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Kris Bryant Breaks multiple MLB records in one Night

Cubs’ Kris Bryant first in MLB history to hit 3 home runs, 2 doubles in game

That doesn’t do him justice, however, because it doesn’t include total bases. With three home runs and two doubles, Bryant set a Cubs franchise record with 16. In fact (via baseball-reference.com play index), only 18 players since 1913 have ever racked up 16 total bases, with the most recent being Josh Hamilton in 2012 when he hit four homers. The record there is 19 (Shawn Green, 2002).

The effort by Bryant marked the first time in Major League Baseball history that a player recorded at least three home runs and two doubles in the same game.

Bryant appears headed to be a starter in the All-Star Game, which is in San Diego this year. Bryant went to the University of San Diego, so that’s pretty cool. Even if Nolan Arenado runs him down in voting, he’ll likely be one of the first subs off the bench for the National League anyway. Bryant’s line on the season is now ..278/.367/.567 with 19 doubles, 21 homers and 57 RBI. Suffice it to say, there’s no sophomore slump here for the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year.

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Baseball 2016 – is fighting getting worse?

With the sport of boxing on people’s minds lately, maybe fight fans — based on what we’ve witnessed this season — should buy a ticket to a baseball game.

Twice already, players have thrown real, spectacular punches. And in one bout, Roughned Odor vs. Jose Bautista, it was a miracle that there wasn’t a knockout, judging by the sheer force of Odor’s right hook connecting with Bautista’s face.

This past week, a similar situation arose when notorious Royals instigator Yordano Ventura drilled perennial MVP candidate Manny Machado of the Orioles in the back with a 99-mph fastball. Machado stormed the mound and threw a few glancing blows before the two were separated.

We’ve always been of the mindset that despite the dusty, age-old book of unwritten rules that governs the game, trading beanballs and punches is no good for anyone. Maybe it’s fun for fans to watch, just as hockey fights are a drawing card for that sport, but Major League Baseball doesn’t want its high-priced stars targeting each other, under any circumstances, at the risk of losing the most bankable assets.

The question then becomes, can this behavior be nudged out of baseball completely, with more severe suspensions and expensive fines? Or as Noah Syndergaard discovered last month, the umpires wielding a quick trigger finger on (potentially) harmful conduct?

Some believe that despite the earlier flare-ups this season, the commissioner’s office already has made solid progress on the issue.

“I heard these questions 40 years ago,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Thursday at Yankee Stadium. “I think that Major League Baseball is doing a better job trying to take the onus off of retaliation and trying to legislate some things that are going to make an impact.

“There’s a difference between pitching inside and throwing at somebody. At timesthat line is blurred, and Major League Baseball steps in. But I think they’re much more proactive in trying to deal with some of the things instead of leaving it to [having] somebody go out there and trying to hit somebody in the ribs, and as a retaliation, you end up hitting them in the head.”

Scioscia, 57 and the longest-tenured active manager, has seen this issue from just about every angle — first during his 13 years as a Dodgers catcher in a playing career that ended in 1992.

The sport used to have more of a Wild West feel between the lines, and any resentment or hostility resulted in more batters being plunked on purpose or physical payback on the basepaths. As players and managers liked to say, it was crucial to let the game police itself, whatever the casualty count.

MLB sensitive to issue

But that’s not something MLB seems all that interested in anymore, and the umpiring crews, basically an extension of baseball’s home office, have attempted to avoid these escalations by setting up pre-series meetings with managers and a liberal dose of in-game warnings.

Syndergaard was ejected for merely throwing a 99-mph fastball behind Chase Utley, the vengeful pitch coming a little more than seven months after Utley’s vicious slide broke Ruben Tejada’s leg in the NLDS. While many saw that as an overreaction from fill-in umpire Adam Hamari, on loan from the minors, it also was an indication of how sensitive MLB is to these incidents.

“I think there are a lot less because of some of the penalties and what Major League Baseball has tried to do,” Joe Girardi said Thursday. “They’ve tried to jump ahead of it before it happens. But as long as there’s competition and emotion, it’s never going to completely leave.

“We want to see the competition and we want to see the emotions. But sometimes they boil over and something like [Ventura-Machado] happens. You don’t want to see players suspended, but it’s better than not having any emotions in the game at all.”

Girardi’s latter point was taken a step further in some circles after the Baltimore brawl, with managers such as the Orioles’ Buck Showalter and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon applauding Machado for taking justice into his own hands. Ventura has infuriated plenty of people throughout the majors with his antics, and Maddon told reporters in Philadelphia that Machado’s mound charge was “absolutely warranted.

“I used to tell my guys, ‘You got two options. Go to first [base] or go to the mound. Those are your two options. Don’t point fingers and wait for someone to hold you back. Either go to first or go to the mound. It’s very simple.”

The problem isn’t so much the punches as what initiates those haymakers, and most times it has to do with a pitcher firing rawhide-laced bullets at the guy in the batter’s box. Regardless of the motivation — blind rage or having a teammate’s back — this part of the game has outlived its usefulness. Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson were romanticized for their intimidation tactics, and if that meant a few bruises to reclaim their part of the plate, so be it. But as Scioscia mentioned, there’s a distinction between pitching aggressively and denting batters out of spite. With Ventura and Syndergaard hurling projectiles at triple-digit speeds, that’s taking these staredowns to a very dangerous place.

“Ninety-nine is no joke,” Machado told reporters after Tuesday’s confrontation at Camden Yards. “You can ruin somebody’s career like that.”

And the price for hurling a pitch like that, it seems, remains considerably higher than throwing a punch. Ventura received a nine-game suspension for Tuesday’s purpose pellet — two more than his penalty for instigating last season’s bench-clearing brawl between the Royals and White Sox. All Ventura did that day was yell at Adam Eaton, but it came on the heels of drilling the A’s Brett Lawrie with a 99-mph pitch in a previous series, so MLB’s disciplinary wing already was wise to his provocative behavior.

Losing Machado hurts more

For a starting pitcher, nine games translates to one missed start, and for the Royals, some slight rotation-shuffling. From a team perspective, Machado getting four games for the punch is a more costly blow. Suspended players can’t be replaced on the 25-man roster during the penalty and Machado is hitting .306 with 16 home runs and a .976 OPS.

Ventura’s history as a multiple offender of inciting opponents certainly factored into the nine-game ban, and Machado, despite slinging the first punch, actually was responding to the initial aggression. MLB determined that Ventura “intentionally threw” at Machado, who was punished, in part, for charging the mound. Additionally, both were disciplined under the general umbrella term of “fighting.”

Girardi also was in pinstripes during one of the most infamous brawls, the ’98 clash between the Yankees and Orioles in the Bronx. Armando Benitez lit the fuse by drilling Tino Martinez in the back, and after the benches and bullpens emptied, the lasting image is Darryl Strawberry taking on what seems like half of the Orioles’ team in the Baltimore dugout.

Those types of incidents have a different feel as a player, fueled by adrenaline and competitive fire. As the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo told The Washington Post this past week, he believes when on-field tempers flare, as they did during the Ventura-Machado spectacle, “I honestly think it’s good for baseball.”

GMs and managers, however, tend to think a little more big- picture. Once the genie is out of the bottle in these melees, there’s no predicting the extent of the damage, from that night’s game to the following week or even an entire season.

“You worry about guys maybe getting hit in the hand or that sort of thing, where you’re going to lose them for a while,” Girardi said. “Or a pitcher is going to be suspended, and if it’s a starter, it really changes everything you do if you don’t have off days. It can really screw up your whole roster.”

The punches thrown thus far this season, as well as the angry pitches, won’t be the last for Major League Baseball. What they add to the game’s entertainment remains up for debate. As far as the sport’s bottom line, however, preventing the players from attacking each other, with balls or fists, has to stay high on the priority list.

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Jake Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel, Newly Anointed Aces, Win Cy Young Awards

Jake Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel reported to spring training in February with a combined career record of 55-59 and zero appearances on Cy Young Award ballots. By the end of the season they were certified aces, lifting their teams to the division series with shutout pitching in the wild-card games.

On Wednesday, Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award, and Keuchel took the honor in the American League. Their breakout seasons mirrored those of their teams, and the baseball writers noticed. Arrieta’s award was the third this week for the Chicago Cubs, and Keuchel’s was the second for the Houston Astros

Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 E.R.A., finishing with 22 scoreless innings. He allowed only 5.9 hits and 0.4 home runs per nine innings — leading the majors in both categories — and his 0.75 E.R.A. after the All-Star break was the best in baseball history for a pitcher with at least 100 innings.

“We have tremendous athletes at very young ages,” Arrieta said Wednesday. “We have arms that are going to be around for a while. We’re probably going to make some moves for some others, and that’s only going to strengthen our ball club.”

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Jake Arrieta, Chicago

Games started: 33

Record: 22-6

Earned run average: 1.77

Innings: 229

Hits: 150

Walks: 48

Strikeouts: 236

Led the majors in victories. Compiled an 0.41 E.R.A. from Aug. 4 to the end of the season, giving up four earned runs over 88 1/3 innings and going 11-0 in 12 starts. It was the lowest E.R.A. for any pitcher from Aug. 1 to the end of the season since E.R.A. became an official statistic. Source: MLB.com

“It’s hard to put in perspective,” Arrieta said. “I see the numbers on TV; people bring it up to me quite a bit. It’s kind of crazy to even think about.”

The N.L. vote was closer, though not as close as many had expected. Arrieta had 17 first-place votes, with 10 going to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Zack Greinke and three to Clayton Kershaw, Greinke’s teammate. Greinke had a 1.66 E.R.A., the lowest in the majors in 20 years, and Kershaw had 301 strikeouts, the most in the majors since 2002.

Arrieta had a losing record in four seasons with Baltimore before a trade to Chicago in mid-2013. The Cubs encouraged him to use his preferred delivery — across his body — and he has thrived. He is the fifth Cubs pitcher to win the award, after Ferguson Jenkins, Bruce Sutter, Rick Sutcliffe and Greg Maddux.

The Astros’ Carlos Correa was the A.L. rookie of the year, and A. J. Hinch was the runner-up for the Manager of the Year Award. In the N.L., the Cubs’ Kris Bryant was the rookie of the year, and Joe Maddon was named the top manager. The Most Valuable Player Awards — the fourth set of honors given by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — will be announced Thursday.
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The Astros’ Dallas Keuchel dominated the Yankees in the A.L. wild-card game. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Dallas Keuchel, Houston

Games started: 33

Record: 20-8

Earned run average: 2.48

Innings: 232

Hits: 185

Walks: 51

Strikeouts: 216

Finished 15-0 in 18 starts in his home park, becoming the first major league pitcher to go undefeated with at least 14 victories at home in one season. Led the A.L. in victories and innings. Earned three A.L. Pitcher of the Month Awards (April, May and August).

Keuchel won all 15 of his decisions at home and went 20-8 over all with a 2.48 E.R.A. He led the A.L. in innings pitched (232) and walks plus hits per inning (1.017) and won a Gold Glove. He received 22 of 30 first-place votes, with David Price, who pitched for Detroit and Toronto, collecting the rest. Oakland’s Sonny Gray finished third.

Keuchel — the third Astro to win.

“There’s a lot more confidence, and with that comes a better understanding of what I can do,” Keuchel said Wednesday. “I’ve always been an advocate of striving to get myself better and better to the point of throwing any pitch at any point, to any location. I really feel like this year was the first time that I can remember that I was able to throw the majority of the pitches where I wanted.”

The Astros radio analyst Steve Sparks, who pitched in the majors for nine years, said Keuchel made his most important adjustment in May 2014, when he changed the angle of his wrist on his slider. The pitch now breaks much later, giving Keuchel another weapon to go with his sinker and changeup, which move the opposite way.

“He could do so many things once he perfected that slider,” Sparks said. “That’s what opened everything up for him.”

Keuchel’s stuff improved even more this season, changing his profile from a ground-ball pitcher to one also capable of generating lots of strikeouts. He had 216 in the regular season and then fanned seven in six innings at Yankee Stadium in the Astros’ 3-0 wild-card victory.

“All last year he was getting better and better — more confident, being more creative with setup pitches,” Sparks said. “And he stays low in the strike zone with his fastball, like three inches below the knees, better than anybody I’ve ever seen.”

That late, low movement, and the confidence to match, has lifted Keuchel to the same unlikely spot as Arrieta: the top of his profession for a sudden contender.

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Chicago Baseball

Well, Chicago baseball is heating up already this Spring. Just a few games into the season, and one of last season’s two playoff-bound Chicago baseball teams is having a whole lotta shake-up going on.

Fierty White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has moved mostly untested but highly promising second baseman Chris Getz into the leadoff spot just a few games into the regular 2009 season. Although Getz made an oh-fer (0 for 4) in his leadoff man debut against the Kansas City Royals (which the Chisox lost 2-1, stranding men on base in the final inning), Guillen said he liked the way Getz took all four of his plate appearances and will leave him in the leadoff spot for the foreseeable future. Not giving Guillen a good look at the plate in the previous two games was what cost center fielder DeWayne Wise the leadoff man spot.

Speaking of his decision, the always-straight-forward Chisox manager said of Wise’s final three plate appearances the day before, “I don’t like it at all. I think he was trying to, I don’t want to say intimidated, but just wanted to protect the plate. I want to get him out of there for a couple of days until he starts to swing the bat better. When he starts to swing the bat better or the way we think he swings the bat, I’ll move him back up to see what happens.”

The Chicago crowd certainly seemed to be in sync with Guillen’s thoughts. They booed Wise roundly the previous games before he was dropped from the leadoff spot after going 0-for-8. Wise himself is, well, none too wise about exactly why.

“I can’t figure it out. I was at home last night, and I was thinking about it. I was like, ‘Wow, it’s not just me that’s not hitting.’ I’ve kind of been the guy that’s been singled out and taken all the heat. I guess this leadoff thing has been the topic all offseason and through the entire spring training, maybe it’s because the fans wanted a veteran guy in that spot, a natural leadoff guy that’s had success on this level in that spot.”

Still, Wise and Getz, along with third baseman Josh Fields (who, though confined to the bottom of the order for now, apparently has learned how to lay down bunt-singles to make up for his lack of brilliant hitting), are all touted as potential big offense for a Chisox team that spent the off season offing some of its older veteran players to add youthful energy to those who remained. Hitting coach Greg Walker says of Wise, Getz, and Fields, “We’re excited about them. We feel like what they do mechanically holds up and they are mentally strong kids, so they should be just fine.” And manager Guillen, who calls himself a “defense guy”, has also voiced the opinion that “When you got Wise, Getz, Quentin, and then go to A.J., Fields and Ramirez, you got more ability to do more stuff. I don’t have to wait for Konerko, Dye, Thome to get hot to score some runs.”

On the mound, fireballing closer Bobby Jenks, who has been known to hit 100mph with his heaters, put aside worries from some that he was losing his already legendary velocity by consistently hitting 96 and 97mph in his appearances. so far this season. Still, he did give up the losing run in the form of a homer to non-power-hitter Coco Crisp of the Royals in the 2-1 loss. According to Jenks, Crisp hit a “cutter that didn’t cut.” But Jenks is still plenty young, the season is plenty young, and nobody’s perfect.

Chicago baseball could see a playoff repeat appearance from the 2006 World Champions this season. We’ll see how the off-season wheeling and dealing ends.

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