Cliff Lee is “very close to picking up a ball”

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Finally a dose of hope for injured ace Cliff Lee …

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg told Matt Gelb at the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday evening that the left-hander is nearly over the discomfort in his pitching elbow and “very close to picking up a ball.”

Lee has been on the disabled list since May 19 because of a left elbow strain and there is still no timetable for his return to Philly’s active roster. If he makes it back before the July 31 trade deadline, he is sure to be a popular target for contending teams.

The 35-year-old owns a spectacular 2.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 8.9 K/9 in 734 1/3 innings since joining Philadelphia prior to the start of the 2011 campaign. He is earning a $25 million salary this season and owed $25 million in 2015 (with a $12.5 million buyout on a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016).

Astros’ bullpen throws combined one-hitter for MLB-best 30th win

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The Astros’ bullpen did yeoman’s work in place of the injured Dallas Keuchel on Monday against the Tigers. Keuchel is temporarily sidelined with a pinched nerve in his neck.

Brad Peacock made the spot start, limiting the Tigers to one hit and two walks with eight strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings. Chris Devenski took over with one out in the fifth, finishing out that inning as well as the sixth and seventh, facing the minimum. Will Harris pitched a perfect eighth and Ken Giles closed out the 1-0 victory in the ninth. Devenski, Harris, and Giles each had two strikeouts.

The Astros scored their only run in the bottom of the first inning as George Springer drew a leadoff walk, then scored on Jose Altuve‘s one-out double. Tigers starter Brad Fulmer pitched well enough to win on most days, giving up the lone run in seven frames.

After Monday’s win, the Astros became the first team to reach 30 wins, sitting on a 30-15 record. With a +55 run differential, even their expected record matches up with their actual record.

Brandon Phillips hit his 200th career home run

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Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips became the 337th player in baseball history to hit 200 career home runs, driving a solo home run to left-center field during Monday night’s home game against the Pirates. Phillips is the 14th second baseman (who played a min. of 75 percent of his career games at the position) to rack up at least 200 career home runs.

Phillips, 35, entered Monday’s action batting .290/.345/.405 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 142 plate appearances. If he’s anything, he’s consistent, as he finished with an adjusted OPS between 90-99 (100 is average) every year between 2012-16 and it was sitting at 97 coming into Monday.