Jackie Bradley Jr. is almost halfway to Joe DiMaggio, Noah Syndergaard became the first pitcher in New York Mets history with back-to-back starts of 10-plus strikeouts, zero walks and zero earned runs, Mike Trout limped out of the game after tweaking his ankle but says he's fine, and the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres kept playing and playing. Here are five things we learned Sunday in an American League-heavy edition. ...
1. Here come the New York Yankees. When the Yankees fell eight games under .500 in early May, those who aren't Yankees fans started dreaming of the inconceivable: a season in which the Yankees finish under .500. There are students graduating from college this spring who have never seen that happen -- the Yankees have had 23 consecutive winning seasons. So they were struggling, they looked old and awful, and then Aroldis Chapman came off the suspended list. Since he appeared in his first game on May 9, the Yankees have gone 10-4 and just swept the A's in Oakland to improve to 21-22. Sunday's scenario in a 5-4 win was exactly what the Yankees imagined when they traded for Chapman: Starter Michael Pineda pitched six innings, Dellin Betances pitched the seventh, Andrew Miller the eighth and Chapman closed it out.
Yankees are starting to get hot.— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) May 22, 2016
NY shuts the door on A's to complete the sweep and win their 5th straight game. pic.twitter.com/uZdvhSrdPX
2. The Houston Astros are bad. It's no longer just a slow start as the Astros fell to 11 games under .500, at 17-28. The Texas Rangers swept the Astros in Houston and Dallas Keuchel (2-6, 5.92 ERA) got pounded once again, giving up nine hits and seven runs in Sunday's 9-2 loss to Cole Hamels. Among 101 qualified starters, Keuchel ranks 94th in ERA, 93rd in batting average allowed, 77th in walk rate and 95th in left-on-base percentage. His ground ball percentage is still among the league leaders, but that's the only positive sign that he might turn things around. Is there hope for the Astros? Well, the last team with a record this bad through 45 games to make the playoffs was ... the 2005 Astros, who started 15-30. The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays, 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates and 2013 Dodgers all made the postseason after starting 19-26. Still, if Keuchel doesn't start pitching like an ace, the Astros aren't going anywhere.
3. Kevin Pillar says, "Your move, Kiermaier." The AL Gold Glove battle in center field between Pillar and Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier is living up to the hype -- yes, you can hype a Gold Glove battle! -- as both entered Sunday tied for the major league lead with +9 defensive runs saved. Pillar just took the lead with this fantastic play:
4. Speaking of AL center fielders, Leonys Martin had a weekend. The Seattle Mariners completed a sweep of the awful Cincinnati Reds, improving their MLB-best road record to 18-7 (they're only 8-10 at home). Martin, acquired from the Rangers in the offseason primarily because the Mariners needed to improve their defense in center field, has provided superb defense -- +6 DRS entering Sunday -- but his bat has been a nice bonus. He went 2-for-2 with two walks on Friday, homered and drew two walks on Saturday and went 4-for-5 on Sunday. OK, it was the Reds, but his season line is now up to .252/.331/.467 with eight home runs and seven steals.
Leonys Martin went 4-for-5 today, now hitting .252. He was hitting .189 on May 1. Martin has reached base in 16 of his last 17 games— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) May 22, 2016
5. Yu Darvish looks ready. In his final rehab start, Darvish threw six scoreless innings for Double-A Frisco, allowing three hits and striking out six, throwing 56 of his 87 pitches for strikes. His fastball topped out at 96 mph. Assuming no setbacks from this outing, he's expected to join the Rangers and Saturday against the Pirates at Globe Life Park.