1. He already has a Hall of Fame name.
2. He bounced between four colleges and was drafted four times over five years, finally signing with the Cardinals in 2014 as a ninth-round pick out of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a Division II school in Dayton Beach, Florida, that sounds like it should be producing engineers, not professional baseball players. (Poncedeleon is the first major leaguer from the school.)
3. He suffered a fractured skull in May 2017 while pitching for Triple-A Memphis when Cubs prospect Victor Caratini struck Poncedeleon in the right temple with a line drive, requiring emergency brain surgery. He missed the rest of the season and now wears a carbon fiber insert in his cap. (For more on his remarkable comeback, check out Joe Trezza's story at MLB.com from spring training.)
So throwing seven no-hit innings in his major league debut might not even be the most interesting thing about the 26-year-old right-hander. He became just the second pitcher to finish with at least seven hitless innings in his debut -- Ross Stripling did it for the Dodgers in 2016, when he threw 7⅓ hitless innings -- but here's the sad kicker: The Cardinals didn't even win the game. (In fact, neither did the Dodgers in Stripling's start.)
That vaunted Cardinals bullpen blew a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth. Eugenio Suarez tagged Bud Norris with a two-out, game-tying home run, and then the Reds went single, single, walk, and Dilson Herrera with the walk-off base hit:
Poncedeleon, wearing goggles and high socks that showed off the red, white and blue stripes, pitched from a slow, methodical windup, finishing off a stiff front leg. His four-seamer up in the zone had some late life, sitting 92-93 and reaching 96. While he recorded just three strikeouts, Reds hitters seemed to have trouble picking up the fastball, as maybe the delivery had some deception to it/ (Poncedeleon allowed just 66 hits in 92 innings in Triple-A.)
He mixed in a two-seamer, a slider/cutter and a changeup that had some good late movement to it, although at times he seemed to noticeably slow up his arm speed to throw it. Poncedeleon cracked MLB.com's midseason top-30 prospect update for the Cardinals at No. 30, so it must be nice to have a system with 29 better prospects, even acknowledging that he's a little older and was averaging 4.7 walks per nine innings at Memphis.
Daniel Poncedeleon was on tonight! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/kldB12JWDi— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 24, 2018
Gary Sanchez is going to be in the doghouse if doghouses still exist: Fun game in Tampa as the Rays scored seven runs off Luis Severino, including home runs from Jake Bauers and Daniel Robertson, to take a 7-3 lead.
The Yankees scored three in the seventh to make it 7-6 and then the first two batters reached in the ninth. Aaron Boone then had Didi Gregorius sacrifice bunt against hard-throwing lefty Jose Alvarado ... which then allowed the Rays to intentionally walk Giancarlo Stanton. Aaron Hicks then grounded into a 5-2 force play.
That was an interesting decision by Boone. He cited in his postgame interview that he didn't like the lefty-lefty matchup, but that still meant taking the bats out of the hands of two of his better power guys. I didn't like the bunt, but that decision will get lost in what happened next. Sanchez hit a hard grounder up the middle and this happened:
Instincts and effort.— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 24, 2018
Willy's got plenty of both. pic.twitter.com/G7gNXFsjoi
Roberston flipped to Willy Adames, but with the shift on it was too late to get Hicks. But Adames then threw to first and still had time to get Sanchez ... because this happened:
Running 75 percent on a routine grounder is one thing, but this wasn't that: This was not hustling on a crucial game-ending play. Instead of a tie game, the Yankees lost. It was inexcusable. It was lazy and boneheaded. After the game, Boone said he hadn't seen the replay yet and was watching the action around the bag. He's not going to like what he sees.
Not running hard to first base on a groundball can't happen, especially in that situation when you have a chance to tie the game, because the alternative is just unacceptable: Quitting on the play. That's what happened on that last Sanchez groundball.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 24, 2018
Oh, and earlier in the game, this also happened:
It seems clear that Sanchez expected Miguel Andujar to go after the ball, but Andujar has to hold his bag in case there's a play on the runner. After the game, Severino played good cop and said he crossed up Sanchez with the play and thought Sanchez didn't see the ball. On the replay, it looks like he saw the ball just fine.
You can argue that these are isolated plays. Well, isolated plays can cost you ballgames. If Sanchez was hitting, maybe you live with the defense. He's still at .188/.283/.416, however, and you can talk about his BABIP correcting, but until -- and if -- that happens, don't be surprised if we start seeing more Austin Romine behind the plate.
The last time the Pirates won their 10th consecutive game, on July 5, 2004, this was their lineup:— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) July 24, 2018
Jason Kendall C
Jack Wilson SS
Rob Mackowiak LF
Craig Wilson RF
Bobby Hill 3B
Randall Simon 1B
Tike Redman CF
Jose Castillo 2B
Kip Wells RHP
Anyway, this is now three bad starts for Kluber in his past five outings. Remember, he didn't pitch in the All-Star Game after receiving an injection in his knee and you have wonder how much it's bothering him:
First 16 starts: 2.10 ERA, .194 average, 27.2% SO rate
Last 5 starts: 6.23 ERA, .318 average, 17.8% SO rate
Anthony Rizzo pitched and it was kind of weird: This whole position player as mop-up pitcher is obviously the big new thing, so much so that it's now becoming a daily and not really interesting occurrence. Managers are not only using position players earlier in blowouts, but also in closer games. Joe Maddon brought in Victor Caratini for the final out of the top of the eighth inning while down 7-1.
The Cubs had played a doubleheader on Saturday and allowed 18 runs on Friday -- but three different position players threw 3⅓ innings in that game and Jose Quintana had pitched seven innings on Sunday, so the bullpen wasn't really that taxed. Maddon just didn't want to waste any of his top relievers in a game the Cubs had a slim chance to win.
How slim? Maddon must have called his stats guys before making his move. Entering Monday, Jeremy Mills of ESPN Stats & Info reports that teams are 6-2,548 over the past five seasons when trailing by six runs or more in the eighth inning or later.
Still, it was a little strange to essentially punt a game when down six runs with two at-bats remaining. What was even stranger was Maddon then replacing Caratini with Rizzo for the final out:
Managers are using more position players to pitch, but they aren't using their good position players to do that -- before Rizzo, Ian Happ (on Friday) was probably the best position player to throw this season. Luckily, Rizzo lit up the radar gun at only 62 mph.
Who was the last star bigger than Rizzo to pitch? Ichiro Suzuki pitched for the Marlins in 2015, but he was well past his prime. Before that, Wade Boggs pitched in 1997 and 1999 (although that was at the end of his career). Jose Canseco had the famous outing in 1993 when he blew out his elbow throwing knuckleballs. He'd been an All-Star in 1992, so would certainly be comparable in stature to Rizzo. He probably wasn't better than Rizzo, however, so I'll go with Tim Wallach in 1987. He pitched one inning of an 8-0 loss on May 31 in a season he'd finish fourth in the MVP voting for the Expos.