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What's behind Darvish's slow start?

Cubs righty has a 6.86 ERA through first four outings
MLB.com @mike_petriello

Each week on the Statcast™ Podcast, hosts Mike Petriello and Matt Meyers dig into the world of Statcast™ and advanced metrics, exploring the most important topics in baseball through the lens of the groundbreaking Statcast™ technology. Download, subscribe and help others find the show by leaving a rating and review on iTunes or your favorite platform.

What's wrong with Yu Darvish? That's the question that Cubs fan have been asking this month, as their big-ticket starting pitching acquisition -- and, notably, Jake Arrieta replacement -- has gotten off to a slow start, with a 6.86 ERA through his first four outings. It's been especially rough the past two times out, as Darvish has allowed nine earned runs while failing to get through five innings in losses to the Braves and Rockies.

Each week on the Statcast™ Podcast, hosts Mike Petriello and Matt Meyers dig into the world of Statcast™ and advanced metrics, exploring the most important topics in baseball through the lens of the groundbreaking Statcast™ technology. Download, subscribe and help others find the show by leaving a rating and review on iTunes or your favorite platform.

What's wrong with Yu Darvish? That's the question that Cubs fan have been asking this month, as their big-ticket starting pitching acquisition -- and, notably, Jake Arrieta replacement -- has gotten off to a slow start, with a 6.86 ERA through his first four outings. It's been especially rough the past two times out, as Darvish has allowed nine earned runs while failing to get through five innings in losses to the Braves and Rockies.

Darvish gets a chance to redeem himself on Friday against the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, who have won eight straight entering Thursday. Can he? His tough April was a topic of this week's Statcast™ podcast, as we dug into what the data says about the unexpectedly poor outings from a longtime ace.

The last we saw of Darvish in 2017, he was having a pair of awful starts for the Dodgers in the World Series, though that did follow a pair of good postseason starts and generally good work for Los Angeles down the stretch after being acquired from Texas. Two starts, even on the biggest stage, shouldn't take more importance than several years of ace-like quality. Still, based on what happened in the Fall Classic and the size of the $126 million contract Darvish signed with Chicago, he could have used a fast start.

Now, Darvish did throw effectively against Milwaukee on April 7, striking out nine over six one-run innings. But digging into the numbers, there's some pretty clear warning signs.

His strikeout rate is down.
Darvish struck out 31.7 percent of hitters in 2016, the second-highest rate of any pitcher with at least 100 innings pitched. Last year, that dropped to 27.3 percent, still above average but now 18th best. This year, he's down to just 22.8 percent. Darvish hasn't thrown enough innings to qualify for the leaderboards, but if he had, that would be 44th overall. Strikeouts in baseball are going up, but for Darvish, they're going down.

His walk rate is up.
Darvish consistently walked just under eight percent of hitters in both 2016 and '17. That's fine; nothing to see here. But this year, that's all the way up to 12 percent. So now we've got fewer strikeouts and more walks, and you can see where some of the problems are coming from. Why is this happening? Because…

His chase rate is down.
If there's a single culprit, it's this. There's almost nothing more beneficial to a pitcher than getting a hitter to swing at pitches outside the zone, because they're more likely to be misses or lead to poor contact. If you're wondering if this matters, note names on the Top 10 in 2016-17 at getting swings outside the zone were Masahiro Tanaka, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Greinke, Corey Kluber, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. Yes, it matters.

Darvish got a consistent 32 percent chase rate -- that is, nearly a third of pitches he threw outside the zone got swings -- in 2014, '16 and '17. This year? That's down to 23 percent. His once legendary slider, which once induced swings nearly half the time outside the zone, now has a chase rate of just 25 percent. It's been hit hard, with a line against of .269/.321/.654.

So what's the good news? There is good news.

First of all, Darvish's velocity isn't down, staying steady on his fastball at 94.2 mph, after 94.3 last year and 93.9 the year before. He's not really being hit harder, as his average exit velocity has dropped from last year's 85.7 mph to 84.8 mph, and at a lower launch angle, dropping from 13 degrees last year to 11 degrees this year.

There's definitely cause for concern about Darvish, especially after the way his slider got lit up by Houston last October (and November). But all hope is hardly lost, obviously, because the velocity is still there. The problem is if the command isn't, and if Darvish can't get hitters to go after the slider. Hittable in-zone fastballs tend to be hittable.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Yu Darvish

Acuna's 1st hit, insane speed key Braves' win

Baseball's No. 2 prospect goes 1-for-5, scores game-tying run in 8th
MLB.com @mlbbowman

CINCINNATI -- Ronald Acuna Jr.'s power, speed and defensive skills have drawn praise as he has made a meteoric rise through the Braves' system over the past year and established himself as one of the game's top prospects.

But before the heralded 20-year-old outfielder made his much-anticipated Major League debut -- in which he singled, flashed his blazing speed and scored the tying run in Wednesday night's 5-4 win over the Reds -- he might have most impressed with the mature response he provided when asked if he benefited from his longer-than-expected stint with Triple-A Gwinnett this year.

View Full Game Coverage

CINCINNATI -- Ronald Acuna Jr.'s power, speed and defensive skills have drawn praise as he has made a meteoric rise through the Braves' system over the past year and established himself as one of the game's top prospects.

But before the heralded 20-year-old outfielder made his much-anticipated Major League debut -- in which he singled, flashed his blazing speed and scored the tying run in Wednesday night's 5-4 win over the Reds -- he might have most impressed with the mature response he provided when asked if he benefited from his longer-than-expected stint with Triple-A Gwinnett this year.

View Full Game Coverage

"It was an incredible experience," Acuna said through an interpreter. "I think that helped me develop a little bit during those couple weeks I was in the Minor Leagues. I'd say it definitely helped me develop more and be prepared more than I thought I would be leaving Spring Training."

Video: ATL@CIN: Acuna lives up to hype in big league debut

Acuna certainly seemed prepared for the flurry of excitement that awaited after he entered Great American Ball Park around 1:45 p.m. ET, approximately 14 hours after his emotions were stirred by the revelation he was coming to the Majors. He put on a show during batting practice, created some excitement with his first two plate appearances and notched his first career hit with an eighth-inning single off Kevin Shackelford. Once he was on base, he raced from first to third on Dansby Swanson's single, reaching a speed of 30.3 feet per second, according to Statcast™. Twins center fielder Byron Buxton is the Major League leader with an average sprint speed of 30.5 feet per second.

Video: ATL@CIN: Statcast™ measures Acuna's clutch baserunning

"That's going to be another weapon we have as a team," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Having him out there is really going to be good. He's an elite defender. There's no fear at all on the basepaths. It's going to be a big plus for us."

Acuna's speed put him in position to score the game-tying run on Kurt Suzuki's single up the middle.

Video: ATL@CIN: Acuna Jr. scores first run on Suzuki's hit

It was just one part of a momentous day.

"It's a dream come true," Acuna said. "I just thank God for this opportunity to be able to be here to log my first hit and play in my first big league game. It's been incredible."

Video: ATL@CIN: Acuna on getting a hit in his MLB debut

Ranked as baseball's second-best prospect per MLB Pipeline, Acuna stands as the most complete prospect the Braves have produced since Andruw Jones debuted in 1996. He showed flashes of his power potential when he recorded two long flyouts during his first two plate appearances. He lined the first pitch he saw to the right-center-field warning track with a 100.8-mph exit velocity. He swung at the first pitch in the third inning and produced a 97.4-mph exit velocity on a lineout to right field.

Video: ATL@CIN: Acuna Jr. lifts deep flyout in first at-bat

Acuna struck out twice and went 1-for-5 during his debut, providing plenty of signs he is quite capable of generating excitement every time he comes to the plate.

"Nothing seemed to affect him," Snitker said. "He wasn't overwhelmed by anything. He just went out and played his game. He was on the attack there. He hit a couple of balls good and got his first hit. I thought he was just fine."

Acuna displayed his tremendous talent with a 1.246 OPS over 44 Grapefruit League at-bats. Still, regardless of how he fared during Spring Training, it was almost certain that he would not join Atlanta's roster until at least April 14, the first date the Braves could promote him without surrendering an extra year of control.

Acuna's arrival was further delayed by a slump during his first two weeks with Gwinnett. He started to round into form recently and ended up recording 11 hits in what he hopes were the final 33 at-bats of his Minor League career.

Video: PHI@ATL: Acuna hits first HR of season at Triple-A

"To be honest, I never felt any pressure," Acuna said. "We all know baseball has its highs and lows. I never really put any extra pressure on myself."

A night earlier, when Snitker returned to his office following a 12-inning loss to the Reds, he didn't hesitate when general manager Alex Anthopoulos suggested it was time to bring Acuna to the Majors.

"We knew it was inevitable that, at some point, the kid was going to get up here," Snitker said. "It was like, 'When is the perfect time?' I don't know. Alex asked me what I thought and I said, 'I'm excited to get him in here and see what he can do.'"

Reunited with his best friend -- Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies -- Acuna didn't appear overwhelmed by his new environment. He has been aiming for this opportunity since late last season, and now looks forward to the chance to show why so many have longed to see him perform at the game's highest level.

"As soon as I hit the field, I felt at home," Acuna said.

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

Atlanta Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr.

Injury updates: Pham, A. Miller, Beltre

MLB.com

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

Tommy Pham, Cardinals
Pham exited Wednesday night's game with a laceration on his right temple caused by a mishap in the batting cage during the third inning.

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

Tommy Pham, Cardinals
Pham exited Wednesday night's game with a laceration on his right temple caused by a mishap in the batting cage during the third inning.

Working on his swing beneath the stands before an at-bat, Pham was using a bat with a resistance band attached to it. The band slipped and caused the bat to ricochet toward Pham's head. The wound did not require stitches and he passed concussion tests, but he emerged in the dugout with a large bandage on his head. Pham lobbied to stay in the game, but manager Mike Matheny removed him.

His status for Thursday's game is uncertain. More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Andrew Miller, Indians
Cleveland's relief ace threw just two pitches in the seventh inning of Wednesday's game before reaching for the back of his left leg. Diagnosed with tightness in his left hamstring, Miller will undergo an MRI exam on Thursday.

The team hopes the injury is not serious and may only require a few days' rest.

"We'll know a lot more tomorrow," Indians manager Terry Francona said after the game. "I think him not throwing another pitch was really smart on his part." More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Adrian Beltre, Rangers
Beltre strained his left hamstring in the eighth inning of the Rangers' loss to the A's on Tuesday, and he underwent an MRI on Wednesday before being placed on the 10-day disabled list.

Texas seems to be ready for Beltre to miss a lengthy period of time with the ailment.

"Obviously disappointed because we already have other key players hurt," Beltre said. "It's no secret we have been struggling offensively and trying to find a way to get through it. I'm supposed to be one of the guys who is getting better, and now this happens." More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
Bogaerts' ankle injury doesn't appear to have slowed his hot bat. The shortstop homered in his first rehab appearance with Triple-A Pawtucket. He also hit an opposite-field double and played six innings at shortstop.

Bogaerts, who suffered a small crack in the talus bone in his left ankle on April 8, will start for Pawtucket on Wednesday, weather permitting. It's likely he will come off the DL for the start of Boston's homestand Friday against the Rays.

He was hitting .368/.400/.711 with two homers and nine RBIs prior to the injury. More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Kris Bryant, Cubs
Bryant was out of the Cubs' lineup for a second straight game Wednesday after he was struck in the head by a fastball from Rockies starter German Marquez on Sunday. The third baseman passed concussion tests, but suffered a small laceration above his left eye from his sunglasses. Tommy La Stella replaced Bryant at third in Chicago's lineup against the Indians on Wednesday, batting fifth.

"I think he's fine," manager Joe Maddon said before Tuesday's game. "He just has to work through some things." More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Eric Thames, Brewers
Thames underwent an MRI on his left thumb Wednesday after injuring it while diving for a ball Tuesday night against the Royals. Thames was placed on the 10-day disabled list after the MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb, dealing a major blow to the Brewers' lineup. The first baseman leads Milwaukee with seven homers this season.

"We're a little concerned about his thumb," manager Craig Counsell said prior to the club placing Thames on the DL. More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Byron Buxton, Twins
Buxton remains sidelined after fouling a ball off his left foot on Sunday, as he hit off a tee on Wednesday, but he didn't feel good enough to play in an extended spring camp game.

Buxton underwent a procedure where a drill was inserted into his left big toenail to relieve pressure in his toe, but he remains sore and is day to day. He's currently on the 10-day disabled list with migraines, but that issue has subsided. He became eligible to return on Wednesday, but he's not likely to return until this weekend at the earliest. 

"Once his feet are ready to play, I'm not going to be worried about how they're going to work," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's one of those questions where more at-bats would probably be better, but there's something about his presence being here. Him patrolling center field has value, and he's unique in that way. We might have a little bit more of a desire to get him back sooner than later. I think everyone feels a little void when he's not around." More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Greg Bird, Yankees
Bird could rejoin the Yankees next month. He's scheduled to report to the team's Spring Training complex in Tampa, Fla., for additional work on Friday, manager Aaron Boone announced Tuesday.

Bird began the year on the disabled list after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his right ankle. He's still on track with the initial 6-to-8-week timetable. The first baseman has missed considerable time in the last few years, including all of 2016 with a right shoulder injury and the majority of 2017 with another ankle surgery. -- This report was first posted on April 25

Hunter Pence, Giants
Pence tested his sprained right thumb in batting practice Tuesday at AT&T Park and could be nearing a return to the active roster. With Mac Williamson's emergence, it's unclear what role the left fielder will have once he does return, however.

Pence hit just .172 with three RBIs in 17 games before his injury, while Williamson has hit .316 (6-for-19) with three home runs and six RBIs in five games since he was called up to the big leagues. More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Eugenio Suarez, Michael Lorenzen, David Hernandez, Devin Mesoraco, Reds
Suarez hit 1-for-2 with a double, two walks and a strikeout in a rehab appearance with Triple-A Louisville. He's recovering from a fractured right thumb suffered when he was hit by a pitch on April 8 against the Pirates. Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said he doesn't expect Suarez to need many more games before returning to the big leagues.

"He's such a baseball rat," Riggleman said. "He's been out here working his tail off right here. He feels like he's really close."

Lorenzen and Hernandez has each been out of action since March, but both relievers took steps toward a return this week. Lorenzen (strained right teres major muscle near his shoulder) was scheduled to throw a bullpen session prior to Wednesday's game, pitching off the mound for the first time since Spring Training.

Hernandez, meanwhile, is closer to a return. He made his second rehab appearance Monday, throwing 17 pitches and allowing one earned run and two hits with one strikeout. Riggleman said Hernandez is likely to make one more rehab appearance before rejoining the Reds.

Mesoraco was scratched 90 minutes prior to Tuesday's game against the Cardinals with neck stiffness. It's unclear how long the issue will keep the Reds catcher out, but the club has just one other backstop, Tucker Barnhart, on the 40-man roster. More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Jason Vargas, Mets
Vargas is coming off the disabled list to make his season debut Saturday against the Padres in San Diego. The left-hander made one rehab start Monday with Triple-A Las Vegas and joined the Mets in St. Louis on Tuesday. Vargas underwent surgery to remove a broken bone from his right hand in late March. More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Adam Eaton, Nationals
Eaton continues to test his ankle with baseball activities as he works his way back from a bone bruise on his left ankle. He was eligible to come off the disabled list Friday, but the Nationals have not revealed how close he is to returning.

"When you see him in the lineup, he'll be ready," manager Dave Martinez said Monday. "He's coming along. When we get him back, he's a force to reckon with and he helps our lineup out." More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Avisail Garcia, Miguel Gonzalez, Carlos Rodon, White Sox
The White Sox placed outfielder Garcia on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday after he strained his right hamstring running to first base in Monday's win over the Mariners.

Garcia, hitting .233 with one homer, four RBIs and five runs scored this year after an All-Star campaign last season, is not expected to miss an extended amount of time. He could miss more than the designated 10-day period, however.

The club also placed Gonzalez on the 10-day disabled list with right rotator cuff inflammation.

"We are going to take our time a little more just to make sure that everything is all right," Gonzalez said. "Nothing serious. Give it time to get better."

Rondon threw 34 pitches over three innings in an extended spring camp game Monday as he continues his rehab in return from arthroscopic surgery in his left shoulder. More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Ian Kennedy, Royals
Kennedy took a line drive off the bat of Ryan Braun to his right foot in the third inning of Tuesday night's loss to the Brewers. The right-hander finished the third inning, but could not put pressure on his foot while in the dugout and exited the contest.

X-rays were negative, but the Royals are not yet sure if Kennedy will make his scheduled start on Sunday. More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Ryon Healy, Mariners
Healy, who has been out with a right ankle injury, is expected to return to the Mariners over the weekend as they take on the Indians.

Healy went 1-for-3 with a two-run single for Double-A Arkansas on Tuesday and is 5-for-15 in four games with the Travelers.

"He needs to come in and contribute -- he knows that," manager Scott Servais said. "He was off to a slow start. Giving him the extra days of at-bats and playing time on the rehab assignment hopefully helps him, but facing Minor League pitching vs. Cleveland pitching is a little bit different." More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Martin Prado, Elieser Hernandez, JT Riddle, Dan Straily, Marlins
The Marlins have a quartet of players nearing returns from injury, as Prado, Hernandez, Riddle and Straily all played in Minor League rehab assignments Tuesday.

"We're still kind of biting our tongue and continuing to hope that these guys keep progressing," manager Don Mattingly said Monday. "We'll keep taking it one day at a time, for the starters one start [at a time], and evaluate, see where we're at. Dan's pitching tomorrow. Prado, Riddle, Elieser, they'll all play tomorrow."

Prado is recovering from right knee surgery, Hernandez is making his way back from dental surgery, Riddle is working back from a shoulder ailment and Straily has been on the DL with a right forearm strain. More > -- This report was first posted on April 25

Closers holding together bullpens in NL East

Middle-inning troubles throughout division not extending to ninth
MLB.com @matthewhleach

The messy middle has been quite a challenge for National League East managers this year. Fortunately for the five skippers, the final three outs have been mostly clean.

The NL East has been beset with worrisome relief performances this year, but for the most part, the guys at the back end have been just fine. The Marlins are a bit of an exception in both cases -- shaky in the ninth, solid in setup -- but there are some trends here.

The messy middle has been quite a challenge for National League East managers this year. Fortunately for the five skippers, the final three outs have been mostly clean.

The NL East has been beset with worrisome relief performances this year, but for the most part, the guys at the back end have been just fine. The Marlins are a bit of an exception in both cases -- shaky in the ninth, solid in setup -- but there are some trends here.

Let's take a look at the ninth-inning situations around the division.

Braves
Who's the closer? Arodys Vizcaino

How is it working out? Well, it's actually kind of hard to say.

Vizcaino has pitched well. He just hasn't pitched the ninth very often. It was April 11 before Vizcaino got a save chance, and April 16 before he converted on one. He's 1-for-2, total, on the year. That might not be a bad thing, though, since Vizcaino had some trouble finding the strike zone. When he's struggled in the past, that's been his issue, and it popped up early this season.

However, over Vizcaino's past seven outings, he's only walked one -- a pretty good indication he's rounding into form. The Braves have had some bullpen issues this year, but it's mostly been about getting to the ninth, not getting through it.

Video: PHI@ATL: Vizcaino induces groundout to notch the save

How secure is he? Pretty darn secure -- if only because, who would supplant him? A.J. Minter may well be the closer of the future, but he, too, has had some trouble throwing strikes, and it's hard to envision Atlanta plugging him in the ninth any time soon.

Who's next in line? If the Braves were to make a change later in the year, it seems likely Minter would be the next man up. He closed out Wednesday night's game and did well. But if something were to happen soon, that might be less of a given. While Minter has had trouble throwing strikes, the less-heralded Shane Carle and Dan Winkler have been quite effective. Atlanta would rather not have to make that decision any time soon, because there's not a clear alternative.

Marlins
Who's the closer? Brad Ziegler

How is it working out? Not great. Ziegler is 2-for-2 in save chances, but he's been scored upon in five of 10 appearances and taken three losses. He's 38 and has never been overpowering. It's fair to say this year's performance is concerning.

Video: MIA@LAD: Ziegler gets Bellinger to ground out

How secure is he? Fairly safe for now, if only because the Marlins won't have great urgency to make a change in a rebuilding year. But at the same time, when wins are precious, you don't want to let them slip away. There's also the possibility that even if he rights the ship, Ziegler could be dealt to a contender between now and the end of July.

Who's next in line? Here's one team that has options. Miami is loaded with late-inning power relievers, including four regular members of its bullpen who are averaging more than 11 K's per nine innings. Kyle Barraclough would probably rank ahead of Drew Steckenrider and Tayron Guerrero, but all three have the stuff to close. Junichi Tazawa has experience and plenty of strikeouts, but he's also had huge problems with walks and homers. He's got a long way to go before he would be the guy.

Mets
Who's the closer? Jeurys Familia

How is it working out? Better than anyone could have anticipated. Remember when the Mets hedged their bets and indicated they might go with a closer-by-committee approach? It's always wise to be skeptical of such pronouncements, but Familia has made it moot anyway. He's dominated, with nine saves and 17 K's in 13 innings.

Video: NYM@ATL: Familia gets Bourjos out, picks up the save

How secure is he? Probably pretty safe, but a couple of recent wobbles have been a bit concerning. If it's just a bad week, and that happens, Familia is just fine. If it's the start of a longer slump, maybe a different answer. Still, if Familia is truly back to being the pitcher he was three years ago, that's an elite closer. Right now, he looks a little more like the 2016 version than '15, given a bit of a high walk rate, but even that is a guy you ride for as long as you can. Familia has 115 big league saves; they're not looking to dislodge him if he keeps getting the job done.

