Adonis Garcia

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And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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There were quite a few oddities during Friday’s games, from the Joey Gallo‘s record-setting home run to an inning that granted the Rockies both a grand slam and an inside-the-park homer. You can find the full scores here and the rest of the highlights below:

Phillies 4, Braves 3: The Braves took their fourth consecutive loss on Friday, and according to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki and Mark Bowman, their first loss to the Phillies since July 30, 2016. Bartolo Colon pitched through seven innings, his longest outing of the season, allowing 11 hits, four runs and striking out four of 32 batters. The Braves made a concerted effort in the ninth after Adonis Garcia went yard (in the pouring rain, no less) and Nick Markakis and Brandon Phillips put runners on first and second with back-to-back singles, but right-hander Hector Neris caught Tyler Flowers swinging on an eight-pitch at-bat to preserve the Phillies’ lead and take the win.

Pirates 6, Yankees 3: The Pirates got off to a quick start on Friday, amassing four runs in the first two innings after a pair of home runs from Jordy Mercer and Josh Bell and an RBI single from David Freese. The same could not be said for the Yankees:

Orioles 2, Red Sox 0: It’s worth mentioning, if only in passing, the quality of Dylan Bundy‘s start. The right-hander delivered seven shutout innings in his fourth start of the season, issuing six hits, a walk and three strikeouts in the Orioles’ 2-0 win. The outing fed into Bundy’s 1.37 ERA and the Orioles’ continued dominance in the AL East, but was ultimately overshadowed by a disputed takeout slide by Manny Machado in the eighth inning.

Cubs 6, Reds 5 (11 innings): The defending World Series champs reclaimed their position atop the NL Central division after orchestrating three dramatic comebacks to win their last three games this week. Those wins snapped a four-game losing streak, during which the Cubs had blown three leads against the Pirates and Brewers.

Whether or not this come-from-behind strategy will hold much longer is yet to be determined, but the Cubs don’t seem too concerned. “[Winning] is always fun; when you come back, it just makes it a little bit better,” Chicago left-hander Jon Lester told reporters following the game. “It doesn’t matter how it looks, we got it done.” Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon shared the sentiment: “It’s so entertaining, isn’t it? We like the tough games, the big series. We like that stuff.”

Astros 6, Rays 3: For once, the preseason predictions got something right: the Astros are running away with the AL West this season. They capped their eighth win in nine games, returning from a two-run deficit with two RBI base hits from Brian McCann and Yuli Gurriel, two productive, game-winning outs from George Springer and Josh Reddick and a run-scoring wild pitch in the ninth inning.

Nationals 4, Mets 3 (11 innings): After cycling through ten pitchers and four home runs, it seemed only fitting that the 11-inning marathon would end on a bases-loaded walk:

Rangers 6, Royals 2: On a day full of a variety of record-breaking and -setting homers, Joey Gallo raised the bar for any aspiring home run hitter in 2017. He went deep against Royals’ right-hander Nathan Karns in the second inning, nearly driving the ball into a concourse popcorn stand:

Per Statcast, the ball left Gallo’s bat at a speed of 116.1 m.p.h. and traveled an estimated 462 feet. It’s both the longest and hardest-hit home run so far this year, though it still falls a little shy of the records set by Giancarlo Stanton (504 feet) and Carlos Gonzalez (117.4 m.p.h.) in 2016.

Indians 3, White Sox 0: After putting up a 6.38 ERA during his first three starts of the season, Corey Kluber finally regained some equilibrium on the mound. He leveled the White Sox with his first complete game shutout since June 21, 2016, firing nine scoreless innings with three hits, two walks and nine strikeouts. The reemergence of his cutter may have had something to do with his successful outing, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian pointed out:

Twins 6, Tigers 3: The Tigers have undoubtedly seen better days. Justin Verlander collapsed against the Twins, handing over four run, six walks and four strikeouts in his second loss of the season. Victor Martinez and Justin Upton put the Tigers on the board in the third inning with an RBI single and double, respectively, but a six-run rally by the Twins unraveled the Tigers’ lead.

Cardinals 6, Brewers 3: With Madison Bumgarner on the disabled list, another member of the #PitchersWhoRake club was called upon to deliver the goods on Friday night. Adam Wainwright blew past the Brewers with five innings of two-run, nine-strikeout pitching, then turned around and blasted his first home run of the season, a two-run, double-deck shot that put the Cardinals up 2-1 in the third inning.

Wainwright later returned for another two-run single in the fourth and now officially leads all pitchers with three hits and four RBI in 2017.

Rockies 6, Giants 5: According to MLB.com’s Owen Perkins, the Rockies’ grand slam/inside-the-parker combo was only the second such combination of events since September 19, 2011, when the Red Sox’ Conor Jackson and Jacoby Ellsbury tag-teamed for the two unusual home runs against the visiting Orioles. The grand slam was a career first for both Trevor Story and Giants’ right-hander Johnny Cueto, who enjoyed an 8-2 record against the Rockies prior to his meltdown on Friday afternoon.

