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Kemp's grand slam seals win in Kershaw's return

Outfielder delivers big hit off the bench; Ferguson throws four scoreless relief innings after ace's three frames
MLB.com @kengurnick

NEW YORK -- Matt Kemp was supposed to get Saturday night off.

Instead, he blew open an 8-3 Dodgers win over the Mets with a grand slam that will only bolster his chances to return to the All-Star Game and reinforce his candidacy for early MVP discussion.

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NEW YORK -- Matt Kemp was supposed to get Saturday night off.

Instead, he blew open an 8-3 Dodgers win over the Mets with a grand slam that will only bolster his chances to return to the All-Star Game and reinforce his candidacy for early MVP discussion.

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"I pick my spots," manager Dave Roberts said about his strategic use of Kemp in a five-run eighth inning after turning his best hitter into a spectator for most of the night.

Kemp had to share the storyline for the Dodgers' 14th win in 19 June games. There was the rusty-but-healthy three-inning return from the disabled list by Clayton Kershaw, rookie Caleb Ferguson's first Major League victory with four shutout innings of relief, Max Muncy's club-high 14th homer and a two-run pinch-hit double by Chris Taylor, who hadn't played since his left hamstring tightened on Wednesday.

Video: LAD@NYM: Muncy clobbers a homer to the upper deck

But Kemp gave New York voters something to think about. The home run off Robert Gsellman was Kemp's 13th of the season, his eighth career grand slam and seventh as a Dodger. That trails only Gil Hodges (14), Carl Furillo (eight) and Mike Piazza (eight) on the all-time franchise list.

Grand slams mean 40% off pizza

It was the Dodgers' first pinch-hit grand slam since Manny Ramirez on his Bobblehead Night, July 22, 2009 and their second grand slam in as many nights (Cody Bellinger). Kemp also has a team-high 47 RBIs.

Compare that to last year, when Kemp hit 19 homers with 64 RBIs in an injury-shortened season that led to his salary swap to the Dodgers and a remarkable career turnaround.

Video: LAD@NYM: Kemp on grand slam, Dodgers' offense

"He threw me a fastball inside and I fouled it off and he doubled up and he left something up and I just hit it hard," said Kemp, who preferred to talk about the pressure performance of Ferguson.

"He did a great job, getting out of the tough situations says a lot about him," Kemp said. "We were all happy for him."

Kemp hinted that the appeal of his one-game suspension for mixing it up with Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos after a plate collision and getting ejected June 13 might be resolved on Sunday.

"I don't know. We'll see tomorrow," he said. "I'm not worried. We'll see what happens."

Roberts said before the game he was giving Kemp a break, but what better time to give him a break than when he's in a 1-for-15 mini-slump and the opposing pitcher is Jacob deGrom, with the league's lowest ERA?

Video: LAD@NYM: Hernandez bunts in Bellinger in the 8th

The Dodgers already had a two-run lead when Kemp homered on Muncy's solo shot, Taylor's two-run double and a squeeze bunt by Enrique Hernandez that scored Bellinger. Bellinger opened the eighth inning with a base hit and hustled to third on Yasiel Puig's bloop single, on which Puig was thrown out at second. Yasmani Grandal was intentionally walked and Hernandez put down his bunt and was safe at first. Chase Utley singled off Gsellman to load the bases for Kemp.

Ferguson got the win, escaping jams with the tying run in scoring position in three different innings. He struck out six in his fourth appearance.

"It's a good trend that each time he's been out there, the stuff keeps getting better and he's handling himself considerably better," said Roberts. "There was some stress out there and he made pitches and trusted the fastball. His ability with the breaking ball was as good as we've seen it. He was attacking."

Video: LAD@NYM: Ferguson retires Conforto to strand a pair

It was Ferguson's first relief appearance, although he knew his assignment was to piggyback a short Kershaw start. He'll have the same duty the next time Kershaw starts this coming Thursday or Friday, Roberts said.

"It's something for him to grow on, that his pregame can be amended and he can be successful," said Roberts.

SOUND SMART
The Dodgers have won 11 straight games over the Mets, outscoring them 83-23, and are 25-10 in their last 35 games together. They've beaten the Mets by at least three runs in nine straight, the first time they've done that against any opponent, according to STATS.

Video: LAD@NYM: Taylor rips a pinch-hit 2-run double

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bellinger looked lost on Brandon Nimmo's triple that sailed past him for a seventh-inning triple and he still was mystified an hour later in the clubhouse.

"I've never seen a ball just cut like that," said the first baseman-turned-center fielder. "I thought I was going to catch it. And I wasn't even close. I had no idea what happened."

Video: LAD@NYM: Nimmo lines a triple to center in the 7th

Ferguson stranded Nimmo by striking out Todd Frazier and getting Asdrubal Cabrera on a ground out.

HE SAID IT
"I found out Friday. I didn't have much time to think about it. I was asking the guys in here if I should go throw. How do you do things out of the bullpen?" -- Ferguson, on learning he would be relieving

UP NEXT
Rich Hill faces the Mets in the trip finale, starting at 10:10 a.m. PT. Hill came off the disabled list at Wrigley Field with a vengeance, limiting the Cubs to three hits over six scoreless innings in his first legitimate start in six weeks, with no blister issues. Jason Vargas, the Mets' scheduled starter, was scratched Saturday night, with a replacement remaining to be determined.

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, Caleb Ferguson, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw

Astros tie it in 9th, walk off in 12th vs. KC

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- In the 12th inning, the Astros' bats came alive as Carlos Correa's single lifted the Astros to a 4-3 walk-off win over the Royals on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.

For the better part of a second consecutive game, Houston's offense was quite against a Kansas City pitching staff that entered Saturday carrying the worst team ERA in the Majors. In the ninth inning, the Astros caught a spark as Yuli Gurriel, who homered in the fourth inning, singled and Josh Reddick followed suit, setting the table for designated hitter Evan Gattis' sacrifice fly off Brandon Maurer to tie it at 3 and force extra frames.

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HOUSTON -- In the 12th inning, the Astros' bats came alive as Carlos Correa's single lifted the Astros to a 4-3 walk-off win over the Royals on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.

For the better part of a second consecutive game, Houston's offense was quite against a Kansas City pitching staff that entered Saturday carrying the worst team ERA in the Majors. In the ninth inning, the Astros caught a spark as Yuli Gurriel, who homered in the fourth inning, singled and Josh Reddick followed suit, setting the table for designated hitter Evan Gattis' sacrifice fly off Brandon Maurer to tie it at 3 and force extra frames.

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Video: KC@HOU: Gattis hits game-tying sac fly in the 9th

All five of the Astros' available relievers -- Brad Peacock, Tony Sipp, Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Collin McHugh -- held the Royals scoreless after starter Lance McCullers Jr. exited after six innings.

The Royals were in position to hand the Astros their first series loss since late May as McCullers had yielded a three-run homer to Hunter Dozier in the fourth for an early lead that stood until the ninth.

UP NEXT
Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole (8-1, 2.59 ERA) will get the ball in the series finale against the Royals at 1:10 p.m. CT on Sunday at Minute Maid Park. With Houston's off-day on Thursday, Cole will make his 16th start of the season on an extra day of rest. He allowed four runs on three hits in seven innings against the Rays on Monday. Righty Jason Hammel (2-8, 4.98) will start for Kansas City.

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas.

Houston Astros, Carlos Correa, Evan Gattis, Yuli Gurriel, Lance McCullers Jr.

Reds beat Cubs again on historic pitcher slam

Right-hander earns third straight 'W' with 6 1/3 strong innings
MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- Anthony DeSclafani wasn't sure how well he'd hit the 3-2 fastball he was offered by Cubs pitcher Brian Duensing as he stared it down while heading toward first base, but as he saw Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber give up on tracking it, he knew he had just gifted himself four additional runs of support. The ball sailed into the seats in left field for his first career grand slam.

The right-hander backed it up with 6 1/3 strong innings to elevate the Reds to an 11-2 win over the Cubs on Saturday at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati has won six in a row and nine of its last 11 games.

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CINCINNATI -- Anthony DeSclafani wasn't sure how well he'd hit the 3-2 fastball he was offered by Cubs pitcher Brian Duensing as he stared it down while heading toward first base, but as he saw Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber give up on tracking it, he knew he had just gifted himself four additional runs of support. The ball sailed into the seats in left field for his first career grand slam.

The right-hander backed it up with 6 1/3 strong innings to elevate the Reds to an 11-2 win over the Cubs on Saturday at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati has won six in a row and nine of its last 11 games.

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"It was awesome," DeSclafani said. "Everything happened so fast in that at bat, from the time I swung and hit the ball to shaking everyone's hand in the dugout."

Arms That Hammer Sweepstakes

The stage for DeSclafani's blast was set by six consecutive batters reaching in front of him with two outs -- five coming against a laboring Duensing. A Scooter Gennett double and Eugenio Suarez single each brought in a run to give Cincinnati a 4-1 lead. Duensing walked Jesse Winker, yielded a base hit to Adam Duvall and then fell behind 3-0 to DeSclafani, who had just 16 hits in 116 career at-bats coming in. DeSclafani watched two fastballs go by for strikes and had a hunch a third one was coming. He guessed correctly and sent it into the left-field seats to blow the game open at 8-1.

"Anthony, I will tell you has put work into that," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "From the time he has been here going back to 2015, he was not a good handler of the bat. But he put a lot of work in. He's got a few hits in his career now. He is not a bad hitter. Once he knew the pitcher had to get one in there and not walk him, he was feeling pretty good about it."

Video: CHC@CIN: Riggleman on Reds' all-around success

The slam was DeSclafani's first career home run and the first grand slam hit by a Reds pitcher since Bob Purkey hit one against the Cubs on Aug. 1, 1959. It was the first grand slam hit by a pitcher since Jaime Garcia did it for the Braves on July 21, 2017, at Dodger Stadium.

The Reds have seven grand slams on the season, which is the most in the big leagues, and it was the fourth slam hit by the club in the past 10 days.

The blast highlighted a six-run third inning for Cincinnati after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a two-run home run from Tucker Barnhart. The Reds catcher has 10 hits in his last seven games and is batting .322 during that stretch.

 Video: CHC@CIN: Barnhart opens the scoring with a 2-run jack

As exceptional as DeSclafani's long ball was, his handiwork on the mound matched that. He gave up two runs on three hits with three strikeouts and four walks and exited the mound to an ovation in the seventh.

"I had to kind of refocus myself," DeSclafani said. "It was still early in the game there. I had to make sure I went three or four more innings and try to put up more zeros."

His lone mistakes came by way of home runs hit by Willson Contreras in the second inning and Ben Zobrist in the sixth. Aside from that, he only pitched out of one other jam and kept a lid on one of the more dangerous lineups in the National League.

Video: CHC@CIN: DeScalfani shines on the mound, with the bat

"I tried pitching to my strength," DeSclafani said. "I stayed away a lot today. I don't know if I was making quality pitches, but sometimes you have those days where you miss barrels. Other days you make great pitches and they get hit. Today I was attacking, and it worked in my favor as far as getting ground balls or weak popups."

The right-hander has earned a win in three consecutive outings and is now 3-1 in four starts since coming off the 60-day disabled list on June 5 after sustaining a strained left oblique in Spring Training. His debut earlier this month signified the end of a long road back for DeSclafani, who had not pitched in the Major Leagues since September 2016 due to a multitude of injuries.

DeSclafani's outing was the fourth quality start the Reds' rotation has produced in five games and the sixth in the last 10 for a staff that has struggled at times this year. The starting pitching has posted a 2.70 ERA during the six-game winning streak.

"Just an outstanding job," Riggleman said. "Anytime these guys are getting us into the seventh inning we will take that every time. Our guys have really been doing that lately."

Video: CHC@CIN: Votto scores three with a homer in the 8th

Joey Votto added a three-run blast in the eighth, and the Reds bullpen blanked the Cubs the rest of the way after DeSclafani's departure. The Cincinnati 'pen has allowed just one earned run in its last 12 innings. Cincinnati moved to 5-0 in the current homestand after the win.

"We have played clean baseball," Riggleman said. "We have run the bases well, made the plays, hit the cutoff man. We have really played and gotten timely hits, things we know we are capable of doing. We've put a nice string of ballgames together."

