Wednesday, September 28, 2022

MLB weekend recap: Phillies lose ground in NL wild-card race; Jacob deGrom, Framber Valdez make history

We’re in the middle of September, which means that stretch-drive baseball is in full effect. So let’s dive into what you need to know about this weekend’s MLB action. 

Highlight of the weekend: Alvarez notches three-homer game

Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez had a better Friday night than most people, as he launched three home runs against the Athletics in a 5-0 victory. That exhibition of brute strength included this 464-foot blast that qualifies as one of the longest of his career:

It was Alvarez’s second career three-homer game. Additionally, it was the first time in Astros franchise history that a player hit three home runs against the same pitcher. Sorry, Adrián Martínez, these things happen.

The Astros, by the way, clinched a playoff spot with that victory.

Judge hits Nos. 58, 59 vs. Brewers

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge continued his march toward Roger Maris’ single-season American League record on Sunday by launching his 58th and 59th home runs versus the Brewers. (Maris, of course, hit 61 home runs during the 1961 season.) Judge now needs two home runs over the Yankees’ final 16 games to tie Maris. You can read more about that development here

Strider spins gem vs. slumping Phillies

Braves righty Spencer Strider flirted with a no-hitter on Sunday against the Phillies, holding them off the board until a sixth-inning home-run by Alec Bohm.

Strider still finished the afternoon with an impressive start. The rookie allowed one run on one hit and three walks across six innings. Meanwhile, he struck out 10 batters. Strider generated 19 swings and misses on the day, including 11 on his heater. Strider now has a 2.67 ERA on the season.

The Braves, meanwhile, finished off a three-game sweep of the Phillies with a 5-2 win on Sunday. That makes it four losses in a row for the Phillies, who have slipped a half-game behind the Padres for the second NL wild-card spot. The Brewers blew an early lead against the Yankees on Sunday, but still took two of three from New York and are now two games back of the Phillies and the final NL playoff spot with less than three weeks remaining.

Valdez makes history

Astros lefty Framber Valdez made major-league history on Sunday, recording his 25th consecutive quality start, a new single-season record.

Valdez extended his streak against the Athletics, throwing six innings of two-run ball. He allowed four hits and walked just one batter, all the while punching out seven batters. All 12 of his batted balls allowed were grounders. 

Valdez’s quality start streak began on April 25 against the Rangers. He’s failed to notch a quality start in just two of his 28 starts this year.

Jacob deGrom strikes out 13, sets MLB record

Jacob deGrom had an eventful Sunday afternoon against the Pirates

For starters, deGrom struck out 13 batters in five innings of work — meaning, yes, all but two of his outs were recorded via K. He also set a MLB record by allowing three runs or fewer in a 40th consecutive game, the longest such streak since 1913, when the earned run became an official statistic, according to the league’s Twitter account:

Despite those notes, deGrom might’ve been frustrated with his outing. An inefficient outing saw him exit in the sixth inning after throwing 101 pitches. Unfortunately for deGrom, his departure didn’t come until after he blew a 3-0 lead by giving up a home run to Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz:

The Mets were, nevertheless, able to pull off the win.

Alcantara notches another complete game

Sandy Alcantara, the closest thing the majors have to a throwback workhorse these days, threw his fifth complete game of the season on Sunday against the Nationals.

Alcantara required just over 100 pitches to mow through nine innings. He struck out seven batters and surrendered one run on seven hits and a walk. 

Alcantara entered Sunday with 203 innings, by far the most in the majors. No other pitcher had more than 190 innings. He’s now up to 212 innings. He would seem to be a given to become the first pitcher to clear 220 frames in a single season since Justin Verlander did it in 2019.

On deck

Mets at Brewers (three games beginning Monday): As you would expect, all the series listed here have some playoff relevancy. In this case, the Mets are fighting for a division title with the Braves, while the Brewers are just hoping to uproot the Phillies and Padres for the final wild-card spots. The winner of this series will be helping their own case.

Guardians at White Sox (three games beginning Tuesday): The Guardians are in control of the American League Central. If they want to essentially lock it up, they can do so by taking this series against the White Sox, their toughest competitor. It’s worth noting that the White Sox will be without starter Michael Kopech. He was placed on the injured list on Saturday with right shoulder inflammation. 

Braves at Phillies (four games beginning Thursday): As mentioned above, the Braves continue to duke it out for the NL East title. The Phillies, for their part, are trying to hold onto a wild-card spot. This should be a fun series as a result, with both teams needing to take it for seeding purposes.

Blue Jays at Rays (four games beginning Thursday): Speaking of seeding, the Rays and Blue Jays are competing for the top wild-card spot in the AL. This series could settle that race for whichever side wins. (Or it could not; you never know.)

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