Mariners, on cruise control, host sinking Blue Jays

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Outfielders occasionally rob hitters of home runs.

They rarely give them away.

But Seattle’s Dylan Moore was the beneficiary of a miscue by Toronto left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. as the Mariners won the opener of a four-game series 8-3. The series continues in Seattle.

With the Mariners leading 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the second inning, Moore hit a liner to left that appeared like it would hit about three-quarters of the way up the wall. Gurriel attempted to make a leaping catch, with the ball popping out of his glove and over the fence and into the Blue Jays’ bullpen.

“What a homer,” said Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales, who was the beneficiary of some rare run support while making his fifth consecutive quality start and team-leading 11th of the season. “It was pretty cool and our entire dugout was stoked because we got a break.

“So many times throughout the year we feel like that ball goes the opposite way, or it happens to us, or something crazy happens, we’re not catching a break. To get a break like that and explode offensively today, it was great to see.”

That play exemplified the way things have been going for the Blue Jays and Mariners recently.

Cal Raleigh and Eugenio Suarez also homered for Seattle, which won its fifth consecutive game and improved to 13-3 over its past 16 to reach the .500 mark for the first time since May 3.

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have dropped six of their past seven games, scoring more than three runs just once in that span.

Toronto’s scheduled pitcher Kevin Gausman, who left his last start after being hit in the right foot by a line drive, had an MRI on his right ankle that showed a bone bruise, but no fracture. He plans to throw a bullpen session Friday and said he’s hopeful he could start Sunday or Monday.

“Like I always say, it’s about pitching and we didn’t get it again (Thursday),” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Right-hander Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.32 ERA) is set to start for the Blue Jays on Friday. He has faced Seattle twice this season as a reliever, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits in 2 1/3 innings. He’s 0-0 with an 11.81 ERA in three career appearances against the Mariners, with one start.

Seattle plans to counter with rookie right-hander George Kirby (2-3, 3.75), who will face the Blue Jays for the first time. Kirby didn’t get a decision his last time out despite limiting Oakland to one run on three hits over seven innings in a game Seattle eventually won 2-1. Kirby matched his career high with nine strikeouts.

Blue Jays outfielder George Springer was out of the lineup Thursday due to general soreness.

“He’s grinding it out, having aches and pains, and we haven’t been able to give him a full day off,” Montoyo said.

The Mariners activated first baseman Ty France, a finalist for the All-Star Game, on Thursday after a stint on the 10-day injured list with a left elbow sprain. France served as the designated hitter and went 1 for 4.

 

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.