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5 Biggest Stories Of The 2018 MLB Season After 2 Months

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Believe it or not, the 2018 MLB season is at the two month point and the Midsummer Classic is not far off. Each MLB season has its own intrigue for one reason or another, but 2018 in particular has been a wild ride so far for both the National League and the American League. Here are the five biggest stories we’ve seen in baseball thus far this year.

World Series hangover… for the loser?

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AP.

The proverbial World Series hangover is a unique phenomenon in baseball because it doesn’t occur to the reigning champs every year. The Cubs suffered something similar to it last season, but regained themselves and finished with a third consecutive NLCS appearance. This year, however, it’s the runner-up that’s feeling the so-called affliction. The Los Angeles Dodgers were a force to be reckoned with in 2017 and tore up the NL enroute to 104 wins, but fell to the equally dominant Houston Astros in Game 7 of the Fall Classic.

This year, Houston hasn’t slowed, but the Dodgers certainly have. Thanks in large part to an array of injuries to key players like Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager and Justin Turner, and a major sophomore slump from reigning Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger, Dave Roberts’ squad is currently 28-30 and sits at third in the NL West behind Arizona and Colorado. The team is by no means out of contention, thanks largely to Matt Kemp, but Los Doyers are scuffling and may continue to do so until their roster finally gets healthy. If it doesn’t sooner or later, the team could be in trouble.

Bravo, Bravos

If there is a favorite for National League Manager of the Year at this point, it’s safe to bet that it’s Atlanta’s Brian Snitker. Once thought of as just a fill-in skipper for a rapidly declining franchise, Snitker suddenly finds himself at the helm of a young Braves squad that is turning heads at a rapid rate. Lead by cornerstone Freddie Freeman and a resurgent Nick Markakis, the Braves currently lead the NL East ahead of perennial champ Washington, and their young guns have been the story.

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SportNews Magazine.

The aforementioned Markakis has been at the crux. Thought of as a castoff since he came to Atlanta in 2015, the aging right fielder has put together a stellar season, batting .328 with 39 RBI and an NL leading 77 hits. Freeman has been doing business as usual and proving further that he may have been MVP last year had he not suffered a fractured hand vs. Toronto in May. One of the game’s most underrated players, Freeman is currently third in the Senior Circuit with a .335 AVG while his .432 OB% is first. 21-year-old Ozzie Albies has also been a spark with a leading 50 runs scored, whilst Ender Inciarte’s 18 stolen bases are tied for the major league lead as well.

It could just be massive overachievement, but the Braves look very good right now and show no signs of slowing.

Red Sox lead the renewed Rivalry

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USA Today.

After laying dormant for the better part of the past ten years, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was given new intrigue this past offseason. The Yankees made the biggest trade in the MLB since their own 13 years prior, acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, the game’s most feared power hitter, from the Marlins in a blockbuster deal. Not to be outclassed, the Red Sox responded with the signing of JD Martinez. That set the gears for “The Rivalry” to be renewed, and boy was it. The two hated foes had a major bench clearing fracas in just their second meeting of the season, erupting after Red Sox fireballer Joe Kelly pegged New York’s Tyler Austin after the first basemen hit Brock Holt with a questionable slide at second base. With the bad blood seemingly back, fans cannot wait for the next time the two super heavyweights square off.

Entering the season with Stanton, reigning Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez in their lineup, the Yankees were expected by fans and media alike to blow away the AL East this year. However, that has not come to fruition thus far and the Red Sox, somewhat shockingly, have been the better team for the most part. On top of that, also shockingly, Martinez has been better for Boston than Stanton has been for New York. Martinez is tied for the major league lead with 19 homers and was the first player to reach 50 RBI, in addition to a .321 AVG. Stanton on the other hand is batting .248 with just 12 home runs and 31 RBI. It’s still early, but since many believed that New York would be running away with the East by this point, it isn’t entirely unfair to say that Stanton has been a bit of a disappointment thus far.

Ohtani is impressive, not invincible.

