The Monday 9: Madison Bumgarner made history, just not of the no-hitter variety

Hannah Keyser and Yahoo Sports Staff
·13-min read

Welcome to The Monday 9, our new weekly lineup of Things You Need to Know in baseball. The MLB season is a marathon, so get caught up each Monday morning right here at Yahoo Sports.

Leading off: Madison Bumgarner didn't throw a no-hitter, and that’s OK!

As I watched Madison Bumgarner enter the home stretch of the second game of a pair of seven-inning doubleheaders having not given up a single hit on Sunday afternoon, I felt sort of bad for him! One of the worst pitchers in the sport in a shortened 2020, Bumgarner has finally started to look like his old self on a new team over the past few starts. Watching him take such a gem into the seventh and final inning felt like a missed opportunity to watch one of the grittiest guys grind through until the end or a hit, whichever came first. Ultimately, Bumgarner finished the game without giving up a hit, the first time in a storied career that he’s done that, but was not credited with an official no-hitter, according to MLB and Elias. In a world with seven-inning doubleheaders, some starts never even get the chance to enter the record book that way.

I wondered whether Bumgarner would be mad. But in his on-field postgame interview, he only had two things to say: thank you to the shadows that had given pitchers the advantage that day, and thank you to Rob Manfred for instituting the seven-inning games.

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It was funny, on brand, and a pitch-perfect way to get ahead of the ensuing semantic controversy before Twitter could totally work itself up into a lather.

One of the best things about baseball is the seemingly endless way the game can go. More often than not, we understand a particular performance through whatever made it unique. No-hitters are an exception, they are made special by what unifies them. A simple, singular formula that is necessarily defined by the normal nine-inning game. They are not a value judgment about how good a pitcher was — Jacob deGrom’s last start was at least as dominant as either of the no-hitters so far this season — and they do not leave room for context.

Madison Bumgarner did not throw a no-hitter; he did something else entirely and that’s great, too. He is already on the Wikipedia “List of Major League Baseball no-hitters” — as part of the rather robust section of “shortened games” under “Near no-hitters.” He’ll go down in history as the first pitcher to be thrust into that category by the new doubleheader rule instead of by weather or lack of electricity. And also because he and Zac Gallen combined to hold the opposition to just one hit across both games in the double header, the fewest ever — a feat Elias does recognize despite the shortened contests. (Is that imperfect and internally inconsistent? A little! You gotta draw the line somewhere!)

Defining a term narrowly doesn’t mitigate something that is impressive but doesn’t meet that definition. Seven no-hit innings is not the same as nine no-hit innings and if you lump them together nominally, you’re just going to have to rely on context within that category instead of on the fringes just beyond the bounds. And that’s fine, too! But it’s not any more obvious than excluding the anomaly.

Maybe you think that’s not fair because circumstances beyond his control kept Bumgarner from even attempting what it takes to end up in the main list of that Wikipedia page. But shadows are a circumstance too.

Bumgarner himself acknowledged (gratefully!) the way circumstances can shape a baseball game — that’s not a bug, but a feature of the sport. It’s why you can see something new after more than a century of the sport. Like a guy who gets a near-no-hitter without giving up any hits and thanks the commissioner for making it possible. I promise history won’t forget Madison Bumgarner’s April 24, 2021, game — not because it was a no-hitter, but because it was sort of something else. — Hannah Keyser

No. 2: Your updated Padres-Dodgers scorecard

Season series: Padres 4, Dodgers 3. San Diego roared back from six runs down in the Sunday night game to gain the edge.

Home runs: Fernando Tatis Jr. has six in these seven Dodgers games. Everyone else in the series has combined for 11.

Weirdest uses of a pitcher, ranked:

  1. Padres starter Joe Musgrove plays left field in extra innings while second baseman Jake Cronenworth comes in to pitch, winds up fielding a sac fly.

  2. Clayton Kershaw pinch-hits for reliever Jimmy Nelson in the 10th inning of Sunday night’s game after the Padres intentionally walk two actual hitters to get to him. He strikes out.

  3. Padres rookie Ryan Weathers pinch-hits for reliever Emilio Pagan, also in the 10th inning of Sunday’s game, and also strikes out.

  4. Let’s be honest, David Price the reliever still feels strange.

Rivalry plot points, ranked:

  1. Fernando Tatis Jr. covers one eye after taking Trevor Bauer deep.

  2. Bauer implies Tatis Jr. might have peeked at catcher’s signs, the two play up the beef on Twitter instead of fighting/plunking people.

  3. Dodgers reliever Dennis Santana hits Jorge Mateo with a pitch, sets off extra-innings skirmish.

  4. Yu Darvish to Dodgers fans: Your boos can’t hurt me.

  5. Trevor Bauer and Eric Hosmer exchange good-natured sword celebrations after strikeout, blazing line drive past Bauer’s face.

  6. Clayton Kershaw gets riled up about a Jurickson Profar swing.

  7. Blake Snell keeps coming out of Dodgers games earlier than he would prefer.

Next game: June 21 in San Diego. No, I don’t know how we will wait that long, either. — Zach Crizer

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom tips his cap to fans after a baseball game against the Washington Nationals Friday, April 23, 2021, in New York. The Mets won 6-0. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Jacob deGrom tips his cap to fans after shutting out the Washington Nationals. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

No. 3: The quiet roar of the Jacob deGrom game

If you are like me — lucky enough to be healthy and able to return to a major-league ballpark right now — the first impressions of diminished capacity baseball are shockingly positive. Breezy, wide-open concourses. No one else sliding in and out of your row of seats. Only two people ahead of you in the hot dog line, even between innings.

I was one of only 8,130 people at Citi Field on Friday night for the New York Mets’ matchup with the Washington Nationals, and for about an hour or so, the main significance to me was that it was my first in-person MLB experience since 2019, since the COVID-19 pandemic inserted a whole array of unpleasant considerations into the thought of taking oneself out to the ballgame. Then, in the fifth inning, with nine strikeouts already under his belt, Jacob deGrom doubled in the game’s first run. Things escalated from there.

By the time I raced to visit a lonely and bored beer guy after the sixth, deGrom had retired 10 Nationals in a row and run his strikeout tally to 12 with no sign of slowing down. Maybe I was out of practice, or maybe it was just the modern default belief that the manager would pull the pitcher no matter how well he was throwing, but even after the “M-V-P” chants ramped up, the buzz of watching a historic individual performance didn’t build to the usual roar. There were, after all, only 8,000 or so voices to execute the crescendo.

In the bottom of the eighth, deGrom came to bat — signaling he would indeed get to go for the shutout. He promptly singled and scored, and the limited crowd was in full deGrom delirium for the final frame. He completed it with his fastball still in the upper 90s, having not allowed a baserunner since the third. But when he looked up and then descended into the dugout carrying the ball, it felt like he deserved more — like he had injected more adrenaline into the air than there were bodies to absorb.

The capacity restrictions are sensible, of course. They are necessary to build trust, get us through the darkest COVID-19 dangers, and back to a world where the potential for horror is not as present as it has been for the past year. Video of this game will be played for years, and it will sound dulled, but it’s not something to be angry about — rather, a reminder of why the difficult work of coming together again will be worth it. — Zach Crizer

No. 4: Is Bryce Harper underrated these days?

Bryce Harper’s career-defining tenure in Philadelphia has been haunted by the hot-take-turned-stale that he might be overrated from before he even signed the historic 13-year, $330 million contract. The player version of a place so popular that nobody goes there anymore, Harper went from potential face of the game to seemingly overexposed (and implicitly, under-deserving) sometime between his 22-year-old MVP season in 2015 and his disappointingly mediocre first season in South Philly.

But since 2019, Harper has been … good? Like, really good! Especially lately. His OPS+ puts him in the top five in baseball right now (and Mike Trout’s atop the leaderboard, so you know it’s a good stat). That’s better than Mookie Betts or Shohei Ohtani or Jazz Chisholm, who are all off to hot starts of their own.

Twenty-eight years old and in his 10th big-league season, Harper isn’t the best player in baseball and he’s no longer the hot new thing. His flashiness feels a little corny now (relatable late 20s experience) and his brashness has been tempered by the team’s place in the standings. But he also has a lot of time left — he’ll be finding new ways to wear his love for the Phanatic on his sleeve … or cleats … or headband into the 2030s — to be a big part of Phillies teams that should eventually finish over .500. Harper’s fade from the national conversation didn’t actually track with a downturn in ability. Don’t look now, but he’s actually panning out pretty damn well as a player worth building a franchise around. It’s the rest of the structure that’s been shaky. – Hannah Keyser

Oakland Athletics' Jed Lowrie runs to third base against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Jed Lowrie and the Oakland A's have already had a six-game losing streak and a 13-game winning streak. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

No. 5: True facts about the 2021 Oakland A’s

They lost their first six games of the season.

Their big offseason acquisition, closer Trevor Rosenthal, won’t pitch a regular-season game for them after having thoracic outlet surgery.

They also won 13 games in a row!

Jed Lowrie left Oakland after 2018, and returned for the 2021 season. He has already played more than twice as many games this season as he did in his time away. Oh, and he’s hitting .291/.363/.493.

They lead the American League West by a game over the Seattle Mariners.

They have a negative run differential.

After all that, FanGraphs gives them a 50.8 percent chance of making the playoffs — which feels 0.8 percentage points off from their vibe. — Zach Crizer

No. 6: Is MVP-style Kris Bryant finally back?

Yahoo Fantasy is taking a weekly look at who's hot and who's not — and whether you should believe in the streak. Here’s a sample from this week’s edition:

The Cubs offense has found its stride the past week, but Bryant has been doing it since Day 1 this year. The talented third baseman sports a sparkling .309/.392/.632 slash line and a 1.052 OPS on the young season. He's been lighting it up the past seven games, in particular, going 12-for-27 (coincidentally, the same as Matt Olson, though he did it in nine games) with six home runs.

Most impressively, Bryant's BABIP stands at .340 — his career mark is .339. So, he's creating his own luck and making the most of his opportunities. The 20-plus strikeout percentage remains, but he's paired it with an 11.4 % walk rate, which has undoubtedly helped him to that lofty OBP.

Bryant won the MVP in 2016 when he hit .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs and 121 runs. He might not repeat those numbers in 2021, but he's off to a great start nonetheless, and fantasy managers should be enjoying the eighth-round value they're getting from Bryant, who was drafted, on average, after the likes of Cavan Biggio and Matt Chapman (neither of whom is hitting above the Mendoza line). — Mo Castillo

No. 7: Star-crossed Mitch Haniger is a star

The November 2016 trade between the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks might be the most upside-down in recent baseball memory. Originally billed as the Taijuan Walker for Jean Segura trade, it will be remembered as the Ketel Marte for Mitch Haniger deal.

Haniger’s ascent to headliner, though, has been interrupted in cruel ways. He had just 123 major-league plate appearances under his belt at the time of the trade, but he immediately stepped up with Seattle. Across 2017 and 2018, he ran a 135 OPS+, just a hair shy of Anthony Rendon and a touch better than Kris Bryant. But in 2019, a 94 mph Justin Verlander fastball glanced off his bat knob and ricocheted into his groin. The resulting injury and complicated recovery led to three surgeries, costing him the majority of 2019 and all of 2020.

It was fair to wonder whether Haniger, a late-blooming prospect who is now 30, could return to form after such a long layoff. But with the Mariners off to a surprisingly strong start, he is right in the middle of it. He’s batting .292/.330/.562, good for a 159 OPS+ that puts him right back in that upper echelon of hitters, as part of a lethal duo on top of the lineup alongside breakout slugger Ty France.

As they try to turn the corner toward contention, Haniger may be the bellwether of GM Jerry Dipoto’s trade tendencies. If they are truly ready to take the next step and throw their hats into the AL West race, the resilient Haniger may be the perfect candidate for an extension instead of a plane ticket. — Zach Crizer

No. 8: Kole Calhoun did a good

Baseball is better with fans in the stands. Credit to Kole Calhoun, who was a good sport about being the setup man for the best defensive highlight of the night, and the best quote.

"I looked at him and told him, 'Hey, you realize you’re going to be the No. 1 play on SportsCenter tonight?'” Calhoun says he told the 13-year-old fan attending his first ever major-league game. “And he looked at me dead in the face and he goes, 'I’m already blowing up on TikTok.' I was dying laughing.” — Hannah Keyser

No. 9: What to watch in a week without Padres-Dodgers

-Monday night: Shohei Ohtani returns to the mound against the Texas Rangers a day after smashing a tie-breaking homer in Houston.

-Monday to Thursday: The Mariners and Astros collide in what could be a serious test of Seattle’s ability to contend in the AL West.

-Thursday to Sunday: The Dodgers go to Milwaukee for a weekend series against recent October foes. If the rotation order stays intact, the defending champs will square off against both earth-meltingly hot Milwaukee starters — Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff.

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