With Brandon Phillips sidelined due to a hand injury, Billy Hamilton was moved back into the leadoff spot tonight against the Twins. He responded by stealing four bases as part of an 11-7 victory.
Hamilton went 2-for-4 with two walks and three runs scored on the night. He had two steals in the second inning, one in the third, and one more in the fifth.
On the strength of 19 steals this month — including a five-steal game on June 14 against the Cubs — Hamilton is now up to 40 stolen bases on the year. That leads the majors by a wide margin. Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, who ranks second in the majors, has 26 steals.
To put things in further context, Hamilton has more steals than 15 out of 30 teams in the majors. You are reading that correctly. While it’s a remarkable feat, imagine what Hamilton could do if he got on base more often. He’s hitting .224 with a .273 on-base percentage through 67 games this season.
It was reported over the weekend that the Dodgers and Cubs were among the teams with interest in a trade for Mets left-hander Jon Niese. While the southpaw is a logical target for both teams, a match with the Dodgers isn’t considered imminent:
Nothing too surprising here, as teams are likely still in the early stages of evaluating the starting pitcher market. Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir are among the big names that could be dealt, so Niese falls into the secondary category with the likes of Mike Leake, Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Mat Latos, and Dan Haren. With questions in the back-end of their rotation, the Dodgers will be active.
Niese has posted a 4.12 ERA and 58/27 K/BB ratio in 83 innings across 14 starts this season. The Mets have gone back to a six-man rotation to make room for prospect Steven Matz, but a trade involving Niese could change that dynamic. The 28-year-old is making a $7 million salary this season and $9 million in 2016. His contract includes a $10 million club option (or $500,000 buyout) for 2017 and an $11 million club option (or $500,000 buyout) for 2018.
Today is the final All-Star game voting update for the National League before the starters are announced Sunday and it looks like only two spots are still realistically up for grabs.
Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals has a narrow lead over Todd Frazier of the Reds at third base and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals has a narrow lead over Norichika Aoki of the Giants for the third outfielder spot. Of course, Aoki has a fractured fibula, Holliday may still be on the disabled list for the All-Star game, and the second-ranked outfielder, Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, is out for two months with a wrist injury. So … who knows.
Here are the position-by-position numbers:
Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado had another big game on Sunday despite losing to the Giants, as he went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run and a solo homer. It’s his third multi-homer effort in his last six games, and he’s now on a 15-game hitting streak. During that streak, Arenado is batting .379/.410/.966 with nine home runs and 21 RBI.
If Todd Frazier weren’t in the National League, Arenado would be a lock to start at third base in the All-Star Game. Here’s a comparison of the two players:
Arenado, 24, will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after this season. As a result, the Rockies will be under some pressure to sign him to a contract extension which would cover some or all four years of his arbitration eligibility and potentially a year or two beyond that.
Mets pitching prospect Steven Matz, making his major league debut against the Reds on Sunday, allowed a solo home run to Brandon Phillips to lead off the ballgame. It was all uphill from there.
Matz wound up going 7 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts on 110 pitches. As impressive as that was, it was what he did at the plate that truly won hearts and minds. The rookie went 3-for-3 with a two-run double in the second inning and added a two-run single in the sixth. He is the first pitcher in major league history to drive in four runs in his debut, per ESPN Stats & Info.
The Mets scored seven runs overall, the first time they’d scored more than four in a game since June 14. In fact, they had been held to two or fewer runs in each of their last seven games coming into play Sunday (including the conclusion of Saturday’s game which was postponed and resumed prior to Matz’s debut). Only four Mets hitters have accrued four-plus RBI in a game this season: Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy, and Curtis Granderson. Duda was the last to do it, on May 21. The Mets have seen only 24 three-hit games this season and just one between June 15 and Sunday: Curtis Granderson on June 25 against the Brewers.
Matz, 24, entered the season rated as baseball’s 33rd-best prospect overall by MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. In 14 starts and one relief appearance with Triple-A Las Vegas — a notoriously pitcher-unfriendly environment — Matz posted a 2.19 ERA with a 94/31 K/BB ratio in 90 1/3 innings.