SOUND SMART
DeSclafani's slam was the first home run hit by a Reds starting pitcher since Mike Leake on April 30, 2015. He was the first Cincinnati pitcher to record four RBIs in a game since Bronson Arroyo collected four RBIs on June 3, 2006, in a game against the Astros. DeSclafani said after the game it was the first home run he had hit since high school and the first grand slam he had hit at any level of baseball.

HE SAID IT
"Through a season you have your ups and downs. I feel like we are all feeling good right now. We are positive and confident every time we go out there, and we feel like things are starting to snowball in the right direction for us." -- DeSclafani, on the six-game winning streak

UP NEXT
The Reds wrap up this four-game series against the Cubs and a six-game homestand with Sal Romano on the mound. The right-hander is coming off back-to-back strong outings in which he turned eight innings of one-run baseball at Kansas City and earned a win against Detroit on Tuesday. Romano tossed seven shutout innings against the Tigers and scattered four hits with six strikeouts and four walks. Chicago will counter with Tyler Chatwood for Sunday's 1:10 p.m. ET game.

Brian Scott Rippee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Reds, Anthony DeSclafani, Joey Votto

Bauer K's 11 to help Tribe win sixth straight

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Indians starter Trevor Bauer continued his dominance against Detroit with another exceptional start on Saturday at Progressive Field.

Bauer entered the contest 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts against the Tigers this season and the right-hander shined again, striking out 11 across 6 1/3 innings in the Tribe's 4-1 win, Cleveland's sixth consecutive victory. Bauer allowed one run, scattered five hits and improved to 7-5.

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CLEVELAND -- Indians starter Trevor Bauer continued his dominance against Detroit with another exceptional start on Saturday at Progressive Field.

Bauer entered the contest 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts against the Tigers this season and the right-hander shined again, striking out 11 across 6 1/3 innings in the Tribe's 4-1 win, Cleveland's sixth consecutive victory. Bauer allowed one run, scattered five hits and improved to 7-5.

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"He's definitely on a mission," shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "I don't know what the mission is, but it's a good mission. I'm happy for him. I'm excited. Hopefully he does this the whole year, so he can help us win."

Bauer's biggest jam came in the first inning when the Tigers loaded the bases after Bauer struck out Leonys Martin and Jeimer Candelario to start the game. Nicholas Castellanos walked, Victor Martinez singled and Niko Goodrum was hit, but the two-out threat was squandered after Bauer struck out James McCann looking.

Video: DET@CLE: Bauer K's the side, leaves bases full

"One of my mindsets has been [that] I want to throw first-pitch strikes, get to two strikes as quickly as possible," Bauer said. "That helps me keep my pitch-count down and also get my strikeouts. It's a lot easier to do that, and to pick off more of the white of the plate, when you have a lead like that."

Detroit pushed its lone run across in the second and forced Bauer's pitch count to 47 after JaCoby Jones reached on an infield single. Jones stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice fly from Jose Iglesias. Bauer then threw a curveball in the dirt that catcher Roberto Perez was unable to block, allowing Jones to score.

"With most guys, you kind of panic," manager Terry Francona said. "With Trevor, you kind of know that he's going to hold his stuff and go find a way."

Bauer then settled down and retired 10 of the next 12, striking out six in that span. Bauer opened the seventh inning by striking out Iglesias looking on a buckling 80.9-mph knuckle-curve. However, Bauer's night was over after allowing a single to Goodrum.

Video: DET@CLE: Bauer uses filthy curve for 11th strikeout

Bauer has struck out at least 10 batters in six of his last eight starts. He has thrown 56 innings during that span, and held opponents to a .201/.259/.299 slash line with an 83-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Bauer also held a 37.7-percent strikeout rate and a 6.4-percent walk rate in that stretch, and averaged 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

Bauer's 11 strikeouts give him 81 against American League Central opponents, eclipsing Astros starter Gerrit Cole's 80 for the most in the Majors against a divisional foe. The start also marked Bauer's seventh 10-plus strikeout game of the season, which leads all AL pitchers and trails only the Nationals' Max Scherzer, who has 10, overall.

"I have a lot of things I can go to that can kind of disguise what I'm trying to do to a hitter or even just get a hitter out multiple different ways," Bauer said. "So, I think I'm a lot better prepared arsenal-wise this year to face the same lineup multiple times in a row or in close succession to each other."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Encarnacion profits from error: The Indians scored three runs off Tigers starter Francisco Liriano in the first inning. Liriano allowed the first four batters to reach, with Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion singling. Ramirez scored Lindor, Encarnacion scored Ramirez, and Encarnacion came home in part from an error by Tigers catcher James McCann.

Encarnacion was running home on a single from Brandon Guyer when McCann was unable to handle the throw home from center fielder Martin, giving the Indians a 3-0 lead.

Video: DET@CLE: Encarnacion grounds an RBI single to center

"The way that I had it kind of secured was my hand was kind of holding it there," McCann said. "I didn't have a grip on the ball, and when [Encarnacion] hit my arm, that kind of rolled the ball out."

SOUND SMART
Bauer's outing upped his season strikeout total to 140, which ties him with Boston's Chris Sale for most in the American League. It's also the fourth-highest total in franchise history through 16 starts, trailing Bob Feller (152 in 1946), Corey Kluber (149 in 2017) and Sam McDowell (148 in 1965).

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the fifth, Lindor went deep off Alex Wilson for his 18th homer of the season. The hit capped a 2-for-4 showing for the shortstop, who also finished with two runs scored and an RBI.

Lindor's homer came off an 86.1-mph hanging slider that was 3.53 feet above home plate, marking the highest pitch ever hit out by Lindor. He sent the 2-2 offering an estimated 380 feet with a 103 mph exit velocity and 22 degree launch angle, per Statcast™.

Video: DET@CLE: Lindor belts his 18th HR of the year

"Sometimes you just tip your cap," Wilson said. "There's nothing else I can do right there. The ball's not in the strike zone, up and in, and somehow he got the barrel on it and kept it fair. He's got crazy pop, everybody knows it. It's just a frustrating one to give up, especially to the first guy I face."

HE SAID IT
"I don't know what happened. Today was a weird day. We dropped three or four balls. Some bad luck, and I don't know if it has something to do with this place, or the way we've played here the last couple years. My first year or two here, we didn't lose here, and it went 180 degrees over the last couple years. It's one of those frustrating things. They're obviously a much better team now than they were back then, but they still had a pretty good lineup back then. It was always the pitching side of things. Unless you ran into [Corey] Kluber, you were going to be OK. [Miguel Cabrera] and J.D. [Martinez], when they came here, they hit homers and doubles. They did nothing but damage. But the last couple years, their rotation is one of the best in baseball." -- Wilson, on the Indians' recent success against the Tigers

UP NEXT
Right-hander Adam Plutko (3-1, 5.04 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball for the Tribe on Sunday, when the Indians host the Tigers in a 1:10 p.m. ET divisional clash at Progressive Field. This will mark Plutko's first appearance against Detroit since a relief outing in 2016. The Tigers will counter with lefty Matthew Boyd (4-5, 3.63).

Casey Harrison is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. You can follow him on Twitter @Casey_Harrison1.

Cleveland Indians

MLB Buzz: Rangers shopping Beltre, 2 relievers

MLB.com

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

Rangers make Beltre, two relievers available
June 23: The Rangers are shopping veteran third baseman Adrian Beltre, as well as relievers Jake Diekman and Keone Kela, according to the Dallas Morning News.

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

Rangers make Beltre, two relievers available
June 23: The Rangers are shopping veteran third baseman Adrian Beltre, as well as relievers Jake Diekman and Keone Kela, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Beltre, who collected his 3,000th career hit last season and is 34 home runs shy of 500, is hitting .314/.365/.456 with four home runs in 47 games this season. He's missed time due to hamstring injuries, and injuries limited him to 94 games in 2017.

The 39-year-old is a free agent after this season and can veto any proposed trade given his service-time rights, so he could steer his way to a team with a chance to contend for the postseason. The potential third-base market leans heavily to the supply side, with the Orioles' Manny Machado, the Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson and the Royals' Mike Moustakas potentially on the move prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Morosi: Hot market for hot corner

Diekman, also a free agent at season's end, has a 2.96 ERA over 33 appearances (27 1/3 innings) this season. Kela, the Rangers' closer, has a 3.67 ERA and 18 saves in 29 appearances.

Reds drawing interest in Duvall
June 23: Outfielder Adam Duvall is drawing a "surprising" amount of trade interest according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in a video for FOX Sports. Duvall is hitting .203/.285/.409 with 12 home runs for Cincinnati this season, but has been pretty unlucky according to Statcast™: Entering Saturday, his expected batting average based on launch angle and exit velocity of batted balls was .249.

Over the past two seasons, Duvall slashed .245/.299/.489 with 64 homers in 307 games. He also finished as a Gold Glove Award finalist in both seasons and was selected as an All-Star in 2016. The 29-year-old is under team control over the next three seasons.

O's star Jones 'holds all the cards'
June 23: Five-time All-Star Adam Jones has been stellar for the Orioles, batting .291 with a 109 OPS+ through Friday's action. But Jones told Baltimore Sun reporter Jon Meoli on Friday that the Orioles had not approached him in any capacity about a potential trade, even as the team likely pivots to a rebuilding phase in these weeks leading up to the Trade Deadline.

"I can't let it bother me," Jones told the Sun. "I'm in a different part of my life to where I'm not anticipating a $150 million, $200 million, $300 million offer this offseason. I'm more just, 'Let me go be a pro, do what I do best,' and that's play the game hard and live with the result."

Jones can veto any trade opportunity by virtue of his 13 years of Major League service time and 11 consecutive seasons in Baltimore. Telling the Sun that he "holds all the cards" in a trade scenario, Jones was realistic about his role in the marketplace as he plays through his age-32 season.

"What I'm trying to do is maintain my value and continue the path that I've been on of consistency and performing year-in and year-out," Jones said. "I'm just basically doing me, and not worrying about everybody else."

Jones represents a potentially valuable veteran presence should teams need an outfielder near the Deadline. He is one of a handful of Orioles players including Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and others that make Baltimore arguably the most intriguing potential seller this summer. Jones has hit at least 25 home runs in each of his past seven big league seasons, and he has recorded an OPS below league average just once since 2009.

Nats say asking price on Realmuto too high
June 22: The Nationals could be among the most aggressive teams in making significant roster upgrades these next few weeks, but the cost for Marlins backstop J.T. Realmuto remains prohibitive, at least in the eyes of Nats general manager Mike Rizzo.

Here's what Rizzo said in a candid interview on Friday with MLB Network Radio about potentially acquiring Miami's backstop:

"[The Marlins] are not going to sell him cheap. We know what the return has to be on Realmuto, and we're not willing to meet that price. So unless something changes there, on their end, we're going to go with [Matt] Wieters when he gets healthy and a combination of [Pedro] Severino and [Spencer] Kieboom to back him up."

Feinsand: 10 players whose trade stock is on the rise

The Nats were very publicly linked to Realmuto throughout the winter, but -- as appears to still be the case -- the asking price was too high. Many reports over the offseason alluded that Miami, in the midst of a major overhaul, was asking for at least one of its top two prospects, Victor Robles or Juan Soto, both of whom have excelled in brief MLB stints.

Realmuto, 27, remains under club control through 2020, which assuredly would be one of the many enticing returns for Washington, which has many significant contributors hitting free agency this winter. Realmuto is batting .297/.355/.524 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs in 54 games this season for a Marlins club that entered Friday with a 29-46 record.

Video: Mike Lowell breaks down J.T. Realmuto, his value

Astros remain interested in acquiring Britton
June 22: After nearly trading for Orioles closer Zach Britton last season, the Astros remain interested in the left-hander, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for FanRag Sports.

Houston and Baltimore agreed on a deal sending Britton to the Astros for multiple players before the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2017, but it was reportedly vetoed by Orioles owner Peter Angelos after physicals were exchanged.

• Non-waiver Trade Deadline explained

Britton has allowed only one hit over 4 1/3 scoreless innings since he returned from right Achilles tendon surgery, and he's walked just one batter after issuing three free passes in his season debut.

