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About last weekend ...

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Joe Maddon is a quote machine, two position players pitched, and the Pirates are the best team in baseball.

David Banks

Welcome back to Baseball Nation's weekend recap, in which we review some (but not all) of the action in baseball over the last three days. We'd like to welcome all of you increasingly agitated football/basketball fans to the site! For about a month every year, you check in with baseball because you have no other choice. Welcome. This one has Jeff Mathis!

Heck, we'll start with Jeff Mathis. Because it isn't a recap without him, with the exception of every other recap.

Jeff Mathis hit a walk-off grand slam

Yes, yes. Visual proof:

I'm not sure if this is the first walk-off grand slam of Mathis's career. Let me look that up …

/pretends to push buttons on calculator wristwatch

Mmm-hmmm. It looks like it is. If the NL Central is baseball's best division, the NL West is a decent answer for the worst, and this weekend showed why. The Diamondbacks were swept by the Braves. The Padres dropped two of three to the Marlins. The Rockies blew a chance to sweep the Giants with sloppy defense. The Giants were in danger of being swept because they couldn't score more than a run in each of the first two games at Coors.

And, say, lookie here. The Dodgers are back in the race. Good work, other teams in the West. The Angels had to win six in a row just to get to a .476 winning percentage, where they're nine games out. The Dodgers have a .469 winning percentage, but they're just four games out. The only team over .500 in the division just lost three in a row to creep ever closer to .500. The NL West is powerful like a gorilla, yet soft and yielding like a Nerf ball. And it's going to be a heckuva slap fight for the next couple of months.

The Pirates are really laying it on thick this time

As Rob noted this morning, the Pirates have baseball's best record. It is July 1. They started the season with Jonathan Sanchez. Every year, there's one of these teams, man, yet we're always surprised. Mets win the pennant in 2014. Call it now before everyone else gets a chance. They're going to face the Twins in the World Series.

Because there has to be one ghoul who does this, the Pirates would have to finish 29-52 to finish under .500. That's a .358 winning percentage. In the history of the post-Bonds Pirates, the team has finished with a worse winning percentage once over a full season (2010). That means over the next 81 games, this Pirates team would have to play worse than almost every Pirates team that has ever come before them to not finish over .500.

That would be hard to do. But it was hard to do last year, too. It's not concern trolling if you're all thinking it at the same time.

But as Rob pointed out in his piece, the Pirates are outscoring their opponents handily. The starting pitching is going to get better when A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez get back -- so much so, the Pirates might even demote Gerrit Cole. The bullpen is otherworldly, and with Clint Barmes out of the lineup, there aren't any obvious holes at all.

The best story might be Pedro Alvarez, though. On April 18th, I wrote this about him:

As of the end of April 17: .089/.180/.089 in 50 plate appearances. He's without an extra-base hit, obviously. He has four hits in 45 at-bats. He's struck out in over a third of his plate appearances.

At the time, Alvarez hadn't hit the ball to the warning track. He was broken, irredeemably broken, and the Pirates were going to finish the season with Andy Marte at third base.

Since that horrific start: .277/.330/.599 with 20 homers. He's, uh, hit the ball farther than the warning track. He's even striking out l … no, no, he's still striking out a ton. But if the Pirates are baseball's best story, the resurgence of Pedro Alvarez again for the very first time (Part III) is certainly one of the best individual stories on the team.

The Orioles swept the Yankees

Pirates and Orioles. Orioles and Pirates. Just another typical season, everyone.

And like the Pirates with their run differential, the Orioles aren't using the same template this season. They're 12-11 in one-run games, with a 5-3 mark in extra innings, winning games like a normal team. The sweep of the Yankees came behind a couple of Chrises, with Chris Tillman pitching well and Chris Davis continuing to obliterate the ball.

Chris Tillman over the last calendar year:

Last 365 days 19 5 3.33 32 186.1 30 62 147

And Chris Davis over that same stretch:

Last 365 days 154 638 34 51 130 58 188 .302 .373 .633 1.006

Those two might not win the second-half-of-2012-first-half-of-2013 Cy Young and MVP, but they would at least get a couple of votes. One of these days, the Mariners are really going to regret that Erik Bedard trade, everybody ...

The biggest surprise on the Orioles for me, though, might be Tommy Hunter. I know that major-league bullpens are filled with pitchers who were hit hard as starters before finding success as relievers. But if you gave me a list of major-league starters who would find late-inning, setup success after converting, I'm pretty sure I would have put Hunter at the bottom. He was just too homer-prone and command-dependent.

But if you would have told me this

Skip Schumaker and Casper Wells each threw an inning

All utility players named Skip can pitch. It's in the by-laws. All utility players named Buddy can play short in a pinch, and all utility players named Sparky can catch if you need them too. But Skips can pitch.

They can also be very, very sorry! Can you imagine being a position player called on to pitch, and then braining an opposing hitter? Everyone thinks about Jose Canseco as a worst-case scenario with position players pitching, but there could be some serious fallout (mental and otherwise) with a position player seriously hurting a batter on the mound.

Caspers can pitch, too, apparently. Both of the position players worked scoreless innings, and both of them touched the low 90s. No pressure, Tim Lincecum. After walking Drew Stubbs, Wells got Asdrubal Cabrera swinging. That video isn't embeddable, but you can watch it here.

The Rays and Tigers got chippy

The progression as best as I can tell:

  • Fernando Rodney threw a ball at Miguel Cabrera's head on Saturday, most likely by accident
  • Joe Maddon said this:
  • lol
  • Ben Zobrist then got hit with a pitch in the first inning of Sunday's game, leading to bench warnings
  • Nothing else happened, as Maddon declined to get into the hyper-macho ram-headbutting that usually defines this sort of thing. No punches were thrown. No stars from the '80s threw each other down.

    Leave the gun. Take the James Loney.