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Miami Marlins begin road trip as Irma bears down on Florida

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ATLANTA (AP) As the Miami Marlins began a weeklong road trip, they couldn’t help but wonder what will be there when they get back home.

Hurricane Irma was bearing down on South Florida with potentially catastrophic force, a beast of a storm that already killed at least 11 people and left thousands homeless across the northern Caribbean.

The Marlins began a four-game series in Atlanta on Thursday night, having arrived on a chartered flight that was more crowded than usual after the team allowed the families of players and staff to come along on the road trip.

While that helped ease some immediate concerns, it was impossible to ignore what was going on back in Miami. Highways were jammed as more than a half-million people were ordered to evacuate amid a desperate search for gasoline and lodging .

“We’re still witnessing Harvey and what went on with the Gulf Coast and that devastation,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said, referring to the storm that less than two weeks ago inundated the Houston area with record rainfall and flooding. “Obviously, to see another one coming, you pay attention.”

The Marlins were mired in a slump that has all but knocked them out of the playoff race. They took another blow in the opener of the series at SunTrust Park, giving up two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to lose 6-5 .

It was Miami’s fifth straight loss and 10th in 11 games, leaving them eight games back in the NL wild-card race with only 22 games left in the regular season.

Dan Straily, who started Thursday and lasted five innings, insisted the players were able to block out any concern about the approaching storm once they took the field.

“There’s one thing ballplayers are really good at, and that’s compartmentalizing our life,” he said. “It’s not that we’re not thinking about that, but for three hours a night we focus on something else completely. Speaking for myself, I can tell you that when I was on the mound I didn’t want to think about what’s going to happen down there the next few days.

“Obviously we’re hoping for the best down there for our homes, but I don’t think it’s affecting our play,” he added.

Before the game, however, Irma was a dominant topic in a rather subdued Miami clubhouse. Players tracked the potential path of the Category 5 storm on their cellphones and hit up reporters for the latest news.

“The reality is: that is reality,” Mattingly said. “It’s a tough situation and a lot of people have a chance of being affected or have already been affected. We’ve got guys that grew up in Cuba. We’ve got guys from the Dominican (Republic). We’ve got guys from Puerto Rico. So, it’s going to affect a lot of people and has a chance to affect a lot of things. To ask them not to be thinking about it at all, I think, is really naive. But I also think as professionals, these guys are pretty used to dealing with things.”

The Braves offered free tickets to fans from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina displaced by the hurricane. SunTrust Park opened this season alongside Interstate 75, a popular choice for Floridians driving north through Georgia to escape the storm.

“We know how difficult it has been for those who have had to pack up and leave their homes as Hurricane Irma approaches,” said Derek Schiller, the Braves president of business. “We hope we can help take their mind off the storm for a few hours by coming to enjoy a baseball game.”

In addition, Atlanta Motor Speedway opened its camping facilities Thursday to evacuees seeking refuge from Irma. The NASCAR track, which is about 25 miles south of the city, offered both its RV and tent campgrounds free of charge, including access to hot showers and restroom facilities.

The massive complex is equipped to handle thousands of campers during its annual race weekend.

The Marlins will play four games in Atlanta through Sunday, then head to Philadelphia for a three-game series that begins next Tuesday. They finally return to Miami on Sept. 15 to host a series against Milwaukee.

No one knows what will be awaiting them in South Florida.

“You feel for the people that had to stay,” center fielder Christian Yelich said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty down there.”

Yelich prepared for the possibility that the Marlins may not be able to return home as scheduled next week. When Hurricane Harvey pummeled the Texas coast, the Houston Astros were forced to shift a three-game series against the Texas Rangers to Tropicana Field in Tampa.

Now, the state of Florida is in the line of fire.

“I packed for probably an extra week or two on the road, just in case,” Yelich said. “You never know what’s going to happen. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. But you’re just hoping everybody comes through it all right. You see the videos and the pictures from the islands that this thing’s been hitting, and it’s a lot of devastation.”

AP Sports Writer Charles Odum contributed to this report.

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

For more AP baseball coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

HURRICANE NEWSLETTER – Get the best of the AP’s all-formats reporting on Irma and Harvey in your inbox: http://apne.ws/ahYQGtb

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Phillies 6, Dodgers 2: Rhys Hoskins drove in four. The first one came on an RBI single off of Yu Darvish in the sixth. The next three came in an epic at bat against Pedro Baez in the sixth in which Baez threw Hoskins ten straight fastballs in the high 90s. Baez got Hoskins to a full counts and Hoskins fouled off four straight pitches before delivering a bases-clearing double. The Phillies, one of baseball’s worst teams, have now beaten the Dodgers, the team with baseball’s best record, on two straight nights when they trotted their two best pitchers out to the mound in Clayton Kershaw and Darvish. This is why no one is a guarantee to do anything in the postseason, by the way. If a team like the Phillies can put you down 0-2 despite you going with your aces, anyone can. And if you’re down 0-2, there’s a great chance you’re not making it to the next round.

Red Sox 1, Orioles 0: Bupkis until Jackie Bradley Jr. scores on a Brad Brach wild pitch in the 11th inning for Boston’s second straight 11-inning win over the O’s in a row. Before all of that  Drew Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman tossed six and a third and eight innings, respectively, of shutout ball. Gausman, who retired the first 14 batters he faced, deserved better. Boston has won 10 of 13.The Orioles have lost 11 of 13.

Brewers 1, Pirates 0: Domingo Santana hit a solo home run off of Trevor Williams in the top of the fourth for the game’s only scoring. Chase Anderson tossed six shutout innings for Milwaukee, struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter. The Brewers won for the ninth time in 11 games and, because of the Rockies’ loss, are now only one game behind the Rockies for the second Wild Card.

