Kung fu Cueto emerges as brawl villain

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One interesting result of the big Cardinals-Reds square dance on Tuesday night – aside from the fact that only the managers were ejected, is that Brandon Phillips was not the one to emerge as Public Enemy No. 1.

(You can see different videos of the brawl here, here and here.) 

The real post-brawl villain was Cincinnati kicker – I mean pitcher – Johnny Cueto, who went all kung fu in a panic after he was shoved against the net behind home plate. Cueto said he was trying to protect himself, but the Cardinals said he was reckless in lashing out with his cleats, giving St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter some scrapes on his back and sides, and catcher Jason LaRue a potential concussion.

From John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“All I know is we exchanged words and the next thing I know I was in the net with somebody kicking me in the back from behind,” Chris Carpenter said. “I wasn’t throwing any punches, nobody was throwing any punches, and then we’ve got some guy kicking me in the back and ends up kicking my backup catcher in the face and splitting his face open.

The Cardinals said LaRue may have a concussion.

“He could have done some real damage (on LaRue), he got him in the side of his eye, he got him in his nose, he got him in his face. Totally unprofessional. Unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like that. He got kicked square in the side of the face with spikes. C’mon, give me a break.”

Like on Monday, the Cardinals got the last laugh, winning 8-4 to move into first place in the NL Central. Cueto (11-3) took the loss, allowing five runs (four earned) and 5.1 innings.

Now we’ve got some serious juice in this division race, a race that some think could go all the way to the end. The teams lock horns again on Wednesday, then again for a three-game series in St. Louis in early September. Buckle up folks, it’s going to be a fun ride.

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Athletics place Sean Manaea on disabled list with a left shoulder strain

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The Athletics placed left-hander Sean Manaea on the 10-day disabled list with a shoulder strain, according to a team announcement on Sunday. The move is retroactive to April 27, when Manaea was lifted from his last start after experiencing shoulder tightness. Manager Bob Melvin told reporters that he only expects Manea to miss one start during his stint on the DL, as the team is planning to utilize right-hander Sonny Gray in his place on Tuesday.

Manaea, 25, has yet to find his footing in his sophomore season with the Athletics. Over five starts, including his abbreviated outing against the Angels last Wednesday, the left-hander carries a 5.18 ERA, 3.28 FIP and 10.0 SO/9 through 24 1/3 innings. Even when healthy, control issues have spoiled some of his more dominant outings, doubling his walk rate per nine innings from the 2.2 BB/9 mark he posted during his rookie season in 2016.

With Manaea due back in the rotation by May 7, the A’s will eventually need to clear roster space to accommodate him. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle speculates that the decision could come down to right-handers Jesse Hahn and Jharel Cotton, though the team is still several days away from any formal announcement. Cotton has looked like two wildly different pitchers over his last five starts, tossing two-hit shutouts on his good days and getting shelled with 5-6 runs on his bad days. Hahn, meanwhile, has been a steadier presence in Oakland’s rotation, and his 2.08 ERA and eight-inning shutout should keep him in the majors a while longer, especially if he can replicate those results against the Astros on Sunday.

Noah Syndergaard refused an MRI for his sore biceps

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Mets’ right-hander Noah Syndergaard will take the hill on Sunday afternoon, just three days after he was scratched from a start due to right biceps tendinitis and shoulder discomfort. Syndergaard told reporters that he refused recommended medical testing on his arm because he felt “ready to go” after taking anti-inflammation medication and tossing a bullpen session on Friday. “I think I know my body best,” the right-hander said. “I’m pretty in tune with my body, and that’s exactly why I refused to take the MRI.”

It’s an unusual decision for a pitcher who has already succumbed to several serious arm issues, some as recent as last season, but as club GM Sandy Alderson told the New York Times’ James Wagner, the Mets aren’t in a position to force the issue.

This is a tense time for the Mets, whose lineup has been fraught with injuries of nearly every variety, from Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issue to Steven Matz‘s elbow inflammation and David Wright‘s cervical disc herniation. Syndergaard’s setback last week didn’t appear too serious, but it would make sense for the team to take things slowly with their best still-healthy hurler. Instead, they’ll push forward on Sunday against the Nationals and hope that Syndergaard’s read on his biceps issue is an accurate one.

The 24-year-old righty is 1-1 through his first four starts of 2017 with a 1.73 ERA, 0.0 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 in 26 innings. He’s scheduled to make his first start against the Nationals on Sunday at 1:35 PM ET.