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Japan rallies in 9th to beat DR 4-3 in Olympic opener

Japan rallies in 9th to beat DR 4-3 in Olympic opener

FUKUSHIMA, Japan — Hayato Sakamoto hit a game-ending, bases-loaded single that capped a three-run, ninth-inning rally, lifting host Japan over the Dominican Republic 4-3 in the Olympic baseball opener Wednesday.The Dominicans led 3-1 entering the ninth after starter Cristopher Mercedes dominated a lineup he knows well from his years in Nippon Professional Baseball. Outfielder Johan Mieses threw out a runner at home in the eighth inning to preserve the lead.Jairo Asencio (0-1) got the first out of the ninth, then forgot to cover first on Yuki Yanagita’s grounder to first, letting him reach for Japan’s fifth hit of the game. He allowed two more hits before Kai Takuya scored the tying run with a sacrifice bunt.After Tetsuto Yamada singled to load the bases, Jhan Martinez replaced Asencio. Sakamoto, the 2019 Central League MVP, then drove a ball to the warning track in center to earn the hosts a walk-off victory.Just the way Japan wanted to open the tournament.The Olympics host nation is pursuing its first gold medal in baseball after the sport was restored to the Summer Games for the first time since 2008. Few medals would mean more to the baseball-crazed country, and expectations are high.While Major League Baseball players aren’t at these Olympics, Japan’s professional league suspended its season to accomodate the Games. Manager Astunori Inaba has many of his country’s best on the roster, including former Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka, now with the Pacific League’s Rakuten Golden Eagles.Inaba instead gave the ball to Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a 22-year-old three-time All-Star in Japan who could have a stateside future. He delivered six scoreless innings, striking out seven with one walk, two hits and 88 pitches in his first high-profile international appearance.Mercedes was every bit as good against a loaded lineup. The 27-year-old — in his fifth season with the Pacific League’s Yomiuri Giants — cruised into the seventh leading 2-0. He struck out seven and walked one over six innings, no surprise to fans who have watched him go 5-1 with a 2.31 ERA for the Giants this year.Manager Hector Borg sent Mercedes back out for the seventh with his pitch count at 96, but Mercedes was pulled after leadoff hits from Hideto Asamura and Yuki Yanagita.Luis Castillo allowed a fielder’s choice RBI groundout to Munetaka Murakami but preserved a 2-1 lead. Prized Seattle Mariners prospect Julio Rodríguez made a running catch in right field for the final out of the inning.Mieses kept it that way with his bullet throw in the eighth. Yamada tried to score from second base on Mastaka Yoshida’s single, but Mieses’ strike allowed Valerio to tag Yamada on the shoulder as he slid toward the plate.Japan asked for a video review that upheld the out call, prompting cheers from Dominican players that echoed around the empty stadium. Relief pitcher Jumbo Díaz pounded his chest and hollered toward rainy skies after getting the third out a batter later.The Dominicans went ahead 2-0 on Charlie Valerio’s double in the seventh against sidearming reliever Koyo Aoyogi and led 3-1 after Gustavo Nunez’s ninth-inning RBI double off Hiroshima 25-year-old right-hander Ryoji Kuribayashi (1-0).The typhoon threatening to hamper the Olympics brought rain in the eighth inning but didn’t interrupt play on the turf field.The opener was staged at a 14,300-seat stadium in the northern prefecture of Fukushima after the area was devastated by an earthquke in 2011. Organizers hoped to lure tourists and also host fans from the region, but like most venues at these Games, no spectators were allowed.Among the few locals in attendance: a high school-aged pitcher and catcher who threw out the ceremonial first pitch with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Japanese baseball great Sadaharu Oh watching.The rest of the tournament will be played at Yokohoma Stadium closer to Tokyo.The Dominicans haven’t played in the Olympics since 1992, when they finished sixth out of eight teams. Despite a roster featuring former big league stars Bautista and Melky Cabrera, they were the last team to punch a Tokyo ticket by winning a qualifying tournament over Venezuela and the Netherlands in Mexico in June.Japan made some late roster moves, including dropping Central League MVP Tomoyuki Sugano, who is expected to be pursued by major league teams during the offseason. The left-hander, who turns 32 in October, is 2-4 with a 3.29 ERA for Yomiuri.Giants left-hander Kota Nakagawa was also dropped. Japan added right-handers Hiromi Itoh of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Koudai Senga of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.———Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake—Seiner———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Red Sox stifle short-handed Yanks 4-0 with Judge on COVID IL

Red Sox stifle short-handed Yanks 4-0 with Judge on COVID IL

NEW YORK — The Yankees felt like they were hit by a truck this week.“An invisible, microscopic truck,” ace Gerrit Cole said.It wasn’t so hard to see what was missing Friday night.Eduardo Rodriguez shut down short-handed New York into the sixth inning, Christian Arroyo and J.D. Martinez homered, and the Boston Red Sox three-hit their rivals 4-0 Friday night with slugger Aaron Judge and five other Yankees sidelined due to a coronavirus outbreak.A day after the series opener was postponed for testing and contact tracing, Judge, third baseman Gio Urshela and catcher Kyle Higashioka were added to the COVID-19 injured list. They joined Yankees pitchers Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Wandy Peralta, who have also tested positive over the past week.Fourth-place New York was also without first baseman Luke Voit, who went on the injured list Friday with a bone bruise in his left knee.“Every day is really important right now,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Today it was important we come out and play well and try to get a W and that didn’t happen.”Rodriguez (7-5) allowed two hits over 5 2/3 innings, retiring 10 straight during one stretch and finishing with eight strikeouts. Hirokazu Sawamura got the final out of the sixth, and Tanner Houck pitched the final three innings to close out Boston’s three-hitter for his first big league save.The AL East-leading Red Sox improved to 7-0 in the 19-game season series and beat New York for the eighth consecutive time, their best run in the rivalry since winning eight straight meetings from 2008-09.“We have to have that focus walking in the ballpark every day, walking in those doors every day, and rinse and repeat,” Boone said. “The urgency has got to be absolutely there every single day.”The Yankees were coming off a disappointing first half that ended Sunday when Houston’s Jose Altuve hit a walk-off homer in an 8-7 New York defeat. They’re now nine games back of Boston and likely to be without Judge and their other COVID-19-positive players for at least 10 days.“The competitive side, yeah, of course we want to come here and win the series,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “But the other stuff, it really sucks.“It’s not about competition,” he added. “It’s about human beings.”Arroyo hit a two-run drive during a three-run second inning against starter Jordan Montgomery (3-5) and added a double off Domingo Germán in the seventh.“When he’s using the big part of the field, he becomes very dangerous,” Cora said.Martinez connected against Justin Wilson in the eighth, lining his 19th of the season into the right field seats for a solo shot that made it 4-0.Montgomery pitched three-run ball over six innings with three hits allowed, two walks and four strikeouts. New York failed to score with Montgomery on the mound for his fifth straight start, matching Bill Short in 1960 and Fritz Peterson in 1967 for the longest such streak in franchise history, according to STATS.“I’m just doing my job,” Montgomery said. “Going out there, focusing on hitters, trying to get outs and keep us in it. I’m going to keep being a good teammate and supporting the hitters.”Judge and Urshela have been among the few consistent performers in New York’s lineup this year. Judge is hitting .282 with 21 homers and a .901 OPS, and the slick-fielding Urshela is batting .275 with 11 homers and a .756 OPS.New York promoted four hitters from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: first baseman Chris Gittens, infielder Hoy Park, outfielder Greg Allen and catcher Rob Brantly. Outfielder Trey Amburgey was called up Thursday, when left-hander Zack Britton was activated from the 10-day injured list.The 26-year-old Amburgey started in right field for his major league debut. He hit .312 with seven homers for the RailRiders this season, but he was 0 for 2 on Friday.Allen pinch hit for Amburgey in the seventh and singled in his first at-bat this year. Park followed with a rally-killing groundout as a pinch-hitter in his first big league action.Struggling Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out one and walking one on 23 pitches.OUT OF ACTIONAt least one of Judge, Urshela and Higashioka was not vaccinated, the Yankees said. Boone said he expects each of the players who tested positive to be out at least 10 days from the time of their positive test. Some of the players are experiencing mild symptoms, but Boone said none has gotten seriously ill.Players had another round of rapid testing Friday that revealed no other positives.E-ROD’S RISERodriguez missed the 2020 season due to complications stemming from COVID-19, including myocarditis. After a slow start this year, the left-hander has a 2.83 ERA in his past five starts, looking more like the pitcher who carried a 3.81 ERA over 203 1/3 innings two seasons ago.“He’s the guy we saw in 2019,” Cora said.THE WAIT CONTINUESBoston had planned to start top prospect Jarren Duran in center field Thursday before that game was called off. The lefty-hitting Duran was formally promoted Friday but sat out against the left-handed Montgomery. He will instead get his first start Saturday versus Cole.TRAINER’S ROOMRed Sox: Houck was called up from Triple-A. He’s likely to join the rotation next week. … INF/OF Marwin Gonzalez was placed on the 10-day IL with a right hamstring strain, and RHP Austin Brice was designated for assignment.Yankees: Voit experienced swelling in his knee over the weekend and had it drained, but Boone said the slugger had lingering pain this week. The 2020 major league home run leader was expected to get a platelet-rich plasma injection Friday night, and there’s no timeline for his return. Voit had surgery on the same knee in March to repair a partially torn meniscus.UP NEXTCole (9-4, 2.68 ERA) is set to face another AL All-Star on Saturday in Red Sox RHP Nathan Eovaldi (9-5, 3.66).———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Angels 1st to select exclusively pitchers in amateur draft

Angels 1st to select exclusively pitchers in amateur draft

Mike Trout has helped the Los Angeles Angels score a lot of runs over the years. Preventing them has been a bigger issue.LA’s scouting department is going all out to solve that problem.The Angels became the first club ever to select exclusively pitchers over a full amateur draft this week when they took 20 straight hurlers. The arms race began with Miami (Ohio) right-hander Sam Bachman at No. 9 overall Sunday and ended with TCU righty Marcelo Perez in the 20th round on Tuesday.Scouting director Matt Swanson said the team expected to go heavy on pitching in the draft, knowing it was an area of need in the organization. He didn’t expect them to forego position players entirely, though.“You can never have enough pitching,” Swanson said. “It’s a good problem to have.”At full health, Los Angeles’ lineup is loaded with stars, including Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Jared Walsh and Anthony Rendon. The rotation — aside from two-way phenom Ohtani — not so much.Trout has won three MVP awards but only been to the postseason once since debuting in 2011. The Angels pitching is a prime reason why.The club last appeared in the playoffs in 2014. Since then, Los Angeles pitchers have a 4.49 ERA, and their 61.9 combined Wins Above Replacement (per FanGraphs) ranks 29th out of 30 teams spanning 2015-21.The Miami Marlins picked only pitchers in last year’s five-round draft, which was drastically shortened by Major League Baseball after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out nearly all amateur and minor league ball. The draft had been 40 rounds prior to that, but even then, no team had taken a pitcher with every pick through the first 20 rounds.Nineteen of the pitchers selected by Los Angeles came from college, with 12th-rounder Mason Albright from IMG Academy in Florida the only prep arm. That means reinforcements could be close for a club with a 4.89 ERA this season, 26th in the majors.Several other teams also stocked up on arms. The Los Angeles Dodgers took pitchers with their first 15 picks before sprinkling in position players in the 16th and 18th rounds. The Cleveland Indians ended up with 19 pitchers out of 21 picks.The first round of this year’s draft was held Sunday night at Denver’s Bellco Theater, with Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announcing the picks as Major League Baseball moved the event from June to July’s All-Star weekend. Days 2 and 3 were held via conference call, with the draft wrapping Tuesday afternoon.The Astros got perhaps the most famous name on Day 3 with Liberty second baseman Will Wagner, the son of former Houston closer Billy Wagner. The elder Wagner is the franchise’s career saves leader at 225, while the younger hit .333 with seven homers this spring.A day after New York native Jacob Steinmetz became the first known practicing Orthodox Jewish player selected, the Nationals selected a Jewish player who observes the Sabbath in catcher Elie Kligman from Las Vegas. Steinmetz was taken in the third round by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Kligman went to Washington in the 20th round.Steinmetz is a right-handed pitcher who plays on the Sabbath, but he walks to games on those days to avoid taking transportation. He also eats only Kosher food.Kligman told the Jewish Telegraph Agency in April that he won’t play between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday, but that he didn’t think it had to hinder his baseball career.“Most guys don’t play 162 games a year. If I’m a catcher, not playing three days in the week or two days in the week is pretty normal, so I don’t think it would be that different from other guys,” he said. “I would just be missing different days.”No Orthodox Jewish player has played in the major leagues.Good news for Dabo Swinney: the Clemson football coach is likely to get quarterback/wide receiver commit Will Taylor to campus after the two-sport star fell all the way to the 19th round to Texas. The Rangers are unlikely to have the bonus pool space needed to sign the outfielder away from campus.Another Clemson quarterback commit, Bubba Chandler, was taken as a right-handed pitcher by Pittsburgh in the third round and said he plans to sign.Connecticut shortstop Michael Sirota, great-nephew of Yankees Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, was taken by the Dodgers in the 16th round.The Milwaukee Brewers finished their draft with an unusual pick — 28-year-old junior college right-hander Samuel Mendez. A former semipro basketball player in the Dominican Republic, Mendez gave pitching a try at Cisco College in Texas and struck out 100 batters over 65 1/3 innings as a freshman.———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Pirates draft Louisville C Davis at No. 1, Leiter to Texas

Pirates draft Louisville C Davis at No. 1, Leiter to Texas

The Pittsburgh Pirates opened the amateur draft with a Louisville slugger.That freed up the Texas Rangers to grab another famous baseball name at No. 2.The Pirates selected Louisville catcher Henry Davis and the Rangers grabbed Vanderbilt pitcher Jack Leiter — son of big league All-Star Al Leiter — with the first two picks of Sunday night’s draft, the first held as part of All-Star weekend.“Fired up,” said Davis, wearing a Pirates hat and jersey moments after his on-stage introduction by Commissioner Rob Manfred. “Ready to go, ready to get to work. Super excited.”Manfred announced the choices from Denver’s Bellco Theater. Major League Baseball moved the draft from its longstanding June slot to July’s All-Star festivities in an effort to better showcase its future stars.Davis has big power and an even bigger arm, throwing out 46% of would-be basestealers to become a finalist for the Buster Posey Award as college baseball’s best defensive catcher.He batted .370 and led the Cardinals with 15 homers, and his .482 on-base percentage was best in the Atlantic Coast Conference.“I want to win, a competitor,” Davis said. “I’m going to do everything I can to help this organization get where it needs to be.”The Rangers grabbed Leiter with the second pick, taking a right-hander with a mid-90s fastball and two overpowering breaking pitches. His repertoire could play near the top of a big league rotation. He was 11-4 with a 2.13 ERA with the Commodores, including a no-hitter against South Carolina, and struck out 179 in 110 innings.Leiter watched the draft at home with his parents. Al Leiter, who pitched 19 seasons in the majors, said he was elated and “kind of weepy” hearing his son’s name called.“It’s really hard to put into words,” Jack Leiter said. “I’m just so happy I was able to have my family and friends and people that care about me all here to celebrate with.”This was Texas’ first pick under first-year general manager Chris Young, a longtime big league pitcher who came to the organization determined to help the farm system better develop pitching. Leiter was at the top of the Rangers’ board.“Jack is someone we’ve zeroed in for a while,” Young said. “He fits everything we’re trying to accomplish as an organization.”Leiter’s Vanderbilt teammate, right-hander Kumar Rocker, was taken 10th overall by the New York Mets. Rocker was once considered a candidate to go first overall but slid down draft boards following an inconsistent spring.After MLB slimmed the draft from 40 rounds to five last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event will go 20 rounds spread over three days.The draft opened Sunday night with the first 36 selections. Fans were allowed to watch the event in person for the first time, and a smattering of onlookers booed loudly each time Manfred took the stage. Previous drafts were held at MLB Network’s studio in Secaucus, New Jersey, which only had room for media and small groups of friends and family.Fans stood and cheered when Davis’ name was announced. He hugged friends and family before making his way to the stage, where he was handed a Pirates hat and jersey and shook hands with Manfred.The Pirates picked first overall for the first time since taking Gerrit Cole in 2011, by far the most successful of their four previous No. 1 selections. Their other top picks were infielder Jeff King (1986) and right-handers Kris Benson (1996) and Bryan Bullington (2002).In a year without a consensus top pick, Pittsburgh general manager Ben Cherington said his club decided on Davis on Saturday night. His scouts were impressed not just by Davis’ abilities, but also his eagerness to learn and hunger to improve.“He checks a lot of boxes,” Cherington said. “We’ve had a lot of fun getting to know him.”The first pick has a slot value of an $8.42 million signing bonus. The deadline for players to sign is Aug. 1 at 5 p.m. EDT.The Detroit Tigers went with Oklahoma high school pitcher Jackson Jobe at No. 3, a year after taking Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson with the top pick.Jobe was expected to be the first high school pitcher drafted after going 9-0 with a 0.13 ERA at Heritage Hall. He has a deep pitch mix, including a slider that was considered among the best in the draft class.The AL East-leading Boston Red Sox picked fourth and selected slick-fielding shortstop Marcelo Mayer. The left-handed hitter had been the favorite to go No. 1 overall after drawing comparison to Dodgers star Corey Seager.“I did see it coming,” Mayer said of his slide to the Red Sox. “I knew they were high on me. I’m just super blessed to be part of the organization.”Mayer hit 14 homers his senior year at Eastlake High School in California, one shy of the school record set by 2000 No. 1 pick Adrian Gonzalez. Marcelo batted .392 with 45 RBIs and 46 runs.The Kansas City Royals turned in the night’s first true surprise when they reached for Connecticut pitcher Frank Mozzicato with the seventh pick. The 18-year-old left-hander threw four consecutive no-hitters this spring, but was projected by most experts as a fit for early in the second round.Among the loudest cheers came when the hometown Rockies took Pennsylvania high school outfielder Benny Montgomery, a speedy player with a chance to add strength to his 6-foot-4 frame.Another notable name came off the board at No. 25 when the Oakland Athletics selected California high school shortstop Max Muncy. He shares no relation to the Los Angeles Dodgers slugger with the same name, but they have plenty else in common. They share a birthday on Aug. 25, and both were drafted by Oakland — the elder Muncy was a fifth round pick by the A’s in 2012.The Houston Astros won’t pick until the third round for the second straight year as punishment for their infamous sign-stealing scandal.———AP Sports Writer Pat Graham and freelancer Dennis Georgatos contributed from Denver.———Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake—Seiner———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Back to the future: MLB draft returns, makes All-Star debut

Back to the future: MLB draft returns, makes All-Star debut

NEW YORK — Ben Cherington’s first amateur draft as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates was brief and remote, held amid the coronavirus pandemic that grounded scouts and wiped out nearly all of 2020’s amateur baseball calendar.With the Bucs facing the pressure of the No. 1 overall pick this year, he’s grateful to have his scouts back in the draft room, battling contentiously over their big board like old times.“The room has been great as far as getting past the niceties and let’s get into the arguments and debates,” Cherington said. “So that’s been good.”A year after Major League Baseball limited its draft amid the chaos of COVID-19, it’s set to host a revamped event as part of All-Star festivities in Denver. The 20-round draft will span three days.MLB moved the draft to July’s All-Star weekend, putting the opening round on its network on Sunday night after the All-Star Futures Game, a showcase for the top players in the minors. The draft had been televised from MLB Network’s studios in Secaucus, New Jersey, since 2009.A look at what else to watch for during the selection process:BACK TO A NEW NORMALIn response to the pandemic, MLB shrunk last year’s draft from 40 rounds to five and made the entire selection process remote.This year’s draft will be in person but consist of 20 rounds, which may become the new standard after MLB took over control of the minors and removed a quarter of its affiliates last offseason. Notably, it eliminated the short-season leagues that used to be stocked with players drafted in later rounds.Those lost late rounds were hardly packed with future big leaguers, of course, but several stars turned selections in the 20s, 30s or later into standout careers, including John Smoltz (22nd round), Mark Buehrle (38th), Keith Hernandez (42nd) and Mike Piazza (62nd).COVID-19 shut down college and high school seasons throughout the country in 2020, and several MLB teams furloughed their scouts last summer. That hindered teams’ abilities to evaluate players for this year’s class, although amateur baseball largely came back this spring.Scouts have mostly returned to big league front offices this weekend, where they’ll hunker down in front of oversized magnetic boards to decide who is worth a selection — a favorite time of year for front office personnel.“We have to debate, debate, debate, disagree, disagree, disagree,” Cherington said. “Dive deep as we can, then commit.”WHO’S ON THE CLOCKThe Pirates hold the No. 1 overall pick for the first time since taking Gerrit Cole in 2011, by far the most successful of their four previous top selections. Pittsburgh is likely to pick high again in 2021 amid a rebuild that may be defined by the success of its draftees.“It’s pressure, yes,” Cherington said. “But it’s exciting pressure and it’s an opportunity. It doesn’t feel like a burden at all.”First-year Rangers general manager Chris Young — a third-round pick by the Pirates in 2000 — is set to oversee a draft room for the first time as Texas picks second. The Detroit Tigers have the third pick a year after taking Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson at No. 1. They’ll be followed by the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox at No. 4 and the Baltimore Orioles at No. 5.The Astros won’t pick until the third round for the second straight year as punishment for their infamous sign-stealing scandal.NAMES AT THE TOPVanderbilt pitchers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker have garnered the most attention in this class after pitching the Commodores into the finals of the College World Series.Leiter is the son of two-time All-Star Al Leiter, who is now an analyst at MLB Network and will be part of the broadcast Sunday. Jack Leiter struck out 179 over 110 innings this season, posting a 2.13 ERA and throwing a no-hitter against South Carolina.Rocker also has pro bloodlines — his father is former NFL defensive lineman Tracy Rocker — and looks it at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds. An inconsistent spring likely took him out of the running for the Pirates, though.Several high school shortstops are also in the running for the first pick. Marcelo Mayer from Eastlake High School in California is from the same school as 2000 No. 1 pick Adrian Gonzalez. No school has ever had two No. 1 picks, and Mayer is a slight favorite to make that history happen.If Pittsburgh doesn’t take Mayer, follow shortstops Jordan Lawlar (Texas) or Kahlil Watson (North Carolina) could be in the running, along with Louisville catcher Henry Davis. The Pirates also could sign a surprise pick to an under-slot deal, freeing up cash to spend on players further down the board.OTHERS TO KNOWSomeone could land a player who already has World Series experience. Darren Baker is the son of Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker and was famously swooped away from home plate by Giants player J.T. Snow during the 2002 World Series, when the 3-year-old Baker was a bat boy. Darren Baker is a second baseman at the University of California with quick feet and feel to hit.Others that might look familiar — California high school shortstop Max Muncy and Vanderbilt outfielder Isaiah Thomas — have no relation to star athletes with the same names. Muncy, from Greater Los Angeles, even shares a birthday with the Dodgers star.———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Urshela's 3-run HR lifts Yanks over Mets 4-2 to avoid sweep

Urshela's 3-run HR lifts Yanks over Mets 4-2 to avoid sweep

NEW YORK — Aaron Boone’s savages have been reduced to salvage mode.Still a smidge above .500 after a lousy Subway Series, the New York Yankees are trying to keep the Big Apple focused on two teams entering the second half of this season.“We understand what’s at stake,” said Boone, the Yankees’ embattled manager.Gio Urshela hit a three-run homer and the Yankees beat the NL East-leading Mets 4-2 to avoid a Subway Series sweep after Aroldis Chapman had another meltdown in the opener of Sunday’s split doubleheader. Pete Alonso hit a tying homer off the All-Star closer in the seventh inning, and José Peraza lined a go-ahead, two-run double that included interference from a visiting fan in the Bronx during a 10-5 Mets stunner.Alonso connected in the late game as well, becoming the first Mets player since Shawn Green on Sept 6, 2006, to homer in both ends of a doubleheader.With fireworks echoing around jam-packed Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Bombers won for the second time in nine games to get back above .500 at 42-41. They were 10 1/2 games back of the AL East-leading Red Sox before winning the second game. They’ve only overcome a division deficit that large to finish first once, in 1978.“With what we’re going through right now and some of the gut-punches we’ve had of late, for guys to really step up in the nightcap tonight and at least salvage something today is hopefully something we can build upon,” Boone said.Urshela has three of the Yankees’ eight three-run homers this season. New York hit 34 three-run shots in 2019, when Boone famously described his hitters as “savages in the box” during a hot-mic confrontation with an umpire.Yankees reliever Nestor Cortes Jr. made his first start of the season in the nightcap and kept the Mets uncomfortable with his ever-changing delivery. The left-hander was pulled after 3 1/3 innings of quick pitches, sidearm deliveries and variable leg kicks. He allowed only two hits, but Darren O’Day let one of his inherited runners score on Alonso’s 15th homer.Chad Green (3-4) closed with three perfect innings, striking out six in his longest outing since Sept. 8, 2019, vs. Boston, when he also went three innings.The right-hander finished with an immaculate inning, the second this year by a Yankees pitcher. Michael King also got three strikeouts on nine pitches June 4 against Boston.