If you love pitching, there was an exciting matchup on Saturday night in Seattle between two MLBbros who are the future of baseball in a position that is not dominated by “The Culture.”
The Cleveland Indians featured their 23-year-old right-hander Triston “T Eazy” McKenzie and the Seattle Mariners, who won the game 7-3, countered with another melanated mound marauder in southpaw Justus “Topsheff” Sheffield.
Both pitchers started in the Indians organization and are important parts of their respective rotations this season and have shown signs of brilliance and also laid some stinkers, which is a natural progression for young arms. Sheffield is just 25.
Sheffield got the best of McKenzie in this matchup as Triston surrendered five runs in four innings and left trailing 5-0. He did strike out six batters which suggests that he had good stuff but was just missing on certain pitches.
Justus Sheffield hailing from Tullahoma, TN has baseball DNA in the blood. He is the brother of Jordan Sheffield, a right-handed pitcher with the Colorado Rockies, and is also the cousin to former MLB player Tony Sheffield.
He was in command through six innings against the Cleveland Indians lineup, allowing just two runs on five hits and striking out two.
T-Eazy Is On The Come Up
Triston is the fifth starter on what is arguably one of the best pitching rotations in baseball. The Brooklyn, NY native was drafted by the Indians in 2015. He was deemed one of the best pitching prospects by MLB Pipeline in 2019 but was unable to pitch that season due to injury.
McKenzie stands at 6’5″ 170 pounds and generated a lot of buzz in his major league debut in 2020 against the Detroit Tigers, striking out 10 batters in his first six innings.
He entered Cleveland’s record books with the second-most strikeouts in his first major league start. He finished the shortened and unprecedented 2020 MLB season with a record of 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA over 33.1 innings pitched.
This season, T Eazy is off to a slow start, with an ERA close to five. The electric stuff is there, he’s just got to learn how to put it all together. How to pitch.
He made one bad pitch to Dylan Moore in the fourth inning on Saturday, which resulted in a three-run homer.
He met a similar fate against the Chicago White Sox on May 1st, 2021. McKenzie struck out six batters and gave up only one hit, the one hit was a Grand Slam to Tim Anderson. McKenzie was pulled after two innings after he threw 57 pitches and walked four.
Justus Sheffield Puts The Clamps On Cleveland
Sheffield was the 31st pick in the first round, of the Cleveland Indians in 2015, one year before Triston McKenzie was drafted by the same organization. Justus spent time in the Yankees organization for a season but has found a home with the Seattle Mariners.
The 25-year-old stands at 5’10”, and weighs 195 lbs. He is the third man in a six-man pitching rotation that features another black hurler, Justin Dunn.
Justus had a successful rookie campaign in 2020 finishing 4-3, with a 3.58 ERA over 55.1 innings pitched. Seattle is excited about their pitcher who is finding his stride after Covid ravaged the 2020 season and hampered the development of many major leaguers.
Justus came into the season with some personal goals for the 2021 season. The goals for Topsheff were perfecting his changeup and to last six innings of every start, a goal that he reached six times out of 10 outings in 2020.
He reached that goal on Saturday night.
Baseball is known for its stats and two black starting pitchers facing each other is a rare one indeed. This isn’t the last time these two bruthas will clash. Tristan and Justus will once again have the opportunity to make the ancestors proud by putting on a show and allowing the world to see what these Black arms can do.
I can assure you that little Black boys will watch tonight’s game and see “Black Excellence” on display and know that one day, they can be a pitcher in Major League Baseball too.
Justus Sheffield is the first MLB Bro starting pitcher to take the mound this season. Sheffield finally started putting his repertoire together and was stellar in the abbreviated 2020 season.
Sheffield looks to make this year a special one.
We have seen MLB bros have an impact with the bats and on the basepaths already this season, but Monday night we will get to see one of the best young arm talents in all of baseball; 24-year-old lefty Justus Sheffield.
Sheffield is a part of only two rotations in baseball to feature multiple black starters. He and Justin Dunn hold it down for the Seattle Mariners and the Mets who feature the charismatic Marcus Stroman and heat-toting Taijuan Walker.
In 2020, Sheffield’s official rookie season, he found his groove. He finished with a record of 4-3 and a 3.58 era on a young, talented Mariners team that featured a rookie of the year winner in centerfield and two gold glove defenders.
From August 9th- September 26th of 2020, Sheffield was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He posted a 4-1 record with a 2.42 era and 41 strikeouts with just 14 walks during that span.
He led all MLB rookies with 6 quality starts, was 3rd in innings pitched and 6th in strikeouts. Only fellow Mariner Kyle Lewis had a higher Wins Above Replacement rating for rookies in all of baseball.
Sheffield was one of the most talented pitchers coming out of high school in the 2014 class. He posted an 11-0 record with a 0.34 era and threw two no-hitters his senior season in high school on the way to being named Gatorade National Player of the Year.
A native of Tullahoma, Tennessee, Sheffield committed to powerhouse Vanderbilt University but ultimately chose to go straight to the big leagues after being drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Indians.
In 2016 he was traded to the New York Yankees in a deal that sent reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians. He made his major league debut on September 19th, 2018 in relief for the Yankees.
Just a short time later, in November of 2019, Sheffield was dealt again, this time to Seattle in a deal that brought the Yankees James Paxton.
Despite being traded twice before his 24th birthday, Sheffield has seemed to find a home in Seattle, where he earned a spot in the rotation. He debuted for Seattle in 2019 and struck out 37 batters in 36 innings.
Sheffield features a nasty sinker/slider combination, relying on forcing batters to make weak contact and his fielders to make plays — which when you have a defense like the Mariners do — is not a bad idea.
Pitching excellence runs in the Sheffield family as his brother Jordan, a former Vandy arm, made his season debut out of the pen a few days ago.
If you're wondering where Justus Sheffield is, he's likey watching his brother Jordan make his MLB debut against the Dodgers. The other Sheffield brother went 1-2-3 in his inning with two groundouts and a popout, retiring both Corey Seager and Mookie Betts. Congrats @Topsheff42pic.twitter.com/wHRUCmPFAN
Always remember that in many instances — pitching, for example — quality trumps quantity. Justin Dunn’s pitching performance for the Seattle Mariners this season is a prime example of such an instance.
With his victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday night, Dunn extended his American League-leading streak of 15 straight starts of allowing three or fewer runs.
Pitching is just different in 2021. Black in the day, pitchers were expected to throw longer into games than we see now. Rarely do we see a complete game thrown, let alone a starter even reach the seven or eight-inning mark.
With managers having the option of going to four or more guys in their bullpen who can throw 95 mph and above with dirty movement, the role of the starting pitcher now is to keep his team in a position to win, rather than go deep into games.
Throughout this season, and even extending into last, Dunn has been one of the best in baseball at getting this done.
Since August 23, 2020, Dunn has been stingy, allowing three or fewer runs in his last 15 starts. Particularly, he has been heating up over his last three starts, and this could be the best stretch of his young career.
Dunn, from Queens New York, has never been the biggest, hardest-throwing, or most intimidating pitcher, so he’d dealt with people doubting him and knocking him for not measuring up to the metrics. Those funny numbers that, falsely determine who has the goods, while overlooking things such as natural talent and heart.
In his last start this past weekend, Dunn went 5.2 innings, striking out eight and allowing one run in a 3-2 victory aided by MLBbro shortstop J.P. Crawford’s second home run of the season. Dunn’s stat line was very similar just two starts ago when he struck out a career-high nine in a loss to the Detroit Tigers. In his last three games, Dunn has an ERA of 2.20 and a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 0.92.
Dunn’s beginning to find his All-Star stride on the mound. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the first round of the 2016 draft after posting a 2.06 ERA in his junior season at Boston College.
Going into the 2018 season, Dunn was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the Mets farm system.
Later that year, he was involved in a trade that sent him to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for one of the best second baseman of our generation in Robinson Cano (who was aging at the time) and closer Edwin Diaz. Justin made his MLB debut on September 12, 2019, against the Cincinnati Reds.
Dunn recorded a 4.34 ERA in 10 starts during the Covid l9-shortened 2020 season.
The kid they used to count out is currently putting together a quality resume for 2021. He has a 3.18 ERA and has struck out 45 batters this year.
Opponents have not been able to make solid contact on him either. His .168 batting average against is good for the second-lowest in the American League behind the White Sox’s Carlos Rodon.
Dunn and MLBbro rotation partner Justus Sheffield are one of two rotations in baseball that feature two black starters. The other rotation resides in Flushing, Queens and consists of Black Knights Marcus Stroman and Taijun Walker.
Sheffield got the job done for the Mariners Friday night as he was awarded the win after going five innings allowing just two runs on six hits.
Dunn’s current streak of 15 straight starts, allowing three or fewer runs is good for the fourth-longest such streak in Mariners’ history trailing Seattle legend Felix Hernandez, Roenis Elías and Erik Bedard.
Dunn’s next start is Friday in Los Angeles as he and High Five member Kyle Lewis take on Justin Upton and the Angels.
J.P. Crawford’s youthful exuberance has been infectious within the confines of the Seattle Mariners clubhouse and the young shortstop’s energy, bat and glove has been a driving force in helping the former cellar dwellers reach the 10-win plateau Sunday.
This is a resilient Seattle team to watch as they have piled on multiple comeback efforts this season enroute to becoming the second team in the American League to reach double-digit dubs.
That includes Sunday’s series-clinching win against division-rival Houston Astros, highlighted by Crawford scoring from first on a triple to take the lead and firing up Mariners fans while crossing the plate.
There hasn’t been this much youthful exuberance, Black excellence and optimism since Ken Griffey Jr. was flicking moonshots and scaling stadium walls in a single bound, back in the nasty 90s.
