May 25, 2024

The Rockies — yes, the Rockies — are winning; it’s raining hot dogs, foul balls in Seattle

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Are the Rockies … good? Also: Ken’s notes on Willy Adames and the Brewers, it’s raining meat (and foul balls) in Seattle and Salvador Perez’s loyalty is being rewarded. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!

Who un-broke the Rockies?

The Rockies beat the Padres 8-0 yesterday. A week ago, that would have been news. But the thing is, they had also beaten them the day before. And the day before that.

In fact, the Rockies — who set an MLB record by trailing in each of their first 31 games, and were 8-28 a little over a week ago — have now won seven games in a row. What’s more, the last six wins have come in sweeps of the Padres and Rangers.

Maybe the strangest part of it all: It hasn’t just been some Coors-Field-offense fluke. Yes, their offense has averaged 6.14 runs per game during the streak (the last three games of which have been in San Diego). But their pitching has also been stingy, allowing an average of exactly two runs per game in those seven games. (And while we’re at it, their defense has committed just one error over the seven-game stretch.)

Heading up the hot stretch on the mound: Cal Quantrill, whom the Rockies acquired from Cleveland back in November, and Austin Gomber, who has been with the Rockies since February of 2021 when he headlined the Nolan Arenado trade with St. Louis. Neither is an established star (please, it’s the Rockies) but they’re pitching like they are. In their last two starts each, the pair have combined to allow just three earned runs over 24 2/3 innings.

Are the Rockies going to be a playoff team, the most unlikely in years? No. But it’s still a fascinating development. And while the Rockies are the most extreme example, we’ve also seen a few other surges by bad teams:

• The A’s are 2-8 in their last 10 games, but are a surprising 19-25 this season.

• After starting the season 6-24 in March and April, the White Sox are 8-6 in May, winning series against the Cardinals, (AL Central-leading) Guardians and Nationals.

• And the Marlins? They have won three of their last four, including back-to-back shutouts over the Tigers (but are still 6-8 in May and a league-worst 13-32 overall).

To peruse the standings for more weirdness, we have a link for you right here.

Ken’s Notebook: Lessons from Josh Hader trade

The Milwaukee Brewers’ return from their controversial Josh Hader trade at the 2022 deadline keeps looking better and better.

Left-hander Robert Gasser, the pitching prospect they acquired from the Padres, has a 0.82 ERA after two starts. Another player in the deal, outfielder Esteury Ruiz, brought them star catcher William Contreras and reliever Joel Payamps in a three-team deal with Atlanta and Oakland 4 1/2 months later.

The Hader trade jarred Brewers’ players, who were stunned the team would trade its All-Star closer while it had a three-game lead in the NL Central. Hader, at that point, had not pitched particularly well and would be even worse for the Padres before rallying in the playoffs. But the Brewers’ attempt to backfill with Taylor Rogers and Trevor Rosenthal backfired, and the team missed the playoffs by one game.

Which raises the question: Would the Brewers attempt a similar move with shortstop Willy Adames, who is even closer to free agency than Hader was? Hader at the time was under club control for two pennant races. Adames, on the other hand, is only months away from hitting the open market.

“I’ve already been traded twice in my career. I know it’s part of the game,” said Adames, who went from the Tigers to the Tampa Bay Rays in the David Price deal in 2014 and the Rays to the Brewers for pitchers Drew Rasmussen and J.P. Feyereisen in 2021. “But you feel comfortable in a place. You create good friendships with guys, create that bond. And then you get traded, it’s like, ‘Man.’”

Adames, 28, probably can rest easy. If the Brewers traded him, they could slide Brice Turang to shortstop and use Joey Ortiz and others at second base. But club officials recognize the internal damage they caused with the Hader deal, and the potential to unsettle the clubhouse again by parting with an everyday player and team leader. Turang and Ortiz might be succeeding in part because Adames is providing them with veteran cover.

Fun reigns (“rains”?) in Seattle

Two stories from Mariners world that have nothing to do with baseball (and one that does).

• Sure, it’s easy to make references to rain when talking about Seattle. But you do not expect those references to include meat. And yet, here we are: the Mariners’ newest promotion is incorporating one of the most traditional baseball-related items in the world: hot dogs. Tess DeMeyer has the backstory on how “Hot Dogs from Heaven” came to be. (Warning: there is science involved.)

• A couple of nights ago in Seattle, a foul ball off the bat of M’s infielder Josh Rojas sliced through the night sky and landed in the stands down the left-field line, where a guy in a Mariners jersey caught it. Totally normal baseball stuff … until it happened again on the very next pitch. Hunter Patterson has the story of “Foul Ball Guy” Josh George, who caught both balls and was invited to throw out the first pitch the next day.

• The division-leading Mariners have two hitters playing opposite styles of baseball in their lineup. Rojas (he of the repeat foul balls) is hitting .347 this month, but 14 of his 16 hits have been singles. Meanwhile, catcher Cal Raleigh has just nine hits this month (.200 average), but four of them have been home runs.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the Mariners, who have just a .500 record this month, at 7-7. But in an underperforming AL West, Seattle’s 24-20 record puts them two games ahead of their closest competition: the Texas Rangers, who are just one game over .500 after a win over Cleveland last night.

Salvador Perez and the Royals’ renaissance

Salvador Perez has been a Kansas City Royal through thick and thin. (Jay Biggerstaff / Getty Images)

If tanking and rebuilding is brutal for fans, it’s even more so for players. Fandom has a long shelf life — you can wait decades (sometimes many decades) for your team to finally ascend to the top of the heap. But a player, trying to make the most of his finite time in the sport, languishing with a team that has no real intention of contending?

Throw in the constant threat of being the latest veteran to be shipped off to who-knows-where for prospects, and it seems pretty terrible — at least by “getting to play in the big leagues” standards. So it makes it all the more rewarding to see players who have suffered through the bleak years stick around long enough to see things turn around.

Earlier this year, Cody Stavenhagen told you about the Orioles’ outfield trio who toiled through the bleak years and are providing veteran leadership in Baltimore. Today, Sam Blum takes a look at Salvador Perez, whose Royals went to the World Series in 2014, then won it in 2015.

Perez was the World Series MVP that year, his fifth season in the league. But from 2016-2023, Kansas City went a combined 499-695, including three separate 100-loss seasons (and a fourth that nearly got there, at 65-97).

He digs into Perez’s legacy in Kansas City, his mentorship of backup (and fellow venezolano) Freddy Fermin, and — perhaps most notably — the process by which the five-time Gold Glover has improved his one defensive shortcoming: pitch framing.

After going 56-106 last year, the upstart Royals are 26-19, just a game and a half back in the AL Central (and sitting in the second wild-card position).

For youngsters like Bobby Witt Jr. and Maikel Garcia, it’s an exciting start to their careers. But for Perez, after enduring some very bleak years, it has to be just a little more rewarding.

Handshakes and High Fives

An update to yesterday’s lead story: The league has, in fact, suspended Ronel Blanco for 10 games after he was ejected when umpires found a sticky substance on his glove.

One thing that is going well for the Astros: They have too many outfielders performing well. That roster crunch is about to get worse, says Chandler Rome.

Hoo boy. Lawyers for the three leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL) with teams broadcast on Bally Sports all spoke in court Wednesday, and they’re all very upset. As usual, Evan Drellich has the details.

Like over-enthusiastic golden retrievers, opponents of the Mets this year have been insisting on going for a walk.

In the college ranks, things haven’t gone quite as smoothly for Wake Forest as some might have expected, but there’s still a path to glory, says Mitch Light.

You can buy tickets to every MLB game here.

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(Top photo of Elehuris Montero and Jordan Beck: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)