Jon Lester comes off DL, Clay Buchholz makes progress for Boston

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The American League’s best team seems poised to get a little better.

The Red Sox activated Jon Lester from the disabled list in advance of his start Monday against the Royals.  He’s slated to throw 80-85 pitches tonight, manager Terry Francona told CSNNE.com.

Lester missed three weeks with a left lat strain.

“Kind of stating the obvious that we’re really excited to have him back,” Francona said. “The only limitation we have tonight is probably a pitch count and that’s just because of common sense. But he feels good and there’s no restrictions pitching physically. There’s no issues there. Hopefully get back in a rhythm and get him back where he was in and turn him loose. Our guys have done a great job filling in for him but you need guys like Lester.”

As expected, J.D. Drew was placed on the DL to make room for Lester on the roster. Kyle Weiland was shifted to the bullpen for now.

But Lester’s return wasn’t the only good news for Boston today.  Clay Buchholz, out five weeks with a strained back, threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session and said it’s the best he’s felt.

“I think this is the biggest step in the right direction so far in this process,” Buchholz said. “I don’t feel like there was any hitch in the delivery. It was what I wanted to go out there and do.”

There is no timetable for Buchholz’s return.  From what he was telling the Boston Globe, he’s still a few weeks away.

“I want to be ready to go,” he said. “If it’s the middle of August, that’s good. If it’s September, that’s good, too. I want to try to come back and help this team get to the postseason and work our way from there.”

Astros’ bullpen throws combined one-hitter for MLB-best 30th win

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The Astros’ bullpen did yeoman’s work in place of the injured Dallas Keuchel on Monday against the Tigers. Keuchel is temporarily sidelined with a pinched nerve in his neck.

Brad Peacock made the spot start, limiting the Tigers to one hit and two walks with eight strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings. Chris Devenski took over with one out in the fifth, finishing out that inning as well as the sixth and seventh, facing the minimum. Will Harris pitched a perfect eighth and Ken Giles closed out the 1-0 victory in the ninth. Devenski, Harris, and Giles each had two strikeouts.

The Astros scored their only run in the bottom of the first inning as George Springer drew a leadoff walk, then scored on Jose Altuve‘s one-out double. Tigers starter Brad Fulmer pitched well enough to win on most days, giving up the lone run in seven frames.

After Monday’s win, the Astros became the first team to reach 30 wins, sitting on a 30-15 record. With a +55 run differential, even their expected record matches up with their actual record.

Brandon Phillips hit his 200th career home run

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Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips became the 337th player in baseball history to hit 200 career home runs, driving a solo home run to left-center field during Monday night’s home game against the Pirates. Phillips is the 14th second baseman (who played a min. of 75 percent of his career games at the position) to rack up at least 200 career home runs.

Phillips, 35, entered Monday’s action batting .290/.345/.405 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 142 plate appearances. If he’s anything, he’s consistent, as he finished with an adjusted OPS between 90-99 (100 is average) every year between 2012-16 and it was sitting at 97 coming into Monday.