It’s getting hot. With interleague play in full swing, All-Star leaders being announced and Jose Bautista nearing 20 homers, the first half of the Major League Baseball season has reached its unofficial home stretch. Soon we’ll be lighting up fireworks and watching Robinson Cano and Matt Kemp face off in Kansas City.
Common baseball cliche’ dictates to forget about what happened yesterday and focus on the days ahead. This can be useful, say if you’re the Cubs, but not for us here at The Inside Move. See, we like to dwell and harp on the things that we like (as you can see from Mani’s outright refusal to make any kind of non-NYY comparison), and the things that went well. That said, here are our favorite baseball things from the week that was.
6. Nationals Sweep at Fenway
Think back to exactly a year ago.
June 13, 2011: The revamped, A-Gon & C-squared Red Sox had just schelached Toronto the previous night by a score of 16-4 to extend their winning streak to eight in a row in the opening act of a summer stretch that would prove that they were what everyone expected them to be – the best team in baseball.
Washington on the other hand, was sitting 10 games behind the Phillies in last place in the NL East and would spend every remaining minute that season counting down the days until the return and arrival of their two mega-prospects and in essence, the rebirth of the entire franchise.
A lot has changed in a year.
Now it’s the Nationals sitting atop their division looking like their about to run away with it, and the Red Sox toiling in last place thanks to a very iffy pitching staff and a slew of major injuries. Harper and Strasburg are up and back, respectfully, and they made sure Boston knew it this weekend. Why do we like all of this? Not because we’re biased one way or another, but mostly because on Sunday we got to see Bobby Valentine’s face get as red as his socks. That was fun.
5. Mike Trout
The Angels have been fishing with dynamite since calling up the 20-year-old Trout on April 28. The rookie has raked, hitting .350 and scoring 33 runs from the leadoff spot. He has collected 55 hits, just six less than Los Angeles’ 250-Million Dollar Man, in 21 fewer games. If those numbers aren’t mind-boggling enough, look at what the pride of Tom’s River, NJ, did over the last week: .520 batting average, 10 runs scored and four stolen bases.
4. Seattle’s Combined No Hitter
We’re not sure what’s more pathetic – that the best team in baseball couldn’t muster a hit against six different Seattle pitchers Friday night, or that those six Seattle pitchers were named Millwood, Furbush, Pryor, Leutge, League and Wilhelmsen.
If you’ve been to this site in the past, you know that we don’t get all worked up over no-hitters. We have our issues with them. But what we do like about this story is Wilhelmsen’s. Out of baseball after three years in 2005 thanks to a slew of failed marijuana tests, he was bartending in his native Tuscon, Arizona until catching on with an independent league team in 2009. Later that year he scored a tryout with Seattle and signed with the Mariners, and last year he made his major league debut, nine years after he was first drafted. Now the M’s newly-minted closer after the demotion of League, Wilhelmsen is a perfect 3-3 in save chances.
He didn’t know,” Mariners catcher Jesus Montero told the AP. “I jumped on him and I was like, ‘Hey it’s a no-hitter!’ And he went ‘What?!’ And then he was so happy after that.”
3. Mitch Maier’s “catch”
Not since Barney Stintson’s famously landed The Scuba Diver have we seen such a fantastically maneuvered act of trickery that involved uniforms, gloves and screaming fans simultaneously. Watch Mr. Maier pull one out of his Playbook right – wait for it – here.
2. Stony Brook
Break up the Seawolves! Wow, I never thought I’d write those words on this blog. Some astounding facts about Stony Brook University’s improbable run to the College World Series:
- Over 10,000 fans filled Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge on Sunday for Game 3 of the Super Regional, the largest crowd in the history of LSU baseball. Stony Brook drew only 5,800 fans at all of their home games this season combined. They have one large bleacher behind home plate. I’m not kidding, I’ve been there.
- Seven Seawolves were taken in this year’s MLB draft. Those juniors picked were of the recruiting class of 2009. Three years ago none of those players taken last week were considered to be any of the top 1,282 recruits in the country, and that includes center fielder Travis Jankowski, who was taken 44th overall by San Diego. Coach Senk’s top ranked recruit in 2009? Infielder William Carmona, who was ranked #1281. He went in the 11th round to the Phillies last week.
- No team from the northeast had made the College World Series since Maine in 1986. No team from New York had made it since 1980.
- Stony Brook made the jump from DIII to D1 in 2000. Before last weekend’s dominance of No.7 LSU, their best win in school history was a 6-2 victory over then-No. 11 Virginia in 2009.
- Over 90% of Coach Matt Senk’s players have graduated and earned degrees during his 22-year reign as the head of Stony Brook baseball.
If that’s not good enough, watch this video of the team being welcomed back to campus. It’s well worth the two minutes and twenty-four seconds.
1. The Continuing Brilliance of Joey Votto
It was a week of crazy, ridiculous, preposterous Joey Votto stats. If you thought the quietest slugger in baseball was holding some secrets, you were right, and they came out this week thanks to FanGraphs.
First of all, Votto has pulled a ball foul into the stands just once in his entire career. Think about that.
Now think about the fact that he hasn’t hit an infield pop-up all season, or about how he’s hit only three of them in his last 2,138 at bats. I’ll repeat. In his last 2,138 at bats Joey Votto has popped up to the infield just three times.
Votto is having another phenomenal season overall, filled with phenomenal stats (including almost having the Slash Line Triple Crown: His .355/.476/.631 batting/on-base/slugging numbers are good for 2nd, 1st and 1st in the National League), but the two previously mentioned above take the cake. It’s easy to see that the former MVP has amazing plate discipline and bat control, but rarely do you get palpable statistics that prove such an incredible combination. Three times in his last 2,138 at bats. We’re stuck shaking our heads, and tipping our caps.