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Three up, three down: Stanton and the Yankees get hot, but big league bats overall are cooler

A look at who's hot and who's not in Major League Baseball:

THREE UP

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Yankee force: Giancarlo Stanton wanted to play for his hometown Dodgers, but they decided they could not fit him into their budget, so the Yankees happily plucked him from the Marlins' fire sale. Stanton has nine home runs, one fewer than all the Dodgers outfielders combined, through Friday. He hasn't yet his stride — he's batting a career-low .238 — but the Yankees have. They won 17 of 18 games against a formidable series of opponents: the Blue Jays, Twins, Angels, Astros, Indians and Red Sox. In his eight seasons in Miami, he never played for a team with a winning record, so he was delighted to sense the urgency in New York. "We're like .500 after 14 games," Stanton told the Athletic. "And it's like, the world's going to end."

Big Matt bat: Matt Adams played it smart in free agency last winter, grabbing a $4-million offer from the Nationals early in December, then watching as other one-dimensional sluggers struggled to find work. Adams hit seven home runs in the first seven days of May. The Nationals signed him as a bench player, but he's batting .111 as a pinch-hitter and .304 as a starter, so they're giving him starts at first base and in left field. The only major leaguers with 100 plate appearances and a higher OPS: Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Manny Machado. Trivia: When Adams made his major league debut in 2012 at Dodger Stadium, the home team infield was James Loney at first base, Elian Herrera at second, Justin Sellers at shortstop, Adam Kennedy at third.

Lizard king: Shohei Ohtani is not the most successful pitcher to jump from Japan last year to the major leagues this year. That pitcher, at least so far, is the Cardinals' Miles Mikolas, who washed out of three major league organizations, then transformed himself into a dominant starter during three seasons with the Yomiuri Giants. The Cardinals passed on the big-name free agents — Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb and their own Lance Lynn — to sign Mikolas for $15.5 million over two years. He's 5-0 with a 2.51 ERA, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio (35 strikeouts, three walks) is the best in the majors. Better to be known for that, presumably, than for eating a lizard marinated in Mountain Dew.

THREE DOWN

Mr. Padre, Mr. Contact: Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn would have turned 58 last Wednesday. Gwynn never struck out more than 40 times in a season, in as many as 642 at-bats. We're a quarter of the way through this season and already 27 players have struck out more than 40 times, all in 162 or fewer at-bats. The first month of this season was the first in major league history with more strikeouts than hits. Runs scored are in line with recent seasons, but not since 1969 have teams recorded so few hits per game. Bottom line: lots of home runs, lots of strikeouts, little action. Baseball is thriving financially, but not aesthetically.

Video game diagnosis: As soon as the Red Sox said pitcher David Price would miss a start because of carpal tunnel syndrome, Price shot down suggestions that the injury was triggered by the hours he spends playing the popular "Fortnite" video game. "If that was the cause of the problem," he said, "it started back in 1997 when I got my first PlayStation when I was 12 years old." He did say he would stop playing the game in the clubhouse. In 2006, the Tigers said the inflammation in pitcher Joel Zumaya's forearm and wrist had been caused by the motions required in "Guitar Hero," a PlayStation game. The subsequent XBox version of that game included this warning: "No pitchers were harmed in the making of this game. Except for one. Joel Zumaya."

Happy freebie, Mom: The Dodgers and Angels both play at home on Sunday, with the Dodgers giving away a cosmetic bag for Mother's Day and the Angels a wide-brim sun hat. (The Angels win the tiebreaker: Ohtani is pitching.) Mother's Day promotions around MLB include giveaways of a scarf in Baltimore and Houston, a bracelet in Milwaukee, a beach bag in Pittsburgh, a tote bag in Arizona, a pullover jersey in Philadelphia and "an oasis dedicated to pampering Mom" in Toronto. The Marlins are on pace to become the first team to sell fewer than 1 million tickets since the lame-duck Montreal Expos in 2004, so what promotion did Derek Jeter and Co. schedule for Mother's Day? Japanese Heritage Day. No kidding.

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin

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