Willson Sportin’ Good
Willson Contreras (STL): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 6 RBI.
The Cardinals put on an absolute offensive show yesterday, beating down the Dodgers 16-8 in a win powered by seven home runs.
Two of those long balls came off the bat of Willson Contreras. His first was one of four St. Louis homers in the fourth inning, as he blasted a changeup that Julio Urías hung over the plate 434 feet to center field. His second big fly came in the eighth inning, this time against a Yency Almonte sweeper.
It’s been a weird couple of weeks in St. Louis. On May 6th, the struggling Cardinals announced they were removing Contreras from catching duties after the team’s 10-24 start. The move came just weeks after the start of his five-year, $87.5 million contract with the club.
Since that puzzling announcement, the Cardinals have gotten red hot, going 9-2 while making the obvious move of reinstating Contreras to his duties behind the plate.
St. Louis now sits at 19-26, still trying to dig themselves out of the huge hole they dug themselves into with their early-season underperformance, but the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. The Cardinals look like they’re back on the right track. They still have the second-worst record in the National League, but they seem to finally be playing up to their immense potential.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Thursday:
Adley Rutschman (BAL): 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.
Rutschman hit a clutch home run in the seventh inning of yesterday’s Orioles/Angels contest, briefly giving Baltimore a 5-4 lead that they wouldn’t be able to hold onto. With how quickly Rutschman has taken to big-league pitching, it’s easy to forget that he still hasn’t even played a full season’s worth of games! He’s one of baseball’s brightest young stars and is now slashing .285/.407/.462 with seven home runs and 24 RBI.
Josh Lowe (TB): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Lowe collected two of the Rays’ four hits against Tylor Megill yesterday, starting the game with a leadoff double before taking him deep in the sixth inning. Both balls were hit hard, at 102.5 and 109.6 mph. Lowe’s breakout season shows no signs of slowing down, as he’s up to a .306/.368/.637 batting line to go along with 10 home runs, 26 runs, 30 RBI, and seven stolen bases. Each of his strikeout (23.5%), walk (8.8%), and barrel (14.6%) rates are the best they’ve been in his brief MLB career.
Jeimer Candelario (WSH): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Candelario has been absolutely red-hot this week. He got the better of a Eury Pérez fastball in the fourth inning yesterday, launching it 443 feet for a home run and later doubled in the eighth. Yesterday was his fourth straight multi-hit game, a stretch during which he’s knocked five extra-base hits. Prior to this recent hot streak, Candelario had an uninspiring .278 wOBA — just four days later it’s up to .323! That’s a good reminder that even six weeks into the season, a few good days at the plate are all it takes to make a hitter’s season-long numbers look much better.
Freddie Freeman (LAD): 2-5, 3B, HR, R, 4 RBI.
It was a milestone night for Freeman as he blasted the 300th home run of his career in style. Génesis Cabrera tried to get a four-seamer past him on the inside of the plate, but Freeman got all of it, sending it 412 feet and over the centerfield wall for a grand slam. Freeman is doing typical Freeman things this year, hitting a robust .313/.382/.536 with eight home runs, 36 runs, 27 RBI, and six stolen bases.
Gabriel Arias (CLE): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Arias is playing the super utility role in Cleveland, only making an appearance every couple of days. He got the call to start at first base yesterday and made the most of it. He had Dylan Cease’s number, collecting three hard hits against the White Sox starter with two going for a home run and double in the Guardians’ 3-1 victory. He has just a 63 wRC+ this year, so all of his value comes from his multi-position ability; he’s already seen starts at six different positions.
Mike Trout (LAA): 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Every year Trout posts excellent numbers yet flies under the radar because that’s what we’ve come to expect from the future first-ballot Hall of Famer, and this year is no different. He launched his 10th home run of the year against Tyler Wells yesterday and is now hitting .280/.370/.524 with a 144 wRC+.
Luis Rengifo (LAA): 3-4, 2 R, BB, SB.
Rengifo tallied three singles in the Angels’ 6-5 win in Baltimore yesterday, each against a different member of the Orioles’ pitching staff. Rengifo put up the best numbers of his career for a depleted Angels’ squad in last year’s second half, posting a .267/.290/.455 batting line, but he hasn’t been able to carry that success over to this season. Even after his three-hit showing yesterday, his slash line is at a disappointing .222/.325/.296 and he’s become a part-time player. It’s good to see his walk rate shoot up to 11.6% after it was a measly 3.3% last year, but that’s come with a big reduction in his power output. His 2.4% barrel rate is in the bottom 10% of all hitters.
Austin Hays (BAL): 3-4, 2B, 2 R.
There was some preseason concern about Hays’ playing time this year and whether he would eventually be supplanted by one of Balitmore’s young flashy prospects, but he’s played his way into being an integral part of this team. After his three hits yesterday, he’s slashing .312/.355/.504 which is good for a 136 wRC+. He’s reached new highs this year by dramatically increasing his barrel rate to 15%, the 22nd-highest mark among all hitters. He’s batting leadoff when the Orioles face lefty starters and in the middle of the order against righties. He’s available in 73% and 55% of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues, respectively, if you need outfield help.
Nolan Gorman (STL): 3-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Gorman’s breakout campaign continued last night as he joined Contreras in sending two balls out of the park. The Cardinals’ young DH/2B just celebrated his 23rd birthday a little over a week ago, and if his start to this season is any indication, he’ll be an absolute force in St. Louis’ lineup for years to come. He’s slashing .295/.386/.629 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI. He’s made significant strides in his plate discipline, cutting his strikeout rate from 32.9% last year to 24.2% this year and raising his walk rate from 8.9% to 12.4%.
Aaron Judge (NYY): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.
The 2022 AL MVP put on a show in Toronto as the Yankees took three out of four games from the division-rival Blue Jays. Judge’s two extra-base hits yesterday propelled the Bronx Bombers to a 4-2 victory, and he finished the series with four home runs and seven RBI. He’s not exactly on pace for another 60-homer campaign, but he’s still posting great numbers: a .279/.381/.612 slash line with 12 home runs.
Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)