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  • MLB roundup: Red Sox win 11th straight
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Veteran designated hitter David Ortiz went 3-for-5 with a double in his final game at Tropicana Field on Sunday, lifting the Boston Red Sox to their 11th straight win with a 3-2 victory in 10 innings over the Tampa Bay Rays.

    • Boston (92-64) completed the three-game sweep of the Rays to inch closer to an AL East title. The Red Sox are 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays.

      Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez had 13 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings in a no decision. The Rays struck out 11 consecutive times against Rodriguez and reliever Heath Hembree to set a major league record. The Rays struck out 23 times to set a franchise record.

      Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly pitched the final 2 2/3 innings to earn the win.

      Blue Jays 4, Yankees 3

      TORONTO -- Edwin Encarnacion hit an infield single to second base to score the winning run as Toronto came back with two runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat New York.

      Jose Bautista homered for the Blue Jays. Didi Gregorius homered for the Yankees.

      Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda did not factor in the decision after allowing three hits, three walks and one run in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out seven. Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada also did not figure in the decision after allowing one run, four hits and two walks while striking out seven over seven innings.

      White Sox 3, Indians 0

      CLEVELAND -- Carlos Rodon pitched eight innings, allowed two hits, striking out 11, as Chicago beat Cleveland at Progressive Field.

      Rodon walked three and threw 108 pitches as the White Sox ruined Cleveland's chance to clinch the Central Division title at home. The Indians' magic number for clinching the division is at one.

      David Robertson pitched the ninth to earn his 36th save. Rodon and Robertson struck out eight of the last nine Indians hitters to end the game.

      Royals 12, Tigers 9

      DETROIT -- Salvador Perez, Cheslor Cuthbert, Raul Mondesi and Alex Gordon each hit a home run and Kansas City pounded out 19 hits in a victory over Detroit.

      Kansas City hit for the cycle four batters into the game and when Paulo Orlando singled, it drove starter Matt Boyd from the game without retiring a batter.

      The Tigers made it interesting as the game wound down, rallying for two runs off Kevin Herrera in the eighth inning.

      Victor Martinez hit a grand slam in the third inning.

      Mets 17, Phillies 0

      NEW YORK -- Rookie Robert Gsellman threw a career-high seven scoreless innings to lead New York to a rout of Philadelphia at Citi Field.

      The National League wild-card leading Mets capped their final homestand of the regular season with the most lopsided shutout win in the franchise's 55-season history. The previous biggest shutout was a 14-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on April 19, 1998.

      New York took three of four from the Phillies, who jumped out to a 10-0 lead Saturday before being outscored 25-0 the remainder of the series.

      Nationals 10, Pirates 7

      PITTSBURGH -- Jayson Werth smacked a pinch-hit, two-run homer to highlight a five-run eighth inning as Washington pulled out a win over Pittsburgh at PNC Park.

      The four-hour game featured a combined 21 hits, four ties, 45 players used (tied the National League record), 17 pitchers (one shy of the major league record), a benches-clearing incident, two ejections and an injury to a star player.

      Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper started and left in the third inning with an apparent left thumb injury. There was no immediate word on the exact nature of the injury or a prognosis.

      Reds 4, Brewers 2

      MILWAUKEE -- Brandon Finnegan threw five shutout innings and Scott Schebler had two hits with a pair of RBIs as Cincinnati beat Milwaukee at Miller Park.

      Finnegan closed the book on his first full big league season on a high note. He struck out four batters and scattered three hits without walking a batter, picking up his tenth victory of the season.

      Astros 4, Angels 1

      HOUSTON -- Joe Musgrove worked seven strong innings and Houston belted three solo home runs to offer support in a win over Los Angeles at Minute Maid Park.

      Musgrove allowed one run on seven hits while recording four strikeouts. He did not walk a batter for the first time in six starts and capped a strong stretch of home appearances with a 1.75 ERA over six games (five starts) at Minute Maid Park.

      Evan Gattis and Tony Kemp launched leadoff home runs in the second and fifth innings. Tyler White added his eighth home run with one out in the seventh inning.

      Mariners 4, Twins 3

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Nelson Cruz hit two solo home runs and Jesus Sucre continued his hot hitting since his recall from Triple-A with a two-run homer as Seattle held on for a win over Minnesota, which lost its 100th game and will finish with the league's worst record and the top pick in next year's draft.

      Cruz had four homers in the series, including one in each game for the Marlins, who kept pace in the American League wild-card race. The Mariners remained 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the second wild card.

      Taijuan Walker pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Mariners, allowing three runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out seven. Edwin Diaz finished with his 17th save in 19 chances.

      Athletics 7, Rangers 1

      OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rookie right-hander Jharel Cotton gave Athletics fans a reason to believe in a brighter future in the home finale, limiting Texas to one run in seven innings in a victory over the American League West champions.

      Ryon Healy smacked a two-run home run among three hits, and Stephen Vogt ignited a seven-run second inning with a three-run double, helping the A's finish with a win at home after they'd begun the six-game homestand with five consecutive losses.

      Meanwhile, the Rangers fell into a tie with the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the AL heading into the final week of the regular season. The Cleveland Indians are also still in the chase for the home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.

      Orioles 2, Diamondbacks 1

      Hyun Soo Kim hit an early two-run homer and Baltimore finished a three-game sweep of Arizona.

      The victory let the Orioles hold on to the second wild-card spot. Baltimore came into this game with a half-game lead over Detroit for that No. 2 wild card.

      Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy gave up one run in five innings. Bundy allowed that only run in the fourth inning before the Orioles went to the bullpen in the sixth.

      Braves-Marlins (cancelled)

      Miami ace Jose Fernandez, an All-Star starting pitcher who escaped Cuba to become one of the best young arms in baseball, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning at the age of 24.

      The Marlins canceled their scheduled game against Atlanta as a result.

      Fernandez was one of three people killed in the boat crash near Miami Beach. The Coast Guard discovered an overturned boat around 3:30 a.m. Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, according to authorities. Fernandez was killed as a result of the impact of the crash and did not drown.

  • Future face of baseball, Fernandez leaves lasting void
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    The palpable feelings of pain and loss were particularly sharp on Sunday as all of baseball mourned the untimely death of Miami ace Jose Fernandez who perished in a boating accident.

    • Yes, the 24-year-old was one of the sport's biggest talents. But he was so much more. He was an inspiring tale of perseverance, successfully defecting from Cuba on his fourth attempt and needing to dive from the boat to rescue his mother after she'd fallen out of the boat on that final journey. And he was exemplary, playing with a happiness and enthusiasm that made him a beacon to other players and fans.

      "When you watch kids play Little League, that's the joy Jose played with," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said, breaking down in tears.

      The Marlins postponed their game with the Braves and weepy players lingered at the field consoling one another. There were moments of silence before every game and tributes of all fashions. The Mets, for example, hung a jersey with Fernandez' name and No. 16 in the home dugout at Citi Field.

      He lived an American Dream after the defection.

      He learned English and went to high school. He was a first-round draft pick and got a $2 million signing bonus. He rocketed through the minors, reached the majors at age 20 and won the NL Rookie of the Year. And though Tommy John surgery robbed him of most of the next two seasons, he was back in the conversation for the Cy Young award this year, 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA.

      Any time a life is snatched long before it's time, the question that inevitably looms centers on what might have been. The potential, the unfolding story and the anticipated achievements are gone in a blink. Having those whisked away creates a wound.

      This wound will not heal fast. It cut deep into Major League Baseball, the Marlins organization and city of Miami.

      Baseball will be without one of its greatest ambassadors when the Red Sox' David Ortiz retires at the end of this season. Big Papi is one of the game's biggest personalities, almost universally loved by players and fans. He is a great competitor and performer. But he is also someone who makes us feel good when we watch the game because he is effusively happy.

      Fernandez had that kind of happiness about him.

      He could have been an heir apparent, another great ambassador for the sport.

      And baseball is likely going to need that going forward. Young fans are going to be the key if the sport is to keep thriving. The rules intended to speed up the game and the technological advances are geared to attracting a new generation of fan. Fernandez might have been the personality to connect to them.

      In Fernandez, the Marlins had a big piece of their foundation. He and Giancarlo Stanton had become the face of the franchise as it has ascended in recent years. Surely the front office envisioned him as the cornerstone for many future successes. In addition to the personal loss all in the organization feel, that could be compounded down the road if they aren't able to succeed as they expected.

      The NBA's Boston Celtics were ultimately laid low for a long stretch after the untimely deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis. At the time when they were envisioned to emerge as stars of the team, the franchise felt the long-term after effects.

      Miami, too, could feel the impact for a long time.

      There was a synchronicity, a perfect fit between that city and this Cuban refugee who became an American citizen and star of the local team. On days when Fernandez was the starting pitcher at home, the Marlins drew about 6,000 more spectators than their average. He was a hero to many Cuban-American families and a tremendous role model. Such things are assets every city doesn't have enough of.

      Fernandez' body was found with those of two others at the wreckage of their boat in the early hours of Sunday. Not long before he had included in a social media post a photo of his pregnant girlfriend. So much lay ahead for him.

      His next scheduled start was to be Monday against the Mets at Marlins Park. That game will be played, but we should expect a lot of anguish and tears too. It will be the second day of pain from this loss. Many more lie ahead.

  • Mourning Marlins gather to remember fallen Fernandez
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    MIAMI – Teammates and officials cried and smiled in the hours after learning Jose Fernandez was gone too soon.

    • Fernandez, the Miami Marlins' 24-year-old All-Star right-hander, was with two friends late Saturday night into early Sunday morning when the 33-foot boat they were in crashed into rocks.

      Their bodies were discovered at 3:15 a.m. Marlins team officials were told at 6:30 a.m. And by 10, the entire team had gathered at Marlins Park even though Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves was canceled.

      "When I think about Jose," manager Don Mattingly said, "I see a little boy. The way he played, here was just joy with him. When he pitched, you just see that little kid that you see when you watch kids play Little League or something like that."

      The Marlins gathered as a team, some of them in uniform, processing the loss of one of their leaders and a friend and favorite in the locker room. They stayed together, talking and sharing, as the grieving process began. Several players went to the pitcher's mound at Marlins Park, where a No. 16 was painted behind the mound and Fernandez's cap sat on the pitching rubber.

      The names of the two friends were not released, and that information is awaiting notification of next of kin. Authorities said they were males in their 20s but not athletes.

      Miami's game against the New York Mets on Monday night will be played as scheduled.

      "That's a hard question to answer," Marlins third baseman Martin Prado said when asked how his team can possibly focus on baseball for the six remaining games on their schedule.

      "We are not robots. We are humans. We feel things. Jose made an impact, in different ways, on every player on this team.

      "I know we have to play the games. We are professionals. There is a lot of pain. We miss him."

      Fernandez defected from Cuba, along with his mother and sister, in a boat in 2007. During that perilous journey, his mother fell overboard, and Fernandez had to dive in to save her life.

      "Jose had to work harder than most to get freedom," Marlins executive David Samson said of Fernandez, who became a U.S. citizen last year. "He would often tell me, ‘You don't really understand what freedom is because you were born into freedom.' "

      After settling in Tampa, Florida, Fernandez became the Marlins' first-round pick in 2011. He was called up in 2013 and named National League Rookie of the Year. He was a two-time All-Star in a far-too-brief four-year major-league career.

      At Marlins Park, Fernandez was nearly untouchable – a 29-2 record and a 1.49 ERA. Overall, Fernandez went 38-27 with a 2.58 ERA in four seasons.

      In his last start, on Sept. 20, Fernandez tied a career high by lasting eight innings. He held the Washington Nationals to three hits, no walks and no runs, striking out 12 batters in a 1-0 win.

      "He told one of our teammates that the (Nationals start) was the best game he had ever pitched," Prado said. "And now he's gone."

      Fernandez was originally scheduled to pitch on Sunday against the Braves.

      But after pitching those eight innings in his previous start, the Marlins decided to push him back one day, to Monday, where he would face the New York Mets, a team they were chasing in the NL wild-card playoff race.

      With no game to pitch on Sunday, perhaps that entered into Fernandez's thinking after the Marlins played Saturday night. Perhaps this would be a good time, Fernandez might have been thinking, to go out on a speed boat with two friends.

      That decision proved fatal as the boat, according to authorities, hit some rocks and capsized.

      Authorities said speed was a factor in the crash. But they found no evidence of alcohol or drugs, and the authorities also confirmed that Fernandez died of the impact of the crash, not a drowning.

      The entire Marlins roster came out to Sunday's press conference in a show of support for their teammate, starting with manager Don Mattingly, who was unable to say much without crying.

      "I saw such a little boy in Jose," Mattingly said. "He played with the joy of a Little Leaguer."

      How Mattingly viewed Fernandez was ironic because this joyous young man, Fernandez, was soon to be a father. Marlins president David Samson said Fernandez and his girlfriend were expecting a daughter.

      "We recognize that life is precious," Samson said. "We sat with our team today and a lot of words were said, meaningful words. When something like this happens, there is just love and prayer."

      Marlins general manager Michael Hill said he remembers scouting Fernandez when the pitcher was a high school star in Tampa, Florida.

      "He was a precocious young guy," Hill said. "I remember sitting in his kitchen (after the draft) and trying to sign him and then introducing him in 2011 as our newest Marlin. … This is a tremendous loss."

  • Nationals OF Harper injured vs. Pirates
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    PITTSBURGH -- Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper left Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates with an apparent left thumb injury.

    • The 2015 National League MVP was injured while sliding into third base on a triple in the third inning. He remained in the game and later scored before he was replaced by Chris Heisey.

      Harper was one of the few Washington regulars in the starting lineup a day after the Nationals clinched their third NL East title in five years.

  • Baseball stunned by loss of Jose Fernandez
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    Major League Baseball began mourning the loss of one of the game's brightest young stars, Miami Marlins All-Star Jose Fernandez.

    • Fernandez, 24, was killed in a boating accident near Miami Beach early Sunday. The Marlins canceled their scheduled game against the Atlanta Braves.

      Fernandez made three unsuccessful attempts to defect from Cuba and was jailed before finally reaching the United States and attending high school in Tampa, Fla. He was drafted in 2011 and voted National League Rookie of the Year in 2013.

      New York Mets manager Terry Collins refused baseball questions Sunday morning in his pregame press conference, saying he would only talk about Fernandez, whose infections spirit made him popular with fans and peers alike.

      "This one hits you in the stomach," said Collins, who remembers when Fernandez made his major league debut in 2013 at Citi Field, allowing one earned run in five innings.

      "When the first pitch left his hand, the first thought was 'Oh, wow, this is something special,'" Collins said. "I was telling the guys this morning, he was here for the All-Star game when the game was here in Citi Field, and he treated our staff in our kitchen with tremendous respect and he was only 20 or 21 years old at the time. Very, very polite."

      An outpouring of condolences came in from around the league:

      --New York Yankees: "On behalf of Hal Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees, we offer our deepest condolences to Jose Fernandez's family and loved ones, and to the entire Miami Marlins organization he so joyfully and proudly represented."

      --Yankees manager Joe Girardi: "It's sad, a very sad day. You think about all the people's lives that this affects and how difficult it must be down there right now. It must be awful. I don't know how you ever get over it. It affects the whole community, families. It's going to affect people who didn't even know him, just because of his ability to pull the community together and what he had been through in his life and how important he was down there."

      --David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox: "It's a tragedy for baseball. Jose was a star on the field but was an even better person. Rest in peace, my friend."

      --Kansas City Royals: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jose Fernandez, his family and the entire Marlins organization during this incredibly difficult time."

      --Washington Nationals: "We are heartbroken by the news of Jose Fernandez's passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the entire Marlins organization."

      --Atlanta Braves: "The Atlanta Braves organization sends our deepest condolences to the family of Jose Fernandez and to the Marlins organization."

      Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, who is from Havana, Cuba, was removed from the lineup Sunday after learning of Fernandez's death.

  • Marlins ace Fernandez dies in boating accident
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, an All-Star starting pitcher who escaped Cuba to become one of the best young arms in baseball, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning at the age of 24.

    • "The Miami Marlins organization is devastated by the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time," the team said in a statement.

      The Marlins canceled their scheduled game Sunday afternoon against the Atlanta Braves.

      "All of Baseball is shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez," Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "He was one of our game's great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life."

      Fernandez was one of three people killed in the boat crash near Miami Beach, police said early Sunday. The Coast Guard discovered an overturned boat around 3:30 a.m. Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, according to authorities. Fernandez was killed as a result of the impact of the crash and did not drown.

      The boat carrying Fernandez and two others was traveling at a significant speed when it struck rocks, authorities said.

