B.J. Upton

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Rays 6, Rangers 0: That, my friends, is B.J. Upton.  Three homers for big brother and a two-hit shutout for James Shields. This will make Rays fans feel really good until Texas bounces them easily in the division series again.

Marlins 8, Nationals 0: The Nats have not won a game since they shut down Stephen Strasburg!!!  OK, we’ll wait a couple of days to go all-in with that, but believe me, we’re ready.  Anyway, Ricky Nolasco with the four-hit shutout. It’s the second time he’s shut out the Nats in two weeks. And he also — everybody now! — helped his own cause by doubling in two runs.

Cubs 4, Pirates 2This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper. Been a nice season anyway, Pirates, but if you get swept by the all-but-dead Cubs, yeah, sorry.

Cardinals 5, Brewers 4:  Norichika Aoki hit a two out two run homer in the ninth to force extras, but the Cards avoid the sweep with an RBI single from Allen Craig in the 10th. Carlos Beltran hit a homer, ending an 0 for 14 slump. The Brewers are still surging overall, winners of 15 of 20.

Angels 3, Tigers 2: Six straight for the Angels, who are now within one game of a wild card slot. Detroit: 4.5 out, though still only two behind the White Sox in the division. Two days in a row with a leadoff homer for Mike Trout, who is going to be on the cover of every single baseball preview, fantasy review, etc. next winter and spring.

Athletics 4, Mariners 2: Tommy Milone struck out ten in six innings and Jonny Gomes hit a three run homer. Oakland continues to stay atop the wild card standings avec Baltimore. Speaking of Baltimore …

Yankees 13, Orioles 3: They got whupped. Curtis Granderson pulled a Dante — he wasn’t even supposed to be here today — but came off the bench to homer and drive in five. Only thing better would be if his number was 36. Wait, 37.

Braves 3, Mets 2: Chipper Jones pinch hit in the ninth, walked and was lifted for a pinch runner, and then the Mets fans cheered for him.  Very classy move. The man in the blue and gray pajamas, Dude.Worthy f*&%$8n’ adversary. A Brian McCann homer sac fly in the tenth secured the sweep. Atlanta has won five in a row.

Twins 8, Indians 7: A walkoff jack for Justin Morneau. It was his second homer of the game. Three hits for Joe Mauer. It’s almost like those two could form the core of a contender.

Padres 8, Diamondbacks 2: Chase Headley hit a grand slam — his 27th homer of the season — and Andrew Werner gave up one run over six. Headley passes Ryan Braun for the NL RBI lead with 102. It’d really be somethin’ for a Padre to lead the league in RBI.

Astros 5, Reds 1: The Astros may be deadsville, but they beat up both Aroldis Chapman and Johnny Cueto in this series, and not a lot of people can say they did that this year. Matt Dominguez hit a three-run homer. He has three home runs this year. All of them have come against the Reds.

Royals 2, White Sox 1: Chicago dropped two of three to Kansas City and now goes on to play the Tigers. It seems like neither of them want to win the AL Central this year.

Phillies 3, Rockies 2; Phillies 7, Rockies 4: John Mayberry hit the game winning single in the ninth, but he had to wait at first base before he knew it was official because Carlos Gonzalez dove for it, looked like he caught it, but then it squirted out of his glove. Took a minute to get the call right, but the umpires ruled that, yes, it was a hit. They also called Mark Teixeira out at first base. They take the nightcap too. Philly has won four in a row and are six back in the wild card race. I guess stranger things have happened.

Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3: I took the kids to see “Paranorman” on Saturday. There were fewer walking dead in that flick than there are on the Red Sox roster now. The Jays swept the Red Sox. The go-ahead run was on an Omar Vizquel sac fly. Omar Vizquel, by the way, is not getting gifts at every park he visits on his last go-around like Chipper Jones is.

Giants 4, Dodgers 0: Six and a third shutout innings for Barry Zito and the bullpen continued the job for the rest of the game. Buster Posey hit a homer, but really dude, you need to shave that thing you think is a beard. It’s all neck. It’s OK to have a baby face. No one thinks less of you.

Kyle Lohse is throwing for interested teams today

Kyle Lohse
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Free agent starter Kyle Lohse is throwing for interested teams at the University of California, Irvine, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports.

Lohse, 37, remains unsigned into baseball’s second month on the heels of last season’s 5.85 ERA and 108/43 K/BB ratio over 152 1/3 innings. Although Lohse was quite good in the four seasons prior, teams are understandably reluctant to bank on pitchers in their late-30’s.

