Rays' Carlos Pena homers in sixth straight game

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carlos pena headshot rays.jpgRays slugger Carlos Pena drilled yet another home run in Saturday’s 6-5 victory over the Marlins, topping Jose Canseco’s franchise record of consecutive games with a long ball.

Pena has homered in six straight contests and is now chasing the all-time record held by Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly and Dale Long, who all homered in eight straight games.  The Tampa Bay left-hander had a .169 batting average when this show of power began last Sunday and is now hitting .196.  His slugging percentage has also risen exponentially to .439 and he’s among the league-leaders in home runs with 15.

The 32-year-old Pena is in a contract year, meaning he will be seeking the big bucks in just a handful of months.  He was off to a horrendous start, but teams in need of a first baseman or DH have now certainly taken notice.

Due in large part to Pena’s hot bat, the Rays have won four of their last six games and sit atop the American League East with a MLB-best 40-22 record.  The Yankees trail by one game.

Alex Bregman shows how easy it is to manufacture “controversy” in baseball

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In most sports it takes legitimate trash talk to create off-day “controversy.” In baseball, it takes the weakest sauce. We saw how weak that sauce was yesterday.

Alex Bregman and the Houston Astros are going to face off against Nate Eovaldi and the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS tonight. It’s worth noting that earlier this season, they hit back-to-back-to-back home runs off of Eovaldi when he was pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Yesterday, in an act which was likely somewhat inspired by self-motivation, somewhat inspired by getting in Eovaldi’s head and somewhat inspired by a simple interest in having fun, Bregman took the video of those back-to-back-to-back homers off of Eovaldi and posted it to his Instagram:

Of course, since this is baseball, where even farting off-key can be construed as “showing up” the opposition or somehow disrespecting the game, it became a thing. Or at least people tried to make it become a thing.

Indeed, it took them a bit to find someone who would help them make it a thing, because Eovaldi himself didn’t care about it a bit, nor did Astros manager A.J. Hinch or Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Eventually, however, they hit pay dirt. Here’s Sox infielder Steve Pearce talking to WEEI.com:

“Wow. I don’t know why he would do that. We do our talking on the field. If he wants to run his mouth now we’ll see who is talking at the end of the series.”

My guess is that almost no one on the planet, Steve Pearce included, would care about this in a vacuum or if they allowed themselves to think through it for more than a second. Baseball culture, though — and let’s be clear about it, baseball media culture — has conditioned most of its players and participants to think that stuff like this is supposed to be controversial, so it actually takes effort not to start dancing to this kind of tune on auto-pilot.

Kudos to Hinch, Cora and Eolvaldi for exerting that effort and not dancing to it. To the press that automatically sought out comment on this and Pearce who dutifully gave it: hey, I get it. It’s hard to resist one’s conditioning. Maybe you’ll be able to resist it next time.