      Fernandez twice attempted to defect from Cuba unsuccessfully and was thrown in jail on a third attempt before finally reaching the United States and attending high school in Tampa, Fla.

      A two-time All-Star, Fernandez was drafted in 2011 and rose to the Marlins' starting pitching staff by 2013.

      Fernandez was named National League Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA in 76 career starts for the Marlins. He was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA this season.

      Fernandez announced on Instagram last week that his girlfriend is pregnant.

      After Sunday's tragedy, the Tampa Bay Rays canceled a scheduled pregame ceremony to recognize retiring Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, per his wishes.

      The Miami Dolphins plan to hold a moment of silence for Fernandez before their game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, a team official told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

  • Mets try to get by with patchwork rotation
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    The New York Mets are fighting for a National League wild card start despite a patchwork starting rotation.

    • Noah Syndergaard was the last remaining healthy starter from last season's four-headed monster of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Syndergaard, but a bout with strep throat pushed back his latest start by a few days.

      While Harvey and deGrom underwent season-ending surgery, Matz (shoulder impingement) has yet to be ruled out for the postseason. The 25-year-old left-hander has been out since Aug. 14 and will not return to the rotation, though manager Terry Collins left open the possibility of bullpen work.

      "Right now, if he's able to throw - able to pitch - maybe we'll put him in the 'pen and see if we can get him an inning here or an inning there to see how he reacts to it," Collins said of Matz, who is 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA.

      Matz played catch before Saturday's game and would be used cautiously out of the bullpen, if at all.

      The Mets used left-hander Sean Gilmartin as a spot starter in place of Syndergaard on Saturday. Gilmartin could not make it out of the first inning while getting ripped for five runs and four hits while walking three.

  • Red Sox 3B Sandoval inching closer to return
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval could return much earlier than expected from shoulder surgery, possibly even before the end of the regular season.

    • Sandoval, who lost his starting job to Travis Shaw in spring training, underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May that was expected to end his season. The 30-year-old is progressing in his rehab and joined the team for batting practice in Tampa Bay on Saturday.

      "At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next spring training," Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters. "We're not getting too far ahead of ourselves, here. But at the same time, compliment him for the work that he's put in. The way he's responded to the rehab. The way he's worked himself back into better condition. So we're staying open-minded."

      Sandoval signed a five-year, $95 million contract prior to the 2015 season but endured a terrible debut campaign with Boston, batting .245 with 10 home runs.

      Shaw is batting .246 with 16 home runs and 71 RBIs, but is marred in a 3-for-29 slump over his last 10 games. Brock Holt got the start at third base on Saturday against the Rays.

  • Astros' Giles hit by line drive during batting practice
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    Houston Astros closer Ken Giles took a line drive off his right wrist during batting practice on Saturday, putting the rest of his season in doubt.

    • Giles was in right field throwing with other pitchers when he was struck by the ball. He was carted off the field.

      "It wasn't good," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It looked like the ball off of the bat hit him pretty hard, so he was already starting to bruise in the wrist area. He'll be taken in.

      "It looked very painful to me."

      Giles, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason, owns a 4.31 ERA with 13 saves. The 26-year-old right-hander suffered through a terrible outing on Friday, when he managed one out while getting rocked for six runs on three hits and three walks.

      Houston entered the night two games behind the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers in the race for the second American League wild card. Giles has been serving as the team's closer since the beginning of August.

  • MLB roundup: Nationals win NL East
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    PITTSBURGH -- The Washington Nationals won their third National League East title in the last five years with a 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Saturday night, coupled with the New York Mets' 10-8 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

    • Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos each drove in two runs and reliever Reynaldo Lopez (4-3) pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings for Washington (90-64).

      The Nationals' Joe Ross was making his second start since missing 66 games because of right shoulder inflammation. He went a prescribed three innings in his first outing. However, he got yanked with two outs in the third after giving up a run and leaving the bases loaded for reliever Sean Burnett.

      Red Sox 6, Rays 4

      ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Dustin Pedroia hit a two-out grand slam in the seventh inning as Boston clinched a postseason berth with its 10th straight victory.

      The Red Sox's winning streak is its longest since 2009. Boston's Rick Porcello (22-4) became the majors' first 22-game winner and Boston's first since Pedro Martinez won 23 in 1999.

      Tampa Bay's Logan Forsythe hit his 20th home run of the season, a solo shot, with two outs in the ninth off closer Craig Kimbrel, who picked up his 30th save of the season. Kimbrel had held opponents hitless (0-for-20) in his previous eight appearances.

      Dodgers 14, Rockies 1

      LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw tossed seven scoreless innings and Josh Reddick hit a grand slam as Los Angeles crushed Colorado.

      Reddick went 3-for-4 with five RBIs and three runs. It was Reddick's fourth career slam and the seventh this season for the Dodgers.

      Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson drove in two runs apiece as the Dodgers reduced their magic number to one to capture their fourth straight National League West title.

      Giants 9, Padres 6

      SAN DIEGO -- Angel Pagan raced home with the tiebreaking run on a 10th-inning error by rookie right fielder Hunter Renfroe and Denard Span followed with a two-run homer off reliever Kevin Quackenbush to give San Francisco a victory over San Diego.

      The Padres had rallied from a 6-0 deficit to tie the score in the seventh.

      San Francisco prevented Los Angeles from clinching the National League West title and moved the Giants into a first-place tie with the New York Mets in the National League wild-card race. St. Louis trails the Mets and Giants by a half-game.

      Phillies 10, Mets 8

      NEW YORK -- Maikel Franco hit a three-run homer in the first inning and Darin Ruf laced a three-run homer in the fourth as Philadelphia raced out to a 10-run lead and hung on.

      New York and San Francisco are tied for the NL wild-card lead, one-half game ahead of St. Louis.

      The Mets nearly pulled off the biggest comeback in team history after manager Terry Collins pulled his three best players -- Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes -- with the Phillies ahead 10-0 after four innings.

      Cardinals 10, Cubs 4

      CHICAGO -- St. Louis scored six runs in the first three innings en route to routing Chicago and staying afloat in the National League wild-card race.

      Stephen Piscotty homered, Yadier Molina drove in four runs and Randal Grichuk drove in three for the Cardinals, who are one-half game behind the Mets and the Giants in the NL wild-card race. St. Louis has won five of its last seven games.

      The NL Central champion Cubs saw their four-game winning streak end. They remain stuck on 98 victories and tied for a franchise-record 56 home wins. Chicago last won 99 games in 1935, when it reached 100.

      Blue Jays 3, Yankees 0

      TORONTO -- Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer with two out in the eighth inning to send Toronto past New York.

      The Blue Jays beat the Yankees for the second straight time with two games left in the four-game series between the American League East rivals. Toronto leads the AL wild-card race by 1 1/2 games over Baltimore and is two games clear of third-place Detroit.

      It was the third loss in a row for the Yankees and the third straight game in which they have been shut out as their chances for a wild-card spot are all but gone.

      Orioles 6, Diamondbacks 1

      BALTIMORE -- Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo homered and starter Wade Miley shut down his former team for 8 2/3 innings as Baltimore rolled past Arizona.

      The victory moved the Orioles (84-71) back into second place in the AL wild-card battle by one-half game as Kansas City's five-run ninth inning handed the Detroit Tigers a 7-4 loss earlier Saturday.

      It was Mancini's third homer this week after his recent call-up.

      White Sox 8, Indians 1

      CLEVELAND -- Jose Abreu and Carlos Sanchez had three hits apiece and Todd Frazier homered as Chicago beat Cleveland.

      The Indians' four-game winning streak and the White Sox's six-game slide were snapped.

      The win stalled Cleveland's quest to clinch the American League's Central Division title. The Indians' magic number for clinching was reduced to two, though, with Detroit's loss to Kansas City.

      Royals 7, Tigers 4

      DETROIT -- Eric Hosmer belted a three-run home run to help Kansas City overcome a two-run deficit with two outs in the ninth.

      Paulo Orlando blasted a two-run double in the ninth for the Royals. Hosmer's 24th home run of the season, which gave him 100 RBIs, came on a low 1-1 changeup by Francisco Rodriguez (3-4).

      Detroit fell one-half game behind Baltimore for the second wild-card spot in the AL.

      Twins 3, Mariners 2

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Early homers by Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano helped Minnesota snap a seven-game losing streak.

      The Twins, who have 99 losses, got seven solid innings from starter Tyler Duffey (9-11).

