrice in a game, and the fourth time in his career to set a Boston franchise record previously held by Ted Williams. At 26, he’s the youngest player ever to have four hat tricks, matches Johnny Mize as the only player to hit three twice in two different seasons and also ties Alfonso Soriano’s career mark for three homers from the leadoff spot.

Joining Betts on the homer trey parade is Cleveland’s Edwin Encarnacion, who needs a jolt of power as he enters the day hitting .171—and ends it with three homers and six RBIs in the Indians’ 12-4 rout of the Rangers at Progressive Field. This is Encarnacion’s third career hat trick, having previously achieved the feat for Toronto in 2010 and 2016.

Seattle’s James Paxton is absolutely electric at home against the Oakland A’s, throwing seven shutout innings with 16 strikeouts and no walks. The Mariners’ bullpen then takes over and immediately proceeds to screw it up, allowing three runs over the next two innings to give the A’s a 3-2 win. Paxton is the first pitcher since Vida Blue in 1971 to allow no runs with 16 strikeouts—and not get a decision. Only Randy Johnson (three times) has struck as many or more batters in a game for the Mariners.

Ichiro Suzuki goes 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored in what may be his last major league appearance. The next day, the Mariners announce that the 44-year-old outfielder will be removed from the active roster and “transitioned” to a front office position. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s retired; rumor has it that he may get a special send-off to start the 2019 season because the Mariners will play their first two games of the season in his native Japan against Oakland. For the 2018 season, Suzuki has hit .205 with no extra-base hits in 44 at-bats.

Giancarlo Stanton drives in all four New York runs on a double and two home runs, more than enough to support Luis Severino as he becomes the youngest Yankee to throw a shutout since Sterling Hitchcock in 1995 in a 4-0 win at Houston. Severino allows five hits, strikes out 10 and walks one on 110 pitches. For the Astros, it’s the first time they’ve suffered back-to-back shutout losses since 2013.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are not only winning on the field to start the 2018 season, they nab a significant win off it as well as they strike a deal with Maricopa County to be allowed to immediately seek a replacement for Chase Field. In exchange, the Diamondbacks agree to drop a lawsuit they had filed against the county for what they claimed was a lack of inadequate updates to the 20-year-old ballpark. The team will now be responsible for all repairs to the facility and can book other events at the facility to profit from; if the Diamondbacks decide they have found a site to build a new ballpark and leave before 2022, they will have to pay a penalty to the county.

Thursday, May 3
It’s an interesting day for Toronto’s Yangervis Solarte, to say the least. In the first game of a doubleheader at Cleveland, he makes up for an embarrassing face-first slide at third base and game-tying error in the eighth by going 5-for-6 with six RBIs—the final four of those coming on his first career grand slam in the 11th inning to give the Blue Jays an eventual 13-11 victory. He adds three more hits (including another home run) in the nightcap, a 13-4 Cleveland win, to give him a Toronto-record eight for the day.

The Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson also homers in both games; he and Solarte thus become the first pair of teammates to go deep in each game of a doubleheader since 1989.

Could the Atlanta Braves possibly be for real? With an 11-0 rout of the Mets at New York, the Braves sweep a three-game series, outscoring the Mets 21-2—18-0 over the last two games—to take first place in the NL East by 1.5 games. Julio Teheran takes a no-hitter into the seventh before giving up his only two hits; the Braves’ two (very) young and (very) hot stars, Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr., each homer and combine for five hits.

Matt Harvey, recently demoted to the bullpen and very unhappy about it, replaces ineffective starter Jason Vargas and allows five runs over two innings on three hits and three walks—with 18 of his 39 pitches recorded as strikes. The next day, he’ll refuse another demotion—this one to the minors—and will instead be designated for assignment by the Mets with a 7.00 season ERA.

Friday, May 4
With a fifth-inning single at Seattle, the Angels’ Albert Pujols becomes the 32nd major leaguer to reach the 3,000-hit milestone. Pujols is the second Dominican-born player to reach 3,000 (after Adrian Beltre, who got there just last summer) and the third straight foreign-born player (after Beltre and Ichiro Suzuki) to do so. He is the fourth player to have at least 3,000 hits and 600 home runs, and according to STATS, no player previously reached 3,000 with more extra-base hits (1,262). Pujols will add a two-run single in the ninth to cap the scoring in the Angels’ 5-0 win over the Mariners.

In the first of three games at Monterrey, Mexico, the “away” Dodgers use four pitchers to no-hit the “home” Padres, 4-0. Rookie Walker Buehler starts and throws six no-hit innings with three walks but is removed after 93 pitches; Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore each throw an inning afterward to hold the Padres hitless to the end. This is the first no-hitter ever thrown in a MLB regular season game outside of the U.S. and Canada, and the 12th in which multiple pitchers were needed to no-hit an opponent.

The Padres have suffered more no-hit losses (10) than any other major league team since their 1969 inception; meanwhile, they remain the only team never to throw one.

The Astros’ Gerrit Cole throws his first career shutout and strikes out a career-high 16 batters—besting a personal mark set just three weeks earlier—as he one-hits the Diamondbacks at Phoenix, 8-0. The odd part: None of Cole’s strikeouts occur in either the first or ninth innings.

Cole’s 77 Ks are the most by any player within his first seven starts for one team.

Saturday, May 5
The Red Sox score a 6-5 comeback win at Texas that’s secured by closer Craig Kimbrel—who collects his 300th career save with a 1-2-3 ninth. At 29 years, 11 months and eight days, Kimbrel becomes the youngest major leaguer to reach 300. At St. Louis against the Cubs, the Cardinals score two on a Marcell Ozuna double to tie the game in the ninth, and two more on a Kolten Wong homer in the 10th to defeat Chicago, 8-6. But the Cardinals’ nutty win comes coupled with, if we may say so, a nutty loss: Catcher Yadier Molina, behind the plate in the eighth, has the unfortunate experience of taking a foul-tip on a 101.5-MPH Jordan Hicks pitch right in the groin. Worse, the injury will require surgery that will keep the All-Star backstop out for a month.

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout performance, the Oakland A’s match him as a team in a 2-0, 12-inning home victory over Baltimore. Starter Trevor Cahill strikes out 12 Orioles in six innings; four relievers combine to collect eight more Ks over the next six. Baltimore pitching isn’t too shabby itself; Kevin Gausman’s bid for his first career shutout is denied after being removed from a 0-0 game after nine frames, allowing just two hits; in the 12th, Khris Davis’ two-run shot off Pedro Araujo wins it.

Not only did the A’s never get a runner into scoring position until Davis’ game-winner, it’s the first time they’ve ever won a game on an extra-inning, walk-off homer to decide a 0-0 game.

