Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Reds dismiss Price, Riggleman named interim

Darwin, Kelly join staff as interim pitching, bench coach
MLB.com @m_sheldon

Bryan Price is out as the Reds' manager, along with pitching coach Mack Jenkins. Bench coach Jim Riggleman will be the interim manager, with Double-A Pensacola pitching coach Danny Darwin joining the coaching staff. Pat Kelly, who was manager of Triple-A Louisville, will be the bench coach.

The club will conduct a search for a permanent manager later in the season.

Bryan Price is out as the Reds' manager, along with pitching coach Mack Jenkins. Bench coach Jim Riggleman will be the interim manager, with Double-A Pensacola pitching coach Danny Darwin joining the coaching staff. Pat Kelly, who was manager of Triple-A Louisville, will be the bench coach.

The club will conduct a search for a permanent manager later in the season.

Cincinnati is off to a 3-15 start after dropping 10 of its past 11 games.

"At this time, we felt a change needed to happen in order to begin the process of getting this team back on the right track. We realize it is early in the season but feel it is important to be proactive," general manager Dick Williams said. "In addition to these staff changes, we will continue to examine all aspects of baseball operations to ensure we are doing everything we can to improve."

Riggleman, 65, has managed for all or parts of 12 Major League seasons with the Padres, Cubs, Mariners and Nationals. He resigned from Washington amid a contract dispute during the 2011 season. He joined the Reds organization in '12, first as manager at Pensacola and then spent the '13-14 seasons managing Louisville.

In 2015, Riggleman returned to the Majors as Price's third-base coach, then moved over to bench coach, where he had served since '16.

Price, 55, joined the Reds as pitching coach before the 2010 season and was promoted to manager to replace Dusty Baker in '14. He had a 279-387 (.419) record, with much of that tenure spent while the club has been in a rebuilding process since the second half of the '15 season.

The dismissal of Price and Jenkins came following an offseason in which the club expected to take a step forward and move closer to contending.

The front office did not make any major offseason additions to address a rotation that had the fewest innings pitched in the Major Leagues and the highest ERA in the National League. Instead, the promising young arms already in the organization that got big league exposure for the first time last season were being counted on -- along with returning injured veterans like Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani.

Although the rotation and bullpen have performed well in recent games, the pitching staff is last in the NL with a 5.42 ERA, and it has allowed a league-worst 28 homers.

Video: Reds replace Price, name Riggleman interim manager

While Bailey has performed well overall, DeSclafani has been out since suffering an oblique strain in Spring Training. Young pitchers such as Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle and Brandon Finnegan have yet to put together consistent outings.

No one expected massive struggles from a lineup that produced last season and came into 2018 largely intact. But the Reds are hitting .220 as a team, have scored the second-fewest runs (54) in the NL, and they have hit the second-fewest home runs (11) in the league.

Injuries haven't helped, as Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler are on the disabled list, and Jesse Winker also missed some time. But key hitters such as Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton are also off to slow starts.

Cincinnati, which has been shut out four times already this season, is currently mired in a 19-inning scoreless inning streak following back-to-back 2-0 losses to the Brewers on Tuesday and Wednesday.

That ultimately forced the front office's hand to make a managerial change.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds

How Sparky Lyle launched the tradition of closer entrance music

MLB.com @JPosnanski

Marty Appel wanted a rock song first. He was a rock and roll guy. But here's the thing: He couldn't think of a good one. This was eight years before "Hells Bells" came out, and almost 20 years before "Enter Sandman." He played in his mind the rock and roll songs that were available to him -- none quite fit.

None of those songs quite captured the majestic entrance of Sparky Lyle.

Marty Appel wanted a rock song first. He was a rock and roll guy. But here's the thing: He couldn't think of a good one. This was eight years before "Hells Bells" came out, and almost 20 years before "Enter Sandman." He played in his mind the rock and roll songs that were available to him -- none quite fit.

None of those songs quite captured the majestic entrance of Sparky Lyle.

The Yankees had nothing going in 1972. The team was blah and had been blah, more or less, for a half-dozen years. They were playing in a dilapidated Yankee Stadium that would have to be renovated (forcing the team to share Shea Stadium with the Mets for two seasons). The team was boring and the fans were bored. That was the only Yankees season when they failed to draw even a million people. There was nothing happening in pinstripes.

Appel was a brand-new assistant publicist for the team, and he was dying for something to publicize; anything to get the fans going even a little bit. And he noticed: It was kind of fun when Sparky Lyle came into the game. Lyle had been a good but fairly nondescript relief pitcher for the Red Sox when Yankees general manager Lee McPhail decided to trade for him. McPhail sent first baseman Danny Cater to the Red Sox for Lyle, and immediately New York manager Ralph Houk announced, "Lyle's my lock-up man."

And he was. In the fifth game of the season, Houk brought in Lyle to get the final out when Milwaukee had come within a run. That was the first of 141 saves he recorded with the Yankees.

Video: Sparky Lyle joins Brian Kenny on MLB Now

In May, Houk brought Lyle into save situations nine times, and Lyle got the save every time. Lyle's emerging brilliance as a pitcher was fine, but what grabbed Appel was how theatrical his entrance was. A driver would pick him up from the bullpen in a pinstriped Datsun and drive him around to the Yankees' bullpen. Then he would get out of the car, toss away his warm-up jacket, spit tobacco juice, pound his glove and stomp his way to the mound.

This was a big entrance, Appel thought. Here was Sparky Lyle arriving -- by automobile no less -- to save the moment, to save the day, a gunslinger coming to clean up the town, a pro wrestler coming to clear out the ring, a cavalryman coming to take the hill, a rock and roll band taking the stage.

This, Appel decided, needed music.

* * *

It is widely known, and entirely without dispute, that the four greatest reliever entrance songs ever are (in no particular order):

• "Enter Sandman" for Mariano Rivera (the great Billy Wagner also used Enter Sandman as his entrance song but sadly will be remembered as second-best much the way Tom Hanks will always be the second-best movie version of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee after Jason Robards).

Video: SF@NYY: Metallica performs 'Enter Sandman' at Stadium

• "Hells Bells" for new Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman.

• "Welcome to the Jungle" for Eric Gagne. This is now the entrance song for the unhittable Craig Kimbrel, and it works. But hat tip to the original.

• "Wild Thing" for Ricky Vaughn from "Major League."

There have been others who tried and came close to this stratosphere -- Washington's Sean Doolittle chose the supreme "For Whom the Bell Tolls," which was inspired, but he kind of moved away from it, going instead with other Metallica songs. I'd be all for him bringing it back, especially because in his first nine appearances this year with the Nationals he is averaging two strikeouts per inning. (Jonathan Papelbon went with this song during his time with the Phillies, but I suspect most people in Philadelphia would prefer to forget that time).

Brian Wilson used to come in to House Of Pain's "Jump Around," which was perfect for him because Wilson was going for that whole San Francisco party atmosphere rather than the typical intimidating, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here," Dante Inferno closer vibe.

