We’re into the middle of June, which means the “winter” sports are getting ready for wrap things up and there will be a window before football season where it’s all baseball among the major professional men’s American sports. In our world, it’s simply grind season. We know this is a 162-game marathon with ebbs and flows.
What did this weekend bring us? Let’s take a look.
Highlight of the Weekend
Let’s see those moves, Randy Arozarena:
Pretty impressive stuff there and great call from the MLB social media person with the reference to Twister. Do people still play that? Hmm…
Anyway, the Rays would end up prevailing on Sunday in Minnesota to salvage one of three before a big series coming up this next week (we’ll get to that in a bit).
Giants finish sweep of Dodgers
It has been tough sledding for the Dodgers the last two weeks or so, and they have to hope this weekend against the Giants was rock bottom. The Dodgers were swept in three games — San Francisco won the finale 2-0 on Sunday — and also lost ace Walker Buehler to an elbow injury. He’s going to miss significant time.
Los Angeles went 2 for 24 with runners in scoring position in the three games, prompting manager Dave Roberts to say his offense lacked a team-first “mindset.” Austin Slater and Mike Yastrzemski hit solo home runs off Julio Urías in the first inning Sunday, and Carlos Rodón and the Giants bullpen made the two runs stand up to complete the sweep.
The Dodgers are 37-23 and have lost nine of their last 13 games. They still lead the NL West, though their lead is down to a half-game over the Padres. The Giants, meanwhile, are 33-26 and 3 1/2 games out in the division.
José is a run-producing machine
Guardians third baseman José Ramírez has been one of the best players in baseball for a while and he might well be having a career year. At least as far as run production, he is. It was on display Sunday. The A’s got a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but Ramírez’s two-RBI double in the bottom half put Cleveland up for good. Ramírez homered Thursday and Friday and then drove in three runs on Sunday for a five-RBI series as the Guardians took three of four. They’ve won 10 of 13 and have moved to within striking distance of the Twins in the AL Central.
Ramírez now has 59 RBI in 56 Guardians’ games. No player has driven home more runs than his team played games in a full schedule since Manny Ramirez’s 165 RBI in 1999. And, in fact, that’s the only season of its kind since the schedule expanded to 162 games. There’s an awful long way to go here, but it merits our attention.
The weekend saw some pretty long streaks, both on the positive and negative sides. The A’s snapped a 10-game losing streak with a win on Saturday. The Brewers snapped an eight-game losing streak with their win on Sunday. The Phillies had won nine in a row before finally losing on Sunday. The Braves have emerged from the weekend with their streak intact, however, having won 11 straight.
Those extended streaks from three contenders (at least hopeful contenders) are a good illustration of how quickly things can change when playing every single day.
Yankees keep winning
It isn’t wholly surprising that the Yankees completed a three-game sweep against the Cubs. They are the much better team. They needed 13 innings Friday before finally walking things off, but then blew the Cubs away 8-0 Saturday and totally bullied them in Sunday’s 18-4 win. Again, not shocking.
It is notable, though, because the Yankees are playing at a ridiculous pace. They are now 44-16, which is a 162-game pace of 119 wins. The record for wins in a season is 116, shared by the 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners. Remember the Yankees dynasty from around the turn of the century? The most games that group won in a regular season was 114, in 1998. That is the franchise record for wins, too.
Perhaps also of note: The Yankees have won at least 105 games five times in franchise history. All five of those teams won the World Series.
Rays at Yankees (three games beginning Tuesday)/Yankees at Blue Jays (three games beginning Friday): The AL East race isn’t close. Right now, the Yankees have an 8 1/2 game lead over the Blue Jays and it’s nine over the Rays. There’s opportunity here, it just depends on who seizes it. The Yankees could really put a hurt on the Rays and Jays by winning both series and pushing this thing into double digits. On the flip side, if both of the trailing teams win series, the division picture muddies as the Yankees come back to the pack a bit.
Brewers at Mets (three games beginning Tuesday): It’s a possible playoff preview, so those are always worth highlighting. These two teams in particular, however, are worth watching right now. The Brewers just snapped an eight-game losing streak. During that streak, they lost their grip on first place. The Mets still lead in the NL East, but the Braves’ surge has made it a race again instead of a runaway. There’s potential for a fun series here with lots of others keeping an eye on things.
Angels at Dodgers (two games beginning Tuesday): It’s Los Angeles vs. “Los Angeles,” right? Whatever you want to call this series, it’s a fun interleague bout with tons of starpower. The Angels recently endured a crippling losing streak while the Dodgers haven’t been playing well, either, but this remains a must-watch series.
Cardinals at Red Sox: Another World Series preview? It seems like a longshot at this point, but the 2021 Braves and 2019 Nationals are two recent examples of why it would be folly to count a team like these Red Sox out. Both of these teams are in playoff position at present, too. We’ve seen the matchup in the Fall Classic twice recently, in 2004 and 2013. It also happened in 1946 and 1967.
White Sox at Astros: It’s a rematch of the ALDS from last season, but much more notable would be keeping an eye on how things are going for the White Sox. They’ve been one of the most disappointing teams this season and manager Tony La Russa is starting to hear chants from the home crowd in favor of his dismissal. This is a tough series anyway, but will the White Sox be playing for La Russa’s job?