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. 

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.