Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Whit Merrifield Homers Twice In Royals 6th Straight Win; Ben Lively Tosses Five Scoreless in Philly Victory

Players of the Day for Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Grapefruit League
Lively: 5IP, 3H, 0ER, 4K

In a game shortened to 6 1/2 innings, the Phillies eked out a 2-0 victory over the visiting Blue Jays thanks largely to five innings of shutout ball thrown by Ben Lively.

Lively spent the majority of his 2017 rookie season in the Phillies' bullpen, but is looking to become part of the starting rotation this season.

The effort on Tuesday was his fifth start of Spring, indicating that he's well on his way to making the starting roster come opening day.

Allowing just three hits, no walks, fanning four, Lively, a 6'4" right-hander, earned his first win, against one loss.

One of the youngest teams in the majors, the Phillies had a horrible season last year, finishing last in the NL East, at 66-96, a full 31 games behind the Nationals in the division.

Spring has seen a little improvement, as the Phillies are 10-15, but are seven games out, ahead of only Pittsburgh and the Mets.

Cactus League

Merrifield: 3-3, 2HR, 3RBI
Kansas City won its sixth straight game, but because the Cubs and Indians were idle and the first-place Brewers tied Colorado, 4-4, the Royals remained in fourth place, 2 1/2 games off the pace.

Playing at their Spring home in Surprise, Arizona, the Royals hammered the Giants, 10-1, with starter Ian Kennedy going four innings, allowing San Francisco's only run while second baseman Whit Merrifield supplied the power in the early innings.

Merrifield started with a single and scored in the first inning, then socked a solo homer in the second, following up with a two-run shot in the fourth.

Entering his third season in the pros, Merrifield is having a sensational Spring, batting .465 with four home runs and 11 RBI and three stolen bases.

In 2017, Merrifield proved himself to be a steady, every day player, batting .288 in 145 games with 19 home runs and 78 RBI. Noting his Spring stats, Merrifield could be on his way to an all-star appearance this summer.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Justin Verlander Goes Seven Scoreless For Astros; Yonder Alonso Adds Punch To Indians Lineup

Players of the Day for Monday, March 19, 2018

Verlander: 7IP, 0ER, 3K
Grapefruit League

After a sparkling post-season culminating in a World Series Championship, Houston hurler, Justin Verlander picked up where he left off, hurling seven scoreless innings in Houston's 2-0 victory over the Mets.

In his fifth outing of Spring Training, Verlander fanned three, walked one and allowed five harmless singles. The Astros got their runs early, on a second-inning bases-empty homer by Carlos Correa and a third-inning RBI single by Jose Altuve.

Verlander, who went 4-1 with a 2,21 ERA and 38 Ks in last year's post-season, has been solid this Spring. He's 1-1, with a 1.64 ERA and 24 strikeouts.

The Astros continue to lead the way in the Grapefruit League with a 16-7 mark, though the Red Sox have been closing ground, winning seven straight. Boston is 15-8 and just one game back.

Cactus League

Alonso: 3-3, 2HR, 4RBI
Carving out a 5-4 win over the Giants, the Cleveland Indians won their third straight, closing in on Milwaukee in the standings, The idle Brewers lead the Arizona circuit by 1 1/2 over Cleveland, with the Cubs two back and Kansas City - winners of five straight - just three out.

Paving the way for Cleveland was first baseman, Yonder Alonso, who accounted for all but one of Cleveland's runs with a three-run homer in the first and a solo shot in the fifth that broke a 3-3 tie.

Alonso also singled, completing a 3-for-3 effort with four RBI and two runs scored. Carrying a .357 batting average, Alonso's homers were his fourth and fifth of the Spring.

After splitting last season between Seattle and Oakland with 28 home runs and 67 RBI, Alonso was acquired by the Indians in the off-season, bolstering their roster at first. The newest Indian will likely get most of the playing time at first, with Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli likely to share DH and pinch-hitting duties.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Matt Joyce Belts A Pair As A's Rout White Sox, 14-0; Travis d'Arnaud Leads Mets To Rare Win

Players of the Day for Sunday, March 18, 2018

Grapefruit League

d'Arnaud: 2-3, HR, 2B, 3RBI
Moored in last place with a record of 7-15, the NY Mets haven't exactly found a winning formula this Spring, so their 5-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles may have served as a wakeup call.

With Noah Syndergaard on the mound, catcher Travis d'Arnaud took offensive matters into his own hands, socking a second-inning solo homer and rapping out a two-run double in the fourth to give his pitcher some cushion. d'Arnaud also threw out Tim Beckham in the fourth, on an attempted steal of second base.

Syndergaard, who has been shaky in privies starts, managed to go seven innings, scattering eight hits and fanning five while allowing just one run.

The Orioles weren't done however, scoring three runs off reliever Seth Lugo in the eight, narrowing the lead to one run. The ninth wasn't without its share of suspense, either, as Robert Gsellman managed to close out the game, but not before allowing a leadoff double to Austin Hays and walking Craig Gentry with two outs before fanning Sharlan Schoop to end the game.

