Phillies

Chris Sale, Johnny Cueto to start All-Star Game in San Diego

Chris Sale, Johnny Cueto to start All-Star Game in San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox will start for the American League in Tuesday night's All-Star Game and Johnny Cueto of the San Francisco Giants for the National League.

Sale, a 27-year-old left-hander, is 14-3 with a 3.38 ERA and leads the major leagues in wins. He has 123 strikeouts and just 26 walks in 125 innings, and batters are hitting .225 against him.

"There are no repercussions that come from the game other than having fun and competing," he said Monday. "I fully intend to go out there and giving it all I got for that inning or two, whatever it might be."

Cueto, a 30-year-old right-hander who left Kansas City to sign with the Giants last offseason, tops NL pitchers in victories. He is 13-1 with a 2.47 ERA, striking out 115 in 131 1/3 innings. He has won 10 consecutive decisions since an April 21 loss to Arizona.

His path to the starting nod became clearer when Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard got hurt, Stephen Strasburg pulled out of the game because of a recent disabled list stint and Madison Bumgarner was ruled out because he started Sunday.

"I was just happy to be participating in the game," Cueto said through a translator. "But I'm very happy."

Cueto impressed New York Mets manager Terry Collins with a two-hitter for Kansas City in Game 2 of last year's World Series, the first complete game by an AL pitcher in the Series since Jack Morris in 1991.

"That was the best outing I've ever seen him have," Collins said.

AL manager Ned Yost's batting order has Houston second baseman Jose Altuve leading off, followed by Angels center fielder Mike Trout, Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado, Boston designated hitter David Ortiz, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts, Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez and Boston left fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

Collins has Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist leading off, followed by Washington right fielder Bryce Harper, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, San Diego's Wil Myers at designated hitter, San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Miami center fielder Marcell Ozuna, Colorado left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and Cubs shortstop Addison Russell.

Ozuna and Gonzalez are replacements for the Cubs' Dexter Fowler and the Mets' Yoenis Cespedes, who are hurt.

Yost said Corey Kluber, Cole Hamels, Aaron Sanchez and Jose Quintana will follow Sale to the mound.

The AL will be the home team for the game at Petco Park because this is the second straight year of at least four in which the NL will host the All-Stars. The AL has a 10-3 advantage since the All-Star Game has determined home-field advantage in the World Series.

"It's vitally important," said Yost, whose Royals swept the first two games at Kauffman Stadium last year. "We've got a room full of tremendously talented players and if we win this game it's going to affect somebody or somebodies in that room."

Aaron Nola overpowers Mookie Betts, Mike Trout in All-Star Game debut

Aaron Nola overpowers Mookie Betts, Mike Trout in All-Star Game debut

Aaron Nola vs. Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve and Mike Trout. Welcome to the All-Star Game.

Nola made his ASG debut Tuesday night in D.C., pitching the top of the fifth inning with the National League trailing 2-1.

He opened the frame by striking out Royals catcher Salvador Perez on a low-and-away curveball well off the plate.

Next up was Betts, the AL MVP favorite. On a 3-2 count, Nola struck Betts out swinging on a high-and-tight 96 mph fastball.

The next batter, 2017 AL MVP Altuve, singled to right-center on the first pitch. 

And that brought up Trout, who had homered in his previous at-bat against Jacob deGrom. 

Trout had no such luck against Nola, popping up to first base in foul territory on the third pitch he saw.

Nola threw 15 pitches, 10 strikes. 

This was a pretty cool moment for Nola, facing arguably the three best hitters in baseball and retiring two of them. Looked like he belonged.

He made some new friends, too. Here's Nola planning an offseason sleepover with Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin.

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Phillies' other trade options if they can't land Manny Machado

Phillies' other trade options if they can't land Manny Machado

There's no player on the trade market who could replicate for the Phillies the impact Manny Machado would make in August and September. 

There's definitely no player who would invigorate the fan base as much.

But if the Dodgers do end up beating the Phillies' offer for the best available player, the Phils will still look to make other upgrades.

That could involve acquiring a solid, non-star player for the left side of the infield, in addition to pitching help.

If the Phils can't add huge run production to their lineup, their focus could shift to players who'd assist in run prevention.

