Saturday, March 31, 2018

Ryan Braun Belts 9th Inning Homer For Brewers; David Price Blanks Rays In Boston Win

Players of the Day for Friday, March 30, 2018

Price: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 5 
American League

The Red Sox earned win number one of the 2018 season with a 1-0 victory at Tampa Bay, as David Price tossed seven scoreless innings.

Price scattered four hits and fanned five, picking up his first win of the new season, throwing 55 of 76 pitches for strikes.

Price, who was 17-9 in 2016, his first season with the Red Sox, slipped to 6-3 last year, as he had only 11 starts due to injury.

The win evened the Red Sox with the Rays at 1-1 with game three set for Saturday at 6:10 pm EDT and game four Sunday at 1:10 pm EDT. New York leads the AL East at 2-0.

National League
Braun: 1-4, HR, 5 RBI

Ryan Braun got his first hit of the season on Friday, but his timing could not have been better, swatting a three-run homer in the top of the ninth leading the Brewers to an 8-6 win over San Diego.

Trailing 6-3 entering the final frame, the Brewers scored a pair of runs before Braun's blast, leaving San Diego winless in two games and the Brewers with a 1/2-game lead over the Pirates in the NL Central division.

Earlier in the game, Braun drove in two runs, on a ground-out in the first inning and a sacrifice fly in the fifth, both times delivering Lorenzo Cain to the plate. The home run upped his RBI total for the game to five.

Struggling through injuries last year, Braun played just 104 games, batting .268 with 17 home runs and 52 RBI, his worst season since 2013, when he played only 61 games.

Milwaukee will be seeking a sweep of San Diego when they take the field in game three of the series, Saturday at 8:40 pm EDT.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Jake Lamb Leads Diamondbacks With 4 RBI; Matt Davidson's 3 HRs Lift White Sox Over Royals

Players of the Day for Thursday, March 29, 2018

Davidson: 3HR, 5 RBI
American League

OK, OK, Giancarlo Stanton belted two homers in his first game as a New York Yankee, leading to a 6-1 victory over Toronto, but, in Kansas City, Matt Davidson was raising some heads as he hammered three balls out of Kauffman Stadium, leading the White Sox to a 14-7 rout of the Royals.

After banging out solo shots in the fourth and fifth innings, walking and scoring in the seventh, Davidson delivered the coup de grace in the eighth with a three-run shot which completed the White Sox scoring, finishing his day at 3-for-5 with five RBI and four runs.

No stranger to the long ball, Davidson rocked 26 homers as a rookie in 2017, and is certain to provide plenty of power to the middle of Chicago's lineup this season.

The win put the Sox all alone in first place in the AL Central, as the Indians and Twins were losers on opening day and Detroit's home opener against the Pirates was rained out.

After a day off Friday, the three-game series in Kansas City resumes on Saturday at 7:15 pm EDT.

National League

Lamb: 2-for-4, 4 RBI
It was opening day throughout the National League, and fans could not be happier than those in Arizona, where the Diamondbacks rolled the visiting Rockies, 8-2.

With four RBI on the day, Jake Lamb delivered half of the Arizona runs with a two-run double in the first inning, followed by a single in the sixth. The Diamondbacks took advantage of some Colorado wildness, taking six walks in addition to their 12 hits.

Jamb, who batted fourth behind Paul Goldschmidt, was certain to see plenty of good pitches and came through with runners on base.

Coming off his best year as a pro, Lamb, beginning his fourth full season, is looking to improve on his impressive numbers from 2017, in which he batted .248 with 30 homers and 105 RBI, seventh-most in the National League.

The win put the D'Backs on top of the NL West with the Giants, who downed the Dodgers, 1-0. San Diego fell 2-1 in 12 innings, their home opener spoiled by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Game two of the three-game series is slated for Friday at 9:40 pm EDT.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Astros Finish 2nd As Carlos Correa Socks Grand Slam; Giants' Chris Stratton Blanks A's

Players of the Day for Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Grapefruit League

Correa: Grand Slam
In the Spring Training finale for both teams, Carlos Correa's first-inning grand slam propelled the Houston Astros to an 8-1 win over the visiting Milwaukee Brewers.

Ironically, Milwaukee ended up in first place in the Cactus League, while the Astros, despite winning their last three games, finished 1/2-game behind the Boston Red Sox in the Grapefruit League. Closing out the preseason with a 4-2 win over the Cubs, the Red Sox won their last five and nine of their last 10 to capture the flag from Florida.

Correa crushed his third homer of the season off Milwaukee starter Zach Davies, who suffered the loss. The Houston shortstop finished the Spring with an even .300 average. In 2017, Correa batted .315 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI, leading the Astros to their first World Series championship.

In the post-season, Correa was instrumental to Houston's success, batting .288 with five homers and 14 RBI.

Milwaukee lost its last three games but still managed to hold on for a 1/2-game edge over Cleveland in the Cactus League.
Stratton tosses 5 scoreless

Cactus League

The Giants were rude hosts to their crosstown rival as they shut out the Oakland A's 3-0 in a Spring Training close-out game.

Chris Stratton threw five scoreless innings against the A's, evening his record at 1-1. He fanned three, walked one and allowed four hits.

A call-up last season, Stratton appeared in 13 games, 10 of them starting assignments. His 4-4 mark in 2017 was good enough to secure the fifth spot in the rotation for the Giants heading into 2018.

A 6'2" right-hander, Stratton fanned 51 batters in 58 2/3 innings last season, though he did walk 28 over that span.

The Giants open the regular season at Los Angeles Thursday against the Dodgers, while the A's host the Angels.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sonny Gray Goes Five In Yankee Win; Paul Goldschmidt, Zack Greinke Lead Diamondbacks

Players of the Day for Monday, March 26, 2018
Gray: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 7K

Grapefruit League

Lest season, the Yankees acquired Sonny Gray from the Oakland A's just prior to the trade deadline, thinking he would fill out the starting rotation and help the Yanks make the playoffs.

New York did reach the playoffs, but not because of Gray, who earned a decision in each of his 11 starts down the stretch, going 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA. Gray was signed to a full contract and will be in the starting rotation, as he's settled down into a nice groove this Spring, winning two games without a loss, including Monday's 5-1 victory over the Braves.

Gray tossed five innings, allowing three hits and one earned run. He struck out seven and did not surrender any walks, lowering his ERA to a very respectable 1.98 over 13 2/3 innings.
Greinke: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER

Gray never trailed, as Didi Gregorius and Giancarlo Stanton each belted two-run homers. Gregorius launched his in the first inning; Stanton hit his third HR of the preseason in the third.

Cactus League

Goldschmidt: 3-4, HR, 2 RBI
Paul Goldschmidt singled, doubled and homered in four at-bats and Zack Greinke allowed one lonely hit over six innings as the Arizona Diamondbacks dumped the Cleveland Indians, 7-0.

Greinke set down the first ten batters he faced before giving up a one-out, fourth-inning single to Rajai Davis, the only hit Cleveland would produce all day. Grienke fanned four, didn't walk a batter and improved to 2-1 for Spring, with a 1.04 ERA.

Last season, Greinke and Goldschmidt led Arizona to the playoffs as a wild card. Greinke was 17-7 with an ERA of 3.20. Goldschmidt batted .297 with 36 home runs and 120 RBI.

The Diamondbacks evened their record at 15-15, trailing Milwaukee by for games with one game left to play before the regular season begins Thursday.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Mookie Betts 2 HR Lead Red Sox; Eddy Alvarez Shines As White Sox Paste Brewers, 16-1

Players of the Day for Sunday, March 25, 2018

Grapefruit League

Betts: 2-2, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Boston took over first place in the Grapefruit League on Saturday and continued their hold of a 1/2-game lead over Houston with a 6-1 triumph over the Twins on Sunday.

Mookie Betts led off the game with a solo homer, walked and scored in the second inning, then added a two-run belt in the fourth, going 2-for-2 with three RBI and three runs in Boston's win.

Betts, who batted .264 with 24 home runs and 102 RBI in 2017, is having a strong Spring, batting .340 with three home runs and eight RBI.

Cactus League

Losing a bit of their grip on first place, the Milwaukee Brewers were blasted by the White Sox, 16-1, as Chicago knocked out 19 hits against a parade of 10 Brewer hurlers.

The home-standing Sox scored multiple runs in five separate innings, building a 10-0 lead before Milwaukee scored its only run of the game in the sixth.

Non-roster player, Eddy Alvarez, stroked a two-run homer in the fourth inning and singled in four at-bats, driving in four runs on the day.

The Brewers lead in the Cactus League fell to just one game over the Indians and Cubs. The White Sox are 16-12, 2 1/2 games off the pace.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Ehire Adrianza Leads Twins Over Orioles; Christian Yelich Keeps Brewers On Top Of Cactus League

Players of the Day for Saturday, March 24, 2018

Grapefruit League

Ehire Adrianza
In 2017, the Twins were one of the surprise teams, hanging close enough in the AL Central to capture a wild card berth into the playoffs. Minnesota was almost even with the Indians until the tribe went on their record-setting winning streak in September, leaving the Twins 17 games back.

Minnesota still has the makings of a contender despite a lackluster Spring. Their 12-4 romp over the Orioles on Saturday evened their record at 13-13.

Getting the Twins off to a fast start was shortstop Ehire Adrianza, with a solo homer in the first inning, followed by a two-run double in the second, both hits coming off Baltimore starter, Chris Tillman, who was rocked for six earned runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings.

Adrianza has limited major league experience, but is likely to be riding the Minnesota bench during the regular season as a utility infielder, part-time starter, pinch runner and pinch-hitter. After parts of four seasons with San Francisco, the 28-year-old Venezuelan played 70 games with Minnesota in 2017, batting .265 with two home runs and 24 RBI, but, more importantly, stole eight bases in nine attempts.

Cactus League
Chris Yelich

With a 10-5 road victory over Oakland, the Milwaukee Brewers moved one step closer to cementing themselves as the best team in Arizona this Spring.

The win kept them two games ahead of a trio of pursuers - San Diego, Cleveland, and the Cubs - with three games left to play before breaking for the regular season.

The Brewers took little time to take the edge over the A's, as leadoff batter Christian Yelich whacked a solo home run to start the game and followed up with a bases-loaded double in the second inning, clearing the deck for a 4-0 lead. The next batter, Lorenzo Cain, singled Yelich home for a 5-0 advantage and the rout was on.

Yelich, who is carrying a .356 preseason average, finished 2-for-3 with four RBI and two runs. Traded from Miami to Milwaukee in the off-season, Yelich will likely start in center field for the Brewers, the same position he held in Miami. An all-purpose player, Yelich can hit leadoff or just about anywhere else in the lineup. A career .290 hitter over five seasons, Yellich last year socked 18 home runs and drove in 81 with 16 stolen bases.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Kershaw Scoreless Streak Reaches 21 1/3 In 10-0 Win Over KC; James McCann Drives In Five As Tigers Rout Braves

Players of the Day for Friday, March 23, 2018

Grapefruit League

McCann 2 2B, 5 RBI
After dominating the AL Central from 2011-2014, winning the division four straight years, the Detroit Tigers have fallen on hard times, not making the playoffs in any of the past three seasons. 2017 was particularly telling of just how far the former powerhouse has fallen, as the Tigers ended the season in last place, a full 38 games behind the Cleveland Indians, tying the Giants for the worst record in the majors, at 64-98.

As Spring unfolds and the regular season awaits, the Tigers have hopes for a better performance with some new faces and continued improvement from veteran players.

One position that appears solid is behind the plate, as James McCann has been the regular catcher the past two years and will be the starter on opening day.

On Friday, the Tigers routed the Braves, 11-3, thanks largely to a pair of doubles and five RBI from McCann.

Down 3-0 in the fifth, McCann tied the game with a bases-loaded double to the left field gap, then doubled again in the seventh, plating two, as the Tigers put the game away with a seven-run inning.

McCann hit .253 in 2017, with 13 homers and 49 RBI. The Tigers are 11-14 this Spring.

Cactus League

Kershaw: 21.1 IP, 0.00 ERA
After taking the NL West in a runaway last season, winning the division by six games over Arizona, then taking the Astros to seven games in the World Series, the LA Dodgers aren't too concerned about their Spring Training record. After all, there are 162 regular season games dead ahead, with the true season starting Thursday.

What may have other teams concerned is the dominance of Clayton Kershaw, who extended his personal string of scoreless innings to 21 1/3 innings by allowing one hit and no runs over 6 1/3 in the Dodgers' 10-0 swamping of Kansas City. He fanned four and did not issue any walks.

His teammates gave him an early lead with a run in the first, then added seven in the third, more than enough cushion for the seven-time all star.

Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young award winner (2011, 2013, 2014) and NL MVP (2014), has made six appearances this preseason - all starts - allowed 12 hits, four walks, no runs, and struck out 23. Last season, he was 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA.

The Dodgers are 15-13, 3 1/2 games out in the Cactus League. Kershaw will start the season opener at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, March 29, against the San Francisco Giants.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Mets Win Over Nats Features Two Yoenis Cespedes HRs; Zach Davies Pitches Brewers Past Royals

Players of the Day for Thursday, March 22, 2018

Grapefruit League

Cespedes: 3-3, 2HR 4RBI
If the NY Mets are going anywhere this season, their success falls squarely on the broad shoulders of power-hitting outfielder, Yoenis Cespedes.

The slugger proved his value in Thursday's come-from-behind, 12-5 whipping of the visiting Nationals, as Cespedes started a nine-run, fourth-inning uprising with a solo homer run and added to it later in the frame with a sac fly for his second RBI as the Mets hammered Washington starter, Tanner Roark.

After Jay Bruce completed the inning with a two-run homer, Cespedes added to the Mets' lead in the sixth with another homer, a two-run blast to left. He also doubled, going 3-for-3 with 4 RBI.

Injured much of 2017, Cespedes missed half of the games he could have played, but still managed to knock in 42 runs on 17 homers, batting .292. Healthy once again, the Mets' leading slugger is sporting a .323 average this Spring with is home runs and nine RBI.

The win was only their ninth for New York thus far in Florida. They are eight games off the pace, at 9-16, leading only Pittsburgh in the standings.

Cactus League
Davies was 17-9 in 2017

Continuing their dominance in the desert play of Arizona, the Milwaukee Brewers slipped by charging Kansas City, ending the Royals' seven-game winning streak, with a 1-0 triumph.

Four Milwaukee hurlers limited the Royals to six hits, most of the work done by starting pitcher, Zach Davies, who allowed four hits over five innings, walking one and striking out three for his second win without a loss.

Milwaukee scored the only run of the contest in the fourth inning, when Brett Phillips socked a solo homer.

Davies, a 25-year-old phenom, had a solid season in 2016, going 11-7 with a 3.97 ERA, but really came into his own in 2017, helping the Brewers to a solid second-place finish in the NL Central, six games behind the Cubs. Davies went 17-9 with a 3.90 ERA last season, and appears to be heading for another strong showing in 2018. In 11 1/3 innings this Spring, Davies has a 2.38 ERA and the Brewers hold first place in the Cactus League by 2 1/2 games over the Cubs.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Josh Reddick Keeps Astros In First Place; Frank Schwindel Leads Royals To 7th Straight

Players of the Day for Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Grapefruit League

Reddick: 3B, HR, 4RBI
With the Red Sox winning their ninth straight, the Houston Astros clung to a 1/2 game lead in the Grapefruit League with a no-doubter, 8-3 road victory over the Washington Nationals, one of the suspected contenders in the upcoming National League regular season.

Lance McCullers Jr. improved ot 3-0 for Spring, tossing 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing two hits, walking a pair and fanning six. When he wasn't mowing down Washington hitters, Josh Reddick was peppering the far reaches of The Ballpark of Palm Beaches, Washington's preseason home.

Reddick got the Astros on the board in the second inning, with a two-run triple, then scored on a sac fly off the bat of J.D. Davis.

In the fourth, Reddick delivered again, mashing a two-run homer to put Houston ahead by a score of 5-0. He singled in another at-bat, finishing the day 3-for-3 with four RBI.

At 31, Reddick has evolved into a dangerous batsman. After extended stints with Boston, Oakland and 47 games with the Dodgers in 2016, he found a home and regular playing time last season with the Astros, where he had the best season of his nine-year career, batting .314 with 13 home runs and 82 RBI, helping Houston to its first World Series Championship.

Cactus League

Schwindel: 4-4, HR, 4RBI
Kansas City has been on a tear, winning seven straight to pull into third place, a mere two games behind leading Milwaukee on the Cactus circuit.

Doing it mostly with a ton of hitting, the Royals banged out 19 hits in a 12-8 road win over NL Central division foe, Cleveland.

With plenty of fresh faces circulating around the Royals clubhouse, rookie hopeful Frank Schwindel may be one that sticks around into the regular season. In Wednesday's victory, Schwindel went 4-for-4, with three singles and a solo home run, driving in four runs and scoring twice. He was instrumental in bringing the Royals back from a deep, six-run deficit, legging out an infield single in the fourth which accounted for the first KC run.

After the Royals added three more in the frame, he and Mike Moustakas each launched solo homers in the fifth, Schwindel's tying the game at 6-all.

With Kansas City piling on, Schwindel singled in another run in the sixth and one more in the seventh, completing the scoring.

The 25-year-old first baseman is batting .378 this Spring, with six home runs and 16 RBI.

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.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Gary Sanchez Powers Yankees Past Pirates; Ryan O'Hearn Lifts Royals Over Dodgers

Players of the Day for Thursday, March 15, 2018

Grapefruit League

Sanchez: HR, 2B, 5 RBI
With the addition of Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees may establish this season one of the best middle lineups in the history of baseball, and one which could be together for quite some time, considering the ages of Aaron Judge (25), Stanton (28) and catcher Gary Sanchez (25), who will - in varying order - be the two, three, four or five hitters in New York's impressive lineup.

In their 9-5 victory over visiting Pittsburgh, Sanchez was in the cleanup spot, behind Judge and Stanton, and he took the opportunity to drive in five runs with a three-run belt in the third inning, following up with a two-run double in the fourth.

Smooth-swinging Sanchez is batting a solid .370 this Spring, with three dingers and nine RBI. Last season, his first full year as the starting catcher, despite missing 30-40 games, Sanchez was on the mark with 33 home runs and 90 RBI, numbers he will almost certainly challenge this year.

The the win kept the Yankees on pace with the Astros and Marlins. Houston leads the Grapefruit League by one game over Miami, with the Yanks another half-game back.

Cactus League

O'Hearn: 3-3, 2HR, 5RBI
Fantasy owners take note: Kansas City may have a diamond in the rough with slugging Ryan O'Hearn, a left-handed first baseman who could add some serious pop to the Royals' offense this season.

O'Hearn, who spent the past four years bounding around the minor leagues, last season made it to AAA Omaha in the Pacific Coast League, knocking out 18 home runs with 53 RBI in 114 games.

Listed at third on the depth chart behind Lucas Duda and Hunter Dozier, O'Hearn has a very good chance of significant playing time, either at first or as a DH.

In Thursday's 19-hit, 14-8 win over the Dodgers, O'Hearn was able to show off some of his muscle early in the game, socking a three-run homer in the first inning as the Royals built a six-run inning.

After the Dodgers responded with three of their own in the bottom frame, O'Hearn again provided some lift with a two-run homer. He later singled, but was stranded, finishing the day with a 3-for-3 effort, two runs and five RBI. His homers were his second and third. He's batting a cool .400 with a .464 OBP.

The win evened KC's record at 10-10, dropping the Dodgers to an 11-9 mark.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Chris Slae Leads Boston Past Minnesota; Ryan Braun Homers Twice As Brewers Take First Place

Players of the Day for Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Grapefruit League

Sale: 5IP, 2H, 0R, 7K
After finishing second to Cleveland's Corey Kluber in the 2017 Cy Young voting, Boston's Chris Sale appears to be ready for the challenges of another long season with his sights set on being the best hurler in the league.

Sale allowed two hits, striking out seven over five innings in Boston's 2-1 win over Minnesota, as the Red Sox moved into Grapefruit League contention, 2 1/2 games behind the Houston Astros.

Sale was in control through his stint. Though he gave up a pair of triples - one in the second and another in the fourth - the Twins were unable to cash in. Sale also didn't issue any walks.

Last season, Sale led the Red Sox to the AL East crown, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA.

Cactus League
Braun: 2HR, GS, 5RBI

Taking over first place with their fifth straight win, Ryan Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers made quick work of the Chicago White Sox with an 11-3 beat-down, vaulting past the Cubs for a 1/2-game lead on the Cactus circuit.

Braun, the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year and 2011 NL MVP, socked a pair of home runs in consecutive innings, pasting a solo shot in the opening frame, only to follow up with a grand slam in the second inning. Both blasts came off White Sox starter, Carson Fulmer, and when Travis Shaw followed with a solo shot of his own, Fulmer was done and the Brewers had a 7-0 lead.

Braun's homers were his first of Spring training. Last season, the slugger hit 17 home runs and drove in 52 runs. He will open his 12th season as a major leaguer later this month, all of them with Milwaukee.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Luke Maile Leads Blue Jays in Rout of Braves; Tyler Chatwood Improves to 3-0 for Cubs

Players of the Day for Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Maile: 2-3, 4RBI, HR
Grapefruit League

Scoring in every inning except the second and third, the Toronto Blue Jays blasted the Braves in a 13-6 road rout.

The Jays banged out 13 hits, two of them by Toronto catcher Luke Maile, who drove in four runs with a fourth-inning sac fly and a seventh-inning three-run homer. He also singled and scored in the sixth inning, on a triple by Gift Ngoepe.

Maile played portions of the 2015 and 2016 seasons with Tampa Bay, and last year saw action in 46 games with the Blue Jays. Batting just .176 last season, Maile is expected to back up Russell Martin behind the plate.

The win brought the Blue Jays to 9-10, 4 1/2 games off the pace being set by Houston.

Cactus League

Splitting a pair of games on Tuesday, the Cubs held onto a slim, 1/2-game lead in the Cactus League over the charging Brewers, winners of four straight.
Chatwood: 3-0, 5 IP, 1 H

Chicago kept its home record at perfection, winning their eighth straight at the Spring Training home, Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ as Tyler Chatwood hurled five strong shutout innings in a 2-1 victory over the Giants.

Chatwood allowed just one hit, improving his preseason record to 3-0, striking out nine while allowing two walks.

Acquired by the Cubs after the 2017 season, Chatwood broke in with the Angels in 2011, and spent the rest of his time with Colorado, where he went 8-15 last season, with a 4.69 ERA. The Cubs apparently saw something they liked in the 28-year-old right=hander, as they have him listed as their fifth starter in the rotation for 2018.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Dylan Bundy Stifles Pirates in 7-5 Baltimore Win; Jakob Junis Perfect as Royals Down Padres

Players of the Day for Monday, March 12, 2018

Grapefruit League
Bundy: 5IP, 1ER, 5K

Inconsistent pitching plagued the Baltimore Orioles all of last season, as they fell off the pace in the AL East late in the season, eventually fading to last place, 18 games behind the division-winning Red Sox.

The O's are still looking to fill out their rotation, but they have their ace in Dylan Bundy, who turned in a solid five innings to get his first win of the Spring in a 7-5 victory over the Pirates.

Bundy scattered seven hits and allowed just one run over five full innings, striking out five without walking a batter. Bundy gave up the sole run in the first, but the Orioles rallied for five runs in the fourth inning, adding another in the fifth and two more in the eighth

to secure the victory.

Going 13-9 for a last-place team in 2017, Bundy has the tools and credentials to make him Baltimore's ace heading into the new season. Keven Gausman could also be considered the #1 starter for Baltimore, as he threw more innings than Bundy (186-169), but he was just 11-12.

Junis: 4 IP, 0 H, 7K
Cactus League

After a very successful debut in 2017, Kansas City hurler, Jakob Junis got in a quality outing, leading the Royals to a 4-0 whitewash of the San Diego Padres.

Junis tossed four perfect innings, fanning seven, to earn his first win of the Spring season. The Royals got a solo homer in the second from all-star catcher Salvador Perez and a three-run double off the bat of Michael Saunders in the third, which proved to be more than enough for Junis and a quartet of relievers who allowed just two hits over the final five innings.

As a rookie last season, Junis started 16 games, compiling a 9-3 record with a 4.20 ERA, certainly good enough to keep his spot in the rotation with the expectation of better things to come from the 6'2" right-hander.

The Royals have had an up-and-down preseason, winning eight against nine losses in the Cactus League. They are currently four games behind the league-leading Cubs with a slew of teams in front of them.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Yasmani Grandal's Grand Slam Boosts Dodgers; Brian Anderson Leads Marlins to 7-5 Win Over Yankees

Players of the Day for Sunday, March 11, 2018

Grapefruit League

Anderson: 2-2, 3R-HR, 3R
Giancarlo Stanton may have been sitting in the other dugout, but the Miami Marlins certainly didn't miss him as they belted the first-place Yankees in a 7-5 win.

Stanton, who was traded from Miami to the Yanks after socking 49 home runs for the Marlins in 2017, remained on the bench for the duration, never getting to the plate against his old mates.

With the slugger sidelined (manager's decision) rookie prospect Brian Anderson made his presence known, walking and scoring in the second inning as the Marlins took a 2-0 lead, then belting a three-run homer in the third to put Miami up 5-0.

Anderson added a double in the fifth and scored again, on Cameron Maybin's home run, completing the scoring for the Marlins, finishing a fine day with a 2-for-2 effort with three runs and three RBI. The Yankees tried to keep pace with homers by Didi Gregorious and Aaron Judge, but could not complete the comeback as Maimi reliever, Sandy Alcantara, shut them down in the eighth and ninth.

New York fell off the lead in the Grapefruit League as Houston took over first place by 1/2 game. Miami is an additional 1/2 game back, in third, with a 10-5 mark.

Cactus League

Grandal: 3-for-3, GS, 5 RBI
At Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, a pair of NL West foes squared off on Sunday at the Spring home of the Colorado Rockies, with the Dodgers visiting and looking to move up in the Cactus League standings.

It didn't take long for LA to establish its dominance, scoring five runs in the second inning, three in the third and completing the scoring with five more in the fourth, when catcher Yasmani Grandal belted a grand slam, leading to a 13-7 Dodger victory.

Grandal, who has been the regular Dodger backstop since 2015 and has proven to possess considerable power, socking 27 homers in 2016 and 22 last season.

Grandal added a pair of singles in three at-bats and scored three runs. His second-inning RBI single, in addition to his third homer of the Spring, gave him five on the day. It was Grandal's best showing thus far. He's batting a mere .222, with eight RBI in 27 at-bats.

The Dodgers improved to 10-7, tied with Cleveland for third place, two games behind the Cubs. Milwaukee is 1 1/2 games back with a 10-6 record. The Rockies haven't had much luck thus far, the loss dropping them to 6-10, ahead of just Cincinnati and Texas.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Yankees, Astros, Cubs Leading Spring Divisions; Yandy Diaz Slams for Indians; Dustin Peterson Powers Braves

From the "better late than never" department, Downtown Magazine is pleased to once again begin coverage of Major League Baseball for 2018 with its longstanding Players of the Day feature on the Baseball On Deck blog.

With Spring Training in full bloom, the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees have been tearing it up in the pre-season, with the Yanks leading the Grapefruit League with a record of 11-4, one-half game to the good over the World Champion Houston Astros, at 11-5.

In Arizona's Cactus League, it's the Cubs, the 2016 champs, ruling the roost with a stunning 11-3 mark, 2 1/2 games better than the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers, both at 9-6. Chicago is undefeated at their Winter/Spring home in Mesa, Arizona, Sloan Park at 7-0. By contrast, the Yankees have been true bombers at opposing sites, compiling a 7-1 mark on their travels through the Sunshine State and a 4-3 record at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

Opening Day for the regular season is Thursday, March 29, marking the first time since 1968 that all teams have started on the same day. It's also the earliest season opener - excepting games overseas - for Major League Baseball.

So, let's get the party started...

Players of the Day for Saturday, March 10, 2018

Grapefruit League
Peterson: 2-4, HR, 3R, 4RBI

The Atlanta Braves got back over .500 (8-7) with great aplomb, hammering the Pittsburgh Pirates, 15-1, on just 10 hits at Pirate pitchers allowed five walks. Starring at the plate for Atlanta was hopeful 23-year-old outfielder, Dustin Peterson, who hit is first home run of Spring Training in the fourth - a two-run shot to left - and followed up with a two-out single in the ninth innings as the Braves tacked on seven runs.

Peterson is batting .294, but may get a crack at the majors this year after five seasons in the minors. He's currently not on the Braves' roster, but played AAA ball last season at Gwinnett, where he hit .248.

Even if Peterson doesn't make the opening day roster, there is likely to be plenty of opportunity for call-ups, as the Braves outfield of Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte, and Ronald Acuna doesn't appear to be very solid.

Cactus League

Diaz: 2-2, HR, 5 RBI
Yandy Diaz didn't get into the game for Cleveland until the seventh inning, but he made his appearance worthwhile, socking a grand slam in a pinch-hitting role for slugging Edwin Encarnacion, following that up with a run-scoring single in the eighth as the Indians and Padres dueled to an 8-8 tie (no extra innings in Spring games).

The round-tripper by Diaz put the Indians up, 6-4, but San Diego plated three in the bottom of the seventh. Diaz and the Indians got the lead back at 8-7 with a pair of runs in the eighth, but reliever Cameron Hill couldn't hold it together, surrendering a two-out solo homer to Travis jankowski, his second home run of the game. His first was a three-run shot in the seventh inning.

Diaz, who went 2-for-2 and tallied five RBI, upped his Spring batting average to .368 (7-for-19). Last season he hit .263 as a rookie, with no homers and 13 RBI in 156 at-bats. He should make the opening day roster for the Indians, as injuries - especially to outfielder Michael Brantley - may move Jose Ramirez to second base and Jason Kipnis to the outfield, opening a potential starting spot for Diaz.