Giants expect Brandon Belt back around the Fourth of July

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Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is targeting July 4 to return from thumb surgery that has sidelined him since mid-May, according to Nate Stuhlbarg of CSNBayArea.com.

Stuhlbarg reports that Belt has no issues gripping a bat to hit, but gripping a baseball to make throws from first base is still giving him problems. Despite that he could be cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment later this week.

He was initially expected to miss around six weeks, but a July 4 return would mean missing a total of eight weeks. Belt hit .264 with nine homers and an .820 OPS in 35 games before the injury, showing more power than usual while providing what has become his standard overall production.

In his absence Michael Morse shifted from the outfield to first base and has hit .330 with five homers and a .931 OPS in 29 starts there. Morse will move back to left field when Belt returns, likely pushing Tyler Colvin and Gregor Blanco to the bench while giving San Francisco’s lineup a nice boost.

Mike Moustakas sets Royals single-season record with 37th home run

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Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas belted his 37th home run on Wednesday evening, setting a new club record for homers in a single season. Moustakas had been tied with Steve Balboni, who hit 36 home runs in 1985.

The home run came on a 2-0, 82 MPH slider from Blue Jays reliever Carlos Ramirez, boosting the Royals’ lead to 13-0 in the top of the sixth inning.

Moustakas, 29, entered the night batting .271/.313/.523 with 82 RBI and 71 runs scored in 560 plate appearances.

Chris Sale records his 300th strikeout this season

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Red Sox starter Chris Sale recorded his 300th strikeout of the 2017 season on Wednesday night against the Orioles. The momentous occasion occurred with two outs in the eighth inning. Facing Ryan Flaherty, Sale threw a slider that caught the strike zone low and inside for called strike three.

Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strikeout 300-plus batters in a season in the last 15 years. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson accomplished the feat in 2002, and Johnson also did it in 2001 and 2000. Pedro Martinez had been the only other Red Sox pitcher to have a 300-strikeout season.

Through eight scoreless innings, Sale limited the Orioles to four hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts. The Red Sox offense gave him plenty of run support. Mookie Betts and Devin Marrero each hit two-run home runs in the fourth. Hanley Ramirez added a two-run double in the sixth and Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run double of his own in the eighth to make it 8-0.