Who's next in line? Funny you should ask, and you may sense a bit of a trend here as we go along. As in Washington (see below), the presumed alternative hasn't really stated his case very forcefully. AJ Ramos has allowed a mere two hits, but he's walked more batters than he's struck out, and that's not great. Robert Gsellman has been brilliant, but it's extremely tough to envision him being removed from his Swiss Army Knife role.

Nationals
Who's the closer? Sean Doolittle

How is it working out? Mercy. Doolittle has been absolutely dominant. He's had at least one strikeout in each of his 10 appearances, and at least two strikeouts in eight of them. He has yet to blow a save. The Nats have had some issues in the middle innings, but when they can get a lead to Doolittle, they're golden.

Video: WSH@LAD: Doolittle retires Seager to earn fourth save

How secure is he? Quite. It's not like it's impossible that the Nationals could make a change, but they acquired Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler all at around the same time, and then made the clear choice that Doolittle was the guy. That was under previous manager Dusty Baker, but there's no indication they've reconsidered.

Who's next in line? Well, that's part of the issue. One option, Kintzler, has had trouble finding the strike zone. Another, Madson, has been awfully hittable. So even if Doolittle were to have a rough go of it, it's hard to imagine the Nats having a lot of confidence in whomever they'd choose to replace him. It's definitely safe to figure that Davey Martinez is thinking much more about the sixth, seventh and eighth innings these days than the ninth.

Phillies
Who's the closer? Hector Neris

How is it working out? The overall numbers only look so-so. Don't believe them. Neris had a rough first outing, but since then, he's been nails. Over his next eight appearances, he looked just like the guy who was so good in 2016-17. Neris is not otherworldly dominant, but he's very good, and he doesn't hurt himself with a lot of walks or homers.

Video: ARI@PHI: Neris forces a flyout to secure fifth save

How secure is he? Not bet-the-house secure, but pretty safe. But this answer is definitely connected to the next one, so read on. If Neris pitches well, he's fine -- and he's converted 25 of his past 26 chances, going back to last year. But if he struggles, it may depend on what the alternatives are.

Who's next in line? That may be changing. If you'd asked a week or so ago, the answer likely would've been Luis Garcia, who's picked up the occasional save here and there over the past three seasons. But you'd have to think that Tommy Hunter, fresh off the DL, will have the chance to pitch his way into the opportunity. Once he's fully up and rolling, the leash might be a little shorter.

Matthew Leach is the National League executive editor for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals, New York Mets

D-backs-Phils only on Facebook today

Both clubs are off to strong starts in 2018
MLB.com

This week, MLB offers fans another unique viewing experience with the continuation of its digital-only broadcasts. Today's D-backs-Phillies matchup will air live in the United States exclusively on Facebook. The finale to the four-game series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is one of 25 streaming broadcasts scheduled for 2018 as part of MLB's partnership with Facebook this season.

Fans can catch the 1:05 p.m. ET contest by logging onto Facebook's MLB live page from their phones, tablets, smart TVs or other streaming devices. MLB Network will produce the game, with play-by-play announcer Scott Braun, analysts Ben Davis and Eric Byrnes -- who played for the D-backs from 2006-09 -- and in-game reporter Alexa Datt.

This week, MLB offers fans another unique viewing experience with the continuation of its digital-only broadcasts. Today's D-backs-Phillies matchup will air live in the United States exclusively on Facebook. The finale to the four-game series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is one of 25 streaming broadcasts scheduled for 2018 as part of MLB's partnership with Facebook this season.

Fans can catch the 1:05 p.m. ET contest by logging onto Facebook's MLB live page from their phones, tablets, smart TVs or other streaming devices. MLB Network will produce the game, with play-by-play announcer Scott Braun, analysts Ben Davis and Eric Byrnes -- who played for the D-backs from 2006-09 -- and in-game reporter Alexa Datt.

How to watch on mobile and desktop

1. Search for "MLB Live" on Facebook

2. Follow the "MLB Live" show page

3. Download the Facebook video app on your TV or streaming device and search for "MLB Live"

4. Or stream the game from your phone to a TV on the same WiFi network by tapping the TV icon.

Upcoming Facebook games (all times ET)
• Thursday, April 26: ARI-PHI, 1:05 p.m.
• Thursday, May 3: LAD-ARI, 3:40 p.m.
• Thursday, May 10: SF-PHI, 1:05 p.m.
• Wednesday, May 16: TEX-SEA, 3:40 p.m.
• Thursday, May 24: LAA-TOR, 12:37 p.m.
• Wednesday, May 30: STL-MIL, 1:10 p.m.

Video: MLB Central breaks down the Phillies' great start

What to know about the D-backs-Phillies game

Both the Phillies and D-backs are off to strong starts in 2018. Arizona began the week having won each of its first seven series this season, while the Phillies entered the series against the D-backs with a 9-1 record at home.

Right-hander Ben Lively will start for the Phillies, coming off his best start of the young campaign. Lively held the Pirates to five hits and one run in six innings on Friday.

"I was a lot more controlled," Lively said. "I got texts all week. Even my grandpa [Jim] said, 'Hey, you're rushing.' So I was like, 'OK, I'm going to go slow.'"

Video: SD@ARI: Koch tosses six innings of one-run ball

For Arizona, righty Matt Koch will toe the rubber. He was called up from Triple-A Reno last week to start in place of Taijuan Walker (Tommy John surgery), and pitched well enough to keep the job for at least one more outing. Koch held the Padres to just two hits and one run over six innings Friday.

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

Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies

Suarez returns from fractured thumb, in lineup

MLB.com @basebollie

Third baseman Eugenio Suarez has returned to the Reds' lineup.

Cincinnati reinstated Suarez from the 10-day disabled list and selected the contract of utility man Rosell Herrera from Triple-A Louisville on Thursday. Outfielder Phillip Ervin and infielder Cliff Pennington were optioned to Louisville in corresponding moves.

Third baseman Eugenio Suarez has returned to the Reds' lineup.

Cincinnati reinstated Suarez from the 10-day disabled list and selected the contract of utility man Rosell Herrera from Triple-A Louisville on Thursday. Outfielder Phillip Ervin and infielder Cliff Pennington were optioned to Louisville in corresponding moves.

Suarez, fully recovered from a right thumb fracture, was batting .296/.424/.630 with two home runs and seven RBIs in eight games before sustaining the injury. He was in the starting lineup for Thursday's game against Braves, batting fifth. Suarez will be a big addition to the Reds' batting order after having a career year in 2017, when he hit .260/.367/.461 with 26 homers and 82 RBIs in 156 games.

Herrera, 25, was hitting .311/.373/.607 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 15 games for Louisville.

Ervin, 25, hit .211/.318/.237 with one double and three RBIs in 16 games for Cincinnati after earning an Opening Day roster spot.

Pennington, 33, batted .138/.265/.138 with four singles and a run scored in 16 games for the Reds this season, his first with the club.

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.

Cincinnati Reds, Phillip Ervin, Rosell Herrera, Cliff Pennington, Eugenio Suarez

These are the worst no-hitters in baseball history

MLB.com @JPosnanski

Let's just say it: We might be in for another crazy no-hitter year. We went through a no-hitter downturn in 2016 and '17 -- in large part because so many home runs were being hit. You can see it clearly when you look at the entire decade:

2010: Five no-hitters

Let's just say it: We might be in for another crazy no-hitter year. We went through a no-hitter downturn in 2016 and '17 -- in large part because so many home runs were being hit. You can see it clearly when you look at the entire decade:

2010: Five no-hitters

2011: Three no-hitters

2012: Six no-hitters

2013: Three no-hitters

2014: Four no-hitters

2015: Seven no-hitters

2016: One no-hitter

2017: One no-hitter

Those seven no-hitters in 2015 is a record -- well, there were actually seven no-hitters in 2012, but one of them was delivered by six Seattle pitchers so we'll not count that one. In all, there have been 31 individual pitcher no-hitters in this decade, and the decade isn't over yet. This is more than double what baseball had in the 2000s (14).

