Corey Seager starred in his MLB debut, the Rockies kept mashing and Bryce Harper had a quirky game on Thursday. SI breaks down the action.
The Dodgers bullpen prevented Corey Seager from emerging the hero in his major league debut Thursday night, but he impressed nonetheless, picking up a pair of hits with the latter driving in two key runs, and scoring two others in a 10–7 Dodgers loss in San Diego.
Starting at his customary shortstop in place of Jimmy Rollins, an arrangement that could soon become all too familiar for the 36-year-old veteran, the 21-year-old Seager (the MLB's top prospect) struck out looking against fellow rookie Colin Rea in his first major league at-bat. His next time up, however, he ripped a double into the rightfield corner for his first major league hit, and subsequently scored from third on an infield single off Rea’s chest by another rookie Joc Pederson (Rea was uninjured). His next at-bat came against lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski with the Dodgers trailing 4–3 and men on second and third and none out in the sixth. Seager took three straight balls from the fellow southpaw, then swung at the 3–0 pitch and flared a single into centerfield that plated the tying and go-ahead runs. He pulled safely into second on rookie centerfielder Travis Jankowski’s off-line throw to the plate and scored from there on Justin Ruggiano’s subsequent single to left. He slid head-first well ahead of the relay throw to increase L.A’s lead to 6–4.
The excitement ended there, at least as far as Seager was concerned. The rookie grounded out to second in his final at-bat. The Padres rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth against Jim Johnson and Juan Nicasio. Johnson walked leadoff man Justin Upton and gave up a go-ahead homer to Jedd Gyorko before giving way to Nicasio who let in a pair of insurance runs. Padres' Joaquin Benoit shut the door in the ninth before the Dodgers lineup could get back down to Seager, who was hitting eighth in the lineup. Still, it was an impressive debut for the 21-year-old, who will start in place of Justin Turner at third base on Friday night. If he has another game like he did on Thursday, the Dodgers may never take him out of the lineup.
Rockies swing for the hills
Paul Goldschmidt is not going to win the triple crown this year. Since I wrote that he had a longshot chance at the distinction on Tuesday, Carlos Gonzalez has effectively knocked him out of the running for the National League home run crown with consecutive multi-homer games on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Gonzalez, who hit four home runs over the course of five at-bats from his final two plate appearances against Goldschmidt’s Diamondbacks Wednesday night through his first three against the Giants on Thursday, now has 35 on the season, which is eight more than Goldschmidt’s total of 27. Goldschmidt did hit 10 home runs in May, but he hasn’t had more than five in a single month since. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, but Goldschmidt’s pursuit of the triple crown is over.
Gonzalez has no lock on the home run title, however, as his teammate Nolan Arenado went deep for the fourth consecutive game Thursday night to increase his season total to 34. Gonzalez and Arenado rank first and second in the NL in homers ahead of Bryce Harper’s now third-place 31. The three Rockies home runs came off three different Giants pitchers: starter Ryan Vogelsong and righty reliever George Kontos for Gonzalez, and rookie Cody Hall, making his major league debut, for Arenado. Immediately prior to giving up that shot to Arenado, Hall allowed a single to Gonzalez, who homered, doubled, homered and singled in Thursday night’s 11–3 Rockies win. Gonzalez did the cycle one better with four hits and 11 total bases in the victory. Gonzalez has now hit 31 of his 35 home runs since June 6, hitting .310/.354/.697 over that stretch.
Bryce Harper with quirky stat line
Gonzalez’s batting line may have been the most impressive of the night, but Bryce Harper’s was the most unusual. Harper went 0 for 0 with four runs scored and an RBI in the Nationals’ 15–1 victory over the hapless Braves. Beyond serving as another reminder that leaving walks out of our capsules is a significant omission (if you couldn’t guess, Harper walked four times, once with the bases loaded), his line was one we haven’t seen in at least 100 years. Since 1914, which is as far back as Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index goes, no other player has scored four runs and driven in another without an official at-bat. Only three players even managed the first part: Rickey Henderson in 1989, Joe Morgan in 1973, and Larry Doby in 1951, who actually drew five walks in five trips but still scored “only” four times.
Of course, Harper’s teammates did the bulk of the work when it came to the four runs scored, advancing him three bases after he got the crucial first one. Of the four players since 1914 to score four times without an official at-bat, Henderson, unsurprisingly, can take the most credit for the runs that resulted. He not only walked four times against wild Mariners rookie Randy Johnson on July 29, 1989, but stole a career-high five bases in those four times on base, each of which was a classic Rickey rally. Henderson led off the bottom of the first with a walk, stole second and third during the next at-bat and scored on an error. He then led off the third and fifth with a walk and a steal, and turned the same trick in the middle of the sixth, scoring each time in what was arguably the most Rickey Henderson performance of Rickey Henderson's Hall of Fame career.
In fact, one could argue anyone reading this could have done exactly what Harper did Thursday night, because not only did Harper not hit a fair ball all night ... he never even swung. Harper saw 20 pitches Thursday night and took all of them. Harper walked on five pitches in the first and second against Atlanta starter Matt Wisler, the latter coming with the bases loaded. He saw four pitches against Sugar Ray Marimon in the third and worked a full-count walk without lifting the bat off his shoulder leading off the bottom of the fifth against former teammate Ross Detwiler. With the Nats leading 14–1, Harper was lifted from the game before his next at-bat.
Of course, none of us actually could have done that, because none of us are as frightening to pitch to as Harper, who according to FanGraphs has seen fewer pitches in the strike zone this season (38.5%) than any other qualified major leaguer. While Harper doesn’t lead the major league in walks because Joey Votto is healthy, but he leads all non-Votto players with 104. He also raised his major league-leading on-base percentage to .464 Thursday night and took over the NL lead in runs scored with 96.
River Cat-like reflexes
Second baseman Joe Panik’s return from the disabled list may be coming too late to help the Giants reboot their playoff hopes (see their 11–3 loss to Colorado for their fifth-straight defeat), but it’s still worth watching this outstanding barehanded play he made in the first game of his rehab assignment with the Sacramento River Cats. Credit is also due to starting pitcher Ty Blach, who may have been lit up in the game by the Diamondbacks-affiliated Reno Aces, but made an outstanding pick at first base to complete the play. Panik went 0 for 2 at the plate despite the acrobatic play at second.