Much of the talk about the Philadelphia Phillies this entire season (and before that) centered around Bryce Harper. While Harper is certainly the name that brings folks to the ballpark, another man might end up being the most important acquisition they made in the winter.
That man was the hero on Monday, and he goes by the name JT Realmuto. The former Marlin is as good a two-way catcher as we have seen for some time, and he would prove to be the difference maker in their 5-4 win over the Cubs on the day. His solo homer in the top of the tenth inning would give his team the lead, one which it would not let up on as they held on. He even combined with Harper in the fifth to throw a runner out at the plate after a fly ball to right, demonstrating his ability on both sides. Jake Arrietta returned to Wrigley Field and pitched six solid innings in which he allowed just one earned run but did not get a decision in the win.
The Boston Red Sox avoided the ignominy of a sweep against the Houston Astros on Sunday, winning 4-3 at Fenway Park in the afternoon sunshine to make sure they didn’t fall even further off the pace of division leaders New York and Tampa Bay (the Yankees retook the AL East led thanks to a 13-5 victory on Sunday).
Xander Bogaerts came up clutch, singling in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game and then hitting a double in the seventh to put them ahead for good.
One day after being surpassed by the New York Yankees atop the AL East standing, the Tampa Bay Rays fought back in a big way, winning 2-1 and retaking their division lead in the process. The Yankees had taken an early lead from a wild pitch in the Bronx, but Brandon Lowe’s seventh inning homer got the game into extras. From there, it would be a drive over the fence from Austin Meadows in the top of the 11th that won them the game and regained them their crown, for the time being at least.
Another team that is heating up is the Atlanta Braves, who continue to apply pressure to the Phillies in the NL East. Their series with the Milwaukee Brewers is considered by many to be a possible preview of the playoffs, and this game on Saturday nigh certainly didn’t disappoint. With the Braves up 3-2 in the ninth, their bullpen once again was the culprit in allowing the Brew Crew back in it with a double from Lorenzo Cain. But that wasn’t meant to be the final chapter as Freddie Freeman drove a Josh Hader pitch over the right field wall to keep them 1.5 games off the pace of Philly.
It’s still early days in terms of baseball, but the 4-3 win for the New York Yankees over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night seems like it could be a seminal moment for them. Through so many injuries, they have continued to fight and are now atop the AL East against a team that has been rolling all season long.
Down 3-1 going into the bottom of the ninth, the Bronx Bombers would stage a rally to haul back the lead and take charge of the division. A homer from Luke Voit, a wild pitch, and then a deep single by Gio Urshela did the damage, putting them on top against a pesky Rays team.
In a wild afternoon of baseball in which runs on top of runs were scored, Christian Yelich once again was the man grabbing the top headlines in the game. The Milwaukee Brewers slugger, not one to be upped by the Bucks last night, had two home runs as he led his team to an 11-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.
That wasn’t the only blowout victory to take place, however. The Oakland A’s got a 17-3 win over the Detroit Tigers, with all three of those runs for the losers coming in the last inning. The Texas Rangers also dished out a beating, hammering the Kansas City Royals 16-1 in what has to be one of the most lopsided offensive days in the history of the game at the professional level.
All the talk ahead of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals centered around, and rightfully so, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks, respectively. And while neither man was poor, in fact each was exemplary, it was a third party that rose up and surprised us to be the star man on the night. That man ended up being Brook Lopez, an unsung hero in the middle of the paint for the Bucks all season long.
On this night at home, he would score 29 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter to help his team overturn a seven point deficit at the beginning of the period on the way to a 108-100 victory. The big man wasn’t just good in the paint, he was also lethal from beyond the arc, knocking down a late three-pointer to effectively seal the game up and ensure his team went up 1-0 in the series. Giannis added 24 points, 14 boards, and six assists of his own, while the game’s high scorer was Leonard with 31 points. Ten of those came from the charity stripe, with him failing to miss a single free throw in the opening game of the series.
The ‘Baby’ Braves once again look like they have a young star to pin their hopes on for the future in Austin Riley after the 22 year-old outfielder belted a home run on his debut on Wednesday night in Atlanta against the St. Louis Cardinals in a 4-0 win.
His smashing drive, which gave the Braves a 2-0 advantage, was met by a sense of inevitability as the Cards outfielders didn’t even bother to move. He had come into the game having homered 15 times in AAA already, so the power is certainly there from him and should complement what is already a well above average young ball club. Mike Saroka continued his strong showings from the mound, giving up just three miserly hits in seven innings to improve to 4-1 on the season.
Baseball. That’s just about all that you can say about what took place on Tuesday night as Chris Sale struck out 17 hitters in just seven innings yet still failed to record a win after the Boston Red Sox blew a lead when he departed the game.
Sale, who ended up throwing 108 pitches total, surpassed his previous record of 15 and was just three away from tying the all-time record held by five players, including former Sox pitcher Roger Clemens. He also became the first to have that many K’s in such a short stint. The end result of the game was a 5-4 win for the Rockies in Colorado on a chilly night after 11 innings.
The Houston Astros continued their hot streak, once again scoring a bundle of runs, on Monday night in an 8-1 lopsided win over the Detroit Tigers. Four men, including Alex Bregman, hit homers as they kept up what has been a torrid offensive pace of late.
Monday’s win followed up two wins over the Rangers in which they had scored 15 and 11 runs, respectively and gives them nine wins out of the last ten, taking them into a comfy 6.5 game lead atop the AL West at this early stage. You just can’t see this team ever failing to score runs. It’s just a juggernaut and it’s going to be hard to keep them out of the postseason for years and years to come.
Shohei Ohtani hasn’t had the prettiest time of late. He was forced to have surgery on his arm, meaning he will not be out on the mound this season. However, he has returned to hitting of late, and that at least has given him a chance to shine at the plate.
And shine did he ever on Monday as he lashed his first home run of the season in a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins. The Angels DH went 2-3 with two RBIs as he helped smash in Mike Trout to help them in the victory. Albert Pujols had an RBI of his own two innings later in the fifth. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, they are in second behind the Astros in the AL West, so they are very likely to be forced into looking for a Wild Card spot if they want to make the playoffs.