We're all tied up: Giants grab share of NL West lead

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We’re back at zero. That’s where we stand after Friday night, as the Giants defeated the Padres 1-0 to move into a virtual tie for first place in the National League West. This is the first time that the Padres haven’t had sole possession of first place since they were a half-game out on June 16.

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins for the Giants, but they’ll take it. Friday’s starter Jonathan Sanchez tossed five shutout innings, but he did it by walking seven. That’s a lot, even for the major league leader in walks. Padres’ starter Clayton Richard was actually more impressive, holding the Giants to just two hits over six-plus innings, but his plunking of Aubrey Huff to begin the seventh ended up being the critical play of the ballgame.

After Richard was pulled for Luke Gregersen, Huff stole second base on a strikeout of Pat Burrell. He then made an ill-advised dash to third base on a ground ball hit by Jose Guillen to shortstop Miguel Tejada. Fortunately for Huff, he somehow managed to beat the throw. Chase Headley then attempted to turn a double-play on a groundball hit by Juan Uribe, however Nate Schierholtz, who was pinch-running for Guillen, delivered a brilliant takeout slide of David Eckstein, giving Uribe just the extra second he needed to cross the first base bag and allow the first and only run to score from third base. I believe that’s called manufacturing.

Schierholtz only has four at-bats this week, but he is partially responsible for helping the Giants win two games. In addition to Friday’s takeout slide, he also connected for a two-run double in Monday’s 2-0 win over the Diamondbacks.

I’m not going to bore you much more with my recap, but here’s where we are in the NL West:

Padres – 79-61 (.564) 22 games left
Giants – 80-62 (.563) 20 games left
Rockies – 77-64 (.546) – 2 1/2 games back – 21 games left

Yes, the Padres and Giants are now tied atop the NL West, but don’t sleep on those Rockies. They begin a three-game series with the Padres at Coors Field on Monday. The thing is, with two more games against the Giants this weekend, the Padres could be in second place by then.
 

Pirates looking for outside outfield help

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Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Pirates GM Neal Huntington is looking for outside outfield help in the wake of Starling Marte‘s 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. With Marte out of the picture, the club moved Andrew McCutchen back to center field and have played Adam Frazier, John Jaso, and Jose Osuna in right field. But, as Brink points out, Osuna and Jaso — neither an outfielder by trade — misplayed balls over the weekend against the Yankees.

Among available free agents, the pickings are slim. There’s Coco Crisp, Jeff Francoeur, Cole Gillespie, Kelly Johnson, and Nolan Reimold (who is currently in independent baseball). The Pirates may have to find themselves a trade partner. They could also try to talk Angel Pagan back into action, as the veteran outfielder recently said he’s taking the year off. The Pirates could also look at Leonys Martin, who was recently designated for assignment by the Mariners.

Matt Barnes ejected after throwing at Manny Machado’s head

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On Friday, tension between the Orioles and Red Sox rose when Manny Machado spiked Dustin Pedroia sliding into second base. Although the umpires found no fault with Machado’s slide, third base coach Brian Butterfield was later ejected, still feeling like Machado wronged the Red Sox. Pedroia exited the game and was not in the lineup on Saturday or Sunday. He’ll undergo an MRI for his left knee and ankle in Boston on Monday.

For what it’s worth, Pedroia didn’t seem to feel any bitterness towards Machado for his slide. As MLB.com’s Jeff Seidel reported, Pedroia said, “I don’t even know what the rule is. I’ve turned the best double play in the Major Leagues for 11 years. I don’t need a … rule. The rule’s irrelevant. The rule’s for people with bad footwork.”

Tempers flared between the Red Sox and Orioles again on Sunday. In the bottom of the eighth inning with a runner on first base and one out with the Red Sox leading 6-0, reliever Matt Barnes threw a first-pitch fastball up-and-in to Machado. The ball actually hit Machado’s bat, so it counted as a foul ball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher ejected Barnes and the Red Sox brought in Joe Kelly. Machado doubled on the first pitch Kelly threw to put the Orioles on the board, but the Orioles ultimately lost 6-2.

MASN’s broadcast later showed Pedroia talking to Machado, seemingly clarifying that Barnes acted of his own volition without encouragement from Pedroia. “You know that,” Pedroia appeared to say. “It wasn’t me. It’s them.”

Update: Pedroia even apologized to Machado and the Orioles, per Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.

Commissioner Rob Manfred will likely look into Sunday’s incident. He could fine and/or suspend Barnes.

The Orioles and Red Sox meet again in Boston for a four-game series May 1-4. It will be interesting to see if the tension still remains then.