Three strikes: Dingers, masterpieces and disasterpieces from Tuesday's MLB action

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MLB may have entered a Home Run Renaissance
Wednesday May 24th, 2017

What you missed Tuesday night in baseball

1. Well, I wouldn’t say you missed it…

Mariners pitcher Christian Bergman had been pitching well since he was called up a few weeks ago to fill in for some of the Mariners’ many walking wounded, with a 2.25 ERA in two starts and a relief appearance. That pleasant run came crashing to a halt on Tuesday against the brick wall of the Nationals’ offense. Bergman allowed 10 earned runs in four innings—that ERA is now 6.50—including four home runs (Bryce Harper’s 14th, Jayson Werth’s seventh, and Anthony Rendon’s sixth and seventh). It wasn’t Jeremy Guthrie’s two-thirds-of-an-inning 10-run disasterpiece for the Nationals from April, but it wasn’t pretty.

A popular playoff pick (oops), Seattle has already lost 15 players to the DL, second in baseball only to the Dodgers’ 19, and that includes four of their starting pitchers—Felix Hernandez,  Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and Drew Smyly—plus their star second baseman. On the plus side, Robinson Cano returned Tuesday from his quad injury (though he went 0-for-3), and not a moment too soon; in their last 12 games, the Mariners are 3-9, and have been outscored 75-31. In their last three games, it’s 34-3.

All four starters could return in the next few weeks.

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2. Home Run Derby

If you’ve been paying even vague attention this season, you know that home runs are up in a big way—the current rate per game, 1.21, would be the highest in history—and on Tuesday several of the players at the top of the charts added to their totals.

Harper, as mentioned above, knocked out his 14th, and tied Freddie Freeman (who unfortunately is in no position to give him a fair fight in the near future) for the NL lead. He’s one off the MLB lead, behind SI cover boy Aaron Judge and some guy named Mike Trout, who did this Tuesday:

Meanwhile the Rangers’ own dinger machine, Joey Gallo, hit his 14th homer of the season. That’s 14 home runs…. against eight singles. Gallo came here to chew bubblegum and hit home runs, and he’s all out of bubblegum.

Finally, Kyle Schwarber may have a lot of catching up to do after a rough start to his season (heading into Tuesday’s action he was hitting .184/.307/.349 with six homers), but what he lacks in quantity he’s trying to make up in distance. Facing Johnny Cueto in the Cubs’ 4-1 win over the Giants, he really Schwarbed the heck out of this ball:

Jake Lamb still holds the title of longest homer this season with a 481-foot blast, but Schwarber’s 470-foot dinger-and-a-half is now tied for second.

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3. Curver Model

SI cover boy Lance McCullers—that’s his curveball grip in the photo—had another fine start for the Astros, thanks in no small part to that curve. It wasn’t the prettiest game, nor the most effective, as McCullers needed 96 pitches (40 of which were curveballs) to get through five innings against the Tigers. But he didn’t allow a run, and Tuesday’s performance added to a couple of streaks that put him in fine company:

That last stat might be especially poignant for McCullers, as he was close friends with the late Fernandez.

Houston won 6-2 and, at 31-15, has the best record in baseball. Their 3.44 team ERA leads the AL, and only the Yankees have scored more runs. McCullers is doing his part; he hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 27 innings. No SI cover jinx here. (What about here? That remains to be seen.)

Another star of Tom Verducci’s cover story on the curve, Clayton Kershaw, had a magnificent start on Tuesday. It was very nearly a complete-game shutout against the Cardinals; instead Kershaw had to settle for nine sterling innings—the lone Cardinals run coming on a ninth-inning wild pitch—and watch from the bench as the Dodgers won on a Logan Forsythe walk-off in the 13th. (As it happens, Kershaw’s last complete-game shutout came exactly one year ago against Cincinnati.)

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