The Angels score twice in the ninth at Seattle to send a 6-6 game into overtime, notch a run in the 10th and another in the 11th—and still lose, 9-8. The Mariners match the Angels with a run in the 10th on a Jefry Marte error, then win it an inning later as Ryon Healy caps a two-run rally with a run-scoring single. The Mariners become the first team (since themselves in 2003) to allow runs in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings and still win.

In the world of college baseball, Florida State’s Mike Martin becomes the all-time winningest coach with a 3-2, 13-inning victory over Clemson. Martin now has 1,976 wins to pass the late Augie Garrido.

Sunday, May 6
The Diamondbacks hand Justin Verlander his first regular season loss in 13 starts as an Astro, taking a 3-1 victory at Phoenix. The winning pitcher is Matt Koch, who is the first pitcher since Ed Lopat in 1947 to square off against different MVPs in consecutive starts. The one difference? Lopat lost both his games; Koch wins his, having won five days earlier against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.

On the 20th anniversary of Kerry Wood’s 20-K masterpiece, the Nationals’ Max Scherzer records 15 strikeouts among his first 19 outs (6.1 innings)—a major league first—against Philadelphia, but is asked to depart with a 1-0 lead at that moment because his pitch count is at 111. The Washington bullpen then proceeds to cough up four runs (one charged to Scherzer) over the next inning-plus, but the Nationals rebound with two runs each in the eighth and ninth innings to defeat the Phillies at home, 5-4.

After taking a 2-0 lead in the first, the Mets’ bats go cold as they can only muster two hits the rest of the way and lose to Colorado, 3-2—finishing off a six-game homestand at Citi Field without a single win. Ian Desmond homers twice for the Rockies, the second of which is the ultimate game-winning shot in the eighth inning.

While the Mets can’t win, the Yankees seemingly can’t lose. In winning their 15th game in their last 16 tries, the Yankees get crucial help from two rookies. Domingo German, in his major league debut, becomes yet again the latest pitcher to be removed from a no-hitter or perfect game after six innings, striking out nine and walking two over 84 pitches; after the opposing Indians strike for four eighth-inning runs off Yankee relievers, New York rebounds with three in the bottom half of the frame and, in the ninth, four more as 21-year-old Gleyber Torres provides the walk-off heroics with a three-run shot to win it.

German ties a Yankee record for the most strikeouts in his first game; Torres becomes the youngest Yankee ever to hit a walk-off homer—besting Mickey Mantle by 44 days.

With Cleveland’s Mike Clevinger allowing just one hit over 7.1 innings with 10 strikeouts, this is the first game since 1908 in which both pitchers each allowed no more than one hit while striking out no fewer than nine.

The Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani quiets the raucous boos of Seattle fans by throwing six sharp innings while getting the support of three home runs (including the 12th from Mike Trout) to easily outduel Felix Hernandez and the Mariners, 6-2. Pitching for the first time in 12 days, Ohtani improves to 3-1 with a so-so 4.10 ERA; he had been booed all series at Seattle as Mariners fans feel he spurned the team in the offseason to sign with the Angels.

Monday, May 7
The Astros clobber the A’s at Oakland, 16-2, behind a six-hit performance from George Springer to tie a club record. Among Springer’s hits are a 462-foot home run, a double and four singles; he scores four times and drives in three. Dallas Keuchel, who had been given one or fewer runs of support in five of his previous seven starts, gets overdue benefaction in throwing eight innings and earning only his second win of the year.

Joe Morgan, in 1965, is the only other Astro to have knocked out six hits in a game—but he needed 12 innings to accomplish it.

In his second major league start, Minnesota’s Fernando Romero silences the Cardinals at St. Louis with six innings of three-hit ball in the Twins’ 6-0 win. The 23-year-old rookie has thrown 11.2 shutout innings to start his career.

Tuesday, May 8
In his first start since striking out 16 A’s in seven shutout innings, Seattle’s James Paxton has a more memorable outing as he becomes the first Canadian since Dick Fowler in 1945 to throw a no-hitter in the Mariners’ 5-0 win at Toronto. In completing his first career complete game, the 29-year-old Paxton needs just 99 pitches, walks three and strikes out seven. This is the sixth no-no in Seattle history—but the first thrown on the road.

This is the third no-hitter thrown in a season by May 8, something not done since 1969; all three this season have each been thrown in a different country (Canada, the U.S. and Mexico).

The Blue Jays’ no-hit loss caps a day of bad news from sunrise to sunset. Earlier in the day it’s announced that Toronto closer Roberto Osuna has been charged with domestic assault and is placed on paid administrative leave by the team. Major League Baseball, with a recent history of aggressively going after players charged (but not necessarily convicted) with domestic assault, is assuredly on the case and weighing discipline options.

Returning home after becoming the first team in modern history to suffer successive winless road swings of at least six or more games, the Orioles discover that Oriole Park at Camden Yards is not the cure. The Kansas City Royals, not exactly setting the league on fire themselves at 11-23, arrive and punish Baltimore for 10 first-inning runs, seven of them off of Orioles starter Dylan Bundy, in a 15-7 rout. All of Bundy’s runs come from four Royals homers, the most ever allowed by a major league starter without recording a single out. With the blowout loss, the Orioles have lost seven straight, 19 of their last 22, and own both the majors’ worst record (8-27) and run differential (-80).

On the day it’s announced that the Yankees and Red Sox will play a pair of games in London during the 2019 season, the two rivals get it on at New York and the Yankees emerge 3-2 victors on two Giancarlo Stanton solo home runs and Luis Severino’s solid start (six innings, 11 strikeouts). It’s the 16th win in 17 games for the Yankees, who have also won 10 straight at home—the most since opening New Yankee Stadium in 2009. Both teams are tied at the top of the AL East with identical 25-10 records.

The Yankees had previously gone on 16-1 runs in 1939, 1941, 1947 and 1953; in all four of those seasons, they went on to win the World Series.

After first demoting Matt Harvey and then placing him on waivers, the Mets trade the disgruntled former ace to Cincinnati for catcher Devin Mesaraco and cash. Since 2015, Harvey is 9-19 with a 5.93 ERA. One assumes that Harvey’s presence in the relatively mundane atmosphere of Cincinnati, away from New York’s intensive media spotlight and ultra-nightlife trappings that have seduced him, will calm him down and encourage renewed focus on baseball.

It’s arguable to state that the Colorado Rockies are pitching about as well as they ever have. At Coors Field, Jon Gray delivers seven shutout innings and secures a team-record ninth consecutive quality start for the rotation as the Rockies defeat the Angels, 4-2, for their sixth straight win. In their last 12 games, the Rockies’ team ERA is a superb 2.06.

Wednesday, May 9
The Mets, who shot out to an 11-1 start, are back to their head-burying ways—and finding new ways to lose in the process. At Cincinnati, Wilmer Flores strikes out while batting second and Asdrubal Cabrera follows with a double—but the Reds correctly point out that, according to the official scorecard, Asdrubal was to bat before Flores, not vice versa. The umpires agree and declare Jay Bruce (the next batter) out to end the inning. The Mets go on to lose in 10 innings, 2-1, for their 16th loss in their last 23 games.

The streaking Cubs—who followed a five-game win streak with a five-game slide—sweep a three-game home series against Miami with a 13-4 drubbing. Willson Contreras becomes the first major league catcher in seven years to triple twice in a game, while Kris Bryant belts his 100th career home run—three years to the day that he hit his first—to reach the milestone in fewer games (487) than any other Cub in franchise history.

Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco throws his second complete game of the season—and 10th of his career—allowing two runs on five hits with 14 strikeouts over 117 pitches (85 of them strikes) to help lift the Indians to a 6-2 win at Milwaukee. The victory pushes the Tribe back to the .500 mark at 18-18—but that’s still good enough to lead the weak AL Central.

Thursday, May 10
The Braves improve their NL East-best record to 22-14 with their eighth straight road win, a 9-2 victory at Miami. The Marlins do not score until the fifth, breaking a streak of 38 consecutive scoreless innings pitched outside of Atlanta by Braves pitchers to set a franchise mark. Offensively, the Braves are powered by Ozzie Albies, who drives in five runs—four on a sixth-inning grand slam.

Albies has 11 homers for the year and 17 in 375 career major league at-bats; he hit only 16 homers in 1,555 minor league at-bats.

The Red Sox hold off the Yankees at New York and avoid a three-game sweep as J.D. Martinez’s tie-breaking solo shot in the eighth gives Boston a 5-4 win. The victory ends the Yankees’ 11-game home win streak and squares both teams at the top of the AL East with 26-11 records.

The Orioles overcome an early deficit against Kansas City and rage to an 11-6 triumph thanks to three home runs—including a two-run shot from Manny Machado that’s not only his 10th of the season, but his first with runners on base. Baltimore’s win comes despite another alarming start for Chris Tillman, who allows six runs (five earned) on four hits, three walks and no strikeouts in just 1.1 innings as he continues to struggle after last year’s awful showing.

Outside of an exceptional outing on April 27 in which he allowed just one hit over seven shutout innings, Tillman this season is 0-5 with a 14.19 ERA in six starts—this, after going 1-7 with a 7.84 mark in 2017.

Friday, May 11
Matt Harvey debuts for the Cincinnati Reds and allows one hit in four shutout innings, setting the tone for the Reds’ 6-2 win over the Dodgers at Los Angeles—their season-high fourth straight victory. The former Mets ace throws 55 pitches before being removed due to recent inactivity.

One game after belting two triples, the Cubs’ Willson Contreras continues to answer his belated wake-up call to the 2018 season by collecting four extra-base hits—two doubles and two homers—while knocking in seven runs in an 11-2 home rout of the crosstown White Sox. Contreras has six extra-base hits in his last two games after producing 12 in the 29 games before that.

In Toronto, the Red Sox’ Chris Sale matches a career high with 15 strikeouts while walking none over nine innings—but has to settle for a no-decision as the Blue Jays steal a 5-3 victory in 12. Luke Maile, a career .204 hitter who had not homered in nearly a year, makes up for an egregious throwing error early in the game by going deep twice—once in the seventh to tie the game, and again in the 12th to win it.

Only two other Red Sox pitchers—Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens—had ever struck out 15 batters with no walks in a game.

The Rockies shoot out to a 9-3 lead over Milwaukee after four innings—but this is Coors Field, where no lead in safe. And so it goes on this night, as the Brewers bounce back, score two off Colorado closer Wade Davis to tie the game at 10-10—and then win it in the 10th on a Travis Shaw RBI single. This is the 70th time since Coors Field opened in 1995 that both the Rockies and their opponents scored at least 10 runs in the same game.

The Rangers’ Cole Hamels, tormented so far this year by the Astros’ George Springer (three home runs), takes care of business by allowing one hit in six shutout innings while plunking the Houston outfielder in the elbow, leaving him day-to-day. Three Texas relievers further shut down the Astros to grab a 1-0, one-hit victory at Houston. Taking the loss for the Astros is Justin Verlander, who’s allowed just two runs over his last three starts totaling 20 innings—but hasn’t won any of them as the Astros have supported him with a total of one run.

Saturday, May 12
The Arizona Diamondbacks lose their fourth straight game for the first time this year and are guaranteed to lose their first series of the season as they fall at home to Washington, 2-1. The Diamondbacks had won 10 of their first 12 series while splitting two others. Stephen Strasburg strikes out nine over 6.1 innings for the Nationals.

The Diamondbacks will follow up their undefeated run of 12 series by going 47 straight innings without holding a lead.

A day after Willson Contreras collects two doubles and two home runs, Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor does the same from the leadoff spot, scoring four times to help lift the Indians to a 6-2 win over the visiting Royals. With the victory, the Indians bounce back to an even .500 at 19-19—good enough to lead a very weak AL Central.

Someone went to baseball-reference.com’s Play Index, which will cost you $36 a year—still, a lot cheaper than employing the Elias Sports Bureau—and discovered that the two double/two homer performance is rarer than the cycle. While there have been 255 cycles since 1908 (which is far back as the Play Index will allow, because they use retrosheet.org’s box scores which go back to the same year) there have only been 109 games in which a player went two doubles/two homers. With Contreras’ effort the day before, this is the first time it’s happened on consecutive days.

Lindor, Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez have combined for a .308 average this season in Cleveland. The remainder of the Indians’ roster is batting just .213.

Charlie Morton sizzles against the Rangers at Houston, striking out a career-high 14 batters while allowing a run on four hits through seven innings as the Astros coast to a 6-1 victory. With Morton’s performance, the Astros’ rotation posts a 2.30 ERA with 314 strikeouts; both figures are easily tops within the majors.

Thanks, Pittsburgh: Ex-Pirates Morton and Gerrit Cole are a combined 9-1 with a 1.71 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 105.1 innings this season at Houston.

Because it appears that Major League Baseball has nothing better to do, it has recently begun cracking down on…shoe colors. The Cubs’ Ben Zobrist was told this week that he must cease wearing black cleats because it violates a MLB rule that states that 51% of a player’s shoes must contain the colors of his team. Other players have been getting the same memo. Zobrist today sends a note back to MLB, asking for lenience as he wears the black cleats as a homage to the greats of yesteryear—who played in a time when black was the only available shoe color.

Like many other fans, writers and players, we were not aware of this rule until this week. And why is it even a rule? Hasn’t MLB learned from the National Football League how not to employ its Fashion Police in a tyrannical manner? And you can’t even wear black cleats, which used to be the norm, because your team doesn’t use it for one of its colors? Plain and simple: This is a silly rule. Let it go, MLB.

