June has arrived, and is the case on almost every Saturday we had a stuffed MLB slate with plenty of day baseball. Want rivalries? There was Red Sox-Yankees and Cubs-Cardinals. Other compelling matchups included Twins-Rays, Phillies-Dodgers, and Astros-Athletics. We also had Giants-Orioles, but let us not speak of such things. Let’s jump in.
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Baseball scores for Saturday, June 1
Sanchez gives Yankees 9 1/2-game lead over Red Sox
Make it nine consecutive series wins for the Yankees. They beat the Red Sox for the fourth time in as many tries this season Saturday night at Yankee Stadium. New York has opened a 9 1/2-game lead over Boston and, with the Twins beating the Rays (more on that below), the Yankees have a 2 1/2-game lead on Tampa for first place in the AL East.
The hero Saturday night? Gary Sanchez. Sanchez swatted his AL leading 18th home run in the fifth inning. The two-run shot broke a 3-3 tie and New York’s vaunted bullpen took it from there.
Sanchez missed two weeks with a calf injury in April, so he’s played in only 39 of his team’s 57 games this season. Eighteen homers in 39 games is a 75-homer pace (!) across 162 games. Sanchez isn’t gong to hit 75 homers, of course, but he does have a very real chance to become only the sixth catcher in history to hit 40 homers in a season. The list:
- Johnny Bench (45 HR in 1970; 40 HR in 1972)
- Roy Campanella (41 HR in 1953)
- Todd Hundley (41 HR in 1996)
- Javy Lopez (43 HR in 2003)
- Mike Piazza (40 HR in 1997; 40 HR in 1999)
The Yankees, despite all their injuries, are 32-10 in their last 42 games, and they’ve won nine straight series for the first time since their historic 1998 season. They’re slowly getting healthy — James Paxton (knee) returned Wednesday, CC Sabathia (knee) returns Sunday, and Didi Gregorius (Tommy John surgery) could return as soon as Friday — and that’s good news. As good as the replacements have been. the regulars give the Yankees a better chance to continue at their current pace.
As for the Red Sox, Sunday’s loss was their fourth straight and sixth in their last eight games. They’ve fallen back to .500 at 29-29, and SportsLine puts their division title odds at 10.5 percent. That’s down from 40.8 percent on Opening Day and, honestly, 10.5 percent feels high give how the Red Sox have played this year. They’ve been inconsistent at best and thoroughly disappointing at worst. A postseason spot is still well within reach. At some point they have to get their act together and go on an extended hot streak though.
Arcia homers twice in marathon win
What a wild game in Pittsburgh on Saturday. The NL Central rival Brewers and Pirates played a back-and-forth affair through nine innings — while wearing spectacular Negro League throwback uniforms, I should add — before settling into the slog of extra innings. Here is the Cliffs Notes version of innings 1-9:
- The Brewers had a 5-0 lead after three innings. Orlando Arcia contributed a two-run homer.
- The Pirates responded with seven runs in the next three innings. Jose Osuna crushed a two-run homer.
- Christian Yelich hit a go-ahead three-run homer (his MLB leading 22nd HR) in the sixth one pitch after the Pirates let a popup drop in foul territory.
- Starling Marte smashed a go-ahead three-run home run against Josh Hader in the eighth.
- Keston Hiura tied the game with a ninth inning two-run homer against Felipe Vazquez.
There were three lead changes in innings 5-9. After the Hiura homer tied the game, the Pirates and Brewers traded zeroes until Arcia crushed what proved to be the game-winning two-run home run in the top of the 13th. It is his first career two-homer game.
The Pirates definitely had chances to win this game. First and foremost, Vazquez was on the mound with a two-run lead in the ninth inning, and that usually equals a win. Not Saturday though. Secondly, the Pirates had runners on first and second with one out in the 11th, then Elias Diaz banged into an inning-end double play. And third, the Pirates had the bases loaded with one out in the 12th, only to watch Marte ground into a force out at home and Josh Bell strike out.
The loss is the seventh in the last 10 games for Pittsburgh. The Pirates sit only one game under .500 at 28-29 despite being outscored by 66 runs — 66 runs! — in their 57 games this year. As for the Brewers, Saturday’s win was their fourth in their last six games.
Twins get another strong start
Coming into Saturday’s contest against the Rays, the following were true internet facts regarding the Minnesota rotation:
- They ranked second in the AL in rotation ERA (and the numbers of the top-ranked Rays’ rotation are skewed somewhat by their use of the opener).
- They ranked second in the AL in rotation FIP, or .
- They ranked second in the AL to the Astros in quality start percentage.
- They ranked third in the AL in average .
- The led the AL in innings per start.
Now here’s what Kyle Gibson did against Tampa Bay on Saturday (a Twins win that secured at least a split of the four-game set):
Gibson with that effort improved the Twins’ standing in all those categories listed above, save for average innings per start. That’s notable because Gibson came into this start with an ERA of 4.08. That’s not bad, but it’s the highest mark of any current member of the Twins’ rotation (Michael Pineda and his 5.34 ERA are presently on the IL). With this effort, Gibson’s ERA now stands at 3.75. Now let’s devote some color television footage to him:
Under former GM Terry Ryan, the Twins famously emphasized pitching to contact in the rotation. That’s not an approach that works very well in this era, in which strikeouts are common and hitters are adept at doing damage on contact.
Since taking over following the 2016 season, the front office tandem of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have worked to get Twins’ pitching caught up with the times. Here’s how the rotation has ranked in the 15-team AL in rotation K% (strikeouts as a percentage of batters faced) over the last five full seasons, plus 2019:
- 2014: 15th
- 2015: 13th
- 2016: 15th
- 2017: 12th
- 2018: 7th
- 2019: 6th
You can see the methodical progress. That’s not the sole reason the rotation is thriving in 2019, but it’s part of it.
The Twins have received a lot of attention for all the home runs they’ve hit this season. To be sure, that’s a huge part of their success. That said, this is a team that’s now an MLB-best 39-18 and with MLB-best run differential of plus-107. You don’t out-score your opponents by more than 100 runs by June 1 without doing lots of things well. One of those things is starting pitching, which Kyle Gibson reminded us of on Saturday.