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#pounditSunday, July 3, 2022

Baseball

Red Sox pitcher not too impressed by Wrigley Field

Josh Winckowski throws a pitch

May 28, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Josh Winckowski (73) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Wrigley Field is one of the most historic sports venues in the world, but one player who experienced it for the first time over the weekend was not exactly blown away.

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Josh Winckowski threw six solid innings in a loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. The right-hander allowed six hits and one earned and struck out six. After the outing, he was asked for his first impression of Wrigley Field. Winckowski called the ballpark environment “underwhelming.”

Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are the two oldest ballparks in America. The Red Sox and Cubs are also known for having two of the most rabid fan bases in sports. Winckowski didn’t feel that on Saturday, but that probably has a lot to do with the current state of things.

The Cubs have not won a playoff series since 2017. They won just 71 games last year and are 32-46 this year. Fans at Wrigley Field probably are not feeling all that great about their team’s prospects, which could have led to the “underwhelming” vibe that Winckowski felt.

Rival team could sign Jacob deGrom next season?

Jacob deGrom ready to throw

Sep 3, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom has the option to terminate his current contract with after this season. If he does so, Mets fans may not like the team that is reportedly an early front-runner to land him.

ESPN MLB insider Buster Olney reported Saturday that “some corners of the industry” believe that the Atlanta Braves could be the favorites to sign deGrom if he does opt out of his current deal.

“There is a perception in some corners of the industry that if Jacob deGrom follows through with what he said in the spring and opts out of his Mets’ contract, the Braves will be the favorites to land him,” Olney wrote on Twitter.

In early April, deGrom told reporters that he intended to opt out of his contract following the 2022 season. By doing so, deGrom would leave the $30.5 million remaining on his deal in search of a bigger payday.

While deGrom hasn’t pitched in the majors in over a year (although he’s scheduled to make a rehab start Sunday for the Mets’ Single-A affiliate), he’s still among the best in the game when healthy. deGrom suffered a stress reaction in his right scapula in late March and hasn’t pitched at all this season. The two-time Cy Young Award winner went 7-2 with a 1.08 ERA in 15 starts last year.

With billionaire owner Steve Cohen and his apparent willingness to spare no expense to help the team, it could be difficult to picture a scenario where the Mets are outbid by their division rival for one of the top pitchers in franchise history.

Video: Cardinals hit four consecutive home runs against Phillies

Dylan Carlson hitting the fourth-straight home run of the inning for the St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals’ offense put on a fireworks display just a few days before the Fourth of July.

In the first inning of Saturday’s game with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cardinals hit four straight home runs off of Phillies starter Kyle Gibson to get out to a 5-0 lead. Nolan Arenado started off the homer barrage with a two-run frozen rope to left field. Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez and Dylan Carlson all followed with solo homers. All four blasts were hit with no outs in the inning.

Gibson has now allowed 13 home runs in 16 starts this season, tied for the 19th-most among MLB pitchers. Gibson gave up 17 long balls last season, and a career-high 24 in 2017. The right-hander was pulled after four-plus innings on Saturday, and allowed a total of six earned runs on seven hits.

Back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers are incredibly rare in baseball. Including the Cardinals, the feat has only happened 11 times in MLB history. The Milwaukee Braves were the first team to hit four straight homers in an inning when Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock and Frank Thomas did so in the 7th inning against the Cincinnati Reds on June 8, 1961. The most recent team to do so was the Chicago White Sox in 2020, when Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez hit consecutive home runs in the fifth inning against, coincidentally, the Cardinals.

Video: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and father combine for cool ceremonial first pitch

Vladimir Guerrero and father

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and his father Vladimir Guerrero combined for a cool ceremonial first pitch on Saturday in Toronto.

The Jays were doing a combined bobblehead giveaway Saturday for the first game of their doubleheader with the Tampa Bay Rays. The combined bobblehead featured the Guerrero father and son duo.

