Monday is typically a travel or rest day in baseball, and as a result, there were only nine games on the schedule. It would’ve been eight if not for a rainout makeup game on Chicago’s North Side. Here is everything you need to know about Monday’s MLB action.

Monday’s scores

Angels beat Astros again

The Angels’ nip-and-tuck victory against Houston on Monday night means they’re now 3-1 on the season against the defending champs. Like other division rivals, these two teams will play each other 19 times this year, so let’s not assume L.A. has got the Astros’ number or anything like that. Still, taking three of four to start that head-to-head slate is close to ideal for the Angels. The win also means that the Angels are now percentage points ahead of Houston in the AL West. The projections expect the Astros to eventually put some distance between themselves and the Halos, but for now it’s a back-and-forth struggle.

On Monday night, Justin Upton stayed hot, collecting two hits and driving in one of the Angels’ two runs. The big story, though, was the dominant outing by Andrew Heaney … 

That’s the first time Heaney has lasted eight innings in a start, and those 10 strikeouts tie a career high. Justin Anderson worked the ninth for his first career save, and he was aided greatly by this brilliant catch-and-throw double play by Kole Calhoun … 

We’re in the middle of May, and that’s already six outfield assists for Calhoun. 

In any event, it’s was important for the Angels to win the series opener, because they’ll face Gerrit Cole on Tuesday and Justin Verlander on Wednesday.

D-Backs lose game, possibly Pollock

By losing to the Brewers on Monday night, the Diamondbacks dropped their sixth straight and fell to 4-9 for the month of May. To compound matters, Arizona center fielder A.J. Pollock suffered a sprained left thumb while attempting to make a diving catch in the ninth inning. Here’s a look: 

That wound up being an inside-the-park home run off the bat of Tyler Saladino. Pollock, meantime, was removed from the game and examined in the home clubhouse. After the game, the team announced Pollock’s injury and said he would be seen by a hand specialist on Tuesday. Obviously, it was an ugly-looking roll, and you immediately worry about a wrist or thumb fracture when you see something like that. For now, though, it appears Pollock has avoided the worst-case scenarios. He could, however, still miss significant time. 

On the season, the 30-year-old Pollock is batting a highly productive .293/.349/.620 with 24 extra-base hits and nine stolen bases. That’s of course in addition to the value he provides in the field. Arizona does have some outfield depth, what with Jarrod Dyson on the roster, but losing Pollock for a stretch of time would be a huge blow to an offense that has been struggling of late. Whatever the time frame, the team figures to know more on Tuesday. 

Oh, and not to pile on, but D-Backs starter Patrick Corbin, although he pitched decently, showed depressed velocity for a third consecutive start.

Here come the Rockies

With their evening victory against San Diego, Colorado moved to four games above .500, 8-4 in May, and 16-8 on the road. Central to Monday night’s win was Gerardo Parra (home run, three RBI) and the Colorado bullpen, which allowed one hit and no runs in 3 1/3 innings. 

Regarding all of that, let’s have a look at the current NL West standings … 

Arizona 24 17 .585 166 143 23 13-11 11-6 4-6 2-2 16-8 3-7 L 6
Colorado 23 19 .548 171 189 -18 7-11 16-8 8-5 6-7 8-6 6-4 W 1
San Francisco 21 21 .500 171 196 -25 11-7 10-14 5-5 2-2 11-12 4-6 W 2
L.A. Dodgers 16 24 .400 171 172 -1 8-13 8-11 3-3 0-4 12-16 3-7 L 4
San Diego 16 27 .372 9 160 208 -48 10-18 6-9 2-4 2-5 11-16 5-5 L 1

As recently as May 1, the Rockies were six games back. However, they’re hot month has coincided with the D-Backs’ struggles and here we are. Things are getting interesting in the NL West, and most surprisingly the Dodgers have nothing to do with it. 

Red Sox get to Manaea, but Porcello struggles again

Last month, A’s southpaw Sean Manaea made history when he no-hit the then-molten-hot Red Sox in Oakland. It was the first of three no-hitters in baseball so far this season, and the 12th no-hitter in Athletics franchise history. Manaea’s 2018 numbers coming into his Monday rematch against Boston were spectacular:

In that rematch, the ballparks aligned in Boston’s favor (the Sox offense has been much better at hitter-friendly Fenway, and Manaea has been less effective away from his pitcher-friendly home yard). Boston got to Manaea for four runs — three earned — in six innings. That’s a quality start, yes, but that’s a much better result than last time for the Sox. Manaea, meantime, has now allowed 12 runs during his past 17 2/3 innings.

Speaking of recent struggles, Boston’s Rick Porcello once again failed to keep runs off the board. The A’s got to him in this one for five runs on nine hits in six innings. Porcello has now allowed five runs in back-to-back starts. On the morning of May 9, he boasted a 2.19 ERA for the season. Now that figure is up to 3.28. 

On the power front, Matt Joyce, Matt Olson, Khris Davis, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez all homered in this one. 

LeBlanc has been a rotation savior for Seattle

With the notable exception of James Paxton, regular members of the Mariners’ rotation this season have been pretty disappointing. Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake and Marco Gonzalez all have ERAs north of 5.00, and Erasmo Ramirez is on the DL after only two (very bad) starts. The desperation that flows from all of this prompted the M’s to install journeyman Wade LeBlanc in the rotation. 

On Monday, LeBlanc put up these numbers against Minnesota:

And that brings us to these updated numbers since the M’s made LeBlanc a starter:

That’s some timely excellence right there. Given the recent bad news regarding Robinson Cano, Monday night’s gem was especially welcome. 

Cutch notches career hit No. 1,500

Back home in San Fran following his return to Pittsburgh, Giants outfielder Andrew McCutchen reached a milestone on Monday night against the Reds. For McCutchen, career hit No. 1,500 came in the form of an RBI double: 

With his second double of night, McCutchen became the 632nd hitter in MLB history to reach 1,500 hits. Of those 1,500 knocks, 1,463 came with the Pirates.

In his first season by the Bay, McCutchen, now 31, is batting a useful .264/.381/.414. He has been part of the reason the Giants have been able to hang around the .500 mark this season despite a thoroughly banged-up rotation. Looking ahead, McCutchen is of course a strong bet to get to 2,000 hits at some point.

Rays-Royals features swing, slide of the night

The Rays-Royals game in K.C. on Monday night was likely not of surpassing interest to the average baseball enthusiast. Neither team is particularly good, you know. However, the game did occasion a couple of notable moments. 

First, here’s C.J. Cron of the Rays going Full Vlad on an Eric Skoglund breaking ball that didn’t quite make it all the way to its destination:

That’s pretty cool, but it takes a Hall of Famer to turn a pitch in the dirt into a base hit

Anyhow, now let’s jump to the very next batter, Matt Duffy, who singled to Jorge Soler in right. Thereupon, Adeiny Hechavarria, who had been on second, decided to test Soler’s arm. Please observe the following example of sliding artistry: 

That’s the go-ahead run, and that’s an acrobatic slide that’s hellbent on triumph. Slide of 2018 so far? Yeah and also verily. 

Albies hits another leadoff homer, Braves edge Cubs

The Braves nipped the Cubs in Wrigley on Monday afternoon as the two teams combined for five home runs through the first five innings. For the third time this season, Ozzie Albies led off a game with a home run. He took Jose Quintana deep on the second pitch of the game:

Opposite field! Hard to believe Albies was billed as a low-power/high-contact guy coming up through the minors. That was his 13th home run of the season, tying several others for the MLB lead. Here is the 2018 leadoff home run leaderboard:

  1. Mookie Betts: 3
  2. Ozzie Albies: 3
  3. George Springer: 2
  4. 16 tied with one

Albies would later add a single and a double. Jose Bautista in this one also hit his second homer as a Brave. 

Things got tense in the bottom of the ninth. The Cubs loaded the bases with one out, and with two outs an Ian Happ HBP cut the margin to one run and brought Kris Bryant to the plate. Bryant, however, lined out to left to end it. And with that victories for the Braves: 

Those high marks have been achieved against one of the toughest schedules in baseball to date. 

By the way, Monday’s game featured only the second matchup between Colombian-born pitchers in baseball history: Quintana vs. Julio Teheran. The first such matchup? Quintana vs. Teheran in 2016.

Ramirez looking like an MVP candidate … again

Here’s some color-television footage from Monday’s Indians-Tigers tilt that provides us with the tidy rationale we need to talk about Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez as an AL MVP candidate … 

That’s Ramirez’s going yard the 13th time this season, and that ties with him with a slew of other sluggers for the major-league lead. Here’s why he’s once again looking like a threat to win the AL MVP

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