Team USA keeps hope alive with 6-2 victory over Italy

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David Wright hit a grand slam in the fifth inning of tonight’s contest that resulted in a 6-2 victory for the U.S. over Italy, keeping their hopes alive in Pool D. The U.S. had stayed within striking distance of Italy, trailing 2-1 entering the fifth.

Italy scored twice, once in each of the first and second innings. In the first, U.S. starter Ryan Vogelsong uncorked a wild pitch with two outs, allowing Mike Costanzo to score from third base. In the second, Tyler LaTorre singled with two outs and scored on an Anthony Granato double.

The U.S. chipped away in the fourth after Italy replaced starter Luca Panerati with Marco Grifantini. Ryan Braun led off the inning with a single and quickly touched home on a Joe Mauer double to left. Grifantini lost control in the fifth, walking Adam Jones to lead off the inning, then surrendering a single to Jonathan Lucroy to put runners on first and second. Matt Torra came in to attempt to extinguish the flames, but with one out, Brandon Phillips singled to right to drive in Jones and tie the game. Joe Mauer walked with two outs to load the bases for David Wright, who fouled off a couple pitches before squaring up a change-up, promptly deposited beyond the fence in left-center. The U.S. went up 6-2 and never lost control from there.

Jeremy Affeldt tossed one scoreless inning of relief after Vogelsong’s exit, then Ross Detwiler threw four shut-out innings to close out the game and the victory for his team.

The win brings the U.S. to 1-1 in Pool D, tied with Canada. Italy has already clinched a berth in the second round, but seeding will be determined by run differential. The U.S. and Canada will play for the right to advance tomorrow at 4 PM ET.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.

Marlins trade David Phelps to the Mariners for four prospects

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The Miami Marlins have sent reliever David Phelps to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for four prospects. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and Ken Rosenthal had rumors of the deal first, Jon Morosi, Jeff Passan and Jon Heyman (among others) all reported the trade at virtually the same time.

Phelps, 30, had a fantastic 2016 season, posting a 2.28 ERA in 64 games while striking out 11.8 batters per nine innings. He’s not been as strong this year, but he’s still been a solid setup man, posting a 3.45 ERA in 44 games while striking out 51 batters and walking 21 in 47 innings. He throws in the mid-90s and induces grounders. The Mariners could probably use rotation help more than bullpen help, but solid innings are solid innings at one point and improving your pen takes some of the pressure off of your rotation. Phelps will help Seattle with that. He’s under team control for next year too, so this is more than a rental.

The top prospect in the deal is Brayan Hernandez, a 19 year-old outfielder from Venezuela, currently playing in low-A ball. Also in the deal: righty Brandon Miller, righty Pablo Lopez and righty Lucas Schiraldi who, yes, is the son of ex-big leaguer Calvin Schiraldi. None of these guys are blue chippers, but you never know what’ll happen. It’s a volume return for the Fish.

We’ve already seen some big bullpen names move, including David Robertson, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Among others who could be moved:  A.J. Ramos (Marlins); Justin Wilson (Tigers); Addison Reed (Mets); Jerry Blevins (Mets); Brad Hand (Padres); Tony Watson (Pirates); Juan Nicasio (Pirates); Brad Brach (Orioles); Drew Storen (Reds); and Raisel Iglesias (Reds).