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MLB News & Moments You Should Know: 4/9/2024

50 years following historic 715th career homer, Atlanta honors Aaron.

Stay updated on everything baseball with our morning MLB News & Moments articles. We’ve got you covered to keep you in the know.

To fully comprehend what Hank Aaron did 50 years ago Monday, you have to understand the two parts to the story that collided that night in Atlanta. The first is the record. Baseball was the king of all sports in 1974 and the career home run record was thought to be untouchable. Babe Ruth created his god-like legacy by hitting 714 home runs from 1914 to 1935. For perspective, the career record Ruth broke was 138 homers by Roger Connor (1880-1897). Ruth passed it in 1921. Aaron entered the 1974 season with 713 homers and tied Ruth’s mark on Opening Day on the road against the Cincinnati Reds on April 4. Then, in Atlanta’s April 8 home opener passed Ruth, taking Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Al Downing deep over the left-field fence in the fourth inning to take sole possession of the most hallowed record in sports. The other side of the story is the racism and death threats Aaron had been receiving as he slugged his way toward 713. Six years following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., segregation was still a major issue. In the previous year, Aaron received a record 950,000 letters, with one-third estimated to be hate mail. Those were the circumstances, in a very small nutshell, surrounding Aaron’s momentous night. Vin Scully had the best call of the record-breaking homer, summarizing everything surrounding the historic accomplishment.

And for some modern-day perspective, no one better than Bob Costas.

 

Today’s Headlines

 

Atlanta Honors Aaron

 

Atlanta, the franchise, and its players, did plenty to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Aaron hitting No. 715.

 

Elly Dazzles With Power, Speed

 

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz entered Monday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers with zero home runs in the young 2024 season. That he hit two against the Brewers wasn’t surprising, but how he did it made it special. Did we mention he was a switch-hitter? In a game in which the Reds had an 8-0 lead after four innings, De La Cruz, batting left-handed, crushed his first homer of the season in the fifth inning, a towering 450-foot shot off the batter’s eye in center field. In the seventh inning, De La Cruz, batting right-handed, flashed his other tantalizing skill when he hit a sinking liner to center that Sal Frelick made a diving attempt at and missed. De La Cruz sprinted around the bases for an inside-the-park homer in just 14.96 seconds. His two solo homers contributed the final two runs to a 10-8 victory for the Reds.

 

Tatis, Padres Erase 8-0 Deficit

 

It’s gotta be the shoes. The San Diego Padres, who trailed 8-0, matched their biggest comeback in club history by beating the Chicago Cubs 9-8. Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning. Most of the damage by the Padres came in the sixth inning when they erupted for seven runs. Jake Cronenworth and Xander Bogaerts each hit two-run homers. That set up Tatis, who was wearing cleats honoring Padres legend Tony Gwynn. It also came on the day Petco Park celebrated its 20th birthday.

 

Elbow Injury Sidelines Astros’ Valdez

 

Any injury to a pitcher and his pitching elbow is concerning. For Houston Astros left-hander Framber Valdez, he is seeking answers after experiencing soreness while playing catch. Valdez was scratched from Monday’s scheduled start against the Texas Rangers and returned to Houston to be examined. If Valdez does end up on the injured list, it will be yet another blow to the Astros’ starting rotation. Right-hander Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation), the 2022 AL Cy Young Award winner, made the first of what is expected to be two rehab assignments over the weekend, while Lance McCullers Jr. (right forearm) and Luis Garcia (Tommy John) both are still making their way back from surgeries from 2023. Right-hander José Urquidy (right forearm strain) is aiming for a May return.

 

Red Sox Extend Rafaela

 

Not long after signing right-handed starter Brayan Bello to a six-year, $55 million contract extension, the Boston Red Sox locked up another of their young stars by giving center fielder Ceddanne Rafaela eight years and $50 million. The defense-first Rafaela, who made his debut and played in 28 MLB games in 2023, is 23 years old and has a career slash line of .239/.282/.389 with two homers, 10 RBI, and four stolen bases in 113 at-bats.

 

Best Moments From Yesterday

 

There Goes The Sun

 

Sun. Moon. Eclipse. You know the story. Here is a baseball angle.

 

Defensive Statements

 

In an era of mammoth home runs and 100 mph fastballs, defense tends to get lost in the baseball shuffle. Here are a couple of big plays, the first by Reds right fielder Stuart Fairchild, and the second by Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton.

 

Injuries and Other Moves

 

Right-handed reliever Yohan Ramírez was designated for assignment by the New York Mets. Ramirez, who served a two-game suspension for throwing behind Milwaukee Brewers slugger Rhys Hoskins, had an 11.81 ERA and 2.438 WHIP in 5⅓ innings.

Cincinnati Reds right-handed reliever Tejay Antone will undergo elbow surgery Friday. He was placed on the 15-day IL.

Chicago Cubs right-handed reliever Julian Merryweather, already on the 15-day IL, will be shut down for at least four weeks after being diagnosed with a rib stress fracture in his back.

The Los Angeles Angels made a slew of moves, with right-handers Chase Silseth (right elbow inflammation) and Guillo Zuñiga (right pectoral strain) landing on the 15-day IL and right-hander Zach Plesac and infielder Livan Soto designated for assignment. Right-handers Carson Fulmer and Hunter Strickland were called up.

 

Articles You Should Read

 

Dusty Baker had front-row seat for Aaron’s historic blast — Gabriel Burns, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

From sunflower seeds to cricket bats: How Ohtani is adjusting to Dodgers — Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times

No easy fix to pitching injuries, but baseball leaders need to work together — Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic

 

Fantasy Baseball Coverage

 

Starting Pitcher Roundup

Hitter Performances

Reliever Ranks

Starting Pitcher Streamers

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter and Threads @DrummerWrites.

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