Liam Hendricks, The Rangers, & 3 Other Takeaways from the Week in Baseball

The first weekend in June was capped off with a New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers Sunday night game. The game was an entertaining 4-1 Yankees win that was a pitcher’s duel for the most part (all the runs were scored in the final three innings) and it said a lot about the two teams playing. However, the big story from that game was the one notable player not in the lineup.

The previous week had a lot of action. Starting with the Memorial Day slate and going through the weekend, the games showed us how this season will likely play out. There were a lot of good stories (we’ll circle back to that Yankees-Dodgers one soon) but the big one was the best thing any baseball fan saw and it was the return of Liam Hendriks.

Takeaways From Last Week in Baseball

Liam Hendriks Returns After Battling Cancer!!

In the offseason, it looked like Hendriks wasn’t going to pitch again, and that wasn’t a priority, to begin with. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in January and immediately started treatment. It’s a diagnosis that everybody fears and the mind of Hendriks was far from baseball and focused solely on the recovery. After months of battling, he recovered and by late April, announced he was cancer free.

On Memorial Day, he was called up to the roster and came in to pitch the eighth inning. the Chicago White Sox fans have had little to cheer about this season, with the team nine games below .500 and in fourth in the division. Everyone at Guaranteed Rate Field was applauding and cheering for Hendriks as he entered the game, something that was unthinkable in the winter. He gave up two runs but that wasn’t on the mind of anyone. All that mattered is that he was back.

To make the week better for Hendriks, he pitched two more times in the week. He was back to his normal self, pitching two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. Then came the moment that felt scripted but wasn’t, just a great moment in baseball. On National Cancer Survivors Day, he pitched a scoreless ninth inning in a tied game. In the bottom half of the inning, the White Sox walked it off with a Jake Burger grand slam, giving Hendriks his first win of the season and a wrap to a great week. The team swept the series and after a rough start to the year, they had a moment of sunshine and one that all baseball fans can appreciate.

Rangers Keep Rising

The Texas Rangers have become a team that has defined the 2023 season. The expectation was that they would be good but not lead the division through two months good. They are 38-20 and have won eight of their last 10 games. This weekend, they not only swept the series but outscored the rival Seattle Mariners 30-9.

It’s not only the fact that the Rangers have been good but it’s that they look dominant. Their lineup has eight batters with an OPS+ over 100. Corey Seager is slashing .349/.405/.623 while Adolis Garcia and Josh Jung have combined for 26 home runs and 222 total bases. A potent lineup like theirs is scoring a league-leading 6.48 runs per game and creating a run differential of +152 which is in 1929 A’s territory (back when that team was good).

It’s easy to think of the Rangers as a team that wins with their lineup as they overwhelm teams. However, they are far more than that. Their rotation has some of the best arms in the game with Nathan Eovaldi putting together another strong year while Jon Gray, Martin Perez, and Andrew Heaney rounding out the rotation. Marcus Semien is having a strong season at second base, leading the team in defensive WAR while Jonah Heim has emerged as one of the better catchers in baseball. To lead them, manager Bruce Bochy has been the steady hand who has already established himself as a Hall of Famer and this weekend won his 2,041st game, which is the 10th most in baseball history.

The weekend wasn’t anything extraordinary for the Rangers. They’ve been dominant all season. That makes this weekend notable. It’s a reminder that they continue to play at a high-level week in and week out and overwhelm teams with unprecedented scores. They aren’t the best team in the American League per se but this week was a reminder that the sky is the limit for them.

Judge is Breaking Baseball

More accurately, Aaron Judge is breaking walls or the outfield wall in Dodgers Stadium. In Saturday’s game, a deep fly ball had the 282-pound player running full force to catch up to it. He did but then came the memorable part as he broke through the wall and forced the grounds crew to repair the damage. There is a cliche that a player is willing to run through a wall to help the team out. Well, Judge literally did that and it did help the Yankees take the game 6-3.

Judge missed the rubber game and shortly after the impressive catch, he was placed on the injured list. It’s his second appearance on the IL and it spells doom for a Yankees team that rides and dies with him. It’s also a shame since Judge was after all in the middle of another MVP-caliber stretch.

In the five games he played this week, Judge hit four home runs and slashed a mind-boggling .294/.455/1.059 in only 22 plate appearances. He also made his mark (literally) in the field with multiple highlight catches including robbing a home run in the series against the Mariners. Now, he’s out of the lineup and the Yankees only have two active hitters with an OPS+ over 100 in it. It’s going to be a rough year for the Yankees if they have to deal with their best player being out of the lineup in many instances but this week was a reminder of the elite player that they typically will have. When he’s healthy, there’s no better batter in Major League Baseball.

The Middling Mets

The New York Mets are 30-30 and in third place in their division. They are 5.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East Division and two games out of a wild card spot. After sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies, they looked like they were back on track, they were subsequently swept over the weekend. Just when the Mets seem to find their footing, they lose a series or a handful of games and they continue to sputter as the season is in full swing.

This is a team that shouldn’t be in this position. They had World Series aspirations and spent more money than any other in the offseason. Yet, here they are after a weekend where they only scored five runs. That leads us to their first and possibly biggest problem, this team can’t hit. They average 4.30 runs per game and are underachieving throughout the batting order. Jeff McNeil, their contact hitter, has a .282 batting average. Francisco Lindor has a .284 on-base percentage. Daniel Vogelbach, who is supposed to be one of their sluggers, has only two home runs and a .315 slugging percentage. The Mets’ elite hitters (or the ones intended to carry them) have been anything but, making them look hapless at the plate.

Then there’s the other issue. The Mets are an old team. The average age of the lineup is 29.8 and the pitching staff is a 32.0 average age. Moreover, some of the key players are among the oldest in baseball. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are 40 and 38 respectively while closer David Robertson is 38 as well. Seven of the everyday players are 30 or older. The Mets bet on veteran stars to continue to play at a high level and not decline with age but that bet isn’t looking so great one week into June.

Blue Jays Impress But Remain Unnoticed

The Toronto Blue Jays swept their series (against the above-mentioned Mets), have a four-game winning streak, and have won seven of their last 10. Yet, it seems like their hot streak doesn’t carry a lot of significance. They’ve played well, especially recently but don’t seem to garner the attention of the baseball world.

Why is that the case? Well, they are in the American League East Division which is arguably the best in baseball. To add to that, they are in fourth place in that division and 8.5 games behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays. They’ve been good but not nearly good enough to register in their division, speaking volumes to how tough it will be to make the postseason or make noise this season altogether.

The big takeaway from the Blue Jays is that they have an uphill battle. They need to go on a run, a remarkable run, just to get back into the divisional race. Until then, they will remain an invisible team this season.

Other Notes From the Week in Baseball

  • The Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates are starting to separate themselves in the National League Central Division. The Brewers with a three-game win streak are in first place with a 32-27 record while the Pirates won five games in a row to jump to 31-27. Is this sustainable? It’s doubtful but it could be a start for the two teams who are finally finding their footing to pad a divisional lead.
  • The Baltimore Orioles played the San Francisco Giants this weekend in a uniform matchup made in Hell. Orange and black played black and orange. Who won the series? Well, if you can figure out which team was which, you can then figure that out.
  • The Rays became the first team to win 40 games. They have the best record in baseball and remain the team to beat.
  • The Dodgers are having a good year but for the first time in the Clayton Kershaw era, they look like they have a rotation that is pieced together. Usually, they have a dominant staff but injuries and underachievers have made the rotation a question mark. The hope is that prospect Bobby Miller, who pitched six scoreless innings in the Sunday game, remains a regular arm in the rotation. Otherwise, the Dodgers are being carried by the usuals, a great lineup, and All-Star everyday players.

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