It’s only July 12, but we’re already talking about a big series between the Mets and Braves with first place in the NL East on the line. Thankfully for New York, Max Scherzer’s turn in the rotation fell on the first game of their three-game series in Atlanta.
Scherzer Dominates, Mets Gain Ground Over Atlanta
Max Scherzer took the ball in just about as big of a game as there can be for the Mets in early July last night in just his second start back from a lengthy IL stint, and he was everything Steve Cohen thought he was getting when he signed the check for Scherzer’s three-year, $130 million deal.
Scherzer allowed just one run on three hits in seven innings while striking out nine Braves and walking none as the Mets beat Atlanta and gained a game on them in the NL East standings. Scherzer has allowed one run on five hits while striking out 20 and walking none in his two starts since returning from the IL. The Mets needed a win over the Braves in a big way, with the Braves closing the gap on them in the division, and Scherzer was rightfully hyped up in the New York dugout last night.
Despite a multi-hit effort for Robinson Cano in his Braves debut, Atlanta couldn’t muster up much of anything offensively. Francisco Lindor picked up three hits, Pete Alonso doubled and drove in a pair, and Luis Guillorme doubled, homered, and drove in a couple in the 4-1 win for the Mets.
Edwin Diaz – named to the NL All-Star team on Monday – was overpowering, striking out the side in three non-competitive at-bats by the Braves. Diaz has struck out the side eight times this season in 37 appearances. Just nasty stuff from Diaz.
Since June 1, the Braves are 29-9, and the Mets are 20-16, including last night’s head-to-head Mets win in Atlanta. The Mets and Braves have two more games together this week, and the Mets can extend their lead over Atlanta to as much as 4.5 games with a sweep, or the Braves can get to within a half-game of the Mets if they win the next two, so significant implications aplenty the next couple of days in Atlanta.
Home Run Derby Field Taking Shape
The 2022 MLB Home Run Derby is now less than a week away, and the field of competitors is beginning to take shape. The Athletic and ESPN reported on Monday that Albert Pujols would compete in the event after Commissioner Rob Manfred named him to the National League All-Star team last week.
Here’s who we know will be participating in this year’s Home Run Derby as of the time of publishing and the number of home runs they have this season:
- Albert Pujols (5)
- Pete Alonso (23)
- Ronald Acuña Jr. (8)
- Juan Soto (17)
- Kyle Schwarber (28)
Kyle Schwarber not only leads the field of five confirmed participants in home runs this season, but he’s also second to only Aaron Judge (30) in that category. Ronald Acuña Jr. is the only participant other than Pujols with single-digit home runs this season, but he missed the first 34 games. Pujols has five home runs in 134 at-bats this season.
There are three more spots to fill in the eight-player field for next week’s Home Run Derby in Los Angeles. … Just give it to Patrick Wisdom, please.
Speaking of the Home Run Derby, how about Manny Machado? I have no idea whether or not the Padres slugger is interested in participating, but I sure would like to see him hit some moonshots like the one he hit in Colorado last night when he hit the concourse at Coors Field!
Machado has 15 home runs and has been one of the best hitters in baseball this season for San Diego. Machado owns a .923 OPS, is slashing .310/.385/.538, and has a 157 wRC+ in 77 games for the Padres.
Machado will be in Los Angeles making his sixth All-Star Game appearance, so why not take one of the three remaining HRD slots? We’ll see.
Odds and Ends …
- Albert Pujols has made it no secret how special returning to St. Louis for his final season has been, and an ASG appearance and one last trip to the Home Run Derby are the icings on the cake for the future Hall of Famer. Still, Pujols made another bit of history on Monday when he passed fellow Cardinals great Stan Musial for third all-time on the extra-base hits leaderboard when he picked up his 1,378th extra-base hit.
- Bobby Witt Jr. was unstoppable at the dish for the Royals in a doubleheader sweep of the Tigers on Monday in Kansas City. The rookie sensation racked up five hits, scored two runs, and stole three bases. Witt has 12 home runs and 16 stolen bases this season and is flirting with a 20-20 campaign in his rookie year for the Royals.
- Speaking of rookies making history, Josh Smith hit an inside-the-park home run on Monday for the first home run of his career.
- Smith became the fourth player in Rangers/Senators history to accomplish the feat and the first since Craig Gentry did it in 2011.
- Cleveland rookie Nolan Jones keeps us on the rookies making history track with his historic start to the first four games of his career. As Sarah Langs pointed out, Jones’ eight RBI in his first four games haven’t happened in Cleveland since 1936.
- We’ll wrap today’s MLBits up with a laugh that I’m sure we can all relate to, at least a little bit: