Best of MLB: Twins take down White Sox to snap 13-game skid

Best of MLB: Twins take down White Sox to snap 13-game skid

MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton homered in his return to the majors, and Trevor Plouffe continued his resurgence with a two-run shot as the Minnesota Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 8-5 and ended a 13-game losing streak Thursday night.

Minnesota got to Chicago starter Jose Quintana, who entered the day leading the American League with a 2.77 ERA. Quintana (11-10) allowed seven runs and seven hits in five innings and saw his ERA rise to 3.05.

Ervin Santana (7-10) escaped trouble to win for the fourth time in five decisions. He gave up 11 hits and two walks, but allowed just two runs as the Twins snapped their losing streak, one off the franchise record for a season.

Brandon Kintzler recorded his 13th save in 14 chances (see full recap).

Yelich, Marlins beat Mets to snap 5-game skid
NEW YORK -- Christian Yelich showed off his bat, legs and glove, capped by hitting a three-run homer that helped the Miami Marlins beat shaky Jacob deGrom and the New York Mets 6-4 on Thursday night to end their season-worst five-game losing streak.

Yelich homered and singled twice, drove in four runs and stole two bases. He also made a dashing, diving catch in center field with the bases loaded and two outs -- that made up for him later dropping a routine fly for an error.

Jose Urena (3-5) outpitched deGrom (7-8) as Miami averted a four-game sweep. Down 6-1, the Mets made it close, boosted by pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera's two-run homer in the ninth off Fernando Rodney.

The Mets fell two games behind idle St. Louis for the second wild-card spot, with the Marlins another game back. Earlier in the day, New York second baseman Neil Walker said he needed season-ending surgery for a herniated disk (see full recap).

Russell's clutch hit gives Cubs win over Giants
CHICAGO -- Addison Russell hit a two-run single with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, and the Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 5-4 on Thursday night.

The Cubs spoiled a shaky Jeff Samardzija's return to Wrigley Field and started September on a winning note after going 22-6 to match the 1932 team for the best August in franchise history.

The major league leaders also moved a season-high 39 games over .500 and a jaw-dropping 15 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis in the NL Central -- their largest lead in the standings since the 1907 team finished 17 games ahead of Pittsburgh, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (see full recap).

Braves top Padres for 1st home sweep this season
ATLANTA -- Freddie Freeman homered and the Atlanta Braves broke the game open with a five-run fifth inning, beating San Diego 9-6 Thursday to complete their first three-game sweep at Turner Field this season.

One day after Minnesota dipped below Atlanta to the worst record in the majors, the Braves kept on winning behind a six solid innings from Mike Foltynewicz (8-5) and another strong showing from the hitters. They scored at least seven runs for the fifth straight time at home.

Freeman put Atlanta up in the third with his 28th homer, a two-run liner into the right-field seats off Jarred Cosart (0-2). After Hector Sanchez homered for the Padres in the fifth, the Braves finished off Cosart in the bottom half. Freeman walked with the bases loaded, followed by two-run singles from both Matt Kemp and Anthony Recker.

The Braves' two previous three-game sweeps this season came on the road. They are 22-44 at the Ted (see full recap).

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

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Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spectrum Field was sold out, filled with fans clad in green and smeared with sunblock for a game against the Atlanta Braves on a festive St. Paddy’s Day.
But the main event Saturday took place several hundred yards away at the minor-league complex, two hours before the big-league game even began.
Five days after signing a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies, Jake Arrieta climbed atop a mound and threw a 31-pitch (two-inning) simulated game. Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, Logan Moore and Andrew Pullin were the hitters. Andrew Knapp was the catcher. Players, coaches, minor-league instructors and manager Gabe Kapler all peeked in. Dozens of fans hugged the chain-link fence to get a look at the newest Phillie. They applauded when Arrieta took the mound and again when he finished.
“It was great,” the 32-year-old pitcher said moments after the workout ended. “There’s a lot of people out here. A lot of people are excited for the Phillies in 2018. We’ve got a lot of good things going on here. A lot of guys are healthy and competing, there’s a lot of youth. It’s a really fun time to be in this organization.”
Arrieta said he felt “really good physically,” not a surprise because he came into camp in terrific shape and had gotten to over 60 pitches in bullpen sessions back home in Austin, Texas. He threw all his pitches, including a couple of knee-buckling curveballs. He broke two of Alfaro’s bats, one with a sinker, one with a cutter.
“My goal was to throw everything in the arsenal for strikes and throw my off-speed pitches in and out of the zone where I could get some chases,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta did allow some contact, mostly ground balls.
Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs. He won 22 games and had a 1.77 ERA that season.
A deceptive delivery is one of Arrieta’s strengths. He throws across his body and that crossfire action makes it difficult for a hitter to pick up the ball.
“It’s extremely deceptive,” Kingery said. “Every pitch is extremely deceptive. That’s what hit me. His curveball looks like it’s coming at your head then it drops.”
Arrieta is still hoping to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but the Phillies have not formulated a firm game plan. One thing is certain: They won’t rush him. They want him for the long haul. They could hold him back 10 days or so, allowing him to build more arm strength, and he’d still make 30 starts.
Arrieta expects to throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and try to get up around 60 pitches in his next outing. That could be in a minor-league game or in another simulated game.
“As long as we continue to get my pitch count up, I think I’ll be fine going into the season,” he said.

Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

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Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies signed free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta earlier this week.

That's probably going to be the extent of their pitching additions for now.

Jerad Eickhoff is out until at least May with a strained right lat muscle and that creates a sizable hole in the Phillies rotation.

The hole is likely to be filled internally, according to general manager Matt Klentak. The team is not likely to make a run at Alex Cobb, who remains on the free-agent market.

"I doubt it," Klentak said when asked if he would look outside the organization to fill Eickhoff's spot. "I don't think we have to. I think a lot of our guys have shown very well in camp. They have gotten their pitch counts up, they're getting to the point of being fully stretched out.

"More than anything, I think we're going to have some tough decisions on figuring out who is in the rotation, who is in the bullpen, who goes into the Triple-A rotation, who goes into the Double-A rotation. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make on that front, but I don't think we're in a position where we have to go outside. We have a lot of candidates to take the ball at the big league level so we'll be fine."

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. Arrieta will be in the rotation, though he might need an extra week or so to get ready. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to hold down spots. That leaves Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Drew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman in the running for the final spot in the five-man rotation. Eshelman, strike-thrower extraordinaire, was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year last year and projects to be in Philadelphia before long. However, it might not be at the outset of the season because he is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Hutchison.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 so they could employ some creative roster construction until then. They could go with four starters and an extra reliever or bench man. Or they could bring an extra starter and "piggyback" him with Arrieta, a move that would allow Arrieta to make an abbreviated start during the first week of the season.

"There's a decent chance we open the season with somewhat of a non-traditional 25-man roster, not because we're trying to be cute but because we don't need the fifth starter until the 11th," Klentak said. "We're going to do whatever puts us in the best position to win those first 10 days of the season."

The Phillies made one transaction on Friday. They added utility man Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster. He had a provision in his minor-league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by March 15. Florimon is a candidate for a spot on the Phillies' bench. The move doesn't guarantee that Florimon will win a spot, but it gives the team more time to evaluate him. To make room for Florimon, the Phillies designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment.

Florimon homered in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to Toronto in Clearwater Friday. Cam Rupp and Cesar Hernandez also homered. Velasquez gave up five hits and a run in 2⅔ innings. He struck out five.

In Lakeland, Pivetta allowed two runs over five innings as the Phils and Tigers played to a 6-6 tie. J.P. Crawford and Ryan Flaherty both homered.