Take a look around the league with Big League Stew's daily wrap up. We'll hit on all of the biggest moments from the day that you may have missed, while providing highlights, photos and interesting stats.

Looks like Texas Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder is back. The 31-year-old came into the year with major questions after undergoing neck surgery last season, but he's been able to quiet the doubters thus far.

He put those skills on display on the national level Sunday night against the New York Yankees. Fielder picked up three hits during the contest, leading Texas to the 5-2 win. Fielder hit a double and two singles, finishing 3 for 5, with two RBI.

That stat line seems pretty familiar to Prince this season. Over 193 plate appearances, he's hitting an impressive .360/.415/.554. 

Some of the batting average is due to luck, but Fielder deserves credit for returning to form. He's been able to cut his strikeout rate to a career-low 11.1 percent. While his walk rate is also at a career-low, he's shown the ability to take walks at a high pace in the past. Also, his low walk rate is hardly a concern if he continues producing like this.

While Fielder is swinging a bit more, he's also making contact at a career-high 85.6 percent. It appears he's traded some patience for contact, and it's been working. The biggest positive is that his aggressive approach hasn't limited his power just yet. His home run rate of 14.5 percent is slightly low compared to his career-rate, so there's a chance it will rise moving forward. Then again, perhaps this new version of Prince isn't as dependent on the long ball. 

For now, whatever he's doing is working. Though the Rangers are just 21-23, Fielder's revival has been an encouraging sign for the franchise.

PIRATES' PITCHING PUTS METS IN PRECARIOUS POSITION

The Pittsburgh Pirates managed to complete the sweep over the New York Mets on Sunday. Francisco Liriano led the way during the 9-1 victory.

Actually, all three of the Pirates starters dominated during the series. Gerrit Cole struck out 10 while nearly tossing a complete game Friday, A.J. Burnett followed that up with a 10 strikeout performance Saturday and Liriano added an incredible 12 strikeouts during Sunday's game.

It was the first time since 1969 that a trio of Pirates starters struck out double-digit batters in three straight games. Burnett, Cole and Liriano struck out 32 Mets over 21 1/3 innings during the sweep. 

With the win, the Pirates are just one game under .500. They trail the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central by 3.0 games.

MICHAEL WACHA REMAINS PERFECT

St. Louis Cardinals starter Michael Wacha may never lose another game. The 23-year-old improved to 7-0 after Sunday's 6-1 win over the Kansas City Royals.

Wacha has been operating with a slightly altered approach this year, but it seems to have worked out thus far. The right-handers strikeout rate has dropped quite a bit, but he's been able to balance that by picking up more grounders. 

Wacha's .231 BABIP suggests regression could be coming, however, so there may come a time where he'll need to reach back and start picking up more strikeouts. 

For now, though, all appears to be right. The Cardinals have been able to remain at the top despite losing Adam Wainwright for the season, and Wacha's emergence has been a big part of it. 

Wacha tossed just 107 innings last season due to shoulder issues, so the club may want to limit his usage moving forward. Based on how he's going now, it's going to be incredibly tough to take him out of the rotation at any point.

HOT IN CLEVELAND

Don't look now, but the Cleveland Indians are starting to get hot. The franchise picked up its sixth-straight win with a 5-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Since their 7-14 start in April, the club has improved to 13-9 during May. Despite the recent winning streak, the team remains eight games out of first in the American League Central. 

The rotation has been a big part of the recent surge.

The Indians have four of the 12 best starting pitchers in the American League by FIP this season http://t.co/pq97rL0hD5

— August Fagerstrom (@AugustF_MLB) May 24, 2015

On top of that, catcher Yan Gomes just returned from a knee injury Sunday. He'll not only provide a strong upgrade on offense, but he's also considered a useful defensive asset. 

While Cleveland still has a long way to go before they are considered contenders, they are finally starting to perform like many expected in the preseason.

Want to see more from Sunday's slate of games? Check out our scoreboard.

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 25, 2015, 4:43 am

(Getty Images)The Casey McGehee era in San Francisco has come to an end. The Giants designated the veteran third baseman for assignment Sunday morning.

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The club didn't wait all that long to make the move. McGehee played in just 35 games with the team after being acquired during the offseason. The 32-year-old hit just .200/.254/.282 over 118 plate appearances.

The team will now have 10 days to trade, waive or outright McGehee. Any team can put in a claim for McGehee on waivers, but it's assumed his $4.8 million salary will scare clubs away. 

McGehee has not decided whether he would accept an assignment to Triple-A, according to Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News. 

“That’s not a decision I feel I’m capable of making in 10 minutes,” McGehee said. “There’s other people involved, my family. When I’m here I try to play for the team and do what the team asks, but as far as life, you’ve got another team you’ve got to consider and that’s your wife and your kids.

“I told (Bruce Bochy) and Bobby both, there’s a lot of good here. It’s obvious the team’s playing good, it’s a great organization, it’s home, pretty much, for me. There’s a lot of good here. So I’ve got some things to think about.”
With McGehee out of the picture, the club will roll with rookie Matt Duffy at third. McGehee met with Duffy after he had been given the news, and told the rookie that he shouldn't feel conflicted about the situation. 
“I just want Duff to make sure he has nothing to feel bad about,” McGehee said. “He’s doing his job, he’s doing it really well, and you know, the rest of it I’ll leave between us. But basically I wanted to make sure that he knew he has absolutely nothing to feel bad about. He should be proud that he’s forced the issue to the point where you’ve got to get him on the field, and that’s what his job is. That’s what he’s supposed to do.”
The 24-year-old Duffy has hit .299/.330/.402 over 105 plate appearances thus far. 
McGehee told reporters he did not believe he had played his final major-league game, though it's unclear where or when that will happen. If this is the end of the line for McGehee, it would end one of the more unique careers in the game.
After being claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers, McGehee developed into a solid third baseman for two seasons. His production dropped in 2011, and he became a part-time player in 2012. Following the 2012 season, McGehee left for Japan.
He was fantastic overseas, hitting .292/.376/.515. His performance earned him a shot with the Miami Marlins, where he posted a solid comeback season in 2014. Following Pablo Sandoval's departure, San Franciso acquired McGehee to be their starting third baseman in December. 
Clearly, the move didn't work out. After a slow start, the Giants have managed to claw their way back into the National League West race. While it's rare to see a team part ways with a veteran this soon into the season, this is a team that has earned some trust over the past couple years.

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McGehee is a great story, and seems like a great teammate, but he wasn't giving San Francisco the production they were seeking. McGehee has already played his way out of the league once. It's unclear whether he'll get a third chance now.

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Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 25, 2015, 1:55 am

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter made his triumphant return to Yankee Stadium on Sunday. Jeter wasn't just there to enjoy the game, however, he came to support former teammate Bernie Williams.

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The club retired Williams' number prior to the contest, and enshrined him in Monument Park. Williams has not played in the majors during the last nine season, but formerly retired earlier this season. The franchise has not allowed another player to wear No. 51 since Williams left in 2006. The team will also wear a commemorative patch on their jerseys in honor of Williams. 

For Jeter, it was the first time he had appeared at Yankee Stadium since his retirement. 

Derek Jeter is on hand for #BernieDay celebrations! pic.twitter.com/U9RU53DUAy

— Yankees PR Dept. (@YankeesPR) May 24, 2015

The former shortstop was joined by a number of his teammates, including Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.

Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, grinning from ear to ear on #BernieDay. pic.twitter.com/rb10FKRAgX

— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 24, 2015

Earlier this season, Jeter made it clear that he's enjoying his retirement, and has no regrets about walking away from the game. 

For the most part, he's managed to keep a pretty low profile after leaving the game. Jeter popped up at a charity event in Japan to support former teammate Hideki Matsui, but, other than that, he's stayed out of the spotlight. 

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In that sense, it was probably great for the fans to see the captain on the field once again. Despite his popularity, Jeter never pursued attention as a player. Considering that, it's not really a surprise that his life away from the game has remained quiet.

Though he's settled in to a mostly carefree life post-baseball, Jeter will always have a place at Yankee Stadium. While it doesn't appear he has any interest to get back into the game, Jeter will always remain a beloved figure in New York when he does show up for future Yankees events.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 25, 2015, 12:55 am

The San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies had a long day at the ballpark on Saturday. The division rivals met up for a day/night doubleheader that was scheduled to begin at 2:10 and 7:10 pm respectively in Denver, but ended up way behind schedule thanks to extensive weather delays before both games.

It was a taxing day for the players, and in many ways it was both a taxing and confusing day for the fans as the game times were changed. In fact, at one point the gates were actually opening for the night game while the afternoon game was still ongoing.

Mother Nature can be cruel sometimes, especially in the Rocky Mountain area. However, for one fan who braved the elements and stuck around for the second game, the wait was worth it.

His moment of glory happened In the fourth inning when Colorado's Ben Paulsen pulled a foul ball into the scarce gathering along the right field line. Our fan was in the perfect spot to make a play on the ball, but couldn't make the clean catch because he was wearing winter gloves instead of a baseball glove.

Initially, there was much disappointment. However, it was quickly discovered that his jacket saved the day. After bouncing off his hand, it landed perfectly in the pouch.

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Seriously. Look again. There's probably a joke here about all the Rockies success being accidental, but that's assuming he's a Rockies fan. Either way, that's a fan catch for the ages and another reminder that baseball souvenirs are totally random and you should not feel bad for never catching one.

By the way, the Giants and Rockies ended up splitting the games. San Francisco won the opener 10-8 to extend its winning streak to eight, but Colorado rebounded in the nightcap to win 5-3. 

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 24, 2015, 8:29 pm

Your browser does not support iframes. When Memorial Day arrives on Monday, it will take on an extra-special meaning for St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Mitch Harris.

When the Cardinals line up to face the Arizona Diamondbacks at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Harris will proudly wear the uniform of the first and only professional baseball team he's represented, while reflecting on his time in another cherished uniform representing the United States Naval Academy.

After being drafted by St. Louis in 13th round of the 2008 draft, Harris had to put those baseball dreams on hold until 2013 as he fulfilled his five-year term after graduating from Navy. But all the while Harris knew he had a commitment to himself to continue working hard to keep the baseball door open. To stay sharp he'd play catch on the flight deck with one of the ship's cooks during his downtime.

It wasn't the same as throwing a bullpen session in college or the minor leagues, but it allowed him to work on his mechanics and take off with some momentum and comfort when he returned to the Cardinals.

Amazingly, the hard work paid off. After two years in the minors, Harris debuted for St. Louis on April 26 during a game at Miller Park in Milwaukee. He had the unenviable task of replacing an injured Adam Wainwright that night, but handled his task with poise and effectiveness.

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He also made history that night, becoming the first Navy graduate to appear in MLB since Nemo Gaines in 1921.

Harris' story is truly remarkable, and we've really only covered the outline here. Thanks to MLB Network and its most recent special feature, we've all been afforded the opportunity to learn more about the decisions Harris faced and the sacrifices he's made on multiple levels to balance his commitments with his dream.

It's a timely feature that will be airing during MLB Network programming on Sunday and again on Memorial Day, but if you have a few minutes right now, we strongly encourage you to click the video above and check it out.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 24, 2015, 6:11 pm

The Houston Astros entered play on Saturday with the third highest winning percentage in MLB. Third!

Needless to say, they've been the biggest and/or most pleasant surprise in the entire league, and they've done it by doing everything well. That includes hitting a league-leading 62 home runs, a pitching staff that ranks top 10 in ERA (3.50) and of course, playing excellent defense.

In Saturday's 3-2 win against the Detroit Tigers, it was the latter two that shined the most. Rookie Lance McCullers allowed just two runs on six hits over six sharp innings in his second career start, but it wouldn't have been possible without one nifty defensive play in the fifth inning that resulted in three quick outs.

That's right, the Astros turned a triple play. The franchise's first since 2004.

Detroit actually plated a temporary go-ahead run in the inning after James McCann led off with a double and then came around to score after Jose Iglesias' infield single and a throwing error that allowed Anthony Gose to reach. Obviously they were poised to do much more damage and potentially blow the game open when Ian Kinsler stepped in.

Kinsler, who's still without a home run this season but has managed a solid .295/.367/.382 battling line, worked himself into a 2-1 count but couldn't take advantage. He hit a soft chopper to third baseman Jonathan Villar, who stepped on third to start the smooth 5-4-3, around the horn triple play.

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There's really nothing fancy to play up. It was about as routine as a triple play can be, but credit the Astros nonetheless for getting the optimum result at the absolute best time.

It was definitely a turning point in the game. After holding the deficit at one run, Houston's offense immediately responded with two runs in the next half inning to take a 3-2 lead. Jason Castro and Marwin Gonzalez each delivered RBI singles in the inning, and then McCullers and three Astros took it from there. In fact, the Tigers never had another baserunner following the triple play.

With the win, the Astros improved to 28-16 overall, good enough for a 5 1/2 game lead over the Angels in the AL West. Houston is also an MLB-best 11-4 record in one-run games this season after going 17-28 in such contests last season. That mark was second worst in MLB.

Indeed, everything has turned around in Houston, and with each victory the team's staying power looks even stronger.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 24, 2015, 4:27 pm

The influx of talent from Cuba has been increasing rapidly in recent months and that continues with a player who many scouts believe was the best pitching prospect remaining on the island. 

Norge Luis Ruiz, a 21-year-old right-hander, is headed to America according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez with the intention of signing a big league contract.

Sources tell me top Cuban RHP prospect Norge Luis Ruiz, 21, has left the island and will be seeking a Major League contract. #Cuba

— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) May 22, 2015

In a subscription-only post less than one month ago, Baseball America's Ben Badler rated Ruiz the top pitcher in Cuba and its eighth best prospect overall. The early belief is Ruiz's stuff could translate to a mid-rotation pitcher in MLB, though obviously at 21 there's still room for development and improvement. 

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In 264 innings covering 38 starts and four relief appearances in Cuba, Ruiz posted a 17-11 record with a 2.25 ERA. He hasn't been overpowering with only 164 strikeouts, and he's walked a batter every three innings, but he's still been effective.

A big reason? He's only allowed 10 home runs. Different level of competition of course, but that's always encouraging. 

Badler has more on the time frame in which Ruiz could sign: 

While Ruiz will be subject to the international bonus pools, he’s old enough that he won’t be subject to to Major League Baseball’s registration rules, which means he should be able to sign during the upcoming 2015-16 international signing period once he establishes residency and applies for the commissioner’s office for free agency. Since Ruiz will be subject to the bonus pools, he will not be able to sign a major league contract, which means that he will have to sign a minor league contract with all of the money put into his signing bonus, as was the case with Red Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada, Diamondbacks righthander Yoan Lopez and Angels shortstop Roberto Baldoquin.

That means the Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees almost certainly won't be in the running to sign Ruiz because they've exceeded their bonus pool limits for 2014-15. As a result, they won't be able to offer pool-eligible players more than $300,000 for two full years beginning July 2. Obviously, that won't be enough to sign Ruiz, and there's no reason for him to wait two years, so the bidding will be open among the 25 remaining teams.

There's no early word on which teams might be interested, but Ruiz's market should be established quickly once he starts scheduling workouts.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 24, 2015, 7:52 am

Take a look around the league with Big League Stew's daily wrap up. We'll hit on all of the biggest moments from the day that you may have missed, while providing highlights, photos and interesting stats.

How's this for a pitching performance? Los Angeles Dodgers starter Mike Bolsinger allowed a leadoff single to San Diego's Yangervis Solarte in the first inning, and that was it for the evening.

Bolsinger, who's been thrust into action following injuries to Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, recovered to induce a ground ball double play from Cory Spangenberg and strike out Matt Kemp to end the first inning. From there, he retired the next 21 batters in succession until being lifted following the eighth inning.

Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth and continued the roll, setting down all three batters he faced to wrap up the 2-0 victory.

Though not a perfect game, it's pretty much the most efficient game a pitching staff can throw. The Dodgers faced the minimum 27 batters and needed exactly 100 pitches to go the distance. Bolsinger ended up with eight strikeouts over his eight innings while lowering his ERA to 0.71 over four starts. He's currently on an 18 2/3 scoreless innings streak.

Offensively, the Dodgers had all they needed one batter into the game. Joc Pederson, who hit the game-winning homer in Friday's win, launched a leadoff blast on Saturday. Howie Kendrick also homered off Dan Haren.

As for the Padres, it's the eighth time their revamped offense has been shutout this season and the sixth time in their past 18 games.

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ANTHONY RIZZO PLAYS HERO WITH HOME RUN, SIX RBIS

After a difficult loss in 13 innings on Friday, the Chicago Cubs turned to the rock in the middle of their batting order for guidance on Saturday. Anthony Rizzo answered the call, driving in a career-high six runs in Chicago's 9-6 win.

Rizzo did all of his damage with two big swings. In the fifth, he cleared the bases with a ringing double off Rubby De La Rosa. He then provided the difference for the Cubs with a go-ahead three-run homer off Enrique Burgos in the ninth.

The Cubs bailed out Jake Arrieta, who experienced a rare difficult start on Saturday. Arrieta allowed six runs (three earned) on seven hits in six innings. They pulled even following his exit on Jorge Soler's two-run double. Ediwn Jackson, James Russell, Jason Motte and Pedro Strop combined for three innings of hitless relief to secure the win.

With the victory, Chicago gained another game on the St. Louis Cardinals, who lost 3-2 in a rain-shortened game in Kansas City. The Cubs sit 2 1/2 back headed into Sunday.

MATT HARVEY ROUGHED UP IN PITTSBURGH

Even baseball's "Dark Knight" is due for a dark day every now and then. On Saturday, Matt Harvey experienced his against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing a season-high seven runs in a season-low four innings as the Mets fell 8-2

Harvey was done in by the long ball early, allowing a two-run homer to Andrew McCutchen in the first and a solo blast to Pedro Alvarez in the second. The Pirates continued pecking away in the fourth, sending eight batters to the plate and scoring four times. Opposing starter A.J. Burnett even contributed a sacrifice fly, which further cements this as an off day for Harvey.

Speaking of Burnett, he was outstanding, allowing just one run on five hits through seven frames. He struck out a season-high 10 while lowering his ERA to an astonishing 1.37.

Pittsburgh will go for the three-game series sweep on Sunday as they inch closer to .500 at 20-22. The Mets fell to 24-20, but remained a game and a half behind Washington.

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COLE HAMELS CRUISES AS STEPHEN STRASBURG STRUGGLES AGAIN

It was a tale of two pitchers in Washington. Phillies ace Cole Hamels, who still figures to be traded prior to the July 31 trade deadline, was outstanding again. Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg, who may need a change of scenary to get on track, continued to scuffle as the Phillies knocked him around in their 8-1 victory

For Hamels, it was his fourth consecutive win in as many starts and his fifth in six outings. He pitched eight innings, allowing one run on five hits. The 31-year-old left-hander's stock continues to rise as his ERA lowered under 3.00 for the first time all season. He's at 2.98 with a home matchup against Colorado awaiting next weekend.

For Strasburg, well, there's not much good to say. He was tagged for six runs (five earned) in 3 2/3 innings. His defense didn't help, committing four errors during his abbreviated outing, but he wasn't fooling many batters on this afternoon. Strasburg has now failed to complete four innings in three of his last four outings. He hasn't completed six since April 25 in Miami.

Something's definitely off, and it's up to Strasburg and the Nationals to figure it out quickly.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 24, 2015, 7:00 am

Baltimore Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz was ejected in the 12th inning of Saturday's 1-0 loss to the Miami Marlins after umpires discovered a foreign substance on his non-throwing arm.

Matusz was in his first inning of work and had already retired Justin Bour and J.T. Realmuto when new Marlins manager Dan Jennings emerged from the dugout to request that Matusz's right arm be checked for the substance. Home plate umpire Jordan Baker and crew chief Paul Emmel complied and quickly discovered the substance. Matusz was immediately ejected.

It's the exact scenario that played out with Milwaukee Brewers reliever Will Smith on Thursday, which makes it all the more baffling that Matusz would carelessly leave the substance on his arm. Smith was levied an eight-game suspension, so it's safe to assume Matusz's impending punishment will follow suit.

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As Yahoo's Jeff Passan documented last season when New York Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda was suspended for having a glob of pine tar on his hand, it's not uncommon for pitchers to use pine tar or a mix of sunscreen and rosin to help them achieve a better grip. Though illegal, opposing teams routinely dismiss it because they also prefer the pitcher to have a solid grip. 

It's only on the rare occasion when the substance is visible that teams seem to make a fuss about it, and even then it's a rarity. But now that we've seen it twice in one week, perhaps pitchers will have to refine their foreign substance routines.  

Glad to see the age of Performance Enhancing Sunscreen is upon us. Just make the stuff legal so we're spared the faux morality of it all.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 24, 2015

Fact: Almost every pitcher uses something "illegal" for grip. Fact: Almost every hitter is OK w/ that. Opinion: Managers should let it go.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 24, 2015

Another factor in play here might be desperation on the part of Jennings, who had gone winless through his first five games as Marlins manager. Maybe it's a little, "look at me, I've got my finger on the pulse on this game" to show fans he's capable of handling the job. 

(Getty Images)

If so, he got the fans' attention alright, but he also got the attention of the Orioles and Matusz. 

"I have my own personal opinions about the issue but right now with emotions running high, we're going to let this settle and address questions at a later time," Matusz said to MASN Sports.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell said the best redemption against the Braves would be getting a victory, which they did on Friday. Not to suggest the Orioles will go a different route, but it will be interesting to see what happens in Sunday's series finale. 

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 24, 2015, 5:10 am

(AP)The Texas Rangers have set a time and a place for Josh Hamilton's return.

Speaking on Saturday night, general manager Jon Daniels confirmed that Hamilton will be activated and available for duty when they meet the Cleveland Indians on Monday at Progressive Field. Hamilton is scheduled to fly into Cleveland on Sunday where his teammates will meet him following their Sunday night game against the New York Yankees.

Hamilton was scheduled to play one final rehab game for the Triple-A Round Rock Express on Saturday night. That game was postponed by rain, but the Rangers elected to stick to their plan to activate Hamilton on Monday, citing that he'd proven himself to be ready physically.

Jon Daniels on Hamilton: "Josh is physically and game ready to get started." Triple A Round Rock was rained out Saturday.

— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) May 24, 2015

Hamilton finishes his 12-game rehab stint with a .364/.391/.545 batting line between Round Rock and Double-A Frisco. He homered in his final game with Frisco on Wednesday and delivered five doubles in 44-at bats. He struck out 10 times.

Hamilton was traded back to the Rangers on April 26 after a falling out with the Los Angeles Angels over his admitted relapse involving drugs and alcohol. He'll play his first game back in Arlington on Thursday against the Boston Red Sox. 

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An independent arbitrator decided Hamilton should not be suspended after the commissioner's office and the player's union were deadlocked on disciplinary action for a violation to MLB's drug-treatment program. That means Hamilton has been eligible to play all season, but he was also recovering from February shoulder surgery.

He's healthy now though, and he's expected to earn regular playing time in left field, where the Rangers have mixed and matched with five different players this season. 

Big League Stew will be following Hamilton's return closely, so be sure to check back for updates leading up to and during his return. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 24, 2015, 3:09 am

As of Friday, New York Mets third baseman David Wright appeared to be nearing a rehab assignment as he worked his way back from a strained right hamstring suffered in April.

However, as learned on Saturday, the concern has now shifted to his ailing back and a condition that could potentially threaten or at least shorten his career. 

According to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo, Wright has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which means he has a narrowing of the spinal column.

The #Mets have diagnosed David Wright with stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column. They believe he will heal, but it will take time.

— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) May 23, 2015

The Mets are obviously approaching this with optimism, but one can't ignore the fact that spinal stenosis played a role in Lenny Dykstra's retirement from MLB in 1998 and also led to New York Giants running back David Wilson retiring during training camp in 2014. 

Different times in history, different sports and perhaps different circumstances related to the injury, but still not a promising precedent for the Mets captain.

Wright missed two months in 2011 with a stress fracture in his lower back. Doctors in New York dismissed a repeat of that injury when he visited them earlier this month. A potential disk issue was ruled out as well. 

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At this point, Wright's condition will require rest. Right now, the Mets plan to shut him down from baseball activities for one week in hopes that the rest and the continuation of back-strengthening exercises will get him on the right track.

"He's still experiencing some lower-back tightness," assistant GM John Ricco said. "It's at the point where we're going to stop the on-field stuff for a week, continue with a program of core strengthening and basically back-stabilization exercises. They hope that will alleviate what he's feeling.

"When I talked to David, he said that when they initially put him on some medication, he got a lot of relief. But that's kind of plateaued. It hasn't been knocked out completely. So the doctor said that to try to give that a chance to happen we want to back off the running and just get him doing these exercises for another week and see where we are at that point."

The new diagnosis leaves Wright without any type of timetable for his return. It's essentially a day-to-day and week-to-week situation that the team must delicately manage to avoid another setback. It's probably too early to say Wright's season or anything beyond that is in jeopardy, but these next few weeks figure to be critical in determining that status.

Wright’s prognosis hinges on severity. Here’s a good sign: it sounds like the pain level Wright has is something he could play through...

— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) May 24, 2015

… in really bad cases, the condition makes it painful to stand up or even walk. Clearly, Wright not near that extreme.

— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) May 24, 2015

Without Wright, the Mets will continue rolling with Eric Campbell at third base. An upgrade could be necessary however if Wright doesn't show improvement, as Campbell has managed just a .197/.323/.303 battling line over 24 games. If the Mets plan on contending, they will definitely need better production from that position, and right now there's no sure bet on the roster.

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 24, 2015, 1:50 am

It might be premature to say the wheels have come off the New York Yankees, but the evidence during their current five-game losing streak certainly hasn't been encouraging.

After dropping the series finale in Kansas City and being swept by the Nationals in a quick two-game series to begin the week, the Yankees returned home for a weekend series against the Texas Rangers and have promptly dropped the first two, including Saturday's lopsided 15-4 loss. 

Looking back to Friday, if you look strictly at the 10-9 final, the takeaway might be that New York continued battling offensively and nearly pulled off a dramatic victory. While it's true the offense was resilient, it's their overall play and the circumstances that hover over their play that are most troubling.

With Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova already out injured, Chase Whitley headed for Tommy John surgery and CC Sabathia struggling to find his footing, the starting rotation is a mixed and matched group with only one consistent source of production this season: Michael Pineda.

But even that truth is wearing thin now after Pineda was roughed up for five runs on May 15 in Kansas City and seven runs (four earned) on Friday.

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The circumstances are such that there's really no margin for error for New York on offense and especially on defense, which unfortunately is where they've suffered a letdown this weekend.

In the Rangers seven-run third inning on Friday, they were aided by errors from Pineda and shortstop Didi Gregorius. Amazingly, on Saturday, Texas topped that third inning output by scoring 10 runs, with six coming against CC Sabathia.

(Getty Images)
Though all 10 runs were earned, it was New York's defense that again helped set the stage as Gregorius made an ill-advised behind-the-back flip that led to a no play. Later in the frame, right fielder Carlos Beltran watched a ball skip right between his legs, allowing Shin-soo Choo to score from first base. 

Here's a scary assessment of the two-day damage in the third innings alone. 

#Yankees have scored 17 3d-inning runs all this year or as many as they have surrendered in the last 2 days to the #Rangers

— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) May 23, 2015

Ouch.

Losing five straight games is one thing. Honestly, just about every team will have that type of stretch this season regardless of talent level. But the injuries now coupled with sloppy play raises some red flags for New York, especially now with Tampa Bay playing well and others in their tight division hanging around .500. The Yankees are now 22-21, one and one-half game behind those same Rays. 

The injuries they can do little about except wait, which in Tanaka's case hopefully won't be long now that he's off on a rehab assignment. Fundamentally, however, Sunday might be a good day to hit the reset button and focus on one pitch at a time and one at-bat at a time both at the plate and in the field.

It's cliched, yes, but that doesn't mean the sentiment is flawed or can't be applied to the Yankees. 

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 23, 2015, 11:24 pm

Apparently, Bryan Price had something better to do than stick around at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The Cincinnati Reds manager was actually ejected from Saturday's afternoon game against the Cleveland Indians before the first pitch was even thrown.

Price was given the heave-ho by crew chief Jim Reynolds as the lineup cards were being exchanged at home plate. The two engaged in a heated exchange that continued even as the Indians players took the field. Growing tired of the confrontation, Reynolds threw out Price on the spot and the game began with Jay Bell serving as Cincinnati's skipper.

It wasn't immediately clear what led Price to confront the umpires, though there's speculation that issues with Friday's home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez may have carried over. We'll know more once Price meets with the media following Saturday's game.

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The ejection was Price's second of the season.

Of course, he made bigger news earlier this season when he went on a profanity-laced tirade against the Cincinnati media. We don't think Saturday's tirade left enough time for 77 f-bombs, but we also don't think Reynolds would have the patience to endure more than one or two.

If nothing else, perhaps Price was attempting a fire under his squad. Unfortunately, it didn't work. After jumping out to an early lead, they dropped their seventh straight 2-1 to Corey Kluber and the Indians.  

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 23, 2015, 9:06 pm

Just when you thought it was safe to party at Coors Field on a Friday night, Brandon Belt of the San Francisco Giants is here to crash it. Or at the very least make you reconsider your choices in life.

During Friday's wild 11-8 victory against the Rockies, Belt unloaded on a Kyle Kendrick offering and sent a towering, almost majestic blast to the upper deck in right field, just a few rows short of the relatively new party deck.

It's an area of Coors Field that a scarce few have reached in its 20-year history, though that list is now populated by three Giants. In addition to Belt, Barry Bonds and, wait for this one, Nate Schierholtz have also reached that section. 

Brandon Belt's home run, at 475 feet, was the longest at Coors Field since Milton Bradley hit one 479 feet in 2004 for the Dodgers.

— Nick Groke (@nickgroke) May 23, 2015

As always, the distance is up for some debate. According to MLB's statcast data, it traveled 475 feet, which would easily rank among the longest home runs hit in MLB this season along with Alex Rodriguez and Giancarlo Stanton. ESPN's Hit Tracker estimated a more conservative 437 feet of true distance, which wouldn't even crack their top 25. 

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Either way, it was a monumental blast for a guy who isn't necessarily viewed as a home run hitter. In fact, Belt didn't hit his first this season until May 15 in Cincinnati. Oddly enough, he homered in all three games during that series, and then again on Friday making it four straight games. His career high was 17 in 2013.

Overall, Belt is off to the best start of his career offensively, hitting .317/.391/.520 across the board. The Giants would gladly take those numbers and another dozen homers from Belt between now and the first week of October.

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 23, 2015, 8:12 pm

On Wednesday, we learned that Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu — the team's No. 3 starter the past two seasons behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke — would be facing surgery on his ailing left shoulder and would likely miss the remainder of the 2015.

The news didn't come as a total shock to the general public. Ryu had been dealing with shoulder issues dating back to spring training with little to no consistent improvement. However, as we learned from Ryu himself on Friday, it came as no surprise at all to the Dodgers, because former general manager Ned Colletti actually signed Ryu in late 2012 already knowing he had a torn labrum.

That revelation sent shockwaves through Dodger Stadium that carried over into the social media realm throughout the Dodgers' 2-1 victory over the Padres. As many have noted, Colletti's willingness to sign Ryu for six years and $36 million, plus the $26 million posting fee, despite knowing the nature of his injury mirrors his decision to sign Jason Schmidt to a three-year deal worth $47 million guaranteed following the 2006 season.

