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5 things to know from the weekend in MLB: Dodgers-Yankees lives up to its billing, Phillies and Mets split in London

5 things to know from the weekend in MLB: Dodgers-Yankees lives up to its billing, Phillies and Mets split in London

A lot of baseball happens in a weekend. The 11th weekend of the 2024 MLB regular season featured the Dodgers and Yankees delivering on the hype, the Mets and Phillies having some fun in London, the Baltimore Orioles looking dominant, and the Atlanta Braves looking less so.

Here’s what you need to know from the weekend across MLB — and across the pond.

For all the rightful excitement surrounding the first trip to Yankee Stadium for the Dodgers’ Big Three of Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman, it was outfielder Teoscar Hernández who stole the show for L.A. during its impressive series win in New York. Hernández delivered a go-ahead RBI double in the top of the 11th to help secure a 2-1 victory on Friday, and then he launched two homers, including a grand slam, in Saturday’s 11-3 rout. While his go-ahead homer in the sixth inning Sunday was ultimately for naught, it brought Hernández’s season total to 16, surpassing Ohtani for the team lead.

Beyond Teo’s massive series, the story of the weekend for the Dodgers was Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s terrific start Friday, in which he threw seven splendid, scoreless frames and showcased the highest velocity we’ve seen from him all season. Was it an accident that it came against the team that reportedly came closest to signing him, after the Dodgers? That’s for you to decide.

For the Yankees, Juan Soto’s elbow injury cast an unusual shadow over this premier showdown in the Bronx. The update from Aaron Boone on Friday was that imaging revealed inflammation in Soto’s elbow, which Boone deemed “good news” and which suggests that Soto might be back in the relative short term. But while Soto went through his usual pregame work ahead of each game this weekend and even looked to be holding a bat, ready to pinch-hit, on Friday, he did not appear in any of the three games.

That said, Soto’s absence indirectly inspired one of the best moments of the weekend for the Yankees. Down 3-2 in the sixth on Sunday, with runners on first and third and Dodgers starter Tyler Glasnow having already struck out 10 on the evening, Trent Grisham — he of the .083 batting average entering the game — strolled to the plate. As Grisham settled into the box, chants of “WE WANT SOTO” rang out from a packed Yankee Stadium crowd eager to see a more dangerous hitter up with the chance to tie the game or take the lead.

Instead, Grisham blasted a Glasnow heater deep beyond the right-field fence for his third home run — and just his fifth hit — of the season, giving New York a 5-3 lead. Aaron Judge added on two innings later with a monstrous solo shot to left field (his 24th home run) to help salvage a victory for New York after tough losses Friday and Saturday. Judge is now on pace for 58 home runs. (Is that good?)

Despite the series loss and Soto’s still-ominous elbow soreness, the Yankees had some positive developments over the weekend. Gerrit Cole threw 4 2/3 innings in his second rehab start with Double-A Somerset, and 21-year-old outfielder Jasson Domínguez notched four hits, including a homer, with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday on his road back from Tommy John surgery. Even for a team as good as New York, the returns of Domínguez and Cole can’t come soon enough, especially if the Yankees want to maintain their narrow lead atop the AL East.

This week, the Yankees head to Kansas City for a surprisingly juicy four-game set with the Royals, who are coming off a series win over Seattle that included a dramatic comeback from down 8-0 on Friday. The Dodgers open a three-game series with the Rangers on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

There were no sweeps over the weekend, but Baltimore did go undefeated, taking the first three games of a rare Friday-Monday four-game set against the Rays in Tampa Bay. Six different O’s bats homered across the three victories, including two dingers from a red-hot Anthony Santander, Gunnar Henderson’s 20th of the season and a grand slam from Adley Rutschman to punctuate Sunday’s blowout victory.

On the mound, Baltimore got another gem from Kyle Bradish, who tossed six nearly perfect, scoreless innings Saturday in a bounce-back performance after struggling against the Rays in Baltimore a week prior. With the scare of his spring elbow injury seemingly in the distant past, Bradish has been simply marvelous through his first seven starts of the season: a 2.62 ERA in 34 1/3 innings with 49 strikeouts and, perhaps most remarkably, zero home runs allowed.

With the O’s now 2.5 games behind New York, Corbin Burnes will take the mound Monday with a chance to complete Baltimore’s second mop (four-game sweep) of the season.

On the flip side, this brutal showing, combined with Toronto’s series win in Oakland, has landed the Rays in last place in the AL East. Worse yet, Sunday’s 9-2 drubbing dropped Tampa Bay’s run differential to a woeful minus-62, fifth-worst in MLB and a sobering reminder that this 31-34 record could be much, much worse. Elite City Connect uniforms aside, not a whole lot has gone right for the Rays this season.

The Braves have dominated the Nationals in recent years, going 36-15 against the rebuilding Washington club the previous three seasons. But this trend has not carried into 2024, as the Braves are 2-6 against the Nats after dropping three of four this weekend in D.C. — and looking pretty bad while doing it.

While Washington’s vastly improved pitching deserves credit for its newfound success against Atlanta, we’re also working with a pretty substantial sample that suggests this Braves’ offense, at least in its current state, might not be very good. To wit: stretch back to a month before Ronald Acuña Jr.’s season-ending knee injury, and you’ll find that the Braves have had one of the worst offenses in baseball in that timeframe, with only Marcell Ozuna performing anywhere near an All-Star level. Matt Olson has started to swing it a bit better lately, but until Austin Riley, Michael Harris and Sean Murphy begin to look like their 2023 selves, this offense won’t be scaring anyone.

Losing one of the best pitchers and one of the best hitters on the planet to season-ending injuries is no small obstacle, no matter how talented your roster. But suddenly, the Braves find themselves in the situation their biggest rivals in Philadelphia became all too familiar with in recent seasons: staring up at an insurmountable margin in the division and instead hoping to secure the top NL wild card.

It’s early enough in the season that the best version of this Braves team could still battle back from nine games behind and make things interesting down the stretch, but we haven’t seen that version of Atlanta in a while.

While the rival Braves continued to scuffle, the first-place Phillies were studying abroad, taking part in the third edition of MLB’s London Series alongside another divisional foe in the Mets. Philadelphia took Game 1 of the two-game set behind a home run from Bryce Harper (followed by a Premier League-worthy celebration) and another excellent start from lefty Ranger Suarez, who earned his MLB-leading 10th win of the season.

The Mets finally had some late-inning luck go their way in Sunday’s showdown, as a scattershot appearance from Phillies lefty Jose Alvarado enabled a ninth-inning comeback to take the lead before New York turned an ultra-rare 2-3 double-play on Nick Castellanos to end the game — a double-play you should absolutely hear called by British broadcaster Darren Fletcher, if you haven’t already.

Considering these two teams’ respective places in the standings, these games meant a whole lot more to the Mets. New York is craving any semblance of momentum to crawl back into the wide-open NL wild-card picture. The return of catcher Francisco Alvarez from thumb surgery, expected in the next week or so, should help immensely.

After being swept last week in Philadelphia, the Brewers bounced back this weekend with a series win in Detroit to maintain a comfortable lead in the division. Meanwhile, the melee below them in the NL Central managed to get even messier. The Pirates got a gem from Mitch Keller and a shockingly effective bullpen game on Saturday to take a series from the Twins before a 10th-inning meltdown Sunday squandered their chance at a sweep. The Cardinals missed a golden chance to climb up the standings by splitting a four-game set against the lowly Rockies. In Cincinnati, the Reds took the first three games against the Cubs before another strong outing from Shota Imanaga helped Chicago squeak one out on Sunday, halting Cincinnati’s win streak at seven.

The result? Cincinnati (32-34), Chicago (32-34) and St. Louis (31-33) all sit 6.5 games behind the Brewers (38-27), with the Pirates (31-34) just a half-game behind that trio. While the entire NL wild-card race is a jumbled jamboree, watching these four teams jockey for position in the coming months will be especially fascinating. Keep an eye on Pittsburgh in particular — oddly enough, the Pirates have yet to play the Cardinals or Reds this season, leaving plenty of games on the schedule for them to make up some serious ground. And, in fact, that begins Tuesday, with Paul Skenes taking the mound for the first of three games in St. Louis before Cincinnati visits PNC Park next week.

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