Best of MLB: Christian Vazquez walk-off HR caps wild Red Sox win

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Best of MLB: Christian Vazquez walk-off HR caps wild Red Sox win

BOSTON -- Christian Vazquez hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Boston Red Sox pulled off the final rally of a wild game Tuesday night, beating the Cleveland Indians 12-10 despite an astonishing catch by center fielder Austin Jackson.

In the fifth inning, Jackson robbed Hanley Ramirez of a leadoff homer with a leaping grab in the right-center triangle at Fenway Park. Jackson reached way above the wall and tumbled head over heels into the Red Sox bullpen, steadying himself by holding onto the fence with his right arm. Following a soft landing, Jackson stood up and showed umpires he indeed had the ball, to the amazement of players on both sides.

A replay review confirmed Jackson held on for the catch.

Cleveland, which tied it on Fancisco Lindor's leadoff homer in the top of the ninth and added a run on a wild pitch, blew the lead for the third and last time in the bottom of the ninth in a game the Indians led 5-0 after two innings (see full recap).

Lester stars on mound, at plate in Cubs' rout
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester hit his first major league homer and struck out nine to reach 2,000 for his career, helping the Chicago Cubs pound the Arizona Diamondbacks 16-4 on Tuesday night.

Anthony Rizzo went deep twice and Ian Happ and Javier Baez also connected as Chicago kicked off a six-game homestand with its 14th win in 17 games since the All-Star break. Rizzo, Baez and Albert Almora Jr. each drove in three runs, and Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras had two RBIs apiece.

The NL Central leaders rapped out 17 hits in their highest-scoring game of the season and stayed 2 1/2 games ahead of second-place Milwaukee.

With two outs and Happ on first in the third, Lester drove a 2-2 pitch from Patrick Corbin over the wall in center to make it 8-1. The crowd of 40,709 roared as Lester trotted around the bases and kept cheering until he popped out of the dugout for a curtain call (see full recap).

Marlins rally past Nationals after Scherzer exits
MIAMI -- Max Scherzer hit his first career homer to help build a six-run lead, but he pitched only one inning before departing with a neck spasm, and the Miami Marlins rallied to beat the Washington Nationals 7-6 Tuesday.

Scherzer slept funny and left the game as a precaution, the Nationals said.

The Marlins took the lead with a four-run fifth inning. Marcell Ozuna hit a three-run homer off Matt Albers (5-2), and Derek Dietrich's RBI triple put Miami ahead 7-6.

Six pitchers combined to blank Washington over the final 7 2/3 innings. Dustin McGowan (7-1) pitched two scoreless innings during Miami's comeback.

Brad Ziegler, promoted to closer after A.J. Ramos was traded last week, pitched the ninth and worked around a pair of two-out singles for his 86th career save and first this year. Ryan Zimmerman grounded out to end the game (see full recap).

Phillies set to unveil new ace Jake Arrieta in spring training

Phillies set to unveil new ace Jake Arrieta in spring training

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Thursday starts the one-week countdown to opening day.

Oh, yeah, and Jake Arrieta will also make his Grapefruit League debut.

It figures to be the highlight of the spring.

Arrieta signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies last week. He has completed a progression from bullpen work — he actually had gotten well into that on his own before signing — to facing hitters in a controlled situation.

Now, it’s time to face some competition — the Detroit Tigers. The game will be televised on NBCSP+ at 1 p.m.

The Phillies have yet to decide when Arrieta will make his regular-season debut. The pitcher believes he will be ready during the first week of the season. The team will exercise caution. Arrieta’s performance Thursday — and possibly more important, his recovery — will go a long way into determining when the Phils turn him loose.

“I’m looking for him to be healthy, first and foremost,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I would love to see him come out just like he has in his live batting practice sessions and in his bullpens, which is strong, ball looking like a lead fastball, featuring that great cutter and a lot of that great deception.

"We’re looking for him to be Jake Arrieta. Most importantly, most critically and most consequentially, I’m looking for him to be healthy and strong.”

Kapler said the Phils would be flexible on Arrieta’s pitch count. Fifty or so seems like a good guess.

Arrieta has been around for a week now. His teammates are thrilled to have him.

“Obviously, with the Arrieta signing, we got a lot better not only on the field but in the clubhouse,” Rhys Hoskins said (more on him here). “What he’s going to be able to do not only for the pitchers but for some of us young position guys — I mean he’s recently won a World Series, he’s a Cy Young guy, he knows how to compete at the highest level. We have a good group. It’s meshing pretty quickly. I’m excited to see how it goes once we start.”

Rhys Hoskins doing damage as opening day comes into sight

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Rhys Hoskins doing damage as opening day comes into sight


DUNEDIN, Fla. — The season opener is eight days away and Rhys Hoskins says his swing “is getting there.” 

Getting there? Really?

It looks like it already arrived with the morning mail.

Hoskins continued his recent run of excellent at-bats in Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He belted a two-run homer, a solo homer and also worked a walk. Over his last five games, he is 6 for 16 with five walks. For the spring, he is hitting .279 (12 for 43) with four doubles, four homers, eight RBIs, 11 runs scored and an OPS of 1.066.

“What does he have, 10 strikeouts and 10 walks on the spring?” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler asked.

Indeed, those are the numbers.

“That is fantastic,” Kapler said. “Obviously, he’s swinging the bat beautifully and really controlling the at-bats.”

It all starts with pitch recognition.

“I’ve been pretty happy with that throughout camp,” Hoskins said. “I don’t feel like I’ve chased too many, which is always good. I’ve seen a bunch of breaking balls and been able to recognize them early.”

The outstanding selectivity that Hoskins has allows him to work pitchers into fastball counts. He did that in the first inning when he got a 3-1 fastball from Marcus Stroman and drove it over the left-field wall. The ball left the bat at 108 miles per hour.

Obviously, Hoskins was pleased that the ball left the yard. He was more pleased with the swing. He believes pitchers will try to bust him in this season and he’s ready for it.

“I was really, really happy with the first at-bat,” he said. “I had been struggling with the ball in. I was able to keep my hands inside of it and the ball went.”

His second homer came on a 1-1 fastball from Luis Santos. The wind was blowing out at Dunedin Stadium. Hoskins saw a pitch up and took a rip.

“On a day like today, if you see the ball up you’re going to have a pretty good chance,” he said.

Hoskins batted second in the lineup, ahead of Maikel Franco and Carlos Santana. Kapler has juggled lineups all spring and has strongly implied that he will do that, based on matchups, during the regular season.

“I don’t care where I hit,” Hoskins said. “With the guys we have and the way they’re going to construct the lineup, if I hit second, fourth, sixth, I think I’m going to be able to hit with men on base.

“Throughout my career I’ve been a run producer, so that’s the main thing for me. If I can create some runs, whether it’s scoring runs or driving in runs, I’ll be happy.”

The Phils and Jays played to a 7-7 tie. The Phillies’ bullpen gave up five runs in the last two innings to let a 7-2 lead get away. The Phils used 10 pitchers, including two day-trippers from minor-league camp. Starter Nick Pivetta pitched two perfect innings. The team purposely scaled him back to keep him in line with a 25-inning spring target. Scott Kingery and Aaron Altherr also hit home runs.