While the 2018 MLB season has officially come to a close, thanks to the Red Sox’ championship win last month, there’s no shortage of baseball to watch these days. The Arizona Fall League is still in full swing, with no plans to wrap up until next Saturday, and over in Tokyo, the MLB All-Star team is taking on Samurai Japan in the seven-game Japan All-Star Series.
Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina made a big impact for the team on Sunday, collecting three hits en route to the MLB All-Stars’ first win of the series. He led with a base hit off of right-hander Shinsaburo Tawata in the first inning, then returned in the fourth to leg out another broken-bat single. In the fifth, however, he hit his stride with a powerful three-run homer, scoring the Dodgers’ Kiké Hernández and Royals’ Whit Merrifield to boost the team to a 5-1 lead.
It was a triumphant follow-up to a strong season for the 36-year-old catcher, who completed his 15th campaign with the Cardinals in 2018. While his best days are well behind him, he turned in an All-Star worthy performance after batting .261/.314/.436 with 20 home runs, a .750 OPS, and 2.2 fWAR through 503 plate appearances.
Following a four-run rally in the fifth, helped along by both Merrifield’s go-ahead bunt single and Molina’s home run, Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez and Mariners right fielder Mitch Haniger tacked on a pair of back-to-back RBI hits in the seventh. In the bottom of the ninth, Japan staged a rally of their own with two run-scoring doubles off of the Cardinals’ John Brebbia, but couldn’t quite catch the MLB All-Stars as they coasted to a 7-3 win.
With three games left to play, the series will pick up again in Hiroshima on Tuesday before concluding with its final two games in Nagoya. Samurai Japan currently leads 2-1.
“We haven’t had many games like this,” Dodgers manager Dave Robert said after last night’s loss to the Yankees. That’s for sure.
There were no wild walkoff hits. There were no home runs by Dodger batters. There were two, including a grand slam, from Didi Gregorius, however, and he and New York batters pounded Hyun-Jin Ryu, perhaps the stingiest pitcher in baseball this year, for seven runs on nine hits in four and a third as the Yankees beat the Dodgers 10-2 in Dodger Stadium.
Aaron Judge, who has been slumping something terrible, opened up the scoring with a solo home run in the third. Two batters later Gary Sánchez matched him with a blast of his own. An A.J. Pollock RBI single in the bottom half of the inning made it a 2-1 game but after that the Yankees stepped on the gas with a five-run fifth highlighted by a Didi Gregorius grand slam. Gleber Torres would homer in the sixth, Judge would single home a run in the eighth and Gregorius would strike again in the ninth with a solo homer for his second blast of the night. That one gave the Yankees 57 bombs in the month of August, which sets a team record. There’s still a week left in August too.
As for the Dodgers, Ryu was uncharacteristically rusty, though it probably should be noted that this was his second poor outing in a row. struggled through his second straight sub-par outing. The last time out he lost to Atlanta. allowing all four Braves’ runs in 5 2/3 innings as the Dodgers fell 4-3. His ERA came in to this game at a still-MLB-best 1.64, but those seven runs in fewer than five — his shortest outing in nearly two months — puffed it up to an even 2.00.
The Yankees scored just nine runs in their three losses in Oakland. Last night they beat that by one. And they brought themselves to within one game of the Dodgers for the best record in all of baseball, which would determine home field in the World Series should these two powerhouses meet.
For now, though, Roberts is limiting the implications of all of this to Friday night, saying “fortunately, it only counts for one loss.” Yep. But man, it was an ugly one.