Daily Dose: Braun ruins Hanson's debut

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Tommy Hanson’s much-anticipated MLB debut was a bust Sunday as
Milwaukee got to the 22-year-old right-hander for seven runs, including
three homers. Ryan Braun took Hanson deep twice, as the NL’s top
pitching prospect discovered that big-league hitters can do plenty of
damage on 95-mph fastballs. Despite the poor outing, Hanson actually
looked impressive between the long balls.

He struck out five and walked one in six innings, regularly working
at 93-95 miles per hour with his fastball and throwing his breaking
ball for strikes quite a bit. His pitches also had far more movement
than most mid-90s fastballs, although that got Hanson into trouble a
few times when the ball sliced back over the plate. His debut obviously
didn’t go as planned, but Hanson remains an ace in waiting.

Prior to being called up he posted a 1.50 ERA and 90/17 K/BB ratio
in 66 innings at Triple-A, and Hanson had a 2.41 ERA and 163/53 K/BB
ratio over 138 innings between high Single-A and Double-A last season.
Put it together and he’s racked up 253 strikeouts while allowing just
125 hits over 204 innings since the start of 2008, with the only real
blemish being–as shown Sunday–a high fly-ball rate.

While the Brewers and Braun welcome Hanson to the show, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* San Diego and Arizona played a crazy game Sunday afternoon, as the
Padres forced extra innings by scoring five runs in the bottom of the
ninth only to see the Diamondbacks’ bullpen toss a no-hitter for nine
innings during extra frames. San Diego eventually turned to utility
infielder Josh Wilson to pitch the 18th and Mark Reynolds took him deep
for a three-run homer as Arizona prevailed 9-6.

Amusingly, Wilson pitched for Arizona in a blowout earlier this year
before being claimed off waivers by San Diego. “When he pitched for us
he threw all fastballs, so you figure he has some kind of wrinkle,”
Reynolds said. “He threw a curveball up there and I laid off some high
fastballs, and he left one out over the plate and I was able to barrel
it up.”

* Vince Mazzaro debuted last week with 6.1 shutout innings against
Chicago and followed that up by holding Baltimore scoreless for 7.1
innings Sunday. Mazzaro used some smoke and mirrors in his debut,
managing just one strikeout with four walks, but totaled five
strikeouts with zero walks Sunday. Despite his great start, I’m still
skeptical about his missing enough bats to be a mixed-league asset now.

* Ricky Nolasco rejoined the Marlins’ rotation Sunday after a brief
demotion to Triple-A and pitched well versus the Giants, allowing three
runs in seven innings. He earned the trip back to the minors by going
2-5 with a hideous 9.07 ERA over nine starts, but with a 37/13 K/BB
ratio he pitched much better than that and was hurt by some awful
defense behind him. That may not change, but he’ll be solid.

AL Quick Hits: Roy Halladay improved to 10-1 with his third
complete-game win of the season Sunday … J.D. Drew missed both weekend
games with a shoulder injury that required a cortisone shot … Miguel
Cabrera left Sunday’s game after aggravating his hamstring injury and
replacement Clete Thomas ended up hitting a game-winning grand slam …
Kevin Slowey served up three homers Sunday to snap his streak of five
straight Quality Starts … Nelson Cruz missed the cycle by a single
Sunday and is now tied for the AL lead with 17 homers … Rich Hill had
seven shutout innings in his last start, but failed to make it out of
the first inning Sunday while walking four … Marcus Thames (ribs) came
off the disabled list Sunday and should get regular starts … Evan
Longoria (hamstring) pinch-hit Sunday with a game-ending ground out off
Mariano Rivera.

NL Quick Hits: Chipper Jones went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers
Sunday, driving in five runs … Livan Hernandez shut out the Nationals
for seven innings Sunday and is now 5-1 with a 3.88 ERA after last
season’s 6.05 mark … Ubaldo Jimenez had eight innings of two-run ball
Sunday, whiffing nine and walking one … Casey Kotchman (shin) went on
the disabled list Sunday, leaving Martin Prado to start at first base …
Rich Harden (back) was scratched from Sunday’s rehab start due to a
stomach virus … Stephen Drew had four hits Sunday and has boosted his
batting average from .190 to .248 over the past 11 games … Tim Lincecum
took a one-hitter into the eighth inning Sunday before giving up two
runs … Andrew McCutchen notched three hits Sunday, making him 6-for-16
with four RBIs …Out since Wednesday with a strained hamstring, Willy
Taveras pinch-hit Sunday and then stayed in the game defensively.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.