Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are crushing baseballs, Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado are making spectacular plays at the hot corner, and Clayton Kershaw is striking everyone out. Ah, yes, baseball is officially back.
3 for today:
Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado continue to fuel debate over best defensive third baseman
Since 2015, Arenado leads all third basemen with 38 Defensive Runs Saved while Machado’s 27 rank third. Who’s better? I’m not sure. And they didn’t make that decision any easier on Monday.
Arenado’s play was first. The Rockies entered the bottom of the ninth leading the Brewers, 7-5, and they sent Greg Holland to the mound to close the game for his first appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015. He immediately walked the first batter he faced, but he got Eric Thames to fly out to center, which brought Ryan Braun to the plate, representing the tying run. On a 1-1 count, Braun ripped a ball on the ground to Arenado’s left that Arenado had no trouble handling; he dove, snared it, and fired the ball to second from a knee, and LeMahieu completed the double play turn to end the game. Instead of the Brewers having runners on first and second with one out, the game was over.
Machado’s miraculous play came in a similarly high-leverage situation. There was one out in the 11th inning of a 2-2 game when Toronto’s leadoff man Devon Travis turned on a 1-0 pitch, ripping a grounder to Machado’s right. Off the bat, it looked like a sure double down the line, but Machado had other plans. He dove to catch it, and proceeded to make an off-balance sidearm throw from one knee all the way across the diamond to nab the speedy Travis. It was a truly remarkable play. I don’t think I’ll ever settle on one or other as the definitively better defender, but I do know that I’ll never stop enjoying watching these two on defense.
Blue Jays-Orioles matchup looks a lot like the last one
Last year’s AL Wild Card game was a classic. It remained tied at two for 11 innings before Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion ended it with a 3-run blast off Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jimenez. Well, the two teams met on Opening Day this year, and the game remained tied at two for 11 innings. This time, however, Mark Trumbo was the one to hit the walk-off homer — a solo shot.
The Orioles took an early 2-0 lead in the third inning, but the Blue Jays clawed their way back to tie it with a run in the fifth and a run in the sixth. The game was filled with tension, as both teams had amble opportunities to score. The Blue Jays went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position while Baltimore went 2-for-9 with RISP. Toronto left 13 (!) runners on base, and the Orioles left six on base. And best of all, Zach Britton even managed to pitch in this one. He threw two scoreless innings. Huh.
Darvish vs. Kluber doesn’t go quite as expected
I approached today’s game between Texas and Cleveland with the mindset that I would be watching a low-scoring pitcher’s duel, but what I got were 13 combined runs; nine of which were allowed by the starters.
The Rangers appeared to blow the game open in the third when Rougned Odor hit his second homer of the day to put his team up 5-1. But the Indians just kept chipping away at the deficit, and Encarnacion eventually knotted things up at five with a solo shot in the seventh. Cleveland then rallied for three runs in the eighth, and then they brought in Andrew Miller followed by Cody Allen. And that was that. Cleveland emerged victorious, 8-5.
This game was interesting for completely different reasons than I was expecting, but immensely entertaining nonetheless. Although, I wouldn’t mind watching Darvish and Kluber trade zeroes next time.
3 for tomorrow:
White Sox vs. Tigers (Quintana vs. Verlander)
I cited this matchup as one to watch yesterday, but the game was postponed to tomorrow morning, so it’s here again because it will still be a great pitcher’s duel.
Astros vs. Mariners (Iwakuma vs. McCullers Jr.)
This one is exciting because Lance McCullers Jr. has so much untapped potential, and 2017 just feels like the year he stays healthy and breaks out in a big way. He’s 23 years old and has a 3.22 ERA in 206 2/3 innings over the first two years of his career. McCullers will be facing off with Hishashi Iwakuma, who had a forgettable 2016 in which he posted a 4.12 ERA.
Cardinals vs. Cubs (Wainwright vs. Arrieta)
It’s a classic rivalry: Cubs vs. Cardinals. St. Louis took the first meeting of the year, but Chicago is sending 2015 Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta, to the mound in an attempt to even the series. He’ll oppose veteran Adam Wainwright, who is hoping for a bounceback season; he logged a 4.62 ERA in 2016. Cubs vs. Cardinals games always seem to be closely contested, and this one should be no different.