Best of MLB: Indians win 17th straight game, top Orioles 4-2

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Best of MLB: Indians win 17th straight game, top Orioles 4-2

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians earned their 17th straight win Saturday, topping the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 behind a pair of timely swings for Jay Bruce and Francisco Lindor.

Bruce's fourth-inning single put the Indians ahead for good as Cleveland became just the second team in the expansion era -- since 1961 -- to win 17 straight in a season.

The crowd of 30,459 stood throughout the ninth inning as Cody Allen retired the heart of Baltimore's order for his 25th save.

Cleveland's franchise-record streak is the longest in the majors since Oakland won 20 straight in 2002 (see full recap).

Chapman gets save, Yankees allow 1 hit to top Rangers 3-1
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Aroldis Chapman earned his first save since being removed as closer to finish a one-hitter in the New York Yankees' 3-1 win over the Texas Rangers on Saturday.

Tyler Austin hit a go-ahead single in the ninth inning for the wild card-leading Yankees.

Texas' only hit was a run-scoring double in the fifth inning off Luis Severino, who went seven innings in his first no-decision since July 15 at Boston.

Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth for his team-leading 17th save and first since Aug. 15. David Robertson (7-2) had a strikeout in a perfect eighth.

Chase Headley drove in two runs without a hit -- a tying sacrifice fly in the eighth and a bases-loaded walk for a 3-1 lead in the ninth (see full recap).

Perez, Anderson help Brewers pound Cubs 15-2
CHICAGO -- Hernan Perez homered and drove in five runs, and the Milwaukee Brewers pounded the Chicago Cubs 15-2 on Saturday.

Chase Anderson pitched five scoreless innings as Milwaukee pulled within three games of NL Central-leading Chicago. Anderson also helped himself with two hits and two RBIs hours after the Brewers announced Jimmy Nelson has a shoulder injury that will sideline the right-hander for the rest of the season.

Milwaukee broke it open with eight runs in the third against Mike Montgomery (5-8) and reliever Justin Grimm. Travis Shaw and Orlando Arcia each hit a two-run double, Ryan Braun scored on a balk by Grimm, and Perez had a sacrifice fly.

Kyle Schwarber's solo shot in the eighth ended Milwaukee's bid for a second straight shutout. Leonys Martin added an RBI double in the ninth, but Chicago finished with just six hits.

Anderson (9-3) retired his first 10 batters before walking Kris Bryant with one out in the fourth. Ben Zobrist singled with two down for Chicago's only hit off Anderson, but Albert Almora Jr. grounded out to end the inning (see full recap).

Hosmer fuels rally in 8th, Royals beat Twins 5-2
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Eric Hosmer drove in the go-ahead run with his third hit in a three-run eighth inning, helping the Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 5-2 on Saturday night.

Lorenzo Cain led off the eighth with a single against Ryan Pressly (2-3), and Melky Cabrera walked. Hosmer's single off Buddy Boshers scored pinch-runner Terrance Gore.

Salvador Perez had an RBI double and Alcides Escobar a sacrifice fly to cap the inning.

Mike Minor (6-6) got the win with 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Brandon Maurer earned his second save in three chances since the Royals acquired him in a July 24 trade with San Diego (see full recap).

Phillies and Rangers match up very nicely for a big trade

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Phillies and Rangers match up very nicely for a big trade

Matt Klentak sounded last week like a GM ready to add.

He didn't directly say the Phillies will be buyers at the trade deadline because a lot can happen between now and then. But if the Phillies continue to play well as June turns into July and the schedule finally lightens up, they will strongly consider making an upgrade.

"We talked a lot about the June schedule and the difficulty of the opposing teams. And to our guys' credit, the first 30 or so games of that 42-game stretch, our guys have hung in pretty well," Klentak said last Tuesday. "It's been uneven at times — we've had some tough losses, some exciting wins, I've lost some hair — but for the most part, the guys have hung in really well.

"What we've said all along is that if we can come out of June in a good position and get ourselves onto a roll in July, that would hopefully put us in a position to make additions."

The Phils have indeed stayed in the race. They've gone 12-12 in their last 24 games against good competition, and for the season they're 21-23 against teams over .500.

The team to keep an eye on in a trade is the Texas Rangers. At 34-45 with a minus-63 run differential and 18 games out of first place, the Rangers will clearly be sellers. And unlike some of the other sellers, Texas has multiple pieces that could help a contending team.

