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White Sox rebound against Astros in possible playoff preview

White Sox rebound against Astros in possible playoff preview

In a matchup between two of the American League’s top teams, Lucas Giolito and Carlos Rodón helped the Chicago White Sox fight back against Houston’s powerful offenseBy NOAH TRISTER AP Baseball WriterJuly 19, 2021, 7:08 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleIn a matchup between two of the American League’s top teams, Lucas Giolito and Carlos Rodón helped the Chicago White Sox fight back against Houston’s powerful offense.Giolito pitched a three-hitter in Chicago’s 10-1 victory Saturday, then Rodón allowed one hit in seven innings Sunday as the White Sox blanked Houston 4-0. Those two victories came after the Astros swept a four-game series against the White Sox last month and beat Chicago 7-1 on Friday night.The White Sox (56-36) now have the best record in the American League, and they lead the AL Central by eight games. Houston (56-38) has a 3 1/2-game advantage atop the AL West. The Astros lead the major leagues in runs despite Alex Bregman’s injury problems and George Springer’s offseason departure.Houston finished the 2020 regular season with a sub-.500 record but still came within a victory of reaching the World Series thanks to the expanded playoffs. The Astros again look formidable this year.If they face Chicago in the playoffs, that matchup would pit Houston’s Dusty Baker against Tony La Russa of the White Sox in a matchup of two of the most famous managers of this era — and this weekend, Chicago certainly showed it has the pitching to compete.NEVER A DULL MOMENTA week in the life of the New York Mets:Monday — Slugger Pete Alonso wins the Home Run Derby.Friday — Star shortstop Francisco Lindor leaves the game against Pittsburgh with soreness on his right side. New York loses 4-1 in a game that includes a bench-clearing incident.Saturday — Lindor goes on the injured list. Ace Jacob deGrom’s status is also up in the air because of forearm tightness. The Mets take a 6-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth before Pittsburgh scores five runs to make a game of it. It’s 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth when New York closer Edwin Diaz allows a game-winning grand slam by Jacob Stallings that gives the Pirates a 9-7 victory.Sunday — Manager Luis Rojas says deGrom is going on the IL. In the first inning against Pittsburgh, the Mets allow three runs to score on an infield dribbler because pitcher Taijuan Walker, thinking the ball was foul, batted it toward the Pirates dugout. The ball was called fair, and Rojas is ejected in the ensuing argument. New York trails 6-0 at the end of the inning, then chips away at the deficit until Michael Conforto’s two-run homer in the ninth gives the Mets a 7-6 win.New York still leads the NL East by two games, and one can only imagine what these next couple months have in store for the Mets.TRIVIA TIMEThe Astros (plus 129) and White Sox (plus 124) rank first and second in the AL in run differential. Who is No. 3?BUYERSWhile the Mets were taking their fans on a roller coaster ride, division rival Atlanta was trying to overcome its injury woes via the trade market. The Braves acquired Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs and Stephen Vogt from the Arizona Diamondbacks.Atlanta recently lost Ronald Acuña Jr. to a season-ending knee injury, but the Braves aren’t giving up. They trail the Mets by four games.TRIVIA ANSWERThe Toronto Blue Jays (plus 95) have the third-best run differential in the AL. They came out of the All-Star break in impressive fashion, beating Texas three times by a combined score of 25-2. Toronto is still in the third place in the AL East, however, six games behind division-leading Boston.———Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

With fans back, ballpark workers enjoy chance to return

With fans back, ballpark workers enjoy chance to return

A suite attendant at the Miami Marlins’ home ballpark, Lisa Eckstein had a chance to reconnect with a familiar face when she returned to work this season.“I have a guest I’ve taken care of for 18 years,” she said. “Their initial reaction was to come and hug me because we’re like family — and then we’re doing the elbow thing.”It would be premature to say the scene at major league ballparks has completely returned to normal, but there’s no question this season has been a step in that direction — perhaps most crucially for the people who work there. With fans back in the stands and concessions being sold, ballpark employees had a chance to return after the pandemic hit many of them hard.“For some of my coworkers it was pretty tough, because that was their only job,” said Eugenia Mays, who has worked at Coors Field in Denver for about two decades. “So unemployment was kicked in, food stamp was kicked in, and you just have to learn how to budget and how to do things off of that point. Some got other jobs, some had to buddy up with others to live together.”After a significantly shortened 2020 season, baseball returned this year with at least some fans attending in person. All teams have now opened their parks to full capacity.Delaware North, a concessionaire that operates at 11 big league ballparks, says it has recalled around 8,000 employees and hired around 3,000 new ones since Jan. 1 at those parks.“We are continuing to recruit additional associates who have worked for Delaware North to come back and are seeing more do so now that they see our safe and exciting operations are back in action,” company spokesman Glen White said.Eckstein recalled when the coronavirus crisis brought basketball and hockey to a standstill last year — and the start of the baseball season was postponed.“We got an email that said go ahead and start your unemployment benefits because nobody knows what’s happening,” she said.She described the unemployment system as a “nightmare” but said her union — Unite Here — was crucial in helping people navigate it.Eckstein said she was apprehensive about going back to work this season. She hadn’t been going out much, except for groceries, but she knew there would be safety precautions.“We had discussions that we would be afforded the PPP that we needed … that social distancing would occur, and if we had any difficulty, of course we always have someone to go back to besides the company, which would be the union,” she said. “It’s been very good as far as all that goes.”Marlene Patrick-Cooper is president of Unite Here Local 23, which has members in the Washington, D.C., area, home of Nationals Park. She said workers would have to wait in line to clock in to start their shifts — but an app on employees’ phones helped alleviate that social distancing concern.“They could use that as opposed to standing in line,” she said.Eckstein said she was vaccinated by the second homestand, which was a relief. She said most people in her department came back to work, although she wasn’t sure if that was true in more cramped areas like concession stands.Mays said some employees have had extra work because others didn’t return.“I would prep for Infield Greens — that’s the salad bar,” she said earlier this season. “Now, instead of prepping for just one place, I prep for two places. … I ping-pong back and forth to make sure they’re OK.”White said Delaware North is having challenges recruiting for openings, especially cooks and other culinary positions. The company has held job fairs at ballparks in places like Atlanta, Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland and Texas. It has also looked to nonprofit organizations for help.“It’s an easy way for groups such as civic organizations, high school boosters, churches and other nonprofit groups to operate concessions at the stadium to raise funds for their respective organizations,” White said.With the season now about half over, ballparks have slowly started buzzing again. This year is still different, but for many employees, the past couple months have been a welcome respite after a tumultuous year.“Employees, they seem to be pretty mellow, they’re excited to be back,” Mays said. “They just want to know, ‘Hey, how you doing? How’s your dog, how’s your cat?’ Everybody’s all excited to be back — to see everybody.”———Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Brewers have comfortable lead after 11-game winning streak

Brewers have comfortable lead after 11-game winning streak

The Milwaukee Brewers have taken advantage of an easier stretch in their schedule — and they now have the largest division lead in the major leaguesBy NOAH TRISTER AP Baseball WriterJuly 5, 2021, 7:18 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Milwaukee Brewers have taken advantage of an easier stretch in their schedule — and they now have the largest division lead in the major leagues.Milwaukee had won 11 in a row prior to a loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Brewers have a seven-game advantage over second-place Cincinnati in the NL Central. Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta have been impressive in the rotation, and the offense has done its part lately, averaging 7.6 runs a game during the winning streak.Of those 11 straight wins, eight came against the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Pirates, who are among the worst teams in the National League. The other three victories were against the Cubs, who have dropped nine in a row.The wins all count the same, however, and in the NL Central, one extended run of success has been enough to give the Brewers a comfortable margin at the top.While Woodruff and Burnes have led the way, Milwaukee has gotten contributions from plenty of unsung players. Avisaíl García and Luis Urías have both reached double-digit homers, and the Brewers have needed their offense since Christian Yelich hasn’t hit for much power and Lorenzo Cain has been limited by injuries.Closer Josh Hader has been dominant as usual, converting all 20 of his save attempts with an 0.55 ERA.ANOTHER STREAKThe Los Angeles Dodgers have won nine in a row after sweeping a four-game set in Washington. The Dodgers have more competition in their division than Milwaukee does, and they still trail the first-place Giants by a half-game, but Los Angeles has the top run differential in the National League.The Nationals were on a surge of their own until they met up with the Dodgers. That series was an inauspicious start to a tough stretch on Washington’s schedule. The Nationals head on the road to face San Diego and San Francisco, then they host the Padres in their first series after the All-Star break.TRIVIA TIMEAt 21-11, the Brewers are one of seven teams with a winning record against teams above .500. Who are the other six?LINE OF THE WEEKGermán Márquez couldn’t add to this season’s plentiful total of no-hitters, but he did put on quite a show Tuesday in Colorado’s 8-0 victory over Pittsburgh. Márquez threw a one-hit shutout on just 92 pitches. The game took only 2 hours, 18 minutes.COMEBACK OF THE WEEKShohei Ohtani didn’t make it through the first inning against New York on Wednesday. The Yankees scored seven runs in that frame and still led 8-4 entering the ninth. Then it was Los Angeles’ turn to score seven runs, and the Angels won 11-8. New York’s win probability topped out at 98.9% in the bottom of the eighth, according to Baseball Savant.HIGHLIGHTIt was a rough week for Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees, but New York stayed away from its closer in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Mets. Instead, Chad Green pitched the last three innings, and his final frame was an immaculate one — he struck out the side on nine pitches to wrap up a 4-2 win.TRIVIA ANSWERHouston (39-19), Boston (28-19), San Francisco (23-16), San Diego (28-24), Tampa Bay (30-26) and Seattle (28-26).———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Nats' Schwarber in impressive company with slugging exploits

Nats' Schwarber in impressive company with slugging exploits

WASHINGTON — As his home run-hitting binge became a national phenomenon, Kyle Schwarber tried to warn everyone how quickly it could end.“It’s the reality of this game that, you know what, I’m probably not going to keep doing this the whole year,” the Washington outfielder said. “It’s physically impossible to keep doing this.”That was almost a week ago.Schwarber’s exploits have now progressed into truly rarified air. He entered Wednesday’s matchup against Tampa Bay with 16 home runs in his last 18 games, a statistical run that only Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa had previously managed. Only Albert Belle had achieved Schwarber’s total of 12 homers in a 10-game span. Only Frank Howard — a star slugger in Washington a half-century earlier — had hit 11 in nine.“That’s a cool stat. I love when you guys come at me with some cool stats,” Schwarber said this week after being told he now stood alongside Howard. “You’re doing some things with really unbelievable players. It’s just, keep riding the wave. That’s kind of the biggest thing — just ride the wave, and don’t get too up, don’t get too down.”This slugging surge comes at a good time for Schwarber, who was non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs this past offseason and signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Nationals. His power is nothing new. He twice surpassed 30 homers with the Cubs, but his batting average dipped to .188 in the shortened 2020 season.Even during this torrid stretch, he’s had a few hitless games, but the home runs have come in bunches. He hit three on June 20 against the Mets, and he had four other games with two homers, most recently on Monday night.All the while, he’s tried not to let his mounting feats distract him.“To be honest with you, I want to play stupid — that’s kind of the best way to describe it,” he said. “Just keep going up there … don’t remember the one before, just live in the present.”After going deep again Tuesday night against the Rays — on the first pitch he saw — Schwarber entered Wednesday tied for the National League lead with 25 home runs.“He’s hot, and it looked like he probably just missed two or three other ones tonight,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Just a guy that is really locked in. You know how talented he is. He’s played a long time, and when he gets hot, he can do some damage.”Nationals manager Dave Martinez compared it to Andre Dawson’s MVP season with the Cubs in 1987, when Martinez was a young center fielder for Chicago.“He hit 49 home runs that year, and I led off for most of the year,” said Martinez, whose Washington team has climbed above .500 thanks in part to Schwarber. “Just to watch him, like every time I got on base, there was a good chance that he was going to hit the ball out of the ballpark. It was pretty awesome. It was the first time I’ve ever really seen something like that.”I’m looking at Kyle now, and you do have that sense where you’re sitting up there, and you see him working counts, and I tell myself, ‘I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but there’s a good chance that he’s going to hit this ball hard, and maybe far.’”Bonds had his run of 16 homers in 18 games in his record-setting 2001 season, when he finished with 73. Nobody is confusing Schwarber with Bonds — Schwarber has been intentionally walked just once this year, and it was back in April.But right now, pitchers give him a good pitch to hit at their peril.“I think the biggest thing is just not missing the pitch. Not fouling it off or taking it,” Schwarber said. “That’s kind of the biggest thing, is that whenever I am swinging at the pitch I want to swing at, that it’s catching some barrel.”It may sound simple, but it isn’t.“Some of the best players in this game make it look easy. You look at Mike Trout, you look at what Shohei Ohtani’s doing,” Schwarber said. “This game’s not easy at all. I firmly believe that this is one of the hardest games in all of professional sports, and when you’re doing something like this, you kind of just sit back and laugh because you don’t want it to end.”———Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Astros take combined no-hitter into 8th, rout Orioles 10-2

Astros take combined no-hitter into 8th, rout Orioles 10-2

Jake Odorizzi and the Houston bullpen took a bid for a combined no-hitter into the eighth inning, eventually settling for a 10-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles that marked the Astros’ eighth straight winBy NOAH TRISTER AP Baseball WriterJune 22, 2021, 5:43 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBALTIMORE — Jake Odorizzi pitched five outstanding innings in another sign of progress after his arm issues, and Houston won its eighth straight game.A no-hitter would have been nice, but the Astros have plenty of other things to feel good about.Odorizzi and the Houston bullpen took a bid for a combined no-hitter into the eighth inning Monday night, eventually settling for a 10-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. Houston now leads the AL West by a game over Oakland, which lost at Texas.The 31-year-old Odorizzi missed more than a month with a strained muscle in his right arm. This was his fifth appearance and fourth start since returning. He retired his first 13 batters before walking DJ Stewart on a full count in the fifth.“I’m happy with the way I’m progressing,” Odorizzi said. “I knew it was going to be a process. I stuck to that process, and I feel more and more comfortable every time I’m on the mound.”Maikel Franco hit a two-run homer with one out in the eighth off Brandon Bielak, breaking up the no-hitter. Odorizzi and reliever Cristian Javier held the Orioles without a hit through seven.The start of the game was delayed by rain for an hour, and there was also a 41-minute rain delay during the top of the eighth. That came after the teams played for a while in a driving rain, with puddles forming in the infield.“This grounds crew — they appear like they’re used to rain delays,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Every time I’ve been here in a three-day period, there’s always been a rain delay, so I give the grounds crew a lot of credit for doing a great job.”Bielak came on to pitch the bottom of the eighth for Houston. After he hit Austin Hays in the back of the helmet with a breaking ball — just the second baserunner for Baltimore — Franco sent a drive to deep center field.Earlier in Franco’s at-bat, Bielak appeared to have thrown strike three, but he didn’t get the call from plate umpire Angel Hernandez.Stevie Wilkerson followed with a single up the middle, and the Orioles finished with two hits.Houston was looking to pitch the seventh no-hitter in the majors this season. That would have matched 1990, 1991, 2012 and 2015 for the most since 1900, one shy of the record eight in 1884 — the first season overhand pitching was allowed.In a season when pitchers have dominated — and on the day umpires began checking them for illegal foreign substances — Odorizzi (2-3) didn’t seem the least bit bothered. He struck out nine and threw 86 pitches, three shy of his season high.The Astros threw the most recent combined no-hitter in the majors, when Aaron Sanchez, Will Harris, Joe Biagini and Chris Devenski blanked Seattle on Aug. 3, 2019.There has only been one no-hitter at Camden Yards in Baltimore. That was by Boston’s Hideo Nomo on April 4, 2001.Yordan Alvarez hit a three-run homer in Houston’s five-run third inning. Keegan Akin (0-3) allowed five runs in four-plus innings.“It wasn’t very fun,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “We struggled offensively and gave up 10 runs, and there was … the eighth inning with the rain.”COMFORTABLE MATCHUPOdorizzi has gone five straight starts against Baltimore without allowing an earned run.“There’s a lot of guys I had never faced before tonight,” Odorizzi said. “I don’t know. Sometimes you just do well against certain teams, certain mounds. I kind of enjoy pitching here. It’s got a good backdrop.”TRAINER’S ROOMAstros: Baker said he expects OF Kyle Tucker (health and safety protocols) will likely be activated later this week. Baker also said RHP Bryan Abreu (left calf strain) is going out on a rehab assignment this week and RHP Josh James (left hip surgery) is as well.Orioles: Baltimore put RHP César Valdez (lower back strain) on the 10-day injured list and recalled RHP Travis Lakins Sr. from Triple-A Norfolk. … OF Anthony Santander had the night off. He returned a month ago from a sprained left ankle, and Hyde said Santander has a little soreness.UP NEXTHouston’s Zack Greinke (7-2) takes the mound Tuesday night against Baltimore’s Jorge López (2-8).———Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Road woes dragging on for Diamondbacks and Orioles

Road woes dragging on for Diamondbacks and Orioles

The Arizona Diamondbacks have dropped 23 straight away games, setting a major league recordBy NOAH TRISTER AP Baseball WriterJune 21, 2021, 7:00 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe irony is that neither Arizona nor Baltimore has the worst road record in its league.That’s of little consolation right now.The Diamondbacks have dropped 23 straight away games, setting a major league record. The Orioles aren’t far behind with their 19-game skid. Both streaks are still active, so there’s no telling how much longer this will go on. Baltimore has a home series with Houston before leaving on a 10-game road trip. Arizona’s next road series starts Friday against a talented San Diego team.The Orioles actually had some success on the road early in the season, so their 11-25 mark away from home is not at bad as Texas’ 10-27 record. And in terms of winning percentage, the Diamondbacks (9-31) don’t even have the worst road mark in their own division. That belongs to Colorado, which is a woeful 5-27.But the attention right now is on Arizona, which went all of May and now over half of June without a road win. The Diamondbacks nearly got one Tuesday night in San Francisco, when they took a 7-0 lead in the second inning. The Giants, however, chipped away, and they eventually won 9-8 after Mike Yastrzemski hit a grand slam in the eighth.That was road loss No. 21 in a row. The major league record was 22, by the 1963 New York Mets and the 1943 Philadelphia Athletics. Now Arizona has surpassed that total as well.At least the Orioles have won some home games recently. The Diamondbacks are also on a 17-game losing streak overall.TRIVIA TIMEThe last time the Orioles won a road game was May 5 at Seattle. The last time the Diamondbacks did was April 25 at Atlanta. What do those two games have in common?LINE OF THE WEEKKyle Schwarber hit three home runs in Washington’s 5-2 victory over the New York Mets on Sunday. The Nationals are back within three games of .500 after winning eight of their last 10.COMEBACK OF THE WEEKThe Orioles were back home by Saturday, but their fortunes weren’t much better when they hosted Toronto. They led 7-4 with two outs in the top of the ninth before Marcus Semien drew a bases-loaded walk and Bo Bichette hit a two-run single to tie it. The Blue Jays weren’t done. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. added a two-run double and Randal Grichuk brought Guerrero home with a double to cap a six-run inning.Baltimore’s win probability had peaked in the bottom of the eighth at 98.4%, according to Statcast. The Orioles had men on first and second with nobody out but didn’t score, and they ended up losing 10-7 after Toronto’s big rally.NEAR-COMEBACK OF THE WEEKCleveland trailed Pittsburgh 11-1 before scoring six runs in the seventh and three in the eighth. The Indians actually had men on first and second with one out in the ninth — their win probability was back up to 27.5% at that point — but Richard Rodríguez retired the final two batters to preserve an 11-10 win for the Pirates.HIGHLIGHTThe New York Yankees have pulled off a record-tying three triple plays this season, and two of them came in a span of four days. The most recent one helped closer Aroldis Chapman out of a ninth-inning jam against Oakland on Sunday. Chapman walked two batters before Sean Murphy hit a grounder to third, and the Yankees whipped the ball around the horn for a 5-4-3 triple play, wrapping up their 2-1 win.On Thursday against Toronto, New York produced the first 1-3-6-2-5-6 triple play in major league history.TRIVIA ANSWERBoth Baltimore and Arizona held the opposition hitless in their most recent road victories. John Means threw a no-hitter for the Orioles in a 6-0 win over Seattle, and Madison Bumgarner held the Braves without a hit in Arizona’s 7-0 victory in a seven-inning game.———Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports