By Andrew Kahn
It’s definitely scoreboard-watching time in ballparks across America. The two Central divisions aren’t very tight, but the other divisions—as well as the multiple wild card spots—are still very much in doubt.
Home sweet home
Every three weeks or so this column includes a statistical nugget that had never happened before in MLB history. On Tuesday, the home teams went 15-0, the first time home teams were undefeated on a day with at least that many games. Home field advantage is not as great as baseball as it is in other major sports, but still, that seemed a bit surprising—though less so when you remember that MLB expanded to 30 times in 1998. That being said, the previous record was only 12, so this was still impressive. The Indians needed 16 innings to beat the Yankees (and celebrated with water guns) and the Marlins beat the Red Sox in 10. There were plenty of other one-run games that could’ve gone the other way but, well, didn’t. The “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” lyrics never rang as true as they did on Tuesday.
Hitless in Seattle
Perhaps the most surprising nugget from Hisashi Iwakuma’s no-hitter on Wednesday was that it was the first time an American League pitcher had not allowed a hit since his teammate Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game in 2012. There have been 15 in the National League since then, including three this season (Chris Heston, Max Scherzer, and Cole Hamels). Pitching in front of a home crowd at Safeco Field in an afternoon game against the Orioles, Iwakuma became the second Japanese-born pitcher to throw a no-hitter (Hideo Nomo threw two) and the fifth Mariner. He struck out seven and walked three—two in the fourth and one in the eighth, though that runner was erased by a double play. Seattle scored two runs in the third and one in the fourth for a 3-0 win. Iwakuma threw 116 pitches and was aided by strong defense, the highlight of which came to start the ninth. David Lough hit a pop-up in foul territory near third base. Kyle Seager made an impressive over-the-shoulder snag just a few feet away from the stands. Iwakuma got leadoff hitter Manny Machado to ground out to third and Gerardo Parra to hit a weak fly to left-center—one that looked off the bat like it might drop in—to complete the feat. He was mobbed by teammates on the mound and conducted an in-dugout interview through a translator. Iwakuma was an unlikely candidate for a no-hitter considering this was his first complete game. He had a 4.41 ERA entering the start and had spent more than two months on the DL earlier this season.
Grady Sizemore was mentioned in this space at the start of June, when he was released by the Phillies. His incredible play early in his career was highlighted, and I wrote that it was hard to believe his career might be over at 32 years old. Turns out, it wasn’t. Two weeks after his release, Tampa Bay signed him to a minor league deal, and two weeks after that he debuted with the Rays. He’s played pretty regularly for them, and though his average is still an uninspiring .247 with the team, he has hit six homers in 81 at-bats. One of them came against the Mets in the fourth inning on Friday. It was the game’s first run. He preserved that lead in the sixth when he robbed a home run. The wall down the left field line is only chest high, but Sizemore’s catch was still impressive given that he made contact with the wall before the ball reached his glove:
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Believe it or not, according to ESPN Stats & Info, he’s the fifth player this season to hit and rob a homer in the same game. J.D. Martinez, Seth Smith, Mookie Betts, and Mike Trout are the others.
The other Cuban missile
If reports are to be believed, Yasiel Puig will not be traded this season. That’s because the reports claim Puig was claimed off waivers and subsequently pulled back by the Dodgers. On Saturday, he showed one of the reasons another team would be interested in his services—and why the Dodgers were smart to keep him:
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Unsure if the ball would be caught on a fly, Gregory Polanco hesitated on his way to second and also didn’t slide. Still, not too many outfielders would have taken advantage of those circumstances. He fires it to second like a third baseman starting a double play—except Puig was all the way out in right field.
With yesterday’s win, the Blue Jays became the first team since the 1954 Indians to record a pair of winning streaks of at least 11 games in the same season. Toronto won 11 in a row in June as well. They’ve needed to keep winning, as they are battling the Yankees for first in the American League East. The Jays have continued to bash during the win streak—they scored 10 on Wednesday and have the most runs in baseball by more than 75 runs—but the pitching has been equally impressive. Toronto has allowed two runs or fewer in eight of the games during the streak, including consecutive shutouts against the Yankees over the weekend, the first time the Yanks had been shutout twice in a row since 1999 (the longest streak in MLB history). Mark Buehrle has been his usual consistently above-average self, R.A. Dickey has a 1.29 ERA over his last four starts, and David Price has allowed just one run in his 15 innings with the club.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about baseball and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn