If Labor Day is indeed the last day of summer, then J.D. Martinez sent us out in style. The Arizona Diamondbacks slugger became the 18th player in major league history to hit four home runs in one game, a feat rarer than a perfect game ... which we had for five innings in this game, making Arizona's 13-0 shutout over the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers one of the craziest games of any year.
Even Zack Greinke was seen laughing and chatting things up in the Diamondbacks' dugout in the ninth inning.
Martinez homered against four different pitchers, belting a no-doubter off Rich Hill in the fourth inning and connecting in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings off Pedro Baez, Josh Fields and Wilmer Font. The final blast came off a 1-0 slider from Font, a 406-foot line shot to left field. It was Martinez's shortest home run of the evening; the other three traveled 439, 428 and 424 feet.
Pause for a moment to let that soak in. Think of how difficult it is to hit a baseball. Then think of how difficult it is to hit one 400-plus feet. Then think of the "impossible": doing it four times in one game. Heck, Martinez had more home runs than the Dodgers had hits on Monday. Does summer have to end?
The day actually began with bad news for the Diamondbacks: MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt left the team to fly back to Phoenix to get an MRI on his sore right elbow. Goldschmidt tried to talk himself into the lineup on Monday, as MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reported, and is expected to rejoin the team Tuesday. Considering he had hit four home runs in his past eight games, the elbow didn't seem to be hindering his production. Still, check the news on Tuesday for updates.
Then there was Robbie Ray. Before Martinez, we thought Ray's performance was going to be the big highlight of the night: He threw one of the most dominating games by any pitcher this season as the Diamondbacks won their 11th game in a row -- and the ninth in a row in which they haven't trailed. Only one other team in the past 25 years has done that. It got so ugly that Dodgers fans started booing, and that was before Martinez cracked his final two home runs.
Dodgers fans losing their minds and the team already has more wins than all last season— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) September 5, 2017
Ray took a perfect game into the sixth inning as he fanned 10 of the first 15 batters he faced, becoming the first pitcher to record four 10-strikeout games against the Dodgers in one season. He finished with a career-high 14 strikeouts and three singles allowed in 7 2/3 scoreless innings. Ray induced 24 swing-and-misses, matching his season high, which also came against the Dodgers. That's a high total: Only 12 times has a pitcher recorded more misses this season, so Ray's dominance against the Dodgers over five outings (53 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings with a 2.27 ERA) is noteworthy because there's a chance he'll get a sixth start against them ... in the postseason.
For that to happen, Arizona will have to get past the wild-card game. Greinke would be the likely starter in that game, which means Ray would be the probable Game 1 starter in the division series. As Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis said as Ray was mowing down the Dodgers, "It's getting to the point where the Dodgers are going to have a rooting interest in that wild-card game."
The D-backs are now 9-8 against the Dodgers. The only other team L.A. has a losing record against is the Washington Nationals, at 1-2. With the Dodgers likely to start three lefties in a playoff series, Martinez's righty bat alongside Goldschmidt's is even more vital. Since joining the Diamondbacks on July 19, Martinez has 18 home runs; only Giancarlo Stanton has more in that span.
As for the Dodgers, they have other concerns besides Martinez and Ray: They've lost nine of 10 games. Maybe we need to remind them that the official last day of summer is Sept. 22. Maybe they need a day at the beach to clear their heads.
Los Angeles Angels use 11 relievers; baseball gods apparently indifferent. I'm not sure if this is an argument for or against expanded rosters, but the Angels became the first American League team to use 12 pitchers in a game in a wild 11-9 victory over the A's in 11 innings.
Here's the list to memorize for the next time you're asked this trivia question at a bar: Parker Bridwell, Jesse Chavez, Eduardo Paredes, Jason Gurka, Noe Ramirez, Cam Bedrosian, Yusmeiro Petit, Blake Parker, Fernando Salas, Troy Scribner, Jose Alvarez and Keynan Middleton.
Three of those guys didn't record an out, and only Petit went more than an inning. After Parker blew a 9-7 lead in the ninth, it appeared that the Angels could blow another lead in the 11th, but Middleton came on with two runners on and got Khris Davis to ground into a double play on a 3-2 slider. Point being: If the gods were upset with manager Mike Scioscia, Davis would have hit a three-run homer.
Anyway, Kole Calhoun delivered the go-ahead triple in the top of the 11th:
Kole comes up Klutch! pic.twitter.com/dOTPOnFKrs— Angels (@Angels) September 5, 2017
Almost as remarkable as using 11 relievers is that the Angels rallied from a four-run deficit for the 10th time this season -- the most in the majors and most since the 2008 Rangers had 10 such comebacks. What's even more surprising is that the Angels are just 10th in the American League in runs per game (and last in OPS). The offense has been much better since Aug. 1, however, ranking fourth in runs per game and sixth in OPS, and they've scored 51 runs in their past six games.
Cleveland Indians win 12th straight. Trevor Bauer continues to make a strong pitch for the Cleveland playoff rotation, winning his eighth straight decision as he allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings in a 5-3 win over the White Sox. In the one start he didn't win, he allowed one run over seven innings; he has also lowered his ERA from 5.59 to 4.39 during this span. What has he done differently? Digging into the numbers, the one thing that stands out to me is that he is throwing his cutter more and fastball less:
First half: 54.3 percent fastballs, 10.5 percent cutters
Second half: 41.8 percent fastballs, 17.5 percent cutters
The cutter has been more effective for him (.745 OPS allowed versus .859 on his fastball) with a much higher strikeout rate. There has been an element of good luck here, as he has allowed a .136 average with runners in scoring position during his win streak, but there's no doubt that Bauer is going to play a key role in October.
As for the 12-game win streak, it's now the longest win streak by any team this season and one of the most impressive 12-game streaks ever, at least by run differential. Here are the biggest run differentials in a 12-game win streak since 1920 (for streaks that lasted longer than 12 games, each team's best 12-game stretch was considered):
1922 Pirates: 79
1934 Tigers: 69
1953 Yankees: 66
1935 Cubs: 65
2017 Indians: 63
2002 Athletics: 63
1931 Senators: 63
With three more games against the White Sox, don't be surprised if this streak gets to 15.
Colorado Rockies win; Charlie Blackmon is awesome. A much-needed win for the Rockies to end their four-game skid appeared -- the much-loved walk-off walk to Carlos Gonzalez with two outs did the trick against the awful Giants -- as Blackmon had another big game, going 3-for-5 with a home run and scoring the winning run after a leadoff double.
I'm a little surprised Blackmon isn't being mentioned more as an MVP candidate. He's hitting .342/.406/.625, and he's on pace for 144 runs, 102 RBIs (while hitting leadoff), 39 home runs and 90 extra-base hits. Coors Field or not, these are lights-out numbers. Sure, Nolan Arenado has 111 RBIs, but whom do you think he has been driving in?
Arenado has the defense, of course, but Blackmon does play an up-the-middle position. He has to be one of the six or seven guys in the running. Along with this guy ...
Giancarlo Stanton hits No. 53! It didn't go far, but nobody's complaining:
Keep hitting 'em, Big Guy.