      Nelson Cruz homered for Seattle, which fell two games behind Baltimore for the second wild-card spot in the AL.

      Angels 10, Astros 4

      HOUSTON -- Albert Pujols stroked a game-tying single in the eighth and C.J. Cron followed with a sacrifice fly that capped Los Angeles' four-run inning in its victory over Houston.

      The Angels piled on with five runs in the ninth to move within one win of completing a four-game series sweep Sunday.

      The Astros wasted another strong start from right-hander Brad Peacock by squandering a three-run lead. They also fell 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the final wild-card spot in the AL.

      Rangers 5, Athletics 0

      OAKLAND, Calif. -- Shortstop Elvis Andrus hit a pair of two-run homers, Yu Darvish pitched seven shutout innings and Texas rolled to victory.

      One day after clinching the American League West crown, Rangers manager Jeff Banister gave all of his regulars except Andrus and right fielder Nomar Mazara the day off.

      Adrian Beltre, Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond, Jonathan Lucroy, Rougned Odor, Mitch Moreland and Carlos Gomez were spectators as Andrus had the first multi-homer game of his career and drove in a career-high tying four runs.

      Marlins 6, Braves 4

      MIAMI -- Dee Gordon had two hits, three steals and scored twice as Miami defeated Atlanta.

      The Marlins snapped the Braves' seven-game winning streak, which was the longest run by Atlanta since 2014.

      The Braves' Freddie Freeman had an RBI single and a solo home run. He has 32 homers this season, and also extended his career-high hit streak to 28 games.

      Reds 6, Brewers 1

      MILWAUKEE -- Dan Straily struck out five batters in 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball and Joey Votto hit his 26th home run of the season as Cincinnati beat Milwaukee.

      Straily (14-8) cruised through his outing, scattering five hits and two walks to post his third consecutive victory. The only earned run he gave up came on a solo home run from Domingo Santana in the second inning.

      Votto also drew three walks.

  • Nationals looking to clinch in Pittsburgh
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    PITTSBURGH -- It might feel like a do-over Saturday when the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates play the second game of their three-game series at PNC Park.

    • Thanks to Pittsburgh's 11-inning, 6-5 win Friday, Washington is still trying to clinch the National League East title, and the Pirates are still clinging to long odds that they will get into the postseason.

      Actually, even if the Nationals had won Friday, they would not have clinched because their magic number was two and the New York Mets won. But a win would have left Washington in control and needing just a win Saturday -- or in any of its last nine regular-season games -- to capture its third division title in five years.

      Pittsburgh also has nine games left, but a 3 1/2-game mountain to get into a wild-card position might be insurmountable.

      Still, getting the win Friday to help keep their hopes alive and avoid a scenario where Washington gets to celebrate at their home park was something positive for the Pirates -- and especially for rookie Jacob Stallings, who hit a walk-off pinch-hit RBI single with two outs and a full count in the 11th.

      "Obviously, it's a big win for us trying to make the playoffs," Stallings said. "It was pretty cool."

      Washington's Joe Ross (7-5, 3.48 ERA) is slated to start Saturday, his second start since coming off the disabled list after recovering from a shoulder injury.

      After being out 2 1/2 months, Ross allowed one run on six singles in three innings on Sunday, throwing 51 pitches, in the Nationals' rain-shortened loss against Atlanta the Braves.

      "I felt good, and that was what I was mainly concerned with," Ross told the Washington Post after that game. "Just going out there feeling good and competing."

      The Nationals hope for a little more from Ross, and look for him to go longer Saturday. That is particularly true now after Washington used seven relievers Friday.

      Before he got hurt, Ross struck out a career-best 11 in 7 1/3 innings in a 4-1 Washington win over Pittsburgh that was Ross' third major league start.

      Ross will be matched against one of the Pirates' steadiest starters over the past seven weeks.

      Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.19 ERA) has been more than steady since the Pirates acquired him from the New York Yankees Aug. 1.

      In his first nine starts with Pittsburgh, he is 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA with 46 strikeouts and just three walks.

      He has made just one career start against Washington, a 4-1 win while pitching for the Yankees in 2012.

      Nova has been so good that reports abound that the Pirates will not be able to afford to re-sign him despite their interest in doing so.

      For now, Pittsburgh needs him to keep its playoff hopes alive Saturday.

  • MLB roundup: Cubs clinch NL homefield advantage
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    CHICAGO -- Jake Arrieta's goal may be perfection but he realizes he can occasionally ease up and still have good outcomes.

    • Arrieta (18-7) scattered five hits in a seven-inning shutout effort as the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 on Friday at Wrigley Field.

      Chicago (98-55) topped last year's 97-win total and matched the most victories by any Cubs team since 1945 with its fourth straight in the opener of a three-game weekend series.

      The Cubs also clinched home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs, thanks to the Washington Nationals' loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates Friday night. The Cardinals are a half game behind the Giants for the second wild card.

      Rangers 3, Athletics 0

      OAKLAND, Calif. -- Cole Hamels pitched seven shutout innings, Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer and Texas clinched the American League West crown with a victory against Oakland at the Oakland Coliseum.

      The Rangers won the West for the second straight year and for the fourth time in the past seven seasons. They've made the postseason five times overall in that span and reached the World Series in 2010 and 2011 but lost both years.

      Hamels (15-5) allowed six hits, struck out seven and walked two. He won for the first time since Aug. 25 against Cleveland. Hamels went 0-1 with a 10.50 ERA in his previous four starts. But he looked ready for the postseason in a rematch against the A's and right-hander Kendall Graveman, seven days after allowing six runs over six innings and getting a no-decision in a 7-6 Rangers win in Arlington.

      Tigers 8, Royals 3

      DETROIT -- Victor Martinez, Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin blasted home runs to back rookie Michael Fulmer's seven innings of one-run ball in Detroit's victory over Kansas City that kept the Tigers in control of the American League's second wild-card spot.

      Detroit remains a half-game up on Baltimore for the second spot and the Tigers' fifth win in a row kept them one game behind Toronto.

      Fulmer (11-7) allowed eight hits, struck out seven and didn't walk a batter. His seven innings gave him 155 2/3, enough to qualify for and assume the league's ERA lead at 2.95. He needs 6 1/3 innings in his final start of the season Wednesday against Cleveland to reach the 162 he needs to qualify for the ERA crown.

      Orioles 3, Diamondbacks 2 (12 innings)

      BALTIMORE -- Mark Trumbo led off the bottom of the 12th inning with his 44th homer of the season and Baltimore rallied past Arizona.

      Trumbo lined a 1-2 pitch from Matt Koch (1-1) into the left field seats to snap a four-game losing streak for the Orioles.

      Baltimore remains a 1/2 game behind Toronto and Detroit, both of which won Friday night, in the wild-card standings.

      The Orioles loaded the bases with one out in the 11th, but failed to score as Manny Machado flied to short left and Chris Davis flied to center.

      Red Sox 2, Rays 1

      ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Boston won its ninth straight game, getting a first-inning home run from David Ortiz and letting it stand in a win over Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field.

      Ortiz, greeted to cheers in his final series at the Trop, tagged Rays starter Chris Archer (8-19) with a two-run home run, in what would end up as Archer's 11th straight loss against Boston over a span of 16 starts. Drew Pomeranz (3-5) threw five innings and the bullpen held Tampa Bay to one hit in the final four.

      Boston (90-64) came in with a 5 1/2-game lead in the American League East and held that lead on Toronto, now with eight games to play. The Rays have dropped four of their last five, and are now 7-10 against the Red Sox this season. Archer set a franchise record with his 19th loss and now leads the majors as well.

      Blue Jays 9, Yankees 0

      TORONTO -- Troy Tulowitzki had four RBIs, Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer, Francisco Liriano pitched six scoreless innings and Toronto defeated New York.

      The Blue Jays maintained their hold on the first American League wild-card spot while dealing a blow to the wild-card chances of the Yankees. The Blue Jays are still one game ahead of the Detroit Tigers, who hold the second wild-card spot. The Yankees fall to four games behind the Tigers.

      Liriano (8-13) allowed three hits, two walks and struck out six to even his record at 2-2 since joining the Blue Jays in August after a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

      Braves 3, Marlins 2

      MIAMI -- Adonis Garcia's ninth-inning single drove in the go-ahead run as Atlanta continued to haunt Miami with a victory at Marlins Park.

      The last-place Braves are 11-6 against the Marlins this season.

      Pinch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio started the ninth-inning rally with a one-out single. He stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher J.T. Realmuto. Bonifacio scored when Garcia stroked a 2-2 pitch to left for a single.

      Indians 10, White Sox 4

      CLEVELAND -- Jose Ramirez doubled, homered and had four RBIs, Coco Crisp had three hits and three RBIs and Cleveland beat Chicago at Progressive Field.

      The win is Cleveland's fourth in a row as the Indians reduced their magic number for clinching the American League Central Division title to three games.

      The Indians trailed 2-0 after three innings, but then scored 10 runs over the next three innings to hand the White Sox their sixth loss in a row.

      Mets 10, Phillies 5

      NEW YORK -- Michael Conforto's three-run homer capped a six-run fifth inning by New York, who retained at least a share of the National League wild-card lead by using six pitchers to patch together a vital victory over Philadelphia at Citi Field.

      The Mets have a one-game lead over the San Francisco Giants for the top wild card in the NL. New York is 1 1/2 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals, who fell to the Chicago Cubs 5-0.

      The Phillies have lost two straight for the first time since a three-game skid from Sept. 9-11.

      Padres 7, Giants 2

      SAN DIEGO -- Right-hander Edwin Jackson held San Francisco to two runs over six innings and Wil Myers put San Diego ahead to stay with a three-run homer in the first inning as the Padres defeated the Giants at Petco Park.

      The loss dropped the Giants a game behind the New York Mets in the National League wild-card race, although San Francisco still holds a half-game lead over St. Louis for the second wild-card berth.

      The win was the Padres' seventh in eight games against the Giants since the All-Star break after the Giants won the season's first nine meetings.

      Brewers 5, Reds 4

      MILWAUKEE -- Chris Carter hit his 38th home run of the season and Ryan Braun hit a two-run single in the seventh as Milwaukee rallied for a victory over Cincinnati at Miller Park.

      Reds right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (8-5) worked six innings and allowed five runs on six hits and three walks while striking out four.

      Jose Peraza had two hits for Cincinnati, including a three-run home run in the fifth that put the Reds up, 3-1.

      Pirates 6, Nationals 5 (11 innings)

      PITTSBURGH -- Pinch-hitter Jacob Stallings hit a bases-loaded, two-out, full-count RBI single to left in the 11th as Pittsburgh came from behind to beat Washington at PNC Park and keep the Nationals from moving closer to clinching the National League East title.

      Washington still has a magic number of two for clinching, thanks to its loss and a win by the New York Mets.

      Pittsburgh has won seven of its past 10 and eight of its past 12, but time is running out on its playoff hopes. It was four games out of an NL wild-card spot, pending San Francisco's later game, with nine games remaining.

      Mariners 10, Twins 1

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Seattle posted a six-run seventh inning to open its three-game visit to Minnesota decisively, blasting past the struggling Twins.

      Robinson Cano went 4-for-5, scored twice and had a pair of RBIs for Seattle, which remained two games behind Detroit for the final wild-card spot in the American League after winning for the third time in five games.

      Left-hander James Paxton (5-7) went seven innings for the Mariners, allowing one run, five hits and striking out nine Twins for his first win since Aug. 7. Although most of the damage was done after he left the game, Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson (6-11) took the loss, allowing five hits and two runs in five innings.

      Angels 10, Astros 6

      HOUSTON -- C.J. Cron, whose throwing error in the sixth inning yielded a run, delivered a bloop single in the ninth inning to help Los Angeles to a comeback victory over Houston at Minute Maid Park.

      The Angels mounted a stunning rally against Astros closer Ken Giles (2-5), starting with a leadoff single from nine-hole hitter Cliff Pennington with Houston leading 6-4. Third baseman Yunel Escobar followed with a game-tying, two-run homer four batters before Cron deposited a hit into shallow center field to score Mike Trout.

      The Astros were knocked out by another bloop hit, this one a three-run double off the bat of pinch-hitter Rafael Ortega. Astros shortstop Carlos Correa made a diving attempt at the ball in center field but came away empty, allowing Ortega to clear the bases with two outs. Correa left the game following the play.

      Dodgers 5, Rockies 2

      LOS ANGELES -- Joc Pederson and Andre Ethier homered, and Los Angeles inched closer to a fourth straight National League West title with a victory over Colorado at Dodger Stadium.

      With the second-place San Francisco Giants losing to the Padres 7-2 in San Diego, the Dodgers reduced their magic number to two to win the division.

      Reliever Ross Stripling worked three scoreless inning for the win. Stripling led a parade of relievers to the mound after Dodgers starter Scott Kazmir lasted just one inning before leaving with right intercostal spasms. Kazmir, who allowed two hits and threw 19 pitches (13 strikes), was making his first appearance in a month after dealing with neck issues.

      Rockies starter Jon Gray struck out 10, walked three and surrendered four runs on three hits in four innings.

  • White Sox CF Eaton removed after injury
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, September 23, 2016

    CLEVELAND -- Chicago White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton was removed from Friday night's game in Cleveland against the Indians in the sixth inning after running into the field wall while making a catch on a fly ball hit by the Roberto Perez.

    • Eaton hit the wall running at top speed, and fell to the warning track on his back, but held onto to the ball. He remained on the track for several minutes. He had to have assistance walking off the field.

  • Closers playing key role in playoff chase
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, September 23, 2016

    The significance of closers in baseball is too often minimized. They are longshots to win a the Cy Young award because they throw maybe 70 innings as compared to starters, who throw more than 200. They are rarely serious candidates for an MVP award because they play in less than half a team's games. And when it comes to the Hall of Fame, few have been deemed worthy.

    • But if any season has shown us just how important closers are -- how critical getting those last three-to-five outs are to protect a lead -- surely it is this one.

      Closers seem to be shaping the 2016 playoff picture more than any other factor. Take the San Francisco Giants, for example. They dipped a toe into the closer market before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. The asking prices were steep. They decided against it. Their major acquisitions were starter Matt Moore from Tampa Bay and All-Star infielder Eduardo Nunez from Minnesota.

      They might have done something differently if they saw what was coming.

      The Giants decided to stick with Santiago Casilla and a fleet of others including Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Hunter Stirckland and rookie Derek Law as backup. Casilla was the closer when they won the World Series in 2014. Romo was the closer when they won the World Series in 2012.

      The club has blown five ninth-inning leads in September and have a league-high 29 blown saves on the season. It is a stat that doesn't tell the whole story, but it does say something. Since the deadline, the Giants are 20-28 and have slipped from the NL West division lead to a dogfight for the wild card.

      Casilla has done enough damage to cost him the job. Romo hadn't fared much better until his last two appearances. Manager Bruce Bochy is doing matchups to try to get through games. And the bullpen-by-committee approach is pretty much a proven loser. These games they have lost may cost them a spot in the postseason.

      "It isn't lost on us. I wear it every day," general manager Bobby Evans told Job Heyman of MLB Network on Wednesday. "Every time we lose, I think, 'What a knucklehead am I?'"

      The Giants are the team most emblematic of this phenomenon, but they are not the only ones with issues. The Yankees arrived at the 2016 season with a plan to shorten game to about six innings with the best bullpen in baseball with Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. But when it appeared the team couldn't keep up, the Yanks had a fire sale for the first time in a generation.

      Chapman ended up with the Cubs, Miller with the Indians and the Yanks got great prospects in trade. But what no one expected was that the Yankees' call-ups would lead a resurgence. That resurgence was been undercut in recent days by a lack of quality relief pitching.

      As the Yankees' bullpen wasted key opportunities against the Red Sox last weekend, one had to wonder if this would be happening if Miller or Chapman were around?

      The three big closer-level relievers, who were dealt before Aug. 1 were Chapman, Miller and Mark Melancon, who went from Pittsburgh to Washington. The Cubs, Indians and Nationals all are in good shape to make the postseason and thrive there because of those moves. The Yankees are likely to miss out, even though they added Tyler Clippard to backup Betances. Pittsburgh sits only on the fringe for the wild card and has the slimmest of chances of returning to the playoffs for a fourth straight year.

      Before the Aug. 1 deadline, the Giants made inquiries about Chapman and Miller as well as Melancon. They over-estimated their hand and considered the asking price too high.

      There was a reason for the premium pricing. Since the deals, Melancon has a 1.99 ERA and is 12-for-12 on save opportunities. Chapman has a 1.19 ERA and is 15-for-17. Miller has been deployed as both a set-up man for Cody Allen and a closer and is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 25 innings.

      The Giants aren't the only ones in the NL wild card race whose fate could lay with its closer. The Mets' Jeurys Familia has been one of the best, but may be suffering from overuse having pitched in 74 games already. In his last five outings during this critical stretch, he has one save, two blown saves and allowed the opposition to gain the lead two times. Unlike the Mets, the Cardinals had to change closers at midseason because Trevor Rosenthal was battling injury and became ineffective; Seung-hwan Oh has saved their bacon by going 18-for-21 on save opportunities.

      Reliable closers are clearly a commodity. What happens with the Giants could prove one of the most compelling stretch-run stories. It could also be a precautionary tale about what it takes to protect a playoff spot.

  • MLB notebook: Mariners suspend Clevenger for remainder of season
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, September 23, 2016

    The Seattle Mariners suspended Steve Clevenger for the remainder of the season on Friday, even though the backup catcher apologized after posting two inflammatory tweets in response to civil unrest in Charlotte, N.C., including calling for protesters to be "locked behind bars like animals."

    • Demonstrators in Charlotte have been protesting the death of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, a black man who was shot and killed by a black police officer Tuesday. Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in the midst of Wednesday's rioting by protesters.

      The 30-year-old Clevenger appeared in 22 games with the Mariners this season prior to being placed on the disabled list with a fractured hand on June 30. He hit .221 with three doubles, one home run and seven RBIs.

      Clevenger is a veteran of six major league seasons with the Chicago Cubs (2011-13), Baltimore Orioles (2013-15) and Mariners (2016). He has appeared in 170 career games with a batting average of .227 with four homers and 48 RBIs.

      --New York Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard will miss Saturday's scheduled start due to a case of strep throat.

      It is the latest blow for New York's starting rotation. On Thursday, the Mets announced Steven Matz was scratched due to discomfort in his shoulder while Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey are out for the season.

      New York manager Terry Collins said he is hopeful that Syndergaard will be able to pitch in "a couple days."

      Sean Gilmartin will make the start in place of Syndergaard.

      --Chicago White Sox minor league pitcher Yojensy Arias was suspended 72 games Friday for violating the league's drug policy.

      Arias, a left-hander, tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide, a performance-enhancing substation that violates the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

      The 23-year-old Arias made 10 starts in the Dominican Summer League, failing to record a decision while posting a 3.54 ERA. He had 45 strikeouts and nine walks in 40 2/3 innings.

      Arias had been out of baseball for two years after spending the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Kansas City Royals' club in the Dominican Summer League. His suspension will go into effect at the beginning of the 2017 DSL season.

  • White Sox minor leaguer suspended 72 games
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, September 23, 2016

    Chicago White Sox minor-league pitcher Yojensy Arias was suspended 72 games Friday for violating the league's drug policy.

    • Arias, a left-hander, tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide, a performance-enhancing substation that violates the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

      The 23-year-old Arias made 10 starts in the Dominican Summer League, failing to record a decision while posting a 3.54 ERA. He had 45 strikeouts and nine walks in 40 2/3 innings.

      Arias had been out of baseball for two years after spending the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Kansas City Royals' club in the Dominican Summer League. His suspension will go into effect at the beginning of the 2017 DSL season.

  • Pirates' Polanco leaves after outfield collision
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, September 23, 2016

    PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Gregory Polanco left Friday's game in the first inning after crashing into the outfield wall.

    • With two outs, Washington's Bryce Harper hit a double to left that was nearly a homer. Polanco leaped to try to catch the ball, crashing left-side-first into the wall, then falling to the warning track. He got up slowly, was attended to by trainer Todd Tomczyk and manager Clint Hurdle, then came out of the game.

      The club said Polanco, who leads Pittsburgh with 85 RBIs, has a facial contusion.

      Polanco, normally the Pirates' right fielder, was playing left because Starling Marte is out of the lineup because of a back ailment.

  • Mets RHP Syndergaard to miss Saturday's start
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, September 23, 2016

    New York Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard will miss Saturday's scheduled start due to a case of strep throat.

    • It is the latest blow for New York's starting rotation. On Thursday, the Mets announced Steven Matz was scratched due to discomfort in his shoulder while Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey are out for the season.

      New York manager Terry Collins said he is hopeful that Syndergaard will be able to pitch in "a couple days."

      Sean Gilmartin will make the start in place of Syndergaard, who is 13-9 with a 2.63 ERA in his second season. Gilmartin owns a 4.76 ERA in 13 relief appearances this season.

      The Mets entered play Friday tied with the San Francisco Giants for the top wild card in the National League.

      Collins previously said he had slotted Syndergaard to make the start in a potential wild-card game, but told reporters Friday he's hopeful to get two more starts out of the 24-year-old right-hander.

      "We can't worry about Oct. 5," Collins said, referencing the date of the wild-card matchup.

  • Mariners C Clevenger suspended for inflammatory tweets
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, September 23, 2016

    The Seattle Mariners suspended Steve Clevenger for the remainder of the season on Friday, even though the backup catcher apologized after posting two inflammatory tweets in response to civil unrest in Charlotte, N.C., including calling for protesters to be "locked behind bars like animals."

    • "As soon as we became aware of the tweets posted by Steve yesterday we began to examine all of our options in regard to his standing on the team," Mariners executive vice president and general manager of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said in a statement Friday. "Today we have informed him that he is suspended for the reminder of the season without pay."

      On Thursday night, the Mariners said they were reviewing "all internal options" in response to what Clevenger wrote earlier in the day on Twitter.

      "The Seattle Mariners are very disappointed at the tweets posted on Steve Clevenger's account," the team statement read Thursday night. "While he is certainly free to express himself, his tweets do not in any way represent the opinions of the Seattle Mariners. We strongly disagree with the language and tone of his comments. We are currently examining all internal options that are available to us as we determine appropriate next steps. We will have no further comment at this time."

      Demonstrators in Charlotte have been protesting the death of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, a black man who was shot and killed by a black police officer Tuesday. Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in the midst of Wednesday's rioting by protesters.

      Clevenger also mocked the civil rights campaign Black Lives Matter in one of his tweets posted to his account, which was later set to private Thursday night.

      Seattle radio station KOMO reporter Jon Humbert earlier in the day published screen-grab images of the two tweets that Clevenger posted.

      "Black people beating whites when a thug got shot holding a gun by a black police officer," Clevenger wrote. "Haha (stuff) cracks me up! Keep kneeling for the Anthem!

      "(Black Lives Matter) is pathetic once again! Obama you are pathetic once again! Everyone involved should be locked behind bars like animals!"

      Clevenger apologized hours after the Mariners issued their statement.

      "First and foremost I would like to apologize to the Seattle Mariners, my teammates, my family and the fans of our great game for the distraction my tweets on my personal twitter page caused when they went public earlier today," Clevenger said in the statement. "I am sickened by the idea that anyone would think of me in racist terms. My tweets were reactionary to the events I saw on the news and were worded beyond poorly at best and I can see how and why someone could read into my tweets far more deeply than how I actually feel.

      "I grew up on the streets of Baltimore, a city I love to this very day. I grew up in a very culturally diverse area of America and I am very proud to come from there. I am also proud that my inner circle of friends has never been defined by race but by the content of their character. Any former teammate or anyone who has met me can attest to this and I pride myself on not being a judgmental person. I just ask that the public not judge me because of an ill worded tweet.

      "I do believe that supporting our First Amendment rights and supporting local law enforcement are not mutually exclusive. With everything going on in the world I really just want what is best for everyone regardless of who they are. I like many Americans are frustrated by a lot of things in the world and I would like to be a part of the dialogue moving forward to make this a better world for everyone.

      "I once again apologize to anyone who was offended today and I just ask you not judge me off of a social media posting. Thank you and God bless everyone."

      The 30-year-old Clevenger appeared in 22 games with the Mariners this season prior to being placed on the disabled list with a fractured hand on June 30. He hit .221 with three doubles, one home run and seven RBIs.

      Clevenger is a veteran of six major league seasons with the Chicago Cubs (2011-13), Baltimore Orioles (2013-15) and Mariners (2016). He has appeared in 170 career games with a batting average of .227 with four homers and 48 RBIs.

  • MLB roundup: Red Sox run winning streak to eight
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 22, 2016

    BALTIMORE -- Andrew Benintendi lined a tiebreaking single in the fifth, Hanley Ramirez added a solo homer, and David Price threw seven solid innings as the Boston Red Sox completed a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles with a 5-3 victory Thursday night.

    • The Red Sox (89-64) and Price (17-8) both have eight-game winning streaks. Boston improved its American League East lead over the idle Toronto Blue Jays to 5 1/2 games while slumping Baltimore (82-71) fell seven games back.

      Boston's magic number is five to clinch the division championship.

      The Orioles lost their fourth straight and fell for the sixth time in eight games on an 11-game homestand. Baltimore is in a tight battle with the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros for the second AL wild card.

      Indians 5, Royals 2

      CLEVELAND -- Carlos Santana's three-run home run in the sixth inning broke a tie and lifted Ceveland to a victory over Kansas City at Progressive Field.

      Cleveland completed a three-game sweep of the defending World Series champions. With Thursday's win, the Indians reduced their magic number for clinching the American League Central Division title to four.

      Reliever Dan Otero (5-1) pitched two scoreless innings of one-hit relief with two strikeouts to get the win. Closer Cody Allen pitched the ninth inning to earn his 29th save.

      Rays 2, Yankees 0

      ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Last-place Tampa Bay avoided a sweep with a shutout win over New York, which is trying to keep its postseason hopes alive in a wild-card logjam.

      Rays rookie Blake Snell (6-8) threw five shutout innings, and former Yankees pitcher Chase Whitley threw 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief against his old team.

      Tampa Bay closer Alex Colome went 1 1/3 innings for his 35th save, getting the final out with a runner at third when Jacoby Ellsbury lined out to center field. The Yankees, who were shut out once in the first 122 games of the season, have been blanked five times in the past 30 games.

      Tigers 9, Twins 2 (Game 1)

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Upton hit his 26th home run of the year and Victor Martinez also homered as the Detroit Tigers topped Minnesota in the first game of a day-night doubleheader Thursday.

      The game was a makeup of Wednesday's rain-shortened game, which was postponed in the bottom of the third inning. There was no score in the game before it was called.

      Upton's homer came off Twins reliever Alex Wimmers and broke a 1-1 tie. The 444-foot blast landed in the bullpens in left-center field and gave the Tigers the lead for good.

      Tigers 4, Twins 2 (Game 2)

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Verlander pitched six strong innings as Detroit completed a doubleheader sweep of Minnesota with a win.

      The Tigers swept the three-game series at Target Field, and thanks to the Baltimore Orioles getting swept by the Boston Red Sox, Detroit now owns sole possession of the second American League wild-card spot. The Tigers are a half-game up on the Orioles.

      The Toronto Blue Jays hold the first wild-card position and are 1 1/2 games in front of Detroit.

      Braves 6, Marlins 3

      MIAMI -- Matt Kemp slugged two home runs and had three RBIs as Atlanta won its sixth game in a row, defeating Miami at Marlins Park.

      Kemp, acquired from the San Diego Padres on July 30, leads the Braves with 33 homers and 104 RBIs. He has 10 multi-homer games in his career, including three this season.

      Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, who drove in two runs, extended his hit streak to 26 games. It's the longest active hit streak in the majors and the longest by a Braves player since Dan Uggla had a run of 33 in 2011.

      Brewers 3, Pirates 1

      MILWAUKEE -- Scooter Gennett and Chris Carter homered while Chase Anderson struck out six as Milwaukee avoided a sweep with a victory over Pittsburgh at Miller Park.

      Anderson (9-11) worked into the sixth inning and held the Pirates to a run on four hits with a walk. He's allowed just three runs over his last four starts.

      The only blemish on Anderson's record was a solo home run by Francisco Cervelli in the fifth inning -- his first since Sept. 30 of last season.

      Angels 2, Astros 0

      HOUSTON -- Ricky Nolasco worked seven shutout innings and Albert Pujols' first-inning home run stood as Los Angeles snapped an 11-game losing streak against Houston Astros with a victory at Minute Maid Park.

      Nolasco (7-14) produced his third scoreless outing for the Angels since being acquired from the Twins on Aug. 1. He allowed five hits and one walk with five strikeouts to follow the six scoreless innings he tossed at the Blue Jays on Saturday.

      After needing double plays to escape his two previous innings, Nolasco retired the middle of the Astros order in order to cap his outing. Nolasco also twirled a shutout against the Reds on Aug. 31 and has surrendered seven runs over his last 35 innings covering five starts.

      Mets 9, Phillies 8

      NEW YORK -- Asdrubal Cabrera's three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th inning capped a wild back-and-forth game and lifted the New York Mets to a dramatic win over Philadelphia at Citi Field.

      The win stopped a three-game losing streak for the Mets, who are tied for the top National League wild card with the San Francisco Giants, who beat the San Diego Padres Thursday.

      The Phillies have won six of 10.

      Giants 2, Padres 1

      SAN DIEGO -- Jeff Samardzija threw seven scoreless innings and San Francisco scored twice in the eighth to beat San Diego.

      Samardzija (12-10) didn't have many stressful moments, surrendering four hits and tying a season high with nine strikeouts with zero walks.

      San Francisco kept pace with the New York Mets for the National League wild-card lead. one-half game ahead of St. Louis.

      Dodgers 7, Rockies 4

      LOS ANGELES -- Yasmani Grandal homered twice, including a go-ahead grand slam, and Los Angeles rallied for a victory over Colorado at Dodger Stadium.

      Grandal ripped a slam in the seventh off reliever Boone Logan (2-4), who served up four runs and three walks. Grandal, who is the fifth player to homer from both sides of the plate this season, went 4-for-4 with five RBIs as the first-place Dodgers remained five games ahead of the second-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

      The Dodgers' magic number to win the division is four games.

      The Rockies lost for the third time in four games.

  • Season probably over for Mets' Matz
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 22, 2016

    New York Mets left-hander Steven Matz was scratched from his scheduled start on Friday against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies and is unlikely to pitch again this season.

    • Matz, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 23 because of a left shoulder impingement, threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Wednesday but reported soreness Thursday. Rookie right-hander Gabriel Ynoa will start on Friday in the second contest of a four-game series.

      "When you're talking about the shoulder, you're talking serious territory," manager Terry Collins said of the 25-year-old Matz, who owns a 9-8 mark with a 3.40 ERA this season.

      It is the second time this homestand that a Mets pitcher has been scratched the day before he was supposed to return.

      Right-hander Jacob deGrom, who last pitched Sept. 1, was expected to return on Sunday before his elbow injury flared up again. He underwent season-ending surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve on Wednesday.

      Ynoa allowed one run and struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.

  • MLB notebook: Pirates acquire Coke from Yankees
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 22, 2016

    The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired veteran left-hander Phil Coke from the New York Yankees on Thursday for cash considerations.

    • Coke 34, has not pitched in the majors for the Yankees since May 16. He had a 6.00 ERA in three relief appearances before being sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

      Coke went 5-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 23 games (11 starts) at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

      Coke has a 22-27 record and 4.23 ERA in 404 career major-league games with the Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs.

      --Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has been scratched from his next start with a strain to his right forearm. Tanaka earned the win in Wednesday's 11-5 win over the Rays, but also gave up four solo home runs in the third inning.

      --New York Mets left-hander Steven Matz was scratched from his scheduled start Friday because of a left shoulder injury and is unlikely to pitch again this season. Matz, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 23, threw a bullpen session Wednesday but reported soreness Thursday. Gabriel Ynoa will start instead.

      --Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins played for the first time since Sept. 12. He had been sidelined with a back injury.

      --Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler still was not ready to return after experiencing concussion-like symptoms, manager Brad Ausmus said. Detroit hopes Kinsler might return to action Friday against Kansas City.

      --Los Angeles Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun is scheduled to return to the starting lineup on Friday after missing three games to be with his wife for the birth of their son.

      --Houston Astros television broadcaster Bill Brown announced his retirement effective at the end of this season. Brown, who joined the club in 1987, will call his final game next Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners.

      --Rookie left-hander Jayson Aquino was not available for the Baltimore Orioles for a second straight game due to a viral infection.

  • Pirates acquire LHP Coke from Yankees
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 22, 2016

    The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired veteran left-hander Phil Coke from the New York Yankees on Thursday for cash considerations.

    • Coke 34, hasn't pitched in the majors for the Yankees since May 16. He had a 6.00 ERA in three relief appearances before being sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

      Coke went 5-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 23 games (11 starts) at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

      Coke has a 22-27 record and 4.23 ERA in 404 career major-league games with the Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs.

      He spent five seasons with the Tigers (2010-14) and made a career-best 74 appearances (one start) in 2010.

  • MLB roundup: Astros narrow gap in wild-card race
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 22, 2016

    OAKLAND, Calif. -- Evan Gattis stayed red-hot and the Houston Astros kept pushing hard for a wild-card playoff berth in the American League on Wednesday at the Oakland Coliseum.

    • Gattis hit his 29th and 30th home runs of the season, powering the Astros to a 6-5 victory over the Oakland A's. Gattis set career highs with each home run and now has 100 in his career. He has hit eight home runs against the A's this season and six home runs overall in Houston's past 10 games.

      The Astros, who are trailing Baltimore by one game for the American League's second wild-card spot, beat the A's for the seventh straight time and completed their second straight three-game series sweep of Oakland. They went 5-1 on their six-game road trip.

      McHugh (12-10) allowed two runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking two. He won his 11th straight September game in 13 starts since 2014 with the Astros and improved to 6-1 in his career against Oakland.

      Dodgers 9, Giants 3

      LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig smacked a three-run home run in the first inning to spark an early surge, and Los Angeles pounded San Francisco to increase its lead in the NL West to six games.

      Howie Kendrick went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs for the Dodgers, who took two of three in the series. Corey Seager also went 2-for-4 to finish the series 6-for-12.

      The Giants, New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals all lost Wednesday, leaving them in a three-way tie for the two NL wild-card spots.

      Yankees 11, Rays 5

      ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red-hot Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez hit two more home runs, giving him five in his last four games and leading New York to a win over Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field.

      Sanchez started the scoring with a first-inning RBI single, added a three-run home run in the second and a solo home run in the sixth, continuing a ridiculous tear he's been on at the plate, now with 19 home runs in his first 45 games. With the win and Baltimore's loss to Boston, the Yankees pulled to within 2 1/2 games of the second wild card in the American League with 11 games remaining in the season. The Yankees finish the season with a three-game series at home against Baltimore.

      New York jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first two innings, then held off the Rays, who inched back with five solo home runs.

      Cubs 9, Reds 2

      CHICAGO -- John Lackey picked up his first victory since Aug. 9 and joined four fellow starters with double-digit wins as Chicago beat Cincinnati.

      Lackey (10-8) allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings as the Cubs won their third straight game and completed a series sweep.

      The Cubs matched the win total from their 2015 wild-card season and reduced their magic number to two to secure National League postseason home-field advantage.

      Pirates 4, Brewers 1

      MILWAUKEE -- Home runs from Andrew McCutchen and Sean Rodriguez paced the Pittsburgh offense and Chad Kuhl struck out six in a victory over Milwaukee at Miller Park.

      McCutchen and Rodriguez finished with two hits each while Rodriguez drove in three runs.

      Kuhl (5-3) held Milwaukee to a run on five hits and a walk over six innings of work and earned his second consecutive victory. He's allowed two earned runs or less in seven of his last nine starts.

      Angels 5, Rangers 4

      ARLINGTON, Texas -- Los Angeles held on to the lead this time and beat Texas at Globe Life Park.

      After watching Texas rally to win the first two games of the series, the Angels' bullpen pitched three shutout innings to back starter Jered Weaver. Mike Trout's three-run home run gave Los Angeles a lead it wouldn't surrender.

      The Rangers had their magic number to clinch the American League West remain at two after finishing out a 3-3 homestand. Texas also holds a one-game lead on Cleveland for the best record in the AL.

      Indians 4, Royals 3

      CLEVELAND -- Jose Ramirez had three of Cleveland's six doubles, and Corey Kluber struck out nine in 6 1/3 innings in winning his 18th game as the Indians beat Kansas City at Progressive Field.

      The loss officially eliminates the Royals from the American League Central Division race, and the win for Cleveland reduces the Indians' magic number for clinching the division to five.

      Kluber (18-9) gave up four consecutive singles and two runs in the third inning, but no runs and two hits in the other 5 1/3 innings he pitched. In his last 14 starts Kluber is 10-1 with a 2.32 ERA. The 18 wins matches Kluber's career high set in 2014, when he was 18-9 and won the American League Cy Young Award.

      Nationals 8, Marlins 3

      MIAMI -- Max Scherzer earned his 18th win, and Ryan Zimmerman slugged a three-run homer to lead Washington to a victory over Miami at Marlins Park.

      Scherzer (18-7) struck out eight and was working on a shutout until the seventh, when he gave up a solo homer to the upper deck in right field by Christian Yelich and a two-run, pinch-hit blast by Derek Dietrich. That was it for Scherzer, who allowed four hits, two walks and three runs in 6 2/3 innings.

      Washington used four relievers, including closer Mark Melancon, to secure the win. Melancon got the last three outs in a non-save situation.

      Red Sox 5, Orioles 1

      BALTIMORE -- Andrew Benintendi hit a three-run homer after Boston scored two runs on the throwing error during a five-run sixth inning as the Red Sox defeated Baltimore.

      Boston now has won seven consecutive games, including the first three in this crucial four-game series.

      Baltimore slipped to six games behind the Red Sox in the American League East, missing a chance to tie Toronto for second place as the Blue Jays lost in Seattle earlier.

      Mariners 2, Blue Jays 1 (12 innings)

      SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez (11-6) gutted through seven scoreless innings in a win in 12 innings over Toronto, but the real stars were Seattle's relievers, who combined for six shutout innings and allowed four hits while striking out six to keep Seattle's playoff hopes alive.

      The Blue Jays were forced to use starter R.A. Dickey in the 12th inning after exhausting their bullpen. That's when things began to unravel for Toronto.

      Phillies 8, White Sox 3

      PHILADELPHIA -- Rookie Tommy Joseph homered and drove in three runs as Philadelphia pulled off a two-game sweep of Chicago with a win at Citizens Bank Park.

      Joseph, who slowly has been taking over the primary duties at first base from longtime Phillie Ryan Howard during the course of the season, went 2-for-4 to improve his average to .260 with 21 home runs and 45 RBIs.

      Braves 4, Mets 3

      NEW YORK -- Ender Inciarte drove home the winning run with an RBI groundout in the top of the ninth inning and made a game-saving catch to end the bottom of the inning as Atlanta continued to play wild-card spoiler by beating New York to cap a three-game series sweep at Citi Field.

      The Braves trailed 3-0 entering the seventh before storming back to stun the Mets, who entered the game in a three-way tie for the National League's two wild-card spots with the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.

      The Mets are assured of no worse than being tied for the second wild card by virtue of the Cardinals' loss to the Colorado Rockies earlier Wednesday.

      Rockies 11, Cardinals 1

      DENVER -- German Marquez was impressive in his first major league start and Nolan Arenado hit a grand slam as Colorado piled on rookie starter Luke Weaver early and beat St. Louis.

      The victory enabled the Rockies to avoid being swept in the three-game series and ended the Cardinals' four-game winning streak. St. Louis slipped a half-game behind the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants in the National League wild-card race, pending their games on Wednesday night.

      Arenado's grand slam came with two outs in the second and was his first since Sept. 26, 2015, against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the fourth of his career. It was his National League-leading 39th homer and gave the Rockies a 6-1 lead. Arenado drove Weaver's first pitch an estimated 424 feet to left-center.

      Padres 3, Diamondbacks 2

      SAN DIEGO -- Paul Goldschmidt smacked two home runs and Zack Greinke continued his dominance over San Diego as Arizona prevailed.

      Goldschmidt had a solo blast in the first inning and a two-run shot in the sixth as the Diamondbacks avoided the three-game sweep in winning for just the second time in six outings.

      Greinke (13-7) beat the Padres for the eighth occasion in nine decisions. He worked six innings, charged with two runs, two hits and four walks (one intentional). The right-hander snapped a three-start losing streak in besting the Padres for the second time this year. Greinke ran his record to 4-1 at Petco Park as he limited the Padres to two runs or fewer for the 15th outing in his 16 career starts.

      Tigers-Twins (postponed)

      MINNEAPOLIS -- The Detroit-Minnesota game was postponed by rain at Target Field.

      The game was scoreless in the third inning.

      The teams will make up the game Thursday as part of a day-night doubleheader to wrap up the series.

  • Tigers-Twins rained out
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 22, 2016

    MINNEAPOLIS -- The Detroit Tigers-Minnesota Twins game was postponed by rain on Wednesday night at Target Field.

    • The game was scoreless in the third inning.

      The teams are expected to make up the game on Thursday as part of a doubleheader to wrap up the series.