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Around the NL East: Marlins make unorthodox managerial hire

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Around the NL East: Marlins make unorthodox managerial hire

ATLANTA BRAVES 

Were it not for Justin Bour's ninth inning two-out single, we'd be talking about Shelby Miller pitching the Braves' first no-hitter since 1994. Regardless, the 24-year-old righty was as dominant as you can be in what was still a complete game shutout of the Marlins. The most encouraging sign for Atlanta is that Miller's performance on Sunday was no fluke; he hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in a start this year, and owns an MLB-best 1.33 ERA.  

Miller, who was acquired in a trade that sent outfielder Jason Heyward to the Cardinals, is quickly becoming one of the Braves' standout pieces in what the team hopes will be a short retooling period. He's the classic case of how a change of scenery can do wonders for a talented-but-inconsistent pitching prospect. If he keeps this up, there's no doubt he'll be in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game.    

As for the team he nearly no-hit? Well...

MIAMI MARLINS 

Everyone in the baseball world is asking themselves the same question this week: What are the Marlins thinking? 

Just moments after losing 6-0 to Miller and the Braves and falling deeper into the NL East cellar, Miami fired manager Mike Redmond. It was a dramatic move, but not a super surprising one given the organization was clearly looking for a spark. But who did owner Jeffrey Loria tab to replace him? An assistant coach? Nope. A former player with some managerial experience? Try again. Instead, he handed the job to general manager Dan Jennings, who has no experience coaching at the professional level at all.

Loria's been known to make peculiar moves in the past, but this one has to top the list. By giving the inexperienced Jennings the nod, the Marlins have potentially created a sideshow of disastrous proportions. Will the players respect Jennings? Is he capable of managing a major league clubhouse? How will he be able to develop his instincts as a manager, as opposed to his previous role as GM? All those questions loom over a struggling ball club looking to dig its way out of the bottom of the standings. 

NEW YORK METS 

The Mets are hanging on to their slim lead in the division, and once again it's their pitching that's keeping them on top. The rotation has turned in three straight quality starts, including Matt Harvey's eight shutout frames Monday night against the Cardinals in a 2-1 extra inning victory. On the season, New York has gotten 24 quality starts, second highest in baseball. 

What's been just as impressive has been how the once-unsettled relief corps has held things together. Going into Tuesday's slate of games, the Mets own the fourth best bullpen ERA at 2.52. This is new territory for a team that for years seemed to have trouble holding on to leads late in games. 

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES  

You've got to give it to the Phillies, they're not willing to accept the the title of "NL East cellar dwellers" without a fight. Winners of six straight, they've moved ahead of the reeling Marlins and are now fourth place in the standings. Even better, it's the veteran players that Ruben Amaro hopes to trade later in the season that have helped spark the hot streak. Cole Hamels delivered his third straight quality start Monday night to lower his ERA to 3.24, and Ryan Howard has hit .360 the past week and now leads the club in home runs with seven. 

[RELATED: Harper named NL Player of Week ... again]

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?

RELATED: 2018 SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES

Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.

RELATED: NATS REVEAL 2018 SPRING TRAINING TV SCHEDULE

He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.

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