Sunday, May 13
The Seattle Mariners lose more than just a game at Detroit, as All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano has his hand fractured on a pitch by the Tigers’ Blaine Hardy in the third inning and is expected to miss over a month of action. Without Cano—who will get even worse news in the days to follow—the Mariners drop a 5-4 result on Jose Iglesias’ walk-off, run-scoring single in the ninth.

This is a tough break for the Mariners (quietly off to a good start at 22-17) and Cano, who in his last 11 years has participated in a seasonal average of 159 games with consistent quality numbers.

To many pitchers, making your major league debut at the offensive tinderbox known as Coors Field is enough to keep you wide awake the night before. But it’s nothing for Milwaukee’s Pedro Peralta, who’s been pitching at the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate down the road in Colorado Springs—with an elevation 1,000 feet higher than Denver. The 21-year-old right-hander puts together one of the all-time great debuts against the Rockies, throwing 5.1 no-hit innings before allowing his lone hit over 5.2 innings while striking out 13 batters as the Brewers eventually grab a 7-3 result. Only four other players have struck out more in a debut, but none of them pitched fewer innings than Peralta.

Mark Reynolds, who despite hitting 30 homers with 97 RBIs last year at Colorado remained unemployed into 2018 before Washington picked him to replace the injured Ryan Zimmerman, belts two home runs in his season debut—the second of which unlocks a 4-4 tie and gives the Nationals a 6-4 victory and four-game sweep of the Diamondbacks at Arizona.

The Nationals are the eighth team Reynolds has played for, and the seventh for which he has had at least one multi-homer performance—one shy of the major league record held by Mike Cameron.

The Reds continue their belated rise from a miserable start while the defending NL champion Dodgers continue a frustrating slide. Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto both go deep while Luis Castillo throws six solid innings to contain Los Angeles, 5-3, for Cincinnati’s sixth straight win and its first four-game sweep of the Dodgers since the Big Red Machine days of 1976.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci notes something about what may be ailing the Dodgers. Last year, Los Angeles batters saw more fastballs than any other team; so far this year, they’ve seen the fewest among all 30 MLB teams.

Monday, May 14
The U.S. Supreme Court rules 6-3 in favor of overturning the ban on sports betting outside of Nevada, giving states the power to determine whether they want to jump on the sportsbook wagon. MLB reacts warily, reiterating its century-old goal of protecting the game’s integrity from intrusive betting (which could evolve into game-fixing), but also has an eye on potential future profits as it seeks a 1% cut of sportsbook profits in exchange for access to real-time information that could better authenticate betting lines.

Some within the blogosphere attempt to use the court’s ruling as justification to exonerate Pete Rose from his lifetime ban from baseball. Wrong. What Rose did—betting on the Reds team he was managing—was well known to be illegal within the baseball universe, as if anyone needed a lesson on the implications of the Black Sox Scandal. Because it might be okay for Joe Fan to bet on baseball does not make it okay for any manager or player today to do the same. End of story.

In his first start against the Red Sox since no-hitting them on April 21, Oakland’s Sean Manaea isn’t as sharp but still good enough to nab a win as the A’s ride his six innings of work and three solo homers to a 6-5 win at Boston. Manaea allows four runs (three earned) on eight hits and improves to 5-4 with a 2.35 season ERA.

It’s another loss for Arizona—and this one is particularly painful. In the ninth inning of a 7-2 home defeat to Milwaukee, center fielder A.J. Pollock—one of the few DBacks actually hitting the ball this season—rolls his wrist on a diving catch attempt; as the Brewers’ Tyler Saladino circles the bases for an inside-the-park home run, Pollock hops up in pain and will later be diagnosed with a fractured thumb that will cost him roughly the next month-plus of action.

Tuesday, May 15
Just a few days after having his hand broken a pitch, the Mariners’ Robinson Cano finds himself in much bigger trouble. The perennial All-Star is handed an 80-game suspension by MLB for violation of its substance abuse policy. Cano uses the standard playbook response, accepting the ban, acknowledging the usage of the drug in question (Furosemide, a masking agent) and denying intent—saying he did not realize what he was taking. Timing is everything: The time spent on the disabled list to mend his hand will count toward his suspension.

Cano’s former Yankee teammate Mark Teixeira, interviewed a few days later on New York sports talk, says this: “I don’t really want to get into too much detail. I love Robbie. I’m just not surprised. I don’t really want to go too much further, but I think a lot of people are kind of saying the same thing.” But some of Cano’s other ex-Yankee teammates, including Mariano Rivera, dispute Teixeira’s perspective.

Without Cano on the field, the Mariners survive a seesaw affair against the Rangers as Guillermo Heredia’s RBI single in the 11th is the winner in a 9-8 decision at Seattle. And speaking of seesaw: The Mariners win consecutive games after alternating wins and losses over 11 previous games (to set a franchise mark). Jean Segura steals a Seattle record-tying four bases.

The Padres’ Jordan Lyles, our pick last year for the NL’s worst pitcher, takes a perfect game one out into the eighth at San Diego before the Rockies’ Trevor Story breaks it up on a single to left. Lyles will be removed after the hit, but two Padres relievers will wrap up a 1-one-hit, 4-0 home victory as Eric Hosmer and Christian Villanueva each belt a pair of two-run homers. The Padres remain the only team without ever having thrown a no-hitter or perfect game.

After finishing the 2017 season with a combined 1-5 record and 7.75 ERA between the Rockies and Padres, Lyles’ season ERA through 15 appearances—including two starts—is a far more agreeable 2.53.

The Indians have an 8-3 at Detroit lead headed into the bottom of the sixth, and one would think that’s an easy task for the team’s esteemed bullpen to wrap up the victory. But the Tigers rally for six runs, including five in the seventh, to pull out a 9-8 victory. Cleveland’s bullpen ERA was a major league-best 2.89 in 2017; with a quarter of the 2018 season in the books, it has the worst figure, at 5.73.

Wednesday, May 16
In the rubber match of a series to grab early-season bragging rights in the AL West, the Astros defeat the Angels at Anaheim, 2-0, behind yet another gem of an effort from Justin Verlander. The 35-year-old right-hander, looking better than ever, throws his first shutout of the season and eighth of his career, scattering five hits while striking out seven—pushing his lifetime total to 2,500. Evan Gattis’ two-run homer in the second is the only offense of the game and helps Houston take a two-game lead over Los Angeles in the AL West.

Only five other pitchers reached 2,500 career strikeouts in fewer games (395) than Verlander: Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson.

The Dodgers’ post-pennant woes continue in Miami, as they suffer their sixth straight defeat, 6-5. At 16-26, the Dodgers ($187 million payroll) not only drop to the same record as the Marlins ($99 million), but it’s the first time a team coming off a 100-win record has fallen 10 games below .500 this early in the next season since the 1983 St. Louis Cardinals, who finished 79-83.

The Toronto Blue Jays win their first game ever at New York against the Mets, ending a 12-game losing streak—the longest interleague road skid against one team in history—with a 12-1 rout. J.A. Happ throws seven shutout innings, strikes out 10, and becomes the first AL pitcher since Clyde Wright in 1972 to have as many hits as he allows in seven or more innings.

The Blue Jays’ win is the only one out of three an AL team will take on the day against the NL—dropping the junior circuit’s interleague record on the year to 20-37. The AL has not finished below .500 against the NL since 2003.

Thursday, May 17
David Price comes to within one strike of a shutout before Baltimore’s Manny Machado strokes a two-run homer, but the Red Sox’ left-handed ace settles for a complete-game, 6-2 victory at Boston on just 95 pitches. Carrying the Red Sox offensively is Mookie Betts, who knocks out three hits and steals three bags to make him the first major leaguer this season to reach double figures in both home runs and steals.

Only one other pitcher in the last 25 years has gone the distance on less than 100 pitches at Fenway Park: That would be Price, in 2013 while pitching for Tampa Bay.

It’s a sour day for the Angels, who drop their third straight to Tampa Bay at Anaheim, 7-1. Mike Trout goes 0-for-4 to extend a hitless streak to a career-high 19 at-bats; outfielder Justin Upton is hit on the hand while at-bat, but fortunately does not suffer a break and is day-to-day; less fortunate is closer Keynan Middleton, who after something of a breakout start will need to undergo Tommy John surgery, missing the rest of this season and at least half of 2019 as well.

On the flip side, there’s this: Tyler Skaggs allows just one run in six innings, extending a streak in which an Angels starter has allowed three or fewer runs to a franchise-record 17 straight games.

Friday, May 18
The Baltimore Orioles win their first road game in 40 days, snapping a 13-game slide—the longest since their dreadful 0-21 start in 1988—with a 7-4 triumph at Boston. In defeat, the Red Sox’ Mookie Betts has two doubles and 14th home run (tying the Orioles’ Manny Machado for the most in baseball) to match Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig for the most games (14) with three extra-base hits before turning 26. He’s got the rest of the season to break the mark, as his birthday comes on October 7.

After recent elbow issues kept him from putting in full work on the mound, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom appears to be just fine. The long-haired right-hander strikes out a career-high 13 and walks none through seven innings while running up a streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 24.1 (another personal best) before allowing his only run of the night as the Mets defeat the struggling Diamondbacks at New York, 3-1. Michael Conforto has four of the Mets’ six hits and drives in two runs.

Oakland racks up eight extra-base hits among nine total knocks in Toronto, yet still ekes out a 3-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Josh Phegley’s tie-breaking, two-run double in the seventh inning. Five Oakland relievers combine to strike out 15 Jays over 28 at-bats following the departure of starter Brett Anderson (sore shoulder) in the first inning,

Saturday, May 19
In what may be a significant sign of the times—if not the future—career reliever Sergio Romo makes his first start after coming out of the bullpen 588 times, strikes out the side for Tampa Bay against the Angels in the first…and then is removed, leaving it for Ryan Yarborough, who effectively pitches the next 6.1 innings as the Rays win at Anaheim, 5-3. The thought from Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash is this: If baseball has gotten to a point where relievers have better stuff than the starter, why not start one of them to put the opponent off its game and give your team a better chance to grab an early lead? It works today for the Rays, who with the victory reach .500 (22-22) for the first time this season since they began at 1-1.

This brazen “bullpenning” routine, one of those “why didn’t we think of that” moments, could set off a movement in baseball in which the traditional starting pitcher is demoted to something of a long reliever, a middleman who follows the “opener” and is followed by the closer. If it works more than not, it may turn the game completely upside down—and the devolution of the starting pitcher as we’ve known it since the beginning of baseball time will be complete.

According to the Athletic’s Jayson Stark, Romo is the first pitcher to start a game, strike out three batters and be removed since Ernie Shore in 1915. Shore was removed by the Red Sox because they wanted to preserve him for the World Series that would begin a few days later.

Only three other pitchers have relieved more games before their first start than Romo: Troy Percival (638), Todd Jones (632) and Chuck McElroy (603).

Romo will start again the next day—making him the first pitcher in seven years to start consecutive games. He’ll pitch 1.1 innings and walk two, but the Angels will ultimately win, 5-3.

Finally, we couldn’t get this far without hearing some sort of conspiracy theory tied to this: Angels infielder Zack Cozart believes that the Rays are employing the bullpening tactic to quash salaries of starting pitchers and thus weaken the players’ union. “Less starting pitchers means you won’t have to pay guys as much,” he says.

After five straight days that consisted of two rainouts, a suspended game and two off-days, the Washington Nationals finally get in nine innings—twice—and probably wish they hadn’t. The Nationals lose both ends of a doubleheader to the visiting Dodgers—who on one day match the total number of victories as they had mustered in the previous two weeks—by scores of 4-1 and 5-4. There’s historical significance in the second game as Washington ace Max Scherzer strikes out 13 over seven innings and becomes the fastest by innings (63) to reach 100 Ks in major league history, while tying a club mark by allowing two or fewer earned runs for a 13th straight time. But after Scherzer leaves the game with a 4-2 lead, the Dodgers strike for one in the eighth and, in the ninth, two more off of Nationals closer Sean Doolittle on a Matt Kemp double.

The Yankees dump on the Royals at Kansas City, 8-3, as Luis Severino collects his major league lead-tying seventh win, Giancarlo Stanton goes deep once, Gary Sanchez twice—and Aaron Hicks rounds the bases on his second inside-the-park homer of the year, making him the first Yankee since Mickey Mantle in 1958 to do it twice in a season.

Sunday, May 20
The Phillies are nullified at St. Louis, 5-1, by two Cardinals pitchers: Rookie Jack Flaherty, who throws 120 pitches over 7.2 sterling innings while matching Shelby Miller (in 2013) as the youngest Cardinals pitcher to strike out 13 or more batters; and flamethrowing reliever Jordan Hicks, who in retiring the final four Philadelphia betters throws the season’s five fastest pitches to date, including two that top out over 105 MPH. In defeat, the Phillies’ Odubel Herrera goes 0-for-4 and ends a 45-game streak in which he reached base safely, 11 shy of the franchise record set by Mike Schmidt from 1981-82.

Ironically, Herrera ends his streak by reaching base—striking out but reaching first safely on a wild pitch. But because the scenario qualifies as a defensive lapse—much like an error—Herrera doesn’t get credit for earning the base, as he would with a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch.

Detroit’s Francisco Liriano keeps the Mariners hitless at Seattle until Mitch Haniger’s one-out hit in the seventh—the only knock allowed by the veteran pitcher in eight shutout innings. But he’s failed by his bullpen. Haniger returns in the ninth to belt a two-run homer to tie the game, and Jean Segura’s run-scoring single in the 10th wins it for the Mariners, 3-2.

Eight years to the day that the Braves scored seven runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Reds, 10-9, they put together their biggest walk-off rally since then—scoring six to defeat the Marlins at Atlanta, also by a 10-9 margin. Dansby Swanson’s two-run single caps the majors’ best ninth-inning comeback of the season thus far.

Four Boston pitchers combine to shut out the Orioles, 5-0, despite allowing 13 hits. According to the Red Sox, this is the most hits allowed by the team in a shutout going back to at least 1908. J.D. Martinez cracks two homers to give him 15 for the year and 60 for his last 164 games going back to start of 2017.

In his eighth start for the Cubs since signing a six-year, $126 million contract, Yu Darvish finally earns his first win of the year as he allows but a run on two hits in six innings to give Chicago a 6-1 victory over the Reds at Cincinnati.

Monday, May 21
The Nationals win their first game in their last eight days thanks to 19-year-old outfielder Juan Soto, who completes a meteoric rise from lower A ball to start the season. In 39 minor league games before being called up, Soto hit .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs; watching Soto ascend without hiccup to Double-A, the Nationals said why bother with Triple-A, bring him up to the parent club and, in his first start—on his first swing of the night—plants a three-run homer to ignite Washington to a 10-2 home victory over San Diego. Soto is the youngest player to hit a home run in Expos/Nationals history, and the youngest in all the majors to knock in three runs in his first start since Adrian Beltre on September 22, 1998—33 days before Soto was born.

The Yankees continue a recent power binge, belting five home runs in a 10-5 rout of the Rangers at Arlington. Aaron Judge snaps out of a 0-for-17 funk with his 12th homer, and even Didi Gregorius, mired in a hideous 1-for-48 slide after a blazing April, has a double. Gleyber Torres, 21, cranks two home runs off of Texas starter Bartolo Colon (days away from turning 45), as the Yankees collect at least eight extra-base hits and four home runs for the third consecutive game—both franchise records.

It’s all but official: Miles Mikolas appears to be the real deal. The first-year Cardinal, who spent the previous three years in Japan in search of a baseball reset, throws his first career shutout as he spreads four hits and a walk over 109 pitches in a 6-0 victory over the Royals at St. Louis. (Speaking of 6-0, that’s Mikolas season record, to go with a 2.24 ERA.) Helping Mikolas out offensively is rookie Tyler O’Neill, who goes deep in his third straight game and is now 7-for-12 after beginning his career with seven hitless at-bats.

Tuesday, May 22
The Braves’ Brandon McCarthy will be sad not to face the Phillies again until at least September; conversely, the Phillies’ Vince Velasquez will be relieved that he won’t have to face the Braves until that same time. Atlanta takes a 3-1 victory at Philadelphia as Ozzie Albies scores all three runs, while McCarthy improves to 5-2 on the year—4-0 against the Phillies with a 2.06 ERA. (Against the rest of baseball, his ERA is at 6.63.) Velasquez takes the loss and drops to 4-5 on the year—0-4 against the Braves with a 7.41 ERA. (Against other teams, it’s at 2.60.)

The Phillies’ Carlos Santana commits an error in his fourth straight game playing at first base, the longest such streak since Nick Esasky in 1990. Coincidentally, those were the last four games of Esasky’s career, as he bowed to vertigo issues.

A few days after being cut by the Braves, Jose Bautista has a new home with the New York Mets—and he makes an immediate impact by doubling in his first at-bat and scoring the Mets’ only run in the second. But the Marlins’ Caleb Smith outlasts Zack Wheeler on the mound and Miami pulls away with a 5-1 victory.

The Rays drop the bullpenning strategy for a night and go with rotation regular Jake Faria, but he departs after just 2.2 innings against Boston with a strained left oblique. (Catcher Wilson Ramos, the other half of the Tampa Bay battery, leaves two batters later with a bruised left hand.) The Red Sox’ Chris Sale glides through 7.2 innings and improves to 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA, and Mookie Betts takes the major league home run lead with his 16th blast as Boston wins at St. Petersburg, 4-2, before a small crowd of just over 10,000.

Top Tampa Bay prospect Willy Adames debuts for the Rays and becomes the first player to hit a home run playing his first major league game at Tropicana Field.

Phil Hughes, who not long ago was the only pitcher in Minnesota who could actually pitch, is designated for assignment by the Twins. The right-hander’s effectiveness has steadily waned since peaking in 2014—when he walked just 16 batters in 209.2 innings while winning 16 games—as he’s gone 5-10 with a 5.99 ERA in the last two-plus years.

The Padres will trade for Hughes four days later, with the Twins contributing $14.5 million of the $22 million still owed to him on his contract.

Wednesday, May 23
In his second major league start, the Indians’ Adam Plutko—not to be confused with long-time Cleveland columnist and author Terry Pluto—takes a no-hitter into the seventh at Chicago before the first two Cubs batters reach base, leading to his removal. Andrew Miller succeeds him and gets the Indians out of the jam, and the Tribe go on to edge the Cubs, 1-0, to secure a two-game sweep of the team that defeated them in the 2016 World Series.

A seven-run explosion propels Milwaukee to a 9-2 home thrashing of the anemic Diamondbacks, who have now lost 13 of 14 while scoring a total of just 26 runs. The victory improves the Brewers’ record to 31-19—their best showing through 50 games in franchise history.

Justin Verlander continues his impressive tenure with the Astros, allowing a run through six innings to give Houston a 4-1 home victory over San Francisco. The Astros are 32-18 after their first 50 games, second only to last year’s 34-16 start as best in franchise history; the 126 runs allowed is the fewest given up by a team through its first 50 games since the end of the Deadball Era.

In 16 starts since joining the Astros last August, Verlander is 11-1 with a microscopic 1.08 ERA. He has allowed just 55 hits and 20 walks in 108.2 innings while striking out 136.

The Chicago White Sox trash the beleaguered Orioles (15-34), 11-1, for their fifth win over their last seven games, but everything is not nirvana on this day for the Pale Hose. Welington Castillo, after a 1-for-5 day, learns that he’s been nailed with a positive PED test and will be suspended for 80 games. The veteran catcher is in the first year of a two-year contract paying him $15 million; he’ll lose some of that dough as a result of this penalty.

Lenny Dykstra needs help. The 55-year-old former major league sparkplug, who’s led a troubled existence since the end of his baseball career, allegedly pulls a gun on an Uber driver in New Jersey; his ensuing arrest will also include charges that he was in possession of cocaine, pot and ecstasy.

The Mariners are one team that’s not looking to turn their back on their not-so-old ballpark, unlike what has happened in Atlanta, Arlington and Phoenix. The team announces that it’s extending its lease at Safeco Field, which opened in 1999, for another 25 years through 2043. The deal, which includes a pair of three-year options on top of the 25 years, will also include $385 million in public improvements to the ballpark.

Thursday, May 24
A report commissioned by MLB to determine why home run rates have shot up over the last three years draws even more confusion from the experts tagged to come up with an explanation. Bottom line: They have none. One line from Alan Nathan, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, sums up the virtual shoulder shrug: “We have to admit and we do admit that we do not understand.” The report’s experts agree that the “aerodynamic properties” of the ball have changed, but they can’t pinpoint the cause. “It is probably something very, very subtle in the manufacturing process—but again it has to be pretty subtle, because if it weren’t, we would have found it.”

In response to the report, MLB announces it will do five things: Monitor the temperatures of the storage rooms at ballparks where the game balls are kept and determine if humidors will be required in 2019; update production specs with Rawlings, which manufactures MLB game balls; develop aerodynamic tests; create standards for mud rubbing, to be enforced by umpires; and form a scientific advisory council.

Don’t think the problems facing opponents when facing the Astros end with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. At Cleveland, Charlie Morton improves to 7-0, and Alex Bregman homers and knocks in four runs to give Houston an 8-2 win over the Indians—who drop to a 24-24 record, still good enough to lead the weak AL Central. Morton’s 2.04 season ERA is third best on the Astros, behind Verlander and Cole—and third best in the American League.

The Orioles break out to a 9-0 lead after three innings at Chicago against the White Sox, and Dylan Bundy holds it from there, allowing just two hits (one a three-run homer by Jose Rondon) while striking out 14 in a complete-game, 9-3 effort. It’s the second time Bundy has gone the distance in his career.

Since allowing four home runs without earning an out in a disastrous May 8 start against Kansas City, Bundy has pitched 22 innings in three starts and allowed seven runs—all of them coming off of four home runs. Only the Indians’ Josh Tomlin (16) has allowed more home runs this season than Bundy (14).

Friday, May 25
On a busy day of transactions, the one making the most noise comes out of Boston where Hanley Ramirez, whose days with the Red Sox seemed numbered once the team signed J.D. Martinez, is designated for assignment. The 34-year-old designated hitter was hitting .257 for Boston but was on pace for 20 home runs and 100 RBIs on the season. The move is made to allow veteran Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, finally recovered from offseason knee surgery, to return to the roster.

The remaining Red Sox show that are not missing Ramirez, defeating Atlanta at Boston, 6-2. Martinez, who has taken over Ramirez’s DH role, belts his 11th homer of the month and 16th of the season; Mookie Betts goes deep for his 17th to lead all major leaguers.

The day’s other noteworthy transaction involves the Tampa Bay Rays, who are shedding an already slim payroll to the bare bones. Gone to Seattle in exchange for two minor leaguers are outfielder Denard Span—the highest-paid Ray at over $10 million—and closer Alex Colome; the Rays will also pay $4.75 million of the nearly $10 million owed to the two players for the rest of this season.

The Yankees edge the Angels at New York, 2-1, as Gleyber Torres knocks in both runs including the game-winner on a seventh-inning solo homer. It’s Torres’ fourth straight game going deep, thus becoming the youngest American Leaguer, at age 21, ever to do so.

At what point does Torres, hitting .333 with nine homers and 24 RBIs in 96 at-bats, stop hitting ninth in the order?

For one night at least, former Astros pitcher Joe Musgrove proves that his presence in Pittsburgh is worth the trade that sent Gerrit Cole to Houston. The 25-year-old right-hander, making his Pirates debut after spending the season’s first two months on the shelf with shoulder problems, throws seven shutout innings on just 67 pitches as the Bucs knock down the Cardinals at PNC Park, 8-1.

Saturday, May 26
Even by his typically exceptional standards, Mike Trout has quite the day for the Angels at New York. The All-Star center fielder goes 5-for-5 with three doubles, a home run and four RBIs in Los Angeles’ 11-4 rout of the Yankees, setting career highs in hits, doubles and total bases (11). In defeat, Aaron Judge smacks his 14th homer that’s also the 70th of his career, becoming the fastest to reach the milestone by games (231); Ryan Howard (233) held the old mark.

Aaron Nola takes a no-hitter into the seventh inning before giving up a run and gets a no-decision as his Phillies break a 1-1 tie after his departure in the eighth on a Nick Williams solo homer. With their 2-1 home victory over Toronto, the Phillies claim sole possession of first place in the NL East—something they haven’t achieved this late in a season since 2011.

This is the 24th time this season that a pitcher has taken a no-hitter or perfect game past six innings—matching the total for the entire 2017 season.

Pitching for the first time since turning 45 a few days earlier, the Rangers’ Bartolo Colon allows three runs in seven innings but fails to get a decision as he’s removed from a 3-3 tie at Arlington against Kansas City. Texas gets the victory in 10 innings on Shin-Soo Choo’s solo homer, the 176th of his career—breaking Hideki Matsui’s major league record for the most home runs by an Asian-born player.

The White Sox punish the Tigers at Detroit, 8-4, behind Jose Abreu’s 4-for-4 day (a single, two doubles and a home run) and Tim Anderson’s two homers and four RBIs. Anderson also helps the Tigers out on defense, committing three errors that leads to two unearned runs; the young shortstop becomes the first player since Bob Brenly (in 1986) to have multiple homers and at least three errors in a game.

A day after their bats awoke from a deep slumber with seven runs, the Diamondbacks are put right back in their funk as the A’s Dennis Mengden throws his second career shutout, a two-hitter as Oakland takes a 3-0 home victory.

Sunday, May 27
After scoring six times in the eighth and taking an 8-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth at Cleveland, the Astros’ bullpen collapses as the Indians strike for five runs to send the game into extras—the first time Houston has blown a lead of five-plus runs in the ninth since 2001. In the 13th, the two teams trade solo homers—Evan Gattis’ second of the game for Houston, Yonder Alonso for Cleveland—and in the 14th, the Indians finally settle things on Greg Allen’s solo shot to win, 10-9.

Jose Altuve runs up a streak of hits in 10 consecutive at-bats—breaking a franchise record previously held by himself—before lining out in the ninth.

After giving up eight runs on the day before, the 10 allowed today marks the first time this season that the Astros have allowed five or more runs on consecutive days.

Stephen Strasburg pitches five shutout innings (striking out eight) to improve his career record against Miami to 7-0 with a 1.13 ERA, and Bryce Harper cracks his 16th home run as the Nationals take a 5-2 victory and a three-game sweep at Miami. Washington has won 11 straight games against the Marlins, tying the club record for the longest winning streak against one team.

J.A. Happ wins his fifth game in five starts against Philadelphia since being traded from the Phillies in 2010, as the Blue Jays defeat the Phillies, 5-3. Happ improves to 7-3 on the season.

Monday, May 28
Once again, the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo seems to have forgotten about the Buster Posey rule. Nearly a year after he bowled over San Diego catcher Austin Hedges on a play at the plate, he takes out the legs of Pittsburgh catcher Elias Diaz (who’s trying to complete a double play) with a slide definitely aimed off the plate, well after he had been forced out at home. Diaz’s throw goes wild, allowing two other Cubs to score to make it 5-0 in the eighth inning of an eventual 7-0 Chicago victory. Diaz, like Hedges a year before, is hurt but is able to continue. The Pirates are in a foul mood for the rest of the day; manager Clint Hurdle is ejected after arguing a video replay that sides with the umpires’ ruling on Rizzo’s slide, and even a couple of Pirates get testy with one another as the game concludes as infielder David Freese and third base coach Joey Cora have to be separated in the Pittsburgh dugout, allegedly after debating the Rizzo slide.

A day later, MLB will officially state that both the umpires and the video review crew got the call wrong.

As we said last year when commenting on Rizzo’ knockdown of Hedges: One wonders how umpires and/or MLB would have initially reacted had the catcher been Posey or Yadier Molina, instead of a relative “common player” like Diaz.

In a 9-3 loss at Detroit, the Angels’ Albert Pujols steps up a few historical notches with an eighth inning RBI double. Pujols passes Carl Yastrzemski for #9 on the all-time total bases list with 5,541, while the RBI is his 1,945—breaking a tie with Ty Cobb for #8 in that category.

The Yankees must be really starting to kick themselves for not picking up Justin Verlander last summer, as had been rumored. The current Astros ace has yet another superb outing, allowing a run over 6.2 innings to help lift Houston to a 5-1 victory at New York. Since being traded to the Astros, Verlander has faced the Yankees (including the postseason) four times and allowed just two runs in 30.2 innings, with 40 strikeouts and just two walks.

When Verlander is removed from the game in the seventh inning, he’s booed by Yankee fans who are perhaps upset that he’s not wearing pinstripes. Verlander gleefully responds by tipping his cap to the crowd.

The Diamondbacks find the perfect cure for their recent hitting woes: The Cincinnati Reds. Arizona racks it up on Homer Bailey and four relievers, scoring a 12-5 victory—just their third over their last 18 games; in the previous 17 games, they had scored only 34 runs.

Tuesday, May 29
The Angels park four fly balls over the outfield wall at Detroit and tame the Tigers, 9-2, for manager Mike Scioscia’s 1,600th career win and a sole spot at #20 on the all-time list. Of the 19 managers ahead of him, only seven have higher winning percentages than his .538 mark.

The Astros take a 5-3 lead to the bottom of the ninth at New York, but Brett Gardner—who had homered to lead off the game for the Yankees—belts his second homer to tie it. An inning later, the Yankees will win it, 6-5, on Gleyber Torres’ single. It’s already the fifth time this season that the Yankees have come from behind in the ninth to win.

The Yankees win despite committing five errors and striking out 17 times. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the only other team to win with as many such numbers was the Providence Grays back in 1884.

The Astros have a 4.01 ERA in the ninth inning this season; it’s 2.49 for all of the other innings.

The Giants’ Jeff Samardzija departs from his start at Colorado after just an inning due to a tweaked right shoulder, leading to the major league pitching debut of Dereck Rodriguez, the 25-year-old son of Hall-of-Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez. The right-hander will allow four runs (three of which are unearned) on five hits over 3.1 innings, and even knocks out a RBI double, before he too has to depart when taking a comebacker to the knee. Rodriguez’s debut is the sole noteworthy bullet on an otherwise forgettable night for the Giants, who lose to the Rockies 11-4.

Wednesday, May 30
The Rays’ Nathan Eovaldi makes his first appearance on a major league mound since undergoing Tommy John surgery late in 2016 and no-hits the A’s through six innings at Oakland before being pulled due to a limited pitch count (70). Tampa Bay picks up from there, allowing one hit (in the seventh) the rest of the way and finishing an easy 6-0 victory. For the A’s, the one hit is just part on an ugly day that also features four errors, two wild pitches and three hit batsmen; fortunately, few are at the Coliseum to witness it, as the midday crowd of 6,705 is the smallest drawn by the A’s since 2003.

This is the 25th no-hit bid to go past six innings this season; there were 24 such games for all of last season.

The Cardinals’ Alex Reyes, another Tommy John survivor, also makes his first start since surgery and allows three hits in four shutout innings at Milwaukee before being removed after 73 pitches. Unfortunately for Reyes and the Redbirds, the bullpen cannot maintain the zeroes as the Brewers come away with a 3-2 victory for their sixth straight series win and a 36-21 record that’s the NL’s best for the moment.

Aftreward it will be revealed that Reyes suffered “a significant strain” of his lat muscle and will go back on the disabled list. St. Louis general manager Michael Girsch sounds warning bells when he telling reporters that Reyes' stay on the DL will be more than a “few starts.”

When Miami’s Jose Urena starts on the mound, bad luck usually follows for the Marlins. Looking for his first win in his 12th start after a 0-7 start, Urena is sharp at San Diego against the Padres, allowing a run on six hits—but the Marlins botch it in the ninth when, with the bases loaded and one out, third baseman Miguel Rojas charges on a short grounder, briefly thinks of throwing home but realizes he won’t get the lead runner, then throws wildly past first—scoring Freddy Galvis to give the Padres a 3-2 win. The Marlins fall to 0-12 when Urena starts.

It’s the first blown save in 10 opportunities this season for Miami closer Brad Ziegler, who’s also 0-5 with a 7.83 season ERA.

Thursday, May 31
After bolting out to an 8-0 lead in the fourth inning, the Indians see it all evaporate as the Twins rebound to tie the game at Minnesota in the seventh. But an inning later, Francisco Lindor’s second home run—and fourth extra-base hit of the night—will prove to be the ultimate winning run for Cleveland in a 9-8 victory. It’s Lindor’s second game with four long hits, including two homers, this year; no shortstop had previously done that in a single season.

Clayton Kershaw’s first start in a month may also be his last for a while. Against the Phillies in Los Angeles, the Dodgers ace allows just a run over five innings but can barely get his fastball over the 90-MPH mark; he leaves with back tightness and is due for an MRI. Aaron Nola allows just two hits through seven for the Phillies, who hang on to win, 2-1.

Kershaw will return to the DL with the same lower back issues that kept him out for roughly a month in each of the last two seasons. His stay on the shelf this time around is expected to be of a similar length.

Oakland’s Daniel Mengden, sporting a mustache that would make members of the three-time champion A’s of the 1970s proud, runs up a streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 25 before conceding three tallies to start the ninth inning against Tampa Bay. But he still gets the win, improving to 6-4 with a 2.91 ERA, as the A’s triumph, 7-3.


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