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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

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Winners and losers of the trade deadline

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Winners

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers gave up what seems like a lot for Yu Darvish – top prospects Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy, and Brendon Davis – but the club is clearly primed for a run at the World Series and adding Darvish only helps those chances. You may fight for a World Series in 2022, but a lot can happen between now and then.

Additionally, Calhoun doesn’t have the glove to stick at second, making him a future corner outfielder or DH. The Dodgers’ outfield is spoken for and moving to the American League as a DH may be the best thing for Calhoun’s future. Alexy and Davis are still many years away from the majors such that the Dodgers shouldn’t be banking on them in any significant way.

Darvish, meanwhile, is a time-tested starter and although he’s just a year and a half separated from recovering from Tommy John surgery, he’s shown he is still a fearsome right-hander. He has a 4.01 ERA this year, which seems mediocre, but ERA retrodictor like FanGraphs’ FIP and xFIP and Baseball Prospectus’ DRA all see him as having pitched better than his results indicate. Furthermore, the Dodgers’ rotation is currently missing ace Clayton Kershaw, Brandon McCarthy, and Scott Kazmir. Rich Hill dealt with blisters all of last year and Hyun-Jin Ryu is not a picture of perfect health. Adding a No 1.5, so to speak, in Darvish not only adds production, but stability.

But that’s not all the Dodgers did. The Dodgers also snagged lefties Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani from the Pirates and Reds, respectively. While the Dodgers’ bullpen was already strong – its 2.83 aggregate ERA is second-best in baseball – adding two lefties to the roster never hurts. Watson has held left-handed batters to a .569 OPS over his career, Cingrani .712. Teams have clearly seen the success other teams had had, like last year’s Indians and Cubs, playing match-ups with the bullpen. The Dodgers are looking to emulate that strategy in the post-season this October.

New York Yankees

The Yankees acquired third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox two weeks ago. They added Jaime Garcia from the Twins on Sunday. And ahead of Monday’s deadline, they acquired Sonny Gray from the Athletics. In the White Sox trade, the Yankees gave up No. 3 prospect Blake Rutherford and No. 19 prospect Ian Clarkin along with Tyler Clippard. The Yankees sent Zack Littell (now the Twins’ No. 16 prospect) and Dietrich Enns. For Gray, the Yankees surrendered Dustin Fowler (now the Athletics’ No. 3 prospect), Jorge Mateo (No. 5), and James Kaprelian (No. 11).

Like the Dodgers, it seems like a lot. Due to all of the relatively recent baseball media covering prospects, teams and fans alike had begun to covet potential stars a little too highly. Now, we’ve seemed to reach an equilibrium. Teams aren’t hoarding prospects as much as they used to just a few years ago and are now willing to make a sacrifice in an attempt to win now. It’s a healthymidpoint between mortgaging the future and steadfastly refusing to compete. The Yankees stand at 56-47, just a half-game ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East. They’re only 3.5 up on the Rays. If the Yankees were to slip in the AL East, they’d have to compete with the Royals, Rays, Mariners, Orioles, Twins, Angels, and Rangers who are all within five games of the AL Wild Card.

Frazier provided an immediate upgrade at third base, bringing his above-average bat to the hot corner, replacing Chase Headley’s .715 OPS and the meager .448 Ronald Torreyes put up in 51 plate appearances. Robertson, of course, is familiar to the Yankees, having pitched there from 2008-14. He put up solid but unimpressive numbers over two and a half seasons with the White Sox, but is still a quality right-handed reliever who can handle high-leverage situations and record a couple of strikeouts when necessary. Kahnle has been one of baseball’s hidden gems, carrying a 2.18 ERA with a nice 69/7 K/BB ratio in 41 1/3 innings. The only qualified reliever with a higher strikeout rate than Kahnle is Craig Kimbrel. Add Kahnle and Robertson to a bullpen that already has Aroldis Chapman, Adam Warren, and Dellin Betances. The Yankees’ bullpen is not going to be fun to face in a post-season game.

