Initially when J.J. Hardy sat out a game last week with back spasms the Orioles said it was merely a precautionary move early in a long season, but the shortstop had to skip Sunday’s game with more back spasms.
Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com reports that the latest issue is actually in a different spot in Hardy’s back, but says “it’s still a concern” for the 31-year-old.
Ryan Flaherty moved from third base to shortstop to sub for Hardy, who missed a lot of time with various injuries early in his career but played 158 games in 2012 and 159 games in 2013 for the Orioles. He’s the winner of back-to-back Gold Glove awards and topped 20 homers in each of the past three seasons.
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Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.