Raisel Iglesias

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And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Friday’s scores and highlights:

Yankees 5, Red Sox 4: Aaron Hicks found Addison Reed‘s weak spot on Friday, working a full count before unleashing a 335-foot bomb off of Reed’s slider:

The homer uncorked a five-run rally in the eighth inning, giving the Yankees just enough fuel to outpace the Red Sox and spoil the lofty plans John Farrell had for his new setup man.

Mets 7, Phillies 6: Dominic Smith may have had a whirlwind rise to the big leagues, but he delivered with all the poise of a professional Major Leaguer on Friday, collecting his first MLB hit off of the Phillies’ Nick Pivetta in the fourth inning.

He wasn’t the only rookie to steal the show, as the Mets’ go-ahead run was delivered by No. 1 prospect Amed Rosario with his first career homer in the ninth:

Pirates 4, Blue Jays 2: The Pirates found some equilibrium behind Jameson Taillon‘s big night, reaching .500 for the first time in August and sitting just three games back of the division lead. Taillon couldn’t hang on as long as opposing starter Marcus Stroman, who let four unearned runs slip through the cracks over eight innings, but emerged with the win after six innings of two-run, seven-strikeout ball.

Indians 5, Rays 0: It’s been almost exactly five years since the Rays found themselves on the wrong end of a no-hitter, and on Friday, they narrowly avoided another such incident with Carlos Carrasco. Carrasco blanked Tampa bay through 6 2/3 spotless innings, striking out seven batters before Logan Morrison prevailed with a line drive in the seventh.

It isn’t the first attempt Carrasco has made against the Rays — his first was in July 2015 — but completing a nine-inning no-no would put him in rare company, as no Indians’ pitcher has managed the feat since Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981.

Marlins 6, Rockies 3: Giancarlo Stanton became the first Major Leaguer to reach 40 home runs this season, mashing another solo shot off of Jon Gray in the eighth inning:

Given Aaron Judge‘s compelling case for Rookie of the Year, not to mention the blistering pace at which Mike Moustakas and Cody Bellinger have been collecting homers, Stanton may not be atop the leaderboard for long. His knock helped decide the game on Friday, however, as the Marlins capitalized on their slugger’s efforts to rout the Rockies with a three-run spread in the eighth. They’ll look for their first win streak since July 29 on Saturday.

Twins 9, Tigers 4: The Twins steamrolled their division rivals with their sixth straight win, eclipsing both the Angels and Mariners to slide into the second American League wild card spot. While it wasn’t Kyle Gibson’s finest night (five hits, three runs, two walks and six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings), a solid backing from the bullpen and a steady stream of run support gave the team the boost they needed to top the fourth-place Tigers.

Rangers 6, Astros 4: A sharp comebacker struck Cole Hamels in the left knee during Friday’s contest, but the Rangers’ left-hander powered through the pain to complete seven scoreless frames and hand the Astros their fourth consecutive loss of the week. Credit for the assist goes to Adrian Beltre, who helped pad the Rangers’ lead with an RBI double and coordinated his defensive efforts with Elvis Andrus by shoving his teammate in the face:

Reds 11, Brewers 10: No lead is safe until the game is over, and never was that illustrated better than during the Reds’ nail-biter on Friday night. They constructed an eight-run lead by the fourth inning, then watched it implode during the Brewers’ seven-run rally in the sixth with a handful of RBI singles and Eric Thames‘ 26th home run of the year. Jonathan Villar‘s ninth-inning blast brought Milwaukee to the cusp of a much-needed win, but Raisel Iglesias managed to strand Thames on first base and hang on for his 20th save.

White Sox 6, Royals 3: If Reynaldo Lopez was feeling jittery during his Major League debut, he masked it well. The 23-year-old rookie played it cool against the Royals, subduing the competition with four hits, two runs, three walks and six strikeouts. Mike Moustakas proved his one and only foil, delivering not one, but two solo home runs in the fourth and sixth innings to put the Royals on the board. With the loss, the Royals have taken five consecutive losses and nine in their last 11 games.

Cardinals 8, Braves 5: The Cardinals’ Rally Kitten has been officially recovered, as confirmed by the St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach on Friday, and the Cardinals are looking similarly revived after taking a decisive win over the Braves during their series opener. Well, perhaps “revived” is the wrong word. The win marked the Cardinals’ seventh consecutive victory, their longest streak of the year and enough to keep them within one game of the division-leading Cubs. Adam Wainwright pulled off an impressive win despite failing to register a single strikeout or throw a ball faster than 90 MPH, and clocked the competition with four hits, a run and three walks over five innings.

Cubs 8, Diamondbacks 3: Speaking of the Cubs, they’re looking to reverse their fortunes after dropping three back-to-back-to-back series against the Diamondbacks, Nationals and Giants. They returned to Chase Field for a little revenge on Friday, blurring Taijuan Walker‘s pitching line with five innings of five-run, two-homer ball and handing John Lackey his 10th win of the season. It was a reassuring effort for the defending champs, who lost starting catcher Wilson Contreras to a four-week DL stint earlier in the day.

Angels 6, Mariners 5: The Mariners had plenty to celebrate on Friday night, from the kickoff of Edgar Martinez Weekend to Nelson Cruz‘s three extra bases, but still couldn’t find that elusive final run in their one-run loss to the Angels. Righty reliever Andrew Moore singlehandedly unraveled Seattle’s four-run lead in the seventh, blowing his first save of the season after RBI singles from Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron and an Andrelton Simmons’ double helped the Angels tie the game. Cron retuned for the go-ahead run in the ninth, capitalizing on an error from Jean Segura to plate Mike Trout and move within a game of the second AL wild card.

Athletics 5, Orioles 4: It was a bittersweet way to kick off the weekend for Ubaldo Jimenez, who registered a season-best 11 strikeouts before a line drive felled him in the sixth inning:

While he didn’t appear to be in a great deal of pain at the time of the incident, he was removed from the mound immediately following the at-bat and left the rest of the game in the less-than-capable hands of Baltimore’s bullpen. Brad Brach registered his fifth blown save of the year after a two-run effort from Jed Lowrie and Chad Pinder, whose combined productivity got the job done for the A’s in the eighth.

Padres 4, Dodgers 3: There are some moments that remind us how pure this game can be, how simple the thrill is of taking in a game at the ballpark, looking up from your seat and watching one of your heroes seamlessly execute a routine play:

Other plays, like Yasiel Puig‘s 270-foot laser to catch Hunter Renfroe at home plate, offer the crowd a less intimate (but no less impressive) view of the game:

(And honestly, at 96 MPH, this is a play that belongs nowhere near the stands.)

Despite their run-saving acrobatics in the field, the Dodgers took home a rare loss after Jose Pirela unleashed a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning. The win moved San Diego within 13 games of an NL wild card spot, but they’ll still have to vault over seven other teams to earn a chance to compete in the postseason.

Giants, Nationals (postponed): The Giants and Nats are set for a twin bill on Sunday, when the two teams will do their best not to repeat the Hunter Strickland/Bryce Harper fracas that disrupted their last meeting.

Marlins trade David Phelps to the Mariners for four prospects

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The Miami Marlins have sent reliever David Phelps to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for four prospects. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and Ken Rosenthal had rumors of the deal first, Jon Morosi, Jeff Passan and Jon Heyman (among others) all reported the trade at virtually the same time.

Phelps, 30, had a fantastic 2016 season, posting a 2.28 ERA in 64 games while striking out 11.8 batters per nine innings. He’s not been as strong this year, but he’s still been a solid setup man, posting a 3.45 ERA in 44 games while striking out 51 batters and walking 21 in 47 innings. He throws in the mid-90s and induces grounders. The Mariners could probably use rotation help more than bullpen help, but solid innings are solid innings at one point and improving your pen takes some of the pressure off of your rotation. Phelps will help Seattle with that. He’s under team control for next year too, so this is more than a rental.

The top prospect in the deal is Brayan Hernandez, a 19 year-old outfielder from Venezuela, currently playing in low-A ball. Also in the deal: righty Brandon Miller, righty Pablo Lopez and righty Lucas Schiraldi who, yes, is the son of ex-big leaguer Calvin Schiraldi. None of these guys are blue chippers, but you never know what’ll happen. It’s a volume return for the Fish.

We’ve already seen some big bullpen names move, including David Robertson, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Among others who could be moved:  A.J. Ramos (Marlins); Justin Wilson (Tigers); Addison Reed (Mets); Jerry Blevins (Mets); Brad Hand (Padres); Tony Watson (Pirates); Juan Nicasio (Pirates); Brad Brach (Orioles); Drew Storen (Reds); and Raisel Iglesias (Reds).

 

MLB second half preview: Contenders and pretenders

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The All-Star break officially ends at 7:05PM Eastern this evening when the Cubs take on the Orioles and the Pirates take on the Cardinals. Five minutes later five more games will get underway and by the time we go to bed tonight all 30 teams will either have played or will be in action and the season’s second half will have commenced.

Let’s take a look at some of the burning questions for that second half:

Q: Who are the real contenders and who are the mere pretenders? 

The division races are pretty bad this year, my friends. The closest division is the AL Central, with the Indians holding a 2.5 game lead over the Twins and three games over the Royals. Next is the AL East, with the Red Sox holding a 3.5 game lead over the Yankees and Rays. Three divisions feature utter blowouts, with the Astros leading the AL West by 16.5 games, the Nationals leading the NL East by 9.5 games and the Dodgers leading the NL West by 7.5 games. The Brewers hold a 5.5 game lead over the Cubs and Cardinals.

Of the closer races, Boston’s lead seems safe for now, but the AL East has defied predictions in recent seasons. The Indians struggled early but I suspect they’ll hit a higher gear in the second half and pull away. If anything, I suspect the Royals to give them a tougher race than the Twins. I have not counted out the Cubs, especially given their pickup of Jose Quintana yesterday, but the Brewers have been surprisingly resilient so far. The Cardinals don’t scare me nearly as much as the Cubs do, but we could have a really interesting race in the NL Central.

As for the Wild Card: in the American League It’s probably easier to say who isn’t a contender there than who is. If I’m drawing the line I say you can realistically draw it where the Rangers sit, three games out, with the Orioles, Mariners and Blue Jays as marginal and the Tigers, A’s and White Sox out of it. In the NL it’s a bit easier: the Diamondbacks, Rockies and whoever doesn’t win the NL Central are the only realistic contenders.

All of that aside, we have two classes of teams this year: the class containing the Astros, Nationals and Dodgers on the one hand and everyone else on the other. It’ll be up to the GMs of the mass of teams huddling within 3-5 games of the Wild Card in the American League and the couple of teams on the margins in the National League to make deals to distinguish themselves.

Q: Whose schedule presents the easiest path forward? Whose is the toughest?

Let’s keep in mind that baseball is not college football, so strength of schedule is not exactly the be-all, end-all. Anyone can beat anyone at any time and there is enough parity in this game to where the differences between a tough schedule and an easy one are pretty small.

That said, FanGraphs rates such things and, according to them, the Indians, Astros, Royals, Rangers, Tigers and Twins have the easiest second half schedules in the AL with the White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox and Rays having the toughest go. That’s suggests the schedules largely cancelling each other out given who has to beat who going forward.

In the National League the Dodgers have the easiest schedule in the second half and the Diamondbacks have the absolute toughest which may put the NL West “race” into perspective. The Cubs have the third easiest schedule, the Cardinals the fifth and the Brewers have the sixth hardest, which should make the Central race interesting.

Q: Who are the buyers at the trade deadline and what are they buying?

Just about every contender has some need. Even the Astros and Dodgers. As usual, it’s mostly pitching. People always need pitching. That being said, here’s what I see as each contender — or marginal contender’s — biggest need.

  • Nationals: A closer. This is the most glaring need among any contender. They cannot enter the playoffs with their bullpen as currently constructed.
  • Brewers: Bullpen help
  • Cubs: They filled their biggest need yesterday with the Jose Quintana acquisition. They could use a backup catcher. They could also use their existing bats to heat up.
  • Cardinals: A bat, bullpen help
  • Dodgers: They could use back-end rotation help. There’s a rumor that they could target Zach Britton or some other back-end bullpen help to give them a devastating 1-2 punch with Kenley Jansen. If you shorten the game you can make up for some weakness at the back end of the rotation.
  • Diamondbacks: Bullpen help. An infielder.
  • Rockies: Bullpen help
  • Red Sox: A third baseman now, as always. Bullpen help.
  • Yankees: They acquired a first baseman by trading for Brewers minor leaguer Garrett Cooper yesterday, but it remains to be seen if that hole is truly filled. They need a reliever not named Tyler Cippard. They need existing players like Matt Holliday and Aaron Hicks to come back (UPDATE: Holliday is coming back tonight). They need Dellin Betances to find the strike zone.
  • Rays: Middle relief, but I doubt they make any big moves. They may be more likely to sell than to buy.
  • Orioles: Starting pitching but, really, true contention seems like a pipe dream
  • Indians: Starting pitching. Or 2-3 of their existing starters to get healthy and/or stop sucking.
  • Twins: Rotation help (Bartolo Colon is not, contrary to popular belief, anyone’s savior), bullpen help. Don’t expect major moves, though.
  • Royals: Starting pitching
  • AstrosDallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers to be healthy. If that can’t be guaranteed — and it never can be — another starting pitcher would be nice.
  • Rangers: Bullpen help
  • Mariners: Pitching, pitching, pitching.
  • Angels: Starting pitching, though they could get several arms back from injury. Still, it’s unlikely that they’ll do much. They are marginal contenders at best and don’t have any prospects to deal. They do get a fella named Mike Trout back tonight. He could possibly help out. Hard to say.

Q: What players are available?

Theoretically: anyone. As far as the guys people are talking about, it breaks down thusly, in no particular order of ranking. Obviously these names can change as teams fall in and out of contention or decide to be buyers or sellers.

So that’s where we stand on July 14th as the regular season, thankfully, resumes.