Stephen Strasburg lasts five innings vs. Mets

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Stephen Strasburg just finished his sixth major league start a short while ago, allowing two runs over five innings against the Mets. Not only was it the shortest outing of Strasburg’s brief major league career, but he managed a career-low five strikeouts.

After Strasburg labored through a 37-pitch first inning, it was pretty obvious he wouldn’t be long for this one. He issued three walks in the opening frame, the most notable of which was a 10-pitch at-bat by Josh Thole. Somehow, he was able to escape with just one run crossing the plate, courtesy of an RBI double by Jason Bay.

Things really could have been a lot worse, as he was able to get Jeff Francoeur to fly out with the bases loaded to end the inning. This, after nearly beheading Francoeur earlier in the at-bat. I’ll give Frenchy some credit for actually staying in the batter’s box after that pitch, because I probably would have needed a new pair of pants.

Strasburg retired the final seven batters he faced after allowing an RBI single to Thole in a 26-pitch third inning, but it was too little too late. He was pulled after throwing 64 of 96 pitches for strikes.

The 21-year-old right-hander now has a 2.45 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over his first six major league starts, posting a 53/10 K/BB ratio over 36 2/3 innings. He’ll wrap up the first half with a start against the Padres next Thursday.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.