Of course, the Ryu signing has already proven more productive. In two seasons, the now 28-year-old left-hander has made 56 starts and won 28 games while posting a 3.17 ERA in 344 innings.

Schmidt lasted just six starts in 2007 before undergoing shoulder surgery. He returned for four starts in 2009 but wasn't the same pitcher. He walked away for good after just four starts, meaning he pitched only 41 total innings for Los Angeles in three seasons and won just three games.

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Colletti, who was the man behind both signings, was not available for comment to the Los Angeles media. He remains with the Dodgers as a senior adviser to team president Andrew Friedman. 

Speaking through an interpreter on Friday, Ryu made it clear that it was his decision to continue pitching even though he was rarely without pain.

"I can't really pick a certain date [when I pitched pain free], but there were certain times without pain," Ryu said.

The possibility of surgery never really weighed on Ryu's mind, but the Dodgers had to know the likelihood was nearing with each start and each temporary setback he'd suffered. Now they'll have to hope Ryu can make a full and effective recovery, which is never guaranteed when a pitcher's shoulder is in question.

With Brandon McCarthy, who signed a four-year, $42 million deal in the offseason, out until mid-2016 following Tommy John surgery, and Greinke likely heading into free agency this winter, the Dodgers might need Ryu more than ever come April. 

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 23, 2015, 6:25 pm

 

One of the more unusual and admittedly entertaining moments during the 2013 postseason occurred when Scott Van Slyke of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Joe Kelly, then of the St. Louis Cardinals, engaged in a standoff immediately following the national anthem at NLCS Game 6.

The staredown, as it were, played out for several minutes, including a national television commercial break and pregame warmups, and seemed poised to continue through the game's first pitch before home plate umpire Greg Gibson interjected and ordered both players to the dugout.

For a one time only event, it was harmless and good for a laugh. But we can't say it's a one time only event, because It was brought back by Aaron Barrett of the Washington Nationals and Brandon Barnes of the Colorado Rockies in 2014. And now it's back in 2015 too, thanks to Barrett and a group of Philadelphia Phillies. 

Actually, the Phillies were involved in perhaps what should be considered a practice run on Thursday in Colorado, and then again with Barrett's Nationals on Friday, and this one was epic.

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Here's how James Wagner of the Washington Post described it.

Aaron Barrett is doing an anthem standoff with three Phillies.

— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) May 22, 2015

Nats have taken the field with Harang (in catcher's gear from waist up) and Barrett (with a helmet) still on the field. Game about to begin.

— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) May 22, 2015

The umps do not like this. But game is about to begin with Harang and Barrett still on the field. Scherzer doesn't seem pleased.

— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) May 22, 2015

It's all fun and games until someone irritates Max Scherzer.

Harang loses and Barrett wins. Both were on the field as Scherzer threw his first pitch!

— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) May 22, 2015

Good news for Barrett. By the time the game ended, Scherzer was in a much better mood after the Nationals extended their season-best winning streak to six with a 2-1 victory.  

Scherzer said to Barrett after the game: "We win in this clubhouse. If that means you have to win the national anthem standoff, go ahead."

— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) May 23, 2015

As for Barrett, he's 2-0 in standoffs and 3-0 as a reliever in 70 appearances.

Anatomy of an anthem standoff victory. @aaronbarrett30, victorious again! pic.twitter.com/tUq9O6y6AG

— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 22, 2015

Again, this is all in good fun, but the act does run the risk of wearing thin quickly if overused and obviously if it threatens to interrupt play. We strongly encourage those involved to exercise good judgment going forward so this practice doesn't veer toward overdone and unwelcome.  

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 23, 2015, 4:41 pm

Take a look around the league with Big League Stew's daily wrap up. We'll hit on all of the biggest moments from the day that you may have missed, while providing highlights, photos and interesting stats.

The Miami Marlins weeks of turmoil and terrible baseball continued on Friday, this time with an 8-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. That makes eight straight losses for Miami, all of which have come on their current 10-game homestand which is set to end on Sunday.

That moment probably can't come soon enough for a Marlins team that desperately needs to get out of town and regroup. The former will definitely happen. It may honestly be too late for the latter to matter if it does happen.

As for Friday, it started out promising as the Marlins tallied three early runs against Ubaldo Jimenez. But hope quickly faded when Baltimore scored two in the fifth and four more in the sixth, all against Henderson Alvarez. Adding insult to injury, immediately following the game Miami placed both Alvarez and another starter, Mat Latos, on the disabled list with injuries.  

#marlins place Henderson Alvarez (right shoulder inflammation) & Mat Latos (left knee inflammation) on 15-day DL

— clarkspencer (@clarkspencer) May 23, 2015

Of all Miami's issues, the injuries in their rotation might be the most concerning.

#Marlins DL now includes four starting pitchers ... Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos and Jarred Cosart.

— Jason Martinez (@mlbdepthcharts) May 23, 2015

On the plus side, Miami actually outhit Baltimore 14-11, including a milestone from Ichiro Suzuki, who passed Babe Ruth on the all-time hit list. However, they were burned by seven walks and an ill-timed error in the decisive fifth inning.

They'll now seek that elusive win on Saturday when they send veteran Dan Haren against O's rookie Mike Wright.

KING FELIX FIRST TO SEVEN WINS

In the race to seven wins, Felix Hernandez left all of his competition behind on Friday night. The Seattle Mariners right-hander pitched eight innings of one-run ball, allowing only four hits in Seattle's 4-3 triumph against the Toronto Blue Jays, to become the league's first seven-game winner.

After dropping his last decision to the Boston Red Sox on May 16, a game in which he allowed two homers and a season-high four walks, Hernandez bounced back, allowing just a solo home run to Edwin Encarnacion. Hernandez is 7-1 overall, but 7-0 in games when he's pitched into the seventh inning or later.

There was some anxiety in the ninth when Fernando Rodney served up a two-run homer to Chris Colabello, but he recovered to retire Kevin Pillar and Josh Donaldson. Earlier, Nelson Cruz hit his league-leading 17th homer in support of Hernandez, which proved to be the winner. Logan Morrison gave Seattle the lead with a two-run triple.

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PRINCE FIELDER, RANGERS ROUGH UP MICHAEL PINEDA

With Masahiro Tanaka hurt, CC Sabathia struggling and no other real standout options available to lead their rotation, the New York Yankees were quite thrilled when Michael Pineda stepped up and started his season with an impressive string of outings.

Unfortunately, in the wake of his 16-strikeout performance against the Baltimore Orioles on May 10, he's taken two steps backward. After allowing five runs on 10 hits in a loss to the Royals last weekend, Pineda was bounced around again, this time by the Texas Rangers, allowing seven runs (four earned) in six innings.

All of the damage actually came in the third inning and was set up by a pair of errors. Pineda's own throwing error really set the wheels in motion, and then Didi Gregorius followed immediately with an error of his own leading to the Rangers first two runs. The big inning was capped by Prince Fielder's three-run homer and Mitch Moreland's solo shot. Fielder hit a solo homer later that proved important in the outcome.

For his part, Gregorius at least partially made up for his blunder with his own three-run homer, but the Yankees had too big a hill to climb and not enough time to climb it.

DODGERS END THREE-GAME DROUGHT, LOSING STREAK

After being shut out completely during their three-game series in San Francisco earlier this week, the Los Angeles Dodgers scraped together just enough offense to upend the San Diego Padres, 2-1.

The run scoring drought actually extended to 35 innings before Andre Ethier doubled home Justin Turner in the fifth inning. Behind Zack Greinke, that seemed destined to hold up, but San Diego broke through themselves on a Will Venable RBI single in the seventh. 

From there, it came down to one swing, Joc Pederson's mammoth solo home run in the eighth, as the Dodgers ended the accompanying three-game losing streak in dramatic fashion.

The last Dodgers player to hit a home run before today was Jimmy Rollins on May 15.

— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) May 23, 2015

If you're going to wait, might as well make the next one count. Pederson's timing was perfect, and the Dodgers are on back on the winning track as they open up a six-game homestand. 

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 23, 2015, 6:39 am

Take a moment of your time to marvel at the latest defensive wizardry exhibited by Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar.

Escobar, who much like Atlanta Braves Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons is quickly building a reputation for his defensive prowess, added to his highlight reel on Friday with a diving stop and backhand flip that was stunning in both its resourcefulness and flawless execution.

To set the stage, the Cardinals had a runner on first base with nobody out and Matt Adams at the plate. As many teams like to do against Adams, the Royals employed an extreme shift by moving third baseman Mike Moustakas to the right field side of second base, leaving Escobar all alone to cover the left.

Not a problem, says Alcides.

When Adams' surprisingly bounced a grounder to his left, he reacted with a dive. Then, from near the outfield grass while on the seat of his pants, he launched a long distance backhanded flip to get Matt Holliday, the lead runner.

(MLB.TV)
It's not a play that's practiced and it's certainly not one that's taught. It's a matter of instincts, awareness and above all confidence in ones own ability to execute. Esbocar has those attributes in abundance and did not hesitate to flaunt them. 

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But that wasn't the only time he taunted the Cardinals with his defensive skills on Friday. Back in the first inning, he covered a ridiculous amount of ground to chase down Kolten Wong's popup with a sliding grab in foul territory. 

Your browser does not support iframes.
On its own merit, that may have been the defensive play of the day if not for Escobar's flip. 

As it is, the flip wins out, just as the Royals did 5-0 behind two home runs and five RBIs from Kendrys Morales. 

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 23, 2015, 5:07 am

Within the realm of baseball, there's nothing the athletically-gifted and multi-talented Mike Trout can't do.

He's a five-tool player, with speed, power, an ability to hit for average, a rocket for a right arm and defensive skills matched by very few in the game today.

But his game is about more than just those measurable tools. He has instincts that allow him to make some of the most difficult plays you'll see look routine, and an ability to adjust during an at-bat to gain the upper hand.

In fact, as we learned on Friday, he even has the instincts and ability to react and adjust in the middle of a slide, which allowed him to pull off perhaps the steal of the season in Boston.

Here's another look: 

.@MikeTrout is one slippery fish. pic.twitter.com/mdaMSfpj1c

— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) May 23, 2015

After driving in the go-ahead runs with a single followed by a Red Sox error, Trout aimed to keep the pressure on by stealing third. Catcher Blake Swihart had him dead to rights with a great throw, but Trout was able to use the old swim move to avoid the initial tag attempt. 

That was only one step, however. With his upper body momentum carrying him away from the bag, Trout had to hook the bag with his foot and keep it there as Brock Holt recovered and applied the tag. Amazingly, Trout was able to pull that off, and despite being originally ruled out on the field, replay conclusively proved he avoided the tag.  

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The slide itself and the ensuing replay proved critical, as one batter later Trout was singled home by Kole Calhoun for the Angels third run in the inning. Also aided by a Rusney Castillo dropped fly ball, the Angels would go on to score six more runs in the inning to open an eight-run lead.  Trout had two hits in the frame alone.

The Angels would go on to win the game 12-5. Garrett Richards, who suffered a gruesome knee injury in the Angels last visit to Fenway Park last season, was the winning pitcher. 

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 23, 2015, 1:51 am

Just when you thought things couldn't get any messier for the Miami Marlins this season and especially this week, Thursday night happened.

On the heels of a seven-game losing streak, which has now spanned two managers and all occurred at Marlins Park, the team held its annual Fish 'N Chips charity event at the ballpark on Thursday. The event has always been an opportunity for fans to mingle and play cards with Marlins players and other personnel while the organization helps raise money.

This year's was to be no different. In fact, here's the invitation which confirms the scheduled appearance of players

Please join the Marlins Foundation for an evening of fun and stakes at the Craps, Blackjacks, Roulette, Poker and Domino tables as you rub elbows with your favorite Marlins players, coaches and alumni. Enjoy a night filled with hors d'oeuvres, open bars, dancing and entertainment, with the breathtaking view of downtown Miami.

However, when the event began and the fans who paid either $100 for a single ticket or $175 for the couples ticket arrived, only general manager turned manager Dan Jennings and members of his coaching staff were on hand. No players were to be found.

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So @Marlins players didn't show up to the Fish n’ Chips event last night ditching the fans not great, but ditching a charity event...charity

— alexis (@xalexiscx) May 22, 2015

Speaking Friday, team president David Samson expressed disappointment in the players decision. He added that while player attendance was optional, several had already committed but failed to show up. He did not name any names, but reliever Steve Cishek was quoted as saying players weren't in the mood to socialize given the team's struggles. Some have even speculated it was a unified effort in protest of Mike Redmond's abrupt firing on Sunday

Any way you slice it, it's not a good look for the club overall. 

There are certain obligations that go along with the territory. Not all of them would appear to be as fun on paper as this one, but every effort should be made to fulfill those obligations to represent the organization, the league and themselves in a professional manner. 

But aside from fulfilling obligations, this could have been an opportunity for players to reach out and interact with the fanbase, and maybe even let loose a little bit. Release some of the stress that accompanies a long season and make good with disenchanted fans. Tell them it matters that they're falling short of expectations, but show them that they're capable of handling it and moving forward.

Clearly, none of those things happened on Thursday, and that's unfortunate. It makes one wonder just how deep the issues run in Miami, and whether there's truly any hope for an in-season turnaround on or off the field.

BLS H/N: Eye on Baseball 

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 22, 2015, 11:29 pm

Here's something you don't see every day: the New York Yankees are defending Alex Rodriguez.

After a Tampa Bay Rays minor-league team planned a promo night poking fun at their infamous slugger, the Yankees objected that it was in poor taste.

And now, the A-Rod "juice box night" that the Single-A Charlotte Stone Crabs had planned for Friday has been cancelled. The team was going to give juice boxes to the first 500 fans through the gates. They were to read:

"100% Juiced. Side Affects [sic] include: tainted records, inflated ego, omission from the Hall of Fame, and more!"

The Yankees were not having that, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times shared:

#Yankees have contacted MLB, #Rays and FSL about @StoneCrabs A-Rod Juice Box Night promotion, find it "in poor taste"

— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) May 22, 2015

#Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo: "We have taken many steps in last few hours to get them to cease and desist."

— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) May 22, 2015

Word is now that @StoneCrabs have canceled the A-Rod Juice Box Night promotion after #Yankees and #Rays objected, found it in poor taste

— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) May 22, 2015

From @StoneCrabs on A-Rod promotion: "We in no way meant any ill-intent or to offend anyone through this promotion" + "sincerely apologize"

— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) May 22, 2015

The Stone Crabs have deleted all mentions of the event from their social media accounts and are now going on like it didn't exist. They were also offering fans free tickets in exchange for old A-Rod merchandise that would be donated to Goodwill. 

The Stone Crabs did a promo last season poking fun at then-Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. It was a "Claw & Order" night. Minor-league teams plan these sorts of topical, headline-grabbing promos all the time. Remember the Manti T'eo Girlfriend Bobblehead night

But taking aim at an active player within MLB — no matter his recent suspension and villainous image — is a bit different. The Rays are in the same division as the Yankees, they play them multiple times per season, that's not a great look for the organization. 

There are no shortage of people in the baseball universe who will condemn A-Rod. That the Stone Crabs won't be doing it for one night is probably for the best.

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Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 22, 2015, 8:47 pm

With the New York Yankees set to retire Bernie Williams' No. 51 on Sunday, he's getting the same sort of cap treatment that Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera received in recent years.

That is, the Yankees will wear a special cap in Sunday's game to honor Williams. Here's a look:

(New Era)

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The team wore special patches on its caps to mark the retirements of Jeter and Rivera in years past, so it makes sense that Williams could his own patch too. You figure Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, both in line for number-retirement this summer, will get theirs too. 

(New Era)

This is as much about selling caps as it is honoring Williams, because you know obsessive  fans will want to own the Bernie Williams version of the Yankees cap. It's available now on New Era's website.

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Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 22, 2015, 8:03 pm

UPDATE: The promo has been canceled after the Yankees complained. We wrote about it in detail here.

