Three weekends of baseball are 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, which included the Yankees stumbling, the Dodgers taking a key series in San Diego and some history from the reigning AL Cy Young winner.
Winner: Betts and the Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers are seemingly unstoppable to start the 2021 MLB season. Entering Sunday, they owned a 13-2 record, and took the first series against the NL West rival Padres this weekend.
Despite the Dodgers receiving bad news about center fielder Cody Bellinger's hairline fracture of his fibula on Friday, they were able to move fellow MVP Mookie Betts to center field for Saturday's game. In that game, Betts got it done with the walk-off diving catch. With two outs in the ninth of a two-run game and two runners aboard, here's a look at the Mookie magic:
Not only are the Dodgers a winner for their hot start and Betts a winner for his elite defense (there was a 10 percent catch probability on that game-saving grab), but baseball fans are the true winners for getting must-watch baseball games in April.
Loser: Yelich and nagging back issue
The Milwaukee Brewers are hoping for a bounce-back season this year. Losing their superstar outfielder Christian Yelich -- who is looking for a bounce-back season of his own -- certainly does not help their cause. On Saturday, the Brewers' move to place Yelich on the 10-day injured list with back soreness became official.
The IL move came after Yelich sat out for five straight games. The back issues for Yelich are a recurring theme, stemming all the way back to his time with the Marlins. The setback hurts both the Brewers and Yelich, who was off to a good start this season with a .333/.459/.367 slash line.
Loser: Yanks not looking like a contender at the moment
The New York Yankees were swept by the division rival Tampa Bay Rays this weekend. It was not pretty. From Friday night's embarrassing and dangerous Yankees fans' antics to defensive miscues that wasted another one of Gerrit Cole's quality starts, the Yankees are spiraling. In Sunday's loss, Giancarlo Stanton's solo home run in the second inning was the first time the Yankees had led in 22 innings. The team's last lead in a game came four days ago, in the sixth inning of Wednesday's loss to the Blue Jays.
After five straight losses, the Yankees finished the weekend with an American League-worst 5-10 record. It's also their worst start since 1997. As Katie Sharp of Stathead notes here, the Yankees offense is just all-around bad right now.
Yankees thru 15 Games This Season:— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) April 18, 2021
.210 BA - lowest thru 15 games since 1968
.296 OBP - lowest thru 15 games since 1972
.346 SLG - lowest thru 15 games since 1989
.642 OPS - lowest thru 15 games since 1973
The Yankees have a lot of things they'll need to address to get out of this slump; stabilizing the rotation, figuring out the infield situation (first baseman Luke Voit is still on the IL and the Jay Bruce experiment ended with his retirement), and get their lineup's Bronx Bomber moniker to live up to its name.
Former Marlins president David Samson broke down the Yankees' struggles on the latest Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:
Loser: Strasburg lands on IL
The Washington Nationals can't seem to catch a break. First, the club starts the season without nine players due to COVID-19 issues and now, right-handed starter Stephen Strasburg is heading to the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation. It's still so early in the season, but the Strasburg injured list stint doesn't exactly bode well for the 2019 champs' playoff hopes. If anything, his struggles along with Patrick Corbin's rough start to the season make it seem like the club has the potential to quickly fall out of contention in the NL East.
It's unclear why exactly Strasburg's velocity dropped so suddenly in his last start; he averaged just 90.6 mph on his fastball, one that usually sits between 94-96 mph. He said it was because his mechanics weren't right that day, but it's not unusual to wonder if there's more to that. Since the two sides agreed to a massive extension following Strasburg's 2019 World Series MVP performance, Strasburg has pitched just 15 innings (four starts). It's concerning, and obviously not what the Nationals or Strasburg want.
Winner: Bieber is untouchable
Last year's AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber had himself a day in his Sunday start against the Cincinnati Reds. Let's review his impressive line:
Bieber's 13 strikeouts on Cincy's lineup kept his 10 or more strikeouts streak alive, making him the first pitcher with 10 or more strikeouts in his first four starts of a season since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893.
After he dazzled in his Sunday start, Bieber now has a total of 48 strikeouts through his first four starts this year:
- April 1 vs. Tigers: 12 strikeouts
- April 7 vs. Royals: 12 strikeouts
- April 13 vs. White Sox: 11 strikeouts
- April 18 vs. Reds: 13 strikeouts
That ties him with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan for the most strikeouts all-time through the first four starts of a season.