Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw, Scott Van Slyke lead Dodgers past Diamondbacks in opener

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Clayton Kershaw tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball and Scott Van Slyke doubled and homered as the Dodgers topped the Diamondbacks 3-1 in Saturday’s opener in Australia.

The game, delayed slightly at the onset by some early evening rain, opened with Wade Miley striking out Yasiel Puig on three pitches.

The Dodgers struck first in the second, when Van Slyke had what looked to be a two-run homer to left knocked down by the wind. Fortunately, Mark Trumbo, a natural first baseman, never realized it until it was too late, and what should have been a catchable ball dropped for a double, advancing Adrian Gonzalez to third. Gonzalez then scored on an Andre Ethier groundout.

Van Slyke ended up getting his two-run homer two innings later on a fly down the right-field line. That ball wasn’t struck nearly as well as the first, but this time he was aided by the wind.

Miley finished up his outing allowing three runs in five innings. Kershaw was stronger, striking out seven and walking just one after a poor spring that saw him post a 9.20 ERA in four starts.

The Diamondbacks did make things a little easier on Kershaw than they needed to. Twice they used pinch-hitters in the pitcher’s spot against him. Lefty Didi Gregorius got the call in the fifth inning with one on and none out. Fellow lefty Eric Chavez was the choice in the seventh with one on and one out. Both struck out in pretty hideous fashion, as one might expect. Even though they were allowed to take 28 players to Australia, the Diamondbacks couldn’t come up with a legitimate righty pinch-hitter. They actually did have one, in the form of Matt Tuiasosopo, but they placed him on waivers after arriving and he was subsequently claimed by the Blue Jays.

If there was any bad news for the Dodgers, it’s that Puig looked well off in his first four at-bats, striking out three times and grounding out weakly back to the mound. He finally made some good contact off J.J. Putz in the ninth, hitting a ball to deep center that the wind knocked down. It might have been a homer on another day, though it left him 0-for-5 tonight.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will now get about 14 hours off before playing the finale of their two-game series, with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Trevor Cahill slated to start the day game in Australia.

Yankees in, Red Sox out on Edwin Encarnacion

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler AustinGreg Bird combo in 2017.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.

Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.