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  • Cards need Wainwright to step up vs. Reds
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, September 27, 2016

    ST. LOUIS -- A 15-2 rout at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds on Monday represented more than a loss for the St. Louis Cardinals.

    • It took away the Cardinals' ability to win their way to the playoffs without requiring help from others, putting them into a more precarious spot for the regular season's final six days.

      St. Louis (81-75) enters the Tuesday night matchup with Cincinnati a game behind the San Francisco Giants (82-74) for the National League's second wild-card spot. The Cardinals are 1 1/2 games behind the New York Mets (83-74) for the top wild-card position, thanks to New York's 7-3 loss at Miami on Monday.

      "You never want to be embarrassed, and that's an embarrassing loss," Cardinals managed Mike Matheny said of the 13-run defeat in the series opener.

      About the only positive spin Matheny could generate from the team's worst loss of 2016 was that he got to rest some players. Catcher Yadier Molina played only four innings, while outfielders Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty were excused after five.

      Just three of the nine guys who started the game -- second baseman Greg Garcia, left fielder Brandon Moss and shortstop Jedd Gyorko -- played the full nine innings.

      "The key is to let it go and get back in there and show a different product tomorrow," Matheny said. "This team's done a very good job of that. It was just one of those days, but they all hurt to lose."

      St. Louis will turn to Adam Wainwright (12-9, 4.57 ERA) in an attempt to right the ship. The veteran right-hander is coming off a 10-5 win on Sept. 20 in Colorado, where he allowed four runs over 5 1/3 innings. He also did major damage with his bat, driving in four runs to give him 18 RBIs in 58 at-bats.

      Wainwright hasn't enjoyed much success against the Reds this year, though, going 0-1 with a 6.06 ERA in three starts. In his career against Cincinnati, Wainwright is just 8-10 with a 4.41 ERA.

      He will be opposed by rookie right-hander Robert Stephenson (2-2, 5.59 ERA), who was tagged for eight hits and four runs over 3 2/3 innings Wednesday night in a 9-2 loss at the Chicago Cubs. Stephenson will face the Cardinals for the first time.

      Cincinnati (66-90) enjoyed perhaps its best game of the year Monday night, banging out 22 hits in a game for the first time since 2003 and notching a season high in runs. Along the way, a gaggle of Reds achieved significant milestones.

      Left fielder Adam Duvall tallied single-game career highs with four hits, four runs and five RBIs. He reached 100 RBIs for the first time in his career with a three-run homer in the fifth -- his second of the game.

      That Duvall has 33 homers and 100 RBIs is significant. Not only was he playing his first full major league season after coming to Cincinnati last July from San Francisco, but he was expected to be a platoon outfielder.

      "Phenomenal," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Duvall's season. "It's a huge accomplishment to hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs, and make the All-Star team. It's hard to be really good for 162 games, but even when his offense has suffered, he's never let it affect his defense."

  • Fernandez seen at bar before fatal boat crash
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, September 27, 2016

    Jose Fernandez purportedly engaged in an argument with his girlfriend and was seen at a Miami River bar hours before the fatal boat crash that killed the 24-year-old Miami Marlins pitcher and two others, the Miami Herald reported Monday.

    • The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is investigating the crash, also confirmed that Fernandez was the owner of the boat -- a 32-foot SeeVee vessel named "Kaught Looking" -- after initially stating it was owned by a friend of Fernandez.

      The bodies of Fernandez, 27-year-old Emilio Jesus Macias and 25-year-old Eduardo Rivero were found early Sunday morning after the boat slammed into jetty rocks in Miami's deepwater channel.

      Officials do not believe drugs or alcohol played a factor in the crash. Toxicology results have not been released.

      A spokesperson for the American Social Bar & Kitchen acknowledged that Fernandez attended the establishment, likely after midnight.

      Will Bernal, a friend of Rivero's, declined to join the three men on the boat and said that Fernandez was stressed out by the argument with his girlfriend.

      "I was trying everything in my power to try to convince him (Rivero) to not go out on the boat, and Jose too," Bernal told the Herald.

      The Marlins canceled Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves and honored Fernandez with various tributes throughout Monday's game against the New York Mets, including having every player wear Fernandez's No. 16 jersey.

  • Nats C Ramos leaves with apparent leg injury
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, September 27, 2016

    WASHINGTON -- Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos left Washington's game in the top of the sixth inning Monday after he appeared to injure his right leg against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    • With runners on first and second and one out, Arizona's Yasmany Tomas hit a two-run double to right. As Brandon Drury scored the second run, Ramos tried to catch the ball on the relay and fell awkwardly on the first base side of the plate, pointing to his right leg near the knee once he was on the ground as the Diamondbacks took a 7-4 lead.

      Ramos was helped off the field by two members of the athletic training staff and he was replaced by Pedro Severino. Ramos, in the last year of his contract, is hitting .307 with 22 homers and 80 RBIs. He was 1-for-3 with a run on Monday.

      His injury came just minutes after 20-minute rain delay. Ramos, according to published reports, recently turned down a contract offer from the Nationals and appears headed to the free agent market. The Nationals do not give injury updates during games.

