Happy Fourth of July! We had loads of baseball to enjoy on this holiday, with a slate of 12 games. For all the news, notes, and updates from across the league from Thursday, we invite you to check out our daily recap below. Headliners? The Yankees continued their 2019 dominance of the Rays, the NL Central got even more complicated, and the Nats continued their recent surge.

Select games can be streamed regionally via fuboTV (Try for free). For more on what channel each game is on, click here.

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July 4 scores

Bellinger joins 30 homer club

Christian Yelich entered the day as the only hitter to reach 30 homers for the season (he’s presently at 31), soon enough, though, Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers joined him: 

Hey, it’s a special occasion, so let’s give young Cody a bonus angle: 

Yeah, that’s a nice swing. Hands go back as the stride foot goes forward, and Bellinger points the knob of the bat at the catcher as he loads. Then he keeps that back elbow bent and slotted through contact. That — plus elite bat speed and hand-eye coordination — is how you “elevate and celebrate.” 

That blast makes Bellinger the first Dodger to reach 30 home runs in the first half of the season. Now here he is in even more elite company: 

Thanks to Bellinger’s elite production at the plate (he’s batting .345/.440/.713 at the moment) and strong defensive metrics, he leads all of baseball in WAR and does by a fairly comfortable margin. Consider him your NL MVP front-runner as we head toward the break.

Yanks still own the Rays

For a while, things looked somewhat promising for the Rays. They scored their first-ever runs off closer Aroldis Chapman, who entered this game with a 1.36 ERA, and forced extras. In the tenth, though, the Yankees busted out for five runs, three of which came on this Gary Sanchez bomb: 

That was a certifiable blast, and Mr. Sanchez is no stranger to certifiable blasts: 

The Yankees withstood the Luis Cessa Experience in the bottom of the tenth and held on for the win. Despite Chapman’s blown save, they’re now 47-0 this season when taking a lead into the ninth inning. They’re also now 8-2 against the Rays in 2019, and they’ve outscored them 60-29 in those games. 

The Yankees now lead the second-place Rays by 7.5 games in the AL East, and the bulk of that lead flows from the Yankees’ dominance in head-to-head encounters. 

Reds shut out Brewers again

For the second straight day, the Reds shut out the visiting Brewers in Cincy. This time, it was largely the work of Luis Castillo, who’s been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball this season:

Castillo didn’t allow a hit in this until there was one out in the seventh, and for the season he now boasts a 2.29 ERA in 106 innings with 124 strikeouts. On Thursday, the Brewers wound up going 1 for 24 against him. There’s also this: 

Somewhat surprisingly, the Reds rank second in the NL in ERA despite the hitter-friendly nature of their home ballpark. That excellent pitching is a big reason why they boast a strong plus-42 run differential. That excellent pitching plus the prevailing mediocrity of the NL Central is why the Reds are now just 3.5 games out of first place (despite being in last place). Yes, that’s another way of saying that every team in the NL Central is within 3.5 games of the lead.

Trout joins elite company (again)

Another day, another historic benchmark for Angels cloutsman Mike Trout. Here’s his ninth home run against the Rangers this season (!): 

That’s also Trout’s 25th home run of the season. Speaking of which: 

Mathews, of course, is a Hall of Famer who went on to hit 512 home runs. So that qualifies as good company. At the moment, Trout is now batting .301/.455/.630, and he’s likely the AL MVP front-runner. In other words, nothing new to report.

Garcia has a day to remember

Kris Bryant went off as the Cubs avoided a sweep at the hands of Pirates. He tallied four hits, including a homer and two doubles. The bigger story, though, was recently call-up Robel Garcia, who went 3 for 5 with a triple and his first career home run: 

That one left the bat at 104.3 mph and wound up going 416 feet. Of note: 

At 26, Garcia is a bit on the old side for a rookie, and that’s because Garcia’s path to the majors has been fascinatingly meandering, as our own Matt Snyder recently recounted. Given Garcia’s power potential and his ability to play second base, he could be a key piece for the Cubs in the second half of the season.

Also things got tense in this one thanks to some up-and-in pitching by the Pirates, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon sounds like he’ll be looking for some revenge the next time they meet.

The Cubs’ sweep-dodging win on Thursday in tandem with the Brewers’ loss means that those two teams are now tied atop the NL Central standings.

Edman comes up big again for Cardinals

Tommy Edman, 24, is a former sixth-rounder out of Stanford who didn’t really distinguish himself with the bat until his second stint at Triple-A. That good production at Memphis recently got him the call to St. Louis, and he’s been a key piece ever since. That was the case again on Thursday in Seattle: 

That’s a clutch bases-loaded single — one of two hits for Edman on the day — that flipped a one-run Seattle lead into a one-run Cardinals lead. The bullpen made it hold up, and St. Louis is back above .500 for the season. As for Edman, he’s now batting .300/.317/.600 in 41 plate appearances with three home runs, a triple, and two stolen bases while spending time at second and third. It remains to be seen whether he can come close to sustaining anything close to those current power numbers, but he’s already been a big roster boost to St. Louis.  

The Nats are back in contention

At the start of play on May 24, the Washington Nationals were a season-worst 12 games under .500 and 10 games out in the NL East. Given the disappointments of 2018, manager Davey Martinez figured to be on the hottest of seats. Since then, however, the Nationals have been lava-hot — an MLB-best 26-10 over that span, which includes a 21-8 mark since June 1. 

Read more here about the Nats’ surge back into contention and their current playoff odds.

Quick hits