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5 things to know from the weekend in MLB: Starting pitching delivers for Yankees, Royals, Pirates

Also, Shohei Ohtani hit his first walk-off as a Dodger, and Kody Clemens' bat came through for the Phillies

A lot of baseball happens in a weekend. This time around, Luis Gil made his case to stick in the Yankees' rotation and the Pirates' Paul Skenes lived up to the hype in his second start.

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

Life is unpredictable that sometimes it's reassuring, almost comforting, when baseball plays out exactly how it’s supposed to.

The Yankees, who are very good, bludgeoned the White Sox, who are very bad, for a three-game sweep this weekend in The Bronx. That makes seven straight in the win column for the Bombers. All three New York starting pitchers — Nestor Cortes, Luis Gil and Carlos Rodón — were excellent, but Gil’s 14-strikeout outing Saturday was the cream of the crop. Gil won the fifth starter spot out of spring training, a spot available only because Gerrit Cole had to go on the injured list due to elbow discomfort. Cole is working his way back, but the rookie Gil has been better than the Yankees could’ve hoped. He’s almost certainly the starter who moves back to the 'pen once Cole is healthy, but Gil is pitching well enough to make the decision difficult for general manager Brian Cashman and Co.

Oh, also Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Juan Soto hit a bunch of home runs, but that happens all the time. Judge got some stick for starting somewhat slowly this season. He has shown that concern was unwarranted: Entering May 20, his OPS is .973. The Yankees welcome the Mariners this weekend as they look to run their winning streak to double digits.

From 2019 through the end of 2023, the Kansas City Royals had the second-worst team ERA in baseball, at 4.88. The only team with more runs allowed, the Colorado Rockies, play their home games a mile above sea level, where the thin air creates a comically offensive run-scoring environment. And so, one can deduce with some level of credibility that for a half-decade, the Royals were the worst team in MLB at preventing runs.

It’s a new day. The Royals’ team ERA is currently 3.42, ninth in MLB. Their starting pitcher ERA is 3.11, fourth in MLB. And according to FanGraphs’ wins above replacement metric, only the Phillies’ starters have contributed more wins this season.

Over the weekend, Cole Ragans, Seth Lugo and Brady Singer all delivered sensational outings to propel the Royals to a sweep of the scuffling Oakland A’s. K.C.’s pitching coach, Brian Sweeney, formerly part of Cleveland’s highly touted pitching development apparatus, joined the club before last season and has been a driving force behind the Royals’ run-prevention renaissance.

The offense showed up against Oakland too, with Maikel Garcia and Salvador Pérez leading the way. Even the typically lead-footed Vinnie Pasquantino (14th percentile sprint speed) legged out a three-RBI triple. Things are going well in Kansas City, and it’s going to be a fun summer there.

Paul Skenes’ masterful start Friday in Game 2 was the headliner. The mustachioed 21-year-old, making just the second start of his MLB career, struck out 11 Cubs across six hitless innings. If Skenes’ first outing was a taste, his performance this past weekend at Wrigley was the whole dang meal, and it provided complete and total justification of the hype that swirled before his debut.

Chicago hitters had neither an answer nor a prayer Friday. Skenes had superb command of his triple-digit heat on the afternoon, which enabled his mid-90s “splinker” to play up even more. Make time on your calendar for his next start; this is just the beginning.

Pittsburgh’s series win in Chicago was more than the Skenes Show. Jared Jones was good, not great on Thursday, but the Pirates 'pen did enough to eke out a 5-4 win. Bailey Falter delivered seven scoreless innings on Saturday, but Pittsburgh’s sleepy lineup got shut out, and Chicago walked it off for a 1-0 victory. The Buccos bounced back Sunday, with Mitch Keller limiting the Cubs to two runs over six before the bullpen trio of Colin Holderman, Aroldis Chapman and closer David Bednar locked it down again.

Pittsburgh’s lineup remains inconsistent at best, overmatched at worst, but the emergence of former first-round draft pick Nick Gonzales could offer a sustainable boost. The 5-foot-9 second baseman struggled in his first MLB stint last year but has raked since being recalled on May 10. His homer was the difference Thursday and his two-RBI single the difference Sunday. If Gonzales is a late-blooming contributor, it would be enormous news for the Pirates.

Nick Gonzales headshot
Nick Gonzales
2B - PIT - #39
2024 - false season
126
AB
.302
AVG
5
HR
2
SB
.823
OPS

Los Angeles bounced back from a series-opening loss to take three of four from the Reds. Elly De La Cruz stole the show Thursday with a four-hit, four-steal outing. Then Mookie Betts and Shohei Ohtani homered Friday, Walker Buehler turned in his best start of the year on Saturday and Ohtani came through with his first walk-off as a Dodger with a clutch single on Sunday.

