Chone Figgins, of all people, saves the Mariners from total humiliation

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The Mariners fanned 18 times against CC Sabathia, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera while being held to one hit in a 4-1 loss Tuesday.  It was their 17th straight loss.

The only Mariner to play the whole game without striking out was .182-hitting Chone Figgins, who actually fanned three times in his last start Thursday against the Blue Jays.  Figgins also drove in the club’s lone run on a fielder’s choice.

Everything else was simply hideous.  Miguel Olivo struck out four times.  Ichiro Suzuki and Brendan Ryan whiffed three times apiece.  The only starter besides Figgins not to K was Greg Halman, who went 0-for-2 before being lifted for a pinch-hitter.  That pinch-hitter, Adam Kennedy, struck out.

In all, it was the 36th 18-strikeout game of nine-innings of less in major league history.  The Yankees tied their team record.  Ron Guidry fanned 18 all by himself back against the Angels on June 17, 1978.  Sabathia, who had his outing interrupted by a rain delay, fanned 14 of the 25 batters he faced tonight.

Of course, the Mariners were on the losing end of the first ever 20-strikeout nine-inning game.  Boston’s Roger Clemens was responsible for that massacre on April 29, 1986.  There have been two more 20 strikeout games since.  If not for Figgins, there might have been a fourth tonight.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.