Mets, Dodgers not having “active discussions” about Jon Niese trade

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It was reported over the weekend that the Dodgers and Cubs were among the teams with interest in a trade for Mets left-hander Jon Niese. While the southpaw is a logical target for both teams, a match with the Dodgers isn’t considered imminent:

Nothing too surprising here, as teams are likely still in the early stages of evaluating the starting pitcher market. Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir are among the big names that could be dealt, so Niese falls into the secondary category with the likes of Mike Leake, Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Mat Latos, and Dan Haren. With questions in the back-end of their rotation, the Dodgers will be active.

Niese has posted a 4.12 ERA and 58/27 K/BB ratio in 83 innings across 14 starts this season. The Mets have gone back to a six-man rotation to make room for prospect Steven Matz, but a trade involving Niese could change that dynamic. The 28-year-old is making a $7 million salary this season and $9 million in 2016. His contract includes a $10 million club option (or $500,000 buyout) for 2017 and an $11 million club option (or $500,000 buyout) for 2018.

Athletics tie for first place in AL West

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The Athletics are tied for first place in the AL West for the first time since Opening Day. They took the first of a three-game series against the Astros on Friday with a wild (and controversial) overturned replay call in the ninth and Matt Olson‘s decisive walk-off home run in the 10th — the first of his career to date — then returned on Saturday and bested the Astros 7-1 to take first place.

Saturday’s win was less of a nail-biter than Friday’s had been, but its rewards were just as sweet. Trevor Cahill led the A’s through the first seven innings of one-hit, seven-strikeout ball, backed by seven runs on five RBI doubles from Khris Davis, Matt Olson, Stephen Piscotty and Josh Phegley. All told, the four players struck eight doubles to tie the franchise single-game record.

The Astros, meanwhile, were stymied by both Cahill and the A’s bullpen through the first eight innings of the game. Following Cahill’s seven shutout innings, Jeurys Familia took the ball in the eighth and blanked the Astros to preserve the seven-run lead. Yusmeiro Petit wasn’t quite so lucky: with one out in the top of the ninth, he pitched to a full count against Tony Kemp, then saw his 90.1-MPH fastball returned to right field for a home run. That was the first and last time the Astros crossed home plate, however, as Kyle Tucker popped out to third base and Alex Bregman cemented the loss with a fly ball to right.

Entering Saturday’s game, the Astros had not been out of first place since June 13, when they played second fiddle to the now third-place Mariners. They’ll share first-place honors with the Athletics until Sunday’s finale; it’ll take a series sweep for Oakland to take the lead in the division, but they’ve already delivered incredible results over the last two weeks (and it’s worth noting, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart pointed out, that Houston has now lost seven of their last eight games). The A’s climbed out of the no. 3 spot at the start of August and have steadily progressed toward first place ever since, driven by two separate four-win streaks and their two decisive wins this weekend. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle also notes that the club has not been in first place in a non-April month since August 25, 2014 — the last year they qualified for the playoffs.