Stats through Thursday’s games; last rankings in parentheses:
1. Boston (1): Pitcher Rick Porcello, in the midst of a seven-inning, two-hitter, doubles to right and slides head first into second, leading with the hand that grips the baseball. It was Porcello’s second hit and second double in five at-bats this year. Red Sox manager Alex Cora: “The slide was horrible.” Porcello concurred: “I saw the replay,” Porcello said. “It didn’t look very good. … It was pretty bad.” Point being, if you’re going to hit, learn how to slide.
2. Houston (2): Astros deal for Roberto Osuna, coming off 75-game suspension and facing a domestic assault trial, despite saying they have a “zero-tolerance policy” on domestic violence. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said: “We are confident that Osuna is remorseful . . . and will fully comply with our zero tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind,” even though Osuna’s own lawyer said, “I would say he is remorseful for the circumstances in which he finds himself. He isn’t admitting the allegations. He definitely is remorseful in the sense that the circumstances are what they are.” It’s enough of a miscommunication to make you wonder if Rudy Giuliani is part of the defense team.
3. N.Y. Yankees (3): On his radio show, Yankees announcer Michael Kay gives the Braves’ Joe Simpson (who said about Juan Soto, “If he’s 19”) a challenge for stupidest thing said into a microphone in August. Kay criticized injured outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury (hip) and Clint Frazier (concussion) for not being healthy enough to play in four-game sweep by Red Sox. Kay: “Shame on the Yankees for not having the depth. But again, shame on guys like Jacoby Ellsbury for not getting healthy. Shame on Clint Frazier for not getting healthy.” Frazier responded, Kay apologized, but how does anyone, given what’s been learned about concussions and their long-term effects, criticize any treatment plan that is anything but cautious? Shame on Kay for trying to shame injured players.
4. Chicago Cubs (4): Ben Zobrist gets called out on strikes by home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi on a pitch six inches outside, then gets ejected. Zobrist told reporters why he got tossed: “I just basically said that’s why we want an electronic strike zone.” Watch enough games and there’s plenty of days it seems the honor system would be more accurate.
5. Cleveland (6): Rookie Indians pitcher Shane Bieber’s nickname for Players Weekend? Not Justin. Cute, but they both produce hits: Justin on the charts, and Shane for opponents. The latter has given up 81 hits in 68 innings, and opponents are batting .295 against him.
6. Oakland (9): A’s have moved within two games of AL West lead but apparently not many in the Bay Area know it. Only 44,897 showed up for a three-game series with Mariners, and A’s are 28th in attendance with an average of 18,369 per game. On TV after Game 1 win, Matt Chapman urges fans to come out: “I just want to use this time to encourage people in Oakland to come out, man. … We’re fun to watch, and we really want our fans to come out and support us. It would be great.” They also win.
7. Atlanta (8): Ronald Acuna homers in five straight games, then is hit by Jose Urena with the first pitch of Game No. 6, a 97.5 mph fastball, which understandably didn’t please Acuna’s teammates. “Fastest pitch he’s thrown all year,” said Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who called Urena “gutless.” Braves have four games with Marlins next weekend, but it’s likely Urena will be serving his suspension. To be continued in 2019.
8. Arizona (12): Clay Buchholz complete-game five-hitter vs. hapless Padres on Thursday was 32nd of this MLB season. One more and the entirety of MLB will tie Robin Roberts, who threw 33 complete games in 1953. (Roberts made 41 starts and threw a career-high 346.2 innings 65 years ago.) Last major-leaguer to top 10 complete games, and only pitcher this century, was James Shields, who had 11 for the 2011 Rays. This year’s leaders are five pitchers — Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, James Paxton and Jose Berrios — with two. Buchholz is now halfway there.
9. L.A. Dodgers (5): Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, no fan of Yusiel Puig, blames Puig for letting Giants catcher Nick Hundley “bait him into a fight.” Plaschke: “Yes, Hundley started it. According to Puig, Hundley popped off by cursing Puig. Everyone agrees Hundley was clearly the instigator. But so what? Baseball is filled with jerks who try to get into the opponents’ head. Did Puig have to allow him entry? Instead of getting in Hundley’s face, he could have dug in right where he was, back in the batter’s box, stared down (Tony) Watson and answered with a real swing.” Also probably Puig’s fault, were Plaschke the judge: traffic on the 405, Lorenzo Ball’s rookie season, and Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announcing La La Land won Best Picture instead of Moonlight.
10. St. Louis (16): Joaquin Andujar youneverknow dept.: Pitcher John Gant, 0-for-31 for his career, homers off Nats’ Gio Gonzalez. Gant: “That’s just about all we do during batting practice is try to hit home runs. I do alright for myself.” Not sure who first said, “Swing hard in case you hit it,” but John Gant is why.
11. Milwaukee (7): Traded from Orioles, Jonathan Schoop starts Brewers career 7-for-44 with two extra-base hits and one walk, and says “. . . this is not the time to get frustrated.” If four months playing for this year’s Orioles didn’t discourage him, two bad weeks in Milwaukee surely won’t.
12. Seattle (11): After 398 starts, Felix Hernandez makes first relief appearance when starter James Paxton is hit by a first-inning line drive. Hernandez, who has a 5.62 ERA, loses that one, too, giving up two runs in five innings.
13. Philadelphia (10): Phillies farm Zach Eflin, who’s 8-4 with a 3.57 ERA, in a procedural move to create roster space for trade addition Justin Bour, then recall Eflin as the 26th man for Thursday’s doubleheader. And then the Phillies — technically — return Eflin to the minors until his next start. The nine lost days of big-league service time will cost Eflin $20,000, since AAA pay ain’t big-league pay. Eflin: “It just wasn’t too easy to swallow. The only thing you can do is be positive and move forward and use it as motivation.” Actually, Zach, there’s one more thing you can do. File a grievance.
14. Colorado (13): Charlie Blackmon goes by Chuck Nazty, but he’s hitting in the second half more like Chuck Nice. As the Rockies, one-and-a-half games out of the NL West lead and two games out of a wild-card berth, chase the playoffs, Blackmon is .219/292/365 in 106 plate appearances since the All-Star break. Oddly, Blackmon has hit 14 of his 22 homers this season away from Coors Field, but still has a home OPS (.902) 171 points higher than his road one (.731).
15. Washington (14): Nats bullpen loses late leads on Sunday and Monday and an exasperated manager Dave Martinez says: “I don’t know what else to do.” Here’s one thing GM Mike Rizzo maybe shouldn’t have done: trade relievers Brandon Kintzler and Shawn Kelley in a fit of pique. Kintzler is with the Cubs and Kelley with the A’s — both teams that have better bullpens and better postseason opportunities than the Nats.
16. Tampa Bay (17): New Ray Tyler Glasnow fans 20 in first 12 innings and says, “(The Pirates) gave me so many opportunities, and I didn’t show them what I could do.” If he had shown them the 2.25 ERA he has with the Rays, he might still be a Pirate.
17. L.A. Angels (15): Albert Pujols, in his 18th season and producing his 17th-best OPS of .704, says he’ll know when to quit. “The day that I feel like I can’t compete in this game anymore, it doesn’t matter how much money I’m going to leave on the table. To embarrass yourself and not be able to compete—dude, that’s not me.” Good thing Pujols is a Hall of Fame first baseman. A detective he’s not. He must have missed the smoking gun clue of his -1.8 WAR last year.
18. Pittsburgh (19): Chris Archer goes 4.1, 5 and 5 innings in first three Pirate starts, gives up nine earned runs and 18 hits in 14.1 innings. Pirates fans have to be wondering what the point of the deal was. Glasnow could have done that.
19. San Francisco (18): Rookie pitcher Dereck Rodriguez, 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA, tweaks a hamstring racing on to the field for the Puig-Hundley exchange and goes on the DL. If you ask Bill Plaschke, that was probably Puig’s fault, too.
20. Minnesota (20): Jose Berrios knocked out by Pirates in fourth innings, raising daytime ERA to 4.91 vs. nighttime 2.79. Maybe Ben Franklin meant,”Early to bed and early to rise, makes a night owl pitcher’s ERA rise.”
21. Toronto (21): Mike Hauschild, cut by Astros from their AAA team on Monday, is signed by Jays 30 minutes before start of a game in Seattle, relieves opener Tyler Clippard and throws six shutout innings for first major-league win. Jays manager John Gibbons: “The thinking was if he went out there and got roughed up he was going to have to wear it a little bit because we wanted to rest some guys. And then he did just the opposite. …” Cool story. Hauschild makes one more start, gets knocked out by Red Sox in the third inning and is back in the minors.
22. Texas (23): Yovani Gallardo, who had a 30.86 ERA when Rangers signed him, wins seven of his first 10 starts. Manager Jeff Banister: “He’s been able to manage the game well when we get him some runs.” Manage the game? I thought that was Banister’s job. What he meant to say was that Gallardo hasn’t been good, but the Rangers’ offense has been when he pitchers: Texas has averaged 9.2 runs per Gallardo start, scored in double figures in half his starts and nine runs in a sixth. Compare that to Jacob deGrom, for whom the Mets have scored one fewer run (91) in 14 more starts. He’s got seven wins, too.
23. Cincinnati (22): Ex-Met Matt Harvey returns to New York, gets a video tribute and says, “I want people to know I do regret a lot of mistakes I made.” Sounds like he’s found a difference in the quality of life between the Queen City and Manhattan.
24. N.Y. Mets (25): Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez, in the middle of a rare Mets win, takes the contrarian side and says Marlins’ Jose Urena did the right thing in plunking the Braves’ Ronald Acuna. Hernandez: “They’re killing you. You lost three games. He’s hit three home runs. You got to hit him. I’m sorry, people aren’t going to like that. You know, you got to hit him, knock him down. I mean, seriously knock him down if you don’t hit him. You never throw at anybody’s head or neck.” Nice of Hernandez to add the disclaimer, and he’s right about one thing. People didn’t like it. Of course it was easy for Hernandez to say a batter should be hit for homering in three (or five) straight games. He hit 162 for his career. Nobody threw at him because he homered in consecutive weeks, let alone games.
25. Detroit (24): Nick Castellanos homers vs. Twins on Thursday and flips his bat, which is caught by umpire Manny Gonzalez. No surprise. Fielders catch most everything else hit by the Tigers, who are 28th in runs scored.
26. San Diego (26): Freddy Galvis homers in three straight games, but does anyone throw at him? No respect. Probably no reason to since the Padres, as usual, lost two of them.
27. Chicago White Sox (28): Outfielder Adam Engel takes home runs away from the Yankees’ Greg Bird and Kyle Higashioka and the Indians’ Yonder Alonso in the same week. It’d be nice if Engel hit some home runs — he has four this year, 10 in his two-year career and a lifetime .195 average.
28. Miami (27): Jose Urena denies he was throwing at Ronald Acuna, and if you believe that, you probably probably believe the Marlins traded Giancarlo Stanton to win now. Urena: “I made the bad pitch. I missed my spot inside on the corner the way I wanted to start with him. I tried to get inside to move him.” Best thing for Urena’s defense? He misses a lot of spots. He led the NL last year with 14 hit batsmen and leads it again this year, Acuna being his 11th.
29. Baltimore (29): If you love a 20-game loser, this is your year. Alex Cobb, who has a 5.31 ERA, has lost 15 and with Orioles on a 113-loss pace, he’s got a chance. There have been only two 20-game losers since 1980 — Mike Maroth, who lost 21 with a 5.73 ERA for 2003 Tigers, and Brian Kingman, who lost 20 for the 1980 A’s despite a 3.86 ERA. Only drawback is that Cobb, who signed as a free agent late in spring training, has started to pitch more like the guy who has a 3.77 career ERA — he has a 2.17 ERA in his last six starts.
30. Kansas City (30): Since winning 2015 World Series, Royals have gone from 95 wins to a .500 season to a game under .500 to this year’s 37-84 fiasco. Owner David Glass: “No one is pleased with this. But in talking with (GM) Dayton (Moore) and our baseball operations people, we believe we are headed in the right direction.” Glass might want to check his phone for a Google Maps app, because his team isn’t headed in the direction he thinks it is.