Another weekend of Major League Baseball is in the books. We're coming together every Sunday to award winners and losers after each weekend of MLB action this season. Here are the big winners and losers from the last few days, including the red-hot Dodgers and Rays, a custom-made Padres necklace and a veteran's return to the big leagues, five years in the making.
Now, here's the good and the bad from the eighth weekend of MLB action:
Winner: Chances of Dodgers-Rays rematch
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays were baseball's two best teams in 2020 and met in last October's Fall Classic. 2021, at least for the first month-and-a-half of the season, wasn't quite as kind to last year's pair of pennant winners. The Rays came back on Sunday against the Blue Jays for their 10th straight win, scoring four ninth-inning runs in the process.
Ten-game winning streaks before Memorial Day can do wonders for your record and place in the standings. The Rays, .500 less than two weeks ago, are now 29-19. And they needed the streak to keep pace in the AL East -- the only division in baseball with four teams above .500. The Rays also made a move this weekend, sending shortstop Willy Adames to the Brewers for relievers Drew Rasmussen and J.P. Feyereisen. Will it work out for Tampa? These moves typically seem to.
Out West, the Dodgers are proving to be baseball's most hot-and-cold team so far this season. The Dodgers infamously fell back to earth following a 13-2 start and were just a game above .500 two weeks ago. They took this weekend's series against the Giants with Trevor Bauer and Walker Buehler turning in dominant performances and the Dodgers have now won seven straight games. The Dodgers are looking much more like, well, the Dodgers. That should continue to be the case whenever Cody Bellinger rejoins the lineup. Bellinger, for his part, went yard in a rehab Triple-A game on Sunday:
Loser: Blue Jays
The weekend -- and the week itself -- was not kind to the Toronto Blue Jays. Canada's displaced MLB team is in the stretch of playing 10 consecutive games against its fellow AL East contenders -- the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays -- and things have not gone well. The Jays won their first game against the Red Sox on Tuesday in this stretch, but the rest of the week has been sour. The Jays lost two of three to Boston and then lost three straight to the Rays this weekend (they can salvage a series finale on Monday), and they recently had to place Cavan Biggio on the injured list with a neck issue. To make matters worse, the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays are all streaking and could put some serious distance between themselves and Toronto.
Winner: Dansby Swanson
It was quite the weekend for Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson. The 27-year-old was having a rough start to the season -- his strikeout totals were concerning -- prior to his recent performance. It appears that his strategy of burning sage around the field at Truist Park helped. Here's how Swanson's weekend at the plate went:
- Friday: 3 for 4 with a double, solo home run and two runs scored
- Saturday: 1 for 3 with a two-run home run
- Sunday: 1 for 3 with a two-run home run
Yes, the Braves played (and took 3 of 4 games) the rebuilding Pirates this weekend, but these results for Swanson still signal a turning point for his 2021 offense. This weekend saw some of Swanson's most productive games of the season. Beyond this weekend, Swanson has hit four of his six homers within his past 13 games.
It's unlikely that this small sample size will completely quiet the Braves fans questioning whether Orlando Arcia should be promoted from Triple-A to replace Swanson, but for now, he earns a spot in the winners column after this weekend.
Winner: Oversized jewelry
Comically large accessories will always deserve a place in sports. If a teammate places a five-pound medallion on your neck, you know you must've done something right. Padres catcher Austin Nola found himself in that position on Saturday night. Nola's stat line might not look all that big necklace-worthy. He went 1 for 2 with an RBI and a pair of walks, and even he seemed surprised when Manny Machado placed the team's new "Swag Chain" on him: "It's the first time I've seen it. I think you're supposed to hit a home run."
And on Sunday, the Padres sure made it look like the "Swag Chain" is here to stay. And yes, Sunday's swag chainee hit a dinger. Fernando Tatis Jr. had the honors of wearing it after smacking a 441-foot home run.
Losers: Mr. 19,999 and Mr. 20,001
Making your big-league debut is a moment players will never forget. And there was a debut that many baseball fans took notice of over the weekend as Mariners catcher José Godoy became the 20,000th player in MLB history. Godoy entered Friday night's blowout loss to the Padres in the sixth inning and made history. Godoy's debut -- which got a Ken Jennings shoutout on Twitter -- also meant two other players who debuted this weekend missed being a trivia answer by a few hours.
Cleveland reliever Jean Carlos Mejia was player No. 19,999 in MLB history on Friday night, pitching 2 1/3 innings shortly before Godoy appeared. Rays shortstop Taylor Walls was player No. 20,001 after he was called up Saturday following Tampa's Willy Adames trade. They'll have to find some other ways to make MLB history.
Winner: Scott Kazmir
Scott Kazmir was technically a loser on Saturday in his first MLB appearance in nearly five years. But the 37-year-old is a winner in our book after getting back to the big leagues with the Giants for the first time since September 2016 with the Dodgers. Kazmir got the nod for San Francisco on Saturday against the Dodgers, and turned in a solid effort. Kazmir gave the Giants four innings of one-run ball and surrendered just two hits to the defending World Series champs.
Kazmir is a three-time All-Star who debuted back in 2004 with the Rays. Kazmir even got the news of his promotion from Gabe Kapler, a former teammate who is now the Giants manager.
"Through the phone, I could tell that he was smiling," Kapler told reporters, including MLB.com's Maria Guardado. "It's been a long journey for him, and I'm really kind of proud. Obviously, he and I were teammates a long time ago, and I know that the journey hasn't been the easiest one for him. It's a pretty cool story."