Friday, August 12, 2016

A-Rod an early catalyst as Yanks edge Rays

Starlin Castro drove in four of the Yankees' six runs in Friday night's 6-3 win over the Rays at Yankee Stadium, but it's New York's first run of the night that fans will remember best.
Before what's widely expected to be the last game of his 22-year career, Alex Rodriguezhad time to reflect on what made him a three-time American League MVP and a 14-time All-Star. Rodriguez didn't disappoint when he stepped to the plate in the first inning, lining a double into right-center field at a velocity Statcast™ estimated at 103 mph to plate Brett Gardner from first base and knot the score at 1.
Rodriguez was nearly moved to tears by rousing cheers from the crowd in the ninth inning, when he took the field for one last time, playing third base for the first out of the frame. He then left the game to an ovation and hugs from teammates. Rodriguez finished the night 1-for-4 with two groundouts and a strikeout.
Rodriguez wasn't the only Yankees player who flashed a little bit of the talent that led the team to a World Series title in 2009. CC Sabathia started for the Yankees and allowed three runs on four hits, striking out seven in six innings en route to his seventh win of the season.Mark Teixeira, who plans to retire at season's end, singled twice, scored twice and even stole a base.
For the Rays, Evan Longoria opened the scoring with a first-inning solo home run, his 26th of the season. The third baseman followed that up with an RBI single in the third inning and finished his day 2-for-3 with a walk, two RBIs and a run scored. Chris Archer's disappointing season continued, as the right-hander saw his ERA jump to 4.39 after allowing five runs on seven hits in six innings.
Satisfying the prophecy: In a pregame news conference, Rodriguez mentioned that he believes the Yankees can do some "special things" if Castro gets going. Castro must've been listening, as the second baseman drove in four runs on two hits, both of which gave the Yankees a lead.
The latter was a 408-foot home run to center field that Statcast™ estimated at 102.7 mph off the bat. The homer was Castro's 13th of the season, putting him one shy of tying his career high.

How it's done: The Rays have struggled to execute in offensive situations all season, which made their rally in the fifth inning stand out. Tim Beckham doubled off Sabathia to lead off the inning and moved to third on Bobby Wilson's sacrifice bunt. Logan Forsythe then delivered a sacrifice fly to drive home Beckham and tie the score at 3.
Sturtze on the horizon: Despite having struck out 177 batters on the season, Archer came away with his 16th loss. Tanyon Sturtze owns the club record for most losses in a season with 18 in 2002, a season that saw the Devil Rays lose 106 games.
CC climbs past Cone, Mussina: With his strikeout of Brad Miller to end the third inning, Sabathia passed former Yankees right-hander and 1994 AL Cy Young Award winner David Cone for 22nd place on the all-time strikeouts list with 2,669. Three innings and three strikeouts later, Sabathia eclipsed another former Yankees righty, Mike Mussina, for sixth on the franchise's career strikeouts list with 1,279. The next pitcher for Sabathia to pass on the all-time K's list is Frank Tanana, one of the four left-handed pitchers with more career strikeouts than Sabathia.
Longoria's home run gave him 15 in his career at the new Yankee Stadium. That tied him with David Ortiz for second most at the park by a visiting player. Jose Bautista, who has 17, holds the top spot on the list.
Mikie Mahtook hit into what was originally ruled an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play in the sixth inning, but the Rays challenged. After a 59-second review, the call was overturned.
Another call was overturned in the top of the ninth, when Corey Dickerson, originally ruled safe at first base on a throw to first from catcher Brian McCann after Dickerson had struck out, was officially called out.
Rays: Matt Andriese (6-3, 2.90 ERA) will make his 11th start of the season on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET. In his third start since returning to the rotation from the bullpen, Andriese should be stretched out enough to throw at least 100 pitches. He has a 5.79 ERA in three career appearances against the Yankees.
Yankees: The Yankees will celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the team's 1996 World Series champions prior to Saturday's game. The start will go to Masahiro Tanaka (8-4, 3.32 ERA), who's coming off back-to-back starts without issuing a walk.