Diamondbacks 13, Dodgers 5: The Diamondbacks’ offense took approximately eight innings to heat up during Friday’s series opener, but no one was complaining when they constructed a nine-run comeback in the bottom of the eighth inning. Against an ailing Dodgers’ bullpen, the D-backs pulled five walks, six hits, and best of all, a tie-breaking balk from right-handed reliever Sergio Romo.

Athletics 3, Mariners 1: The Mariners are 1-8 on the road so far this season, a record that was underscored by the Athletics’ dominant showing on Friday. Sean Manaea turned in six solid innings, allowing one run and striking out six of 24 batters, while Ryan Dull, Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla combined for three scoreless frames to clinch the A’s ninth win and push them just over .500.

Blue Jays 8, Angels 7 (13 innings): There wasn’t a better moment for Jose Bautista‘s first home run of the season:

Padres 5, Marlins 3: Trevor Cahill enjoyed a triumphant return to his hometown during Friday’s series opener, delivering seven innings of one-run, six-strikeout ball for his first win of the season. He kept the game scoreless after allowing a solo home run to Marcell Ozuna in the second inning, shutting down 15 consecutive batters before allowing the Marlins a final base hit in the seventh. The Marlins did their best to contribute to Cahill’s win, issuing four hits, four runs and a run-scoring double play in the seventh to boost the Padres to a four-run lead.

Video: J.T. Riddle gets first MLB hit with a check-swing on a pitch in the dirt

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On Sunday, the Marlins promoted shortstop prospect J.T. Riddle to replace the injured Adeiny Hechavarria. MLB Pipeline ranked Riddle as the club’s 12th-best prospect. He appeared in his first game on Tuesday, but went 0-for-4 against the Braves.

Riddle was looking for his first hit on Wednesday and found it in the top of the second inning against Jaime Garcia. With an 0-2 count, Garcia threw a curve that bounced in the dirt in front of the plate. Riddle checked his swing, but still made contact with the ball, which weakly rolled down the third base line in fair territory. Adonis Garcia made a valiant effort to barehand the ball and throw across the diamond, but Riddle beat the throw and was ruled safe for his first major league hit.

Riddle’s family, in attendance at Marlins Park, was bewildered by what went on. His stepfather (and coach) was asked if that was how he envisioned J.T.’s first major league hit and he said, “No, but we will take it.” His mother said, “I just wanted him to hit the ball. I was kind of worried, but we’ll call it a hit, I guess.” His sister said, “I thought it was a crazy hit.”

The Marlins lost Wednesday’s game 5-4 to the Braves.

2017 Preview: Atlanta Braves

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Atlanta Braves.

The Braves have been on a very clear path for the last few seasons. Though the club has averaged 71 wins since the start of the 2014 campaign, the Braves’ farm system is arguably the best in baseball, a result of trading away major league caliber players like Shelby Miller. So what did the Braves do during the offseason? They got older. It’s not as contradictory as it sounds – the older players are just placeholders to allow the younger players the freedom to progress through the minor league ranks without pressure.

Newcomers to the starting rotation include 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (one year, $12.5 million), knuckleballing 42-year-old R.A. Dickey (one year, $8 million), and 30-year-old Jaime Garcia (acquired in a trade with the Cardinals). The Braves also recently acquired 35-year-old second baseman Brandon Phillips from the Reds. Meanwhile, veterans Matt Kemp (32) and Nick Markakis (33) return to patrol the outfield corners.

While the team would need to underperform to match last year’s dismal 68-93 record, the Braves are expected to once again be one of the worst teams. If there is a bright side, though, it’s that the Braves are strong up the middle, which is the best place to be strong.

Shortstop Dansby Swanson returns for his second season in the big leagues. The 23-year-old was acquired from the Diamondbacks in the aforementioned Miller deal after the club took him first overall in the 2015 draft. After making his debut in mid-August last season, Swanson hit a solid .302/.361/.442 with three home runs and 17 RBI in 145 plate appearances while playing plus defense. The Braves don’t need him to immediately live up to the hype in 2017, but it would be fun to watch if he did.

While Phillips is on the back nine of his playing career, he’s still plenty capable of being a positive influence on the field and off. He hit .291/.320/.416 with 11 home runs and 64 RBI in 584 PA last year with the Reds. Defensive metrics weren’t kind to him, suggesting he’s lost a step or two, but he’ll still turn in plenty of highlight reel-caliber plays throughout the season.

Ender Inciarte will reprise his role as the Braves’ center fielder. Known as the “other guy” the Braves acquired along with Swanson and pitching prospect Aaron Blair in the Miller trade, Inciarte flourished in Atlanta. He hit .291/.351/.381 with 34 extra-base hits, 85 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases while earning his first of what will likely be several Gold Glove Awards. The 26-year-old is signed through 2021, meaning he’ll likely hit his prime right as the Braves are ready to be competitive again.

As mentioned, veterans Kemp and Markakis will play on either side of Inciarte. Kemp is coming off a season during which he hit a combined .268/.304/.499 with 35 home runs and 108 RBI in 672 PA between the Padres and Braves, but he erased any good he did on offense by playing such poor defense. Kemp has reportedly shown up to spring training in much better shape, but as the saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Even if he’s in better shape, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to do enough to make up for the steps he’s lost due to injuries and age.

Markakis hit .269/.346/.397 with 13 home runs and 89 RBI in 684 PA last year. The defensive metrics were mixed: Baseball Reference had him as a plus-defender while FanGraphs graded him as poor. As he’d been graded a poor defender by both sites in each of the last five years, his glovework metrics for 2016 are likely just a statistical anomaly. Neither Markakis nor Kemp are players the Braves can truly rely on for the coming season.

Adonis Garcia will continue to man the hot corner for the Braves. Chipper Jones he is not. The soon-to-be 32-year-old hit .273/.311/.406 with 14 homers and 65 ribbies over 563 PA last year with subpar glovework. If the Braves were competitive, third base would be the most obvious area in which to start upgrading.

Across the diamond from Garcia is Freddie Freeman at first base. Freeman has become the face of the franchise and, at 27 years old, is the straw that stirs the drink, so to speak. He finished sixth in NL MVP balloting last season, batting a tremendous .302/.400/.569 with 34 HR and 91 RBI across 693 PA. He was by far the most valuable first baseman in baseball last year, according to FanGraphs, putting clear distance between himself and the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, who finished fourth in NL MVP voting. Freeman will certainly be the Braves’ most important player in 2017 and, as he’s signed through 2021, will try to help see the Braves’ emerging young core to competitive baseball.

Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki will handle things behind the plate. Both are average hitters with defensive shortcomings. Suzuki has been working with Dickey, suggesting that he’ll be the veteran knuckleballer’s regular catcher during the season.

As mentioned, the Braves’ rotation includes veterans Colon, Dickey, and Garcia, but it will be headed by 26-year-old Julio Teheran. The right-hander bounced back from a mediocre 2015 by making his second All-Star team and finishing with a 3.21 ERA and a 167/41 K/BB ratio across 188 innings. He’s made at least 30 starts in each of the last four seasons and is easily the Braves’ most dependable pitcher.

Garcia pitched a full season last year for the first time since 2011. Sadly, he was only able to muster a 4.67 ERA with a 150/57 K/BB ratio in 171 2/3 innings. His ability to stay healthy is still in question, and pitching well over a full season is just as much in doubt. Since the Braves are just looking for innings, though, 30 more starts will be enough.

Colon has more or less defied age-related decline. Last year, at the age of 43, he posted a 3.43 ERA and a 128/32 K/BB ratio in 191 2/3 innings. “Innings eater” and “in his forties” are usually not phrases found in the same sentence, but here we are. Like Garcia, the Braves are just looking for six to seven innings out of Colon every time he takes the mound. Anything else is gravy.

Dickey put up a 4.46 ERA with a 126/63 K/BB ratio in 169 2/3 innings for the Blue Jays last year. The 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner is likely no longer an above-average pitcher, but stranger things have happened.

The No. 5 spot in the rotation will likely be a revolving door of Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair, and Josh Collmenter.

In the bullpen, Jim Johnson will handle closing duties. The veteran is coming off of a career rebirth at the age of 33, as he pitched 64 2/3 innings last year to the tune of a 3.06 ERA, 20 saves, and a 68/20 K/BB ratio. If Johnson continues to pitch well and rack up saves, the Braves will likely look to trade him to a contending team at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Arodys Vizcaino, Ian Krol, and Paco Rodriguez will handle the innings leading up to Johnson with Vizcaino likely first in line to get saves in the event Johnson is traded or gets injured.

The Braves will open up the regular season in their brand new stadium, SunTrust Park. Their previous stadium, Turner Field, opened in 1997 and was still quite functional, but when taxpayers are paying for billionaires’ real estate investments, it’s hard to say no. Fans are bracing for interminable traffic that will make it difficult to be seated in time for first pitch. And they can’t take public transit because Cobb County has nixed attempts to fund transit lines that would make it easier for fans to access the stadium.

You have to feel for long-time Braves fans who live in the city of Atlanta. The team was intentionally deconstructed to the point of being unwatchable. Then the team up and left the city for the suburbs. For a team that has already garnered criticism due to its racist use of the “Tomahawk Chop,” it sure isn’t doing much to allay those concerns by moving into what I have been calling “White Flight Stadium.” This post on Medium explains the concept in great detail.

Contrary to common claims, new sports arenas don’t spur economic growth. Taxpayers are funding this unnecessary new sports arena that has abruptly left the city for the suburbs while restricting public transit into the new digs, intentionally cutting out a sizable portion of the local fan base. Braves fans got a raw deal on this one, which might dampen any enthusiasm the burgeoning young core of the team ends up creating.

Prediction: 70-92 Record, 5th place in NL East