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 Jolly Roger Flies in L.A.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have had an interesting season so far. Their hitless win against the Cincinnati Reds, the cold streak of Bryan Reynolds (although he’s been looking better), and a mixed bag of performances have led to a 23-28 record and third place in the N.L. Central. On Wednesday, June 1st, they added another chapter to their 2022 season: sweeping the Los Angeles Dodgers in LA for the first time since 2000.
The Buccos took an exciting game 1 victory by a score of 6-5, game 2 with a score of 5-3, and the third and final victory 8-4. Two of those three wins came during starts against Walker Buehler and Julio Urías, two Cy Young candidates in 2021. Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Michael Chavis, and Tucupita Marcano all played hero at one point or another, leading to a Pirates sweep and a sweep 22 years in the making.
Sweeps come and go throughout the season, but what makes this one so notable is the fact that it came against the star-studded Dodgers. The Dodgers are often noted as favorites to represent the National League in the World Series and it seemed almost impossible that they could drop three in a row to a Pirates team that is still rebuilding. It’s also notable that Pittsburgh was playing with a bit of a chip on the shoulder:
Heard all of the talkin', now it's quiet, now it's shush pic.twitter.com/qK2jdB32ex
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) June 2, 2022
Front Offices Making Moves
I’ll start with the more tense news first:
The Phillies have relieved Joe Girardi of his duties as manager today. Bench coach Rob Thomson has been named interim manager for the club through the end of the 2022 season. In addition, coaching assistant Bobby Meacham was also relieved of his duties. pic.twitter.com/lVL60RrSnJ
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) June 3, 2022
Girardi was hired by the Phillies after ten years of managing in Yankee pinstripes. In New York, Girardi held a 910-710 record, including a World Series championship in 2009. Through three years in Philadelphia, Girardi has gone 133-141, with a 24-29 record thus far in the 2022 season.
With playoff aspirations, the Phillies’ front office is looking for a sparkplug to change their season and hoping that a new voice in the clubhouse may lead to that spark. Keep an eye on the Phillies and if this move leads to any noise. They’re only 4.5 games back of a Wild Card spot, anything could happen.
Now for the happier news:
Slugger Yordan Álvarez and the Houston Astros are in agreement on a six-year, $115 million contract extension, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. Contract kicks in next season. Biggest contract ever for a DH and $26M/year for 3 FA years. And Astros lock up a great hitter.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 3, 2022
When healthy, Yordan Alvarez has been one of the deadliest hitters in MLB. Through his first four seasons (279 games), Alvarez is slashing .289/.371/.580 with 76 HR and 219 RBI. Through 46 games in 2022, he has 15 HR and a .966 OPS. As long as those knees are healthy, Yordan will be mashing.
This is a great sign for Astros’ faithful, as the front office is placing full faith in the 24-year-old’s potential and his ability to lead the offense in the near future. The Astros are 34-19 and have a 7.5-game lead in the AL West. This team isn’t going anywhere, and neither are Alvarez homers in Minute Maid Park.
AL East Catching Fire, AL West is Doused
In the May 15th edition of The Trailing Runner, I wrote that while the Blue Jays were struggling: “Toronto is a strong team, and it’s entirely possible that all of these names turn around and make this section look foolish a month from now.” It’s time for me to look foolish.
In their last ten games, the Toronto Blue Jays are 9-1. In the past seven days, Alejandro Kirk, Teoscar Hernández, Raimel Tapia, and George Springer all have an OPS of over 1.000. Bo Bichette’s is .938. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is hitting homers. José Berríos struck out 13 today, and Alek Manoah is looking like a certified ace. The Blue Jays are real hot.
And yet it doesn’t seem like the Jays are making much progress in the AL East. The New York Yankees are 8-2 in their last ten games, led by Aaron Judge putting up MVP numbers. Judge is supported by Gleyber Torres who had a hot week with two home runs and an unexpected addition in Matt Carpenter, who hit four home runs this week for the Yanks.
The real story for the Yankees, however, is the rotation. Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Jameson Taillon, Nestor Cortes, and Jordan Montgomery are pitching like the best five stack in the game. In the last 36 innings pitched by the Yanks’ rotation, they have only given up two earned runs. They hold an AL-best 38-15 record and a commanding lead on the AL East.
The Los Angeles Angels, on the other hand, are free-falling. They have lost ten games in a row and are now sitting 7.5 games back in the AL West. Mike Trout is in a slump, Shohei Ohtani was supposedly tipping his pitches against the aforementioned Yankees in his latest start. They’re in a rut, and we’ll see if they can pull off a magic run to return to the early season dominance they were flaunting. For now, the Houston Astros are pulling away.
It’s Getting Hot in Here
This week also featured some electric individual performances from players across the league. Here are a few highlights:
- Paul Goldschmidt: 8 R, 3 HR, 11 RBI, .375 AVG, and 1.349 OPS. 25-game hit streak that ended on June 4
- Nolan Gorman: 6 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, .533 AVG, and 1.788 OPS
- José Ramírez: 8 R, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB, .318 AVG, and 1.171 OPS
- Ke’Bryan Hayes: 7 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, .423 AVG, and 1.214 OPS
- Austin Riley: 7 R, 3 HR, 8 RBI, .379 AVG, and 1.231 OPS
- Yordan Alvarez: 5 R, 3 HR, 8 RBI, .440 AVG and 1.302 OPS
- Willson Contreras: 7 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB, .357 AVG, and 1.205 OPS
- Mookie Betts: 4 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 3 SB, .379 AVG, and 1.143 OPS
- Jesús Sánchez: 4 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, .368 AVG, and 1.210 OPS.
Also, please watch this absolute bomb by Sanchez:
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) May 30, 2022
And some excellent pitching:
- Sandy Alcantara: 15 IP, 22 K, .60 ERA, 2 QS
- Gerrit Cole: 13 IP, 19 K, .69 ERA, 2 QS
- Tony Gonsolin: 12 IP, 12 K, 1.50 ERA, 2 QS
- Tyler Anderson: 12 IP, 11 K, 0 ERA (26 IP scoreless streak!), 2 QS
- Corey Kluber: 12 IP, 9 K, 1.50 ERA, 2 QS
- Logan Gilbert: 13 IP, 12 K, .69 ERA, 2 QS
Around the League
- The New York Yankees are atop in the AL East with an AL-best 38-15 record. The Minnesota Twins lead the Central with a 31-24 record. The Houston Astros have taken the top of the AL West with a 34-19 record.
- The New York Mets continue to hold the NL East title with a 35-19 record. The Brewers have a 33-22 record and the number one spot in the NL Central, but the Cardinals are only 1.5 games back with a 31-23 record. The Dodgers are an NL best 35-17 and lead the NL West.
- Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres lead all hitters with 3.6 fWAR each.
- Kevin Gausman of the Toronto Blue Jays currently leads all pitchers with 2.7 fWAR.
Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)