With the All-Star break here, we have officially hit the halfway point of the season; meaning that the playoff race is getting ready to commence.
Here are four MLBbros who need to step up and improve their play in the second half of the season (post-All-Star Game), in order to help their respective teams reach the promised land.
1. Mookie Betts
Mookie Betts and his Los Angeles Dodgers are in the midst of one of the toughest division races in the history of baseball. The National League West is home to the three best records in the National League and whichever two teams do not win the pennant will have to face off in a one-game playoff ( where anything can happen).
Friendly reminder that even in his “down year” Mookie Betts is still having a career-year for most players pic.twitter.com/5EydO4i8Hn
Betts played well enough to be voted on as an All-Star this season, but we have not seen the usual MVP-type numbers for him. His average sits at .249 with 37 RBI and 12 home runs. Despite that, he is still doing a good job with getting on base as he is fourth for all Right Fielders in walks and has a .819 OPS.
After hitting a grand slam in the Dodgers 22-run performance Saturday night and then following that with a home run Sunday, Betts may be a step ahead of us as he is already heating up right before our eyes.
Betts was slated to be the only MLBbro on the National League All-Star team, but he will be skipping out on the game in order to have his body ready for the stretch run.
"I think we all know the goal is to win a World Series, and I think this break will definitely help me to help us get to that point.” @mookiebetts on skipping out on the ASG. pic.twitter.com/LMJdK2Je0u
Whenever we get back to playing baseball next weekend, Josh Bell and the Washington Nationals are going to immediately be in must-win mode in order to determine whether they will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
Bell has been better during the month of July. He is hitting .314 with three doubles and five RBI, which have all come within his last seven games. Since May 13, he has hit nine home runs and driven in 32 runs.
The Nationals have been dealing with injuries throughout this entire season, mostly coming in their pitching staff but recently those problems have spread to the lineup so Bell will need to be a constant force as they trail the Mets in the standings by five and a half games.
Jackie Bradley Jr. has always been without question one of the best defensive outfielders in the game but his hitting has been lacking this season, and he will need to turn it around quickly to secure a spot in the Brewers’ lineup.
Bradley only has two hits in his last 25 at-bats and is only batting .167 for the season with a .252 on base percentage. That will not get it done in the playoffs! Especially for a Brewers team that has one of the best starting rotations in baseball yet sits 29th in total batting average as a team.
The Brewers have a trio of MLBbro outfielders including Lorenzo Cain who recently began a rehab assignment and Tyrone Taylor who recently snapped his streak of 20 games without a home run. One of those three is likely to be the odd man out whenever Cain returns to their squad.
Garrett blew a few saves and even blew a gasket in a game against the Cubs that led him to be suspended, but over the last three weeks, he has righted the ship and been one of the better relievers in the Majors.
He has not given up a run since June 17, and has struck out 12 batters and walked only four during that span.
The Reds have the best chance to catch the Brewers for the National League Central crown, but if they cannot close out games and hold leads there is no way they will hoist the World Series trophy this Fall.
Being a relief pitcher in baseball has to be the greatest job in the world. Observing the action from the bullpen, you have one of the best views in sports to watch the greatest game ever created.
Despite that, it comes with a high price as the pressure is on 100 percent, the second you enter the game.
After just the first half of the season, a few of our MLBbro relievers have become diamonds under the pressure.
Here is my #HighFive list of a few current black relievers and how they have fared this season.
Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers
The 2020 National League Rookie of the Year got off to a slower start than expected this season after posting a 0.33 ERA in 2020, but has recently stemmed the tide and appears to be back to his dominant self. He currently has a 3.55 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 25 innings.
In six appearances during June, he has only given up one run while striking out 11. He also has only given up more than two hits in an appearance three times this year and has not allowed a home run since April 24.
The Brewers are tied for first place in the NL Central. Williams will need to continue to lock the 7th and 8th innings down in order to get the ball to Brewers’ closer Josh Hader who is one of the filthiest in all of baseball.
David Price, Los Angeles Dodgers
Black Ace Club Member, five-time All-Star, Cy Young Award winner and World Series champion David Price is taking on a new challenge this season as he is coming out of the bullpen for the Dodgers for the first time since his World Series run during his rookie year with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Price is one of the most accomplished Black starters in the history of baseball and for sure in the current generation. His 20-win season in 2012 gave him the green light to enter the Black Ace fraternity but with the Dodgers being loaded with pitching options it was thought that Price would be best used out of the bullpen.
His first two outings this year were a little shaky, but we’ll take that as time spent getting used to his new role. After giving up five runs in his first two starts, only four runners have scored in 14 appearances.
Price has an ERA of 3.74 with 24 strikeouts and a 2-0 record, his most recent win coming on Monday after 0.2 innings of scoreless baseball. He is no longer using speed to blow batters away, rather movement and ball placement have led to many ground balls and fly ball outs for him.
Amir Garrett, Cincinnati Reds
Amir Garrett is literally the biggest reliever in the game. He stands 6-foot-5, 239 pounds, and was suspended earlier this season for seven games after being involved in a benches-clearing brawl against the Chicago Cubs in the beginning of May.
Amir Garrett strikes out Anthony Rizzo, words are exchanged and then both benches clear during the Reds and Cubs game. pic.twitter.com/dGX508V2Gh
— Bally Sports Cincinnati (@BallySportsCIN) May 1, 2021
He saw struggles before his return, but when he arrived he came with a vengeance, allowing only three runs in eight appearances and 10 strikeouts for the rest of May.
After a bump in the road to start June, Garrett has still been a great anchor for the Reds’ bullpen. In his last four games, he has given up one run in three innings and has struck out six. It may take a while to bring his 8.34 ERA down to more of a respectable number. He’ll need to stay dominant and keep his focus on one start at a time.
Taylor Hearn and Demarcus Evans, Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers are the only bullpen in baseball with multiple Black relievers. One throws for the left side and the other the right, but both get it done by throwing flames in Texas’ heat.
Hearn made the Rangers’ Opening Day roster and has had a Jekyll and Hyde beginning to the first three months of the season. After a few April struggles, he seemed to turn it around in May as he posted a 1.93 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 14 innings.
As the calendar turned to June, Hearns arrow shifted in a downward direction. He has given up six runs in six innings, three of them being home runs.
Evans made his MLB debut May 25 and has instantly become one of the team’s best relievers. He won the team’s Minor League Reliever of the Year award for two straight seasons and he’s showing the batters in the Majors are not much tougher. In 8.1 innings, he has only given up two runs and has 11 strikeouts with a 2.16 ERA.
Resilience is the common characteristic found in the makeup of strong MLB relievers. Evans has that. He’s got guts too.
With the Rangers appearing to be in seller mode as the trade deadline inches closer, Hearn and Evans have the chance to showcase their abilities to be stable pieces in the bullpen for years to come.
Out with the new and in with the old as the Kansas City Monarchs, formally known as the T-Bones of the American Association of Professional Baseball for the independent league (partnered with Major League Baseball), kicked off their inaugural season Tuesday night, losing 7-5 to the Lincoln Salt Dogs. It was their first home-opener at Legends Field since 2019.
The Monarchs name plays an integral part in Kansas City, the surrounding areas, and nationwide, especially for people of color. The unique partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum will see most proceeds from ticket sales and merchandising going to the museum, which will continue to educate the masses about baseball’s rich history in the black community.
The president of the museum, Bob Kendrick, told MLB Central that the whole idea was a rollercoaster of emotions for him. He said, “When Mark Brandmeyer, the owner of the T-Bones, approached me about the idea of rebranding the club as the Kansas City Monarchs, I wasn’t overwhelmed with the idea. But as we continued to have dialog, the idea became increasingly interesting to us.”
Last night was the first time a Kansas City Monarchs team was represented in the field of play since their disbandment in 1965.
Baltimore Orioles outfielder D.J. Stewart made his return to the starting lineup Tuesday night vs. the Tampa Bay Rays after suffering a tweaked hamstring this past Sunday.
Stewart started in right field and batted fourth in the lineup going 1-4 with one hit in the O’s 13-4 rout of the Rays. On the season, he is batting .207/.330/.310. Since May began, the 27-year-old is 5-27 with six walks, four RBIs, and one homer.
Cincinnati Reds reliever Amir Garrett made his return to the bullpen after serving a five-game suspension for his involvement in the bench-clearing incident with the Chicago Cubs. Garrett said it was pretty tough being away from his teammates.
Although Garrett traveled with the team, he spent most of his time in the hotel or up in the press box after pregame warmups. He told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “It sucked sitting up there watching my team battle without me. But you live and learn.”
He said, “I was surprised that I got that many games, but I’m not going to talk about it too much or throw others under the bus, but I think that the five games were steep. But it is what it is.” He added, “I understand they probably wanted to make an example out of me. I’ll be the example. It’s all good. I can take it.”
Before his suspension, Garrett was dealing on the mound as he retired 12/15 batters with six strikeouts. His return to action was thorough.
Amir Garrett strikes out 2 of the 3 batters he faced in his return from suspension
Per sources, the Texas Rangers will look to recall relief pitcher Demarcus Evans from Triple-A affiliate Round Rock Express where he spent time working on his mechanics and his mind. While processing his fundamentals, he accounted for one win in four starts with 12 strikeouts.
Evans showed signs of dominance during his early stages in the Minor Leagues as he was named top reliever by Baseball America in 2019. One of the main reasons for the Triple-A assignment was a sustained Lat injury during the Rangers time in spring training.
Evans Made his big-league debut in the 2020 pandemic shortened season, allowing one run in four innings. The Rangers require another right-handed setup pitcher in their bullpen, said Manager Chris Woodward, who said the call-up is due to Evans great sighting in the minors.
Amir Garrett won’t be intimidating any batter from the mound in the here and now.
Amir, the Cincinnati Reds’ intimidating closer, will begin to serve a five-game suspension Tuesday for his role in a bench-clearing incident in a recent game against the Chicago Cubs.
He finally found his groove after struggling to begin the season and will look to continue his strong pitching once he returns.
Batters see a monster when they look up at a 6-foot-6 left-handed reliever toeing the rubber in the late innings. He throws flames and will let you know how he feels after getting you out every time. A few times in his career, teams have taken exception to this, but Garrett has never been the type to back down.
This was the case during a game a few weeks ago against the Cubs. It was a 3-2 game in the top of the eighth when he struck out Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
Garrett then began pounding his chest and yelling at Rizzo as well as the Cubs’ dugout: I am not the best at reading lips and won’t try this time, but whatever he said the Cubs took extreme exception to it. Their entire team came out of the dugout and both benches emptied.
No punches were thrown, and although Cubs second baseman Javier Baez was the first one out of the dugout and could be seen on camera flipping the bird in Garrett’s direction, Garrett was the only player from each team to be suspended. Baez was only given a fine.
His original suspension was scheduled for seven games but after appealing it Major League Baseball decided to reduce it to just five games.
Five games, without even a punch being thrown, does seem a little excessive but this is not Garrett’s first rodeo when it comes to being involved in a benches-clearing incident.
We have to flashback to July 2019 in a game between Garrett’s Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates. There was obvious animosity in the air between both teams as a reliever was ejected just an inning earlier for hitting a batter. Garrett was on the mound talking with his catcher and pitching coach during the ninth inning of a blowout game. Garrett, who heard chirping from the Pirates dugout, finally had heard enough. He began going towards their dugout and once he crossed the third base line all hell broke loose.
Garrett was a lone soldier against the entire Pittsburg roster but that didn’t faze him. He neared their dugout and connected a left hook to a Pirate player as both teams would then begin to scuffle.
Garrett was remorseful after the situation. “When I see kids, I don’t want to set that kind of example,” Garrett told MLB.com. “That’s not the kind of person I am. I don’t condone violence. I don’t like for stuff like that to happen and for kids to be amazed by stuff like that and think it’s cool- because it’s not.” He would serve an eight-game suspension.
The no-nonsense mindset of Garrett is sort of a throwback to the attitude of Hall of Famer Lee Smith, who is third all-time with 478 saves during his 18-year career. Similar to Garrett, Smith stood 6-foot-6, weighed 265 pounds and was one of the most respected and feared pitchers in the game during his time.
“Always being positive, he had a lot of confidence in himself and was just a big guy that was overpowering and ahead of the game,” said Patrick Mahomes, Sr., when speaking on Smith getting into the Hall of Fame.
Garrett got off to a slow start this season but has seemed to find his stride in his last few appearances. In his last four games, he has thrown four innings allowing two hits, no runs, two walks and struck out six batters.
He’ll have some time to relax and unwind during this mini-break he is getting. But we need Garrett back on the mound as soon as possible. He brings a flair and charisma to the mound that we are not used to seeing in baseball and the sport needs more of it.