Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano

Yankees come back on Blue Jays, AL East remains deadlocked

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After the Orioles closed out the Red Sox 6-3 to finish a three-game sweep Sunday, the Yankees completed their comeback on the Blue Jays, winning 9-6 to preserve the tie atop the AL East.

They say I can’t focus on the positive. Let’s give it a whirl:

Yankees – Definitely a great day for the offense after a sluggish start. The slumping Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored. The first of those runs came when he hustled home on a wild pitch. Robinson Cano stayed hot, going 3-for-5 with two doubles to finish the four game series with 10 hits. He had 15 hits during the seven-game road trip, raising his average to .306.

Blue Jays – Henderson Alvarez turned in another successful start against the Yankees, allowing two runs in six innings. He pitched seven innings of three-run ball at Yankee Stadium 11 days ago. He ended up striking out 17 over 18 2/3 innings in his final three starts, an encouraging sign if there ever was one. He was at 62 strikeouts in 169 1/3 innings through 28 starts.

Orioles – This team just never lets up. Nate McLouth, J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis all homered today. Jim Thome had two hits and two RBI, and it’s looking more likely that he can be a key contributor in the postseason. Joe Saunders improved to 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts for Baltimore, putting him in a position to start a game in the ALDS should the club advance.

Red Sox – The loss clinched a spot in the bottom 10 of the major league standings, meaning they won’t lose their first-round pick if they sign a top free agent this winter. They’ll have a top-10 pick for the first time since 1993 (when they got Trot Nixon seventh overall) and just the second time since 1967.

See… good news for everyone!

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.