Tag Archives: A’s

MLB Weekly: Keuchel goes to the DL, Taillon ready to return

Looking Back

The best team in Major League Baseball will be without its best pitcher for at least a week and a young pitcher is getting ready to come back from a serious situation in this week’s MLB Weekly.

The Astros are the best team in the majors, with a record of 44-19 entering Sunday. A major reason for the team’s success is the performance of ace Dallas Keuchel, who is 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 11 starts. But he won’t be taking the mound in a game for at least a week after the Astros placed him on the 10-day disabled list Thursday.

He was scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday for what the team termed an illness, but the next day it was revealed that team doctors were examining him for neck discomfort. This is the second time this season he’s gone on the DL for neck issues. After his first DL stint ended in late May, Keuchel made two starts before landing on the DL again. He is not expected to throw for at least a week and will miss at least two starts.

The Astros are expected to get a pitcher back from the DL on Monday when SP Joe Musgrove is slated to make his next start. He went on the DL May 30 with shoulder inflammation and has missed two starts since then. For the season, Musgrove is 4-4 with a 4.89 ERA in 10 starts.

Pirates SP Jameson Taillon is also expected to get the start on Monday after being out for about a month, but he hasn’t been dealing with an injury. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent surgery on May 8 to treat it. He has since made three minor-league rehab starts and is ready to return to the big club. He says he’s 100 percent both physically and mentally, and “probably in a better spot now than [he] was before.” He has made six starts this season, going 2-1 with a 3.31 ERA.

In off-the-field news, two players this week were accused of domestic violence against women. On Wednesday, the former fiancee of Rays C Derek Norris alleged that he “physically and emotionally abused her” during an October 2015 incident that included putting her in a choke hold. The next day, Cubs SS Addison Russell faced similar allegations, with a friend of his wife accusing him of “mentally and physically abusing” his spouse. Both players have denied the allegations leveled against them. MLB is investigating both cases, and the players could face lengthy suspensions if the league determines that either or both violated the league’s domestic violence policy.

This week’s injury report also includes the following players hitting the DL: Nationals OF Jayson Werth (foot), Blue Jays RP J.P. Howell (shoulder) and 2B Devon Travis (knee), Braves P Bartolo Colon (oblique), Diamondbacks OF Yasmany Tomas (groin), Indians SP Danny Salazar (shoulder), Marlins 1B Justin Bour (ankle), Rangers 1B Mike Napoli (back), Padres SP Jarred Cosart (foot), Rockies OF Gerardo Parra (quad), Brewers SP Matt Garza (chest) and 2B Jonathan Villar (back), Rays 2B Brad Miller (groin) and OF Kevin Kiermaier (hip), Pirates C Francisco Cervelli (concussion), Twins SP Hector Santiago (shoulder), Giants OF Michael Morse (concussion), Cubs SP Kyle Hendricks (hand), Orioles RP Darren O’Day (shoulder), Dodgers RP Sergio Romo (ankle), and A’s SP Andrew Triggs (hip).

The Week Ahead

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The Astros look to continue their dominance of their in-state rivals when they host the Rangers — against whom they are 6-1 this season — for three games starting Monday. The AL Central-leading Twins host the Marlins Monday through Thursday in a four-game set. Tuesday sees the Dodgers traveling to Cleveland to take on the Indians in an interleague series featuring second-place teams. The Nationals-Mets NL East rivalry continues Thursday with the first of four games in Queens. On Friday, the Red Sox head to Houston to start a series with the Astros and the Twins host the Indians for four games — including a Saturday doubleheader — that could determine first place in the division. The Cardinals also head to Baltimore next weekend for an interleague battle between teams looking to stay afloat in the playoff races in their leagues.

Some pitching performances of note this week include Taillon getting the start at home Monday against the Rockies and SP Kyle Freeland. Red Sox SP Rick Porcello looks to right the ship that day when he faces a Phillies team with the worst record in the majors. Cubs SP Jon Lester tries for his 150th career win on Tuesday, facing Mets SP Zack Wheeler. Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw gets a break from hitting Tuesday when he takes the mound in Cleveland against the Indians and SP Trevor Bauer. Mets SP Matt Harvey hopes for a second straight strong performance Wednesday when he takes on the Cubs. Astros SP Mike Fiers is coming off a strong start Saturday, but he faces a tough test on Friday taking on the Red Sox, who send SP Drew Pomeranz out to oppose him.

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MLB Weekly: Trout to the DL, Pujols gets 600, Volquez gets a no-no

Looking Back

A former MVP goes on the DL for the first time while another hits 600 and a former World Series winner throws a no-no.

The Angels are trying to stay afloat for a potential playoff spot — they’re a game under .500 entering Sunday — but they were dealt a major blow over Memorial Day weekend when two-time American League MVP Mike Trout tore the UCL in his left thumb while sliding into second base in a game against the Marlins. He underwent surgery later in the week and is expected to miss six to eight weeks, which means he could be out until August.

This is the first time in Trout’s seven-year career that he has landed on the disabled list. He is not only the Angels’ best player but also in the conversation as the best player in Major League Baseball. At the time of his injury, he was hitting .337 with 16 home runs and 36 RBI in 47 games, putting him on pace to set career highs in those categories if he wasn’t facing an extended DL stint. With a full season under his belt, on that pace, he would certainly be in the conversation for an AL MVP again this season — he’s finished second in MVP voting three times, in addition to the two times he’s won it.

In Trout’s absence, OFs Eric Young Jr., Ben Revere and Shane Robinson are expected to see increased playing time, none of whom can come anywhere close to matching the production output the team is used to getting from Trout.

In better news for the Angels, veteran DH Albert Pujols hit his 600th career home run on Saturday in a home game against the Twins. Pujols becomes the ninth player in major-league history to join the 600-homer club. The milestone shot — a grand slam — came off of Twins SP Ervin Santana in the bottom of the fourth inning of a game the Angels went on to win, 7-2. It traveled an estimated 363 feet and was the three-time MVP’s only hit in four at-bats on the night.

Pujols hit No. 600 a few days after hitting his 599th home run on Tuesday. He is the first player to join the exclusive club since former DH Jim Thome launched his 600th on Aug. 15, 2011 — as a member of the Twins. The 37-year-old Pujols is the fourth-youngest player to hit 600 home runs and the first whose 600th was a grand slam. The closest active players behind Pujols on the all-time home run list are Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera and Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre, who have 451 and 446, respectively, entering Sunday.

Nobody on the Diamondbacks hit a home run on Saturday — or a single, double or triple. Marlins SP Edinson Volquez no-hit the D-backs at home en route to a 3-0 win. Volquez walked two batters but faced the minimum 27 hitters in the game. He compiled 10 strikeouts and needed just 98 pitches to complete the sixth no-hitter in Marlins history and first of his career. He completed the game in style, striking out the side — SS Nick Ahmed and pinch hitters Daniel Descalso and Chris Owings — in the ninth inning.

There was some question about whether Volquez would even make it past the first hitter he faced in the game. He hurt his ankle covering first base on the game’s opening play when Diamondbacks CF Reymond Fuentes collided with him. He joked after the game that he “thought he broke [his] ankle.”

Volquez dedicated the no-hitter to friend and former Royals teammate Yordano Ventura, who passed away in a car crash in January, on what would have been Ventura’s 26th birthday.

In addition to Trout, other players who went on the DL this week include: A’s SP Kendall Graveman (shoulder), Royals SP Danny Duffy (oblique), Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia (wrist) and SP Eduardo Rodriguez (knee), Rockies RP Adam Ottavino (shoulder), Rays OF Peter Bourjos (elbow) and SP Matt Andriese (groin), Astros SP Joe Musgrove (shoulder), Phillies SP Vince Velasquez (elbow) and RP Joaquin Benoit (knee), Orioles C Welington Castillo (groin), Marlins SP Justin Nicolino (finger), Angels OF Cameron Maybin (oblique), Dodgers OF Joc Pederson (concussion) and SP Alex Wood (shoulder), Mariners SS Jean Segura (ankle), and White Sox RP Michael Ynoa (hip).

The Week Ahead

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees

Some of the series to look for this week include a cross-country battle of division leaders when the NL West-leading Dodgers host the Nationals, who sit atop the NL East, for three games starting Monday. The Red Sox visit the Yankees for three starting Tuesday as the top two teams in the AL East continue their famed rivalry. The Cubs host the Rockies for a four-game start getting underway Thursday. The Yankees host the Orioles in another divisional battle starting Friday. In a series featuring teams exceeding expectations, the NL Central-leading Brewers head to Arizona to meet the Diamondbacks beginning Friday.

Some pitching performances of note this week include Dodgers SP Hyun-Jin Ryu filling in for Wood on Monday against the Nationals. Two struggling pitchers meet Tuesday at Yankee Stadium when Red Sox SP Drew Pomeranz takes the mound against Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka. White Sox SP Jose Quintana hopes to right the ship Tuesday against the Rays and SP Chris Archer. Marlins SP Jeff Locke looks to follow-up a strong first start of the season as he opposes Cubs SP Jake Arrieta. Diamondbacks SP Robbie Ray hopes for a fourth-straight strong start Tuesday at home against the Padres, who throw SP Dinelson Lamet out there for his third start of the season. Wednesday sees Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw make his next start, taking on the Nationals. Red Sox SP David Price gets his third start of the season Thursday, against Yankees SP Michael Pineda. That’s also the day Volquez is slated to go for the “Johnny Vander Meer,” two straight no-hitters. He’ll face the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Mets SP Matt Harvey looks to improve upon his 5.43 ERA Friday when he takes on the Braves in Atlanta.

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My updated MLB All-Star Game ballot at the end of May

We’ve reached the end of May, which is sometimes considered the first checkpoint of the Major League Baseball season, as it is now about a third over. It has also been nearly a month since the league opened up balloting for this year’s All-Star Game. When the ballot was released, I posted my way-too-early selections for the all-star teams, but as we now have another few weeks of stats to look at, it’s time to take a second look at who should play in Miami on July 11.

Some of my selections have changed since last time, and for those positions I have noted in parentheses who I originally picked at those positions. Now, here are my picks for the American League and National League all-star teams. All stats are through Tuesday and don’t include Wednesday’s games.

American League

1B Yonder Alonso, A’s (Miguel Cabrera): I switched from the Tigers’ Cabrera, who’s not having a typical season that we have come to expect from him, to Alonso because the 30-year-old is having a career year. He is hitting nearly .300 and has already surpassed his career home-run total, crossing over into double-digits for the first time.
2B Jose Altuve, Astros (Jonathan Schoop): I gave the Orioles’ Schoop the nod early on because Altuve got off to a relatively slow start, but he has since put some distance between the two of them in batting average, hitting more than 40 points better than Schoop. It was a close call between Altuve and the Yankees’ Starlin Castro, but Altuve gets the nod because I think he’s more likely to keep it up as the season goes on.
SS Carlos Correa, Astros (Francisco Lindor): Yet another switch here. You can’t go wrong with either Correa or the Indians’ Lindor, but again it’s the batting average difference that gives Correa the edge to me. He’s well above .300, compared to Lindor being around .275. Lindor has a slight edge in home runs, but it’s not enough to make up the difference in average.
3B Miguel Sano, Twins: I’m sticking with Sano here. He is having, by far, the best season at the position, hitting close to .300 with 12 home runs for a team that is outperforming most people’s expectations.
C Salvador Perez, Royals: Offensive expectations are lower at catcher than other positions, and Perez is having a good season at the plate, with one of the higher batting averages at the positions and leading the group in home runs.
DH Corey Dickerson, Rays (Nelson Cruz): The Mariners’ Cruz is having a good season, but Dickerson’s average is significantly higher in more at-bats than Cruz has had this season. Dickerson’s average is bound to come down closer to his .288 career number, but he’s hitting now so I’ll give him the credit for what he’s done.
OF Aaron Judge, Yankees; George Springer, Astros; Mike Trout, Angels (Khris Davis): Springer replaces Davis, of the A’s, because Davis’ batting average is too low to continue getting my vote. He has 16 home runs but is hitting just .226. I’ll take Springer’s .265 with 13 home runs over that. Judge is continuing the torrid pace of his rookie season, hitting well over .300 with 17 home runs. Trout was having another good season until he broke his thumb sliding into second base over the weekend. He’s on the DL for the first time in his career and will be out six to eight weeks, which means he won’t be able to play in the game. I’ll keep him on my ballot anyway since he deserves it — to this point — but that’ll likely change next time I make my picks.

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My second ballot for the American League all-star team.

National League

1B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: Zimmerman is continuing to rake while the Brewers’ Eric Thames‘ power production has tailed off. Zimmerman is having a great season, and he is definitely deserving of the vote here.
2B Daniel Murphy, Nationals: I’m sticking with Zimmerman’s teammate here because he’s hitting .326 and leading the league in home runs among second basemen. He’s the top choice here.
SS Zack Cozart, Reds (Corey Seager): There’s no standout here, but I switched away from the Dodgers’ Seager because Cozart is having the better overall season at the plate. They have the same number of home runs, but Cozart’s average is much higher than Seager’s.
3B Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks: Lamb continues to have the best season among NL third basemen, leading the group with 14 home runs and batting .283, which is among the best averages at the position.
C Buster Posey, Giants (Jett Bandy): I went away from the unexpected candidate in the Brewers’ Bandy to the perennial all-star contender in Posey because the latter is having a better season. Its close in home runs, but Posey has the definite edge in batting average.
DH With no DH in the National League, fans don’t get to vote for one.
OF Charlie Blackmon, Rockies; Bryce Harper, Nationals; Marcell Ozuna, Marlins (Matt Kemp): Ozuna slots into the spot where I had the Braves’ Kemp on my original ballot. While Kemp is keeping his numbers up better than I expected, Ozuna’s extra power gives him the edge in my opinion. Harper is an obvious choice, hitting .328 with 15 home runs, and Blackmon is having one of the best offensive seasons in the NL, regardless of position.

nl-allstars2

My second ballot for the National League all-star team.

Starting pitchers are not on the ballot and are chosen by the all-star managers, but I’m sticking with the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel in the AL and switching from Gio Gonzalez to Nationals teammate Max Scherzer in the NL.

Stay tuned for more ballot updates as the season progresses.

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MLB Weekly: Rangers on a roll, Freeman on the DL

Looking Back

The Rangers are making up ground in the AL West and an NL East team has lost its best player for at least two months in this week’s MLB Weekly.

Prior to Saturday’s loss to the Tigers, the Rangers had won a MLB-best 10 straight games, catapulting them from last place in the AL West into second place. Entering Sunday, though, they still find themselves 6.5 games behind the division-leading Astros, whose 29-14 record in the best in the majors.

During the 10-game winning streak, which was the Rangers’ longest since winning 12 in a row in 2011, the offense has picked up significantly. In April, the team’s .220 batting average was the third-lowest in the majors. In May through Saturday, which includes prior to the start of the winning streak, the team is closer to the middle of the pack at .251. Their 27 home runs are the seventh-most in MLB, and the team’s slugging percentage has risen from .392 to .427 since the calendar turned to May. The numbers over the last seven days are even more impressive, with the team hitting .300, third best in the majors, with a .449 slugging percentage. The pitching staff’s ERA has also improved, going from 3.89 in April to 3.75 so far this month.

One criticism people can point out about the team’s winning streak is that the bulk of it came against bad teams in the Padres, A’s and Phillies. They’ve split the first two games of this weekend’s series with the Tigers, and things won’t be as easy this week when the Rangers head to Fenway Park to take on the Red Sox. They then head to Toronto for a series with the struggling Blue Jays, with whom they’ve had bad blood in recent years.

The latest injury news involves two of the best hitters in the majors, with the more serious of the two being Braves 1B Freddie Freeman. He’s expected to miss eight to 10 weeks with a fractured wrist after being hit in the wrist by an Aaron Loup fastball during Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays. At the time of the injury, his 14 home runs led the National League, and he was hitting .341 with a 1.209 OPS and a 2.5 WAR. The Braves traded for Cardinals 1B Matt Adams on Saturday, and he is expected to get the majority of the starts at the position while Freeman is out. While Freeman’s injury is a loss for the Braves, they likely be competitive for a playoff spot even without the injury, with an 18-22 record heading into Sunday.

Dodgers 3B Justin Turner was placed on the disabled list Saturday with a strained right hamstring. His .379 batting average is the best in the majors, putting a hole in the Dodgers’ lineup. Utilityman Chris Taylor should be the primary starter in Turner’s absence. Taylor is hitting .338, but he has been lucky in many of his 80 at-bats, as evidenced by his .423 BABIP. His career batting average is .256, and he should be expected to regress back toward that number as he gets more at-bats. The Dodgers are hopeful Turner won’t be out for long, though, with manager Dave Roberts putting out the possibility of him returning “in a couple of weeks.”

Other big names placed on the DL this week include Astros SP Dallas Keuchel, whose 1.84 ERA leads the majors. His injury doesn’t seem to be serious, and the team expects he will miss just one start with a pinched nerve in his neck. The DL move was retroactive to May 17, meaning he would be eligible to return to the team late in the week. The Mariners placed 2B Robinson Cano on the DL Tuesday with a right quad strain, with the move retroactive to the 13th. He is expected to come off the DL when eligible on Tuesday, missing the minimum amount of time.

Also on this week’s injury report: Giants OF Hunter Pence (hamstring), Blue Jays OFs Steve Pearce (calf) and Darrell Ceciliani (shoulder) and SP Aaron Sanchez (finger blister), Diamondbacks OF A.J. Pollock (groin), Indians OF Abraham Almonte (biceps), Mets SS Asdrubal Cabrera (thumb), Rangers OF Carlos Gomez (hamstring), Marlins RP Junichi Tazawa (ribs) and SP Tom Koehler (shoulder), Pirates OF Gregory Polanco (hamstring), Nationals RP Joe Blanton (shoulder), Padres SPs Trevor Cahill (shoulder) and Jered Weaver (hip), Rays 2B Brad Miller (abdominal strain) and Astros C Brian McCann (concussion).

The Week Ahead

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Taking a look at the schedule for the week, the Orioles host the Twins for a three-game series starting Monday, which is the same day the Tigers head to Houston for four with the Astros. The Reds and Indians have their annual intrastate series, with two games in Cincinnati Monday and Tuesday followed by a couple in Cleveland on Wednesday and Thursday. The Red Sox start a three-game series with the Rangers at home on Tuesday, with a Cardinals-Dodgers series also getting underway that day in Los Angeles. In the second half of the week, the Orioles visit the Astros starting Friday, with the Cubs heading to Los Angeles to battle the Dodgers that weekend in a rematch of last year’s National League Championship Series. In a matchup of National League contenders, the Rockies host the Cardinals starting Friday.

Taking a look at some of this week’s notable pitching performances and matchups, Astros P Brad Peacock gets the start Monday, filling in for Keuchel, as he opposes Tigers SP Michael Fulmer. Tuesday’s game in Baltimore sees a matchup of pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs when Twins SP Ervin Santana duels with Orioles SP Dylan Bundy. Giants SP Johnny Cuero goes on Tuesday against Cubs SP Kyle Hendricks. Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman takes the mound Wednesday against Brewers SP Matt Garza, who has pitched surprisingly well so far this season, with a 2.43 ERA. That same day, Red Sox SP Chris Sale tries to become the first pitcher since 1913 to record at least 10 strikeouts in nine straight games; he’ll be opposed by Rangers SP Martin Perez. Pirates SP Ivan Nova looks to continue his streak of lasting at least six innings — he’s done it in all nine starts this season — Thursday as he takes on the Braves and ageless SP Bartolo Colon. Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka also returns to the mound Thursday, against the Royals, as he looks to bounce back from two poor starts in a row.

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MLB Weekly: Sale racks up the Ks, Harper racks up the $$$

Looking Back

A pitcher is approaching strikeout history — again — and a former MVP is getting paid in this week’s MLB Weekly.

The Red Sox traded for SP Chris Sale in December hoping he could be the team’s ace, and he has not only lived up to but exceeded any expectations the team had for him. Pitching against the Rays on Saturday, he struck out 12 batters, the seventh-straight game in which he has racked up at least 10 strikeouts. That puts him one shy of the record of eight-straight games of 10-plus strikeouts, set by SP Pedro Martinez in 1999 — and matched by Sale in 2015 when he was with the White Sox. Other than Martinez and Sale, only two other pitchers in Major League Baseball history have had seven games in a row of at least 10 strikeouts, SPs Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan.

Overall for the season, Sale has a MLB-best 85 strikeouts in 58.2 innings over eight starts. His ERA stands at 2.15 and a 0.77 WHIP. Opponents are hitting just .177 against him. With those numbers, the Red Sox seem to be getting a good return on their investment, which sent four players to the White Sox, highlighted by 3B Yoan Moncada. Sale is next scheduled to pitch on Thursday at the A’s as he tries to tie the record currently held by Martinez and himself.

Nationals OF Bryce Harper, the 2015 National League MVP, is eligible to hit free agency after the 2018 season, at which time he is likely to get the biggest contract in MLB history. He had one year of arbitration left before then, following this season, but the Nationals apparently didn’t want to have to go through the arbitration process so the team locked Harper up for 2018 this week, inking him to a one-year deal worth $21.65 million, which will probably look like a bargain compared to what he gets on his free-agent contract. That contract is the largest one-year contract signed by an arbitration-eligible player in MLB history. And he can get another $1 million on top of that if he is named NL MVP next season.

After a down season last year in which he hit .243 with 24 home runs, Harper is hitting .368 this season with a 1.220 OPS and 11 home runs entering Sunday, putting him on pace to potentially set a new career high in home runs, which currently stands at 42 in 2015.

As has been the case pretty much every week so far this season, several more name players were placed on the disabled list this week. Perhaps the most significant of the group is Mets RP Jeurys Familia, who underwent surgery to remove an anterior blood clot in his right shoulder. While he’ll be out for a while, the timeline isn’t as bad as the team expected. The Mets were initially concerned that Familia would be out for the season, but the surgery wasn’t as extensive as originally expected and he could be able to throw in about six weeks. That means he may miss three to four months, which means — even though that’s a significant portion of the season — he could be back in August or September if the recovery process goes as expected.

Familia, who recorded 51 saves last season. was suspended for the team’s first 15 games this season for a domestic-violence issue and hasn’t pitched particularly well since being reinstated. He has a 3.86 ERA in 11 appearances in which he is 1-1 with 3 saves in 4 chances. He has 10 strikeouts and 8 walks in 9.1 innings. RP Addison Reed is expected to get the bulk of the save opportunities in Familia’s absence.

The injury report for the Mariners’ starting rotation got worse this week. With SPs James Paxton and Felix Hernandez already on the DL, SP Hisashi Iwakuma was also placed on the DL as he deals with inflammation in his right shoulder. He is expected to miss four to six weeks. And the news on Hernandez got worse this week as he suffered a setback in his rehab. He has been sidelined since April 25 with bursitis in his right shoulder and now is not expected to rejoin the Mariners after he felt just “so-so” after a throwing session on Friday. And SP Ryan Weber, who was called up from Triple-A to start Saturday’s game, had to leave the game after four innings with tightness in his right shoulder.

Other notable players hitting the DL this week include Blue Jays C Russell Martin (shoulder) and SP Francisco Liriano (shoulder), Dodgers SP Kenta Maeda (hamstring) and OF Andrew Toles (ACL), Giants RP Mark Melancon (elbow), Phillies RP Jeanmar Gomez (elbow), White Sox C Geovany Soto (elbow), Marlins SS Adeiny Hechavarria (oblique), Rockies SS Trevor Story (shoulder), Brewers OF Ryan Braun (calf) and Yankees RP Aroldis Chapman (shoulder).

The Week Ahead

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Some series to look forward to this week include the Dodgers and Giants starting a three-game series in San Francisco on Monday. A day later, the Orioles head to Detroit for three games with the Tigers and the Cardinals host the Red Sox for the first of two games. Division leaders battle with the AL Central-leading Twins hosting the NL West-topping Rockies Tuesday through Thursday. The Indians head to Houston for a series with the Astros starting Friday, and the Brewers-Cubs series gets underway at Wrigley Field that day. Friday also sees the Reds start a series at home against the Rockies.

The week opens with a matchup of aces in Cleveland on Monday with SP Chris Archer going for the Rays and SP Carlos Carrasco taking the mound for the Indians. Dodgers SP Brandon McCarthy is scheduled for his first start since April 29 on Monday when he opposes Giants SP Matt Cain in a battle of veterans. Red Sox SP Eduardo Rodriguez and Cardinals SP Lance Lynn, who are both pitching well with sub-3.00 ERAs this season, face off in St. Louis on Tuesday. Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw takes the mound in San Francisco on Wednesday against Giants SP Johnny Cueto, and Twins SP Jose Berrios — one of the team’s top prospects — gets his second start of 2017 on Thursday at home against the Rockies and SP Tyler Chatwood. Sale gets a shot to tie the aforementioned record on Thursday, when he is scheduled to face the A’s in Oakland.

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MLB Weekly: Nationals continue to roll, more pitchers head to the DL

Looking Back

The Nationals continue to roll with the best record in the majors while the Rangers and Indians put big-name starters on the DL in this week’s MLB Weekly.

The Nationals got bad news last week, with OF Adam Eaton suffering a season-ending injury, but that hasn’t put an end to their winning ways. Entering Sunday they have the best record in Major League Baseball at 21-9; they’re 7-3 in their last 10, and their four-game win streak is tied for the longest active streak in the majors. They’ve opened up a 6.5-game lead in the NL East.

They’re winning despite having one of the worst bullpens in the majors, with their 5.32 bullpen ERA ranking as the fifth-worst in the majors and opponents hitting at a .266 clip against their relievers. The Nationals’ 4 blown saves put them near the middle of the league. The bullpen’s 10 saves have been split between five pitchers, which isn’t a good sign. RPs Blake Treinen and Shawn Kelley are tied for the team lead with 3 saves apiece despite holding a 9.00 ERA and a 5.40 ERA, respectively (Kelley was placed on the 10-day disabled list this week).

