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Entering 1,000th game, Trout remains peerless

MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- On Thursday night, Mike Trout will play the 1,000th game of his brilliant MLB career. Since debuting with the Angels in 2011 at 19 years old, Trout has crafted one of the greatest peaks in baseball history -- and he's still finding ways to get better.

The 26-year-old center fielder is in the midst of his best season to date, leading the Majors in home runs (23), walks (64), runs scored (60), OPS (1.158) and WAR (6.6). The next-highest MLB player on the 2018 WAR leaderboard is the Mets' Jacob deGrom at 4.8.

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ANAHEIM -- On Thursday night, Mike Trout will play the 1,000th game of his brilliant MLB career. Since debuting with the Angels in 2011 at 19 years old, Trout has crafted one of the greatest peaks in baseball history -- and he's still finding ways to get better.

The 26-year-old center fielder is in the midst of his best season to date, leading the Majors in home runs (23), walks (64), runs scored (60), OPS (1.158) and WAR (6.6). The next-highest MLB player on the 2018 WAR leaderboard is the Mets' Jacob deGrom at 4.8.

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Trout DHing despite sprained index finger

"This is not an easy game, and this guy makes it look easier and easier every year," Halos right fielder Kole Calhoun said. "It's a special talent that we're not going to see too many times, so enjoy it now."

Video: TEX@LAA: Trout belts 19th HR, triples, swipes base

Trout's greatness becomes even more discernible when you take a look at what he's done cumulatively so far and where that places him within the greater context of baseball history. Through his first 999 games, he is slashing .308/.414/.574 with 224 home runs and 178 stolen bases. Trout is the first player to hit 200 home runs and steal 175 bases before his age-27 season.

Trout has more home runs and walks (635) than all-time leader Barry Bonds (172 home runs, 603 walks) did through his first 1,000 games. Since 1960, only four players have debuted with a higher OPS than his .989 through their first 1,000 games: Frank Thomas (1.055), Todd Helton (1.041 OPS), Albert Pujols (1.040) and Manny Ramirez (1.006).

No metric better encapsulates Trout's all-around dominance than WAR, though. According to Baseball Reference, his 60.8 career WAR ranks 10th among active players, one spot ahead of Ichiro Suzuki (59.3), a future Hall of Famer who has 1,652 more MLB games under his belt than Trout.

In fact, Trout has already amassed a higher career WAR than 69 Hall of Fame position players, including Harmon Killebrew (60.4), Mike Piazza (59.6), Yogi Berra (59.4) and Vladimir Guerrero (59.4).

Only two players have a higher WAR through their age-26 seasons than Trout: Ty Cobb (63.4) and Mickey Mantle (61.4).

Video: TEX@LAA: Trout makes the catch and runs into the wall

Last year, Trout surpassed left-hander Chuck Finley (52.1) to become the most valuable player in Angels history, as measured by WAR. Finley, a five-time All-Star, pitched for 17 seasons in the Majors; Trout is in only his seventh full big league season. On the franchise leaderboard, Trout ranks fourth in home runs, eighth in hits, third in steals and fourth in walks.

The summits figure to only grow in prestige as Trout continues his unprecedented climb in the months and years to come.

"You always thought Mike had the potential to do what he's done so far in his career, and he just keeps going," Halos manager Mike Scioscia said. "You see a lot of talented guys come up, but Mike is one of those guys that's coming up here and certainly doing what he's capable of doing. It turns out to be some very special things."

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Mike Trout

2 1st-inning HRs secure Yanks' sweep, 50th W

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- The Yankees did not waste any time in continuing their run at the all-time single-season homer record, cracking two big flies in the first inning Thursday afternoon. Combining offensive power with the bullpen's recent dominance, the Bombers topped the franchise that owns that very record and held on for a 4-3 win and a sweep of the Mariners at Yankee Stadium.

The sweep was New York's ninth of the year, a feat the team accomplished 10 times in the 2017 season. The Yanks have now won 17 of their past 21 games and reached the 50-win plateau, just before the rival Red Sox did the same vs. the Twins. The Astros were the first team to reach 50 wins Wednesday.

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NEW YORK -- The Yankees did not waste any time in continuing their run at the all-time single-season homer record, cracking two big flies in the first inning Thursday afternoon. Combining offensive power with the bullpen's recent dominance, the Bombers topped the franchise that owns that very record and held on for a 4-3 win and a sweep of the Mariners at Yankee Stadium.

The sweep was New York's ninth of the year, a feat the team accomplished 10 times in the 2017 season. The Yanks have now won 17 of their past 21 games and reached the 50-win plateau, just before the rival Red Sox did the same vs. the Twins. The Astros were the first team to reach 50 wins Wednesday.

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Since 1954, this Yankees team is the second-fastest to 50 wins (50-17 in 1998). The Yanks are 41-13 since April 21 - their best 54-game stretch since also going 41-13 from June 26-Aug. 22 in 1998.

