Craig Kimbrel

First-third awards: 2011 NL Rookie of the Year

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We’re one third of the way through the season, so it’s time to check in on the award races.  First up is the NL Rookie of the Year.

The candidates

Wilson Ramos (C Nationals): .252/.336/.403, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB in 119 AB
Darwin Barney (2B Cubs): .311/.333/.389, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB in 193 AB
Justin Turner (INF Mets): .337/.384/.467, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB in 92 AB
Danny Espinosa (2B Nationals): .205/.302/.420, 8 HR, 29 RBI, 4 SB in 176 AB
Jason Pridie (OF Mets): .239/.320/.413, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB in 92 AB
Juan Miranda (1B Diamondbacks): .250/.370/.490, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB in 100 AB
Freddie Freeman (1B Braves): .254/.335/.392, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB in 181 AB

Brandon Beachy (Braves): 1-1, 3.45 ERA, 46/12 K/BB in 44 1/3 IP
Josh Collmenter (Diamondbacks): 3-1, 1.49 ERA, 21/4 K/BB in 36 1/3 IP
Clayton Mortensen (Rockies): 1-2, 2.83 ERA, 21/15 K/BB in 35 IP
Sam LeCure (Reds): 0-1, 3.18 ERA, 30/8 K/BB in 34 IP
Craig Kimbrel (Braves): 1-2, 15 Sv, 3.00 ERA, 40/13 K/BB in 27 IP

Last year, the NL had a much stronger rookie pool than the AL did.  This time around, not so much.  It doesn’t help that two Cardinals who would be very much in the mix for the award, Allen Craig and Fernando Salas, are both ineligible because they spent too much time on the team’s roster last year.  Also ineligible are Houston closer Mark Melancon and San Diego reliever Ernesto Frieri.

That doesn’t leave us with a whole lot to choose from.  Let’s look at how WAR (Baseball-Reference’s version) ranks the candidates:

Josh Collmenter: 1.0
Wilson Ramos: 1.0
Brandon Beachy: 0.9
Danny Espinosa: 0.9
Clayton Mortensen: 0.8
Craig Kimbrel: 0.6
Sam LeCure: 0.6
Darwin Barney: 0.5
Jason Pridie: 0.5
Justin Turner: 0.5
Juan Miranda: 0.2
Freddie Freeman: 0.0

Craig would actually be the leader here at 1.1 WAR, with Salas right behind at 1.0.

But those two don’t count, and WAR isn’t really doing anything to distinguish the candidates. Based solely on the results so far, I’d have to give Ramos the nod, even though he’s struggled offensively all month and particularly so the last 10 days.

Beachy, who has been out since May 13 with a strained oblique, did enough in his first seven starts to justify a place in the top three. After him, it’s mostly about personal preference. Collmenter has the shiny ERA, but he has made just four starts since moving into the rotation.  Kimbrel has the huge strikeout total, but he’s blown four of his 19 save chances and the Braves may well have been better off with someone else working the ninth the last two months.

Espinosa gets points for defense and baserunning, and even though his slash line is mediocre, he has has driven in 29 runs in 53 games. Barney, the NL rookie of the month for April, is only really hitting for average and doesn’t measure up with Espinosa defensively.

As for the first basemen, they’re really not in the mix yet, but there’s fourth months left for that to change. Freeman has been a below average regular to date, and Miranda is just getting started now. San Francisco’s Brandon Belt could yet be a factor, as could San Diego’s Anthony Rizzo.

So here’s my current top three, with the caveat that I don’t think any of them will be at the top of the list when all is said and done this year.

1. Wilson Ramos
2. Brandon Beachy
3. Danny Espinosa

Mets Syndergaard ejected after throwing behind Utley

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NEW YORK — In a scene that has seemed inevitable since October, New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard has been ejected for throwing a 99 mph fastball behind Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since his late takeout slide in last year’s playoffs broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.

New York was incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules on slides at bases this season. But the Mets had not attempted to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard’s first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman’s back by a considerable margin.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting irate Mets manager Terry Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected.

Indians’ Brantley unsure of return from shoulder injury

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CLEVELAND — Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has no timetable for his return from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the second time this season.

Brantley spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 14. He began the season on the DL following surgery for a torn right labrum in November. Brantley hit .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games before being shut down again.

“I wasn’t bouncing back quick enough to keep playing back-to-back games, which is very important,” he said. “I want to be healthy each and every day and I have to play at a high level. This is the major leagues. You have to be at the best of your ability and the highest health-wise you can be.”

Brantley, who received an anti-inflammatory shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, doesn’t think he returned from the surgery too soon.

“I was ready,” he said. “We talked about it. We had a great process laid out. Everything went smoothly. It was just a bump in the road.”

Brantley has been hitting off a tee but isn’t sure when he will begin taking swings in the batting cage. He is playing catch since he throws left-handed but wants to be cautious about resuming a hitting program.

“Surgery is nothing to play with,” he said. “You have to be smart and understand your body.”

Brantley visited Dr. Craig Morgan, who performed the surgery, in Wilmington, Delaware after he returned to the DL. An MRI showed no changes in the shoulder.

“He said everything checks out good, just make sure to take your time and we’ll see what happens from there,” Brantley said.

Brantley finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2014 when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. He batted .310 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs last season.

Blue Jays walk off Red Sox, 10-9, as Travis scores Martin

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TORONTO (AP) Devon Travis drove home Russell Martin with two out in the bottom of the ninth as the Toronto Blue Jays rallied to beat the Boston Red Sox 10-9 on Saturday.

With the Blue Jays trailing 9-8 on a David Ortiz home run in the top of the inning, Boston closer Craig Kimbrel retired Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders. But Justin Smoak singled on a line drive to center, and with Ezequiel Carrera pinch running for Smoak, Martin drove in his third run of the day on a double to tie the game.

After Martin advanced to third on a wild pitch, Travis forced third baseman Travis Shaw to stretch to corral a shot, and though he tried to throw Travis out at first, his throw was dropped by Hanley Ramirez and Martin scored.

The walk-off win was Toronto’s second of the season, the first coming against Texas on May 3, and completes the series win over the Red Sox, snapping a two-series home losing skid.

Martin hit his third home run in four games with a solo shot over the right-field wall in the sixth inning, while Xander Bogaerts and Shaw both had home runs for the Red Sox.

Ortiz’s 13th home run of the season and league-leading 46 RBI had seemed to be enough for the Red Sox, who watched an 8-4 lead disintegrate in the eighth inning as the Blue Jays rallied to tie the score.

Reliever Gavin Floyd (2-3), who gave up Ortiz’s shot, got the win, while Kimbrel (0-2), on his 28th birthday, was tagged with the loss.

Bogaerts, who went 3-for-5 with three runs, extended his hitting streak to a career-high 21 games with a homer off the top of the left-center-field wall in the fourth inning. The streak is the second longest in the majors this year, behind teammate Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game run, which ended Thursday.

Ramirez drove in three runs, while Dustin Pedroia had a pair of doubles and two RBIs as he extended his hitting streak against Toronto to 22 games.

Boston starter Rick Porcello gave up four runs on seven hits while striking out five over 6 2/3 innings.

Marcus Stroman tied his shortest outing of the season, also against Boston, surrendering seven runs on 11 hits while striking out five. He was chased in the fifth inning with one out.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: SS Troy Tulowitzki (right quad) was placed on the 15-day DL. Tulowitzki, who is batting just .204 this season with eight home runs and 23 RBIs, had sat out two games this week with the injury. Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney are expected to split time at shortstop until the veteran returns. Toronto activated left-handed reliever Aaron Loup from the 15-day DL to take Tulowitzki’s place. Loup, who has yet to play this season, has been recovering from a forearm strain and just completed a rehab assignment with Triple-A Buffalo.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP David Price (7-1, 5.34) returns to a happy hunting ground Sunday. The former Blue Jay makes his first start of the season at Rogers Centre, where he is 11-1 in 15 career starts with a 3.34 ERA.

Blue Jays: RHP R.A. Dickey (2-6, 4.60) is 0-5 in his last eight starts against the Red Sox. He is looking for his first win against them since going 4-0 in 2014.

Hendricks pitches 5-hitter, Cubs beat Phillies 4-1

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CHICAGO (AP) Kyle Hendricks pitched a five-hitter for his second career complete game, Dexter Fowler hit a leadoff homer and the Chicago Cubs beat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 on Saturday.

Hendricks (3-4) struck out seven and walked none. He was in line for his second career shutout before giving up a run in the ninth.

Fowler sparked a two-run first against Jerad Eickhoff (2-7) with his sixth home run.

Jason Heyward had two doubles for Chicago, which has won four in a row. Ben Zobrist had two hits, including an RBI double, to extend his streak to 14 games.

The Phillies lost for the sixth time in eight games.

Philadelphia had just four hits before right fielder Heyward and second baseman Zobrist allowed Freddy Galvis‘ fly to drop between them for a leadoff double in the ninth.

Galvis scored from third when Ryan Howard struck out swinging on a pitch in the dirt. The Cubs had a shift on with the lefty at the plate, allowing the runner to take a huge lead.

Catcher Miguel Montero looked him back, but Galvis took off for home as he threw to first on the strikeout, spoiling the shutout and drawing boos from the crowd. Hendricks then retired Cameron Rupp on a groundout.

Dominant in a rare win over struggling Atlanta in his previous start, Eickhoff came up short against the team with the best record in the majors. The right-hander went six innings, allowing four runs and eight hits while striking out seven and walking one.

The Cubs, tops in the majors in run differential, wasted no time grabbing the lead.

Fowler drove a 3-1 fastball just over the wall in left-center for his second leadoff homer this season and the 16th of his career. Heyward followed with a double and scored on a two-out double by Zobrist, who came in on a 22-for-50 tear.

The Cubs made it 3-0 in the third on back-to-back singles by Addison Russell and Hendricks and a double by Heyward. Hendricks got thrown out trying to score to end the inning, but the way he was pitching, it didn’t matter.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Phillies: Galvis came up limping in the sixth inning after Hendricks hit him in the right leg with a pitch. He walked gingerly to first and stayed in the game after being tended to by a trainer.

UP NEXT

RHP John Lackey (4-2, 3.38 ERA) goes for his first win in more than three weeks for Chicago while RHP Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75 ERA) tries to shake off his shortest outing of the season for Philadelphia. Lackey is 0-1 in his past three outings, although he has lowered his ERA from 4.02 to 3.38. Velasquez lasted four innings against Detroit on Monday, allowing three runs and nine hits.