Those numbers, as mentioned, have been down lately. But less than a month into the 2018 season, there are signs that the no-hitter alerts on our phones might be buzzing. There has already been one no-hitter (Oakland's Sean Manaea against the Red Sox) and a whole bunch of near no-hitters.

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

And the trends are pointing toward a no-hitter year. It's only April, sure, and the weather has been terrible, which affects bats in a big way. But even if you compare April to April, batting average is down six points to .241 and strikeouts are way up to an all-time high of 8.87 per nine innings. More strikeouts equals lower average equals more potential no-hitters.

Home runs countered this trend somewhat the last couple of years. Last year there were five games where a team managed only one hit ... but it was a home run. That was a record. Well, home runs are down somewhat in 2018. Look out below.

With all this no-hitter talk, we thought it would be fun for this Throwback Thursday to look at ... the worst no-hitters ever thrown. Here's the caveat: There is no such thing as a bad no-hitter, but some are better than others. We are so used to lists of the best-pitched no-hitters in baseball history. Well, what about the roughest ones?

Here we go:

1. Matt Young, Red Sox vs. Indians, April 12, 1992

Unofficial: 8 innings, 2 runs, 2 earned runs, 7 walks, 6 strikeouts, 6 stolen bases

Young only pitched eight innings, so it was not an "official" no-hitter. Someone asked him after the game if he had a different word for it.

"Purgatory," Young said.

This was a nutty game, and it was that way right from the start. Young walked Kenny Lofton to lead off the first. Lofton promptly stole second. During a strikeout of Glenallen Hill, Lofton stole third. Lofton scored on a ground ball (the ball ended up being booted for an error but he would have scored anyway).

So 1-0 Cleveland, and Young has given up an earned run but no hits.

In the third, Young walked Mark Lewis and Lofton. Lewis moved over on a ground ball and then scored on another ground ball. Young had given up two earned runs but still had not given up a hit.

And so it went. Young walked Lofton three times, and Lofton stole four bases. Young threw 120 pitches over eight grueling innings. He did not pitch the ninth because Cleveland had already won the game. But Young never did give up a hit.

"It's irrelevant," Young said about not getting the opportunity to pitch the ninth, "because we lost the game. A no-hitter's supposed to be where you strike out the last guy, and the catcher comes out and jumps in your arms."

When someone asked him how he felt about it not being considered a no-hitter -- this was just a few months after a committee came up with the rule that a no-hitter had to be at least nine innings -- Young shrugged.

"I don't feel I pitched that well," he said. "But they didn't get any hits. And the game's over."

2. Edwin Jackson, Diamondbacks vs. Rays, June 25, 2010

9 innings, 0 runs, 8 walks, 6 strikeouts, 1 hit batter, 149 pitches

The headline in the Arizona Republic the next day was "NO-HIT WONDER," which, well, it was that. It's a wonder that Jackson made it out of the first three innings, to be honest. He walked SEVEN those first three innings, including the bases loaded with nobody out in the third.

How did he get out of that? He then coaxed a short fly ball that didn't score a run.

And then something remarkable happened. Melvin Upton Jr. and Hank Blalock both grounded out. That in itself is not remarkable but what is remarkable is that they each did it on the first pitch of the at-bat. We'll get back to that in a moment.

Jackson threw 70 pitches those first three innings. SEVENTY. What do you think the odds were that a guy who had seven walks and had thrown 70 pitches in three innings would end up throwing a no-hitter? They have to be astronomical. It's almost impossible to conceive.

But Jackson became a different pitcher after the third. He retired 13 of the next 14 batters (with only a hit batter in the process) and he worked around an error in the eighth and a walk in the ninth to finish off one of the craziest no-hitters in baseball history.

But let's get back to Upton and Blalock for a second. Seriously, the guy has walked SEVEN in three innings. His pitch count is out of control. The bases are loaded. How could you POSSIBLY bail him out by swinging at the first pitch of each at-bat?

Video: ARI@TB: Jackson hurls the second D-backs no-hitter

3. A.J. Burnett, Marlins vs. Padres, May 12, 2001

9 innings, 0 runs, 9 walks, 7 strikeouts, 1 hit batter, 3 stolen bases

This is the most walks in a nine-inning no-hitter. Jim Maloney, who did not make this list, walked 10 in his no-hitter in 1965, but he pitched 10 innings -- it's hard to put a 10-inning no-hitter on the worst list.

Burnett admitted after the game that his command was not sharp at all. He got into trouble almost every inning with his wildness and inability to keep runners on. In the second, he put runners on first and second with nobody out, but got a double play to get out of the mess. In the third, he had two walks, a wild pitch and allowed a stolen base so there were runners on second and third with one out. He got a key strikeout of Ryan Klesko and then got Dave Magadan to fly out.

Fourth inning, he walked one and hit a batter but got out of the inning with a couple of strikeouts. Eighth inning, he again walked two in the inning and allowed a stolen base before escaping. It was a 129-pitch tightrope act (only 65 were strikes), but he got stronger in the ninth and got a 1-2-3 inning to finish the job.

"I felt good all night," he told reporters. "And the closer it got, the more confident I was."

Video: FLA@SD: A.J. Burnett throws a no-hitter in San Diego

4. Dock Ellis, Pirates vs. Padres, June 12, 1970

9 innings, 0 runs, 8 walks, 6 strikeouts, 1 hit batter

This is the famous (or infamous) LSD game. Ellis had dropped acid earlier in the day and still went out and no-hit San Diego.

As Ellis' version of the story goes, he woke up in Los Angeles at noon. He was to start a 6 p.m. game in San Diego, the first in a twilight doubleheader, but he didn't know that. He thought that he was pitching the next day. So it seemed a good time to take acid. A little while later, the girl he was with told him that, no, actually, he was pitching that evening.

She somehow got him to the airport, Ellis somehow flew to San Diego and somehow got to the ballpark. It is unclear -- even to Ellis in the ensuing years -- how any of that happened.

Ellis would say that he was high and gone the entire game; he couldn't feel the baseball or even see the catcher. He remembered almost nothing from the game except for a few trippy things like: "I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home-plate umpire."

He couldn't throw strikes, but the Padres couldn't get a hit. The no-hitter was saved by second baseman Bill Mazeroski, who made a spectacular diving catch on a Ramon Webster line drive. The rest of it was a blur with lots of walks, and Ellis finished it off with a strikeout of Ed Spiezio to clinch the LSD no-no.

5. David Palmer, Expos vs. Cardinals, April 21, 1984

Unofficial: 5 innings, 0 runs, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts (perfect game)

There have been five five-inning complete-game no-hitters thrown, and Palmer joined Rube Vickers and Dean Chance as the only pitchers to throw five-inning perfect games. I chose this one because of the sort of sad controversy that followed it.

This was only Palmer's second game back after a horror-show run of injuries. The game was in St. Louis and it was the second in a doubleheader. The rain started falling hard in the sixth, and the umpires stopped the game with two Expos on (including now Cleveland manager Terry Francona) and nobody out. They delayed for 77 minutes before finally calling it.