Howard's grand slam propels Phils in opener

The Phillies got a little nostalgic Friday night.
Prior to their series-opening 10-6 win over the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park, the Phils inducted Jim Thome into the club's Wall of Fame. Not three hours later, the man who took Thome's job back in 2005, Ryan Howard, looked like his old self and hammered a grand slam into the Rockies' bullpen, 455 feet away per Statcast™, to break a tie for good.
"You want to go out there and try to get a win on a special night like this," Howard said. "Being able to get something to hit and having it land on the other side of the fence -- it's the bonus."
After circling the bases, Howard re-emerged from the dugout for a curtain call. He couldn't remember the last time he'd done so.
"It's been a while," Howard said. "Felt great. I mean, to be able to do it in that situation in a night like tonight, it was pretty cool."
Howard's slam, the 14th of his career and first since 2014, continued the Rockies' downward spiral. Colorado had pulled a game over .500 and three games back of a Wild Card spot, but the Rockies have lost seven of nine games since.
Friday's pitching matchup was anything but nostalgic, featuring a pair of rookies in the Rockies' slumping Jon Gray and the Phils' Jake Thompson, making his second MLB start.
Thompson bounced back nicely from a 4 1/3-inning, six-run debut to toss five innings of three-run ball, though not without the red-hot Charlie Blackmon touching him for a home run. The Rockies' center fielder added two more big flies in the seventh and ninth for his first career three-home run game. Over the last week, Blackmon is 19-for-33 (.576) with six home runs.
"I felt pretty good -- I imagine that's what it's like to be Nolan Arenado on a day-to-day basis -- that's as close as I get," said Blackmon, referring to the Rockies' third baseman, who has 30 homers this season.
But with Gray throwing 111 pitches and lasting just 4 1/3 innings, the Rockies didn't get the starting pitching a team that was coming off a 4-hour, 3-minute game in 100-plus degree heat needed to keep up its energy level.
"No question, you're already a little bit low and then you're standing around out there on defense, it doesn't help," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
Speed kills: After a 13-pitch at-bat to lead off the first, Cesar Hernandez ripped a ball into the right-center gap. As Gerardo Parra scrambled to field it, Hernandez was wheeling around the bases and landed on third for his MLB-leading ninth triple of the season. Odubel Herrera poked a fastball into left the next play, scoring Hernandez to give the Phillies an early 1-0 lead, and followed it by swiping his 19th bag of the season. Hernandez matched Herrera on the bases the next inning, stealing his 12th base after an eight-pitch walk.
Gray days: In his first four starts out of the All-Star break, Gray compiled a 0.69 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings. But his last two have been rocky. Against the Marlins on Sunday, he gave up four first-inning runs, and when he had a chance to keep the team in the game, he gave up four more and was removed after 3 2/3. Friday, Gray gave up three runs (two earned) the first two innings. But it was Howard's slam on the right-hander's 111th pitch with one down in the fifth that was the difference between a nice recovery and another messy final line.
Gray said the 95.2 mph fastball to Howard was poorly located.
"If I wanted to throw a fastball to him, it should've been up," Gray said. "It was in, but down, and it should've been in but up. I probably shouldn't have thrown a fastball anyway. I tried to go in there once. It wasn't smart for me."
No. 44 fans four: David Dahl led off the second inning by reaching first. To extend his career-opening hit streak to an MLB record 18 games? No, he struck out on a curveball in the dirt that got past Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp and hustled to first. But he would be a part of another feat. Parra and Nick Hundley reached, driving Dahl home. But they were followed by back-to-back-to-back strikeouts, giving Thompson four in the frame. He became the second Phillie in history to accomplish one of baseball's best oddities: a 4-K inning. The last Phillies pitcher to accomplish the feat was Doc White, who whiffed four Brooklyn Dodgers in the fifth inning on July 21, 1902.
Win or lose, Blackmon on fire: Since June 20, Blackmon has hit safely in 41 of 48 games. In his last eight, Blackmon is hitting .576 (19-for-33) with six home runs, two doubles, a triple and 11 RBIs.
"He's in some kind of zone, playing really well, and he goes to the post every day," Weiss said.
Hernandez had plate appearances of 13, eight and 13 pitches against Gray. He tripled, walked and struck out in those and saw 34 of Gray's 111 pitches (30.6 percent).
The Rockies hoped to erase a baserunner and possibly make the fifth easier on Gray when they challenged a safe call at second base on Maikel Franco's fielder's choice grounder with one out. But after 2 minutes, 25 seconds, the replay official ruled that there was no angle that showed definitively that shortstop Daniel Descalso's right foot was on second base when he received DJ LeMahieu's throw in an atempt to retire Aaron Altherr. The call stood, Gray faced Howard with nowhere to put him, and Howard smashed the Rockies -- again.
Rockies: Left-hander Tyler Anderson (4-3, 3.04 ERA), who has the lowest ERA through his first 11 starts of any pitcher in franchise history, will start Saturday night against the Phillies at 5:05 p.m. MT. On July 9, Anderson held the Phillies to two runs in six innings and homered, while also earning his first win.
Phillies: Jerad Eickhoff (7-12, 3.78 ERA) looks to avenge his last start against the Rockies on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. ET. In his first meeting vs. Colorado at Coors Field, the Rockies put up a six-spot in the sixth, en route to a season-high eight runs allowed by Eickhoff in 5 1/3 innings.

Astros' youth powers victory over Blue Jays

 The Astros were looking to make amends Friday night after dropping three of four to the Blue Jays last week, and it was their youth that got the job done.
Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove tossed seven strong innings and outfielder Teoscar Hernandez homered in his big league debut to lead Houston to a 5-3 victory over Toronto in the series opener at Rogers Centre. American League batting leader Jose Altuve added a double and a pair of RBIs in the victory.
Musgrove allowed two runs while scattering six hits and walking one against the team that originally drafted him back in 2011. The 23-year-old has now allowed just three earned runs over 18 1/3 innings since he was promoted from the Minor Leagues at the beginning of August.
"It's awesome," Musgrove said about earning his first win against the team that drafted him. "By no means am I trying to do anything against them, I'm just trying to do my job and get us back in the race here. It was definitely nice for me to do it here."
Lefty Francisco Liriano took the loss for Toronto after he surrendered five runs on eight hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings. He started off the game with a three-up, three-down first inning but then appeared to leave a lot of hanging sliders up in the zone throughout the game. Edwin Encarnacion reached the 300-homer career milestone with a solo shot in the ninth inning.
"I thought it was kind of a mixed bag," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I thought he threw better than the line would indicate. He had some chopped balls … but overall, I didn't think it was that bad of an outing. There were a lot of good things we liked. He has a live ball, he's going to get some ground balls. They just squared a couple of balls up that were costly."
With the loss, Toronto allowed the Orioles to temporarily pull even with them for first place in the American League East, pending the result of Baltimore's game in San Francisco late Friday night. The Astros remained two games back of Boston for the second AL Wild Card spot after the Red Sox also won on Friday night.
Teoscar time: Making his Major League debut, Hernandez recorded his first career hit with a home run in the top of the sixth inning against Liriano, giving the Astros a 5-2 lead. According to Statcast™, Hernandez's solo blast traveled a projected 374 feet and left the bat at 100 mph. Hernandez drew a walk in the top of the third during his first official plate appearance and finished his outing 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
"It means a lot to me," Hernandez said about his first Major League home run. "Liriano's one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues, and to get my first hit and my first home run against him is so exciting for me."
Signs of life from Saunders: Michael Saunders entered this game hitting .153 (11-for-72) since the All-Star break, but he made some noise early. The veteran outfielder led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a home run to left-center field. According to Statcast™, Saunders' 20th of the year was projected to travel 391 feet and left his bat at 95 mph. This also marked the first time in Saunders' career he reached the 20-homer plateau after previously reaching 19 in 2012.
Inching closer: Altuve moved within five hits of 1,000 for his career with a tie-breaking, two-run double in the top of the fifth inning off Liriano. The Astros' second baseman remains on pace to become the quickest player in franchise history to reach the 1,000-hit plateau. The double also extended Altuve's road on-base streak to 42 consecutive games.
"Altuve finds his way, on a night where he was sort of off, to be in the middle of a big hit." Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
No. 300: Encarnacion became the second Blue Jays player this month to pick up career home run No. 300 when he hit a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth inning. Teammate Jose Bautista joined the club last week in Houston, and this time it was Encarnacion's turn to take center stage. Encarnacion became the 11th active player in the Major Leagues to reach the 300-homer plateau and the 11th Dominican-born player.
"I'm really proud to be on that list with all of those guys," Encarnacion said through an interpreter after the game. "I never thought I was going to get there, but I'm really glad and really happy." More >
"I've been trying to look for answers. I try to go out there and do my job, but it has happened to me a lot this year. I'm looking for answers, but it just happens like that." -- Liriano, on consistently falling behind hitters for most of the game
The Blue Jays are the fifth team with three players who have 20 or more home runs this season. Baltimore, Detroit, Seattle and Colorado are the others.
Astros: Collin McHugh gets the ball for the Astros on Saturday, searching for his first win since July 23. The 29-year-old right-hander took the loss against the Blue Jays on Aug. 3 in Houston, allowing three runs over six innings. First pitch is set for 12:07 p.m. CT.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series against the Astros on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre, with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET. Sanchez allowed four runs over six innings during his last start against the Royals.

Freeman, Braves rock Strasburg, Nationals

 Freddie Freeman showed why he is a nemesis to the Nationals on Friday night. He homered and drove in four runs to lead the Braves to an 8-5 win at Nationals Park.
Right-hander Stephen Strasburg started for Washington and had his worst outing of the year, allowing a season-high six runs in 5 1/3 innings, and he was denied his 16th victory of the season.
"We've faced some pretty good pitching over the course of the summer," Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said after his team won for the 11th time in the past 16 games. "But the guys are never down and they're never out. They've been beat over the head for the majority of the season, but they come, they prepare, they grind out at-bats and leave it all out on the field. The record is no indication of how I feel this team is or how those guys play."
Despite the loss, Jayson Werth reached base for the 41st consecutive game with a seventh-inning RBI double. Werth is two short of the Nationals record set by Ryan Zimmerman in 2009.
Freeman got the Braves on the board in the first inning with an RBI double. An inning later,Jace Peterson gave Atlanta a 2-0 lead with his sixth home run.
"It was too much Freddie Freeman. He has had a tremendous amount of success in this ballpark and it continued tonight," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.
By the fourth inning, however, the Nationals took a 3-2 lead against right-hander Mike FoltynewiczAnthony Rendon highlighted the scoring with a two-run homer. But Atlanta retook the lead in the fifth, when Foltynewicz delivered a leadoff double and Freeman hit a three-run homer over the left-field wall to give Atlanta a 5-3 lead.
Strasburg left in the sixth inning with a runner on first with one out. Matt Belisle took over and allowed a two-run homer to Anthony Recker. Atlanta added one more run in the seventh inning when Freeman scored on Peterson's sacrifice fly.
"He didn't have anything in the tank in the middle innings," Baker said. "He ran out of gas. The heat kind of got to him and the opposing pitcher [Foltynewicz]."
Strasburg didn't have any excuses for his disappointing outing. He said he gave it everything he had, but needed to have better preparation before the game.
"It's still a learning process. I have to keep working on the preparation part and see what I can do to keep my hand dry, keep my legs feeling good," Strasburg said. "I don't want to sit here and make excuses. I didn't execute tonight. The Braves put some good swings on the ball."
Diversified power: This marked the fifth time this season, and the second time within the past seven games, the Braves hit at least three home runs in a game. Freeman's three-run shot gave him more home runs (four in 34 at-bats) than anybody against Strasburg, and Recker's two-run blast was his first of the season. Peterson sparked the power barrage when he led off the second with his sixth homer of the season, matching the total he produced in 302 more at-bats last year.
"We started it in inning one and kept it going all the way through," said Freeman, who is hitting .412 in his career against Strasburg and .327 against the Nationals. "Obviously Strasburg has been great all year. To come out and get on him early was a good thing for us."
Rendon going strong:  Rendon has hit safely in 17 out of his last 21 games, going 26-for-77 (.337) with five home runs and 17 RBIs.
Good enough: Foltynewicz kept the Nationals hitless until Trea Turner recorded a two-out RBI single in the third and then paid for the curveball that Rendon sent over the left-center field wall in the fourth. The competitive right-hander might have allowed his emotions to get the best of him on a few occasions, but he was one out from recording a quality start before his outing ended with Brian Goodwin's RBI single in the sixth.
"The main goal every time you go out there is to give your team the best chance to win," Foltynewicz said. "I think I did an OK job of that tonight. The offense came out and attacked one of the best pitchers in baseball and got me an early lead. I kind of gave it up there for a minute, but the way this team has been hitting, I knew they were going to get me some runs. So, I just kept attacking."
Werthy streak: After making outs in his first three at-bats, Werth extended his on-base streak to 41 games in the seventh with a double off reliever Jose Ramirez. Werth has a chance to tie Zimmerman's club-record streak of 43 this weekend against the Braves. More >
By striking out Nick Markakis in the fifth inning, Strasburg passed Javier Vazquez for second place on the franchise strikeout list with 1,077.
The Braves totaled 13 home runs through this season's first 38 games. They have hit 12 home runs through the first eight games of this road trip.
Braves: Rob Whalen will be on the mound when Atlanta and Washington resume this three-game series on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Whalen has impressed the Braves as he has created good movement on his sinker and shown poise during his only two previous career starts.
Nationals: Reynaldo Lopez, the Nats' No. 3 prospect according to, will be summoned from Triple-A to make his third Major League start. The hard-throwing righty struggled in his previous two callups, allowing a combined nine runs in 8 2/3 innings against the Giants and Dodgers.

Cubs pump it up vs. Cards as streak goes to 11

Dog days of August? Not for the Cubs, who have yet to lose in 10 games this month. Chicago jumped on St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright for seven runs in the first two innings en route to its 11th straight win, a 13-2 victory on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. It's the first time the Cubs have won 11 in a row since a 12-game streak in 2001.
Matt Szczur recorded his first career multihomer game, rookie Willson Contreras belted a three-run homer, Javier Baez added a two-run shot and Jorge Soler hit a solo jack to backJake Arrieta, who scattered four hits over 5 2/3 innings.
"What's unique about the group of guys we have is we have a lot of youth who have continued to learn on a really fast pace," Arrieta said.
The fire alarm went off in the Cubs' clubhouse after the game, but it had nothing to do with the red-hot streak the team is on. The fog machine in the celebration room apparently triggered the alarm.
"It happens every night," Arrieta said. "I'm surprised the alarm doesn't go off more often."
The Cubs are a season-high 32 games over .500 for the first time since finishing last year at 97-65, and they have a 14-game lead in the National League Central. This is Chicago's largest lead this late in the season since a 14 1/2-game cushion on Sept. 15, 1929. That year, the Cubs were the NL champs, but they lost to the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series, 4-1.
Wainwright was lifted after two innings, matching the shortest outing of his career. The Cardinals have lost nine of their past 13 games.
"We're disappointed in how this season has gone," Wainwright said. "We're not like we should [be]. We should play a lot better than we have leading up to this point. We haven't played like we can."
Hail, Szczur: Cubs manager Joe Maddon gave a few regulars the day off after Thursday's extra-inning night game, and Szczur made his third start in center field. He made the most of it. Szczur doubled to lead off the Chicago first and scored on the first of two RBI doubles byKris Bryant. Szczur then led off the sixth with his fourth homer and added a two-run blast in the seventh. He hit one homer in 47 games last season with the Cubs.
Dexter Fowler, who Szczur replaced in center and at the leadoff spot for the day, got some good-natured ribbing about being replaced.
"I know my role," said Szczur, who will be back on the bench Saturday. "I'm going to stay in my lane. I show up to work every day and I try to be the best every day, no matter where I'm positioned at or what spot I'm in." More >
Early exit: Five days after allowing six runs before he recorded his sixth out, Wainwright surrendered seven in his two frames against Chicago. But unlike that last start in which he rebounded to finish six innings, Wainwright would not be given that chance on Friday. The only other time in his career that he had been pulled after two innings was on Aug. 28, 2013, after allowing nine runs to the Reds. The seven earned runs allowed matched a season high for Wainwright.
"I hadn't done anything to warrant him to want me to keep pitching," Wainwright said. "That's what I deserved. That was terrible. That was pathetic. I just let the team down." More >
Soler power: Friday was Soler's second start in the outfield since he was activated from the disabled list, and he delivered an RBI single in the second and a solo homer in the sixth. The Cubs are counting on the outfielder to find the same groove he did in the postseason last October, when he batted .474 in seven games.
Home run issues: In an effort to save his bullpen, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny stuck with reliever Jerome Williams, despite how ugly things got when Williams covered the final three innings of the game. Williams became the fourth reliever in franchise history to surrender four home runs in a game. It's an infamous piece of history that he now shares with Brett Tomko (June 14, 2003), Todd Burns (Aug. 24, 1993) and Johnny Stuart (June 22, 1925). Williams entered the day not having allowed a run in four appearances with St. Louis since being called up on July 25.
"He's got to wear it," Matheny said of Williams. "He knew coming in that he was going to have a versatile job description, and part of that was going to be pitching when we just needed innings. And we needed innings."
"We know what we're capable of. Regardless of how many games you win the division by, it's a good thing, but once you get to October, the slate is clean. That's the focus. Obviously, we'll try to continue to play good baseball up until that point, clinch the division and go from there. We've done a really nice job." -- Arrieta
"When you pull your starter after two and you have your starting catcher coming out after four [innings], it's obvious that you just have to lick your wounds, fight your way [through], maybe give some guys an opportunity to get [the team] back into it. It's just one of those games you try to make the most of and find some positives." -- Matheny
Stephen Piscotty's homer off Arrieta in the fifth was the first served up by the right-hander at Wrigley Field since Ryan Howard connected for the Phillies on July 25, 2015.
The Cubs' five home runs matches their season high. They've reached that mark three other times, most recently on June 27 at Cincinnati.
Cardinals: Luke Weaver, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the organization's No. 2 prospect, will be making his Major League debut as the Cardinals try to halt the Cubs' winning streak on Saturday. Weaver, who steps in for an injured Michael Wacha, posted a 1.30 ERA in 13 Minor League starts this season.
Cubs: There's no place like Wrigley Field for Kyle Hendricks, who will start Saturday. He's 8-1 with a 1.19 ERA at home, the best home ERA in the Majors. He has the second-best ERA in the big leagues at 2.17, and since June 19, he's 7-1 with a 1.06 ERA. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT.