1. J.D. Martinez fractures elbow: Martinez ran into the wall while chasing a fly ball into the right-field corner in Kansas City. It looked harmless until you see Martinez unable to throw the ball in. Obviously, this a major blow to the Detroit Tigers, with Martinez possibly on his way to another All-Star berth, hitting .286/.358/.523 with 12 home runs and 39 RBIs.
The Tigers will have to test their depth, the team's weakness for many years now. With Cameron Maybin temporarily sidelined, Mike Aviles was in the outfield on Thursday and he's hitting .227 with an OPS barely over .500. Andrew Romine, the team's backup infielder, replaced Martinez and he's hitting .195 in limited duty. Steven Moya, who played nine games earlier for the Tigers, will likely get the call to play right field. He's hitting .302/.330/.579 in Triple-A, a vast improvement over the .703 OPS he put up there last year. Moya has a 44-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio and he may still be exposed at the big league level with that poor plate discipline. But he has power and the numbers have been good, so there's a chance he can be an adequate fill-in.
The night did end on a positive as Victor Martinez hit three of the team's six home runs in a 10-4 win over the Kansas City Royals, the first game of a critical four-game series. Even with the emergence of Michael Fulmer and big seasons from Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos, the Tigers are still just two games over .500. Other than Justin Upton -- still scuffling with a.282 OBP and .346 slugging -- you do wonder where the improvement will come from. They remain slow on the bases (29th in the majors in baserunning runs), the bullpen is 24th in ERA (although a more respectable 11th in Win Probability Added) and the back of the rotation remains soft.
On the other hand, the AL Central is winnable. The Royals swing hot and cold and still have a rotation full of holes. Right when we start believing in Danny Duffy, he gives up three solo home runs. The offense has been propped up by surprising performances from the likes of Paulo Orlando and Whit Merrifield. The Cleveland Indians were looking good but the Royals just swept them. The White Sox have struggled after a hot start. In the end, there seems to be one thing in the division you can bet on: The Kansas City bullpen (although Luke Hochevar did blow a 4-3 lead in the seventh on Thursday). Will that be enough?
2. Edwin Encarnacion is hotter than "The Man": What is "The Man," you ask? When I worked in an office in Bellevue, Washington, there was a BBQ joint down the road, hidden next to an auto repair shop. The place was full of signed photos of Seattle Seahawks and Seattle SuperSonics players and the house specialty was a secret sauce known simply as "The Man." The cook would walk around with a bucket asking if you dared to try it. A little dollop of that stuff was hot enough to burn a hole through your underwear. One of the most impressive things I ever saw was a friend putting a big spoonful of "The Man" on his sandwich and eating it without even breaking a sweat.
Anyway, that's how hot Encarnacion is. He homered again in the Toronto Blue Jays' 13-2 rout of Aaron Nola and the Philadelphia Phillies (Josh Donaldson reached base five times) and has eight home runs and 19 RBIs his past 13 games and now leads the majors with 61 RBIs. That Toronto offense is also heating up as they've scored double digits in four of their past six games. Their month-by-month batting totals:
Watch out, AL East.
Edwin Encarnacion: 169 HR last 5 seasons, 2nd to Chris Davis (175)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 16, 2016
3. New York Yankees starter CC Sabathia turns back the clock: I did not see this coming. You did not see this coming. Best ERAs since May: Sabathia 0.82, Madison Bumgarner 1.12, Clayton Kershaw 1.14. The big guy allowed one run in six innings to beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1. He averaged 92.6 mph on fastball and touched 94.5, although I'm not quite what to make of that since 20 of his 38 fastballs were balls.
CC Sabathia had good velocity tonight on his fastball, although not great command (unless this was by design); pic.twitter.com/fNnyUFp5Zy— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) June 17, 2016
He threw a lot of cutters (44) and sliders (26) and maybe used the fastball as more of a show-me pitch than anything -- just to change eye level and location. Can he keep it going? He's healthy, he knows how to pitch, he is throwing a little harder. I'm still skeptical, but it's good to see CC winning games again.
4. Speaking of velocity ...: James Paxton and Blake Snell faced each other in a day game in Tampa. Snell, one of the game's top pitching prospects entering the season, was making his second major league start for the Tampa Bay Rays after a cameo start in April. The lefty averaged 93.7 mph on his fastball, but the Seattle Mariners tagged him for eight hits in 3⅓ innings. Paxton once again lit up the radar gun as he allowed three runs in six innings in Seattle's 6-4 victory. Paxton has made four starts. Here are the lefty pitchers with the highest average fastball velocity in a start this season:
Paxton, June 6: 98.7 mph
Paxton, June 11: 97.9 mph
Paxton, June 16: 96.8 mph
Paxton, June 1: 96.6 mph
The next six games all belong to Duffy, but Paxton is now the hardest-throwing lefty starter in the game. Snell is one of a handful of lefties to average 94 mph in a start. As I wrote about Colby Lewis' game today -- 7⅔ perfect innings -- we know velocity isn't everything. But both of these guys have potential to put up some intriguing numbers the rest of the way.
5. Dads holding kids while catching baseballs becomes passe: Fine, you can hold your kid and make a one-handed catch. So can a lot of other dads. We need to stop linking to these videos until we find something more impressive. Two kids and a baseball? One kid, one beer and a baseball? One kid, one bucket of garlic fries and a baseball while reading the SweetSpot blog on your smart phone? Let's up your game, dads.