Melky Cabrera’s return to Kauffman Stadium was a roaring success Tuesday, as he went 2-for-3 and captured All-Star Game MVP honors in the National League’s 8-0 shutout of the American League.
Cabrera earned his trip to Kansas City by collecting an NL-leading 119 hits in the first half. He’s batting .353/.391/.519 with eight homers and 10 steals in 337 at-bats, putting him well on his way to duplicating or exceeding many of the career bests he established last year as a Royal.
And that has to sting Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore, who made the call to extend Jeff Francoeur last year and trade Cabrera over the winter.
With Lorenzo Cain ready to step into center field, the Royals thought to sell high on Cabrera and sent him to the Giants for left-handers Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo. Obviously, the deal has been a bust so far, what with Cain spending the last three months on the DL and Sanchez going 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA and more walks (43) than strikeouts (34) in his 11 starts for Kansas City. Verdugo has been decent enough in Triple-A (6-2, 3.62 ERA, 70/43 K/BB in 87 IP), but I still think he projects as a reliever in the majors.
As bad as the trade has worked out, it’s worth noting that they only gave up a year of Cabrera, since he’s going to be eligible for free agency this winter. The Royals knew they weren’t going to keep both Francoeur and Cabrera for the long haul, and once they gave Francoeur a two-year deal, that settled matters. Even if they had retained Cabrera and let him play out this season, he almost certainly would have priced his way out of Kansas City with his performance.
Still, if the Royals had Cabrera in center or right and someone — pretty much anyone — other than Sanchez in the rotation, they’d likely be in the thick of the AL Central race right now rather than 9 1/2 games back of the White Sox. Francoeur has, by at least one measure, been the league’s worst regular this year, and Royals center fielders have hit .246/.306/.326 with two homers and 18 RBI to date. The difference between Francoeur and Cabrera could be worth five wins by itself.
Tossing a no-hitter doesn’t just require physical excellence; it’s a mental feat, too. Which is why it may have helped that Athletics hurler Sean Manaea didn’t realize his no-hitter was intact until the eighth inning of Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Red Sox.
While the first few innings passed uneventfully, Sandy Leon managed to reach base in the fifth inning after skying a ball to shallow center field. It wasn’t a clean hit, of course — shortstop Marcus Semien dropped the ball on the catch and was promptly charged with an error to preserve Manaea’s no-hit bid.
That was news to Manaea, who told reporters that he didn’t realize he still had a no-hitter going until he saw the scoreboard in the eighth inning. “Until the eighth, I thought it just like was a one-hitter,” he said. “I looked up in the eighth and saw there were still zeros and was like, whoa, weird.” The delay of that realization may have calmed his nerves as he continued to blank the best team in baseball, eventually capping his 108-pitch, 10-strikeout effort in the ninth.
A few fun facts about the feat:
- Manaea’s no-hitter was the 12th of its kind in franchise history, dating back to Weldon Henley’s no-no against the St. Louis Browns in 1905.
- The most recent pitcher to do so for the A’s was fellow left-hander Dallas Braden, who completed the club’s second-ever perfect game against the Rays in 2010. Surprisingly, Manaea managed to make even more efficient use of his pitch count than Braden did during his perfecto; he fired just 108 pitches against the Red Sox, a hair under the 109 pitches used by Braden against the Rays.
- Manaea himself, however, is just the seventh Athletics pitcher (and third lefty) to toss a no-hitter. Legendary southpaw Vida Blue pitched two no-nos for the team, including a combined no-hitter that also featured Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers against the 1975 California Angels.
- Until Saturday, the Red Sox had the second-longest streak without being no-hit in the majors, at 3,987 games… a record that was only eclipsed by the A’s own streak.
- With a 17-2 record and .895 winning percentage, the Red Sox were the most successful team to be no-hit in major-league history. Prior to Saturday’s loss, they averaged 6.4 runs per game and had yet to be shut out by any team in 2018.
- Since 1908, 46 no-hitters have been pitched against AL East teams: four against the Blue Jays, five against the Rays, eight against the Yankees, 13 against the Red Sox and 16 against the Orioles. Mariners lefty Chris Bosio was the last pitcher to no-hit the Red Sox, a feat he accomplished almost exactly 25 years ago on April 22, 1993.