“He certainly wanted the ball,” Boone said. “And he went out and was dominant and efficient there in that third inning. Just a huge effort for us.”Corey Oswalt (1-1) allowed Urshela’s homer to the short porch in right field but otherwise held his own in his first start of the season. The right-hander was charged with three runs and four hits over four innings.Brett Gardner scored on a wild pitch by Mets reliever Miguel Castro in the fifth.FOR STARTERSAfter the Mets roughed up Yankees ace Gerrit Cole in a back-and-forth first game Sunday, Alonso opened the seventh inning by dropping his barrel on Chapman’s 1-2 slider near the bottom of the zone and lofting it into the visitors’ bullpen to tie it at 5.Chapman then plunked Michael Conforto, walked Jeff McNeil and was promptly yanked by Boone.A few batters later, Peraza ripped a ball off Lucas Luetge that would’ve hit midway up the left-field wall, but a fan in a Mets jersey reached over to catch the ball with his glove.Confused players and fans initially had no idea where the ball went. Left fielder Tim Locastro pointed at the fan incredulously, and umpires conferred on the infield before awarding Peraza two bases. The Yankees didn’t argue.“At no point did I realize a fan had caught the ball,” Peraza said via translator.Brandon Nimmo followed with a two-run single and Francisco Lindor added an RBI hit as the Mets piled on.Jeurys Familia (3-1) pitched a scoreless sixth for the Mets, who also got a solo homer from Dominic Smith.PLUMMETING IN PINSTRIPESThe Yankees were 41-41 after Game 1, the latest into a season they’ve been at .500 since they were 56-56 on Aug. 9, 2016. They haven’t had a losing record this late since hitting 45-46 on July 17, 2016.Chapman (5-3) failed to get an out in his first appearance since giving up a tying grand slam in the ninth inning during an 11-8 loss Wednesday to the Los Angeles Angels. The flame-throwing left-hander has a 22.26 ERA in his past nine outings.It’s unclear if Chapman will remain in the closer’s role.“We’ll have to talk through that,” Boone said.The Mets chased Cole with one out in the third, his shortest outing since a two-inning stint on Sept. 12, 2016, with Pittsburgh. He was charged with four runs and six hits, tying a season high with three walks. Yankees fans booed as he departed.Cole has a 5.24 ERA since it became clear in early June that Major League Baseball planned to crack down on pitchers’ use of illegal foreign substances. He had a 1.78 ERA prior to that.Boone denied Cole’s and Chapman’s struggles were tied to the uptick in enforcement. Cole maintains his pitches are sharp as ever despite measured drops in spin rate on his fastball and slider.“Our metrics are telling us it’s the same stuff,” he said, adding: “I felt that I had pretty good stuff today and the ball was moving the way we wanted.”Cole and Chapman were named to the AL All-Star team shortly after the first game.LIKE OLD NEW YORKThe Yankees sold 42,107 tickets for Sunday night’s game after 42,714 paid to see the day game and 40,047 attended Saturday’s contest. All three totals are the largest for a crowd at either New York stadium since before the pandemic.NOT ALL-STARSJacob deGrom was the only Mets player selected to the All-Star team despite the club’s strong first half. Right-handers Marcus Stroman, Taijuan Walker and Edwin Díaz were all left off the NL roster released Sunday but could be added as replacements.“I was surprised,” manager Luis Rojas said.TRAINER’S ROOMMets: Activated INF Jonathan Villar (strained right calf) from the injured list and started him in Game 2. OF Albert Almora Jr. was optioned to Triple-A. … RHP Yennsy Diaz was recalled from Triple-A and RHP Sean Reid-Foley was placed on the 10-day IL with right elbow inflammation.Yankees: LHP Zack Britton (hamstring) will throw at least one more bullpen Tuesday before the team considers activating him.ROSTER MOVEAfter the nightcap, the Yankees optioned INF Tyler Wade to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.UP NEXTMets: Rookie RHP Tylor Megill (0-0, 4.82 ERA) makes his third big league start against Brewers All-Star RHP Brandon Woodruff (7-3, 1.87) on Monday night at Citi Field. Milwaukee’s 11-game winning streak ended Sunday with a 2-0 loss in Pittsburgh.Yankees: RHP Jameson Taillon (3-4, 5.43) faces Mariners LHP Justus Sheffield (5-7, 5.88) on Tuesday night in the opener of a series at Seattle.———Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake—Seiner———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Walker shuts down Yanks, Mets take series opener 8-3

Walker shuts down Yanks, Mets take series opener 8-3

NEW YORK — Taijuan Walker dealt, Brandon Nimmo delivered and Mets fans delighted over an easy victory in the Bronx.All of their “Let’s go Mets!” chants got minimal pushback at this Subway Series opener, what with many Yankees fans sensing this season has already gone off the rails.Walker took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, Nimmo provided a spark in his return from the injured list and the New York Mets beat the crosstown Yankees 8-3 Saturday to open a three-game set.The Mets already led 8-0 when Aaron Judge homered with one out in the sixth to end Walker’s bid for the record-tying eighth no-hitter in the majors this season. He was lifted after 5 2/3 innings having allowed two runs, two hits and two walks, striking out five on 106 pitches.“He’s been like another ace,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “We talk about Jacob deGrom, Taijuan has been like another ace for us.”The right-hander’s ERA rose slightly to 2.44 during a breakout season after signing a $23 million, three-year free agent contract in February. The Mets are pushing for the 28-year-old to be a first-time All-Star when rosters are revealed Sunday.“I’m definitely anxious to find out,” Walker said. “But right now, it’s out of my hand.”Walker (7-3) got a standing ovation as he left from thousands of Mets fans among the season-high crowd of 40,047 at Yankee Stadium — the highest attendance for either New York team since before the coronavirus pandemic.“It was felt,” Rojas said. “It was loud, it was electric. I think the guys missed it.”Playing for the first time since a brutal 11-8 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, the Yankees slogged through another frustrating defeat with just three hits, all in the sixth inning. They have dropped six of seven and fell to 41-40 after starting the day 9 1/2 games behind AL East-leading Boston.“We can talk about it until we’re blue in the face,” Boone said. “We’ve got to put together complete games, especially when we’re going up against good opponents.”Nimmo had three hits along with a hard lineout in his first game since a detached hand ligament sidelined him two months ago. The Mets leadoff hitter lifted his average to .333 and his on-base percentage to .435 after struggling during a minor league rehab assignment.“I did surprise myself a little bit,” Nimmo said. “But I was really, really glad to be able to help, be able to get on base, be able to create some traffic for some guys, and guys really came through with some big hits.”Jordan Montgomery (3-3) stranded five Mets baserunners over the first three innings to keep it scoreless, but the visitors broke through in the fifth.Nimmo hit a one-out single, Francisco Lindor followed with another and Dominic Smith scored Nimmo from second with a single up the middle.Montgomery walked Pete Alonso to load the bases and was replaced by Lucas Luetge. James McCann made it 2-0 with a broken-bat single, and Smith scored from third on a wild pitch for a three-run lead before Luetge ended the inning.The Mets batted around during a five-run sixth inning that included a two-run double by Smith and another two-run hit by Kevin Pillar. All the runs were charged to Justin Wilson.Smith had three hits and three RBIs, and Lindor had two hits and two walks.Yankees reliever Michael King allowed two inherited runners to score but was credited with four scoreless innings with nine strikeouts.Yankee Stadium was filled nearly to capacity despite sporadic showers after Friday’s scheduled opener was postponed by rain. Blue and orange was well represented.Some Yankees fans tried to drown out “Let’s go Mets” chants with boos, but they had little to cheer about themselves. The Yankees’ follies were frustratingly familiar — a passed ball by catcher Gary Sánchez, an error by shortstop Gleyber Torres, and of course, the lack offense from anyone besides Judge.“I don’t count this team out at all,” said slugger Luke Voit, who was 0 for 3 and is hitting .188.TRAINER’S ROOMMets: LHP David Peterson has a right oblique strain and is week to week. … RHP Carlos Carrasco, sidelined since March with a torn right hamstring, could join the rotation in late July or early August. … RHP Noah Syndergaard (Tommy John surgery) resumed playing catch about a week ago and is throwing out to 75 feet. … INF Jonathan Villar (strained right calf) could rejoin the team Sunday.Yankees: A series of tests have ruled out several potentially serious causes for OF Clint Frazier’s bout of vertigo this week, but he is slated for more evaluation next week. Frazier left Wednesday’s game against the Angels with dizziness and was placed on the 10-day injured list Friday. Manager Aaron Boone said tests so far have not found a connection between the vertigo and a concussion Frazier had three years ago that hampered him for an entire season, but the team needs to do more testing to rule out a link. … LHP Zack Britton (hamstring) threw off a mound Saturday. He’s eligible to return from the IL on Monday.UP NEXTYankees ace Gerrit Cole (8-4, 2.66) will pitch the opener of Sunday’s split-doubleheader against Mets RHP Marcus Stroman (6-6, 2.45). Yankees LHP Nestor Cortes Jr. (0-0, 1.02) will start the nightcap, likely against an opener for the Mets, who decided to save rookie starter Tylor Megill (0-0, 4.82) for Monday’s nine-inning game against Milwaukee.———Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake—Seiner———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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