ORIGINAL POST: The Charlotte Stone Crabs, the Single-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, have a ballpark promotion aimed right at one of baseball's biggest targets. They're doing a "juice box night" Friday that's a dig at Alex Rodriguez.

The first 500 fans through the gates get a free juice box like this:

#StoneCrabs poke fun at #Yankees star Alex Rodriguez with "A-Rod Juice Box Night" http://t.co/k0aShe1EWS pic.twitter.com/1qm42GCgQV

— Josh Vitale (@JoshVitale) May 22, 2015

Because you may not be able to read the label, it says:

The Sports Drink
100% Juiced
Side Affects include: tainted records, inflated ego, omission from the Hall of Fame, and more!

The Stew hopes they've got a lot of ice in Charlotte, because these juice boxes are apparently filled with hot takes. Fans can also get a free ticket by bringing a piece of A-Rod merchandise to the game and donating it to Salvation Army. The Stone Crabs, btw, are the same team that did a Jameis Winston "Claw & Order" night last season.

It's also "free" beer night at the Stone Crabs game, in which a $15 ticket gets fans all-you-can-drink beer from the time the gates open until the end of the first inning.

So PEDs are horrible and earn you public ridicule, but binge-drinking is a good way to market baseball? Got it.

BLS H/N: Tampa Bay Times

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 22, 2015, 6:45 pm

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Major League Baseball acted quickly in handing down punishment to Will Smith, the Milwaukee Brewers pitcher ejected Thursday night after a foreign substance was found on his arm.

The league announced an eight-game suspension for Smith, who plans to appeal. Here's the MLB announcement:

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Will Smith has received an eight-game suspension for having a foreign substance on his arm during the bottom of the seventh inning of his Club’s Thursday, May 21st game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Joe Garagiola Jr., Senior Vice President of Standards & On-Field Operations for Major League Baseball, made the announcement.

Smith’s suspension had been scheduled to begin tonight, when the Brewers are to continue their series at Atlanta. However, he has elected to file an appeal. Thus, the discipline issued to him will be held in abeyance until the process is complete.

After the game Thursday night, Smith admitted that he had a mixture of sunscreen and rosin on his arm. That's in violation of MLB's rules, however it's not a particularly uncommon way for pitchers to get a better grip on the ball. Smith told reporters he had it on his arm in the bullpen, but forgot to clean it off when he took the mound. 

[Slideshow: Sports figures found guilty of cheating]

We've seen Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz in the center of controversy for using what was believed to be sunscreen. The league and its umpires usually don't act on such foreign substances unless the opposing team lodges a complaint, which Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzales did Thursday night against Smith.

Will Smith has been diagnosed with adult onset marmalade wrist. (image via @bubbaprog) pic.twitter.com/W6nckHi8h5

— Productive Outs (@ProductiveOuts) May 22, 2015

Depending who you talk to and how much they're into the "unwritten rules" of baseball, complaining about this might be out-of-line. Generally, it only happens when a pitcher is egregiously using a foreign substance (see: Pineda, Michael) and forces the opposing manager to act.

Even Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman illustrated the careful dance around this topic with this post-game quote from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

"Every pitcher does it. As a hitter you want them to do it so they have a better grip, so we don’t get hit in the head. But just hide it better next time.”

The message there: Baseball players are fine with a little bit of rule-breaking, but don't rub it in their face. You have to wonder how that defense would fly in Smith's appeal. Or in the NFL, for that matter.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 22, 2015, 5:42 pm

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Take a look around the league with Big League Stew's daily wrap up. We'll hit on all of the biggest moments from the day that you may have missed, while providing highlights, photos and interesting stats.

Back in San Diego where he starred at the University of San Diego between 2011 and 2013, Kris Bryant had every reason to be comfortable. He was definitely feeling good on Thursday night. Bryant launched a two-run homer in the first inning of the Cubs' 3-0 win over the Padres and extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Chicago is 8-2 during that stretch and 23-17 on the season, which has them in one of the two wild-card spots in the National League.

"I'm glad [Bryant] was able to come through for the hometown crowd – that was nice," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon after the game.

It was a good night overall for the Cubs' kids. 25-year-old starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks pitched a complete game shutout, the first of his career, and 21-year-old second baseman Addison Russell hit his second home run of the season, a solo shot in the seventh.

This is exactly what baseball fans on the North Side of Chicago were hoping to see this season. Maddon's men, especially the young ones, are on a roll and are giving everyone reason to believe they're only going to get better.

MCCANN DELIVERS WALKOFF HOMER AS TIGERS TOP ASTROS IN EXTRAS

James McCann was the man of the moment in Detroit, delivering a walkoff home run in the 11th inning to lift the Tigers to a 6-5 win against the visiting Houston Astros.

The only reason the game needed extra innings was because Detroit had blown a five-run lead, allowing three runs in the seventh, one in the eighth, and one more in the ninth to make the score 5-5.

When McCann stepped in the box to lead off the bottom of the 11th, he quickly went down 0-2, but he hit the third pitch he saw from Astros left-hander Tony Sipp over the left field wall just out of outfielder Colby Rasmus' reach.

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It was a heck of a time for McCann, 24, to come up with his second career home run, the first was an inside-the-parker in late April, and he hopes he can continue to contribute for the Tigers as he gets more playing time with starting catcher Alex Avila currently on the DL.

''I'm not sure what I'm going to do for an encore,'' McCann told reporters. ''I'm hoping to play long enough up here to hit a bunch of normal homers, too.''

JENNINGS STILL SEEKING FIRST MANAGERIAL WIN WITH MARLINS

 

Six runs and 12 hits wasn't enough to get Dan Jennings his first win as Marlins manager. Miami lost to Arizona 7-6, dropping Jennings to 0-4 since he took over for Mike Redmond on Monday. Dating back to Redmond's finals series in charge, the Marlins have lost seven straight.

The difference between the two teams in this latest loss was an RBI infield single by Diamdonbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock in the eighth. Mat Latos got the start for Miami and his tough start to the season continued, as he couldn't get out of the sixth and left the game with six earned runs against next to his name.

The results so far are not changing the perception around baseball that moving Jennings from his role as GM to field manager was a headscratching decision by the Marlins organization, one that has earned a deserved reputation for its bumbling ineptitude. Jennings can only hope he can pick up win No. 1 at some point this weekend with Miami hosting Baltimore for a three-game series.

BLUE JAYS' BATS LEAD THEM TO WIN OVER ANGELS

 

When the Toronto Blue Jays' offence is clicking, there isn't much an opposing pitcher can do about it.

Toronto tagged Angels starter Matt Shoemaker for all eight of their runs in an 8-4 win. A three-run blast by Edwin Encarnacion in the fifth did the brunt of the damage while R.A. Dickey did his part as well, pitching a complete game and striking out six to improve to 2-5 in 2015.

The problem is that when the Blue Jays' offence isn't hot, they're in trouble. Toronto is 17-4 when scoring more than five runs and 2-20 when they score four or fewer. Questions about whether John Gibbons will make it through the season as the club's manager popped up this week, though those concerns would be put to rest with a couple consistent weeks of all-around play.

As it stands the Blue Jays are 4 1/2 games back of the Rays, who now hold the top spot in the AL East after blanking the A's 3-0.

Want to see more from Thursday's slate of games? Check out our scoreboard.

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Israel Fehr is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter. Follow @israelfehr

Author: Israel Fehr
Posted: May 22, 2015, 7:00 am
(AP Photo)

With seven blown saves and a 4.20 bullpen ERA that ranks amongst the worst in MLB, it makes sense that the Chicago Cubs are looking to upgrade their relief pitching corps.

CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney is reporting that the Cubs are one of the teams interested in signing free agent right-hander Rafael Soriano. Scott Boras, Soriano's agent, indicated Thursday that his client could be joining a big-league team soon after failing to land a contract in the offseason because of his high price tag.

Here's what Boras had to say, via Mooney:

“I think Soriano could help about 10 teams now,” Boras said. “He’s second in the National League in saves the last two years. Teams are reaching out. We’re pretty close to structuring a deal for him.”

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Soriano, 35, has plenty of experience in late inning situations. Over the course of his 13-year major league career, he's posted a 2.85 ERA and compiled 207 saves. He had a 3.19 ERA in 62 innings for the Washington Nationals last season but did struggle after the All-Star break and ended up out of the closer's role in September.

Hector Rondon has been solid as the go-to guy in the ninth for the Cubs, picking up nine saves in 11 opportunities. Otherwise though, the rest of the bullpen hasn't been great and could use a veteran presence at the back end.

It doesn't appear a deal is at all imminent, but Soriano would be an intriguing get as a set-up man for a Cubs team that's 23-17 just passed the season's quarter-mark and currently holding one of the wild-card spots in the National League.

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Israel Fehr is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter. Follow @israelfehr

Author: Israel Fehr
Posted: May 22, 2015, 5:15 am

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Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Will Smith was ejected in the seventh inning of Thursday's 10-1 loss to Atlanta after umpires found a foreign substance on his non-throwing arm.

Smith had just entered the game and hit the first batter he faced, Pedro Ciriaco, with a pitch. The Brewers left-hander then threw a strike to Jace Peterson when Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez asked the umpires to check on Smith. Crew chief Jim Joyce obliged and Smith was promptly ejected when Joyce discovered the shiny substance on the lower part of Smith's forearm.

According to Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt, Smith did not react well to being tossed:

Will Smith was furious as he left field, gesturing at Braves' bench.

— Tom (@Haudricourt) May 22, 2015

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After the game Smith identified the goop on his arm as a mixture of sunscreen and rosin, which is also know as the Clay Buchholz special:

#Brewers Will Smith said he put a mixture of rosin and sunscreen on arm while warming up and forgot to remove it after coming in.

— Tom (@Haudricourt) May 22, 2015

Based on precedent, additional discipline for Smith is on the way. Last year we saw Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda suspended 10 games for having a glob of pine tar on his neck during a start against the Red Sox.

What's unusual about these two situations is that pitchers using various substances to help them grip the ball is generally accepted around the league. Our Jeff Passan documented how commonplace it is and how hitters actually prefer that pitchers use something to improve their control because they feel it makes them safer at the plate.

As Passan wrote last season, the key is to be discreet. Even though its clearly against the rules, teams don't usually care as long as the pitcher isn't using the substance to gain a competitive advantage. In the case of Pineda, and now Smith, the evidence was just too much for the opposing managers to ignore though.

Will Smith was remarkably stupid to wear whatever he wore on his arm like that. And maybe Braves pitchers are better cheaters than most.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 22, 2015

Braves Twitter: The point of that picture was nobody cares when guys use stuff, legal or not. Should Will Smith really have gotten run? No.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 22, 2015

Potential consequence is other teams, especially the Brewers, will be eagle-eyed against Braves pitchers for the same stuff everyone does.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 22, 2015

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Israel Fehr is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter. Follow @israelfehr

Author: Israel Fehr
Posted: May 22, 2015, 3:00 am

(Getty Images)Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena will not be playing for the club this season. The 25-year-old has been suspended for the year after for "repeated failures to comply with his contract," according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group.

Arruebarrena appeared with the club during spring training, though was not invited to major-league camp. He hit .143 over 14 at-bats this spring. 

Following spring training, Arruebarrena was not assigned to any of the organization's minor-league clubs. Instead, he was expected to remain in Arizona for extended spring.

[Woah, The Stew has a podcast now?! Yep, you should listen.]

It's unclear what has happened since then. General manger Andrew Friedman said Arruebarrena's suspension is not due to a violation of any Major League Baseball rules. Since he was expected to remain in Arizona, he doesn't have any minor-league stats for this year. It's possible Arruebarrena was frustrated and refused to show up for the assignment, but that has not been reported, and is merely speculation.

Arruebarrena defected from Cuba in 2013, and signed a five-year, $25 million deal with Los Angeles the following February. He briefly appeared with the team in 2014, receiving 44 at-bats. Arruebarrena hit .195 in his limited opportunity.

After he was sent down, Arruebarrena was hit with a five-game suspension after inciting a brawl in the PCL. The Dodgers immediately demoted him to Single-A following the incident. 

(Getty Images)

This January, the club designated Arruebarrena for assignment. He was not claimed by any team, and was removed from the Dodgers' 40-man roster. 

The club officially placed Arruebarrena on the suspended list Wednesday, but have remained mum on the situation. While it was initially termed "an internal matter" by Friedman, the club announced today that the suspension was due to contract issues.

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In 2014, Arruebarrena hit .259/.304/.417 over four minor-league levels. At this time, it's unclear whether he'll play another game in the organization. He remains under contract through 2018.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 21, 2015, 11:30 pm

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When the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers tangle, the baseball is usually a little bit different, a little more intense. They're the biggest rivals on the West Coast and they manage to give even early-season games a September feel.

What happened to the Dodgers this week was another type of different: They were swept by the Giants in three games and didn't score a single run. Oof. The sweep concluded Thursday, with the Giants winning 4-0 in a battle of the aces — Madison Bumgarner vs. Clayton Kershaw.

An example of how right things were going for the Giants and how wrong they were for the Dodgers: Bumgarner put the Giants on the board with a solo homer off Kershaw in the third inning. It was the first time another pitcher has ever homered off Kershaw.

[Woah, The Stew has a podcast now?! Yep, you should listen.]

(AP)The Dodgers, mind you, haven't been an offense-challenged team. They're second in MLB in homers, tops in OPS and fourth in runs scored. L.A. had the second best record in the NL before the series and they're 24-16 now after three straight losses — there was another 4-0 defeat Wednesday and a 2-0 loss Tuesday.

The sky isn't exactly falling on the Dodgers. They're still in first place in the NL West, leading the Giants by a game and a half. But things haven't been great lately. L.A. now hasn't scored in 31 innings, and they've scored a grand total of two runs in their last five games, one of which was a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rockies. 

For the Giants, a team that started slow and battled injuries, this has to be a confidence builder. They've got Hunter Pence back now and Tim Lincecum pitching well again (he threw seven scoreless innings Wednesday) and they're having their way with their rivals. They've played the Dodgers six times this season at AT&T Park and are 6-0. 

[ThePostGame: The key moment in building golden era of Giants baseball]

If you're wondering how rare a series shutout is, well, it's rare — MLB teams don't go through 27-inning droughts on a weekly basis — but it hasn't been years and years since we've seen this. Oddly enough, the Giants shutout the Dodgers three straight games in June 2012. 

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 21, 2015, 11:11 pm

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New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom turned in one of the best starts of the season Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals. deGrom completely dominated the club over eight innings, allowing just one hit and striking out 11. 

The start was so good, that only Corey Kluber has been better this year.

Jacob deGrom's Game Score of 91 is the second best this season behind Corey Kluber's 98. It's the 65th over 90 in the last five seasons.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 21, 2015

To make things more impressive, the one hit deGrom allowed came in the first inning. After striking out Kolten Wong to open the game, deGrom gave up a single against Matt Carpenter. He then proceeded to set down the next 23 hitters he faced. 

[Woah, The Stew has a podcast now?! Yep, you should listen.]

By the end of the eighth inning, deGrom had thrown 104 pitches. While he probably could have come out for the ninth, manager Terry Collins opted to turn to Jeurys Familia. It's worth noting that deGrom has not exceeded 105 pitches this season, so that may have been the reason he was pulled. Last year, however, deGrom exceeded 110 pitches in five of his 22 starts, so he's shown that stamina before.

After a couple rough starts in late April, deGrom seems to be rounding into form. His strikeout rate is slightly down, but he's still nearly punched out a batter per inning. deGrom posted a strong walk rate last season, but seems to have an even better grasp on his control in 2015.

He's been hurt a bit by the long ball, but that could be small sample randomness. deGrom did a fine job limiting home runs last season, so that's certainly possible.

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For the Mets, it must be a welcome sign. deGrom emerged as the team's surprise ace while Matt Harvey recovered from Tommy John surgery last season. With both players living up to expectations, the team's strong start might be for real.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 21, 2015, 9:13 pm

Sam Hansen walks into a convenience store around the corner from a minor-league baseball stadium, grabs a Mountain Dew and a Red Bull out of the fridge then walks to the counter and asks for a large styrofoam cup full of ice.