Vladdy is a former AL MVP and Baseball Hall of Fame member. The 47-year-old played eight seasons with Montreal and decided to wear his Expos jersey for the ceremonial first pitch.

Vlad Jr. said that he is putting the autographed ball from the first pitch in his locker.

In addition to making the Hall of Fame, Vladdy was a 9-time All-Star, 8-time Silver Slugger and a former Home Run Derby champion.

Vlad Jr. was the runner-up to Shohei Ohtani in AL MVP voting last season. At 23, he seems like he is on track to follow his father’s path to Cooperstown if he keeps going strong.

Padres may make radical change when Fernando Tatis Jr. returns

Fernando Tatis Jr. running

Feb 28, 2020; Peoria, Arizona, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr against the Chicago Cubs during a spring training game at Peoria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres expect to have Fernando Tatis Jr. back within the next month, but his return from injury will leave the team with a bit of a conundrum positionally.

The Padres have been impressed with the defensive ability of Ha-Seong Kim, who has been filling in at the position with Tatis hurt. There is at least some consideration being given to moving Tatis to center field upon his return, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The consideration exists both to keep Kim’s glove on the field and to protect Tatis from potential re-injury.

Tatis had previously been adamant about playing shortstop, but when Rosenthal asked him about a potential move to center, the Padres star admitted he was open to a position change “if it means we’re going to win more ballgames.” That answer was similar to the one he gave when asked about the prospect last year.

The Padres experimented with Tatis in the outfield at the end of the 2021 season, so the idea is not new. The thinking seems to be that playing there could allow him to show off more of his athleticism with a lower risk of injury. Of course, Tatis would run the risk of diving attempts or running into walls that could cause physical issues, but that will be true of him anywhere on the field.

The team has also gotten little offense from center fielder Trent Grisham, so there is motivation to try to find an upgrade there. Clearly, no decision has been made, but the situation bears watching.

Nationals make big decision regarding Dave Martinez

Dave Martinez looking on

Jul 3, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez (4) looks on during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals are well out of contention for 2022, but their faith in their current management appears to be unshaken.

The Nationals announced Saturday that they have picked up the 2023 contract option on manager Dave Martinez. General manager Mike Rizzo will also be retained for 2023. Both were essentially lame ducks, with the team holding club options on their respective contracts for next season.

There was some speculation that Martinez may be on the hot seat, but this news should relieve at least some of the pressure. Truthfully, there is not a ton he can do about the current struggles the team is having. He won the World Series with Washington in 2019, but injuries and underperformance have left the team’s roster short of talent since then, and the results have been poor. The whole scenario has been somewhat taxing on Martinez, to say the least.

Martinez, now in his fifth season with Washington, carries a managerial record of 295-330 as of Saturday.

Nolan Arenado got favorable call while hitting for cycle

Nolan Arenado on the bases

Nolan Arenado on Friday hit for the cycle in his St. Louis Cardinals’ 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, and he got a little help in the process.

Arenado got the tough part out of the way early by hitting an RBI triple in the first. Then he smacked a 2-run homer in the third to put his Cardinals up 3-0. In the sixth, Arenado doubled.

That took us to the eighth inning, with Arenado needing a single for the cycle.

The Cardinals third baseman hit a hard ground ball to third that was bobbled by Matt Vierling, who threw way over the first baseman’s head. The scorekeeper ruled it an infield single and that Arenado advanced to second on an error.

Here is the play in question:

The ball was hit hard, but should an MLB third baseman be expected to make that play? Arenado certainly would be expected to make that play on defense.

“I knew it was a tough play at third. I knew I hit it hard … however they scored it, I was definitely OK with it,” Arenado said after the game.

Maybe he got the favorable call because the cycle was on the line.

Arenado is the first Cardinals player to hit for the cycle since Mark Grudzielanek in 2005. Arenado is also just one of three third basemen in MLB history to hit for multiple cycles in their career.

