Home Baseball Real or not? Nationals make statement, Rockies best in West – SweetSpot

Real or not? Nationals make statement, Rockies best in West – SweetSpot


You can argue that the Washington Nationals just caught the New York Mets at the right time, with the Mets a little beat up and struggling. Or you can argue that Nationals are better. For example:

Mets fan: “We didn’t have Yoenis Cespedes the entire series!” No doubt, Cespedes being sidelined due to a tender hamstring made navigating the Mets’ lineup a little easier. Since acquiring Cespedes, they’ve averaged 4.6 runs per game when he’s in the lineup and 3.8 when he’s out (and are now 18-27 when he doesn’t play).

Nationals fan: “Bryce Harper.” Harper continues to rake. A 2-for-4 game in Sunday’s 6-3 victory raised his line to .400/.524/.815. He homered on Friday and the Mets walked him three times on Saturday.

Mets fan: “How’s October worked out for you?” True, the Nationals have the most wins in the majors since 2012 and have yet to win a playoff series.

Nationals fan: “Ryan Zimmerman.” He’s looking like one of the most improved hitters in the league and goes beyond beyond healthy. Zimmerman hit the ball hard last season, but hit too many grounders and struggled to a .215 average. Teammate Daniel Murphy implored him to rework his swing to improve his launch angle — baseball talk for hit more fly balls. It’s working, as Zimmerman is hitting .387 and launched his sixth home run on Sunday, a two-run shot on Sunday off Josh Smoker that cemented the victory.

Mets fan: “Well, Noah Syndergaard didn’t pitch in the series.”

Nationals fan: “Too bad.” Max Scherzer did pitch on Sunday and while he gave up his first two home runs of the season, he fanned nine in eight innings to improve to 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA.

Bottom line: The Nationals have won seven in a row and the Mets have lost eight of nine. The baseball gods don’t care about your injuries.

Rockies sweep Giants at home: Those aren’t words you see very often. In fact, it was the Rockies’ first three-game sweep of the Giants at Coors Field since 2002: A 6-5 win on Friday, with all six runs coming off Johnny Cueto in the fourth inning on a Trevor Story grand slam and Charlie Blackmon‘s two-run homer; a 12-3 blowout on Saturday as they pounded Matt Moore for three home runs and rookie Antonio Senzatela allowed one run in seven innings; and an 8-0 shutout on Sunday behind Kyle Freeland, another rookie starter. The sweep helped them open up a seven-game gap over the last-place Giants.

The exciting aspect to the Rockies’ 13-6 start is that they’ve been doing it with pitching. They’re only 16th in the majors in runs scored per game, but ninth in ERA. Senzatela and Freeland have been huge, especially with Jon Gray on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his foot. The bullpen is 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA as the Rockies have gone 7-0 in one-run games.

That record in one-run games is the balloon that will eventually burst, but the offense has the potential to kick into a higher gear, especially with Story and Carlos Gonzalez both hitting under .200 and Ian Desmond eventually returning.

As for the Giants, manager Bruce Bochy doesn’t seem worried just yet. “There’s only so much you can do,” he said after Sunday’s loss. “These are our guys and they’ve been through this.” Should we remind him that Madison Bumgarner is going to miss a couple of months after his dirt-bike fiasco?

Oh, just a little bad blood between the Red Sox and Orioles: Manny Machado always seems to be in the middle of these things, but this one you can’t blame on him. Scott Lauber has the complete breakdown here, but the Cliff’s Notes version: Machado spiked Dustin Pedroia on Friday night, causing Pedroia to miss the rest of the series, and Matt Barnes threw behind Machado’s head on Sunday. After Sunday’s game, Pedroia said Machado had “zero intention” of trying to hurt him on Friday and television cameras caught this exchange after Barnes’ pitch (from Lauber’s story):

    Pedroia: “It’s not me. If that was me, we would’ve hit you the first day [after the slide].”

    Machado pointed to his head, making clear that Barnes was out of bounds.

    Pedroia: “I know. That’s bulls—. We should’ve hit you the first at-bat yesterday. I know that, and you know that. It’s not me. That’s him.”

Barnes said the pitch got away and was ejected. I’d like to see him get a three-game suspension as well. You can’t throw that close to a guy’s head and not escape a penalty.

There was another incident like this on Saturday, when Tigers starter Matthew Boyd threw a pitch behind Miguel Sano‘s head after Twins reliever Justin Haley inadvertently hit JaCoby Jones in the face (remarkably Jones suffered only a lacerated lip). Haley had just entered the game and hit Jones with a 1-2 fastball; there was clearly no intent, he just threw a bad pitch. I get that the Tigers were upset, but this unnecessary revenge game not only puts players at risk but will probably hurt the Tigers when Boyd gets suspended.

As Pedroia said on Sunday, “That’s not how you do that. I’m sorry to him and his team. I love Manny Machado. That’s a mishandled situation.” So was the Boyd pitch.

Look, there’s no good answer to the eye-for-an-eye philosophy that is hard-coded into the game, but players have to be smarter. Make sure there’s at least a good reason if you’re going to throw at an opponent. Barnes and Boyd didn’t have one. And instead of talking about Andrew Benintendi‘s five-hit game, we’re talking about this nonsense.

Play(s) of the day: The Phillies hit three consecutive home runs in the eighth inning off the Braves, turning a 2-2 tie into a 5-2 win, an outburst punctuated by Odubel Herrera‘s bat flip:

Quick thoughts … The Braves are at six straight losses as they’ve scored just 15 runs in this skid. They’ve gone from one game out last Monday to seven games out and just have too many easy outs in the lineup right now. … Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez is an underrated player who has maybe changed his approach this season, trading more strikeouts for a little more power as he slugged his fourth home run on Sunday. He’s hitting .338/.376/.563. … Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto must have had an itch in his finger or was looking for a scapegoat for his team’s slow start. He found one in center fielder Leonys Martin, who was designated for assignment while hitting .111. Martin had a nice first half last season before slumping in the second half, so maybe it’s not a surprise that he got dumped. … Let’s hope Joey Gallo is figuring things out. He mashed another home run on Sunday, his fourth of the week. … Carlos Correa‘s home run on Sunday was his first extra-base hit since homering off Felix Hernandez on Opening Day. Weird. … Look for updates on Shelby Miller, who left Sunday’s game with a right forearm strain. … Ivan Nova continues to look good for the Pirates, beating the Yankees 2-1, although he did walk his first batter of the season. Of course it was Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery in his first major league at-bat. As they say, you can’t predict baseball.

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