Video: SEA@NYY: Boone on sweep, bullpen's recent success

"We've obviously played well and racked up a lot of wins, but you also realize every night how precious those wins are and how hard they are to come by, I don't care who we're playing," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "But when you look at it, it is, I think, gratifying to know that we've played pretty well against some of the elite teams and some of the hot teams. I think it just speaks to what we believe our team is capable of, and the confidence these guys have no matter who the opponent is."

In his first appearance in the leadoff spot, Clint Frazier worked a single to right field in the first that set up Aaron Judge for a two-run blast to center field, the slugger's team-high 19th homer of the season. It came on a full-count 95.8-mph fastball from Mariners starter James Paxton, and it rocketed off of Judge's bat at 107.8 mph, traveling 382 feet over the wall in right-center field, according to Statcast™.

The homer nudged Judge ahead of teammate Giancarlo Stanton, who launched his 18th in walk-off fashion on Wednesday night. Stanton was robbed of a homer on Thursday by Seattle center fielder Mitch Haniger in the next at-bat. Balls hit with Stanton's exit velocity and launch angle combination of 108.6 mph and 29 degrees were homers 41 out of 41 times from 2015-17; thanks to Haniger, it went as a loud out.

Video: SEA@NYY: Haniger leaps to rob Stanton of a home run

"It was a great play," Boone said. "[Haniger] made it look pretty easy. He got to the ball efficiently. It was kind of a bummer for G. He hit two balls on the nose today and gets a home run taken back. Just a tip of your cap to Haniger today, he made a great play."

Three batters after the robbery, Miguel Andujar squeaked out a two-run homer of his own just over the right-field fence to give the Yanks a 4-0 lead. It was the team's 122nd homer of the season as it targets the 1997 Mariners' record of 264. Andujar also became the seventh Yankee with at least 10 homers this year.

"When I go to home plate, I go with my plan and try to hit the ball hard," Andujar said. "I don't think home run or anything specially, I just try to hit the ball hard."

Video: SEA@NYY: Andujar drills a 2-run shot to right field

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Andujar is also the fifth Yanks rookie to hit 10 homers before the All-Star break; Judge hit 30 last season, Gleyber Torres has 14 this season, Joe DiMaggio hit 11 in 1936 and Nick Johnson cracked 11 in 2002. Andujar and Torres are the first Yanks rookies to accomplish the feat in the same season.

The Yankees' hot bats were silenced for the remainder of the game. Paxton recovered after giving up the two big flies and allowed just three more hits through the next four innings. Chasen Bradford and Nick Rumbelow finished out the game, throwing a combined three innings of one-hit, scoreless ball.

New York had to lean heavily on what's been an extremely dependable bullpen after starter Luis Severino grinded through 5 2/3 innings to pick up his 11th win of the year, but he allowed a two-run shot to Kyle Seager in the second and an RBI single to Ben Gamel that ended his day in the sixth.

Video: SE@NYY: Severino fans Haniger in the 1st inning

The 'pen threw a combined 3 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit from Andrew Romine in the seventh off David Robertson. The performance was highlighted by another stellar outing by Dellin Betances, who has now thrown 12 consecutive scoreless innings and allowed just one hit with 22 strikeouts.

"I feel really good," Betances said. "Obviously, I'm trying to do the best I can every time I go out there. You're different every time. I feel like mindset-wise, I'm good. My stuff is there, so I got to continue to do my job and hand the ball to [Aroldis] Chapman. He's the best at what he does, so that's what I try to do."

Chapman came on in the ninth to record his 22nd save.

Video: SEA@NYY: Chapman fans Gordon to secure a series sweep

"We're built, in a lot of ways, around that great bullpen," Boone said. "They continue to deliver."

SOUND SMART
Severino's 11th victory ties Cleveland's Corey Kluber atop the Majors' wins leaderboard. The Yankees have now won in 13 consecutive home starts with Severino on the mound. This is the longest winning streak in one pitcher's home starts since winning 16 consecutive David Cone home starts from Aug. 17, 1997, to Aug. 27, 1998.

HE SAID IT
"You come to expect just him to go out and dominate time and time again. It's cool when he has a little bump in the road like today -- it's still good enough to get us through the middle innings and leaving with a lead. I think it's a tribute to just how good of a pitcher he's become, when he doesn't have his good command and he's still able to go out there and get a win." -- Boone, on Severino's outing

Video: SEA@NYY: Judge, Severino talk victory over Mariners

UP NEXT
The Yankees will travel to St. Petersburg on Friday to open a three-game series against the Rays. CC Sabathia (4-2, 3.30 ERA) will take the mound in the opener. The left-hander is coming off his longest outing of the season, tossing 7 2/3 innings against the Rays last Sunday. Despite picking up the loss, Sabathia had a quality start, and he allowed three runs on 10 hits while recording a season-high 10 strikeouts. Right-hander Ryne Stanek (1-1, 2.21 ERA) will get the start for Tampa Bay. First pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m. ET.

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com.

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino

MLB Buzz: Will Mets deal their 2 aces?

