We learned the Home Run Derby participants Thursday and we learned these five things:
1 and 2. It ain't easy being a kid. Washington Nationals rookie right-hander Lucas Giolito made his second career start, also his second start against the New York Mets. In his first outing, he allowed just one hit in four innings before a rain delay ended his night. It wasn't as smooth in this one, as he allowed seven hits, four walks and four runs in 3⅔ innings, including two home runs, laboring through 90 pitches. It was a strange game as the teams combined for eight home runs (leading to talk on Twitter about juiced baseballs as home runs continue to fly out of parks at near-record rates), so Giolito wasn't the only pitcher who struggled. Wilmer Flores, who didn't even start the game despite hitting two home runs Wednesday, turned into the hero with a big three-run homer in a 9-7 Mets victory. Sound familiar?
Mets. Nationals. Citi Field. July. Wilmer Flores. Big home run. #DéjàVu— In Mets We Trust (@InMetsWeTrust) July 8, 2016
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Tyler Glasnow -- the consensus No. 2 right-handed pitching prospect behind Giolito -- made his debut in a day game against the St. Louis Cardinals and pitched a little better than his four runs allowed in 5⅓ innings indicated, flashing a 94 mph fastball while allowing just three hits and two walks (his biggest issue in the minors). He allowed two runs in the sixth, but they scored when Arquimedes Caminero relieved him and gave up a three-run homer to Stephen Piscotty. Considering the state of the Pirates' rotation, Glasnow is a good bet to remain up the rest of the season. As for the Cardinals, it was a much-needed, 5-1 victory to salvage one win in the four-game series. With Matt Carpenter out after injuring his oblique Wednesday, Kolten Wong slid back to his old second-base position.
3. Bryce Harper making baseball fun again. He hit his 19th home run and ...
Bryce Harper had a message for Mets fans after this home run: https://t.co/Smm7oogb8b— ESPN (@espn) July 8, 2016
4. Bullpen blues: Royals rally against Mariners. Through seven innings, Seattle starter James Paxton had thrown just 57 pitches. Since pitches have been counted beginning in 1988, that gave Paxton a chance at the lowest nine-inning pitch count of 74 pitches, shared by Aaron Cook and Carlos Silva. Except the Royals scored twice in the eighth and Steve Cishek came on for the save in the ninth, when the Royals won it 4-3 on Salvador Perez's two-run double to center. It was the third comeback for the Royals while trailing by three-plus runs in the eighth or later, the most such wins in the majors. Good job, Royals!
But bad job, Mariners. They now have 16 blown saves, trailing only the Reds and Giants with 17 each. Cishek has five blown saves and five losses. Despite a sub-3.00 ERA, whenever he gives up runs, bad things happen. The Mariners, if they harbor wild-card hopes, should be in one of those reliever trade discussions.
5. Bullpen blues: Blue Jays rally against Tigers. Troy Tulowitzki's two-out, two-run single off Alex Wilson in the eighth gave Toronto a 5-4 win. Detroit is only 23rd in bullpen ERA, but the Tigers haven't been as bad as the Mariners in the late innings, with three losses now when leading after seven innings.
Josh Donaldson has scored 78 times. Most in #BlueJays history pre-All-Star break— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) July 8, 2016
Josh Donaldson scored again after that tweet and leads the majors with 79 runs, seven more than Mookie Betts. Donaldson is on pace for 145 runs. Only 11 players have scored 140 since 1950, topped by Jeff Bagwell's 152 for the Astros in 2000. Rickey Henderson (1985), Craig Biggio (1997) and Sammy Sosa (2001) are next with 146. By the way, Donaldson has been red hot for more than a month, hitting .385/.513/.738 since June 1 with 39 runs and 31 RBIs in 33 games. He's passed Jose Altuve in WAR and trails only Mike Trout among American League position players. Unlike Trout's Angels, however, the Blue Jays are in the playoff hunt. Donaldson has a great shot at back-to-back MVP honors.