(CBS San Francisco) — With 162 games in MLB’s six-month regular season, there are always plenty of milestones along the path to the playoffs. The San Francisco Giants just reached an important one. They became the first 50-win team in a season that some believed would find them below the Arizona Diamondbacks in the standings. Instead they’re leading the National Leagues West, the best division in baseball. The Boston Red Sox have a slim lead themselves in the American League East. They can thank, in part, another sweep of the New York Yankees for their tenuous perch. And MLB has its own milestone of sorts. The Seattle Mariners Hector Santiago became the first pitcher suspended since the League tightened up enforcement against foreign substances used to enhance spin. He probably won’t be the last.
This week’s Baseball Report looks at the Giants’ unlikely success, the Red Sox’s second sweep of their division rivals, and Santiago’s ejection.
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The Giants are the first team to reach 50 wins this season. And they did it in walk-off fashion. After falling behind to the Oakland A’s in the top of the 10th inning, San Francisco tied it back up with a Steven Duggar single in the bottom of the inning. Catcher Curt Casali, who was filling in for the injured Buster Posey, doubled into the left-field corner to drive him home.
The win kept the Giants 4.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers and pushed their lead over the San Diego Padres to 5.5 games. At the outset of season, the Giants were predicted to finish third or fourth with a record somewhere around .500 and well behind either of those teams.
A month ago, it looked like that scenario might play out. The Dodgers swept the Giants at home to drop them to third in the division. But the Giants returned the favor, taking three of four from the Dodgers on the road a week later. They followed that up by winning three of four over the Chicago Cubs as well. In fact, the only series in the last month that didn’t break their way was one they split with the Washington Nationals in mid-June. Since that sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, they’ve gone 22-7.
This season, San Francisco leads the majors with 114 home runs and is top 10 in slugging and on-base percentage. Their team ERA is just 3.21, good enough for third best in baseball. And they’ve scored 100 more runs than they’ve allowed. Perhaps most importantly, they’re on pace to easily surpass 100 wins. All of this is quite impressive for a cobbled-together roster that wasn’t supposed to do much of anything this season.
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The Red Sox had higher expectations coming into the season, and, for the most part, they’re living up to them so far. Boston is certainly delivering against the much-hated Yankees. For the second time this season, the Red Sox swept the Yankees in a three-game series. They now have the most wins over the Yankees since 2018.
The series opened Friday with a 5-3 win that saw Red Sox pitching hold the Yankees’ bats scoreless for the last seven innings of the game. Strong pitching carried them to a 4-2 win on Saturday as well. Nathan Eovaldi allowed only seven hits, including a home run, in his seven-plus innings of work. Red Sox bats came alive Sunday afternoon at Fenway, erupting for a 9-2 win. Kiké Hernández and Rafael Devers homered early off of Gerrit Cole. The Yankees ace would eventually allow six runs in his five innings of work.
This was the Red Sox’s second sweep of the Yankees this season. The first happened a few weeks ago in New York. The Red Sox will return to Yankee Stadium for a four-game series in mid-July. They currently hold a 6.5-game lead on their rivals and a half-game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays.
Hector Santiago Suspended
Mariners pitcher Hector Santiago has the undistinguished honor of being the first pitcher ejected since MLB ramped up enforcement on foreign substances. It happened Sunday afternoon in Seattle’s game with the Chicago White Sox, after umpires found some sort of sticky substance on the heal of his glove. The pitcher maintains it was just a mix of sweat and rosin.
Hector Santiago says he was using nothing illegal and it was just a mixture of sweat and rosin that turned sticky. pic.twitter.com/CtU1tamf8G
— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) June 27, 2021
But the umpires disagreed. “He was ejected for when his glove was inspected, for having a foreign substance that was sticky on the inside palm of his glove,” according to crew chief Tom Hallion.MORE NEWS: Michigan Senate Blocks Gun Storage Vote
The official rule reads “the pitcher shall not have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance.” The League asked pitchers in the spring to stop abusing the rule, and when they didn’t, started better enforcing it last week. That involves actual checks on the field between innings. If the League office finds a foreign substance on Santiago’s glove, it will uphold the ejection. Santiago will then be suspended 10 days with pay, and the Mariners will be down a pitcher for the duration.