Buehler’s performance is probably the most important Dodgers development. Once L.A.’s ace, Buehler missed a large chunk of 2022 and all of 2023 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. In his first two starts this year, the twitchy right-hander didn’t look particularly sharp. On Saturday, Buehler was his vintage self, locating multiple pitches across six scoreless innings. The Dodgers have so many good arms, but their best possible playoff rotation absolutely has a fully operational Buehler starting Game 2 or 3.

Trea Turner being on the IL has opened the door for a few new Phillies characters to take center stage. Utility infielder Edmundo Sosa was on a heater against the Mets and Marlins, but this past weekend saw Kody Clemens come through with a few timely hits. The son of seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens delivered a game-tying, two-out, solo homer in the bottom of the ninth Saturday and then smashed a go-ahead, two-run double in the fifth on Sunday.

Good teams often get contributions from unforeseen places; that has been Clemens, who didn’t make the Opening Day roster. How Phils skipper Rob Thomson finds at-bats for Clemens and Sosa once Turner gets back in a few weeks is one of those “good problems.”

  • Houston won a statement series at home against the first-place Brewers and is slowly crawling its way back up the standings after a horrid start. The Astros5-4 victory on Friday was punctuated by four scoreless innings from their highly touted bullpen that struggled so much in the early going. Milwaukee bounced back Saturday behind yet another William Contreras big fly. Worth noting: Houston center fielder Jake Meyers is on fire right now. A three-hit game for him in Sunday’s win brought his OPS to .920.

  • Anaheim took two from the defending champs in Texas, thanks to a trio of strong starting pitching performances. José Soriano, who has been outstanding this year, retired the first 11 hitters he faced on Sunday in an Angels win. The Rangers, meanwhile, stay stuck in neutral. Their loss in the series finale pushed them down to .500.

  • St. Louis saw its lineup spring to life against Boston in a series win at home. Homers from Lars Nootbaar, Nolan Gorman, Alec Burleson and Masyn Winn gave the Cards a win in the opener Friday, and then every St. Louis batter recorded a hit in their win Saturday. The Cardinals have been playing better over the past week and welcome the Orioles this week for an avian showdown. Boston’s bizarre 2024 rolls forward; at least Rafael Devers has dingers in five straight.

  • The Mets have an Edwin Díaz problem. After blowing two saves against the Phillies during the week, Díaz allowed a shocking, three-run, game-tying smash to Miami’s Josh Bell on Saturday. It has been a rough start for the Mets’ high-priced closer, who missed all of last season after suffering a leg injury at the WBC. Skipper Carlos Mendoza has already described his team’s ninth-inning situation moving forward as “fluid,” which is never a good thing when you’re paying a guy more than $17 million to be your closer. The Mets still have a chance to emerge from the NL’s underwhelming underbelly, but they need a rejuvenated Díaz to have a real shot.

  • Johnny DeLuca is the new Tampa Bay Ray you maybe hadn’t heard of, but he’ll soon break your heart by ripping a timely homer, like he did against Toronto on Saturday. The Rays took two of three from the meh Jays, who are somehow just 3.5 games behind a playoff spot (good news) but 11.5 out of the AL East (bad news). More good news for Toronto? Alek Manoah threw seven scoreless on Sunday as he continues his gradual return to form.

  • Gunnar Henderson is on a heater. Baltimore’s superstar homered in all three games of his team’s series win over Seattle. His most jaw-dropping blast was an opposite-field solo shot in the ninth inning of Baltimore’s Saturday loss. The Orioles’ 22-year-old shortstop cracked one 410 feet over the deepest part of Camden Yards’ massive “waltimore” in left-center. Henderson can’t stop the Yankees from winning, but he’s doing everything possible to keep the O’s close in the standings.

  • A rainout Saturday means a wonky schedule for San Diego and Atlanta: They’ll play a doubleheader on Monday to complete their four-game set. The Padres, who came to Atlanta fresh off an embarrassing sweep against the Rockies, took the first two games behind masterful starts from Matt Waldron (5.2 IP/10 K/1 ER) and Yu Darvish (7 IP/9 K/0 ER). The exhilarating brown-and-gold roller coaster carries on.

  • Colorado stormed into San Francisco winners of seven in a row; the Rockies left with an L3 on their backs. The incredibly infirm Giants have lost a ton of outfielders to injury, but second-layer guys such as Luis Matos and Heliot Ramos stepped up against the Rockies. Still, the best news for San Fran right now is that pricy free-agent addition Matt Chapman is heating up.

  • Tarik Skubal was nails across six scoreless innings Friday before Jack Flaherty kept his encouraging bounce-back campaign rolling on Saturday, as Detroit took two of three from Arizona in the desert. The Tigers have a big AL Central showdown this week with the Royals.

  • The Twins are so weird. It’s only May, and they’ve already turned in a five-game losing streak, a 12-game winning streak and a new, six-game losing streak. Getting swept by the Guardians, who have their own offensive issues, was a punch to the gut for the Twinkies. Royce Lewis, please get well soon, or else expect more sausage-related trolling from opposing teams.