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Ever see an ump catch a bat flip? Here you go

We've all seen bat flips before. They're almost so common at this point that their majesty, at times, feels ordinary (unless it's an adorable two-year-old).

But during Thursday's Twins-Tigers game, we witnessed a bat flip that was different than any we've encountered during our long hours of bat flip research and analysis. Nicholas Castellanos unleashed a vicious toss after a two-run homer and home-plate umpire Manny Gonzalez caught it. He. Caught. The. Bat. Flip.

Rangers' triple play first of its kind in 106 years

Special to MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- It had been 106 years since a Major League team turned a triple play in which the batter was not retired before the Rangers turned the trick in Thursday's 8-6 win over the Angels at Globe Life Park.

In the fourth inning, the Angels had the bases loaded when David Fletcher hit a ground ball to Rangers third baseman Jurickson Profar. Profar touched third for a forceout before tagging Taylor Ward, the runner on third, who thought Profar caught the ball and was retreating to the bag. Profar then threw to Rougned Odor, who tapped second base for a forceout and a 5-4 triple play.

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ARLINGTON -- It had been 106 years since a Major League team turned a triple play in which the batter was not retired before the Rangers turned the trick in Thursday's 8-6 win over the Angels at Globe Life Park.

In the fourth inning, the Angels had the bases loaded when David Fletcher hit a ground ball to Rangers third baseman Jurickson Profar. Profar touched third for a forceout before tagging Taylor Ward, the runner on third, who thought Profar caught the ball and was retreating to the bag. Profar then threw to Rougned Odor, who tapped second base for a forceout and a 5-4 triple play.

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According to STATS, this was the first triple play in which the batter was not retired since June 3, 1912, when the Brooklyn Dodgers did it against the Reds.

Video: Check out the Rangers' triple plays through the years

It was the Rangers' sixth triple play in franchise history, with the last occurring on May 20, 2009, against the Mariners. It was the second triple play in MLB this season.

"Every runner thought it was a line drive, that's why we got a triple play," Profar said. "I wasn't sure why the runner at first base didn't run either, so they thought it was a line drive."

Video: LAA@TEX: Profar on turning triple play, offense

It was the third 5-4 triple play in the expansion era (since 1961), according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The White Sox did it on Sept. 18, 2006, against the Tigers, and the Phillies did it Sept. 12, 2007, against the Rockies.

"I tracked the ball into his glove, and it just hit the ground as it was going into his glove, so either way, I'm pretty much a dead duck, I feel like," Ward said. "I think my best case scenario right there probably would have been to maybe stay on the bag just in case, I think that would have been my only shot."

Video: Must C Classic: Rangers turn bases-loaded triple play

Ward wasn't the only player confused by the unusual play. After Odor tagged second for the third out, he proceeded to attempt to tag Kole Calhoun, who had already been retired by Odor's forceout at second, in between first and second.

"[Shortstop] Elvis [Andrus] was yelling, 'Tag, tag, tag,'" Odor said. "So automatically [Calhoun] is out, because I was on the base. I see Profar touch the runner, touch the base and throw to me, so that's a triple play already, you know? But the only reason I went to tag Calhoun is because Elvis was yelling at me. I don't know what the umpires saw, but it was already a triple play."

It took away the Angels' momentum after they had built an early lead. The Halos scored five runs in the first and had a 6-3 lead at the time of the triple play.

"That was a real game-changer," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Profar made a great play on it. Fletch hit the ball hard, and they got out of the fourth inning with no damage at a time when we were going to pad our lead and hopefully get far enough in front."

The Rangers then took that momentum as they rallied for four runs in the eighth for the come-from-behind victory.

"I think [the triple play] was the play that changed the game," Rangers starter Ariel Jurado said. "Because after that, we started coming back and turned around the score. It gave us a chance to win."

Jacob Prothro is a contributor to MLB.com based in Arlington.

Texas Rangers, Jurickson Profar

Lester regains form with 6 scoreless, 8 K's

Pittsburgh native Happ homers in 4th for game's only run
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Jon Lester hadn't been quite the same since going into the All-Star break with 12 wins. The Cubs left-hander had gone winless in his last five starts while allowing more than a run per inning.

Lester appeared to return to form against the Pirates on Thursday, as he recorded a season-high-tying eight strikeouts without issuing a walk over six innings in the Cubs' 1-0 win at PNC Park. It was their fifth straight win in one-run games dating back to Aug. 3, moving them to 18-17 in such games this season.

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PITTSBURGH -- Jon Lester hadn't been quite the same since going into the All-Star break with 12 wins. The Cubs left-hander had gone winless in his last five starts while allowing more than a run per inning.

Lester appeared to return to form against the Pirates on Thursday, as he recorded a season-high-tying eight strikeouts without issuing a walk over six innings in the Cubs' 1-0 win at PNC Park. It was their fifth straight win in one-run games dating back to Aug. 3, moving them to 18-17 in such games this season.

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"[Watching] from the side, I know it's Jon Lester. I've watched him a lot," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "But all of a sudden, it was like Jon Lester. He had this way about him today that was not going to be denied. That's what I saw. He was locked in, he'd had enough, and he went back to pitching like Jon's capable of pitching."

Maddon said before the game that he'd met with Lester sometime between his start against the Nationals on Saturday -- when he allowed nine runs (eight earned) in 3 2/3 innings -- and Thursday. Lester said the two "brainstormed" and talked about what was and wasn't working.

"When you struggle, you go back to what has made you successful," Lester said. "And you kind of sometimes, I think, forget about the other things that have made you successful. Still threw my fastball, still threw my cutter tonight. I think just better execution, better angle on both pitches."

Video: CHC@PIT: Lester punches out Bell, the side in the 2nd

Lester showcased his execution early by way of missing bats. After giving up a leadoff single on his second pitch of the game, Lester retired the next six batters he faced and eight of the next nine. He finished the third inning with six strikeouts, marking the first time he'd struck out six or more through the first three innings of a game since Aug. 1, 2017, per Inside Edge.

The Cubs were held scoreless through three frames, but they provided Lester with the run support needed to record the win in the fourth inning. With one out, Pittsburgh native Ian Happ connected on a 2-0 changeup from starter Ivan Nova over the heart of the plate and drove it out to right-center field for his 13th home run of the season.

"Always fun to do at home," Happ said. "Had my high school coach in the third or fourth row. Cool to see his reaction … I see the ball well here. Good hitter's eye. It's a fun ballpark. I enjoy coming back, enjoy playing in front of, well, for me, the home crowd."

Video: CHC@PIT: Happ smokes a solo homer to right-center

Right-handers Steve Cishek and Carl Edwards Jr. allowed one combined hit over two innings of relief. Righty Pedro Strop worked around a two-out hit-by-pitch in the ninth inning to record his 10th save of the season.

Rizzo's staredown inspires Strop

"Our staff has done a great job of keeping us in it; of giving us a chance," Happ said. "We've had a couple comeback wins, but we haven't scored that many runs. And our guys have done a great job making sure that we keep those leads. Strop at the end of the games right now is lights out, so that's what we need."

Video: CHC@PIT: Strop earns save following staredown

The Cubs improved to 20 games over .500 and increased their lead in the National League Central to 3 1/2 games over Milwaukee. The Pirates lost their fourth in a row and dropped to 10 games behind the Cubs and 6 1/2 out in the NL Wild Card race.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Potential tying run stranded: After two quick outs in the fifth inning, Lester gave up back-to-back singles to Josh Harrison and Adeiny Hechavarria to put runners on the corners for Nova's spot in the lineup. Lester fell behind 3-0 in the count, but battled back to strike Nova out on the eighth pitch of the at-bat and end the inning.

It proved to be the only time in the game the Pirates would bat with a runner in scoring position.

Video: CHC@PIT: Lester K's Nova, strands 2 baserunners

"Every time you lose a game, it's tough. But having a game like this, in the situation that we are, we need to win," said Nova, who worked 6 2/3 innings. "We need to get W's, especially against the teams ahead of us. It's a tough one."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Starling Marte notched a one-out single in the sixth inning. Two batters later, he broke for second base on Lester's second pitch to David Freese. After catching it, Willson Contreras popped up and lined an 85.1-mph throw to Baez in an attempt to throw Marte out at second base. Baez corralled the throw and swiped his glove on Marte for the inning-ending caught stealing. More >>

Video: CHC@PIT: Contreras' strong 85.1-mph throw gets Marte

HE SAID IT
"Regardless of what you've done in the past, it's crazy how we operate mentally. The world-class kind of athlete, they want to be that all the time. So when you get away from it, it's disturbing. And then you're always looking for answers. Like I said, I know he'll rest better, and I really believe this is absolutely a game to build off because he executed so well. Everything was there tonight." -- Maddon, on Lester's performance

UP NEXT
Left-hander Cole Hamels will take the mound against the Pirates on Friday at PNC Park (6:05 p.m. CT). Hamels is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in three starts with the Cubs since being acquired from Texas. He faced Pittsburgh in his debut with Chicago, striking out nine while allowing one unearned run over five innings en route to the win. Right-hander Trevor Williams will start for the Pirates.

Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.

Chicago Cubs, Ian Happ, Jon Lester

Trade Talk: Donaldson, Jones, Brewers, Cutch

MLB.com

The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline has come and gone, but the transaction wire could stay hot ahead of Aug. 31. That date is important because clubs acquiring new players via trade must have those players on their 40-man roster by then in order for that player (or players) to be eligible for its postseason roster. Teams can acquire players after Sept. 1, but those players would not be eligible to play with that team in the playoffs. 

Throughout August, it's not uncommon for high-profile players to be placed on waivers. In fact, most clubs will place a sizable portion of their Major League roster on waivers to gauge interest for their talent ahead of the offseason. 

The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline has come and gone, but the transaction wire could stay hot ahead of Aug. 31. That date is important because clubs acquiring new players via trade must have those players on their 40-man roster by then in order for that player (or players) to be eligible for its postseason roster. Teams can acquire players after Sept. 1, but those players would not be eligible to play with that team in the playoffs. 

Throughout August, it's not uncommon for high-profile players to be placed on waivers. In fact, most clubs will place a sizable portion of their Major League roster on waivers to gauge interest for their talent ahead of the offseason. 

When a waiver claim is placed, the player's original club has three options:
• Work out a standard trade with the claiming club within 48 hours
• Allow the player -- and all money remaining on his contract -- to go to the claiming club with no return
• Pull the player back off waivers

A player who is pulled back off waivers can be placed on trade waivers a second time, but at that point the waiver request becomes irrevocable. If a player passes through waivers unclaimed, he can then be traded to any club, free of restriction (though all 40-man-roster players in the trade must clear waivers before being dealt).

Glossary: Trade Waivers & Aug. 31 'Deadline'

With that in mind, here is the latest trade buzz: 

Donaldson getting closer to return?
Aug. 16: With just over two weeks to go before the end of August, Josh Donaldson is still rehabbing from a left calf injury that has kept him out since late May. But the Blue Jays third baseman could be nearing his return.

Donaldson posted a video of himself running the bases with the caption "Getting closer!!" on his Instagram account Wednesday.

Tweet from @AaronBenRose: #BlueJays Josh Donaldson back running the bases 👀 Says he's "getting closer" on his Instagram (tos_bor20)������������������ pic.twitter.com/eHOsedmnDw

If he can return from the disabled list and prove to be even a fraction of the player he was from 2015-17, the 32-year-old could be an attractive trade candidate before Aug. 31.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman broke down the market for Donaldson in an article for Fancred Sports earlier this month and listed the Indians, Cardinals, Braves, Cubs and Red Sox as potential landing spots for the impending free agent.

Heyman pegged the Indians -- who will have the first chance among those teams to claim Donaldson off waivers -- as the most likely of the five to acquire the third baseman.

While the Tribe has American League MVP candidate Jose Ramirez at the hot corner, it can shift him to second base and move Jason Kipnis to the outfield to help out a group that has been decimated by injuries and lost recent acquisition Leonys Martin to the disabled list with a bacterial infection last week.

Video: IT on Josh Donaldson's ability to help a playoff team

Jones reportedly clears revocable waivers, now eligible to be traded anywhere
Aug. 16: Adam Jones has passed through revocable waivers unclaimed, sources told MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, making the Orioles outfielder eligible to be traded to any of the other 29 teams.

Of course, a deal remains unlikely, as Jones used his 10-and-5 rights to veto a trade to the Phillies prior to the July 31 non-waiver Deadline, with family, friends and his community programs in Baltimore among the major reasons why, per Heyman.

Philadelphia's plan to have Jones platoon with lefty-swinging Nick Williams in right field may also have been a factor in Jones' refusal to approve a deal there, though the veteran hasn't indicated whether that is the case.

According to Heyman, the O's recently approached the Yankees to gauge their interest in Jones with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier on the disabled list, but New York is close to the luxury-tax threshold and would like to save that money in case any additional rotation solutions arise.

The Indians are another potential landing spot for Jones, as they are missing Leonys Martin, Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin, and have received lackluster production from Melky Cabrera (.695 OPS), Brandon Guyer (.663 OPS), Rajai Davis (.601 OPS) and Greg Allen (.580 OPS).

Video: BAL@NYY: Jones on invoking no-trade clause with O's

With Nelson unlikely to return, will Brewers trade for starter?
Aug. 15: The Brewers have held out hope that Jimmy Nelson, who has missed this entire season while recovering from right shoulder surgery, would be a solution to the club's rotation problems after coming off the disabled list. But general manager David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell acknowledged Wednesday that Nelson is unlikely to pitch for the team this year.

Tweet from @AdamMcCalvy: Craig Counsell on Jimmy Nelson: ���Jimmy pitching for us this year is unlikely. And that���s not due to a setback of any nature, that���s just due to the pace of his rehab right now.��� pic.twitter.com/lPiSozK3F8

Faced with that reality, Stearns is keeping open the possibility of swinging a trade for a starter.

"There's still a lot of waiver activity," Stearns said. "Guys are getting through. Tough to handicap at this point, but we're looking, and if there's something that makes sense that we think materially impacts this team, we'll do it."

Tweet from @AdamMcCalvy: Stearns on prospect of trading for starter before Sept. 1: "There's still a lot of waiver activity. Guys are getting through. Tough to handicap at this point, but we're looking, and if there's something that makes sense that we think materially impacts this team, we'll do it."

The Brewers were one of the more active teams on the trade market before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, acquiring reliever Joakim Soria, third baseman Mike Moustakas and second baseman Jonathan Schoop.

They also reportedly discussed deals for a number of starters, including the Mets' Zack Wheeler and the Reds' Matt Harvey, but ultimately didn't come away with any of them.

Milwaukee is unlikely to have a chance to trade for Wheeler at this point, but Harvey, Twins right-hander Ervin Santana, Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada and White Sox right-hander James Shields could be available.

The question, of course, is whether any of those hurlers represents a significant upgrade over Zach Davies, who is nearing the conclusion of his rehab assignment.

Cutch, Holland among top August trade candidates
Aug. 14: The market has been relatively quiet since the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, with Mike Fiers, Fernando Rodney and Justin Bour representing the biggest names to have been moved in August. But as MLB.com's Mark Feinsand wrote Tuesday, trade season is far from over.

And though they are still in the thick of the National League postseason race, the Giants could be an interesting team to watch. San Francisco entered Tuesday with a 60-60 record, putting it five games out in the NL West and 6 1/2 behind in the NL Wild Card chase. However, the Giants will need to leapfrog three other teams to win the division and six teams to grab the second NL Wild Card spot.

Giants outfielder Andrew McCutchen and left-hander Derek Holland each made Feinsand's list of 10 August trade candidates. Both players are set to become free agents this offseason.

Feinsand notes that the Blue Jays could be active on the trade market before Aug. 31 as well, with third baseman Josh Donaldson, outfielder Curtis Granderson and right-hander Marco Estrada among Toronto's most likely candidates to be dealt.

Reds right-hander Matt Harvey, White Sox right-hander James Shields, Twins right-hander Ervin Santana, Rays right-hander Sergio Romo and Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias also made Feinsand's list. More >

Granderson reportedly clears revocable waivers
Aug. 14: Blue Jays outfielder Curtis Granderson, who was one of the 10 August trade candidates MLB.com's Mark Feinsand broke down Tuesday, has cleared revocable waivers and is free to be dealt anywhere, reports Robert Murray of The Athletic. 

Tweet from @ByRobertMurray: #BlueJays' Curtis Granderson has cleared revocable trade waivers, source tells The Athletic. He's free to be traded anywhere.

Granderson, who can become a free agent this offseason, owns a solid .766 OPS against right-handers in 2018. He also has extensive postseason experience, having played in the playoffs in seven seasons.

Granderson, 37, was part of an August trade just last season, going from the Mets to the Dodgers after passing through waivers unclaimed earlier in the month. More >

Bruce could be odd man out of Mets' outfield
Aug. 14: Jay Bruce is a name to monitor this month as the Mets could look to deal from their outfield surplus. Trading Bruce would open up time at the corners for Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo.

Bruce is nearing a return from a right hip injury that's sidelined him since June 17. Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested Monday that Bruce could be dealt if he show's he's healthy before the end of the month, pointing to the Giants, Mariners, Rockies, Indians and Tigers as potential trade partners for the Mets.

Bruce has a five-team no-trade clause of the Orioles, Mariners, Rays, Blue Jays and A's, per Sherman, and two years, $28 million remaining on his contract after this season. He's batting .212/.292/.613 with three homers and 17 RBIs through 62 games this season.

Will Dodgers look to trade market to bolster injury-plagued bullpen?
Aug. 14: The Dodgers are down another reliever, with John Axford set to join Kenley Jansen, Tony Cingrani, Josh Fields, Yimi Garcia and Daniel Hudson on the disabled list after suffering a fractured tibia when he was hit by a comebacker Sunday.

While Los Angeles recently moved starters Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling to the bullpen to help out its beleaguered relief corps, it's possible the club will look to swing an August trade for some bullpen help.

The problem? There might not be many attractive options available.

Sergio Romo, Jim Johnson and Tyler Clippard pitch for AL teams, meaning the Dodgers will be one of the last clubs that has a chance to claim them, based on the waiver-priority rules. Those hurlers might not even make it out of the AL before being claimed, as was the case with Fernando Rodney, who was traded to the A's last Thursday after being snagged off waivers from the Twins.

As for NL relievers, pitchers such as Bud Norris, Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen, Jared Hughes and David Hernandez also have a good chance of being claimed before the Dodgers have the opportunity to grab them.

Tigers southpaw Francisco Liriano reportedly cleared waivers already, but he's unlikely to draw interest as anything more than a lefty specialist. Liriano has held same-sided hitters to a .567 OPS since the outset of 2017, but right-handed batters have posted an .849 mark against him in that time.

Video: LAD@COL: Friedman provides update on Jansen

Marlins remain open to trading more veterans
Aug. 13: While the Marlins have traded Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Cameron Maybin, Brad Ziegler and Justin Bour in less than nine months, they might not be done dealing.

According to the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson, the Marlins remain open to moving some veterans before Aug. 31, with infielder/outfielder Derek Dietrich, second baseman Starlin Castro and right-hander Dan Straily among the most likely candidates to be dealt.

Dietrich could draw more suitors than the other two, as he has considerable experience at three positions (2B, 3B, LF), owns a 116 OPS+ over the past four seasons and is controllable through 2020. Per Jackson, the Cubs and Indians inquired about the 29-year-old during July.

Meanwhile, Jackson writes that "no team expressed serious interest" in Castro, who is owed nearly $12 million in '19 and has a team option for $16 million with a $1 million buyout for '20, before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. And though the A's discussed a Straily trade with the Marlins last month, Oakland has since acquired Mike Fiers from the Tigers.

The 29-year-old Straily has two more seasons of arbitration eligibility remaining after this one before he can become a free agent, which helps his trade value. But teams may be hesitant to give up notable prospects for a pitcher who has recorded a lifetime 4.27 ERA with a 4.81 FIP (4.42 ERA, 5.40 FIP in '18).

Injury updates: Judge, D-Rod, Yu, C-Mart

MLB.com

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

Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, Yankees
Judge said the cortisone injection he received in his wrist this week is "definitely" helping, and he is hoping to start taking dry swings and/or playing catch before the Yankees head to Miami for a two-game series starting Tuesday. The slugger sustained a small chip fracture of the right wrist when he was hit by a Jakob Junis pitch in a July 26 game against the Royals at Yankee Stadium. More >

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

Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, Yankees
Judge said the cortisone injection he received in his wrist this week is "definitely" helping, and he is hoping to start taking dry swings and/or playing catch before the Yankees head to Miami for a two-game series starting Tuesday. The slugger sustained a small chip fracture of the right wrist when he was hit by a Jakob Junis pitch in a July 26 game against the Royals at Yankee Stadium. More >

Meanwhile, Sanchez (right groin strain) is pain-free and could begin a Minor League rehab assignment on or around Aug. 24, according to general manager Brian Cashman. More >

Dereck Rodriguez, Giants
With the Giants battling through injuries to top starters Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija all season, Rodriguez's breakout had been a bright spot by the Bay. But the Giants announced Thursday that they placed Rodriguez on the 10-day disabled list with a Grade 1 hamstring strain. Rodriguez was scheduled to start Friday's matchup with the Reds. 

Rodriguez reportedly sustained his injury during Tuesday's altercation with the rival Dodgers, which began when Giants catcher Nick Hundley and Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig exchanged shoves at home plate. Puig was suspended two games and Hundley was fined an undisclosed amount, but Rodriguez's injury represents a bigger blow to San Francisco as the club enters Friday 6 1/2 games back of the second National League Wild Card spot. More >

Yu Darvish and Kris Bryant, Cubs
Darvish, who has been sidelined since May 20 with right triceps tendinitis, will begin a Minor League rehab assignment Sunday, manager Joe Maddon confirmed Thursday.

After throwing roughly 55 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday, the right-hander played catch on flat ground prior to Thursday's game and delivered good news about his prognosis.

"I talked to him today, and he said he felt really good about pitching," Maddon said. "He's good to go on Sunday. He just told me that."

Video: MIL@CHC: Cubs broadcast, Maddon on Darvish's progress

Maddon is also satisfied with Bryant's progression as the third baseman recovers from left shoulder inflammation. Bryant has been hitting in the cage and off a tee, and he took grounders on the field Tuesday. More >

Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Martinez is expected to begin a Double-A rehab assignment Friday, throwing about 30 pitches in his first appearance before returning to the mound for another outing Sunday. Barring any setbacks, the right-hander should be able to return to the Cardinals next week. He's slated to pitch as a reliever after coming off the DL.

Wacha (left oblique) is also making progress, as he is expected to go on a Minor League rehab assignment by the end of the week after throwing a side session without issue Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Wainwright (right elbow strain) was expected to continue his Class A Advanced rehab assignment Thursday with a two-inning appearance. In his first rehab outing, the veteran tossed nine pitches in a scoreless inning. More >

Shohei Ohtani, Angels
Ohtani is scheduled to throw a light bullpen session in Texas on Friday, which will be followed by a more aggressive throwing session next week in Arizona. He hasn't pitched since June 6 after sustaining a sprained right elbow ligament. More >

Adrian Beltre and Delino DeShields, Rangers
The Rangers got Nomar Mazara back from the disabled list Thursday, but Beltre remains out with a left hamstring strain that the third baseman termed "Grade 2."

Texas is waiting to see how Beltre responds to treatment before determining if he'll need to go on the disabled list. The 39-year-old, who suffered the injury while running the bases in the eighth inning Monday, took swings and ran on the elliptical prior to Thursday's game. More >

Video: ARI@TEX: Beltre exits after limping on the basepaths

DeShields reportedly had his right middle finger in a splint after Thursday's game, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, after a pitch by the Angels' Ty Buttrey hit him on the finger on a bunt attempt in the seventh inning. Though DeShields completed the at-bat and fielded his position in the eighth, he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the inning.

Video: LAA@TEX: DeShields takes foul ball off hand, stays in

Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
Donaldson could be nearing his return from the left calf injury that has kept him out since late May. The third baseman posted a video of himself running the bases with the caption "Getting closer!!" on his Instagram account Wednesday.

Tweet from @AaronBenRose: #BlueJays Josh Donaldson back running the bases 👀 Says he's "getting closer" on his Instagram (tos_bor20)������������������ pic.twitter.com/eHOsedmnDw

If he can return from the disabled list and prove to be even a fraction of the player he was from 2015-17, the 32-year-old could be an attractive trade candidate before Aug. 31.

Brandon Nimmo, Mets
Nimmo exited Game 1 of Thursday's doubleheader against the Phillies after being hit on the left index finger while trying to check his swing on a fastball thrown by Ranger Suarez. X-rays came back negative.

Striking both Nimmo's finger and the bat, the ball trickled into fair territory, where Maikel Franco picked it up and threw it to first for the out. Prior to that, Nimmo had reached base in 10 consecutive plate appearances. More >

Video: NYM@PHI: Nimmo exits after getting shaken up on swing

Stephen Strasburg, Erick Fedde and Jeremy Hellickson, Nationals
Strasburg threw a simulated game Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium, tossing about 70 pitches in a little more than four innings in what he called the "last big test" in his recovery from the pinched nerve in his neck.

Initially, the Nationals had maintained Strasburg would need a Minor League rehab start before he returned to the rotation, but for the first time Wednesday, manager Dave Martinez acknowledged the possibility that the right-hander could return to the rotation without one. The next turn in the rotation will arrive at the start of a three-game series against the Phillies.

Fedde also participated in Wednesday's simulated game, throwing about 50 pitches on the mound in between three simulated innings in his most extended test since landing on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. More > 

Hellickson left in the fifth inning of Wednesday's game against the Cardinals after he was injured while covering home plate on a wild pitch. With Harrison Bader trying to score from third, Spencer Kieboom's throw to Hellickson at the plate was high and Hellickson tripped over Bader and tumbled to the ground.

The run scored, but Hellickson remained on the ground for a moment. Martinez and the team's head athletic trainer came out and appeared to be checking his right hand and wrist. He threw a few warmup pitches, but could not remain in the game. More > 

Video: WSH@STL: Hellickson leaves the game with an injury

Jose Altuve, George Springer and Chris Devenski, Astros
Altuve took a significant step towards returning from the disabled list when he fielded grounders and took practice on the field at Minute Maid Park prior to Wednesday's game against the Rockies. Altuve, who's been out since July 25 with a sore right knee, declined to talk to reporters, but manager AJ Hinch said, "we had a really good day with Jose." Hinch said Altuve also ran on the field earlier in the day.

Even though the Astros were off on Thursday [and flying to San Francisco in advance of the Oakland series], Altuve was slated to work out again at Minute Maid Park, Hinch said. He's expected to travel with the team on its road trip.

Hinch said Springer is "almost certain" to be activated from the disabled list prior to Friday's series opener against the A's in Oakland. Springer has been out since spraining his left thumb on Aug. 5 against the Dodgers, but has been doing full baseball activities pregame for a couple of days.

Devenski threw two-thirds of an inning Tuesday night in his first rehab outing at Triple-A Fresno and will throw again Friday. Devenski is on the disabled list with right hamstring tightness. More > 

James Paxton, Mariners
Paxton was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday after being knocked out of Tuesday's start in the first inning with a bruised left forearm, courtesy of a line drive off the bat of the A's Jed Lowrie.

Manager Scott Servais is optimistic that Paxton won't be out much longer than the 10-day period, which could mean missing just one or two starts. Paxton said he had some trouble sleeping Tuesday night with the throbbing arm, but he was glad to see the swelling had gone down some by Wednesday morning. Servais said the key will be to see how Paxton feels in a few days and how soon he can begin throwing again. More > 

Video: SEA@OAK: Paxton going to DL with left forearm bruise

Ryan Braun, Manny Pina and Jimmy Nelson, Brewers
Braun is day to day with a tight right rib cage, and Pina is headed back to Milwaukee for an MRI scan of his left shoulder in the wake of the Brewers' painful 8-4 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

A day after he smashed a a pair of home runs in a shutout victory, Braun felt discomfort in his side while attempting a sliding catch in the third inning and he departed in the fifth with what has been a recurring issue for the 34-year-old outfielder. Braun has endured two stints on the 10-day disabled list for what was officially termed back stiffness, but the second instance also involved his side.

The Brewers also lost Pina in the seventh inning after he tangled at second base with Cubs All-Star Javier Baez. Pina was scrambling back to the bag after Christian Yelich's lineout when Baez made hard contact with Pina's left shoulder. Manager Craig Counsell and athletic trainer Dave Yaeger came out to check Pina, who remained in the game and scored one of Milwaukee's two runs in the inning. Erik Kratz took over behind the plate for the bottom of the seventh. More > 

Video: MIL@CHC: Braun exits the game with rib cage tightness

On Wednesday, Brewers officials also cast significant doubt on Nelson's chances of pitching for the team before the 2018 season is out.

"Jimmy pitching for us this year is unlikely," Counsell said. "That's not due to a setback of any nature. It's just due to the pace of his rehab right now. We're not ruling it 100 percent out, but probably our best goal is to get him into a competitive situation before he shuts it down for the offseason."

Nelson could pitch in the fall instructional league when he is ready, said general manager David Stearns. More > 

Eduardo Rodriguez and Ian Kinsler, Red Sox
Kinsler and Rodriguez faced each other in a simulated game Wednesday. Rodriguez, who suffered a severe sprain of his right ankle on July 14, will start a Minor League rehab assignment on Monday for Double-A Portland. A realistic timetable would be for the lefty to make 2-3 starts in the Minors to build up his pitch count and return to the Red Sox in late August or early September.

"With Ian, most likely he'll play Friday and Saturday, [get] Sunday off, and then we go from there," said manager Alex Cora. "But we've got four games against Cleveland. We'll see. We don't want to all of a sudden play 10, 12 games in a row. I think in the beginning he'll play two out of three." More > 

Leonys Martin, Trevor Bauer, Lonnie Chisenhall and Josh Tomlin, Indians
There is no timetable for Martin's return, and he is currently on the 10-day disabled list. The current goal is simply to have the 30-year-old outfielder regain his strength and return to a clean bill of health. Martin fell ill Aug. 7 and was taken the next day to Cleveland Clinic, where it was determined that an undisclosed bacteria got into his bloodstream, producing toxins that affected his internal organs.

Indians manager Terry Francona said there remains no established timetable for a return for Bauer, who is on the 10-day DL with a stress fracture in his right fibula. Francona added the team should have more information Friday, when the Indians are back in Cleveland and Bauer will have gone through follow-up consultations with team doctors. Francona is hopeful Bauer will return this season.

Video: CLE@CIN: Bauer goes on the DL with a stress fracture

Chisenhall (60-day DL, left calf) has been with the Indians throughout the current road trip through Chicago and Cincinnati. He advanced to jogging in his running program and has been hitting and throwing, including throwing to bases from the outfield.

Tomlin (10-day DL, right hamstring) logged four innings for Triple-A Columbus on Monday in his latest Minor League rehab outing. Francona said the current plan is to have Tomlin pitch for Columbus on Saturday, building up from Monday's 47 pitches. More > 

All-Star break did wonders for these 30 players

MLB.com @_dadler and @AndrewSimonMLB

The All-Star break isn't actually the halfway mark of the season, but it does serve as a convenient evaluation point.

The break can be just that for struggling players -- a chance to rest and reset. For some players, the "second half" might bring greater opportunity, better health, better luck, or simply sharper execution as necessary adjustments take hold.

The All-Star break isn't actually the halfway mark of the season, but it does serve as a convenient evaluation point.

The break can be just that for struggling players -- a chance to rest and reset. For some players, the "second half" might bring greater opportunity, better health, better luck, or simply sharper execution as necessary adjustments take hold.

With that in mind, here are 30 players -- one from each MLB team -- who seem to be turning their seasons around with post-All-Star break surges.

*all stats entering play on Thursday

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Aledmys Diaz, SS
It's hasn't come easy for Diaz since his All-Star rookie season with the Cardinals in 2016. But he's been one of the Blue Jays' best hitters in the second half -- in 21 games, he's hit .311 with seven home runs and a .995 OPS, following a first half in which he hit .240 with eight homers and a .670 OPS. How he finishes the season could be important as he seeks to secure a place in the rebuilding Jays' future.

Video: TB@TOR: Diaz slugs his 15th homer to left field

Orioles: Adam Jones, OF
As the non-waver Trade Deadline approached, Jones used his 10-and-5 rights to remain in Baltimore. And the longtime Oriole has been raking of late. He's hitting .333 in 22 second-half games, after batting .275 in the first half, and his on-base percentage has gone from .299 in the first half to .393 in the second half. That leaves Jones with a second-half OPS of .899, compared to his .723 first-half mark.

Video: BAL@TB: Jones goes back-to-back with a long solo HR

Rays: Willy Adames, SS
The Rays called up their former No. 2 prospect in late May, and the 22-year-old Adames burst onto the scene with a home run off Chris Sale in his MLB debut. But he went through some growing pains after that, finishing the first half hitting .216 with three home runs and a .604 OPS in 26 games. But the highly touted shortstop has picked things up in the second half, hitting .294 with three homers and an .820 OPS in 21 games since the All-Star break, giving Tampa Bay a glimpse of his bright future.

Video: TB@NYY: Adames clubs a solo home run to left-center

Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
JBJ has always been elite with his glove in center field. But he runs hot and cold with his bat, and it was more cold than hot in a first half that he finished with a 72 wRC+ (meaning he was 28 percent worse offensively than league average) over 86 games. But he picked up the pace toward the end of the first half and has carried that through to the second half -- in 22 games, he has a 133 wRC+, 33 percent better than league average.

Video: BOS@BAL: Bradley Jr. goes deep twice vs. Orioles

Yankees: Lance Lynn, SP/RP
The Yankees traded for Lynn -- despite his 5.22 ERA in the first half with the Twins -- as part of an overall effort to bolster their pitching staff. Now, with the scuffling Sonny Gray sent to the bullpen, Lynn has stepped into New York's starting rotation and stepped up his performance. He's allowed only one run in 16 2/3 innings, with 22 strikeouts to just four walks, in his three outings so far in pinstripes.

Video: CWS@NYY: Lynn goes 7 1/3 scoreless in 1st Yanks start

AL CENTRAL

Indians: Melky Cabrera, OF
The Tribe signed Cabrera to a Minor League deal in April for his veteran presence, but he hit .207/.242/.293 without a home run in 17 games before being released in June. But the Indians re-signed Melky in July and recalled him for the second half -- and he's hit .311/.363/.459 with three homers in 23 games since, helping stabilize an injury-plagued Cleveland outfield.

Video: CLE@CIN: Cabrera hammers a 2-run home run to left

Royals: Salvador Perez, C
Salvy started the All-Star Game at catcher for the AL, but his first-half production at the plate wasn't really up to his usual level. Perez had 13 homers, but he also had a slash line of .221/.259/.394 in 73 games. In his 25 games since the break, Perez has hit .283/.330/.586 with eight home runs. His first-half wRC+ was 73; his second-half wRC+ is 146.

Video: TOR@KC: Perez smashes 2 homers, drives in 3

Tigers: Matthew Boyd, SP
Boyd had a 4.76 ERA in 18 first-half starts for Detroit. In his five starts since the All-Star break, the 27-year-old left-hander has a 2.37 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .196 against him, compared to .227 in the first half. He's also turned in his best start of the year, eight scoreless innings with seven strikeouts to beat the Reds on July 31.

Video: CIN@DET: Boyd strikes out 7 over 8 scoreless innings

Twins: Miguel Sano, 3B/1B
Sano is a core player for the Twins' future, but injuries and heavy struggles at the plate made for an ugly first half, in which he hit just .203/.270/.405 and struck out in 40.5 percent of his plate appearances before being sent to the Minors. But the 25-year-old slugger has looked better since his return in late July, with a .268/.349/.464 slash line in 16 games, and a 121 wRC+ in the second half compared to his first-half wRC+ of 79.

Video: PIT@MIN: Sano crushes a 2-run home run to right

White Sox: Carlos Rodon, SP
Rodon didn't take a Major League mound until June 9 this season, missing more than two months as he recovered from shoulder surgery that he underwent late in 2017. The 25-year-old left-hander is on a roll now. Rodon has a 1.69 ERA in the second half, all five of his starts have been quality starts, and he's been a workhorse, going at least seven innings in four of the five.

Video: CWS@DET: Rodon K's 6 in 8 strong innings vs. Tigers

AL WEST

Angels: Kole Calhoun, OF
For the first two months of 2018, Calhoun was having maybe the worst season of any player in baseball. When he went on the DL with an oblique strain in June, he was hitting .145/.195/.179 with one home run in 50 games. But he returned with a new batting stance and revamped approach -- "Kole Calhoun Version 2.0," as manager Mike Scioscia put it -- and now, he's carrying the Angels' offense. In the second half, Calhoun is hitting .315/.407/.641 with seven homers and a 1.049 OPS.

Video: OAK@LAA: Calhoun clubs a 2-run homer to right-center

Astros: Marwin Gonzalez, IF/OF
After his breakout 2017, the versatile Gonzalez got off to a slow start this season for the reigning World Champions. At the All-Star break, he had an 83 wRC+, with a slash line of .230/.305/.355 and six homers in 89 games. But he's been much better in the second half, with a 148 wRC+, a .284/.391/.500 slash line and four homers in 22 games -- all while filling key spots in the middle infield with Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve dealing with injuries.

Video: Marwin Gonzalez hits .375 to Carry the Freight

Athletics: Marcus Semien, SS
As the A's have surged into contention not just for a Wild Card spot, but for the AL West title, Semien has been heating up along with his teammates. After hitting .254/.307/.369 with an 86 wRC+ in 94 games the first half, the veteran shortstop has posted a 138 wRC+ with a .301/.387/.473 slash line in 24 games so far in the second half.

Video: OAK@LAA: Semien belts 2 HRs, drives in 4 vs. Angels

Mariners: Alex Colome, RP
Closer Edwin Diaz has been drawing most of the attention as he challenges the single-season saves record, but Colome has been on an impressive hot streak of his own, while playing an important setup role for a Seattle team pushing for a playoff spot. The right-hander hasn't allowed a run in 13 second-half appearances (part of a longer 19-game scoreless streak that started near the end of the first half), while picking up eight holds. Since the beginning of July, he's lowered his ERA from 4.72 to 3.04.

Video: SEA@HOU: Colome strands 2 in bottom of 8th

Rangers: Rougned Odor, 2B
Odor's first half was ugly; his second half has been sensational. In the first half, he hit .239/.319/.378 with six home runs and an 87 wRC+. In the second half, he's hitting .347/.425/.694 with eight homers and a 196 wRC+ ... meaning he's been essentially twice as good as a league-average hitter. Odor has already picked up two AL Player of the Week Awards in the second half, and he put together a historically unique performance on Aug. 2 when he became the first player ever to draw five unintentional walks and also homer in a single game.

Video: BAL@TEX: Odor homers, draws career-high 5 walks

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr., OF
Acuna performed just fine in the first half, especially for a 20-year-old who made his MLB debut on April 25. But after a month-long DL stint ended on June 29, he hit just .212/.255/.404 over 14 games heading into the All-Star break. Since then, though? Acuna has been perhaps MLB's hottest second-half hitter (.358/.425/.821), including a run of eight homers in eight games until Wednesday's controversial hit-by-pitch via Miami's Jose Urena.

Video: Acuna Jr. slugs a leadoff homer in 3 straight games

Marlins: Elieser Hernandez, RP
The 23-year-old right-hander made five starts and 12 relief appearances for Miami in the first half, producing a 6.14 ERA while allowing 50 hits and 19 walks in 44 innings. But Hernandez may have found something since the break, allowing just two runs on nine hits over 12 2/3 innings out of the bullpen, while bumping his strikeout rate from 14 percent to 24 percent.

Video: MIA@ATL: Hernandez K's Culberson to escape jam in 1st

Mets: Michael Conforto, OF
It has not been an easy year for the 25-year-old outfielder, who around this time last year dislocated his left shoulder. Conforto returned in time for Opening Day, but didn't seem quite right, posting a .710 OPS in the first half. Since then, however, he has returned to the form he showed in his 2017 All-Star campaign, when he generated a .939 OPS. That's a good sign for the Mets heading into '19.

Video: NYM@NYY: Conforto belts a solo HR to go back-to-back

Nationals: Bryce Harper, OF
After starting the season strong, Harper endured a massive slump for much of May, June and July. Coincidentally or not, he has seemed rejuvenated since taking part in the All-Star Game festivities in D.C., including winning the Home Run Derby. Even as the Nats have slipped in the postseason race, Harper has slashed .337/.440/.675 with seven homers as he enters the home stretch before reaching free agency.

Video: WSH@STL: Harper belts 30th homer off 98.6-mph pitch

Phillies: Nick Pivetta, SP
Yes, Pivetta's 3.68 ERA over five second-half starts isn't spectacular, and the Phillies have won just two of those games. Yet the right-hander also has struck out 40 and walked just four in 29 1/3 innings. Since the break, Pivetta ranks near the top of the NL in strikeout rate (35.4 percent), strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.0) and FIP (2.61).

Video: BOS@PHI: Pivetta K's 6 over 6 frames of 1-run ball

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: Ryan Braun, OF
Milwaukee will hope that the rib cage injury Braun suffered Wednesday at Wrigley Field isn't serious, because the club has been getting some vintage Braun performances lately. That includes a two-homer outburst in Tuesday's win over the Cubs. After posting just a .711 first-half OPS, Braun has produced a .970 mark for the Crew since returning from the DL on July 21.

Video: MIL@CHC: Braun crushes 443-ft. blast in 2-homer game

Cardinals: Kolten Wong, 2B
Yes, Matt Carpenter has been scorching opponents, but that began way back in mid-May. While Wong gives St. Louis stellar defense at second base, he also was carrying a sub-.600 OPS as recently as June 24. Wong has picked things up since and is batting .347 with an .897 OPS following the break, with nearly as many walks (five) as strikeouts (six), helping lengthen the Cardinals' lineup.

Video: WSH@STL: Wong leads off the frame with a solo homer

Cubs: David Bote, 3B
It wasn't just the pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam against the Nationals on Sunday, although that certainly didn't hurt. The rookie has helped the Cubs make do without the injured Kris Bryant by going 14-for-39 (.359) with a 1.034 OPS since the break, after collecting just 53 big league plate appearances in the first half. Bote has backed it up with an elite hard-contact rate, according to Statcast™.

Video: WSH@CHC: Bote launches a walk-off grand slam in 9th

Pirates: Josh Bell, 1B
The Bucs first baseman slugged under .400 in the first half, but has shown more thump since, with a .296/.387/.519 slash line, including three doubles and three home runs in the second half. Pittsburgh could use more of that production in the middle of its lineup as it tries to make a run at the postseason.

Video: PIT@SF: Bell belts a 3-run home run to left

Reds: Luis Castillo, SP
Expectations were high for Castillo following a sensational 15-start debut in 2017, but the 25-year-old righty had trouble finding consistent success in the first half, compiling a 5.49 ERA. He still could finish the year on a high note, however. Castillo has allowed no more than two runs in three of his four second-half outings, and sports a 3.09 ERA and 24-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23 1/3 innings.

Video: PHI@CIN: Castillo fans 9 over 7 scoreless innings

NL WEST

D-backs: Zack Godley, SP
The right-hander came out of nowhere to establish himself as a key piece of Arizona's rotation last year, when he had a 3.37 ERA. Godley wasn't finding the same success in 2018, as his ERA ballooned to 4.61 in the first half. He didn't turn things around immediately coming out of the break, but heads into Saturday's outing at San Diego having allowed just three earned runs in 21 innings over his past three starts, with a 23-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Video: PHI@ARI: Godley K's 7 over 7 1/3 frames vs. Phillies

Dodgers: Justin Turner, 3B
It's been a frustrating year for the third baseman, who carried a .259/.354/.398 line in just 50 games when he returned from his second DL stint of the season on Aug. 2. But the Turner who was a big part of the Dodgers' offense from 2014-17 has resurfaced this month, with the veteran going 18-for-44 (.409) with nine extra-base hits and a 1.217 OPS.

Video: SF@LAD: Turner hammers a solo home run to left field

Giants: Madison Bumgarner, SP
It's not that Bumgarner endured a bad first half, posting a 2.90 ERA. But he also logged just eight starts, only making his season debut on June 5, due to a fractured bone in his pitching hand. The Giants desperately need ace-level Bumgarner down the stretch as they try to stay in the race, and sure enough, the lefty has posted a 1.73 ERA in his past four outings -- all against fellow contenders (Brewers, D-backs, Astros and Dodgers).

Video: HOU@SF: Bumgarner K's 7 over 7 scoreless frames

Padres: Cory Spangenberg, 2B
Back in 2011, San Diego made Spangenberg the 10th overall pick in the Draft. It's never quite clicked at the big league level for the 27-year-old, who twice this season has been sent back to Triple-A. But Spangenberg returned July 22 and has started regularly at second base this month, where he has hit .406/.513/.688 across 40 plate appearances.

Video: LAA@SD: Spangenberg belts game-tying home run in 7th

Rockies: Carlos Gonzalez, OF
CarGo endured a mostly miserable 2017 season, but scorched the ball in September (1.250) as the Rockies grabbed a postseason berth. This year has been less extreme for the veteran, but a similar storyline could be playing out in Denver. Gonzalez actually got hot around July 1, batting .268/.319/.437 before that point and .326/.383/.589 since, with 19 extra-base hits in 33 starts for the contending Rockies.

Video: COL@MIL: Gonzalez mashes a 2-run home run in the 6th

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Urena suspended 6 games for hitting Acuna

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

Major League Baseball on Thursday suspended right-hander Jose Urena six games for "intentionally hitting" Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. with a pitch on Wednesday night at SunTrust Park. 

On his first and only pitch of the night, Urena plunked Acuna on the left elbow with a 97.5-mph fastball, which set off a benches-clearing incident that interrupted the four-game series finale in which the Braves rallied to a 5-2 victory.

Major League Baseball on Thursday suspended right-hander Jose Urena six games for "intentionally hitting" Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. with a pitch on Wednesday night at SunTrust Park. 

On his first and only pitch of the night, Urena plunked Acuna on the left elbow with a 97.5-mph fastball, which set off a benches-clearing incident that interrupted the four-game series finale in which the Braves rallied to a 5-2 victory.

Urena was slapped with an undisclosed fine, but he's planning to appeal his suspension that starts on Friday, when the Marlins face the Nationals on Friday at Washington.

If he appeals, Urena would be in line to face the Yankees at Marlins Park, either on Tuesday or Wednesday, then possibly drop his appeal since the Marlins play the Braves the following weekend.

Instagram from @jure62_09_aq: More information

In an Instagram post late Thursday night, Urena said his intentions were never to hurt anyone, just to stick to his plan and pitch his usual game. He's happy and thankful that Acuna was able to return to the lineup on Thursday without any problems.

MLB also suspended Braves first-base coach Eric Young Sr. for one game (plus an undisclosed fine) for his actions during the incident.

During a heated exchange between the clubs, Braves manager Brian Snitker and Urena were ejected.

Video: MIA@ATL: Urena hits Acuna, cause fracas in Atlanta

"Obviously, this is not something that we represent or believe in as an organization, or myself, too," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of intentionally throwing at Acuna. "I would never want that kid getting hit and cause that kind of problem."

The Marlins clearly understood why the Braves took exception.

"I understand, yeah," Mattingly said. "If we were on the other side, and our guy was hitting homers all over the place and that happens, you're going to be fired up. So you understand."

Video: MIA@ATL: Braves on Acuna being HBP, benches clearing

Urena maintained after the game that the pitch wasn't with intent, and that he was throwing a two-seam fastball that ran well inside.

"I think, for me, I feel pretty bad," Urena said after the game. "People get upset and things like that, but I got upset, too, because how am I going to wait five days to go out there and make one pitch and get kicked out of the game? That don't make sense, right?

Video: MIA@ATL: Acuna gets HBP on arm in 1st, exits in 2nd

"Always, I throw inside. That's my way for me to get outs. I go inside, try to take advantage and try to move [the batter's] feet, and that's the thing."

Acuna remained in the game to run the bases after being hit by the pitch, but after heading out to left field for the start of the second inning, he experienced discomfort and was removed from the game.

X-ray and CT scan results came back negative on Acuna's elbow, and the 20-year-old rookie was in the starting lineup on Thursday for Atlanta's series opener with the Rockies at SunTrust Park. He went 1-for-4 with a single and a stolen base as the Braves fell, 5-3.

• Acuna back leading off a day after HBP scare

Urena has a history of hitting batters. This season he's plunked 11, which is the most in the National League. A year ago, he paced the Majors with 14.

"If you watch Jose pitch, pretty much the first pitch of every game is pretty much there," Mattingly said. "We talked with Jose right after the game, and basically, he was saying, he knows the guy has been swinging the bat good. He was trying to get one close. He was trying to run it off in there, and that was the purpose of his pitch. That's exactly what he told us. I had talked with him before that. It was like, 'This kid is swinging the bat good. We've got to figure out how to get him out, right.'"

Acuna has been one of the hottest hitters in the league, becoming the youngest player to homer in five straight games. Against the Marlins, the rookie from Venezuela belted four home runs, including leadoff blasts in each of the first three games.

Video: MIA@ATL: Acuna homers twice to tally 8 HRs in 8 games

After the benches cleared, Marlins third baseman Brian Anderson, standing on the mound to help maintain peace, was shoved by Young.

Afterwards Young sent word to first baseman Derek Dietrich that he was sorry he reacted that way.

"It's understandable," Anderson said. "In this game, people are very passionate about baseball, as well they should be, and something happens -- you kind of understand when tempers fly a little bit. When something like that happens, it's baseball for as long as this game's been around. It's probably going to continue to happen, so we just have to try to deescalate the situation when something like that happens and do the right thing."

Acuna is one of the top young stars in the game, and a big reason the Braves are in first place and in a tight battle with the Phillies in the National League East.

"Of course, you don't want to ever see that happen, especially to a first-place team trying to make the playoffs and one of the hottest hitters in the league," Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto said. "You never want to see anyone get hurt like that. Our intent was to pitch him inside. That's Jose's strength, and that's his weakness right now. That's really the only way to get him out. We were trying to go sinker in, and he lost it."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Jose Urena

Anthony Rizzo's staredown inspired Pedro Strop to finish his save

Pedro Strop was an out away from locking down a slim 1-0 Cubs victory on the road against the Pirates. He had two strikes on David Freese ... and promptly hit him.

With the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate in Elias Diaz, pitching coach Jim Hickey came out of the dugout for a mound visit.

Puig suspended 2 games for role in fracas

MLB.com

Yasiel Puig received a two-game suspension and an undisclosed fine for fighting and inciting a benches-clearing incident Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, Major League Baseball announced Thursday. Giants catcher Nick Hundley received an undisclosed fine for his role in the incident.

In the seventh inning of the Dodgers' 2-1 loss to San Francisco, Puig expressed frustration after fouling off a Tony Watson pitch, and he and Hundley proceeded to exchange heated words. The situation escalated quickly as Puig pushed Hundley, who shoved him back, prompting members of both teams to spill out of the dugouts and sprint toward home plate.

Yasiel Puig received a two-game suspension and an undisclosed fine for fighting and inciting a benches-clearing incident Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, Major League Baseball announced Thursday. Giants catcher Nick Hundley received an undisclosed fine for his role in the incident.

In the seventh inning of the Dodgers' 2-1 loss to San Francisco, Puig expressed frustration after fouling off a Tony Watson pitch, and he and Hundley proceeded to exchange heated words. The situation escalated quickly as Puig pushed Hundley, who shoved him back, prompting members of both teams to spill out of the dugouts and sprint toward home plate.

Video: SF@LAD: Puig and Hundley argue, cause a fracas in LA

Both players were ejected from the game.

"When I missed the pitch, I knew that was the best pitch Watson was going to throw me, so I was a little upset," Puig said after the game through a Dodgers interpreter. "[Hundley] told me to stop complaining and get back into the box, and when I got into his face, he told me to also get out of his face, so that's when I got upset.

"I didn't like that he was telling me what to do, and then he said some words to me in English that I really can't repeat. That's why I was upset."

Hundley downplayed the incident, chalking it up to the emotions of a tense division rivalry.

Video: SF@LAD: Puig, Roberts, Hundley on fierce exchange

"We're competing on the field against a team we're chasing," he said. "They've been scuffling a little bit, and we're trying to catch them. It's obviously a nice rivalry. We had some words, pushed a couple of times and you saw what happened. There's really nothing more to it than that."

Barring appeal, Puig's suspension begins Friday in Seattle. Tuesday's incident marked the fourth career ejection for both players, and neither had been tossed since 2015.

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, Yasiel Puig

Five storylines to keep an eye on this weekend

MLB.com @castrovince

Summer is winding down, but MLB's postseason races are heating up. We've reached that point in the season schedule when, on any given day, there are games with legitimate weight taking place, and we've got a particularly big battle being waged out West this weekend.

Here are five topics to track across MLB:

Summer is winding down, but MLB's postseason races are heating up. We've reached that point in the season schedule when, on any given day, there are games with legitimate weight taking place, and we've got a particularly big battle being waged out West this weekend.

Here are five topics to track across MLB:

1. Bringing their "A" game: The team that entered the season with the lowest payroll in baseball has a legitimate opportunity to dethrone the defending World Series champions in a division race.

If that scenario doesn't get your attention, then why the heck are you even reading this, huh?

This weekend, it's Astros vs. A's at the Oakland Coliseum in a series of surprising significance. The Astros entered the season with a FanGraphs-calculated 98.9 percent chance of winning the American League West, while the A's were at 0.5. Now, Oakland, having matched the mighty Red Sox with a big league-best .745 winning percentage since June 16, is a mere two games back. The Astros got off the schneid with a blowout win in Colorado, but the bottom line is that they've spent the last three weeks losing 11 of 18 and enduring an array of injuries (George Springer is expected to return from a left thumb injury tonight).

For what it's worth (possibly not much), the Astros have dominated the season series to date, winning nine of 13. If schedule strength matters (and it possibly doesn't), Houston appears to have the more forgiving schedule down the stretch, and these opportunities to inflict direct damage are few and fleeting for the A's. These two clubs have just one more meeting, and it comes Aug. 27-29 at Minute Maid Park.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying: This weekend's big. It begins at 10:05 p.m. ET tonight with Charlie Morton (one of the great comeback stories of 2017) opposing Edwin Jackson (one of the great comeback stories of '18). It continues with Dallas Keuchel opposing Trevor Cahill at 4:05 p.m. Saturday and wraps with Justin Verlander vs. fellow no-hit-club member Sean Manaea at 4:05 p.m. Sunday.

2. Little League, big deal: The Mets and Phillies will have an added travel wrinkle woven into their weekend, venturing from the cushy confines of Citizens Bank Park for the much-more-cozy ones of historic Bowman Field during a day trip to Williamsport, Pa. But when they're there, surrounded by all those Little Leaguers with big smiles Sunday at the second annual MLB Little League Classic, they'll know finishing off their weekend set in unusual circumstances was well worth it.

"At the end of the day," Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison said at last year's inaugural event, "it's bigger than you."

Baseball is an institution handed down from one generation to the next, and the Little League Classic is a nice and novel way in which the current generation of big league ballplayers can leave a lasting impression on the kids who hope to one day follow in their big footsteps. It's an extension of MLB's broader efforts, including the Play Ball initiative, to tap into the youth space. But the inspiration runs both ways, because the interactions that take place during the day at Howard J. Lamade Stadium and the surrounding Little League World Series site prove just as meaningful for the pros as for the kids.

"It's kind of refreshing to go back and see the pure joy on these kids' faces, knowing they're just playing a game and are out there to have as much fun as they can," Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins said heading into the weekend series with the Mets that will conclude in Williamsport. "People are competitive, but at the end of the day, it's cool to see the sportsmanship, the handshakes. You see kids hanging out between the games. Little things like that put it back in perspective."

At night, there's a big league ballgame played at historic Bowman Field, just a short drive from Lamade. It's a Class A ballpark, which makes for an extremely intimate setting, and the stands will be filled by Little Leaguers and their families. The whole thing will be broadcast on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" at 7:10 p.m. ET.

Bring the orange slices and feel like a kid again.

3. Cole fills a hole: The Cubs acquired a tremendous amount of name value when they landed Cole Hamels from the Rangers last month. But performance value? Hamels had a 4.72 ERA and 1.37 WHIP before being sent to Chicago. He was significantly better on the road than at home, but, at 34 years old, it was fair to wonder if he had much left in the tank to offer a contender.

Wonder no more. A change in scenery and a legit pennant race appears to have brought the best out of Hamels, who has a 1.00 ERA -- and no extra-base hits allowed -- in 18 innings across three starts with the Cubbies. His next assignment comes tonight at PNC Park (7:05 p.m.) -- an exact repeat of his Aug. 1 Cubs debut. Hamels is hoping for a repeat in outcome, too, for he held the Bucs to an unearned run on three hits in five innings the first time around.

Video: WSH@CHC: Hamels fans 9 over 7 tremendous innings

The Cubs have had an inconsistent offense this season, and their starting pitching was porous in the weeks leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline. That's not a recipe for repeating in the National League Central. But Hamels has brought a needed layer of stability to the starting set for a Cubs club that remains in first place. Aside from the name recognition, he might not have been the sexiest of Deadline pickups, but so far he's been one of the best.

4. Meet Me in St. Louis: Elsewhere in the NL Central, we've got the clubs chasing the Cubs beating up on each other at Busch Stadium this weekend. The Brewers have been sluggish in the second half (13-12), while the Cardinals have surged (18-9) under interim skipper Mike Shildt, a more youthful roster and the incredible Matt Carpenter (who was hit in the hand Wednesday night and thankfully lived to tell the tale).

So while the Cards are trailing the Brewers by a game, momentum would appear to be on their side here, and Milwaukee is coming off a rough day at Wrigley Field that saw both Ryan Braun (rib cage) and Manny Pina (left shoulder) exit with injuries. These two teams aren't just trying to run down the North Siders, they're trying to outlast each other given the implications this series has on the NL Wild Card race, where the Brewers are currently clinging to that first spot.

The Cards will look to leapfrog their division rivals the next few days, beginning with tonight's 8:15 p.m. ET matchup of rookie right-handers, Freddy Peralta and Jack Flaherty. Saturday's 7:15 p.m. Miley & Miles Show (Wade Miley and Miles Mikolas) is a particularly intriguing pairing of low-profile offseason pickups who have brought value to these respective rotations.

5. Outside looking in: If October began today -- and don't worry, we have checked with the Calendar Committee to confirm that it doesn't -- the Dodgers and Mariners would both be absent from the postseason party. That would be quite a bummer for both ballclubs, what with the Dodgers desperate to atone for their loss in Game 7 of last year's World Series and the Mariners desperate to simply take part in the tournament for the first time since 2001.

Fortunately, there's still plenty of ball to be played as these two clubs meet for an Interleague affair at Safeco Field this weekend (Walker Buehler opposes Wade LeBlanc in tonight's 10:10 p.m. ET opener). But more pressing bummers have revealed themselves in recent days -- the Mariners losing ace James Paxton to a comebacker to the forearm and the Dodgers losing ace reliever Kenley Jansen to an irregular heartbeat.

Neither guy, then, will have an impact on this weekend series in which the Dodgers are looking for bullpen relief (the 'pen has given up 13 runs in 18 innings just in the week since Jansen has been gone) and the Mariners are hoping to get continued happy returns from recently returned infielder (we can't call him strictly a second baseman anymore) Robinson Cano (3-for-9 since coming back from suspension) and Saturday starter Erasmo Ramirez (five scoreless innings in his first start in Felix Hernandez's former rotation spot).

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros