The first series of the second half is over, as the Yankees lost a miserable series at Coors Field against the Rockies that ended in utter disaster yesterday. The less I have to say about it the better, so let’s just check in on the Sunday action elsewhere. There weren’t many favors to be found.
Baltimore Orioles (57-35) 5, Miami Marlins (53-42) 4
The Orioles’ offense began the afternoon with four consecutive hits and then only mustered one more across the remainder of the game, but they made that production hold up while tacking on with some hitless production in the fourth. Imagine that!
Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman smacked back-to-back doubles to begin the ballgame off Miami opener Steven Okert, and Anthony Santander deposited a two-run homer into the
bank left-center-field bullpen for his 100th career dinger, making it 3-0, O’s before an out was recorded.
Two more runs crossed home plate in the fourth when Marlins righty George Soriano lost the plate. He walked Ramón Urías and plunked both Colton Cowser and Adam Frazier to load the bases, allowing James McCann to bring home a fourth run on a fielder’s choice. Another Oriole dented home plate when Henderson lifted a sacrifice fly, and that fifth tally actually came in handy.
It was a breeze on the mound for Kyle Bradish, who easily stymied Miami with 7.1 innings of three-hit shutout ball. The Marlins didn’t make it interesting at all until the ninth, when rest days from both Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista (who both worked each of the past two nights) made a rally possible. Eduard Bazardo and Danny Coulombe were frankly garbage in their stead, coughing up two singles and three doubles to bring the relentless Luis Arraez to the plate with the tying run at second.
Despite nearly squandering the 5-0 lead in a single inning, Coulombe got Arraez to line out, finishing off the Orioles’ sweep. Baltimore has now won eight in a row, good for their longest winning streak of the already-successful season. They now only trail the Rays by a single game in the AL East.
Toronto Blue Jays (53-41) 7, Arizona Diamondbacks (52-42) 5
It was a good weekend to be an AL East ballclub with an avian mascot. The Blue Jays matched the O’s with their own sweep of a first-half National League surprise, dismissing the D-backs in three straight at Rogers Centre. Yusei Kikuchi and Tommy Henry both wobbled but didn’t fall apart entirely through five innings, and a sacrifice fly from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gave the Jays a 3-2 lead that they didn’t relinquish.
A one-run lead in the fifth hardly feels secure though, so the game’s biggest blow came off the bat of Yankees nemesis Danny Jansen. The razor-thin margin continued until the eighth, when righty Scott McGough revealed himself to be the weak link in the Arizona bullpen on Sunday afternoon. Vladdy doubled, Matt Chapman walked, and Whit Merrifield laced a single to load the bases. Enter Mr. Jansen:
Like the O’s, the Toronto bullpen made things more interesting than they needed to in the ninth. Mitch White got two outs but walked the bases loaded in the process, and when Jays skipper John Schneider called on Erik Swanson for the final out, Ketel Marte cleared the bases himself with a three-run double to bring the tying run up in the form of Emmanuel Rivera. A lazy fly ball to center locked down the sweep.
Kansas City Royals (27-67) 8, Tampa Bay Rays (60-36) 4
KC might have suffered a doubleheader sweep on Saturday, but they avoided the series dusting on Sunday afternoon in remarkable time. The finale was completed in just an hour and 54 minutes despite a combined 12 runs of offense. How efficient!
2018 first-round pick Brady Singer had high expectations entering 2023 after a good year for the Royals in 2022, but the 26-year-old has had an awful go of it this season with a 5.80 ERA entering play on Sunday. So it had to be encouraging for Kansas City to see their up-and-comer spin seven shutout innings against a lineup like the Rays, especially on a day when the No. 2 overall pick from 2019, Bobby Witt Jr., tripled and homered off Zach Eflin and Yonny Chirinos to lead the offense.
Having thrown an economic 70 pitches through seven, Singer returned for the eighth and got hit hard to make the final score a little closer than it felt, but the Royals hung on. Buoyed by their 13-0 start and 22-6 April, the Rays have gone wire-to-wire so far this year in first place, but with one more loss and Orioles win, they’ll be all tied up atop the AL East.
Texas Rangers (55-39) 6, Cleveland Guardians (45-48) 5
An early home run robbery gone wrong made all the difference in this game. Steven Kwan belted a leadoff homer as part of a four-hit, three-RBI day to put the Guardians up early, 1-0, and in the bottom of the first, Marcus Semien led off with a bomb of his own. But Kwan came so close to bringing it back:
Alas, over the fence it stayed.
While Cleveland built up a 5-2 lead on a single by Kwan that plated a pair in the second and a two-run shot by David Fry in the eighth, this Texas offense has been wreaking havoc all year long for a reason. Shortly after Fry went yard, the Rangers rocked former Yankees farmhand Trevor Stephan on two walks and three consecutive hits, capped by a two-run single from Josh Jung that put Texas in front, 6-5.
Kwan had one last gasp with one down in the ninth, singling off Will Smith to give Cleveland a chance to tie. Instead, Amed Rosario grounded into a fielder’s choice and José Ramírez lined out to end it.
Houston Astros (52-42) 9, Los Angeles Angels (46-48) 8
It was a tight back-and-forth affair at The Big A for Sunday Night Baseball, as neither Cristian Javier nor Tyler Anderson lasted very long in this one. Anderson needed 85 (!) pitches while recording just nine outs, and Mike Moustakas’ second homer in as many days helped the Halos build up a 3-1 lead off Javier through the middle of the ballgame. Saturday night hero Trey Cabbage plated a pair of runs himself on a double in the fourth.
In the seventh however, the advantage vanished in a hurry. Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers went back-to-back off Jacob Webb to knot the game back up at 3-3 ... at which point the Angels countered with a four-spot after the stretch. Zach Neto doubled in old friend Andrew Velazquez to put LA back ahead, and after an intentional walk to Shohei Ohtani, a pitching change, and a plunking of Mickey Moniak, Taylor Ward appeared to belt the game’s decisive blow on a bases-clearing double against Rafael Montero.
The Angels now had a late 7-3 lead and just needed six outs without surrendering four runs. But leave it to the Halos to find a way to lose it.
McCormick was the first chip away, as his second homer of the night cut the deficit to 7-5 in the eighth. Jaime Barria got the call for the ninth just two days after throwing two shutout frames against Houston. It didn’t work out this time, as pinch-hitter Bligh Madris walked, moved to second on a Grae Kessinger single, and scored after a pair of groundouts. Still, the Angels were an out away from victory if they could just retire Alex Bregman.
-to- BLASTS AND THE ASTROS TAKE THE LEAD IN THE 9TH— ESPN (@espn) July 17, 2023
Brutal. And as seen in the clip above, Kyle Tucker’s dinger only made things worse. He robbed a second homer from Moustakas earlier in the ballgame too, so Tucker really made a difference in two ways because Ohtani crushed his 34th homer of the season in the ninth to make it a one-run game. Matt Thaiss lined out on another nice play by Tucker with the winning run on base. Pain in Anaheim, baby! It’s sadly familiar.
The Yankees and Red Sox both trail the Astros by two games for the final Wild Card spot. Toronto sits one game up on Houston, and Baltimore is of course far ahead of the pack.
- Boston Red Sox (50-44) 11, Chicago Cubs (43-49) 5: Kenley Jansen had a perfectly strong first half for a closer but I think we’ll be raising eyebrows in hindsight about Masataka Yoshida being snubbed as the Red Sox representative on the AL All-Star team. The NPB veteran entered play hitting .313/.378/.484 with a 135 wRC+ in his first MLB season, and he erupted for six RBI and a grand slam in Boston’s rout of Chicago (the Cubs didn’t score until late). With the Yankees’ loss, they’re now back in a last-place tie with the Red Sox. Neat!
- Seattle Mariners (46-46) 2, Detroit Tigers (41-51) 0: It would’ve been a bad omen for the M’s to start off the second half getting swept at home by the terrible Tigers. Thanks to catcher Cal Raleigh and the quintet of Seattle pitchers he caught on Sunday, they avoided that fate. An RBI double by Jarred Kelenic put Seattle in front in the first, and Raleigh homered to make it 2-0. Bryce Miller threw five zeroes on the board and each of Matt Brash, Justin Topa, Andrés Muñoz, and Paul Sewald followed suit in the shutout effort.