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Kluber first to 11 wins as Tribe routs White Sox

Ramirez, Kipnis hit 3-run homers to back ace's 7 scoreless, 1-hit innings
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- For one outing, Corey Kluber looked human and red flags were raised. Heaven forbid he allow four whole runs or walk a batter. Against the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon, the Indians' ace showed everyone that there is nothing to worry about.

In an 12-0 romp over Chicago at Progressive Field, Kluber cruised through seven brilliant innings, relinquishing just one single and slicing his way through the final 16 batters he faced without allowing a hit. The end result -- helped by home runs from Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis -- was Kluber reaching 11 wins before any other pitcher in baseball this year.

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CLEVELAND -- For one outing, Corey Kluber looked human and red flags were raised. Heaven forbid he allow four whole runs or walk a batter. Against the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon, the Indians' ace showed everyone that there is nothing to worry about.

In an 12-0 romp over Chicago at Progressive Field, Kluber cruised through seven brilliant innings, relinquishing just one single and slicing his way through the final 16 batters he faced without allowing a hit. The end result -- helped by home runs from Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis -- was Kluber reaching 11 wins before any other pitcher in baseball this year.

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"I think he's all right," Indians manager Terry Francona said with a laugh. "Boy, I mean, it seems like every five days you try to come up with maybe something different to say, but my goodness. His level of consistency is so high that, man, it's just fun to watch."

Kluber struck out seven, issued one walk and only flinched once in the third, when Omar Narvaez delivered a two-out single that led to nothing. With the victory, Kluber improved to 11-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.10, which is currently the fifth-lowest mark in MLB.

• Davis uses HBP to show off his cartwheel skills

Video: CWS@CLE: Kluber, Alonso talk win over the White Sox

Combined with the work of Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger in the previous two wins, Cleveland's rotation limited the White Sox to one run over 21 2/3 innings in the three-game brooming.

"Our pitching staff has been really consistent throughout the whole year," said Indians first baseman Yonder Alonso, who had three hits, including an RBI double. "And, obviously, when you have a horse like that in Corey going out there and doing his thing, that's a plus."

Indians fans are probably breathing a little easier, given how things went last time out for Kluber, who is like the pitching equivalent of a metronome when it comes to the lines he methodically produces every five games. On Friday, Kluber was pulled after only 65 pitches in a loss to the Twins.

Video: CWS@CLE: Alonso rips an RBI double to right field

In that last outing, Kluber issued a walk to end a career-best streak of 46 1/3 consecutive innings without a free pass. He gave up four runs, ending a string of 14 straight quality starts and snapping his American League-record run of 26 consecutive starts with no more than three runs allowed. Those setbacks, combined with the early exit, made it fair to wonder if something was wrong with the leader of Cleveland's staff.

Kluber appears to be just fine in his pursuit of a third career AL Cy Young Award.

"For the middle innings, I kind felt off again," Kluber said. "But I think I just did a better job of adjusting to it and figuring out how to work through it than I did last time. Last time, I couldn't make that adjustment. I made some bad pitches and it hurt me.

"Today, I was able to kind of work through it and adjust some things from pitch to pitch. I think when you can make those adjustments quicker, even if things do feel off, you can kind of try and find that new normal."

Video: CWS@CLE: Encarnacion rips 2-run double to left field

The Indians' lineup did its part in support of Kluber, churning out five runs (four earned) against starter Reynaldo Lopez and piling more as the game wore on. Ramirez launched a three-run shot in the first inning for his 22nd homer of the season, moving him one behind MLB leader Mike Trout. Kipnis highlighted a six-run sixth with a three-run blast of his own.

When Kluber took the mound for the seventh, he was armed with an 11-0 lead and on his way to the win column again.

"I would be willing to bet every pitcher would like to pitch with a lead like that," Francona said. "He just pitches his game. He may throw a few more first-pitch fastball strikes because of the scoreboard, but he just pitches his game. It's nice."

Video: CWS@CLE: Davis knocks an RBI single to left field

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Yes way, Jose: In his first four seasons in the big leagues, Ramirez managed 19 home runs overall. The switch-hitter then broke out with a career-best 29 shots last season, ending as a finalist for the AL MVP Award. Ramirez is on pace to shatter that total this year. In the first inning, the Tribe third baseman belted a 1-0 fastball from Lopez out to center for a three-run homer to spot Kluber a quick lead.

Ramirez's 22 home runs are tied for the fourth-highest total by an Indians batter through the first 73 team games of a season. Al Rosen (25 in 1950) and Albert Belle (25 in '96) hold the record, with Rocky Colavito (23 in '59) coming in second. Belle ('94) and Jim Thome ('97) also had 22. More >

Video: CWS@CLE: Ramirez crushes a 3-run home run to center

Kip caps rally: White Sox reliever Bruce Rondon labored through a 35-pitch sixth inning that helped the Indians turn the win into a rout. After a wild pitch allowed Ramirez to score from third, Rondon then served up a three-run homer to Kipnis to punctuate a six-run outburst in the frame. Over his past four games, Kipnis has gone 6-for-16 (.375) with two homers, four runs scored and five RBIs.

"He's taking more good swings," Francona said. "Even the lineout today before the home run. I think there's more good swings. I think he looks more confident. It looks like when he swings now there's more conviction in going to get the ball. I think he'll be just fine."

Video: CWS@CLE: Kipnis crushes 3-run homer to right-center

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Indians nearly pulled off a double steal in the third inning with Michael Brantley (third base) and Edwin Encarnacion (second), but the White Sox challenged the safe call at third. The ruling was overturned after it was determined that third baseman Yolmer Sanchez applied the tag on Brantley in time. That snapped a streak of 23 successful steals in a row for the Indians, dating back to May 23. That marked the longest such streak in Cleveland history since caught-stealing became an official statistic in 1920.

Video: CWS@CLE: Narvaez nabs Ramirez after review in the 3rd

HE SAID IT
"You know, he's just a baseball player. When you give guys contracts and things, I don't know that Jose really ever [cared]. He just likes to play. Even when we told him today we'd give him a couple innings off. He kind of thought about it a little bit. He just likes to play baseball, and he's really good." -- Francona, on Ramirez

"At the end of the day, Kluber attacks and keeps you off the bases and always, when a club is not scoring any runs, not on the bases, you always look flat. That's not necessarily the case." -- White Sox manager Rick Renteria

UP NEXT
Following a team off-day on Thursday, right-hander Shane Bieber (1-0, 3.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Indians in a 7:10 p.m. ET clash against the Tigers on Friday at Progressive Field. Bieber picked up his first career MLB win on Sunday against the Twins. Detroit will counter with righty Mike Fiers (5-3, 4.09 ERA).

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, Corey Kluber

Helped by D, Lester in charge as Cubs blank LA

Club makes several fine plays, Schwarber homers to back veteran lefty
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- The Cubs got the pitching and defense they needed Wednesday, and it helps to have Kyle Schwarber hit a home run as well.

Schwarber smacked his second home run in as many games to back Jon Lester's seven strong innings and lift the Cubs to a 4-0 victory over the Dodgers at Wrigley Field and take the series.

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CHICAGO -- The Cubs got the pitching and defense they needed Wednesday, and it helps to have Kyle Schwarber hit a home run as well.

Schwarber smacked his second home run in as many games to back Jon Lester's seven strong innings and lift the Cubs to a 4-0 victory over the Dodgers at Wrigley Field and take the series.

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Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo also drove in runs for the Cubs, who have won 17 of their last 25 games. Schwarber connected against Ross Stripling with two outs in the fourth inning to hand the Dodgers' starter his first loss in his last seven starts.

Lester, who got some stellar defensive plays behind him, improved to 7-1 with a 1.58 ERA in his last 10 starts, giving up 11 earned runs over 62 2/3 innings in that stretch. This was the lefty's first meeting with the Dodgers since Game 2 of the 2017 National League Championship Series. He did not get a decision in that game, and the Cubs lost the series in five games.

The Cubs needed Lester to go deep after Tuesday's doubleheader and some adjustments to the bullpen, and he threw a season-high 119 pitches. Closer Brandon Morrow was placed on the disabled list before Wednesday's game, which left the Cubs' bullpen with four pitchers who began the season at Triple-A Iowa (Randy Rosario, Luke Farrell, Justin Hancock and Rob Zastryzny).

These two teams won't have to wait until October to play again. They begin a four-game series on Monday night in Los Angeles.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Jon Lester

A's recall Bash Bros with power display vs. SD

Club hits back-to-back homers in consecutive innings for first time since 1997
MLB.com @JaneMLB

SAN DIEGO -- A Khris Davis-less A's lineup managed just fine Wednesday afternoon, churning out five home runs while their best slugger, bothered by a stomach issue, watched from the sidelines.

Back-to-back homers in consecutive innings helped the A's cruise to a 12-1 victory over the host Padres for a two-game Interleague sweep at Petco Park, giving them four straight wins ahead of stops in Chicago and Detroit.

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SAN DIEGO -- A Khris Davis-less A's lineup managed just fine Wednesday afternoon, churning out five home runs while their best slugger, bothered by a stomach issue, watched from the sidelines.

Back-to-back homers in consecutive innings helped the A's cruise to a 12-1 victory over the host Padres for a two-game Interleague sweep at Petco Park, giving them four straight wins ahead of stops in Chicago and Detroit.

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Infield prospect Franklin Barreto belted the biggest blast of the day, his three-run shot off Padres starter Joey Lucchesi kickstarting the barrage in the second. It was Barreto's first of the year, and Josh Phegley would get his, too, seconds thereafter, for a four-run advantage.

Video: OAK@SD: Phegley goes back-to-back with a solo jack

Lucchesi's departure with two outs in the inning didn't derail the A's, who came back for more in the third. Mark Canha and Matt Olson teamed up for consecutive homers to open the inning against lefty reliever Robbie Erlin. For Canha, it was his ninth of the year; Olson, his 15th. Barreto singled and scored to cap the three-run frame, offering plenty of wiggle room for Frankie Montas.

Video: OAK@SD: Canha hammers a solo dinger to left-center

Video: OAK@SD: Olson goes back-to-back with Canha in the 3rd

The right-hander gave the A's 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts. At the plate, Montas was the only member of the club's starting nine to not reach base, with the A's tallying 13 hits on the day -- including two each from Barreto, Olson, Chad Pinder and Jed Lowrie, who collected his second home run in as many days with a two-run offering in the eighth.

Not since May 14, 1997, had the A's enjoyed consecutive homers in consecutive innings. Bash Brothers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire went deep in the third against the Brewers, and Matt Stairs and Canseco did it in the fourth. The last time it happened in the Majors was Aug. 10, 2017, when the Reds did it in the seventh and eighth innings, also against the Padres.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

Oakland Athletics, Franklin Barreto, Mark Canha, Jed Lowrie, Frankie Montas, Matt Olson, Josh Phegley

MLB Buzz: Will Red Sox pursue Padres' Hand?

MLB.com

As the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, we'll keep you up to date with the latest news, buzz, rumors and more.

Red Sox looking to upgrade bullpen; Hand an option?
June 20: The Red Sox are interested in bolstering their relief corps, according to MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi, and Padres closer Brad Hand may be a target for the club.

As the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, we'll keep you up to date with the latest news, buzz, rumors and more.

Red Sox looking to upgrade bullpen; Hand an option?
June 20: The Red Sox are interested in bolstering their relief corps, according to MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi, and Padres closer Brad Hand may be a target for the club.

However, San Diego's asking price for Hand could be prohibitive. Per Morosi, the Padres are expected to seek a young everyday player, such as Rafael Devers, in exchange for the left-hander.

Hand, who has a National League-leading 21 saves with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP this season, is signed through 2020 with a team option for 2021, so the Padres are in no rush to deal him.

Boston has the sixth-best bullpen ERA (3.17) in the Majors, but the club's 'pen lacks depth with Carson Smith out for the season following shoulder surgery and Steven Wright currently starting in place of the injured Drew Pomeranz (left biceps tendinitis).

• Non-waiver Trade Deadline explained

O's, D-backs have talked Machado trade
June 19: The Orioles and D-backs have engaged in discussions regarding a potential trade for Manny Machado, according to MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi, and dialogue remains open between the two clubs.

Morosi described the trade talks as "due diligence on Arizona's part as the team's needs become clear." The two clubs also reportedly discussed a Machado trade this past offseason. Arizona currently holds the top spot in the National League West, but the second-place Dodgers narrowed the gap when they defeated the Cubs in Game 1 of a doubleheader Tuesday afternoon.

Video: Morosi discusses Machado trade possibilities and more

It's unclear whether the D-backs are interested in acquiring Machado to play shortstop or third base.

The 25-year-old would be an offensive upgrade over starting third baseman Jake Lamb and shortstop Nick Ahmed, as he's hitting .310 with 18 homers, 53 RBIs and a .945 OPS over 69 games for the Orioles in 2018 and owns a lifetime 118 wRC+.

But Machado has struggled defensively in his first season as the O's primary shortstop, recording -15 defensive runs saved (DRS). Ahmed, meanwhile, has notched six DRS. Machado has proven to be a stellar defender at the hot corner in the past, posting 81 DRS as a third baseman during his career and winning two AL Gold Glove Awards at the position.

Are Mets 'open for business?'
June 18: The Mets are reportedly "open for business" as it relates to prospective trade offers ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline, including on ace Jacob deGrom, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. The club would be more inclined to move Noah Syndergaard, per Rosenthal, but it might be inclined to part with deGrom given the right return.

deGrom would cost a "boatload" in return, one source told Rosenthal, and likely for a combination of Major League talent as well as highly touted prospects, which perhaps only a handful of clubs could fulfill. deGrom has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before he becomes a free agent, while Syndergaard wouldn't hit the market until after the 2021 season.

deGrom is firmly in the mix for the National League Cy Young Award, with the Majors' best ERA (1.55) over 87 1/3 innings in 14 starts. He's currently on pace for career bests in strikeout rate (32.8 percent), opposing batting average (.206) and WHIP (1.01), as he's one of the few glimmering spotlights for a Mets team that tumbled out of first place in early May. The right-hander did avoid a significant injury scare nearly seven weeks ago when he hyperextended his pitching elbow on an awkward swing, landing on the 10-day disabled list.

Syndergaard hasn't pitched since May 25 due to a strained ligament on his right index finger. The high-velocity right-hander missed nearly the entire 2017 season due to a partial tear in his right lat. Over 11 starts this year, Syndergaard is 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA.

Monday's report surfaced less than two weeks after general manager Sandy Alderson called the liklelihood of a teardown "very remote" in an interview with USA Today.

"Just because you tear it down doesn't mean you're going to have a great rebuild. It doesn't work that way. It just doesn't," Alderson said at the time.

In Rosenthal's report, he indicates that the club would ideally like to retain most of its controllable nucleus -- shortstop Amed Rosario, outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto and right-handers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman -- but those chips are likely the most coveted by other clubs.

Yanks, M's looking to acquire Happ

June 18: As the Yankees and Mariners have emerged as true contenders in the American League pennant race, so, too, have their roster voids -- specifically within their starting rotations. Both clubs are believed to be in the market for an available arm over the next six weeks, and MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported on Monday that each is interested in Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ.

In the midst of an All-Star-caliber season, Happ has a 3.48 ERA over 82 2/3 innings in 14 starts. He is in the final year of a three-year, $36 million contract, and due to his lingering free agency, he might not be as costly a return in what is shaping up to be a thin trade market for starters.

Both Seattle and New York have gotten above-average production from their starting staffs, though each has shown signs of vulnerability.

Video: Morosi on potential trade fits for J.A. Happ

Beyond AL Cy Young Award candidate Luis Severino, the Yankees have gotten inconsistent results from Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka, Jordan Montgomery was lost for the season because of Tommy John surgery and Domingo German hasn't yet exhibited enough to warrant the fifth spot for good. CC Sabathia has been reliable, when healthy. To complement their elite offense and lights-out bullpen, the Yankees have long been speculated to retool their rotation ahead of the Deadline.

Morosi noted that the Yankees might have more incentive to go after a lefty given that the division-rival Red Sox have an MLB-best .813 OPS against righties but only a .672 mark against southpaws. In addition to their 13 regular-season meetings remaining, there's a strong chance the Yankees could go through Boston in the postseason.

The Mariners' rotation has also proven to be top heavy, with arguably the AL's best starter in James Paxton. However, No. 2 starter Felix Hernandez has struggled to a career-worst 5.44 ERA, and he has given up five or more earned runs in five of his 15 starts. No. 5 starter Wade LeBlanc has been a pleasant surprise, but at 33 years old, there have been questions about his sustainability.

In a loaded AL East, Toronto entered 2018 with its most realistic avenue to the postseason via an AL Wild Card berth, but it entered Monday 12 1/2 games back of the second AL's spot. The Jays are 32-38 despite winning seven of their last 10, including sweeps of the Nationals and Orioles.

Giants going after Harper?
June 14: The Giants lost out on the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes in the offseason, despite being perhaps the most aggressive in pursuing the National League MVP Award winner via a trade from the Marlins. The Giants wound up filling out their lineup elsewhere -- trading for Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria -- but they may not be out of the market in acquiring a power-hitting corner outfielder, as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported recently that they could be a "main player" for Bryce Harper in free agency.

"They do make some sense," a friend of Harper's told Heyman.

Harper has been speculated to land a potentially historic deal, though the Giants were believed to be willing to take on the entire $295 million remaining on Stanton's contract. And general manager Bobby Evans has made it clear the club doesn't intend to rebuild in the immediate future despite a depleted farm system.

"We're going to be focused in the market as much as anybody ... the trade market as we get to the winter," Evans said in a recent interview with MLB Network Radio. "But that's so far ahead of us now. But yeah, there's always an eye on the free-agent market."

McCutchen will be a free agent this offseason, and 35-year-old left fielder Hunter Pence has struggled to stay healthy and remain productive, hitting .183/.236/.207 in 30 games. The Giants appear to be all-in on the immediate, and pursuing Harper would certainly fit that strategic mold.

Archer likely to be moved
June 13: This is far from the first time that the Chris Archer has been floated as a trade candidate, but a rival executive told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal that he believes that a seller's market this year will make the Rays likely to move Archer before the Trade Deadline.

Video: TB@WSH: Archer on 10-day DL with abdominal strain

Archer is a two-time All-Star with a 3.67 ERA in his seven seasons in the Majors, but his current injury and struggles this year might affect his trade value -- he has a 4.24 ERA in 13 starts and is on the disabled list with a left abdominal strain without a definite timetable for his return. And Rosenthal reports that the Rays don't like the thought of trading the 29-year-old due to his team-friendly contract.

Archer could be under club control through 2021, with one year remaining on his contract plus two more years of club options. That makes him different than, for example, David Price, who was only under team control when the Rays traded him, or Evan Longoria, who had a much larger contract.

Hamels might want trade partner to pick up option
June 13: Cole Hamels has been one of the most prominent names in early-season trade buzz -- most notably as a potential trade target for the Yankees, who for all their success so far are in need of starting rotation depth. The Rangers have struggled this season, but Hamels has a 3.86 ERA and 79 strikeouts in his 13 starts.

Video: TEX@LAA: Hamels grabs strikeout No. 2,300 of career

But the veteran left-hander has a 20-team no-trade list, and a source told Rosenthal that even though Hamels recently called that protection "kind of a formality," he could still use it as leverage to ask a trade partner from that list to pick up his $20 million option for 2019. That makes sense for the 34-year-old, as the alternative to picking up his option is a $6 million buyout that would leave him facing the uncertainty of free agency in his mid-30s.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi has reported that the teams not on Hamels' no-trade list are the Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Mariners, Nationals, Phillies, Rays and Royals.

Per Rosenthal, Hamels could be a difficult fit for a team trying to remain under the luxury tax threshold, as he'll still be owed close to $8 million at the Trade Deadline, unless the Rangers include significant cash in a deal.

Video: SF@MIA: Realmuto crushes go-ahead 2-run homer in 7th

Brewers could seek to upgrade at multiple spots
June 13: Similar to the Nationals, the Brewers are a contending team that could benefit greatly from upgrades in several areas -- namely, pitcher, catcher and second base.

Milwaukee could use both a front-end starter (staff ace Jimmy Nelson is still recovering from last September's shoulder surgery) and a reliever. Plus, while second baseman Jonathan Villar has been better at the plate than last year, he's still something of a question mark and has rated as a just-below-average hitter overall, with a 97 OPS+, where league average is 100.

Video: NYY@KC: Merrifield collects 3 hits, swipes 3 bags

According to Rosenthal, the Brewers have been interested in Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield in the past. The Brewers would also face competition from other Royals suitors.

Crew-Bucs 2nd MLB.TV Free Game today, 7 ET

MLB.com @DKramer_

Baseball fans who indulge in the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day can get a two-for-one special today.

After fans were treated to a homer-fest at Citizens Bank Park that resulted in a 4-3 win for the Phillies, the second free game of the day will be Brewers and Pirates at 7 p.m. ET.

Baseball fans who indulge in the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day can get a two-for-one special today.

After fans were treated to a homer-fest at Citizens Bank Park that resulted in a 4-3 win for the Phillies, the second free game of the day will be Brewers and Pirates at 7 p.m. ET.

The free-game promotion in the Keystone State moves to an exciting series in Pittsburgh after a pair of one-run games were decided late. On Monday, Pirates righty Trevor Williams tossed a career-high-tying seven strikeouts and allowed just one hit in a 1-0 win over red-hot Milwaukee. And on Tuesday, touted Brewers prospect Freddy Peralta struck out seven over six scoreless innings, and Milwaukee rode a two-run homer from Jesus Aguilar en route to a 3-2 win.

On Wednesday, blossoming left-hander Brent Suter will make his first start of the year against the division rivals as he looks to keep a streak alive in which he's allowed three or fewer runs in six straight starts. Suter will square off against Pirates righty Chad Kuhl, who has also been strong lately, with a 2.45 ERA his last five starts.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies

Ichiro in the Derby? Good one, skipper

Mariners legend has some fun with Servais' jest on radio show
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

NEW YORK -- Mariners manager Scott Servais was just having fun, suggesting on a SiriusXM MLB Network Radio show on Wednesday that Ichiro Suzuki should take part in the Home Run Derby at next month's All-Star Game festivities at Nationals Park in Washington.

But as with all things Ichiro, the idea took on a life of its own.

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NEW YORK -- Mariners manager Scott Servais was just having fun, suggesting on a SiriusXM MLB Network Radio show on Wednesday that Ichiro Suzuki should take part in the Home Run Derby at next month's All-Star Game festivities at Nationals Park in Washington.

But as with all things Ichiro, the idea took on a life of its own.

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So it was that Ichiro, now special advisor to the chairman with the Mariners, found himself in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium surrounded by reporters prior to Wednesday's game with the Yankees talking about whether he'd actually take part in the Derby.

"I thought our skipper didn't like to tell jokes, but I guess he does," Ichiro said with a smile. "That's the funniest thing he's said in the first half of this year."

OK, but while Ichiro isn't currently a player, he still does take batting practice every day with the Mariners in his new advisory role and is leaving the door open to playing next season. And as he has done throughout his 18-year Major League career, he opens eyes with his ability to drive the ball consistently into the seats in BP.

So, if asked, would he do it?

"Right now, I'm not a player," Ichiro said through interpreter Allen Turner. "I'm going to be back, but right now, I think it's just a joke, to be honest with you."

Not exactly a definite "no," but when pressed Ichiro said he respected the game too much to turn the Derby into a sideshow.

"I think if somebody like me entered, it would kind of harm the game," he said. "I'm not a player and with the long, great history MLB has, I don't think it would be good for [the game]. But it's fun and I'm happy it's come up. It's fun to have conversations like that. So I'm definitely happy about it."

Ichiro has continued being a daily part of the Mariners scene since moving into his new role in early May. He dresses with the team, does all the same pregame work and then watches from the clubhouse or workout area while each game is underway.

"Obviously Ichi has been great in our clubhouse," Servais said. "He came out and threw BP yesterday. And in regular BP, he can still swing it. He's got power and he's been launching balls into the seats. A couple of the coaches said the other day, 'Nobody wants to do the Home Run Derby. Why don't we just send Ichiro? He'd be awesome.'

"Then on the radio show today, it came up and somehow it came out of mouth. Then [radio host] Ryan Spilborghs got it and ran with it. Ichi for D.C."

Ichiro was amused by the idea came up again since he said questions about him participating in the Derby were an annual ritual. One time he actually accepted, agreeing to participate in the 2008 Derby at Yankee Stadium until a hand injury led to him pulling out.

He said he never was worried about the Derby messing up his swing, he just never chose to participate, in part because he does take the game so seriously. Even now, his batting-practice sessions have a distinct purpose.

"Right now, practices are like games for me," he said. "So when I go out there, I want to swing the bat hard and be in a physical situation where I can swing the bat well. So I take my practices very seriously."

But not everything has to be serious with the new Ichiro. Or the older, 44-year-old Ichiro.

"Right now, I'm eating two hamburgers at lunch," he said. "Now that this Home Run Derby thing came up, I'll have to up it to three cheeseburgers to get more power."

If he did participate, who would he want pitching to him?

"Mark Buehrle," he said, obviously remembering his .409 career average in 70 plate appearances against the retired lefty.

But more likely, these days, it would be Ichiro pitching to somebody else in the Derby.

"Now that," he said, "is something I could do."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki

Fantastic DP leaves Contreras with bloody nose

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- He ended up with a bloody nose, but Cubs catcher Willson Contreras still held on to the ball, completing a stellar double play in the third inning of Chicago's 4-0 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday.

After hitting a one-out ground-rule double to center field, Dodgers leadoff batter Chris Taylor didn't try to score on Enrique Hernandez's single to left, deciding not to challenge Kyle Schwarber's arm. Justin Turner then flied out to right fielder Json Heyward, and Taylor tagged up and tried to score. But Heyward fired a perfect strike home to Contreras to get the runner.

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CHICAGO -- He ended up with a bloody nose, but Cubs catcher Willson Contreras still held on to the ball, completing a stellar double play in the third inning of Chicago's 4-0 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday.

After hitting a one-out ground-rule double to center field, Dodgers leadoff batter Chris Taylor didn't try to score on Enrique Hernandez's single to left, deciding not to challenge Kyle Schwarber's arm. Justin Turner then flied out to right fielder Json Heyward, and Taylor tagged up and tried to score. But Heyward fired a perfect strike home to Contreras to get the runner.

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Contreras needed minor treatment from athletic trainer PJ Mainville after the collision, then fired the ball over the roof to celebrate the play.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward

Herrera stays hot, delivers late HR to top Cards

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera homered for the fifth time in six games Wednesday afternoon in a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. His solo homer in the seventh inning was the game-winner.

Phils right-hander Jake Arrieta allowed three runs in six innings, handing the game to Philadelphia's struggling bullpen. Austin Davis, Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano and Adam Morgan pitched a combined three scoreless innings to preserve the win.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera homered for the fifth time in six games Wednesday afternoon in a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. His solo homer in the seventh inning was the game-winner.

Phils right-hander Jake Arrieta allowed three runs in six innings, handing the game to Philadelphia's struggling bullpen. Austin Davis, Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano and Adam Morgan pitched a combined three scoreless innings to preserve the win.

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The Phillies have won three consecutive series for the first time since April 5-15.

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

Philadelphia Phillies, Odubel Herrera

MLB, Rise Against Hunger team up for needy

MLB.com @ladsonbill24

NEW YORK -- One thing we know: Major League Baseball cares about people around the world. On Wednesday afternoon, MLB and Rise Against Hunger hosted a food packaging event in the MLB offices on Park Avenue.

More than 100 MLB employees and interns came together to pack 12,088 meals within an hour. The meals included rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a vitamin packet. This will feed youth and families across the globe. It marked the third consecutive year MLB and Rise Against Hunger formed this partnership.

NEW YORK -- One thing we know: Major League Baseball cares about people around the world. On Wednesday afternoon, MLB and Rise Against Hunger hosted a food packaging event in the MLB offices on Park Avenue.

More than 100 MLB employees and interns came together to pack 12,088 meals within an hour. The meals included rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a vitamin packet. This will feed youth and families across the globe. It marked the third consecutive year MLB and Rise Against Hunger formed this partnership.

Targeting hunger, specifically by supporting school feeding programs, Rise Against Hunger leverages support to address issues related to poverty, disease, education, and the welfare of women and children.

Rob Whitaker, who does community engagement for Rise Against Hunger, was pleased to see MLB work so hard to help needy people.

"It's absolutely amazing. As a big baseball fan, it's really nice to see Major League Baseball take part in an activity that is not only in the community, but in the communities around the world," Whitaker said. "It gives me a great sense of joy to see pictures of the recipients getting the meals. Not only for me, but with the organizations who work with us. It really means a lot to see that joy and happiness knowing that [people in need] will have a hot meal for that day."

Melanie LeGrande, vice president of social responsibility for MLB, said baseball is committed to serving the community -- locally and beyond.

"We are doing what we can to feed folks who are in need. So it means a lot to us," she said. "I'm very satisfied that Major League Baseball can help the cause. We are leveraging our employees' time and our abilities to make a difference in the world."

Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief organization based in Raleigh, N.C., works to implement immediate and long-term solutions to hunger worldwide. With program locations in 20 U.S. cities and five international offices, Rise Against Hunger has engaged volunteers to package nearly 400 million nutrient-rich meals for distribution to 74 countries around the globe. Last year, for example, Rise Against Hunger served more than 1.4 million people in 2017.

Rise Against Hunger is committed to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development goal of ending hunger by 2030.

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Blue Jays hang on after Happ's strong start

MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- There has not been a lot of certainty for the Blue Jays this season, but the one constant continues to be veteran left-hander J.A. Happ.

Happ had yet another solid outing on Wednesday afternoon, as he limited the Braves to four runs on six hits over 8 1/3 innings in a 5-4 victory at Rogers Centre. The 35-year-old became the first Blue Jays starter to work into the ninth this season, and he also became the first pitcher in the Majors this season to pick up four starts with at least eight strikeouts and zero walks.

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TORONTO -- There has not been a lot of certainty for the Blue Jays this season, but the one constant continues to be veteran left-hander J.A. Happ.

Happ had yet another solid outing on Wednesday afternoon, as he limited the Braves to four runs on six hits over 8 1/3 innings in a 5-4 victory at Rogers Centre. The 35-year-old became the first Blue Jays starter to work into the ninth this season, and he also became the first pitcher in the Majors this season to pick up four starts with at least eight strikeouts and zero walks.

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With every start that he makes, Happ appears to be increasing his trade value. He's expected to be one of the top starters available prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and while the Blue Jays have yet to confirm any discussions about a possible relocation, it seems inevitable that Happ will be moved at some point in the coming weeks.

Video: ATL@TOR: Gibbons on Happ's strong start in 5-4 win

"I know he's in demand, and I can see why," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "If we were on the other end of it, I'd want him, too. That's the reality of the business. Who knows what happens, but I'm sure he's probably going to be at the top of the list out there for guys who could be acquired. Maybe, I don't know. I try not to look at those kinds of things. All I know is that he has done a lot for this organization, he really turned into one of the better pitchers in the game."

Wednesday's line for Happ would have looked even better if two of his runners hadn't been allowed to score after he left the game. But the way he has been pitching should put the Blue Jays in a prime position to take advantage of a seller's market. Happ entered play on Wednesday ranked 13th in the American League with 94 strikeouts, and he picked up eight more in the series finale against Atlanta. He remains unbeaten over his past seven outings, and he has a 2.35 ERA over that span.

Happ only made a few mistakes in his latest outing, yielding solo home runs by Kurt Suzuki and Peter Bourjos in the second and third innings. Outside of those big flies, the Braves managed to put just one runner in scoring position against Happ through the first eight innings. Happ left the field to a standing ovation in the ninth as fans clearly recognized there might not be too many of his starts left at Rogers Centre.

Video: ATL@TOR: Grichuk smacks an RBI double to left field

This isn't exactly uncharted territory for Happ, who has been traded four times in his career. Three of those trades happened in July, so he knows how to deal with all of the uncertainty, and that experience can only help as the rumors and trade talks start to heat up next month.

"I think I'm a little bit more prepared mentally now, after having been through it a few times," Happ said. "The first time was really emotional, and you kind of get used to it and realize it's part of the business. But I certainly enjoy it here, just trying to continue to have fun."

Kendrys Morales helped provide a bulk of the offense for Toronto on Wednesday afternoon with a 2-for-3 day at the plate, which included a two-run homer in the first inning. Morales, who was celebrating his 35th birthday, also singled and walked while scoring a pair of runs. Right fielder Randal Grichuk chipped in with an RBI double, and Yangervis Solarte notched an RBI single. Atlanta right-hander Anibal Sanchez was charged with the loss after he allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over five innings.

Video: ATL@TOR: Solarte knocks an RBI single to right field

The Blue Jays' recent run of success continued with the victory over the Braves. Toronto has won eight of its past 12 games and nine of 15 following a 4-15 stretch. The bad news for the Blue Jays is that they entered play 16 games back of the Yankees in the AL East and 12 1/2 games behind the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The birthday boy: Morales connected on the fourth birthday home run of his career with a two-run shot in the first inning. According to Statcast™, Morales' sixth big fly of the year was projected to travel 381 feet, and it left his bat at 99.9 mph. The blast gave Toronto an early 2-0 lead. Morales now has seven multihit games this month, which matches his total from April and May combined.

Video: ATL@TOR: Morales hits 4th career HR on his birthday

"I always try and be aggressive, birthday or not. Thankfully everything went well today," Morales said through an interpreter after the game.

Closing it down: Blue Jays closer Ryan Tepera relieved Happ in the top of the ninth with one out and two runners on base. Tepera surrendered a pair of RBI singles, but with the potential tying run on second base, he was then able to get Johan Camargo to hit a weak fly ball to center. The 30-year-old has allowed just one run in 9 2/3 innings this month.

Video: ATL@TOR: Tepera retires Camargo to secure 5th save

"I wanted to see [Happ] finish it, honestly," Tepera said. "But I came in, and in that situation, I want to get them out right then and there, not allow any more runs to score. I think he deserves a little bit better of a [pitching] line. But you know what? We got the win today, and that's all that matters. I'm sure he's happy about it, and he did a great job."

SOUND SMART
The Blue Jays surrendered a home run to a No. 9 hitter for the second consecutive game. On Tuesday night, it was a grand slam by Camargo, and the following day it, was a solo shot by Bourjos. Toronto entered play on Wednesday allowing No. 9 hitters to post a .471 slugging percentage, which ranks as the highest in the Major Leagues for any club since at least 1908. The closest to that mark is Detroit, which allowed a .455 slugging percentage to No. 9 hitters in 2015.

Video: ATL@TOR: Happ on start, importance of tossing strikes

HE SAID IT
"I certainly enjoy pitching here, and to have an outing and a response from the crowd like I did today, that was nice. I signed to play here and try to help this team get to the playoffs. That's still my goal, that's what I want to do. Until somebody tells me different, I'm going to have fun doing that." -- Happ, on leaving the field to a standing ovation amid trade rumors

UP NEXT
The Blue Jays will travel to the West Coast for the start of a four-game series against the Angels on Thursday night. Right-hander Aaron Sanchez (3-5, 4.35 ERA) will start the opener, with first pitch scheduled for 10:07 p.m. ET. Sanchez has tossed three consecutive quality starts, and he is coming off an outing that saw him match a season high with eight strikeouts. The Halos will counter with left-hander Tyler Skaggs (6-4, 2.81 ERA).

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, J.A. Happ, Kendrys Morales, Ryan Tepera

Taylor exits in 6th with left hamstring tightness

MLB.com @kengurnick

CHICAGO -- Dodgers shortstop Chris Taylor was removed from Wednesday's 4-0 loss to the Cubs in the bottom of the sixth inning for precautionary reasons due to tightness in his left hamstring.

Taylor had an eventful day before exiting. He fouled a pitch off his left ankle in the first inning and needed the attention of a trainer before continuing his at-bat, later flying out to center field.

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CHICAGO -- Dodgers shortstop Chris Taylor was removed from Wednesday's 4-0 loss to the Cubs in the bottom of the sixth inning for precautionary reasons due to tightness in his left hamstring.

Taylor had an eventful day before exiting. He fouled a pitch off his left ankle in the first inning and needed the attention of a trainer before continuing his at-bat, later flying out to center field.

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In the third inning, he doubled and was thrown out at the plate trying to score from third base on Justin Turner's flyout to right field. Taylor popped out in the fifth inning.

Video: LAD@CHC: Heyward unleashes throw home to nab Taylor

Enrique Hernandez moved from center field to shortstop to replace Taylor, and Cody Bellinger replaced Hernandez in center field.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Chris Taylor

Injury updates: Darvish, Morrow, Wacha

MLB.com

Here's a roundup of the latest injury news across the Majors.

Brandon Morrow and Yu Darvish, Cubs
The Cubs placed Morrow on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday, retroactive to Sunday, with lower back tightness. Morrow hurt his back taking his pants off early Monday when he got home after the Cubs' road trip.

Here's a roundup of the latest injury news across the Majors.

Brandon Morrow and Yu Darvish, Cubs
The Cubs placed Morrow on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday, retroactive to Sunday, with lower back tightness. Morrow hurt his back taking his pants off early Monday when he got home after the Cubs' road trip.

Injury report

The Cubs will use a committee approach at closer in Morrow's absence, according to manager Joe Maddon, with Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop and Justin Wilson the most likely options to receive save chances. With Morrow unavailable, the Cubs turned to Wilson to close Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader. Wilson allowed two runs and took the loss. More >

Meanwhile, Darvish threw 51 pitches in a three-inning simulated game at Wrigley Field on Wednesday.

"Really good. I'll take it," Maddon said after the workout. "That was outstanding, actually. Great command, great jump on the fastball. His slider was there, and I think he threw one or two splitters at the end. You can't ask for anything more, he looked that good. The delivery was easy, solid. He had a smile on his face, so that means he probably felt pretty good about it. We'll evaluate it again tomorrow."

According to general manager Jed Hoyer, the next step could be a rehab start Monday if Darvish passes all tests Thursday. Darvish has been on the disabled list since May 23 with right triceps inflammation. More >

Michael Wacha, Cardinals
Wacha exited Thursday's start vs. the Phillies with two outs in the fourth inning due to a left oblique strain. It was his shortest outing of the season. Wacha has gone 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 2018, ranking second on the Cardinals with 84 1/3 innings. More >

Franchy Cordero, Wil Myers, Austin Hedges and Bryan Mitchell, Padres
While Myers and Hedges are close to completing their respective rehab assignments, Cordero has been shut down indefinitely with a bone spur in his right elbow.

Cordero felt pain in his forearm while swinging Sunday on his rehab assignment with Triple-A El Paso, leading to an MRI exam. The outfielder is now weighing two options: Undergo surgery to remove the bone spur, which will require an estimated recovery time of 12 weeks, or rest for a month and re-evaluate the situation. Even if he doesn't opt for surgery now, Cordero will likely need to have the bone spur removed at some point.

With Joey Lucchesi returning to start Wednesday, the Padres placed Bryan Mitchell on the 10-day DL with a right elbow impingement. Mitchell, who hasn't appeared in a game since June 5, will rest for a few days before heading to the Padres' Spring Training complex to resume his throwing program. More >

Andrew Miller, Carlos Carrasco and Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians
Miller will continue to throw bullpen sessions as he works toward game activity, but he still has no timetable for a return from right knee inflammation. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said that Miller, who has been on the DL since May 26, will need a Minor League rehab stint before he can rejoin the Tribe.

Antonetti also noted that Carrasco is doing well but won't be able to resume a throwing program until the swelling subsides in his right elbow. Carrasco has hit in the arm by a line drive Saturday vs. the Twins and went on the DL the next day.

The Indians played Wednesday's game vs. the White Sox without Chisenhall, who was scratched from the starting lineup with bilateral calf soreness. More >

Chris Taylor, Dodgers
Taylor exited Wednesday's game against the Cubs in the bottom of the sixth inning for precautionary reasons with left hamstring tightness. The shortstop had an eventful day before leaving the contest. Taylor required the attention of a trainer after fouling a ball off his left ankle in the first inning and was later thrown out at the plate while trying to score from third base on Justin Turner's flyout to right field. More >

Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, Giants
After throwing a two-inning simulated game Tuesday, Cueto (right elbow sprain) will play catch Thursday before the Giants determine the right-hander's next step.

Samardzija, meanwhile, will make his next rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Sacramento.

"We're looking at 60 to 70 pitches, around that five-inning area, if all goes well," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. More >

Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
Acuna is progressing through what could be described as a mini-Spring Training at the Braves' complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 20-year-old phenom, who has been sidelined since suffering a mild sprain of his left anterior cruciate ligament on May 27, hasn't experienced any problems with his left knee as he's taken live batting practice and completed a variety of running exercises that have forced him to make sudden motions he'll experience in games.

If Acuna continues to progress, there's a chance he could join Triple-A Gwinnett within the next couple days to begin playing rehab games. The outfielder ranks as MLB Pipeline's top prospect. More >

Dustin Pedroia and Tyler Thornburg, Red Sox
It has been more than two weeks since Pedroia returned to the disabled list with inflammation in his surgically repaired left knee, and the Red Sox are still no closer to estimating when he might return to action. Though it is troubling to the club and Pedroia that the inflammation remains, despite limited activity the last few weeks, manager Alex Cora remains hopeful the veteran will play a role at some point this season.

In his recovery from thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder, Thornburg has been inconsistent in his Minor League rehab assignment, posting a 5.56 ERA in 14 outings for Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland. He gave up three runs on four hits in one-third of an inning on Sunday for Pawtucket, but is expected to make his next rehab appearance on Thursday. More >

Matt Chapman and Matt Joyce, A's
Chapman, placed on the disabled list last week with a right thumb contusion, went through a series of tests under the watch of Dr. Steven Shin at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles on Monday. The results were similar to those discovered by Shin upon Chapman's visit during Spring Training.

Meanwhilte, Joyce (lumbar strain), who picked up three hits in his second rehab game with Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday, is expected to be activated from the disabled list sometime during the club's four-game series in Chicago, beginning Thursday. More >

Francisco Liriano, Tigers
Liriano is back with the team after his rehab start Sunday night for Triple-A Toledo, and is on track to return from the disabled list and start for the Tigers over the weekend in Cleveland. It'll be his first start since May 26, having missed the last few weeks with a right hamstring strain. Manager Ron Gardenhire is not saying yet which game in Cleveland he'll start. More >

Shohei Ohtani, Angels
Ohtani has begun his rehabilitation regimen, which includes one-armed swings, running and general strength training. Ohtani was seen in the Angels' clubhouse on Monday with no sleeve, brace or other form of protection on his right arm.

Manager Mike Scioscia didn't provide a specific timetable on Ohtani's recovery process, saying only that the two-way phenom would be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks. Scioscia also didn't expand on whether he'd be willing to use Ohtani as a hitter if the elbow sprain prevented him from pitching, although Scioscia did say that Ohtani's "swing is not impacting his ligament at all." More >

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Slugger putting together historic first half for Indians player
MLB.com @MLBastian