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Game of the year? CLE rallies in 9th, wins in 14th

MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- The comeback began with a grueling plate appearance by Jose Ramirez in the ninth inning. It ended in extras with a Greg Allen walk-off home run on Sunday that set off a wild on-field celebration in what could go down as one of the most important victories of the season for the Indians.

After another rough afternoon for Cleveland's bullpen, the team's lineup did not relent, coming back twice to propel the Tribe to a 10-9 win over the Astros in 14 innings. The improbable victory allowed the Indians to salvage a split in the four-game series with the reigning World Series champions.

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CLEVELAND -- The comeback began with a grueling plate appearance by Jose Ramirez in the ninth inning. It ended in extras with a Greg Allen walk-off home run on Sunday that set off a wild on-field celebration in what could go down as one of the most important victories of the season for the Indians.

After another rough afternoon for Cleveland's bullpen, the team's lineup did not relent, coming back twice to propel the Tribe to a 10-9 win over the Astros in 14 innings. The improbable victory allowed the Indians to salvage a split in the four-game series with the reigning World Series champions.

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"What a roller coaster of emotions, right?" Indians starter Trevor Bauer said with a smile.

The decisive blow from Allen came on the first pitch he saw from Brad Peacock -- the seventh Astros reliever used -- on the 451st pitch of the game. It was the rookie outfielder's first homer of the year and the first walk-off blast of his career. Allen said he had never delivered a walkoff of any kind at any level.

Video: HOU@CLE: Allen belts first career walk-off HR in 14th

When the ball left Allen's bat, right fielder George Springer took a couple steps to his left before making a right turn to exit the field. Allen gave a hard clap of his hands as he tore around first, and then got a good view of the awaiting mob of teammates as he rounded third base.

"I'm hoping I don't get roughed up too much in there," Allen said with a laugh. "But, I'll take it. It was definitely something special, something I'll remember forever. And again, at the end of the day, I'm just glad we were able to pull that one out."

Video: HOU@CLE: Allen on walk-off homer, managing extras

When Allen reached the plate, he tossed away his helmet before being drenched with water and pounded with celebratory jabs.

That shot came in the wake of a game-tying homer from Yonder Alonso in the 13th and a ninth inning that included RBI hits from Alonso, Jason Kipnis, Erik Gonzalez, Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley. The last two in that sequence came with two outs, bringing Ramirez to the plate with two runners aboard. It was Ramirez, whose epic 17-pitch at-bat opened the ninth, who got the rally rolling against closer Ken Giles.

Video: HOU@CLE: Ramirez wins 17-pitch at-bat, doubles

Two batters and two hits later, Giles was out of the game and the Astros were unexpectedly forced to cycle through more of their 'pen.

"There are so many things that go into that," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Ramirez's battle with Giles. "That was an incredible at-bat. It changed the whole inning, because they ended up having to go to the bullpen, just because of the pitch count. There was a lot of things that happened that were incredible, or we don't win."

Video: HOU@CLE: Indians come back to tie it in the 9th

In his second trip to the plate in the ninth, Ramirez pulled a pitch from Hector Rondon up the first-base line with an exit velocity of 102.3 mph. For a moment, it looked like the Tribe third baseman had delivered a walk-off hit to right, but first baseman Yuli Gurriel used an all-out dive to snare the baseball before it could find the ground.

Video: HOU@CLE: Gurriel dives, snags liner to force extras

Asked if he was happy to see Allen be the one to fill the role of hero, Francona chuckled.

"I didn't care who it was," Francona said. "But that was pretty cool."

The late comeback effectively cancelled out a six-run eighth inning for the Astros, who pounced on the Tribe's struggling 'pen after Bauer's exit. Over 7 1/3 innings, Bauer struck out 13, walked two and was charged with four runs. Before the bullpen tacked two runs on Bauer's line in the eighth, he gave up a solo homer to Max Stassi in the second and an RBI double to Jose Altuve in the sixth.

Video: HOU@CLE: Bauer fans 13 in a strong outing vs. Astros

Gerrit Cole went seven innings, in which he gave up three runs on four hits, with eight strikeouts and a pair of walks. All of the Tribe's damage came in the first two frames against the righty, who limited Cleveland to a 1-for-14 showing over his final five innings. Two of the runs came in the first courtesy of Ramirez's 15th homer of the year.

Video: HOU@CLE: Ramirez belts a two-run homer to right

"This is one of those games you hope gives your team some personality," Francona said. "I know our bullpen wasn't perfect, but we found a way to win and those are the types of wins that I think really propel your team down the road."

Video: HOU@CLE: Francona on walk-off, Bauer's outing

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Calling the 'pen: Francona tried to get as much as he could out of Bauer, allowing the pitcher to log 127 pitches into the eighth. After Bauer allowed a double to Springer and walked Alex Bregman to start that inning, Evan Marshall entered for the Tribe and -- in a span of eight pitches -- allowed three straight RBI singles. Ben Taylor, who was called up from Triple-A Columbus along with Marshall on Saturday, then yielded a three-run homer to Evan Gattis that put Cleveland behind, 8-3.

"Trevor pitched his heart out," Francona said. "If we'd have had an open base, we were going to walk Altuve and let Trevor pitch. But, when it was first and second, golly, man, it just didn't seem fair to ask him to do that."

Bauer appreciated the chance to keep pitching.

"I really appreciated it," Bauer said. "Then, that whole at-bat to Bregman, I was tired. I tried to pick off the corner on a 3-2 two-seam and just yanked it. I held my stuff the whole time. I was very thankful for him sending me back out."

Trading blows: In the 13th inning, Gattis tried to put an end to the marathon with a two-out solo shot off Dan Otero, who watched the pitch clank into the left-field bleacher seats. Cleveland had an answer once again, as Alonso belted a solo blast of his own off Collin McHugh to pull the game into a 9-9 deadlock in the home half of the frame.

Video: HOU@CLE: Alonso ties it in 13th with solo smash

Bauer's escape: Moments after Astros manager AJ Hinch was ejected during a heated exchange with home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo in the sixth inning, Bauer surrendered the RBI double to Altuve, who took third on the play. With the tying run 90 feet from home, the Cleveland pitcher responded by striking out both Carlos Correa and Gurriel to escape further damage in the crucial frame.

Video: HOU@CLE: Bauer records his 11th K, fans Gurriel

SOUND SMART
Brantley's leadoff single in the third extended his hitting streak to 16 games, marking the longest active streak in the Majors. It is the longest run for the Tribe outfielder since his 22-game streak in 2012. Brantley's streak is the longest by a Tribe batter since '16 (Ramirez, 18 games; Mike Napoli, 16 games).

HE SAID IT
"It was kind of like old times in the sense that at [UCLA] he would pitch Friday and then I would go and try to one-up him. Today, he would pitch one inning and then I would pitch an inning and then back and forth -- I don't want to speak for him, obviously -- trying to one-up each other. And, ultimately, I think it turned out the best way possible. I don't think he deserved to lose. I don't think I deserved to lose. We both pitched great, both were super competitive, just a fun matchup for everybody involved." --Bauer, on facing Cole

"The fact that the resiliency that the team showed right there, obviously, you could see, it was pretty infectious, starting with Josey's at-bat. Him grinding that out, that set the table for the rest to come. -- Allen, on Ramirez's 17-pitch at-bat in the 9th

"It's a really bad feeling. If you weren't competing against him, it's fun to watch. But, he hits everything and it's not a good feeling." -- Francona, on Altuve, who set an Astros club record with 10 hits in 10 straight at-bats between Friday and Sunday

UP NEXT
Adam Plutko (2-0, 2.03 ERA) will make his third start of the season on Monday, when the Indians open a three-game series against the White Sox in a 4:10 p.m. ET tilt at Progressive Field. Plutko flirted with a no-hitter in a win over the Cubs on Wednesday at Wrigley Field. The White Sox will counter with Dylan Covey (1-1, 3.46 ERA).

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Greg Allen, Trevor Bauer, Michael Brantley, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez

Tanaka strikes out Ohtani twice in Yankees' win

New York starter fans 8, continues success vs. fellow Japanese star
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- In the highly anticipated showdown between fellow countrymen Masahiro Tanaka and Shohei Ohtani, the Yankees' right-hander came out on top, spinning a solid effort that led New York to a 3-1 victory over the Angels on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

In their first meeting since playing against each other in Japan in 2013, Ohtani worked a 3-2 count before striking out on a low-and-away, 85.6-mph splitter. Although this matchup had been the talk of the series, it was not one that Tanaka viewed to be different from the rest.

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NEW YORK -- In the highly anticipated showdown between fellow countrymen Masahiro Tanaka and Shohei Ohtani, the Yankees' right-hander came out on top, spinning a solid effort that led New York to a 3-1 victory over the Angels on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

In their first meeting since playing against each other in Japan in 2013, Ohtani worked a 3-2 count before striking out on a low-and-away, 85.6-mph splitter. Although this matchup had been the talk of the series, it was not one that Tanaka viewed to be different from the rest.

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"I think it was a good thing that I was able to face him at this stage, at the Major League level," Tanaka said. "But, I was thinking just get outs there. Yeah, the feeling was pretty much the same."

Video: LAA@NYY: Tanaka, Judge, Bird on 3-1 win over Angels

After waiting more than an hour between plate appearances, Ohtani walked on five pitches in the fourth before Tanaka won the final matchup in the sixth, recording another strikeout on an 88.7-mph splitter.

"He's a challenge. We challenged him a little bit with fastballs up in the strike zone and the off-speed pitch down, but he does a pretty good job of controlling the zone as well," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Ohtani. "Overall, we did a good job of staying away from his slug zone ... middle down, that area where he's really dangerous."

The Yankees' offense took advantage of Angels starter Garrett Richards' early struggles in the third inning. After allowing a single to Aaron Judge to start the inning, the right-hander walked Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius to load the bases. A free pass to Aaron Hicks put the first run on the board, chasing Richards.

Video: LAA@NYY: Hicks forces in a run with bases-loaded walk

Jose Alvarez replaced Richards and hit Greg Bird on the elbow pad to push another Yankees run across. Miguel Andujar grounded into a fielder's choice at second base that scored the Yankees' final run of the afternoon.

"Today was definitely one of the better ones in recent outings," Tanaka said. "To be able to win in a small-margin game like this, I think it's good. Just looking back, that last home run, that is unacceptable."

Video: LAA@NYY: Simmons launches a solo home run to left

"We needed an outing from him like that," Boone said. "He did a really good job early of establishing his fastball, he used the cutter a little bit, split was good and then turned it over to our guys lined up in the 'pen there. But, an outing we really needed today. Glad to see him go out there and deliver."

Aroldis Chapman worked around a leadoff walk to Ohtani in the ninth inning to pick up his 11th save of the season.

Video: LAA@NYY: Chapman retires Maldonado to earn the save

Ohtani remains hitless in his career against Tanaka, who faced him during his final season in Japan. The then-18-year-old Ohtani went 0-for-11 with six strikeouts, one walk and one hit by pitch against Tanaka.

"I'm not in any position to say if he got better or worse, but I feel like he threw more breaking balls this time around than when he was in Japan," Ohtani said. "It felt a little different because the American pitchers throw mostly fastballs, but he kind of pitched me backwards. That felt a little different."

Video: LAA@NYY: Fan goes all out for Tanaka, Ohtani

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Judge recorded the hardest-hit ball of the 2018 season in the third inning when he laced a 119.9-mph single to right-center field. Since 2017, Judge has had five batted balls with an exit velocity of at least 119 mph, while Giancarlo Stanton is the only other player in Major League Baseball to log one. More >>

Video: LAA@NYY: Judge knocks the hardest hit ball of season

"Richards is a guy that has got a really good fastball," Judge said. "He gets it up to the upper 90s. With a guy like him, I've just got to try to stay short and make contact. With his velo, it'll jump a little bit. For me, I was just trying to stay short and get a pitch that I could drive."

UP NEXT
The Yankees will begin a three-game series against the Astros at home Monday afternoon with Domingo German getting his fourth start of the season. German (0-2, 5.59 ERA) is coming off a pair of subpar efforts after throwing six no-hit innings in his first big league start on May 6 against Cleveland. The Astros will send right-hander Justin Verlander (6-2, 1.08) to the mound. Verlander has held his opponents to one earned run or none in five straight starts. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. ET.

