Daily Dose: Verlander wins seventh straight

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Justin Verlander took matters into his own hands Wednesday with Joel
Zumaya and Fernando Rodney both unavailable after working three
straight days, holding the White Sox to one run in a complete-game win.

Jim Thome’s solo homer was the only damage, as Verlander struck out
nine and walked one while topping 110 pitches for the eighth time in
nine starts. He’s 7-0 with a 1.10 ERA in that time.

While the Tigers sit seven games above .500 while the rest of their
division is 24 games below .500, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Grady Sizemore is still experiencing pain in his elbow, so he’ll
be shut down for the rest of the week before undergoing an MRI exam
Monday. He’s still hoping to avoid surgery, but Indians trainer Lonnie
Soloff said Wednesday that he’s unsure whether the “incremental gains
in range of motion” that Sizemore has made are enough for that to be
likely. Surgery would knock him out for another 4-6 weeks.

* John Smoltz is scheduled to make his final minor-league rehab
start Thursday at Triple-A after posting a 1.56 ERA, 13/2 K/BB ratio,
and .148 batting average against through his first four outings. If
things go smoothly Smoltz could join the Red Sox’s rotation as soon as
Tuesday against the Marlins, although Boston will have to make a
decision on which starter to bump before then.

* Brandon Morrow has changed his mind again regarding his long-term
role and asked the Mariners to let him try starting again after
struggling mightily as closer before losing ninth-inning duties to
David Aardsma. Seattle never should have let Morrow become a full-time reliever
at the age of 24 anyway and starting again is the best thing for him,
but he’ll be at Triple-A for a while building arm strength.

* Jim Leyland announced Wednesday that Dontrelle Willis will remain
in Detroit’s rotation, which tells you how bad Jeremy Bonderman looked
in his season debut. Willis is 1-3 with a 6.60 ERA and 16/20 K/BB ratio
in 30 innings, yet Leyland said that he “deserves” to start Sunday.
Willis has looked fairly serviceable when he’s not imploding, but the
decision says more about Bonderman’s diminished stuff.

* Ozzie Guillen revealed Wednesday that Carlos Quentin likely won’t
return from his foot injury until after the All-Star break, which is
rough news for a White Sox’s offense that ranks 12th among AL teams in
runs. Scott Podsednik has started 16 straight games in Quentin’s
absence and is playing surprisingly well, but his OPS is still 225
points below Quentin’s mark from last season and he’s due to decline.

* Anthony Reyes was one of my sleeper picks in AL-only leagues
coming into the year, but he posted a 6.57 ERA in eight starts before
landing on the disabled list and is now scheduled to undergo ulnar
nerve transposition surgery Friday at the hands of Dr. James Andrews.
Andrews may also perform Tommy John surgery if he discovers that Reyes
needs the ligament replaced, so his career is in trouble.

AL Quick Hits: John Lackey was rocked for nine runs Wednesday
and has a 6.61 ERA in six starts since coming off the disabled list …
Mark Teixeira went 4-for-5 with a homer Wednesday and is batting .343
with 16 homers in 36 games since his terrible April … Jeff Niemann
followed up last week’s complete-game shutout by allowing five runs in
3.2 innings Wednesday … Carl Pavano’s strong 11-start stretch came to a
screeching halt Wednesday as he coughed up nine runs … Gil Meche threw
seven scoreless innings Wednesday and tied a career-high with 11
strikeouts … Chien-Ming Wang didn’t make it out of the third inning
Wednesday and Phil Hughes also struggled relieving him … Denard Span
has left the Twins to have his bouts of dizziness examined … Alberto
Callaspo went 4-for-4 with a grand slam Wednesday, driving in his first
runs since May 16 … Jacoby Ellsbury sat out Wednesday’s game with
continued shoulder soreness.

NL Quick Hits: David Wright went 3-for-5 with two stolen bases
Wednesday and has already surpassed last year’s total of 15 steals …
Brad Lidge (knee) hopes to come off the disabled list in about two
weeks, but the Phillies have expressed much less optimism … Jorge Cantu
said Wednesday that his recent dizziness is caused by cholesterol
medication and should “clear out” soon … Charlie Morton lasted just one
inning against his former Braves teammates Wednesday, leaving with a
strained hamstring … Roy Oswalt’s next start has been pushed back from
Thursday to Saturday because of wrist soreness … Kyle Lohse (forearm)
will be out for at least a month and possibly through the All-Star
break … No. 10 pick Drew Storen signed before the draft was even over
Wednesday and the Stanford closer will be on the fast track to
Washington … Rich Harden (back) will be on an 85-pitch limit Saturday …
Rick Ankiel missed the cycle by a single Wednesday.

Kyle Lohse is throwing for interested teams today

Kyle Lohse
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Free agent starter Kyle Lohse is throwing for interested teams at the University of California, Irvine, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports.

Lohse, 37, remains unsigned into baseball’s second month on the heels of last season’s 5.85 ERA and 108/43 K/BB ratio over 152 1/3 innings. Although Lohse was quite good in the four seasons prior, teams are understandably reluctant to bank on pitchers in their late-30’s.

The Orioles, Tigers, and Reds have had reported interest in Lohse in recent months.

Majestic Athletic employees will protest at Coca-Cola Park on Friday

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 10: Kris Bryant (L) of the Chicago Cubs and Anthony Rizzo #44 pose for a photo with their All Star jersey's before the game against the Chicago White Sox on July 10, 2015 at  Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
David Banks/Getty Images
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Anthony Salamone of the Morning Call reports that Majestic Athletic employees plan to protest at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA on Friday night. The employees are protesting Majestic’s owner VF Corporation’s attempt to undercut wages and medical benefits. VF Corporation acquired Majestic in February 2007.

Coca-Cola Park is home to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. Majestic has manufacturing facilities in Easton, PA, which is less than a half-hour from Coca-Cola Park. The IronPigs, as well as all 30 Major League Baseball teams, wear uniforms manufactured by Majestic.

Corporations affiliated with Major League Baseball taking advantage of employees isn’t anything new. Last year, when protests over police violence disrupted the Orioles’ schedule, some employees with the Orioles and Aramark almost lost out on multiple days of pay.

Eddie Perez likely to be Braves’ interim manager if Fredi Gonzalez is fired

Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, left, stands with manager Fredi Gonzalez during a spring training baseball workout, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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There’s been a lot of rumbling that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will soon get the pink slip. His team is 7-20 entering Thursday’s action. Historically, front offices — particularly those of rebuilding/restructuring teams — respond to that by making coaching and/or managerial changes.

Per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, bullpen coach Eddie Perez is likely to fill in as the Braves’ manager on an interim basis if and when Gonzalez is fired. Perez has been with the Braves as a coach since 2007. He played for the Braves in 10 out of his 11 seasons from 1995-2005. Perez wasn’t known for his bat, but was respected for the way he called games and handled the Braves’ then-elite pitching staff.

Bowman notes that Gonzalez isn’t expected to be fired over the weekend. If the team plays well, that could extend Gonzalez’s leash, so to speak.

First baseman Freddie Freeman issued a vote of confidence for his skipper, saying, “I think everything is getting magnified since we’re off to this start. I don’t know if it’s fair to put it all on [Gonzalez] because he’s not a player. We’re the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day. We’re obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that’s Fredi’s fault is unfair in my opinion.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, left, and Kris Bryant celebrate a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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The Phillies and Cardinals got started a little early, finishing up their four-game series on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we have 10 games on our slate, including Cubs-Nationals.

The Cubs have jumped out to a 20-6 start, looking like baseball’s best — and scariest — team. Entering Thursday’s action, the Cubs have a +93 run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). That’s by far the best in baseball. The next best are the Nationals at +50, the Mets at +44, and the Cardinals at +41. In fact, the Cubs’ run differential is so good that they have under-performed relative to their expected won-lost record of 22-4.

This is without Kyle Schwarber. This is with Jason Heyward hitting a miserable .211/.317/.256, Jorge Soler hitting .185/.276/.292, and Addison Russell hitting .224/.356/.329. It’s with John Lackey pitching to a 4.32 ERA.

What makes the Cubs so good? They’re on-base machines. The club’s aggregate .364 on-base percentage is second best in the majors behind the Pirates. Dexter Fowler has an outstanding .470 OBP and Anthony Rizzo is at an elite .403. In fact, of their regulars with 100-plus plate appearances, Heyward is the only one with a sub-.350 OBP. The league average is .319. The Cubs steal bases, too, as they’re 17-for-24 (~71 percent) in that department.

The Cubs have baseball’s best pitching staff, which has yielded a major league-best 2.54 runs per game. Only four teams are below 3.00 runs allowed per game. Of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta is the big contributor to that with a sterling 0.84 ERA, but Jon Lester has put up a 1.58 mark and Jason Hammel 1.24. Closer Hector Rondon has found himself in only four save situations but has converted each of them with an even 1.00 ERA and a 15/0 K/BB ratio in nine innings. The Cubs’ aggregate bullpen ERA of 2.66 is fifth-best in the majors.

It’s too early to use defensive statistics with any degree of certainty, but even the eye test shows the Cubs to be elite defenders at the important positions, particularly shortstop (Russell), right field (Heyward), and third base (Kris Bryant).

The Cubs’ success isn’t exactly surprising. The club rode five consecutive fifth-place finishes into some high draft picks and that talent is starting to establish itself in the majors. Whether it was fans, writers, or Vegas oddsmakers, the Cubs were preseason darlings.

Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs opposite the Nationals’ Joe Ross at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ Chicago White Sox (Erik Johnson), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT