After Game 1 flop, Rick Porcello can only hope for a shot at redemption

For six seasons and four postseasons with the Detroit Tigers, Rick Porcello watched teammates Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer start the openers of playoff series. The biggest lesson: Stay with your Zdeno Chara Jersey routine and keep things as normal as possible, even with all the distractions swirling around you.

The short outing was by design. The shaky outing — he gave up five hits and two runs to the 14 batters he faced — was not. It was the lone throwaway of the bunch. In fact, his best outing of the five might have been the one after facing the Marlins, when he wrapped five innings of one-hit ball around a rain delay.

He got up to 91 Angel Pagan Jersey pitches on Sept. 24 and feels as if he has no restrictions with strength or stamina now that the playoffs have arrived.

“At first, when you’re coming back from an injury, it’s just while you’re obviously competing out there, in the back of your head, you’re like, ‘Am I going to hurt it again?’ ” he said. “I had that, for sure, the first couple times out there.

“The last two or three starts, I’ve really haven’t thought about it. My work in between is as close to normal as it’s going to be. So I really haven’t thought about, you know, re-injuring or anything like that. I feel as close to 100 percent as anybody else is at this time of year right now.”

But for the Indians, the opportunity to play Games 1 and 2 in Cleveland was validation for grinding it out through all the injuries, slumps and other potholes they encountered during the regular season. They posted a 94-67 record and benefited from a late fade by Boston to avoid having to play a Monday makeup game against Detroit. The Red Sox, meanwhile, finished 93-69 and missed out on the opportunity to begin the series at Fenway Park, where their offense is especially daunting.

Boston appeared to have a clear pitching edge with Cy Young candidate Rick Porcello taking on Trevor Bauer, who rated as Cleveland’s No. 4 starter before the rotation was crushed by injuries. Bauer has terrific stuff, but he’s a deep thinker who is admittedly high-maintenance because of his outside-the-box preparation. Thursday’s TV broadcast showed him long-tossing while listening to music on headphones, chucking a ball at hyper-speed from behind the mound between innings, and engaging in the type of behavior that has earned him a reputation as “quirky” in baseball circles.

His abject outing, though, just might help Yu Darvish.

In Hamels’ 42-pitch third inning, he stopped throwing the ball and started aiming it. Adrenaline consumed him, and disaster ensued because he couldn’t command his fastball or any other pitch.

“So I don’t think he needs to watch his emotions. I think he needs — these are settings that, they’re electric. There are going to be emotions and players need to be able to play within their own emotions. Just don’t be emotional about it.”

In other words, be the opposite of Hamels, whose emotions swallowed him. That’s surprising, considering he was the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008, and has now started 15 postseason games.

Now, though, comes the question of the playoffs. For all of Kershaw’s regular-season dominance, there is that postseason vulnerability. A popular theory is that Kershaw’s injury was actually a blessing in disguise since it kept his innings count low, but the left-hander never felt as if he had ever battled end-of-season exhaustion.

“It happens, man. He ain’t perfect,” David Ortiz said. “He’s a human being just like everyone else. He left a couple pitches on the plate, and unfortunately that’s what happened. But he’s human.”

Indians catcher Roberto Perez, a .183 hitter during the season, belted a full-count fastball that caught too much plate because Porcello didn’t want to walk him, an acceptable situation except for what occurred next. Two batters later, he elevated a sinker to Jason Kipnis for another home run. He tried a changeup to Francisco Lindor, but that went out of the ballpark, too.

Cubs win 96th as Jon Lester continues to build Cy Young case

The Chicago Cubs have had Cy Young winners and MVPs and Rookies of the Year. What they haven’t had in a long time is a World Series championship. But when a team is going so well, sometimes the personal accolades go hand in hand with the ultimate team honor. At least that’s how the Cubs hope it plays out.

In the Cy Young chase, Jon Lester bolstered his case with another quality outing, a 6-1 win over Cincinnati that made him the National League’s first 18-game winner. Despite having a shaky fastball early, Lester wriggled out of a couple of jams and ended up throwing only 97 pitches over seven innings.

“I think he pitched a little bit more today, rather than just really relying on his fastball,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It was good, it was very good. But he has been on quite a roll.”

Lester tossed his MLB-best 25th quality start and lowered his ERA to 2.36, second in the majors to teammate Kyle Hendricks.

“He’s pitching well,” catcher David Ross said. “This is the guy you were going to get when he signed the deal he signed. He’s one of many guys who is throwing well on the staff.”

And, in an interesting twist this season, the right-handed hitting Turner has been far better against right-handed pitching than left-handed. He entered play Tuesday batting .299 with a .920 OPS against right-handers and .193/.627 marks against lefties.

“I think that we have had spurts where we were OK,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But if we plan to do what we want to as a team, accomplish what we want to and go deep into the postseason, we have to be better against left-handed pitching.”

An option like the righty-hitting Enrique Hernandez was key for the Dodgers against lefties last season, but he has hardly done the same damage this season in sporadic playing time. Yasiel Puig has produced about the same numbers against left-handers as right-handers, but overall, it has not been one of his best seasons.

“Most of the times in the game, you’re worried about your next at-bat or defense. Obviously you’re cheering for your team and paying attention, but I was able to watch those guys closer and see what they did, how they got ready for pitches, things that you see normally but you don’t pay as much attention to,” Upton said.

He noticed how early Kinsler got his foot down in his swing, how both Cabrera and Martinez rely more on rhythm. It was a luxury, watching some formidable hitters within his own lineup without worrying about his own production on those particular nights. Did it help? He’s not sure, but it was better than what he had been doing previously.

Rodriguez’s biggest moment, the one that inspires the most confidence that he’s capable of succeeding in October, came in the sixth inning.

With the Red Sox leading 2-1, the tying run on second base, two outs and the crowd getting loud at Camden Yards, Rodriguez could have chosen to walk AL home run leader Mark Trumbo and pitch to Jonathan Schoop. Instead, he won an eight-pitch duel with the 43-homer slugger, striking him out on a nasty changeup after he had fouled off three fastballs and laid off a dirt-diving slider.

“Bryce is always going to be Bryce,” Rendon said after the game. “He’s still going to be a threat, no matter if he’s 0 for his last 10, or he’s 10 for his last 10. He’s fun to watch and it’s good to see him getting more respect.”

As good an omen as that is for the Nationals, Dusty Baker is even happier about what’s happening behind Harper.

“It’s better how guys respond behind him,” the Nats skipper said. “That was some of the problems earlier in the year. The guys weren’t responding like they are now.”

There will be no toasting in St. Louis as Cubs offense stalls

ST. LOUIS — Put the champagne on ice, because it won’t be needed until the Chicago Cubs return to Wrigley Field later this week. The Cubs’ magic number to clinch the National League’s Central Division remained at three after a 4-2 loss Tuesday night to the team behind them, the St. Louis Cardinals.

“It’s inevitable at this point,” center fielder Dexter Fowler simply stated after the game.

With their division lead at 16 games, the question the last few days in the locker room has been about where, not when or if, they would clinch their first division title since 2008. Either the Cubs would clinch at Busch Stadium with a dramatic sweep of the Cardinals, or they would do it back at home in front of their own fans after Wednesday’s conclusion of a nine-game road trip. The task of sweeping a playoff contender on the road was always a tall one, so now they’re likely to pop champagne in Chicago. Tuesday’s starter, Jason Hammel, and the Cubs offense made sure of that.

“Whoever put that out there, the source within the system, they lied,” Backman said. “And that’s the part that pisses me off.”

Backman said he played a large role in advising the organization to acquire James Loney, Rene Rivera and Jose Reyes and never received any appreciation.

It’s widely known that Alderson has never been enamored with Backman, a popular 1986 Met whose hiring was fueled by ownership. Asked about his relationship with Alderson and Mets manager Terry Collins, Backman said: “It’s not Terry. Terry and I talked all the time. I think the biggest thing, and part of the reasoning behind it, is the lack of respect.

Backman had been hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks in Nov. 2004 to manage their major league club, but was fired days later after previous arrests and financial issues surfaced.