      It was the second injury in two days for the Nationals. Outfielder Bryce Harper injured his thumb in the third inning Sunday during a slide in Pittsburgh, and he was not in the starting lineup Monday.

      Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy, having the best year of his career, also did not start Monday as he deals with a buttocks strain.

      The Nationals clinched the National League East title on Saturday in Pittsburgh.

  • MLB roundup: Emotional night for Marlins
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, September 27, 2016

    MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins, playing inspired baseball in their first game since the tragic death of pitcher Jose Fernandez, routed the New York Mets 7-3 on Monday night at Marlins Park.

    • Fernandez, who was already a two-time All-Star at age 24, died early Sunday morning in a boating accident in which speed was a factor, according to authorities.

      There were numerous tributes to Fernandez throughout Monday's game, and every Marlins player wore No. 16 in honor of their fallen teammate.

      Before the game, Mets and Marlins players and coaches exchanged hugs. The Marlins players also kneeled around the mound Fernandez virtually owned with a 29-2 record and a 1.49 ERA at Marlins Park.

      Once the game began, the Marlins (78-78) gave numerous indications that this would be a truly special night for their organization and fans.

      Indians 7, Tigers 4

      DETROIT -- Coco Crisp hit a two-run home run and Roberto Perez added a solo shot plus an RBI single and Cleveland's bullpen pieced together five workable relief innings to help the Indians defeat Detroit and clinch their eighth American League Central Division title.

      Crisp and Rajai Davis singled with two out in the eighth before Perez lined a single to center to give Cleveland a 6-4 lead. Carlos Santana hit a pop fly near the right field line that J.D. Martinez dropped for a run-scoring error to make it 7-4.

      Miguel Cabrera's second RBI single of the game and 97th of the season cut a two-run Indians lead down to 5-4 in the seventh. Ian Kinsler doubled to left off Brian Shaw and went to third on a groundout.

      Cubs 12, Pirates 2

      PITTSBURGH -- Javier Baez hit a grand slam, and Kris Bryant added a two-run homer as Chicago pounded Pittsburgh at PNC Park for its 100th win of the year.

      The Cubs reached 100 victories for the first time since 1935.

      Chicago has clinched everything it can before the playoffs, including the best record in the major leagues, but keeps on chugging. The win was the Cubs' fifth in six games.

      The Cubs are 13-3 this season against the Pirates, who have lost four of five to see their "tragic number" for elimination from wild-card contention reduced to two.

      Yankees 7, Blue Jays 5

      TORONTO -- Mark Teixeira and Aaron Hicks homered in a five-run ninth inning and New York came back to defeat Toronto to avoid a sweep in the four-game series.

      The Blue Jays scored twice in the bottom of the ninth in a rally that fell short.

      The solo homer by Teixeira and the two-run shot by Hicks came against Toronto reliever Jason Grilli (7-6) and ended the Yankees' four-game losing streak in a game that had two bench-clearing incidents.

      Diamondbacks 14, Nationals 4

      WASHINGTON -- Jean Segura had three hits, including two homers, and drove in three runs and Yasmany Tomas had two hits, including a homer, and drove in five runs as last-place Arizona hit five homers to beat Washington.

      The winning pitcher was Zach Godley (5-4), who came out of the bullpen to pitch three scoreless innings while allowing just one hit. Segura hit a two-run homer off rookie reliever Lucas Giolito to make it 12-4 in the eighth and Jake Lamb followed with a solo shot.

      Chris Owings had an RBI groundout in the ninth for Arizona to make it 14-4.

      Washington catcher Wilson Ramos was taken out of the game in the top of the sixth inning when he appeared to injure his right leg.

      Brewers 8, Rangers 3

      ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jonathan Villar homered twice, Matt Garza went six solid innings against his former team and Milwaukee beat Texas at Globe Life Park.

      Texas no longer owns the best record in the American League, falling behind idle Boston by a 1/2 game.

      The AL West champs were constantly playing catch up in the opener of a three-game series and a six-game homestand to end the regular season. The Brewers roughed up Rangers starter Martin Perez early, with Villar inflicting most of the damage.

      Reds 15, Cardinals 2

      ST. LOUIS -- With a chance to tie the San Francisco Giants for the National League's second wild-card spot, St. Louis instead endured its worst loss of the year. Enjoying its first 22-hit game since 2003, Cincinnati piled up a season high for runs in a blowout at Busch Stadium.

      Rookie Steve Selsky led the assault, going 5-for-5 with two runs and four RBIs. Adam Duvall went 4-for-6 with four runs and five RBIs, giving him 100 RBIs for the year, and Brandon Phillips went 4-for-5, the 14th four-hit game of his career.

      Not to be outdone, rookie pitcher Tim Adleman (3-4) went seven strong innings, allowing four hits and two runs with no walks and four strikeouts.

      Mariners 4, Astros 3 (11 innings)

      HOUSTON -- Robinson Cano homered twice, including with two outs in the top of the 11th inning, to carry Seattle to a win over Houston at Minute Maid Park.

