Red Sox

LeBlanc dominates as Red Sox fall to Mariners, 1-0

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LeBlanc dominates as Red Sox fall to Mariners, 1-0

SEATTLE -- Despite having a fastball that doesn't reach 90 miles an hour, Wade LeBlanc effectively shut down one of the best lineups in the American League.

LeBlanc pitched into the eighth inning and Nelson Cruz had an RBI single as the Seattle Mariners beat the Boston Red Sox 1-0 Saturday night.

LeBlanc gave up just two hits and struck out nine over 7 2/3 innings. After a single by Mookie Betts on the opening at-bat of the game, he retired the next 22 batters until Eduardo Nunez singled with two outs in the eighth.

"What a changeup he had today. That has been his bread and butter his whole career, but today was probably the best one we've seen all year," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He knows his craft very well and when he gets on a roll like that, he just keeps riding it."

LeBlanc (3-0) wasn't a part of the Mariners starting rotation until the first week of May. But since replacing an injured Erasmo Ramirez in the rotation, LeBlanc has shined for the Mariners. He's posted a 2.06 ERA in nine starts and Saturday's gem was the best of the lot.

A near-capacity crowd at Safeco Field saluted LeBlanc with a standing ovation as he left the field after Nunez's single.

"That's a really neat moment. Guys that throw 86 (mph) don't really get standing ovations really often," LeBlanc said chuckling. "I definitely wanted to kind of take them in and show my appreciation for it."

Alex Colome got pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland to pop out to end the eighth, and Edwin Diaz struck out the side in the ninth for his 27th save.

It was LeBlanc's first start of more than seven innings pitched since his first outing of the 2011 season with the San Diego Padres. His nine strikeouts were also his most since striking out 10 against the Los Angeles Dodgers that same season.

"He reminds me of that guy on the wall over there," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said gesturing toward a photo of Jamie Moyer. "LeBlanc was outstanding. Back-door cutters, front-door sinkers and mixed up his breaking ball halfway through the game, all on the edge of the strike zone."

LeBlanc had a little help from Dee Gordon at second base with diving stops to rob Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts of base hits.

The Mariners needed LeBlanc's stellar outing as they struggled to get a lot going against knuckleballer Steven Wright.

Wright (2-1) held Seattle to just one run and five hits with two walks and four strikeouts over seven innings.

Three singles - all to left field - off Wright in the third inning gave the Mariners their early advantage. Gordon reached with one out while Mitch Haniger and Cruz each singled with two down.

"We got just enough off of a really tough knuckleballer," Servais said. "Our guys are not used to seeing that and he was really good. The ball was dancing everywhere. He threw a lot of strikes with it.

"Our guy was just a little bit better."

It snapped Wright's string of 25 1/3 scoreless innings, which topped the stretch of 25 scoreless innings by Oakland's Daniel Mengden for the longest in the majors this season.

GILBERT SIGNED

The Mariners signed first-round pick Logan Gilbert earlier in the day. The right-handed pitcher from Stetson University posted a 2.52 ERA while going 11-1 with 157 strikeouts and 23 walks in 15 starts. His 157 strikeouts lead NCAA Division-I baseball this season.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz played catch in the outfield on Friday and is expected to do so again on Sunday. Manager Alex Cora said Pomeranz still felt stiff from his left biceps tendinitis but that they didn't feel it was anything serious. "He was moving around better today," Cora said.

Mariners: RHP Juan Nicasio threw a live bullpen session prior to Saturday's game. Nicasio is expected to be activated from the disabled list during Seattle's upcoming series in New York. He's eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday after having fluid buildup in his right knee.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (8-1) has won each of his last five starts and hasn't allowed more than two runs in a start since May 15. He's posted a 2.15 ERA over 29 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts over his last five outings.

Mariners: RHP Mike Leake (7-3) has pitched at least six innings in each of his last five starts, posting a 3-0 record with a 1.77 ERA over that span.

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: J.D. Martinez says he's 'absolutely' open to long-term deal with Red Sox

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: J.D. Martinez says he's 'absolutely' open to long-term deal with Red Sox

(1:20) On Monday J.D. Martinez told reporters that he is ‘absolutely’ open to a long-term deal with the Red Sox. Evan Drellich joins Arbella Early Edition from the All-Star game and gives his opinion on whether the Red Sox could get a long-term deal done with J.D.

(7:30) Dan Shaughnessy and Evan Drellich react to the Red Sox placing Eduardo Rodriguez on the 10-day D.L. They discuss how this injury will impact the Red Sox at the trade deadline, and what possible moves they think they can make. 

(14:00) The Patriots had 0 players on ESPN’s “best under-25” list. Albert Breer and Phil Perry react to the list, and discuss whether Patriots fans should be worried about the future of the team.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE

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Harper wins HR Derby over Schwarber in thrilling fashion

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Harper wins HR Derby over Schwarber in thrilling fashion

WASHINGTON -- The ball cleared the center field wall, and the sellout crowd roared. Bryce Harper threw his bat in the air, thrust both index fingers skyward and yelled with delight as a shower of streamers rained upon the crowd of 43,698.

It could have been a scene from a playoff game. That it was merely the All-Star Home Run Derby mattered not to Harper or the Washington Nationals fans, who were thrilled to see their hometown hero deliver the night's final longball Monday.

In the midst of it all - and in the middle of trying season - Harper grabbed the microphone and said: "This crowd: Wow! Washington Nationals, baby!"

With an exceptional display of power and clutch hitting, Harper rallied in the final round, connecting on pitches from his father to beat Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs 19-18.

Harper hit the contest-winning blast in extra time, the reward for hitting two homers at least 440 feet during the 4 minutes of regulation. After he connected with the game winner, the Nationals star immediately went into celebration mode.

"We have some of the best fans in all of baseball, and to be able to that with my family out there, that's an incredible moment, not only for me but for the organization and the Nationals fans," Harper said.

Harper's teammate, Max Scherzer, the NL starter on Tuesday night, also appreciated the moment.

"It's awesome. Hometown," Scherzer said. "The crowd is behind him. He found some rhythm, kept it simple and just continued to hit home run after home run."

Wearing a headband that resembled the District of Columbia flag and displaying a right sleeve with stars and stripes, Harper trailed 18-9 with 1:20 left before rallying. He homered on nine of his last 10 swings before entering extra time.

The six-time All-Star arranged to have his dad, Ron, pitch to him in the annual contest on the eve of the All-Star Game. That made the victory even sweeter.

"I'm only as good as my BP guy," Harper said with a grin.

Hours before the session, Harper spoke excitedly about having his dad pitch to him in the contest. The 25-year-old said his father "worked his tail off every single day to provide for me and my family" and "now being able to have him throw to me in a big league ballpark is the cherry on top."

Afterward, Ron Harper said of his son: "He did great. So I'm really proud of him. He's a great kid. You couldn't ask for anything better."

It's been a tough year for Harper, who's hitting only .214 for the disappointing Nationals. He won a contest that many sluggers avoid, fearful it might wear them out and throw them off.

He can only hope this helps him get back into the swing.

The 2015 NL MVP beat Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and Max Muncy of the Dodgers before trumping the fifth-seeded Schwarber, who put the pressure on with a solid outing before Harper stepped to the plate.

"As soon as I got done with that round I told myself that (Harper) had it," Schwarber said. "I knew that he had the home crowd behind him."

Harper, who has 23 home runs this season, advanced to the final with an astonishing spree of longball hitting. He trailed Max Muncy of the Dodgers 12-4 with 2:20 left, then peeled off six homers in 47 seconds before calling a timeout.

Harper returned to hit three more home runs in 22 seconds, the last of them inside the right-field foul pole.

The semifinal matchup between Schwarber and Philadelphia's Rhys Hoskins went down to the final swing. After stunning top-seed Jesus Aguilar of Milwaukee in the opening round, the eighth-seeded Hoskins ripped 20 long balls to put the pressure on Schwarber.

Using a late surge, Schwarber pulled one ball after another over the right field wall to squeeze out a 21-20 victory - by far the highest-scoring matchup of the night.

The fans dutifully cheered most home runs during the first round, but they saved their loudest cheers for Harper, the last player to step to the plate.

After Freeman hit 12 home runs over the 4-minute span, Harper unleashed six shots of at least 440 feet and secured the victory with a drive to center long before the clock expired. As the ball cleared the wall, the left-handed hitting Harper walked out of the batter's box and thrust both arms in the air.

Milwaukee's Aguilar, the NL home run leader at the break, was eliminated in the opening round by Hoskins 17-12.

Aguilar hit too many balls to straightaway center, where the wall stands over 400 feet from the plate. Hoskins pumped most of his drives into the left-field seats, where it's 336 feet down the line.

The most thrilling first-round match featured a near buzzer-beater by Houston's Alex Bregman, who fell to Schwarber 16-15. The difference was the pair of homers that Schwarber hit during 30 seconds of extra time.

Bregman - the lone AL representative - appeared defeated with a minute left, but he mounted a late surge and lost when his final swing produced a drive that landed at the base of the center-field wall.

Muncy advanced by defeating No. 6 seed Javier Baez of the Cubs, 16-15. Baez hit the longest shot of the Derby, a 479-footer.

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