Jackie Bradley

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The Home Run Derby is already being blamed for Aaron Judge’s struggles

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about how every year the Home Run Derby is made the scapegoat for players’ second-half struggles. Scores of studies have found inconclusive evidence that the Derby has any meaningful influence on a player in the second half of the season. The most reasonable explanation is simple regression toward the mean.

Aaron Judge, by way of being baseball’s most productive hitter and winning the Derby, had the most eyes on him to begin the second half of the 2017 season. In four games since the All-Star break, Judge has one measly hit — an infield single — with three walks and six strikeouts in 21 plate appearances.

Already, the Derby is being blamed for Judge’s impotent bat. At the end of his column on the subject, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes:

He looked far fresher in Game 2, and Girardi said he planned to rest Judge either Tuesday or Wednesday in Minnesota. Nevertheless, to dismiss the Derby Jinx outright is to ignore both history and common sense. The Phillies’ Bobby Abreu in 2005 (18 homers in 323 at-bats pre-Derby, six homers in 265 at-bats afterward) and the Mets’ David Wright in 2006 (20 homers in 339 at-bats pre-Derby, six homers in 243 at-bats post-Derby) both struggled greatly.

To his credit, Davidoff also mentioned that Judge also hit into some bad luck, particularly in the second game of Sunday’s double-header against the Red Sox. Judge hit a line drive right to Mookie Betts in right field, and he crushed a baseball 411 feet to center field that was caught at the wall by center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. If the ball had gone one foot further, however, the column probably doesn’t get written and the Derby doesn’t become the scapegoat.

Judge appears to be the most level-headed about his performance. He said, “You’re going to have your ups and downs. You’re going to have your times when you do everything right and you still get out. It’s just part of it. I’m happy with the swing. I’m happy with a lot of the swings I took the last couple of days. But you don’t get any results from it. That’s baseball. That’s the game we play.”

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 6, Blue Jays 5: Miguel Cabrera wins it with a walkoff walk in the 11th. Or I suppose you could say Lucas Harrell lost it by issuing that bases loaded walk. Except, he actually didn’t get the loss because Jeff Beliveau issued the walk to the runner who was forced in on the walk and was thus responsible for the losing run. Really, though, when the bases get loaded due to a couple of walks and a fielding error and then the game-ending run is walked in, everyone can take a piece of the credit for it. Lost in all of this was that the Tigers bullpen tossed five shutout innings allowing only one hit. That’s a pretty nice collective effort too.

Royals 4, Rangers 3: If you think the walkoff walk was somewhat dubious way for a team to win a game, how about a walkoff two-run single that should’ve been a routine fly ball that would’ve sent the game into the 10th inning except for the fact that the right fielder lost the ball in the sun? Check out Shin-Soo Choo‘s follies in the bottom of the ninth:

Sun happens.

Pirates 4, Cardinals 3: How about a more conventional walkoff? Pittsburgh was down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth and rallied for the win with a Jordy Mercer RBI double and Adam Frazier‘s walkoff RBI single, both of which came off of Brett Cecil. On Friday Josh Bell hit a walkoff three-run homer off of Seung-Hwan Oh, so I guess it didn’t matter who the Cardinals ran out there.

Yankees 3, Red Sox 0; Red Sox 3, Yankees 0: After playing for 16 innings and nearly 6 hours on Saturday I’m sure the Red Sox and Yankees loved to have a double header yesterday. Especially a day-night affair. Even better: the split here meant that, standings-wise, everything cancelled out. But they’re ballplayers and that’s what they do. In the first game CC Sabathia and three relievers combined to shut Boston out on four hits with a Didi Gregorius homer highlighting the win. In the nightcap Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer and Dustin Pedroia singled in a run as David Price tossed eight shutout innings.

Price had some help. Watch Jackie Bradley Jr. save the shutout with a home-run-robbing snag:

 

Nationals 14, Reds 4: A five-run fifth inning from Washington broke things open in this laugher as the Nats rung up Homer Bailey for eight runs on eight hits. Washington hit five homers with Daniel Murphy slugging two — three-run and a two-run jacks — and Anthony Rendon, Adam Lind and Jose Lobaton all going deep as well.

Rockies 13, Mets 4: Colorado had a 9-0 lead after three and a half innings, highlighted by a Nolan Arenado three-run blast. Seven of those nine runs came off of Steven Matz who couldn’t even retire a batter in the second inning. Late in the game Charlie Blackmon hit an inside-the-park homer. Sorta. That’s what it looked like in practice as the ball hit the wall and bounced onto the field and Blackmon motored around the bases. But the ball actually cleared the fence and Curtis Granderson — who knew that a replay review would’ve confirmed a home run — just casually retrieved it. Since either result of a replay review would’ve resulted in a home run, there was no review and it remained an inside-the-park homer since that was the initial ruling on the field.

Dodgers 3, Marlins 2: Los Angeles remains hot, winning its ninth game in a row and sweeping the Marlins. Rich Hill allowed one run over five innings and Justin Turner went 2-for-3 with a homer and a sac fly. It would’ve been a larger margin of victory but Marcell Ozuna robbed Kiké Hernandez of a homer with a great catch.

