5 things to know from the weekend in MLB: Dodgers trounce Braves, Phillies' Trea Turner injured and more

If you weren’t watching baseball this weekend, we won’t judge, but you missed a lot of action.

Here are the key takeaways from this weekend’s series.

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Most ball-knowers will tell you the best team in MLB is either the Braves or the Dodgers.

Well, this weekend, Los Angeles made that debate somewhat less interesting by sweeping Atlanta at Dodger Stadium. The Braves kept it close on Friday but were straight-up outplayed in the final two games and suddenly find themselves 2.5 games behind Philadelphia in the NL East.

Both the Dodgers and Braves boast comically loaded offensive units, but the difference in the starting pitching is stark. This weekend, L.A.’s starters — Gavin Stone, Tyler Glasnow and James Paxton — outpitched Atlanta’s trio of Charlie Morton, Bryce Elder and Max Fried. What’s more, this was the first time since Spencer Strider went down for the rest of the season due to a torn UCL that you could really see how losing the mustachioed flame-thrower will impact Atlanta come the postseason.

Morton is phenomenal for a 40-year-old, but he’s far from an ace at this point in his career. Elder showed last autumn that with his current stable of pitches, he is not capable of starting a playoff game. And Fried, who has been one of the game’s most consistent pitchers over the past half-decade, hasn’t looked like himself so far this season. Reynaldo López and Chris Sale, Atlanta’s two postseason acquisitions, have thrown incredibly well thus far, but this rotation sans-Strider is simply worse than Los Angeles’ (not to mention Philadelphia’s). It’s also worth noting that the silly-deep Dodgers are actually missing more innings right now, with Walker Buehler, Bobby Miller, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Clayton Kershaw all on the shelf due to injuries.

The first-place Phillies, who have won 16 of their past 19 games, took all three games at home against San Francisco over the weekend. But it wasn’t all peaches, rainbows and butterflies at Citizens Bank Park: Shortstop Trea Turner strained his left hamstring on Friday and will be shelved for about six weeks. Turner had been the club’s second-best offensive force so far this season, an encouraging development after the disastrous start to his Phillies tenure a year ago. His injury will force utilityman Edmundo Sosa into action as the every-day shortstop for now. Second baseman Bryson Stott came up as a shortstop and played there during Philly’s 2022 stretch run, but skipper Rob Thomson said he plans to keep Stott at the keystone most of the time.

The struggling Blue Jays head to Philadelphia this week, setting up the rollicking Phils for another likely series win. But a soft early schedule, dominant starting pitching and Alec Bohm’s offensive breakout have helped overshadow slow starts from a few Philadelphia stalwarts. Turner’s extended absence means veterans such as J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber and, especially, the scuffling Nick Castellanos will need to pick up the slack. For the first time in more than a half-decade, the Braves are looking somewhat vulnerable atop the NL East, and the division could be Philly’s for the taking, but the climb just got tougher with Turner on the mend.

A week ago, there was agita in Birdland. Not with the lineup — Baltimore’s offense was, and still is, disintegrating baseballs — but on the pitching side. The O’s staff was buried under a mountain of questions. Who would step up in the bullpen after closer Craig Kimbrel biffed two saves in three days? How would Kyle Bradish and John Means, two of Baltimore’s best starters when healthy, look in their first outings back from significant injuries? Would the O’s run prevention suffer with sophomore righty Grayson Rodriguez hitting the IL?

What a difference a weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio, can make. Across 27 innings this weekend, Baltimore pitchers allowed exactly one run. The starters allowed none. Cole Irvin continued his magnificent early-season run on Friday; only one Red (Elly De La Cruz) reached base across 6⅓ strong frames from Irvin. Then Means, who had not been fully healthy for an extended period since the end of 2021, looked sensational in his season debut Saturday. The left-hander punched out eight across seven scoreless, allowing only three Reds to reach base.

Dean Kremer finished the sweep on Sunday, surrendering just one hit and one walk across six scoreless. And the bullpen — which this writer referred to as “exposed and undermanned” a week ago — was perfect, save for Kimbrel’s rocky outing Saturday. Baltimore’s pitching, which many prognosticators considered the team’s underbelly, now looks incredibly sturdy. Of course, the regular season is long and full of injuries, but a potential October rotation helmed by Corbin Burns, Rodriguez and Bradish (who looked solid in his return Thursday against the Yankees) and backed up by Means, Kremer and Irvin could be quite impactful come autumn.

Friday night at Minute Maid Park felt like old times. Houston blitzed Seattle’s bullpen for a four-spot in the seventh inning and took the opener 5-3. But these Astros, who now sit seven games behind the Mariners in the AL West, are 10 games under .500 for a reason. Gangly Seattle hurler Logan Gilbert blanked Jose Altuve, Yordan Álvarez, Alex Bregman and Co. on Saturday before a Cal Raleigh go-ahead, ninth-inning blast off Josh Hader gave the Mariners the series on Sunday.

The Mariners offense has some issues — Josh Rojas has been their best hitter by a mile — but this pitching staff is so, so good. Seattle heads to Minnesota this week to take on the Twins, winners of 12 straight before Sunday. Houston, meanwhile, is Bronx-bound for a showdown against the Yankees. A sweep at the hands of their longtime rivals could be a true death knell for the Astros, early in the season though it may be.

After a late-night trade sent Luis Arráez from Miami to San Diego on Friday, the high-average magician ripped four hits in his debut game with the Padres on Saturday. His arrival, paired with the suddenly ultra-hot Jurickson Profar, makes San Diego’s lineup even deeper.

The Padres still have some questions on the mound, though: Knuckleballer Matt Waldron got pummeled in a blowout loss on Sunday. This week, San Diego heads to Chicago for a fascinating showdown against the Cubs.

  • The Cubs and Brewers should just play a 99-game series for the NL Central. Managing against his old club for the first time after a shocking move to Chicago over the winter, Craig Counsell guided the Cubs to a well-earned series win over their division foes.

  • Minnesota’s 12-game, sausage-fueled winning streak was snapped by the Red Sox on Sunday, but the Twins’ hot stretch jumped them back into the thick of the AL Central.

  • The Rangers bounced back from a weak offensive performance Friday to bludgeon the Royals on Saturday before eking out the series on Sunday. Texas’ pitching staff has performed admirably while it waits for Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom to come off the IL this summer.

  • The Yankees swept the Tigers behind 9⅔ scoreless frames from their bullpen and a clutch go-ahead double from Juan Soto on Sunday.

  • The Rays’ fluorescent, radical City Connect uniforms and signs of life from the scuffling Randy Arozarena propelled them to a sweep against the topsy-turvy Mets.

  • Pittsburgh’s offense stinks right now, but they won a series anyway because the Rockies aren’t good, either. Pirates rookie phenom Jared Jones was masterful once again in a 1-0 win on Saturday.

  • It’s officially panic time in Toronto; the Jays lost a series in D.C. to the pesky Nationals despite jumping to an early 5-1 advantage on Sunday. Embattled Toronto hurler Alek Manoah coughed up the lead in his first MLB start of the season.

  • The frisky Athletics scratched their way to .500 on Saturday with a 20-run showing, but they couldn’t finish the sweep against Miami.

  • Cleveland talisman José Ramirez smashed a go-ahead homer after a 10-pitch at-bat Sunday to push the Guardians past the Angels. Unfortunately, the hot-out-the-gate Guards had to put leadoff catalyst Steven Kwan on the IL due to a hamstring issue.

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