The Trailing Runner: June 5-June 11

Breaking down the biggest baseball stories of the past week.

Every Sunday, The Trailing Runner recaps the past week’s biggest headlines and most exciting performances. On Mondays, keep an eye out for The Leadoff, which breaks down the week ahead.

 

The stories of the week centered in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, where two underperforming teams fired their managers with differing results. Between the coasts, we saw a couple of tremendous offensive performances as well as some managerial drama in Chicago. Managers making three distinct headlines in one week? Wild times.

 

A Tale of Two Cities

 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Such has been the experience of the Phillies and Angels, who have embarked on different paths since moving on from their managers.

In Philly, the team ousted Joe Girardi on June 3rd in his third year at the helm. The Phils, despite high expectations after an eventful offseason, had gotten off to a 22-29 start.  In the eight days since, with interim manager Rob Thomson at the helm, they’ve simply gone undefeated, rattling off eight straight wins with an impressive run differential of +39.  Thomson has made a bit of history in the process:

Philadelphia is now back above .500 going into Sunday’s matchup versus Arizona. While they’ve managed to gain a few games on the NL East-leading Mets, they’re still stuck in third place in the division. While they’ve pulled off a nine-game streak (the first coming on Girardi’s last day), Atlanta has seen their run and raised them, reaching 10 in a row with a 10-4 beatdown on the Pirates on Saturday thanks to 12 Ks from Charlie Morton and an Ozzie Albies grand slam.

As of writing, it looks like the Phillies streak will come to an end today as they’re losing to Arizona in the bottom of the ninth, but nevertheless, the Rob Thomson era is off to a terrific start.

On the other side of the country, the Angels found themselves in a similar position – despite a strong start to the year, they’d gone ice cold, suddenly losing 12 straight and plummeting out of the division race. On June 7th, after that 12th loss, the team moved on from manager Joe Maddon.

Unfortunately, the firing didn’t have the immediate effect it did in Philadelphia, as they lost to the Red Sox in interim manager Phil Nevin’s debut. The Angels tried to mix it up further – every hitter chose a Nickelback song as their walk up music – but that didn’t kick them into gear either, as they dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to Boston. They did manage to avoid the sweep and stop the bleeding at 13 games, but there was no sense that the ship had been fully righted.

That is, until, they broke out the City Connects.

Debuting the new threads, the Angels lineup came to life in a big way, hitting five home runs on the way to an 11-run outburst against the Mets. Mike Trout hit two and Shohei Ohtani got one of his own, but the hero of the night was Jared Walsh, who tripled in the eighth inning to complete the first Angels cycle since Ohtani did it in 2019.

The Angels and Mets play the series rubber match tonight at 7:08 PM EST.

 

Regret-IBB-le

 

Our third managerial headline of the week is not another firing…although some fans were certainly clamoring for it. On Thursday, the White Sox were losing 7-5 to the Dodgers in the top of the sixth with two outs. Freddie Freeman singled. With Trea Turner up, a wild pitch moved him to second. Lefty Bennett Sousa recovered, however, getting Turner into a 1-2 count. All of a sudden, manager Tony La Russa was on the top step of the dugout with four fingers up, motioning for an intentional walk. Freeman looked bewildered as the umpire moved him to second, and a fan quickly told La Russa what everyone was thinking:

La Russa had his reasons – instead of Turner and his .283 AVG vs. lefties, Sousa now faced Max Muncy, fresh off the IL and sporting a .136 AVG against southpaws.

It didn’t work. Muncy mashed a three-run homer to opposite field, scoring Freeman and Turner. He was obviously slighted by the entire situation, and shouted some R-rated language in the direction of the White Sox dugout.

La Russa stood by his decision when asked after the game, but White Sox fans don’t seem very convinced:

 

Players of the Week:

 

  • While people have been whispering that Marcus Semien has been getting hot for a bit, he broke out of his season-long slump in a big way on Tuesday. The second baseman put together one of the best fantasy days imaginable, going 7-8 across a doubleheader with three home runs and two stolen bases.

  • Twins center fielder Byron Buxton had been in a bit of slump as well, batting just .169 in May. That’s forgotten now, as he hit six home runs this week, included two on both Thursday and Friday. He has a 1.401 OPS in June

Other top offensive performances:

And their counterparts on the mound:

 

Around the League

 

  • The Yankees sit atop the AL East and pace the American League at 44-16. The Twins are the best team in the Central at 35-27. The Astros lead the West at 37-23.
  • The Mets pace the NL East at 39-22, the best record in the NL. The Cardinals top the Central at 34-27. In the West, the Dodgers lead at 37-22.
  • Aaron Judge, outfielder for the Yankees, leads hitters with 3.7 fWAR (the first time in these articles that Manny Machado has been supplanted).
  • Kevin Gausman of the Blue Jays continues to pace pitchers with 3.0 fWAR.

 

Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Ethan McCollister

Diehard Red Sox fan. Vermonter in Philly. Harvard alum. Cat dad. In Chaim we trust...but I miss Mookie.

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