Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Power Rankings: There's a new top dog in NL

D-backs slide past Mets in Senior Circuit; Red Sox maintain No. 1 spot overall
MLB.com @alysonfooter

This week's Power Rankings begin with a tip of the cap to several teams who are exceeding most preseason expectations placed upon them, and who could find themselves with higher positions in this space as soon as next week if they keep up this pace.

First up is the Athletics, who have won three straight, got a no-hitter from Sean Manaea vs. the Red Sox on Saturday, and have recorded wins in seven of their past eight games. The A's will continue their road series with the Rangers as one of four teams in the highly touted American League West with a winning record at 12-11, mere percentage points behind the 11-10 Mariners.

This week's Power Rankings begin with a tip of the cap to several teams who are exceeding most preseason expectations placed upon them, and who could find themselves with higher positions in this space as soon as next week if they keep up this pace.

First up is the Athletics, who have won three straight, got a no-hitter from Sean Manaea vs. the Red Sox on Saturday, and have recorded wins in seven of their past eight games. The A's will continue their road series with the Rangers as one of four teams in the highly touted American League West with a winning record at 12-11, mere percentage points behind the 11-10 Mariners.

Video: Must C Classic: Sean Manaea no-hits the Red Sox

The Braves and Phillies deserve some love as well. Philadelphia is 9-1 at home and has won seven straight at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils' home record marks their best start to a season since they began the 1964 campaign by going 9-1 in their first 10 games at Connie Mack Stadium, and they will enter play on Tuesday in second place in the National League East, a half-game behind the Mets. The Braves, at 12-9, have sported a better record so far than the 10-13 Nationals, who were picked by most as the favorites to win the division.

Biggest jump: The Cardinals jumped six spots, from No. 13 to No. 7. Sure, they've played most of their games in the past week-and-a-half against the 4-18 Reds, but still, the numbers are notable. During a current stretch that produced a four-game sweep in Cincinnati, a rain-shortened two-game series split with the Cubs at Wrigley Field and a home sweep over the Reds, Cards starting pitchers have gone 7-1 with a 2.35 ERA, allowing 14 earned runs over 53 2/3 innings while walking 19 and striking out 51.

Video: CIN@STL: Martinez throws six scoreless, fans seven

Biggest drop: The Pirates slipped six spots, from No. 11 to No. 17. The hot start has cooled in a big way. Since taking two of three over the Marlins, Pittsburgh has lost six of seven, including a four-game weekend sweep in Philadelphia. The Bucs are not hitting -- in those six losses, they scored just seven runs. Their only breakout game happened last Wednesday in a home game against the Rockies, when Pittsburgh scored 10.

Power Rankings Top 5

1. Red Sox (No. 1 last week)
The Red Sox had quite a weekend. They ended it with the best record in baseball still intact, but the Sox lost two in a row for the first time this season, with one of the losses a no-hitter by Manaea. Still, Boston is leading the Majors in many offensive categories, and its bullpen has been rock solid, stringing together 20 2/3 scoreless innings.

Video: Must C Crushed: Betts HRs off Ohtani, slugs two more

2. Astros (2)
The Astros opened their Seattle-Chicago road trip with a loss to the Mariners, marking their fifth defeat in six games. Then they reeled off six wins in a row, erasing the "slow start" speculation that had started to build around the defending World Series champs. In four games in Seattle, they outscored the Mariners, 21-6. Then they piled on 27 runs in three games in Chicago while holding the White Sox to two runs. Now comes a more challenging test: a long homestand with series against the Angels, A's and Yankees.

3. D-backs (5)
The D-backs, who have slid into the top of the Power Rankings among NL clubs, have won all seven series they've played so far in 2018; six against intradivision rivals. Based on early returns, this could be a breakout season for Patrick Corbin. The lefty struck out 11 Padres over six innings on Sunday and sports a 1.89 ERA and a 0.66 WHIP over five starts. He's walked six and struck out 48. Offensively, A.J. Pollock, the D-backs' primary cleanup hitter, has 16 RBIs and 14 extra-base hits through 20 games.

Video: SD@ARI: Corbin K's 11 over six, drills RBI single

4. Mets (3)
The Mets have returned to normalcy after their red-hot start, but with a respectable 14-6 record even after series losses in the past week to the Nationals and the Braves, they remain in the Top 5 of the Power Rankings. New York has already made one major tweak, shifting Matt Harvey to the bullpen. Now the Mets have to figure out how to use him. High-leverage situations? Late innings? Harvey is not happy about his removal from the rotation, and it will be interesting to see how he responds when he's called upon from the 'pen.

Video: Harvey, Callaway on Harvey moving to bullpen

5. Indians (9)
Their 12-8 record isn't necessarily eye-popping, but the Indians have turned it on lately due in part to impressive pitching performances. The Tribe has won nine of its past 12 games, allowing three runs or fewer in 11 of those 12 games. The Indians own the second-best ERA in the Majors at 2.57.

The rest of the Top 20
6. Angels (4)
7. Cardinals (13)
8. Nationals (8)
9. Yankees (6)
10. Dodgers (10)
11. Cubs (7)
12. Blue Jays (12)
13. Brewers (16)
14. Phillies (17)
15. Rockies (15)
16. Twins (14)
17. Pirates (11)
18. Braves (19)
19. Mariners (18)
20. Giants (20)

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Epstein: Ortiz asked for a trade in 2003

MLB.com

Three World Series rings and more than 500 homers later, it's hard to imagine the Red Sox once agonized over whether to play David Ortiz or Shea Hillenbrand.

But that was exactly the debate in Boston's front office during the 2003 season. Ortiz had been signed in January after the Twins non-tendered him following a .266/.348/.461 line with 58 home runs in 1,693 plate appearances. Hillenbrand was coming off an All-Star sophomore campaign. With Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller manning the corner infield slots, Theo Epstein had a roster crunch and a key decision to make.

Three World Series rings and more than 500 homers later, it's hard to imagine the Red Sox once agonized over whether to play David Ortiz or Shea Hillenbrand.

But that was exactly the debate in Boston's front office during the 2003 season. Ortiz had been signed in January after the Twins non-tendered him following a .266/.348/.461 line with 58 home runs in 1,693 plate appearances. Hillenbrand was coming off an All-Star sophomore campaign. With Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller manning the corner infield slots, Theo Epstein had a roster crunch and a key decision to make.

Boston's GM at the time, now the Cubs' president of baseball operations, explained on this week's episode of Executive Access:

"David Ortiz hit all of two home runs in the first [two months] of the 2003 season and in mid-May had his agent come and ask me for a trade to somewhere he could play more regularly," Epstein said. "Fernando Cuza came to talk to me and I told Cuza at the time that David was someone we wanted to get everyday at-bats, but we just needed to pare down the roster a little bit. We ended up trading Hillenbrand instead of David Ortiz, so I guess that was a good decision in hindsight. David got regular playing time and ended up hitting close to 30 homers in the second half of the season and was off and running as Big Papi."

Hillenbrand was dealt to Arizona for Byung-Hyun Kim in late May, Ortiz finished the season with 31 homers and the Red Sox went on to win their first World Series since 1918 a year later.

To hear more from Epstein, including how the Red Sox almost hired Joe Maddon instead of Terry Francona, listen to the full episode of Executive Access here:

On Executive Access, MLB.com executive reporter Mark Feinsand provides a unique look at the people building Major League teams by engaging in candid interviews with front-office personnel from around MLB. Each week, you'll find out how they broke into the game, why they do what they do and how they envision the future of baseball. Look out for new episodes on Tuesdays. Download, subscribe and help others find the show by leaving a rating and review on iTunes or your favorite platform.

Big night for Big G (HR, 4-for-4) in Yanks' win

MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- The jaw-dropping drive that will make all of the highlight reels from Monday's 14-1 Yankees victory over the Twins was Giancarlo Stanton's fifth-inning blast to the left-field bleachers, a titanic home run that showcased the superstar's power in convincing fashion.

Yet the plate appearance that excited the Yankees almost as much may have been -- of all things -- a first-inning walk. They believe that free pass teed up Stanton's 4-for-4 performance, as well as the Yankees' persistent attack against Minnesota starter Jake Odorizzi.

View Full Game Coverage

NEW YORK -- The jaw-dropping drive that will make all of the highlight reels from Monday's 14-1 Yankees victory over the Twins was Giancarlo Stanton's fifth-inning blast to the left-field bleachers, a titanic home run that showcased the superstar's power in convincing fashion.

Yet the plate appearance that excited the Yankees almost as much may have been -- of all things -- a first-inning walk. They believe that free pass teed up Stanton's 4-for-4 performance, as well as the Yankees' persistent attack against Minnesota starter Jake Odorizzi.

View Full Game Coverage

"I've been feeling more comfortable," Stanton said. "It was a good day of five good [plate appearances]. Give myself a good chance every at-bat of the game."

As manager Aaron Boone later recounted, Stanton had been at bat in the first inning with Brett Gardner at second base, two outs, and facing an 0-2 count. Stanton spit on a slider, cutter and two fastballs from Odorizzi to work the free pass, then raced home when Gary Sanchez ripped a two-run double two pitches later.

Video: MIN@NYY: Sanchez opens scoring with a two-run double

"He kind of set the tone. He was the guy," Boone said of Stanton. "0-2 count, first inning -- battle, battle, battle, walk. Then he gets the hit. Then home run. Then a couple of sharp-hit balls for add-ons. Really good night for him, and hopefully something that continues to build a little bit of momentum for him toward being the guy that we know he is."

Video: MIN@NYY: Boone on Stanton, Torres, Tanaka after win

Stanton banged a third-inning single to right field before delivering the knockout blow on Odorizzi in the fifth, slugging his fifth home run as a member of the Yankees. The blast came off his bat at 115.7 mph and traveled a Statcast-calculated 435 feet, making it the fourth-longest homer hit by a Yankee so far this year.

Video: MIN@NYY: Statcast™ tracks Stanton's 115.7-mph HR

Stanton drilled a run-scoring single to greet Alan Busenitz in the seventh inning and singled again off Tyler Kinley in the eighth to notch his first four-hit game with the Bombers, raising his average from .185 to .224. It marked Stanton's seventh career game reaching base at least five times, and his fifth career game with four or more hits.

Video: MIN@NYY: Stanton plates Judge with an RBI single

Stanton hadn't enjoyed a multihit game since April 11 at Boston. Standing in front of his locker Monday, he grinned and mentioned that nothing has been easy thus far. When someone followed up on that comment, the slugger quipped: "You ever see a 95-mph fastball?"

"I'm getting to work, man," Stanton said. "Just working, working. Getting the feel right. I've got more to do."

Video: MIN@NYY: Stanton, Andujar, Torres on Yanks' offense

After Stanton endured a 50-at-bat homerless streak between an April 4 homer and his fourth Yankees homer on Friday against the Blue Jays -- the ninth-longest such streak of his career -- the Yanks are delighted to see signs that Stanton's timing is coming around.

"As a hitter, you always love those nights, especially when it's early and you're off to a tough start," Boone said. "You want to start gaining some traction. It can help settle you in and get more and more comfortable."

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

New York Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton

Jenny Cavnar makes history with play-by-play

Jenny Cavnar is no stranger to the game of baseball -- she's been working in MLB for 12 years. And on Monday night, she became the first woman since 1993 to do play-by-play on a big league telecast. 

"I am very excited about tonight," Cavnar told MLB.com's Thomas Harding. "I'm really honored on the historical context of it, but I'm more so excited for the team effort. We have such a great team of broadcasters, producers, directors -- so it'll be really fun to collaborate with them and do the game tonight."