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.

New York Yankees, Greg Bird, Aroldis Chapman, Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani, Masahiro Tanaka

This might be the Minor League catch of the year

Eric Jenkins is a 21-year-old outfield prospect in the Rangers organization who currently plays for the Down East Wood Ducks, Texas' Class A affiliate in the Carolina League. 

So far this season, Jenkins is hitting .250/.301/.338 for the Wood Ducks, but it's his defense that has everybody talking at the moment.

Altuve's historic run ends at 10 straight hits

Special to MLB.com @benweinrib

CLEVELAND -- For Jose Altuve, dry spells can only last so long. After the reigning American League Most Valuable Player went hitless in 12 straight plate appearances starting on Wednesday, Altuve collected hits in 10 consecutive at-bats.

Bidding for No. 11 on Sunday, Altuve was robbed by a slick diving catch by Rajai Davis in left-center field to end the top of the ninth during the Astros' 10-9, 14-inning loss to the Indians.

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CLEVELAND -- For Jose Altuve, dry spells can only last so long. After the reigning American League Most Valuable Player went hitless in 12 straight plate appearances starting on Wednesday, Altuve collected hits in 10 consecutive at-bats.

Bidding for No. 11 on Sunday, Altuve was robbed by a slick diving catch by Rajai Davis in left-center field to end the top of the ninth during the Astros' 10-9, 14-inning loss to the Indians.

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Video: HOU@CLE: Davis snags Altuve's liner, ends hit streak

With the 10-hit streak, Altuve broke his own club record of eight, set from June 23-24, 2017. The MLB record is held by Walt Dropo, who had 12 consecutive hits for the Tigers over the span of three games on July 14-15, 1952.

"You don't think about hits, you're not counting hits -- you're trying to win games," Altuve said. "I guess after two games, my teammates say, 'Oh, you got 10 hits.' You're like, 'OK, that's fun.' But in the middle of the game it's hard to think about, 'Oh I got 1, 2, 3, 4 ... "

Video: HOU@CLE: Altuve goes 4-for-6, sets new hit streak

Altuve singled in the first inning of Sunday's series finale against the Indians and followed it up with an infield single in the fourth inning. He then notched his ninth straight hit on an RBI double to the gap in the sixth inning, bringing the Astros to within a run at 3-2.

Video: HOU@CLE: Altuve doubles, sets franchise hit streak

Altuve then tied the game at 3 with an RBI single in the eighth inning. His 10 straight hits were the longest in MLB since 2012, when Andre Ethier had a hit in 10 straight plate appearances.

"He's the MVP of the league; it's not a surprise," manager AJ Hinch said. "He does have a way of putting the barrel on the ball. When he's hot like this, there's not a guy in the league that can get him out."

Video: HOU@CLE: Altuve's game-tying single extends streak

Altuve's hot streak began on Friday, when his RBI double in the eighth inning tied the game and keyed a four-run rally. He doubled again in the ninth inning and came around to score the first of seven runs in the Astros' 11-2 win.

Saturday's game was more of the same, as Altuve went a perfect 4-for-4 and fell a double short of the cycle. He singled in the first, homered in the third inning, singled again in the fifth and tripled in the seventh. Unfortunately, he didn't get a chance to complete the cycle as he stood in the on deck circle during the final out.

Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cleveland.

Houston Astros, Jose Altuve

Injury updates: Acuna, Darvish, Miller

MLB.com

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

Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
Baseball's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline hurt his knee when running through the bag at first base for an infield single during the seventh inning of the Braves' 7-1 victory over Boston at Fenway Park on Sunday.

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

Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
Baseball's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline hurt his knee when running through the bag at first base for an infield single during the seventh inning of the Braves' 7-1 victory over Boston at Fenway Park on Sunday.

After crossing the bag, Acuna's left leg buckled and he immediately fell to the ground, where he remained while being attended to by members of the Braves' medical staff before walking off the field under his own power. The extent of Acuna's injury is currently unknown as the Braves await the results of an MRI.

Acuna, 20, is hitting .265/.326/.453 with seven doubles and five homers in 29 games for Atlanta this season, displaying on several occasions the five-tool skills that made him the game's top prospect. More >

Yu Darvish, Cubs
The Cubs placed Darvish on the 10-day disabled list with right triceps tendinitis Saturday (retroactive to Wednesday). It marks the second time Darvish has hit the DL this season, the first being due to flu-like symptoms on May 7. The 31-year-old right-hander has a 4.95 ERA over eight starts this season, his first with Chicago.

Darvish will undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the injury, although Cubs manager Joe Maddon said "we're not overly concerned." More >

Video: SF@CHC: Maddon discusses Cubs placing Darvish on DL

Andrew Miller, Indians
Miller was placed on the DL with inflammation in his right knee, the same knee that caused him to be placed on the DL twice in 2017. This is the second time that the Tribe's relief ace has gone to the DL this season, the first being in April due to a left hamstring injury.

"Just from talking to him and talking to the trainers, it's just not allowing him to be himself right now," said manager Terry Francona. "That's probably the best way I could put it. So we're going to put our heads together, and I don't know what the next step will be. We're going to try to get him to a place where he can be himself."

Miller has a 4.40 ERA in 14 1/3 innings this season, including seven runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings (six outings) since his return from the DL on May 11. More >

Byron Buxton, Twins
Buxton was forced to exit Saturday's game against the Mariners after crashing into the wall while attempting to rob Nelson Cruz of a home run.

Buxton was evaluated by trainers on the field and walked off under his own power. Robbie Grossman replaced Buxton in the game, playing right field, with Max Kepler moving from right to center. More >

Video: MIN@SEA: Buxton crashes into wall, exits the game

Nick Vincent and Jean Segura, Mariners
Vincent strained his right groin muscle in the top of the eighth inning Saturday while pitching in relief for Seattle, and Segura was forced to exit after being kicked in the head sliding into second in the bottom of the frame.

Segura underwent concussion tests, and manager Scott Servais said the club should know more Sunday: "Him and Vincent coming out with a groin strain, we'll know more once we have some more tests on those guys. We'll keep our fingers crossed." More >

Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, Dodgers
Kershaw and Hill both threw simulated games for the Dodgers on Saturday, and Kershaw is the closer of the two to returning.

Kershaw threw four innings, and there's an outside chance he could return next week against the Phillies. Hill threw two innings, and he is expected to throw a bullpen session in a few days and then pitch in another simulated game.

"We'll see. I'm not sure," Kershaw said when asked whether his next outing will be in a Minor League game or with the Dodgers. More >

Madison Bumgarner, Giants
Bumgarner made his first rehab start Saturday as he works his way back from a fractured left pinkie he sustained when a ball was hit sharply back to him in San Francisco's final Spring Training game on March 23. The left-hander was dominant for Triple-A Sacramento against Albuquerque, tossing 3 2/3 hitless innings while striking out eight of the 12 batters he faced.

Bumgarner is expected to make at least two more rehab starts, though he said he could be ready to pitch in the Majors sooner if needed. More >

Martin Prado, Marlins
Prado, who was limited to 37 games last season with hamstring injuries, limped off the field with a left hamstring strain after reaching first base on an error during Friday's game vs. the Nationals, exiting the contest in the sixth inning. He was placed on the DL on Saturday and is expected to miss extended time. The 34-year-old infielder is slashing .194/.242/.226 in 24 games for Miami this season. More >

Video: WSH@MIA: Prado on left hamstring injury in 9-5 loss

Zach Britton and Mark Trumbo, Orioles
Baltimore's closer took a big step toward his return from offseason right Achilles surgery when he tossed two innings in a simulated game prior to the Orioles' game against the Rays in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

"I felt, that was probably the best one I've had," Britton said of his simulated game, which featured a few players from extended spring camp who came over to Tropicana Field. "I think maybe it seemed like more of a game situation with guys behind me that could field the ball and stuff like that. So I'm definitely ready to start a rehab assignment."

Britton will likely begin a rehab assignment Wednesday for Triple-A Norfolk. The 30-year-old left-hander posted a 2.89 ERA in 38 games last season, a year after turning in one of the greatest relief seasons in history -- in 2016, he posted a 0.54 ERA in 69 appearances, saving 47 games.

Meanwhile, the Orioles have decided not to put Trumbo (right knee) on the DL, and hope to have him available to play as early as Monday.

"We're going to wait on him," manager Buck Showalter said. "Obviously he's worth waiting on, so we're going to wait at least another day. … I was talking to him in the dugout [Friday] and he was feeling better it seemed like every hour that passed." More >

Video: BAL@TB: Britton throws simulated game in Tampa Bay

Dexter Fowler and Greg Holland, Cardinals
Fowler left Saturday's 4-1 win over the Pirates after being hit by a pitch on the outside of his right knee. The 32-year-old outfielder, hitting .157/.276/.288 with five home runs in 43 games, is considered day to day but could end up requiring a DL stint. More >

Meanwhile, St. Louis placed Holland on the 10-day DL Saturday with right hip impingement. The former All-Star closer has a 9.45 ERA over 18 appearances so far this season, his first with the Cardinals.

"I wasn't pitching well, and I didn't want to use it as an excuse," Holland said. "It got to a point where I think it's affecting me on the mound. It's at a point where I'm not giving us the best chance to win." More >

Video: STL@PIT: Fowler and Matheny discuss hit by pitch

Justin Upton, Angels
Upton exited the Angels' game against the Yankees Saturday with a left forearm contusion after being hit by a pitch. X-rays were negative. The 30-year-old outfielder is slashing .251/.327/.456 with 11 homers in 51 games this season.

Joe Panik, Giants
San Francisco's second baseman is slated to begin a rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A Sacramento as he works his way back from a left thumb sprain he sustained on April 27. Although the club initially thought he would miss 6-8 weeks, Panik could return to the Giants' lineup by the end of next week, which would shave two weeks off that timetable. In 23 games this season, Panik is hitting .267/.323/.389 with three homers. More >

Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers
Zimmermann (right shoulder impingement) will report to Triple-A Toledo on Sunday for what is expected to be a two-start rehab assignment. The 32-year-old right-hander has a 4.88 ERA in seven starts this season, coming off a career-worst 6.08 ERA in 2017. More >

Yoenis Cespedes, Mets
Cespedes took a significant step in his recovery from a strained right hip flexor, beginning a running progression on the field Friday at Miller Park before the Mets' game against the Brewers. He had previously only been hitting and throwing. The 32-year-old slugger, who has been on the DL since May 14 after initially hurting the hip on May 6, is hitting .255/.316/.474 with eight home runs in 37 games this season. More >

Dee Gordon, Mariners
Gordon took ground balls and did some pregame infield work prior to Seattle's series opener with Minnesota at Safeco Field. The second baseman was placed on the 10-day DL with a broken right big toe last Monday, and he's eligible to come off the DL on Thursday.

"It's calmed down, which is exactly what we were hoping would happen," manager Scott Servais said. "We needed to give it some time. Originally, I thought it would be only about 10 days. Everybody said I'm crazy. I still think it's going to be the 10-day period and you can still call me crazy, but I think that's what we're looking at." More >

Troy Tulowitzki, Blue Jays
Tulowitzki has been cleared by doctors to take the next step in his rehab from surgery to remove bone spurs from both feet, but is still "a ways away" from returning to the Blue Jays, according to manager John Gibbons. Tulowitzki, whose 2017 season ended due to a right ankle injury last July, has been cleared to run on flat ground. The 33-year-old shortstop hit .249/.300/.378 with seven home runs in 66 games for Toronto last season. More >

Bradley Zimmer, Indians
Zimmer could return to the Indians sooner than initially expected, according to Francona. The 25-year-old center fielder suffered a left rib contusion on May 15 when he slammed into the wall in right-center field at Yankee Stadium trying to make a play. Zimmer is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Akron on Saturday. Fellow outfielders Brandon Guyer (left cervical strain) and Lonnie Chisenhall (right calf strain) will also have rehab stints with Akron this weekend. More >

Daniel Murphy and Brian Goodwin, Nationals
Murphy was set to begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg on Saturday. The 33-year-old second baseman underwent right knee surgery last October after hitting .322/.384/.543 with a National League-best 43 doubles and 23 homers in 144 games for Washington.

"That's great news for us and definitely headed in the right direction," said manager Dave Martinez, who noted that Murphy has played sparingly in extended spring games because of the weather and an illness. "He's played the last couple of days, four or five innings, and now he's ready for a rehab assignment."

