As the MLB season enters July and the weather heats up, so are teams and players across the league. With the All-Star Break about a week away, who is making the push and catching fire going into the break?
The Cincinnati Reds have been killing it ever since Elly De La Cruz was called up from AAA on June 6 — the 6 foot 5 inch infielder has amazed the world from the second he touched an MLB diamond.
In just his second career game, De La Cruz smashed the first home-run hit of his career a whopping 458 feet. Last Friday, De La Cruz hit for the cycle in his 15th career game, the first for Cincinnati since 1989. That cycle propelled the Reds to their 12th-straight win at the time, their longest since 1957. Cincinnati is now 16-5 since June 6.
It’s not just De La Cruz carrying the Reds — timely hits from Matt McLain, Joey Votto and others contribute to the scoring, and star closer Alexis Diaz has been coming in clutch to send Reds fans home happy throughout this month.
The Reds weren’t the only NL team to go on a hot streak, though. It was their NL Central rivals, the Chicago Cubs, that went on an 11-3 tear from June 9 to June 25.
Two separate sweeps of the Pirates, series wins versus the Orioles and the Giants and a split against the Cardinals in London were spearheaded by the team’s excellent pitching and explosive offense. In seven out of the 14 games, the Cubs’ bats scored 7+ runs, and in eight of the games, the Cubs’ pitching allowed three or fewer runs.
This fiery run from the Cubs, led by pitchers Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele, among others, nearly got them back to .500 and put them in position to make a run for a Wild Card playoff spot.
There have been many individual players around the league tearing it up recently, but they do not matter compared to the two historical events that happened this week. The first piece of history came on Tuesday night as the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani welcomed the Chicago White Sox to Anaheim.
Ohtani blasted a solo home run to center field in the bottom of the first inning, but couldn’t even give his teammates high fives as he then had to run back onto the field to pitch. Ohtani then stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the seventh and hit an ‘oppo taco’ home run 404 feet to left field.
Ohtani finished with 6.1 innings pitched, only allowing one earned run and striking out 10 batters, to go with a three-for-three night at the plate with the two homers. Only two other players, Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner, have gotten 10+ strikeouts and 2+ home runs in the same game in the last 50 years. Simply put, Ohtani is special.
Yet somehow, Ohtani’s feat isn’t even the most notable of the week. On Wednesday night, Domingo Germán took the mound for the Yankees, facing the A’s in the Oakland Coliseum. Coming off of back-to-back disasters where he allowed seven and eight earned runs, the expectations were low for Germán.
Unfortunately for Oakland, Germán pitched a historical game. 27 batters stepped up to face Germán, and 27 batters got out without touching first base safely. With nine strikeouts in nine innings, Germán threw the 24th perfect game in MLB history, the first since Félix Hernández in August of 2012.
Germán consistently got ahead in the count versus the A’s batters, and only faced two three-ball counts the entire game — ultimately, his curveball, fastball and changeup led him to eternal baseball glory.
It’s not every day you see history being made, and it’s a treat for fans to be able to watch baseball this excellent from both players and teams, day in and day out.
Last edition’s mentions since print: A’s 2-10; Mets 4-8; Spencer Strider 13.0 IP, 19 Ks, 2 ERs; Freddie Freeman .686 OPS; J.D. Martinez .752 OPS