Backman said he has the temperament and loyalty to be on a major league staff.

“Everybody calls me old school,” Backman said. “I use every bit of the information that’s available in today’s baseball world.”

Non-reviewable gaffe by umpire results in A.J. Hinch ejection vs. Indians

The Cleveland Indians were the beneficiaries of a blown call by the plate umpire that was not reviewable and resulted in the ejection of Astros manager A.J. Hinch during Houston’s 10-7 loss Thursday.

Lonnie Chisenhall was at the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the second inning and — on a 1-2 pitch from Astros starter David Paulino — fouled off a pitch that had bounced in front of home plate and came to a rest near the Indians’ dugout.

They aren’t alone with that high volume. The Dodgers will carry 13 relievers for the rest of the month, and Washington started Wednesday’s game with 37 active players.

The managers all over Major League Baseball are using these extra pitchers, turning the final innings into slogging marathons of pitching changes. The other day, Giants manager Bruce Bochy — understandably looking to take advantage of all the weapons available to him — used 10 pitchers in a 13-inning loss to the Cubs. Last weekend at Citi Field, Nationals manager Dusty Baker made six pitching changes in the span of eight hitters. Under the current rules, the managers aren’t doing anything wrong; they’re actually trying to do everything right, exploiting the high volume of relievers by seeking out incremental advantages in the batter-to-batter matchups.

But more and more, you hear from folks inside the game about what a tough watch it has become, and according to sources, Major League Baseball has raised the idea of regulating the September rosters in the current collective bargaining talks in the hopes of diminishing the slog. Concepts have been discussed internally, centered on the idea of creating greater limits on the number of players available to managers in each game.

Mike Trout: No doctor visit, no lingering pain after crash

SEATTLE — Mike Trout, hitting in his usual No. 3 spot for the Los Angeles Angels, had a three-run homer his first time up Friday night, two days after he was involved in a multi-vehicle accident.

Puig rejoined the Dodgers on Friday after a spending a month with the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City. He started in right field and batted fifth against the San Diego Padres.

Moncada drew a five-pitch walk in the eighth and scored, and struck out swinging in the ninth in the Red Sox’s 16-2 win.

Travis Shaw got the start at third base Friday against Oakland right-hander Andrew Triggs but figures to lose playing time to Moncada for the season’s final month. Shaw homered and had five RBIs on Friday, but he entered the game hitting .189 since the All-Star break.

Farrell said Moncada, a switch-hitter who has had more success from the left side, will get the bulk of the starts against right-handed pitching. Aaron Hill will start against left-handers, and Farrell suggested Hill could replace Moncada for defense in the late innings of close games.

Moncada has been a second baseman for all but 10 games of his minor league career, which has lasted only 187 games. He did play third in his native Cuba, so he and the Red Sox believe he’ll handle the position smoothly.

This season for Class A Salem and Double-A Portland, Moncada hit a combined .294 with 31 doubles, six triples, 15 homers and 45 stolen bases.

He said he still wasn’t expecting a big league promotion.

“It was definitely a surprise for me,” Moncada said through translator Daveson Perez. “I didn’t think they were going to call. I’m here and ready to work. It’s been a blessing.”

Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani has given the Cardinals a lot of trouble in the the past, and Friday was no different, as he held them to two runs in seven innings. He has a 2.25 ERA in 32 career innings against them.

Yadier Molina and Randal Grichuk each homered, but that was it for the Cardinals’ offense.

The Grichuk home run came on a slider, but DeSclafani allowed no other damage with his offspeed pitches, getting nine outs with them.

josh donaldson homers again for blue jays

BALTIMORE — After blasting three home runs in a game for the first time in his career during the Blue Jays’ win Sunday, Josh Donaldson nearly left the yard in his first two at-bats during Monday’s 5-1 win at Camden Yards. Orioles center fielder Nolan Reimold made a terrific running catch on his fly ball in the first inning, crashing into the wall to rob him of extra bases.

But neither Reimold nor right fielder Mark Trumbo had a play in the fourth inning when Donaldson launched his 34th home run of the season to right-center field to tie the game at 1. He belted an 0-1 fastball from Wade Miley for the Blue Jays’ first hit of the night after Miley set down the first 10 batters in order.

The reigning American League Most Valuable Player’s past five batted balls have all had an exit velocity of at least 101 mph, per Statcast?. Donaldson’s fourth-inning home run left the bat at 104 mph and traveled an estimated 405 feet to extend his hitting streak to eight games.

Before landing on the DL, Strasburg was 15-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 23 starts, with 179 strikeouts in 145 1/3 innings. Washington is trying to vill the void for two-fifths of its rotation, with both Strasburg and right-hander Joe Ross (inflammation in right shoulder) sidelined.

Ross, who has been out since July 2, threw 21 pitches to complete one inning in his first Minor League rehab start, on Sunday. He is scheduled to pitch again on Wednesday; the Nationals are hoping to ramp him up to about 80 pitches before Syracuse’s season ends on Sept. 5.

The Minnesota Twins placed center fielder Danny Santana on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left shoulder.

Santana was injured when he collided with left fielder Robbie Grossman in the first inning Sunday in Toronto. He left the game the following inning and was examined Monday in Minneapolis.

Santana, a switch-hitter, is batting .240 with two homers, 14 RBIs and 12 stolen bases for Minnesota, which has lost 10 straight games.

Logan Schafer was called up from Triple-A Rochester and is starting in center field Monday against Cleveland.

Cooperstown Cub? Kris Bryant’s career is off to a Hall of Fame start

LOS ANGELES — There’s something going on with Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant that is bigger than the National League MVP race. Few teammates — and certainly not Bryant himself — want to go there yet, but those observing him can: Bryant is a Hall of Fame player in the making.

This isn’t about a bold prediction or being able to say “I told you so” years later. This is about appreciating and understanding what we’re seeing develop in front of our eyes. And that’s knowing how extremely tough the daily struggle in baseball is and how long and how good — and healthy — you actually have to be to make the Hall of Fame.

But Daniels has also hired managers, Ron Washington and Banister, who excel as communicators and set expectations.

Neither has a bunch of rules, and they don’t mind players with personality as long as they play hard.

Still, baseball is a game built around the discipline required to play 162 games in 183 days.

“We don’t expect you to change anything, but we do expect you to embrace our organizational concepts of accountability of work and having a certain responsibility to yourself and teammates,” said former Ranger Michael Young, who was recently inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame and now serves as an assistant to Daniels.

“If they embrace those things, they have all the freedom in the world to be themselves, but there’s a certain conduct that’s expected. There’s an unwritten code of what a Ranger is supposed to look like, so either fall in line or get of town. It’s simple.”

Anyway, Gomez hit a three-run jack off Josh Tomlin in the second inning, and Cole Hamels made another Cy Young statement with just two hits allowed over eight scoreless in a 9-0 shutout of the Indians. Cleveland’s lead over Detroit is down to 4 1/2 games. The Cleveland rotation, so good most of the season, ranks 26th in the majors in August, with a 6.13 ERA.

Two pitches later, Gomez hit his first homer as a Ranger, a three-run blast that led Texas to a 9-0 win over the Cleveland Indians.

“I feel so blessed,” Gomez said after the game. “To come from not having a job to a team in first place and to start like this right away is a gift from God.”

And just like that, the Rangers’ latest reclamation project made an impact on the team with the American League’s best record.

This is a team that’s been known to take chances on players.

General manage Jon Daniels has done it with players with off-field concerns such as Josh Hamilton (twice), Milton Bradley and Matt Bush, and now Jeremy Jeffress, who was suspended twice in the minors for violating the league’s drug policy and was jailed at 5:13 a.m. Friday morning on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Daniels has also done it with players that have more on-field concerns, such as Manny Ramirez (who never made it out of Triple-A), Ian Desmond coming off a down year in Washington and now Gomez.

Houston released Gomez because he didn’t produce on the field — a .210 average with five homers and 29 RBIs this season — and because the Astros grew weary of his over-the-top antics, whether it was swinging so hard his batting helmet fell off or making too many mental mistakes in the field for a former Gold Glove outfielder.

With Chris Tillman headed to DL, Orioles’ road to postseason got rockier

BALTIMORE — It’s official. Chris Tillman is headed to the DL.

For the season, he is hitting .377 with eight homers and 15 RBIs in 18 games.

“He’s playing himself into playing every day,” Girardi said. “That’s what he has done. It’s impressive. He was impressive [Monday] night. Not only what he did offensively, but throwing a baserunner out. You can’t say anymore about him.”

Well, you can, and we will. Sanchez is becoming the face of the Yankees, their most dynamic player, with a real chance to have staying power.

There have been Yankee rookies who have had quick starts before. Kevin Maas and Shane Spencer are two that come immediately to mind. The difference is that neither Maas nor Spencer were signed for $3 million as 16-year-olds. They were not super prospects.

“It’s been as impressive as I’ve seen,” Girardi said.

The reason why Sanchez’s start feels like the real deal is his defense. Bats go into slumps, whereas gloves generally don’t. Sanchez’s arm has been compared to Pudge Rodriguez’s by Mark Teixeira. He has been excellent at calling games, blocking balls and pretty much every aspect of catching.

The Redskins also have veteran Chris Thompson and rookies Keith Marshall and Rob Kelley. The latter two will get the bulk of the carries in Friday’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.

The Redskins want Jones to replace their workhorse of the past four years, Alfred Morris. One question surrounds Jones’ durability — he dealt with knee issues in college and missed the last four games with a hip injury last season.

“We’re hoping it’s just one of those things,” Gruden said of the shoulder injury. “He landed funny. He landed on his elbow and his shoulder popped out. We think the recovery time will be pretty quick. Sometimes as a running back you fall awkwardly and things like this happen, but we have high hopes he’ll last the season.”

Fully hatched from the cocoon now, the Dodgers’ offense continued to soar in the opener of a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants and their staff ace Madison Bumgarner. The Dodgers got eight hits from the heart of their order — Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez — and outpaced the Giants 9-5.

The Dodgers now lead the National League West by two games, their largest lead since they had a 2?-game advantage on April 24.

“It was a big team offensive effort today,” Gonzalez said. “Everybody swung the bat great today. We just had good at-bats up and down the lineup so it was a lot of fun for us.”

Easily the top slugging team in the NL since the All-Star break, the Dodgers are averaging 5.71 runs a game since the season’s midway point, and the traffic on the basepaths is only getting more frequent. Since getting shut out by the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 5, the Dodgers have averaged 7.06 runs over their past 16 games.

Yankees’ Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge have ‘Core’ values

“I think what is hard for them to prepare for here is what they face inside the clubhouse with the media,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Girardi was talking about how rookies adjust to being Yankees. At times, Sanchez had fallen short as he went through the minors, from not being in the best shape to not having the right attitude.

In 2011, the New York Daily News reported that Sanchez refused to enter a game as a replacement and declined to warm up a pitcher after losing playing time to John Ryan Murphy at Class A. Just two years ago, he was held out of two games at Double-A Trenton because he broke unspecified team rules.

“I don’t necessarily think when you are a highly touted prospect, the little hiccups that you have become public, as opposed to the other guys,” Girardi said. “We all got in trouble when we were 17 years old, 18, 19. We wish we could probably do it over.”

Sanchez’s first impression as a Yankee has been strong in the clubhouse. On the field, he has obviously looked as though he belongs, but it is also how he is taking instruction and adjusting to the tests of being the center of attention in pinstripes. Sanchez said he is in a better place at 23 than ever before.

“The main thing when I was younger I didn’t have the same experience I have today,” Sanchez said. “Today, I’m a more mature person and player.”

At 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, Judge is a giant. The Yankees have watched his development since he was in high school. Before his senior year, they saw him mature on the field in the Cape Cod League.

“He really played with a grace,” Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees’ vice president of amateur scouting, said of the 24-year-old. “He was flowing, which a lot of big guys don’t have.”

Sanchez and Judge have arrived in the majors in different ways. Sanchez has grown up in the Yankees’ system, while Judge has needed to polish his skills on the field.

“I think the Yankees go out and get guys who want to win,” Judge said.

The first item on the list is talent, but after that the Yankees try to find attitude. Sanchez and Judge, at least for now, seem to have the right ones, though they found them via different paths.

“You can’t control what their longevity and impact will be, but we do think we have some guys who have pretty solid makeup,” Oppenheimer said.

CLEVELAND — Once his long drive caromed into no-man’s-land, Tyler Naquin kept going. And going. And going.

Naquin sprinted around the bases, stumbled toward home plate and scored with a head-first dive.

Then he was mobbed by his Cleveland teammates — they all wanted to celebrate a game-winning inside-the-park home run in the ninth inning.

Even by walk-off standards, the Indians’ 3-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night was a stunner.

“That was a pretty cool moment,” Naquin said. “I almost fell down there for a second. I wanted to just keep running.”

It was the first walk-off inside-the-park homer since Angel Pagan did it for San Francisco against Colorado in 2013, according to

Naquin’s mad dash capped a two-run rally. Toronto took a 2-1 lead into the ninth in a matchup of American League division leaders.

Closer Roberto Osuna (2-2) retired the first batter, but Jose Ramirez tied it with a home run.

Naquin followed with a fly that hit the top of the right-field wall, above the leap of Michael Saunders. The ball bounced away at an angle, and center fielder Melvin Upton Jr. gave chase as Naquin rounded second.

Lourdes, 22, brother of Astros signee Yulieski, expected to hold showcase for all 30 teams

Lourdes, who played six seasons in Cuba, won’t be 23 until October. He will not be subject to the guidelines if he signs after he turns 23, and therefore stands to have more leverage if he signs after his birthday because teams would not have to use money from their international bonus pool to sign him.

On the field, Lourdes can play the infield and outfield. He was hitting .321 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs and a .924 OPS in 43 games for the Havana Industriales this season before defecting with his brother in February after the Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. A good runner with a good glove, the younger Gurriel could project as a center fielder and can also play shortstop.

As for Yulieski, he hit .429 with a home run and nine RBIs in four games at Class A Advanced Lancaster and also played two games in the Gulf Coast League. He will join Houston’s Double-A team in Corpus Christi on Tuesday and could be in the big leagues sometime next week.
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for based in Phoenix.

ST. LOUIS — What was, for eight innings, one of the lesser inspired performances by the Cardinals this season finished as perhaps their most defining victory to date. Down to their final out, they stunned the Reds with a five-run ninth on Monday night for a 5-4 win at Busch Stadium and pulled even with the Marlins for a National League Wild Card spot.

“I’ve seriously never seen anything like that before,” said Cardinals starter Michael Wacha, who watched the drama unfold from the trainer’s room. “It just shows what kind of guys we have in this clubhouse, never giving up.”
The Cardinals entered the ninth inning with five hits, no runs and hitless in 11 chances with a runner in scoring position. That changed when Matt Carpenter, up with the bases full, lined a two-run single to extend the game. An RBI single by Stephen Piscotty made it a one-run game, and a bases-loaded walk by Brandon Moss evened the score at 4.

When Ross Ohlendorf, who inherited a mess created by Reds closer Tony Cingrani, hit Yadier Molina two pitches later, the Cardinals celebrated their sixth walk-off victory of the season. And it was the first in almost 11 years in which they needed five ninth-inning runs to do it.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny talks about the team’s refusal to give up and the thrilling late comeback in the 5-4 win over the Reds
“That win right there is a small version of our season, what we have to do,” manager Mike Matheny said. “You just have to keep playing the game. You trust each other. It was one of those next-man-up [scenarios]. Play the game and good things can happen.”

It was just the fourth time this season that a team entered the ninth inning leading by four runs or more and lost. The five ninth-inning runs yielded by the Reds’ bullpen were as many as it had given up over its first 22 innings this month.

“It’s miserable,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “I’ll tell you it’s a miserable feeling, but we’ve just got to get this one out of our system.”