Goodwin, who has been on the DL with a left wrist contusion, will join Murphy in a rehab stint with Harrisburg. The 27-year-old outfielder is hitting .250 (6-for-24) with a homer and two steals in 13 games this season. More >

Carlos Rodon, White Sox
Rodon was making a rehab start with Triple-A Charlotte when he was hit in the forehead by a third-inning line drive Thursday night. He had a laceration that required staples, but is on track to make his next rehab start as he gets closer to returning to the White Sox following offseason left shoulder surgery. More >

Ryan Madson, Nationals
Madson was placed on the 10-day DL (retroactive to May 17) with a strained pectoral muscle and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday. The right-hander hasn't pitched since May 13, due in part to weather postponements, so it's unclear how the injury developed. Though he has a 4.19 ERA this season, his FIP is 2.16. More >

This Nats fan wanted to trade his dad for a bat

It may not be close to the Trade Deadline yet, but the Nationals are already giving signs that they'll be wheeling and dealing. 

OK, so it's actually a Nationals fan who wants to make a deal. He wants to trade his dad. For a bat.

Panda looks like a natural at second base

Baseball never stops finding ways to surprise us. In just the last week, we've seen relief pitchers start games and make MLB history (thanks Sergio Romo), longtime catchers make starts at shortstop (hi, Russell Martin) and, now, Pablo Sandoval play second base.

Sandoval, whom you've come to know and love as a slugging third baseman or first baseman over the years, was the Giants' starting second baseman for Sunday night's game with the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Prior to this game, Sandoval had only one inning at second base in his career -- since, again, it's not his primary position by any means.

Pedro still looks in game shape at Fenway

Pedro Martinez may have retired, gained entry into the Hall of Fame and become a world class broadcaster, but if Sunday's Alumni Game before the Red Sox's 7-1 loss to the Braves is any indication, the right-hander still has plenty in the tank.

Facing Mike Greenwell -- who patrolled the Boston outfield for 12 years -- Martinez went into his famous windup and blew him away.

The next Kershaw? Buehler dominates Padres

MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- As a hard-throwing rookie starter, Walker Buehler of the Dodgers is doing things Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax couldn't.

Buehler was at it again Sunday, containing the last-place Padres on four hits for seven innings in a 6-1 Dodgers win. Los Angeles has won eight of the last 10 and by Thursday, Kershaw figures to rejoin Buehler in the rotation.

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LOS ANGELES -- As a hard-throwing rookie starter, Walker Buehler of the Dodgers is doing things Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax couldn't.

Buehler was at it again Sunday, containing the last-place Padres on four hits for seven innings in a 6-1 Dodgers win. Los Angeles has won eight of the last 10 and by Thursday, Kershaw figures to rejoin Buehler in the rotation.

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Buehler struck out eight without a walk. Manager Dave Roberts joined scouts in comparing Buehler to Tim Lincecum for poise, confidence and ability to generate high velocity out of a lithe frame. But neither Lincecum nor Kershaw or Koufax displayed the first-year polish and strike-throwing efficiency of Buehler.

Video: SD@LAD: Roberts on Buehler's dominant outing in win

After his first seven starts, Kershaw had 29 strikeouts but 22 walks in 33 innings. Koufax had 31 strikeouts and 25 walks in 41 1/3 innings. Lincecum had 42 strikeouts and 17 walks in 44 1/3 innings. Buehler has 48 strikeouts and only nine walks in 41 innings, to go with a 3-1 record and 2.20 ERA. In three of Buehler's last four starts, he hasn't issued a walk.

"The first few outings, most of the runs that scored were guys that I walked," said Buehler, who said he has patterned his pitching style after Zack Greinke. "That's kind of controllable and something to avoid at all costs."

Buehler said he's learned to be efficient out of necessity.

"My generation is the first one with pitch counts, like in Little League, so it's something I grew up with in the back of my head," he said. "That's a positive to be able to do it here."

Kershaw was a 19-year-old two-pitch rookie and opponents would run up his pitch count by fouling off his best offerings. Koufax was overpowering, but raw and wild. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said the 23-year-old Buehler is more efficient because he throws variations of four pitches, using the curve as the only true offspeed pitch while developing a cutter to augment sliders and a two-seamer to contrast a four-seamer.

"Walker has more pitches, more refined," said Honeycutt. "He had more pitches before we drafted him, a full mix. His last few outings his offspeed is more refined. He has a really good feel -- which is unusual for a young guy -- to throw a back-door cutter to lefties and righties."

Now, what about those pitch and inning restrictions the Dodgers planned for Buehler this year, coming off a 98-inning 2017? The backpedaling began in earnest after this 93-pitch start.

"He's made that very difficult for us," said Roberts. "For now, we're just looking more near term and not trying to get too far ahead of ourselves. Right now, we're just going to stay the course. There's not a hard number for Walker. We'll continue to keep an eye on him."

The Dodgers have picked the softest spots possible for Buehler's starts. Five of them have come against last-place teams. Twice it's been San Diego; the first time he combined with three relievers on a no-hitter in Monterrey. Mexico.

To be fair, the odds were in favor of Buehler and the Dodgers before the first pitch. The Padres didn't have a starting pitcher and went with a bullpen game, using four relievers.

Buehler even started the Dodgers' two-run third inning with a single, going to third on Chris Taylor's flare double and scoring on Enrique Hernandez's single through the hole on the left side. Taylor scored from third base on Justin Turner's double-play grounder.

Video: SD@LAD: Taylor beats the throw at the plate in 3rd

San Diego halved the lead in the fifth inning. Freddy Galvis doubled in the right-field corner, took third on Buehler's wild pitch and scored on Raffy Lopez's sacrifice fly that Matt Kemp ran down in the left-field corner.

Video: SD@LAD: Kemp makes a stellar running grab into wall

The Dodgers blew open a close game in the bottom of the eighth inning with a pair of two-run homers from Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger. Muncy has six home runs in only 83 at-bats. Bellinger has a team-high eight, although when he hit it, he was in a 2-for-34 slump.

Video: SD@LAD: Bellinger smashes a 2-run homer to center

SOUND SMART
The Dodgers won a third consecutive series for the first time this year.

In 15 day games this year, Bellinger is batting .339. But in 37 night games, he's batting .212. Last year, Bellinger hit .291 in the day and .258 at night.

HE SAID IT
"He is here to stay, for the foreseeable future. He has exceeded our expectations, but I will say, the front office really had an eye on him." -- Roberts on Muncy, who was released by Oakland in April 2017

Video: SD@LAD: Muncy launches a 2-run home run in the 8th

UP NEXT
Monday's 5:10 p.m. PT start against the Phillies and Southern California native Vince Velasquez might be Brock Stewart's last start in a while with Kershaw returning. Stewart lasted only four innings against the Rockies last time out and it was a battle, as he kept falling behind hitters. It's a rare opportunity for Stewart to have two successive big league starts without being optioned between.

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, Max Muncy

Relentless Crew earns comeback win over Mets

Aguilar homers, has four RBIs as Brewers notch 13th win in last 17 games
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Early in the Brewers' 8-7 win on Sunday, after the Mets had rattled off five singles against Jhoulys Chacin in a four-run second inning that dropped Milwaukee into an early deficit for the second straight day, big first baseman Jesus Aguilar found Chacin in the dugout for a few prophetic words.

"He told me, 'Don't worry. Keep it there, and we're going to come back,'" said Chacin.

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MILWAUKEE -- Early in the Brewers' 8-7 win on Sunday, after the Mets had rattled off five singles against Jhoulys Chacin in a four-run second inning that dropped Milwaukee into an early deficit for the second straight day, big first baseman Jesus Aguilar found Chacin in the dugout for a few prophetic words.

"He told me, 'Don't worry. Keep it there, and we're going to come back,'" said Chacin.

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"That's true," said Aguilar. "I said, 'Hold it right there. Don't worry about the hitting because we're hitting good, and we're going to be back. We're going to win this game.' That's what I said to him."

Aguilar was right.

It took not one, but two Brewers comebacks, but Aguilar was right.

Propelling the Brewers past the mathematical one-third mark of the regular season to the traditional Memorial Day benchmark with the best record in the National League, Aguilar hit a tying, three-run home run in the bottom of the third inning and drove in Milwaukee's first four runs to fuel one of those comebacks, then took a key two-out walk to aid another in a four-run seventh inning that pushed the team over the top.

Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana and Jonathan Villar delivered the run-scoring hits in that decisive rally to send the Brewers to their fifth consecutive series victory. They are 13-4 in that stretch and 34-20 overall, best in the NL.

Aguilar, who began the season as Milwaukee's third-string first baseman but has seized the position in the wake of injuries to Eric Thames and Ryan Braun, has had an offensive resurgence in that stretch. During the team's 17-game hot streak, Aguilar is batting .302 with seven of his nine home runs and 19 of his 30 RBIs on the season.

Video: NYM@MIL: Aguilar drives in Cain with game's first run

Just like the Brewers' three-run first inning Saturday after the Mets had jumped to an early 3-0 lead on Chase Anderson, Aguilar's answer in the third inning on Sunday was like hitting the reset button.

"It was a whole new ballgame," manager Craig Counsell said.

Chacin limited the Mets to one more run while pitching into the seventh, when Asdrubal Cabrera greeted Boone Logan with a home run that gave the Mets a 6-4 lead.

Once again, the Brewers mounted a comeback. With starter Zack Wheeler out of the game in the bottom of the seventh and relievers Robert Gsellman, Jerry Blevins and Paul Sewald in his stead, Aguilar kept a threat alive with a two-out walk before Shaw, Santana and Villar delivered successive run-scoring hits. Shaw's single made it a one-run game, Santana's two-run double gave the Brewers the lead, and Villar's double provided insurance.

Video: NYM@MIL: Shaw brings home Yelich with 2-out single

Relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel closed it out, with Jeffress matching a franchise record with his 23rd consecutive appearance without being charged with a run, and Knebel rebounding from Devin Mesoraco's leadoff homer in the ninth to log his fourth save.

The Brewers have a three-game lead on second-place St. Louis entering a three-game series between those National League Central rivals beginning Monday afternoon at Miller Park.

"This isn't a fluke," said Shaw, who has reached safely in 13 straight games with a .418 on-base percentage. "I think we have some staying power this year. I'm excited to see what happens over the summer. There's still a long way to go, but I think we're all pleased with where we are right now."

Video: NYM@MIL: Chacin, Aguilar on guaranteed comeback

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Catching a break: It was a little thing, but Aguilar admitted the Brewers caught a break when home-plate umpire Rob Drake called ball 4 on Gsellman's 3-1 fastball to Aguilar in the decisive seventh. The Brewers capitalized, starting with Shaw's run-scoring single off Blevins and following with Santana's go-ahead double off the end of his bat against Sewald.

Video: NYM@MIL: Santana flicks go-ahead 2-run double into RF

"For me, it was a strike," Aguilar said. "I was kind of surprised. It was a little bit down, but still a good pitch. But he called it a ball. I'll take it. When I was hitting, I was trying to bring up Travis with somebody on base. Then Santana, all the guys tried to make good things [happen]."

"That's definitely a big pitch," said Gsellman. "I needed that, but he didn't give it to me. I let it be known."

Knebel closes it: Counsell believes his bullpen is best with Knebel pitching in the traditional closer's role, which is why the Brewers abandoned their committee approach when Knebel returned from a month-long absence for a hamstring injury. But Knebel, who suffered a blown save in Friday's extra-innings Brewers win, was shaky for the second straight appearance on Sunday. Mesoraco hit his second pitch for a solo home run to straightaway center field, and two batters later, Knebel walked Amed Rosario with one out to put the tying runner on base. But he recovered to strike out Cabrera and Michael Conforto to end the game.

Video: NYM@MIL: Knebel fans Conforto to lock down the save

"That was important for Corey, for sure," said Counsell. "He needed that. He had a little adversity with the walk and the home run, but he came back and got two really good, really tough hitters that he made good pitches to."

SOUND SMART
Jeffress' numbers are like something out of a video game, starting with his 0.32 ERA and .085 opponents' average after 28 innings. Sunday marked his 23rd consecutive appearance without being charged a run, matching a single-season franchise record shared by Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford (both in 2013) and Doug Jones (1997).

Video: NYM@MIL: Jeffress on tying Brewers' club record

What has keyed Jeffress' success this season?

"Have fun," he said. "I love smiling. I love having fun. That's the best thing. When I wake up in the morning, I know I'm coming to the park and having fun."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Chacin needed every out he could get in the Mets' 10-batter second inning, and shortstop Eric Sogard provided a big one when he scaled the tarp to catch Wilmer Flores' foul popup for the second out of the inning with the bases loaded. Jay Bruce promptly ended the threat with a flyout to the warning track in left-center field.

Video: NYM@MIL: Sogard makes awesome grab on top of the tarp

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Chacin was solid after that long second inning, with one exception. He grooved a 1-2 fastball to Conforto in the fifth inning and Conforto hit it to dead center field for what initially was ruled a tie-breaking home run. The umpires reviewed the play, however, and determined the baseball had hit the yellow line atop the wall and bounced back into play. Conforto eventually scored anyway, giving the Mets a 5-4 lead.

Video: NYM@MIL: Conforto's homers gets overturned to double

UP NEXT
The Cardinals took two of three from the Brewers at Miller Park in April before the Brewers took two of three from the Cardinals in St. Louis. Milwaukee will try to reclaim home-field advantage when the rivals meet again for a three-game series that begins with an afternoon affair on Memorial Day. Left-hander Brent Suter starts opposite Cardinals right-hander Luke Weaver at 1:10 p.m. CT on Monday.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers

Get to know the top 20 MLB Draft prospects

MLB.com @basebollie

With the 2018 Draft fast approaching (June 4-6 on MLB Network and MLB.com), we take a closer look at the top prospects in this year's class. Below you'll find profiles on each of the top 20 players on our Top 200 Draft Prospects list.

With the 2018 Draft fast approaching (June 4-6 on MLB Network and MLB.com), we take a closer look at the top prospects in this year's class. Below you'll find profiles on each of the top 20 players on our Top 200 Draft Prospects list.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

1. Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
Mize is a lock to join Gregg Olson (1988) and Frank Thomas (1989) as Auburn players to be drafted among the top 10 selections. Not only has the right-hander proven he can stay healthy, but he has the best combination of stuff and control among all collegiate hurlers in this year's Draft. Profile »

2. Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
Singer has the prototypical pitcher's body and can throw his heater at 95-96 mph consistently, which should have him following in the footsteps of recent Gators draftees A.J. Puk (No. 6 overall in 2016) and Alex Faedo (No. 18 overall in '17). He set a school record with 12 strikeouts in Game 1 of the College World Series Final last year. Profile »

3. Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State
Despite standing just 5-foot-7, Madrigal is a force with the bat, as he hit .333 his freshman year, .380 his sophomore year and .435 his junior season. He has drawn 53 walks compared to 34 strikeouts over 135 college games and is a plus defender at second base or shortstop. Profile »

4. Matt Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge (Ariz.) HS
Liberatore's fastball sits its in the low-to-mid 90s, but has reached as high as 96-97 mph this season. His 12 scoreless innings for the 18U U.S. National Team at the 2018 NHSI only helped his Draft stock. Profile »

5. Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie (Fla.) HS
With a projectable 6-foot-6 frame, Stewart has increased his velocity in 2018, topping out at 98 mph and sitting at 92-94 mph. His breaking ball is one of the best in the Draft and he has the potential to develop a solid changeup in the future. Profile »

6. Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech
Bart, the top catcher available in this year's Draft, won Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year and defensive player of the year. He's a lock to join Jason Varitek and Matt Wieters on the list of Yellow Jackets backstops to be taken in the first round. Profile »

7. Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State
Bohm offers considerable power potential from the right side of the plate, managing the strike zone well and making consistent hard contact. He has worked hard to improve at the hot corner, but is probably best suited for first base at the next level. Profile »

8. Jonathan India, 3B, Florida
Thanks to a huge junior season that saw him hit .365/.506/.730 with 16 homers and 40 RBIs, India has vaulted up Draft board this spring. His improved plate discipline has turned him not on of the best all-around collegiate hitters in the country. Profile »

9. Cole Winn, RHP, Orange Lutheran (Calif.) HS
Winn was named the Colorado State High School Pitcher of the year for the 2016-17 season before transferring to Orange Lutheran in California. He has a trio of three plus pitches and a clean, consistent delivery that could help him improve his command down the road. Profile »

10. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West (Wis.) HS
Kelenic, committed to Louisville, never participated in high school baseball, instead opting for club ball and national play. The premier producer at the plate for Team USA's U18 squad and the Most Valuable Player in the 2016 Pan American Games, Kelenic could be the first Wisconsin native to be selected in the Top 10. Profile »

11. Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama
Swaggerty is expected to become the first South Alabama player since 1991 to be taken in the first round. He gets on base at a high mark, possessing above-average speed and patience at the plate. The outfielder's power numbers have increased each year in college. Profile »

12. Nolan Gorman, 3B, O'Connor (Ariz.) HS
Gorman has about as much raw power as any hitter in the Draft class, as he took home the crown at both the MLB All-Star Game High School Home Run Derby in Miami and the Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He has lightning quick hands and impressive bat speed. Profile »

13. Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto (Tenn.) HS
Weathers, a Vanderbilt commit, possesses power potential at the plate and could continue to hit for the Commodores if he doesn't go pro. On the mound he mixes three pitches well and has a fastball that sits around 90-93 mph. His upper-70s curveball and advanced changeup helped him strike out 139 batters and walk just five in 63 innings this season. Profile »

14. Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
McClanahan missed his freshman season at South Florida after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but returned as the Bulls' Saturday starter in 2016. He led all Division I hurlers with 15.06 strikeouts per nine innings this year and was named to the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List. The southpaw's fastball can reach 100 mph consistently and he also features a plus changeup and average slider. Profile »

15. Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida
At 6-foot-5, Kowar has the size and live arm to stand out. He has a clean, repeatable delivery and easy arm action to pair with a fastball that can touch 98 mph. The right-hander's changeup is his premier secondary offering and his breaking ball has shown to be above-average in spurts. He has plenty of room for growth on the mound, which is very intriguing for whatever team selects him. Profile »

16. Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson
Gilbert was named Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year during his sophomore season at Stetson, a school that produced both the Indians' Corey Kluber and the Mets' Jacob deGrom. The lanky right-hander's fastball can reach 97 mph, but sits in the low-to-mid 90s. He has a good slider, a slow curve and a great changeup scouts would like to see him use more. Profile »

17. Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi
Rolison is looking to join the Red Sox's Drew Pomeranz as the only players in Ole Miss history to be selected in the first round. The southpaw has one of the best curveballs in the Draft and works in the low 90s with his fastball, topping out around 95 mph with the pitch. Rolison is athletic on the mound with a strong build and easy delivery, giving him everything he needs to be a starter at the next level. Profile »

18. Connor Scott, OF, Henry B. Plan (Fla.) HS
Scott attended Plant High School in Florida, the same school that produced Astros' No. 2 prospect Kyle Tucker. The outfielder is a five-tool prospect with an ability to pitch, too. He has the potential to add some power to his bat and has a fastball that ranges in the low 90s to pair with a solid curveball on the mound. Profile »

19. Cole Wilcox, RHP, Heritage (Ga.) HS
Wilcox is drawing comparisons to Astros' starter Gerrit Cole because of his funky delivery despite having great stuff. His fastball sits around 91-94 mph and is expected to increase in velocity as he fills out his 6-foot-5 frame. He helped Team USA win a gold medal at the 18-and-under World Cup last September. Profile »

20. Triston Casas, 1B, American Heritage (Fla.) HS
One of the streakier hitters in the class, Casas crushed the ball while playing for Team USA's 18-and-under National Team in international competition. He has about as much power as any hitter in this year's Draft and it helped him propel Team USA to a gold medal by leading the tournament in home runs and RBIs. He was named the WBSC International Baseball Player of the Year. Profile »

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

Boone thrilled to be in thick of AL East race

Yankees manager made no secret about missing the on-field action
MLB.com @MikeLupica

Aaron Boone tells everybody how much he missed the action of being on the field, and now he has as much action as any coach or manager could want, stakes as high as they get in baseball, a Yankees-Red Sox summer in the American League East that has all the makings.

Remember this about the way things are set up now: Even if both clubs win more than 100 games this season, which they both sure might, one of them will likely end up in a one-game Wild Card season. One of them will win the American League East. The other will win that.

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Aaron Boone tells everybody how much he missed the action of being on the field, and now he has as much action as any coach or manager could want, stakes as high as they get in baseball, a Yankees-Red Sox summer in the American League East that has all the makings.

Remember this about the way things are set up now: Even if both clubs win more than 100 games this season, which they both sure might, one of them will likely end up in a one-game Wild Card season. One of them will win the American League East. The other will win that.

View Full Game Coverage

"But that's the system, isn't it?" Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, who was managing against Boone's Yankees on Sunday, said before the game at Yankee Stadium. "You want to do anything you can to stay out of that game. But at the same time, you tell yourself: 'I'd rather being doing that than sitting at home watching.'"

A few minutes before, on the other side of the Stadium, Boone had been sitting in front of a microphone in the interview room across from the Yankees' clubhouse, a baseball in his hand. Sometimes Boone doesn't need a microphone to show you how much he missed being in the action, even in his years in the broadcast booth of Sunday Night Baseball for ESPN.

You can just see how much he missed having his hands on the game. His father played, and then managed. Aaron played for the Yankees; now he is managing them. He has some team. It is shaping up to be some season, one he is expected to win.

Boone was asked if he follows what the Red Sox are doing, even in the last week of May, even with two-thirds of the season left to go.

Boone smiled and said, "I follow the sport. At the end of the night, I know who won or lost."

The question, from Michael Kay, the Yankees' play-by-play announcer on the YES network, included the word "concerned."

"Am I concerned about them?" Boone asked. "No, I'm not. I don't concern myself with the big picture of all that. But am I aware of what the rest of the league is doing? Yeah, I am."

And then I asked him, on the day when the Yankees were about to improve their record to 33-16 with a 3-1 win over Scioscia's team, if he is happy with where his team is right now, last week of May, two-thirds of the season still left to be played.

Video: 5/27/18: LAA vs. NYY Highlights

Boone gave a long answer about his team, and where it is, and how generally happy he is with the way it has played so far, but then he ended this way:

"We need to get better if we're going to be an elite team."

He has one already. So does Boston. So do the Astros. That is the varsity in baseball. When the Astros come into the Stadium for three games starting Monday afternoon, it will feel as if the playoffs have started early, especially with Houston's ace, Justin Verlander, on the mound.

Chris Sale, the Red Sox ace, lost at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon. He gave up a three-run homer early to Tyler Flowers, and the Red Sox eventually fell behind 6-0, on their way to losing 7-1. It was the way Sonny Gray -- whom the Yankees thought was a front-of-the-rotation guy, but has turned out to be the opposite of that in New York -- got good and lit up by Mike Trout and the Angels on Saturday night at the Stadium, the Angels clubbing their way to an 11-4 victory in that one.

Masahiro Tanaka was much better for the Yankees on Sunday. The main event back in Japan, of course, was Tanaka against Shohei Ohtani, whom we thought might start this game against Tanaka before Scioscia changed his rotation midweek. Tanaka struck out Ohtani his first time up, walked him his next time up, struck him out swinging in the sixth. The Yankees scratched out three runs earlier, made them stand up on a dreary day at the Stadium, one made drearier because it was one of those days when Tanaka, even pitching well, slowed the whole thing down to a crawl.

Video: LAA@NYY: Tanaka strikes out Ohtani for 2nd time

So the Yankees have now won nine of their last 10 series. The Red Sox are right there with them. They have a winning percentage of .679. The Yankees are .673. Combined record? 69-33. They fight it out in the East knowing that the Astros, in Scioscia's division, would be the most complete team on the planet if they had a closer, which they don't, and showed it again Sunday in a wild, 14-inning, 10-9 loss to the Indians.

MLB standings

For now the Yankees win another series. So do the Red Sox. Boone watches the Sox. The Sox watch the Yankees. You know the Astros watch them both. Three best teams in baseball. A lot could change over the last two-thirds. But this is the varsity.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com. He also writes for the New York Daily News.

New York Yankees

Folty fantastic as Braves thump Red Sox

MLB.com @mlbbowman