Three up, three down: Steven Brault belts out anthem; Diamondbacks question defensive runs saved
A look at what’s trending in Major League Baseball this week:
Chin music: The Angels had the “singing usher” in Ed Hoffman, the father of Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman who sang the national anthem on occasion during his two decades as a stadium employee before he died in 1995. The Pirates have a singing pitcher in Steven Brault, a left-hander who belted out the anthem — quite well, actually — before Tuesday night’s game in PNC Park. Brault is no lounge act. He was involved in theater and choir as a youth in La Mesa, was a vocal performance major at Regis University in Colorado and sang the anthem before several minor league games. “It’s something my grandma always wanted me to do,” Brault said, “to sing the anthem before a major league game.”
Bronx Bombers: The addition of Giancarlo Stanton to one of baseball’s most powerful lineups has put the New York Yankees on a pace to shatter the single-season home-run record of 264, set by the Ken Griffey-led Seattle Mariners in 1997. The Yankees led the major leagues with 241 homers in 2017. They had hit 122 in 73 games entering Saturday, putting them on a pace for 270. Aaron Judge leads the way with 19 homers, followed by Stanton (18), Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres (14 each). “It’s fun to watch from the inside,” Stanton said, “and I’m sure it’s fun to watch being a fan.”
Generational talent: Rangers pitcher Bartolo Colon, 45, notched the 244th win of his 21-year career last Monday to pass Juan Marichal and become the winningest Dominican-born pitcher in major league history. In doing so, the ageless right-hander faced the son of a player he has pitched against for the fourth time. Royals infielder Adalberto Mondesi doubled off Colon some 16 years after Colon last faced Raul Mondesi, in 2002. Colon has also faced the father-son duos of Clay and Cody Bellinger, Eric Young and Eric Young Jr., and Cecil and Prince Fielder. “It means I have been pitching a long time,” Colon said.
Head-scratcher: We want to have faith in advanced defensive statistics, but it’s tough sometimes. According to Fangraphs, Arizona center fielder Jarrod Dyson entered last Monday with nine defensive runs saved in 56 games. That night, he robbed the Angels’ Justin Upton of a potential grand slam with a leaping catch at the top of the wall. “How many defensive runs saved is that?” teammate Paul Goldschmidt bellowed. Uh, none? The next morning, Fangraphs had Dyson with eight defensive runs saved in 57 games. How is that possible? Goldschmidt marveled at the ease with which Dyson made an extremely difficult play, saying, “It almost looked routine.” Perhaps Fangraphs thought the same. It wasn’t.
Bottoms up: Chris Davis is having one of the worst seasons in baseball history. He entered Friday with a .150 average, four homers, 15 RBIs and 86 strikeouts for the woefully bad Orioles, who owe the first baseman $92 million over the next four years. It’s so bad that Bartenders Pub near Camden Yards, in an effort to attract customers, began offering free Dr Pepper shooters — a mix of Miller High Life and amaretto — to patrons every time Davis gets a hit. The bar had to wait a week to put the promotion in play, as Davis was benched for eight games from June 12 through Thursday. He finally returned Friday night and hit a solo home run, then added a three-run double Saturday.
Dumb and dumber: The closer who sparked a benches-clearing brawl in 2017 when he hit Bryce Harper with a pitch to settle a 3-year-old grudge one-downed himself last Monday. Hunter Strickland of the Giants punched a door in frustration after blowing the save in a 5-4 loss and broke a finger in his pitching hand. He had surgery Tuesday and will be out for six to eight weeks. Strickland apologized on Thursday for what he called a “stupid, split-second” decision and vowed to work on his anger issues. “Obviously, this is on me … because I’m the one that created this problem,” he said. “This is something I’m struggling with.”
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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