Major League Baseball
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  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Second wild card still senseless
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW YORK -- Pointed questions about the implementation of the second wild card don't faze outgoing Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig -- a fringe benefit one supposes, of Selig being the creator of the wild card as a mode of entry into the MLB postseason.

    • "God, I remember when we went to the wild card in September of '93," Selig said during a visit to Citi Field last week. "You'd thought I defiled motherhood."

      More than two decades later, even the harshest critics of the wild card have come to tolerate it. And Selig knows we'll eventually do the same with the second wild card and accompanying one-game playoff between the non-division winners, which he added in 2012.

      Still, in adding the wild cards, Selig has diminished the exclusivity of baseball's playoffs, which is what once separated it from football, basketball and hockey, while also dulling the tension of the stretch drive.

      "I think we've got great races going on," Selig said. "We've got great wild card races going on. I don't think it's taken away from any of the division races. On the contrary."

      Alas, only a contrarian could argue the second wild card has helped make for a more compelling September in the sport -- especially this year.

      Baseball's final lap this week includes nine teams in contention for four wild card spots. But Pittsburgh is the only contender playing like one: The Pirates are 8-2 in their last 10 games while the other eight teams are all .500 or worse over the same span.

      Pittsburgh's hot stretch has vaulted the Pirates into a tie for the NL wild card lead with San Francisco -- both teams are 85-71 entering play Tuesday night -- and all but ended the race. The only team still alive is Milwaukee, which is five games back.

      It's the third straight season the NL wild card derby has been devoid of suspense as two teams cruise into the wild card game instead of fighting for one berth.

      With a week to go last season, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati were each 89-67 and four games ahead of Washington. In 2012, Atlanta (90-65) was already in the field and St. Louis (84-72) was 3 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee and Los Angeles and 5 1/2 ahead of Philadelphia and Arizona.

      The American League race once again remains the competitive one. Oakland and Kansas City are tied with Seattle (83-73) two games back and Cleveland (82-75) hoping to make a last-ditch dash and the New York Yankees (four games back) and Toronto (six out) on the verge of official elimination.

      A one-game playoff to get to the one-game playoff was required last season between Tampa Bay and Texas. In 2012, seven AL teams won at least 88 games and Tampa Bay (90-72) and Los Angeles (89-73) were left at home.

      Still, imagine the tension in 2012 if Oakland and Texas knew there was only one guaranteed playoff spot as they battled for the AL West title. Or last year, if Tampa Bay, Texas and No. 1 card Cleveland were all competing for one bid last year. Or this year, if AL Central foes Detroit and Kansas City didn't have the wild card safety net.

      That said, it's hard to argue with the other-side perspective of Matt Williams, who missed the playoffs with the 103-win San Francisco Giants in 1993 and is now the manager of the playoff-bound Washington Nationals, when he says players don't care how playoff races are generated, just as long as they are a part of them.

      "I can think back to those days and coming down to the last game -- you play all year, play 161 of them, and it comes down to one game," Williams said. "Then it comes down to three outs, and then it comes down to one strike. And you want an opportunity to be in that game."

      Nor is Williams concerned with the potential unfairness of the one-game wild card playoff in a sport that takes pride in its marathon nature.

      "You lay it on the line and play the game, whether it's one, five or seven -- you go play, that's all we can concern ourselves with," Williams said.

      With a laugh, he added "The minutiae of the other thought gives me a headache."

      Baseball's big headache is coming.

      What if the 2001 Oakland Athletics, who won 102 games, lost a one-game playoff to the 85-win Minnesota Twins? Or what if the curse-busting 2004 Boston Red Sox, who went 98-64, had to host the AL's fifth-best team in the wild card game and the extra layer of torture that would have been applied if Curt Schilling's ankle snapped or Pedro Martinez's best stuff was absent in a loss to the 91-win Athletics?

      "That's something to think about," said Indians manager Terry Francona, who was, of course, the manager of the 2004 Red Sox. "The rules are in place and you do the best you can and hope you win. If you get that one game, you hope you win."

      Francona's current team has the second-longest title drought in baseball. Who knows what kind of history the Indians -- who went 21-6 last September to win the no. 1 wild card -- might have made if they didn't fall to Tampa Bay, 4-0, in the wild card game?

      "It's like almost be careful what you wish for," Francona said. "Last year, we got on that great run, we get the first wild card, play one game, go home."

      Selig, who said he pushed for a best-of-three wild card series before being convinced of the merits of the one-game playoff, said he has no regrets.

      "Nobody's complained to me about the one game," Selig said. "Even the teams that have lost -- everybody accepted it."

      Not so fast, Bud.

      The members of the 2012 Braves -- who were six games better than the Cardinals in the regular season but lost, 6-3, in the wild card game -- aren't quite over it.

      "I don't like that one game," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I was in that one game. That was tough."

      The Cardinals, who were tied for the 11th-best record in baseball in 2012, came within one game of reaching the World Series. Some year soon, a Cardinals-esque second wild card will not only knock out a legitimate championship contender in the wild card game but go on to win the whole thing.

      And at that point, baseball will have gone from hosting a postseason that was so elite that it left out potentially great teams to one that is so inclusive it invites unworthy champions.

      Instead of the poignancy of the 1993 Giants and 1980 Baltimore Orioles -- the only two 100-win teams to miss the postseason in the division era -- we'll have the sad tales of teams that were very good over 162 games but exited the playoffs after nine bad innings.

      "It may happen, but it's still the right thing to do," Selig said.

      And what if it isn't?

      "Maybe some day along the lines, somebody will second-guess," Selig said. "But you know the good news? I'll be gone."

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Padres shut down Ross, ponder same for Despaigne
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN DIEGO -- After officially shutting down right-handed starter Tyson Ross on Monday, the San Diego Padres might be ready to do the same with right-handed starter Odrisamer Despaigne.

    • "We decided early this afternoon that Tyson would not pitch again this season," Padres manager Bud Black said. "If the season had continued for another week or two, we would have seen Ross again. This is much more about how his arm feels than shutting him down (for workload)."

      Ross has battled pain in the flexor mass of his right forearm since making his last start Sept. 13.

      "There's a slight strain in the flexor area," Black said. "He still needs another week to allow the soreness to go away.

      "The doctors are not concerned about this. Tyson is not concerned. It will go away with rest. We've just run out of games."

      Ross, 27, finishes the season 13-14 with a 2.81 ERA. He has 195 strikeouts in 195 2/3 innings. His .230 opponents' batting average is the fifth-best mark in the National League, and his ERA ranks 10th.

      "I set a lot of career highs this season, and I'm looking forward to next season," Ross said Monday before the Padres' 1-0 win over the Colorado Rockies. "I just ran out of time. The forearm is feeling better. Like Buddy said, if this season was two weeks longer, I'm pitching again."

      Black also said Despaigne is questionable when it comes to making another start. Despaigne came out of his start Friday nursing discomfort in his latissimus dorsi muscle.

      "He played catch today," Black said of Despaigne. "He's responded well. He could start again. He wants to start again."

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Pinch hitter pushes Giants past Dodgers in 13th
    By The Sports Xchange

    LOS ANGELES -- Pinch hitter Andrew Susac and his San Francisco Giants teammates had seen enough.

    • Susac singled home the go-ahead run in the 13th inning, and the Giants ended a three-game skid with a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night.

      "That's a huge team win," said Giants starter Jake Peavy, who allowed two runs in seven innings but didn't figure in the decision. "It's one we had to have. I think it showed a lot about the guys we have in this room."

      The Giants (85-71) pulled within 3 1/2 games of the first-place Dodgers (89-68) in the National League West. San Francisco also remained tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates atop the NL wild-card standings, both teams five games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers with six to play.

      "That's a good club over there," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of the Giants. "We've known that for a while. They haven't went away all year."

      Susac drove home first baseman Brandon Belt with two outs in the 13th after the Dodgers intentionally walked shortstop Brandon Crawford. Susac said he was just looking for a pitch to drive against Dodgers reliever Kevin Correia (2-4).

      "I saw the curveball up and got enough of it, actually the end of it, which was probably a good thing," Susac said. "It feels good. Like I said, I think all of us were ready to go home, so I had a pretty positive mindset going up to the plate."

      Susac's hit allowed the Giants to bounce back from a lost weekend in San Diego, where they were swept by the Padres.

      "Man, it was nice to pull one off, especially the way we played in San Diego," Susac said.

      Center fielder Gregor Blanco added a two-run double in the 13th.

      Santiago Casilla (2-2) pitched two innings of scoreless relief for the win. Giants rookie Hunter Strickland struck out two in a perfect 13th inning to record his first major league save. Those two combined with relievers Sergio Romo and Jean Machi to keep the Dodgers hitless over the final six innings.

      "The bullpen stepped up," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It all comes down to the job the bullpen did. This was a very important game obviously for us. It would been a tough one not to win."

      Correia, a former Giant, allowed three runs on three hits in an inning.

      Dodgers center fielder Yasiel Puig threw out Belt, who was attempting to score on a single by Crawford, at the plate in the 11th inning to keep the scored tied.

      Los Angeles starter Dan Haren limited the Giants to one hit in seven innings, but he allowed two runs (one earned) with seven strikeouts and no walks. Haren hasn't beaten the Giants since he shut them out almost six years ago as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

      The Dodgers committed three errors to one for the Giants.