Last Sunday, Crawford finally got his season batting average over the Mendoza Line. He is now hitting .275 with 7 runs 14 hits and 3 RBIs, including a huge go-ahead two-run double en route to his Mariners sweeping a doubleheader against Baltimore.
It’s great to see Crawford finally start to exhibit some consistency at the plate as he has always been a stopper on the defensive side. The power’s not there yet, but he’s a work in progress on the serious upswing.
Last season, the 26-year-old shortstop out of Lakewood, California became just the 17th black infielder in major league history to win a Gold Glove, doing so in just his fourth season.
Crawford was drafted 16th overall in the 2013 draft out of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies. It was clear at an early age that he was a wizard with the web. He started on varsity as a freshman and broke school records for hits, runs, steals and walks. He was traded to Seattle in 2019.
Crawford is just the second black shortstop to win a Gold Glove in the American League, joining five-time winner Derek Jeter who had three straight from 2004-2006. Jimmy Rollins, Ozzie Smith, Ernie Banks and Maury Wills each won the award in the National League.
In total, only 17 black infielders have won Gold Gloves in their careers, seven since 1996: Dee Strange Gordon, Orlando Hudson, J-Roll, Derrick Lee, Brandon Phillips, Derek Jeter and the newly added J.P. Crawford.
Crawford, whose cousin is former Tampa Bay Rays and Houston native Carl Crawford, finished last season with a career-high .986 fielding percentage on 221 chances. He was tied for the league lead with seven defensive runs saved.
Although you may have to stay up late to watch the west coast Mariners, they are one of the more diverse and youth-infused squads in the entire league. Crawford is not only making a name for himself on the field, but he’s all in on improving race relations in the country and showing his support for all social justice initiatives.
Crawford will look to join a short list of legendary shortstops who have won multiple Gold Gloves (Derek Jeter, Ozzie Smith, Jimmy Rollins and Maury Wills).
As for his team, the American League West is wide open and after only being a few games out of a playoff spot last season, the Mariners are looking to take that next leap into the upper echelon of MLB clubs.
With young, athletic and gifted leaders like Crawford on the job, it’s a definite possibility.
MLbbro.com told you early in the season to keep an eye on the New York Mets rotation and the squad’s melanated mound marauders; Taijuan Walker and Marcus Stroman. The team from Queens is one of just two MLB rotations with two Black starting pitchers.
(Seattle Mariners pitchers Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn comprise the other Black starter tandem)
On Tuesday, both pitchers carried their whole weight in leading the Mets to a sweep of NL East rival Philadelphia.
It was exactly the kind of performance that Mets brass hoped for when they decided to bring these two potential Black aces into the fold to round out what could eventually be the best pitching staff in baseball.
Both pitchers have basically been lights out. Stroman has a 0.37 ERA and in 12.1 innings pitched he’s given up just 1 run on a homer and eight hits.
He wants all the smoke. At 5-foot-7 he’s a walking billboard for his branded HDMH slogan: “Heart Don’t Measure Height.” Let’s not forget he’s doing all this while fighting social justice causes and responding to idiots all day long on Twitter,
That heart was on full display. After getting his start cut short during a nine-pitch rainout on Sunday, instead of waiting his normal five days to start again, Stroman went Rough Ryder DMX on em’ and came back on one day’s rest to hurl 6 innings of no-run, four-hit ball, in a performance fit for framing.
He was efficient, throwing 86 pitches to lead the Mets to a 4-0 shutout win over the Phillies.
Stroman’s outing followed a spicy effort by Walker, who set the day off like Queen Latifah with the semi-auto, hurling 4.1 innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball with a whopping 8 strikeout. Yeah, he was throwing ched,
This short, but masterful outing follows Walker’s first Citifield start in which he surrendered just two runs in 6 innings. Both of Walker’s efforts ended in a no-decision, but he pitched more than well enough to win.
Walker’s a live arm that the Mets signed to shore up the rotation. At just 28 years of age and having pitched for some pretty average to bad teams in his career, there was much optimism that Walker could really turn up this season on a Mets team that has the pieces to make a lot of noise in the playoffs.
These Black Knights are what we would call X-factors for the Mets this season. How far the Mets advance will strongly depend on the performance of their bros in arms. Both are playing on the best team of their career and if they pitched to their abilities, both could easily have career campaigns. It really comes down to staying healthy.
Walker’s durability is always in question. Entering the season the 6-foot-4 heat hurler had started just 15 MLB games since 2018.
There were skeptics who suggested that Stroman was more bark than bite based on the fact that he hasn’t had a winning record since 2017 and his ERA has fluctuated dramatically. Stroman knew better and entered the season healthy, confident and anxiously waiting for a team to explode on.
The Mets already have a formidable staff with the best pitcher in the game (Jacob DeGrom) leading the way, To have two other pitchers capable of dominating at times comes in handy for the Mets, who currently have two key starters missing. Noah Syndergaard is on the shelf and No. 2 starter Carlos Carrasco is on the IL with a bad hammy.
Give it up for these brothers who continue to dismiss the myth that Black men don’t pitch…anymore.