Thrice is Nice
The 2019 season -- the year of the long ball -- has already witnessed more than its share of prodigious power displays. What we saw on Saturday though -- in separate cities and separate leagues no less -- was pretty spectacular.
Aristides Aquino has been on some kind of tear since joining the Reds on August 1. Okay, to be fair, he has been crushing the baseball this entire season, not just since his call-up. In 78 games at Triple-A Louisville, he slashed .299/.356/.636 while slugging 28 homers and driving in 53 runs. That’s nothing compared to what he has done at the big league level thus far.
The 25-year-old outfielder entered play on Saturday hitting .417/.440/.958 with four homers and 10 RBI in his first eight games (25 plate appearances) at the big league level. That included a stretch in which he had homered in each of his last three games, including the first two games of their weekend set against the Cubs.
Aquino extended that streak to four straight games in his first at-bat on Saturday, sending the first pitch that he saw from Kyle Hendricks over the wall in left field for a solo shot leading off the second inning.
He then strode to the plate the following inning, and again pulverized the first pitch that he saw from Hendricks into the seats in left field. Things were a bit different the next inning, when he squared off against Dillon Maples in the fourth. This time, he took the first pitch of the at-bat for a ball, then swung and missed at a pair of pitches. After fouling off one two-strike offering, he then crushed a solo shot to center field -- increasing the Reds’ lead to 9-0 and giving him the first three-homer game of his young big league career.
In doing so, Aquino matched a major league record by homering in three consecutive innings -- becoming the 12th player in history (and first rookie) to do so.. In addition, Aquino matched Rockies’ shortstop Trevor Story’s record of seven home runs in his first 10 big league games. Additionally, Aquino became only the second rookie in Reds’ franchise history to homer in four consecutive games, joining Eric Davis who accomplished the feat in September of 1984.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, he’s just the second player in MLB history with a three-homer game within his first 10 MLB games, joining Bobby Estalella, who did it in 1997.
Those who invested in Aquino for pennies in free agent bidding last weekend should be counting their blessings, as he’s likely to cost a king’s ransom wherever he remains available this week.
While Aquino was putting on a historic power display in the National League, Yordan Alvarez was doing his own damage in the American League.
The 22-year-old rookie sensation entered play on Saturday hitting .346/.425/.691 with 14 homers and 44 RBI through his first 44 big league games. He certainly made sure that his 45th big league contest was a memorable one.
He belted a solo shot off of Aaron Brooks in the first inning, going back-to-back with teammate Alex Bregman. Alvarez then swatted a grand slam off of Tanner Scott in the seventh inning, running the Astros lead to an outrageous 20-1. He finished the trifecta with a two-run blast off of position player Stevie Wilkerson in the ninth, capping off the 23-2 extravaganza and a spectacular seven RBI night for Alvarez.
It was the second multi-homer game of his young career and the first time that he had driven in more than three runs in a single game.
With the impressive power display, Alvarez and Aquino became the first pair of rookies in MLB history to record three-homer games on the same day.
Alvarez also made history of his own on Saturday, as the seven RBI game gives him a total of 51 through his first 45 big league games. That surpassed the previous record of 47 set by legendary slugger Ted Williams in 1939.
We're now 45 games into his big league career and he's slashing a ridiculous .353/.432/.743 with 17 homers and 51 RBI. He's the clear front-runner for the American League Rookie of the Year award despite having not debuted until June 9.
Blue Jays’ manager Charlie Montoya announced Saturday that closer Ken Giles continues to deal with arm troubles and could soon be headed back to the injured list. The right-hander hasn’t pitched since Wednesday and was again nowhere to be seen for a save situation against the Yankees on Saturday.
That save chance, went to Derek Law, who recorded the final four outs to preserve a one-run advantage against the Yankees. The save was Law’s third of the season -- all of which have come during the month of August -- and he hasn’t been scored upon in any of his last 11 appearances.
For those speculating on saves, now would be the time to strike -- if it’s not already too late.
In Atlanta, their prized trade deadline acquisitions simply aren’t performing as advertised. Shane Greene was stripped of his closer’s duties -- perhaps temporarily -- after allowing five runs on nine hits over 3 ⅓ innings in his first four appearances.
Braves’ skipper Brian Snitker announced on Friday that Mark Melancon would be the team’s primary closer for the time being. On Saturday, the club held a one-run lead going into the top half of the ninth inning, where Melancon was warmed up and ready to go for his first save chance. The Braves then pushed three runs across in the top of the inning, giving him a four-run cushion to work with.
While it wasn’t a save chance for the veteran left-hander, it was still an opportunity for him to solidify his grip on the ninth inning role. Instead, Melancon melted down in epic fashion. After striking out Harold Ramirez to begin the inning, he allowed a one-out single to Martin Prado. That was followed by a single to Bryan Holaday, then a single by Curtis Granderson, and then a run-scoring single by Jon Berti.
At that point, Snitker had seen enough, opting to go back to Greene in what had now become a save chance. The right-hander continued to let his new club down though, allowing an RBI single to Isan Diaz and then a game-tying two-run double to Starlin Castro. Diaz -- the potential go-ahead run -- was thrown out at the plate attempting to score on that play. Greene then walked Brian Anderson before mercifully retiring Garrett Cooper to end the inning.