      Blanco led off the game with a homer, driving a 3-2 Haren pitch over the wall in center for a 1-0 Giants' lead.

      An error by right fielder Matt Kemp, who dropped a fly ball by Blanco after nearly colliding with Puig, allowed Blanco to reach third with one out in the third inning. Blanco scored on second baseman Joe Panik's sacrifice for a 2-0 advantage.

      Peavy no-hit the Dodgers until Los Angeles scored two runs in the fifth inning. Left fielder Carl Crawford lined a solo home run to right to open the inning. A sacrifice fly by second baseman Dee Gordon scored third baseman Juan Uribe, who doubled, tying the score at 2.

      Peavy gave up four hits and a walk while striking out four.

      NOTES: The Giants are 6-2 this season at Dodger Stadium and winners of nine of their past 11 in Chavez Ravine. ... San Francisco, which is 9-8 against the Dodgers this season, hasn't dropped a season series to its archrival since 2009. ... LHP Clayton Kershaw was presented the Roy Campanella Award for the second consecutive year. The award is given annually to the Dodger who showcases the character and leadership skills of the late Hall of Fame catcher. ... Giants C Buster Posey, who led the majors with a .354 road batting average entering Monday's action, went 1-for-5. ... San Francisco LHP Madison Bumgarner (18-9, 2.91 ERA) will face Los Angeles RHP Zack Greinke (15-8, 2.76) on Tuesday. ... Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda celebrated his 87th birthday Monday. ... The game drew a crowd of 53,500, the largest at a major league game this season.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Angels' Hamilton, Shoemaker make progress
    By The Sports Xchange

    OAKLAND, Calif. -- Los Angeles Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker (mild left oblique strain) and left fielder Josh Hamilton (sore right ribcage) each took another step forward in their quest to recover from late-season injuries.

    • Shoemaker played soft catch for the first time since being injured during his Sept. 15 start against the Seattle Mariners and having to leave the game.

      "It's less sore than it has been, so I know it's going in the right direction," said Shoemaker, who is 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA.

      Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he's "very encouraged" that Shoemaker will be ready to pitch in the postseason.

      "But you're not going to know until he gets on a mound and turns it loose, and that's still a little ways away," Scioscia said before the Angels' 8-4 loss to Oakland.

      Scioscia called the chances of Shoemaker making an appearance before the regular season ends "very remote."

      "Given where we're at in the season with us in the playoffs, we're just trying to play it smart," Shoemaker said, "but I also want to get going as soon as possible, too. That's kind of how we're weighing everything."

      Hamilton, who hasn't played in a game since Sept. 16 against Seattle, took swings Monday off a batting tee.

      "Josh actually feels pretty good today," Scioscia said. "We're encouraged. He hasn't really gotten into total baseball activities where you're going to have a huge opportunity to read where he is, but he's starting to swing again, which is a good sign."

      The Angels believe there's a chance Hamilton could return to action before the end of the regular season, and he hopes he can play Wednesday in the series-finale against Oakland.

      "I don't know," Scioscia said of a Wednesday return. "He gets a little bit aggressive. We'll wait and see where he is in working out tomorrow."

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Happ becomes fifth Jays starter to reach 10 wins
    By The Sports Xchange

    TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have had some pretty good starting rotations over the years.

    • From 1996 through 1998, they won three consecutive American League Cy Young Awards, for example, with Pat Hentgen winning the first and Roger Clemens winning the next two.

      But the Blue Jays have never had five starters win at least 10 games in a season until this year, although they have had five pitchers -- including relievers -- reach double-digit wins in one season three times.

      Still, that seemed unlikely at the beginning of the season because the rotation was considered a weakness.

      Left-hander J.A. Happ became the fifth member of the rotation to reach 10 wins this season when he held the Seattle Mariners to seven hits and two runs in seven innings as the Blue Jays pounded out a 14-4 victory on Monday.

      It is probably a tribute to Happ that he has made the progress he has this season and now can be counted on to go deeper into games than in the past. It was the ninth time he has pitched at least seven innings this season and he has gone at least six 17 times in his 25 starts. He started the year on the disabled list with a sore back and put in time in the bullpen, making three relief appearances, before making his first start of the season on May 5.

      "It feels good to go out and get deeper in the game, accomplish some of the goals that I kind of felt I could do and wanted to have the opportunity to do," Happ said. "I haven't taken a lot of time to reflect on the year but I just want to just keep going out and kind of keep us in the game for the most part."

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Samardzija, A's roll past Angels
    By The Sports Xchange

    OAKLAND, Calif. -- Right-hander Jeff Samardzija waited for years to pitch in a playoff race.

    • Now that the former Chicago Cub finally has his chance, he is savoring every chance and giving the Oakland A's a huge boost in their quest to secure an American League wild-card playoff berth.

      Samardzija pitched seven strong innings Monday night, leading the A's to an 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

      The A's, who won their second in a row, increased their lead in the AL wild-card race to one game over the Kansas City Royals and moved three games ahead of the Seattle Mariners. The top two teams face off next week on a one-game playoff.

      "This last month has been fun for me," said Samardzija, who was traded by the Cubs to the A's on July 5. "It's a new situation for me, something I've been asking for for a long time. I've got in the situation, and I want to take advantage of it. These opportunities aren't guaranteed, and they don't come around too often, so you don't want to waste them."

      Samardzija (5-5) gave up an unearned run in the first inning, snapping his streak of 16 scoreless innings, but he blanked the Angels over the next six frames. He has gone 23 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. Samardzija gave up five hits and struck out three. He didn't walk a batter for the fourth time in his past five starts.

      "He was outstanding," said A's catcher Geovany Soto, who was Samardzija's teammate with the Cubs from 2008-2012. "So awesome to see this guy after a couple years. Just see a young kid with a great arm, to see him mature the way he has in the starter's role and put everything together is great to see."

      The Angels, who clinched the AL West crown Wednesday, remain 2 1/2 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the battle to finish with the best record and secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

      Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson (13-10) lasted just two-thirds of an inning against the A's. He gave up six runs, four of them earned, on two hits while walking four in his shortest outing of the season. Wilson threw 35 pitches, only 12 for strikes, against a patient A's lineup that refused to chase balls out of the strike zone.

      "It's discouraging to lose," Wilson said. "We're trying to play for the best record, trying to clinch home-field advantage, but you really try not to attach too much to a loss. I pitched poorly and wasn't able to locate the catcher's mitt."

      Wilson was coming off one of his best starts of the season, when he blanked Seattle for seven innings on one hit Wednesday in a 5-0 victory. He was 5-0 with a 2.79 ERA in his past eight starts against the A's before his first-inning meltdown Monday.

      "That's a rough one for C.J.," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It looked like he had been making progress, pitched a terrific game for us last outing, and this was obviously a tough start for him.

      "We've looked at C.J. from every angle possible. He's prepared, he knows what he's trying to do, he has terrific stuff. At times it works and he's on top of the game. Sometimes the game's on top of him, and we saw that tonight."

      Samardzija received two or fewer runs of support in eight of his first 14 starts after being traded by the Cubs to the A's. That includes his previous outing, when he pitched eight shutout innings but got a no-decision in a 6-1 loss to Texas. This time, the A's gave him a five-run lead in the first inning.

      Soto hit a bases-loaded, two-run single in the first inning, and first baseman Stephen Vogt drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the seventh off left-handed reliever Michael Roth.

      "When we just put that one up and the second one up I was happy," Samardzija said. "I felt like the way I've been throwing, that was going to be enough. But them to go on and add four more to that and then Vogter to add two more later in the game, that's what it's all about."

      Once Samardzija had the lead, he kept attacking the strike zone and energizing his teammates.

      "He's aggressive. He's a shark," Soto said, using Samardzija's nickname. "He's coming at you, he's coming for some blood. Good or bad, he's coming after you."

      Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hit his 28th home run of the season, a three-run shot into the left field seats off A's reliever Evan Scribner in the eighth inning. Pujols has 1,602 career RBIs and is in sole possession of 33rd on baseball's all-time list.

      NOTES: Oakland SS Jed Lowrie was in the starting lineup Monday despite leaving Sunday's game due to a swollen left foot. ... A's C Derek Norris got a cortisone shot in his injured right shoulder Sunday and returned to the lineup Monday as the designated hitter. ... Angels RHP Matt Shoemaker (mild left oblique strain) played soft catch for the first time since being injured Sept. 15. Manager Mike Scioscia is optimistic that Shoemaker will be ready to pitch in the postseason but called the possibility of him pitching in another regular-season game remote. ... LF Josh Hamilton (sore right side) took swings off a batting tee, and the Angels haven't given up hope of him appearing in a game before the end of the regular season, possibly as early as Wednesday. He hasn't played in a game since Sept. 16. ... Angels 2B Howie Kendrick, who strained his left hamstring Sunday, did not play Monday.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Season to remember for Astros' Altuve
    By The Sports Xchange

    ARLINGTON, Texas -- Houston second baseman Jose Altuve has already had a season to remember. And it can only get better.

    • The pint-sized infielder is putting up big numbers in his bid to become the Astros' first batting champion. He leads the majors with a .345 average after going 1-4 in Monday's 4-3 loss at Texas.

