All He Does is Win
The Yankees continued their winning ways on Saturday, crushing the Blue Jays 13-3. Their offense continued to do serious damage, including 36-year-old outfielder Brett Gardner smacking a pair of home runs, and 22-year-old sensation Gleyber Torres crushing his 37th long ball of the season.
It was what happened on the pitching side of the ledger that deserves some attention though. James Paxton earned a victory. Another one. In doing so, he became just the fourth Yankees’ hurler since 1961 to win nine consecutive starts -- joining Whitey Ford, Ron Guidry and Mike Mussina.
Paxton cruised to an easy victory in this one behind the ample run support that Gardner, Torres and company provided, allowing just one run on three hits over his five innings of work. The left-hander punched out three and walked two on the day.
Prior to this streak, the 30-year-old hurler was in the midst of a very disappointing season. After losing to the Red Sox on July 26 he sat at 5-6 on the season with an underwhelming 4.72 ERA and 1.51 WHIP.
During this incredible run, he has pitched to a 2.50 ERA and 0.96 WHIP while registering a 61/20 K/BB ratio across 54 innings of work. For the season, he now sits at 14-6 with a 3.88 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 178/55 K/BB ratio across 143 2/3 innings.
He’ll look to extend his historic streak on Friday in a rematch against these same Blue Jays -- this time at home in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.
Rest for Betts
Mookie Betts was an unexpected late scratch from the Red Sox starting lineup on Saturday due to soreness in his left foot. After he didn’t appear at all in Saturday’s game, Red Sox’ skipper Alex Cora announced that Betts would be held out of action on Sunday as well.
Cora indicated that Betts’ foot was giving him problems after playing on the turf in Toronto at the beginning of the week. He also downplayed the severity of the injury and noted that he expects his superstar outfielder to return to the lineup on Tuesday.
While he has disappointed relative to expectations this season -- coming off of his stellar American League MVP-winning 2018 campaign, Betts has still delivered quality results across the board this season. Just not what fantasy owners were expecting when drafting him as the second pick overall on average.
The 26-year-old is slashing .293/.391/.527 with 28 homers, a league-leading 131 runs scored, 78 RBI and 15 stolen bases. That’s a phenomenal season, no question about it. It just isn’t on par with his 2018 season.
What will be interesting to see is just how far Betts falls down draft boards this season. After being the consensus second overall selection last year, it’s very clear that he’ll slot in after Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Christian Yelich at an absolute minimum. After that, there are around a dozen or more players who you could make a compelling argument for inclusion at that pick. My early estimate is that Betts will wind up in the second half of the first round in 15-team leagues -- somewhere in the 8-12 range.
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Trout Out (Again)
Mike Trout -- the clear front-runner for the American League MVP Award -- was held out of the Angels’ lineup again on Saturday due to a lingering foot injury.
He has now missed each of the Angels’ last six contests, having not played since September 7.
Trout admitted on Saturday that there have been internal discussion about shutting him down for the remainder of the season, though as of now, Trout has maintained that he’s adamant about playing. The superstar center fielder also said that he expects to return to the lineup as the team’s designated hitter on Sunday.
Trout did concede, however, that he’ll spend far more time as the club’s designated hitter over the final two weeks than he will be playing center field.
The 28-year-old is currently slashing .291/.438/.645 with 45 homers, 110 runs scored, 104 RBI and 11 stolen bases. His 45 homers are tops in the American League. He also leads the American League in slugging (.645) and OPS (1.083), while he paces all of baseball in walks (110) and on-base percentage (.438).
Royals’ outfielder Jorge Soler trails him by just one home run, so Trout would likely lose out on the American League home run crown if he were to be shut down for the remainder of the season.
Braves Playoff Bound
The Atlanta Braves punched their ticket to the postseason on Saturday, behind a masterful pitching performance by right-hander Mike Foltynewicz. The 27-year-old hurler punched out five over six innings of one-run baseball, allowing just an RBI double to Anthony Rendon in the opening inning.
It has been a rollercoaster season for Foltynewicz who struggled early on and was actually demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett for six weeks in late June. When he eventually returned in August, the hope was that he could get back on track and eventually contribute as a member of the bullpen during the postseason. With the way he’s pitching right now though, he has likely earned himself a spot in the club’s playoff rotation.
In seven starts since returning on August 6, the right-hander boasts a 2.95 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 38/14 K/BB ratio over 39 ⅔ innings. That’s much more like the form that made him an All-Star in 2018 than the 6.37 ERA that he pitched to through 11 starts prior to his demotion.
Nick Markakis led the offensive attack in this one, going 4-for-5 with a pair of RBI. The 35-year-old outfielder has now collected six hits and three RBI in his first two games since returning from the injured list. Ozzie Albies went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI in the game as well -- his fourth consecutive multi-hit effort.
The next thing to secure will be the National League East division crown, which seems like a foregone conclusion at this stage. After Saturday’s victory, the Braves hold a 10 ½ game lead over the Nationals with 12 games left to play. Their magic number to clinch their second consecutive division title sits at 4.
American League Quick Hits: Blue Jays’ southpaw Tim Mayza was diagnosed with a torn UCL in his left elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery. He’ll miss the entire 2020 season. … Brandon Lowe (leg) has started to take at-bats against live pitching and has yet to be ruled out for the remainder of the 2019 season. … Sam Dyson has been shut down indefinitely due to renewed pain in his right biceps. … Dellin Betances (shoulder, lat) is expected to rejoin the Yankees on Sunday. … Jeff Mathis left Saturday’s game against the Athletics with a lower back strain, he’s day-to-day. … Mike Fiers was forced to leave Saturday’s start due to nerve irritation in his right arm. … The Twins have decided to push back Jose Berrios’s next start. Randy Dobnak will get the ball in his place on Sunday as the Twins try to finish a sweep of the Indians. … Miguel Cabrera left Saturday’s game, and will likely sit out Sunday as well, with chronic right knee soreness. ... Jorge Polanco smacked a two-run homer off of Mike Clevinger, powering the Twins past the Indians in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. … Miguel Sano clobbered a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning to win the nightcap for the Twins. … John Hicks blasted a walk-off grand slam in the 12th inning to propel the Tigers past the Orioles. … Eduardo Rodriguez racked up a season-high 12 strikeouts over 6 ⅔ innings of one-run baseball in a no-decision against the Phillies. … Kyle Tucker went 4-for-4 with an RBI, a run scored and two stolen bases in a victory over the Royals. … Zack Greinke struck out seven over six innings of one-run ball to earn his 16th victory of the season. … Yordan Alvarez crushed a pinch-hit, three-run homer in that one. He now has 25 homers and 75 RBI in his first 76 big league games. … Matt Chapman slugged his 33rd home run in a victory over the Rangers. … Travis d’Arnaud delivered a go-ahead three-run double in the sixth inning to lead the Rays past the Angels. … Emilio Pagan closed that one out to earn his 20th save of the season. … Tyler Glasnow punched out five over three scoreless innings as the opener there. … Omar Narvaez blasted his 21st home run of the season - this one a walk-off blast in the 10th inning to sink the White Sox. … Felix Hernandez fanned four over seven innings of one-run baseball in a no-decision. … Lourdes Gurriel went 2-for-3 with a double in his return to the Blue Jays’ lineup.
National League Quick Hits: Josh Bell sat out Saturday’s game after exiting with left groin discomfort on Friday. He’s still considered day-to-day. … Rich Hill (knee) was able to play catch on flat ground on Saturday. He’s determined to pitch again in 2019. … Charlie Culberson was removed from Saturday’s game after getting drilled in the face by a pitch while squaring around to bunt. He was taken to the hospital for further evaluation where they’re focusing on his right orbital bone. Fortunately, he remained conscious and responsive the entire time. … Will Smith (back) was able to throw without issue on Saturday. He’s expected to return to action as early as Sunday - and may have been used on Saturday had a save situation arose. … Freddy Galvis left Saturday’s game with a knee injury. He’s considered day-to-day and could return to the Reds’ lineup on Sunday. … Tyler Saladino suffered another setback with his injured shoulder and will not be joining the Brewers for the final few weeks of the season. ... Hunter Renfroe (ankle) could return to the Padres’ lineup at some point next week. … Nico Hoerner homered for the second straight game as the Cubs walloped the Pirates. He has now played 11 runs in his first six big league contests. … Kris Bryant homered and drove in four runs for the Cubbies in that one. … Jacob deGrom and Hyun-Jin Ryu each fired seven scoreless innings in dueling no-decisions on Saturday… Rajai Davis delivered a pinch-hit three-run double to ultimately win that one for the Mets. … Jack Flaherty struck out 10 in a losing effort against the Brewers. … Aaron Nola fired seven innings of one-run ball in a tough-luck no-decision against the Red Sox. … An RBI triple by Nick Ahmed led the Diamondbacks to a 1-0 victory over the Reds. … Merrill Kelly struck out five over seven shutout frames to earn a victory there. … Daniel Murphy went 4-for-5 and drove in four runs as the Rockies outlasted the Padres. … Manny Machado belted his 30th home run in a losing effort there.