Real or not? Despite Puig’s fire, Reds already are toast

The beginning of this little Reds-Pirates fracas on Sunday at PNC Park was somewhat predictable. Derek Dietrich hit a long home run into the Allegheny River off Chris Archer in the second inning … and, well, he did admire his work:

You know how this goes. Pitcher doesn’t like hitter admiring his work. Next time up, pitcher throws at hitter. Like it’s the hitter’s fault the pitcher threw him a fat one down the middle.

Some people defended Archer — old-school baseball and all that. At least he threw it behind Dietrich and not at him, like we see all too often. Still, stop throwing at batters who hit home runs. Anyway, here’s what happened next:

Dietrich didn’t really react, but Reds manager David Bell didn’t like that plate umpire Jeff Kellogg only issued a warning to Archer instead of ejecting him from the game. I agree with Bell here. Despite Archer’s claim that he was simply “trying to go in” and “missed my spot,” it’s pretty obvious that he did hit his spot — behind Dietrich’s rear end.

Still, everyone remained calm until Yasiel Puig decided he wanted to fight all of Pittsburgh. Maybe he just didn’t like the yellow and black uniforms the Pirates were wearing. The sartorial elegance of those jerseys does tend to bring out some strong opinions.

Puig’s view after the game makes sense: If someone hits a home run off you, “try to strike out the guy,” he said.

Pirates reliever Felipe Vazquez said Dietrich simply hasn’t merited the right to showboat a bit. “He shouldn’t do it,” Vazquez said. “Joey [Votto] can do it because he’s been here a long time, but for a guy like that, he’s not supposed to do something like that.”

I can’t wait for Felipe Vazquez’s official list of players who are good enough or have been in the game long enough to admire their home runs without retribution.

Aside from all that: The Pirates won the game, in part because of this 474-foot bomb by Josh Bell:

As a result, the Reds dropped to 1-8 with eight straight losses. David Bell’s reaction to the pitch behind Dietrich was no doubt also an attempt to fire up his team, which is hitting a woeful .170/.233/.301.

The Reds had a busy offseason, but it remains to be seen how all the moves will play out. They acquired some big names, with the likes of Puig, Matt Kemp, Sonny Gray and Tanner Roark, but big names don’t necessarily mean big production. Puig and Kemp are a combined 5-for-52 without a home run. Gray has had one terrible start and one good one. Leadoff hitter Jesse Winker is hitting .042 and has one walk, which is supposed to be a strength of his. Votto has one home run — into the first row of seats on Saturday — and one RBI. Eugenio Suarez is hitting under .200.

The offense will get better, of course, but the Reds have already dug themselves a sizable hole. Considering that the season started in March, the Reds might fall out of the playoff race before the weather warms up. That’s going to do wonders for summer attendance in Cincinnati.

Mike Trout is still better than everyone: How’s this for a string of plate appearances from Thursday through Sunday against the Rangers:

Home run
Fly out
Double play
Home run
Home run
Hit by pitch
Home run
Intentional walk
Ground out
Intentional walk
Home run

That’s 18 plate appearances, 13 times reaching base and five home runs. Trout is now hitting .393/.581/1.000 with five home runs, 11 walks and three strikeouts. Many players have their peak season at age 27, so let’s absolutely dream about what a Mike Trout peak season might look like. Here’s his home run from Sunday’s 7-2 victory:

From Douglas Clawson of ESPN Stats & Information:

Trout just had one of the best series by anyone ever. He was 6-for-11 with five home runs and six walks — contributing to a 2.631 OPS, the third-highest in a four-game series in MLB history (min. 15 PA).

The highest ever was 3.111 by Babe Ruth in June 1921 against the Tigers. He was 8-for-12 with six home runs and six walks in that series at the Polo Grounds. He also started and won a game on the mound, striking out Ty Cobb.

The second-highest OPS ever was 2.850 by Mickey Mantle in July 1962 against the A’s, as he launched five homers and walked six times.

The Mariners are mashing some yams: The Mariners hit three more home runs in a 12-5 victory over the White Sox, improving to 9-2. They’ve hit at least one home run in all 11 games and are hitting .278/.367/.550 as a team, with 27 home runs. That’s the second-most home runs through 11 games in MLB history, behind the 2000 Cardinals, who hit 29. That team featured Mark McGwire and Jim Edmonds and finished with 235 home runs, tied for third-most in NL history (though second in the league that season, as the Astros set the NL record with 249 home runs).

Here’s Dan Vogelbach swatting the first of his two home runs Sunday as part of a six-RBI day:

The Mariners could be 11-0 if the bullpen hadn’t blown two late-game leads. They lost 7-6 to the Red Sox on Mitch Moreland’s pinch-hit, three-run homer in the ninth inning and 10-8 to the White Sox on Friday, when Chicago scored four runs in the seventh and eighth innings.

That’s the remarkable aspect to this start. The bullpen hasn’t been good, with a 4.42 ERA and five relievers who already have recorded saves. The defense has been horrific, with an MLB-worst 17 errors and MLB-worst minus-13 defensive runs saved entering Sunday. But the Mariners have hit home runs, they’ve been aggressive on the bases, with 14 steals in 15 attempts (nine of those from speedsters Dee Gordon and Mallex Smith), and the starting pitching has been good enough.

Are the Mariners for real? I’m reminded of the 1987 Brewers, who started 13-0, then lost 12 in a row in May. Still, that team finished 91-71 … so you never know, Mariners fans.

Of course I’m going to use an Alvin Davis note if given the opportunity: Mets rookie Pete Alonso has nine extra-base hits in his first nine career games, tying Trevor Story and Davis for most in the live ball era (since 1920). Alonso doubled and homered in the 12-9 loss to the Nationals, giving him six doubles, three home runs and a .382 average. I guess it’s a good thing the Mets decided he didn’t need to work on his defense in Triple-A.

(Do I need to introduce Alvin Davis to you? He was the 1984 AL Rookie of the Year and a similar player to Alonso, actually: a slow first baseman out of the college ranks. Davis had four home runs and five doubles through eight games and finished the year at .284/.391/.497 with 27 home runs.)

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Anyway, back to the Mets and Nationals. Zack Wheeler had an awful start for the Mets, walking seven in 4⅔ innings, as he had zero fastball command and threw just 51 strikes in 103 pitches. After allowing two runs in each of his first two starts and losing both games, Max Scherzer finally got some run support, though he gave up four runs (two of those were inherited runners the bullpen let in).

That was a big takeaway from this game. The Nats led 12-1, and the Mets still managed to make it interesting, as the Nationals bullpen continues to struggle. Trevor Rosenthal, expected to be a key setup guy, has faced nine batters, and all have reached base. Dave Martinez had to call on Sean Doolittle for the final two outs. If any team could use Craig Kimbrel right now, it’s the Nationals.

Tampa’s two-way threat: The Rays improved to 7-3 with a 3-0 shutout over the Giants as Yonny Chirinos started and threw five scoreless innings. The Rays have allowed just 19 runs so far.

Kevin Cash employed a little strategy in the seventh when pitcher Adam Kolarek moved to first base for a batter, then went back to the mound. I loved this description on the play-by-play:

“Pitching change: Adam Kolarek replaces Chaz Roe, batting ninth, replacing pitcher Adam Kolarek.”

“Umm, what?”

The ploy worked. Roe struck out Evan Longoria and Kolarek struck out Brandon Belt (though after a hit, Diego Castillo had to come in to escape the jam).

P.S. No. 1: Keep an eye on Yandy Diaz, who hit his third home run. During his limited time with the Indians the past two seasons, Diaz had one of the league’s highest average exit velocities. (If you’ve seen his biceps, that won’t surprise you.) But he also had one of the highest rates of ground balls, so he had just one home run in 265 career at-bats entering this season. If he’s learning to elevate the ball, watch out.

P.S. No. 2: Here’s why the Rays are the most exciting organization in baseball this season!

Gary is scary: Nothing like a series against the Orioles to gets things turned around. Gary Sanchez, serving as the DH on Sunday, hit three of the Yankees’ seven home runs as they finished a sweep of the Orioles with a 15-5 win. Here are all seven home runs (including two from Clint Frazier):

P.S. No. 3: Chris Davis went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He’s 0-for-23 with 13 strikeouts this season and 0-for-44 going back to last year. Yes, he’s owed $23 million per season through 2022, but how much longer can the Orioles keep him on the roster?

Update on the worst teams in baseball: The Red Sox beat the Diamondbacks 1-0 on Moreland’s seventh-inning home run to complete their season-opening road trip a woeful 3-8 with a minus-26 run differential. It will be interesting to see if the Opening Day celebration on Tuesday and the raising of the World Series flag will be met with some muted joy over the poor start.

Pedro Gomez reports from Phoenix on what has ailed the Red Sox so far.

The Cubs, meanwhile, lost 4-2 to the Brewers as Christian Yelich hit his 100th career home run in the first inning:

The Cubs are 2-7, and their pitchers have issued an almost incomprehensible 53 walks (and 20 home runs!) in 74⅓ innings, good for an unsightly 7.51 ERA (which doesn’t include nine unearned runs). Like the Red Sox, the Cubs began their season with a long road trip. Their home opener is Monday against the Pirates. I can only guess how Cubs fans will react.

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