Last week, we heard of the Phillies' interest in veteran third baseman and future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre. He would be a definite upgrade at third base because, even at 39, Beltre is a much more consistent offensive and defensive player than Maikel Franco. Plug him into the 5-hole in this lineup and it gets that much better.

But Beltre isn't the only piece from the Rangers the Phillies could use ...

Cole Hamels

The two top starting pitchers on the trade market this July will be former Phillies: Hamels and Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ.

Hamels is having a bit of a bounce-back season for the Rangers. Through 15 starts, he has a 3.41 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 92⅓ innings after posting by far the lowest strikeout rate of his career last season (6.4 per nine).

The biggest issue with Hamels at this point is the home runs. He's already allowed 18. As a Phillie, he allowed an average of 23 per season. Some of that is because he's around the plate often with a fastball that averages 91 mph; some of it is because the Rangers' home park is among the most homer-friendly venues in baseball.

The Phillies right now do not have a glaring hole for a starting pitcher, but Hamels would boost their rotation and give them their first lefty starting pitcher since Adam Morgan in September 2016. It's important to have different looks in the rotation. The Phillies have a five-man staff full of righties with good breaking balls. Not only does Hamels pitch with the other arm, he also utilizes his changeup much more than any of the Phils' starters.

Hamels is in the final guaranteed year of his six-year, $144 million contract he signed with the Phillies back in July 2012. After July 31, he'll be owed about $8 million this season. Next season, there's a $20 million club option on his contract with a $6 million buyout. That adds even more attractiveness to Hamels because he could be a rental or a piece for 1½ seasons.

Jake Diekman

Coincidentally, former Phils reliever Jake Diekman is the other Ranger who could perhaps help the Phillies most. 

Diekman was traded to Texas along with Hamels at the 2015 trade deadline for that five-man package of Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, Jake Thompson and Matt Harrison. 

Since getting to the AL, Diekman's only gotten better. His ERAs by season with Texas: 2.08, 3.40, 2.53, 2.96. He still walks way too many batters — 52 in 91 innings the last three seasons — but usually gets away with it because he limits the hits. Since 2015, he has a .209 opponents' batting average.

The Phillies right now do not have a lockdown situational lefty. Adam Morgan is a left-hander but he's not a funky one who's difficult to see and stifles lefties. Diekman is the very definition of a funky lefty, from his frame to his delivery to his movement.

Lefties this season have hit .303 with a .452 OBP vs. Diekman but that's a bit of an anomaly. The previous two seasons, they hit .203.

The Rangers have reportedly made Diekman available in addition to right-handed closer Keone Kela. Kela has two more years of control left after 2018 and will be more expensive to acquire. Diekman is a free agent after the season so he'd be a rental the Rangers won't be able to ask the world for.

The Phillies, for what it's worth, are not opposed to dealing for a two-month player.

"If it's the rental type, we just have to make sure that we're maintaining the proper balance and perspective so that we're making this team better but not mortgaging too much of the future," Klentak said.

What would it cost?

The Phillies aren't trading top prospect Sixto Sanchez. They're not going to create a hole on the major-league roster by trading away a key player like Cesar Hernandez. Let's get that out of the way off the bat.

They can interest teams in other ways. This minor-league system is starting to deepen with starting pitchers. Enyel De Los Santos (1.63 ERA) and Cole Irvin (2.61) have been dominant at Triple A. Ranger Suarez has a 3.04 ERA in 11 starts at Double A. Adonis Medina, a top-100 prospect, is having a good year for High-A Clearwater. Kyle Young, the 6-foot-10 lefty, continues to pitch very well and avoids both walks and hard contact.

On the outfielder front, there's Mickey Moniak, Adam Haseley, Jhailyn Ortiz and even someone like Dylan Cozens, who there's still hope for yet. Highly unlikely the Phillies would part with a talent like Ortiz, and moving either first-round outfielder would be a tough pill to swallow unless you're getting a very good player (or package) back.

If the Phillies wanted to trade for just Beltre or just Diekman, it wouldn't be all that expensive because both are rentals. If they wanted to acquire a package of all three of Hamels, Beltre and Diekman, the cost would obviously rise, perhaps to two pitching prospects and an outfielder.

Suarez, plus a slightly lesser pitching prospect, Cozens and Jerad Eickhoff might get the Rangers interested. 

Texas will be fielding plenty of calls this next month, though, so the Phils have virtually no chance of making a trade on the cheap.

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Phillies nearly complete sweep on national TV, but that bullpen …

Phillies nearly complete sweep on national TV, but that bullpen …


WASHINGTON — In this case, it really was a game of inches.

A powerful fifth inning put the Phillies up four runs, but the bullpen couldn't finish the sweep, allowing three in the sixth and three in the eighth in an 8-6 loss Sunday night to the Nationals.

The culprits were Edubray Ramos, who allowed his first two earned runs since May 8, and Seranthony Dominguez, who allowed a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single to Daniel Murphy. It was a soft line drive an inch over 5-foot-10 Cesar Hernandez's glove. 

The Nationals had 17 hits. Nine of them came in the final three innings.

The meltdown was under the bright lights of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Know how long it had been since the Phils appeared on Sunday Night Baseball? So long that Delmon Young and Darin Ruf were their starting corner outfielders. 

Despite the loss, the Phillies won another series against a good team. They've been doing a lot of that lately. They're 12-13 during this grueling stretch that began at Dodger Stadium on Memorial Day, and they're 23-25 against teams over .500. 

It's a very good sign for the ensuing three months of the regular season.

"I think that every series that we win, it's less, 'If they keep this up, it proves they are good' kind of thing. And rather every series we win, we feel more confident that second-half development leads us into the playoffs," manager Gabe Kapler said Sunday. 

"That's how I am thinking about it. We have young players on our roster, right? A lot of 25-, 26-year-olds. If they all do what their natural curve should do, get a little bit better in the second half, theoretically we are a developing team that is getting better. So I can see us getting even better in the second half."

After losing seven of their first eight games in June, the Phils are 9-4. Just in time to welcome to Citizens Bank Park a suddenly cold Yankees team.

The decision you'll hear about Monday

In that ugly eighth inning, Kapler chose to intentionally walk 19-year-old rookie Juan Soto to load the bases with two outs and Daniel Murphy due up next.

As always, the manager was heavily criticized immediately on the interwebs because the move didn't work.

"Why walk the rookie to pitch to a career Phillie-killer?"

Well, because Soto has been unbelievable, including in this series. He's hitting .324/.430/.588. Murphy was 5 for 37 entering the night after coming back from major knee surgery 12 games ago. He also has had issues catching up to fastballs. 

At the very least, it seemed like a "flip-a-coin" decision. Didn't work. Soto's going to be very good for a very long time.

"Soto has been one of the league's most dangerous offensive players. Murphy, coming off injury and sort of still going through the process of getting back to being Murphy, has struggled," Kapler said.

"And with Seranthony (Dominguez's) fastball, it's not an easy fastball to catch up with and we thought that Soto was more dangerous in that situation. You pick your poison right there. You have two very good hitters and the first one in Soto has been elite and Murphy has struggled a little bit. So, went after the guy who's struggled and coming off an injury."

Big bats in the middle

One through five, the Phillies' offense is clicking.

Cesar Hernandez walked twice more Sunday and has a .376 on-base percentage.

Rhys Hoskins hit a two-run homer and is now batting .352 over his last 15 games with five homers, five doubles and 15 RBI.

Odubel Herrera hit a two-run triple off lefty reliever Sammy Solis. He, too, couldn't be hotter. In his last nine games, Herrera has nine extra-base hits and 11 RBI.

Carlos Santana? Quiet game for him, but over his last 45 games he's hit .277 with a .399 OBP, 20 extra-base hits and 35 RBI.

Not to be outdone, Nick Williams hit his first homer of the season off a lefty two batters after Herrera's triple. Williams has settled into what's become almost an everyday job in right field. He's started 21 of the Phillies' last 25 games.

Just enough from Pivetta

Nick Pivetta really wanted to get the bad taste out of his mouth from his last outing at Nationals Park in early May, which lasted one inning and resulted in six runs. 

Minus that outing, Pivetta has a 3.46 ERA on the season.

In five innings Sunday night, Pivetta allowed two runs and struck out seven. He faced jams in the fourth and fifth innings but navigated around them because of his strikeout stuff. With two on and nobody out in the fourth, he struck out the side. With the bases loaded and two outs the next inning, he punched out Michael A. Taylor.

Pivetta has struck out 101 batters in 84⅓ innings. Only five NL pitchers have more K's: Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Jacob deGrom, Jon Gray and Zack Greinke.

Pair of injuries

Andrew Knapp left the game in the seventh inning with a right knee contusion.

An inning later, Maikel Franco slipped on a slick first-base bag on a single and landed awkwardly. He stayed in after a brief delay, then exited the next half-inning.

Kapler said both appear to be OK and that Franco could play tomorrow.

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