He takes the cup, then pours in Tapatio hot sauce and lemon juice.

“What are you doing?” asks the guy behind the counter, puzzled.

Hansen opens the Mountain Dew, pours that into the cup and then does the same with the Red Bull. He mixes it all up and looks back at the cashier.

“Needed something extra today,” he says, before walking back to the ballpark.

Is it any surprise that this is the man who dreamt up the Frankenslice, the latest outlandish food mash-up to come from the minor leagues? The name says it all — it’s a slice of pizza with a hot dog stuffed in the crust, a frank in a slice.

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The Frankenslice will be sold Thursday night when the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies, the affiliate of the Houston Astros, host the Nashville Sounds at Fresno’s Chukchansi Park. As if often the case in the minors, the games come second to the promotions. Teams dream up a litany of ways to attract fans, because “watch the stars of tomorrow” only works so many times. Of late, food has been a focus, with minor-league teams concocting all sorts of menu items that would seem more fit for the county fair.

(Big League Stew)The Frankenslice, though, is actually a ballpark food when you think about it. Pizza and hot dogs are too popular concession items, this just combines them.

“It’s a combo meal in every slice,” says Hansen, the director of marketing for the Grizzlies, though his business card actually says “marketing ninja.”

This one has done well on a marketing level. The Frankenslice has hit all the major sports blogs, even getting featured on ESPN, MSNBC and “Good Morning America.” It has that, “Hey, look at this” appeal that transcends sports. The reaction is either, “Wow. I must have that.” Or “Gross, who thought of that?”

Well, a guy who mixes Mountain Dew, Red Bull and hot sauce. When Hansen eats at a buffet, he looks at it as a challenge — use the building blocks in front of him to create something crazy. This time, he put that to use in a baseball setting.

“I’m a marketer and I look at marketing by design,” Hansen says. “I’ve designed t-shirts, I’ve designed graphics. Food is just another palette for me to design with.”

Lest you think this is just some sloppily put together stoner invention, the Frankenslice actually takes more of an artisan approach. No, seriously.

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The Grizzlies recruited Chef Justin Dukes to make the Frankenslice outside of the normal ballpark food assembly line. He’s a local barbecue expert and restaurateur who has also sold his tri-tip sandwiches at the stadium. When he made smoked lasagna for the press box one night this season, Hansen knew Dukes could help him bring his Frankenslice idea to the masses.

Dukes makes his own zesty sauce, rolls the hot dogs into the pizza dough and cooks the pizzas in his 18-foot smoker over grape wood. They cook at 500 degrees and have a smokey flavor that takes both the frank and the slice a step beyond your average ballpark meal. Not that anything was ever going to be average about a slice of pizza with a hot dog stuffed in the crust, but the smoker is a nice touch.

The next big question: How do you eat it? Opinions differ. Some early samplers maintain hot dog first, some say pizza first. One brave sole rolled the entire thing up like a burrito and mashed-up the mash-up. 

Doesn't matter too much really. Any way the Frankenslice is consumed, it's a monster.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 21, 2015, 8:34 pm

Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is a fine looking gentleman. No one denies this. During most games, the announcers will often mention that he looks like he could still play. During a recent Sunday Night Baseball telecast, Curt Schilling even talked about Ausmus' good looks

The announcers aren't the only ones to notice Ausmus' handsomeness, though. Someone on the Tigers decided to run with the sentiment, creating some fashionable t-shirts. 

(bigwaterapparel.com)

The shirts mysteriously appeared in players' lockers Wednesday. As of Thursday morning, no one had taken credit for the prank.

Ausmus, however, has an idea of who might be behind the whole thing, according to James Schmehl of mlive.com.

"I think it was Alex [Avila]. That's my guess," he said. "He has free time. He boldly walked into the room wearing it in front of me. So I assume that's his way of bragging."

Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain, the mastermind behind last year's Zubaz craze, denied involvement Thursday. As did Tigers hitting coach Wally Joyner, who was initially believed to have ordered the shirts.

That leaves Avila, Ausmus said.

"I've got a feeling," he said. "But I really didn't do an investigation into it. I wasn't overly concerned."

The shirts are actually available for purchase on bigwaterapparel.com. So, if you agree with the notion, or just want to get in on the joke, you can buy your own shirt now. 

Ausmus, to his credit, seemed to have a pretty good sense of humor about the whole thing. He told Schmehl he might even wear one of the shirts if it leads to a winning streak. 

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It's not like anyone would notice, though. Who is going to look at the face on a shirt when they can stare longingly at the real thing?

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 21, 2015, 6:47 pm

On Tuesday, one day before challenging the hottest baseball team on planet Earth, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini in the first round of the Big Ten conference tournament, members of the Nebraska baseball team — 24 of them to be exact — unwisely tested the capacity of a hotel elevator in Minneapolis.

That decision resulted in the ultimate test of their collective sanity as the elevator became stuck mid-ride, trapping all 24 players in the cramped quarters for what had to feel like an eternity.

Ever wonder what it's like to be stuck with a baseball team on an elevator? pic.twitter.com/xPM5Wmgp2W

— Tanner Lubach (@TannerLubach) May 19, 2015

Yeah, if that was on the bucket list, the sanity test may have been failed before it was started.

Based on the timeline of the tweets, the ordeal only lasted right around 15 minutes. Senior catcher Tanner Lubach served as the embedded reporter, sending a series of video tweets which updated the social media of their condition.

Skers stuck on an elevator pic.twitter.com/BlQd6qcOby

— Tanner Lubach (@TannerLubach) May 19, 2015

Status: Unfazed and perhaps a little too excited to be dangling helplessly from a cable.

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The Huskers emerged unscathed and perhaps more unified than ever for their matchup against Illinois on Wednesday night at Target Field. They even jumped out to a two-run lead in the sixth inning, but Illinois' resilience proved too much again as they wrapped up a 3-2 win to extend their conference record winning streak 27.

As for the Huskers ordeal, it reminds us a little bit of an incident involving Scott Kazmir when he was pitching for the Cleveland Indians in 2013. The Indians were visiting Minnesota in September when Kazmir became trapped in an elevator at the team's hotel and actually spent 90 minutes alone and trapped 27 floors above ground level.

Like the Huskers, Kazmir came out of it no worse for the wear, but it makes us wonder which incident would actually be more uncomfortable: Trapped alone for 90 minutes, or trapped with 23 other college dudes for 15. Coin flip?

BLS H/N: Eye on Baseball

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 21, 2015, 7:17 am

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Take a look around the league with Big League Stew's daily wrap up. We'll hit on all of the biggest moments from the day that you may have missed, while providing highlights, photos and interesting stats.

Joe Mauer's long-running power drought is over, and he could not have possibly picked a better time to snap it. With the Twins and Pirates tied in the 13th inning at PNC Park, Mauer smacked Antonio Bastardo's 0-1 pitch into the right field bleachers for a go-ahead solo home run that held up as the difference in Minnesota's 4-3 victory.

The home run was Mauer's first of the season. In fact, it was his first since Aug. 17 of last year, which covers a span of 76 games and 322 plate appearances. But you'd hardly know that based on the swing or the result. Looking comfortable against a left-handed pitcher, Mauer turned on the pitch like we've seen so many times in the past and gave it a ride.

Vintage Mauer, you might say, and as a result the Twins are now a comfortable six games over .500.

The home run helped Minnesota avoid what could have been a difficult loss to swallow. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, the offense went silent allowing Pittsburgh to chip away before tying it in the eighth on Andrew McCutchen's home run. After sweeping the brief two-game series, Minnesota will move on to Chicago for a weekend series with the White Sox.

ASTROS KEEP ROLLING IN AL WEST

One slip up against the Oakland A's on Monday is all that stands between the Houston Astros and an eight-game winning streak. This comes less than three weeks after Houston won 10 straight, including sweeps against those same A's, the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners.

It goes without saying that they remain the biggest surprise in MLB this season, and with Wednesday's 6-1 win against Oakland, they maintained the second-best record in MLB behind only the St. Louis Cardinals.

On the pitching side, Dallas Keuchel has been the foundation of their hot start. He improved to 6-0 Wednesday, pitching seven innings and allowing just one unearned run. He joins Cardinals' right-hander Michael Wacha as the only pitchers with at least six decision to remain undefeated. Felix Hernandez and Bartolo Colon also have six victories.

Offensively, it was another balanced attack. George Springer, Marwin Gonzalez and Jake Marisnick each had two hits, but the biggest came from Evan Gattis. His go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth was Houston's league-leading 61st long ball of the season and the blow Oakland simply couldn't recover from.

Also worth noting, Jose Altuve was 0-for-5. He's mired in a 2-for-20 slump over his last five games, but the Astros continue picking him up.

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MARLINS STILL WINLESS IN DAN JENNINGS ERA

The Dan Jennings era is off to a miserable start in Miami and Wednesday's 6-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks was another befitting of the chaos and apparent lack of direction or organization that engulfs the franchise.

The Marlins were carved up by Arizona rookie Chase Anderson, who allowed just one run on four hits over eight innings. That continued a brutal stretch on offense, but Miami was no better defensively, committing an error and permitting six D-Backs stolen bases. A.J. Pollock paced the aggressive attack with three steals, including a steal of home on a botched rundown. Tuffy Gosewisch, Nick Ahmad and Aaron Hill each swiped one bag as Miami could find no answers.

Of the six steals, five led to runs. Pollock reached four times overall and touched home all four times. David Peralta knocked him in on three occasions.

The Marlins are now 0-3 under Jennings after being swept in Mike Redmond's final three games against Atlanta. They have one more against Arizona before welcoming the Baltimore Orioles this weekend.

LINCECUM SILENCES DODGERS WITH VINTAGE OUTING

Apparently Wednesday was a night for vintage performances. Aside from David Letterman's heartfelt goodbye on the Late Show and Joe Mauer's first home run since 2014, San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum was pretty close to his Cy Young form in helping his squad shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-0.

Through not necessarily overpowering, Lincecum had Los Angeles off balance for the duration of his seven innings, allowing just three hits. He walked two, another encouraging number, and struck out four, which helped keep the pitch count manageable.

Jean Machi, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt recorded the final six outs as San Francisco extended its winning streak to five and moved to within 2 1/2 games of Los Angeles. Buster Posey had three hits, including a two-run homer off Yimi Garcia. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 21, 2015, 6:17 am

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For all the talk about a universal designated hitter, perhaps the greatest argument against its seemingly inevitable implementation into MLB revolves around the existence of New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon.

As we've noted in the past, Colon's plate appearances aren't just the throw away moments you may come to expect with pitchers, they are events that unite baseball fans from all points of the world, regardless of where their loyalties lie.

There's always an element of drama in Colon's at-bats, from whether he'll actually make contact, to whether his helmet will stay on or fall off, to the ultimate hope, that he'll put a ball in play and have to run the bases. On Wednesday, we actually got the latter when Colon hit the weakest of all possible dribblers in front on home plate, and somehow managed to leg it out. 

The play was originally ruled an infield single, which was quite alright by us. However, as you can plainly see in the video, there was a clear mishandle by perennial Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina which allowed a hustling Colon to reach base for the second time this season. The final ruling resulted in Molina's third error this season. 

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If we were being generous, we might say Colon's speed created a sense of urgency in Molina's approach. In fact, among the other headlines we considered for this post were "Speedster Bartolo Colon pressures Yadier Molina into rare error." But we opted for honesty and credibility while allowing the video itself to provide the entertainment. 

Unfortunately for Colon and the Mets, the entertainment ended pretty much right there. The Cardinals knocked him around for nine runs (eight earned) in 4 1/3 innings to hand him his second loss of the season. The loss also knocked the Mets completely out of first place in the NL East for the first time since April 14. They're now a full game behind the Washington Nationals. 

In the loss, Colon also walked his first two batters since opening day, but not before setting a franchise record for control by passing Bret Saberhagen's mark of 47 2/3 consecutive innings pitched without issuing a walk. Colon's streak ended at 48 1/3 innings.

When all was said and done, it was a short night for Colon, but one with a little bit of everything, which is why we want him to stick around forever. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 21, 2015, 5:33 am

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Since launching three home runs against the New York Mets on May 6, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has been baseball's hottest hitter. Over a 12-game stretch that began that afternoon leading up until Wednesday's game against the New York Yankees, Harper hit .535/.630/1.349 with 10 home runs and 23 RBIs over 54 plate appearances.

Unfortunately, his sizzling stretch at the dish isn't the only thing that's taken center stage. During his time in the spotlight, which goes back to his days in high school in Las Vegas, Harper's also earned a reputation at times for being a hot head, which has now in some way contributed to two ejections during that same stretch.

The first came on May 13, when Harper's temper clearly got the best of him following a strikeout in Arizona. Following the ejection, Harper launched into a heated tirade against home-plate umpire Rob Drake

A similar scene played out on Wednesday, when Harper was again ejected in the thrd inning of Washington's 3-2 win against the New York Yankees after protesting umpire Marvin Hudson's strike call and then apparently taking too long to return to the batter's box. 

Though not as heated initially, Harper clearly objected to the low strike call. Hudson then became engaged with Washington's bench and presumably manager Matt Williams, before turning back to Harper and apparently hurrying him back into the box. More words were exchanged and then Hudson gave Harper the hook. 

Harper was mad at strike call and mad when Hudson told him to get in box. So Harper stuck toe in box, which irked Hudson and caused ejection

— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) May 21, 2015

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The funny thing is, Harper was in the box until Hudson turned his attention to the Washington dugout. Either way, there doesn't seem to be nearly enough here to warrant an ejection, but Hudson clearly took Harper's maneuvering as a dismissal of his authority. 

At that point, Harper launched into a more heated discussion with Hudson and was quickly joined by manager Matt Williams, who concluded his tirade by kicking some dirt on home plate. 

It some ways, it was a good old-fashioned player-manager-umpire confrontation. In others, it was a reminder of how sensitive umpires have become and has led some to question why Hudson couldn't exercise a little more patience with one of baseball's top attractions. 

Among them, Bryce Harper himself. 

Bryce Harper on Marvin Hudson: "I don't think 40,000 ppl paid to watch him ump." Asked why the quick trigger: "Maybe he had a bad morning."

— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) May 21, 2015

Well, that won't endear Harper to the umpires, but the sentiments were echoed everywhere.

For everyone who paid $100 to see Bryce Harper play baseball tonight, congratulations. You get to see Marvin Hudson call balls and strikes.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 21, 2015

Plate umpire Marvin Hudson has a reputation for having an inconsistent strike zone and somewhat of a short fuse. Not a good combination

— Erik Boland (@eboland11) May 20, 2015

Who says no one can stop Bryce Harper. pic.twitter.com/rzFgpCACsG

— Michael Salfino (@MichaelSalfino) May 21, 2015

The reputation of both proceed them, and those reputations both played into the result. Unfortunately for those who paid good money to watch Harper, and unfortunately for the Nationals, who lost their best hitter far too early in the game, Hudson was the man wielding all the power. 

In this case, Hudson could have easily squashed the problem without letting it escalate. By the same token, Harper may have baited a bit by not just getting back in the box. You can find fault in how both men handled the confrontation, but here's hoping both will be wiser the next time they're in this position. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 21, 2015, 2:15 am

Welcome, fine readers and listeners, to the inaugural Big League Stew podcast, hosted by Mike Oz and Chris Cwik. We're calling it The StewPod for short and it's a half-hour of talk about baseball news, culture with a few shenanigans mixed in.

(USA Today Sports)On our first episode, we discuss:

• Whether the Houston Astros are for real

• What if all the MLB GMs became managers tomorrow? Who would be good?

• Ichiro vs. Pete Rose

• Can Bartolo Colon be the last Expo standing?

• The intersecting storylines of Bryce Harper and A-Rod

• And we finish with a fun "OR" game involving A-Rod, Harper, going to the movies, Monopoly and dating Chris' mom.

Thanks for checking out the first installment of The StewPod. It'll be on iTunes soon and we'll have a new episode next week with special guest Evan Longoria.

[Featured music: Urban Cone ft. Tove Lo - "Come Back to Me"]

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 20, 2015, 11:58 pm

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Over the past two weeks, Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton has been slowly working himself into baseball shape with a sharp eye toward his return to MLB during his extended minor-league rehab assignment. On Wednesday, he took a fairly significant step forward by launching his first home run of 2015 for Double-A Frisco.

Here's another look at the home run from the press box. It actually landed in a pool beyond the outfield wall at Frisco's home ballpark.  

Two-run homer for Josh Hamilton. Landed in the pool pic.twitter.com/EcSSd0TZJd

— Katy Clarke (@katyclarke) May 20, 2015

Hamilton's splash landing will cap a four-game stint with Frisco that saw him go 9-for-16 with nine runs scored and four driven in. Overall, Hamilton is hitting .371 during his 10-game rehab stint, which the Rangers say will return to Triple-A Round Rock this weekend.  

Rangers announce Josh Hamilton will play at Round Rock THursday through Saturday and then be re-evaluated....

— TR Sullivan (@Sullivan_Ranger) May 20, 2015

General manager Jon Daniels has indicated that the Rangers are aiming to activate Hamilton on Monday when they visit the Cleveland Indians. Based on the latest information, it appears that's still the plan, although Hamilton admits there's a continuing open dialogue between both sides that at any moment could change the course they're taking. 

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From the Dallas Morning News: 

“(We’re) talking together,” Hamilton said. “Them obviously asking how I feel and me being honest with them and telling them how it is, with them at the same time understanding that they don’t need to rush me back for anything.

“In the past obviously I would’ve forced the issue to get back. I’m not forcing the issue now. I’m trying to grow up a bit.”

Hamilton anticipates Monday being the day, but it sounds like no official decision will be made until Sunday.

Upon his return, Hamilton is expected to earn regular playing time in left field, where the Rangers have mixed and matched five different players through their first 39 games.

No one expects Hamilton to return to the All-Star form he displayed throughout his first Ranger stint, but he still figures to be an immediate and potentially significant upgrade for a struggling Rangers offense.  

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: May 20, 2015, 11:35 pm

(Getty Images)The Los Angeles Dodgers pitching rotation took a big — but not unexpected — blow Wednesday when it was announced lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu needs arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

The Dodgers had been bracing for Ryu to go on the surgeon's table because of the shoulder issues that began in spring training and have lingered ever since. He hasn't pitched in 2015 and could join Brandon McCarthy on the shelf for the entire season.

The Dodgers didn't say yet that Ryu is out for the year, his exact timetable will depend on what's found during surgery Thursday. But conventional wisdom says Ryu probably won't be back until 2016. Thus, the Dodgers are preparing themselves for life without another starting pitcher.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told the media Tuesday — even before surgery was confirmed — that the team was preparing for the worst: 

“Mentally, I’ve been thinking that for a little while just because it’s more helpful to err on that side, then react if it’s more positive than that,” Friedman said. “It’s been an ongoing process for the last couple months. There’s been peaks and valleys throughout. But our mindset has been – treat it as if he’s not [going to pitch this season] just because it’s easier to react the other way.”

Thus far, Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias have pitched well for L.A. as rotation replacements, but for a team with World Series expectations, they might not do the trick. As the trade-market heats up, expect the Dodgers to be paying close attention. Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto are the big names that could be available, but Scott Kazmir might also be a less pricey fit.

Despite not having Ryu (who was slated as their No. 3 starter) and losing McCarthy after four starts, the Dodgers still sit atop the NL West with a 24-14 record. Much of that is due to their offense, as they've hit the most homers in the NL and have the highest team on-base percentage in MLB. Dodgers starters have the fifth best ERA in baseball (3.56), which is good news, all injuries considered. 

But you have to imagine that'll be tough to keep up if they'e lost two starting pitchers for the year.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 20, 2015, 9:57 pm

(Getty Images)There are few things more nerve-racking than watching the final innings of a possible no-hitter. There's so much at stake with each pitch that it's impossible not to get emotionally invested.

It doesn't even matter if the pitcher going for the no-no plays for the team you support. Heck, he could be throwing the no-hitter against your favorite club. At a certain point in the contest, every fan starts rooting for the feat.

This season, we've yet to see a pitcher go the distance. Atlanta Braves righty Shelby Miller came incredibly close in his last start, losing his no-hitter with one out to go. 

Miller may not have been able to get the job done, but someone is going to sooner or later. With that in mind, we asked our experts to predict which pitcher will throw the first no-hitter this season.

MAX SCHERZER, SP, NATIONALS
While the Washington Nationals are finally heating up after a slow start, Max Scherzer has been flat-out dominant right from the get-go in D.C. Scherzer has put up a 1.75 ERA in eight starts while striking out a career-best 29.5% of opposing hitters. He's also averaging over seven innings per start, so he should have no trouble going the distance to claim 2015's first no-hitter. It's coming and it's going to come soon. In fact, I'll even predict it'll happen in Scherzer's next start, which is scheduled for Friday or Saturday against the hapless Philadelphia Phillies. You might want to tune in to that one. (Israel Fehr)

COREY KLUBER, SP, INDIANS

At the start of the year, in the annual BLS predictions, I chose Chris Sale as the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter this season. I'm taking a mulligan there and instead I'm switching, prison-of-the-moment style, and picking Corey Kluber. Bandwagon jumping? Maybe. But Kluber has been insanely good his past two starts, striking out a combined 30 batters. He had a really rough April, so what. Kluber has shown he can be every bit as dominant as he was last year when he won the AL Cy Young. His last two starts he certainly looked like a pitcher with a no-hitter inside him just waiting to get out. We'll see it sooner or later, but probably sooner. (Mike Oz)

(Getty Images)

JOHNNY CUETO, SP, REDS

Since I'm a man of integrity, unlike Mike, I'm going to stick with my initial answer from our season preview. Cueto has a lot going for him here. He's clearly an excellent pitcher, which helps, but I like the fact that he throws six different pitches. That should help keep hitters off guard throughout the start. On top of that, he has a deceptive delivery, in which he turns his back to the hitter. That should make it difficult for hitters to get their timing down. Manager Bryan Price has already shown a willingness to let Cueto throw a fair amount of pitches per start, so I don't think there's a question of whether he has the stamina to last the entire game. All the ingredients are there, it's just a matter of everything coming together for one magical start. (Chris Cwik)

DALLAS KEUCHEL, SP, ASTROS
It’s hard to predict no hitters because they don’t necessarily go to the hottest pitchers, but it certainly helps to be in a grove. And few pitchers are hotter right now than Keuchel. The 27 year old is becoming a bona fide star and has no-hit stuff. While he doesn’t strikeout out a lot of batters – his K/9 rate is only 6.55 – opponents are hitting just .181 against him, and he has a WHIP of 0.95. Most of those outs come on the ground as he leads the majors with a 64 percent groundball rate. He also has the ability to go deep into games. He’s averaging over seven innings per start this year, and last season led the AL with five complete games. Add in an above average Astros defense, and a Gold Glove of his own, and it’s all a recipe for a no-hitter. (Ian Denomme)
(Getty Images)
JAKE ARRIETA, SP, CUBS
A late-bloomer, Jake Arrieta finally put it together last year, his age 29 season, with the Chicago Cubs. How good was he in just 25 starts?  Good enough to post a career low 2.53 ERA in 156 2/3 innings, and on three occasions he was dominant enough to seriously flirt with history. 
He basically occupied the Yu Darvish role as the pitcher who seemed to take a no-hitter into the late innings every other week, but never reached the finish line.
Arrieta carried a perfect game bid into the seventh inning against Cincinnati in June and two no-hit bids into the eighth inning later in the season. 

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He finally looked and handled himself like an ace, which is something the Baltimore Orioles waited so many years to see happen. Once he got rolling, he was must-see TV, because every time he made it through 2-3 hitless innings, you knew something special could happen. He's flashed that same brilliance a couple times already this season, and it seems like he has the mindset to eventually see one through. 
The sooner the better, I say. (Mark Townsend)

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Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: May 20, 2015, 6:26 pm
(Getty Images)

The New York Yankees suffered a significant blow Tuesday as Jacoby Ellsbury is headed to the 15-day disabled list after spraining his knee in New York's 8-6 loss to Washington.

Ellsbury appeared to tweak his right knee during an at-bat in the fourth inning and was pulled from the game in the bottom part of the inning. The 31-year-old outfielder was playing terrific ball to start the year, hitting .324 with a .412 OBP and leading the AL with 14 stolen bases in 37 games. He'll be out for at least the next two weeks and possibly longer if the knee pain lingers, though the initial thought is that it shouldn't be too serious.

From the New York Post:

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman offered a positive — if hesitant — outlook on the center fielder’s condition when reached by phone Wednesday.

“At the early juncture, I don’t think it’s a long-term issue,” Cashman said.

Injuries are nothing new for Ellsbury either. He played 149 games in 2014, the first season of a seven-year, $153 million deal he signed with the Yankees, but buring his six years as a regular with the Boston Red Sox he missed considerable chunks of two of those seasons. Ellsbury was limited to 18 games in 2010 (ribs) and 74 games in 2012 (shoulder) and had already dealt with both hip and oblique issues this season. Slade Heathcott was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre to fill Ellsbury's spot on the roster.

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Now with Ellsbury banged-up, right-hander Chase Whitley done for the season needing Tommy John surgery, and the status of Masahiro Tanaka's return up in the air, the Yankees' depth is going to be tested. They've lost six of their last seven and are suddenly sharing first place in the AL East with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Bronx isn't burning quite yet, but the Ellsbury injury does accelerate the timeline on when legitimate concern might creep in on the Bombers' chances this season.

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Israel Fehr is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter. Follow @israelfehr

Author: Israel Fehr
Posted: May 20, 2015, 5:45 pm

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If a day goes by in Major League Baseball and Giancarlo Stanton doesn't hit a monster home run, did it really happen?

Fortunately we don't have to answer that question very often.

Stanton added another homer to his already impressive collection this season (see here, here, here and here) with a towering two-run shot to left field at Marlins Park off Diamondbacks right-hander Jeremy Hellickson on Tuesday. He now has 12 home runs on the season, with five coming in his last seven games.

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On the Stanton Slam Scale, this was a relatively minor tremor at *only* 403 feet, but that says more about the quality of Stanton's resume than it does about the quality of last night's blast.

Watch out Nelson Cruz (16 home runs) and Bryce Harper (15 home runs), the Stanton train is picking up steam and coming for you.

And while the situation in Miami with the introduction of GM Dan Jennings as field manager is far from normal, at least for teams other than the Marlins, it isn't going to stop Stanton from providing us with highlight-reel homers. Which ultimately is all that really matters, right?

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Israel Fehr is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter. Follow @israelfehr

Author: Israel Fehr
Posted: May 20, 2015, 4:00 pm

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Take a look around the league with Big League Stew's daily wrap up. We'll hit on all of the biggest moments from the day that you may have missed, while providing highlights, photos and interesting stats.

There's a reason Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is nicknamed Mr. Walk-off. In case anyone forgot, Zimmerman sent out a reminder Tuesday against the New York Yankees. With his 10th inning blast against Andrew Miller, Zimmerman led the Nationals to an 8-6 victory. 

Zimmerman has displayed late-inning heroics before. In fact, this was the 10th walk-off home run of his career. That puts him in some elite company. 

.@Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman in very nice company after his walk-off HR tonight pic.twitter.com/hIi5czQUA9

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 20, 2015

That list just includes National League players. As Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated notes, Jim Thome actually holds the record with 13 walk-off home runs. That list may not be 100 percent accurate considering play-by-play data wasn't recorded until 1938. It's possible other players from that era have more, but we aren't entirely sure.

It was Zimmerman's first walk-off shot in over a year, and second against the Yankees. Zimmerman's first career walk-off home run actually came against New York's Chien-Ming Wang in June of 2006. His last walk-off homer came against the New York Mets in 2013 with LaTroy Hawkins on the mound.

Following the victory, the Nationals celebrated in their usual fashion.

This photo of Max Scherzer pouring chocolate sauce on Ryan Zimmerman is something [via USA Today]: pic.twitter.com/A6uX2eDGa8

— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) May 20, 2015

Through 170 plate appearances, Zimmerman is hitting .242/.294/.418 this season. The Nationals improved to 23-17 with the win.

YORDANO TOPS CUETO

The Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals provided one of the better pitching duels Tuesday, but the less experienced ace pulled off the victory.

Yordano Ventura was fantastic against Johnny Cueto, leading the Royals to the 3-0 win. Ventura tossed his finest game of the young season. He allowed just four over seven scoreless innings. Ventura struck out six, and did not issue any walks during the outing.

Cueto didn't fare as well. The 29-year-old ace gave up three runs on nine hits over seven frames. He struck out four and walked one. While it was far from his sharpest outing, Cueto received no support from his offense.

That's become an alarming trend lately.

#Reds have scored 3 runs or fewer while Cueto was still in the game in 15 of his last 18 starts.

— Joel Luckhaupt (@jluckhaupt) May 20, 2015

With the victory, Ventura improved to 3-3. He has a 4.56 ERA through eight starts. The Royals sit atop the American League Central with a 25-14 record.

GRICHUK GETS GOING AGAINST METS

The St. Louis Cardinals' bats came alive Tuesday against the New York Mets. The team notched double-digits runs in a 10-2 victory.

One of the biggest catalysts for the outburst was outfielder Randal Grichuk, who had one of the worst games possible Monday.

Randal Grichuk struck out five times on Monday. Tonight? Two doubles, one triple, three RBI and one run scored.

— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) May 20, 2015

Grichuk redeemed himself Tuesday. The 23-year-old went 3 for 5, with two doubles and a triple during the contest. He scored one run and drove in three. 

His performance allowed pitcher Michael Wacha to improve to 6-0 on the year. Wacha was excellent during the contest, allowing two runs on four hits over seven innings. 

St. Louis improved to 26-13 with the win.

 TAMPA BAY MOVES INTO FIRST PLACE

Few believed in the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the start of the season, and the team appears to have taken the hate personally. The Rays moved into a tie for first place in the American League East with a 5-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.

The win was a real team effort. Steven Souza Jr. was the only player on the club to notch more than two hits, and five separate players were responsible for the RBIs.

While it's still early in the year, there's some reason to believe in the Rays' early surge. The club currently has a +19 run differential, which is best in the division. Both the Yankees and Blue Jays sit at +13, though, so it's not like the Rays should hold a commanding lead.

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Still, the performance has been impressive, and proof that maybe the club was underrated heading into the year.  

Want to see more from Tuesday's slate of games? Check out our scoreboard.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 20, 2015, 6:53 am

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Over his career, Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez has done one thing consistently well: Smash home runs with incredible power. 

He was at it again Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins. In the fourth inning, Alvarez stepped to the plate against Ricky Nolasco. 

On the third pitch of the at-bat, he struck. Alvarez annihilated a 91 mph fastball from Nolasco, sending it deep to right field. The ball traveled so far, in fact, that it completely cleared the stadium.

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To make the feat more impressive, Alvarez's home run should have landed in the Allegheny River, which surrounds the outside of the park. We say "should have" because the ball actually landed in a boat parked in the river. Given Alvarez's Herculean feats of power, we're surprised the boat didn't immediately sink. 

Alvarez would also single during the contest. He finished 2 for 5, with one run scored and one RBI. His impressive power would wind up being all for naught, as the team lost the game 8-5.

Most stadiums play security videos prior to each game warning fans to be aware of flying bats and balls. The Pirates might want to consider putting those on TVs just outside the stadium now. That way, they are covered when Alvarez eventually does sink a boat. 

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 20, 2015, 4:09 am

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The Milwaukee Brewers accomplished something no visiting team has been able to do at Comerica Park. In the third inning, the club became the first visiting team to hit back-to-back-to-back home runs at the field.

It's a #MotownRecord! #Brewers are the first visiting team ever to hit 3 straight HR at Comerica Park! #MILvsDET pic.twitter.com/j5is9A8KTU

— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) May 20, 2015

All three blasts came with two outs in the inning. With a man on third, outfielder Carlos Gomez extended the inning with an RBI bunt single. Gerardo Parra walked, setting the stage for Ryan Braun.

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On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Braun lifted a 93 mph fastball from Anibal Sanchez out to right field for the three-run blast.

Five pitches later, Adam Lind struck. This one came off an 88 mph splitter from Sanchez.

Aramis Ramirez would complete the trifecta three pitches later. This time, Sanchez allowed a home run on a 78 mph hanging curveball. Ramirez crushed the offering, sending it out to left.

Unbelievably, the Brewers nearly added another blast. Khris Davis came up next and hit a ball to the furthest area of the ballpark in center.

Khris Davis tried to make it back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers off Anibal Sanchez, but a drive to center fell short of the warning track.

— James Schmehl (@jamesschmehl) May 20, 2015

While a fourth home run would have been great, the Brewers are probably happy with three. Doing it away from Miller Park accomplishes a few things. The Brewers get to set a fun, little record, and Bernie Brewer doesn't have to risk a heart attack constantly climbing the steps of the slide. The man lives solely on beer and brats, we hear.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 20, 2015, 1:20 am

Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez hasn't recovered from offseason knee surgery as well as the team had anticipated. After a sluggish start, Martinez was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to soreness in his left knee.

(AP Photo)

The 36-year-old hasn't hit up to his usual standards to open the season. Through 130 plate appearances, Martinez has slashed .216/.308/.270. Following an 0 for 4 performance Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers, the team's brass met to discuss a possible DL stint for Martinez.

They wasted no time acting, as Martinez hit the disabled list Tuesday afternoon. There's a sense Martinez will be out longer than the minimum 15 days. He'll likely continue to rehab his knee while he is unable to play.

From the Tigers' standpoint, it's tough to argue with the move. Martinez had surgery to repair his meniscus in February, but managed to return for the start of the season. While the club initially believed a DL stint wouldn't do much to improve his situation, Martinez's struggles forced their hand. The team even gave him four days off in order to see if that would help before deciding the disabled list was the way to go.

On top of that, it's clear Martinez is still bothered by the injury, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com.

While Martinez said he felt a difference running on Monday, a sentiment echoed by Ausmus, the difference meant little with the bat. The switch-hitting Martinez fell to 12-for-85 batting left-handed with Monday's performance, after which he reiterated that he doesn't feel comfortable enough batting right-handed against right-handed pitchers.

While Martinez is sidelined, the club will likely use Rajai Davis and recently promoted outfielder Tyler Collins as part of a platoon. Neither player has anywhere near the upside of a healthy Martinez, but they should give the Tigers better production than the current iteration of V-Mart. 

It's not an ideal scenario, especially when you consider Martinez hit a fantastic .335/.409/.565 last season. But given his slow recovery, it's clear that player wasn't going to show up this season unless he received a break.

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The Kansas City Royals have already pushed the Tigers this season, and the Chicago White Sox are just now starting to play like many expected. That makes Martinez's injury particularly tough to deal with.

At the same time, it's not like he was giving them much. If an extended rest can bring back the V-Mart of old, Tigers' fans will be happy to deal with an underwhelming platoon of Davis and Collins for now. As he showed last season, a healthy Martinez is well worth the wait. 

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Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 19, 2015, 10:55 pm

(Getty Images)Any baseball fan being honest with him or herself has to acknowledge that Bryce Harper has been a joy to watch the past few weeks. He's captured back-to-back NL player of the week honors and he's hitting .411/.529/.982 with nine homers and 22 RBIs since May 1. That's ridiculously good.

We've covered the whole Bryce Harper is not overrated/not a bust thing before — he's not a bust, people! — but Harper is doing so well right now that even A-Rod is gushing about him. Talk about a pair of polarizing baseball players.

A-Rod's New York Yankees and Harper's Washington Nationals meet in D.C. for a two-game set that starts Tuesday. And ahead of that, A-Rod was singing Harper's praises so loudly to the New York Daily News you'd think he were investing in Harper. Rodriguez told the Daily News' Mark Feinsand:

“I like how relentless and how aggressive he is; you don’t see that often these days,” Rodriguez said. “Most people want to play it safe, but he goes for it every time. That’s very admirable. Hopefully not the next two days, though.”

Wait, there's more:

“I love everything about him,” Rodriguez said. “I like players that play hard. He wears his emotion on his sleeve, he’s a gamer and he’s a winner. As a fan of baseball, I would pay big money to watch him play — especially to watch him hit.”

(AP)

Harper has given fans their money’s worth this season. He leads the NL in home runs (14), RBI (37), runs (36), walks (36), on-base percentage (.476), slugging percentage (.729) and total bases (97). The power is what gets Harper on the highlight shows, but to A-Rod, his game goes far beyond the home runs.

“His home runs don’t tell the whole story,” Rodriguez said. “His body language, how he’s carrying himself, his plate recognition, the balls he’s hitting all over the field. He’s not just hitting home runs; he’s hitting home runs, he’s walking a lot. He’s maturing right in front of our eyes and you love to see that.”

Say all the bad things you want about A-Rod, but recognize that he's exactly right in this instance. Harper plays hard, puts on a show and is a joy to watch. This looks like the transformative season for Harper, if he can continue to shake off the injuries that have limited him the past two years.

This is a topic A-Rod knows well, because like Harper, he was a lauded teen prospect, who was drafted No. 1 overall and came into league at an obscenely young age. Harper was 19, A-Rod was 18. There are high expectations that come along with that, too high probably.

High enough to have a 22-year-old labeled as overrated after a rather productive start of his career and high enough to make one of best players of a generation turn to PEDs. 

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Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 19, 2015, 7:34 pm

It's hard to believe, but Matt Harvey keeps findings ways to impress us.

Coming off seven shutout innings in his last start, Harvey did even better on Monday night against the St. Louis Cardinals. This time he threw eight shutout innings, striking out nine while allowing just six hits and walking one. He left the game with the Mets leading 1-0, but a blown save by Jeurys Familia cost Harvey a shot at the win and the game went to extras.

Fortunately the Mets didn't completely put their ace's dominant performance to waste, as John Mayberry Jr. delivered a walkoff single in the 14th inning to secure a 2-1 win and keep New York atop the NL East at 23-16.

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Harvey's return from a full season out after Tommy John surgery has been remarkable. He's now pitched 16 straight scoreless innings and he's pitched at least six innings while allowing no runs in four of his eight starts. But how does his start this year compare to his breakout 2013 season? Apparently it's pretty darn close.

Here are some numbers courtesy of Mark Simon at ESPN's Stats and Info blog:

2013: 1.44 ERA, 62 strikeouts, 14 walks, three home runs allowed in 56 1/3 innings.

2015: 1.98 ERA, 56 strikeouts, eight walks, four home runs allowed in 54 2/3 innings.

Mighty fine numbers indeed. The Mets might need a little more offence to establish themselves as true contenders in the National League – they're 22nd in MLB in runs per game at 3.87 – but there's no doubt that Harvey is right back to being one of the best pitchers in baseball. As long as he keeps putting up zeroes, he's giving his team a chance to win every time he steps on the mound.

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Israel Fehr is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter. Follow @israelfehr

Author: Israel Fehr
Posted: May 19, 2015, 5:40 pm
(AP)

The news is getting worse for The Los Angeles Dodgers and starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, who may need shoulder surgery and, in the worst case, could miss all of 2015. That's certainly not ideal for a team with World Series aspirations that's already missing one of its starting pitchers for the season.

Our man Jeff Passan has the news:

Source: Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu considering surgery on shoulder. Korean report says happening this week. Source says still not determined.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 19, 2015

As Passan notes, there are reports out of Korea, Ryu's home country, that say surgery is happening. (But have your favorite Korean-to-English translator handy). Ryu hasn't pitched this season after encountering shoulder issues in spring training, and he experienced some shoulder problems last season too. He hasn't thrown since May 1.

Ryu was slotted this season as L.A.'s No. 3 starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, with Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, both acquired in the offseason, rounding out the rotation. With Ryu out and McCarthy already lost to Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers have leaned on Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias, plus Scott Baker, Joe Wieland and David Huff to lesser degrees.

If Ryu is indeed done for the season, those won't do. While Frias and Bolsinger have been solid so far, the big-budget Dodgers (24-13 currently, the second best record in the NL) and their made-over front office need to do better than another early playoff exit in 2015.

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That could make them big players in the trade market as we head toward summer. Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels are the big names on the market that pitching-hungry teams will chase, but the Dodgers could go a less splashy direction and try to get Scott Kazmir from the Oakland Athletics, who have the worst record in baseball. The new Dodgers GM, Farhan Zaidi, worked for the A's previously and brought in two former A's pitchers in Anderson and McCarthy. 

First, though, we await the official word on Ryu. 

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Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 19, 2015, 5:25 pm

Lance McCullers sure knows how to make an entrance in style: the 21-year-old right-hander donned Batman cleats in his major-league debut Monday night for the Houston Astros.

It turns out McCullers, who gave up one run in 4 2/3 innings and received a no-decision as the Astros lost 2-1 to Oakland, has been wearing the superhero spikes in the minors all season.

From Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle:

“I was talking to (George) Springer, and I said something about the cleats, and he said, ‘Wear them, man. Go out there and do what you’ve been doing,’” said McCullers. “I love Batman. I have the trilogy and I have some other stuff.”

Here's a closer look at the Caped Crusader themed cleats:

Closeup shot of the awesome Batman cleats @LMcCullers_41 is wearing for his MLB debut. #Represent #Whiff pic.twitter.com/xm41v2crp3

— #VoteAstros (@astros) May 19, 2015

Pretty spiffy.

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What's not clear is whether McCullers' choice of footwear is in compliance with MLB's uniform policy. If it is indeed deemed to violate the ban of "corporate logos or other identifying marks on equipment," McCullers will likely escape with a warning according to the Chronicle because it would be a first-time violation.

We'll see if the Dark Knight (or at least his cleats) rises again in McCullers' next start.

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“corporate logos or other identifying marks on equipment.”

Author: Israel Fehr
Posted: May 19, 2015, 3:30 pm

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Take a look around the league with Big League Stew's daily wrap up. We'll hit on all of the biggest moments from the day that you may have missed, while providing highlights, photos and interesting stats.

Dan Jennings will begin his managerial career with a loss. The new Miami Marlins manager couldn't lead his club to victory Monday, losing 3-2 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It wasn't really Jennings' fault, though. Miami had a tough time doing anything against D-Backs starter Rubby De La Rosa. 

De La Rosa was both dominant and efficient during the contest. He allowed two runs on six hits over nine innings. De La Rosa made one mistake, hanging a breaking ball against J.T. Realmuto in the seventh. Realmuto blasted the pitch out to left, tying the game 2-2. 

De La Rosa had only thrown 94 pitches through nine innings, but the club opted not to bring him out for the 10th. He wound up with a no-decision.

De La Rosa was matched by Dan Haren during the start. Haren allowed two runs on six hits over eight innings. He also wound up receiving a no-decision.

The two teams remained deadlocked until the 13th inning. With a man on first, David Peralta managed an RBI-double, giving Arizona the 3-2 lead. Enrique Burgos would come on in the bottom of the inning, nailing down the save.

With the win, Arizona improved to 16-21.

SURGING SOX SAVED BY SANCHEZ

The Chicago White Sox continued their winning ways Monday against the Cleveland Indians. They would need extra innings to do so, pulling out the 2-1 victory for their sixth straight win. With the win, the club is over .500 for the first time this season.

It didn't come easy, however. Indians ace Corey Kluber proved to be on his game again, striking out 12 White Sox over nine innings. He allowed just one run on four hits.

Kluber was matched by Chris Sale. Sale gave up a run on four hits over eight innings. He struck out seven during the start.

With the game tied in the bottom of the 10th, rookie infielder Carlos Sanchez stepped to the plate with a chance to become a hero. He did not disappoint.

On the third pitch of the at-bat, Sanchez knocked a walk-off single against Indians reliever Zach McAllister. Left fielder Zach Walters nearly made a diving catch, but couldn't get to the ball in time.

Sanchez, who was recently called up to replace Micah Johnson, is hitting .263 in his brief major-league stint. 

 

MAYBERRY DELIVERS FOR METS

The White Sox weren't the only team to pick up a walk-off win Monday. The New York Mets managed to accomplish the same feat, picking up a 2-1 victory over the Cardinals. 

New York was on track to win the game in nine innings, but the club's bullpen allowed the game to stretch into extra innings. Starter Matt Harvey was fantastic, giving up just six hits over eight scoreless innings. He struck out nine during the contest.

With the club up by a run in the bottom of the ninth, Jeurys Familia came on for the save. Up until Monday, he had been a perfect 13-13 in save chances. That did not last.

With a man on third and one out, Familia allowed a sacrifice fly, tying the game 1-1. The two teams would remain deadlocked until the bottom of the 14th.

With the bases loaded, the Mets turned to pinch-hitter John Mayberry. On the first pitch he saw from closer Trevor Rosenthal, Mayberry hit a groundball past the shortstop, bringing in the winning run. 

With the win, the Mets improved to 23-16.

PHILLIES KEEP WINNING

Don't look now, but the Philadelphia Phillies are surging. The club picked up its sixth straight victory, beating the Colorado Rockies 4-3 on Monday.

Philadelphia was led by Cole Hamels, who turned in a strong start. The left-hander allowed one run on six hits over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked one during the contest. 

The Phillies bullpen nearly blew the game late, but managed to hold on. Luis Garcia allowed a run in the eighth inning, cutting the lead to two.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon came out for the save opportunity in the ninth, but ran into a bit of trouble. After notching a strikeout to begin the frame, Papelbon gave up a triple against DJ LeMahieu. Papelbon would pick up another strikeout, but couldn't stop Charlie Blackmon from driving in LeMahieu with a single.

With the lead down to just one run, Papelbon managed to strike out Nolan Arenado to end the game. With the victory, the Phillies no longer reside in the cellar of the National League East. 

Want to see more from Monday's slate of games? Check out our scoreboard.

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 19, 2015, 6:41 am

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On the surface, Miami Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and legendary New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth don't seem to have much in common. 

Ruth was arguably baseball's first power hitter, a man who led the league in home runs in 12 different seasons. Ichiro, on the other hand, has never really been considered a power hitter. He's relied more on a contact-heavy approach, leading the league in hits seven times. 

Despite the difference in approaches, the two managed to cross paths Monday. With his two hits, Ichiro tied Ruth on the all-time hits list. Both players are currently tied for 42nd all-time with 2,873 hits.

Ichiro reached the milestone during the fifth inning of Monday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. After singling in the third inning, Ichiro stepped to the plate in the fifth looking to tie Ruth. 

On the second pitch of the at-bat, Ichiro took an 89 mph fastball from Rubby De La Rosa and sent it into left field for a single. 

Ichiro said he wasn't thinking about the milestone during the contest, but he did offer up some thoughts after the game, according to Steve Wilaj of MLB.com.

"Obviously, when you think of Babe Ruth, he's a home run hitter," he said. "I never seen him play, and don't know too much about him. For me, I'm just such a different type of player. I like to get hits and use my legs to get different types of hits and obviously he's hitting home runs.

"So you can't really compare. Obviously, we happen to be on the same number [of hits] right now, but it's tough to compare the two because we're such different types of players."

Ichiro is just three hits away from tying Mel Ott for 41st on the all-time list.

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Given his diminished role over the past few years, Ichiro hasn't topped 200 hits in a single season since 2010. He's remained productive, however, and could have a legitimate shot a 3,000 hits depending on how long he wants to stick around.