Cubs 8, Orioles 0: Jose Quintana was fantastic in his debut with the Cubs, tossing seven shutout innings and striking out 12. For years he struggled with run support on the South Side, but it was not an issue for his first game with the Northsiders as Chicago built a 4-0 lead after two innings and then got two runs homers from both Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo later.

Braves 7, Diamondbacks 1: The Braves probably want to trade Jaime Garcia. Him allowing only one run and striking out seven over seven innings helps that some. Matts Kemp and Adams hit homers for Atlanta, the former’s a three-run blast, the latter’s a solo shot.

Mariners 7, White Sox 6: Chicago had a 5-0 lead thanks to a two Avisail Garcia homers, but that didn’t hold up as the Mariners came back and Nelson Cruz hit a homer in the top of the 10th to put Seattle up for good. It was the second straight game in which he hit a go-ahead home run. Seattle has won four in a row while the White Sox have now lost fourt straight.

Phillies 5, Brewers 2: Nick Williams hit a grand slam to account for four of the Phillies’ five runs. The slam came off of Tyler Webb. The last time Williams faced Webb was in a Triple-A game last month. He homered off of Webb then too. It’s nice to be a big leaguer for only a few weeks and already have the number of another big leaguer.

Astros 5, Twins 3Mike Fiers struck out a season-high 11 over seven and Nori Aoki had two hits and drove in two. Houston took two of three from the Twins. Can we just fast-forward to the Astros-Dodgers World Series now?

 

Angels 4, Rays 3: Tied 2-2 in the eighth when C.J. Cron a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth. The Rays threatened in the ninth and did pick up one run, but the Angels escaped with the sweep-avoiding win.

Athletics 7, Indians 3: Trevor Bauer allowed four runs on three hits and walked three while working only two-thirds of an inning, losing this one before it even really began. His counterpart, Sean Manaea, allowed only two over seven innings and struck out eight. Matt Joyce, Ryon Healy and Jaycob Brugman each drove in two runs. Oakland sweeps the Indians in three, reducing Cleveland’s division lead to one and a half games.

Padres 7, Giants 1: Corey Spangenberg and Hector Sanchez each hit three-run homers before the third inning was over as San Diego wins in a laugher. Sanchez hit a two-run walk-off homer on Saturday night. That’s about as good a weekend as a backup catcher can have.

Bradley Jr. robbing Judge’s HR highlights Red Sox’s win over Yankees

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BOSTON — Major league home run leader Aaron Judge hit a towering fly ball toward the triangle in Fenway Park’s center field, and Jackie Bradley Jr. began drifting over toward the bullpen wall.

That’s when Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts knew.

“Jackie does this little thing where, midway, while the ball is in the air, he starts timing it,” said Betts, who hit a two-run homer and also scored Boston’s third run on Sunday night to help the Red Sox win 3-0 and split their doubleheader with the New York Yankees.

“Once I saw him start timing it, I figured he had a chance to catch it. He made it look easy,” said Betts, who had three hits in the night game but was happy to join the cheers for Bradley. “It made the hair stand up on my arms.”

David Price (5-2) struck out eight in eight innings, and Bradley went over the bullpen wall to rob Judge and send the Yankees to their first shutout of the season.

A day after the teams played 16 innings over 5 hours, 50 minutes, they spent another long day at Fenway Park and ended the four-game series the way they started: with the Yankees trailing the first-place Red Sox by 3 1/2 games in the AL East.

CC Sabathia allowed two hits over six innings in the opener, and Didi Gregorius hit a solo home run to give New York a 3-0 victory.

It was also 3-0 in the nightcap when Judge, the winner of the All-Star Home Run Derby, came up with a runner on first and launched one toward the 420-foot marker in center. Bradley stalked it, and at the last moment leaped against the wall that juts out from right-center to pull the ball in.

“I just hit it to the wrong part of the park and the wrong center fielder,” said Judge, who failed to reach base for the first time in 43 games. “Jackie’s been making plays like that for a long time.”

The sold-out crowd gave a huge cheer, and another after Matt Holliday struck out to end the inning. The Red Sox gathered at the edge of the dugout steps to congratulate Betts – with Price pushing his way through to thank him.

“It was special,” Bradley said. “It was electric. It was just a fun moment to be a part of.”

Price allowed seven hits. One night after giving up a tying homer in the ninth to send the game into extra innings, Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 24th save.

Masahiro Tanaka (7-9) gave up three runs on eight hits in 7 2/3 innings, striking out nine. The Yankees are the last team in the majors to be shut out.

“We probably gave one away and we stole one,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “They got one off our closer, and we got one off their closer.”

Betts homered over the billboard above the Green Monster, his 17th of the year, with one out in the third inning to end Boston’s scoreless streak at 24 innings. He made it 3-0 when he singled to lead off the sixth, took second on an error by second baseman Starlin Castro, third on a groundout and scored on Dustin Pedroia‘s second hit of the game.