1. Let's spice up the Home Run Derby. First Madison Bumgarner said he wanted to participate in the Home Run Derby, and then Jake Arrieta said he wanted to participate as well. "If he's in it, I need to be in it," Arrieta told ESPN.com's Jesse Rogers. "That's for sure. He can hit the ball a long way, but I can too." Then Adam Wainwright tweeted that he wanted in as well:
So now we have a #PitchersWhoRake hashtag. Just for comparison, here how those three have fared at the plate this year and over the past three seasons:
2016: .147, 2 HRs, 5 RBIs (one HR every 17 AB)
2014-16: .232, 11 HRs, 29 RBIs (one HR every 16.1 AB)
2016: .276, 1 HR, 5 RBIs (one HR every 29 AB)
2014-16: .184, 3 HRs, 10 RBIs (one HR every 49 AB)
2016: .261, 1 HR, 10 RBIs (one HR every 23 AB)
2014-16: .181, 1 HR, 16 RBIs (one HR every 105 AB)
OK, clear advantage to Bumgarner, although Wainwright has a chance to become the first pitcher since Ferguson Jenkins in 1971 to drive in 20 runs in a season. But we shouldn't stop with those three. Let's add Noah Syndergaard (two home runs in a game earlier this season), Travis Wood (nine career home runs) and Zack Greinke (.252 average with three home runs since 2013).
You wouldn't watch that? Of course you would. The solution is easy: We can have a pitchers' portion of the derby by simply eliminating the second round of the regular derby. The derby drags on as is with three rounds, so let's just have one round with the top two guys then advancing to the final. Before the final, we let the pitchers do their thing.
2. Danny Salazar, All-Star starter? The Cleveland Indians right-hander didn't have his best outing Sunday -- he walked four in 5 2/3 innings -- but struck out eight and limited the Angels to only one run. He improved to 7-3 with a 2.19 ERA and trails only Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright in ERA among AL starters. Batters are hitting .181 against him (second to Marco Estrada) and he's fourth in strikeouts. I'd still give the starting nod to Chris Sale given his longer track record and Salazar's sometimes shaky control (4.5 walks per nine), but Salazar is making a strong bid for All-Star honors.
3. Cardinals send important message to Pittsburgh Pirates. It was an impressive sweep for the St. Louis Cardinals, winning three on the road by scores of 9-3 (in 12 innings), 5-1 and 8-3. Matt Holliday went 3-for-4 on Sunday with his 11th home runs, as the Cardinals -- power-starved in recent seasons -- have now hit 83 home runs, tied for second in the NL behind the Washington Nationals, who have 85.
For the Pirates, Jonathon Niese's eight-run blowup is just the latest indication they don't have the rotation to compete with the big boys, especially with their bullpen taking a step back from last season and Gerrit Cole slated to miss his next start. It was also a rough start to a brutal stretch of games: They now head on a six-game trip against the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs, followed by series against the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics, Cardinals, Cubs and Nationals. That takes the Pirates to mid-July and they might be under .500 and sellers at that point.
4. Texas Rangers send important message to Mariners. After sweeping the Mariners the previous weekend in Texas, the Rangers took two of three in Seattle. The big win was Saturday, when they were down to their last strike when Prince Fielder homered to tie it. That was a two-game swing in the standings and Cole Hamels increased their lead to five games with seven one-run innings. The game ended with Nomar Mazara doing this:
Robinson Cano can't afford to get thrown out there, but ... what a throw. With a .316/.363/.479 batting line and 10 home runs, Mazara is a sleeper All-Star candidate.
5. Giants send Dodgers an important message. And that message is one-run games: With a 2-1 victory behind Jake Peavy's six shutout innings, the Giants are now 15-7 in one-run games and the Dodgers fell to 7-12. It's worth noting that the Giants aren't better because of their bullpen. Neither pen has been all that great: The Giants were 18th in the majors in win probability added entering Sunday's games, and the Dodgers were 25th. Like the Rangers, Saturday's dramatic extra-inning win for the Giants was a huge two-game swing and they also now own a five-game lead.