Colorado Rockies

Dark horse winner here. Could’ve gone with the division rival Diamondbacks just as easily for adding J.D. Martinez. The Rockies are 60-46 but 14.5 games behind the Dodgers for first place in the NL West. They are clearly focused on the Wild Card, where they hold a 5.5-game lead over the Brewers for the second slot and are only a half-game back of the D’Backs for the first. The Rockies added Jonathan Lucroy from the Rangers, upgrading their weakest position. While Lucroy was having the worst season of his career, hitting .242/.297/.338 in Texas, Rockies catchers weren’t any better as Tony Wolters musterd a .642 OPS in 67 games, Ryan Hanigan .673 in 24, Dustin Garneau .613 in 22, and Tom Murphy .236 in eight. At least Lucroy has a long track record of hitting and it’s reasonable to expect him to get out of his funk before the season is over.

The Rockies also acquired Pat Neshek from the Phillies. Neshek was the Phillies’ lone All-Star, compiling a 1.12 ERA with a 45/5 K/BB ratio in 40 1/3 innings, emerging as one of few bright spots on the roster of baseball’s worst team. Moving to Coors Field from Citizens Bank Park is not nearly as bad as it would be moving from most other ballparks. Plus, Neshek is striking hitters out at a 30.5 percent clip while walking them 3.3 percent. His average of 9.4 strikeouts per walk is baseball’s fifth-best rate among qualified relievers. Missing bats and rarely putting base runners on for free are two great traits to have if you’re going to pitch at Coors Field.

Losers

San Diego Padres

The lowly Padres, 47-58, were expected to be among the more active sellers leading up to the deadline, but only managed one trade. They sent pitchers Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter, and Trevor Cahill to the Royals for Travis Wood, Matt Strahm, and Esteury Ruiz. Ruiz barely snuck onto the Padres’ top 30 prospects list. Strahm is out for the rest of the year with an injury, and Wood is a veteran swingman.

Most prominently, lefty reliever Brad Hand remained untraded. Hand was the Padres’ lone representative at the All-Star Game and took over the closer’s role when Maurer was traded. He compiled six saves with a 2.00 ERA and a 70/14 K/BB ratio in 54 innings. Not trading him by today’s 4 PM ET deadline means the club will either have to move him through waivers between now and August 31 or trade him in the offseason. While there were a handful of solid relievers that changed addresses within the last week, few threw from the left side with Hand’s rate of success.  He could’ve been this year’s Andrew Miller. Instead, he’ll close out meaningless games for the final two months of the season most likely.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox didn’t stand pat going into the deadline. The club acquired third baseman Eduardo Nunez from the Giants and reliever Addison Reed from the Mets. The addition of Nunez is solid insurance in case prospect Rafael Devers doesn’t live up to the hype. Nunez had a .752 OPS in San Francisco before the trade, helping upgrade Boston’s most problematic position. Reed put up a 2.57 ERA in 49 innings of relief with the Mets.

It would have really helped if the Red Sox were able to add a starting pitcher, though. Right now, the rotation is still fearsome as it features Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Drew Pomeranz. Sale has a 2.37 ERA and could be the AL Cy Young Award winner when all is said and done. Rick Porcello is still the defending Cy Young winner despite an unimpressive 4.55 ERA. Pomeranz has stayed healthy through 21 starts with a 3.46 ERA and Rodriguez has been solid with a 4.16 ERA. David Price will help when he’s healthy.

Pomeranz, though, is no perfect picture of health as he battled a forearm injury after the club acquired him from the Padres last summer. Price may not be reliable coming back from his elbow injury. Rodriguez has been solid but unspectacular through parts of three seasons. Adding a Darvish or Gray would’ve gone a long way towards helping the Red Sox keep pace with the Yankees in the AL East, but after the moves the Yankees made, they’re the clear favorites in the division for the final two months.

Miami Marlins

The Marlins are in a tough spot right now. Ownership is in flux as Jeffrey Loria is still in the process of selling the team. Trade rumors have swirled around most of its standout players, including Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, Brad Ziegler, and Dan Straily. The club only made two trades, however, sending David Phelps to the Mariners for a handful of minor leaguers, as well as A.J. Ramos to the Mets for two prospects. They got their No. 6 (Merandy Gonzalez), No. 8 (Bryan Hernandez), No. 20 (Brandon Miller), No. 23 (Pablo Lopez), and No. 24 (Ricardo Cespedes) prospects in the deals.

If the Marlins got those players from Phelps and Ramos, imagine what they could’ve gotten for the others. The Marlins already have $95 million committed to the roster for next season, $84 million in 2019 and $74 million in 2020. That means that new ownership will have significant financial obligations to account for when taking over from Loria. Trading those expensive veterans is not only best for them, taking them out of a confusing situation, but helps with the transition. Everyone is tired of the Marlins holding a fire sale, but in this case, it would have made a lot of sense.

Trading Stanton would’ve been the most difficult thing to do as he is signed through 2027 to a $325 million contract. But trading the others was very realistic, even if it meant taking less than perfect value in trades. Prado, Gordon, Straily, and Ziegler almost certainly won’t be part of the next great Marlins team, so keeping them around is a loss, but at least the club still has the next month to work out deals via waivers.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Rays 5, Yankees 3Corey Dickerson hit a go-ahead, two-run single in a three-run third for the Rays and the new-look Rays bullpen (Sergio Romo? Dan Jennings? Steve Cishek?) combined to shut down the Yankees late. That snapped the Yankees’ six-game winning streak despite the fact that Yankees pitchers struck out 16 Rays batters. I wonder what the winning percentage of teams that strike out 15 or more opposing batters is. I bet it’s pretty dang high.

Blue Jays 11, Angels 10: For that matter I wonder what the winning percentage is of teams who have six-run leads heading into the bottom of the ninth. I bet it’s even higher than the 16-strikeout thing. That’s the lead the Angels had — 10-4 — and they still lost this one. The winning four (!) runs came on a Steve Pearce walkoff grand slam. Those don’t happen every day. Indeed, if you’re Steve Pearce, who hit one here AND hit one on Thursday afternoon as well, they only happen ever four days at best.  Kevin Pillar hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth as well. It ain’t over ’till it’s over, folks.

Tigers 13, Astros 1: Justin Verlander tossed six shutout innings on what, theoretically, could be his last start as a Tiger. I’m guessing he starts again as a Tiger on Friday because moving that contract at today’s deadline is going to be tough, but it could’ve been. He left with a 3-0 lead but the Tigers scored ten runs in the last three innings to make it a laugher. Justin Upton hit a grand slam and drove in six on the day. James McCann hit a two-run homer off of Astros first baseman Tyler White. It was that kind of day.

Reds 6, Marlins 4: Reds starter Luis Castillo allowed one run on three hits over eight innings and catcher Tucker Barnhart drove in three as the Red snapped a six-game losing streak. Castillo beat Dan Straily, for whom he was traded back in January. That has to feel pretty good.

Royals 5, Red Sox 3: The Sox snapped the Royals’ nine-game winning streak on Saturday, so the Royals started another one on Sunday. Here Alex Gordon hit a two–run triple in the Royals’ four-run eighth inning, with Alcides Escobar singling in the other two runs in the rally. Royals starter Jason Hammel after the game: “The vibes good right now. The vibes real good.”

 

Holy crap, that was a bad movie. But I love both Cyndi Lauper and Jeff Goldblum, so they are forgiven for all of their transgressions against God and art.

Phillies 2, Braves 1: Freddy Galvis hit a walkoff single to give Philly the win. He also did this:

Glavis is having his best offensive year and he’s been flashing amazing leather all season long. Most people don’t see it because most people don’t watch teams that are 38-64, but it still counts.

