A look at the trending topics this week in MLB:
Beltre 3K: Adrian Beltre made his major league debut with the Dodgers in 1998. He doubled in his first at-bat, against Chuck Finley of the Angels. Beltre has played so long and so well that he is on the verge of his 3,000th career hit, an almost certain admission ticket to Cooperstown. Of the 30 players with 3,000 hits, the ones with no Hall of Fame plaque are sinners (Pete Rose, Rafael Palmeiro), not yet eligible (Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki) or both (Alex Rodriguez). Add Beltre’s premium glove and renowned leadership to his consistently strong bat and he remains one of the most underrated players of his era, as evidenced over the past week, when his run to 3,000 got less attention than a weird play in which an umpire puffed his chest and ejected Beltre for moving the on-deck circle.
Cy and sigh: Clayton Kershaw’s back injury all but assures Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals of his second consecutive National League Cy Young Award. Kershaw has finished among the top five in Cy Young voting six consecutive years; Scherzer has done so in five (the first two in the AL). Kershaw (2.04) leads Scherzer (2.23) in earned-run average. He needs 21 innings to qualify for what would be his sixth season leading the majors in that category. If he had pitched another 13 innings last season, Kershaw would be trying to lead the majors in ERA for the seventh time in eight years. Scherzer last Thursday celebrated his 32nd birthday by pitching six innings for the victory, with a single and two walks at bat.
Stars and stripes: Willie Mays and Ted Williams are among the baseball stars who sacrificed part of their careers to serve in the United States military. That tradition has been revived by pitcher Griffin Jax, whom the Minnesota Twins drafted from Air Force in the third round last year. Jax and the Twins originally thought he could meet his two-year service commitment in the reserves while playing in the minor leagues but, under the Trump administration, the Defense Department no longer excuses athletes from active duty. Jax reported for duty last week, but not before winning his last start at Class-A Cedar Rapids and walking off the mound to a standing ovation.
Debut disaster: Michael Blazek was the 1,068th player selected in the 2007 draft. After 345 games over 11 professional seasons, he made the first start of his major league career last Thursday, for the Milwaukee Brewers. He pitched 2 1/3 innings and gave up six home runs to the Nationals, including back-to-back-to-back-to-back shots to Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. Blazek became the first pitcher in major league history to give up five homers in one inning. “Not the way I wanted it to go,” Blazek said, “obviously.” Blazek pitched to 15 batters, giving up as many home runs as Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel had given up to 283 batters this season.
Dansby down: The trade that damned Diamondbacks executives Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa in Arizona was the one in which they acquired pitcher Shelby Miller from the Atlanta Braves for shortstop Dansby Swanson, six months after taking Swanson with the first overall pick in the 2015 draft. Miller went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA last year, Stewart and La Russa were removed from power, and Miller underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery this year. But Swanson, 23, fared so poorly in Atlanta — batting .213 with a .599 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, each figure the second-lowest in the NL — that the Braves demoted him to triple-A last Thursday. Mitigating factor for Atlanta: Outfielder Ender Inciarte, a throw-in to the deal with Swanson, was an all-star this season.
Don’t do me like that: Wrigley Field is tucked into a residential neighborhood. Wrigley did not add lights until 1988 — amid the Cubs’ threat to flee for an antiseptic suburban stadium — and the number of night events there is limited by the city. The number is too few for Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ president of business operations, who told WSCR the Cubs not only have to beat rival teams, “we also have to beat the city … to try and win games.” They could have had more night games had they not used some of their allocated night dates for concerts — Tom Petty played Wrigley last month — because the Cubs need not share concert revenue with other teams.
SERIES OF THE WEEK
Indians at Red Sox
Monday through Wednesday
The Cleveland Indians headed into the weekend riding a seven-game winning streak. For all of the peskiness of the Minnesota Twins, the Indians have been in first place in the American League Central every day but one since June 16. But now the Kansas City Royals are knocking, and the Indians’ soft second-half schedule (Oakland, San Francisco, Toronto, Cincinnati, the Angels and Chicago White Sox) is about to turn hard (Boston, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay). The Red Sox, trying to win consecutive AL East championships for the first time, acquired third baseman Eduardo Nunez from the Giants. The Red Sox entered the weekend with the lowest OPS at third base. The team with the next-lowest OPS at third base? The Giants. After the Boston Globe reported how David Price mocked Red Sox broadcaster and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley on a team flight, Dustin Pedroia pronounced himself the team leader: “You don’t see anyone else standing up here doing this. Nope. There’s your source, from my mouth.”
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