Perhaps the Braves’ best bet in the interim would be to give Luke Jackson another crack at the ninth inning gig, where he had racked up 17 saves before their flurry of deadline deals reshaped the Braves’ entire bullpen. It’s a messy situation with no clear indication on exactly how it’s going to play out. If you’re speculating on saves and have an available roster spot, all three hurlers could justify ownership at this point.
In Milwaukee, Matt Albers fired a scoreless ninth inning against the Rangers to earn his third save of the season. He was only getting the save chance because Josh Hader was unavailable after throwing 44 pitches on Friday night, but this could be a situation to monitor if you’re speculating on saves in very deep formats. With Hader’s recent struggles, perhaps Brewers’ skipper Craig Counsell will start to mix and match in the ninth inning, giving Albers the occasional chance as well.
American League Quick Hits: Gleyber Torres (core) sat out his fourth consecutive game on Saturday, though he’s tentatively expected to return to the Yankees’ starting lineup on Sunday… Shohei Ohtani (elbow) ramped his velocity up to 80 mph in a successful bullpen session on Saturday, though he’s still not expected to return to the mound this season… The Rays signed Dylan Cozens to a two-year minor league contract… DJ Stewart (concussion) is expected to return from the injured list when first eligible on Wednesday… Mitch Haniger (groin) is expected to begin his minor league rehab assignment at High-A Modesto on Tuesday… Tommy Pham sat out Saturday’s game with a sore right hand. He’s considered day-to-day… JaCoby Jones will miss the remainder of the 2019 season after being diagnosed with a fractured left wrist sustained when he was hit by a Brad Keller fastball on Friday… Gary Sanchez blasted a solo home run in his return from the injured list on Saturday… Teoscar Hernandez crushed a three-run homer -- his third home run in the last two days -- as the Blue Jays topped the Yankees… Mike Trout clobbered his league-leading 39th home run -- his first ever at Fenway Park -- in a victory over the Red Sox… Mike Montgomery racked up a career-high 12 strikeouts over seven brilliant innings of shutout baseball in a victory over the Tigers… Jorge Soler belted his 33rd home run -- and swiped his first base -- in that win… Aaron Sanchez was victorious in his second straight start with the Astros, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out six over five innings… Jose Altuve crushed his 20th home run in that rout over the Orioles, while Alex Bregman went 3-for-3 with a homer, two doubles and three RBI… Eloy Jimenez swatted his 19th homer in a victory over the Athletics… Reynaldo Lopez hurled 6 ⅓ scoreless innings to secure the win in that one… Danny Santana slugged his 18th home run in a loss to the Brewers… Max Kepler swatted his 32nd home run as the Twins topped the Indians… Yasiel Puig launched his first home run as a member of the Indians in a losing effort… Taylor Rogers recorded the final six outs to earn his 18th save of the season… Jake Odorizzi struck out six over 5 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball to earn a victory there… Charlie Morton fanned 10 over six innings in a victory over the Mariners… Mike Zunino provided the punch in that one with a three-run blast… Omar Narvaez slugged his 17th long ball in a losing effort there.
National League Quick Hits: Johnny Cueto (elbow) threw two scoreless innings in a minor league rehab start for the Gulf Coast League Giants on Friday. Barring any setbacks, he could rejoin the Giants’ rotation at some point in September… Christian Yelich (back) missed his fifth straight game and is expected to sit out on Sunday as well, though he has reported significant improvement and is on track to return to the lineup on Tuesday… Francisco Cervelli (concussion) will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona on Sunday… Craig Kimbrel (knee) is unlikely to return from the injured list when first eligible on Wednesday… Jose Iglesias sat out Saturday’s game as he’s dealing with minor biceps soreness… Zack Davies (back) threw a successful bullpen session on Friday and is on track to return to the Brewers’ rotation during their upcoming road trip… Padres’ southpaw Jose Castillo will miss the remainder of the 2019 season after being diagnosed with a torn ligament in his throwing hand… Alex Dickerson (oblique) is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday… Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer on Saturday, powering the Giants past the Phillies… Jeff Samardzija struck out five over eight innings of one-run baseball in a win over the Phillies… Mike Soroka struck out six over seven shutout innings in a tough-luck no-decision against the Marlins… Luis Guillorme slugged a pinch-hit, game-tying solo homer in the eighth inning for his first major league homer in Saturday’s come-from-behind victory over the Nationals -- the eighth straight win for the Mets… Adam Wainwright racked up eight strikeouts over six innings of one-run ball in a win over the Pirates on Saturday… Sonny Gray fired six shutout innings in a victory over the Cubs… Keston Hiura walloped his 14th homer as the Brewers topped the Rangers… Adrian Houser recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts over six innings in a win over the Rangers… Hunter Renfroe went 3-for-3 with a home run, two RBI and four runs scored, leading the Padres past the Rockies… Kirby Yates picked up his MLB-leading 33rd save with a scoreless ninth inning in that one… Max Muncy clubbed his 28th home run, powering the Dodgers past the Diamondbacks… Kenta Maeda fired seven shutout innings -- striking out six -- in that victory.