The bullpen arguably remains the Astros' biggest weakness, and yet, the club's relief corps has performed incredibly well lately, posting the third-best ERA (2.03) in the Majors during June.

Hector Rondon has emerged as the Astros' primary closer this month, notching four saves in four chances, and Chris Devenski (1.57 ERA), Collin McHugh (1.13 ERA) and Brad Peacock (2.30 ERA) have also excelled this season. Even Ken Giles, who posted a 7.88 ERA in May and allowed three runs in his first two June appearances, has found a groove, tossing four straight scoreless outings.

Morning Lineup Podcast talks third-base trade market

Rangers willing to pay part of Choo's contract in trade
June 22: The Rangers have made Shin-Soo Choo available and are willing to pay part of the veteran's salary to get a deal done, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for FanRag Sports.

The 35-year-old is owed $42 million over the 2019-20 seasons as part of the seven-year, $130 million contract he signed with Texas in December 2013.

Choo has reached base in 34 straight games and owns a stellar 134 wRC+ this season. However, his defensive capabilities in the outfield are limited at this point, and he's spent much of the year as the Rangers' designated hitter. That, along with his contract, could reduce that number of teams interested in acquiring him.

"No chance" Pirates trade Taillon
June 22: Even if the Pirates decide to sell, Jameson Taillon is not expected to be one of the players available, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for FanRag Sports.

A source told Heyman there is "no chance" Pittsburgh moves its 26-year-old right-hander, who has posted a 4.03 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP this season.

Taillon won't be arbitration eligible for the first time until the 2019-2020 offseason and has four seasons remaining after this one before he reaches free agency.

Pirates players who are more likely to be dealt include Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Corey Dickerson and Ivan Nova.

Mets more likely to trade Wheeler than deGrom, Syndergaard?
June 21: The Mets have been calling around to gauge other teams' trade interest in their players, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for FanRag Sports.

Video: Morning Lineup: Teams that could trade for deGrom

While rivals are dubious the Mets will trade either Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, the club is finding interest in Zack Wheeler, per Heyman. Meanwhile, there hasn't been much chatter yet regarding Steven Matz.

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported Monday that the Mets are "open for business" as it relates to prospective trade offers ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

However, it will likely take a major haul to acquire either deGrom or Syndergaard. A Mets source told Heyman the club would need to get Gleyber Torres back to trade deGrom to the Yankees, which provides a sense of the asking price the club has placed on the ace. Of course, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has already nixed the idea of trading Torres, joking that he still has to "walk around this city."

Wheeler will surely cost teams less than it would take to acquire deGrom or Syndergaard. The righty owns a 4.82 ERA this season and has an extensive injury history, but his FIP is a promising 3.80. He was also hitting 99 mph with his four-seam fastball in his most recent start on June 17 against the D-backs.

Could Phils jump into Machado sweepstakes early?
June 21: The Phillies, who have been thought to be planning a pursuit of Orioles third baseman Manny Machado when he hits the free-agent market this offseason, are having problems on the left side of their infield: Not only have they been getting little production there, rookie shortstop/third baseman J.P. Crawford recently broke his left hand when he was hit by a pitch.

Duquette: 7 potential trade destinations for Machado

According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for FanRag Sports, Philadelphia -- with several front-office executives having been with Baltimore when Machado was drafted -- would love to add the superstar third baseman, but the question remains whether the Phillies will be a contender as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline nears.

Royals shift focus to trading Moustakas after Herrera deal
June 21: After a trade that sent closer Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals, the Royals are now shifting their focus to moving third baseman Mike Moustakas, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for FanRag Sports.

Moustakas is on a one-year deal with Kansas City that includes a mutual option for 2019. He's having a solid season, slashing .263/.319/.480 with 14 home runs after belting a career-high 38 in 2017, though he has been slumping of late. Moustakas has played his entire eight-year career with the Royals.

Video: MLB Tonight on Herrera being traded to the Nats

Padres a potential trade suitor for Machado?
June 21: The list of potential trade destinations for Orioles shortstop Manny Machado could surprisingly include San Diego, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for FanRag Sports.

The Padres have certainly shown a willingness to make bold moves during general manager A.J. Preller's tenure, trading for Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Craig Kimbrel prior to the 2015 season and signing Eric Hosmer to a club-record $144 million, eight-year contract in February 2018. And with the No. 1 farm system in baseball, per MLB Pipeline's preseason rankings, the Padres certainly have a prospect group that will entice the Orioles.

Video: Morosi discusses Machado trade possibilities and more

A trade between the Padres and Orioles remains unlikely, however, as San Diego is in last place in the National League West and would have little chance of re-signing Machado after this season, given their sizable commitment to Hosmer and Machado's preference to remain at shortstop long term. San Diego's top prospect is shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.

Per Heyman, a Padres source downplayed the possibility of a Machado deal and said the club is simply doing its "due diligence."

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

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

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

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

Video: DeRo discusses his Top 5 trade candidates

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

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

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

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

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

Video: MLB Tonight on the D-backs' interest in Machado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cards solve Crew behind Yadi's 2 home runs

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

MILWAUKEE -- Three short days and three long losses ago, the Cardinals whiffed and waited their way to a loss in Philadelphia, despite two home runs from Yadier Molina. They followed a similar script Saturday against the Brewers, though this time, Molina's power was enough to survive with a win.

Backed by a strong start by Miles Mikolas, what his manager called "the best game" of Molina's career powered the Cardinals to an essential 3-2 victory at Miller Park.

View Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- Three short days and three long losses ago, the Cardinals whiffed and waited their way to a loss in Philadelphia, despite two home runs from Yadier Molina. They followed a similar script Saturday against the Brewers, though this time, Molina's power was enough to survive with a win.

Backed by a strong start by Miles Mikolas, what his manager called "the best game" of Molina's career powered the Cardinals to an essential 3-2 victory at Miller Park.

View Full Game Coverage

Molina cranked a solo homer off Chase Anderson in the second and the go-ahead shot off Jeremy Jeffress in the sixth to cap a banner road trip for the eight-time All-Star. With five home runs in his last six games, Molina moved into a tie for the National League lead among catchers with 11. Now in his age-35 season and 15th campaign with the Cardinals, Molina set the Major League mark for most games caught with one club earlier in the week.

"What he's doing behind the plate is willpower," Mike Matheny said. "Being able to handle pain and discomfort … He's smarter at the plate. He has such a great idea, and he's dangerous, obviously. It's hard to say, if he kept playing where he'd be right now in the home run column and a number of others."

Video: STL@MIL: Mikolas and Molina on close 3-2 victory

Though the Cardinals largely weathered the month Molina spent on the disabled list, his importance has been plain to see over this recent slide, which has been full of one-run games and all-or-nothing offensive efforts. Saturday provided a microcosm of the pros and pitfalls of that approach -- as well as their dependance on Molina.

His two homers accounted for half of St. Louis' hits. Behind the plate, he guided Mikolas across 6 2/3 strong frames, and three young relievers through two precarious late-inning jams.

"When I signed here, I was so excited to play with him, and to see the caliber of player he still is at this age is incredible," said Bud Norris, who rebounded from Friday's walk-off loss to notch his 14th save. "Everybody is leaning on him right now. It was a big fall when he left, and we're ecstatic to have him back."

Video: STL@MIA: Norris induces 6-4-3 DP, earns 14th save

Molina sent both of his long balls to the opposite field: He drove a 3-1 four-seamer from Anderson off the terrace beyond the right-center-field wall and inside-outed an 0-1 Jeffress heater just beyond the yellow home run line. That was enough to make Mikolas a winner for the eighth time, and ensure St. Louis avoided its ninth loss in 11 games.

"The most important thing for us is to win games, so that's what's on my mind," Molina said. "We have to get back on track, and that was the mentality today."

Video: STL@MIL: Mikolas fans 5 across 6 2/3 solid innings

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mikolas surrendered only a lone single after the Brewers manufactured their two tallies in the first, retiring 16 in a row before walking Brad Miller with one out in the seventh. He then gave way to Jordan Hicks after a Jedd Gyorko error pushed the tying run into scoring position a batter later. After a brief injury scare, Hicks retired Manny Pina to escape the threat.

Video: STL@MIL: Hicks retires Pina, strands runner at third

The Cardinals again flirted with the dramatic in the eighth, when Austin Gomber and Sam Tuivailala combined to load the bases for Jesus Aguilar, Milwaukee's hottest hitter and Friday night's hero. The situation drew an interesting parallel to Wednedsay's loss in Philadelphia, when Tuivailala allowed a go-ahead homer to spoil Molina's last multi-homer effort. This time, the righty coaxed a harmless grounder out of Aguilar to end the threat.

"That's the guy we didn't want to beat us again," Molina said. "That was the game right there."

Video: STL@MIL: Tuivailala retires Aguilar, escapes trouble

SOUND SMART
No longer an all-or-nothing quirk the Cardinals can shrug off, a dependance on power has become more than a defining trait of their offense. They struck out 13 times Saturday, ballooning their strikeout rate to 25.8 percent over the last two weeks. That ranks third highest in the NL during that span; their 23.1-K rate places sixth among NL clubs.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Inserted for defensive purposes in the eighth, second baseman Kolten Wong made an immediate impact on a play Molina called a "game changer." With a runner on and no out, Gomber elicited a slow roller off the bat of Eric Thames. Wong opted to tag the runner instead of turn a traditional double play, "then had the quick hands to have enough on the ball" to get Thames at first, Matheny said.

Despite his .186/.284/.308 slash line, Wong entered play tops among NL second basemen with 11 Defensive Runs Saved.

Video: STL@MIL: Wong charges grounder, turns DP in the 8th

HICKS STAYS IN 
Matheny admitted to being "a little gun-shy" with his pitchers, given the rash of injuries to hit the Cardinals' staff. That apprehension was on display in the seventh, when Matheny and the training staff rushed out to check on Hicks following the rookie's first pitch. Matheny said something looked "atypical" and "different" in Hicks' warmup pitches, prompting the visit.

"He didn't have the crispness. It wasn't the same. We watch him so much, we catch things that don't look right," Matheny said. "But he said he was good. But let's check. Let's find out for sure."

Statcast™ backs that up: Hicks' first pitch to Pina registered at 96.3 mph -- unusually low for the rookie who typically lives in the triple digits. Hicks' next four pitches clocked in at least 99 mph. His final one hit 101.3 mph and resulted in Pina's inning-ending groundout.

Video: STL@MIL: Hicks checked on by trainer in 7th

HE SAID IT
"When you're in tune with your catcher, it seems like we're reading each other's minds out there. It makes you confident in your stuff." -- Mikolas

UP NEXT
Thanks to Saturday's one-run victory, the Cardinals can salvage a split of this four-game series by taking Sunday's finale. Luke Weaver (3-6, 4.69) gets the ball for St. Louis, eyeing his first win since May 11. The right-hander has allowed four runs in each of his last three starts. Jhoulys Chacin (6-2, 3.18) counters for Milwaukee, with first pitch set for 1:10 p.m. CT from Miller Park.

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

St. Louis Cardinals, Miles Mikolas, Yadier Molina

EJax to pitch for 13th team today, tie MLB mark

Back on June 6, the A's announced that they had signed Edwin Jackson to a Minor League contract. Not a particularly noteworthy move on its face, sure, but longtime readers of Cut4 realized that it put some MLB history within reach. Oakland marked Jackson's 13th organization over 15 big league seasons -- leaving the veteran righty just a phone call away from tying Octavio Dotel's all-time record. 

Just a few short weeks later, we're pleased to report that the day has finally come: According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the A's plan to call Jackson up to start against the Tigers on Monday.

Phils win thanks to Franco's wild day on bases

Slugger goes 4-for-4, beats two throws at home plate
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Saturday for Maikel Franco -- and the Phillies -- was a tale of two slides.

The Phillies beat the Nationals, 5-3, Saturday afternoon, and while it continued to prove the youngsters from Philly can stand with the National League East's perennial best, it also spotlighted the continued development of the 25-year-old Franco, who finished the day going 4-for-4 along with key baserunning.

View Full Game Coverage

WASHINGTON -- Saturday for Maikel Franco -- and the Phillies -- was a tale of two slides.

The Phillies beat the Nationals, 5-3, Saturday afternoon, and while it continued to prove the youngsters from Philly can stand with the National League East's perennial best, it also spotlighted the continued development of the 25-year-old Franco, who finished the day going 4-for-4 along with key baserunning.

View Full Game Coverage

"I [felt] pretty good today," Franco said. "Like I said, I try to go out there and do everything I can for my team -- help my team to win and be able to do anything that I can do."

Franco's first slide at home tied the game at 2 in the second. His next slide at home gave the Phillies the lead in the seventh. It was encouraging for Franco -- and manager Gabe Kapler -- as both have been looking for the third basemen to more completely round out his game after being thrust into a larger role with J.P. Crawford injured.

Video: PHI@WSH: Nola drives in Franco with a single to right

Franco saw a chance to make an impact while on third base in the seventh inning. Pinch-hitter Jesmuel Valentin lined out to right, but Franco was able to slide in just in time before the throw from Adam Eaton -- the second time of the day Franco was able to beat Eaton's throw home. He gave his team the lead, later solidified by Carlos Santana's third home run in his past four games and an RBI single from Franco -- both off Kelvin Herrera -- in the eighth.

Video: PHI@WSH: Santana extends lead on opposite-field homer

Coming off his worst start of 2018, Aaron Nola's day began promisingly, but the Nats battled. The righty retired the first two Nationals he faced with just four pitches, but a two-out single from Anthony Rendon and a ground-rule double from Juan Soto brought up Daniel Murphy, who sent a 3-2 changeup up the middle to score both Rendon and Soto.

Despite the two runs, Nola settled back in, going six strong innings while only giving up two more hits on 84 total pitches. In the second inning, he helped make up what he lost in the first with an opposite-field RBI single, capping off a rally of four straight singles from the Phillies' offense. The bullpen allowed two hits -- one a homer to Rendon -- and Seranthony Dominguez shut the door for his fifth save of the year.

Video: PHI@WSH: Nola fans 5, picks up RBI single

Winners of four consecutive series -- three of which have come against teams above .500 -- Philadelphia sits at 41-33 on the season and 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Braves after Atlanta has lost three straight.

"It may change the external conversations," Kapler said of the success, "but certainly internally, we thought that, 'We went through this stretch and got beat up a little bit', or, 'We went through this stretch and came out in a really good spot'. We still are the same high quality team."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Franco slips up:  Franco's two slides at home were sandwiched around a learning moment for him, also on a slide. A single up the middle in the fourth caused the Nationals' middle infielders into a near-collision, and as Franco tried to stretch his hit into a double amid the chaos, he overslid the bag and was tagged out by Murphy. Nick Williams moved to third, but it allowed the Nationals to intentionally walk Jorge Alfaro to bring up the pitcher's spot with two outs. Erick Fedde escaped the threat, though it could have potentially been a bases-loaded, one-out situation for the Phillies.

Video: PHI@WSH: Murphy tags out Franco trying to take second

"It's just a healthy reminder that he's 25," Kapler said of Franco. "There are going to be ebbs and flows. There are going to be ups and downs. We have to stay resilient as a support system. He has to stay resilient as an athlete. ... We put him in the best spots to succeed. I trust that when we do, he's going to come out swinging.

SOUND SMART
Franco's four hits Saturday matched his production from the 28 at-bats that preceded the day. He was 4-for-28 entering Saturday, and his last four-hit game came on July 14, 2017, against the Brewers.

Video: PHI@WSH: Franco picks up 4th hit, plates Kingery

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Franco's go-ahead slide in the seventh wasn't without controversy. Catcher Spencer Kieboom's tag hit Franco on the hip as the play was initially ruled safe. The Nationals challenged the play, and after a review, the call on the field stood, giving the Phillies the lead. 

Video: PHI@WSH: Franco scores on sac fly despite challenge

HE SAID IT
"We are playing really good right now. We have to stay positive and stay consistent and everybody does something to help the team. That's how you want to win the ballgames. We play with a lot of energy, we go out there and don't think about who's pitching, who's on the mound. We just go out there and show a lot of energy. -- Franco, on the Phillies' recent success

UP NEXT
The Phillies turn to Nick Pivetta Sunday night, looking for their first sweep at Nationals Park since 2016. Pivetta, who is coming off one of his strongest outings of the season, will be opposed by Nationals rookie Jefry Rodriguez. First pitch is slated for 8:05 ET.

Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.

Philadelphia Phillies, Maikel Franco

Six-run 2nd fuels Rangers to 7th straight win

Texas escapes bases-loaded jam in ninth to remain hot on road
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

MINNEAPOLIS -- This all started with an infield single by Rangers designated hitter Adrian Beltre leading off the second inning. Twins third baseman Eduardo Escobar made a terrific diving stop along the line and a strong throw to first. But Beltre had enough to beat it out.

"Speed kills, don't you know that," Beltre said.

View Full Game Coverage

MINNEAPOLIS -- This all started with an infield single by Rangers designated hitter Adrian Beltre leading off the second inning. Twins third baseman Eduardo Escobar made a terrific diving stop along the line and a strong throw to first. But Beltre had enough to beat it out.

"Speed kills, don't you know that," Beltre said.

View Full Game Coverage

That hit, one of three on the afternoon for Beltre, sparked a six-run rally that wiped out the Twins' two-run lead and sent the Rangers on the way to their seventh straight victory with a 9-6 win at Target Field on Saturday afternoon. This is the longest active winning streak in the Majors and the Rangers' longest since a seven-game winning streak from Aug. 27-Sept. 3, 2016.

Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo picked up the win despite allowing a two-run home run to Eddie Rosario on his fifth pitch of the game. Gallardo also gave up a two-run home run to Logan Morrison in the sixth. He left after 5 1/3 innings and Rangers starters are 5-0 with a 3.35 ERA in their last seven games.

Video: TEX@MIN: Beltre talks end of game, 7-game win streak

Beltre's infield single came off Twins starter Jake Odorizzi. More importantly, it was a hit Beltre admitted that 10 days ago he couldn't have pulled off because of the caution needed to play on his tender left hamstring. This is a sign that he continues to make progress.