Joe Musgrove threw a little shade at Justin Turner

Joe Musgrove with his hat backwards

Apr 9, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Joe Musgrove (44) pose with his game ball after his no-hitter against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers fans are running wild with a quote delivered by rival pitcher Joe Musgrove about Justin Turner after Thursday night’s game.

The Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres 3-1 on Thursday thanks to two home runs from Turner. The Dodgers third baseman went 3-for-3 and had all of the team’s RBIs and all but two of their hits.

Both home runs came off Musgrove, who said after the game that he wasn’t too concerned about Turner’s bat entering his start. Musgrove was asked after the game whether Turner was a hitter who gave the pitcher difficulty.

“I don’t know what his numbers are against me,” Musgrove said. “I don’t feel like — when he’s in the box — I don’t feel like he’s a huge threat. He’s a good hitter. He’s done a lot of damage to the teams that I’ve been on in the past. But of all the guys in that lineup, I didn’t feel like he was a huge threat. I just didn’t execute pitches very well. He put some good swings on it.”

Though Musgrove acknowledged that Turner is a good hitter and has done damage in the past, he slighted the third baseman by saying he didn’t regard Turner as a “huge threat.”

Turner has been a big hitter for the Dodgers since joining them in 2014 (.293 average, .862 OPS) and has been especially valuable in the postseason. He’s experiencing a down season like teammates Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy. But saying he’s not a huge threat is the kind of quote that can become bulletin-board material.

Max Scherzer had cool gesture for minor league team

Max Scherzer looking on

Oct 17, 2021; Cumberland, Georgia, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) has his glove and hat inspected between innings against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning in game two of the 2021 NLCS at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

When MLB stars play in the minor leagues on rehab assignments, tradition dictates that they use their big league salary to pay for a high-quality postgame meal in the clubhouse. Max Scherzer apparently went above and beyond that in his rehab start on Wednesday.

Scherzer pitched for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the New York Mets’ Double-A affiliate, as he worked his way back from an oblique injury. According to Jake Mintz of FOX Sports, Scherzer treated the team to a postgame dinner that featured bone-in ribeye, filet mignon, and lobster, with the price running above $7,000.

The best may have been yet to come, though. On Friday, Rumble Ponies players were gifted Apple AirPods courtesy of Scherzer. There was no word on which model of AirPods Scherzer got the team, but even the cheapest pair retails for $129.

It’s safe to say Scherzer won some fans in the locker room by going above and beyond with his treatment. Sure, when you consider how much he’s making, it probably wasn’t a huge sacrifice for him. Still, most guys would just cover the meal and be done with it.

Max Scherzer return date for Mets revealed

Max Scherzer ready to pitch

May 13, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer (21) pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets are set to add an ace back into their starting rotation in the coming days.

On Friday, Max Scherzer told reporters that he will return to the mound on Tuesday against the Reds in Cincinnati for his first major league start since mid-May.

Scherzer further told reporters that the plan is for him to throw around 90 pitches in six innings, but that could change depending on how he feels. He also credited Mets pitchers Trevor Williams and David Peterson for stepping up during his absence.

Earlier in June, an MLB insider reported that Scherzer was a possibility to start last Sunday’s game against the Marlins in Miami. The 37-year-old didn’t return on that date. Instead, Scherzer on Wednesday pitched in the last of his two rehab starts for the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies. In his 80-pitch effort against the Hartford Yard Goats, Scherzer allowed three runs, including two earned, and four hits in 4.2 innings. He also struck out eight and walked one.

In Scherzer’s first rehab start on June 20 with Binghamton, he gave up two runs and three hits while striking out six batters on 65 pitches in 3.1 innings.

The Mets have been able to maintain their lead in the National League East with a 22-15 record in the 37 games since Scherzer strained his oblique on May 18. But they’ll likely need the right-hander, who has a 2.54 ERA with 59 strikeouts and 11 walks in eight starts this year, to help hold off the hard-charging Atlanta Braves, who entered Friday 3.5 games out of first place.