MLB Mailbag: What Were the Most Memorable Moments of the 2020 Season?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2020

MLB Mailbag: What Were the Most Memorable Moments of the 2020 Season?

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    It's MLB mailbag time once again, and this time around, we asked Bleacher Report app users to choose the most memorable moment of the 2020 MLB season.

    The results were a mix of individual achievements, impressive team performances, COVID-19 issues, a bold challenge to baseball's unwritten rules and Joe Kelly's face.

    Thanks once again to everyone who participated in this week's crowdsourcing thread on the app. Be on the lookout every Tuesday afternoon for your chance to weigh in on the newest topic.

    Now let's dive right in.

Ramon Laureano vs. Houston Astros Dugout

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    User Comment: "That A's player charging the dugout by himself. #manWITHOUTaplan." (@brecksmydecks)

    That Oakland Athletics player was center fielder Ramon Laureano, and he did indeed charge at the Houston Astros dugout after getting hit by a pitch, sparking a bench-clearing incident at a time when those are even more frowned upon than usual.

    So what happened?

    Jeff Passan of ESPN provided some follow-up details on the incident:

    "After being hit by a pitch for the third time in the series and second time in the game, Laureano pantomimed toward pitcher Humberto Castellanos how to properly snap off a slider, prompting a response from the Astros' bench. Laureano said that [hitting coach Alex] Cintron uttered an expletive at him, which Laureano returned. Then, Laureano told ESPN, Cintron 'said in Spanish something you don't say about my mother.'"

    Laureano was suspended for six games (eventually reduced to four), and Cintron was slapped with a 20-game suspension for his role as an instigator.

    The image of a lone Athletics player charging from first base at the entire Houston dugout will be what most remember.

The Return of Daniel Bard

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    User Comment: "The reemergence of Daniel Bard with the Rockies. To have this kind of comeback as a pitcher in the 'Mile High' thin air is quite the Phoenix rising from the ashes story." (@theFuturist)

    Just last week, I included Daniel Bard among my 25 biggest surprises of the 2020 MLB season, writing the following:

    "Once a dominant late-inning force for the Boston Red Sox, his command seemingly disappeared overnight. In his most recent action prior to this year in 2017, he walked 24 batters in 9.1 innings in the New York Mets minor league system.

    When he pitched 1.1 scoreless innings on July 25 to earn the victory in his first appearances of 2020, it was the culmination of a long journey back to the big leagues. ... He didn't stop there, impressing early and eventually pitching his way into the closer's role."

    The 35-year-old has converted all six of his save chances on the year, posting a 4.09 ERA with eight walks and 26 strikeouts in 22 innings.

Adam Duvall and Marcell Ozuna Back-to-Back 3-Homer Games

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    Adam Duvall
    Adam DuvallLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    User Comment: "Adam Duvall and Marcell Ozuna having three-homer games in back-to-back games at Fenway and then Duvall doing it again a week later against the Marlins." (@Big-Si)

    There have been just 26 three-homer games in Atlanta Braves franchise history.

    Two of them came in back-to-back games this season when Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall went deep three times in consecutive nights against the Boston Red Sox.

    That's something that had never happened before in MLB history, as Mark Bowman wrote for MLB.com:

    "Per the Elias Sports Bureau, they are the only MLB teammates to ever produce three-homer performances in consecutive games. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig are the only other teammates to produce three-homer games on consecutive days. But because a doubleheader was involved, these Yankees legends actually did so within a span of four games played between May 21, and 22, 1930."

    For good measure, Duvall did it again eight days later, becoming the first player in Braves history with multiple three-homer games.

    The team's fourth outfielder to start the year, Duvall has played his way into an everyday role on a contending Atlanta team, and he is currently tied for the National League lead with 16 home runs.

Lucas Giolito No-Hits the Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    User Comment: "Lucas Giolito final out of no-hitter with something like a .600 expected batting average." (@Gabeman)

    "If you would've asked me about it in '18, I probably would've been like, 'What the hell are you talking about?'" Lucas Giolito told reporters after throwing the first no-hitter of the 2020 season. "But that was a weird year. I think it's just a product of hard work, determination, learning how to trust myself, trust my stuff."

    A former top prospect who had seen his star fade a bit while climbing the minor league ladder, Giolito spent the entire 2018 season in the Chicago White Sox rotation. He finished the season with a 6.13 ERA in 173.1 innings, the worst ERA among all qualified starters.

    That proved to be an invaluable learning experience. He broke out as one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2019 and continued his ascent with a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 25.

    However, it almost didn't happen since the final out of the game was, hands down, the most difficult.

    "A line drive to right fielder Adam Engel with an exit velocity of 102.6 mph and an expected batting average of .850, per Statcast," Scott Merkin of MLB.com wrote.

    Luckily, Engel got a terrific jump, and history was made.

Alec Mills No-Hits the Milwaukee Brewers

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    User Comment: "Mills, a former college walk-on who tops out at 91 mph, throwing a no-hitter." (@ElGatoNoEsBueno)

    If not for a broken wine glass sending Jose Quintana to the injured list to start the 2020 season, Alec Mills might never have had the opportunity to make history.

    The definition of an unlikely hero as a former walk-on at the University of Tennessee at Martin who was a 22nd-round pick in the 2012 draft, Mills was acquired from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for fringe prospect Donnie Dewees prior to the 2017 season.

    He spent the bulk of the past two seasons at Triple-A, serving as rotational depth and posting a 3.17 ERA with 65 strikeouts over 54 innings in the majors that spanned six starts and 10 relief appearances.

