Starting Nine: Plenty of on-and off—field drama to go around as baseball hits the weekend
Friday's headlines featured as much off-field drama as any on the field. Read up on the latest Mets drama, another epic comeback by the Royals and more. Here are the nine items you need to know headed into another weekend of baseball.
1. The Red Sox celebrated the career of David Ortiz Friday night and permanently retired his No. 34. With a Dominican Republic flag draped over the Green Monster, Ortiz was honored in a pregame ceremony that culminated with a memorable first pitch.
So THAT'S why he was a DH 😂 pic.twitter.com/mgJQdbQqy6Article continues below ...
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 23, 2017
A little more than three hours later, Boston wrapped up a 9–4 win against the Angels. Hanley Ramirez did his best Ortiz impression by tucking a home run just inside Pesky's Pole down the right-field line, only to be outdone by catcher Sandy Leon's three-hit, four-RBI day. The Red Sox are currently tied with the Yankees for first place in the AL East.
2. After catapulting from behind to beat the Red Sox Wednesday with an eighth-inning grand slam, the Royals outdid themselves Friday by scoring four runs with two outs in the ninth to beat the Blue Jays, 5–4.
Supported by a three-run lead with two outs and two runners on, Toronto's Ryan Tepera yielded an RBI single from Yunel Escobar. Then Alex Gordon scored Brandon Moss on a single to make it a one-run game before Whit Merrifield clubbed a double down the left field line, scoring both Escobar and Gordon to snatch a win out of the Blue Jays' hands. The victory puts Kansas City only three games out of first place in a packed AL Central race.
His first career walk-off wHit 👇 pic.twitter.com/0JQcrVLWfq
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) June 24, 2017
3. With all the negativity surrounding the Nationals' bullpen, the relief corps turned out to be the team's biggest strength in a come-from-behind, extra-inning win over the Reds on Friday. All five runs scoring against Washington went to Stephen Strasburg's record, with Matt Grace taking over for the veteran starter in the sixth inning. From that point on, four Nationals relievers combined to throw five shutout innings, allowing only one hit and a walk.
Bryce Harper sent everybody home with a two-out, 10th-inning single that caromed off the right field wall to give Washington only its second win in the last five games.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 24, 2017
4. With an ESPN report surfacing Friday that the Mets are “open for business,” infielder Asdrubal Cabrera essentially offered himself up as the first to leave. Frustrated with a positional move from shortstop to second base ahead of this weekend's series with the Giants, Cabrera sounded off about his status with the Mets.
“If they don't have any plans [for] me, I think it's time to make a move,” Cabrera told Newsday's Marc Carig. “I think that's the right move for Cabrera and my family.”
The Mets continue to show loyalty to Jose Reyes, who entered Friday as a .193/.265/.321 hitter. Reyes accounts for the second-lowest batting average, lowest on-base percentage and second-lowest slugging percentage among qualified National League hitters. Piling on to Cabrera's frustration, he's reportedly insecure about his $8.5 team option for 2018 being picked up. Carig said Cabrera would only agree to move to third base last month if the Mets picked up his option, a request Mets GM Sandy Alderson flatly denied. New York is certainly a team to keep an eye on in the coming weeks as it gears up for a potential selloff, with Cabrera potentially the first one out the door.
5. Before ever taking the field in a pivotal series against the Rockies, the Dodgers' received awful news about the status of 20-year-old wunderkind Julio Urias. The left-hander needs anterior capsule surgery in his left shoulder, a procedure that will sideline him for the next 12 to 14 months. That puts Urias on track for a return in 2018, leaving the Dodgers with no additional rotation help this season.
L.A.'s rotation has been anchored by Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy. Statistically speaking, that's a very sound trio. But consider that Wood spent most of last season injured and McCarthy last made 30-plus starts in 2014. The Dodgers have a fragile group on their hands, especially when considering Kershaw's neck problems last year. No longer having Urias as a call-up this year is a huge blow, one that could lead the team to explore the trade market over the next five or so weeks.
6. The Orioles are on the cusp of major league history they want no part of. Friday's 15–5 loss to the Rays was the 20th consecutive game in which the team has given up five or more runs, tying 1924 Phillies for the longest streak since 1900, per Elias.
— Mark Viviano (@MarkWJZ) June 23, 2017
Dylan Bundy starts on Saturday against Tampa Bay. He's the Oriole's best option to stop their deplorable stretch, with a 3.72 ERA standing out as the lowest in the team's rotation.
7. Ortiz didn't have the only embarrassing first pitch on Friday. Enter newly minted NBA draftee Josh Jackson.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 24, 2017
8. Giancarlo Stanton nearly cleared one side of the home run sculpture in Miami.
Giancarlo Stanton 💪 pic.twitter.com/NCfG4lh9nS
— SI MLB (@si_mlb) June 24, 2017
9. Brett Gardner gave the Yankees new life in the ninth. They would go on to beat the Rangers 2–1 in 10 innings.
Brett Gardner’s no stranger to a CLUTCH homer in the 9th! pic.twitter.com/P4LiRvekiu
— MLB (@MLB) June 24, 2017