Rockies 10, Nationals 6; Nationals 3, Rockies 1: Nats starter Erick Fedde made his big league debut in the first game of the twin-bill. Didn’t go too hot as the Rockies beat him up for seven runs — five earned — on ten hits in four innings. Charlie Blackmon went 4-for-5 and scored four runs. DJ LeMahieuNolan Arenado and Ryan Hanigan each drove in two runs. If you would’ve put a gun to my head yesterday morning and asked me if Ryan Hanigan was still playing, I probably would’ve said no. In the nightcap, Edwin Jackson allowed one run over seven innings to give the Nats the win. If you would’ve put a gun to my head in March and asked me what the Nats record would be if Edwin Jackson was starting games for them in July, I would’ve said something like “49-54, because obviously everyone else is injured.”

Cubs 4, Brewers 2: John Lackey gave Chicago six solid innings. Well, five solid innings before allowing a two-run home, but that’s fine. Kris Byrant homered. Rookie catcher Victor Caratini hit his first career home run. In other news, “Caratini” would be a great name for a smoothie you get from the little snack bar at your gym. It’s healthy as hell but kind of gross, even if they do serve it in a fancy glass. Just drink water, dude.

White Sox 3, Indians 1: It was 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth with Bryan Shaw on the mound for Cleveland. That didn’t faze White Sox first baseman Matt Davidson, who hit a two-run walkoff homer. That snapped Cleveland’s nine-game winning streak. Carlos Rodon pitched into the seventh, allowing one run on six hits and striking out nine in his best performance of the season to date.

Cardinals 3, Diamondbacks 2: Jose Martinez played the hero, hitting a two-run homer in the fourth inning to put the Cards on the board and to tie things up and then hitting a sac fly in the sixth to put St. Louis over. Lance Lynn allowed two runs over six and the bullpen allowed only one hit over three shutout innings.

Orioles 10, Rangers 6: The O’s win, as Jonathan Schoop and Welington Castillo homered in a five-run fifth, but Adrian Beltre was the story of the game, of course. The future Hall of Famer — and yes, he was one before hit number 3,000 — doubled in the fourth inning to reach the milestone. Watch:

Mariners 9, Mets 1: James Paxton tossed six shutout innings, striking out eight, to win his sixth decision in the month of July. Time may be an arbitrary construct, but that’s still pretty cool. Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer in the first inning which would prove to be the only runs the Mariners needed. They didn’t know that of course, so they kept playing.

Pirates 7, Padres 1: Andrew McCutchen hit three solo homers.  He’s now batting .292/.385/.535 with 22 home runs, 66 RBI, and 68 runs scored in 431 plate appearances. Josh Bell hit a pinch-hit homer and Gerrit Cole allowed one run over seven, striking out eight.

Athletics 6, Twins 5: This one went 12 innings, but not 13, because Yonder Alonso homered to walk things off. Oakland leads all of baseball with walkoff hits, in case you want to know if that correlates with W-L record (Ron Howard voice: “it doesn’t”). Minnesota had a 4-0 lead at one point but blew it as relievers Taylor Rogers and Brian Pressly couldn’t lock things down in the eighth inning, blowing what would’ve been a Bartolo Colon win in his longest start since April (6.1 IP, 8 H, 3 ER).

Dodgers 3, Giants 2: I usually do most of my Sunday recaps on Sunday evening and put in a place-holder score for the Sunday night game that I fill in when I wake up Monday morning, with something like “Team __, Other Team __”. I obviously don’t know who will win that game, so I just pick one of them to go first, often making a meaningless little prediction in my mind in order to determine it. Last night I just autopiloted it and wrote “Giants __, Dodgers __.” Given how each of these teams is going of late, that was kind of dumb and caused me to delete and rewrite. Here Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu traded zeroes for seven innings before Conor Gillaspie homered in the eighth and Yasiel Puig singled home the tying run in the ninth. Kyle Farmer won it for L.A. in the 11th with a pinch-hit two-run double. The Dodgers sweep the Giants and I doubt them again, even slightly and meaninglessly, at my peril.