    "I'm just proud to be that person that can tell you to never give up," Mills told reporters. "Never stop playing. Never let people tell you what you can and can't do and just keep persevering."

    With consecutive quality starts to open the season while pitching in Quintana's rotation spot, he effectively solidified his place on the staff and paved the way for his Sept. 13 gem against the Milwaukee Brewers.

    It took him 114 pitches to complete one of the more unlikely no-hitters in recent memory.

Atlanta Braves Score 29 Runs

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    User Comment: "Braves dropped 29 runs in eight offensive innings!" (@mbach)

    That second three-homer game from Adam Duvall that we mentioned earlier was part of an offensive explosion by the Atlanta Braves that saw them set a modern-era NL record with 29 runs.

    We'll let the box score do the talking on this one:

    • Ronald Acuna Jr.: 3-for-4, 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 4 R
    • Freddie Freeman: 3-for-6, 2B, HR, 6 RBI, 2 R
    • Marcell Ozuna: 1-for-6, RBI, R
    • Travis d'Arnaud: 2-for-7, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R
    • Dansby Swanson: 3-for-4, 5 R
    • Austin Riley: 2-for-4, RBI, 5 R
    • Adam Duvall: 3-for-4, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R
    • Ozzie Albies: 3-for-6, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R
    • Ender Inciarte: 2-for-5, RBI, 2 R

    "That was pretty amazing to be a part of," Freeman told reporters. "I’ve never seen an offense click like that."

    No one has—at least not in the National League.

Fernando Tatis Jr. vs. Baseball's Unwritten Rules

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    User Comment: "Tatis breaking the unwritten rules with the 3-0 grand slam and then being so concerned about it the next night he steals third base up 6-0." (@brkngdgs)

    With the San Diego Padres leading 10-3 in the top of the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers on Aug. 17, Fernando Tatis Jr. crushed a grand slam off reliever Juan Nicasio for his second home run of the game.

    That second homer came on a 3-0 pitch, and that brought baseball's antiquated unwritten rules into focus once again.

    "There's a lot of unwritten rules that are constantly being challenged in today's game," Rangers manager Chris Woodward told reporters. "I didn't like it, personally. You're up by seven in the eighth inning; it's typically not a good time to swing, 3-0. It's kind of the way we were all raised in the game. But, like I said, the norms are being challenged on a daily basis, so—just because I don't like it doesn't mean it's not right."

    Current and former players came out in force to support Tatis, with the general consensus being that if you don't want to give up a 3-0 grand slam in a blowout game, you should probably throw a better 3-0 pitch.

    The very next night against that same Rangers team, Tatis stole third base with a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning, drawing the ire of baseball purists once again.

    Regardless of where you fall on the unwritten-rules debate, it was a memorable 48 hours for San Diego's budding superstar.

Miami Marlins' COVID-19 Outbreak

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    User Comment: "Genuinely, I think everyone has a memory of when the Marlins outbreak story broke, and then the Cardinals being out for two weeks. Felt like everyone was looking at the MLB and wondering why they didn't do a bubble plan because the NBA had theirs under control." (@0opsididitagain)

    The Miami Marlins took two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies in their season-opening series before a COVID-19 outbreak brought their season to a screeching halt.

    The fledgling 2020 season was so young at that point that it looked like the outbreak could be a deathblow to the entire campaign with the proposed 60-game season over before it really got going.

    Instead, baseball pushed forward, and the Marlins returned to action nine days later with more than half their roster watching from the sidelines. As Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald wrote:

    "Eighteen players and two coaches contracted the novel coronavirus, leaving the Marlins without three of their five original starting pitchers (including Opening Day starter Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith and Jose Urena), eight of their original 12 relievers, their starting shortstop Miguel Rojas, their starting catcher Jorge Alfaro, two outfielders, one of their backup catchers in Chad Wallach and a utility infielder in Sean Rodriguez."

    It was a defining moment that looked like it could bring the fragile 2020 season crashing down.

    Instead, the season has progressed as smoothly as anyone could have hoped, and the Marlins have rallied from that early layoff to position themselves nicely for just the third postseason appearance in franchise history.

Slam Diego

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    User Comment: "Slam Diego, the four grand slams in four straight games." (@FinestCity)

    The 3-0 grand slam from Fernando Tatis Jr. that we mentioned earlier was also the first domino in a historic run for the San Diego Padres offense.

    Starting with that bases-loaded shot, they became the first team in MLB history to hit a grand slam in four straight games.

    • Aug. 17: Fernando Tatis Jr.
    • Aug. 18: Wil Myers
    • Aug. 19: Manny Machado (walk-off)
    • Aug. 20: Eric Hosmer

    "That's the best part of it," Padres manager Jayce Tingler told reporters. "It's not one guy. It's not two guys. It's a group of men that are pulling for one another and delivering at different moments."

    Only four other teams in MLB history had ever hit a grand slam in three straight games, according to AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, and the 2006 Chicago White Sox were the most recent example.

Joe Kelly vs. Houston Astros

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    User Comment: "Joe Kelly. Any answer other than this is wrong." (@iamacocoapuff07)

    There was bound to be an enduring moment of retribution toward the Houston Astros for their cheating scandal, and Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly provided that moment.

    After throwing a fastball near the head of Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman and then taunting Carlos Correa after striking him out to end the inning, the benches cleared on July 28.

    Kelly was slapped with an eight-game suspension (later reduced to five games), but his mocking pouty face will be the defining moment of 2020 for many baseball fans.

    It was the embodiment of how many fans around the country still feel about an Astros team that undermined the integrity of the game and escaped with its World Series title intact.

        

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.

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