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What’s the Home Run Derby reverse-jinx called?
Juan Soto continued his second-half assault on National League pitching Monday, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and five RBI in the Nationals’ 18-1 thrashing of the Marlins. It was two of six home runs the Nats slugged on the night. Jon Lester even hit one of them while also tossing seven shutout innings (given how his season has gone, I’m not sure which feat was unlikelier).
Soto’s first home run was the first of back-to-back round trippers in the first inning, with Josh Bell hitting the other dinger. There wound up being seven separate sets of back-to-back home runs across baseball Monday night, which was the most on any single day in major league history. Soto’s second long ball was less glamorous, as he took catcher Sandy Leon deep in the seventh. Hey, it’s counts all the same.
In four games since he participated in the Home Run Derby, Soto has gone deep five times. It’s the most home runs he has hit over a four-game stretch in his career. He’s reached base a whopping 13 times in those four contests, driven in 11 runs and scored eight runs. Soto is the first player in major league history to put up five home runs and 10 hits in their first four tilts after the All-Star break.
Soto entered Monday’s game with a career-best 92.9 mph exit velocity but also a career-high 54.7 percent groundball rate. It led to him going into the break with 11 home runs, which was fine for mere mortals but a disappointment for Soto.
While he said he hasn’t changed his mechanics at all, Soto is of the opinion that the Derby has helped his swing.
“You can tell,” Soto told the Washington Times prior to Monday’s game. “I mean, I just feel so much better now. I was thinking about it and it really helped me a little bit, just getting that feeling of how to put the ball in the air and everything. I tried everything in the first half, and the ball still go into the ground. … I think the derby helped me out big time.”
Soto now has his batting line on the season up to .301/.420/.512. The only two players in major league history to post back-to-back .300/.400/.500 in their age 21-22 seasons are Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Cole Irvin vs. LAA – 7+ IP, 0 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 3 K
It was another nice showing for Irvin, who now boasts a 2.54 ERA since the beginning of June, which covers eight starts. The left-hander pitched into the eighth inning but was pulled after yielding a leadoff single to Adam Eaton. Lou Trivino then came on to put out the fire and pick up a six-out save.
Spenser Watkins vs. TB – 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 7 K
Watkins limited the Blue Jays and White Sox to one run apiece in his first two major league starts, but those seemed like a smoke and mirrors situation given his 6/6 K/BB ratio over 9 1/3 innings. He was legitimately good Monday, though, fanning seven while inducing 13 swinging strikes to go along with a 36 percent CSW rate. Watkins will turn 29 next month and is getting his first shot at the big league level.
Lance Lynn vs. MIN – 7 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 4 K
Lynn’s first start since signing a two-year, $38 million contract extension was a good one. The only run he gave up came on a solo home run hit by the ageless Nelson Cruz as the right-hander lowered his American League-leading ERA to 1.94. The big right-hander has permitted exactly one run in each of his last three starts.
Shohei Ohtani vs. OAK – 6 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 8 K
Making his first start (on the mound, other than the All-Star Game) in two weeks, Ohtani was fantastic in holding the Athletics off the scoreboard for six frames. Unfortunately, it was a scoreless tie when he was pulled, so he wound up taking a no-decision. Ohtani’s 96 pitches thrown were his second-highest total of the season.
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Hitters with an EDGE
Mitch Garver vs. CWS – 2-for-3, 2 HR
The Twins activated Garver from the injured list prior to the second game of Monday’s doubleheader against the White Sox, and the catcher went out and homered in each of his first two plate appearances. It was a nearly a seven-week absence for Garver, who had surgery following a foul tip to the groin. He picked up where he left off, as the backstop had been heating up at the dish prior to his injury.
Michael Conforto vs. CIN – 3-for-6, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R
Conforto popped a two-run home run in the fourth inning and went deep again in the 11th as the Mets outlasted the Reds 15-11 on Monday at Great American Ball Park. The big night came one day after he slugged a go-ahead, two-run home run in the ninth inning versus the Pirates. It’s been a rough season for Conforto from an injury and performance standpoint, but he looks like he’s finally starting to heat up.
Akil Baddoo vs. TEX – 2-for-5, HR, 4 RBI, 3 R
Baddoo continued his remarkable rookie season as the Tigers blew out the Rangers 14-0 on Monday. The home run was the seventh for the Rule 5 pick, and he’s now clubbed a pair of long balls and driven in 10 runs across his last four contests. Baddoo has his OPS back up to .836 after it briefly fell just below .800 prior to the aforementioned four-game span.
Brandon Marsh, OF, LAA – available in 87 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues
The Angels managed only one run in falling to the A’s on Monday, but that run was driven in by Marsh, who picked up his first three major league hits after going hitless in his major league debut over the weekend. Marsh missed time at Triple-A Salt Lake this season with a shoulder ailment, but when healthy he put up an .832 OPS with three homers and a couple steals over 24 games. A top-50 prospect, Marsh is a potential 20-20 guy at his peak if all goes well.
Edwin Diaz blew his third straight save Monday in Cincinnati, yielding a walk and a game-tying double in the Mets’ extra-innings win over the Reds. He’s still striking guys out, but Diaz has now coughed up seven runs on seven hits and three walks in those three outings to push his ERA all the way up to 4.30. In all likelihood, Diaz will probably bounce back, but Trevor May isn’t a bad guy to stash in case he doesn’t.
Joakim Soria surrendered a couple hits but hung on to notch a save Monday against the Pirates with the help of a couple strikeouts. Soria blew a save this past weekend against the Cubs, but he’s pitched well this month overall, turning in scoreless outings in seven of eight appearances while posting a 12/1 K/BB ratio over eight innings. The Diamondbacks will be hoping he stays hot over the next week or so so they can flip him for a prospect.
Hansel Robles gave up an RBI double but hung on to collect his 10th save in the first game of the Twins’ doubleheader split against the White Sox. Because it was the designated runner that scored, Robles was not charged with a run. Taylor Rogers faced 2-3-4 in the White Sox order in the sixth inning, retiring them 1-2-3.
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Tuesday’s Matchup of the Day
This had been scheduled as the pitching matchup for Monday, but that game was rained out so they’ll try again Tuesday (rain is in the forecast again, so cross your fingers). Darvish will be making his first start in nearly two weeks, as he went down before the All-Star break with a minor hip injury. It will also be a return of sorts for Muller, who went down to the minors for a bit until the Braves needed a fifth starter again.
American League Quick Hits: Luis Robert (hip) will begin a rehab assignment on Wednesday … Mike Trout (calf) ran at 90 percent effort level Monday and believes he’s “close to a rehab assignment … Enrique Hernandez hit a pair of home runs, doubled and walked Monday as the Red Sox topped the Blue Jays … Yordan Alvarez went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and a double before tweaking his hamstring Monday against the Indians. He’ll be re-evaluated Tuesday … Ramon Laureano broke a scoreless tie with a three-run homer in the seventh inning of Monday’s win over the Angels … Alek Manoah landed on the IL with a bruised back, an injury he suffered while slipping on the dugout steps … Shane Bieber played catch Monday for the first time since suffering a right shoulder strain … Jarren Duran connected for his first major league home run Monday versus the Blue Jays … J.D. Martinez went 4-for-4 with two doubles and a walk Monday against the Blue Jays … Mike Zunino had to leave Monday’s game against the Orioles due to left hip flexor tightness … John Means (shoulder) will rejoin the Orioles’ rotation on Tuesday against the Rays.
National League Quick Hits: Corey Seager (hand) could be activated from the IL as soon as Wednesday … Buster Posey socked a two-run homer and added a single Monday versus the Dodgers in his first game back from a thumb injury … Jazz Chisholm landed on the IL Monday with a bone bruise in his left shoulder … Brandon Crawford was placed on the IL with a strained oblique … Mookie Betts (hip) had to be scratched from Monday’s lineup, but he pinch-hit in the game and is expected to play Tuesday … Trea Turner walloped a home, added a triple and drove in four runs Monday against the Marlins … Josiah Gray will be added to the Dodgers’ roster on Tuesday and get a bulk innings assignment against the Giants in what will be his major league debut … Eduardo Escobar cranked a two-run shot and also tripled Monday against the Pirates … Pete Alonso hit a two-run home run and added an RBI single Monday in Cincinnati … Jonathan India reached base five times for the Reds on Monday to push his on-base percentage on the season up to .405 … Tyler Naquin went 5-for-6 with a double and four RBI versus the Mets on Monday … Dylan Carlson homered and plated four runs Monday versus the Cubs … Gavin Lux (hamstring) was placed on the IL Monday … The Pirates have designated Kyle Crick for assignment … Nick Senzel (knee) could begin a rehab assignment next week.