Dennis Eckersley rather famously used "Bad to the Bone" for his entrance music. It's a good closer song, for sure (Goose Gossage also used it for a time), but I never thought it fit Eck. He was and is a free-spirit, Bay Area dude who kicked his leg high and threw strikes and became a Hall of Famer pretty much by accident. He was a goofball, is what I'm saying (in the most endearing way). While I get that "Bad to the Bone" is an ironic song, I don't know -- it never quite fit the Eck for me.

John Smoltz was one of several relievers who have tried AC/DC's "Thunderstruck," which is a good but somewhat pedestrian choice. Do you really want to come in to AC/DC's second-best closer song? What fascinates me more is that for a time he entered to ABBA's "Dancing Queen," which is so ridiculous that it's inspired.

You can dance
You can jive
Having the time of your life
Ooh see that girl
Watch that scene
Diggin' the dancing queen

Try to get a hit off the pitcher with the guts to come in with that song.

* * *

Appel did not invent the closer entrance song -- organists had played music when relief pitchers came into games. The corniest of these: In 1963, the Twins purchased 28-year-old pitcher Bill Dailey, who had been kicking around baseball for a decade, mostly in the Minors. Dailey was a fatalist. He told friends this was his last shot and he was going to throw every pitch he could with everything he had until his arm blew out. Then he would work in construction.

Well, he got off to a kind of rough start, but the Twins stuck with him in the bullpen. And something kicked in. For two months, from May 6 to July 7 -- he pitched 48 innings and allowed three runs, for an 0.56 ERA. The league hit .171 against him. Dailey was a bonafide phenom and Twins manager Sam Mele just kept putting Dailey into games when the Twins needed him.

And when he entered the organist began playing -- it hurts even now to write this -- "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey."

(To finish the story: Dailey had a fantastic 1963 season with six wins, 21 saves and a 1.99 ERA. He even got an MVP vote. But he was right about blowing out his arm; he pitched just 15 innings the next year, couldn't get anybody out and got that job in construction).

Still, what Appel saw was an opportunity to make the closer music something more than just a quirky or funny aside. He approached Yankees organist Toby Wright and said that he wanted a special song for when Lyle came into games. The two did a little brainstorming. In those days, you probably know, there were no "closers." Instead, end-of-game relief pitchers were called "firemen"; you know, because they were supposed to put out fires. Appel and Wright tried to come up with a "fire" song.

They immediately thought of The Doors' "Light My Fire." But it wasn't right. Lyle wasn't trying to light fires. Wright threw out "My Old Flame" as a possibility and also the old Ink Spots song "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire." But they both realized: There aren't many songs about extinguishing fires. Think about fire and rock and roll. Try to set the night on fire … let me stand next to you fire … the flames grow higher and it burns, burns, burns … cause when we kiss, ooh, fire … goodness, gracious great balls of fire.

Appel and Wright decided go with something less literal.

"We thought, 'You know what might work?'" Appel says now. "'Pomp and Circumstance.' You know, the graduation song."

It made no sense at all. Why the graduation song for a reliever? But they tried it in an empty Yankee Stadium -- Wright played it on the organ -- and, you know what? It sounded good.

(Legend has it that it was first played on April 19, 1972, which is 46 years ago today, but Appel remembers it being a little later in the season.)

So they tried it the next time that Lyle came into the game. Appel spied the bullpen with binoculars. As soon as he realized that Lyle was coming into the game, he picked up the phone connected to Wright. "It's Sparky," he said.

And Wright began playing the "Pomp and Circumstance" march as Lyle made his way to the mound. A sensation was born.

* * *

The game-changing part of "Pomp and Circumstance," I think, was the Appel decision to go away from something literal and just choosing music that sounds good. Above, I list the undeniable four best entry songs/closer combinations, but I did not put them in order. That was wrong -- there is a very clear No. 1 choice and that is "Hells Bells" and Hoffman. It is the best closer song. This is not up for debate.

Video: Hoffman on his famous entrance music, 'Hells Bells'

"Hells Bells" obviously was not intended to signify the wrath of the relief pitcher about to enter the game. It's a tribute to Bon Scott, the original lead singer of AC/DC, who died of acute alcohol poisoning (or, perhaps, from a heroin overdose; it is disputed). The bell that rings at the start of the song rings for Scott, and the lyrics are meant to evoke Scott's wild and short life (and perhaps the hell he was raising in the afterlife).

But the song's meaning is not the point. "Hells Bells" sounds perfect. When that first bell chimed, and everyone started going crazy because they knew Hoffman was coming into the game, oh man, goosebumps. A young Padres salesman named Chip Bowers came up with the song for Hoffman a quarter-century after Lyle first entered to "Pomp and Circumstance." He was feeding off the inspiration of Appel. Hoffman first entered to "Hells Bells" when he was attempting to tie Rod Beck's then-record of 41 consecutive saves. From the first bell, it was clear that this was magic.

Trevor Hoffman saved 93 percent of his opportunities when "Hells Bells" played.

If "Hells Bells" had been around in '72, Appel probably would have chosen it.

Video: Hoffman comments on his 500th save uniform

"I really did want an edgy song," Appel said. "I was part of the younger generation, I had a rock and roll mindset. We looked really hard for an appropriate rock and roll song, but we just couldn't find one."

Well, that's OK because it's unlikely the Yankees would have let Appel play "Hells Bells" or anything edgy anyway. Baseball was square in '72, and the Yankees were the squarest. "Pomp and Circumstance" was about as avant-garde as they were likely to be.

But it worked anyway -- because of the sound. Fans caught on so quickly that it even shocked Appel. After only a couple of times, the few fans began anticipating the moment; the first note of "Pomp and Circumstance" would play and the small crowd started going crazy. And the longer it went on, the crazier they went.

"One thing that was different back then," Appel said, "is that they didn't always go to a commercial break when a reliever came in. They weren't sold out end-to-end like they are now. So a lot of times when Sparky came in, the people watching on television would hear 'Pomp and Circumstance' playing. You had people at home experiencing it. So when they came to the park, they automatically knew the drill."

It was a hit. Soon after, the crosstown Mets started playing a goofy little Irish jig when Tug McGraw came into games (and then McGraw would thrill fans by stomping on the foul line as he came in because he didn't believe in superstitions).

A wonderful baseball character named Al Hrabosky -- the Mad Hungarian -- invented an entire reliever act. He would turn his back to the plate, work himself to a frenzy, throw the ball hard into his glove and then quickly turn and glare down the batter. It was a pretty glorious routine, and as a prelude the team would play "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2," which was perfect for him.

And it kept building and building until "Hells Bells" and "Enter Sandman" and relief pitcher music perfection.

* * *

Every closer has a song now. Kenley Jansen has been struggling lately -- weird to see -- especially since he still comes in to 2Pac's "California Love." Fans have grown used to games being over when that song begins. The Mets' Jeurys Familia comes into the upbeat "Danza Kuduro," which sort of suggests, "Hey, Familia's in the game, get the party started." Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman now comes in to that threatening opening to Rage Against the Machine's "Wake Up."

Like I said, everyone has one now.

All of which leads to the final part of the Lyle story: He despised it. All of it. He didn't like the song, didn't like the expectation that came with it, didn't like any part of "Pomp and Circumstance." He pitched great. In '72, he finished third in the American League MVP vote, and, oddly, seventh in the AL Cy Young vote (voters have never known what to do with relief pitchers). Then in '73, he was an All-Star for the first time. He was beloved in the Bronx. "Pomp and Circumstance" was every Yankee fan's favorite song.

But he apparently pleaded with management to stop playing that song. Then early in '74, Lyle began the year struggling. And he asked again: Stop playing that song. On April 24, 1974, a Royals-Yankees game, they stopped.

"I asked the team management two years ago not to play the music," Lyle told reporters after the game. "They did it all next year and started again this year. … I just thought it was stupid and I finally got them to cut it out. What if I got the hell hit out of me? What would they play, 'The Old Rugged Cross?'"

It was strange -- Lyle was a free spirit, a practical joker, he did not seem the type to get freaked out by the song.

"He said, 'I'm already put in enough pressure situations, I don't need this huge weight on my shoulders,'" Appel says. "I was surprised, really. Sparky was flamboyant. He didn't worry about pressure."

As far as Appel remembers, they never did play "Pomp and Circumstance" for Lyle after that. But here's the funny part: For many years, at least once or twice a season, a reporter would write, "And Sparky Lyle came out of the bullpen to the sounds of "Pomp and Circumstance." The song had become so much a part of his persona that people heard it even when it wasn't there.

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.

PR's 1995 Dream Team has lasting legacy

Alomar, Delgado, Gonzalez, Williams, Baerga came together for Caribbean Series
MLB.com @jonmorosi

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Tuesday night at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, the generational nature of Puerto Rican baseball was on vivid display.

In a stirring pregame ceremony to honor heroes of the Hurricane Maria recovery efforts, the island's baseball icons -- Roberto Alomar, Bernie Williams, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Baerga and Juan Gonzalez among them -- walked alongside fellow Puerto Ricans amid appreciative applause.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Tuesday night at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, the generational nature of Puerto Rican baseball was on vivid display.

In a stirring pregame ceremony to honor heroes of the Hurricane Maria recovery efforts, the island's baseball icons -- Roberto Alomar, Bernie Williams, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Baerga and Juan Gonzalez among them -- walked alongside fellow Puerto Ricans amid appreciative applause.

When those luminaries are in the company of one another, especially at the venerable Bithorn, the conversation invariably returns to one of the proudest periods in the lineage of Puerto Rican baseball: the 1995 Caribbean Series, and the Dream Team assembled for it.

:: Puerto Rico Series coverage ::

Three historical factors created a team for the ages: a collection of Puerto Rican stars dotted Major League rosters in the early-to-mid 1990s; an increased percentage of Major Leaguers played in the 1994-95 winter season because of the players' strike; and Puerto Rico was determined to field its best team with the '95 Caribbean Series held at Hiram Bithorn.

The result? Once the Senadores de San Juan won the Puerto Rican Winter League title and added reinforcements before the Caribbean Series -- a practice still allowed under tournament rules -- their everyday lineup looked like this: Delgado behind the plate; an infield of Alomar, Baerga, Carmelo Martinez and Rey Sanchez; Williams, Gonzalez and Ruben Sierra in the outfield; and Edgar Martinez at designated hitter.

"We just wanted to play together," Alomar said before Tuesday's Puerto Rico Series opener between the Indians and Twins. "At that time, we didn't have baseball going on in the States. We wanted to do something special for the fans here."

Video: CLE@MIN: Robbie and Sandy Alomar Jr. join the booth

These days, MLB-affiliated players on winter ball rosters typically are those only beginning their careers. The Dream Team was different. By the winter of 1994-95, Alomar had made five consecutive All-Star appearances and won four Gold Glove Awards. Gonzalez would win two American League MVP Awards over the next four Major League seasons. Martinez hit the double that won the 1995 AL Division Series against the Yankees and is credited with saving baseball in Seattle.

"At that time, I was a rookie," Delgado said. "I was the youngest guy on that team. For me, it was like being a kid in a candy store. I'd walk into the clubhouse and see Juan Gonzalez, Ruben Sierra, Carlos Baerga, Roberto Alomar, Carmelo Martinez, Rey Sanchez. ... It was a dream come true."

Amid extraordinarily high expectations, the Senadores delivered. They finished the tournament 6-0, including victories over the Dominican Republic in games started by Pedro Martinez and Jose Rijo.

"Everybody decided, 'There's going to be the Caribbean World Series in Puerto Rico, let's play together,' but we never thought it was going to be so huge," Baerga said this week. "This ballpark was packed. I remember it to this day. We were facing Pedro Martinez. We were facing Jose Rijo, too. It was unbelievable. I'm never going to forget it."

Video: CLE@MIN: Williams, Guzman perform the anthem of PR

Baerga confirmed one detail of the story, as first reported by ESPN: The veteran Major Leaguers on the team did not accept paychecks from the Senadores.

"We just played for the fun of it, and to be ready for the big league season," Baerga said. "When you play winter ball, it's a different atmosphere. I work for the Indians now. I say, 'Bring these guys to play winter ball, because they're going to feel like they're playing in the playoffs. They're going to feel like they're playing in the World Series.'"

In sports, we love to compare generations. Well, Puerto Rico has its own version of the Jordan-vs.-LeBron debate: Who would win in a seven-game series between the '95 Dream Team and the 2017 World Baseball Classic team, which featured Yadier Molina, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa and went undefeated until the gold medal game?

When asked to cast his vote before Tuesday's game, two-time All-Star outfielder Alex Rios said, "I'm going vintage. I'm going with the '95 team. We have a lot of talent in Puerto Rico now. In the long run, those players on the WBC team might be even better. But I've got to go vintage."

Delgado, who was on Puerto Rico's coaching staff in the 2017 Classic, agreed that the Dream Team would win, adding, "The 2017 team might be more exciting. You see the up-and-coming prospects. Lindor, Correa -- those guys are really, really good, and they're only three years into the league. The '95 team was a different story. It's hard to compare. I don't want to be unfair. But I think in a seven-game series, it's hard to beat that '95 team."

Video: Carlos Delgado discusses Puerto Rico Series

Even Red Sox manager Alex Cora -- who built the 2017 roster as general manager of the national team -- declined to put his team of young stars ahead of the legends.

"That's a tough one," Cora said recently, before listing the Dream Team's lineup by memory in a matter of seconds. "You had all those guys. That's pretty impressive. The pitching was OK, but that [everyday] team was amazing.

"Last year was great, but that '95 team in the Caribbean Series ... that was awesome."

Alomar sees one legacy of the 1995 Caribbean Series in the Majors now: Today's emerging Puerto Rican stars are old enough -- barely -- to have been inspired by players on the '95 team, at least later in their careers.

Video: Must C Classic: Lindor homers in native Puerto Rico

Alomar said before Tuesday's game that he's "honored" by Lindor's choice to wear the number (12) he once donned for the Indians. Later that night, Lindor struck an indelible home run before an exuberant crowd that recalled all those roars heard at Hiram Bithorn more than two decades ago.

"Twenty-three years later, we still remember," Delgado said. "They made a promotional picture, just of the nine hitters. It's very well-liked and well-preserved. You can walk into a little bar somewhere in the mountains, in Utuado, and there's that picture. It's great. People recognize that team. We greatly appreciate that. We feel fortunate we were part of that team, in that tournament. Once again, it's baseball and sports bringing together our country."

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network.

AL East: Checking in on the new guys

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

In April, everything is magnified. The numbers that are on the scoreboard and in box scores represent a small sample size, but they are still the numbers fans fixate on, because there is nothing else to go off yet. This is particularly true for the key newcomers for each team.

Here is a look at how it is going for five newbies in the American League East.

In April, everything is magnified. The numbers that are on the scoreboard and in box scores represent a small sample size, but they are still the numbers fans fixate on, because there is nothing else to go off yet. This is particularly true for the key newcomers for each team.

Here is a look at how it is going for five newbies in the American League East.

Blue Jays
Who's the new guy?
Right fielder Randal Grichuk

How's it going so far? Grichuk had just three hits in his first 42 at-bats before he homered and hit a key double against the Royals in Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader. Grichuk entered play on Thursday with 19 strikeouts over 61 plate appearances, and he has yet to live up to the hype as Jose Bautista's replacement in right field.

Video: KC@TOR: Grichuk rips a 114.1-mph three-run homer

What's on deck? Grichuk has a pair a 20-plus homer seasons on his resume, so there's a reasonable expectation that he should be able to turn things around. It needs to happen soon, because Teoscar Hernandez will push him for playing time in right.

Number to know: The offensive production hasn't been there, but Grichuk was credited with two defensive runs saved in his first 14 starts in right field this season.

Orioles
Who's the new guy?
Starting pitcher Andrew Cashner

How's it going so far? After a rocky debut, Cashner has had three consecutive quality starts. Cashner credits fellow newcomer Alex Cobb for helping him with his breaking ball. After giving up three homers in his first start, Cashner has allowed a total of two in his past three starts. To this point, he looks to be the solid No. 2 starter the Orioles thought they were getting.

Video: BAL@DET: Cashner fans Goodrum for his fifth K

What's on deck? Cashner faces a tough test on Sunday in the Indians, who have won the AL Central title the past two years. Though Cleveland got off to a slow start at the plate, manager Terry Francona's team has plenty of firepower in the lineup.

Number to know: While he's not a big power pitcher, Cashner has 21 strikeouts in his first 24 innings.

Rays
Who's the new guy?
Right-hander Yonny Chirinos

How's it going so far? Chirinos became the first Rays pitcher to begin his career without allowing a run in the first two starts. Thus far, he has only started games that were designated as "bullpen days" under the Rays' new pitching plan.

Video: TEX@TB: Chirinos fans Guzman to end the frame

What's on deck? Chirinos' performance to date has fueled speculation that the Rays will slide him into the rotation in the near future.

Number to know: 14 1/3. That's the number of scoreless innings Chirinos logged to start the season.

Red Sox
Who's the new guy?
Designated hitter/outfielder J.D. Martinez

How's it going so far? The slugger is off to a modest start, but that shouldn't be a surprise. Martinez's career homer total in March/April is by far his lowest of any month. He has made some contributions, most notably a grand slam against the Yankees on April 11. Martinez has come through in many of the RBI opportunities he's had, and he has fit in well with his teammates. There's no reason to think the Red Sox didn't get the right guy when they signed Martinez.

Video: BOS@LAA: Martinez notches four hits, RBI in 9-0 win

What's on deck? More home runs, and soon. It should only be a matter of time before Martinez starts clearing the fences on a regular basis. Away from the chilly conditions of Boston for the next week -- the Red Sox play at Anaheim, Oakland and Toronto (where the roof is likely to be closed) -- Martinez has a good chance to get hot.

Number to know: .992. That is Martinez's OPS in his first nine home games for the Red Sox, which is a sign of how quickly he has gained comfort at Fenway. As Martinez promised, he has not shifted away from his all-fields approach.

Yankees
Who's the new guy?
Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton

How's it going so far? After clubbing two homers on Opening Day, Stanton's bat has gone almost silent. Stanton has batted third in the first 16 games, but manager Aaron Boone suggested that he might move him down in the upcoming series against the Blue Jays to relieve some of the pressure. There could be a big-market adjustment going on with Stanton. This is hardly the first time a star player has struggled early in his tenure with the Yankees.

Video: Must C Classic: Stanton hits two HRs in Yanks debut

What's on deck? After an off-day on Wednesday, the Yankees are set to play eight games at home against the Blue Jays and Twins. The scrutiny on Stanton won't go away until he starts raking. The slugger has been shut down at Yankee Stadium thus far, going 3-for-35 with one homer and 20 strikeouts.

Number to know: 0. Through the first 16 games of the season, that was the number of hits Stanton had in close/late situations over 10 plate appearances.

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

New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays

Highly ranked prospect O'Neill joins Cardinals

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

CHICAGO -- Tyler O'Neill's scorching-hot start lifted him all the way to the Majors.

The Cardinals promoted O'Neill, the Cards' No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, prior to Thursday's makeup game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

CHICAGO -- Tyler O'Neill's scorching-hot start lifted him all the way to the Majors.

The Cardinals promoted O'Neill, the Cards' No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, prior to Thursday's makeup game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The club originally planned to promote O'Neill for Wednesday's game, before it became the second postponement in three days due to inclement weather at Wrigley Field. That gave St. Louis another day to officially recall the slugger from Triple-A Memphis and make a corresponding move, which was the optioning of right-hander John Brebbia to Memphis.

5 cool things about O'Neill

O'Neill could provide insurance for center fielder Tommy Pham, who suffered a minor groin injury in Tuesday night's 5-3 win.

Pham was expected to undergo testing on his right groin on Wednesday. He said Tuesday night that he didn't expect the injury to keep him out of Wednesday's lineup. The extent of his injury is not known.

Video: Tyler O'Neill talks about coming from the farm

By promoting O'Neill, the club provides protection, whether Pham's injury is serious or not. The 22-year-old slugger brings immense raw power, sneaky speed and an ability to play all three outfield positions. If Pham is fine, O'Neill will give the Cardinals a fifth bench player for the first time this season. The team had been carrying eight relievers, but saw no need for an additional arm during the upcoming schedule. The Cards have three off days built into the next 13 days.

Manager Mike Matheny has rarely used his eighth reliever in the early going, while routinely running out of bench players late in game. Matheny couldn't replace Pham in the ninth inning on Tuesday after Pham's groin tightened in the cold weather, because the skipper had already exhausted his reserve options. Twice over the season's first two weeks, Matheny used starting pitcher Luke Weaver as a pinch-runner.

O'Neill, who was acquired from Seattle last summer for left-hander Marco Gonzalez, entered his first Spring Training with the organization as a candidate to make the club. A right-handed hitter, O'Neill hit .246/.321/.499 with 31 home runs in his first season at Triple-A in 2017, including 12 home runs in 37 games for Memphis. Club officials expressed disappointment after oblique and hamstring injuries limited O'Neill to just 12 at bats in Grapefruit League play this spring.

Once healthy, O'Neill enjoyed a torrid start at Memphis, which owns one of the best records in the Pacific Coast League. O'Neill is tied for the Minor League league in home runs with six, and he is hitting .388/.385/.837 with 18 RBIs across 12 games.

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

St. Louis Cardinals, Tyler O'Neill

Sons of Puerto Rico help Twins top Tribe in 16

Berrios sets tone with 7 scoreless; Rosario scores winning run
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- On a night that saw Puerto Rico native Jose Berrios turn in a dominant performance of seven scoreless innings against the Indians in front of his home crowd, it was fitting that fellow Puerto Rican Eddie Rosario scored the winning run in the longest MLB game ever held at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

View Full Game Coverage

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- On a night that saw Puerto Rico native Jose Berrios turn in a dominant performance of seven scoreless innings against the Indians in front of his home crowd, it was fitting that fellow Puerto Rican Eddie Rosario scored the winning run in the longest MLB game ever held at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

Video: CLE@MIN: LaMarre wins it in 16th with walk-off single

View Full Game Coverage

Rosario, a Guayama native, sparked a rally in the 16th inning with a leadoff single off Josh Tomlin before going to third on an error from second baseman Jason Kipnis on what should've been a double play hit into by Logan Morrison. After an intentional walk to load the bases, Ryan LaMarre provided the walk-off single into center for a 2-1 win in the second and final game of the Puerto Rico series that saw each team win one game.

"They both handled it very well," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Jose is never going to forget about this day and the biggest concern was getting him through that first inning with all that hype and expectation. I told him after the first inning, 'Now we go.' And sure enough, he did. Jose couldn't have done a better job and [Rosario] scored the winning run. 'Rosie' started the rally and finished it."

:: Puerto Rico Series coverage ::

Rosario couldn't contain his emotions after scoring the winning run, and Berrios joined the celebration on the field, never changing out of his uniform while watching the game's final nine innings.

"It was unforgettable -- this was one of the best nights of my life," Rosario said through an interpreter. "Being able to spend time here in Puerto Rico with my family and my friends, and them being able to watch me wear a Major League uniform."

The 5-hour, 13-minute game didn't see much offense, with neither team getting a hit with runners in scoring position until LaMarre's hit, but saw same late dramatics after the Twins fell behind 1-0 in the 14th on a go-ahead solo homer from Edwin Encarnacion off reliever Trevor Hildenberger. On the first pitch of the bottom of the 14th, Miguel Sano crushed a game-tying solo homer to left off Matt Belisle.

Video: CLE@MIN: Sano answers with game-tying homer in 14th

Berrios, who hails from Bayamon, showed his maturity, not letting his emotions get the best of him. It was evident that he was locked in after he struck out fellow Puerto Rico native Francisco Lindor on three pitches to open the game. Berrios scattered three hits, striking out five and throwing 84 pitches. He retired 16 in a row to finish his outing, including retiring 19 of the last 20 batters he faced.

"It was crazy, there were a lot of emotions going through my mind," Berrios said through an interpreter. "After the second inning, I was more concentrated. Tonight was a very important night for me and the island of Puerto Rico."

Video: Molitor, Rosario, Berrios on 2-1 win in 16 innings

Berrios, 23, has a 1.63 ERA in four starts this year, including three outings of at least seven scoreless innings. He's walked only one batter all year compared to 29 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings.

Video: CLE@MIN: Berrios hurls seven scoreless in Puerto Rico

Berrios ran into only one jam, putting runners at the corners with two outs in the first, but got Encarnacion to roll over a first-pitch curveball on a grounder to third to end the inning. Berrios was on a roll after the first; he gave up a one-out single to Tyler Naquin in the second but didn't allow a baserunner after that.

But right-hander Carlos Carrasco was also impressive for the Indians, matching Berrios by throwing seven scoreless innings of his own. Carrasco gave up three hits and a walk but struck out seven.

Twins relievers Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, Zach Duke, Ryan Pressly and Taylor Rogers combined to throw 6 1/3 scoreless innings before Hildenberger served up Encarnacion's homer. Alan Busenitz threw two scoreless innings to pick up the win, working out of two jams.

Video: CLE@MIN: Rosario runs down Kipnis' fly ball in gap

"There wasn't much fault to find," Molitor said. "We had to pitch out of a couple jams. Reed was crisp, Rodney had a couple baserunners. But you go down the line. Pressly had a couple big innings. I'm glad they were fresh because we needed them."

KEPLER LEAVES WITH RIGHT KNEE INJURY
Twins outfielder Max Kepler, who moved over from right field to center with Byron Buxton on the 10-day disabled list with migraines, suffered a right knee injury and was replaced by LaMarre in the 10th inning. Molitor said the injury isn't considered serious. Kepler tweaked the knee earlier in the game and felt discomfort while trying to run down a fly ball in the ninth.

"We think he's going to be OK," Molitor said. "He felt it a little bit earlier, and then when he went after that ball he felt it a little bit. So we thought it was best to get him out."

Video: CLE@MIN: Molitor on winning marathon 16-inning game

SOUND SMART
Berrios became the first Puerto Rican pitcher to throw seven scoreless innings at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in a regular-season game. He joins Javier Vazquez, Roberto Hernandez and Pedro Feliciano as the four Puerto Rico natives to pitch on their home island in the regular season.

Video: Eddie Rosario talks Puerto Rico series on MLB Tonight

It was also the first neutral site walk-off since June 29, 2010, when the Marlins won on an RBI single from Dan Uggla at this ballpark. The 16-inning game is also the longest MLB regular-season game ever played outside the continental United States or Canada.

Video: Indians, Twins split historic Puerto Rico Series

HE SAID IT
"It was a great experience playing baseball here the last two days in front of our families. It was great honor to be here and do this." -- Berrios

Video: CLE@MIN: Berrios on his stellar start in Puerto Rico

UP NEXT
After an off-day, right-hander Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.00 ERA) will take the mound in the opener of a three-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Friday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Lynn, who hasn't started since April 9, will start opposite Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer. After giving up five runs in his first inning of the season, Lynn has thrown eight straight scoreless innings but said he needs to pitch deeper into games.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins, Jose Berrios, Ryan LaMarre, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano

Yo's slam caps Mets' 9-run 8th, comeback win

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- Juan Lagares dropped to a knee at second base, smacking his gloved hands together half a dozen times. Across the diamond, Asdrubal Cabrera waited in foul ground after half-jogging, half-leaping home. A grin broke across Todd Frazier's face as he neared Cabrera, slapping his teammate's hand with force.

Lagares' two-run double had just given the Mets their first lead in an 11-5 win over the Nationals at Citi Field, highlighting a 12-batter, nine-run, eighth-inning rally that diverted them from a three-game series sweep. About an hour later, as they packed and dressed for an early-morning flight to Georgia, reminiscing on Lagares' hit and Yoenis Cespedes' grand slam, some Mets tried to temper the importance of a single game in April. But there was no disguising it.

View Full Game Coverage

NEW YORK -- Juan Lagares dropped to a knee at second base, smacking his gloved hands together half a dozen times. Across the diamond, Asdrubal Cabrera waited in foul ground after half-jogging, half-leaping home. A grin broke across Todd Frazier's face as he neared Cabrera, slapping his teammate's hand with force.

Lagares' two-run double had just given the Mets their first lead in an 11-5 win over the Nationals at Citi Field, highlighting a 12-batter, nine-run, eighth-inning rally that diverted them from a three-game series sweep. About an hour later, as they packed and dressed for an early-morning flight to Georgia, reminiscing on Lagares' hit and Yoenis Cespedes' grand slam, some Mets tried to temper the importance of a single game in April. But there was no disguising it.

View Full Game Coverage

"It's just huge for us to avoid the sweep and fly down to Atlanta happy," outfielder Michael Conforto said.

Grand slams mean 40% off pizza

It was Conforto who ignited the winning rally, singling off Ryan Madson with the Mets trailing by two. Cespedes followed with another knock. Then Cabrera singled and, in Conforto's words, "you could kind of feel the energy building." Two batters later, Frazier collected his sixth hit in 17 tries with runners in scoring position, tying the game at 4.

An intentional walk and a strikeout loaded the bases for Lagares, who ripped a two-run, go-ahead double just inside the right-field foul line, giving the Mets their first lead of the night.

Video: Must C Clutch: Mets trio lead dramatic comeback

"I was ready for that the whole at-bat," Lagares said. "I got a good pitch, and I made a good swing."

Cespedes' slam wound up icing a night that could have turned out much differently for the Mets. Entering the week with a 12-2 record and a six-game National League East lead over the defending division champions, the Mets lost gut-punch games Monday and Tuesday. They arrived at Citi Field the following afternoon aching to salvage something; although manager Mickey Callaway insisted this was no different than any other game, criticisms were raining down from all corners of the media landscape. Callaway himself dropped the first hints of urgency, removing starting pitcher Steven Matz for pinch-hitter Brandon Nimmo after four innings and 74 pitches.

Video: WSH@NYM: Matz K's Turner for third straight strikeout

The move wasn't universally well-received. Matz, who had retired 10 straight after Ryan Zimmerman's three-run homer in the first inning, slammed his bat to the ground in the dugout. Then he watched as Amed Rosario hit into an inning-ending double play with the Mets trailing by a run. Had Paul Sewald not given the Mets three innings of one-run relief, their eighth-inning opportunity might never have arisen. New York might have dropped three straight to an archrival oozing with confidence. The criticisms would have continued to fall like rain.

But Sewald did his part and Frazier, Lagares and Cespedes did the rest, sending the Mets to a 13-4 record for just the third time in franchise history.

"We just went out and took it," Callaway said. "We went there and the players in that clubhouse took that game. They were wanting to win, and they did everything they could."

Video: WSH@NYM: Callaway on 11-5 win, avoiding sweep

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Had Matz's pitch count been in the 50s or 60s when his spot in the order came up in the fourth, Callaway said, he never would have considered removing his pitcher from the game. But with Matz at 74 pitches, the manager called him back from the on-deck circle, sending out Nimmo instead. Although Nimmo reached first on a hit-by-pitch, Rosario followed with the inning-ending double play.

"I definitely understand," Matz said of Callaway's decision. "I think Mickey would understand that I wouldn't be happy. As a competitor, you want to go out there and go as deep in the game as you can. … Thankfully, the bats came alive and we were able to get the win."

Video: WSH@NYM: Matz displeased with being removed from game

SOUND SMART
From the sixth inning of the Mets' April 1 loss to the Cardinals to the sixth inning Wednesday, Sewald retired 18 consecutive batters. He appeared in just two games in between, retiring the only batter he faced in an April 10 win over the Marlins, then all nine men he saw in Saturday's loss to the Brewers. Wednesday, Sewald set down six in a row before Zimmerman led off the seventh with a triple.

"I'm throwing strikes most importantly," Sewald said. "I can't eat innings if I'm out there throwing 25 pitches an inning. Most important is to get weak contact as early as we can."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
A notorious low-ball hitter, Cespedes elevated his bat plane in the eighth inning to take A.J. Cole deep for his sixth career grand slam. Cole's 95-mph fastball crossed home plate 3.82 feet above the ground, well out of the strike zone. It was the highest pitch Cespedes has hit out since joining the Mets in 2015, and the highest pitch anyone in the Majors has redirected over the fence this season.

Asked if his pair of hits might ignite a hot streak, Cespedes, who was in a 7-for-46 (.152) slump entering the eighth inning, cut off an interpreter's attempt to translate the question.

"I really hope so," Cespedes said in Spanish.

Video: WAS@NYM: Cespedes hits 3.82-ft high pitch for a slam

HE SAID IT
"I put it away and we end up winning. So I'm going to sell it if anybody's interested. I bought it for 95 bucks. I'll go half price for anybody if they're interested." -- Frazier, on the pepper shaker he purchased to give to the Mets' player of the game after wins. When Frazier noticed it still sitting in Wilmer Flores' locker Wednesday afternoon following two straight losses, he moved it out of the main clubhouse room, calling it "bad luck."

Video: WSH@NYM: Frazier ties game with clutch two-run single

UP NEXT
Allowing four runs in five innings in each of his last two starts, Matt Harvey looks to improve -- and to solidify his rotation status with teammate Jason Vargas nearing a return from the disabled list -- when he starts the Mets' 7:35 p.m. ET series opener Thursday at SunTrust Park. Originally scheduled Braves starter Anibal Sanchez was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a leg injury; Atlanta hasn't announced a new starter.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets

Sox improve to 15-2 behind hot bats, Porcello

Special to MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- Rick Porcello tossed six scoreless innings Wednesday and received a wealth of offensive support, including a grand slam from Rafael Devers, as the Red Sox rolled to a 9-0 win over the Angels at Angel Stadium.

It was the second consecutive scoreless start from Porcello, who hasn't allowed a run in his last 13 innings. The Red Sox improved to an MLB-best 15-2, the best start in the 118-year history of the franchise. 

View Full Game Coverage

ANAHEIM -- Rick Porcello tossed six scoreless innings Wednesday and received a wealth of offensive support, including a grand slam from Rafael Devers, as the Red Sox rolled to a 9-0 win over the Angels at Angel Stadium.

It was the second consecutive scoreless start from Porcello, who hasn't allowed a run in his last 13 innings. The Red Sox improved to an MLB-best 15-2, the best start in the 118-year history of the franchise. 

View Full Game Coverage

They are the first team since the 2003 NL West champion Giants to start 15-2, and just the seventh team since integration (1947) to begin the season with 15 or more wins in their first 17 games. Of those other six, two went on to win the World Series (1955 Brooklyn Dodgers and 1984 Tigers).

Porcello (4-0) retired the last six batters he faced, after giving up six hits, and notched six strikeouts with no walks. The right-hander has not walked a batter over his last 22 2/3 innings.

"I feel good, and while I wasn't as sharp in the first inning as I would have liked to have been, I thought we were able to make adjustments," said Porcello, who got just four ground-ball outs and adjusted the game plan when his sinker was not working to his standard.

Porcello has given up just one earned run over his last 19 1/3 innings, going back to the second inning of his April 7 start against the Rays. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his previous outing last Thursday against the Yankees.

Video: BOS@LAA: Devers cranks a grand slam to right field

Devers capped a five-run third inning with his first career grand slam, which hit off the right-field wall above the lowered boundary line. He homered for the second straight night and for the third time this season.

J.D. Martinez hit a home run in the seventh inning, his fourth of the season, and went 4-for-5 with three runs scored. Mitch Moreland went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs for the Red Sox, who are 15-1 since losing on Opening Day. It is their best 16-game stretch since 2004.

Video: BOS@LAA: Martinez notches four hits, RBI in 9-0 win

"I keep learning a lot from the team, and I keep saying all along that they show up, they prepare, they go play and they are having fun at it," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "One thing I said when I came here was that we are going to enjoy winning, because we know how tough it is to win at this level."

According to Elias, the Red Sox join the 2003 Giants as the only teams since 1900 to go 15-2 with a first-year manager. Cora is the only rookie manager to accomplish the feat.

Moreland opened the season on an 0-for-12 slide, but he has gone 11-for-19 since to help lead Boston's productive offense.

"Obviously, we've had a pretty good run at it here so far," Moreland said. "To get out there and into the action, it's a lot of fun. It seems like one through nine, everybody is stepping up. We're throwing the ball really well on the mound, and we're playing real complete games."

Video: BOS@LAA: Moreland clubs a two-run homer to right

The Red Sox have hit eight home runs in their first two games against the American League West-leading Angels, who fell to 13-5 and took their first series loss. The Red Sox have outscored the Angels, 19-1.

"We're playing good baseball," Cora said. "They're grinding out at-bats all the way to the end. … They don't want to give away at-bats, which is great. Defensively, they're doing a great job, and the pitching staff has been amazing."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Avoiding early trouble: The Angels loaded the bases with one out in the first inning on three singles, but Porcello ended the threat by striking out Kole Calhoun and Zack Cozart. The Angels never got another runner to third base against the right-hander.

Video: BOS@LAA: Porcello K's Cozart, strands based loaded

SOUND SMART
At 21 years, 176 days, Devers became the youngest Red Sox player to hit a grand slam since a 20-year-old Tony Conigliaro hit one on Aug. 24, 1965, against the Washington Senators. Devers became the youngest player to hit a slam in the Majors since a 20-year-old Rougned Odor on Aug. 27, 2014, at Seattle. Devers' four RBIs were a career high.

HE SAID IT
"We recognized early on I wasn't commanding the sinker as well as I would have liked to, and we were able to make an adjustment. Sometimes that's what you have to do. I definitely give [catcher] Sandy [Leon] a lot of credit. He recognized that, and put down the right fingers." -- Porcello, on moving away from his typically reliable sinking fastball

UP NEXT
Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will take the mound Thursday at Anaheim in the series finale at 10:07 p.m. ET. He gave up one run over six innings last time out against the Orioles last Friday. In his only previous start against the Angels, on July 20, 2015, he gave up seven runs over 1 2/3 innings. The Angels will start right-hander Nick Tropeano.

Doug Padilla is a contributor to MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox, Rafael Devers, Rick Porcello

The Yankees sent out an important anti-bullying message after a young fan's social media post

When used for good, social media can be a very powerful tool for helping others. 

Recently, a woman named Jenn Slater posted on Facebook about her daughter, Cassidy, and her issues with being bullied at her middle school. It's tough to watch, but important just the same. 

Braves mum, but hopeful, after Freeman X-ray

Slugger struck in wrist by pitch in 8th inning; team to wait for further evaluation
MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- Freddie Freeman created a scare as he walked off the field much like he had last season when a pitch fractured his left wrist. But early indications created reason to believe the Braves' first baseman might have avoided another significant injury.

Freeman exited Wednesday night's 7-3 win over the Phillies when his left wrist was hit by a Hoby Milner pitch in the eighth inning. There was immediate concern because the 89-mph fastball struck him around the same area where his wrist was fractured by Blue Jays southpaw Aaron Loup's fastball last year. The Braves did not announce the results of the X-ray exam performed Wednesday and will not provide any further information until Freeman is re-evaluated Thursday morning. But there is at least reason to believe the X-ray did not reveal a fracture.

View Full Game Coverage

ATLANTA -- Freddie Freeman created a scare as he walked off the field much like he had last season when a pitch fractured his left wrist. But early indications created reason to believe the Braves' first baseman might have avoided another significant injury.

Freeman exited Wednesday night's 7-3 win over the Phillies when his left wrist was hit by a Hoby Milner pitch in the eighth inning. There was immediate concern because the 89-mph fastball struck him around the same area where his wrist was fractured by Blue Jays southpaw Aaron Loup's fastball last year. The Braves did not announce the results of the X-ray exam performed Wednesday and will not provide any further information until Freeman is re-evaluated Thursday morning. But there is at least reason to believe the X-ray did not reveal a fracture.

View Full Game Coverage

Video: MLB Tonight talks Freddie Freeman's wrist injuries

"It's a concern, when he gets hit in that hand," manager Brian Snitker said. "Hopefully it's ... I can't even comment because they're looking at him and evaluating him."

Video: PHI@ATL: Snitker on Freeman exiting game after HBP

Freeman, who has hit .288 with two home runs and a .986 OPS this season, was not ready to comment on Wednesday night. He missed seven weeks when he fractured his wrist last year.

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

Atlanta Braves, Freddie Freeman

Watch as Tanner Roark unveils baseball's most unhittable pitch

You thought Clayton Kershaw's curveball was the best pitch in baseball? Chaz Roe's slider? Jordan Hicks' fastball? 

Bah!

Tanner Roark laughs at your short-sighted opinions. In the first inning of Wednesday's Nationals-Mets game, the right-hander unveiled the most unhittable pitch in baseball today -- perhaps in all of baseball history. Feast your eyes below.

Halos still optimistic Ohtani will make next start

Two-way phenom dealing with blister, could DH on Thursday
MLB.com @mi_guardado

ANAHEIM -- One day after Shohei Ohtani exited his start against the Red Sox with a blister on his right hand, the Angels remained optimistic that the 23-year-old two-way phenom will be able to make his next start on the mound.

"We'll evaluate it," manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday. "He's not very concerned about it. Our medical staff is going to pay a lot of attention to it, to make sure that he's able to throw his bullpen and see where he comes out of things. We'll just take this one step at a time. We won't have to make a decision for a while."

View Full Game Coverage

ANAHEIM -- One day after Shohei Ohtani exited his start against the Red Sox with a blister on his right hand, the Angels remained optimistic that the 23-year-old two-way phenom will be able to make his next start on the mound.

"We'll evaluate it," manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday. "He's not very concerned about it. Our medical staff is going to pay a lot of attention to it, to make sure that he's able to throw his bullpen and see where he comes out of things. We'll just take this one step at a time. We won't have to make a decision for a while."

View Full Game Coverage

The Angels' preference early this season has been to have Ohtani pitch on six days' rest, meaning his next scheduled outing would likely be Tuesday in Houston. Ohtani normally throws a light bullpen session four days before his starts and a more intense one two days later, so he could have a chance to assess the blister's progress Friday, if he remains on his usual pitching routine.

Video: BOS@LAA: Ohtani exits after two innings with blister

Ohtani didn't pitch for nearly two months because of a blister issue in Japan in 2016, but he doesn't feel this one is as severe. He added that he's been able to pitch through other blisters without having to miss a turn in the rotation.

"Usually, in Japan, I pitched without it fully healing, without skipping days or anything," Ohtani said Tuesday through an interpreter. "I think it will be something similar this time."

The blister, which is located on the inside edge of Ohtani's right middle finger, affected his ability to command his pitches against the Red Sox and especially defanged his splitter, which had been a key pitch for him in his first two brilliant outings. Scioscia said that he doesn't believe Ohtani's high splitter usage led to the development of the blister, however.

"He used his split a lot in his first two outings and had no issue with it," Scioscia said. "It's just something that came up last night. He'll be able to throw all his pitches."

The blister isn't expected to affect Ohtani's hitting. Scioscia said Ohtani would be available to serve as the designated hitter on Thursday, but he wouldn't commit to having him in the lineup against Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. So far this season, the left-handed hitting Ohtani has started only once at DH against a lefty.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani

Cole sharp again; Astros' 6-run 7th seals win

Special to MLB.com

SEATTLE -- That explosive offense that almost everyone expects of the Astros finally showed up Wednesday night. It was a one-inning volcano eruption. A six-run seventh inning when Houston sent 11 hitters to the plate ended a pitching duel and propelled the Astros to a 7-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

"We're a good offense, don't forget that,'' Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "It was coming and there's more to come. As the game went on our at-bats got better and better, which is encouraging. I don't think we can allow a rough patch to get in the way of the reality that we're a really good hitting club."

View Full Game Coverage

SEATTLE -- That explosive offense that almost everyone expects of the Astros finally showed up Wednesday night. It was a one-inning volcano eruption. A six-run seventh inning when Houston sent 11 hitters to the plate ended a pitching duel and propelled the Astros to a 7-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

"We're a good offense, don't forget that,'' Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "It was coming and there's more to come. As the game went on our at-bats got better and better, which is encouraging. I don't think we can allow a rough patch to get in the way of the reality that we're a really good hitting club."

View Full Game Coverage

Video: HOU@SEA: Springer plates two with double off the wall

Only twice in the previous 12 games had the Astros scored more than four runs. They scored three runs or fewer in eight of those games. And they scored only one run the first six innings Wednesday off Seattle starter Mike Leake (2-1) before the breakout inning in the seventh, which is the most runs Houston has scored in an inning this season.

Video: HOU@SEA: Hinch on hot offense in Astros' 7-1 win

It included six hits (with three doubles) and a walk. Houston (12-7) also scored a run off an error by Seattle right fielder Mitch Haniger.

Hinch felt it all happened because of a stellar defensive play by left fielder Derek Fisher in the bottom of the fifth. Fisher robbed Seattle shortstop Jean Segura of a home run with a catch at the top of the wall to end the inning and keep the game tied at 1-1.

"It was a big momentum play with the way the game was going,'' Hinch said. "Everybody exhales and then we come back and score a lot of runs. So it obviously was a turning point."

Fisher kept backing up on the towering fly ball and managed to leap and grab it at the last second.

"I was just trying to read how it was going to go back,'' Fisher said. "It was a hard one to gauge on whether to jump or not jump. Fortunately, I caught it."

It was one of two runs the Mariners didn't score because of the Houston defense. Right fielder Josh Reddick threw out Ben Gamel at the plate in the second inning.

Stellar defense helped Astros starter Gerrit Cole (2-0) win the game on a night when he wasn't the dominating pitcher he had been in his first three starts this season, posting 36 strikeouts in 21 innings. Trying to become the first pitcher in Major League history to open a season with four games of double-digit strikeouts, Cole finished with five. He allowed only one run (unearned) in seven innings.

Video: HOU@SEA: Cole allows five hits, no earned runs

"He didn't have his best stuff tonight, but that's the sign of a great pitcher,'' said Astros catcher Brian McCann, who had two doubles. "Gerrit is as good as they come. When you look at your season overall, you probably have your 'A' stuff six or seven times. It's the other starts that make or break your season. I thought he pitched phenomenal tonight."

Cole felt he pitched better as the game progressed.

"I started making better pitch selections,'' he said. "But there were a couple of times early where I didn't execute my pitches. I had to rely on the defense to make some great plays."

Even on a so-so night, the Astros' starting pitching is going to keep the team in the game most of the time. And the offense is going to have moments like the seventh inning Wednesday night when it was unstoppable. The Astros finished with 12 hits and six doubles.

"We've been battling out there,'' Fisher said. "But we put some good swings together and hit some balls hard tonight and they're starting to fall for us."

Video: HOU@SEA: Gonzalez hits go-ahead two-run single in 7th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Reddick's great throw kept the Mariners from tying the game in the bottom of the second. Cole walked Ben Gamel and Daniel Vogelbach with two outs before Seattle catcher David Freitas stroked a one-hop single to right, but Reddick made a perfect throw to McCann to cut down Gamel at the plate.

Video: HOU@SEA: Reddick cuts down Gamel at the plate in 2nd

SOUND SMART
Outfielder George Springer, who now has played in 502 MLB games, has 103 career home runs. It's the second-best total in franchise history for a player's first 500 games. Lance Berkman had 107 homers in his first 500 games.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With the Astros and Mariners tied at 1 in the fifth inning, Fisher kept the Mariners from taking the lead when he reached over the wall to rob Segura of a home run.

Video: HOU@SEA: Fisher robs Segura of a home run in left

Segura launched a towering fly off Cole that appeared headed for the Astros bullpen past the outfield wall, but Fisher timed his leap perfectly and made the catch right over the top of the wall to end the inning.

HE SAID IT
"That's the most casual rob of a home run I've ever seen in my career. He was either surprised or as cool as anyone can imagine.'' -- Hinch said of Fisher's over-the-wall catch of a would-be homer by Segura in the fifth inning.

UP NEXT
The Astros close out the four-game series in Seattle with a day game against the Mariners on Thursday, starting at 2:40 CT. Charlie Morton (2-0, 1.00) faces Marco Gonzales (1-1, 8.25). The Astros are 5-2 in day games this season. The team will fly to Chicago for a three-game series with the White Sox starting Friday night when Justin Verlander (2-0, 1.35) makes his fift