Cactus League

Joyce: 2-for-5, 2HR, GS
Oakland manager Bob Melvin may be trying out some distinctively different concepts with the hopeful A's this season.

In Sunday's 14-0 blowout over the visiting White Sox, Melvin inserted Matt Joyce - normally a right fielder - into the lineup as the DH, in the leadoff spot.

Why not?

Joyce responded with a leadoff solo homer to start the A's scoring, then belted a grand slam in the fifth inning, driving in five runs total.

Joyce had been struggling. Prior to his breakout game, he was just 3-23 (.130) with no homers and one RBI. Planting him in the leadoff spot apparently worked to everyone's advantage.

The A's improved to 12-9, tied for fourth place in the Cactus League with Kansas City, three games behind the streaking Brewers, winners of three straight and eight of their last 10.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sam Travis Lifts Red Sox to 4-3 Win; Cleveland Victorious On Roberto Perez Grand Slam

Players of the Day for Saturday, March 17, 2018

Grapefruit League

Travis: HR, 3RBI
First baseman Sam Travis is getting a long look this Spring by the Red Sox, a team looking to find some level of competence and maybe a modicum of power at first after the departure of David Ortiz after the 2016 season.

Travis has had 45 at-bats thus far, with 12 hits (.267), with four homers, so maybe he's the guy the Sox are seeking.

On Saturday, facing the Rays, the Red Sox were down by a 3-1 score in the sixth, when Travis came to the plate with two aboard and no outs, an ideal situation to get a ball he could drive.

An offering from Tampa hurler, Ryne Stanek, was right in his wheelhouse, and Travis turned on it, parking it over the left field wall for a three-run homer and the decisive, 4-3 score, which held up due to some quality relief by Brandon Workman and Marcus Walden, who held the Rays hitless over the final three frames.

Travis is technically a rookie, having played in just 33 game with Boston last season, batting .263, albeit without a home run.

Boston moved into a tie with Miami for second place in the Grapefruit League, two games behind Houston.

Perez: Grand Slam
Cactus League

Cleveland played a pair of games - split-squad - against the Cubs on Saturday, losing one, 11-4, but getting a 5-1 victory earlier in the day.

Starting pitcher, Trevor Bauer, turned in five strong innings, allowing six hits and Chicago's lone run, striking out seven. All the offense necessary was supplied by Roberto Perez, who launched a bases-loaded home run in the fourth inning.

The grand slam by Perez was his third homer of the season, upping his RBI total to nine.

Perez batted .207 last season, with eight homers and 38 RBI in just 73 games as a backup to Yan Gomes, a position he's likely to retain when the regular season commences.

The Indians continue to chug along in third place, tied with Arizona, 2 1/2 games back of Milwaukee. The second-place Cubs trail the Brewers by one game.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Lance McCullers Jr. Hurls Houston Past Yanks; Ian Desmond, Nolan Arenado Power Rockies

Players of the Day for Friday, March 16, 2018

Grapefruit League
McCullers Jr.: 4.1IP, 1H, 5K

Two team which figure to be in the hunt for post-season glory matched up Friday in Tampa as the Yankees hosted the Astros in a preseason preview.

Houston, currently the regining world champions of baseball, proved their mettle as Lance McCullers Jr. and a pair of relievers held the powerful New York lineup to two hits in a 2-0 triumph.

McCullers, who was instrumental in Houston's World Series victory over the Dodgers, going 7 2/3 innings for one of their four wins, had the Yankees off-balance, allowing one hit over 4 1/3 innings, fanning five, walking one, for his second win of the Spring without a loss.

Brandon McCurry worked through the sixth inning without allowing a hit, striking out a pair of batsmen. The final three innings were handled by Rogelio Armenteros, who gave up one hit struck out five and walked one.

The Astros scored on solo homers by J.D. Davis and Tyler White, keeping Houston in first place while dropping the Yanks into a tie for fourth place with Boston, 2 1/2 games out.

Cactus League

Desmond: 2 solo shots
In 2017, the NL West was arguably the best division in baseball, with the Dodgers streaking to 104 wins and the Rockies and Diamondbacks - though well behind - qualifying for the post-season as wild cards.

2018 will likely be a three-way struggle between the same teams, and possibly a fourth, if San Francisco rebounds from a poor performance. The Rockies will bring an assortment of heavy hitters into the fray, as evidence by their 18-hit, 18-6 romp over the LA Angels.
Arenado: 3-4, HR, 3 RBI

The assault was led by Ian Desmond, who swatted a pair of solo home runs, and Nolan Arenado, who singled twice and socked a three-run homer in four at-bats.

The Rockies hammered seven Angel pitchers, including starter, Shohei Ohtani, who was pummeled for seven hits and seven runs in just 1 1/3 innings.

The win was only the ninth for the Rockies, against 12 losses, but the Angels are worse. At 9-14, they are better than only Texas (7-13) and Cincinnati (7-14) in the Cactus League.

Desmond joins the Rockies after a year with the Rangers. He was acquired in the off-season. Arenado was a standout for the Rockies in 2017, batting .309 with 37 home runs and 130 RBI.