Just like old times: Derek Jeter returns, Alfonso Soriano helps Yankees walk off

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Before he joined the Yankees on Friday, Alfonso Soriano was last teammates with Derek Jeter in September 2003, nearly ten years ago. Jeter once again made his triumphant return this afternoon, having recovered from a quad injury suffered in his 2013 debut on July 11. In that first game back, Jeter singled in his first at-bat, swinging at the first pitch he saw. He did that once again today, swinging at the first offering from Rays starter Matt Moore, sending it beyond the fence in right-center field for a solo home run.

Both Moore and Yankees starter Phil Hughes allowed five runs. Wil Myers was the source of the Rays’ offense, as the rookie hit two home runs and drove in four. For the Yankees, Soriano homered in the third while Ichiro Suzuki went 4-for-4.

Closer Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, holding the score at five apiece. For the Rays, lefty Jake McGee took the hill for his second inning of work in the bottom half of the inning. He walked Brett Gardner to start the frame, then allowed the Yankees’ speedster to advance to second on a wild pitch. In what was a controversial decision, manager Joe Maddon ordered his pitcher to intentionally walk Jeter to put runners on first and second with no outs, bringing Robinson Cano to the plate. To the dismay of Yankees’ fans, Cano struck out looking, not even able to advance one or both runners.

Soriano happily played the role of hero, grounding a single up the middle, allowing Gardner to sprint the 180 feet to home plate for the walk-off victory. To recap: Jeter and Soriano both homer, Soriano keys the walk-off, and Rivera goes home with the win. Just like old times.

With the win, the Yankees are only 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card in the American League and sit in fourth place in the AL East, 7.5 games behind the first place Red Sox. The Rays fall to second place, a half-game behind the Red Sox. The AL East is shaping up to be an exciting division to watch in the final two months.

Kris Bryant on Joey Votto: “He’s the best player ever … He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

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The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”

Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.

Video: Daniel Descalso hits D-Backs’ third inside-the-park homer of the season

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Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.

It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.

As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.