Of the days Alex Rodriguez was expected to hit a historic home run, Friday wasn't high on the list.
With the wind blowing in at Fenway Park and a ground ball pitcher on the mound in Justin Masterson, there certainly seemed to be better opportunities for Rodriguez to hit career home run No. 660, tying Willie Mays on the all-time home run list. When you factor in that A-Rod wasn't even in the starting lineup, giving way to Garrett Jones at designated hitter, fans certainly didn't expect to see history.
But when Rodriguez was called on to pinch-hit in the eighth inning of a tie game, he got his opportunity. And when Junichi Tazawa grooved a 3-0 fastball with one out, A-Rod hit a laser over the Green Monster in left field to achieve the milestone.
After the game, Rodriguez acknowledged the accomplishment and what it means to him.
"Willie Mays has always been a hero to me. A year ago today, I never would have imagined even playing baseball," Rodriguez said. "But on a day like today, I think about my mother, my daughters, the folks at the Boys and Girls Club where I learned how to play baseball many years ago. I'm just grateful."
The homer tied Mays' total, but it ended up giving the Yankees the win as well. The team held the one-run lead provided by A-Rod's shot, downing the Red Sox 3-2.
The homer was Rodriguez' sixth of the season, giving him 14 RBI and 14 runs scored. A cold snap has his average down to .243, but the designated hitter has a .934 OPS thanks to his power and propensity to take walks.
A-Rod's past with performance-enhancing drugs will surely mar the accomplishment for many -- including the Yankees, who seem intent on trying to keep from paying him a $6 million bonus for reaching Mays' mark -- but he's reaching rarified air for any player, steroids or not. It doesn't have to be celebrated, but without question, what Rodriguez achieved Friday should be recognized.
Ace-Off In Queens
The pitchers went head to head as the Nationals visited the Mets, and it was Harvey, despite arguably being outpitched by Scherzer, who emerged victorious. Despite some tense moments, the Mets held on to beat the Nationals 4-0.
The game was much closer than the final score indicates, though. Scherzer and Harvey matched zeroes for the first three innings, with Scherzer actually going 3 1/3 innings without allowing a hit to start the game. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, the first hit he allowed was a home run to Michael Cuddyer.
It would be the only run Scherzer would allow while striking out 10 over seven innings, but Harvey was up to the task. Harvey scattered five hits and a walk, never allowing a runner past second base over seven shutout innings. Harvey fanned three in the outing.
Both pitchers have been wonderful thus far this season but with far different results. With Friday's win, Harvey is now 5-0 with a 2.41 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 34/4 K/BB ratio over 33 2/3 innings. Scherzer, on the other hand, dropped to 1-3 on the year with the loss but owns a 1.26 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 39/5 K/BB ratio over 35 2/3 innings of work. In Scherzer's three losses the Nationals have scored two runs total.
Wins are impossible to predict despite being regarded as gospel by some; there's little question Scherzer will start to rack them up in bunches soon. But when two great pitchers get together and duel like they did Friday, the real winners are the fans.
Swihart Gets The Call
Some bad fortune for another Red Sox catcher will expedite a top prospect's arrival in the majors.
Ryan Hanigan suffered a fracture to the fifth metacarpal in his right hand Friday when he was hit by a pitch -- from his own pitcher, this time -- on the hand. The pitch from Tommy Layne deflected off Mark Teixeira before hitting Hanigan's unprotected hand.
"Don't know yet," Red Sox manager John Farrell said when asked how long Hanigan will be out. "Substantial amount of time, though, with a fracture, and likely surgery. I don't know the exact length of time, but it's going to be lengthy."
With Hanigan out, Sandy Leon will take over starting duties for the Red Sox, but the club is also reportedly calling up catching prospect Blake Swihart to help fill Hanigan's shoes. Swihart, who checked in as high as No. 17 overall on prospect lists this spring, is hitting .338/.392/.382 through 18 games at Triple-A Pawtucket.
The club will continue to look outside the organization for help, as it did when projected starter Christian Vazquez required Tommy John surgery in spring. At that time it acquired Leon to serve as Hanigan's backup.
It's earlier than the Red Sox wanted to break in the 23-year-old, but if Swihart gets an opportunity he could stick in Boston both for his bat and his defense. If he is given a long look, the top prospect is certainly worthy of being owned in two-catcher leagues as well.
National League Quick Hits: Addison Russell made his first big league homer count Friday. The shortstop-turned-second baseman hit a solo shot for his first MLB dinger and it turned out to be the only run in the Cubs' 1-0 win over the Brewers ... In that win, Jon Lester got back on track. The southpaw fired seven shutout innings to earn his first win as a member of the Cubs, giving up just three hits and a walk while striking out four ... Marcell Ozuna capped a big night with a walk-off double against the Phillies. Ozuna finished 4-for-4 with three doubles and an RBI, raising his season line to .315/.395/.411 ... It was a winning debut for Mike Foltynewicz, who defeated the Reds in his first MLB start. Foltynewicz, acquired from the Astros in the Evan Gattis trade this offseason, gave up three runs -- two earned -- over five innings and also drove in a pair with a double ... Joc Pederson doesn't mind hitting at the top of the Dodgers' lineup, hitting his second homer in as many games and his third in the past four Friday. Pederson hit a grand slam to break it open against the Diamondbacks, giving him five home runs and 14 RBI on the year.
American League Quick Hits: Greg Holland (pectoral) will throw a simulated game Saturday, another step toward a return to the Royals. Holland may need a short rehab assignment or he could be activated as early as Sunday, the first day he can come off the 15-day disabled list ... The Blue Jays hoped Dalton Pompey could grab hold of their starting center field job this year, but the club demoted him to Triple-A Buffalo Friday after a subpar first month. Pompey, 22, batted a lowly .203/.276/.354 prior to his demotion ... After injuries and ineffectiveness derailed his career, Carlos Quentin announced his retirement Friday. The 32-year-old hadn't played more than 86 games since 2011 and was on a minor league deal with the Mariners before his retirement ... Nelson Cruz hit his league-leading 11th homer of the season Friday. Cruz also leads the league in RBI, slugging percentage and OPS ... Chris Young, in his first start of the season, didn't allow a hit over five shutout innings to defeat the Tigers. Young fanned nine in the start, likely his last for a while as he was merely making a spot start in place of the suspended Yordano Ventura ... Kyle Gibson also delivered a strong performance Friday, tossing eight scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the White Sox. Gibson has been very strong since a poor 2015 debut, owning a 2.03 ERA over his past four starts.