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Real or not? Christian Yelich could singlehandedly sink St. Louis

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Christian Yelich is not buying the Gateway Arch. He does, however, own the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Milwaukee Brewers and Cardinals have played five games this season and Yelich has homered in all five — including three in Monday’s 9-6 win, a three-run shot to cap off a six-run second inning, another three-run shot in the seventh inning to snap a 6-6 tie, then the clincher in the eighth:

Here are the seven home runs in order:

0-0, 92-mph fastball (off Miles Mikolas)
1-2, 93-mph fastball (off Andrew Miller)
0-1, 94-mph sinker (off Dakota Hudson)
1-0, 92-mph fastball (off Michael Wacha)
1-0, 93-mph sinker (off Hudson)
0-1, 92-mph fastball (off Mike Mayers)
1-0, 84-mph slider (off John Brebbia)

There seems to be a trend there … in fact, his eighth home run this season came off an 87-mph fastball from the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks, so seven of the eight home runs have been off fastballs/sinkers of average velocity. In other words: Do not throw Yelich a mediocre fastball. Especially at Miller Park (all eight of his home runs have come at home).

Note that Yelich also has been especially adept at hunting fastballs early in the count. The home run against Hendricks came on the first pitch as well, so seven of his eight home runs have come on the first or second pitch of the plate appearance. Interesting. Did Yelich show the same patterns last season?

Yes and no. His home runs by pitch:

Fastball/sinker: 16
Slider: 9
Changeup: 5
Curveball: 4
Cutter: 2

Yes, he hammered fastballs, but more than half his home runs came off secondary pitches. Of his 36 home runs last year, 17 came on the first or second pitch. That’s 47 percent, compared to the MLB average of 37 percent over the past two seasons.

Other notes:

• Over the past two seasons, Yelich is hitting .329/.457/.921 against the Cardinals with 13 home runs and 30 RBIs in 21 games. Yeah, I think we may start seeing St. Louis pitchers issue him a lot more unintentional intentional walks.

• Yelich’s seven RBIs tie the franchise record, done 11 times previously (including twice by Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy). Surprisingly, Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, Gorman Thomas or Robin Yount never did it (shameless excuse to list the lineup of Harvey’s Wallbangers).

• It’s the 21st time a Brewer has hit three home runs — Oglivie is the only player to do it three times.

• Before the game, Yelich took extra batting practice at an empty Miller Park and told MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy that “I feel like I haven’t played good at all this year.”

Umm, Yelich is now hitting .354/.449/.785 with 22 RBIs in 17 games and the Brewers have beaten the Cardinals in four of their five meetings. The teams will face off twice more in this series and three more times next week in St. Louis. The Cardinals need to figure out a better game plan. For that matter, so does the rest of the league.

Bonus Christian Yelich note: All that … and before the game, Yelich gave a fan a new puppy:

Noah SyndergaardAaron Nola matchup fails to sizzle: The Mets beat the Phillies 7-6 in 11 innings on a brisk night in Philly that featured 24 mph winds. (It was so windy that Syndergaard had to keep his hair tied up in a ponytail.) The winning run scored on Rhys Hoskins‘ two-out fielding error (following an infield single and a walk), but the big story was that Nola and Syndergaard both allowed five runs — something neither did last season in a combined 58 starts.

Syndergaard’s ERA rose to 5.63, but it mostly has been a matter of poor sequencing (batters are hitting .438 with runners in scoring position) as his overall numbers are still good: 24 IP, 22 H, 3 HR, 5 BB, 29 SO.

Nola is a bigger concern, as his numbers across the board are much worse than in 2018:

2018: .197 average, .570 OPS, 27% SO rate, 7% BB rate, 2.0% HR rate
2019: .280 average, .901 OPS, 21.8% SO rate, 12.6% BB rate, 5.7% HR rate

Nola’s 2018 campaign was pretty remarkable. In fact, via Baseball-Reference, Nola — and not Jacob deGrom — was the best pitcher in the National League. His 10.5 WAR ranks as just the ninth 10-WAR season for a pitcher since 1980 and the best since Randy Johnson in 2002. I don’t necessarily agree that he was better than deGrom; B-R is giving him a lot of credit for pitching in front of a terrible defense, which pushes his value above deGrom’s.

Anyway, the surprise to Nola’s start is that his curveball, which was so dominant in 2018, has abandoned him. Batters are hitting .348/.385/.522 against it after hitting .155/.192/.249 against it last season. His command has been poor across the board: Batters swung at 48 percent of his pitches last year, but that rate is at 39 percent this year as his in-zone rate has dropped as well. As with all these early numbers, we must remember that it’s only four starts, but the Phillies will need a better version of Nola to headline the rotation.

Kershaw returns: In his return to Dodger Stadium, Yasiel Puig crushed a two-run homer off Clayton Kershaw in the first inning, but Kershaw then settled in and shut down the Reds the rest of the way in his first start of the season. Dave Roberts even let Kershaw bat in a 2-2 game in the bottom of the sixth with one out and nobody on — a little strange, but Kershaw was sitting at just 74 pitches and had struck out the side in the sixth. He would finish the seventh throwing just 10 more pitches.

Kershaw would leave with a no-decision and the Reds scored off Kenley Jansen in the top of ninth, only to see Joc Pederson deliver a dramatic walk-off home run for the Dodgers off Raisel Iglesias. Alden Gonzalez has more on the game.

Jackie Robinson Day shoes: I like the tributes. Bryce Harper wore UCLA-themed shoes in honor of Jackie:

At UCLA, Robinson was known more for his football, track, basketball and even golf — he apparently won the conference championship — than baseball, where legend has it he hit .097 during his one season on the Bruins baseball team.

Pretty cool cleats (Brian Goodwin of the Angels apparently also had UCLA shoes), but I think Delino DeShields Jr. might have Harper beat:

Bad play of the day: Brandon Drury of the Blue Jays thought he had walked in the sixth inning, except he hadn’t — it was a 2-2 pitch, not 3-2. That led to Teoscar Hernandez getting picked off first base. You can see him heading back to first base, but then stopping once he saw Drury heading to first, so who do you blame?

Hernandez made up for the mistake two innings later: He belted a go-ahead, three-run home run, his first of the season, to give the Jays the 5-3 win over the Twins.

Twins catcher Mitch Garver, riding a hot bat with eight hits in his past 12 at-bats, became the second catcher to hit leadoff this season, following the Jays’ Danny Jansen, who did it on March 31. It happened 16 times last season, 10 of those by J.T. Realmuto. Jason Kendall is the king of leadoff-hitting catchers, owning the top five single-season marks, including 119 games in 2004. Still, it’s rare to see a catcher in the leadoff spot. Via the Baseball-Reference Play Index, since 1908 there have been just 94 instances when a catcher hit leadoff at least once in a season for his team — but 38 of those came from a catcher who did it just once that particular year.

Garver is slow, but not super slow. According to Statcast, his top sprint speed in 2018 was equal to Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Joc Pederson. Garver does have some on-base ability with a .335 mark last season, so it’s not a bad idea from Rocco Baldelli. Look for Garver to continue to get more playing time over Jason Castro.

Home run of the day: Chris Davis with his first:

The Orioles beat the Red Sox 8-1 to split the four-game series at Fenway. So, yes, just like we all expected, the Orioles are one game better than the Red Sox through 17 games.



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Nats’ Turner hits for another cycle against Rockies

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WASHINGTON — The Rockies bring out the best in Trea Turner.

On Tuesday night, the Nationals shortstop hit for the cycle during Washington’s 11-1 win over Colorado, the second time in his career that he’s accomplished the feat versus the Rockies. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s just the third player in MLB history to hit for the cycle multiple times against the same team. Fred Clarke of the Pittsburgh Pirates had two cycles against the Reds (1901, 1903), and Christian Yelich did it twice last year, also against Cincinnati.

Turner led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run against Colorado starter Peter Lambert. In the second inning, he grounded a single off Lambert for a single. Facing Lambert again in the fifth, Turner hit a liner down the right field line that glanced off Charlie Blackmon’s glove and rolled into the corner for a triple. After grounding into an inning-ending double play against lefty reliever Sam Howard in the sixth, Turner came up in the seventh against righty Jairo Diaz and laced an RBI double to the gap in right-centerfield.

Turner is the 26th player in major-league history to hit for multiple cycles in his career. He previously did it on April 25, 2017 at Coors Field. In 18 career games against Colorado, the 26-year old speedster is now batting .386 with 16 extra-base hits.

Of the 10 cycles that the Rockies have now allowed in their history, Turner’s is the first one to be accomplished away from Coors Field.

Earlier this season, Turner missed six weeks due to a fractured right index finger that he suffered as the result a hit-by-pitch. In 60 games with Washington this year, he’s hitting .286 with eight home runs and 20 stolen bases.

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Padres vs. Mets – Game Recap – July 23, 2019

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NEW YORK — Robinson Cano hit three home runs, breaking loose from a season-long slump in a huge way and leading Jason Vargas and the New York Mets over the San Diego Padres 5-2 Tuesday night.

The 36-year-old Cano drove in all five runs and went 4-for-4. Vargas pitched one-hit ball for six shutout innings, possibly enhancing his trade value.

Cano began the day batting just .243 with six homers in his first season with the Mets. Yet before the game, manager Mickey Callaway expressed confidence that Cano would produce, putting him in the category of “Hall of Fame hitters.”

Cano homered three times in a game for the first time in his career. It was just the third three-homer game ever by a Mets player at home — Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis both did it in July 2015.

After singling in the first, Cano made it 1-0 in the fourth with his first home run at Citi Field since early April.

Cano hit a two-run homer off Chris Paddack (6-5) in the sixth and a two-run shot in the seventh off Logan Allen — both drives sailed into the second deck.

Of Cano’s nine homers this year, five have come since the All-Star break. This was his 23rd career multihomer game and first since 2017 with Seattle.

Yoenis Cespedes was the previous Mets player to hit three homers, doing it in 2017. The feat has been accomplished by 13th different Mets players, with Cespedes doing it twice.

Vargas (5-5) put on a pitching clinic, getting the San Diego hitters to consistently flail.

The 36-year-old left-hander gave up only a single to Eric Hosmer in the fifth, struck out eight and walked three. Rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. struck out three times and Manny Machado swung at a strike three that bounced.

Several scouts were at Citi Field, and no doubt the performance Vof argas piqued their interest as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

Vargas’ hardest fastball was clocked at 84.6 mph — Paddack’s slowest changeup came in a tick faster 84.7.

The anticipated showdown between rookie stars Pete Alonso and Paddack didn’t amount to much — the slugging Alonso walked twice and grounded out against the young fireballer.

Edwin Diaz relieved with two on in the ninth and got his 22nd save in 26 chances, giving up an RBI double to Tatis before retiring Manuel Margot on a lineout with two on to end the game.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Padres: LHP Adrian Morejon “should be available” to pitch in relief during this three-game series, manager Andy Green said. The 20-year-old Cuban made his major league debut Sunday at Wrigley Field, giving up one run and three hits in 2 1/3 innings. Green said the Padres would consider using him as an opener over the weekend at home vs. the Giants.

Mets: Major league batting leader Jeff McNeil was hit in the right elbow by a Paddack pitch in the fifth. McNeil was checked by a trainer and stayed in. … RHP Zack Wheeler (shoulder impingement) threw batting practice on the field and could be activated Friday to pitch against the Pirates. “I’m 100%. Ready to go,” he said. Callaway said Wheeler, who last started on July 7, will be on a pitch count of 75-85 pitches. Wheeler (6-6, 4.69 ERA) has been the subject of trade rumors leading up to the July 31 deadline. “Last year was the same way,” he said.

UP NEXT

Padres: RHP Dinelson Lamet (0-2, 5.14 ERA) makes his fourth start of the season. He won his major league debut in 2017 at Citi Field and went 7-8 overall, then missed last year after Tommy John surgery.

Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard (7-4, 4.36) is 4-0 in his past nine starts.

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Nationals’ Scherzer on track for Thursday return

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WASHINGTON — Nationals ace Max Scherzer is expected to return from the injured list Thursday.

“He felt good today,” manager Davey Martinez said of Scherzer, who threw a bullpen session Monday prior to the opener of a four-game series between the Nationals and Rockies getting rained out. That contest has been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on Wednesday, with the finale coming Thursday afternoon.

Assuming Scherzer doesn’t suffer any setbacks between now and then, he would take the hill in the finale.

Scherzer has been dealing with an inflamed bursa sac below his right shoulder and has not pitched since July 6, when he tallied 11 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals. One week later, the Nats placed him on the injured list, retroactive to July 10.

On Tuesday, Martinez said the Nationals considered the calendar for the remainder of the regular-season schedule, as well as the postseason, before landing on Thursday as the likely return date for Scherzer.

“We actually sat down and looked at the schedule, and that’s basically how we came up with Thursday,” said the Nats’ second-year skipper. “I went all the way ’til the wild-card game. I’m hoping that we’re not the wild-card team. But we sat down and mapped everything out from that day.”

Washington began the day 6.5 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East, and in possession of the top wild-card spot in the NL. If Scherzer is able to go on Thursday, he would then line up to start in all three of his team’s remaining series against the Braves, as well as in Washington’s lone remaining series against the third-place Phillies. He’d also be in position to take the mound in a potential NL wild-card game.

A three-time Cy Young winner, Scherzer has been one of the game’s most durable hurlers, having made at least 30 starts in all 10 of his full seasons since debuting in 2008. Since signing a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Nationals prior to the 2015 season, the 34-year-old righty had made only one other trip to the injured list, in August of 2017.

This season, Scherzer is 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA. In 129.1 innings, he has recorded 181 strikeouts, most in the National League. In June, prior to hitting the shelf, he went 6-0 with a 1.00 ERA and was named the NL Pitcher of the Month.

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