"We are always trying to be careful with the legs," Beltre said. "You have to pick your spots for sure. But I thought that was a play that I had a pretty good chance of getting on base. I was just quick enough to get there."

Rougned Odor followed with a single and Jurickson Profar was hit by a pitch to load the bases. After Joey Gallo flied out to shallow center, Robinson Chirinos drew a walk to force in a run. That was followed by a two-run single from Delino DeShields, an RBI double by Shin-Soo Choo and a two-run single from Nomar Mazara.

Video: TEX@MIN: Chirinos belts a 2-run homer into left

Chirinos also had a two-run home run in the third and Beltre added a solo shot in the fourth. Choo was 1-for-4 with a walk and has now reached base in 36 consecutive games.

"I thought the offense played really well today, especially Beltre," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Everybody up and down the lineup did their part with some walks, quality at-bats. To put six runs on the board early allowed us to settle in, play good defense and allow Gallardo to pitch and attack the hitters any way he wanted to. Solid day for everybody all around."

Starting pitching has been the catalyst for the Rangers' winning streak, but the offense has been there as well, scoring 48 runs in seven games. They have 34 walks in those seven games and are hitting .364 with runners in scoring position.

"As a group, we are starting to do a better job of both getting guys on base and getting them home," Beltre said. "This offense hasn't played like it's capable this year, but we're getting better."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Profar was hit three times by pitches. He reacted to the second one in the fourth inning by stealing second base even though the Rangers had a 9-2 lead. The Twins reacted to that by hitting Profar again in the seventh. Twins reliever Addison Reed hit Profar after missing inside with his first two pitches. Reed was not ejected, and Banister let his displeasure be known from the dugout. This is the second time this season that Profar has been hit three times in a game. The other was June 9 against the Astros when he set a club record for most times hit by a pitch.

Video: TEX@MIN: Profar goes to first on hit-by-pitch in 7th

SOUND SMART
Beltre's home run in the fourth was the 466th of his career. That moves him past Dave Winfield and Miguel Cabrera for 34th all time. Next up is Chipper Jones in 33rd place with 468 home runs. The home run had an exit velocity of 102 mph and an estimated distance of 414 feet.

Video: TEX@MIN: Beltre clobbers a solo homer to left-center

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
DeShields made another terrific catch in center. This one came in the seventh when he raced into the left-center gap to grab Joe Mauer's line drive that was slicing away from him.

Video: TEX@MIN: DeShields lays out to make superb grab

HE SAID IT
"It was definitely a first. My first time coming into a save opportunity with the bases loaded. It was something I was happy to get through and bring home the win. For sure there was a little more pressure. I understand the magnitude. One swing can change the entire game. You just have to be mindful of it and do what the game asks you to do." -- Keone Kela, who earned his 18th save by getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth.

Video: TEX@MIN: Kela fans Morrison to record the save

UP NEXT
Right-hander Bartolo Colon goes for his 245th career win when he pitches against the Twins at 1:10 p.m. CT on Sunday at Target Field. Colon, who is from the Dominican Republic, needs one more win to tie Dennis Martinez of Nicaragua for the most by a pitcher from Latin America. Colon set the record for a pitcher from the Dominican Republic with a 6-3 victory over the Royals last Monday. Right-hander Jose Berrios (7-5, 3.38 ERA) pitches for the Twins.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers

Air Force takes 1st at Armed Services Classic

Two-day competition featured military coed softball teams
Special to MLB.com

BOWIE, Md. -- Micah Kellogg spent about three seasons in the Tigers' Minor League system, dreaming of playing in the Majors.

But Kellogg only made it as far as Class A Advanced, so the Flagler College product walked away from baseball in 2015 and joined the Air Force. Now, Kellogg is one of the many Air Force active-duty members who'll live their childhood dream next month by playing in a Major League ballpark.

BOWIE, Md. -- Micah Kellogg spent about three seasons in the Tigers' Minor League system, dreaming of playing in the Majors.

But Kellogg only made it as far as Class A Advanced, so the Flagler College product walked away from baseball in 2015 and joined the Air Force. Now, Kellogg is one of the many Air Force active-duty members who'll live their childhood dream next month by playing in a Major League ballpark.

Air Force finished first in the inaugural All-Star Armed Services Classic presented by T-Mobile, which concluded Saturday, and the top two teams will compete in a championship game at Nationals Park on July 13 during MLB All-Star Week. Army placed second, but it may not advance because at least one of its players was involved in a fight during a game

"This is a big deal for active-duty military," Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Watson said. "A lot of us, we put all of our time towards our jobs and our careers to where we can't put a lot of effort toward sport. This is our shot to play on the big stage."

The two-day competition featured a round-robin tournament with coed softball teams from each of the five military branches -- Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. The squads were comprised of 16 active-duty members from each branch.

The final preliminary round of the event was scheduled for June 3, but due to a rainout, it was rescheduled for Saturday at Jericho Park. Many of the teams' members also play softball with each other in various leagues during the weekend, which helped foster mainly a friendly competition Saturday.

"A lot of folks here on our team -- Marines, Army, Coast Guard -- have been through some bad things in their career and seen some bad things," said Air Force Technical Sgt. Larry Russell, a Nationals fan. "When you deploy overseas … you create a bond that's inseparable, and then you get here and you all play ball together, and it's the same kind of bond."

Tickets to the championship game on July 13 will be distributed among military branches and service organizations, and the event will be open to the public. MLB and the Nationals will also invite government and military dignitaries to the game, which will be the first major ballpark event of All-Star Week. After the game, one member of each military branch will compete in a home run contest for a chance to participate alongside Major League players during the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on July 16.

While some Air Force members are excited to meet Major League players, they agreed the biggest honor is representing and bringing awareness toward the Air Force on a large stage.

"It's a fantastic way to touch with [civilians] to give them a little bit of a glimpse of what the military is like," retired Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Kasper said. "We can put down our uniforms and put on this uniform and just be able to play a game we all love. We watch TV, you see airmen deploying and you say you support them and everything, but … when you can see that person, that makes it very personable."

Kyle Melnick is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington.

La Stella stuns Votto with dive into crowd