It was back to back disappointments for the National League on Sunday.
Max Scherzer, arguably the best pitcher in the league this year, said Sunday morning that he won’t pitch for the National League in Tuesday’s All-Star Game due to back tightness, and a few hours later it was revealed that Christian Yelich, the NL home run leader, won’t participate in Monday’s Home Run Derby, putting his participation in Tuesday’s game in question as well, due to back issues. Matt Chapman will replace Yelich in Monday's competition.
Yelich said the decision to withdraw from the derby, in which he was the top seed, was “very hard.”
"I definitely don’t want to disappoint anyone or go back on a commitment that I made,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I was weighing both sides. I have people traveling, people looking forward to me participating in the Derby – close friends and family. Fans as well.
"But I have people in this clubhouse and organization, a lot of people that are counting on me to be ready for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t going to be able to do it. It was definitely a tough decision and I’m definitely disappointed I can’t participate.
"I was really looking forward to it and it was something I really wanted to be a part of. Hopefully I’m fortunate enough to have another opportunity to do it here in the future. It just didn’t work out this year."
If the NL has to forge on without both, they will, of course, be alright -- it’s an all-star team, after all. Without Yelich, the NL squad still has David Dahl and Charlie Blackmon in the outfield, and Jeff McNeil and Kris Bryant both play outfield regularly.
Sans Scherzer, who wasn’t set to start the game -- that honor went to Hyun-Jin Ryu -- the NL will still have at its disposal top-end starters Jacob deGrom, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, among others, and ace relievers Kirby Yates, Will Smith and Felipe Vazquez.
They’ll be fine.
Alex Young didn’t allow a hit against the Rockies on Sunday.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is, he was removed after six innings despite carrying a no-hitter, and his replacement, Yoshihisa Hirano, allowed a hit to lead off the seventh inning, dashing the collective no-hit bid. Young finished with six scoreless innings, a win, and a missed opportunity at history.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said Young, who came into the start with just two major league appearances to his name and who hasn’t pitched more than five innings at any stop this year, was on a pitch count that was more important than the zeroes on the scoreboard.
“I’m watching him dominate the very offensive Colorado Rockies,” Lovullo said after the game. “And I just know in my mind before we go into the game that he’s not going to exceed a certain pitch limit and under no circumstances am I going to allow that to happen.
“When there was zero stimulus, that’s what I told myself. You get caught up in the emotion of it, but we can’t come off of that. It’s hard and it’s very excruciating.”
Disappointing, sure, but the bigger takeaway has been how good the 25-year-old has fared through his first three MLB outings. Young struck out five while holding the Giants to one run over five innings in his debut late last month, and on Tuesday he threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief against the Dodgers.
On Sunday, he faced down a Rockies lineup that boasted all its stars, mowing down All-Stars Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story, David Dahl and others. Through 13 1/3 innings of work, the southpaw now has a 0.68 ERA, 0.38 WHIP and 9/2 K/BB ratio.
No-hitters are rare gems, but preserving what appears to be a major league future for Young took precedent Sunday, and rightly so.
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Senzel Dealing with Sprain
The All-Star break is coming at a good time for Nick Senzel.
The rookie outfielder suffered a sprained right ankle Sunday when he ran into the outfield wall in the first inning. Senzel stayed in the game for a bit, but was removed after the first inning.
Despite the potentially serious crash, Senzel said later Sunday that it “could have been way worse.”
“We’re hoping to have him back the first day after the break,” Reds manager David Bell said.
That’s a best-case scenario for all involved, clearly, and would be a victory for fantasy players as well. In 55 games this year, the 24-year-old is hitting .263/.325/.455 with eight homers, 27 RBI, 33 runs scored and eight steals while patrolling center field for the Reds.
National League Quick Hits: Madison Bumgarner (elbow) is on track to make his first scheduled start of the second half on Saturday in Milwaukee. Bumgarner eventually exited Saturday's start versus the Cardinals after a line drive caught him on the left elbow, but X-rays came back clean and he's expected to be fine. He will throw his normal between-starts bullpen session on Thursday and, assuming that goes off without a hitch, will take the ball Saturday against the Brewers. … Ken Rosenthal and Matt Gelb of The Athletic report that Jake Arrieta is dealing with a bone spur in his right elbow. The report says that the Phillies were aware of the injury but have been hoping that Arrieta could delay surgery until after the season. However, it's possible he may not wait any longer now, as Arrieta has clearly been compromised with a 6.63 ERA over his last seven starts. The veteran right-hander had surgery to remove a bone spur back in 2011 when he was with the Orioles. … Fernando Tatis Jr. went 2-for-4 with two home runs and four RBI to help the Padres down the Dodgers 5-3 on Sunday. Tatis led off the game with a drive to center field for a solo shot, and he crushed a three-run homer in the fifth for his second dinger of the game. It was a nice exclamation point on a very strong first half for the rookie, who hit a robust .327/.393/.620 with 14 homers and 13 steals in 55 games. If we know anything about the 20-year-old, this is only the beginning. … Patrick Corbin recorded 11 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Royals on Sunday. Corbin was virtually unhittable, matching a season-high with 11 whiffs, in this one. He generated an eye-popping 21 swinging strikes and didn’t walk a batter. He scattered five hits over seven brilliant frames, but was saddled with a no-decision after the Nationals bullpen frittered away a two-run lead in the eighth inning. The 29-year-old southpaw has allowed one earned run or fewer, while also completing seven innings, in four consecutive starts since June 19. He finishes the first half of the 2019 campaign with a 3.34 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 129/33 K/BB ratio across 18 starts. … Jeff Samardzija threw seven scoreless innings in the Giants' 1-0 shutout of the Cardinals on Sunday. Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but it was Samardzija who came away with the seven scoreless innings and the victory. He scattered four hits without issuing a walk in the win, and received some help from his defense when Kevin Pillar laid out in the gap to rob Paul Goldschmidt of extra bases in the seventh. Through 18 starts, the 34-year-old is 6-7 with a 4.01 ERA and 1.21 WHIP as we enter the break. … Jay Bruce went 3-for-4 with a two-run home run, a solo home run and four total RBI in Sunday's 8-3 win over the Mets. Bruce picked up an RBI single against Zack Wheeler in the first inning and would come back around to end Wheeler's afternoon with a two-run home run with nobody out in the sixth inning. He had one more trick up his sleeve in the eighth inning, when he went yard once more, this one a solo home run. The veteran outfielder has done stellar work since being traded over from the Mariners at the beginning of June, currently hitting .291/.308/.641 with 10 homers and 28 RBI in 28 games with his new crew. … Gio Gonzalez (arm) will begin a rehab assignment with High-A Carolina on Wednesday. Gonzalez got through a 40+ pitch bullpen session Saturday with no issues, clearing the way for his return to game action. The veteran left-hander has been on the shelf since late May with a "dead arm." Adrian Houser will remain in the Brewers' rotation for now but could be replaced by Gonzalez relatively soon. … Francisco Cervelli (concussion) told Dejan Kovacevic of DKPittsburghSports.com on Sunday that he will no longer catch. Cervelli is on the injured list with yet another concussion and he's decided it's time to change positions. "That's enough," Cervelli said. "This time is different. I can't live like this." The 33-year-old isn't sure what position he'll play, but he began fielding grounders and shagging flies a few days ago. Cervelli -- who said this decision was his and wasn't forced upon him by the Pirates -- has started a handful of games at first base and also played a few innings at second and third. He will be a free agent this offseason … Cubs president Theo Epstein said Saturday of Ben Zobrist that "we expect him back later in the year." "We have a sort of soft understanding of what that might be, but I don’t want to put a timetable on it or overly rely on it either," Epstein added. "We’re all looking forward to having him back if that’s able to happen." It's been reported previously that if Zobrist did return, it likely wouldn't be until September. He's been away from the club since early May while he goes through a divorce. … Orlando Arcia (shoulder) expects to be ready to play at the start of the second half. Arcia had to be carted off the field following a collision with Keston Hiura on Saturday, but he managed to escape a serious injury and said he could even play Sunday, if needed. It's unexpected good news for Arcia and the Brew Crew.
American League Quick Hits: Omar Narvaez went 4-for-4 with two home runs and four RBI in Sunday's loss to the Athletics. Narvaez launched a moonshot to right field in the second inning against A's starter Daniel Mengden, knocked RBI singles in the fourth and sixth innings, and bookended his big day with another solo homer to center in the eighth. The multi-homer game was the first of the 27-year-old's career, and he's got a career-high 14 homers, 36 RBI and 43 runs scored -- all in half a season's worth of games -- while hitting a strong .294/.366/.486 in what's been a breakout season for the backstop. … Yuli Gurriel went 2-for-4 with a grand slam and three runs scored in a win over the Angels on Sunday. The game was his fifth straight with a homer. With the Astros trailing by four runs and the sacks jacked in the sixth inning, Gurriel ripped a Cam Bedrosian offering off the facade in left field to knot the score. It was one of a handful of big swings in the game, which saw 21 runs scored before it was over. The grand slam was the second of the year for the 35-year-old. Gurriel has been smoking hot in recent days, owning an 11-game hitting streak and hitting .362 since June 17. That good stretch has his overall line up to .277/.314/.482 with 14 homers, 50 RBI and 48 runs scored. … Mike Trout went 2-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI in Sunday's loss to the Astros. Trout belted a solo homer to right-center field in the sixth inning and then gave the Halos a late lead with a two-run homer to center in the eighth. His 28 homers lead the American League, and Trout also ranks among the league leaders in RBI, runs and most other offensive categories. A starting outfielder for the AL in Tuesday's All-Star Game, the 27-year-old is having arguably his best offensive season to date, batting .301/.453/.646 with those 28 homers, 67 RBI, 71 runs scored and eight steals. … James Paxton recorded 11 strikeouts over six innings in a loss against the Rays on Sunday. Paxton was brilliant in his final start before the All-Star break, racking up a staggering 20 swinging strikes on 99 pitches. His 11 strikeouts were one shy of his season-high, a feat he's accomplished twice this year. He coughed up two runs on seven hits and didn’t hand out a free pass in this one. The Rays did all of their damage early, plating both runs in the opening frame, as Paxton whiffed nine of the final 19 batters he faced over the next five frames. The 30-year-old southpaw closes out the first half of the 2019 campaign with a 4.01 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 95/30 K/BB ratio across 15 starts. If he can stay healthy, he’s primed for a monster second-half in New York. … George Springer went 3-for-7 with a stolen base, and he hit a walk-off single in the 10th inning to give the Astros an 11-10 win over the Angels on Sunday. Springer had three of the Astros' 19 hits, including the last one, lacing an opposite-field single in the 10th inning to score Josh Reddick from second base. The three-hit performance was his third in his last 10 games, raising his overall line to .303/.384/.589 with 18 homers, 46 RBI, 47 runs scored and five steals. His next at-bat will come in Tuesday's All-Star Game. … Charlie Morton recorded 10 strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a win over the Yankees on Sunday. Morton whiffed seven of the first 12 batters he faced to open the contest en route to his second consecutive double-digit strikeout performance. The 35-year-old was lifted after reaching 100 pitches (69 strikes) with two outs in the sixth inning. A solo homer by Brett Gardner in the second inning was the lone blemish on an otherwise stellar performance. He’ll carry a sparkling 2.32 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 142/36 K/BB ratio across 19 starts into the All-Star break.