On the other side of the spectrum, the hitting has been fantastic. The Nats’ offense ranks first in the majors in batting average, OPS, hits, doubles and RBI, while their 48 home runs place them second, behind the Brewers. Individually, 1B Ryan Zimmerman is leading the team with a .435 average and MLB-leading 13 home runs, and OF Bryce Harper — who has sat out the last couple of games with a groin problem — is hitting .376 with 9 home runs. Even their worst-hitting regular, OF Jayson Werth, is at a .264 average with 3 home runs in his first 26 games of the season.

The starting pitching is doing all right, with a 3.63 ERA and 15-5 record through 30 games. Their 172 strikeouts are the sixth-most in the majors, and opponents are hitting .235 against the starters, the best mark in the National League and third-best in the majors. It is SP Gio Gonzalez leading the rotation, with a 1.64 ERA through six starts. SP Max Scherzer leads with the team with 51 strikeouts in 40.2 innings, and his 2.66 ERA ties him with SP Stephen Strasburg for the second-best ERA in the team’s rotation.

Elsewhere in MLB, the injuries keep piling up with this week’s injury report highlighted by a couple of big-name pitchers being placed on the DL by teams who had high hopes of making the playoffs before the season started. The longer-term of the two looks to be Rangers SP Cole Hamels, who is expected to miss at least eight weeks with a strained right oblique muscle. That timeframe means he is likely to be out until after the all-star break in mid-July. That is not a good sign for a team that is trying to win the AL West for the third straight year. Even before Hamels’ injury, the Rangers were not performing to the expectations people had for them. After Saturday’s action, they’re five games under .500 and seven games behind the Astros in the division.

The other notable starting pitcher who went on the 10-day disabled list this week was Indians SP Corey Kluber, who is dealing with a stiff lower back. His injury isn’t as serious as Hamels’, and the Indians will test him before Monday’s game with the Blue Jays before determining a timeline for his return. He’ll be eligible to return to the squad next weekend, although he may need more time than that to fully recover and come off the DL.

Updating previous injury news, Mets SP Noah Syndergaard won’t throw for at least six weeks as he recovers a from a partially torn lat muscle. Although the Mets haven’t given a timetable for how long he is expected to be out, a typical recovery for this type of injury lasts about three to six months, so he won’t take the mound for a while, and possibly not again this season. He’ll be placed on the 60-day DL soon.

Other players placed on the DL this week include Orioles RP Zach Britton (left forearm strain), who was activated off the DL earlier in the week, Marlins SPs Wei-Yin Chen (left arm fatigue) and Edinson Volquez (right thumb blister), Dodgers 1B Adrian Gonzalez (right elbow soreness), Mariners SP James Paxton (left forearm strain), Mets C Travis d’Arnaud (bruised right wrist), White Sox RP Nate Jones (right elbow inflammation), A’s RP Sean Doolittle (left shoulder strain) and Yankees 1B Greg Bird (right ankle bruise).

The Week Ahead

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The featured series for the first half of the week is actually a couple of two-game series back-to-back as the Nationals take on the Orioles in a battle of the Beltway. The teams begin in Baltimore on Monday and Tuesday before heading to D.C. to complete the four-game set on Wednesday and Thursday. The Cubs head to Denver for three games against the Rockies starting Monday in a battle of division leaders. The White Sox and Twins look to keep pace in the competitive AL Central with their three-game series in Chicago starting Tuesday. Heading into next weekend, the top two teams in the American League meet in the Bronx when the AL East-leading Yankees host the Astros for a Thursday-Sunday series, with Sunday’s game featuring the jersey retirement of former Yankees SS Derek Jeter. The Angels host the Tigers for four beginning on Thursday, and the Rockies host the Dodgers in a four-game set as two of the NL West’s best do battle. The Indians host the Twins starting Friday in another key AL Central series, and in the NL Central longtime rivals meet in St. Louis when the Cubs come to town to play the Cardinals starting Friday.

The pitching performances to look for in the first half of the week include Orioles SP Kevin Gausman, who was controversially ejected in the second inning of his last start against the Red Sox, taking the mound Monday in the series opener with the Nationals, and Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka goes for his fifth straight win against Reds SP Rookie Davis. Yankees SP CC Sabathia looks to return to how he was pitching in his first three starts of the season, not the last three, when he throws Tuesday against Reds SP Tim Adleman. Giants SP Jeff Samardzija opposes Mets SP Zack Wheeler at Citi Field that day, and a couple veterans meet in interleague play in Houston when SP Bartolo Colon leads the Braves against the Astros and SP Charlie Morton, who has pitched surprisingly well so far this season. Wednesday, Rays SP Chris Archer follows up  the 11-strikeout performance from his last start when he pitches against Royals SP Jason Hammel

