J.D. Martinez, Victor Caratini and a Play at the Plate: Around the Diamond in MLB’s Second Week
Caratini made history when he caught Joe Musgrove's no-hitter for the San Diego Padres
Though it didn’t take place on a big-league diamond, one of the best hardball-related stories to come out of the weekend was North Texas softball pitcher Hope Trautwein fanning all 21 Arkansas-Pine Bluff batters she faced in a perfect game on Sunday.
The 3-0 victory was the first perfect game in North Texas history and it is s believed Trautwein’s gem was the first perfect seven-inning game in NCAA Division I history with every out being a strikeout.
Though no one in Major League Baseball achieved perfection like Trautwein, there were plenty of standout performers and a number of interesting stories that emerged during MLB’s second week of play. Let’s go around the diamond and get you caught up on seven of ’em.
With a successful swipe of second in Saturday night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Tim Locastro broke the Major League record for most successful stolen bases to start a career (28-for-28).
After swiping the record for successful steals away from Tim Raines, who went 27-for-27 to begin his career from 1979 to 1981, Locastro gave up his cleats so they could be shipped to Cooperstown to be put on display in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
As Fangraphs points out, Locastro’s perfect record is pretty amazing given how often he runs when he gets on base (which is a decent amount thanks to a career average of .257 and OBP of .360).
“Of the 530 non-pitchers to appear in at least 100 games since 2017, Locastro ranks in the 94th percentile in stolen base attempts per game,” according to Fangraphs. “Yes, Locastro steals pretty regularly (which makes sense, considering his raw speed), and yet he still has never been caught.”
Traded to San Diego this offseason, Joe Musgrove struck out 10 Rangers and did not issue a walk over nine scoreless innings while throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history for the Padres on Friday.
Also making history during Musgrove’s masterpiece? San Diego catcher Victor Caratini.
By being behind the plate for Musgrove’s no-no, Caratini became. the first catcher in MLB history to serve as the backstop for consecutive no-hitters in the league for different teams. Per Elias Sports, there have been 10 other times when a starting catcher caught consecutive MLB no-hitters, but all of those were for the same team.
Caratini, who also arrived in San Diego via an offseason trade, was behind the dish last September 13 when Alec Mills threw a no-hitter for the Chicago Cubs against Milwaukee.
“When you start to connect the dots a little bit, to have two of them now, and as quickly as he’s had them,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingle. “He obviously receives well, calls a great game. Just being able to be on the same page, and you can’t really do that without getting in a flow. And so there’s got to be a ton of trust with both sides there. And I think Victor has won over the trust of a lot of those pitchers.”
Despite heavy rain falling in Queens on Sunday afternoon, the New York Mets elected to begin their game against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.
Sunday’s starter, Marcus Stroman spent seven minutes on the mound and threw nine pitches before the game was stopped by plate umpire D.J. Reyburn due to the weather. While the game, which was eventually postponed, was in a rain delay, Stroman tweeted his displeasure with his team for electing to start the game in the first place.
“This game should have never been started. Not smart at all,” he wrote. “Those conditions put everyone at risk. Beyond happy no players on either side were injured. Hate that I have to wait another 5 days to pitch again. That’s a miserable feeling.”
It originally looked as if Stroman might not pitch again until Friday which like would have further added to his agitation, but it was announced late Monday that he’ll start the second leg of a Tuesday doubleheader in New York against the Phillies.
A day after being forced to sit out a game due to MLB’s COVID-19 protocol, Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez returned to Boston’s lineup and picked up exactly where he left off for the BoSox.
One of MLB’s hottest hitters entering the weekend, Martinez continued his torrid start by bashing three home runs against the Orioles as Boston routed Baltimore to sweep a three-game series in Camden Yards.
After finishing the 2020 season with just seven home runs, a .213 batting average and more strikeouts than hits, Martinez is hitting .472 to start 2021 and has an extra-base hit in each of the eight games he has played to start the season, tying the major league record that is held by Alex Rodriguez (2007) and Sandy Alomar Jr. (1997).
Thanks to Sunday’s barrage, Martinez also became the fifth player to hit three home runs in a game with three different teams (he also did it with the Tigers and Diamondbacks) joining Mark Teixeira (Rangers, Braves, Yankees), Rodriguez (Mariners, Rangers, Yankees) Dave Kingman (Mets, Cubs, A’s) and Johnny Mize (Cardinals, Giants, Yankees), according to ESPN.
“He’s locked in, you can tell,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He is walking around talking hitting. This is a guy I saw in ‘18 and ‘19, he has an idea of what he wants to do. He doesn’t deviate from his process. I know he talked about last year and he’s on a mission to prove people wrong, but it was only 60 games. He was one month away from getting his numbers right. Right now, he’s locked in and I’m glad he’s swinging the bat the way he is.”
With the Phillies and Braves tied 6-6 in the top of the ninth inning and Philadelphia’s Alec Bohm at third base with one out, Didi Gregorius then hit a shallow fly ball to left field off that Atlanta left fielder Marcell Ozuna caught cleanly and two-hopped to catcher Travis d’Arnaud at home plate.
The throw appeared to beat Bohm to home, and it looked as if d’Arnaud did a good job applying the tag to keep the game tied. However, Bohm was called safe and ended up scoring the eventual winning run as Atlanta lost the replay challenge when the Braves appealed the call on the field.
It appeared that home plate umpire Lance Barrett’s call should have been reversed as, in addition to being behind the throw from Ozuna in short left, Bohm might never even have touched home.
“Initially, I didn’t know if he was safe or out, but after watching the replay, it looked like his foot didn’t touch the bag, from any angle we saw,” d’Arnaud said after the 7-6 loss on Sunday Night Baseball. “I thought he was clearly out at the plate.”
As did everyone else not named Barrett (or Bohm) who saw the play.
Making his second start of the season, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw tossed six innings of five-hit ball to win a classic pitchers’ duel with Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
Now 2-1 on the season following the 3-0 win to complete a three-game sweep of the Nats, Kershaw improved to 177-77 in his career and is just the ninth pitcher to go 100 games over .500 since divisional play began in 1969. Both he and Scherzer have posted winning records in 11 consecutive seasons, the longest active streaks in the majors.
The reigning champion Dodgers are now 8-2 through 10 games, by far the best record in MLB. Los Angeles will look to improve on their league-leading record on Tuesday when Trevor Bauer toes the rubber to open a three-game series with Colorado. Hopefully the balls Bauer (1-0, 4.15 ERA) uses, which have been the subject of some scrutiny, are on the level.
In his first return to Houston since being suspended by commissioner Rob Manfred for a year in January 2020 and subsequently being fired by Astros owner Jim Crane for his role in a sign-stealing scheme that has tainted Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series title, A.J. Hinch reflected on the scandal that cost him his job and severely damaged his reputation around baseball.
Hinch, who is in his first year as the manager of the Detroit Tigers, admitted wrongdoing during his five years in Houston and told reporters his “relationship with that time is complicated.”
“I do believe we were wrong in the behavior and the decisions that we made in 2017, and it’s hard to have that cloud over the sport and be responsible for that and be the man that was that was the manager that it happened on my watch,” he said. “It’s something I take very seriously. I will continue to apologize not only to the Houston fans, but to all the fans around baseball and continue to repeat how wrong it was. And for that, we’re going to have to live with that for the rest of our careers. It’s part of my story.”
It seems as if baseball fans in Houston have forgiven, or forgotten, that part of Hinch’s story.
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