13 great pitcher reactions to incredible catches

We like to think that pitchers are in control. They dictate the pace and flow of the game. With sheer strength of will, they can overpower batters and keep them from hitting it in play. Or, through pinpoint control, they can influence the direction the ball is hit.

But, just like all of us, they are subject to the whims and passing fancies of chaos. That's where the fielders come in.

Ready for WS rematch? Cubs definitely are

Tribe has moved on, but trip will be special for 2016 champs
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

Since Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, the Cubs and Indians have only faced each other in innocent Spring Training games in Arizona. On Tuesday, they'll meet at Progressive Field for the first time since Nov. 2, 2016, when the two teams played a nail-biting finale that fans of both franchises will never forget.

Tuesday is the first game of a two-game Interleague series, and the Cubs' Tyler Chatwood will face the Indians' Josh Tomlin. After playing two in Cleveland this week, the Cubs and the Tribe will meet again May 22-23 at Wrigley Field.

Since Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, the Cubs and Indians have only faced each other in innocent Spring Training games in Arizona. On Tuesday, they'll meet at Progressive Field for the first time since Nov. 2, 2016, when the two teams played a nail-biting finale that fans of both franchises will never forget.

Tuesday is the first game of a two-game Interleague series, and the Cubs' Tyler Chatwood will face the Indians' Josh Tomlin. After playing two in Cleveland this week, the Cubs and the Tribe will meet again May 22-23 at Wrigley Field.

"It will remind them of the World Series," Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said about the Cubs coming back to Progressive Field. "For us, we play at home every time. I think it might be a little bit more special for them, because they're going back to where they won it all. Once we go to their place, then it will be like, 'Yeah, that's cool.'

"At home, playing against them, I don't really think it will mean much [for the Indians]," Lindor said. "I'm just looking forward to seeing my boy, [Javier] Baez."

Baez is putting on quite the show with the Cubs. On April 10, he was batting .194, but in 10 games since then, he's gone 17-for-45 (.378) with four doubles, one triple, seven home runs and 19 RBIs. In Game 7, Baez led off the fifth inning with a home run off Corey Kluber to open a 4-1 lead.

The Tribe tied the game at 6 in the eighth on Rajai Davis' two-run homer off Aroldis Chapman. The game was then interrupted by a brief but pertinent rain delay in which Chicago outfielder Jason Heyward gathered his teammates in the weight room for a motivational speech. The Cubs responded by scoring three runs in the 10th against Bryan Shaw, including a go-ahead RBI double by Ben Zobrist, who was named World Series Most Valuable Player. On Tuesday, the Cubs will be back in that weight room.

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Heyward on calling a team meeting

"I think the momentum definitely shifted when that happened," the Cubs' Kris Bryant said of Heyward's speech. "It's definitely a big point in the World Series, and just allowing ourselves to gather and realize what just happened. We came out [for the 10th] and forgot all about [losing the lead]."

Zobrist called his hit "magical."

"You're just trying to grind against a guy like Bryan Shaw, who throws a nasty 98-mph cutter, and you see the ball shoot past the third baseman," Zobrist said. "For me, it's like I don't remember anything from that moment until I got near second base and I knew we had scored, and I jumped in the air. I still get chills when I think about it, just because of the magnitude of the moment and being able to come through for the club in the situation. Obviously it's the biggest baseball memory I'll ever have."

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Zobrist gives Cubs lead on double in 10th

That World Series ended the Cubs' 108-year championship drought, which is why so many of the team's fans made it to Progressive Field for Game 7.

"During the game, it was amazing," Zobrist said of the fans. "It felt like it was half and half -- half Cubs fans, half Cleveland. When things happened, there was always a roar, so it was just that constant excitement, never-a-dull-moment kind of game, Game 7."

The Indians didn't share the same goosebumps moments, which is understandable. They've moved on.

"[In 2017], the first game of Spring Training was a night game, that was the first time we saw them, and that kind of brought back all the emotions and all those memories," Cleveland's Brandon Guyer said. "This is the first time seeing them at our place, so it could bring back memories of Game 7 and everything that went down."

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Cubs win World Series with Game 7 win

After the 2016 World Series, Guyer said he had a few flashbacks.

"Little things would pop up -- you'd see [the Cubs] play, things like that," Guyer said. "But this season, it's less. The more you're away from it, you don't think about it as much. I think a lot of us are like that, just trying to get back to that place."

Both teams are. The Indians won the American League Central last year but lost to the Yankees in the AL Division Series; the Cubs reached the National League Championship Series but lost to the Dodgers.

Lindor says he doesn't think too much about their seven-game battle with the Cubs in 2016.

"It's in the past," Lindor said. "There's nothing I can do about it. It was definitely a cool experience. I was blessed to be in it, but it didn't turn out the way I wanted, so I kind of forget about it."

The Cubs haven't.

"[That World Series] changed the identity of the Chicago Cubs," Anthony Rizzo said. "Your dream is to win a World Series. It doesn't matter what club, but when you do it with Chicago, it's a little more special."

"It'll be fun [to be back]," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It'll be fun to walk those steps. The locker room, the weight room where the boys got together and rallied to come out in that extra innings and did what they did. It was pretty spectacular, and I think retrospectively, when it's all laid out there years from now, it's going to be looked at as one of the more interesting World Series or seventh games ever played."

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

Owen Perkins and Elliott Smith contributed to this story.

Chicago Cubs

Strained hamstring lands Avisail on DL

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The White Sox on Tuesday placed outfielder Avisail Garcia on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring and recalled outfielder Daniel Palka from Triple-A Charlotte.

Palka, 26, is batting .286 (18-63) with three doubles, three home runs, seven RBI and 11 runs scored in 17 games this season, his first in the White Sox organization after being claimed off waivers from Minnesota on November 4, 2017. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Palka, who bats and throws left-handed, is tied for the International League lead in homers and tied for second in runs scored and walks (10).

García, 26, suffered the injury in the second inning of last night's victory against the Mariners. He is hitting .233 (17-73) with one home run, four RBI and five runs scored in 18 games this season. García was an American League All-Star in 2017.

CHICAGO -- The White Sox on Tuesday placed outfielder Avisail Garcia on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring and recalled outfielder Daniel Palka from Triple-A Charlotte.

Palka, 26, is batting .286 (18-63) with three doubles, three home runs, seven RBI and 11 runs scored in 17 games this season, his first in the White Sox organization after being claimed off waivers from Minnesota on November 4, 2017. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Palka, who bats and throws left-handed, is tied for the International League lead in homers and tied for second in runs scored and walks (10).

García, 26, suffered the injury in the second inning of last night's victory against the Mariners. He is hitting .233 (17-73) with one home run, four RBI and five runs scored in 18 games this season. García was an American League All-Star in 2017.

Chicago White Sox, Avisail Garcia, Daniel Palka

These are the Top 30 international prospects

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

Long before Louis Eljaua rose to special assistant to the president and general manager of the Cubs, he was the young and energetic top international scout for the Marlins. Back then, his boss was Al Avila, now the general manager for the Tigers.

Eljaua vividly recalls a conversation with Avila in 1998 like it happened yesterday. Each time he tells the story of that famous call, he puts his right thumb to his ear and talks into his right pinkie like it's the old hotel phone he used.

Long before Louis Eljaua rose to special assistant to the president and general manager of the Cubs, he was the young and energetic top international scout for the Marlins. Back then, his boss was Al Avila, now the general manager for the Tigers.

Eljaua vividly recalls a conversation with Avila in 1998 like it happened yesterday. Each time he tells the story of that famous call, he puts his right thumb to his ear and talks into his right pinkie like it's the old hotel phone he used.

Top 30 International Prospects list

"I found the guy, Al! I found the guy our owner was looking for. He's 15. Come to Venezuela," Eljaua shrieked through the phone.

Avila, who was in Miami at the time, was not pleased to hear the news. The Marlins had never spent more than $30,000 on an international teen.

Top International Prospects

"Are you crazy, Louis? [Owner] John Henry gives us money and you are going to spend it all on your first trip and the first kid you see? Are you trying to get us all fired? What is wrong with you?"

"I know, I know," Eljaua answered. "Just come see the kid. He's good. You won't be sorry."

That kid was Miguel Cabrera. And less than a year later, the teenager signed with the Marlins for $1.8 million to launch his future Hall of Fame career and forever set the standard for international teenage prospects.

The hunt for the next Cabrera continues, and each year an increasing number of prospects sign when the international signing period begins on July 2; hundreds more will join Major League organizations later this summer.

Led by catcher Diego Cartaya -- who like Cabrera is from Maracay, Venezuela -- the players on MLB Pipeline's 2018 Top 30 International Prospects list represent the greatest young talent from across the globe eligible to sign on July 2.

The ultimate goal is nabbing a baseball unicorn like Cabrera. But signing a horse like Cartaya, a hard-hitting catcher with advanced skills, or other emerging international prospects also offer teams options.

Video: Top International Prospects: Diego Cartaya, C

Remember, the Cubs traded top teen Gleyber Torres of Venezuela to the Yankees as part of a deal for Aroldis Chapman in 2016, and the rest is World Series history. Last year, they traded the Dominican Republic's Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox in a deal for Jose Quintana. Both are the top prospects in their organizations. Back in '16, the Red Sox traded Yoan Moncada in a package to the White Sox for pitcher Chris Sale. The A's acquired Franklin Barreto from the Blue Jays in a deal for third baseman Josh Donaldson in '14.

"If you are not investing time and money and effort to sign international players, you are missing out on making your organization one of the best in the game," Eljaua said. "Why would you ignore a market and just focus on one or two ways to acquire talent when these guys are going to play in your system, hopefully in the big leagues, or be a part of a package that helps you fill a missing piece? And it's not all about the money and paying the most money. It's about scouting and working and finding out about makeup and helping your entire system."

Who is signing whom
More than 950 prospects have signed during the international signing period that started July 2, 2017, and that number could increase during the 2018-19 period, because there are thousands who have registered to become eligible.

In addition to prospects from traditional baseball hot spots like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and the Bahamas, there are also prospects from places like Europe, the Caribbean islands and Asia who have also registered.

Video: Top International Prospects: Marco Luciano, OF

As far as the list is concerned, the Dodgers are the favorites to sign Cartaya. Marco Luciano, a power-hitting outfielder from the Dominican Republic, a close second behind Cartaya in the rankings, is linked to the Giants. Outfielder Misael Urbina of Venezuela, who is ranked No. 3, is an advanced hitter expected to have an above-average hit tool and plus speed. He is linked to the Twins. Rounding out the top five is Venezuelan right-handed pitcher Richard Gallardo, linked to the Cubs, and Orelvis Martinez, a power-hitting shortstop from the D.R. sometimes compared to a young Adrian Beltre. The Blue Jays are the favorite to sign Martinez.

Video: Richard Gallardo named top int'l pitching prospect

Breakdown
This year's Top 30 International Prospects list includes 10 players from Venezuela, 16 from the Dominican Republic, three from Cuba and one from Colombia. The positions break down like this: 11 outfielders, eight infielders, seven pitchers and four catchers.

The best athletes at premium positions are the most appealing to international scouts. Three of the top 13 are catchers and three of the top 10 are pitchers. Shortstops and center fielders are also highly coveted in this year's class.

International signing rules, spending
There are specific guidelines for signing prospects like Cartaya: An international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between July 2 through June 15 of the next year if he is 17 or will turn 17 by the end of the first season of his contract.

Video: Cartaya tops MLB's international prospects list

The rules for signing international prospects are these: Clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round B of the Rule 4 Draft receive a pool of $6,025,400, while clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round A of the Rule 4 Draft receive $5,504,500. All other clubs receive $4,983,500.

International amateur free agency & bonus pool money explained

Teams are allowed to trade as much of their international pool money as they would like, but can only acquire 75 percent of a team's initial pool amount. Additionally, signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward a club's bonus pool, and foreign professional players who are at least 25 years of age and have played in a foreign league for at least six seasons are also exempt.

In terms of spending, the Blue Jays, Brewers, D-backs, Mariners, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox, Rockies, Tigers, Twins and Yankees are expected to be aggressive in the upcoming signing period. The Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals -- teams that will no longer be in the penalty for exceeding their past international bonus pool spending -- are also expected to be very active.

The A's, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres, Reds and White Sox are in the maximum penalty, so they cannot sign players for more than $300,000 during the upcoming period.

"We are all looking for the next Miguel Cabrera, but I think it's unfair to compare anybody to him because he was just on another level," Eljaua said. "But the reality is, my old team already paid me for that sign. I'm getting paid to find another one. That's what the job is."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Halos, Skaggs top 'Stros; Ohtani up next

MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- Having just shuffled through a tough six-game stretch that produced only one win, the Angels knew they were in for a test against the Astros this week.

They passed the first one with high marks, topping the Astros, 2-0, to take the opener on Monday night at Minute Maid Park before they send Shohei Ohtani to the mound for the second game of the series.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Having just shuffled through a tough six-game stretch that produced only one win, the Angels knew they were in for a test against the Astros this week.

They passed the first one with high marks, topping the Astros, 2-0, to take the opener on Monday night at Minute Maid Park before they send Shohei Ohtani to the mound for the second game of the series.

View Full Game Coverage

In advance of Ohtani's start, they received a stellar outing from lefty Tyler Skaggs, who has been nearly unhittable on the road this season. The left-hander lowered his road ERA even more with seven scoreless frames, walking one batter and striking out three. For the year, he has allowed only one earned run on the road, spanning 18 1/3 innings. That's a 0.49 road ERA.

Video: LAA@HOU: Skaggs K's three over seven scoreless frames

"That's what Tyler can do," manager Mike Scioscia said. "A lot of ground balls, controlled counts, had the good two-seamer pitch, good changeup, his breaking ball was there again. In contrast to some of the games he's struggled, he was commanding counts very well. A lot of weak contact. It was a strong seven innings."

The game ended on a bit of a surprising note, as an Astros ninth-inning rally was cut short when a safe call on Yuli Gurriel's slide into third was overturned for the final out. With runners on first and second, Gurriel tried to advance to third when the ball briefly got away from catcher Martin Maldonado on a pitch in the dirt.

"It's a tough way to end the game, but I can't fault Yuli for trying to be aggressive," Astros manager AJ Hinch said.

The Angels, who will face the top three ERA leaders in the American League during their series in Houston, managed two runs off Gerrit Cole, whose 0.96 ERA entering this start was the second lowest in the AL. Cole took a perfect game into the fifth before the Angels squeezed out a run on Kole Calhoun's base hit to right, and they added one more in the sixth behind Justin Upton's double, which scored Mike Trout from third.

Video: LAA@HOU: Upton belts an RBI double to left-center

Cole was good, but Skaggs was better. With a somewhat taxed bullpen and the losses piling up, Skaggs gave the Angels exactly what they needed. His outing was a massive improvement over his prior start, against the Red Sox, in which he allowed six runs over 4 1/3 innings.

He acknowledged that an abundance of changeups helped temper his pitch count, which has been an issue lately. In two of his prior three outings, he exceeded 100 pitches while not lasting past the fifth inning.

"I got a lot of one-pitch outs," Skaggs said. "I think the changeup and the two-seamer were very apparent.

"It was working. I was throwing it early and often. I think it's a huge pitch going forward."

In the next week, the Angels will play the two teams that met in the AL Championship Series in 2017 -- the Astros, who they're playing in Houston this week, and the Yankees, who they'll host this weekend. Monday's win helped the Angels further distance themselves from a 1-5 homestand that included a sweep by the Red Sox and a series loss to the Giants.

"Every day brings a tough game," Scioscia said. "Whether we're at home or on the road, we need to do things better than we've been doing this last week. And what was really encouraging was being able to come in to a park like this, with a team that obviously has a terrific offense, and to be able to make big pitches and get outs."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Right-hander Justin Anderson, a graduate of St. Pius X High School and an avid Astros fan as a youngster growing up in Houston, made his big league debut in the very ballpark where he spent so much time watching the game as a fan.

With approximately 50 friends, family and former teammates from the University of Texas-San Antonio watching from the stands, Anderson was called upon in the eighth inning, tasked with protecting the Angels' slim two-run lead. He recorded quick outs on Max Stassi and Josh Reddick, both pinch-hitting, before yielding back-to-back hits to George Springer and Jose Altuve. The inning ended when Anderson struck out Houston's No. 3 hitter, Carlos Correa.

Anderson has homecoming to remember

"Working with [Maldonado], he did a really good job working with me back there," Anderson said. "That whole game plan was to listen to him, trust my stuff. I heard the crowd [during Correa's at-bat] and … I told myself, 'Hush them. Get them to be quiet.' And that's what I did."

Video: LAA@HOU: Anderson makes MLB debut in his hometown

SOUND SMART
Skaggs has thrown 15 scoreless innings at Minute Maid Park over three starts dating back to Aug. 26 of last season.

HE SAID IT
"We know that that team over there is a really good team. They're standing in front of us. They're in our way. They are the defending champs, and we know that. We had to send a message. I feel like we did that tonight." -- Keynan Middleton, who fanned two in the ninth en route to his sixth save of the season

Video: LAA@HOU: Maldonado's throw helps Middleton earn save

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Astros' bid for a comeback in the ninth was thwarted abruptly on a tag play at third base that ended the game. Middleton threw an 0-2 pitch in the dirt, forcing Maldonado to scamper to his left to retrieve it. Gurriel attempted to advance to third and was originally called safe by third-base umpire Cory Blaser. A replay showed that Luis Valbuena got his glove down just ahead of Gurriel's hand.

UP NEXT
Ohtani will take the mound for his first career start against the Astros on Tuesday at 5:10 p.m. PT. With another win this month, Ohtani can become the first player in Major League history with three wins and three home runs in April. Charlie Morton starts for Houston.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Los Angeles Angels

LA wins 7th of 8 after Buehler's scoreless 5

MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers top prospect Walker Buehler showed off all of his tools in his first MLB start Monday night, including his confidence.

He fired off five scoreless innings, dazzling at times, in a game the Dodgers pulled out late, 2-1, over the Marlins on Cody Bellinger's eighth-inning sacrifice fly. Officially, it was a no-decision for Buehler, although the decision in the Dodgers' clubhouse was unanimous.

View Full Game Coverage

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers top prospect Walker Buehler showed off all of his tools in his first MLB start Monday night, including his confidence.

He fired off five scoreless innings, dazzling at times, in a game the Dodgers pulled out late, 2-1, over the Marlins on Cody Bellinger's eighth-inning sacrifice fly. Officially, it was a no-decision for Buehler, although the decision in the Dodgers' clubhouse was unanimous.

View Full Game Coverage

"Walker was electric," said former Marlin Kiké Hernandez, who was the offensive and defensive star, subbing at shortstop for Corey Seager with a home run, two singles and a pair of Gold Glove-caliber gems. "We expect that and more from him. We expect a lot from him.

"Not too often you get drafted in the first round when you need Tommy John surgery. So, this kid must be a stud. He's pretty confident, pretty cocky. Fastball looked like it was 120 [mph] from playing shortstop. The slider looked like 100 as well. It's pretty fun watching, playing behind him. He's got special talent and hopefully we'll see that for a very long time."

Hernandez shows why he's Roberts' go-to sub

Video: Must C Combo: Hernandez's flashy pair of plays at SS

The Dodgers have won seven of their last eight games, while the Marlins have lost 15 of 18. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was non-committal after the game, but earlier indications were that Buehler will start again on Saturday in the doubleheader in San Francisco.

Recalled to sub for the injured Rich Hill against Miami, Buehler needed a professional-career-high 89 pitches to get through the five innings. Roberts said Buehler will learn to be more efficient, but he had nothing but praise for the 23-year-old.

"You look at the heartbeat, and there's no panic," Roberts said. "He steps up and makes pitches when he needs to. We talked about the confidence earlier, and I think it's real. I know it's real. He just feels he can make a pitch when he needs to make a pitch, and he doesn't scare off. There's a learning curve that's happening before our eyes."

Video: MIA@LAD: Roberts talks win over Marlins, Buehler

Buehler, ranked as the game's No. 12 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline, flashed a fastball that peaked at 99.5 mph in the first inning and peaked at 96.4 mph in the fifth.

"We had guys out there early, but he's obviously a guy with a tremendous arm and probably will just keep getting better," said Marlins manager Don Mattingly.

Buehler has been handled with kid gloves since signing with a damaged elbow that needed surgery. He opened this season in the Minor Leagues so management can throttle back his innings early, intending to keep him fresh for late in the season after throwing only 98 innings last year.

Buehler said his pitches Monday night weren't really good or bad, and after struggling to command his four-seam fastball in the early innings, he switched to a two-seamer the last two.

"It would be great to go and dominate, but to put up zeros and come out of the thing unscathed is the biggest thing," Buehler said. "The more comfortable I get here, the fastball command will come. I don't think I've thrown 89 pitches since the College World Series, so that was a wake-up for me."

The Dodgers held on in the ninth. With closer Kenley Jansen and Tony Cingrani unavailable after pitching the previous two games, Ross Stripling pitched two scoreless innings after Buehler and Josh Fields pitched the ninth for the save.

Video: MIA@LAD: Fields induces fly out to record the save

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
A bunt, not just a blast: Hernandez provided the first hit and run with his homer, but a bunt single during the game-winning eighth-inning rally was key. After Chris Taylor's leadoff double, Hernandez dropped a perfect bunt and Miami pitcher Kyle Barraclough grabbed the ball but didn't make a throw. Bellinger followed with his screaming sacrifice liner that scored Taylor with the decisive run.

Video: MIA@LAD: Bellinger hits a go-ahead sacrifice fly

Landing a big punchout: The Marlins worked Buehler in the first, loading the bases and making him throw 26 pitches. The last was a foul tip that struck out J.B. Shuck, catcher Yasmani Grandal holding onto the ball to end the inning.

Video: MIA@LAD: Buehler K's Shuck to escape bases-loaded jam

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Super sub: Hernandez was making only his second start of the year in place of Seager at shortstop, but he looked like a Gold Glove candidate twice. With two outs and a runner on first in the second inning, Hernandez went into the hole and with his power arm threw out Miguel Rojas at first base. The next play was even tougher, with one out in the third inning ranging up the middle for a diving stop of Starlin Castro's bouncer, spinning to his feet and cutting down Castro at first.

Video: MIA@LAD: Hernandez displays incredible defense

HE SAID IT
"Yeah, homers are fun." -- Hernandez

Video: MIA@LAD: Hernandez rips a solo homer to left-center

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Dodgers (11-10) climbed above .500 for the first time this season.

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Marlins challenged a foul-ball call on J.T. Realmuto's flare down the right-field line in the first inning. The call was confirmed. Realmuto's at-bat continued and he singled to left field.

Video: MIA@LAD: Realmuto foul ball gets challenged

UP NEXT
Seager is expected to return to the starting lineup on Tuesday night when Kenta Maeda makes the 7:10 p.m. PT start against the Marlins and lefty Dillon Peters. Seager did not start Monday night against Garcia, but entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. Maeda has tried to be more aggressive early in the count, and the results are mixed. Strikeouts are up (24 in 14 1/3 innings), but so are hits (20) and walks (five).

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, Enrique Hernandez

Check out this ridiculous Carrasco slider

Carlos Carrasco is a man of many talents. Sure, he's artistic -- he can turn a baseball into anything, (or anyone in certain cases). He also recently showed he has some play-by-play skills during one of his off-days. But above all else, he's a heck of a pitcher. Just take a look at this pitch:

Gausman throws first immaculate inning of '18

MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- Kevin Gausman had his best start of the season on Monday night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The righty, working with a tweaked delivery he started using during his last outing in Detroit, worked in and out of the zone. He held Cleveland to four hits over eight brilliant innings. He even recorded an immaculate seventh inning, needing nine pitches to strike out Yonder Alonso, Yan Gomes and Bradley Zimmer.

View Full Game Coverage

BALTIMORE -- Kevin Gausman had his best start of the season on Monday night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The righty, working with a tweaked delivery he started using during his last outing in Detroit, worked in and out of the zone. He held Cleveland to four hits over eight brilliant innings. He even recorded an immaculate seventh inning, needing nine pitches to strike out Yonder Alonso, Yan Gomes and Bradley Zimmer.

View Full Game Coverage

But it didn't matter. Gausman's effort went for naught as the Orioles' offense continues to struggle at historic proportions. Baltimore was flummoxed by Tribe starter Carlos Carrasco, falling 2-1 to mark its 11th loss in 13 games. After winning the opener on Friday, the Orioles -- held to three or fewer runs for the 16th time in 23 games -- lost three of four to the Indians.

"If we consider ourselves a playoff team, then we've got to compete with those teams, whether it's early in the season, late in the season, whenever," Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said of a tough stretch in the schedule that included 2017 postseason teams like Cleveland.

"We've got to find a way to push a runner across. I hate to try to take anything positive away from a loss, but we're in these games all the way to the end. We've just got to find a way to scratch [across] a few more runs."

Video: CLE@BAL: Showalter talks loss to Indians, Gausman

Ten times already this season the Orioles have scored two or fewer runs. They entered the day with the worst batting average and on-base percentage in the Majors. And Gausman suffered the same fate as his rotation brethren the past two weeks, the hard-luck loser despite an outing that he should be proud of.

Gausman has made three consecutive quality starts and, like Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner, is pitching well enough to win games. On Monday, he got better as things went along, ending things emphatically with an eighth-inning strikeout of Jason Kipnis.

"When you get kind of hot like that, as a starter, it makes it a lot easier," Gausman said. "You get quick outs and are able to get some strikeouts in there on really good pitches. I threw too many pitches early in the game, but I was able to come back and get some big outs."

Video: CLE@BAL: Gausman tosses eight outstanding innings

But as Baltimore falls further and further back in the standings, it is becoming tougher and tougher to see the positive in each defeat.

The Orioles are frustrated, as evidenced by center fielder Adam Jones slamming down his helmet after stranding two runners in the eighth. They aren't getting the breaks or the bounces, and they're squandering some really good starting pitching.

"There's things that we gained from them pitching well in the bullpen. You're talking about W's and L's. Yeah, when you get that type of pitching performance, you feel like you need to win the game," O's manager Buck Showalter said. "But they got a good pitching performance, and that's why they're as successful as they are. You're sitting there looking at Carrasco and you're looking at [Andrew] Miller and [Cody] Allen. It's pretty tough going. So, when you get a chance to cash something in, you better do it."

The only two runs allowed by Gausman came on Alonso's homer in the second inning. He retired 21 of the next 23 batters after that, striking out seven and walking just one.

Video: CLE@BAL: Alonso crushes a two-run shot to center

But those two runs were all Carrasco would need. The righty, who threw just 49 pitches to get through five innings, held the O's to one run over 7 1/3 frames to improve to 4-0 and run his consecutive win streak to 10.

The Orioles looked poised to have a big inning in the second after a pair of singles by Jones and Davis put runners on the corners and, one out later, Chance Sisco's single brought the O's within a run. But Carrasco snagged Anthony Santander's screaming liner back up the middle and fired to first base to easily double up Davis.

Video: CLE@BAL: Sisco drives in Jones with an RBI single

Carrasco pitched around a one-out double in the seventh by Danny Valencia, striking out Sisco and getting Santander to fly out.

"We had a couple hard-hit balls that … I thought the double play with Santander was tough because that ball's probably headed up the middle," Showalter said of the second-inning liner. "When you're having your struggles offensively, those are the type of things that seem to happen."

Video: CLE@BAL: Carrasco catches quick liner, turns DP

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
For the second consecutive game, the Orioles chased a Tribe starter only to deal with Miller. After a one-out single by Tim Beckham ended Carrasco's night, Miller struck out pinch-hitter Trey Mancini. Manny Machado -- named the co-American League Player of the Week -- found a hole at short to give the O's two baserunners, but Jones grounded out to quash the rally.

Video: CLE@BAL: Miller induces forceout to end the inning

MANCINI BACK, BECKHAM HURT
Mancini, who left Friday's game after slamming his right knee into the unpadded part of the outfield wall, pinch-hit for Pedro Alvarez and struck out in the eighth inning.

Beckham, who singled before Mancini hit, was removed for pinch-hitter Luis Sardinas. The infielder is dealing with groin and Achilles soreness.

"I'll know a lot more tomorrow and after tonight, but it's a concern," Showalter said of Beckham, who was examined by head athletic trainer Brian Ebel after his one-out single. "I'm a little more concerned about the groin right now. Really, both of them." More >

Video: CLE@BAL: Beckham singles, later exits in the 8th

SOUND SMART
Gausman is the first Orioles pitcher to record an immaculate inning since 1988.

HE SAID IT
"I didn't realize it until I got in the dugout. [My teammates] were a little more pumped up than they'd normally be. Told me I tied Major League history or something. I did it in college once before. But to do it in the big leagues is obviously a little different." -- Gausman, on the immaculate inning

UP NEXT
Alex Cobb will face his former team at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday as Tampa Bay comes to town. Cobb took the loss after surrendering seven runs (five earned) on 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings on Thursday against Detroit. Cobb's Orioles tenure is off to a rocky start, as he has allowed 15 runs (12 earned) through just seven innings in his first two starts. He'll be opposed by righty Jake Faria.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles, Kevin Gausman

Giants ride Mac's 464-foot blast to beat Nats

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- The legend of Mac Williamson continued to grow with San Francisco's 4-2 victory Monday night over the Washington Nationals, just like the reputations of previous Giants capable of prodigious feats.

From recent years, think of Tim Lincecum throwing unhittable pitches with his impossibly long stride or Madison Bumgarner pitching as well as hitting his way to victory. From previous eras, ponder Barry Bonds and Willie McCovey hitting balls literally out of sight, Juan Marichal creating shutout masterpieces with his leg kick as well as his arm action or Willie Mays doing just about anything.

View Full Game Coverage

SAN FRANCISCO -- The legend of Mac Williamson continued to grow with San Francisco's 4-2 victory Monday night over the Washington Nationals, just like the reputations of previous Giants capable of prodigious feats.

From recent years, think of Tim Lincecum throwing unhittable pitches with his impossibly long stride or Madison Bumgarner pitching as well as hitting his way to victory. From previous eras, ponder Barry Bonds and Willie McCovey hitting balls literally out of sight, Juan Marichal creating shutout masterpieces with his leg kick as well as his arm action or Willie Mays doing just about anything.

View Full Game Coverage

Sheer power is Williamson's stock-in-trade. In Monday's sixth inning, he drove a two-run homer to right-center field at AT&T Park, an area rarely reached by right-handed batters such as him.

Tweet from @_dadler: Mac Williamson's 464-foot HR in San Francisco tonight is the farthest by a right-handed hitter to the opposite side of the field (i.e. right of dead center) since #Statcast™ started tracking in 2015. #SFGiants pic.twitter.com/3VtYk7kGO7

The numbers proved that Williamson's clout was as impressive as it looked. According to Statcast™, it traveled a projected 464 feet.That ranked second among Giants only to Brandon Belt's 475-foot drive on May 22, 2015 -- the year of Statcast™'s inception. It also tied for the fourth-longest homer in the Major Leagues this season.

Williamson's round-tripper was the fifth-hardest tracked by Statcast™ from a Giant, complementing his all-time, hardest-hit ball just last Friday at Anaheim (114.2 mph).

Giants manager Bruce Bochy insisted that he had never seen a right-handed batter deposit a ball into that area -- not even in batting practice. "It shows you how strong the guy is," Bochy said of Williamson, who connected off Nationals reliever Shawn Kelley's first pitch.

Having divided his previous three seasons between Triple-A and the Majors, Williamson refused to get too excited.

"I'm encouraged, but this is a game of adjustments," he said. "So I'm not complacent with where I am right now. I know that it's always going to be a game of adjustments. As you have success, they're going to adjust to how you're doing and you're going to adjust back to what they're doing. It's a constant chess game."

On this night, the Giants' grandmaster was starter Chris Stratton (2-1), who worked 6 2/3 innings, yielding two runs and four hits while walking three and striking out five. The right-hander paced the Giants to their third victory in four games, while Washington lost its third in a row.

The Giants have emerged victorious in Stratton's last four starts. In that span, he's personally 2-0 with a 1.05 ERA. He also improved to 4-0 with a 2.02 ERA in six career starts at AT&T Park.

Video: WSH@SF: Stratton strikes out five over 6 2/3 innings

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Stratton steps up: Stratton proved that he deserved to determine his own fate in the sixth inning, with the Giants holding a 2-1 lead. That advantage was threatened with one out when third baseman Evan Longoria misplayed a foul popup from Bryce Harper, who walked on the next pitch. Harper then went to third base as right fielder Andrew McCutchen muffed Ryan Zimmerman's catchable line drive for a two-base error. But Stratton recovered by striking out Matt Adams and retiring Matt Wieters on a harmless fly to center.

Video: WSH@SF: Stratton retires Wieters to stand two runners

HE SAID IT
"More or less, I added a leg kick and lowered the hands and [made] a few other tweaks to be balanced in my swing throughout from start to finish and be shorter and more direct to the ball." -- Williamson, explaining the changes he made in his swing during the offseason

UP NEXT
Giants left-hander Ty Blach will make his first career appearance against Washington in Tuesday's rematch beginning at 7:15 p.m. PT at AT&T Park. Left-handed-hitting Gregor Blanco could get a spot in the Giants' lineup with right-hander Tanner Roark scheduled to pitch for the Nationals. Blanco is batting .345 (10-for-29) when he starts.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com.

San Francisco Giants, Mac Williamson

Indians, Cubs and what might have been

Ahead of first matchup between two teams since 2016 Fall Classic, we look back at Game 7
MLB.com @castrovince

They met, by chance, on Michigan Avenue, the would-be World Series hero and the general manager of a title team 108 years in the making.

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis spends his offseasons in his native Chicago, where Jed Hoyer and the rest of the Cubs were the toast of the town in that winter following the 2016 season. The two crossed paths there among the upscale shops that line the Magnificent Mile, and what might have otherwise been a quick nod of recognition, instead became an opportunity to connect and dissect a World Series for the ages, mere weeks after it wrapped.