- Between the Yankees and Red Sox lasting 16 innings in Boston, the first cycle by a rookie in Dodgers history and Madison Bumgarner's return, there was no shortage of compelling stories in baseball Saturday.
Saturday MLB roundup: A Marathon, a Cycle, a Return and a Donkey (But Not THE Donkey)
1. Eastern Bloc
The Yankees have struggled the last few weeks, to put it mildly (since June 13, they were 6–19 coming into Saturday’s game), but they are still in position for a wild card and, at 3 1/2 games out of first, very much in the division race, so every game with the East-leading Red Sox is a big one right now. As it turned out, Saturday’s was literally as well as figuratively huge: 16 innings, over five hours and fifty minutes.
Things started off normally enough. All-Star starter Chris Sale was firing on all cylinders, striking out 13 and outdueling the Yankees’ Luis Severino to take a 1–0 lead into the eighth inning. But in the ninth, Craig Kimbrel—the most dominant reliever in the game this season—allowed only his second homer and his second blown save of the season when Matt Holliday took him yard to tie the game.
And tied it stayed. The Tigers and Blue Jays started playing two hours after the Yankees and Red Sox kicked things off, and finished playing in the 14th inning. FOX was supposed to show the Rangers-Royals game after Sox-Yanks ended; instead, that game ended during the top of the 16th. All told the two teams used a combined 16 pitchers, who threw a total of 512 pitches. For good measure, in the 11th inning there was a roughly nine-minute delay (though MLB for some reason claimed it was five minutes) to review a strange play in which Matt Holliday’s baserunning mistake was not ruled interference; the Red Sox played the rest of the game under protest. In the (extremely unlikely) event that MLB were to uphold the protest, this game would be replayed from that point—so technically it’s possible that after all this, it isn’t even over yet.
Aroldis Chapman, who blew the save for New York on Friday night, came in for the 14th and avoided a repeat performance, despite looking a bit shaky, with his fastball registering a few mph slower than usual. Finally, Didi Gregorius’s single drove in Jacoby Ellsbury and gave the Yankees the lead in the top of the 16th. They tacked on a few insurance runs and rookie Ben Heller earned the save, sparing New York from a second consecutive crushing loss. But considering that these teams played a double-header tomorrow, nobody was exactly a winner.
2. Soul Cycle
Cody Bellinger is having an astonishing rookie season that has been, to this point, slightly overshadowed by Aaron Judge’s even more astonishing rookie season. But he snatched back a bit of the spotlight Saturday by becoming the first Dodgers rookie ever to hit for the cycle (and the first Dodger of any kind to do it since Orlando Hudson in 2009). Batting against the Marlins in what would be a 7–1 win, he singled, homered, doubled and finally tripled.
Bellinger is now hitting .271 with a .988 OPS on the season with 26 homers, 58 RBI and 2.3 WAR. (For comparison, Judge is hitting .319 with a 1.113 OPS, 30 homers, 66 RBI and 5.3 WAR.) The Dodgers, despite their usual assortment of injuries, are 63–29, good for the best record in baseball—and they’ve won 28 of their last 32 games. Bellinger, who just turned 22 and wasn’t even expected to be up this season until September, is a big part of why.
The Giants, at 35–56, have the second-worst record in all of baseball, above only the Phillies—worse even than the Padres, who they played Saturday. That’s quite something considering that San Francisco came into this season expected to compete for a playoff spot, while San Diego came in expecting to compete for next year’s No. 1 draft pick. The team’s current level of disaster is far beyond the help any one player, even an ace, so you can’t blame their lost season on Bumgarner’s unfortunate April dirt bike injury. Unless he had pitched every other day, he couldn’t have kept this ship afloat. Nor can he possibly save their season at this point.
Still, a healthy Bumgarner is always worth watching, and his first game back was a promising indicator of that. He kicked things off by striking out the side in the first inning, but things got shakier from there, as he allowed homers to Matt Szczur and Jabari Blash in the third and fourth innings respectively, and left with the Giants trailing 3–2. More importantly, he went seven innings and threw 102 pitches, without (so far) any visible ill effects. The Giants are expected to be big-time sellers at the trade deadline, but while Bumgarner makes for irresistible trade fantasies, he’s expected to be untouchable; his long-term health is all that matters to San Francisco right now.
Though the Giants came back to tie it up, the Padres won 5–3 on an absolutely massive walk-off homer by former Giant Hector Sanchez.
So perhaps it wouldn’t have changed the standings even if Baumgarner had pitched every other day.
4. Nice Ass
Joey Votto promised Zack Cozart a donkey if he made the All Star Game, and Votto is a man of his word. And today, a calm and charming donkey named Amos showed up at Great American Ballpark during batting practice.
However, while Amos is a donkey and Cozart is getting a donkey, this is not the donkey. Votto has taken this joke all the way to its end, but even he stopped short of dumping a 500-pound livestock animal on a man who lives in a townhouse and might be traded in two weeks. Votto did indeed pick out an animal, though—“Getting a donkey is like cake, right? Really easy to do,” he informed reporters—and suggestions for its name can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for Cozart’s review.
So Cozart will collect his donkey in the off-season, when he can figure out where the hell to put it, but Reds fans still got to see Zack Cozart hanging out with a donkey, an event that this season has proved there is surprising demand for. Everybody won. (Well, except for the Reds, who lost to the Nationals, 10–7).