Gerrit Cole's major league debut was one of the last week's highlights.
Baseball's regular season may be a marathon rather than a sprint, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be paying attention to the race before it reaches its halfway mark. If you do, you're bound to miss something noteworthy.
Week 11 of the MLB regular season was full of excitement, from extra-inning affairs to long-awaited debuts and surprising sweeps by teams thought to be among those that would be swept.
Not all the news was good, of course, with bench-clearing brawls and superstars going down with injury dotting the baseball landscape.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from the past seven days of America's pastime.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Gerrit Cole's long-awaited major league debut wasn't quite on the level of Stephen Strasburg's debut with the Washington Nationals back in 2010, but the top prospect in Pittsburgh's farm system showed why he was worthy of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft.
Cole, 22, held the San Francisco Giants to two runs and seven hits over 6.1 innings of work on June 11, walking none and striking out two. In addition, Cole stroked a second-inning, bases-loaded single into the right-center field gap in his first major league at-bat to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead.
He wasn't quite as sharp against the Los Angeles Dodgers five days later, allowing seven hits and three earned runs over 5.2 innings, but Cole's first two major league appearances stand up against the six pitchers who were also their draft's respective top overall pick prior to Cole receiving the honor:
|Team||Draft Yr.||Debut Yr.||W-L||ERA||WHIP||IP||K/BB|
From that group, only Benson and Strasburg made consecutive starts like Cole with the others making at least one relief appearance each.
With the way that Cole threw the ball over the past week, it's going to be difficult for the Pirates to justify sending him back down to the minors when some of their injured starters begin to return from the disabled list.
Cole looks like he's going to be a difference-maker for Pittsburgh as the team tries to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 1992.
Troy Tulowitzki just can't catch a break.
For the fourth time in the past six years, Colorado All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will miss significant time during the regular season due to injury.
With Cole sidelined for the next four-to-six weeks due to a broken rib that he suffered while diving for a ball in the against the Washington Nationals on June 13, we can firmly affix the "injury-prone" label under his name on the back of his jersey.
Take a look at how many games Tulowitzki has missed due to injury since 2008:
At least 27
That's a lot of games for anyone to miss, especially someone as vital to his team's success as Tulowitzki is to Colorado's.
The worst part of it all is that these injuries are coming during what are supposed to be the most productive years of his career, when Tulowitzki is at the peak of his physical prowess.
While Colorado manager Walt Weiss was understandably concerned about trying to make up for Tulowitzki's production in the lineup, the skipper and former major league shortstop seemed more concerned about the potential mental impact of the injury than the phyiscal injury itself (via ESPN):
I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It's a big loss for us.
It's tough on him. He worked really hard this offseason. He worked really hard every day to prepare himself to play. So there's a lot of frustration that goes along with that.
It's going to be tough for him in the short term. I told him just make sure to keep your mind right because we're going to need you to lead us to a pennant, so get ready to do that.
It's a fair concern to have.
You never like to see a player get injured, especially one who busted his tail to overcome injury and returned to playing at an incredibly high level.
Prior to his most recent injury, Tulowitzki had re-established himself as the best shortstop in baseball and a legitimate MVP candidate, hitting .347 with 16 home runs, 51 RBI and leading the National League with a 1.048 OPS.
Cooling off is the last thing the Padres want Eric Stults to do.
Don't look now, but here come the Padres.
San Diego won all six of its games last week, sweeping a pair of first-place clubs on the road, Atlanta and Arizona, in the process.
That gave the Padres a winning record (35-34) and put the team within two games of the Diamondbacks for the lead in the National League West.
While the Padres received timely hitting from the likes of Kyle Blanks and Logan Forsythe, it was San Diego's starting rotation that stepped up its game the most over the past seven days:
That works out to a 1.94 ERA and 0.93 WHIP—impressive numbers for any starting rotation, much less San Diego's, which lacks a legitimate ace and had a combined 5.07 ERA and 1.46 WHIP before this past week.
When you consider how terrible San Diego was expected to be this season, the team's recent success—even if it is fleeting—is a great sign that perhaps things aren't as bad as we thought they were in Southern California.
Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano were two of only three Yankees to hit .300 or better over the last week.
The Bronx Bombers dropped five of its six games on the week, nearly blowing CC Sabathia's best start of the season and a 6-0 lead in the ninth inning against the Angels on Sunday before holding on for a 6-5 victory.
The Yankees hit only .200 on the week, with Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner accounting for 12 of the team's 20 runs scored. That's 60 percent of the team's total run production on the week coming from two players.
That's not good.
To make matters worse, Mark Teixeira aggravated the wrist injury that he suffered during practice with Team USA for the World Baseball Classic and, while there was no new tear found in the wrist, according to Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com, the All-Star first baseman is sidelined indefinitely.
Kevin Youkilis found his way back to the disabled list with lower back pain, the second time this season that the veteran infielder has been sidelined for his back. His first stint on the DL forced him to miss 30 games.
Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb became the second major league pitcher this season to be hit in the skull by a line drive, joining Toronto's J.A. Happ. Cobb's shot came courtesy of Kansas City's Eric Hosmer in the top of the fifth inning on Saturday, June 15.
Thankfully, it appears as if the 25-year-old will be fine, as he was released from the hospital less than 24 hours after the incident. Considering how terrible the end result could have been, the fact that Cobb is seemingly none the worse for wear is nothing short of a miracle.
Alex Cobb is Winning, with a capital "W."
Bud Selig and Michael Weiner must begin to make progress on protective headgear for pitchers.