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My 2nd annual way-too-early MLB All-Star Game ballot

We’re barely a month into the 2017 Major League Baseball season and the league, as it has done in recent years, has already released the ballot for July’s All-Star Game, allowing people to vote up to 35 times per day per email address, all so the league can boast about how many ballots are cast by the time voting ends in the summer. As I said last year, I’m not a fan of allowing this excessive voting, but it is what it is. At least MLB has fixed the other major issue I had with the game: the All-Star Game no longer determines which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series. Per the new collective bargaining agreement, which was agreed to in the offseason, home-field advantage will now go to the World Series participant that has the better regular-season record — as it should be.

Even though I feel it’s too early to vote on all-stars in early May, since MLB is allowing people to do it already, I’ll make my preliminary choices for both the all-stars in both the American and National leagues, with updated ballots in the coming weeks — as the all-star picture becomes clearer — as we get closer to the game July 11 in Miami. And as MLB begins releasing the balloting results, I’ll critique how the fans are doing in making their choices.

American League

1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: He’s not leading the league in batting average or home runs, but he’s having one of the best all-around seasons at the plate among AL first basemen, so I’ll give Miggy the nod here.
2B Jonathan Schoop, Orioles: Schoop is hitting near .300 and is near the top of the league in home runs and RBI at the position and he’s on a team that has one of the best records in the majors.
SS Francisco Lindor, Indians: LIndor is performing well offensively at a position that lacks offensive output. He leads AL shortstops in homers and RBI, and he’s hitting above .300. Lindor is an easy choice here.
3B Miguel Sano, Twins: He’s finally hitting for average to go along with the power he has shown throughout his career. This was a toss-up between Sano and the Indians’ Jose Ramirez, but Sano has slightly better numbers so he gets my vote.
C Salvador Perez, Royals: Perez is having the best overall season at a position that isn’t traditionally strong offensively. He earns my vote behind the plate.
DH Nelson Cruz, Mariners: He’s having a great season offensively and none of the other options at DH really come close to his stats thus far in the season. An easy selection for me.
OF Khris Davis, A’s; Aaron Judge, Yankees; Mike Trout, Angels: Davis and Judge are two of the only players in the majors who has already reached the 10-homer plateau on the season. Davis’ average isn’t great but the home runs are enough to give him my vote, while Judge is hovering around the .300 mark as he is making a case to win the AL Rookie of the Year award. Trout, meanwhile, doesn’t have quite as many home runs as the other guys, but he’s hitting well over .300 and is having a typical Mike Trout season, which is usually good enough for an all-star selection.

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My first American League all-star ballot of 2017

National League

1B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: The veteran first baseman is among the league leaders in many offensive categories. Brewers 1B Eric Thames has obviously hit a lot of home runs thus far, as well, but I need to see more from him before completely buying into it. Zimmerman is the choice here.
2B Daniel Murphy, Nationals: Zimmerman’s teammate is continuing the strong offensive attack he’s been on since the 2015 postseason, when he was with the Mets. He gets my vote for NL second baseman.
SS Corey Seager, Dodgers: There is no real standout at the position, but Seager is the best of the bunch as he continues with another good season to follow-up his strong rookie campaign of a season ago.
3B Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks: The usual suspects, like Cubs 3B Kris Bryant and Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado, aren’t having their typical seasons, opening up this spot for someone else to take. I’ll go with Lamb here because he’s having the best overall season at the plate of the third basemen.
C Jett Bandy, Brewers: I suspect this pick may change as we get closer to the All-Star Game, but Bandy is hitting for average and has a few home runs so he’ll get my pick at the position not known for its offense.
DH With no DH in the National League, fans don’t get to vote for one.
OF Charlie Blackmon, Rockies; Bryce Harper, Nationals; Matt Kemp, Braves: Harper is having one of the best seasons of all major leaguers, harkening back to his MVP season of 2015. He’s the obvious choice here, with Blackmon the second option for me. I didn’t see any clear choices for the third spot, so I gave it to Kemp, who’s doing surprisingly well so far in 2017. Like with Bandy, Kemp may fall off my ballot as time goes on, but I’ll give it to him for now.

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My first National League all-star ballot of 2017

Starting pitchers are not on the ballot and are chosen by the all-star managers, but I’ll go with a make my choices, with Dallas Keuchel of the Astros in the AL and the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez in the NL.

I’ll be updating the ballot as the season continues so keep checking back in for updates.

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