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Vlad Jr. to undergo MRI for left knee discomfort


Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will undergo an MRI after being removed from Saturday’s game against the Seattle Mariners due to left knee discomfort, manager Charlie Montoyo said postgame, according to Scott Mitchell of TSN.

Guerrero made a difficult grab on a ground ball to the left side of the infield during the top of the second inning, but it’s unclear whether that caused the ailment.

Brandon Drury replaced the rookie slugger at third base to begin the third inning.

Guerrero missed five weeks due to an injured patellar tendon in his left knee while in the minors last season. He has a .274/.345/.464 slash line with 14 homers so far in his first campaign in the majors.





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Boone, Gardner, inactive Sabathia ejected in 6th


New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone, outfielder Brett Gardner and pitcher CC Sabathia — who is on the injured list — were all thrown out of Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Indians for arguing balls and strikes.

Boone was tossed by home plate umpire Ben May when he came out in the sixth inning to argue calls following a strikeout of Cameron Maybin.

Gardner was ejected by first-base umpire Phil Cuzzi for banging the dugout ceiling with a bat — a method of protest he has adopted since he was hit in the head by a helmet he slammed against the dugout wall. Gardner also banged the bat on July 18, while Boone was making his “savages” rant.

Sabathia stormed out of the dugout to protest Gardner’s ejection and was also tossed by Cuzzi.



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Indians’ Puig on stunning throw: ‘I don’t know why people keep running on me’


Cleveland Indians outfielder Yasiel Puig has a reputation for a variety of behaviors and skills, but none are quite as memorable, or as impressive, as his arm strength and pinpoint accuracy.

In Friday night’s game against the New York Yankees, he casually made a catch on a fly ball from third baseman DJ LeMahieu. His seeming disinterest appeared to lull the runner at third base, Cameron Maybin, into a false sense of security, only for Puig to shift gears and launch a rocket to home plate in order to get Maybin out and end the inning.

“Everybody knows in baseball that I can do that,” Puig said, according to Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com. “I don’t know why people keep running on me. I made a good throw.”

The 28-year-old Cuban star has made an immediate impact on both sides of the ball since arriving in Cleveland via trade from the Cincinnati Reds. In addition to his sparkling work in the outfield, Puig is batting .353/.400/.588 with two home runs and two stolen bases in 13 games with his new club.





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Jurickson, Juremi and now Jurdrick — There’s another Profar ready to rock Williamsport


When Curacao takes center stage in Williamsport for this year’s Little League World Series, you will encounter a familiar name: Profar. That would be Jurdrick Profar, a player for the Pabao Little League team from Willemstad, Curacao. And yes, he’s related to that Profar.

In 2004, Jurickson Profar, now the starting second baseman for the Oakland Athletics, took a star turn in helping Curacao win the LLWS title alongside future big leaguer Jonathan Schoop. The Jurickson-led Pabao club returned to Williamsport in 2005 and fell in the title game to Hawaii.

But that’s not all: In 2007 and 2008, another Profar — Juremi — played on LLWS entrants for Curacao. With Jurdrick completing the familial hat trick this year, the Profars become the second trio of brothers to play in the LLWS, according to littleleague.org.

Curacao, a tiny island off the coast of Venezuela, is roughly 171 square miles in size. For context, consider that the smallest state in the continental United States, Rhode Island, is about 1,034 square miles. Nevertheless, a steady stream of talent has flowed from Curacao into professional baseball in the U.S. in recent years. That group currently includes Jurickson and Juremi (currently playing at Triple-A in the Texas Rangers’ system), Schoop, Kenley Jansen, Andrelton Simmons and Ozzie Albies.

The first player from Curacao to break into the majors was current San Francisco Giants coach Hensley Meulens. But the biggest star from the island is former MLB center fielder Andruw Jones, whose emergence for the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s played a big part in the growth of baseball in Curacao.

Make no mistake: Curacao has become a powerhouse in Caribbean youth baseball. This year’s LLWS entrant is the 13th team from the island to earn a trip to Williamsport.

We caught up with Jurickson Profar recently in Chicago.

BRADFORD DOOLITTLE: You’ve got to be excited for Jurdrick.

JURICKSON PROFAR: He’s come a long way, and now he’s doing very well. I’m very proud of him.

BD: Do you offer him advice, or does he ask you, as he goes through this? I mean, this is a pretty big event.

JP: No. I just leave him alone so that he can enjoy it. He’s in the Little League World Series. As a little kid, that’s the best thing that there is. I want him to enjoy himself. And compete.

BD: The spotlight on this event has become so bright. How is it for the kids? How much are they able to just enjoy it?

JP: When we went there, we just enjoyed baseball. We didn’t even know how big it was. We just won in the Caribbean and then went over there and just played. And then we won it.

BD: Not that this is any news to you, but Curacao is not that big of an island. Still, in recent years, you and a number of others have not only entered Major League Baseball but also become impact players. How would you describe the baseball culture at home?

JP: We grew up watching Andruw Jones play, and when I was little, I didn’t even think about playing baseball overseas. I was just in Curacao and having fun with friends and just playing. Then, after that Little League World Series, then I could say, “I can make it.”

BD: I think Bam-Bam [Hensley Meulens] was the first player to break into the majors from there, but who were the heroes for you growing up? Just Andruw Jones?

JP: Only Andruw Jones. He was it for us. I played for him in the WBC and got to know him, too, before. We met him when we won the Little League World Series and stuff.

BD: Is there a special bond for you guys from the island who have attained so much success in this country?

JP: There is. We played on the same team, even if it was different levels, they were older. We’d see each other at practice every day. And now we are in the big leagues.

BD: A big issue with youth baseball in the U.S. is that some think it has become too structured. What is it like for youth baseball players in Curacao?

JP: We’d just get together and play baseball. We didn’t have to pay anything. We’d just go and play, and that’s it. It’s still like that there, but it’s a little bit different because we have a lot of big leaguers now, and kids want to be like us. They know what they want to be already. They want to be Major League Baseball players. Me, I didn’t know that. I was just playing baseball and enjoying it with friends. I didn’t even know I could make the big leagues. But now, they see it.

BD: For Curacao, or any team from that region, it’s quite an accomplishment to win that region, right? The competition your brother has encountered has already been pretty amazing.

JP: Oh, yeah. You have to play the Dominican, you have to play Puerto Rico. Those teams are very good. But he’s pretty good, too. He’s a big guy, so I thought he could make it. They have a really good team. But the world series is always very difficult. You have to play the U.S., you have to play Japan and all those teams. They are good too, so let’s see.

BD: What was your favorite LLWS memory on the field?

JP: Everything. Pitching. Hitting. Hitting a home run in the final.

BD: What about off the field?

JP: Coming to the U.S. for the first time and enjoying playing on grass for the first time. Playing in front of thousands of people for the first time.

BD: And playing on ESPN?

JP: (laughs) Yes, ESPN.

BD: A lot of clips and such from those series are still on YouTube, with the very young Jurickson Profar in action and talking on camera. Do you ever watch any of those?

JP: I have to. I have a little son, and all he wants to do is watch videos of me on YouTube.



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Kepler sets single-season HR record for European-born players


Max Kepler stands alone.

The Minnesota Twins outfielder hit his 33rd home run of the season Friday, smashing a fourth-inning blast off Texas Rangers left-hander Mike Minor to set the single-season record for the most home runs by a European-born MLB player.

Kepler, who was born in Germany, broke the previous record of 32 set in 1951 by Scotland native Bobby Thomson.

Thomson, then a member of the New York Giants, famously hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” against the Brooklyn Dodgers to clinch the 1951 National League pennant.

Kepler’s 33rd dinger marks a career-high and moved the 26-year-old into third among the American League’s home run leaders.





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— Worth exploring MLB ‘mercy rule’


As the Little League World Series hits full steam this weekend, there’s at least one rule that New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone wouldn’t mind seeing the majors consider.

During a news conference Friday, Boone responded to a question about the idea of Major League Baseball implementing a “mercy rule,” saying it would be nice to end a game that had gotten out of hand early rather than go through the motions of completing nine innings.

“If you get to this point after seven innings or whatever, there might be something to that, some merit to that and worth exploring,” Boone said of a potential mercy rule. “Because it’s not fun to have to put in a position player in that kind of situation.”

Boone might have liked to see that option Thursday, when the Yankees turned to rookie designated hitter Mike Ford for two innings of relief amid a 19-5 thrashing by the Cleveland Indians. It was the first time a Yankees position player completed two innings on the mound.

“Sitting in my chair, you worry about hurting someone,” Boone said. “You hate throwing up a flag like that, and sitting there and getting kicked in the mouth is no fun.”

Boone said he thought a regular-season mercy rule could make sense, in part due to ongoing methods to protect pitchers’ usage.

In the Little League World Series, a game is called off if a team leads by at least 10 runs after the fourth inning of the six-inning contest or 15 runs after three innings.



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Yankees clinch 27th consecutive winning season


Death, taxes, and the New York Yankees finishing above .500.

The Yankees’ incredible season marched on with a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday, a victory that clinched their 27th consecutive winning record and continued the second-longest streak in baseball history.

The Yankees’ last sub-.500 campaign came in 1992 when they stumbled to a fourth-place finish at 76-86.

Over the course of this 27-season run, New York has won 14 division titles (including the strike-shortened 1994 season), missing the playoffs only six times. They’ve also won five of their 27 World Series titles, and seven AL pennants, during this era of dominance. All told, the Yankees have accrued an astounding 2,502 regular-season wins since Opening Day 1993.

This has been something of a miracle season for the Yankees, who managed to clinch a winning record over six weeks before the end of the season despite a seemingly never-ending parade of injuries. Former MVP Giancarlo Stanton and 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar have both missed the majority of this season, and the team currently has 16 players on the injured list.

The all-time record for consecutive winning seasons is 39, set by – who else? – the Yankees, between 1926 and 1964. The second-longest active streak currently belongs to the St. Louis Cardinals, who have finished above .500 in each of the last 11 years, per MLB Stats.





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Giants vs. Diamondbacks – Game Recap – August 16, 2019


PHOENIX — Mike Yastrzemski never experienced a night like Friday. Not in his months in the major leagues, not in the minor leagues and not in Little League.

“Not even in video games,” the 28-year-old Yastrzemski said.

Yastrzemski hit three home runs, including a tiebreaking solo shot in the 11th inning, and the San Francisco Giants recovered after squandering two late leads to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 10-9.

For only the second time in major league history, teams combined to hit 12 home runs in a game. The Giants and Diamondbacks were one short of the record 13 homers hit by Arizona and Philadelphia on June 10 at Citizens Bank Park. It was a Chase Field record for the Diamondbacks, who hit five of their six on Friday after the seventh inning.

Yastrzemski also hit a solo homer in the third, and had a two-run blast in the seventh inning. His three-homer game was accomplished in 70 big league games. His Hall of Fame grandfather, Carl Yastrzemski, had one three-homer outing in 3,308 career games for the Boston Red Sox. The elder Yastrzemski hit three homers in a game against the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium on May 19, 1974.

“Just don’t let a good pitch to hit go by,” Yastrzemski said of his thought process. “Didn’t matter whether it’s a fastball, slider, change-up, if it was a good pitch I wasn’t going to let it hit the glove.”

Kevin Pillar homered twice, with his second long ball giving the Giants a 9-7 lead in the 10th inning.

The Diamondbacks countered with home runs by Wilmer Flores, his second of the game, and Nick Ahmed off Giants closer Will Smith, sending the game to the 11th inning.

Smith (5-0) picked up the win despite blowing a save chance. He worked 1⅔ innings. Trevor Gott got Christian Walker to ground out for the game’s final out and earned his first save.

Brandon Belt also homered for the Giants, who have won five of six.

Adam Jones, Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar homered for Arizona. Escobar hit his team-leading 28th.

Yoan Lopez (1-5) took the loss after giving up Yastrzemski’s home run to lead off the 11th.

The Diamondbacks lost their third straight and fell below .500 at 61-62. The Giants, 2½ games out of the second wild-card spot in the National League, have taken the first two games of the four-game set.

“It just shows how gritty this team is,” Yastrzemski said. “Guys want to win and they want to be here and they want to play, and that’s what makes it so fun to be part of a team like this.”

Jones’ first homer in more than two months tied the score at 7 in the eighth inning, as the Diamondbacks battled back from a 7-2 deficit. Jones hit a three-run shot as a pinch hitter with two outs.

“We slugged it out and ran out of outs,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “You feel like it was one of those games you want to keep playing the rest of the night until you come out of the right side of it.”

Arizona got the tying run on base when Marte singled to start the bottom of the 11th. But Smith struck out David Peralta and got Escobar to pop out before Gott entered and closed out the game.

Giants starter Jeff Samardzija gave up two runs and five hits in 5⅓ innings.

“A little home run derby going on tonight,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “But I’ll say this, for those guys in there to win that ball game, a couple of leads there we let get away … relievers have a tough day, but we picked them up.”

The Diamondbacks took a 1-0 lead when Marte homered to open the bottom of the first. It was Marte’s 25th of the season and third leadoff homer of the season and his career.

Belt and Yastrzemski took Diamondbacks starter Mike Leake deep in the third inning. Pillar’s home run sailed into the left-field seats, scoring Scooter Gennett, who had singled with one out.

Leake gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto is scheduled for another start with Class A San Jose next week, as he moves closer to a possible return from Tommy John surgery.

Diamondbacks: Peralta banged his left (throwing) hand making a difficult catch in foul territory against the left-field fence to end the top of the third inning but stayed in the game.

UP NEXT

Giants: Top prospect Logan Webb is set for his major league debut Saturday against Arizona. Webb, 22, has pitched at the rookie, Class A, Double-A and Triple-A levels this season. He was suspended for 80 games earlier this year for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Diamondbacks: RHP Taylor Clarke was named Saturday’s starter before Friday’s game, in place of Merrill Kelly, who was moved to Sunday. Clarke is to be officially called up from Triple-A Reno, and is 4-3 with a 5.46 ERA in 13 starts with the Diamondbacks this season.



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‘Who’s playing tonight?’: Bill Walton puts on classic performance in White Sox booth


NBA legend Bill Walton stepped into the Chicago White Sox’s booth for Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels and his presence led to an unforgettable broadcast.

Before first pitch was even thrown, Walton discussed how he loved hitting high, hard ones into outer space while donning a tie-dyed shirt alongside broadcast partner Jason Benetti.

Walton kept up the shenanigans with a number of hilarious, surprising, and eye-brow raising quotes and analysis throughout the night.

Here’s some of his best work.

Walton on Mike Trout, including a priceless HR call:

Walton emphatically credits Chicago’s great defense on a routine fly out:

Walton loses his mind when the White Sox score the game’s first run:

Walton calls Chicago’s 2-0 lead “insurmountable”:

He compares slow-footed catcher Welington Castillo to Usain Bolt:

His non-baseball thoughts were … interesting:

Walton gets to call a grand slam:

Walton’s baseball IQ is unmatched:

Walton signs off





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With another ninth-inning nightmare, Cubs’ road woes could be their undoing


PITTSBURGH — Just when you think it can’t get worse.

It does.

That’s how the Chicago Cubs must be feeling after back-to-back walk-off losses. The latest came on Friday night against the Pirates, when manager Joe Maddon called upon righty Brandon Kintzler to close out a 2-1 game. The only problem? Kintzler is fresh off the injured list and predictably didn’t have his command. He walked three, the first one intentional but the last one with the bases loaded to bring home the tying run, before Kevin Newman singled home the game-winner.

“No one feels worse than Kintzler right now but that’s the way this is rolling lately,” Maddon said after the 3-2 loss. “You can’t give in to it. You have to keep fighting through it. And if you do, you’ll come out the other side. We cannot let it get to us.”

Maddon said similar the night before when the Cubs were walked off by a Bryce Harper grand slam in Philadelphia. Then came an early morning arrival in Pittsburgh where they were met by their general manager, Jed Hoyer. Team president Theo Epstein will join shortly as the organization prepares for a lighthearted day in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for the Little League World Series on Sunday.

play

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Bryce Harper rips a grand slam out of the park to give the Phillies a 7-5 walk-off win over the Cubs.

How much fun will that possibly be if the Cubs lose another road game on Saturday? Because of a 23-39 record away from Wrigley Field, they’re starting to look up at others in the standings.

“I don’t ever remember [this happening] in my whole baseball playing career,” Kris Bryant said of the back-to-back crushing losses. “I don’t know how to respond to it. It’s new to me. It’s new to most of us.”

You’ll excuse Bryant for not remembering May 5 and 6, 2018, when the Cardinals won two games against the Cubs in their final at-bats. But those came when the Cubs still won some games on the road. It didn’t hurt as bad. These sting even more.

“It could be a lot better,” Bryant said. “It could be a lot worse. We’re kind of right in the middle there. Thankfully no one is running away with it. At least we have that on our side.”

That’s the best the Cubs can muster right now. A thankfulness that Milwaukee and St. Louis haven’t run away from them. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. The 2016 World Series winners — long past their championship hangover — were supposed to be closer to the Dodgers or Astros not the Cardinals or Brewers. But those teams have gotten better while the Cubs have, well, stood still. And that might be putting it kindly.

“We can’t keep having this conversation over and over,” general manager Jed Hoyer said about the Cubs’ inconsistent play. “If we continue that cycle we’re going to end up disappointed.”

Maddon will undoubtedly get most of the blame, as most managers do. And there’s already a feeling that his days in Chicago are numbered, considering his contract is up at the end of the season. But he’s been playing a game of whack-a-mole for most of the year based on an imperfect roster.

He can’t make a defensive replacement or pick a reliever to pitch without it coming back to bite him. Both kinds of decisions came into play in Thursday’s and Friday’s losses. He can be the fall guy based solely on the Cubs road record — not that he’s maxed out on the season either. Maddon hasn’t adjusted to the new reality of the Cubs: They may not be as talented as they once were and they’re certainly not as deep. Not even close.

“It’s a cliché. We just have to keep going,” Bryant said. “I don’t know what else to say. I really don’t.”

No one does.



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