MLB.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Non-waiver Trade Deadline explained

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

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

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

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

Video: Morosi discusses Machado trade possibilities and more

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

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

Phillies a potential landing spot for Beltre
June 21: With J.P. Crawford set to miss 4-6 weeks due to a fractured left hand and both Maikel Franco and Scott Kingery carrying sub-.700 OPS marks, the Phillies will likely look to acquire a veteran to upgrade the left side of their infield, according to MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi.

While the Phillies have long been linked to the Orioles' Manny Machado, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is another option the club could pursue, per Morosi.

Morosi: Hot market for hot corner

Beltre will be a free agent after this season, making him a prime candidate to be moved by the Rangers, who are in last place in the American League West and sit 15 games behind in the race for the second Wild Card spot.

Video: Phillies GM Klentak talks bullpen, Trade Deadline

Beltre has spent substantial time on the disabled list with various leg injuries over the past two years, but he remains a productive hitter. Over 45 games this season, the 39-year-old owns a .302/.357/.428 slash line.

And while the Rangers have used Beltre as the designated hitter more often lately, the five-time Gold Glove Award winner can still handle himself at the hot corner. In 32 games at third base this season, Beltre has recorded three defensive runs saved.

Of course, Beltre has a full no-trade clause, and it remains to be seen if he'll waive it to join a contender.

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

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

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

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

Video: DeRo discusses his Top 5 trade candidates

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Mets 'open for business?'
June 18: The Mets are reportedly "open for business" as it relates to prospective trade offers ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline, including on ace Jacob deGrom, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. The club would be more inclined to move Noah Syndergaard, per Rosenthal, but it might be inclined to part with deGrom given the right return.

deGrom would cost a "boatload" in return, one source told Rosenthal, and likely for a combination of Major League talent as well as highly touted prospects, which perhaps only a handful of clubs could fulfill. deGrom has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before he becomes a free agent, while Syndergaard wouldn't hit the market until after the 2021 season.

deGrom is firmly in the mix for the National League Cy Young Award, with the Majors' best ERA (1.55) over 87 1/3 innings in 14 starts. He's currently on pace for career bests in strikeout rate (32.8 percent), opposing batting average (.206) and WHIP (1.01), as he's one of the few glimmering spotlights for a Mets team that tumbled out of first place in early May. The right-hander did avoid a significant injury scare nearly seven weeks ago when he hyperextended his pitching elbow on an awkward swing, landing on the 10-day disabled list.

Syndergaard hasn't pitched since May 25 due to a strained ligament on his right index finger. The high-velocity right-hander missed nearly the entire 2017 season due to a partial tear in his right lat. Over 11 starts this year, Syndergaard is 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA.

Monday's report surfaced less than two weeks after general manager Sandy Alderson called the liklelihood of a teardown "very remote" in an interview with USA Today.

"Just because you tear it down doesn't mean you're going to have a great rebuild. It doesn't work that way. It just doesn't," Alderson said at the time.

In Rosenthal's report, he indicates that the club would ideally like to retain most of its controllable nucleus -- shortstop Amed Rosario, outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto and right-handers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman -- but those chips are likely the most coveted by other clubs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giants going after Harper?
June 14: The Giants lost out on the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes in the offseason, despite being perhaps the most aggressive in pursuing the National League MVP Award winner via a trade from the Marlins. The Giants wound up filling out their lineup elsewhere -- trading for Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria -- but they may not be out of the market in acquiring a power-hitting corner outfielder, as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported recently that they could be a "main player" for Bryce Harper in free agency.

"They do make some sense," a friend of Harper's told Heyman.

Harper has been speculated to land a potentially historic deal, though the Giants were believed to be willing to take on the entire $295 million remaining on Stanton's contract. And general manager Bobby Evans has made it clear the club doesn't intend to rebuild in the immediate future despite a depleted farm system.

"We're going to be focused in the market as much as anybody ... the trade market as we get to the winter," Evans said in a recent interview with MLB Network Radio. "But that's so far ahead of us now. But yeah, there's always an eye on the free-agent market."

McCutchen will be a free agent this offseason, and 35-year-old left fielder Hunter Pence has struggled to stay healthy and remain productive, hitting .183/.236/.207 in 30 games. The Giants appear to be all-in on the immediate, and pursuing Harper would certainly fit that strategic mold.

Archer likely to be moved
June 13: This is far from the first time that the Chris Archer has been floated as a trade candidate, but a rival executive told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal that he believes that a seller's market this year will make the Rays likely to move Archer before the Trade Deadline.

Archer is a two-time All-Star with a 3.67 ERA in his seven seasons in the Majors, but his current injury and struggles this year might affect his trade value -- he has a 4.24 ERA in 13 starts and is on the disabled list with a left abdominal strain without a definite timetable for his return. And Rosenthal reports that the Rays don't like the thought of trading the 29-year-old due to his team-friendly contract.

Archer could be under club control through 2021, with one year remaining on his contract plus two more years of club options. That makes him different than, for example, David Price, who was only under team control when the Rays traded him, or Evan Longoria, who had a much larger contract.

Hamels might want trade partner to pick up option
June 13: Cole Hamels has been one of the most prominent names in early-season trade buzz -- most notably as a potential trade target for the Yankees, who for all their success so far are in need of starting rotation depth. The Rangers have struggled this season, but Hamels has a 3.86 ERA and 79 strikeouts in his 13 starts.

But the veteran left-hander has a 20-team no-trade list, and a source told Rosenthal that even though Hamels recently called that protection "kind of a formality," he could still use it as leverage to ask a trade partner from that list to pick up his $20 million option for 2019. That makes sense for the 34-year-old, as the alternative to picking up his option is a $6 million buyout that would leave him facing the uncertainty of free agency in his mid-30s.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi has reported that the teams not on Hamels' no-trade list are the Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Mariners, Nationals, Phillies, Rays and Royals.

Per Rosenthal, Hamels could be a difficult fit for a team trying to remain under the luxury tax threshold, as he'll still be owed close to $8 million at the Trade Deadline, unless the Rangers include significant cash in a deal.

Straily appeals suspension for Posey HBP

Marlins righty receives 5 games, Mattingly gets one game
MLB.com

Marlins right-hander Dan Straily has appealed his five-game suspension for intentionally throwing at Giants catcher Buster Posey, Major League Baseball announced on Thursday. Marlins manager Don Mattingly also received a one-game ban for the incident.

MLB said that Straily, who was also fined an undisclosed amount, exhibited intent when he plunked Posey on his left arm during the second inning after warnings were issued in Tuesday's 6-3 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park. Straily claimed after that he "just lost a fastball in" trying to force Posey off the plate.

Marlins right-hander Dan Straily has appealed his five-game suspension for intentionally throwing at Giants catcher Buster Posey, Major League Baseball announced on Thursday. Marlins manager Don Mattingly also received a one-game ban for the incident.

MLB said that Straily, who was also fined an undisclosed amount, exhibited intent when he plunked Posey on his left arm during the second inning after warnings were issued in Tuesday's 6-3 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park. Straily claimed after that he "just lost a fastball in" trying to force Posey off the plate.

Thursday's suspensions were the result of a lingering feud between both clubs over their three-game series. Warnings were in place because Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson had been hit by a pitch in the top of the second in Tuesday's game.

Video: MIA@SF: Brinson gets plunked by Rodriguez in the 2nd

On Monday, Brinson had tossed his bat after hitting a game-tying single in the ninth inning off Giants closer Hunter Strickland that led to a 5-4 Marlins win. When Strickland left the game with two outs in the inning, he stared Brinson down at third base, then punched a door in frustration with his pitching hand, resulting in the righty missing the next six to eight weeks.

When asked if he thought he was hit in retaliation for Brinson, Posey said, "It sure seemed that way."

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Miami Marlins, Dan Straily

Wacha lands on DL with oblique strain

Gant recalled to fill spot; DeJong making progress; J. Martinez back in lineup
MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- A day after injury forced Michael Wacha from the mound in the fourth inning, the righty flew to St. Louis to gauge the severity of his strained left oblique. Even before the club read the results of Wacha's MRI, the righty was placed on the 10-day disabled list.

The move will require Wacha to miss at least two starts, interrupting his excellent first half and opening a hole in the Cards' suddenly sputtering rotation. But given the lingering nature of oblique injuries, the Cardinals are preparing to be without him for longer. Right-hander John Gant was recalled to replace Wacha on the roster in the short term. He's a candidate to start Monday against the Indians -- Wacha's next turn -- if he does not pitch out of the bullpen before then.

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MILWAUKEE -- A day after injury forced Michael Wacha from the mound in the fourth inning, the righty flew to St. Louis to gauge the severity of his strained left oblique. Even before the club read the results of Wacha's MRI, the righty was placed on the 10-day disabled list.

The move will require Wacha to miss at least two starts, interrupting his excellent first half and opening a hole in the Cards' suddenly sputtering rotation. But given the lingering nature of oblique injuries, the Cardinals are preparing to be without him for longer. Right-hander John Gant was recalled to replace Wacha on the roster in the short term. He's a candidate to start Monday against the Indians -- Wacha's next turn -- if he does not pitch out of the bullpen before then.

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Gant is far from the only arm in the mix. The club is considering promoting No. 3 prospect Dakota Hudson for that start, and possibly a more permanent place in the rotation. Right-hander Daniel Poncedeleon is another option. Cardinals general manager Michael Girsch also mentioned Austin Gomber as a candidate going forward, though Gomber won't be stretched out in time to start Monday.

Video: From the Farm: Dakota Hudson

"We have options," Girsch said.

Of the group, Hudson would be the only one who would need to be added to the 40-man roster, though the Cardinals have some flexibility there with Alex Reyes and Ryan Sherriff not yet on the 60-day DL. Hudson is also by far the most polished prospect.

