Derek Lowe

Cliff Lee has 16 strikeouts, takes backseat to Derek Lowe

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9:50 p.m. EDT – Kimbrel settled for one strikeout, getting Ryan Howard to end the Braves’ 5-0 victory.  Four Braves pitches combined on a two-hit shutout as Cliff Lee notched his 16 strikeouts in a losing cause.

9:40 p.m. EDT – The Braves padded their lead with two runs in the top of the ninth before Chipper Jones fanned to end the frame.  If Craig Kimbrel strikes out the side in the bottom of the ninth, the two teams would tie the NL record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game, which is 30.

9:35 p.m. EDT – A big night for strikeouts.  The Marlins and Nationals have combined for 23 through 7 1/2 innings.  Ricky Nolasco had 11 in seven innings for Florida and then three relievers combined for three strikeouts in the top of the eighth.

9:30 p.m. EDT – 26 strikeouts through eight innings for the two teams combined.  The big-league record in a nine-inning game is 31, established by the Rangers and Mariners in a game on July 13, 1997.

9:25 p.m. EDT – The injury to Polanco was a right big toe contusion.  He appears to be day-to-day.

9:20 p.m. EDT – Worse news for the Phillies than a loss tonight would be a lengthy absence for Placido Polanco.  He was injured on the double that knocked Lowe out of the game and was replaced by Wilson Valdez.  NL third basemen really do appear to be cursed this year.

9:15 p.m. EDT – Taking lessons from Lee, Eric O’Flaherty struck out three in a row to bail Lowe out the jam and protect Atlanta’s lead.  And, as expected, Lee is done.  J.C. Romero took over to start the eighth.

9:05 p.m. EDT – And Lowe is done after giving up back-to-back hits to begin the bottom of the seventh.  Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has gone to lefty specialst Eric O’Flaherty to face Ryan Howard in the 3-0 game.

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Cliff Lee just struck out the side in the top of the seventh for the Phillies, giving him 16 strikeouts against the Braves, yet he’s given up three runs and is going to be on the losing side unless the offense can come up with a late rally, as Derek Lowe took a no-hitter into the bottom of the seventh for Atlanta.

Shane Victorino singled to lead off the bottom of the sevnth, breaking up Lowe’s bid, but the right-hander remains in the game, going for his first win since April 16.

Lee got each of his final seven outs via the strikeout. He was at 117 pitches through seven, so it seems like a safe assumption that he’s not coming back out for the eighth.

Lee had never fanned more than 13 batters in a game before tonight.  His previous high was established against the A’s in a complete-game victory July 27, 2010.  It’s his 13th career 10-strikeout game.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.