The Yankees were tasked with taking care of business against a not-terrible-but-also-not-very-good Reds team over the weekend, and much like they did when the A’s came to the Bronx earlier in May, they swept the inferior opponent away. I don’t mean to hammer this point into the ground, but completely handling teams like this is exactly how the Rays built their strong start (and also what the Yankees did early in 2022). Take the offday today to exhale and then keep chipping away at the teams ahead.
Speaking of some of those teams ahead (and some a little behind), let’s catch up on the Sunday action.
Baltimore Orioles (31-16) 8, Toronto Blue Jays (25-22) 3 (11 innings)
It was a bird battle north of the border as the O’s and Jays carried a 2-2 tie into the ninth inning. Kevin Gausman was terrific for Toronto, allowing only a couple of RBI grounders in the third as he spun eight frames of six-hit ball on 115 pitches. On the other side, while Dean Kremer didn’t go nearly that long for Baltimore, a Matt Chapman solo shot was the only run on his record in 5.1 innings.
Toronto did even the score up against the O’s bullpen in the seventh when Mychal Givens issued a leadoff walk to George Springer. A Bo Bichette single brought him to second, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. moved him to third on a comebacker, and Chapman plated the 2017 World Series MVP on a sacrifice fly. Nate Pearson and Austin Voth both brought the game into extra innings, where Cedric Mullins and Whit Merrifield traded RBI hits to bump it to the 11th.
Gausman and Pearson might have been solid for Toronto, but Yimi García did not have it.
Baltimore peppered him for five runs on five hits with just two outs recorded. Mullins’ two-run double knocked García from the game and cemented the road sweep, keeping the Jays firmly in last place (one game behind Boston). The O’s, meanwhile, are only 2.5 games behind in the AL East of the Rays, who did not have a good Sunday, and three up on the third-place Yanks.
Milwaukee Brewers (25-21) 6, Tampa Bay Rays (34-14) 4
The Rays were hoping for a sweep at the Trop, but their suspect pitching ended up costing them against the NL Central-leading Brew Crew. Opener Jalen Beeks mostly did his part despite old friend Willy Adames hitting a solo shot on the two-year anniversary of his trade from Tampa Bay. Cooper Criswell was tasked with being the “bulk guy” in just his fifth career game, and the Brewers frankly feasted on the rookie.
Rowdy Tellez took Criswell deep for a two-run homer in the fourth, and while Josh Lowe came up big against Freddy Peralta with a game-tying three-run shot in the home half, Milwaukee did not take long at all to shake off the punch in the nose. Owen Miller led off the fifth with a single off Criswell and William Contreras sent an offering 427 feet to dead center for a decisive two-run dinger:
Christian Yelich then doubled and Brian Anderson brought him in with a run-scoring single for the fifth tally on Criswell’s record.
Lowe would tack on his fourth RBI of the afternoon in the eighth when a single plated Randy Arozarena, but that was one of just two hits against the Brewers’ bullpen. Devin Williams worked a four-out save to clinch the 6-4 victory.
Houston Astros (27-19) 2, Oakland Athletics (10-38) 0
The crappy A’s went to Houston for a three-game weekend showdown and You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next!! Yeah, they were swept. Honestly, it’s a minor upset that they were only outscored by a combined margin of 10-3.
Sunday was an even more arduous task than usual for the A’s because their offense ran into the buzzsaw that is Framber Valdez. Assuming health, he will be one of Gerrit Cole’s top contenders for the Cy Young Award for a reason, and he really gave Oakland the business at Minute Maid Park. The southpaw went the distance on a four-hit shutout, walking no one and striking out seven A’s. Valdez narrowly missed a Maddux, too, as it took him just 104 pitches to finish the job.
The Astros didn’t muster much offense of their own, as they tallied just five hits in the matinee, but one of them was an RBI single from Jose Altuve in the fifth. The insurance run came on a sixth-inning, bases-loaded wild pitch from Sam Moll. Houston swept its six-game homestand and after only a so-so start to 2023 is now really rolling with seven wins in a row as they hit the road to take on Milwaukee. The Rangers are still two games up on the Astros, but they have to be eyeing their rearview mirror.
Remember yesterday when Madison said that the M’s were still trying to get back to .500 and made strides with a win in Atlanta? Well, they took another step back on Sunday as even though Braves rookie Jared Shuster entered with a 7.24 ERA in three starts, he spun six innings of one-hit ball. Jarred Kelenic and Jose Caballero went yard for Seattle, but Atlanta did enough against George Kirby to scratch out a trio of runs, including Travis d’Arnaud’s first dinger of 2023 — no small moment for him after an April concussion scare.
The Rangers polished off a three-game smashing of the Rockies, as they demolished Colorado pitching across the three games in Texas by a combined score of 31-10. This one was over in a hurry too, as Josh Jung and Corey Seager both homered in a five-run second, and just for fun, the Rangers plated six more in the fifth with two walks, three singles, and two doubles to make it an 11-0 ballgame. Andrew Heaney had a breezy day with six innings and one unearned run allowed.
The Twins completed their six-game trip in LA with a 2-4 record against the Dodgers and Angels. It was a quality pitching matchup on Sunday with Pablo López squaring off with Shohei Ohtani, and the two top-tier starters dueled to a standstill over six innings with each side yielding one run apiece. López walked the leadoff man in the seventh, though, and Jorge López didn’t provide much relief. Zach Neto and Mickey Moniak belted back-to-back doubles to put the Halos ahead for good. It’s a good thing that Minnesota plays in the AL Central, where they comfortably remain in first and only the deeply disappointing White Sox actually gained any ground (since they were playing the cellar-dwelling Royals).
There’s no a reason a team as loaded as the Padres should lose 11 of their last 13 games, so at the very least, they finally had a good showing in the finale of their weekend set against Boston. They avoided the sweep with six innings of shutout ball from Michael Wacha and big days from former Yankees Matt Carpenter (bases-loaded walk, two-run homer) and Rougned Odor (four RBI on a pair of doubles).
Leave it to the Guardians to give Max Scherzer his best start of 2023 to date. It’s been a turbulent time for the future Hall of Famer, but in the doubleheader opener, he tossed six scoreless innings of three-hit ball, striking out five batters. Old friends* Adam Ottavino and David Robertson did not do their jobs for the Amazins in the top of the eighth though, as Cleveland rallied for four runs, capped by a go-ahead blast from José Ramírez. The bullpen’s teammates bailed them out though, as the struggling Starling Marte finally delivered his first great moment of 2023 with a two-run shot off Trevor Stephan to put New York back in front. This time, D-Rob held the lead, earning a vulture win. Sorry, Max!
*On the topic of old friends, Gary Sánchez caught Scherzer in his Mets debut, and he contributed a single and a sacrifice fly.
So yeah, it was a good weekend for New York teams! The one-two old man punch of Scherzer and Justin Verlander worked well on Sunday as the other future Hall of Famer turned in an even better performance. Ramírez’s solo shot in the first was the only damage against Verlander, who spun eight innings of three-hit ball with five strikeouts on 98 pitches. Francisco Lindor tied the score with a homer in sixth and Jeff McNeil gave the Mets a late lead on a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Shane Bieber went the distance for Cleveland with eight frames of his own in a losing effort. Their status in the Rivalry Roundup (even if just for now) is on life support. Stay tuned.