Daily Dose: Verlander wins seventh straight

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Justin Verlander took matters into his own hands Wednesday with Joel
Zumaya and Fernando Rodney both unavailable after working three
straight days, holding the White Sox to one run in a complete-game win.

Jim Thome’s solo homer was the only damage, as Verlander struck out
nine and walked one while topping 110 pitches for the eighth time in
nine starts. He’s 7-0 with a 1.10 ERA in that time.

While the Tigers sit seven games above .500 while the rest of their
division is 24 games below .500, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Grady Sizemore is still experiencing pain in his elbow, so he’ll
be shut down for the rest of the week before undergoing an MRI exam
Monday. He’s still hoping to avoid surgery, but Indians trainer Lonnie
Soloff said Wednesday that he’s unsure whether the “incremental gains
in range of motion” that Sizemore has made are enough for that to be
likely. Surgery would knock him out for another 4-6 weeks.

* John Smoltz is scheduled to make his final minor-league rehab
start Thursday at Triple-A after posting a 1.56 ERA, 13/2 K/BB ratio,
and .148 batting average against through his first four outings. If
things go smoothly Smoltz could join the Red Sox’s rotation as soon as
Tuesday against the Marlins, although Boston will have to make a
decision on which starter to bump before then.

* Brandon Morrow has changed his mind again regarding his long-term
role and asked the Mariners to let him try starting again after
struggling mightily as closer before losing ninth-inning duties to
David Aardsma. Seattle never should have let Morrow become a full-time reliever
at the age of 24 anyway and starting again is the best thing for him,
but he’ll be at Triple-A for a while building arm strength.

* Jim Leyland announced Wednesday that Dontrelle Willis will remain
in Detroit’s rotation, which tells you how bad Jeremy Bonderman looked
in his season debut. Willis is 1-3 with a 6.60 ERA and 16/20 K/BB ratio
in 30 innings, yet Leyland said that he “deserves” to start Sunday.
Willis has looked fairly serviceable when he’s not imploding, but the
decision says more about Bonderman’s diminished stuff.

* Ozzie Guillen revealed Wednesday that Carlos Quentin likely won’t
return from his foot injury until after the All-Star break, which is
rough news for a White Sox’s offense that ranks 12th among AL teams in
runs. Scott Podsednik has started 16 straight games in Quentin’s
absence and is playing surprisingly well, but his OPS is still 225
points below Quentin’s mark from last season and he’s due to decline.

* Anthony Reyes was one of my sleeper picks in AL-only leagues
coming into the year, but he posted a 6.57 ERA in eight starts before
landing on the disabled list and is now scheduled to undergo ulnar
nerve transposition surgery Friday at the hands of Dr. James Andrews.
Andrews may also perform Tommy John surgery if he discovers that Reyes
needs the ligament replaced, so his career is in trouble.

AL Quick Hits: John Lackey was rocked for nine runs Wednesday
and has a 6.61 ERA in six starts since coming off the disabled list …
Mark Teixeira went 4-for-5 with a homer Wednesday and is batting .343
with 16 homers in 36 games since his terrible April … Jeff Niemann
followed up last week’s complete-game shutout by allowing five runs in
3.2 innings Wednesday … Carl Pavano’s strong 11-start stretch came to a
screeching halt Wednesday as he coughed up nine runs … Gil Meche threw
seven scoreless innings Wednesday and tied a career-high with 11
strikeouts … Chien-Ming Wang didn’t make it out of the third inning
Wednesday and Phil Hughes also struggled relieving him … Denard Span
has left the Twins to have his bouts of dizziness examined … Alberto
Callaspo went 4-for-4 with a grand slam Wednesday, driving in his first
runs since May 16 … Jacoby Ellsbury sat out Wednesday’s game with
continued shoulder soreness.

NL Quick Hits: David Wright went 3-for-5 with two stolen bases
Wednesday and has already surpassed last year’s total of 15 steals …
Brad Lidge (knee) hopes to come off the disabled list in about two
weeks, but the Phillies have expressed much less optimism … Jorge Cantu
said Wednesday that his recent dizziness is caused by cholesterol
medication and should “clear out” soon … Charlie Morton lasted just one
inning against his former Braves teammates Wednesday, leaving with a
strained hamstring … Roy Oswalt’s next start has been pushed back from
Thursday to Saturday because of wrist soreness … Kyle Lohse (forearm)
will be out for at least a month and possibly through the All-Star
break … No. 10 pick Drew Storen signed before the draft was even over
Wednesday and the Stanford closer will be on the fast track to
Washington … Rich Harden (back) will be on an 85-pitch limit Saturday …
Rick Ankiel missed the cycle by a single Wednesday.

Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, West title with win over A’s

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to still savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth straight division title Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They are third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998-2006).

“To fast forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said. “Truth be told a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

The clubhouse celebration was also muted. Champagne was still involved, but it was players toasting each other with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs, “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May (2-1) went five innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old red-headed righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in his first 13 career starts, which include 10 this season.

Robbie Grossman homered for Oakland, which clinched its first AL West crown in seven years on Monday during a day off. The Athletics, in the postseason for the third straight year, currently are the AL’s No. 3 seed.

Mark Canha had two of Oakland’s five hits.

Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas (3-5).

Grossman quickly gave Oakland a 1-0 lead when he homered off the left-field pole in the first inning. Sean Murphy briefly gave the Athletics a 2-1 advantage when he led off the third with a walk and scored on a wild pitch by May with two outs.

Montas, who allowed only four home runs in his first seven starts, has given up six in his past three. The right-hander went four innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

“They’re a pretty good team that when you make mistakes, they make you pay,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re pretty good laying off and making you throw it over the plate. They made Montas pay, unfortunately.”

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

ATHLETICS ADVANCE

The A’s have a team text thread they used to celebrate clinching their first AL West title since 2013 during their off day Monday, when the Mariners beat Houston.

“We didn’t really celebrate too much yet. It’s exciting,” Chad Pinder said. “We wanted to do it on our own terms. We still won the division and that was our goal. It’s nice to know we’ll be playing home for the series.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: INF/OF Pinder (strained right hamstring) planned to run at Dodger Stadium and test his leg with hopes of still playing before the conclusion of the regular season. …. RHP Daniel Mengden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28.

Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch due to left hamstring discomfort He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28. … Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will remain with the team during the entire postseason.

UP NEXT

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50) is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts dating to Aug. 20.

Dodgers: LHP Julio Urias (3-0, 3.49) will make his team-leading 11th start.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports