Jay Bruce slugs three home runs in win over Cubs

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Figures as soon as Jay Bruce gets moved to the leadoff spot, he starts hitting like the middle-of-the-order presence we’ve all been waiting for.

Bruce homered in three straight at-bats and tied a career-high with five RBI in a 7-1 win over the Cubs on Friday night. None of them were cheapies, either. All three traveled over 400 feet.

Bruce is actually the second member of the Reds to hit three home runs in a game this season. Drew Stubbs hit three back on July 4, also against the Cubs.

The 23-year-old outfielder is now batting .270 with 16 homers, 55 RBI and a 790 OPS this season. The power has been largely absent this season, leading some to label him as a mild disappointment, but if there’s one thing to really be encouraged about, it’s the progress he has made against left-handed pitching.

Bruce is batting .257/.331/.479 with eight homers, 20 RBI and an 810 OPS against southpaws this season. All three homers on Friday night game off left-handers — two off Tom Gorzelanny, one off Scott Maine. Bruce told Jeff Wallner of MLB.com that he strives to be a complete player.

“I’m determined to prove that I can hit against left-handers,” Bruce
said. “I want to see my name in the lineup every day. I have a lot of
improving to do. I feel like I’m supposed to be a really, really
productive player.”

Bruce did most of the heavy lifting on Friday night, but Johnny Cueto was brilliant in his own right, tossing eight innings of one-run ball while striking out eight and walking none. The Cardinals ended a three-game losing streak with a win over the Nationals on Friday night, so the Reds remain four games in front in the National League Central. 

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.