Blue Jays 5, Royals 2: Marcus Stroman allowed one run over seven innings to snap a personal five-game winless streak. Darwin Barney drove in three, the first two coming on a two-run shot to open the game’s scoring. Alex Gordon hit baseball’s 5,694th home run in 2017 in the top of the eighth inning, setting a new single-season record.

Cardinals 8, Reds 7: Big night for Dexter Fowler, who hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning and a go-ahead double in the 10th. He’d then come around to score on an error by the Reds to give the Cards a two-run margin, which was necessary given that Scooter Gennett hit a homer in the bottom of the tenth that would’ve otherwise tied the game again. Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong also homered for St. Louis.

Marlins 5, Mets 4: The Marlins rallied for three runs against their old friend A.J. Ramos in the ninth to tie things up and force extras and then J.T. Realmuto hit a walkoff solo homer in the bottom of the tenth. After the game Don Mattingly said that he knew they could get to Ramos:

“We’ve seen him have innings like that,” Mattingly said. “He gets himself in a little bit of a mix and usually gets out of those.”

Am I the only one getting the “dude talking smack about his ex-girlfriend after he sees her out with another guy but is trying not to sound upset” vibe here?

Cubs 2, Rays 1: Seven straight wins for the Cubs, this one as Joe Maddon makes his return to Tropicana Field for the first time since leaving the Rays for the Cubs. If this is also an ex-girlfriend thing, the Rays were much bigger men about it, giving Maddon a video tribute and all of that before the game. Maybe it’s more like the quintessential “California Divorce” where everyone stays friends and stuff. God, who does that? Anyway, Cubs starter Mike Montgomery took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning, Kyle Schwarber hit his 28th home run of the season.

Nationals 4, Braves 2: Max Scherzer allowed two runs on five hits over seven and struck out seven. Only seven? He must’ve been sick. He did cross the 250 strikeout threshold, however, and he did avenge last week’s loss, also to the Braves, in which he gave up seven runs. It’s the fourth straight year he has struck out at least 250 batters. he’s only the fourth pitcher to ever do that, following Ferguson Jenkins, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. Nope, Nolan Ryan never did it. You can look it up. Ryan Zimmerman drove in two to give him 101 RBI on the year.

Astros 3, White Sox 1: Jose Altuve homered and drove in two and Alex Bregman hit an RBI double. Collin McHugh allowed one run over five and four relievers finished the job.

Yankees 5, Twins 2: CC Sabathia allowed Minnesota to load the bases on his first four pitches, including two bunt singles, which likely ticked him off. He got out of that jam and then worked from behind for a bit, but ultimately righted the ship and went six inning, allowing the two runs on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Brett Gardner drove in a couple. That’s nine of 11 for the Yankees. The Twins have lost four of five, but remain a game and a half ahead of the Angels who . . .

Indians 6, Angels 4: . . . lost to Cleveland. Everyone loses to Cleveland, though, right? That’s 25 of 26 wins for them, in fact. Jay Bruce had a triple and a double among his three hits and Austin Jackson singled four times. Mike Clevinger allowed one run over six.

Athletics 9, Tigers 8: The A’s were down 8-5 in the eighth when Jed Lowrie hit a go-ahead grand slam. The A’s were down by four runs at one point, in fact, but no lead is safe when you’re the Tigers. Oakland’s Matt Olson homered for the fifth straight game and has 15 dongs in his last 21 games. As I wrote yesterday, you really should be paying attention to this guy.

Rangers 3, Mariners 1: It was 1-1 in the eight following a Martin PerezMike Leake pitchers’ duel. That’s when Carlos Gomez hit a leadoff double, Shin-Soo Choo hit a sac fly to plate the go-ahead run and Elvis Andrus knocked in Delino DeShields with a single for some insurance. DeShields wasn’t just an innocent bystander, though. He reached on a bunt that put Will Middlebrooks, Gomez’s pinch-runner, on third and in position to score on Choo’s sac fly.

Padres 6, Diamondbacks 2: A.J. Pollock hit two homers, including a leadoff blast, but Padres starter Travis Wood settled down and allowed only the two runs over six innings. He also (all together now) drove in two runs himself on an RBI single in the bottom of the third to give the Padres a 5-1 lead.

Giants 4, Rockies 3: The Rockies held an early lead but the Giants tied it and won it with a walkoff sac fly from Hunter Pence. Fun thing about that: the Rockies were playing a five-man infield, leaving only two men in the outfield, so Pence’s fly ball had a really good chance of dropping for a hit. And, given that it was a walkoff situation, it made no difference to the outcome of the game whether the ball was caught or not. Carlos Gonzalez ran hard to catch it, though, almost certainly out of instinct, turning it into a sac fly instead. I picture Pence and Gonzalez on the dinner speech circuit one day, long after they retire, beefing or bragging about that play to the laughter of crowds.

Report: Blue Jays and Marco Estrada nearing agreement on contract extension

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Jon Morosi reports that the Blue Jays and starter Marco Estrada are nearing an agreement on a contract extension. The deal is expected to be for one guaranteed year, Morosi adds.

Estrada, 34, was set to become a free agent after the season. He earned $26 million on a two-year contract signed with the Jays in November 2015. While the right-hander has a subpar 4.84 ERA on the season, he has a solid 170/67 K/BB ratio in 176 2/3 innings and has looked much better since the end of July. Between July 31 and his most recent start on Saturday, Estrada owns a 3.75 ERA.

J.A. Happ is the only other starter technically under contract with the Jays next season. Marcus Stroman will be eligible for his second year of arbitration and the Jays will certainly agree to give him a raise on his $3.4 million salary for the 2017 season. The Jays will likely be active this offseason in adding rotation help and they’re starting early by locking up Estrada.