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Acuna's 1st hit, insane speed key Braves' win

Baseball's No. 2 prospect goes 1-for-5, scores game-tying run in 8th
MLB.com @mlbbowman

CINCINNATI -- Ronald Acuna Jr.'s power, speed and defensive skills have drawn praise as he has made a meteoric rise through the Braves' system over the past year and established himself as one of the game's top prospects.

But before the heralded 20-year-old phenom made his much-anticipated Major League debut -- in which he singled, flashed his blazing speed and scored the tying run in Wednesday night's 5-4 win over the Reds -- he might have most impressed with the mature response he provided when asked if he benefited from his longer-than-expected stint with Triple-A Gwinnett this year.

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CINCINNATI -- Ronald Acuna Jr.'s power, speed and defensive skills have drawn praise as he has made a meteoric rise through the Braves' system over the past year and established himself as one of the game's top prospects.

But before the heralded 20-year-old phenom made his much-anticipated Major League debut -- in which he singled, flashed his blazing speed and scored the tying run in Wednesday night's 5-4 win over the Reds -- he might have most impressed with the mature response he provided when asked if he benefited from his longer-than-expected stint with Triple-A Gwinnett this year.

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"It was an incredible experience," Acuna said through an interpreter. "I think that helped me develop a little bit during those couple weeks I was in the Minor Leagues. I'd say it definitely helped me develop more and be prepared more than I thought I would be leaving Spring Training."

Video: ATL@CIN: Acuna Jr. on getting called up for MLB debut

Acuna certainly seemed prepared for the flurry of excitement that awaited after he entered Great American Ball Park around 1:45 p.m. ET, approximately 14 hours after his emotions were stirred by the revelation he was coming to the Majors. He put on a show during batting practice, created some excitement with his first two plate appearances and notched his first career hit with an eighth-inning single off Kevin Shackelford. Once he was on base, he raced from first to third on Dansby Swanson's single, reaching a speed of 30.3 feet per second, according to Statcast™. Twins center fielder Byron Buxton leads the Majors with an average sprint speed of 30.5 feet per second.

Video: ATL@CIN: Statcast™ measures Acuna's clutch baserunning

"That's going to be another weapon we have as a team," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Having him out there is really going to be good. He's an elite defender. There's no fear at all on the basepaths. It's going to be a big plus for us."

Acuna's speed put him in position to score the game-tying run on Kurt Suzuki's single up the middle.

Video: ATL@CIN: Acuna Jr. scores first run on Suzuki's hit

It was just one part of a momentous day.

"It's a dream come true," Acuna said. "I just thank God for this opportunity to be able to be here to log my first hit and play in my first big league game. It's been incredible."

Video: ATL@CIN: Acuna on getting a hit in his MLB debut

Ranked as baseball's second-best prospect per MLB Pipeline, Acuna stands as the most complete prospect the Braves have produced since Andruw Jones debuted in 1996. He showed flashes of his power potential when he recorded two long flyouts during his first two plate appearances. He lined the first pitch he saw to the right-center-field warning track with a 100.8-mph exit velocity. He swung at the first pitch in the third inning and produced a 97.4-mph exit velocity on a lineout to right field.

Video: ATL@CIN: Acuna Jr. lifts deep flyout in first at-bat

Acuna struck out twice and went 1-for-5 during his debut, providing plenty of signs he is quite capable of generating excitement every time he comes to the plate.

"Nothing seemed to affect him," Snitker said. "He wasn't overwhelmed by anything. He just went out and played his game. He was on the attack there. He hit a couple of balls good and got his first hit. I thought he was just fine."

Acuna displayed his tremendous talent with a 1.246 OPS over 44 Grapefruit League at-bats. Still, regardless of how he fared during Spring Training, it was almost certain that he would not join Atlanta's roster until at least April 14, the first date the Braves could promote him without surrendering an extra year of control.

Acuna's arrival was further delayed by a slump during his first two weeks with Gwinnett. He started to round into form recently and ended up recording 11 hits in what he hopes were the final 33 at-bats of his Minor League career.

Video: PHI@ATL: Acuna hits first HR of season at Triple-A

"To be honest, I never felt any pressure," Acuna said. "We all know baseball has its highs and lows. I never really put any extra pressure on myself."

A night earlier, when Snitker returned to his office following a 12-inning loss to the Reds, he didn't hesitate when general manager Alex Anthopoulos suggested it was time to bring Acuna to the Majors.

"We knew it was inevitable that, at some point, the kid was going to get up here," Snitker said. "It was like, 'When is the perfect time?' I don't know. Alex asked me what I thought and I said, 'I'm excited to get him in here and see what he can do.'"

Reunited with his best friend -- Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies -- Acuna didn't appear overwhelmed by his new environment. He has been aiming for this opportunity since late last season, and now looks forward to the chance to show why so many have longed to see him perform at the game's highest level.

"As soon as I hit the field, I felt at home," Acuna said.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr.

8 is great: Crew's win streak continues in KC

Special to MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- Many stats could be used to help explain the Brewers' eight-game winning streak, and the one that stands out most to manager Craig Counsell is 14. As in 14 runs allowed by Milwaukee over those eight victories.

It was more of the same on Wednesday, as the Brewers equaled their longest winning streak since 2015 with a 6-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Jhoulys Chacin delivered 5 2/3 efficient innings, and a bullpen that has enjoyed recent dominance extended its scoreless streak to 28 innings.

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KANSAS CITY -- Many stats could be used to help explain the Brewers' eight-game winning streak, and the one that stands out most to manager Craig Counsell is 14. As in 14 runs allowed by Milwaukee over those eight victories.

It was more of the same on Wednesday, as the Brewers equaled their longest winning streak since 2015 with a 6-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Jhoulys Chacin delivered 5 2/3 efficient innings, and a bullpen that has enjoyed recent dominance extended its scoreless streak to 28 innings.

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"That [14] is the number right there," Counsell said. "You are going to have a lot of success allowing 14 runs over eight games."

The Royals got two runners on base in the sixth inning, so the Brewers turned to the bullpen even though Chacin had thrown only 64 pitches. Each reliever delivered, as Chacin did in setting the tone with his pitch-efficient outing.

"[The Royals] were real aggressive," Chacin said. "They were swinging a lot at the first or second pitch. They see my stats. I had been walking some guys early in the season. Maybe they thought I was going to come out and throw more strikes so they were swinging early. I'll take that. It gave me a lot of quick outs."

Video: MIL@KC: Chacin strikes out Soler swinging in the 2nd

Chacin, who allowed four hits and two earned runs, left in the sixth with the tying run on base. In a lefty-on-lefty matchup, Dan Jennings came on to retire Lucas Duda.

And so it went for the Milwaukee bullpen.

There was some trouble in the late innings, but no Kansas City runs. Jacob Barnes, Josh Hader and Taylor Williams kept the bullpen's scoreless streak intact.

Video: MIL@KC: Barnes induces an inning-ending double play

Hader was particularly impressive in the eighth, striking out Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez with two on.

"They are doing such a nice job picking each other up," Counsell said. "They are not just putting up zeros on their line. They are putting up zeros on the line of the guy who pitched before them."

Video: MIL@KC: Hader K's Moustakas, Perez to strand a pair

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Four in the fourth: The Brewers got all the offense they'd need in the fourth inning with a four-run frame against Royals starter Jason Hammel. Travis Shaw roped an 0-2 pitch down the right-field line to bring in the first run, and Domingo Santana and Jesus Aguilar, who had two RBIs in his first start as Milwaukee's primary first baseman with Eric Thames on the disabled list, then delivered sacrifice flies, with Santana reaching on an error by Jorge Soler and later scoring on Jonathan Villar's groundout.

With the Brewers scoring by being efficient at the plate, Counsell praised how his club handled themselves on the bases.

"We ran the bases really well in that inning," Counsell said. "It was contact, it was baserunning, it was situational hitting."

Video: MIL@KC: Santana reaches on an error, drives in a run

SOUND SMART
Ryan Braun had his first three-hit game of 2018 on Wednesday and seems to be coming around after a slow start. Braun, who hit .176 through the opening 15 games, has gone on a .440 spurt (11 for 25) through his last seven games.

HE SAID IT
"It's not the pitches. He got 17 outs. I thought if you get 17 outs, that's great. That's what we are looking for." -- Counsell on his decision to lift Chacin after the right-hander threw just 64 pitches on Wednesday

UP NEXT
The Brewers will be hoping to give right-hander Chase Anderson considerably more offensive support Thursday against the Cubs than was the case on April 8 when Anderson last faced Chicago. Although Anderson pitched well, allowing just four hits and two earned runs through six innings, the Cubs claimed a 3-0 victory. Anderson will be looking for his third straight win in the 7:05 p.m. CT series opener at Wrigley Field with Kyle Hendricks on the mound for the Cubs.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com based in Kansas City.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jesus Aguilar, Jhoulys Chacin, Travis Shaw

Three homers back Bauer as Tribe tops Cubs

Guyer, Lindor, Encarnacion go deep to break up pitchers' duel
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- Brandon Guyer raised a finger to the sky as he rounded first, celebrating the home run he just sent ricocheting off the pole down the left-field line. His fifth-inning shot on Wednesday night stirred the Indians' offense, which is trying to wake from its April slumber.

Not long after that, both Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion followed suit, providing just enough power to pick up a 4-1 victory over the Cubs at Progressive Field. Pitching is what has carried Cleveland to the top of the American League Central to date, and the trio of Tribe homers in this one backed another strong outing from Trevor Bauer.

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CLEVELAND -- Brandon Guyer raised a finger to the sky as he rounded first, celebrating the home run he just sent ricocheting off the pole down the left-field line. His fifth-inning shot on Wednesday night stirred the Indians' offense, which is trying to wake from its April slumber.

Not long after that, both Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion followed suit, providing just enough power to pick up a 4-1 victory over the Cubs at Progressive Field. Pitching is what has carried Cleveland to the top of the American League Central to date, and the trio of Tribe homers in this one backed another strong outing from Trevor Bauer.

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"It was good getting on the board and giving Bauer some runs," Lindor said. "We haven't been able to do that in the last outings for him. Giving him the lead is always good. To be honest, all we need is two or three guys.

"It's fun to see nine guys getting multiple hits. It's always good, because it calms you down, gives you a little relief. The most important part is two or three guys scoring a couple of runs and giving the pitching staff the lead. That's enough."

Given how Cleveland has been pitching, that has indeed been enough lately.

Heading into Wednesday's win, the Indians' rotation had a 2.85 ERA on the season. Bauer continued that trend by limiting the Cubs to one run over 6 2/3 innings with a season-high eight strikeouts, trimming his season ERA to 2.41 in the process.

Bauer escaped damage at a handful of turns, but finally flinched in the fifth. Back-to-back walks with one out came back to bite the starter via an RBI single from Anthony Rizzo.

Video: CHC@CLE: Bauer strikes out eight over 6 2/3 innings

"Trevor competed his rear end off. He battled," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I thought he was really good. It looked like he was frustrated at times, but I thought he was really good."

The Cubs' 1-0 lead was short-lived, however. Cleveland answered with three home runs in a span of six batters off Cubs lefty Jon Lester, who worked seven innings for Chicago. Guyer ignited the comeback with a two-out shot in the fifth, then Lindor and Encarnacion followed with their own solo homers in the sixth.

"Whoever says solo homers can't beat you is full of it," Lester quipped.

The Indians will take it. Through 22 games, Cleveland has launched 28 home runs, including 17 of the solo variety. As a team, the Tribe has turned in a .218/.290/.368 slash line to go with 3.5 runs per game, on average. The club is searching for signs of life from its offense, and Wednesday felt like another small step forward.

"I don't think anybody in here was worried about it or had doubts that we were going to hit," Bauer said. "We all know what we're capable of offensively. When the weather warms up and guys get a month or two under their belts, have seen pitching, get in midseason form, we're pretty confident we're going to start rolling."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Guyer beats Lester: When a lefty is on the mound against the Tribe, Guyer typically starts in the outfield. Heading into Wednesday, however, Guyer was just 3-for-21 against left-handed pitching, falling short of his reputation as a weapon vs. southpaws. His fortunes shifted in the fifth, when Guyer sent a 3-1 pitch from Lester deep to left, where the ball caromed off the pole for a game-tying home run with two outs.

Video: CHC@CLE: Guyer knocks a solo homer off the foul pole

"We need him so much against left-handers," Francona said of Guyer. "Boy, against one of the tougher lefties in baseball. Just to get it back tied, man, it felt so good. And we're going to face some lefties coming up here in the next week. So I think that's good."

Give an out, get a run: The Indians tacked on an insurance run in the eighth, but got some help from the Cubs in the process. Jason Kipnis used a sacrifice bunt to move Lindor up to second. After getting the out at first base, Rizzo fired the baseball to second in an effort to double up Lindor, but threw wildly into left field. Thanks to the error, Lindor scored with ease to put the Indians ahead, 4-1.

Video: CHC@CLE: Lindor scores following Rizzo's errant throw

"Kip getting a bunt down," Francona said. "Sometimes good things happen when you play the game right."

MILLER EXITS
In the seventh, relief ace Andrew Miller was summoned from the bullpen to face Rizzo with two outs and a runner on base. The big lefty grabbed at the back of his left leg following his second offering. Miller was quickly met on the mound by Francona and a member of the Tribe's medical staff. He exited the game with what the team announced as left hamstring tightness.

Video: CHC@CLE: Miller exits the game after just two pitches

"He's had it before," Francona said. "We're going to get him MRI'd [Thursday] morning. The hope is, I think last time he said it was 3-4 days. That would really be the hope. We'll know a lot more [Thursday]."

Video: CHC@CLE: Francona on 4-1 win over the Cubs

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the seventh inning, Lindor and Javier Baez -- good friends and fellow Puerto Ricans -- had some fun with each other. Baez sent a sharp ground ball into the hole on the left side, where Lindor made a spectacular diving stop. The shortstop's throw was a tick late, and Baez waved a finger in Lindor's direction as he crossed first base. Lindor laughed out at short.

Video: CHC@CLE: Baez wags finger at Lindor from first base

"I loved it. I would've done the same," Lindor said. "I wanted him to be out so I could fist-pump at him. But, he beat it. Baez one, me zero."

UP NEXT
The Indians will send right-hander Mike Clevinger (2-0, 1.75 ERA) to the hill on Thursday, when the Tribe hosts the Mariners in the opener of a four-game set at Progressive Field. Lefty James Paxton is slated to start for Seattle in the 6:10 p.m. ET clash in Cleveland.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Trevor Bauer

Arrieta defeats Greinke in Cy Young showdown

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Jake Arrieta promised in March that the Phillies would put up a fight.

He fought on Wednesday night in a 5-3 victory over the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Jake Arrieta promised in March that the Phillies would put up a fight.

He fought on Wednesday night in a 5-3 victory over the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park.

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He battled Arizona ace Zack Greinke in a matchup between former Cy Young Award winners. He navigated through three errors and his own command issues. But Arrieta competed and kept the score close, setting up Aaron Altherr's game-winning three-run home run in the sixth inning. Arrieta threw a season-high 107 pitches, more than any Phillies starter has thrown this season, putting Philadelphia in position to win a series on Thursday against the team with the best record in the National League, in a game that will stream exclusively on Facebook Live.

"Any time you beat him, it's a good night," Arrieta said.

It's not the first time Arrieta has topped Greinke, either. Arrieta edged Greinke for the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, too. He went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA as a member the Cubs. Greinke went 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA with the Dodgers. Neither had their best stuff on Wednesday with their new clubs, but both competed.

"It was a grind," Arrieta said.

Paul Goldschmidt reached base on Maikel Franco's throwing error to start the fourth inning. Two batters later, Arrieta walked Daniel Descalso to load the bases with no outs. Arrieta then walked Chris Owings to score the tying run.

Arrieta heard a few boos.

"Yeah, I mean, who likes a bases-loaded walk?" he said. "I would have booed it, too."

Arrieta allowed his second unearned run in the sixth, when J.P. Crawford's throwing error again put Goldschmidt on base to start the inning. Andrew Knapp's throwing error on a stolen-base attempt got Goldschmidt to third. Goldschmidt scored on Descalso's sacrifice fly to hand Arizona a 3-2 lead.

"That's going to happen," Arrieta said. "Trying to instill in the guys on this team that regardless of whether or not they make an error in a big situation or a blowout game, it's part of the job description of a starting pitcher to pick those guys up and tell them after the fact, 'Hey, I've got you.'"

Carlos Santana doubled and Odubel Herrera walked to put runners on first and second with one out in the sixth when Altherr stepped to the plate. Greinke threw Altherr a 1-1 slider for a ball. He followed with another slider.

Altherr crushed the 2-1 pitch. The ball sailed over the fence in center field to hand the Phillies a 5-3 lead. After a terribly slow start, Altherr has six hits and one walk in his last 12 plate appearances.

"It was not perfectly away, and it was too high," Greinke said about the pitch. "It wasn't very good, and he took a really good swing on it."

Arrieta returned to pitch a perfect seventh.

"I thought he was good and bad in spurts," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "I know he lost command there, but in typical Jake Arrieta fashion, he made pitches when he had to. When his back is against the wall, he gets a little bit tougher, a little bit sharper. He goes out there in his final inning at 90-some-odd pitches and throws a really quick, easy inning when his team needed him the most. It just speaks volumes about him and the stuff he has."

Video: ARI@PHI: Arrieta gives up one earned in seven innings

Said Phillies manager Gabe Kapler: "That's one thing we lean on. When we look out there, it's like, 'Oh, that guy won a Cy Young Award.' And there's a reason for it. It's not just because he's exceptionally talented physically. He's gifted mentally. He's strong-minded. When the game gets a little bit tough, he just gets a little bit tougher."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Stylings of Santana: Santana went 2-for-4 with an RBI. He is hitting .286 (6-for-21) with one double, five walks, five strikeouts and an .825 OPS in his last six games. His fielder's choice in the first inning scored Cesar Hernandez from third base to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. He singled to advance Hernandez to third base in the third. Hernandez later scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Santana's double to open the sixth started the rally that lead to Altherr's homer.

SOUND SMART
Herrera singled in the first inning to reach base safely in 25 consecutive games. It is the longest active streak in the big leagues.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Arrieta walked consecutive batters to load the bases and score a run in the fourth inning to tie the game. Jarrod Dyson then dropped a bunt down in front of the mound. Arrieta fielded the ball and flipped it home to beat A.J. Pollock to the plate to keep the game tied, 2-2.

Video: ARI@PHI: Arrieta makes tough play to nab Pollock

Jeff Mathis then hit a ground ball to Franco, who stepped on the bag and fired a throw to first base to complete the inning-ending double play.

Video: ARI@PHI: Franco turns bases-loaded DP to end the 4th

HE SAID IT
"I think he smelled it. He understands the big moment. They were flashing his stats with runners in scoring position up on the scoreboard. I felt like the crowd really got into it when he came up in that moment. He was really sitting back and waiting for the ball to get deep. That's a really important thing for a hitter to do there. See the ball a long time. We knew when it left the bat that it was screaming. We just weren't sure if it was going to over the wall. Obviously, it cleared it by a significant margin. We were all pretty fired up in the dugout." -- Kapler, on Altherr

UP NEXT
Phillies right-hander Ben Lively (0-1, 4.64 ERA) pitches Thursday afternoon's series finale at 1:05 ET against the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park, exclusively on Facebook Live. Lively slowed his pace on the mound in last week's start against the Pirates, allowing just one run in six innings. Matt Koch starts for Arizona.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies

Mookie mashes 2 homers, ends Boston's skid

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

TORONTO -- It was Mookie Betts who got the Red Sox off to a roaring start on this road trip with his big bat. So it's only fitting that as the three-city journey starts to wind down, it was Betts who lifted his team off the mat from a three-game losing streak.

The star right fielder drilled two homers -- including one that led off the game -- to propel the Red Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.

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TORONTO -- It was Mookie Betts who got the Red Sox off to a roaring start on this road trip with his big bat. So it's only fitting that as the three-city journey starts to wind down, it was Betts who lifted his team off the mat from a three-game losing streak.

The star right fielder drilled two homers -- including one that led off the game -- to propel the Red Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.

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The second long ball was a two-run drive to the opposite field in right with one out in the seventh that put Boston back in front by a run.

Video: BOS@TOR: Kimbrel retires Gurriel Jr. to earn the save

"Two good swings. The one to the opposite field, that was a great swing," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Obviously, the one on the 2-0 count to start up the game, it seems like we needed something like that, especially after the last few days to get the lead. I know they scored right away, but it felt good."

In the seven games Betts has played on the trip, he has six homers. Three of them have led off the game, extending his team record for career leadoff home runs to 14.

"It's been a lot of fun," said Betts. "Just trying to do what I can to help us win."

Video: BOS@TOR: Rodriguez hurls 6 2/3 strong to earn the win

As Cora found out while emerging out of the first losing streak of his managerial career, it's good to have a player like Betts when things aren't quite clicking on all cylinders.

"They're special," Cora said when asked about players like Betts. "Like the Trouts or Altuves, the more at-bats they get, the better you feel about it. Right away, he hits the ball out of the ballpark and you start thinking, 'Special night for him.' I'm glad that he's on my team."

Eduardo Rodriguez worked 6 2/3 innings and scattered six hits and three runs to earn the win that pushed the Red Sox to 18-5 and set up a rubber match of this three-game series on Thursday, which will conclude a trip that started on the West Coast.

Video: BOS@TOR: Devers, Ramirez team up for great play

Craig Kimbrel came on in the ninth to pick up his sixth save, one night after he gave up a walk-off homer to Curtis Granderson.

The offense was led by Betts and supported by Brock Holt, who had three more hits and six in the last two nights to raise his average from .244 to .327.

"Anybody who has Mookie on their side is going to be happy," said Rodriguez. "To have a guy like that who can hit the ball out of the ballpark and do all the things he does, it's pretty fun to see that."

The Red Sox saw this type of greatness from Betts on a consistent basis two years ago, when he finished second in the American League's Most Valuable Player Award voting. Last year, he showed flashes and had a solid year but wasn't at the top of his game.

Betts appears positioned to have a monster 2018 at the age of 25.

"I think just learning, a lot of learning with the new hitting [coaches] and J.D. [Martinez]," Betts said. "And just putting things together and actually learning how to use my strength instead of just going off ability. I use my ability obviously, too, but not just that, adding some strength to that."

Betts back at his best isn't great news for the rest of the AL.

"He's at the top of the game," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "He can beat you in so many ways. He's one of those guys who will be in the MVP running every year, I have to believe. But he'll beat you with his glove too. He's at a different level than most of them."

Video: BOS@TOR: Gibbons on Sanchez, Betts in Jays' 4-3 loss

SOUND SMART
When the Red Sox go deep, it's likely they are going to win. Boston is 11-2 in games with at least one homer and 8-1 with two or more homers.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
On a fly ball struck pretty well into right field by Rafael Devers in the seventh, it seemed all but certain that Andrew Benintendi would score an insurance run on what should have been a sacrifice fly. But Benintendi left the bag early and had to retreat. Why? It turns out he was screened on the play.

Video: BOS@TOR: Benintendi stays at third on long fly ball

"He said that the umpire was actually in sight, you know, between him and [right fielder Randal] Grichuk," said Cora. "It was the umpire and him, and he couldn't see and he took off early and went back. Just a baserunning mistake."

HE SAID IT
"Good win for us. Good win for the Bruins. Everybody is pulling for them over here. Mookie did his thing, again." -- Red Sox slugger and Bruins supporter Hanley Ramirez

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
All kinds of things were happening on a fly ball to left-center by Holt in the fourth. Left fielder Steve Pearce fell down on his first step, preventing him from catching what turned into a double. Thinking the ball was going to be caught, Jackie Bradley Jr. started back-tracking from third to second, and he was nearly passed on the bases by Christian Vazquez. Bradley wound up scoring on the play when the ball dropped. The Blue Jays issued a challenge in case Vazquez did pass Bradley, but the replay official confirmed that was not the case and Holt had an RBI double.

Video: BOS@TOR: Holt doubles home Bradley Jr. despite review

UP NEXT
Ace Chris Sale finishes off this road trip for the Red Sox on Thursday night when he pitches at one of his favorite venues. Lifetime at Rogers Centre, Sale is 4-1 with a 0.96 ERA. Last year, didn't allow a run in his three starts at Toronto covering 22 innings. Marco Estrada starts for the Jays, and first pitch is set for 7:07 p.m. ET.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts, Eduardo Rodriguez

Red-hot Didi homers in 4th straight as Yanks win

Shortstop ends night 3-for-3 with pair of walks
MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- There are only so many ways to broach the subject of Didi Gregorius' hot streak, and so the Yankees' shortstop allowed himself a crackling laugh after Wednesday's 7-4 win over the Twins, fielding an all-too-familiar inquiry about being locked in at the plate.

"Same question as yesterday," Gregorius said, grinning for the cameras.

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NEW YORK -- There are only so many ways to broach the subject of Didi Gregorius' hot streak, and so the Yankees' shortstop allowed himself a crackling laugh after Wednesday's 7-4 win over the Twins, fielding an all-too-familiar inquiry about being locked in at the plate.

"Same question as yesterday," Gregorius said, grinning for the cameras.

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As Gregorius' productive results continue, so will the attention, and he is not shying away from the spotlight. Gregorius homered for the fourth consecutive game on Wednesday, mashing a third-inning solo drive into the right-field seats off Twins right-hander Lance Lynn.

Video: MIN@NYY: Gregorius homers in his fourth straight game

The game-tying blast, Gregorius' team-leading ninth homer, established the 28-year-old as the first Major League shortstop since at least 1908 to collect nine homers and 29 RBIs through his first 23 games of a season. Yet Gregorius insists that he should still not be considered a home run hitter.

"I do have a lot of home runs, but it's not like I'm going out there and trying to hit them," Gregorius said. "I'm not the power guy like [Aaron] Judge or [Giancarlo] Stanton, guys who hit 50 to 60 and up. Those are the guys that actually hit a lot of home runs.

"If there's one year where I hit five, then you'll ask me where that power went. I'm not that type of guy. I try to hit line drives. I think you can check, too, most of my home runs went as line drives, too. It's not like I'm going up there trying to hit deep fly balls."

Video: MIN@NYY: Yankees on Didi's hot start to the season

Including last year's American League Wild Card Game, Gregorius has homered in each of his past five contests against the Twins. He wasn't done, finishing Wednesday night 3-for-3 with two walks, reaching base in all five plate appearances as he continues to show improved plate discipline.

"This game is not easy, but we've got good game plans from our coaches, and I try to stay consistent with it," Gregorius said. "That's one thing I always had trouble doing. I try to manage it now and keep it in control, and try to stay with pitches in the zone and don't try to chase as much as I used to before."

Gregorius leads the Majors with 29 RBIs, notching a first-inning RBI single off Lynn -- extending his hit streak to nine games -- before homering in the third, then being issued an intentional walk in the fourth. He has hit all nine homers in the Bronx, collecting all but four of his RBIs in pinstripes.

Video: MIN@NYY: Gregorius lines an RBI single to right field

"What a great night," manager Aaron Boone said. "He's playing great, he really is."

Video: MIN@NYY: Boone on Gregorius' performance in 7-4 win

Facing Zach Duke in the sixth, Gregorius alertly dropped a bunt single against the shifted infield, noting the movement of third baseman Miguel Sano.

"They backed off and gave me an opportunity to bunt, so I was like, 'Why not?'" Gregorius said.

Gregorius wrapped his evening by working an eighth-inning walk from Taylor Rogers that helped set up a Stanton sacrifice fly, then he made a nifty barehanded play to pick Eduardo Escobar's slow roller off the wet turf for the final out.

Video: MIN@NYY: Yankees secure the win after review in 9th

Asked if he could be surprised by anything Gregorius does, Judge replied, "Not anymore."

"It's pretty cool just to see that as a teammate, all the hard work he's put in over the years," Judge said. "Even last year, when he got hurt and was out the first month, we missed him. Coming back and being red hot, and this year having a good spring, coming out and just doing what he does -- I'm excited for the rest of the year for him."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Didi Gregorius

Jose Altuve hit his first homer of 2018 and got the dugout silent treatment … and he loved it

Through his first 25 games this season, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was his usual self at the plate -- slashing .333/.396/.770 and generally being a pest for pitching staffs.

However, he hadn't connected on a home run prior to Wednesday's 5-2 win over the Angels at Minute Maid Park. Yes, that's right ... the man who's totaled 24 homers in each of the past two seasons had not yet picked one up through the first three-plus weeks of the new campaign.

Venters, after 3 TJ surgeries, pitches for Rays

Lefty, who last appeared in bigs in October 2012, faces one Orioles batter
Special to MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- Jonny Venters came in quickly from the bullpen when Rays manager Kevin Cash called for him to start the bottom of the sixth inning. The left-hander sprinted almost all the way to the mound and was ready when Cash handed him the ball.

It is easy to understand why Venters raced in. After all, he'd been waiting for this moment for a long time.

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BALTIMORE -- Jonny Venters came in quickly from the bullpen when Rays manager Kevin Cash called for him to start the bottom of the sixth inning. The left-hander sprinted almost all the way to the mound and was ready when Cash handed him the ball.

It is easy to understand why Venters raced in. After all, he'd been waiting for this moment for a long time.

View Full Game Coverage

This was the first time the 33-year-old left-hander appeared in the Major Leagues since pitching for the Braves in the 2012 National League Wild Card Game. He went through Tommy John surgeries in 2013 and 2014, plus what he likes to call a "half" procedure in 2016. The 2011 All-Star also had the surgery in 2005.

Venters pitched to one batter Wednesday, getting Chris Davis to ground out after four pitches -- three sliders and a fastball -- in the Rays' 8-4 win. The veteran pitcher admitted to feeling some emotion while running into the game.

"My nerves were flowing, and I was excited and nervous," Venters said. "[My] heart was racing."

Video: TB@BAL: Jonny Venters on long-awaited return to mound

Based on Jon Roegele's oft-cited Tommy John surgery database, Venters became the first pitcher to come back from three Tommy John procedures to pitch in the Majors. Though Jose Rijo and Jason Isringhausen are often cited to have had three Tommy Johns apiece, Roegele does not recognize either pitcher as a three-time recipient of the surgery, because, for each guy, at least one of the surgeries addressed a flexor tendon tear, not a UCL tear. (You can read more about Venters' "half-Tommy John" here.)

Venters knew he would have a game on Wednesday. He was just expecting to be pitching for Triple-A Durham and not the Tampa Bay Rays. Venters had a 10:30 a.m. ET game in Durham, N.C., and during a rain delay, he got word that the Rays selected his contract, and he quickly flew to Baltimore. What made this night even better is that his family was able to fly in and saw his return to the Major Leagues.

"It was an amazing experience just to get out there," Venters said. "It was a special thing that I'll never forget the rest of my life. Dream come true, really."

The experience also made others in the Tampa Bay clubhouse happy because the Rays know what he has been through and appreciate his kind personality.

"He's just an awesome guy," teammate Daniel Robertson said. "You can't [be a] better person than that. His attitude, his look on life, how good of a person he is; he's top-notch in the game. It's really a feel-good story."

Cash felt just as happy that Venters made it back and loved giving him the ball for that one batter.

"I thought it was perfect," Cash said. "It worked out where he came in, got a big out at the time with a two-run lead for us. Pretty exciting to be able to put him in the game."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com based in Baltimore.

Tampa Bay Rays, Jonny Venters

Kershaw ties career high with 6 walks in loss

Left-hander says he 'just wasn't very good' in series finale vs. Marlins
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw didn't make excuses following a poor start that saw him allow six walks and one home run in an 8-6 loss to the Miami Marlins.

"I just wasn't very good," Kershaw said. "A lot of guys on base. Almost skated out of it. I probably should have given up more than that, but not a great game, for sure."

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LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw didn't make excuses following a poor start that saw him allow six walks and one home run in an 8-6 loss to the Miami Marlins.

"I just wasn't very good," Kershaw said. "A lot of guys on base. Almost skated out of it. I probably should have given up more than that, but not a great game, for sure."

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In five innings pitched, Kershaw struck out seven, allowed three earned runs and walked six batters, which tied a career high. He hadn't allowed six walks in a game since April 7, 2010 vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was just the third time in his career he had allowed six walks.

Kershaw struggled with his control for most of the game, but he seemed to unravel in the fifth inning specifically. He got the first two Marlins out before giving up back-to-back walks to first baseman Justin Bour and right fielder Cameron Maybin. The next batter was Miguel Rojas, who blasted a three-run home run down the left field line to put Miami up 3-0.

Before the fifth, Kershaw also had to pitch himself out of two bases-loaded jams.

Interestingly, Kershaw struck out all three Marlins batters in the first inning, which made his sudden drop-off starting in the second somewhat perplexing to the pitcher.

Video: MIL@LAD: Kershaw strikes out Castro, side in 1st

"The first inning, I felt pretty good with everything. I don't know why, but didn't really feel that great after that," he said.

Still, despite his issues, he almost made it all the way through the fifth inning without giving up a run before Rojas' blast.

"I thought after the first inning, I thought the stuff was really good. As he took the mound tonight, he just couldn't get into a rhythm and it seemed like he was laboring his entire outing and really couldn't find that rhythm and really was out of sync," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "But to his credit, he kept competing and fighting and he was one out away from going five innings scoreless."

Video: Kershaw escapes bases-loaded jam

The loss for the defending National League champion Dodgers was their second in a row against Miami, the last-place team in the NL East, after taking the first game of their three-game slate.

"I think that, to their credit, they really pitched well and in baseball -- that's the thing about baseball, is just the unknown," Roberts said. "The Marlins, they played hard, they're very well managed and it's unpredictable and every night, any night, someone can win and unfortunately, we didn't play our best and those guys pitched really well. They did and they got hits when they needed to and they won a series."

After Kershaw exited the game, in the sixth inning, Miami lengthened its lead when catcher J.T. Realmuto took relief pitcher Daniel Hudson deep on a 3-2 pitch to left-center field to put the Marlins up, 4-0.

In the sixth inning, Dodgers left fielder Joc Pederson hit a line drive single to right field, scoring Corey Seager to chip into Miami's lead and snatch back a little momentum.

Video: MIA@LAD: Pederson lines an RBI single to right field

But the Marlins again figured out a way to score via homer, with Realmuto hammering a two-run blast to left-center field in the top of the eighth inning off Los Angeles pitcher Scott Alexander.

The rest of the way, it felt like every time the Dodgers got back into the game, the Marlins would answer.

Video: MIA@LAD: Kemp cranks a two-run home run to center

"Baseball's not like basketball or football. The better team doesn't always win," Los Angeles first baseman Cody Bellinger said. "Obviously we are the better team and, like I said, we just didn't put together quality at-bats."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Chase Utley's costly throwing error on a Derek Dietrich grounder in the top of the ninth inning proved to be the difference in the game. The play scored two runs for the Marlins, including the game winner.

Video: MIA@LAD: Two Marlins score on Utley's throwing error

SOUND SMART
Bellinger went 2-for-5 for his team-leading eighth multi-hit game of the season. He has reached base safely in nine of 10 career games against the Marlins. Bellinger made his MLB debut one year ago Wednesday.

HE SAID IT
"You probably won't see that again for a while from him, but he's human. I don't think anyone's knocking him down. I think you just don't expect it, but that happens sometimes." -- Bellinger, on Kershaw's performance

UP NEXT
The Dodgers have a travel day Thursday and then will face the San Francisco Giants on Friday to start a four-game series. The two teams have played six times, splitting the season series so far at 3-3. Two of those games have gone to extra innings. Hyun-Jin Ryu will face Derek Holland in Friday's match, set for 7:15 p.m. PT.

Josh Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw

D-backs-Phils only on Facebook today

Both clubs are off to strong starts in 2018
MLB.com

This week, MLB offers fans another unique viewing experience with the continuation of its digital-only broadcasts. Today's D-backs-Phillies matchup will air live in the United States exclusively on Facebook. The finale to the four-game series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is one of 25 streaming broadcasts scheduled for 2018 as part of MLB's partnership with Facebook this season.

Fans can catch the 1:05 p.m. ET contest by logging onto Facebook's MLB live page from their phones, tablets, smart TVs or other streaming devices. MLB Network will produce the game, with play-by-play announcer Scott Braun, analysts Ben Davis and Eric Byrnes -- who played for the D-backs from 2006-09 -- and in-game reporter Alexa Datt.

This week, MLB offers fans another unique viewing experience with the continuation of its digital-only broadcasts. Today's D-backs-Phillies matchup will air live in the United States exclusively on Facebook. The finale to the four-game series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is one of 25 streaming broadcasts scheduled for 2018 as part of MLB's partnership with Facebook this season.

Fans can catch the 1:05 p.m. ET contest by logging onto Facebook's MLB live page from their phones, tablets, smart TVs or other streaming devices. MLB Network will produce the game, with play-by-play announcer Scott Braun, analysts Ben Davis and Eric Byrnes -- who played for the D-backs from 2006-09 -- and in-game reporter Alexa Datt.

How to watch on mobile and desktop

1. Search for "MLB Live" on Facebook

2. Follow the "MLB Live" show page

3. Download the Facebook video app on your TV or streaming device and search for "MLB Live"

4. Or stream the game from your phone to a TV on the same WiFi network by tapping the TV icon.

Upcoming Facebook games (all times ET)
• Thursday, April 26: ARI-PHI, 1:05 p.m.
• Thursday, May 3: LAD-ARI, 3:40 p.m.
• Thursday, May 10: SF-PHI, 1:05 p.m.
• Wednesday, May 16: TEX-SEA, 3:40 p.m.
• Thursday, May 24: LAA-TOR, 12:37 p.m.
• Wednesday, May 30: STL-MIL, 1:10 p.m.

Video: MLB Central breaks down the Phillies' great start

What to know about the D-backs-Phillies game

Both the Phillies and D-backs are off to strong starts in 2018. Arizona began the week having won each of its first seven series this season, while the Phillies entered the series against the D-backs with a 9-1 record at home.

Right-hander Ben Lively will start for the Phillies, coming off his best start of the young campaign. Lively held the Pirates to five hits and one run in six innings on Friday.

"I was a lot more controlled," Lively said. "I got texts all week. Even my grandpa [Jim] said, 'Hey, you're rushing.' So I was like, 'OK, I'm going to go slow.'"

Video: SD@ARI: Koch tosses six innings of one-run ball

For Arizona, righty Matt Koch will toe the rubber. He was called up from Triple-A Reno last week to start in place of Taijuan Walker (Tommy John surgery), and pitched well enough to keep the job for at least one more outing. Koch held the Padres to just two hits and one run over six innings Friday.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies

Javy Baez narrowly beat out an infield single and playfully taunted Francisco Lindor afterward

The Cubs faced the Indians on Wednesday night in a rematch of the 2016 World Series. It was also, maybe more importantly, a mini-reunion for good friends Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor. The two infielders were teammates for Team Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Wacha fans 8, Cards rake in win over Mets

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

ST. LOUIS -- Michael Wacha has searched, clawed and felt his way through the season's first month, beginning with a four-start stretch that qualified as one of the strangest, statistically, of his career. Prior to Wednesday, the Cardinals right-hander was walking more batters and striking out fewer than ever before.

Wacha reversed those trends in his fifth start, a 9-1 win over the Mets, at least for a night. His mechanics in sync and his command sharp, Wacha breezed through six strong innings for his fourth win, which have all come in his past four starts. He struck out eight against just one walk, evening some alarming peripheral numbers on a night the Cardinals' offense provided plenty of run support.

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ST. LOUIS -- Michael Wacha has searched, clawed and felt his way through the season's first month, beginning with a four-start stretch that qualified as one of the strangest, statistically, of his career. Prior to Wednesday, the Cardinals right-hander was walking more batters and striking out fewer than ever before.

Wacha reversed those trends in his fifth start, a 9-1 win over the Mets, at least for a night. His mechanics in sync and his command sharp, Wacha breezed through six strong innings for his fourth win, which have all come in his past four starts. He struck out eight against just one walk, evening some alarming peripheral numbers on a night the Cardinals' offense provided plenty of run support.

View Full Game Coverage

"The last couple starts, I've been getting on a little roll here," Wacha said. "Not walking guys and filling up the zone."

And the basepaths, too.

The bulk of St. Louis' runs came via two small-ball rallies against losing pitcher Steven Matz, both of which Wacha was involved in. Down 1-0 in the third, Wacha's sacrifice bunt forced an error and pushed the tying run into scoring position. He later scored on a Marcell Ozuna two-run single that capped a three-run frame.

Video: NYM@STL: Matheny talks Wacha outing, Ozuna's big hit

Wacha was again in the middle of a rally in the fourth. His safety squeeze scored Paul DeJong to begin a four-run inning filled with bunts, walks and Mets misplays. Wacha scored when Jose Martinez drove in a run with a forceout, and he said it was the first time he scored two runs in a game since high school.

The Cardinals scored nine runs on seven hits, the biggest being Jedd Gyorko's two-run homer off Corey Oswalt in the fifth, which pushed the lead to 9-1.

Video: NYM@STL: Gyorko rocks a two-run homer to left

"Little things that result in big things," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That was a lot of getting guys over, getting them in. We talk nonstop about the importance of making sure we're capitalizing on those."

Added Wacha: "I felt like an athlete out there today."

To describe his night on the mound, Wacha used words like "trust" and "feel." Both abandoned him at times over his first four starts of the season, when Wacha often battled tough weather conditions. This time, he found his best fastball early -- topping out at 97 mph, per Statcast™ -- and he had the ability to dictate where it went.

"I noticed he was executing that ball at the top of the zone well, purposely," Matheny said. "That was a good indication that he was putting the ball where he wanted to."

Wacha has just two walks over his last 12 2/3 innings, after he issued 10 in his first 14 2/3 frames.

"Just trying to attack, trying not to walk guys," Wacha said. "I hate giving up free baserunners."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Big Bear breaks free: Slumping for much of the past three weeks, Ozuna broke out of a 1-for-25 slump when he squeezed a two-run single through the left side in the third. The Cardinals left fielder is known for borrowing teammates' bats when looking to kick-start his swing. This time, he used ones owned by Tommy Pham and Martinez. Ozuna's only hit of the night came with Martinez's bat.

"It's something I do to get my feeling back," Ozuna said. "Maybe I'll get a couple more hits with his bat. The two homers I have are also with his bat. I'll keep using it."

Video: NYM@STL: Ozuna cracks a two-run single to left

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Matheny emptied his bench with a seven-run lead, inserting backup catcher Francisco Pena among the substitutions. That shifted Yadier Molina over to first base for the first time since May 2017. Molina made a throwing error while playing three innings in his 36th appearance at the position over his 16-year career.

HE SAID IT
"It damaged my modeling career. Let's see how many ladies still like me." -- Pham, who exited in the third inning after a bizarre accident gave him a head laceration

UP NEXT
Thursday's rubber game will feature a marquee pitching matchup, when the Cardinals' Carlos Martinez (2-1, 1.42 ERA) and the Mets' Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 3.29) face off in an Opening Day rematch at 12:15 p.m. CT. Few pitchers are rolling right now like Martinez, who is on an 18-inning scoreless streak.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Michael Wacha