While Gant and Poncedeleon have both pitched well at Memphis this season, Hudson was in the midst of a particularly sensational run. The 23-year-old paces the hitter-happy Pacific Coast League in wins (9) and ERA (2.13), while also ranking among the league leaders in innings and WHIP (1.33). A sinkerballer with a plus-slider, Hudson has allowed one home run across 80 1/3 innings this season.

Poncedeleon is scheduled to make a "short" appearance Thursday at Memphis, while Hudson would have to bypass his next turn to start Monday. Gant is 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA across seven appearances in the Majors this season, and 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three starts. He was on turn to pitch Thursday.

Video: STL@MIL: Gant induces a flyout to work out of a jam

Girsch also left open the possibility of going outside the organization. The Cardinals have been averse to exploring the trade market for starting pitching in the past.

"There are lots of moving parts," Girsch said. "Ideally, we would have someone step in, pitch well, grab a hold of that spot and not let go."

However the Cardinals fill his slot, the loss of Wacha comes at an awful time for both the club and pitcher. The bedrock of their club not long ago, Cardinals starters own a 5.27 ERA over the past two weeks. It's been seven games since one completed at least six innings -- St. Louis is 2-5 in those games.

Individually, Wacha appeared on his way to a potential All-Star nod before his oblique tightened Wednesday in Philadelphia, causing the 26-year-old to fight for breath later in the clubhouse. Wacha was working on a career year; he's 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 starts.

"We need deep starts," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's been the secret to us staying in this as we have."

Around the horn
• Injured shortstop Paul DeJong took what he called "a huge step" in his recovery Thursday, taking live batting practice for the first time since breaking his left hand last month. DeJong took between 20 and 30 swings against a pitching machine after hitting a similar number of balls off a tee. Testing his strength against a "moving ball" was the new part -- DeJong began tee work last week. He hopes to hit on the field against a live arm before the end of this road trip.

"I felt no pain at contact and my bat speed feels really good," DeJong said. "Now it's about seeing pitches."

Jose Martinez was back in the lineup after suffering a minor shoulder injury in Wednesday's 4-3 loss in Philadelphia, hitting third and playing first base. Martinez initially feared the injury was much worse; he was in considerable pain after a throw pulled him inside the first-base line, facilitating a collision with Nick Williams. Though Martinez remained in the game and singled in his next at bat, he received treatment after the game then tested his shoulder again Thursday.

The first baseman is no stranger to playing through pain; he's endured maladies to his feet, legs and wrist already this year, several after awkward plays to first base. They've affected him little in the batter's box: Martinez entered play hitting .313/.381/.504 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs.

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

St. Louis Cardinals, Paul DeJong, Jose Martinez, Michael Wacha

Acuna to begin rehab assignment at Triple-A

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Ronald Acuna Jr. will take another step toward rejoining Atlanta's lineup when he begins a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday.

The Braves have not revealed how long Acuna's assignment will last. But with Gwinnett scheduled to play a doubleheader on Friday, the 20-year-old phenom could compile enough plate appearances over the next couple days to position himself to be activated from the disabled list as early as Sunday.

ATLANTA -- Ronald Acuna Jr. will take another step toward rejoining Atlanta's lineup when he begins a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday.

The Braves have not revealed how long Acuna's assignment will last. But with Gwinnett scheduled to play a doubleheader on Friday, the 20-year-old phenom could compile enough plate appearances over the next couple days to position himself to be activated from the disabled list as early as Sunday.

Acuna has been sidelined since suffering a mild sprain of his left anterior cruciate ligament on May 27. The young outfielder ranks as baseball's top prospect per MLB Pipeline. He batted .265 with five home runs and a .779 OPS in 29 games before he suffered the injury after stepping on the first-base bag on an infield single.

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

Atlanta Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr.

24 hours of games underway in Alaska

Summer solstice brings 113th Midnight Sun Game to Fairbanks
MLB.com

Major League Baseball is celebrating the 113th Midnight Sun Game today by organizing an unprecedented 24 Hours of Play Ball events around this year's game in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Throughout the 24-hour period of daylight during summer solstice, MLB and its partners -- the American Legion, PONY Baseball and Softball, USA Baseball and USA Softball -- are hosting a number of baseball and softball activities for both adults and kids.

Major League Baseball is celebrating the 113th Midnight Sun Game today by organizing an unprecedented 24 Hours of Play Ball events around this year's game in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Throughout the 24-hour period of daylight during summer solstice, MLB and its partners -- the American Legion, PONY Baseball and Softball, USA Baseball and USA Softball -- are hosting a number of baseball and softball activities for both adults and kids.

During the "Open Session" Play Ball events, approximately 600 youth players, ages 6 to 12, will run through informal baseball and softball stations. The day's other activities include games featuring baseball and softball organizations -- including the Armed Forces Softball League, American Legion, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and USA Baseball and USA Softball -- which culminates with the Midnight Sun Game.

The main event is between collegiate summer baseball teams, the Alaska Goldpanners and the Orange County Surf at Fairbanks' Growden Park. It's scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. local time and does not use any artificial light. The Midnight Sun Game was first played in 1906 and has been hosted annually by the Goldpanners since 1960, their first year of competition.

Billy Bean, a former big leaguer and MLB's vice president and special assistant to the Commissioner, will be in attendance. Bean was named the Goldpanners' Most Valuable Player in 1985.

Check back throughout the day for updates on this one-of-a-kind event.

Fairbanks, June 21 -- 9 a.m
Based here in Alaska, these men and women serve our country in the Air Force and Army. Today, we salute them as they take the diamond.

Fairbanks, June 21 -- 8 a.m.
Little League is serious business up in Alaska. With limited months to play the game outside, two teams from the Anchorage Boys & Girls Club made the eight-hour bus trek up to Fairbanks to play with local PONY and RBI teams to celebrate a full day of sunlight. That's Fairbanks in red, with Anchorage in blue.

 

Fairbanks, June 21 -- 1:00 a.m.
How's this for a baseball sky at one o'clock in the morning?

Fairbanks, June 21 -- 12:01 a.m.
The first of many pitches on the day is thrown as American Legion Post 30 faces American Legion Post 11 in Game 1 of 24 Hours of Play Ball.

Video: Riccobono excited for 24 Hours of Play Ball in Alaska

Fairbanks, June 20 -- 11:56 p.m.
Bean, Rick Riccobono (chief development officer, USA Baseball) and David James (vice president, baseball and softball development, Major League Baseball) throw out the first pitch to begin the 24 hours of Play Ball in Fairbanks, Alaska in celebration of the summer solstice.

Shannon Ford is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Shannon__Ford.

Machado the prize, but plenty of 3B intrigue

MLB.com

How intriguing is the trade market for third basemen right now?

Consider this: The Indians have the best production at the position in the Majors this year, thanks to Jose Ramirez's historic season. With 22 home runs, he is on pace to eclipse Adrian Beltre's single-season Major League record (48) among third basemen 25 and younger.

How intriguing is the trade market for third basemen right now?

Consider this: The Indians have the best production at the position in the Majors this year, thanks to Jose Ramirez's historic season. With 22 home runs, he is on pace to eclipse Adrian Beltre's single-season Major League record (48) among third basemen 25 and younger.

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Yet the Tribe is among the teams considering the acquisition of a third baseman.

How is that possible? Well, if the Indians land Manny Machado, Ramirez can move across the diamond to second base -- his best defensive position, and where Jason Kipnis has a .610 OPS this season.

Machado has a trade market unto himself, because of his power (18 home runs, .925 OPS) and defensive versatility. The Orioles' three-time All-Star is the best player available at both third base and shortstop. If the O's act decisively in their trade conversations, they'll draw multiple compelling offers for Machado; if they wait until shortly before the non-waiver Trade Deadline to establish a clear direction, they could stifle the activity on third basemen around the Majors.

The D-backs' interest in Machado goes back to last offseason, and sources told MLB.com this week the sides have been in contact about a possible trade at least once since Opening Day. The Braves have yet to seriously pursue Machado, but they have the prospects to entice the Orioles. Atlanta also leads the National League East and has shown no sign of fading, giving new general manager Alex Anthopoulos plenty of motivation to make the sort of bold moves for which he was known in Toronto.

Along with Machado, one future Hall of Famer (Beltre) and two recent All-Stars (Mike Moustakas and Josh Donaldson) are available at third base. All four are free agents after the season, increasing the chances that trades will occur.

Beltre has a full no-trade clause, and it remains unclear if he'd waive it for the chance to play on a contender. Beltre, 39, has yet to win a World Series ring. A trade in the coming weeks could represent his last chance at one.

Crucially, Beltre is playing well enough that teams are interested. He's batting .302 and is revered for his clubhouse influence. At least some within the Indians organization would like to acquire Beltre, particularly given his history playing for Cleveland manager Terry Francona during his one season in Boston.

The Phillies also have interest in Beltre, sources say, as much for his professionalism as his production. The Phils have the youngest group of position players in the Majors, and team officials see long-term value in Beltre's influence on an emerging core. Plus, the recent injury to J.P. Crawford has opened up more at-bats on the infield.

Moustakas isn't on track to equal last year's Royals record-setting home run pace, but his OPS+ is nearly identical to where it was in 2017. Improved health also has allowed Moustakas to return to his high defensive standard, according to Kansas City manager Ned Yost. Moustakas is a 2015 World Series champion who is regarded as an excellent teammate and is on a priced-to-move team-friendly contract. Especially after the Royals traded reliever Kelvin Herrera and outfielder Jon Jay, it will be a major surprise if Moustakas isn't dealt. 

Donaldson is a different case: His lack of playing time due to multiple injuries (only 36 games this year) is creating uncertainty in the minds of suitors about the 2015 American League MVP Award winner. Teams will want to see Donaldson play every day for multiple weeks before investing prospects and money in acquiring him, and he's running out of time to do so.

In fact, it's possible that Donaldson could clear August trade waivers if he's still on the disabled list then, by virtue of his $23 million salary. As a result, we still could be two months away from a Donaldson trade.