The powers that be in baseball kind of, sort of, started to talk about protective headgear for pitchers after Brandon McCarthy required emergency brain surgery due to getting hit in the head by a line drive. While the surgery was necessary, it also opened the door to seizures, like the one that McCarthy had two weeks ago.
Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb now makes it five pitchers to be struck in the head since September of last season:
|Brandon McCarthy||OAK||LAA||Sept. 2, 2012|
|Mickey Storey||HOU||CHC||Sept. 12, 2012|
|Doug Fister||DET||SF||Oct. 25, 2012|
|J.A. Happ||TOR||TB||May 7, 2013|
|Alex Cobb||TB||KC||June 15, 2013|
Pitchers getting hit in the head by line drives isn't something that happens every once in awhile, as those against the idea of protective headgear continue to claim that it is.
I echo the sentiments put forth by Bleacher Report's lead MLB writer Zachary Rymer, by Bleacher Report's assistant MLB editor Doug Mead and by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (subscription required): The time has come for commissioner Bud Selig and Players Association head Michael Weiner to address pitcher safety.
Dragging their feet on the issue is no longer an acceptable response.
The longer they wait, the better the chance of a pitcher getting hit in the head by a line drive and not getting up.
Sooner or later, a pitcher is going to die on the mound.
Is that what its going to take for action to be taken?
Let's hope not.
Matt Joyce ("Sweet Swingin'") and Desmond Jennings ("Flash") have been on fire over the past week.
Tampa Bay didn't have a good week, losing five of its seven games, including two of three to division rival Boston.
But for once, the heart of the team's lineup isn't the reason Tampa Bay lost.
Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Evan Longoria, Luke Scott and Ben Zobrist did all they could to get the Rays into the win column this past week:
For the Rays to get that sort of production from the heart of their lineup and still drop five of seven games has to be disheartening for skipper Joe Maddon and the rest of his club.
With pitching ace David Price still sidelined by injury and Alex Cobb's short-term future still up in the air, the Rays have bought in reinforcements to try and keep their offense clicking on all cylinders.
Following Tampa Bay's 5-3 loss to Kansas City on Sunday, the team promoted its top prospect, outfielder Wil Myers, who will add another dimension to the lineup when he makes his major league debut on Tuesday afternoon against the Boston Red Sox.
Matt Moore is killing the Rays...and my fantasy team.
For as strong as Tampa Bay's offense performed this week, its starting rotation—which is supposed to be the strongest part of the roster—was the biggest reason why the team struggled in Week 11.
The numbers don't lie:
Only Roberto Hernandez—the starter formerly known as Fausto Carmona—pitched into the seventh inning in one of his starts for the week, while the group above had a combined 7.50 ERA and 1.81 WHIP.
Those are awful numbers, no matter how you look at them.
Tampa Bay desperately needs its ace, David Price, to get back on the hill. Price, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, has been sidelined since May 16 with a strained left triceps has been throwing on the side but has not progressed to the point where he's ready for a rehab assignment.
On April 8, 1999, Minnesota 23-year-old center fielder Torii Hunter hit the first home run of his career in the top of the fifth inning off of Detroit's Brian Mohler at Tiger Stadium, giving the Twins a 6-4 lead in a game they would eventually win, 8-6.
On June 16, 2013, Torii Hunternow 37 and with Detroit—hit the 300th home run of his career in the top of the first inning off of Minnesota's P.J. Walters at Target Field, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead en route to a 5-2 win.
It was only fitting that Hunter, one of baseball's classiest stars, reached his milestone in his true major league home—Minnesota—so that he could celebrate the achievement with the fans who had watched him grow up and become one of the premier center fielders of his era.
Hunter's blast makes him the 27th player in major league history to have hit at least 300 home runs and stolen at least 180 bases over the course of his career.
Apparently, Zack Greinke is one of the most disliked players in baseball, because the former American League Cy Young Award winner continues to be in the middle of bench-clearing brawls involving his current team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It started in the bottom of the sixth inning on Tuesday, June 11, when Arizona starter Ian Kennedy hit Dodgers' rookie Yasiel Puig in the back. As most pitchers would, Greinke retaliated in the top of the seventh inning, hitting Arizona catcher Miguel Montero in the back.
Both benches cleared, but no punches were thrown, with order being restored rather quickly and both being benches issued warnings that further shenanigans would result in ejections.
Kennedy ignored those warnings, however, nailing Greinke in the shoulder in the bottom half of the inning, inciting another scrum that lasted quite a while and resulted in multiple suspensions being handed down by MLB on Friday:
|Los Angeles||Games Suspended|
Not only were those players, coaches and managers suspended, but they were all fined as well, as were Los Angeles' Greinke and Puig along with Arizona's Montero and Gerardo Parra.
Anyone who believes that the suspensions and fines have bought an end to the acrimony between the two division rivals would be sorely mistaken, as Belisario told reporters: "No, it's not over yet, not at all. I don't think anybody thinks it's over."
Hinske was perturbed by MLB's decision to come down hard on Arizona while not really sanctioning the biggest culprits on the other side of the field, pointing a finger squarely in the direction of a certain Dodgers' rookie:
I've been a model citizen in this league for 12 years. And then there's Puig, who's been in the league for 12 days and he gets no games. So you tell me what's right.
I'm all for pitchers standing up for their teammates and fair is fair. You hit one of our guys, we are going to hit one of your's. Bench-clearing brawls do happen from time to time and they have become part of the game.
That being said, neither Puig nor Greinke should have been spared suspensions, especially Puig, who appeared to be in the middle of the scrum that finally erupted in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Fair is fair, after all.