Zavala the Lights

Catching up on Saturday's biggest nights on offense

Seby Zavala (C, CWS): 4-4, 3 HR, 4 R, 6 RBI.

White Sox catcher Seby Zavala made history last night, becoming the first player to hit their first three career home runs in the same game with a pair of solo shots and a grand slam, finishing off a 4-for-4 day with a single and six RBI, though they weren’t enough to secure a W as the White Sox fell to Cleveland 12-11. A 12th-round pick out of San Diego State in 2015, the 28-year old twice broke the 20-homer barrier in the minor leagues, and though he was hitting just .178 in Triple-A Charlotte this season, he’s a good bet to get at least half of Chicago’s innings behind the plate until Yasmani Grandal returns. Ironically, defense is the difference-maker that already led to an increase in Zavala’s playing time before last night, as his solid receiving combined with Zack Collins’s defensive ineptitude may have put the latter on the roster bubble, depending on whether Grandal is expected to return before September roster expansion.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday

Albert Pujols (1B, LAD): 2-2, 2 RBI.

La Maquína vive todavía! Pujols continues to do his job expertly in Los Angeles, singling in both plate appearances and driving in two runs after pinch-hitting for Matt Beaty mid-game. Pujols has a 103 wRC+ since joining the Dodgers, making for his first league-average season since 2016, and while it seemed unlikely before the season, his serviceable performance would seem to mean there’s still a not-zero shot he accumulates the 77 RBI he needs to pass Babe Ruth for second on the all-time list, though the 160 needed to pass Henry Aaron seems safely out of reach now.

Dansby Swanson (SS, ATL): 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 7 RBI.

Swanson had himself a night down in Georgia, homering twice and driving in seven of Atlanta’s eight runs in their blowout of Milwaukee. The game was tight through the first five innings until Swanson helped end Brandon Woodruff’s night in the sixth inning with a two-run blast immediately following what everybody in the building except CB Bucknor thought was strike three. Swanson then put the game out of reach the next inning with a two-out grand slam against John Curtiss. He’s the 11th player to reach the 7-RBI threshold this season, and just the third to do it without striking out.

Aledmys Díaz (3B, HOU): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

I’ve gotta be honest, I had no idea Díaz was still in the league, much less slashing .299/.356/.515 for a Houston club that isn’t missing Alex Bregman nearly as much as one would anticipate. His two runs scored and three driven in weren’t quite enough to beat San Francisco, but his swing was good enough to register his second career multi-homer game, with the last one coming as a member of the Cardinals all the way back in 2017.

George Springer (OF, TOR): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Despite missing the majority of the season with numerous ailments, Springer has looked every bit worth the investment Toronto made in him while on the field, notching his second multi-homer effort in just 34 games this season and driving in three of the Jays’ four runs in their shutout of Kansas City on Saturday. With a 152 wRC+, there hasn’t been much to complain about with Springer except his ability to stay on the field, and there’s a part of me that thinks Springer’s power has actually been underrated for this reason: he’s torn through the league at a 51-homer, 117-RBI pace since the start of the 2019 season, only limited by the injuries that prevented him from playing a full season in any of these three years.

Rafael Ortega (OF, CHC): 2-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB.

He’s no Kris Bryant, but Ortega did well to fill his shoes on Saturday, putting up the only combo meal of the day as the Cubs bounced back with a 6-1 victory over the Nationals. The definition of a journeyman, Ortega first made his big league debut all the way back in 2012, though 49 of his 192 career games played have come with the Cubs this season. Slashing .294/.347/.450 on the season, he’s poised to soak up lots of outfield innings next to Ian Happ and Jason Heyward after Chicago’s massive deadline firesale sent Jake Marisnick to San Diego as sometimes-outfielder Kris Bryant packed his bags for the Bay.

Anthony Rizzo (1B, NYY): 2-2, HR, 3 R, RBI, 2 BB.

Rizzo continued to make sure he’ll get a warm welcome in the Bronx, reaching base four times with two hits and two walks against Miami on Saturday, scoring three of the Yankees’ four runs and belting his 16th homer of the year. Rizzo has reached base in seven of his eight trips to the plate since joining the Yankees and looks ready to use the short porch to revitalize himself for the rest of this season. He’s posted just a 116 wRC+ since the start of 2020 after sitting in the 140s for most of 2014 to 2019.

Javier Báez (2B, NYM): 1-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.

Welcome to New York, El Mago! Rizzo wasn’t the only former World Series core member to shine for a team in the Big Apple on Saturday, bouncing back from strikeouts in his first two plate appearances as a Met with a mammoth fifth inning home run to pull the team within one. With a .781 OPS on the year and an absurd 133/15 strikeout-to-walk ratio, it’s been a while since we saw the Javy that emerged as an MVP candidate in 2018 and 2019. However, if any player moved at the deadline is capable of engineering a Yoenis Céspedes-esque post-deadline warpath, it’s probably Báez, who’s close to unstoppable when he’s hot.

Amed Rosario (SS, CLE): 2-3, 2B, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Speaking of Mets middle infielders—a former one, in this case—Rosario was a driving force in Cleveland’s wild 12-11 win in Chicago, countering Zavala’s three blasts with quite a bit of power of his own. Rosario teamed up with Owen Miller to knock back-to-back homers off of Keuchel in the fifth inning, sparking a comeback from a 6-1 deficit that would see 14 runs scored in the final three-and-a-half frames. The former top prospect has mostly disappointed this year, working to a mid-80s OPS+ thanks to a complete power outage, though following up Francisco Lindor is no easy task. He’s shown enough pop before that, with his positional versatility and Cleveland’s deadline selling, a hot streak to end the year wouldn’t be inconceivable.

Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Zach Hayes

Zach is based in Chicago and contributes analysis and coverage for Pitcher List and South Side Sox. He also co-hosts the Shaggin' Flies podcast with Ben Palmer, and enjoys reading, Justin Fields highlights, and people-watching on the CTA. Find him on Twitter @pinetarkeyboard if, for some reason, you really want to.

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