The All-Star break comes at the perfect time for all 30 teams.
Whether they’re dominating, as are the Los Angeles Dodgers, or barely surviving — see the Baltimore Orioles — everyone is gassed from a first half highlighted by home runs, strikeouts, rain and more rain.
As we catch our breath and pray some of the runaway divisional races will become more competitive, here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the season:
Best free agent walk year
Jose Abreu is second in the AL with 66 RBIs and sixth in home runs with 21. With the White Sox in rebuild mode, he would seem to be trade fodder. But no one seems to think the Sox will pull the trigger.
“If I would be the owner, I would sign myself here,” Abreu, 32, said last week after hitting a walk-off home run against the Tigers. “Hopefully, yes, I want to stay here.”
Chris Sale was the AL All-Star starter the past three years and got the final three outs in the Red Sox’s World Series clincher in October.
He began the season with a five-year, $145 million contract extension and is 3-8 with a 4.04 ERA while the Red Sox are 6-12 in his 18 starts, falling nine games behind the Yankees in the AL East and having to settle for being a wild card contender.
“I’m supposed to be a big part of this team and a big part of this pitching staff,” Sale said. “I know who I am and who I’m supposed to be for this team, and I haven’t even been anything close. What am I, 3-8? That’s absolutely embarrassing. That’s not what I need to be and that’s not who I need to be for this team.
“On a team like this, they need me to be better, and I haven’t been there for them. I’m standing before you as frustrated as I’ve ever been, just to be honest. … I’m not locating fastballs, my changeup is terrible, breaking ball is hit or miss. I just haven’t been myself for a while. I just haven’t been good.”
Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg threw an immaculate inning last week against the Marlins, becoming the 91st pitcher to do so in major league history (97 times). An immaculate inning is one in which a pitcher strikes out the side on nine pitches.
While A’s right-hander and former Brewers player Mike Fiers threw a no-hitter against the Reds on May 7, it might not have been as impressive as Kyle Hendricks’ 81-pitch shutout against the Cardinals on May 3 at Wrigley Field. After Matt Carpenter struck out to begin the game, the next 24 Cardinals put the ball in play, a stretch that ended when Harrison Bader was called out on strikes to end the eighth. In an era of home runs and strikeouts, Hendricks’ masterpiece, known as a “Maddux” — a complete-game shutout in less than 100 pitches — was an anomaly.
White Sox left-hander Manny Banuelos gave up 10 straight hits in a nine-run third inning during a 15-2 Red Sox rout on May 4 at Guaranteed Rate Field. The streak ended when Carson Fulmer came in and walked Andrew Benintendi. The all-time record is 11 straight hits by the Rockies against the Cubs during a 17-2 win July 30, 2010, at Coors Field. “You can’t do that very often,” Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster said that night. “That’s why it never has been done before.”
White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito had a 6.13 ERA in 2018, worst in the majors among qualified starters. He changed his delivery in spring training, making it more compact, and refused to lose confidence. Giolito has a 3.15 ERA, ranked eighth among starters, and is tied for the league lead with 11 wins. “It’s fun to finally be able to do what I know I’ve been capable of,” he said. “I just haven’t shown it.”
The Orioles had lost 13 of 14 games when they posted back-to-back 13-0 victories over the Indians on June 28-29, becoming the first team in history with consecutive shutout wins of at least 13 runs. It was the first time they had won two straight since May 4-6. The O’s finished June with a 6-20 record and are well on their way to back-to-back seasons of 100-plus losses.
This category could be debated for days, but first-base ump Vic Carapazza gets the nod for making history June 28 when replay overturned four of his calls during a Cardinals-Padres game. Even Enrico Pallazzo had a better day in “The Naked Gun.”
Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner yelled at Dodgers slugger Max Muncy after Muncy hit one of his pitches into McCovey Cove.
Bumgarner understands the kids want to pose, bat flip and admire their home runs, but he argued he also should be able to holler at them if he wants.
“They want to let everybody be themselves,” he said. “Let me by myself — that’s me, you know? I’d just as soon fight than walk or whatever. You just do your thing, I’ll do mine. Everybody is different. I can’t speak for everybody else, but that’s just how I want to play. And that’s how I’m going to.”
The Mets held Jerry Seinfeld Day on Friday at Citi Field to honor their longtime celebrity fan on the 30th anniversary of the debut of “Seinfeld.” Fans received Seinfeld bobbleheads and got a chance to meet Larry Thomas, who played the “Soup Nazi.” Unfortunately the Mets didn’t invite the actor who played “Vargas,” who was the so-called “Bizarro Newman” character in an episode in which Elaine Benes befriended characters who were the opposite of Seinfeld, George, Kramer and Newman. The Mets have a “Vargas” on the team: Jason Vargas, the starter who threatened to punch a Newsday sportswriter in the Mets’ bizarro season.
Best viral ad
MLB decided to promote next year’s Cubs-Cardinals series in London with a photo of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina pretending to be the Beatles in their famous stroll across Abbey Road.
Rizzo is even barefoot in the photo, meaning he was supposed to be Paul McCartney. But as every Baby Boomer knows, the photo led to false rumors McCartney was dead, and walking barefoot on the “Abbey Road” album cover allegedly was one of the clues. Rizzo is alive and well.