That's one heck of an accomplishment for a player whose career in Major League Baseball didn't start until he was 27.

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Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 19, 2015, 5:21 am

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Remember when some people within the baseball community were worried about Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber a few weeks ago? Those concerns seem to have vanished as Kluber has looked like the reigning American League Cy Young award winner over his past couple starts.

Through seven starts, things were not looking great. Kluber carried an 0-5 record into May with a 5.04 ERA. While that may have worried some fans, there was plenty of evidence Kluber would eventually right the ship. As Ian Denomme noted at the time, Kluber's strikeout and walk rates were in good shape, so a surge seemed possible.

(Getty Images)

That's precisely what has happened in his past two starts. Last week, Kluber struck out 18 batters in just eight innings. He did not allow a hit until the seventh inning, and would have had a chance at breaking the single-game strikeout record had the team opted to leave him in for the ninth.

Maybe Francona should have left him in, because Kluber looked as though he hadn't missed a beat Monday against the Chicago White Sox. To kick things off, Kluber struck out the side in the first, giving him 21 strikeouts over a nine-inning period. He would go on to strike out the first five hitters he faced against Chicago.

Kluber's bid for the no-hitter didn't last as long this time, as he lost it in the fourth inning, but the start was still incredibly impressive. Kluber allowed one run on five hits over nine innings. He struck out 12 batters.

The major-league record for strikeouts in consecutive games is 33. Kerry Wood accomplished that feat in 1998. After his incredible 20-strikeout performance against the Houston Astros, Wood struck out 13 Arizona Diamondbacks his next time out. After Kluber's last two starts, he came up just three strikeouts short of that record.

Amazingly, Kluber did not receive the win for his performance. He was matched by White Sox ace Chris Sale during the start, leading to a no decision. The Indians would go on to lose 2-1 in extra innings.

After his most recent run, there's some evidence Kluber is actually performing better than he did last season.

Kluber has a better FIP than he had last year, the year he won the Cy Young

— August Fagerstrom (@AugustF_MLB) May 19, 2015

There may have been talk about Kluber struggling early in the year, but his strikeout rate is higher, and his walk rate is lower than it was last season. That's probably enough evidence to suggest he'll be back near the top of Cy Young voting again when all is said and done this year.

That is, unless the Indians don't blow it for him. Cleveland has gotten off to a terrible start, and Kluber has already missed out on some wins due to poor run support. Combine that with the club's awful defense, and there's a chance Kluber is going to be charged with more earned runs than he deserves. 

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For now, though, it looks like Kluber is back on track. While it will be tough for the team to dig themselves out of this hole, Kluber's turn around is the first sign that things can get better in Cleveland.

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Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 19, 2015, 4:02 am

Some men dream of spending the day at a ball park in the summer. Chicago Cubs fan Daniel Krupa will not be allowed to live out that fantasy this year.

A judge banned Krupa from attending Wrigley Field this summer after Krupa allegedly displayed some horrid behavior at Sunday's game. Park security received a number of complaints about Krupa, who was described as being "drunk and belligerent," according to DNAInfo.com. Krupa, 20, was also found in possession of two IDs that belonged to people over the age of 21. 

Once approached by park security, Krupa decided to make the situation worse for himself. 

Krupa then poked a security guard, an off-duty Chicago Police officer, in the chest and refused to leave, saying "You can't tell me s---. I ain't leaving," the report said.

He then started flailing his arms and stiffening his body so the guards couldn't remove him from the stadium, Assistant State's Attorney Erin Antonietti said during a bond hearing Monday.

Krupa was charged with aggravated battery to a peace officer, criminal trespass to land, three counts of obstruction and two counts of theft, one for each ID.

That's a pretty impressive list of charges. Krupa's ban from the park will last until his case is resolved. It's unclear how long that will take.

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Good on Wrigley Field security for taking care of this clown. While many attend baseball games to have a good time, acting like a fool and generally being a jerk should not be tolerated. 

Sounds like the punishment fits the crime, in this case. That's a shame, too, because it looks like the Cubs might be playing meaningful games this September. It doesn't seem like anyone will be shedding tears if Krupa is able to make it down to the park in order to celebrate. 

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Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 19, 2015, 2:00 am

(AP Photo)The New York Yankees rotation depth is about to be tested. Pitcher Chase Whitley will have season-ending Tommy John surgery Tuesday, according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.

The news doesn't come as a huge surprise. Whitley left his last start with elbow discomfort, and an MRI revealed a partial tear of his UCL. Whitley received a second opinion, but ultimately decided to have surgery over attempting to rehab the injury. 

Once Whitley has the surgery, he'll join ace Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list. Tanaka is also dealing with a tear in his UCL, but opted for the rehab route. He's currently working his way back from a forearm issue, but was able to throw a bullpen session Monday.

Though it appears Tanaka is nearing his return, the Whitley injury highlights the lack of pitching depth in New York. The rotation entered the season with major question marks, and many of those still remain despite the team's hot start. 

Tanaka lasted just four starts before going back on the disabled list, Nathan Eovaldi looks pedestrian after a promising spring and CC Sabathia continues to battle with diminished stuff. That's not to say Sabathia or Eovaldi have been bad, but neither looks poised to blossom into an ace any time soon.

Michael Pineda has done that, but questions remain about his ability to hold up over a full season. While Pineda has been exceptional, he only threw 76 1/3 innings last year. It's unclear whether the team will limit his innings if he's able to stay healthy.

On top of all those issues, the team will now be without Whitley for the remainder of the season. Whitley wasn't anything special, but he was fine as a back end starter. His strikeout rate and walk rate were both slightly above average, and his 4.19 ERA was almost exactly average among starters this season. The Yankees aren't losing an ace here, but Whitley's absence gives more responsibility to lesser players. 

(Getty Images)

For now, Chris Capuano is expected to replace Whitley in the rotation. After missing time early in the season with a quad injury, he allowed four runs over three innings in his debut. The move also ensures Adam Warren will receive more time in the rotation moving forward. Both players lack upside, and neither have compiled a lot of innings in recent seasons.

Ivan Nova is currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery, and is expected to rejoin the club in June or July. Nova has far more upside than Capuano or Warren, but, again, his innings will likely be limited.

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That's the big theme here. There's not one pitcher on the team who is a lock to exceed 200 innings. Sure, Sabathia has done it before, but he's coming off knee surgery. Most of the players the team was set to rely on at the back end, including Whitley, also didn't have that experience coming into the season.

All of those issues remain, and now Whitley won't be around to take pressure off some of those questionable starters. While Whitley may not have been able to give the Yankees 200+ plus innings, he was at least going to give them an average performance. You can't say that about his replacements.

The loss of Whitley alone won't be a major deal for New York. The domino effect it will have on the club's already thin pitching staff could be devastating. 

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 18, 2015, 10:19 pm

Jeffrey Loria, the meddlesome owner of the Miami Marlins, who has a knack for changing managers like he would the oil in his car, went on record Monday defending the bizarre hiring of general manager Dan Jennings as the team's new field manager. 

It's a head-scratcher to baseball fans across the country and in the other MLB front offices, according to the reports out there. Jennings has only coached high-school baseball, and that was 30 years ago. He's been a scout and front-office guy throughout his MLB career. He's liked and respected in that role, but as a manager?! This is already being called a "crazy decision," but the club has a history of those.

The Marlins canned Mike Redmond on Sunday after a game in which they were one out away from being no-hit by the Atlanta Braves. It was promised that the new hire would be a shocker, and that it was.

New Marlins manager Dan Jennings (left) and owner Jeffrey Loria. (AP)Loria wasn't at the Monday morning press conference announcing Jennings' new job, but he did talk to USA Today's Bob Nightengale Monday afternoon. Loria, who is generally the most despised owner in pro sports, dropped this gem:

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the team wasn't performing,'' Loria said. "Everybody in baseball can see it. A lot of players lost accountability, and structure was lacking.

"We're supposed to be the Fish. The Marlins. We shouldn't be the Flounders.

"A Marlin isn't a flounder. We've got to get it going."

See, that's a pun, because flounder means to struggle but it's also a type of fish. Oh, Jeff, you're so clever. He also gave USA Today a less punny defensive of the Jennings hire:

"People like to say this is controversial, different, outside the box,'' Loria said. "I can't think of anyone better suited for this job than him. There was a tremendous lack of energy and fire in that clubhouse and dugout. We needed to bring some life in there.

"We needed more accountability, more energy, more fire, more communication, and Dan fills all of those roles."

Jennings will be the Marlins sixth full-time manager since 2010, the seventh overall manager if you count Brandon Hyde's one game in 2011. Jennings, though, has worked for the Marlins since 2002, so he knows the score. He best not flounder.

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Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 18, 2015, 7:41 pm

We've seen some pretty scary stuff happen on the baseball field when fastballs meet human heads, so consider Carlos Gomez one of the lucky ones.

The Milwaukee Brewers outfielder was hit in the head Sunday by a 97 mph fastball from New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard. Gomez fell to the ground immediately and eventually left the game. The picture of his face after the game wasn't pretty, but it also wasn't nearly as bad as others we've seen.

Here's the earflap-shaped bruise on Carlos Gomez's face. "I got lucky," he said. pic.twitter.com/lbWCiWKa04

— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) May 17, 2015

And, come lineup time on Monday, we've learned that Gomez wouldn't miss anymore time after taking a heater to the head. He was back in the Brewers' lineup, batting leadoff as the team opened a series against the Detroit Tigers. Not only that, but Gomez cranked a home run to lead off the game. He would later double during the contest, finishing 2 for 5, with one run scored and two RBI.Your browser does not support iframes. What a return. And, really, nobody would have blamed Gomez for taking the day off.

Speaking of blame: Gomez didn't hold anything against Syndergaard either. The 22-year-old rookie was making his second career start. Gomez tweeted at Syndergaard after the game, showing more kindness than most people would in the same situation:

@Noahsyndergaard Thx for the concern bro, it's part of the game. Thank God I'm ok. Keep up the good work, ur going to be a great pitcher!

— Carlos Gomez (@C_Gomez27) May 18, 2015

@Noahsyndergaard Put that behind you brother, continue to work hard. Good luck and God bless!!

— Carlos Gomez (@C_Gomez27) May 18, 2015

Kudos to Gomez for rebounding quickly and handling the situation with class.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 18, 2015, 6:42 pm

The president of this fine nation started his own Twitter account Monday — @POTUS, which is different from the staff-run @BarackObama account. Given his first tweet, we're expecting to see more of his personality shine through, as opposed to just campaign/bureaucratic stuff:

Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.

— President Obama (@POTUS) May 18, 2015

And given Obama's follow list, we're definitely seeing more of his own personal preferences. Take a gander at this chunk of the 65 accounts he initially followed.

See what's missing? Yep, he followed all the Chicago pro sports teams except for one — the Chicago Cubs. As we all know, Obama is a big sports fan and his baseball allegiances belong to the Chicago White Sox.

He didn't even play it politically correct and follow the Cubs. That's ice cold. Of course the Cubs noticed:

@POTUS We're big fans of America. Just saying. #YouMissedATeam

— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 18, 2015

At the very least, the Cubs (21-16) can be happy knowing they've got four more wins so far this year than the White Sox (17-17). A Twitter follow from the president don't get you into the playoffs, ya know?

BLS H/N: Sports Illustrated

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: May 18, 2015, 5:25 pm
(AP Photo)

Even for the unpredictable Miami Marlins this qualifies as a shocker.

The Marlins named general manager Dan Jennings as their new field manager Monday, replacing Mike Redmond who was fired Sunday after Miami was nearly no-hit in a 6-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The announcement is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. ET on Monday. Miami is 16-22 on the season, putting them fourth in the NL East, and has lost six of their last seven games.

Jennings has been with the Miami organization since 2002, starting out as the team's vice president of player personnel and eventually working his way up to the GM spot in 2013. Assistant GM Mike Berger will assume Jennings' front office duties with assistance from team president Michael Hill.

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While he has a strong reputation as a talent-evaluating scout and executive, Jennings has zero managerial experience in professional baseball. The last time he managed or coached a team was 30 years ago at a high school in his native Alabama. Mike Goff, who was working as an advance scout with the Marlins and has both big-league coaching and minor-league managerial experience, will take over as the club's bench coach.

This move is so Jeffrey Loria it hurts. The Marlins' owner is already paying Ozzie Guillen and now Redmond, who had just signed an extension in September, to not manage his ballclub, so he turns to a man with no track record as a manager to do the job. The good news for Loria is that tabbing Jennings means he doesn't have to add another contract to the payroll. We're sure he's happy about that.

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Israel Fehr is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter. Follow @israelfehr

Author: Israel Fehr
Posted: May 18, 2015, 2:00 pm

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Take a look around the league with Big League Stew's daily wrap up. We'll hit on all of the biggest moments from the day that you may have missed, while providing highlights, photos and interesting stats.

If New York Mets rookie Noah Syndergaard was intimidated to pitch in front of the home fans, he didn't show it Sunday. The 22-year-old turned in a strong performance during his second major-league start, beating the Milwaukee Brewers 5-1.

Throughout the contest, Syndergaard pumped gas, routinely hitting 97 mph and 98 mph with his fastball. He was able to mix in curves and changeups, keeping the Brewers off balance at the plate.

For the most part, Syndergaard cruised through the first five innings of the game. He ran into trouble at the start of the sixth. After Luis Sardinas led things off with a single, Syndergaard hit Carlos Gomez in the head with a pitch. Gomez left the game, but avoided a concussion. He expects to play tomorrow.

With two men on, Syndergaard allowed a one out RBI-single to Ryan Braun, plating the only Milwaukee run of the game. He would recover to pick up the final two outs.

In his first major-league win, Syndergaard allowed one run on three hits over six innings. He walked one and struck out five. 

With the victory, the Mets improved to 22-16 on the season.

HARPER NEARLY HITS FOR CYCLE

Bryce Harper's amazing season continued Sunday against the San Diego Padres. The 22-year-old Washington Nationals outfielder nearly hit the cycle during the team's 10-5 victory.

Harper wasted no time getting to work. After a walk in his first plate appearance, Harper sent a triple out to right. He would single in the next inning, getting himself half way there.

In the seventh, Harper put his power on display again, smashing his 14th home run of the season. With the hit, he only needed a double for the cycle.

He received that chance during the ninth inning. After a near double play prevented him from reaching the plate, Harper grounded out to first in his final at-bat. 

He finished the game 3 for 4, with three runs and four RBI. He's now hitting a blistering .338 on the year.

WONG WINS IT FOR CARDS

St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong was the hero Sunday night against the Detroit Tigers. His home run would be the difference during a pitcher's duel, giving the Cards the 2-1 victory.

Wong's blast helped Lance Lynn pick up his third win of the season. Lynn allowed one run in the first inning, but held the Tigers' potent lineup in check over the next 6 1/3 innings. He allowed six hits and struck out seven in the win.

Lynn was matched most of the way by Alfredo Simon. Simon would allow one run in the third, but was eventually undone on the Wong home run in the fifth. He allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings. Simon had some control issues, walking four during the contest.

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With the win, the Cardinals improved to 25-12. Their 25 wins currently lead the National League.

SOX PICK UP A SWEEP IN OAKLAND

The Chicago White Sox did something they hadn't done in a long time Sunday against the Oakland Athletics. With the 7-3 win, Chicago swept the A's in Oakland for the first time in, well ...

Last time #WhiteSox had a 3-game sweep in Oakland, Sandy Alderson was still the A's GM

— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 17, 2015

As Mr. Kamka would later tweet, that sweep occurred in May of 1997. 

After a slow start, Chicago has gone 9-3 over their past 12 games. With the win, the team improved to .500 for the first time this season. 

Chicago remains five games out of first in the American League Central.

Want to see more from Sunday's slate of games? Check out our scoreboard.

 

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: May 18, 2015, 5:02 am

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