A wise man by the name of Christopher Wallace—also known by his rap moniker the Notorious B.I.G.—encouraged us to “spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way.” Well apparently that sentiment hasn’t reached Queens yet as the Mets and Phillies wrapped up a contentious series at Citi Field earlier this week. The battle of long-time division foes featured, among other developments, a Bryce Harper temper tantrum, a slice of high cheese from Jacob Rhame, the home-run stroll heard ‘round the world (perpetrated by salty first baseman Rhys Hoskins) and a t-shirt grab for the ages (as the old saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, hopefully they throw another t-shirt). The three-day tug-of-war between I-95 rivals was a welcome change of pace for a pair of franchises seemingly on the upswing after several lean years navigating the lower-rung of the NL East hierarchy.
But the series is over now and like that kegger you threw in high school when your parents were out of town, it's time to deal with the consequences. For his instigating role in Tuesday’s tension-filled ninth inning (long after my t-shirt heroics enlivened the crowd in Section 114), Rhame will serve a two-game suspension, which the Mets reliever reportedly plans to appeal. Asked to close up shop in a 9-0 rout, the 26-year-old buzzed a fastball by Hoskins’ head, perhaps as a retaliatory measure for two of his teammates being plunked a night earlier. In his quest for vigilante justice, the recent minor-league call-up lit a fire under Hoskins, who stared lasers back at Rhame after the right-hander’s backstop-bound fastball sailed by his noggin. Even after both sides were warned, Rhame pushed the envelope with a second brush-back later in the at-bat, writing another symphony of chin music (clocked at a brisk 98 mph) for ball four. That incited an angry bat toss from Hoskins, who voiced his frustration in a terse exchange with catcher Travis d’Arnaud en route to first base.
Whether intentional or not, warnings were issued again Wednesday when Phillies starter Vince Velasquez’s fourth-inning offering caught a piece of Todd Frazier’s arm. Frazier—who buried Philadelphia with a grand slam Tuesday night—didn’t take the bait, quietly advancing to first on the hit-by-pitch. That could have settled the matter but Hoskins, still seething from the night before, decided to get one last word in. His revenge came in the form of a soaring 342-foot homer off his nemesis Rhame, which served as the final brush stroke of a 6-0 Phillies masterpiece. Hoskins took an eternity to round the bases, completing his epic home-run lap in a glacial 34.23 seconds as the leaves changed color and all in attendance grew beards. Rhame didn’t fault Hoskins for dunking on him either, remarking, “If I make a better pitch, he doesn’t get to run the bases.” Hoskins’ show-boating was a spicy conclusion to an entertaining series and a reminder that baseball, in all its petty glory, is very much back.
MLB’s opening month has been chock full of delicious USDA-certified beef. Chris Archer, a known pot-stirrer with head-hunting tendencies, doinked Derek Dietrich for pimping a home run to high heaven back on April 7. Fresh off winning the bat-flip Olympics, Tim Anderson found himself in Brad Keller’s line of fire, causing benches to clear in Chicago on April 17. It’s been one big Beef-a-Rama and it’s not even May 1.
Speaking of beef, Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole know a little something about grudges. There were no bean balls thrown or bats flipped Thursday night in Houston, just two mortal enemies stewing in mutual animosity. The former UCLA teammates spent their college years driving each other up the wall, foregoing friendship in favor of a bitter and enduring rivalry that continues to this day. Bauer peeled back the curtain on his admittedly “rocky” relationship with the Astros hurler in an interview last year, claiming Cole told him he had “no future” in baseball and insulted his work ethic as a freshman. When asked if he could see them clearing the air someday, former UCLA assistant Rick Vanderhook said, “I would have to say the odds of the earth burning up are better than that.”
Now eight years removed from their UCLA heyday, Bauer and Cole, despite their differences, have emerged as two of the most dominant right-handed arms in MLB. And true to form, the dueling starters were brilliant Thursday night at Minute Maid Park, allowing a combined three runs over 15 stellar innings. Cole may have been drafted first (two picks ahead of Bauer in 2011), but Thursday belonged to the Indians ace, who limited the Astros to a single run over eight masterful innings en route to his third victory of 2019. That lowered the 28-year-old’s ERA to 1.99, good for fifth-lowest among American League starters. Thursday’s defeat—Cleveland escaped with a narrow 2-1 win—marked Cole’s fourth loss of the season, though the former Pirate continued his early-season strikeout binge by adding another 10 punch-outs to his league-high total of 54.
Cleveland took advantage of two home runs—one by Leonys Martin and another courtesy of DH Jake Bauers while George Springer provided the Astros’ lone offense with a solo bomb on a hanging slider from Bauer. Houston threatened against Bauer in the eighth but the short-lived rally came crashing down when an emboldened Jose Altuve attempted a daring steal of second base, only to be gunned down by cannon-armed backstop Roberto Perez. Bauer later passed the baton to Brad Hand, who fired a scoreless ninth for his seventh save.
Aside from his ongoing feud with Cole, the outspoken Bauer has also jostled with Alex Bregman on Twitter and once accused the Astros of doctoring pitches with pine tar. Needless to say, Houston didn't roll out the red carpet for the surly right-hander. Thursday’s win had to feel especially satisfying, not just for Bauer, but for the Indians as an organization after being swept by Houston in last year’s postseason.
While the Cole/Bauer arms race snagged most of the headlines, Thursday also marked Michael Brantley’s first game against his former club. If the outfielder was feeling butterflies he didn’t show it, supplying two of Houston’s four hits (both singles) in the losing effort. Brantley got his start with the Tribe in 2009 and wound up making three All-Star appearances over his decade-long tenure with Cleveland before defecting to Houston as a free agent this offseason. Despite leaving Cleveland in the rearview mirror, Brantley’s ex-mates don’t seem to harbor any ill feelings toward the veteran. In fact, the 31-year-old was greeted by a heartfelt message in center field Thursday night. Now that’s spreading love the Brooklyn way.
AL Quick Hits: The Rays are down a second baseman with Joey Wendle headed to the IL. Wendle broke his wrist after being hit by a pitch in Wednesday’s loss to Kansas City. This is the 28-year-old’s second trip to the IL after missing time with a hamstring injury earlier this month … Asdrubal Cabrera departed Thursday’s game with left calf tightness. The Texas infielder got hurt running out a groundout in his lone at-bat. He’ll undergo more testing Friday to determine the extent of his injury … The Rangers are expected to activate Rougned Odor ahead of Friday’s game in Seattle. Back after missing two weeks with a sprained knee, the second baseman went 2-for-7 with a home run during his rehab stint with Triple-A Nashville … Jay Bruce was a spectator for the third straight game Thursday as the Mariners cruised to a 14-2 victory over Texas, though he’s reportedly feeling better and could return to Seattle’s lineup as soon as Friday. The veteran slugger has been bothered by a sore left quad … The hits keep coming for the Yankees. Clint Frazier joined the team’s walking wounded on Thursday, landing on the injured list with a sprained left ankle. With Frazier out of commission, the Bombers acquired Cameron Maybin from the Indians for cash considerations … In other Yankees injury news, Luis Severino (lat) has been transferred to the 60-day injured list while Miguel Andujar (shoulder) is expected to man the hot corner for 4-5 innings Friday in an extended spring training game. Barring a setback, Andujar could return to the Bronx in one week … Jordan Zimmermann made it through three innings Thursday before exiting with right elbow discomfort in a loss to Boston. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said Zimmermann will undergo further evaluation when the team arrives Friday in Chicago. The 32-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery early in his career in 2009.
NL Quick Hits: Jon Lester returned to the mound Thursday at Wrigley Field, limiting the visiting Dodgers to four hits and one run over five solid innings. The Cubs southpaw was making his first start in nearly three weeks after bowing out with a strained hamstring earlier this month … Injured right-hander Brandon Morrow could resume throwing in about two weeks. The Cubs reliever had been on the comeback trail but was shut down last week after encountering a setback in his recovery from offseason elbow surgery … Cubs manager Joe Maddon confirmed that Addison Russell will see reps at second base during his minor league rehab assignment. With Javier Baez entrenched at shortstop, Russell may have to settle for a part-time/utility role upon his return from a 40-game domestic violence suspension next month … Jean Segura is “on track” to return Saturday against Miami. The Phillies shortstop had been out with a strained hamstring but only missed 10 days … Top shortstop prospect Carter Kieboom will reportedly join the Nationals for their series opener Friday against the Padres. Kieboom (No. 37 in MLB.com’s top prospects) has lit it up in the minors this year, batting a sensational .379 across 66 at-bats for Triple-A Fresno. The ailing Nats could use a lift with Trea Turner (finger) and Anthony Rendon (elbow) both sidelined … Zack Greinke continues to impress with his bat. The D’Backs ace recorded his first career triple in Thursday’s win over Pittsburgh and is now hitting an absurd .462 (6-for-13) for the year with two homers and four RBI. The former Cy Young winner won a Silver Slugger Award for his hitting prowess while playing for the Dodgers in 2013.