Here are some names to keep in mind:

Royals super-utilityman Whit Merrifield

There has been reported interest from the Phillies in Merrifield, and the two organizations have already scouted each other because of the earlier interest in Mike Moustakas.

Merrifield can play all over the diamond — first, second, third and all three outfield spots. If Maikel Franco is going well, you could play him in the outfield. If Franco is slumping, he could play third base. But acquiring Merrifield would be just as much about the future as this year.

Merrifield doesn't have nearly the raw power of a Machado or a Moustakas, but he's a proven .290-.300 hitter with gap power, speed and defensive versatility. He led the AL in steals (34) last season and has the third-most doubles (30) in the majors this season.

He would not be cheap to acquire. Merrifield is making $570,000 this season and will be inexpensive again in 2019 before his arbitration years begin. All told, Merrifield is under club control through the end of 2022. These are his prime years and he'll be underpaid for them relative to his performance.

Merrifield is not the same caliber player as Machado, but the cost in trade could end up being similar because Machado is a two-month rental and Merrifield comes with 4½ years of team control. That is a major, major difference that might offset the gap in talent between the two players.

Twins 3B/SS/2B Eduardo Escobar

Another name connected to the Phillies. Escobar, 29, is having a career year, hitting .271/.327/.507 for the Twins with a majors-leading 35 doubles, 14 homers and 57 RBI. 

He's been one of the most clutch players in baseball this season, hitting .367 with a 1.112 OPS with runners in scoring position. That's not exactly a sustainable long-term skill, but it's worth mentioning.

The switch-hitting Escobar would be a rental. He's a free agent at season's end. Thus, it would be cheaper to acquire him than Merrifield.

Top-tier relievers

If the Phils don't get Machado, they could instead land a combination of a bat and a bullpen piece to try to match his overall value.

Zach Britton. Jeurys Familia. Brad Hand. Raisel Iglesias. Felipe Vazquez.

Britton would be the cheapest option because he's a free agent after the season. We've known the Phillies have interest in him, and they could still pursue him even if Machado heads out West.

Britton's velocity has returned. He's back to throwing that power sinker in the mid-to-high 90s. His left-handedness would give the Phillies the matchup reliever they need, along with an experienced ninth-inning option that could allow Seranthony Dominguez to be used in a high-leverage role earlier in the game.

If you can't make a move that allows you to comfortably outscore your opponents moving forward, shortening the game is another way to remain in contention.

Baseball has changed. Having upper-echelon relievers in October is more meaningful now than ever before.

Blue Jays pieces

Jim Salisbury reported Monday that as the Phillies await an answer from the Orioles, they're also interested in Blue Jays lefty and former Phillie J.A. Happ.

Acquiring Happ would give the Phils a left-handed starting pitcher, which they haven't had since September 2016. That move could then allow them to move a Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta to the bullpen. Both are high-velocity, strikeout pitchers and both could thrive in a bullpen role. Their velocity and K-rates may even increase.

Imagine the Phillies being up 3-2 with two outs in the sixth inning and their starter at 105 pitches. A combination of Pat Neshek and Velasquez or Pivetta could get you all the way to the ninth. It would also give the Phillies a look at one of those young starting pitchers in that different role to gauge whether it makes the most sense for them long term.

Happ isn't the only Blue Jay to monitor, though. Yangervis Solarte has power and can play every infield position. He also has fair-market club options beyond this year — $5.5 million next season, $8 million the following season.

Curtis Granderson could help, too, as the missing power bat off the bench. Granderson was 0 for 13 heading into the All-Star break, but from June 7 to July 7, he hit .319/.373/.623 with six doubles and five homers.

No, he's not some big-time difference-maker in 2018, but Granderson is a markedly better and more dangerous hitter than the Phillies currently have on the bench.

It's not nearly as sexy of a trade, but acquiring a package of Happ, Granderson and Solarte could improve the Phillies in four different areas: rotation, bullpen, infield and bench.

Josh Donaldson, a much bigger name and more impactful power bat when healthy, is also worth keeping in the back of your mind. Donaldson has been out with a calf injury since Memorial Day but has resumed running and doing baseball activities and could be back by the end of the month. 

He's a free agent after the season as well. The contract status combined with all the time missed over the last two seasons will decrease the price tag. 

But if he's healthy and ready to go, this is a former MVP who hit .282/.377/.524 over the last five seasons with an average of 33 homers and 98 RBI.

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