      He already owns the franchise record for hits in a season with 221, breaking Craig Biggio's previous franchise mark of 210. Altuve is the first player in five seasons to tally at least 220 hits.

      "He's the catalyst of the ballclub," interim manager Tom Lawless said. "When he gets on, things happen. He's got 220 hits and that's really unheard of."

      It's also the most hits by a second baseman since Detroit's Charlie Gehringer had 227 hits in 1936. Altuve has at least two hits in 10 of his last 12 games.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Game roundup: Jeter opens final home series with 3 RBIs
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter opened his final series at home by driving in three runs as the New York Yankees blanked the Baltimore Orioles 5-0 on Monday.

    • After going 1-for-17 on New York's seven-game trip and going hitless in 28 at-bats, Jeter is 9-for-21 with six RBIs in his final homestand. He drove in three runs for the first time since Sept. 9, 2012, at Baltimore and did so at home for the first time since Aug. 1, 2012, also against the Orioles.

      With virtually the entire crowd standing and flashbulbs going off from cameras, Jeter flied out to right field in the first and then hit a bouncer to shortstop J.J. Hardy that scored rookie designated hitter Jose Pirela in the third.

      Two innings later, Jeter saw eight pitches and lined a full-count fastball from Baltimore left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (16-5) into left field for his 18th double.

      Jeter's productive night helped right-hander Michael Pineda (4-5) win for the first time in five starts since Aug. 25. Pineda retired the first 13 Orioles before giving up a single to Hardy, and that was the only baserunner he allowed until giving a one-out walk to Baltimore first baseman Christian Walker in the eighth.

      Pirela made his major league debut and became the record-setting 57th player used by the Yankees this season. He had an RBI triple and scored on Jeter's double.

      Royals 2, Indians 0

      CLEVELAND -- Danny Duffy pitched six scoreless innings, combining with three relievers on a seven-hitter, as Kansas City beat Cleveland at Progressive Field.

      With the win, Kansas City pulled to within one game of Detroit for first place in the AL Central.

      In his six innings of work, the left-hander Duffy (9-11) gave up six hits with five strikeouts and two walks. It was Duffy's first start since Sept. 6 due to a sore shoulder that caused him to miss two starts. Right-hander Greg Holland pitched the ninth inning to pick up his 44th save.

      Pirates 1, Braves 0

      ATLANTA -- Pittsburgh left-hander Francisco Liriano made his first career appearance at Turner Field a memorable one, pitching six scoreless innings in a shutout win over Atlanta.

      Liriano (7-10) allowed only three hits and walked four on the cool, windy evening. He struck out seven and helped the Pirates reduce their magic number to two games over the Milwaukee Brewers, who were idle.

      Liriano got the only run he needed from center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who led off the sixth inning against Atlanta starter Aaron Harang with a line-drive homer, his 24th, into the left-center field bleachers.

      The Pirates bullpen pitched three scoreless innings to close the game. Jared Hughes, John Holdzkom and Mark Melancon each worked one inning, with Melancon earning his 32nd save.

      Blue Jays 14, Mariners 4

      TORONTO -- J.A. Happ pitched seven innings and Danny Valencia drove in three runs with a first-inning triple as Toronto defeated Seattle.

      The Blue Jays had homers by Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar and Anthony Gose in handing the Mariners their third loss in a row.

      Happ (10-11) became the fifth Blue Jays starter to reach double digits in wins this season. It is the first time the Blue Jays have had five starters win at least 10 games in one season. It is the third time they have had five pitchers with at least 10 wins when relievers are included.

      White Sox 2, Tigers 0

      DETROIT -- Chris Bassitt recorded his first major-league win and Tyler Flowers homered for the game's only runs as Chicago silenced the American League Central Division-leading Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

      Bassitt (1-1) scattered six hits in 7 2/3 innings, walking one and striking out three. He had made three other starts, including a loss to Detroit on Aug. 30 in his major-league debut when he allowed five runs in 6 1/3 innings.

      Jake Petricka recorded his 14th save for the White Sox (72-84), who have won eight of their last 12. Detroit left-hander Kyle Lobstein (1-1) suffered his first career loss despite limiting Chicago to two runs in seven innings and striking out five.

      Rangers 4, Astros 3

      ARLINGTON, Texas -- Not only did 31-year-old rookie Guilder Rodriguez get his first major league hit, but the third baseman also picked up his first game-winning RBI.

      Rodriguez drove home the go-ahead run in Texas' victory over Houston in the opener of a three-game series at Globe Life Park. The seventh-inning drive glanced off the glove of leaping shortstop Jonathan Villar to break a 3-3 tie.

      The Rangers have won nine of their last 10 games, and are assured of not losing 100 games this season. Houston had already ended a run of three consecutive seasons of triple-digit losses.

      The state's two franchises are playing out the string with interim managers and an eye on next season. Plenty of potential prospects are gaining valuable playing time that each front office hopes can pay dividends in 2015 and beyond.

      Cardinals 8, Cubs 0

      CHICAGO -- St. Louis right-hander Adam Wainwright threw seven shutout innings while becoming the major league's second 20-game winner this year, and the Cardinals beat the Chicago.

      Wainwright (20-9) scattered three hits, struck out eight and walked one in the series opener at Wrigley Field.

      The Cardinals claimed their eighth win in 10 games and maintained a 2 1/2 game lead over Pittsburgh atop the National League Central with five games to play. The Pirates kept pace with a 1-0 victory over the Braves in Atlanta on Monday.

      Left-hander Travis Wood (8-13) took the loss as the Cubs dropped their second straight game and fourth in the past five.

      Diamondbacks 6, Twins 2

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Josh Collmenter allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings, and Arizona defeated Minnesota at Target Field.

      The victory snapped a six-game losing streak for the Diamondbacks, who entered losers in 13 of their past 16 games.

      Collmenter (11-8) helped put an end to that, retiring the first seven batters he faced and allowing only one run through the first four innings before Arizona broke the game open with a five-run fifth.

      The right-hander gave up five hits and a walk while striking out five. The 11th win is a career high.

      Padres 1, Rockies 0

      SAN DIEGO -- Eric Stults and four relievers blanked Colorado on 10 hits, and Rene Rivera provided the game's only run with a first-inning double Monday night as San Diego defeated the Rockies at Petco Park.

      The win -- the Padres' second shutout victory in four games and third in their past eight at Petco Park -- enabled San Diego to tie its single-season record for wins at Petco Park. The Padres are 47-32 at home, including a 7-1 mark on the current homestand and a 23-7 record since the All-Star break at home.

      Stults (8-17) allowed seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings. Right-hander Kevin Quackenbush threw a scoreless ninth inning for his fifth save.

      A's 8, Angels 4

      OAKLAND, Calif. -- Right-hander Jeff Samardzija pitched seven strong innings, and Oakland continued its push for an American League wild-card playoff berth with a victory over Los Angeles.

      The A's increased their lead in the American League wild-card race to one game over the Kansas City Royals. Oakland is three games ahead of the Seattle Mariners.

      Samardzija (5-5) gave up an unearned run in the first inning, snapping his streak of 16 scoreless innings, but he blanked the Angels over the next six frames. He has gone 23 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. Samardzija gave up five hits, struck out three and didn't walk a batter for the fourth time in his past five starts for the A's, who won their second consecutive game.

      Giants 5, Dodgers 2

      LOS ANGELES -- Pinch-hitter Andrew Susac singled home the go-ahead run in the 13th inning, as San Francisco ended a four-game skid with a victory over Los Angeles before a sellout crowd of 53,500 at Dodger Stadium.

      The Giants reduced the Dodgers lead in the National League West to 3 1/3 games. They also remained tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates atop of the wild-card standings.

      Susac drove in Brandon Belt with two outs in the 13th after the Dodgers intentially walked Brandon Crawford. Gregor Blanco added an RBI double in the inning.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Stults outduels Matzek as Padres shut out Rockies
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN DIEGO -- Eric Stults has the second-worst run support average in the major leagues this season.

    • And Monday was more of the same for the Padres left-hander.

      In 6 1/3 innings, the Padres scored one run -- that coming on a first-inning double by catcher Rene Rivera.

      But Stults, and four relievers, made it hold up as the Padres defeated Colorado 1-0 in a pitching duel between Stults and fellow left-hander Tyler Matzek of the Rockies -- who threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout when last he and Stults were paired on Sept. 5 at Coors Field in Denver.

      "It felt great to get that hit because Stultsy doesn't get many runs and he deserves more than that one," said Rivera of his sixth-game winning hit of the season.

      "But Stultsy never says a word about the offense. He just pitches and tonight he did everything he needed to do to win."

      Stults, who is also tied for the National League lead in losses, improved to 8-17 by deftly working out of several nasty jams and allowing seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings.

      "The bullpen did a great job," said Stults, who had been 1-4 over his last five starts with a 4.88 earned-run average. "That was a team win."

      The Rockies out-hit the Padres 10-5, but were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and three times had the tying run in scoring position with less than two out.

      Relievers Nick Vincent, Frank Garces, Dale Thayer and Kevin Quackenbush followed Stults with Quackenbush picking up his sixth save.

      "Stults keeps you in a rocking chair," said Rockies manager Walt Weiss. "He adds and subtracts on both sides of the plate. He pitches backwards and he commands the ball.

      "He was pitching tonight. He kept us off balance."

      The win -- the second shutout in four games and third in their last eight at Petco Park -- enabled the Padres to tie their single-season record for wins at Petco Park. They are 47-32 -- including a 7-1 mark on this homestand and a 23-7 mark since the All-Star break at home.

      The game's lone run came with two out in the bottom of the first.

      Matzek (6-11) retired the first two hitters in the first on ground balls to shortstop Josh Rutledge before walking second baseman Jedd Gyorko. Rivera then hit a liner to right center, Gyorko scoring as the double rolled to the fence.

      Matzek allowed only three other hits through six innings. He issued three walks while striking out eight just 17 days after throwing a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Padres at Coors Field in Denver. Matzek had gone 4-1 in his previous five starts with a 1.56 earned run average.

      "Tyler's been real good for us and he did a great job tonight," said Weiss.

      Meanwhile, Stults battled off the ropes several times.

      The Rockies had runners at first and second with one out in the second on back-to-back singles by left fielder Corey Dickerson and catcher Michael McKenry. But Stults got third baseman Rafael Ynoa to pop out to third before striking out second baseman DJ LeMahieu.

      The Rockies loaded the bases in the fifth on one-out singles by Ynoa and LeMahieu and a two-out, semi-intentional walk drawn by center fielder Charlie Blackmon. Stults again ended the threat with a strikeout, this time getting Rutledge swinging through a fastball on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.

      Stults departed after giving up a one-out single to LeMahieu in the seventh. Right-handed reliever Nick Vincent gave up a two-out single to Blackmon, but retired Rutledge on a liner to right to strand Rockies at the corners.

      The Rockies had one final chance in the eighth when Padres left fielder Tommy Medica misplayed a liner by Justin Morneau into a lead-off double off Garces. But Thayer came in and got three straight outs without pinch-runner Brandon Barnes moving.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Garcia may be White Sox's answer at cleanup
    By The Sports Xchange

    DETROIT -- Avisail Garcia looks like the long-term solution at the cleanup spot for the Chicago White Sox.

    • Garcia crushed homers that were estimated at 442 and 468 feet at Tampa Bay on Sunday, giving him seven in 40 games during his injury-marred season. He had seven home runs in 72 games last season. The combination of Jose Abreu and Garcia in the 3-4 spots could some day be as dangerous as the 3-4 Detroit duo of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

      “You’re looking at them and there’s potential for that,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Hopefully, that will happen. You just want them to continue to improve but you like what you see so far.”

      Adam Dunn served the role of cleanup hitter most often this season before he was dealt to Oakland. Dayan Viciedo and Conor Gillaspie have also taken turns there, but Garcia is the logical candidate to protect Abreu in the lineup for years to come. Garcia’s power potential was obvious in the minors, even though he hit only two home runs in parts of two seasons with the Tigers before he was dealt to the White Sox at last season’s non-waiver trade deadline.

      Garcia was hitting .319 with three home runs and 13 RBIs over his last 18 games before going 0-for-4 against his former club on Monday night. He was reinstated from the disabled list on Aug. 16 after returning from a torn labrum in his left shoulder that was expected to sideline him the rest of the season.

      “It’s big for him,” Ventura said. “You’re facing teams that are grinding, like the Tigers. It’s good for him to get back, just for his own piece of mind of being able to play it out. He’s played in a lot of games consecutively as well and that helps.”

      Garcia is showing more plate discipline, drawing eight walks this month alone after drawing nine all of last season. He picked up some good habits from Cabrera and Martinez, who took him under their wing.

      “They’re really good hitters and they always have the same approach,” Garcia said. “They work really hard for that. You see that and you try to do the same. It’s not only the hitting but just having the same routine every day. Seeing that helped me a lot.”

      Garcia is still showing some effects from the injury mentally, according to Ventura. He has been playing shallower in right field since his return and has shown some tentativeness in diving for balls.

      “If anything, you want him to still be aggressive,” Ventura said.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Jays bash three homers, rout skidding Mariners
    By The Sports Xchange

    TORONTO -- After struggling to score runs on a 1-6 road trip, the Toronto Blue Jays became a scoring machine on their return home Monday.

    • The Blue Jays pounded out 16 hits -- including three home runs and a bases-loaded triple -- to defeat the Seattle Marines 14-4 in the opener of a four-game series.

      "You try to do that every night, but it's not that easy," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.

      The Mariners (83-73) took their third loss in a row and fell two games behind the Royals in the race for the second American League wild card. The Oakland A's lead Kansas City by one game for the first wild card.

      Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ pitched seven innings and Danny Valencia drove in three runs with a first-inning triple for the Blue Jays, who scored only 18 runs on their trip to Baltimore and New York.

      The Blue Jays (79-77) got homers from right fielder Jose Bautista, left fielder Kevin Pillar and center fielder Anthony Gose.

      Toronto chased Mariners left-hander James Paxton (6-4) in a five-run third. Paxton, who is from Ladner, British Columbia, allowed seven hits, six walks and nine runs (eight earned) in 2 2/3 innings in his first major league start in Canada.

      "I just didn't have a good feel for it tonight," Paxton said. "I felt like I was all over the place. When I was in the strike zone, it was the heart of the plate and they were hitting the ball hard. I think I probably just wanted it a bit too much. My stuff didn't feel great tonight. I didn't have a good feel for anything."

      Gibbons said, "I thought we had a really good approach at the plate and made Paxton work. We got some big hits. We haven't had a laugher in a good while. I can't remember the last time. Then Happ wiggled his way out of (trouble) early on, which is big."

      Happ (10-11) became the fifth Blue Jays starter to reach double digits in wins this season. He allowed eight hits, including a home run by third baseman Kyle Seager, and two runs.

      The Blue Jays have five starters with at least 10 victories in one season for the first time. It is the third time they had five pitchers with at least 10 wins when relievers are included.

      "It feels good to go out and get deeper in the game and accomplish some of the goals that I kind of felt I could do and wanted to have the opportunity to do," Happ said. "I haven't taken a lot of time to reflect on the year, but I just want to just keep going out and kind of keep us in the game for the most part."

      Pillar hit his first homer of the season, a two-run blast in the sixth against left-hander Lucas Luetge.

      Gose hit his second homer of the year after entering the game in the seventh. His blast came against right-hander Danny Farquhar.

      Blue Jays reliever Kendall Graveman gave up a run in the eighth, and Mariners right fielder Chris Denorfia hit his third homer of the season in the ninth against left-hander Sean Nolin.

      Paxton was a first-round pick by the Blue Jays in the 2009 draft. The sides could not reach a deal, and Paxton was picked in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Mariners.

      "I think he was probably a little bit too amped up," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said of Paxton's outing Monday. "He was just too charged up. He couldn't control his strike zone and worked behind in the count a little bit too much. It's a learning experience."

      The Blue Jays led 4-1 after the first inning.

      Seattle scored in the top of the first on a leadoff infield single by center fielder Austin Jackson and a one-out double by second baseman Robinson Cano.

      The Blue Jays scored four in the bottom of the inning, three on a triple by Valencia, who scored on a two-out single by second baseman Steve Tolleson.

      Valencia's triple cleared the bases after right fielder Bautista singled with one out and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and catcher Dioner Navarro walked. Valencia was initially called out at third, but the Blue Jays won a challenge, and the call was reversed.

      The Blue Jays stretched their lead to 9-1 in a five-run third started by Valencia's double. First baseman John Mayberry and Pillar walked. Shortstop Jose Reyes singled in a run on a ball deflected by third baseman Seager. Bautista walked to score a run.

      After right-hander Brandon Maurer replaced Paxton, a passed ball scored Pillar. Encarnacion scored two runs on a single deflected by Seager.

      The Blue Jays scored an unearned run in the fourth on singles by Tolleson and center fielder Dalton Pompey and a throwing error by shortstop Chris Taylor.

      Bautista hit his 35th homer of the season against Tom Wilhelmsen in the fifth.

      NOTES: Mariners RHP Chris Young, who struggled in his last outing, will not make his scheduled start Thursday in Toronto. "I think he's probably out of gas from a starting standpoint," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. A replacement was not named. ... Blue Jays DH Adam Lind (sore back) did not play for the third game in a row, as the Mariners started a left-hander. Lind could be ready to start Tuesday. ... With RHP Marcus Stroman missing his scheduled start Thursday while serving a five-day suspension, the Blue Jays will piece together the game with relievers, possibly opening with rookie LHP Daniel Norris for two or three innings. ... Seattle RHP Felix Hernandez (14-5, 2.07 ERA) will start Tuesday against Toronto RHP R.A. Dickey (13-12, 3.82 ERA).

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Royals split with Indians, gain in wild-card race
    By The Sports Xchange

    CLEVELAND -- In a pivotal day for two playoff-hungry teams, the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals split a doubleheader of sorts Monday at Progressive Field.

    • First the Indians beat the Royals 4-3, getting the final three outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to preserve a win from a game suspended Aug. 31 in Kansas City.

      In the regularly scheduled game, the Royals, behind left-hander Danny Duffy, shut out the Indians 2-0. The split allowed Kansas City to pull within one game of the Detroit Tigers for first place in the AL Central.

      The Royals also saw their lead for the second AL wild-card spot increase to two games when the Seattle Mariners lost. Kansas City sits one game behind the Oakland A's for the top wild-card berth.

      "It was a good day for us," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said.

      The split was far more damaging for the Indians since another day passed without them gaining any ground in the wild-card race. They remain 3 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot -- but with only five games to play.

      "It's not often that you don't score but come away with a split," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

      "We've got to win every game the rest of the way," Cleveland second baseman Mike Aviles said. "We can't worry about anyone else."

      Duffy pitched six scoreless innings, combining with three relievers on a seven-hitter. Duffy (9-11) gave up six hits and two walks while striking out. It was his first start since Sept. 6, as a sore shoulder caused him to miss two turns in the rotation.

      Right-hander Greg Holland pitched the ninth inning to pick up his 44th save.

      Duffy's shoulder looked fine Monday night. After pitching out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the first inning, he didn't allow a baserunner past first base.

      Duffy gave up a walk and two singles to the first three batters he faced as the Indians loaded the bases with no outs. However, the lefty retired designated hitter Carlos Santana on an infield popup, then struck out catcher Yan Gomes and got Aviles on a flyout to end the inning.

      "When you've got the bases loaded and Carlos (Santana) up there, you feel pretty good," Francona said. "But (Duffy) reached back for a little more."

      Duffy said he tried to keep his composure.

      "I thought about executing the next pitch," he said. "That's the thing I've learned since I've been in the big leagues, don't let the next pitch get to you. I tried to bear down and execute."

      Yost was impressed by 25-year-old's poise.

      "He was a little rusty with his command, but his stuff was phenomenal," Yost said. "He had the bases loaded with nobody out and pitched through it and really never got in too much of a jam after that."

      The Indians next threat came in the seventh inning, when center fielder Michael Bourn doubled with two outs off Brandon Finnegan. The left-handed reliever struck out shortstop Jose Ramirez to end the inning.

      Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco (8-6) pitched 7 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with nine strikeouts and one walk.

      Carrasco, who pitched a two-hit shutout in his previous start, allowed a run on three hits in the first inning. With one out, Royals right fielder Nori Aoki singled and stole second. With two outs, first baseman Eric Hosmer singled to right, scoring Aoki.

      The Royals stretched the lead to 2-0 in the fifth. Second baseman Omar Infante led off with a double into the left-field corner. Infante went to third on a groundout by third baseman Mike Moustakas, and he scored on an infield single by shortstop Alicides Escobar.

      Duffy and the bullpen took it from there to keep the Royals squarely in the playoff hunt.

      "The teams we needed to lose tonight, lost," Hosmer said. "We gained some ground, especially playing these guys. They're a tough team."

      NOTES: Indians RHP Corey Kluber, who had back-to-back 14-strikeout games last week, was named the American League Player of the Week, the second time he won the award this year. ... After breaking the club record for strikeouts last year, Indians pitchers did it again this year. They have 1,402 K's after fanning 11 Monday. ... Royals SS Alcides Escobar has 33 doubles, two shy of Kurt Stillwell's club record for a shortstop, set in 1990.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Diamondbacks end skid with win over Twins
    By The Sports Xchange

    MINNEAPOLIS -- For the last month, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Josh Collmenter has been perhaps the best pitcher in all of baseball.

    • Collmenter wasn't as sharp Monday, but was effective enough against the Twins, allowing two runs over 6 1/3 innings as the Diamondbacks defeated Minnesota at Target Field.

      The victory snapped a six-game losing streak for the Diamondbacks, who entered losers in 13 of their past 16 games.

      Collmenter (11-8) helped put an end to that, retiring the first six batters he faced and allowing only one run through the first four innings before Arizona broke the game open with a five-run fifth.

      The right-hander gave up five hits and a walk while striking out five. The 11th win is a career high and the win was his third since Aug. 22, as he's gone 3-1 with a 1.29 ERA over that span.

      "I've been kind of effectively wild my last handful," Collmenter said. "I haven't been putting it everywhere I wanted and my changeup has kind of been hit or miss. But when I've needed to make pitches, I've made them."

      Collmenter ran into trouble in the third, allowing the first two men to reach base. A strikeout and a groundout nearly got him out of the inning, but he fell behind Chris Herrmann and the left fielder roped a single into right-center field, driving in the game's first run.

      The Arizona offense picked up their starter in the fifth, starting the inning with three consecutive hits, including an RBI double by shortstop Didi Gregorius. Left fielder Ender Inciarte's ground out plated another run, and Gregorius scored on a wild pitch by Twins righty Ricky Nolasco.

      "Nolasco has been a guy we've had trouble with in the past," said Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson. "The guys made some good adjustments during the game. He left some curveballs up that we were able to hit."

      First baseman Mark Trumbo capped the inning with a two-run homer to the opposite field, his 12th blast of the year to make it 5-1.

      "You keep flipping them and they keep hitting them," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Finally the big explosion and there you have it, you're down big."

      Josmil Pinto slapped a pinch-hit single down the right-field line to make it a three-run game in the bottom of the seventh inning but Arizona got the run back in the next half inning. Designated hitter Aaron Hill led off with a double and stole third base. He scored on a groundout to short with one out, but dislocated his right pinky finger on the slide, knocking him from the game.

      It was the only down moment of the night for the struggling Diamondbacks, who could conceivably catch the Twins as the two teams jockey for position atop the 2015 MLB Draft next summer. Arizona trails Minnesota by three wins and has four more losses following the victory Monday.

      Minnesota has now lost three straight.

      After Collmenter exited, Diamondbacks relievers Oliver Perez (one-third of an inning), Evan Marshall (1 1/3 innings) and Will Harris (one inning) blanked the Twins the rest of the way.

      Minnesota starter Ricky Nolasco (5-12) allowed five runs on nine hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out five.

      "I didn't make pitches and the wheels fell off," Nolasco said. "I'd like to be able to shut that inning down but I wasn't able to tonight. They grinded out a few at-bats that inning and made me pay."

      Nolasco hasn't won since July 1 and his first season has been a disaster. After signing a four-year, $48 million contract in the offseason, Nolasco dropped to 5-12 with a 5.47 ERA, but after a stint on the disabled list with soreness in his throwing elbow, the right-hander had been better, allowing only three runs total over his last three outings.

      Monday that wasn't the case.

      "I did a terrible job using my fastball tonight," Nolasco said. "I didn't use it the way I wanted to and it was just too bad that I realized that after the game."

      NOTES: Twins OF Aaron Hicks was back in the lineup after missing two games due to a stiff lower back. ... Minnesota LHP Tommy Milone, who has missed his past three starts because of a dead arm and then neck soreness, is expected to be available out of the bullpen through the end of the season. ... Diamondbacks C Miguel Montero will get the start Monday. Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said all three of his catchers will start a game against the Twins.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Rangers rookie Rodriguez gets game-winning RBI
    By The Sports Xchange

    ARLINGTON, Texas -- Not only did 31-year-old rookie Guilder Rodriguez get his first major league hit Monday night, but the third baseman also picked up his first game-winning RBI.

    • Rodriguez drove home the go-ahead run in the Texas Rangers' 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros in the opener of a three-game series at Globe Life Park. The seventh-inning drive glanced off the glove of leaping shortstop Jonathan Villar to break a 3-3 tie.

      Rodriguez's wife and father were at the game.

      "I was very excited to see my dad in the stands for my first RBI, my first big league base hit," Rodriguez said.

      The Rangers (63-93) have won nine of their last 10 games, and are assured of not losing 100 games this season. Houston (69-88) had already ended a run of three consecutive seasons of triple-digit losses.

      The state's two franchises are playing out the string with interim managers and an eye on next season. Plenty of potential prospects are gaining valuable playing time that each front office hopes can pay dividends in 2015 and beyond.

      The acting skippers are also looking to make an impression, and so far the early returns are promising. Texas' Tim Bogar and Houston's Tom Lawless each own winning records for clubs woefully under .500.

      Rodriguez is in the big leagues after logging 1,095 minor league games over 13 years, which was the most among active players with no major league experience. He was also the fourth-oldest American League position player to make his major league debut over the last 44 seasons.

      After starting his career 0-for-6 at the plate, Rodriguez logged his first hit in the third inning with a single to left off Houston starter Nick Tropeano. The game-winning hit came with two outs, bringing right fielder Jake Smolinski home and making a winner out of Texas starter Derek Holland.

      "The word was 'special' for me," Bogar said when asked about Rodriguez's night. "When he got his first hit it was hard not to cry looking at his dad. It was pretty special that he had a chance to do it in front of his dad. Then the second hit that gave us the lead is kind of storybook for us.

      "His teammates were pretty fired up for him. To look over there and see his dad crying is pretty good."

      Even the Astros got caught up in the feel-good story of the night.

      "I guarantee it's a thrill for him to be up here," Lawless said. "To put all that time in the minor leagues and keep playing and playing and playing, a lot of guys would give up. That's one thing about baseball, you never give up. You just never know. You might get the chance, because your dream as a little kid is to do what? Play major league baseball. And there he is."

      Holland (2-0) went seven-plus innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits. Texas closer Neftali Feliz picked up his 12th save. Tropeano (1-2) allowed all four Texas runs over 6 2/3 innings.

      "Overall I felt good," Tropeano said. "I felt my command was a little bit better today than it has been in the past."

      The Astros rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game against Holland. After getting on the board in the fifth, Houston added a pair of runs in the sixth.

      Second baseman Jose Altuve cut the Rangers' lead to 3-2 with a double to drive in Villar. Left fielder Robbie Grossman trotted home to knot the contest on first baseman's Chris Carter's sacrifice fly.

      The Rangers jumped on Tropeano in the third inning, taking a 3-0 lead on second baseman Rougned Odor's two-out, bases-loaded triple into the left-center-field gap. The drive plated catcher Robinson Chirinos, Rodriguez and center fielder Leonys Martin.

      The three-run cushion was a welcome sight for Holland, who's received sparse run support in his previous four starts since coming off the disabled list. Holland allowed a run in the fifth on third baseman Matt Dominguez's squibber that scored Marisnick.

      NOTES: Houston already won the season series against Texas, with an 11-6 record after losing the opener of the three-game set. The Astros hadn't won a season series against their Lone Star State rivals since 2006. ... Houston 2B Jose Altuve went into Monday with a club record 220 hits, also the most by a second baseman since Detroit's Charlie Gehringer had 227 in 1936. Altuve got one hit Monday to raise his total to 221. ... Texas won two consecutive games when scoring exactly two runs after going 2-24 in the first 26 games this season in such cases. ... Research indicates that outfielder Ryan Rua is the first batter in Texas history whose first major league homer was a go-ahead shot in the ninth inning or later. He hit the game-winning blast Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Wainwright wins 20th as Cardinals defeat Cubs
    By The Sports Xchange

    CHICAGO -- Adam Wainwright isn't sure what his next assignment will be -- go for a 21st win later this week or wait for Game One of a National League Divisional Series.

    • But one thing was certain on Monday night, the 32-year-old Cardinals right-hander became a 20-game winner for the second time since 2010.

      Wainwright threw seven shutout innings while becoming the major league's second 20-game winner this year, and the Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 8-0.

      "It's a notch on the belt for sure, a tremendous honor," he said. "But more importantly, it's a big win for our team. (Second-place) Pittsburgh is playing such good baseball right now that we've got to take every game so serious."

      Wainwright (20-9) scattered three hits, struck out eight and walked one in the series opener at Wrigley Field.

      Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw earned his 20th victory Friday, also at Wrigley Field.

      "He was as good as he's been here in the last several starts," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "You look over the last five years and I think he went 19, 20, 14, 19, 20 (wins). Wow. I hope he realizes how special that is. He's in a very elite group."

      The Cardinals (88-69) claimed their eighth win in 10 games and maintained a 2 1/2 game lead over Pittsburgh atop the National League Central with five games to play. The Pirates kept pace with a 1-0 victory over the Braves in Atlanta on Monday.

      Left-hander Travis Wood (8-13) took the loss as the Cubs (69-88) dropped their second straight game and fourth in the past five.

      "I did feel better about it than the numbers," Wood said. "I made some good pitches tonight. The pitches were sharp, they got the hits when they needed them -- dropped a couple in that were perfectly placed."

      The Cardinals scored four runs in the fourth and added three in the fifth to chase Wood.

      Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay went 2-for-4 with a game-high three RBIs. First baseman Matt Adams added two hits and two RBIs.

      The Cardinals got to Wood in the fourth inning. Back-to-back singles by right fielder Randal Grichuk and left fielder Matt Holliday put runners at first and second with none out.

      Shortstop Jhonny Peralta lined a base hit just past a sprinting Cubs left fielder Chris Coghlan to score Grichuk. Catcher Yadier Molina then singled home Holliday for a 2-0 lead.

      Molina advanced to second on an error while Peralta was perched at third. Both came home on Jay's one-out single to shallow left for a 4-0 lead.

      A fifth-inning Holliday hit to right scored third baseman Matt Carpenter as St. Louis opened a 5-0 lead. Adams' two-out single drove in Holliday and Peralta for a 7-0 advantage.

      Wood was finished after five innings. He gave up seven runs (six earned) on eight hits, struck out eight and walked two.

      Jay singled home Adams in the eighth.

      NOTES: Cardinals 3B Matt Carpenter and 1B Matt Adams were back in the lineup Monday after each missed two games as a flu bug spread through the clubhouse. The virus affected at least 10 players over the weekend but appeared to have mostly abated. ... St. Louis traditionally struggles under the lights at Wrigley Field, entering the series with a 13-31 all-time record in those conditions. ... The Cardinals send RHP Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.68 ERA) against the Cubs RHP Kyle Hendricks (7-2, 2.28 ERA) on Tuesday in the series' middle game. ... Cubs INF Mike Olt and 2B Arismendy Alcantara became the first Cubs rookies with 10-plus homers in a season since 2008, when Jake Fox (11) and Micah Hoffpauir (10) reached double figures.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Report: Collins to return to Mets; Alderson gets extension
    By The Sports Xchange

    Despite being on the verge of finishing below .500 for the fourth straight season, the New York Mets are expected to bring back manager Terry Collins for the 2015 season, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

    • In addition to Collins coming back, the Mets and general manager Sandy Alderson, according to multiple reports, have agreed on a three-year contract extension.

      The Mets have not had a winning record since 2008, which is tied with the Houston Astros for the longest streak.

      Alderson and Collins joined forces to oversee the Mets' rebuilding efforts in 2011. As general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Alderson won three pennants and the World Series in 1989.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Jeter, Pineda lead Yankees' win
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW YORK -- Facing Michael Pineda once was enough for Derek Jeter.

    • His preference is to play shortstop behind Pineda and watch him dominate opponents.

      Jeter helped give Pineda some rare run support by opening his final home series with three RBIs, and the right-handed Pineda combined with three relievers on a one-hitter as the New York Yankees blanked the Baltimore Orioles 5-0 on Monday.

      Jeter is 9-for-20 on his final homestand, with one home run and six RBIs. He entered his final eight games at Yankee Stadium hitting .249 after going 1-for-17 on a seven-game road trip that included three losses in Baltimore.

      Jeter did not get his fifth straight multi-hit game but drove in three runs for the first time since Sept. 9, 2012, at Baltimore and for the first time at home since Aug. 1, 2012, also aagainst Baltimore. He had a chance to reach four RBIs for the first time since Sept. 4, 2011, against the Toronto Blue Jays, but he drew a walk in the seventh.

      "He's swinging the bat great," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "He went through that little bit of a slump in September and a lot of times things balance out. They even out and he's swinging the bat great and we need him to continue."

      The Yankees (81-75) need that to continue because even with their fifth win in six games, they still remain four games behind the Kansas City Royals for the second wild card spot.

      "I see it as we got to win a game tomorrow," Jeter said. "That's it. We don't complicate things. The only thing we can control is our game tomorrow. We dug ourselves a hole, obviously we need to win."

      Jeter's three RBIs marked the fifth time in 12 starts that the Yankees scored at least three runs in a Pineda start. They had scored just once when Pineda was in the game over his last four starts spanning 25 2/3 innings.

      "He's nasty," Jeter said. "He's got good stuff. His fastball moves, his slider is great. Every time he pitches, he's been almost dominant."

      Added Girardi: "He really picked up where he left off. He was throwing the ball great for us before he got hurt, and he's really picked up where he's left off."

      Jeter supported Pineda with an RBI groundout in the third that scored designated hitter Jose Pirela, who became the record-setting 57thplayer used by the Yankees this year. Jeter added a two-run double on the eighth pitch against Baltimore left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (16-5) in the fifth.

      While Jeter was continuing his hot streak, Pineda retired the first 13 hitters before allowing a one-out single to shortstop J.J. Hardy in the fifth that was just past the outstretched dive of third baseman Chase Headley. The only other base runner he allowed was a one-out walk to first baseman Christian Walker in the eighth and that ended his night with a standing ovation from the 35,614 fans.

      "He's good," Hardy said. "His ball cuts, he's got a great slider. It's really tough to pick him up. The more you see him, the more you can adjust, but he wasn't missing his spots tonight."

      Pineda struck out a season-high eight, getting half with his slider, three with his fastball and one with his changeup. He threw 73 of 106 pitches for strikes and helped the Yankees throw their first one-hitter since July 26, 2011, against the Seattle Mariners.

      "I'm feeling pretty good today," Pineda said. "Tonight my slider was working pretty good and my changeup. Everything (was working)."

      Shawn Kelley, Rich Hill and David Phelps finished up for the Yankees, who extended their lead to 5-0 on Headley's fifth home run. New York held the Orioles to one hit for the first time since April 26, 1958, at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.

      While the Orioles were held to one hit for the third time this season and shutout for the 11th time, it was not all bad news. They still clinched home-field advantage in ALDS and will face the winner of the AL Central or the winner of the wild-card game.

      "I just found out," Hardy said. "That's good, good news."

      Chen had a four-game winning streak snapped as he allowed four runs (two earned) and six hits in six innings.

      NOTES: Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said he will use four starters for the American League Division Series, although he has not finalized the rotation. ... Orioles 1B Steve Pearce sat out a third consecutive game due to a sore right wrist. Showalter said Pearce hopes to return Wednesday. ... New York LHP CC Sabathia made 20 throws at 60 feet Monday and said that his right knee does not have any pain following season-ending surgery in July. ... The Yankees claimed OF Eury Perez off waivers from the Washington Nationals and opened a roster spot by designating LHP Josh Outman for assignment.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Rookie Bassitt leads White Sox to shutout win over Tigers
    By The Sports Xchange

    DETROIT -- Chris Bassitt was not thinking about impacting the American League pennant race on Monday night. He was just looking for his first major-league win.

    • With more than 100 friends and family in attendance, the Chicago White Sox rookie right-hander silenced the Central Division-leading Detroit Tigers over 7 2/3 innings in a 2-0 victory at Comerica Park.

      "I didn't think about that," Bassitt said of hampering the Tigers' chances of clinching the division. "I just went out there and tried to do my best."

      Bassitt's hometown of Curtice, Ohio, is about a half hour from the ballpark "if you want to drive fast." The cheering section saw Bassitt (1-1) scatter six hits, walk one and strike out three. He had made three other starts, including a loss to Detroit on Aug. 30 in his major-league debut when he allowed five runs in 6 1/3 innings.

      "The first one is obviously nice but being so close to home is even better," he said. "Having all my family here, it meant a lot."

      The Tigers' division lead dropped to one game after second-place Kansas City followed up a loss of a suspended game to Cleveland earlier in the evening with a 2-0 win in the regularly-scheduled game.

      Detroit (86-70) has a losing record against the White Sox and Minnesota Twins, the teams it will face during the seven-game homestand to complete the regular season.

      "It's not going to be an easy last week," Tigers left fielder J.D. Martinez said. "It's going to be a grind and it's going to be a nail-biter because both of those teams play us extremely well."

      Bassitt didn't pitch extremely well in his debut but he frustrated the Tigers the second time around with his off-speed pitches, particularly a changeup he developed in the minors this season.

      "It made me feel a lot more comfortable being out there against the same team," he said. "I kind of knew their approach against me but at the same time, they're an outstanding hitting team. I knew I couldn't walk people because if you walk them, they're just going to kill you because they're way too good hitters to give them free passes."

      Tyler Flowers homered for the game's only runs and Jake Petricka recorded his 14th save for the White Sox (72-84), who have won eight of their last 12.

      Detroit left-hander Kyle Lobstein (1-1) suffered his first career loss despite limiting Chicago to two runs in seven innings and striking out five. Designated hitter Victor Martinez had two hits and reached base in all four plate appearances. Catcher Alex Avila, who missed the previous six games with concussion-like symptoms, was 0-for-4 and struck out three times.

      Flowers' home run, which landed in the visitors' bullpen in left-center, gave the White Sox a 2-0 lead in the second. It was the White Sox catcher's sixth home run in 13 games and 15th of the season. Second baseman Carlos Sanchez preceded the home run with a two-out double.

      Bassitt recorded only one 1-2-3 inning before the seventh but the Tigers couldn't get any clutch hits. J.D. Martinez flied out with two runners on in the first, while Avila and shortstop Andrew Romine left two runners stranded in the fourth.

      Victor Martinez led off the sixth with a double but Bassitt retired the next three batters. He didn't allow another base runner until he walked Victor Martinez in the eighth.

      "He pitched us very similar to the way he did in Chicago, we just weren't able to get a big hit, get that hit when guys were on base," J.D. Martinez said. "We had guys on base today and just couldn't get them in."

      NOTES: Tigers RHP Anibal Sanchez will be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday. Sanchez, who is 8-5 with a 3.46 ERA in 21 starts, has been sidelined since Aug. 9 with a right pectoralis strain. "He'll pitch out of the bullpen," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. "He can fill a number of roles, depending on how deep the starter goes." ... White Sox CF Adam Eaton was not in the lineup while attending to a personal matter. ... The teams split their first 16 games and the Tigers are 7-8 against Minnesota, which plays at Detroit the final four games of the season. "They're not rolling over for anybody," Ausmus said. ... Chicago has lost 40 games after holding a lead, the third most in the majors behind Texas (43) and Toronto (41). ... Detroit LHP David Price, who starts on Tuesday, is just 3-4 since Tampa Bay traded its ace on July 31. "It's just executing pitches," he said. "I haven't done that very well since I've been here."

  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Liriano helps Pirates shut out Braves
    By The Sports Xchange

    ATLANTA -- Francisco Liriano did not have his best stuff on Monday, but that did not seem to matter against the light-hitting Atlanta Braves.

    • The Pirates left-hander, making his first career appearance at Turner Field, battled spells of wildness and still pitched six shutout innings in a 1-0 win over the Atlanta Braves.

      Liriano (7-10) allowed only three hits and walked four on the cool, windy evening. He struck out seven and helped the Pirates reduce their magic number for clinching a playoff spot to two games over the Milwaukee Brewers, who were idle.

      "At the end of the night, three hits, no runs and you're thinking, 'I'm taking him out?'" Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Fact of the matter was, seven three-ball counts, underneath a lot of counts, he was able to use the fastball inside to right-handers, which opened up some swing and miss stuff for him down."

      Liriano got the only run he needed from center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who led off the sixth inning against Atlanta starter Aaron Harang with a line-drive homer, his 24th, into the left-center field bleachers. It was McCutchen's first homer since Sept. 10.

      "He was effectively wild," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Liriano. "He'd get deep in the count and he'd throw that back-door slider and lock them up."

      Liriano has allowed just one earned run over his last 28 innings of work dating back to Aug. 31 and has given up two runs or fewer in 12 of his last 13 starts.

      The Pirates bullpen pitched three scoreless innings to close the game. Jared Hughes, John Holdzkom and Mark Melancon each worked one inning, with Melancon earning his 32nd save.

      Melancon allowed Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons to reach base with two outs in the ninth when he misplayed a comebacker. But the right-hander came back to strike out center fielder B.J. Upton to end the game.

      "Our pitching has been fantastic, played good defense and a big swing from McCutchen," Hurdle said. "Saw a lot pitches and were not able to get much done on offense, but got enough."

      It was the third straight 1-0 game for the Pirates, the first time that's happened since 1917. The Pirates have won their last two games 1-0. It was the seventh shutout for the Pirates this season.

      "We always talk about scoring one more run than the other team and the last three games we did it twice," Hurdle said.

      Harang (11-12) pitched seven strong innings, struck out seven, walked two and allowed just four hits. The Braves have scored no runs in four of Harang's last five starts. Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel kept the game close by throwing one scoreless inning apiece.

      "You can't ask for any more," Gonzalez said. "He pitched a helluva game. He gave up the solo home run and their bullpen made it stick."

      First baseman Freddie Freeman had two hits for the Braves, who were shutout for the 16th time. Atlanta has lost four straight and 12 of its last 14. The Braves are 4-16 and have been shutout six times in September.

      Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin extended his hitting streak to 13 games and third baseman Josh Harrison extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

      Neither team could score early, although both had chances.

      The Pirates had runners on first and second to lead off the second inning, but Harang struck out the next three batters he faced to end the threat.

      The Braves had runners at first and second in the first inning, and runners on first and third with two outs in the fourth, but stalled out each time.

      NOTES: Atlanta fired general manager Frank Wren, who held the job for seven seasons. A committee of team president John Schuerholz, former GM and manager Bobby Cox and former Texas and Cleveland GM John Hart, hired last fall as a special assistant, will make the decision on the new hire. Hart, a two-time major league executive of the year, said he does not want the job. ... Atlanta C Evan Gattis (kidney stones) and RF Jason Heyward (bruised left thumb) were not in the starting lineup again. Gattis hasn't started since Sept. 7 and Heyward hasn't started since Sept. 19. Gattis did pinch-hit on Monday and struck out. ... Pittsburgh 3B Pedro Alvarez (stress fracture left foot) is expected to be ready for the playoffs. ... LHP Francisco Liriano made his first career start at Turner Field on Monday. He has appeared in every current major league ballpark except Marlins Stadium. ... The teams play the second of a four-game series on Tuesday. Starting pitchers are Pittsburgh RHP Gerrit Cole (10-5) and Atlanta LHP Alex Wood (11-10).

  • Monday, September 22, 2014
    MLB roundup: Braves fire GM Wren
    By The Sports Xchange

    Citing the need to return to the "Braves way," Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz Monday dismissed Frank Wren as the club's general manager with a week left in their disappointing season.

    • "The Braves way (of developing young players and producing championships) has been the organization's philosophy for many, many years," Schuerholz said. "Our overall goal is to find that Braves way, re-invigorate it and make it better than ever before."

      Wren was named general manager in October 2007 when Schuerholz was promoted to club president. Wren had spent 15 seasons with the organization.

      The Braves also fired Bruce Manno, the director of player development, and said all aspects of the team's organization would be analyzed.

      The decision to hire Wren's replacement will be made the triumvirate of Schuerholz, former general manager and field manager Bobby Cox and senior advisor of baseball operations John Hart, who was named interim GM.

      --New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka felt good on Monday following his start on Sunday, so the Yankees plan to give him another start on Saturday against the Boston Red Sox.

      In his first appearance since July 8, Tanaka allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings against Toronto on Sunday.

      He was diagnosed with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament, and tried to heal it with rest and rehabilitation, rather than surgery.

      --Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia played catch on Monday, which representing his first throwing since undergoing knee surgery in mid-July. He made 20 throws from 60 feet and reported no pain in his knee.

      --Major League Baseball has renewed efforts to improve pace of play before retiring commissioner Bud Selig steps down.

      The length of games has skyrocketed in recent years. As recently as 2011, only seven MLB teams averaged more than three hours per game. Now, 29 of the 30 teams do, according to CBSSports.com.

      Selig has conducted a conference call with a new committee that will study the issue of pace of game.

      --Seattle Mariners pitcher Chris Young, who struggled in his last outing, will not make his scheduled start on Thursday in Toronto. "I think he's probably out of gas from a starting standpoint," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. A replacement has not been named.

      --Pittsburgh Pirates minor league third baseman Johan De Jesus received a 72-game suspension without pay following a positive test for a metabolite of Nandrolone, Major League Baseball announced.

      Nandrolone is a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

      --Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that he would use four starters for the Division Series, although he has not officially figured out the rotation.

      --Detroit Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez will be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday. Sanchez, who is 8-5 with a 3.46 ERA in 21 starts, has been sidelined since Aug. 9 with a right pectoralis strain. Manager Brad Ausmus said he will pitch out of the bullpen.

      --Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis (kidney stones) and outfielder Jason Heyward (bruised left thumb) were not in the starting lineup again Monday.

      --Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez (stress fracture left foot) is expected to be ready for the playoffs.

      --Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber, who had back-to-back 14-strikeout games last week, was named the American League Player of the Week, the second time he has won the award this year.

      --St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter and first baseman Matt Adams were back in the lineup Monday after each missed two games as a flu bug spread through the clubhouse.

      --Minnesota Twins pitcher Tommy Milone, who missed his past three starts because of a dead arm and then neck soreness, is expected to be available out of the bullpen through the end of the season.

  • Monday, September 22, 2014
    Yankees' Tanaka to make another start Saturday
    By The Sports Xchange

    New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka felt good on Monday following his start on Sunday, so the Yankees plan to give him another start on Saturday against the Boston Red Sox.

    • In his first appearance since July 8, Tanaka allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings against Toronto on Sunday.

      He struck out four and walked none while throwing 70 pitches. He will throw about 85 pitches against the Red Sox.

      Tanaka, 25, is in his first season in the majors after the Yankees paid $155 million to sign him.

      He was diagnosed with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament, and tried to heal it with rest and rehabilitation, rather than surgery.

  • Monday, September 22, 2014
    Indians 4, Royals 3 (completion of suspended game)
    By The Sports Xchange

    CLEVELAND -- With the tying run at second base, right-hander Scott Atchison got second baseman Omar Infante to popout for the final out of the Cleveland Indians' 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals in the completion of a suspended game Monday at Progressive Field.

    • The game was the completion of a game that started in Kansas City on Aug. 31 but was suspended due to rain prior to the start of the bottom of the 10th inning.

      Cleveland was leading 4-2 when the game was suspended. In Monday's resumption Atchison gave up a single to third baseman Mike Moustakas leading off the bottom of the 10th. Atchison retired the next two batters, but pinch runner Terrance Gore stole second and scored on a two-out single by right fielder Nori Aoki, cutting the Indians' lead to 4-3.

      Jarrod Dyson, pinch running for Aoki, stole second, but Atchison retired Infante on a popout to shortstop Jose Ramirez to end the game.

      The win went to right-hander Cody Allen (6-4). Atchison picked up his second save and Royals right-hander Greg Holland (1-3) took the loss.

      Before the rains came Aug. 31 in Kansas City, there were some late-inning heroics. Cleveland took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. But Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, leading off the bottom of the ninth, belted a game-tying home run off Allen. At the time, it was Gordon's second career at bat against Allen, and both of them produced home runs.

      Gordon's blast sent the game into extra innings, but the Indians recovered quickly enough to score twice in the top of the 10th inning off Holland.

      With two outs and nobody on base, second baseman Jason Kipnis reached on an error by first baseman Billy Butler. Kipnis went to third on a single by designated hitter Yan Gomes.

      Lonnie Chisenhall, pinch-hitting for third baseman Mike Aviles, lashed a double off the right-field wall, scoring Kipnis and Gomes and giving Cleveland a 4-2 lead.

      Holland then struck out catcher Roberto Perez for the third out. It was then that the game was halted by rain, and eventually suspended. It was completed in Cleveland because that Aug. 31 game in Kansas City was the last game of the Indians' final trip to Kansas City this season.

      The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the game. Aoki led off the bottom of the first with an infield single. Aoki went to third on a single by Infante and scored on a sacrifice fly by Butler.

      Cleveland tied it with a run in the top of the third off left-hander Danny Duffy. Perez walked and went to second on a two-out walk drawn by shortstop Ramirez. Left fielder Michael Brantley followed with a double to left field, scoring Perez with the tying run.

      The Indians took a 2-1 lead with a run in the top of the fourth inning. With one out Gomes reached first on an infield single. Gomes advanced to third on an error by Duffy, and Gomes scored on a sacrifice fly by Aviles.

  • Monday, September 22, 2014
    Minor leaguer De Jesus suspended 72 games
    By The Sports Xchange

    Pittsburgh Pirates minor league third baseman Johan De Jesus received a 72-game suspension without pay following a positive test for a metabolite of Nandrolone, Major League Baseball announced Monday.

    • Nandrolone is a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

      De Jesus is currently on the roster of the Dominican Summer League Pirates, and his suspension will be effective at the start of the 2015 DSL season.

  • Monday, September 22, 2014
    Yankees claim OF Perez off waivers
    By The Sports Xchange

    The New York Yankees claimed outfielder Eury Perez off waivers from the Washington Nationals on Monday.

    • In 67 games with Triple-A Syracuse, Class A Potomac and the Gulf Coast League Nationals, the right-handed batter combined to hit .310 with 36 runs, 14 doubles, two home runs and 15 RBIs.

      Perez appeared in 22 major league games with the Nationals, batting .154. He was originally signed by Washington as a non-drafted free agent in 2007.

      To make room on the 40-man roster for Perez, left-handed pitcher Josh Outman was designated for assignment.

  • Monday, September 22, 2014
    GM Wren out with 'Braves way' in mind
    By The Sports Xchange

    ATLANTA -- Citing the need to return to the "Braves way," Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz Monday dismissed Frank Wren as the club's general manager with a week left in their disappointing season.

    • "The Braves way (of developing young players and producing championships) has been the organization's philosophy for many, many years," Schuerholz said. "Our overall goal is to find that Braves way, re-invigorate it and make it better than ever before."

      Wren was named general manager in October 2007 when Schuerholz was promoted to club president. Wren had spent 15 seasons with the organization.

      The Braves also fired Bruce Manno, the director of player development, and said all aspects of the team's organization would be analyzed. Manno had been with the Braves since 2007. The Braves did not fire field manager Fredi Gonzalez. However, Schuerholz said the new general manager would likely have input on the decision on who manages the team.

      The decision to hire Wren's replacement will be made the triumvirate of Schuerholz, former general manager and field manager Bobby Cox and senior advisor of baseball operations John Hart, who was named interim GM.

      Hart, 66, joined the team in November 2013. A two-time Major League Executive of the Year, Hart spent 2002-05 as general manager and 2006-13 as senior advisor for the Texas Rangers. He spent 13 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, the last 10 as executive vice president and general manager. He currently works as an analyst with the MLB Network.

      Hart, a good friend of Schuerholz, said he was not seeking the GM job on a permanent basis.

      "My recommendation is that we examine the baseball universe for the next John Schuerholz," who was the team's GM from 1982 to 2007 and won 14 consecutive division championships and the 1995 World Series.

      Hart said, "The Braves are a gold-standard franchise. Always have been. Our conversations are going to be building this back the right way. We have plenty of time to look at what works and what we like."

      Wren constructed a team that won the National League East in 2013 and qualified as a wild card team in 2010 and 2012.

      The Braves entered Monday's game with a 76-79 record, already eliminated from postseason, despite spending most of the first half in first place.

      Wren was criticized for his failure with big-money free agents, which ultimately may have been his undoing.

      In 2009 he signed veteran pitcher Derek Lowe to a four-year $60 million contract and Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami to a three-year, $23 million deal. The Braves ate the final $10 million of Lowe's contract and assigned Kawakami to Double-A for his final year.

      More recent big-money busts were second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder B.J. Upton. Uggla signed a five-year, $62 million contract and was released this summer, even though the club still owed him $19 million. Uggla was hitting .162 at the time of his release after batting .179 last year.

      Upton signed a five-year deal for $75.25 million and is currently batting .207 with 168 strikeouts after hitting .184 with 161 strikeouts in 2013.

      Wren was lauded when tying up talented young players seen as the future of the franchise with long-term deals during the off-season. He signed first baseman Freddie Freeman, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, third baseman Chris Johnson and pitcher Julio Teheran to multi-year deals.

      But Wren did not add any veteran leadership to the roster when he allowed pitcher Tim Hudson and catcher Brian McCann to exit via free agency.

      Schuerholz said the decision to fire Wren was a "cumulative" one because of general dissatisfaction with the farm system, scouting and major league team.

      He recently approached Atlanta chairman of the board Terry McGuirk with his recommendation.

      "He agreed and we moved on," Schuerholz said.

      Schuerholz said the decision was made now, rather than the end of the season, since the team had been eliminated from the postseason.

      "It gives us a chance to form our committee a week sooner," he said.

      No timetable has been set to find Wren's replacement.