Giancarlo Stanton off to strong start after smashing finish

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Giancarlo Stanton is picking up where he ended the postseason last year.

Healthy and hard hitting.

The New York Yankees slugger homered in each of his first five playoff games in 2020, a stretch that brought flashbacks of his spectacular 2017 NL MVP season and hopes that several injury-impacted years were behind him.

Stanton finished with six homers and 13 RBIs in seven postseason games, including a tough five-game Division Series loss to the AL champion Tampa Bay Rays.

Stanton is 7 for 21 during spring training with two doubles and a homer that had an exit velocity of 115 mph. He also hit an 120 mph liner that was caught for an out.

“Ready to rock,” Stanton said. “The time of spring where it is, can we get things going here. You refine any last bits of swing and timing and all that to be ready to go.”

The Yankees open the regular season April 1 at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Stanton, 31, hasn’t played a full season since 2018 when he had 38 homers and 100 RBIs for the Yankees. That came one season after he led the NL with 59 homers and 132 RBIs in his final year with the Miami Marlins before being traded to the Bronx.

“I think one of the reasons we think we have a chance to be a really good team is because of some of our great players, some of our star players that obviously we’re counting on heavily,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Our success is tied to some of our big boys really thriving.”

Stanton, the starting designated hitter, is set to get limited time in the outfield this year. He is not expected to play in the outfield during the final days of spring training but will continue doing pregame defensive drills.

“As the discussions went on, I’ll be needed later in the first month or two,” Stanton said.

WELCOME BACK

Veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez was torched in his first appearance for Miami, allowing seven runs and eight hits while getting just one out against his former team.

The Marlins no-hit Washington through five innings – including three sharp frames from Sixto Sanchez – before Gonzalez entered. The 35-year-old allowed a walk, four hits and another walk before being replaced in the sixth inning. Manager Don Mattingly sent Gonzalez back out for the seventh, when he allowed three more hits and got a popup for his only out before being lifted for good.

Gonzalez has been slowed by shoulder soreness this spring. He is trying to make the Marlins as a non-roster invitee.

“Just one of those nights,” he said. “You push through. The good news is the arm felt great. No issues with the arm. Mechanically I’ve just got to get things back together.”

Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman doubled and drove in two, raising the 36-year-old’s spring average to .457 after he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Austin Voth pitched one-hit ball over four scoreless innings for the Nationals before closer Brad Hand allowed two runs in relief.

DODGERS 4, PADRES 4 (9 INNINGS)

Dustin May struck out seven of the 11 batters he retired in his second start for Los Angeles, yielding a run on six hits and two walks. in his third appearance. AJ Pollock, batting just .107 coming in, hit his first home run and also doubled and singled. Chris Taylor hit his third homer.

Ryan Weathers, San Diego’s top pick in the 2018 draft, made his second start in his fourth appearance, pitching three innings and allowing three runs on four hits and a walk, striking out six. Weathers is one of three young left-handers competing for the final spot in the starting rotation. Manny Machado had two hits. Jurickson Profar drew a bases-loaded walk, but struck out twice and is just 1 for 26 (.038) at the plate. He batted a career-high .278 in 56 games last season, his first with the Padres.

CUBS 4, ROCKIES 2

Kris Bryant hit his first home run for Chicago. Trevor Williams went five innings in his fourth start, allowing a run on three hits. Ian Happ led off the first with a ground-rule double, scoring on Bryant’s groundout. Jason Heyward doubled in the fourth, scoring on Jake Marisnick‘s second spring home run.

Austin Gomber made his fourth start for Colorado, allowing two runs on three hits, striking out four in 4 1/3 innings. Trevor Story hit his fourth home run.

WHITE SOX 6, INDIANS 2

Eloy Jimenez hit a two-run double for Chicago. Marco Hernandez and Luis Robert pulled off a double steal in the second and both scored on a throwing error by catcher Austin Hedges. Dylan Cease made his second start, allowing three hits and three walks in 3 2/3 scoreless innings.

Cal Quantrill struggled in his third start for Cleveland, surrendering six runs on six hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings, striking out three in his fifth appearance. Cesar Hernandez had three singles.

ROYALS 6, DIAMONDBACKS 6 (9)

Danny Duffy made his fourth start for Kansas City, allowing one earned run on two hits and two walks, striking out six in four innings. Kyle Isbel led off the game with a home run and Ryan McBroom hit his third homer. Hunter Dozier had two hits, driving in a run with his fourth double.

Luke Weaver struggled through 4 1/3 innings in his third start for Arizona, yielding three earned run and seven hits, striking out five. Christian Walker doubled and singled and Stephen Vogt hit his second home run.

ATHLETICS 11, ANGELS 2

Chris Bassitt made his third start for Oakland, allowing a hit and two walks in 3 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out five. Matt Olson homered, doubled and singled. Chad Pinder and Sean Murphy homered and Elvis Andrus finished with three hits, including a two-run double, scoring twice.

Jaime Barria made his second start for Los Angeles, yielding four runs on five hits and a walk in three innings. Two pitchers who will be counted on in the bullpen also struggled. Alex Claudio replaced Barria, allowing two runs in one inning. Newcomer Junior Guerra followed, surrendering four runs on three hits and a walk, retiring five batters. David Fletcher had two hits, including a double. Albert Pujols is batting .379 after going 1 for 3.

BLUE JAYS 3, PHILLIES 1

Steven Matz made his third start for Toronto, all against the Phillies, and gave up one run and five hits in five innings, striking out six. It was the first run allowed by the left-hander in 10 innings in his first spring with the Blue Jays. Bo Bichette doubled twice and Riley Adams, vying for the backup catcher job, hit his second home run. George Springer had a hit and a walk and stole his second base.

Bryce Harper had an RBI double and played right field for a second straight day after being Philadelphia’s designated hitter in his first seven games. Matt Moore made his third start in his fourth appearance for Philadelphia, allowing two runs on five hits and a walk in four innings.

BRAVES 8, RED SOX 2

Bryse Wilson made his third start in his fourth appearance for Atlanta, pitching 4 2/3 innings and allowing one run on five hits and three walks. Alex Jackson, competing for the backup catcher job, hit a three-run homer. Ehire Adrianza had three hits, driving in two. Reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman went 0 for 3 — he is 3 for 20 this spring, all singles.

Martin Perez struggled in his third start for Boston, surrendering five runs on six hits and five walks in five innings. Newcomer Franchy Cordero played for the first time after missing the first half of camp due to COVID-19, going 1 for 2 as the designated hitter. Rafael Devers had an RBI single.

CARDINALS 5, ASTROS 2

John Gant made his third start in his fourth appearance for St. Louis, working five innings and allowing one run on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Dylan Carlson hit his first home run.

Brandon Bielak made his second start in his fourth appearance for Houston, pitching five innings and yielding two runs on two hits and two walks, striking out six. Yuli Gurriel and Taylor Jones had RBI singles. Jose Altuve went 0 for 3 from the leadoff spot, striking out all three times.

TIGERS 3, PIRATES 1

Miguel Cabrera, batting .185 this spring for Detroit, hit his first home run. Renato Nunez had an RBI double and a run-scoring single. Matthew Boyd made his fourth start, allowing one run on four hits and a walk in four innings, striking out five.

Tyler Anderson went five innings in his fourth start for Pittsburgh, giving up one run on two hits. Kevin Newman had two more hits, including a double, and walked, raising his average to .688. Philip Evans had two hits, including a double, scoring on Colin Moran‘s single.

ORIOLES 2, YANKEES 1

Matt Harvey pitched one-run ball over four innings to boost his chances of cracking Baltimore’s rotation. The 31-year-old right-hander allowed a hit and a walk and struck out two, lowering his ERA to 5.40 in three spring starts. Pat Valaika homered and had two hits for the O’s.

New York starter Michael King matched Harvey with one-run ball over four innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out six. Gio Urshela homered, but the Yankees combined for just three hits.

Giancarlo Stanton is picking up where he ended the postseason last year.

Healthy and hard hitting.

The New York Yankees slugger homered in each of his first five playoff games in 2020, a stretch that brought flashbacks of his spectacular 2017 NL MVP season and hopes that several injury-impacted years were behind him.

Stanton finished with six homers and 13 RBIs in seven postseason games, including a tough five-game Division Series loss to the AL champion Tampa Bay Rays.

Stanton is 7 for 21 during spring training with two doubles and a homer that had an exit velocity of 115 mph. He also hit an 120 mph liner that was caught for an out.

“Ready to rock,” Stanton said. “The time of spring where it is, can we get things going here. You refine any last bits of swing and timing and all that to be ready to go.”

The Yankees open the regular season April 1 at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Stanton, 31, hasn’t played a full season since 2018 when he had 38 homers and 100 RBIs for the Yankees. That came one season after he led the NL with 59 homers and 132 RBIs in his final year with the Miami Marlins before being traded to the Bronx.

“I think one of the reasons we think we have a chance to be a really good team is because of some of our great players, some of our star players that obviously we’re counting on heavily,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Our success is tied to some of our big boys really thriving.”

Stanton, the starting designated hitter, is set to get limited time in the outfield this year. He is not expected to play in the outfield during the final days of spring training but will continue doing pregame defensive drills.

“As the discussions went on, I’ll be needed later in the first month or two,” Stanton said.

WELCOME BACK

Veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez was torched in his first appearance for Miami, allowing seven runs and eight hits while getting just one out against his former team.

The Marlins no-hit Washington through five innings – including three sharp frames from Sixto Sanchez – before Gonzalez entered. The 35-year-old allowed a walk, four hits and another walk before being replaced in the sixth inning. Manager Don Mattingly sent Gonzalez back out for the seventh, when he allowed three more hits and got a popup for his only out before being lifted for good.

Gonzalez has been slowed by shoulder soreness this spring. He is trying to make the Marlins as a non-roster invitee.

“Just one of those nights,” he said. “You push through. The good news is the arm felt great. No issues with the arm. Mechanically I’ve just got to get things back together.”

Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman doubled and drove in two, raising the 36-year-old’s spring average to .457 after he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Austin Voth pitched one-hit ball over four scoreless innings for the Nationals before closer Brad Hand allowed two runs in relief.

DODGERS 4, PADRES 4 (9 INNINGS)

Dustin May struck out seven of the 11 batters he retired in his second start for Los Angeles, yielding a run on six hits and two walks. in his third appearance. AJ Pollock, batting just .107 coming in, hit his first home run and also doubled and singled. Chris Taylor hit his third homer.

Ryan Weathers, San Diego’s top pick in the 2018 draft, made his second start in his fourth appearance, pitching three innings and allowing three runs on four hits and a walk, striking out six. Weathers is one of three young left-handers competing for the final spot in the starting rotation. Manny Machado had two hits. Jurickson Profar drew a bases-loaded walk, but struck out twice and is just 1 for 26 (.038) at the plate. He batted a career-high .278 in 56 games last season, his first with the Padres.

CUBS 4, ROCKIES 2

Kris Bryant hit his first home run for Chicago. Trevor Williams went five innings in his fourth start, allowing a run on three hits. Ian Happ led off the first with a ground-rule double, scoring on Bryant’s groundout. Jason Heyward doubled in the fourth, scoring on Jake Marisnick’s second spring home run.

Austin Gomber made his fourth start for Colorado, allowing two runs on three hits, striking out four in 4 1/3 innings. Trevor Story hit his fourth home run.

WHITE SOX 6, INDIANS 2

Eloy Jimenez hit a two-run double for Chicago. Marco Hernandez and Luis Robert pulled off a double steal in the second and both scored on a throwing error by catcher Austin Hedges. Dylan Cease made his second start, allowing three hits and three walks in 3 2/3 scoreless innings.

Cal Quantrill struggled in his third start for Cleveland, surrendering six runs on six hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings, striking out three in his fifth appearance. Cesar Hernandez had three singles.

ROYALS 6, DIAMONDBACKS 6 (9)

Danny Duffy made his fourth start for Kansas City, allowing one earned run on two hits and two walks, striking out six in four innings. Kyle Isbel led off the game with a home run and Ryan McBroom hit his third homer. Hunter Dozier had two hits, driving in a run with his fourth double.

Luke Weaver struggled through 4 1/3 innings in his third start for Arizona, yielding three earned run and seven hits, striking out five. Christian Walker doubled and singled and Stephen Vogt hit his second home run.

ATHLETICS 11, ANGELS 2

Chris Bassitt made his third start for Oakland, allowing a hit and two walks in 3 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out five. Matt Olson homered, doubled and singled. Chad Pinder and Sean Murphy homered and Elvis Andrus finished with three hits, including a two-run double, scoring twice.

Jaime Barria made his second start for Los Angeles, yielding four runs on five hits and a walk in three innings. Two pitchers who will be counted on in the bullpen also struggled. Alex Claudio replaced Barria, allowing two runs in one inning. Newcomer Junior Guerra followed, surrendering four runs on three hits and a walk, retiring five batters. David Fletcher had two hits, including a double. Albert Pujols is batting .379 after going 1 for 3.

BLUE JAYS 3, PHILLIES 1

Steven Matz made his third start for Toronto, all against the Phillies, and gave up one run and five hits in five innings, striking out six. It was the first run allowed by the left-hander in 10 innings in his first spring with the Blue Jays. Bo Bichette doubled twice and Riley Adams, vying for the backup catcher job, hit his second home run. George Springer had a hit and a walk and stole his second base.

Bryce Harper had an RBI double and played right field for a second straight day after being Philadelphia’s designated hitter in his first seven games. Matt Moore made his third start in his fourth appearance for Philadelphia, allowing two runs on five hits and a walk in four innings.

BRAVES 8, RED SOX 2

Bryse Wilson made his third start in his fourth appearance for Atlanta, pitching 4 2/3 innings and allowing one run on five hits and three walks. Alex Jackson, competing for the backup catcher job, hit a three-run homer. Ehire Adrianza had three hits, driving in two. Reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman went 0 for 3 — he is 3 for 20 this spring, all singles.

Martin Perez struggled in his third start for Boston, surrendering five runs on six hits and five walks in five innings. Newcomer Franchy Cordero played for the first time after missing the first half of camp due to COVID-19, going 1 for 2 as the designated hitter. Rafael Devers had an RBI single.

CARDINALS 5, ASTROS 2

John Gant made his third start in his fourth appearance for St. Louis, working five innings and allowing one run on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Dylan Carlson hit his first home run.

Brandon Bielak made his second start in his fourth appearance for Houston, pitching five innings and yielding two runs on two hits and two walks, striking out six. Yuli Gurriel and Taylor Jones had RBI singles. Jose Altuve went 0 for 3 from the leadoff spot, striking out all three times.

TIGERS 3, PIRATES 1

Miguel Cabrera, batting .185 this spring for Detroit, hit his first home run. Renato Nunez had an RBI double and a run-scoring single. Matthew Boyd made his fourth start, allowing one run on four hits and a walk in four innings, striking out five.

Tyler Anderson went five innings in his fourth start for Pittsburgh, giving up one run on two hits. Kevin Newman had two more hits, including a double, and walked, raising his average to .688. Philip Evans had two hits, including a double, scoring on Colin Moran’s single.

ORIOLES 2, YANKEES 1

Matt Harvey pitched one-run ball over four innings to boost his chances of cracking Baltimore’s rotation. The 31-year-old right-hander allowed a hit and a walk and struck out two, lowering his ERA to 5.40 in three spring starts. Pat Valaika homered and had two hits for the O’s.

New York starter Michael King matched Harvey with one-run ball over four innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out six. Gio Urshela homered, but the Yankees combined for just three hits.

TWINS 2, RAYS 1

Kenta Maeda allowed a run over four innings, limiting Tampa Bay to four hits and striking out six. Luis Arraez had a double, Nelson Cruz hit an RBI single and Brandon Waddell got the save by striking out five over two hitless innings.

Michael Wacha pitched shutout ball over four innings for the Rays, permitting one hit and striking out three. The 29-year-old right-hander is yet to give up a run in three outings this season spanning seven innings. Mike Brosseau homered off Maeda, his third of spring training, and Randy Arozarena had two hits.

RANGERS 6, MARINERS 5

Texas newcomer Nate Lowe homered and drove in three runs. Ty France hit his fifth homer of the spring for Seattle. Mitch Haniger also went deep, and Kyle Seager had two hits.

BREWERS 4, REDS 1

Milwaukee starter Brett Anderson threw four shutout innings, allowing six hits and one walk. He struck out five and has a 1.86 ERA in Cactus League action. Omar Narvaez hit a two-run homer and Travis Shaw had an RBI double. Jordan Zimmermann pitched two scoreless innings in relief.

Cincinnati reliever Amir Garrett whiffed three in a hitless ninth inning. Eugenio Suarez had an RBI double.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.