The final weekend of August is in the books, meaning it's time for playoff races to start heating up. Let's dive into what you need to know about this weekend's MLB action.
Highlight of the weekend: Rodríguez receives hero's welcome
The biggest news item of the weekend saw the Mariners sign star rookie Julio Rodríguez to a long-term contract that could keep him in town through the 2039 season, depending on the execution of complex club and player options.
Anyway, Rodríguez received a hero's welcome on Friday night from the Seattle faithful as the club announced the pact to the home crowd. Take a look and a listen:
So far as we're concerned, it's always good when teams pony up to keep their star players in town. Rodríguez, though younger than the average player who receives that label, counts all the same. Good for him, good for the Mariners and good for the fans.
Dramatic wins give Cards series
Possible playoff preview? Perhaps. The Cardinals and Braves are both firmly in at this point. It's always fun to see two of the better teams in the league to duke it out anyway. The Braves struck first with an 11-4 win Friday night and led most of the game Saturday, too. It was a 5-4 Braves lead heading to the ninth with Kenley Jansen coming in to close things down. A bases-loaded infield hit would tie the game before Tyler O'Neill drew the walk-off walk
O'Neill would figure prominently again on Sunday.
It was another good one. The pitchers duel was tied 0-0 heading to the sixth. The Cardinals didn't even have a hit. Their first hit would be the first run of the game, a solo homer by Lars Nootbar. The Cardinals would add another run that inning, but then a Dansby Swanson three-run shot gave the Braves a 3-2 lead in the seventh.
Tommy Edman would homer for the Cardinals in the bottom of the eighth to tie it and then, with two outs, it was O'Neill with a three-run homer of his own.
The O'Neill shot was particularly dramatic because he followed strikeouts from both Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. It looked like the Braves might sneak out of the jam with the game tied. Instead, O'Neill came through.
The Cardinals took two of three in the series and they have only lost one home series since the beginning of July (and that was to the Dodgers). They have a six-game lead in the NL Central. The Braves remain three games behind the Mets in the NL East, but easily in control of the top NL wild card spot.
Dodgers lefty Julio Urías held the Marlins to one hit and one run over the course of six innings as part of an 8-1 victory on Sunday (box score). The Dodgers saw three different players drive in a pair of runs -- Mookie Betts, Justin Turner, and Austin Barnes. Trayce Thompson, one of the surprises of the year, also delivered his sixth home run of the year, an early solo shot that helped pad Los Angeles' lead.
Urías, for his part, continued a dominant stretch. He hasn't allowed more than one run in a contest, earned or otherwise, since July 29 -- or, now five starts ago. He allowed two runs in that particular contest. You have to go all the way back to July 10 -- eight starts ago -- to find the last time Urías has given up more than two runs. Is it any wonder why he exited Sunday with a 2.32 ERA on the year?
Best run differential thru 1st 126 games of season, since 1900:— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) August 28, 2022
1939 Yankees: +376
1944 Cardinals: +310
1927 Yankees: +303
2022 Dodgers: +285
Corbin avoids 18th loss, helps Nationals end streak
Nationals southpaw Patrick Corbin has a chance to make the wrong kind of history this season. He entered Sunday with 17 losses, putting him within shouting distance of becoming the majors' first 20-game loser since Mike Maroth in 2003.
Final: Nats 3, Reds 2. Patrick Corbin (with help from his lineup and 3 relievers) is the first Nationals starter to be credited with a win since July 6, snapping a 43-game winless streak that was the longest in modern MLB history.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) August 28, 2022
Indeed, Corbin recovered after allowing runs in both the first and second innings to notch a quality start: six innings, four hits, one earned run, and one walk versus five strikeouts. It was the first time Corbin had recorded a quality start since July 4. It also marked his first win since June 28, and the first from a Nationals' starter in a record 43 games.
Verlander leaves early
Astros right-hander Justin Verlander left his start against the Orioles on Sunday after three innings because of right calf discomfort. Verlander had struck out six of the 12 batters he faced before departing. .
The Phillies and Pirates headed into Sunday's series finale trending in different directions. The Phillies had the majors' longest winning streak, six games, while the Pirates had the majors' longest losing streak at seven games. Naturally, the Pirates prevailed on Sunday by a 5-0 final (box score), snapping both streaks in one swoop.
The Pirates received a strong effort from youngster Roansy Contreras. He struck out seven batters over the course of five shutout innings, surrendering three hits and two walks. Pittsburgh's bullpen, led by former Yankee lefty Manny Bañuelos, combined to keep the Phillies off the board the rest of the way.
Offensively, the Pirates were paced by a well-rounded attack that saw eight of their nine starters record a hit. Greg Allen was the exception, though even he plated a run on a squeeze bunt. Ke'Bryan Hayes opened the scoring with a single in the first, Allen's bunt made it 2-0 in the fourth, and the Pirates then scored three more runs in the sixth, all against Phillies starter Noah Syndergaard.
Hader's woes continue
The Padres took two of three from the Royals over the weekend, so it was successful on the whole. Still, the Padres are looking bigger-picture than just a series against a sub-par team and getting All-Star closer Josh Hader figured out is one of their top priorities.
Hader had stumbled into a terrible stretch before the Brewers traded him and it continued into his time with the Padres. Heading into Sunday, his past 12 outings had yielded a 16.62 ERA. He had given up 16 runs on 17 hits in 8 2/3 innings while allowing opponents to hit .415/.509/.829 against him.
The Padres removed him from the role of closer and the hope was he could work things out and pitch back to form in lower-leverage situations. The opportunity presented itself and Hader was only able to record one out while coughing up six runs on five hits and two walks. He was relieved by a position player (Wil Myers), to give an idea how bad things got.
Padres at Giants (three games, beginning on Monday): Technically, the Padres and Giants are competing for a playoff spot. The Giants are far enough back, though, that they'd almost have to sweep this series to be taken seriously as threats. The Padres, meanwhile, can deliver what amounts to a knockout blow if they were to take two of three from San Francisco. The Brewers are sure to be very interested in this one.
Orioles at Guardians (three games, beginning on Tuesday): The Orioles remain the first team out of the playoff picture in the American League. They're not in direct competition with the Guardians, who hold a division lead, but that doesn't mean the games count for less as it pertains to completing their surprise run to October.
Dodgers at Mets (three games, beginning on Tuesday): The Dodgers and Mets, the odds-on favorite to be the National League Championship Series matchup, haven't met since June. A lot has changed since then for both sides, including the return of Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom for New York. This series will be more of a true representation of what a potential October series will look like. It should be fun.
Twins at White Sox (three games, beginning on Friday): The Twins and the White Sox are both several games out of the American League Central race as it is; their three-game weekend set could well bump one (or both) almost out of contention, depending on how the week plays out. You can rest assured that the aforementioned Guardians will be paying close attention to these games.
Padres at Dodgers (three games, beginning on Friday): The Dodgers are in for a big week, if you couldn't tell. They'll complete a seven-game east-coast road trip on Thursday before flying home to host the Padres for three games. The NL West is by no means in doubt, but the Padres could use the series win to help them stay ahead in the wild-card race. Besides, the atmosphere tends to be enjoyable when these rivals meet.