The Orioles, Tigers, and Reds have had reported interest in Lohse in recent months.

Majestic Athletic employees will protest at Coca-Cola Park on Friday

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 10: Kris Bryant (L) of the Chicago Cubs and Anthony Rizzo #44 pose for a photo with their All Star jersey's before the game against the Chicago White Sox on July 10, 2015 at  Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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Anthony Salamone of the Morning Call reports that Majestic Athletic employees plan to protest at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA on Friday night. The employees are protesting Majestic’s owner VF Corporation’s attempt to undercut wages and medical benefits. VF Corporation acquired Majestic in February 2007.

Coca-Cola Park is home to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. Majestic has manufacturing facilities in Easton, PA, which is less than a half-hour from Coca-Cola Park. The IronPigs, as well as all 30 Major League Baseball teams, wear uniforms manufactured by Majestic.

Corporations affiliated with Major League Baseball taking advantage of employees isn’t anything new. Last year, when protests over police violence disrupted the Orioles’ schedule, some employees with the Orioles and Aramark almost lost out on multiple days of pay.

Eddie Perez likely to be Braves’ interim manager if Fredi Gonzalez is fired

Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, left, stands with manager Fredi Gonzalez during a spring training baseball workout, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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There’s been a lot of rumbling that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will soon get the pink slip. His team is 7-20 entering Thursday’s action. Historically, front offices — particularly those of rebuilding/restructuring teams — respond to that by making coaching and/or managerial changes.

Per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, bullpen coach Eddie Perez is likely to fill in as the Braves’ manager on an interim basis if and when Gonzalez is fired. Perez has been with the Braves as a coach since 2007. He played for the Braves in 10 out of his 11 seasons from 1995-2005. Perez wasn’t known for his bat, but was respected for the way he called games and handled the Braves’ then-elite pitching staff.

Bowman notes that Gonzalez isn’t expected to be fired over the weekend. If the team plays well, that could extend Gonzalez’s leash, so to speak.

First baseman Freddie Freeman issued a vote of confidence for his skipper, saying, “I think everything is getting magnified since we’re off to this start. I don’t know if it’s fair to put it all on [Gonzalez] because he’s not a player. We’re the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day. We’re obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that’s Fredi’s fault is unfair in my opinion.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, left, and Kris Bryant celebrate a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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The Phillies and Cardinals got started a little early, finishing up their four-game series on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we have 10 games on our slate, including Cubs-Nationals.

The Cubs have jumped out to a 20-6 start, looking like baseball’s best — and scariest — team. Entering Thursday’s action, the Cubs have a +93 run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). That’s by far the best in baseball. The next best are the Nationals at +50, the Mets at +44, and the Cardinals at +41. In fact, the Cubs’ run differential is so good that they have under-performed relative to their expected won-lost record of 22-4.

This is without Kyle Schwarber. This is with Jason Heyward hitting a miserable .211/.317/.256, Jorge Soler hitting .185/.276/.292, and Addison Russell hitting .224/.356/.329. It’s with John Lackey pitching to a 4.32 ERA.

What makes the Cubs so good? They’re on-base machines. The club’s aggregate .364 on-base percentage is second best in the majors behind the Pirates. Dexter Fowler has an outstanding .470 OBP and Anthony Rizzo is at an elite .403. In fact, of their regulars with 100-plus plate appearances, Heyward is the only one with a sub-.350 OBP. The league average is .319. The Cubs steal bases, too, as they’re 17-for-24 (~71 percent) in that department.

The Cubs have baseball’s best pitching staff, which has yielded a major league-best 2.54 runs per game. Only four teams are below 3.00 runs allowed per game. Of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta is the big contributor to that with a sterling 0.84 ERA, but Jon Lester has put up a 1.58 mark and Jason Hammel 1.24. Closer Hector Rondon has found himself in only four save situations but has converted each of them with an even 1.00 ERA and a 15/0 K/BB ratio in nine innings. The Cubs’ aggregate bullpen ERA of 2.66 is fifth-best in the majors.

It’s too early to use defensive statistics with any degree of certainty, but even the eye test shows the Cubs to be elite defenders at the important positions, particularly shortstop (Russell), right field (Heyward), and third base (Kris Bryant).

The Cubs’ success isn’t exactly surprising. The club rode five consecutive fifth-place finishes into some high draft picks and that talent is starting to establish itself in the majors. Whether it was fans, writers, or Vegas oddsmakers, the Cubs were preseason darlings.

Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs opposite the Nationals’ Joe Ross at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ Chicago White Sox (Erik Johnson), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT