Getaway Day: August baseball gets off to an unpredictable start

Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers (11) is congratulated by designated hitter Hanley Ramirez (13) after his two-run home run against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Fenway Park on Aug. 3, 2017 as the prospect continues to lead the Sox forward towards the pennant.  Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

August is in full swing now, and with the much-discussed trade deadline (mostly) in the rear view, we finally have an idea of how each team will look headed down the stretch of the final two months of the season.

What cannot be planned for are the rogue comments from a disgruntled star (Houston and St. Louis can relate), a surprisingly persistent spoiler (hello, Braves), Bartolo Colon equaling a feat pulled off by Nolan Ryan, a 19-year-old setting history in Beantown, and Panda ultimately resurfacing with an appropriate return to the Bay in the "unpredictable as heck" category.

It was the week that nobody saw coming, and we have all of this and more in this week's edition of the Getaway Day.

American League

Baltimore Orioles: Coming out of Monday’s trade deadline, the Orioles caught grief from many critics for failing to face being a team that needed to put its biggest stars (namely, Manny Machado and Zach Britton) on the trade block, especially after a season that has tanked since a promising early start. And while that sell-off is now simply a delayed eventuality, the Orioles did respond by playing their most meaningful baseball since early May, rattling off five straight wins against the Rangers and Royals and pulling themselves within a far-fetched-but-real range in the wild card race.

Boston Red Sox: The latest chapter in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry sees the two old foes pitted against each other atop the AL East in a fight that looks to go to the regular season wire and into October. And the first place BoSox could be lead down the stretch by their top prospect, Rafael Devers. The 19-year-old third baseman became the first  player in modern (since 1900) MLB history with at least 13 hits and three bombs in his first eight career games – as the youngest player in baseball currently, no less. 

Chicago White Sox: Don’t worry White Sox fans, it’s almost over. Every week won’t bring six- game losing streaks. A lot of them may, but not all of them.

Cleveland Indians center fielder Austin Jackson falls over the wall after making a catch to rob Boston Red Sox designated hitter Hanley Ramirez (not pictured) of a home run during the fifth inning at Fenway Park on Aug. 1, 2017. Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Indians: It was quite the week in Cleveland, as the Indians continue to fend off the Royals atop the AL East. Corey Kluber had yet another exclamation point performance, when he joined Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson as the only players to strikeout eight or more in 12 straight games, when he set down 11 in the process of upstaging Sonny Gray’s Yankee debut on Thursday.  However, the highlight of the week – or perhaps the decade – goes to Austin Jackson who on Thursday made one of the most athletic and improbable grabs ever as he somersaulted into the Red Sox bullpen while making a one-handed grab to rob a home run. He may deserve to wear an actual gold glove from here on out, as a reminder and recognition of one of the biggest 'wow’ plays of all-time. 

Detroit Tigers: As mentioned here last week, Al Avila should be up for father of the year, as he did actually trade away his son from the Detroit baseball dumpster fire last week. And now he can move on to trying to pull off the magic trick that will be required to trade away franchise legend Justin Verlander and the $50+ million left on his deal, as the righty cleared trade waivers after the deadline. All is not dead in Detroit, as a four-game win streak over the Yankees and Orioles offered a teasing glimmer of hope, but it should be filed away underneath the tease category, more so than a rally.  

Houston Astros: Yes, the Astros are still 14.5 games up and will reach magic number range quicker than any other team in the AL, but if one were to argue that doesn’t guarantee anything once the standings reset in the postseason, they would likely have a friend in Dallas Keuchel. The Astro ace was critical of the lack of major action (sorry, Francisco Liriano) by the team at the trade deadline. While their peers in the league made tweaks and fortifications, the Astros opted instead to ride with the hand that has been working. Although dropping three of four to the wild card-worthy Rays over the week did not help to disprove Keuchel’s concerns in the least. 

Kansas City Royals: The Royals stayed together and are staying firmly in the both the AL Central and wild card races, but took a blow on Sunday when their indispensable backstop Salvador Perez was placed on the disabled list with an intercostal injury. It comes at a time when the Royals face what could be a trap week, with a split between the I-70 series with their in-state rivals in St. Louis this week followed by a weekend series in Chicago with the spoiler-prone White Sox.

Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout reacts after he hits a solo home run in the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Aug. 6, 2017. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels: It shouldn't be completely surprising that although Mike Trout missed over a month, he still is firmly in the AL MVP conversation. While the Halos ran up their win total over the week against the Phillies and A’s, the 25-year-old added another notch in a history-making belt that will be full of them. With his 20th home run on Wednesday, he joined Alex Rodriguez, Tony Conigliaro and Mickey Mantle as the only players to ever to reach the mark six times before turning 26.

Minnesota Twins: The ageless adventures of Bartolo Colon continue. Although his return to the American League will rob us of the weekly entertainment that his at-bats became, Colon’s recent return to the AL Central saw him make a slight bit of history instead. With his complete game victory on Friday, he became the oldest AL pitcher to win a CG since a 45-year-old Nolan Ryan did so in 1992. While the Twins hopes for 2017 have gone wayward of late, at least the ever-lovable, plush conditioned righty will be on hand to pad the blow.

New York Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray makes a play for an out at first base against the Cleveland Indians during the third inning at Progressive Field on Aug. 3, 2017. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees: It was quite the week in the Bronx, as the Yankees shoved their chips to the middle of the table in a way that they have shied away from in recent history. After sending a handful of promising prospects westward, they landed Sonny Gray to help solidify their postseason aspirations. And although they still sit a few games behind the red-hot Red Sox after dropping four straight on the heels of the deadline deal, they will have a chance to chase them down head on, as after a week opening series with the Blue Jays, the Yankees and Sox will face off in what should be a very spirited weekend tilt this week, headlined by CC Sabathia and Chris Sale on Sunday night. 

Oakland Athletics:The longest lived rumored trade in baseball finally happened, as Billy Beane pulled the trigger on trading away Sonny Gray to start the week. The A’s got back a nice package of the entity they specialize in, controllable young prospects (Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian), each of whom appeared on someone’s top 100 list at some point this summer. It was enough to distract from the back-and-forth of the split series between the two struggling ball clubs in the bay, as the A’s and Giants series saw two teams pitted against each other in the worst combined condition they have endured in quite a while.

Seattle Mariners pitcher Edwin Diaz (39) receives the game ball from first basemen Danny Valencia (26) after the final out of the game against the Kansas City Royals during the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 4, 2017. Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Mariners: A new week brings the Mariners to a decision point in the season. After a weekend where they picked up a four-game split over one of their tightest competitors for an wild card spot in the Royals, they are now a 1.5 games behind in the wild card race. And they will take on this task with what they hope is a booster shot to their everyday attack, as on Sunday morning the team acquired All-Star first baseman Yonder Alonso from the A’s. It is a matchup that makes sense on both sides, as Seattle is in the midst of a postseason push, while the A’s had no true need for the free agent-to-be at this point in the year.

Tampa Bay Rays: The up-and-down ways of the Rays continued over the last week, as on one hand, they put the league on notice of their potential by taking three of four from the Astros. However, they followed that high by running low on momentum, by being shutout in both of the opening two games of a weekend series with the struggling Brewers. After being absent from the postseason since 2013, the Rays have a clear opportunity to break into the ranks of playoff baseball, but will need to find their consistency again soon to simplify the process. 

Texas Rangers: The Rangers waited until the zero hour to pull the trigger on one of the biggest trades of the deadline season, in sending Yu Darvish to the Dodgers for a solid prospect package. And while it was a move that certainly did not make the newest member of the 3,000 hit club in Adrian Beltre happy, perhaps a promising weekend showing against the Twins could do the trick. Anchored by Cole Hamel’s 16th career complete game, the Rangers TK TK TK

Toronto Blue Jays: With the trade deadline over and the Jays following their stated course of not undergoing a massive deconstruction, it will be interesting to see what they show down the stretch. There is a belief they can compete again next year with much of the same core, and the last week proved why they think so: they outclassed the White Sox, and followed it by competing with the Astros over the weekend.

National League

Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt added to his MVP campaign this week with multiple homers.  Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Diamondbacks: The latest understated MVP campaign from Paul Goldschmidt had its signature moment this past week. The All-Star first baseman launched three home runs on Thursday at Wrigley Field, with the third putting the D-backs ahead in the ninth inning, sealing a series-winning victory over the Cubs in what could foreshadow what is coming in October. It set the table for a mid-August slate from hell – the Dodgers, Cubs and Astros make up the next 10 games ahead for the D-backs, teams that are place to win over 300 games combined this season. Time to see what Arizona made of down the stretch.  

Atlanta Braves: I don’t like the term ‘moral victories’ as it seems to be a cover up for losing. With that said, there certainly are ironic ones, and for the second time this year, the Braves pulled a victory of that variety off over the Dodgers. When Atlanta beat LA last Wednesday, it represented the second time they ended a Dodger winning streak of nine or more games this season, after doing so back on July 20 as well. Outside of the promotion of promising prospect Ozzie Albies, it was the highlight of the week for the Braves, who are plugging along at this point in the season. 

Chicago Cubs :Watching Jon Lester take an at-bat provides a huge advocacy point for those that believe pitchers have no place with a bat in their hands. However, even a blind squirrel gets the nut occasionally and one of the game’s most visually challenged hitters in Lester had his day in the sun on Tuesday, when Lester hit a tape measure long ball against the D-backs. And for good measure, he chalked up his 2,000th career strikeout as well in the Cubs’ lone victory over Arizona last week.

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto hits a three run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Great American Ball Park on Aug. 6, 2017. David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Reds: Don’t tell Joey Votto season is already in the books for the Reds. The ever-vigilant first baseman ran up three first inning home runs against Cardinals pitching over the weekend, including the 250th of his career on Sunday. Although the Reds enter the new week still 13.5 games behind in the NL Central standings, Votto continues to add to what is becoming an increasingly Hall of Fame-worthy resume.

Colorado Rockies: The Rockies enter the new week continuing their revitalized ways, as winners of TK TK TK of their last TK TK TK  and having claimed the lead in the NL wild card standings as well. And with the D-backs entering the greatest gauntlet of 2017 over the next week and change, the Rockies will instead be fed the Braves and Marlins after a two-game stop in Cleveland. High times (heh) could be ahead in Colorado.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The real-time history the Dodgers are making is truly something to behold. When their latest winning streak came to a close at nine games, it marked the third time the team ran a streak of that length this year, which equals the total of every other such streak the other 29 teams in baseball have put together – combined. In the process, they became the first team since John McGraw’s New York Giants in 1912 to win 43 out of 50 games as well. And with all of that already in play, they decided it still was not enough as LA was among the most active teams at the trade deadline, adding Tony Watson, Tony Cingrani and, of course, Yu Darvish. And Darvish wasted no time in impressing, running up 10 K’s and walking none in his Dodger debut, a 6-0 win over Jacob deGrom and the Mets.

Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton trots the bases after hitting a home run against the Atlanta Braves in the fourth inning at SunTrust Park on Aug. 4, 2017. Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Marlins: Not to say that he ever did (or didn’t) pay attention to it all, but with the trade deadline in his rearview mirror and all of the annoyance of questions that come along with it, Giancarlo Stanton seems dead set on decimating his way around the league through the rest of the season. The MLB home run leader has now hit 15 over the last month, including Saturday’s 477-foot shot off a knuckle ball, no less. That’s Asgardian-type power against a 78-mph pitch. 

Milwaukee Brewers: Give credit to the Crew for digging their heels in and putting the stop on their losing ways that had allowed the Cubs to outright snatch control of the NL Central from them. And they have responded by upping their game in the place where they were the weakest: on the mound. Over the last week, TK TK TK TK times Milwaukee pitching held opponents to two or fewer runs, while scoring three or less themselves. And they went undefeated in the process in such situations. 

New York Mets: It is pretty simple: the Rockies and Dodgers are really good. The Mets are not. The Rockies and Dodgers did what they were supposed to do, and beat up on the Mets for the better part of a week. In turn, the Mets put nearly their entire roster through waivers and continue to try to deconstruct headed into September. With Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera all eligible to be moved still, the action off the field in NY could be more enticing than what is happening on it. 

Philadelphia Phillies: The Phils spent the work week taking a full slate of losses, and are nearly a calendar month’s worth of losses out of the action. With that being said, maybe the magic number that we need to begin following for them is when they will clinch the top pick in next spring’s draft? Remember, there’s always something worth watching for regardless of how many drinks it may take to stomach it. 

Pittsburgh Pirates: After struggling in recent weeks against a handful of the NL’s lesser teams, the Bucs stumbled through the decision-making lands of the bridge between July and August. But despite being stuck back in the same fourth place waters they have inhabited for much of the year, the next few weeks could present some opportunity. A pair of series with the Blue Jays and Tigers precede a pair of opportunities to make up ground against the Brewers and Cardinals. The front for the final fight of the year is imminent at PNC Park.

San Diego Padres center fielder Manuel Margot added to his impressive rookie season hitting a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at PNC Park on Aug. 4, 2017. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Padres: Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge have stolen the rookie spotlight (and likely the hardware that will come with it), and that is a shame, because Manuel Margot has made his mark in first season inhabiting Petco Park’s outfield. The 22-year-old posted six multi-hit games in the last 10 days, and wrapped up a July where he hit .310, with four home runs and posted a .850 OPS. 

San Francisco Giants: In a year like the one the Giants are enduring, the unlikely seems to rear its head more often than not. So it should surprise no one that the formerly great Pablo Sandoval was able to make his return to the Majors back in the uniform of the team that he formerly made the best in the business a handful of years ago. The third baseman, who was unceremonious exorcised from the Red Sox last month, notched a double in his first game back on Saturday… while tempering it by throwing a ball away in the field in the process. In other words, he’ll fit right in with this incarnation of the club.

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) is checked on by manager Mike Matheny and a trainer after he was hit on the head by a backswing from Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Domingo Santana (not pictured) in the seventh inning at Miller Park on Aug. 3, 2017.  Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals: It was a typical week for the consistently mundane Cardinals, splitting a pair of series with the Brewers and Reds over the last week. However, save for Sunday’s breakout against the Reds that included a nine-run fourth inning, the highlight of the week was the continued social media spat between Yadier Molina and Mike Matheny. Molina continued to take exception to Matheny’s comments regarding his All-Star catcher appearing ‘tired’ at times, and did so through a series of Instagram posts and post game comments. This is the world of clubhouse negotiations in today’s media landscape, social and otherwise. 

Washington Nationals: It was a wacky week for the Nats who took some frustrating losses against the Marlins and Cubs, including a 7-0 shutout at the hands of Fish on Wednesday. Adding to the Nationals' worries is the continued absence of Stephen Strasburg and the scare around the status of Max Scherzer, who left Tuesday’s game early with a neck issue after hitting his first career homer. On the positive side, there was Gio Gonzalez’ flirtation with a no-hitter on Monday, as well as the addition of Brandon Kintzler (who found out he was dealt from Minnesota while feeding a rhino) to the Nats' bullpen in what is without a doubt the highlight scenario of deadline news coming down.

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Matt Whitener is St. Louis-based writer, radio host and 12-6 curveball enthusiast. He has been covering Major League Baseball since 2010, and dabbles in WWE, NBA and other odd jobs as well. Follow Matt on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.


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The 'Superman returns to board city' quiz

NHL Weekender: Rule change coming in time for the playoffs?

The Raptors' young bench could lead Toronto to the NBA Finals

Top 10 players at every MLB position for the 2018 season

The 'Rush to judgment' quiz

Ranking all 30 MLB pitching rotations heading into 2018

The 'Catch me if you can (understand the catch rule)' quiz

Brad Marchand has the Bruins rolling, whether you like it or not

2018 first-round NFL Mock Draft (March 20, 2018 edition)

Ranking all 30 MLB lineups heading into 2018

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