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What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

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We’ve had a bunch of day games already. As a result, there’s not a whole lot to preview. So we’ll dig a bit into each game.

The game we are highlighting is, naturally, the Braves game. The Twins lost again to the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon, running their record to 0-9. The Braves are also winless through eight games and will take on the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg shortly, at 4:05 PM EST. A loss will keep them neck-and-neck with the Twins and will bring them one step closer to matching the worst start in franchise history: 0-10 in 1988.

Julio Teheran arguably gives the Braves the best chance to win and that’s who will be opposing Strasburg. And one figures that Freddie Freeman will wake up eventually. He’s hitting an abysmal .080 with a .200 slugging percentage in 33 plate appearances to begin the season.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

New York Yankees (Nathan Eovaldi) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EST

Would you believe me if I told you that if you take out Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays have hit five home runs as a team? The club that made a living hitting dingers last season has had trouble hitting them to begin the 2016 season. Even their 4.22 runs per game average seems good at first glance, but pales in comparison to the 5.5 they averaged last year. At 4-5 and with a run differential that is barely above zero, the Blue Jays need their bats to wake up.

Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman) @ Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels), 8:05 PM EST

The Orioles finally lost a game on Wednesday night, a 4-2 loss to the Red Sox. Unlike the Jays, everyone’s been hitting for the Orioles. The club is tied for the league lead in homers with 14 and their bats have combined for a collective.289/.356/.511 triple-slash line. The starting pitching, contrary to expectations, hasn’t been terrible. However, the starters have been inefficient, averaging fewer than five innings per start over the first eight games.

Cincinnati Reds (Raisel Iglesias) @ Chicago Cubs (Jason Hammel), 8:05 PM EST

In a season that has very quickly countered pre-season expectations, the Cubs are one team that has thus far been exactly as billed. At 7-1, the pre-season World Series favorite Cubs are tied for the best record in baseball and currently have the best record in the National League. The starting rotation has been the MVP so far, as John Lackey is the only one to turn in a substandard start, allowing six runs in six innings in his season debut. Only the Nationals, Dodgers, and Phillies have put up a better rotation ERA than the Cubs’ 3.10.

Kansas City Royals (Ian Kennedy) @ Houston Astros (Doug Fister), 8:10 PM EST

The Royals haven’t been hitting much to begin the season, averaging a paltry 3.5 runs per game, but they’ve been pitching masterfully as a unit. Tonight’s starter, Ian Kennedy, tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings his first time out. He’ll have to work around a hot-hitting Astros lineup. While one is familiar with the Astros’ star-studded middle infield of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, it’s their rookie first baseman who has been raising eyebrows thus far. Tyler White has three homers, 10 RBI, and a .483/.529/.897 triple-slash line over his first 34 plate appearances. White was ranked 13th in the Astros’ minor league system by MLB Pipeline, but A.J. Reed (#2) has been considered the first baseman of the future. This is what’s known as “a good problem to have”.

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Ross Stripling)

Ross Stripling, of all people, flirted with a no-hitter in his major league debut last Friday against the Giants. The right-hander, however, walked four and ran his pitch count up to 100, so manager Dave Roberts took him out with one out in the eighth inning. Reliever Chris Hatcher came in and promptly served up a game-tying two-run home run to Trevor Brown. Though the Dodgers would go on to lose on a Brandon Crawford walk-off homer, Roberts ultimately made the right call, prioritizing a young pitcher’s arm health over an individual achievement.

Donaldson ejected for kicking dirt on plate after home run

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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Minnesota’s Josh Donaldson managed to get ejected while hitting a home run.

Donaldson barked at plate umpire Dan Bellino for the second time in the sixth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

With the score 2-2, Bellino called a strike when the 2015 AL MVP checked his swing on a 2-0 pitch from Reynaldo Lopez.

Manager Rocco Baldelli came out to speak with Bellino, and Donaldson homered down the left-field line on the next offering. After rounding the bases, Donaldson kicked dirt at home plate as he crossed it.

Bellino ejected him immediately, and Donaldson, realizing he had missed home plate, returned to the plate to touch it and then argued as he kicked more dirt on it.

Donaldson also had argued with Bellino on a 1-1 breaking ball in the first inning that appeared to be high but was called a strike, leading to a strikeout.

“We need Josh on the field, out there playing, and at third base,” Baldelli said. “That’s when we’re at our best. And so that’s really the end of it. I think we can move past it at his point, and go from here.”

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