One more name to monitor: Matt Duffy of Tampa Bay. While there hasn't been much national buzz surrounding his season, Duffy is having a career offensive year. He also is in his salary arbitration years. Given the Rays' precedent, they'll be open-minded if a strong offer comes.

This season, though, Tampa Bay may find the supply of third basemen is simply too great to receive the right return for Duffy. At the 2018 Trade Deadline, there's no corner of the market quite like this.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network

Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas

Rasmus returns, homers off Scherzer in first AB

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Colby Rasmus didn't wait long to show the Orioles what he can do.

Rasmus, activated off the 60-day disabled list prior to Thursday's game, homered in his first at-bat off Nationals ace Max Scherzer. The second-inning solo shot marked Rasmus' first homer since June 11, 2017, as the right fielder sent a 1-1 fastball over the center-field wall to give Baltimore a 1-0 lead at Nationals Park.

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WASHINGTON -- Colby Rasmus didn't wait long to show the Orioles what he can do.

Rasmus, activated off the 60-day disabled list prior to Thursday's game, homered in his first at-bat off Nationals ace Max Scherzer. The second-inning solo shot marked Rasmus' first homer since June 11, 2017, as the right fielder sent a 1-1 fastball over the center-field wall to give Baltimore a 1-0 lead at Nationals Park.

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Rasmus, out with a left hip strain after playing in just eight games, had surgery on that hip earlier in his career. In his brief time with the O's he hit .095 with 13 strikeouts in eight games, but he has batted .275 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 15 rehab games with Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie.

"I feel good about it. It's always good and a dream to be in the big leagues," Rasmus said before the game. "Just happy to be here. Hopefully I can help the team win. It's been a long process trying to get back, so hopefully it'll work out."

To clear a roster spot for Rasmus, the O's optioned outfielder Joey Rickard to Triple-A Norfolk and moved pitcher Richard Bleier (left lat surgery) to the 60-day DL. Rickard batted .203 with five home runs in 29 games before being optioned.

"It was inconsistent, but at times I did help the team win," Rickard said of his performance. "At the same time, we are deep and we have guys who can help [the team] win."

The Orioles signed Rasmus to a Minor League deal in Spring Training and he made the Opening Day roster before being sidelined by the hip injury. With Baltimore struggling to find any kind of consistency, the team has been shuffling the deck in terms of roster moves to try to spark something.

"Joey continued to present himself as an option. He'll be back," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Thursday afternoon. "We're just hoping Colby can come back and start showing us what he's capable of."

Wilkerson makes MLB debut 
• Infielder Steve Wilkerson will make his first career Major League start Thursday, playing third base. Wilkerson was a candidate for the Orioles' roster in Spring Training, but he was suspended 50 games for use of the stimulant amphetamine to begin the year.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles, Colby Rasmus

How Bauer, Clevinger forged a funky friendship

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Mike Clevinger compared their relationship to that of brothers. In many ways, Trevor Bauer and Clevinger are nothing alike, but there is a competitive fire that unites them and has helped forge a friendship that would seem improbable on the surface.

"He wants to throw harder, better, sharper every day. And that's what I want to do," Clevinger said. "Hold on ..."

CLEVELAND -- Mike Clevinger compared their relationship to that of brothers. In many ways, Trevor Bauer and Clevinger are nothing alike, but there is a competitive fire that unites them and has helped forge a friendship that would seem improbable on the surface.

"He wants to throw harder, better, sharper every day. And that's what I want to do," Clevinger said. "Hold on ..."

The Indians pitcher stopped mid-thought on Wednesday morning and grabbed his wallet from a ledge near his locker inside Cleveland's clubhouse at Progressive Field. He opened the large pocket and pulled out a worn and wrinkled $100 bill that has been stuffed in the folded leather for the better part of two years now.

"We can put this on record now," Clevinger said.

Two springs ago, Clevinger and Bauer made a simple bet: $100 to the pitcher who had the highest fastball velocity reading in their first live batting-practice session. Bauer rolled his eyes when noting that Clevinger came out on top by "point two or something," but that was enough. So he retrieved the bill, grabbed a Sharpie, wrote, "To Daddy Velo, you win," to the right of Benjamin Franklin's image, and sealed it with an autograph.

Clevinger smiled while examining the note again, still savoring the annoyance Bauer must have felt at the time.

"I keep that on me everywhere," Clevinger said. "If he ever wants to chirp, I've got that in my back pocket -- literally."

Video: CWS@CLE: Bauer strikes out 8 in 7 scoreless innings

For the bulk of Bauer's career in Cleveland, the right-hander has seemingly trained in isolation. Tribe starters have monitored each other's bullpen sessions for instant feedback sessions for a couple of years now, but the day-to-day work for Bauer has typically been on his own. Since Clevinger has come into the fold, Bauer has gained a regular training partner.

Part of that is schedule-based -- their place in the rotation and between-start routines align well for long-toss sessions, weighted-ball work and regular catch -- but it is also due to their growing bond built upon brotherly competitiveness. Clevinger was among the people in Bauer's ear last season about adding a slider. Bauer has helped Clevinger fine-tune his mechanics and throwing program.

"I'm actually encouraged to talk to my teammates and share information this year," Bauer said. "That had been discouraged in the past at times. That's been super refreshing this year."

In the process, both Bauer and Clevinger have been enjoying breakout seasons.

Bauer has a 2.50 ERA with a team-leading 129 strikeouts in 100 2/3 innings, and currently ranks fifth in the Majors with 3.6 WAR (per Fangraphs). Clevinger, who opened the season in the Indians' rotation for the first time this year, has a 3.00 ERA in 99 innings while ranking 11th overall in pitcher WAR (2.3). Bauer (109.3) and Clevinger (104.1) rank first and third, respectively, in the Majors in pitches per game.

"They talk, probably more those two than the other guys and I think it's a good thing," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think it's a good thing if they can feed off each other. They can learn and that's important."

On Tuesday night, Clevinger was not feeling right on the mound early on in his outing against the White Sox. When he headed back into the Tribe dugout after a tough first inning, he checked in with Bauer.

"He told me, 'You're sitting on the rubber. You're just sitting there. You're not moving,'" Clevinger recalled. "He's like, 'Don't think about other [stuff]. Don't think about your arm. You need to move to the plate. Everything's in the right spot. You just need to move faster to the plate. You're being sluggish.'"

The White Sox went 3-for-23 the rest of the way against Clevinger, who picked up the win.

Video: CWS@CLE: Clevinger K's 10, allows 1 run over 7 2/3

"A little key like that," Clevinger said, "a little direction and that turned that start around for me completely. He's done that with me probably two or three starts this year. Some little key and ..."

Clevinger snapped his fingers.

"Next thing you know it's like, 'Bam, bam, bam.'"

Looking at Bauer and Clevinger, it would be hard to envision them as fast friends.

Clevinger's hair is wild and to his shoulders. Bauer's close-crop cut is the low-maintenance look of someone with other things to worry about. Clevinger looks like someone who traveled through time from the '60s with his colorful tattoos, creative outfits and affinity for Jimi Hendrix. Bauer often sports a plain T-shirt and jeans. Clevinger pitches like a wild horse trying to be restrained. Every movement by Bauer seems calculated.

Still, there is actually common ground that exists there.

"I know for a fact there's judgment on both of us from outside sources," Bauer said, "based on how he lives his life or what I choose to say or what I do or what he whatever. It's both probably cases of judging a book by its cover before you get to know us and understand what makes us tick. I'm not about that and he's not, either. So it's easy. It makes for an easy connection."

There is also a shared love for science -- just in different capacities.

"I wanted to be a biologist. That was my thing," Clevinger said. "I love facts that can help answer why life revolves, evolves, et cetera. I like those facts. He likes facts and numbers, the science behind pitching with numbers and statistics. And then we both just have that competitive nature."

That common trait lends itself to some brotherly feuds, too.

This past spring, some of Bauer's weighted baseballs kept going missing from his locker. He discovered that Clevinger kept borrowing the training tools, but the righty would forget to put them back. In retaliation, Bauer went into Clevinger's locker and took his hacky sack.

"He was all mad and wouldn't talk to me," Bauer said.

Clevinger fought back.

"He had two books shipped to my locker," Bauer said with a smirk. "One was like, 'It's not all about me,' and the other one was, 'How to Be a Good Teammate,' or something."

Bauer then ordered a weighted-ball set and left that on Clevinger's chair as a truce.

"There's times I want to wring him up by the neck and I'm sure he feels the same way about me," Clevinger said with a laugh. "There's times we've yelled at each other, gotten in each other's face. And there's times we've hugged it out and laughed about it. It's been like a tug-o-war, but it's just that competitive nature."

The $100 bill is evidence to that end, though Bauer notes that Clevinger would not participate in a similar bet this past spring.

"I tried to. He said no," Bauer said. "He knows that I throw harder than he does now."

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, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger

Trout DHing despite sprained index finger

MLB.com

The Angels issued the following statement regarding outfielder Mike Trout and left-hander Tyler Skaggs before Thursday night's game against the Blue Jays:

"Mike Trout has been diagnosed with a sprained right index finger. He is cleared to DH, and he will be evaluated in a few days to assess readiness to return to center field.

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The Angels issued the following statement regarding outfielder Mike Trout and left-hander Tyler Skaggs before Thursday night's game against the Blue Jays:

"Mike Trout has been diagnosed with a sprained right index finger. He is cleared to DH, and he will be evaluated in a few days to assess readiness to return to center field.

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"Tyler Skaggs has been scratched with right hamstring tightness. At this time, he is considered day to day and will be evaluated tomorrow. We will update our plan of care when appropriate."

Trout remains in Thursday's lineup, batting second and serving as the designated hitter. Skaggs had originally been scheduled to start Thursday's game, which will now be started by John Lamb.

Los Angeles Angels, Tyler Skaggs, Mike Trout

Porcello dominates, bats erupt in 50th win