Royals hit 3 HRs off Cristian Javier, end Astros’ 8-game win streak

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HOUSTON — Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier and Emmanuel Rivera all homered as the Kansas City Royals roughed up Cristian Javier early and held on for a 7-4 win over Houston, ending the Astros’ major league-best eight-game winning streak.

Javier (6-4) had allowed one hit in 14 innings over his last two starts, which included seven innings of a combined no-hitter against the Yankees on June 25. He struck out 27 in those two appearances, both wins. But the Royals got to him almost immediately.

Merrifield sent Javier’s third pitch into the seats in left field for his fourth homer this season. Javier walked Andrew Benintendi before Dozier’s two-out shot to the Crawford Boxes in left field made it 3-0. Rivera homered to left-center in the second.

Brad Keller (4-9) allowed five hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings and the Royals’ bullpen shut the Astros down the rest of the way. Scott Barlow allowed one hit in a scoreless ninth for his 13th save.

“I was just real proud of the offense,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Coming out, even though the last couple of days we get something going and not being able to put it away, but (we) come back resilient and aggressive. And you can tell they believe in themselves and that’s a beautiful thing.”

Kansas City was clinging to a one-run lead entering the ninth inning before Nicky Lopez hit a ground-rule double with one out and scored on a two-out double by Andrew Benintendi. MJ Melendez followed with an RBI single that pushed the lead to 7-4.

“They jumped us early,” manager Dusty Baker said. “They were hitting the ball out of the ballpark and the game boiled down to, they really beat us in the first and the ninth. It was a bookend game for them.”

Javier yielded five runs on four hits with three walks and seven strikeouts in five innings for his first lost since June 6. His three homers allowed tied a career high after he entered the game having given up just five all season.

Matheny was asked about the key to his team’s success against Javier.

“It’s just some of that momentum,” he said. “It’s always a really good thing for an offense to have. Guys have just been building on what they’ve seen the last couple of days.”

Aledmys Diaz homered for a second straight game and Jake Meyers had two hits and two RBIs. But the Astros were unable to overcome their early deficit after come-from-behind wins in the first two games of the series.

Houston cut the lead to 4-1 on an RBI double by Meyers with two outs in the second.

Benintendi walked again to open the third before scoring on a two-out double by Dozier that made it 5-1.

The Astros got within 5-3 in the fourth on Kyle Tucker‘s run-scoring single and Meyers’ RBI groundout.

There were two outs in the sixth when Diaz homered to cut the lead to one and chase Keller. Reliever Jose Cuas loaded the bases before getting out of the jam.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: Rookie INF Bobby Witt Jr. was out of the lineup a day after fouling a pitch off his right hand. X-rays Tuesday night were negative, but Matheny said he was awaiting the results of more extensive tests.

Astros: 2B Jose Altuve and 1B Yuli Gurriel got rare days off for rest. … LHP Parker Mushinski (left elbow discomfort) allowed two hits, two runs and walked two without getting an out in the first game of a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Sugar Land Wednesday night. He threw 20 pitches.

UP NEXT

Houston’s Justin Verlander (10-3, 2.03 ERA), whose 10 wins are tied for the major league lead, opposes Kris Bubic (1-5, 7.06) when the series wraps up Thursday.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.