Ugh. Monday. We’ve all suffered through way too many of them. The film Office Space said it best:
But why should a case of the Mondays be a bad thing? Why don’t we instead crack open a different kind of case? Brett will have the Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy; I’ll have the nearest IPA; and for you, dear reader, our specially-brewed “case” of the Mondays: a six-pack of topics from the weekend in Major League Baseball.
This time last week, the Baltimore Orioles were on life support in the crowded AL Wildcard race, standing four games back of the second wildcard spot with five teams in front of them. An uninspiring series win against the lowly Athletics did little to help matters, especially with the scorching Red Sox on tap for the weekend.
25 runs later, the Orioles are flying out of Boston with a sweep and are now just two games back of the Minnesota Twins.
Granted, sixteen of those runs came in Game 1, where Rick Porcello had another outing to forget (4.2 IP, 11 runs (4 earned), 4 K). The Orioles avoided Chris Sale in this series too. But wins are wins, and with so many teams in with a chance of a wildcard spot, the Orioles can’t be too picky about how they get them.
Deadline acquisition Tim Beckham has been a major steal for the team. Since arriving in Camden Yards, the journeyman shortstop is slashing .396/.413/.698 with an OPS+ of 192. Given that his career average is .266, it’s fair to wonder when Beckham will fall back to Earth; Orioles fans are hoping the regression doesn’t hit until next season.
As good as this offense can be, the onus of the team’s playoff chances rests with the pitching staff. Their starters have pitched to a 5.52 ERA this season, worst in the American League by nearly half a run. Deadline acquisition Jeremy Hellickson has failed (unsurprisingly) to right the ship, giving up 18 runs in just 5 starts. Only Dylan Bundy has an ERA safely below 5.00.
Over the weekend, though, the O’s staff looked competent. Hellickson allowed three runs on Friday in a game where his offense spotted him a 5-0 lead after two innings. Dylan Bundy was superb on Saturday, going 7 2/3 without giving up a run. Wade Miley capped off the weekend by out-dueling Doug Fister, allowing one run over his five innings of work.
Have the Orioles turned the corner? It’s hard to tell, given how mercurial this team has been (they won 6 games in a row in early May, then lost 7 in a row later that month). If the pitching staff manages to string together a few quality starts, the Orioles might just have enough offense to outmuscle the competition for the last wildcard spot.
Move over, Aaron Judge. There’s a new stud in town, and he’s systematic! He’s hydromatic! He’s ultramatic!
He’s Rhys Lightning!
Okay, bad musical puns aside, Phils rookie Rhys Hoskins is off to an absolute tear to begin his big league career. He’s hit 11 home runs in his first 18 games; over a 162-game season, that would give him NINETY-NINE DINGERS. In the last seven days, he’s hit more home runs than five major league teams, and more than the Nationals and Giants combined.
Oh, and he doesn’t just hit home runs: he also started a triple play against the Cubs on Sunday, though it wasn’t exactly a work of art.
Don’t presume that Hoskins is a mere flash in the pan. Last season with the Double-A Fightin’ Phils Hoskins slashed .281/.377/.566 with 38 home runs. Before his call-up he was slugging .581 at Triple-A. Ninety-nine homers in a season is perhaps a touch high, but don’t be surprised to see Hoskins’ name near the top of the NL leaderboards for years to come.
The best part about all this, though? Phillies fans finally have something worth watching.
The Kansas City Royals clearly forgot their bats at home when they visited Cleveland this weekend. During the three-game tilt against the AL-Central leaders, the boys in powder blue recorded 18 hits but failed to get a single run across the plate. Manager Ned Yost will be positively fuming about the 0-for-15 mark with runners in scoring position.
For a team struggling to stay relevant in the postseason race, weekends like this can be absolute killers. Losing a few games is one thing, but after being thoroughly outclassed inning after inning it can be hard to find the motivation to keep fighting. They’ve got a big week coming up with series against the Rays and the Twins, both rivals for the second wildcard spot. Series wins against both teams are absolutely crucial if the Royals want to keep their playoff hopes alive; Fangraphs gives them just a 16.6% chance to make the postseason.
Another One–Or Two–Bite the Dust
The eternal question of Mets fans everywhere: it can’t possibly get any worse, right?
Yes. Yes it can.
In a season lost over starting pitching injuries, the Mets had at least a few bright spots. Yoenis Cespedes is always a gem on the diamond. Michael Conforto was a well-deserved all-star in his first full season.
Now, they’re both on the DL. Cespedes reinjured his right hamstring on Friday night. Earlier in the season he missed 38 games over problems with the same hamstring. With nothing to play for, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said Cespedes may not see the field again in 2017.
Conforto’s injury was even flukier. He took a mighty hack at a fastball from Robbie Ray, completed the swing, then fell to the ground clutching his shoulder in pain. At first the injury was reported as a dislocated shoulder; later, the Mets announced Conforto tore his posterior shoulder capsule, which may require surgery.
The Mets started the season with Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Michael Conforto on the roster. Bruce and Granderson have been traded, and Cespedes and Conforto are on the DL, leaving the Mets with an outfield of Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, and Travis Taijeron.
But it couldn’t possibly get any worse…right?
Almost Had Him
Playing against the defending World Series Champions, the Phillies were bound to be a little anxious. Down 3-0 in the top of the 5th, Nick Pivetta gave up a lead-off walk to Anthony Rizzo.
Rizzo is actually pretty quick for a first baseman; he leads the Cubs in stolen bases this season with eight. Pivetta was clearly worried about Rizzo taking a big lead off first base…maybe a little too worried.
At least Pivetta made a solid throw over to the bag. Maybe he could teach Cubs’ pitcher Jon Lester a thing or two.
This past weekend saw MLB celebrate it’s inaugural Players’ Weekend. Players wore special alternate uniforms with nicknames on the back, and had the option to wear any design of cleat or sock they wanted. They also got to use specially-designed bats for the weekend too.
The whole thing was ridiculous, absurd, and farcical. And that’s why I loved it.
Baseball is a nonsensical game, full of Rally Cats and cans of corn. In a 162-game season, it makes sense to let the players show more of the personalities and have some fun on the diamond. And what’s more fun than a guy coming into the game with “CHICKEN STRIP” on the back of his jersey?
Sure, some of the uniforms looked a little weird. The Tigers’ hats were so bright that they broke my television, and the Yankees looked downright uncomfortable at home without pinstripes. But the nicknames and the clever bats designs served as excellent conversation-starters, allowing fans the chance to get to know their favorite players just a bit better. What’s not to like?