Some victories are sweeter than others. For the San Francisco Giants, beating Clayton Kershaw 4-3 at Dodger Stadium tastes better than the Camino Verde Canele from Dandelion Chocolate on Valencia Street.
Kershaw has owned the Giants in his career. In 36 career starts entering Monday's game, he was 19-8 with a 1.60 ERA. He's allowed zero runs or one run 19 times in those 36 games. The Dodgers had won seven of the past eight times Kershaw started against the Giants, and the Giants hadn't scored more than three runs off Kershaw at Dodger Stadium since 2011.
Did we mention the Giants entered with a 9-17 record?
Hunter Pence delivered a two-run homer in the first inning, jumping all over a 1-1 curveball -- his first extra-base hit off Kershaw in 70 career at-bats. Then, in the third inning, Buster Posey did this:
It was Posey's first extra-base hit since getting hit in the head on April 10 and spending a week on the concussion DL. The Giants are hitting .231/.289/.346, and just .225/.279/.310 in 19 games since Posey was hit.
Manager Bruce Bochy also had to do a little maneuvering in the bullpen. Closer Mark Melancon was unavailable after having pitched four times in five days, so Steven Okert pitched a flawless 1 2/3 innings in relief of Johnny Cueto and then Derek Law came on for the final out, blowing away Yasiel Puig with 97 mph heat. It's still a makeshift Giants lineup, with Christian Arroyo playing third base, Eduardo Nunez filling in for the injured Brandon Crawford at shortstop, and Drew Stubbs in center. Mike Morse even played first base with Brandon Belt sitting against Kershaw. I doubt this was a lineup Bochy ever expected to fill out, but his team just beat Kershaw with three guys who began the season in the minors.
Astros, Rangers clear benches, but Brian McCann and Carlos Gomez did not throw punches. After the Rangers' Andrew Cashner had plunked Jose Altuve and Yulieski Gurriel in the sixth inning, Houston's Lance McCullers threw behind Mike Napoli -- who had homered earlier in the game. There was some pushing and shoving, and McCann and Gomez, who have some history, exchanged some words -- and they probably weren't discussing candlesticks. Nobody was ejected, but it seemed to fire up the Astros, who then scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull out a 6-2 victory.
After the game, Napoli admitted he was caught off-guard by the pitch, saying he should have been prepared for the situation but that he didn't appreciate the location. "Just put it in my hip. There's no reason to throw it at my upper back, behind me," he said.
McCullers didn't seem too stressed by the chain of events:
McCullers on what Napoli said: "He said I smell good. I said, 'I got some new cologne. Do you want to come smell it? You can smell it.'"— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) May 2, 2017
The bigger controversy, however, might be Astros manager A.J. Hinch's postgame quote that essentially endorsed the pitch from McCullers and could lead to a fine:
#Astros AJ Hinch: "It's good for baseball. You don't want anybody hurt, but you want high emotion." 1 of 2— Stefan Stevenson (@StevensonFWST) May 2, 2017
Napoli admitted it should lead to a little energy on Tuesday night:
Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli on if the Astros-Rangers rivalry is more heated after tonight's tension: pic.twitter.com/RtZWUBiLRr— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) May 2, 2017
Anyway, it seems like we're at the stage in which every "purpose" pitch now leads to a minor uproar on Twitter. Despite the calls to send Hinch and McCullers to Leavenworth, this part of the game isn't going to cease. The feeling is if you don't retaliate, you're giving the opposing team freedom to hit your guys -- even unintentionally -- and pitch inside without fear of retribution. What should never be acceptable is the kind of pitch Matt Barnes threw at Manny Machado's head. McCullers' pitch seems to fall into that gray area of almost crossing the line.
Remember, the Rangers won the AL West last year essentially by going 14-5 against the Astros. This was the first of 19 meetings this year and, I'm guessing, not the only time tempers will flare.
P.S.: Is it time to start worrying about Rougned Odor, who is down to .188/.234/.356 with just two home runs since homering twice on Opening Day? Manager Jeff Banister has even moved him up from fifth in the lineup to cleanup in his past four games.
Red Sox fans hurl racial taunts at Adam Jones. From Bob Nightengale's story in USA Today, Jones said, "It is what it is, right? I just go out and play baseball. It's unfortunate that people need to resort to those type of epithets to degrade another human being. I'm trying to make a living for myself and for my family. It's unfortunate. The best thing about myself is that I continue to move on, and still play the game hard. Let people be who they are. Let them show their true colors." Red Sox officials also confirmed a fan threw a bag of peanuts at Jones.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox played a bad game of baseball, Manny Machado did not. I didn't see this game, a 5-2 victory for the Orioles, but the box score lists four errors for the Red Sox. Apparently that doesn't tell the whole story:
Game recap: pic.twitter.com/teTV26ROMB— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) May 2, 2017
That's two four-error games in three games for the Red Sox -- after having two four-error games total from 2014-16. For the Orioles, Machado made four nice plays in the field and homered off a Rick Porcello slider in the sixth. Let's just say he admired this one with a slow trot around the bases that Statcast timed at a David Ortiz-like 29.2 seconds:
Revenge homer? https://t.co/vDQFWmdC1Q— ESPN (@espn) May 2, 2017
The Manny Machado Show is filmed in front of a live studio audience— Orioles Uncensored (@OsUncensored) May 2, 2017
Machado had two hits last Wednesday versus the Rays, homered and doubled against the Yankees on Friday, doubled on Saturday, drew three walks on Sunday and homered on Monday, raising his average from .188 to .225. Despite that average, he'd actually been producing hard contact as he entered Monday with the second-best hard-hit rate (26.7 percent) in the American League. Those hard hits are finally starting to fall. More good news for the O's: closer Zach Britton is expected to be activated from the DL on Tuesday.
Mets win as Noah Syndergaard makes Mets fans cry with heartfelt tweet. The Mets announced earlier in the day that Syndergaard did suffer a partial tear of his lat and that he'll miss a considerable amount of time. Steven Matz missed two months with a similar injury in 2016. GM Sandy Alderson took the fall for the injury, saying it was his decision to allow Syndergaard to start on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Mets traveled to Atlanta and scored five runs in the fourth inning off Julio Teheran on their way to a 7-5 victory. Michael Conforto homered again, Jose Reyes homered for the third time in five games and the bullpen tossed four scoreless innings.
The Mets do have what could be a soft spot in the schedule this month: Braves, Marlins and Giants at home, at Milwaukee and Arizona, Angels and Padres at home, at Pittsburgh and then home against Milwaukee. The series against the Giants -- who entered the week with the worst record in the NL -- is the only one against a 2016 playoff team. So, while the Mets are 11-14 and are without Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes, maybe they can have a good month with the favorable schedule.
....and yes.....I might have even welcomed a hug today from a not to be mentioned, huge headed, baseball looking mascot. #weakmoment— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) May 2, 2017
Syndergaard presumably did not attend the Met Gala. But this happy couple did!