Chris Johnson entered Wednesday without a homer in 86 at-bats, but he took Chris Schwinden deep in each of his first two plate appearances today to lead the Astros to an 8-1 win over the Mets.
Johnson drove in five runs with the two homers and later added a sixth RBI on a single on his way to a 4-for-4 day. He joined Ryan Braun in becoming the second player this season to collect at least four hits, two homers and six RBI in a game. No Astro had pulled off that feat since Lance Berkman on June 14, 2001.
Johnson appeared to be fading from Houston’s plans as last year went along, but he managed to overtake Jimmy Paredes on the depth chart and regain his starting job at third base this spring. At 27, this could well be his last chance to make it. Johnson is a below average defender at third base, and while he’s a career .277 hitter, that comes with a putrid 218/35 K/BB ratio in 831 career at-bats. Since he’ll likely always sport subpar OBPs, it’s a must that he starts hitting for more power, like he did today.
MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that the Rays have acquired first baseman Lucas Duda from the Mets. The Mets will receive pitching prospect Drew Smith in return, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Duda, 31, is batting .246/.347/.532 with 17 home runs and 37 RBI in 291 plate appearances for the Mets this season. He’ll provide a potent bat in the Rays’ lineup as they attempt to overcome their current 2.5-game deficit in the AL East.
Smith, 23, is the Rays’ No. 30 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He ascended from High-A to Triple-A already this season, posting an aggregate 1.60 ERA with a 40/9 K/BB ratio over 45 innings across four stops with High-A Lakeland (Tigers), High-A Charlotte (Rays), Double-A Montgomery, and Triple-A Durham.
The Blue Jays completed a four-game series sweep against the Athletics on Thursday afternoon and won their second consecutive game in walk-off fashion. Last night, the Jays went into the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 2-0, but a two-run home run by Justin Smoak followed by a solo home run from Kendrys Morales led to a 3-2 walk-off victory.
Thursday’s game was already interesting enough as starter Marcus Stroman, catcher Russell Martin, and manager John Gibbons were all ejected by home plate umpire Will Little. Despite the adversity, the Jays battled the A’s, tying the game at four apiece when Morales blasted a solo home run — his second of the game — in the bottom of the ninth inning. In the 10th inning, A’s reliever Liam Hendriks walked the bases loaded with two outs to bring up Steve Pearce. Pearce worked the count full before pulling a fastball down the left field line for a walk-off grand slam, giving the Jays an 8-4 victory to complete the sweep.
Before Pearce, the last Jays hitter to hit a walk-off grand slam was Gregg Zaun on September 6, 2008 against the Rays, per SportsNet Stats.