The way Palmer understood it, he had just entered the Major League history books.

"It's a five-inning perfect game, but it still goes down as a perfect game," he told reporters afterward. "I'll take it."

It was a cool story -- Palmer had been snakebit his entire big league career. He had pitched very well when he was very young and he looked like a potential star. Then he started having elbow problems that did not stop. He missed all of the 1981 and '83 seasons. He had worked so hard to get back and now, finally, something good was happening.

"I'm hoping all the bad luck is behind me," he said.

Well, OK. Palmer got to enjoy the perfect game for about a week. That's when baseball people started wondering, "How can you call THAT a perfect game?"

Then the Cardinals started talking about how Palmer was throwing a "mystery pitch" during the game -- "I don't know if he was throwing a spitball or what," manager Whitey Herzog told reporters.

Then on Sept. 30 of that year, Mike Witt threw an ACTUAL perfect game, the nine-inning variety, and at that point people mostly stopped thinking of Palmer's feat as an actual perfect game.

Just seven years later, a committee determined that a pitcher has to throw at least nine innings for it to be considered a no-hitter or perfect game. And with that Dave Palmer's perfect game was thrown into the asterisk field.

6. Ed Lafitte, Brooklyn Tip-Tops vs. Kansas City Packers, Sept. 19, 1914

9 innings, 2 runs, 0 earned, 7 walks, 1 strikeout

I'm including this one largely because it's so quirky. Lafitte was pitching in the Federal League -- it was the first of five Federal League no-hitters. Lafitte walked seven. His Tip-Tops committed two errors.

In the words of the Brooklyn Eagle, "The achievement was somewhat tarnished by the fact that the visitors scored two runs against him but there was no question about the absence of a base hit of any description."

There's something else that's fun about this -- it was the first game of a doubleheader. And there was apparently real consideration for Lafitte to pitch the second game, at least until he gave up a hit. This would have given him a chance to do something nobody had ever done or, surely, would ever do again: Pitch two no-hitters on the same day.

Brooklyn manager Bill Bradley decided against it.

7. Ken Holtzman, Cubs vs. Braves, Aug. 19, 1969

9 innings, 0 runs, 3 walks, 0 strikeouts

Holtzman had come close to a no-hitter twice before ... and he said that he had MUCH better stuff those other two times. Well, what he actually said was that on the day he no-hit the Braves he didn't have his curveball or his changeup or his control. That's quite a way to throw a no-hitter.

What's striking about the no-hitter is that Holtzman did not strike out a single batter in the game. It's the only time since 1923 that a pitcher has thrown a no-hitter without a strikeout.

"I had one pitch, the fastball, and I didn't think I was too fast," Holtzman explained after the game. 

The no-hitter was saved when he did what no pitcher should ever do -- he threw a middle-middle fastball to Hank Aaron in the seventh inning. Aaron didn't miss (how many times in his career do you think Aaron missed a middle-middle fastball?) but the wind was howling in that day. Aaron's ball died in that wind.

"It should have been out of here -- and would have been -- except for the wind," Holtzman said.

Video: ATL@CHC: Holtzman gets Aaron to complete no-hitter

8. Johnny Vander Meer, Reds vs. Dodgers, June 15, 1938

9 innings, 0 runs, 8 walks, 7 strikeouts

Nobody cared HOW Vander Meer got this no-hitter because it was his second in a row, a feat unmatched in baseball history. But he really had to fight to get this one. Perhaps it was the pressure. He walked a hitter in the second and third, but he was generally dominant until the seventh, when he walked two batters and needed to get Leo Durocher to ground out to end the inning.

The ninth inning was a carnival. With one out, Vander Meer walked Babe Phelps, Cookie Lavagetto and Dolph Camilli to load the bases. That's when Reds manager Bill McKechnie came to the mound with the crowd shrieking, "DON'T TAKE HIM OUT." McKechnie had no intention of taking him out; instead he told Vander Meer, "Don't worry. Just relax. You'll get this."

And with that, Vander Meer found his control, got Ernie Koy to ground into a forceout at home, and he finished it off by getting Durocher again; this time he hit a lazy fly ball to center for the historic no-no.

Pete Rose loves when people ask him, "Do you think your hit record is the most unbreakable mark in baseball history?" He says, "No. It's Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters. Because to break it you would have to throw THREE in a row."

9. Chris Heston, Giants vs. Mets, June 9, 2015

9 innings, 0 runs, 0 walks, 11 strikeouts, 3 hit batters

Heston was a rookie and he was brilliant that day against Noah Syndergaard and the Mets ... except for the hit-batter thing. He hit three batters, the only time a pitcher has done that in a no-hitter the in the last 100 years. Heston actually hit back-to-back Mets in the fourth inning, and it looked like the wheels might be coming off. But he promptly got Michael Cuddyer to ground into a double play, and that saved the day and a little piece of history.

"I'm not sure what just happened," Heston said after the game.

Video: SF@NYM: Heston tosses no-hitter, strikes out 11

10. Andy Hawkins, Yankees vs. White Sox, July 1, 1990

Unofficial: 8 innings, 4 runs, 0 earned, 5 walks, 3 strikeouts, 1 stolen base

OK, a couple of points. One, we have included some in here that are not "official" no-hitters because the pitcher did not go nine innings. It's more fun to include them.

Two, Hawkins does not really belong on this list. He was more a victim of circumstance than anything else. Through seven innings, Hawkins was cruising. He retired the first 14 batters that he faced. Then, yes, he had some control problems -- two walks in the fifth and a walk in the seventh -- but he still looked good.

Eighth inning, he got the first two batters on infield popouts. Then Sammy Sosa, in his first full season in the big leagues, hit a ground ball to third. Mike Blowers booted it. And the agony began. Sosa stole second. Hawkins walked Ozzie Guillen, which was not an easy thing to do. Guillen walked just 239 times in more than 7,000 plate appearances; he walked once per 30 plate appearances, by far the lowest ratio for any player with that long of a big league career.

But he walked Guillen, then he walked Lance Johnson to load the bases (Johnson wasn't easy to walk either). Robin Ventura hit a fly ball to rookie left fielder Jim Leyritz. Well, Leyritz wasn't really a left fielder. He was a catcher and a third baseman who Yankees manager Stump Merrill felt comfortable playing everywhere, even during a no-hitter. Leyritz dropped the ball and three runs scored.

Video: NYY@CWS: Hawkins throws a no-hitter and loses

"The ball was hit right at me," Leyritz said, "and I made a wrong move."

Then, the finishing touch: Ivan Calderon hit a fly ball to right, where Jesse Barfield played. It was a windy and sunny day. Barfield didn't stand a chance.

"It was brutal out there," Barfield said. "I knew I was in trouble when the ball was hit."

Barfield lost the ball in the sun and dropped it. Because it hit the glove, it was ruled an error (one of the quirks of errors). That's four runs -- but the no-hitter was intact. Hawkins retired Dan Pasqua to make history; the most runs allowed in a no-hitter.

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.

8 is great: Crew's win streak continues in KC

Special to MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- Many stats could be used to help explain the Brewers' eight-game winning streak, and the one that stands out most to manager Craig Counsell is 14. As in 14 runs allowed by Milwaukee over those eight victories.

It was more of the same on Wednesday, as the Brewers equaled their longest winning streak since 2015 with a 6-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Jhoulys Chacin delivered 5 2/3 efficient innings, and a bullpen that has enjoyed recent dominance extended its scoreless streak to 28 innings.

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KANSAS CITY -- Many stats could be used to help explain the Brewers' eight-game winning streak, and the one that stands out most to manager Craig Counsell is 14. As in 14 runs allowed by Milwaukee over those eight victories.

It was more of the same on Wednesday, as the Brewers equaled their longest winning streak since 2015 with a 6-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Jhoulys Chacin delivered 5 2/3 efficient innings, and a bullpen that has enjoyed recent dominance extended its scoreless streak to 28 innings.

View Full Game Coverage

"That [14] is the number right there," Counsell said. "You are going to have a lot of success allowing 14 runs over eight games."

The Royals got two runners on base in the sixth inning, so the Brewers turned to the bullpen even though Chacin had thrown only 64 pitches. Each reliever delivered, as Chacin did in setting the tone with his pitch-efficient outing.

"[The Royals] were real aggressive," Chacin said. "They were swinging a lot at the first or second pitch. They see my stats. I had been walking some guys early in the season. Maybe they thought I was going to come out and throw more strikes so they were swinging early. I'll take that. It gave me a lot of quick outs."

Video: MIL@KC: Chacin strikes out Soler swinging in the 2nd

Chacin, who allowed four hits and two earned runs, left in the sixth with the tying run on base. In a lefty-on-lefty matchup, Dan Jennings came on to retire Lucas Duda.

And so it went for the Milwaukee bullpen.

There was some trouble in the late innings, but no Kansas City runs. Jacob Barnes, Josh Hader and Taylor Williams kept the bullpen's scoreless streak intact.

Video: MIL@KC: Barnes induces an inning-ending double play

Hader was particularly impressive in the eighth, striking out Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez with two on.

"They are doing such a nice job picking each other up," Counsell said. "They are not just putting up zeros on their line. They are putting up zeros on the line of the guy who pitched before them."

Video: MIL@KC: Hader K's Moustakas, Perez to strand a pair

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Four in the fourth: The Brewers got all the offense they'd need in the fourth inning with a four-run frame against Royals starter Jason Hammel. Travis Shaw roped an 0-2 pitch down the right-field line to bring in the first run, and Domingo Santana and Jesus Aguilar, who had two RBIs in his first start as Milwaukee's primary first baseman with Eric Thames on the disabled list, then delivered sacrifice flies, with Santana reaching on an error by Jorge Soler and later scoring on Jonathan Villar's groundout.

With the Brewers scoring by being efficient at the plate, Counsell praised how his club handled themselves on the bases.

"We ran the bases really well in that inning," Counsell said. "It was contact, it was baserunning, it was situational hitting."

Video: MIL@KC: Santana reaches on an error, drives in a run

SOUND SMART
Ryan Braun had his first three-hit game of 2018 on Wednesday and seems to be coming around after a slow start. Braun, who hit .176 through the opening 15 games, has gone on a .440 spurt (11 for 25) through his last seven games.

HE SAID IT
"It's not the pitches. He got 17 outs. I thought if you get 17 outs, that's great. That's what we are looking for." -- Counsell on his decision to lift Chacin after the right-hander threw just 64 pitches on Wednesday

UP NEXT
The Brewers will be hoping to give right-hander Chase Anderson considerably more offensive support Thursday against the Cubs than was the case on April 8 when Anderson last faced Chicago. Although Anderson pitched well, allowing just four hits and two earned runs through six innings, the Cubs claimed a 3-0 victory. Anderson will be looking for his third straight win in the 7:05 p.m. CT series opener at Wrigley Field with Kyle Hendricks on the mound for the Cubs.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com based in Kansas City.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jesus Aguilar, Jhoulys Chacin, Travis Shaw

The Yankees and Twins played in the first great fog game of 2018 and the photos were outstanding

The Yankees beat the Twins, 7-4, on Wednesday night. But don't worry, we won't fault you if you didn't realize. Even if you were at the game or watching on TV because, um ... fog.

Mookie mashes 2 homers, ends Boston's skid

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

TORONTO -- It was Mookie Betts who got the Red Sox off to a roaring start on this road trip with his big bat. So it's only fitting that as the three-city journey starts to wind down, it was Betts who lifted his team off the mat from a three-game losing streak.

The star right fielder drilled two homers -- including one that led off the game -- to propel the Red Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.

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TORONTO -- It was Mookie Betts who got the Red Sox off to a roaring start on this road trip with his big bat. So it's only fitting that as the three-city journey starts to wind down, it was Betts who lifted his team off the mat from a three-game losing streak.

The star right fielder drilled two homers -- including one that led off the game -- to propel the Red Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.

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The second long ball was a two-run drive to the opposite field in right with one out in the seventh that put Boston back in front by a run.

Video: BOS@TOR: Kimbrel retires Gurriel Jr. to earn the save

"Two good swings. The one to the opposite field, that was a great swing," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Obviously, the one on the 2-0 count to start up the game, it seems like we needed something like that, especially after the last few days to get the lead. I know they scored right away, but it felt good."

In the seven games Betts has played on the trip, he has six homers. Three of them have led off the game, extending his team record for career leadoff home runs to 14.

"It's been a lot of fun," said Betts. "Just trying to do what I can to help us win."

Video: BOS@TOR: Rodriguez hurls 6 2/3 strong to earn the win

As Cora found out while emerging out of the first losing streak of his managerial career, it's good to have a player like Betts when things aren't quite clicking on all cylinders.

"They're special," Cora said when asked about players like Betts. "Like the Trouts or Altuves, the more at-bats they get, the better you feel about it. Right away, he hits the ball out of the ballpark and you start thinking, 'Special night for him.' I'm glad that he's on my team."

Eduardo Rodriguez worked 6 2/3 innings and scattered six hits and three runs to earn the win that pushed the Red Sox to 18-5 and set up a rubber match of this three-game series on Thursday, which will conclude a trip that started on the West Coast.

Video: BOS@TOR: Devers, Ramirez team up for great play

Craig Kimbrel came on in the ninth to pick up his sixth save, one night after he gave up a walk-off homer to Curtis Granderson.

The offense was led by Betts and supported by Brock Holt, who had three more hits and six in the last two nights to raise his average from .244 to .327.

"Anybody who has Mookie on their side is going to be happy," said Rodriguez. "To have a guy like that who can hit the ball out of the ballpark and do all the things he does, it's pretty fun to see that."

The Red Sox saw this type of greatness from Betts on a consistent basis two years ago, when he finished second in the American League's Most Valuable Player Award voting. Last year, he showed flashes and had a solid year but wasn't at the top of his game.

Betts appears positioned to have a monster 2018 at the age of 25.

"I think just learning, a lot of learning with the new hitting [coaches] and J.D. [Martinez]," Betts said. "And just putting things together and actually learning how to use my strength instead of just going off ability. I use my ability obviously, too, but not just that, adding some strength to that."

Betts back at his best isn't great news for the rest of the AL.

"He's at the top of the game," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "He can beat you in so many ways. He's one of those guys who will be in the MVP running every year, I have to believe. But he'll beat you with his glove too. He's at a different level than most of them."

Video: BOS@TOR: Gibbons on Sanchez, Betts in Jays' 4-3 loss

SOUND SMART
When the Red Sox go deep, it's likely they are going to win. Boston is 11-2 in games with at least one homer and 8-1 with two or more homers.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
On a fly ball struck pretty well into right field by Rafael Devers in the seventh, it seemed all but certain that Andrew Benintendi would score an insurance run on what should have been a sacrifice fly. But Benintendi left the bag early and had to retreat. Why? It turns out he was screened on the play.

Video: BOS@TOR: Benintendi stays at third on long fly ball

"He said that the umpire was actually in sight, you know, between him and [right fielder Randal] Grichuk," said Cora. "It was the umpire and him, and he couldn't see and he took off early and went back. Just a baserunning mistake."

HE SAID IT
"Good win for us. Good win for the Bruins. Everybody is pulling for them over here. Mookie did his thing, again." -- Red Sox slugger and Bruins supporter Hanley Ramirez

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
All kinds of things were happening on a fly ball to left-center by Holt in the fourth. Left fielder Steve Pearce fell down on his first step, preventing him from catching what turned into a double. Thinking the ball was going to be caught, Jackie Bradley Jr. started back-tracking from third to second, and he was nearly passed on the bases by Christian Vazquez. Bradley wound up scoring on the play when the ball dropped. The Blue Jays issued a challenge in case Vazquez did pass Bradley, but the replay official confirmed that was not the case and Holt had an RBI double.

Video: BOS@TOR: Holt doubles home Bradley Jr. despite review

UP NEXT
Ace Chris Sale finishes off this road trip for the Red Sox on Thursday night when he pitches at one of his favorite venues. Lifetime at Rogers Centre, Sale is 4-1 with a 0.96 ERA. Last year, didn't allow a run in his three starts at Toronto covering 22 innings. Marco Estrada starts for the Jays, and first pitch is set for 7:07 p.m. ET.

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

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts, Eduardo Rodriguez

Keith Hernandez makes Twitter worthwhile

Keith Hernandez has technically been on Twitter since 2015, but he only became an active user this month. He tweets sweet observations about the world and baseball, but has also gifted us many videos of his cat, Hadji.

On this week's Cut4Cast, Dakota, Gemma and Chris are inspired by Hernandez and proclaim that all tweets should be sincere (18:02). They also discuss rookie debuts to get excited (1:47) for and MLB FoodFest delights (23:18). Chris also agrees with the Yankees fan who wore a "Don't Boo Stanton" T-shirt (8:04).

Arrieta defeats Greinke in Cy Young showdown

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Jake Arrieta promised in March that the Phillies would put up a fight.

He fought on Wednesday night in a 5-3 victory over the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Jake Arrieta promised in March that the Phillies would put up a fight.

He fought on Wednesday night in a 5-3 victory over the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park.

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He battled Arizona ace Zack Greinke in a matchup between former Cy Young Award winners. He navigated through three errors and his own command issues. But Arrieta competed and kept the score close, setting up Aaron Altherr's game-winning three-run home run in the sixth inning. Arrieta threw a season-high 107 pitches, more than any Phillies starter has thrown this season, putting Philadelphia in position to win a series on Thursday against the team with the best record in the National League, in a game that will stream exclusively on Facebook Live.

"Any time you beat him, it's a good night," Arrieta said.

It's not the first time Arrieta has topped Greinke, either. Arrieta edged Greinke for the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, too. He went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA as a member the Cubs. Greinke went 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA with the Dodgers. Neither had their best stuff on Wednesday with their new clubs, but both competed.

"It was a grind," Arrieta said.

Paul Goldschmidt reached base on Maikel Franco's throwing error to start the fourth inning. Two batters later, Arrieta walked Daniel Descalso to load the bases with no outs. Arrieta then walked Chris Owings to score the tying run.

Arrieta heard a few boos.

"Yeah, I mean, who likes a bases-loaded walk?" he said. "I would have booed it, too."

Arrieta allowed his second unearned run in the sixth, when J.P. Crawford's throwing error again put Goldschmidt on base to start the inning. Andrew Knapp's throwing error on a stolen-base attempt got Goldschmidt to third. Goldschmidt scored on Descalso's sacrifice fly to hand Arizona a 3-2 lead.

"That's going to happen," Arrieta said. "Trying to instill in the guys on this team that regardless of whether or not they make an error in a big situation or a blowout game, it's part of the job description of a starting pitcher to pick those guys up and tell them after the fact, 'Hey, I've got you.'"

Carlos Santana doubled and Odubel Herrera walked to put runners on first and second with one out in the sixth when Altherr stepped to the plate. Greinke threw Altherr a 1-1 slider for a ball. He followed with another slider.

"I was kind of sitting on offspeed, out over [the plate]," Altherr said.

Why?

"I'd rather not say," Altherr said, smiling. "I'll keep my thoughts to myself on that one."

Altherr crushed the 2-1 pitch. The ball sailed over the fence in center field to hand the Phillies a 5-3 lead. After a terribly slow start, Altherr has six hits and one walk in his last 12 plate appearances.

"It was not perfectly away, and it was too high," Greinke said about the pitch. "It wasn't very good, and he took a really good swing on it."

Arrieta returned to pitch a perfect seventh.

"I thought he was good and bad in spurts," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "I know he lost command there, but in typical Jake Arrieta fashion, he made pitches when he had to. When his back is against the wall, he gets a little bit tougher, a little bit sharper. He goes out there in his final inning at 90-some-odd pitches and throws a really quick, easy inning when his team needed him the most. It just speaks volumes about him and the stuff he has."

Video: ARI@PHI: Arrieta gives up one earned in seven innings

Said Phillies manager Gabe Kapler: "That's one thing we lean on. When we look out there, it's like, 'Oh, that guy won a Cy Young Award.' And there's a reason for it. It's not just because he's exceptionally talented physically. He's gifted mentally. He's strong-minded. When the game gets a little bit tough, he just gets a little bit tougher."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Stylings of Santana: Santana went 2-for-4 with an RBI. He is hitting .286 (6-for-21) with one double, five walks, five strikeouts and an .825 OPS in his last six games. His fielder's choice in the first inning scored Cesar Hernandez from third base to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. He singled to advance Hernandez to third base in the third. Hernandez later scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Santana's double to open the sixth started the rally that lead to Altherr's homer.

SOUND SMART
Herrera singled in the first inning to reach base safely in 25 consecutive games. It is the longest active streak in the big leagues.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Arrieta walked consecutive batters to load the bases and score a run in the fourth inning to tie the game. Jarrod Dyson then dropped a bunt down in front of the mound. Arrieta fielded the ball and flipped it home to beat A.J. Pollock to the plate to keep the game tied, 2-2.

Video: ARI@PHI: Arrieta makes tough play to nab Pollock

Jeff Mathis then hit a ground ball to Franco, who stepped on the bag and fired a throw to first base to complete the inning-ending double play.

Video: ARI@PHI: Franco turns bases-loaded DP to end the 4th

HE SAID IT
"I think he smelled it. He understands the big moment. They were flashing his stats with runners in scoring position up on the scoreboard. I felt like the crowd really got into it when he came up in that moment. He was really sitting back and waiting for the ball to get deep. That's a really important thing for a hitter to do there. See the ball a long time. We knew when it left the bat that it was screaming. We just weren't sure if it was going to over the wall. Obviously, it cleared it by a significant margin. We were all pretty fired up in the dugout." -- Kapler, on Altherr

UP NEXT
Phillies right-hander Ben Lively (0-1, 4.64 ERA) pitches Thursday afternoon's series finale at 1:05 ET against the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park, exclusively on Facebook Live. Lively slowed his pace on the mound in last week's start against the Pirates, allowing just one run in six innings. Matt Koch starts for Arizona.

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

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