It was a wild day on Sunday with walk-off hits, extra-inning games, injuries to Christian Yelich and Fernando Tatis Jr. that are hopefully not serious, a strikeout record, an actual complete game (congrats, Zach Eflin!), a rare trio of home runs and a Manny Machado web gem at shortstop.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 28, 2019
Bellinger’s numbers: Insanity. He’s hitting .427/.500/.913 with 36 RBIs and joins the exclusive club of players with 14 home runs before May 1.
Bellinger, 2019: 14
Yelich, 2019: 14
Alex Rodriguez, 2007: 14
Albert Pujols, 2006: 14
Of course, the season started in late March this year (thus the “before May 1” qualifier) and decades ago the season didn’t start until mid-April. Still, Bellinger’s start is clearly one of the best opening months we’ve ever seen. He ties Juan Gonzalez and Mark McGwire (both in 1998) with 36 RBIs and his .427 average currently ranks seventh-highest since 1908 (minimum 75 plate appearances).
Some of the best Aprils ever:
Of the nine names listed before Bellinger and Yelich, four went on to win MVP honors (Walker, Griffey, Bonds, Rodriguez) and two finished second (McGwire and Pujols). Perez finished third, Cey eighth and Kemp got injured in May and tailed off.
The most remarkable aspect to Bellinger’s start is he’s cut his strikeout rate in half.
2018: 23.9 percent
2017: 11.3 percent
That’s the 12th-lowest strikeout rate among regulars, tied with Mike Trout. It’s possible to strike out less merely if you swing more often and don’t work the count, but that’s not what’s happening here. Bellinger is actually swinging less often than he did 2018; he’s just not missing as much. And if you throw him a fastball, good luck: He’s missing on just 11.9 percent of his swings at fastballs compared to 27.1 percent last season, and as a result he’s hitting .373 against fastballs compared to .269 in 2018.
So you have a young star coming into his own as one of the elite power hitters in the game and potentially one of the toughest to strike out. It has been an April for the ages.
And with respect to what Yelich has done so far, Bellinger looks so locked in that he’d be the new pick for NL MVP — not just of April, but as most likely to win it at season’s end.
Yelich, Tatis injuries: Yelich left his game with a stiff back and Tatis left after doing the splits stretching for a throw at second base and hurting his hamstring. The postgame reports:
We’ll probably have better idea Monday how serious Christian Yelich back issue is. Counsell said he probably wouldn’t play tomorrow but said he didn’t think it was a DL situation.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) April 28, 2019
Andy Green said Fernando Tatis Jr. is in good spirits. Said it is a hamstring injury.
— Kevin Acee (@sdutKevinAcee) April 28, 2019
Let’s hope for positive updates on Monday.
Guerrero’s first weekend: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his debut on Friday to much fanfare and his leadoff double in the ninth inning led to Brandon Drury’s walk-off home run for the Blue Jays. With his dad watching all three games, Guerrero went 1-for-4 each game, with a walk and three strikeouts. He did show a quick bat and the all-fields approach that allowed him to dominate the minor leagues.
Brett Anderson, who became the first pitcher to face both Vlad Sr. and Vlad Jr., got him looking on Saturday with the bases loaded on a 93-mph fastball on the inside corner and Liam Hendricks fanned him swinging on a nasty slider in the dirt.
On Sunday, Chris Bassitt got him to chase a slow curveball off the plate for strike three, the only time Guerrero expanded the strike zone, but Bassitt had several Blue Jays waving at that pitch. The A’s actually challenged Guerrero with a lot of fastballs — although a lot of well-located fastballs. Against Bassitt, Guerrero reached on an error on a slow grounder to second against a fastball and bounced out to shortstop on a sinker. In the bottom of the ninth of a tie game, Guerrero had the green light on a 3-0 count and lined a fastball from Joakim Soria into left-center for a base hit.
All in all, a fun debut weekend, even if Guerrero didn’t hit his first major league home run. He did foul off a couple of hittable fastballs up in the zone — I suspect that may be the first scouting report on him, much like a young Mike Trout struggled with fastballs up early in his career — and learned major league pitchers are good at hitting the corners.
The Blue Jays ended winning Sunday’s game in dramatic fashion, completing the three-game sweep. After the A’s scored three runs in the top of the 11th, the Jays scored four off closer Blake Treinen — in his second inning of work — to walk it off:
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 28, 2019
Drury had the big blow once again, with a game-tying home run. He has destroyed the A’s this year, going 12-for-24 (.500) with four home runs, three doubles and eight RBIs. Against everyone else, he’s 6-for-41 (.146) with no home runs and no doubles. Oh, and the Blue Jays are 6-0 against the A’s. Some might second guess Bob Melvin for using Treinen for a second inning, but this is one of the best relievers in the game and this was just his second outing this week. He just couldn’t finish it off.
White Sox tie strikeout record: Like most of the White Sox’s rotation, Reynaldo Lopez had been awful this season, entering Sunday’s start with a 7.46 ERA and seven home runs allowed in 25⅓ innings. Wearing the 1980s throwback jersey, however, Lopez channeled his inner Richard Dotson and Floyd Bannister, and fanned 14 in just six innings:
Absolutely electric. pic.twitter.com/uszHvYuzyb
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) April 28, 2019
Lopez became just the ninth pitcher to strike out 14 in six or fewer innings (since 1908). Incredibly, 13 of the strikeouts came on his four-seam fastball — 11 of them swinging. The 14 strikeouts tie Jacob deGrom for a season high and the 13 strikeouts with his fastball are four more any other pitcher this season and the most since Vince Velasquez had 13 for the Phillies on April 14, 2016. (Ten of his 13 were swinging and he finished with 16 on the day.)
The strikeouts didn’t stop there, however, as White Sox relievers fanned six more helpless Tigers to finish with a team total of 20. That tied the nine-inning record:
Obviously, 20 strikeouts is more impressive when it comes from one pitcher and this Tigers lineup is a complete mess (they lead the majors in strikeout rate while averaging just 3.50 runs per game), but kudos to the White Sox for a game to remember. (They still have the worst rotation ERA in the majors.)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: The Rays beat the Red Sox 5-2 at Fenway to sweep the two-game series (Friday’s game was rained out) as Tyler Glasnow improved to 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA, 38 strikeouts and nine walks in 36 innings and a .209 average allowed. The opener is swell and cute and a good way to adapt to baseball in 2019, but nothing beats a dominant starting pitcher. I mean, look at this filth:
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 28, 2019
On the other side of things, Chris Sale fell to 0-5 with a 6.30 ERA after allowing four runs in seven innings. He deserved better as an error led to two unearned runs in the second inning and Jackie Bradley Jr. failed to catch Yandy Diaz’s two-run triple, a catch he probably makes a year ago when everything went right for the Red Sox. The good sign for Sale is he shut the Rays down after the second and lasted seven innings and 111 pitches, his longest outing of the season.
The other good sign: He has 12 swing-and-misses on his fastball his past two starts after getting just two over his first four starts. Still, the Red Sox have lost all six of his starts — after going 18-9 in his starts last season (Sale was 12-4).
Big City with the big blast: Good win for the Nationals after the Padres had taken the first two games of the series, rallying from a 6-0 deficit on Matt Adams’ walk-off home run in the 11th:
With Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom all homering this afternoon, the Nationals are the 1st team since at least 1908 with HR from 3 different players age 21 or younger in the same game.
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 28, 2019
Washington’s struggling bullpen actually did the job, throwing eight scoreless innings, with Erick Fedde, just up from the minors, throwing four in his season debut. After this game, the Nationals no longer have the worst bullpen ERA in the majors!
30. Orioles: 6.68
29. Nationals: 6.57
28. Mets: 5.52
27. Marlins: 5.40
26. Royals: 5.23
The cool highlight from this game: Juan Soto, Victor Robles and new call-up Carter Kieboom each homered, the first time three players 21 and younger homered for the same team in one game. How crazy is that? The last team with three players 21 or younger to homer in the same season was the 1993 Expos with Wil Cordero, Cliff Floyd and Rondell White.
Pujols passes Bonds on RBI list: Speaking of Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds, with his two-run double off Homer Bailey in the first inning, Pujols moved into third place on the official all-time RBI list:
1. Henry Aaron, 2,297
2. Alex Rodriguez, 2,096
3. Albert Pujols, 1,997
4. Barry Bonds, 1,996
5. Lou Gehrig, 1,994
That’s a little misleading, however, as RBIs didn’t become an official stat until 1920. Using unofficial tallies prior to 1920, the top-five list looks like this, according to Baseball-Reference.com:
1. Henry Aaron, 2,297
2. Babe Ruth, 2,214
3. Alex Rodriguez, 2,096
4. Cap Anson, 2,075
5. Albert Pujols, 1,997
Either way … that’s a lot of RBIs.