By Andrew Kahn
This week’s recap has it all: dominant pitching, potent offense, and run-saving defense.
Mets get offensive
The Mets offense has been nothing short of a juggernaut since the trade deadline and Monday’s record-setting performance in Philadelphia was the latest highlight. New York’s 1 through 7 hitters each hit a home run, the first time in major league history that had happened. The Mets slugged a team-record eight homers and combined with the Phillies for 11 dingers, tying a National League record. The Mets won 16-7, and every run except a two-run scoring double by Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud in the sixth came via the home run. This was on the heels of the Mets scoring 33 runs in a three-game series in Colorado. Since acquiring Yoenis Cespedes and others at the July 31 trade deadline, New York’s offense has been explosive. The Mets are 19-6 since the deadline passed and should only get better now that David Wright is back (on Monday, he homered in his first major league at-bat since April). As Washington continues to struggle to find consistency, the Mets have built a 6.5-game lead in the East and, given its impressive stable of starting pitchers, look like a serious threat in October. Oh, and they’re making defensive plays like this:
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JV’s near no-no
Is Justin Verlander back to his old self? Lately, at least, the answer is a resounding yes. The 2011 MVP took a no-hitter into the ninth on Wednesday—and lost it on a lead-off double that kicked up chalk—to continue a dominant stretch this month. In his last four starts, Verlander has allowed just one earned run in 29 innings while striking out 31. He’s 32 years old and hasn’t been the same since finishing second for the Cy Young in 2012, but he says his body is fully healed—he had surgery on his core last year and started this season on the DL because of a triceps strain—and the latest results indicate that. The Tigers are seven games under .500, but Verlander is owed big bucks the next four years. His recent stretch shows he’s capable of earning it.
And an actual no-no
That Verlander’s not-quite-no-hitter is mentioned before an actual no-hitter is not meant to disrespect the player who threw it. But Mike Fiers isn’t exactly a star. Last Friday, though, he pitched like one, throwing a no-no against the Dodgers in Houston. Much like the last guy to accomplish the feat—Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma—this was Fiers’ first complete game. (Perhaps that won’t be so surprising going forward, as pitchers are limited by pitch count and allowed to go to the distance only in special circumstances like this.) Taking it even further, the 30-year-old Fiers had never even recorded an out in the ninth inning as a starter. He struck out 10, walked three, and threw 134 pitches, 21 more than his previous career high. Fiers was acquired by Houston at the deadline from Milwaukee in the same deal with Carlos Gomez. Watch every out below and notice all the weak contact, especially the soft infield pop-ups. The only “scary” moment was Jimmy Rollins’ drive to the warning track in right-center to lead off the ninth.
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Starling does it all
A recent column in this space mentioned Grady Sizemore becoming the fifth player this season to rob and hit a homer in the same game. Add Starling Marte to the list. On Saturday, Marte robbed a homer in left field and later hit a walk-off dinger for the Pirates. The wall isn’t particularly high where he stole Brandon Crawford’s blast, but a robbed home run is nothing to diminish. And with two outs in the ninth of a 2-2 game, Marte launched one well a little past where he made his catch. Watch ’em both:
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With a little more than a month left in the season, now seems like a good time to check in on the contenders for the various end-of-year awards. Let’s start with the NL MVP, which is a clear two-man race between overrated-to-the-point-he-became-underrated Bryce Harper and actually underrated Paul Goldschmidt. Their stats are similarly awesome—two notable differences are Harper’s .639 slugging percentage compared to Goldschmidt’s .571 and Goldy’s 20 stolen bases to Harper’s six. Andrew McCutchen’s hot streak has him in the mix, as does Zack Greinke’s sub-2.00 ERA. The AL also has two equally worthy front-runners: Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson. Greinke is the obvious Cy Young favorite but has plenty of competition, including the Mets’ Jacob deGrom. The AL Cy Young is even more crowded: Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, Dallas Keuchel, and David Price are all candidates. Kris Bryant or Noah Syndergaard are the sexier choices for NL Rookie of the Year, but Matt Duffy may have the best case. In the AL, Carlos Correa seems like the top candidate at the moment.
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