Your turn, Aaron Judge.
In the battle of rookie sensations, Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Cody Bellinger hit his 20th home run in the first inning in Monday’s win over the New York Mets and then cracked his 21st in the second inning, both off Zack Wheeler. That’s nine home runs in nine games — including three two-homer games — and he’s now tied with Logan Morrison for second in the majors behind Judge’s 23.
Of course, Bellinger has astonishingly done this in just 51 games, since he didn’t make his debut until April 25. He’s already just the fourth player 21 or younger to have 20 home runs by the All-Star break, joining Eddie Mathews (27 in 1953), Albert Pujols (21 in 2001) and Miguel Cabrera (20 in 2004).
That leads us to this: How do we get Bellinger on the National League All-Star team? Because we all want Bellinger there. Even Giants. He’s young, he’s exciting, and he’s mashing baseballs over fences.
Let’s go through the roster. There are 32 players on the team (not including injuries), including 12 pitchers. The fans vote for the eight starting position players while the players vote in a backup at each position. Bellinger wasn’t on the ballot and it’s unlikely the players vote him in as a reserve for two reasons: (1) Their voting seems to be done between mid-May to early June (players with hot starts always do better in their results). (2) He has split his time between outfield and the first base, making it unclear where players would list him.
Beyond that, if he was considered at first base, that position is loaded: Ryan Zimmerman leads the voting, and then you have Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Anthony Rizzo, Eric Thames and Justin Bour all having All-Star seasons (plus Freddie Freeman before his injury), with Thames doubling as the best option to represent the Brewers.
That leaves four reserves, but one of those is saved for the final player vote. Here’s what the first 16 position player spots may look like, with the current vote leader listed first followed by the likely backup:
1B — Ryan Zimmerman, Paul Goldschmidt
Yeah, that Heyward vote is weird. If he maintains his lead, he’s going to cost a more deserving player a spot. The backup catcher could be somebody else — Yadier Molina, Yasmani Grandal or Matt Wieters. Realmuto has the best offensive numbers. There’s no clear No. 2 guy at second base, but let’s go with Harrison. Players seem to like him and he’s having the best season behind Murphy. In the outfield, the players always like the power and RBI guys. Michael Conforto could be in that mix as well.
For teams needing a rep, the Padres will certainly see one of their relievers selected, probably Brad Hand. The Phillies have just two legit options, outfielder Aaron Altherr and reliever Pat Neshek. For the Braves, Brandon Phillips could be voted in as the backup at second base, or maybe the players recognize Ender Inciarte and his defense in the outfield. Matt Kemp is another possibility. I’m thinking Carlos Martinez reps the Cardinals.
Our three probable backups — chosen now by the MLB office, not the manager — at this point would be Thames (Brewers rep), Grandal (they usually select three catchers) and either Inciarte or Kemp for the Braves. That leaves Neshek for the Phillies and squeezes out Bellinger — not to mention Votto, Rizzo, Conforto, Jake Lamb, Justin Turner and Anthony Rendon. We’d have more flexibility for Bellinger if Ozuna (currently fifth in the voting) caught Heyward and Phillips is voted in over Harrison (with Ivan Nova repping the Pirates). You could replace Thames with Chase Anderson or Jimmy Nelson, but as great as Bellinger has been, he hasn’t been as valuable overall as Thames or Votto or Rizzo or any of those other players I couldn’t find room for on the roster.
So it’s going to be difficult to get him on the team, unless he’s included on the final player vote, which I suspect he’d have a pretty good chance at winning.
The Cleveland Indians are finally looking like last year’s club and clobbered the Baltimore Orioles 12-0 for their sixth win in a row. Kluber became just the fifth Indians pitcher ever to toss a road shutout with at least 10 strikeouts, joining Josh Tomlin (2014), Bert Blyleven (1985), Early Wynn (1955) and, of course, Heinie Berger in 1909.
Via ESPN researcher Sarah Langs, how Kluber beat the Orioles:
Seven K’s on his curveball, most this season, and all were swinging.
67 percent chase on curveballs outside the strike zone.
Fourth start this season with at least 70 percent first-pitch strike rate; had five such starts all last season.
Here’s one of those curveballs:
SHO, 3 H, 11 Ks.
— MLB (@MLB) June 20, 2017
Kluber’s outing was impressive, but I’m more impressed by this amazing tally, courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau research: Ramirez went 3-for-6 with two doubles and a triple and is apparently the first player since 1900 with 14 extra-base hits in a seven-game span. I would have thought it might be higher, somebody who reeled off a bunch of doubles, or some slugger who mashed 10 home runs or something. (In fact, Shawn Green had 10 homers in a seven-game span around his 6-for-6, four-homer game in 2002, but just 13 total extra-base hits.) Anyway, Ramirez’s remarkable stretch:
6/19: 3-for-6, 2 2Bs, 3B
6/18: 3-for-4, 2 2Bs
6/17: 2-for-5, 2B
6/17: 3-for-5, 2B, 2 HRs
6/16: 3-for-4, 2 2Bs
6/15: 3-for-5, 2B
6/14: 2-for-4, 2B, HR
In seven games, Ramirez raised his average from .279 to .318 and his slugging percentage from .464 to .561. Put that man on the American League All-Star team.
The 2017 San Francisco Giants summed up in one tweet.
Yes, it has been a rough season:
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) June 20, 2017
Cueto gave up two runs in seven innings, before the Atlanta Braves tacked on seven runs against the Giants’ bullpen. Ouch.
Pick me out a winner, Bobby.
Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez did this at the Carolina League Home Run Derby (pay close attention to the lights):
Eloy Jimenez just went Roy Hobbs on the stadium lights. pic.twitter.com/wD2521SedW
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 20, 2017
Jimenez is one of the top prospects in the minors and is playing his way into midseason top-10 lists. His season didn’t start until mid-May after suffering a bone bruise in his shoulder during spring training, but at age 20 he’s hitting .278/.381/.546 with seven home runs in 97 at-bats. He combines power potential with solid contact skills (18 K’s in 113 PAs), and, with 15 walks, he has improved his plate discipline from last year. Look for a promotion to Double-A later in the summer.
In bad news from the prospect world, Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres will miss the rest of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Torres was hitting well enough after his promotion to Triple-A that he looked like a potential call-up before Sept. 1.
If you didn’t think the ball was juiced …
Clayton Kershaw allowed four home runs in that Mets-Dodgers game, first time he has done that in his career. Jose Reyes tagged him twice, first player to do that since Jay Bruce in 2012. Two of the home runs came off his curveball, the first time that has happened in one game. He has now allowed 17 home runs — already a career high.