MLB media hyped Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani to the moon before he even stepped onto the field at Angel Stadium for the first time. The 23-year-old native of Oshu, Iwate gained legendary status in Nippon Professional Baseball for his ability as both a pitcher and a hitter and garnered lofty comparisons to that of Babe Ruth. No pressure on the kid, right? Through the first two months of his MLB career, Ohtani has certainly impressed. Splitting time between the mound and designated hitter, He’s pitched to a 3.18 ERA and is hitting .291.He has 6 home runs on the season, which is about as many as most NL pitchers hit in one year, and a few have been of the mammoth variety.

However, impressive as he’s been, Ohtani is far from untouchable. The two-way phenom’s career got off a hot start, but the Red Sox gave him a stark reality check on April 17 in Anaheim, forcing him to throw 66 pitches in just a two inning outing whilst tagging him for three runs. The Angels tried to save face by blaming the disaster on a blister on his throwing hand, but it’s safe to say not a lot of people bought that. Ohtani was all over the zone in that game and wasn’t throwing strikes consistently at all, I don’t think a blister is to blame for that.

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UPI.

It was proof that sometimes too much hype can detriment a player as much as it can benefit him because he immediately looks like a bust the first time he gets roughed up. Ohtani has the potential to turn into a legitmate MLB star, ala Ichiro and Yu Darvish, but the fans and media alike need to ease up on the youngster and allow him to transition to the American style of play more naturally.

Ace controversy in Houston?

AP.

Earlier I said that the World Series hangover hasn’t smite reigning champ Houston. Though there’s plenty of reasons for this, the biggest is by far the remarkable performance of a Pittsburgh castoff. Gerrit Cole struggled to sustain himself over the last two seasons after his breakout 2015 campaign and the rebuilding Pirates decided the time was right to move on, trading their former ace to the Astros. People didn’t think so initially, but the change of scenery has proven to be exactly what 2011’s first overall pick needed. Cole has lit up everyone in his path in the first half so far and currently boasts 6 wins, a 2.20 ERA and an AL leading 116 Ks. He is undoubtedly the front runner for AL Comeback Player of the Year right now, and might be for the Cy Young as well if it wasn’t for his teammate.

If Cole’s numbers are eye-popping, then Justin Verlander’s are just plain stupid. The 35-year-old is showing no signs of age and has picked up where he left off last October. If the Baseball Writers’ Association gave out its awards today, Verlander would collect his second career Cy Young. He currently leads the AL in ERA (1.24), WHIP (.72) BAA (.152) and IP (87.1). Just to reiterate, he’s 35.

Cole and Verlander have effectively usurped the title of AJ Hinch’s ace from Dallas Keuchel, who is a comparitve no. 3 starter now (which says a lot about their rotation). The question is, which of these two guys would get the ball in a do-or-die situation? Have fun deciding that one, Astro fans.

Did I leave any out? What narrative or new development has your attention? Be sure to let us know and check back to HR Daily for all your MLB needs.

 

American League

Red Sox Designate Eduardo Nunez For Assignment

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Eduardo Nunez

The Boston Red Sox have designated infielder Eduardo Nunez for assignment, according to a team announcement on Monday.

Boston also optioned right hander Hector Velazquez to Triple A Pawtucket.

In corresponding moves, the Red Sox have called up right hander Ryan Weber and first basemen/outfielder Sam Travis from Triple A.

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American League

Royals Considered Likely to be Moving Billy Hamilton, Terrance Gore

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Billy Hamilton

As the trade deadline approaches, the Kansas City Royals may be ready to enter sale mode.

According to MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, the Royals may be moving both Billy Hamilton and Terrance Gore, who has already been designated for assignment.

Hamilton has been dropped to a backup role following the Royals call up of top prospect Bubba Starling, and hasn’t started a game since July 3rd.

Hamilton has posted a .217/.284/.271 slash line this season.

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American League

Orioles’ Mychal Givens Drawing Trade Interest

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Mychal Givens

The Baltimore Orioles are again going to be sellers at the trade deadline and it appears that closer Mychal Givens is available, and drawing interest, according to MASNSports’ Rock Kubatko.

Per the report, the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies have expressed interest in the pitcher.

Givens has posted a 4.50 ERA this season for Baltimore.

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