Seize the Means of Run Production

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Rats, raccoons, possums, and not just one no-hitter, but two! This week’s Week That Was explores the historical -- and unprecedented events in Major League Baseball.

John Means no-hit the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, in an effort that was near-perfect. Means especially did a fantastic job with throwing first-pitch strikes, and remaining ahead of 26 of the 27 hitters he faced. Means also racked up 26 swinging strikes -- the most in a game by a Baltimore pitcher since the start of the pitch-tracking era, which began in 2008. With 50 strikeouts on the year, Means now carries a fantastic 1.37 ERA through 46 innings pitched.

Just days later on Friday, Wade Miley no-hit the Cleveland Indians in a 3-0 win for the Cincinnati Reds. Cleveland only had one well-hit ball on the night, a scorching line-out off the bat of Franmil Reyes. Miley took a perfect game into the sixth inning; there were 114 pitches thrown by Miley, including 72 strikes, as he walked one batter and struck out eight. Interestingly enough, the game was delayed by rain for an hour and 34 minutes, which adds to the intricacy of this performance. Miley isn’t a flamethrower, nor is he known for racking up strikeouts, so instead he pitched to contact for a majority of groundouts. Miley tossed the first Reds no-hitter since Homer Bailey’s no-no in 2013, and the second time this year that Cleveland found themselves at the wrong end of a no-hitter.

Means and Miley join Joe Musgrove and Carlos Rodon in throwing the third and fourth no-hitters of the 2021 season. With four no-hitters before May 8th (five if you count Madison Bumgarner’s seven inning effort), these are the most to occur this early in the Major Leagues since 1917.

There has been some discussion around whether this may be a byproduct of MLB’s new deadened ball, which may have taken away a few home runs as data suggests at this point in time: fewer home runs are in fact being hit.

The league as a whole is batting .233 through Saturday evening; there have been 1,104 home runs through April and the first week of May. As a quick comparison, the league batted .245, with 2,304 home runs hit in 2020’s shortened 60-game stint.

Notable Performances

Carlos Rodon continues to carry his strong April into May; on Friday, he tossed six scoreless frames in a victory over the Kansas City Royals. The southpaw allowed just five hits, all singles, while striking out eight. He induced 14 swinging strikes in his 92 pitches and now holds a 0.58 ERA through five starts.

Rodon’s teammate, Dylan Cease, is also experiencing a career renaissance in 2021; Cease appears to have resolved the command issues that pushed his FIP significantly higher than his ERA in years past. Cease is now 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in 30.1 innings pitched, over six starts. White Sox starters now lead MLB with a 2.77 ERA, including a 2.45 mark (35 ER/128.2 IP) with 142 strikeouts over the last 23 games.

Max Scherzer dazzled on Saturday allowing just one run over 7 1/3 innings off two hits. The 14 batters he fanned were a season-high; he’s now thrown eleven 14+ strikeout games over the course of his career. He has also passed Mickey Lolich on MLB’s all-time career strikeouts list, with 2,833.

Brandon Crawford and the Giants are on a tear, climbing to the top of the NL West loudly. Crawford belted his seventh home run of the season on Saturday, and his sixth on Wednesday. He’s well more than half-way to his last full-season total of 11 bombs in 2019. Buster Posey is also in the midst of a career revival; he hit his eighth home run of the season on Friday. The 34-year-old, after a year away from baseball, is playing like he never left, with eight home runs and a .397/.463/.767 slash line, contributing to a 1.232 OPS through 82 plate appearances.

Matt Duffy of the Cubs has been a pleasant surprise - the versatile 30-year-old has a .432 on base percentage in 20 games. Duffy was a late addition to the roster coming out of spring training -- the Cubs’ early injuries and offensive struggles have given Duffy the opportunity to shine in a bench or utility role. So far this season, he’s hitting .282 with a .417 OPS over 21 games.

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Honor Roll

Adrian Houser (2nd career home run on Saturday), Xander Bogaerts (3-for-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI on Saturday), Kevin Gausman (6 IP, 3H 1R, 1BB, 7K on Saturday), Sean Manaea (7 ⅓ IP, 1 ER, 2H, 1BB, 10K on Friday), J.T. Realmuto (3-for-5, 2R, 2 RBI on Friday), Adolis Garcia (2-for-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, SB on Saturday), Taijuan Walker (7.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K on Thursday), Sonny Gray (7 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 8 K on Wednesday), Marcell Ozuna (2-for-4, grand slam on Wednesday), Cole Irvin (8.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K on Tuesday), Cedric Mullins (3-for-5, HR, 2B, 2 RBI on Monday), Tyler Anderson (6 2/3 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 5 K on Monday), Nick Castellanos (5-for-6, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R on Sunday)

Injury Report

Joey Votto was placed on the 10-day IL with a fractured thumb; Votto suffered the injury when he was hit by a Dallas Keuchel changeup on Wednesday. He is expected to be sidelined for a month. Shogo Akiyama was later recalled.

On Friday, Ian Happ was placed on the 10-day IL with a left rib contusion, retroactive to May 4. To replace Happ, the Cubs brough up outfielder Nick Martini, a minor league signing this offseason, who had brief tastes of the big leagues in 2018 and 2019. So far he’s exhibited a good eye at the plate as he can take walks, while hitting righties very well.

The Rangers reactivated Khris Davis on Saturday; Davis has been sidelined since late March with a strained left quad that he suffered during a Cactus League game. Eli White was optioned for the roster spot.

Manny Pina of the Milwaukee Brewers was reinstated from the 10-day IL; Pina had been out since April 24 with a fractured left big toe. He'll be the backup to Omar Narvaez, currently on the 10-day IL; he is eligible to come off the IL starting on May 11. Corbin Burnes, the Brewers’ emerging number two starter will throw a bullpen on Monday, and is expected to be activated next week. In 29 innings pitched this year, he carries a 2-2 record alongside a 1.53 ERA, and 49 strikeouts.

Chris Archer was transferred from the 10-day IL to 60 Day IL; this is more of a procedural move to ensure there is a roster spot for backup catcher Kevan Smith. The 32-year-old right-hander has been out since early-April due to a right forearm strain and is still a few weeks away from a potential return.

The Twins were perhaps delaying the inevitable, but Byron Buxton was placed on the 10-day IL on Friday with a Grade 2 hip strain. Buxton has been at the forefront of headlines, slashing .370/.408/.772 with nine homers, 19 runs scored, 17 RBI and five swipes in 24 games.

Christian Yelich was placed on the 10-day injured list on Tuesday with what the Brewers are calling a lower back strain. An MRI on April 24 revealed no structural damage; Yelich has had a long history of back problems, so this is a rather difficult situation to navigate. Yelich returned to the lineup on May 3 after spending three weeks on the IL, only to return to the IL the next day.

The White Sox announced Monday that center fielder Luis Robert was diagnosed with a Grade 3 right hip flexor strain, an injury which he suffered while attempting to leg out an infield single on Sunday. A Grade 3 strain is a complete tear, so surgery hasn't been ruled out. The South Siders will miss his defensive prowess, but Robert has been especially excellent at the plate, touting a .316/.359/.463 batting line with four steals and one home run in 103 overall plate appearances.

Ronald Acuña, Jr. was diagnosed with a left pinkie contusion on Saturday, after taking a 98 MPH pitch from Sam Coonrod. The X-rays have come back negative, hence the contusion diagnosis, and is considered day-to-day; the good news is it seems as if there is no significant injury.

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Batting Around

So was it a rat or raccoon? A kerfuffle between Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil was caught on video by Molly Knight on Friday night with the caption “The Mets may have gotten into a tunnel fight between innings.” Lindor clarified in a press conference after the game that the boisterous event was an argument between whether a wildlife encounter in the tunnel was either a New York City rat, or perhaps a raccoon. McNeil later backed up Lindor’s story, further offering that the unidentified animal might have been a possum.

The Mets have not announced whether a zoologist will be consulted to help identify any past or future trespassing animals. Whether or not Lindor and McNeil’s story is believable has been up for amusing debate. However, the takeaway should be that whatever happened between the Mets infielders isn’t serious, and that the Mets winning the game was clearly the more important topic at hand.

Rats, raccoons, possums, skunks? What animals will Mets players encounter next? Join us again next week as we’ll recap more of the stories and updates from around Major League Baseball.