      Cano cranked his 35th home run off Astros right-hander Luke Gregerson (4-3) with Gregerson one strike away from striking out the side. Mariners right-hander Nick Vincent earned the save, his third, while Drew Storen (4-3) won in relief for Seattle.

      The Mariners moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Astros in the chase for an American League wild-card slot. Both Toronto, which occupies the top spot, and Detroit lost on Monday while the Orioles were idle.

      White Sox 7, Rays 1

      CHICAGO -- Justin Morneau drove in three runs and James Shields allowed one run in six innings and won for the first time since July 26 as Chicago beat Tampa Bay at U.S. Cellular Field.

      Shields (6-18) snapped a six-game losing streak, scattered seven hits, struck out six and handed the Rays their seventh loss in their last eight games.

      Drew Smyly (7-12) took the loss for the Rays after allowing three runs and seven hits in five innings.

  • Indians' Kluber departs with right groin tightness
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 26, 2016

    Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber departed Monday night's game against the Detroit Tigers after four innings and was diagnosed with tightness in his right groin.

    • Kluber, who gave up two runs on five hits and a walk with three strikeouts while throwing 60 pitches, is considered day-to-day.

      The 30-year-old right-hander is 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA and 230 strikeouts in 32 starts and is a candidate for the American League Cy Young Award.

      Kluber, a first-timer All-Star in 2016, won the AL Cy Young Award and led the league in victories in 2014.

      The Indians have already lost starters Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco to injuries.

  • Yankees pitcher ejected after HBP leads to brawl
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 26, 2016

    TORONTO -- A brawl erupted in the bottom of the second inning in the game between the Yankees and the Blue Jays on Monday after New York right-hander Luis Severino hit Toronto's Justin Smoak with a pitch.

    • The Blue Jays first baseman was the third batter to have been hit by a pitch in the game and the second by Severino.

      Both teams milled around home plate with several heated exchanges taking place.

      Both teams were warned in the top of the second when Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ hit Chase Headley with a pitch and the benches emptied briefly that time.

      Severino hit Josh Donaldson with a pitch in the bottom of the first.

      Jonathan Holder replaced Severino, who was ejected, as were Yankees manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and bench coach Rob Thomson.

  • MLB notebook: Marlins to wear Fernandez's No.16
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 26, 2016

    The Miami Marlins will wear No. 16 jerseys in Monday night's game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park in honor of Jose Fernandez, who tragically died in a boating accident.

    • It will be the last time any Mariners player wears that number, which will be retired.

      Although there has been no official act to retire the No. 16, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria told the Sun-Sentinel, "Nobody's going to wear it. I can tell you that now, nobody will wear that number again."

      The Marlins' 24-year-old pitching ace and two of his friends were killed early Sunday morning in the accident near Miami Beach when their 32-foot boat had a "severe impact" with a jetty.

      Fernandez, Emilio Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, died from trauma in the crash and did not drown, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation. The boat was traveling at a significant speed when it struck rocks, authorities said. The investigation is ongoing.

      --The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired infielder Chris Bostick from the Washington Nationals. In return, the Nationals received minor league catcher Taylor Gushue and cash considerations.

      --The Cincinnati Reds placed shortstop Zack Cozart on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sept. 16, with a knee injury. Cozart batted .252 with 16 homers and 50 RBIs this year.

      --Houston Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus will see a specialist on Tuesday in Philadelphia for a hip/groin issue that has sidelined him for more than a week. He made his last start on Sept. 16 at Seattle and pinch hit the following two games. Rasmus, who signed a one-year, $15.8 million contract during the offseason, is not expected to return this season.

      -- New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard will pitch Tuesday after having his start pushed back two days because of strep throat.

  • Browns QB Kessler will get another chance
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 26, 2016

    BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns, 0-3 for the first time since 2012 when they lost their first five games, can get ready for their next opponent at least knowing they can start the same quarterback for a second straight week.

    • For Coach Hue Jackson, that's a start.

      Rookie Cody Kessler started against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday and, after a nervous start, gave the Browns a chance to win. Cody Parkey, though, missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt at the end of regulation with the score tied at 24.

      The Browns went on to lose 30-24 in overtime, and though Kessler wasn't spectacular, unless Josh McCown makes an unexpected recovery from a broken collarbone, Kessler will start on the road against the Redskins next Sunday, Jackson said in his Monday press conference. Kessler completed 21 of 33 passes for 244 yards without a touchdown pass or interception.

      "He had some moments that we wish we had back, but he also did some good things too," Jackson said. "That was his first experience and it's tough. He's trying to play quarterback, the hardest position in all the world in the National Football League, away from home, against a very hostile defense that is after you. I thought he held his own OK, but again, I have to coach him better."

      Quarterback Robert Griffin III started the opener. He finished the game but suffered a broken bone in his left shoulder. McCown started and finished the second game but played with a broken collarbone. Both Griffin and McCown wore black slings on the sideline in Miami.

      The Browns had success running the ball in Miami and hope to continue that in Washington. They rushed 32 times for a 169 yards -- a 5.3 average -- and unlike last week, when Isaiah Crowell scored on an 85-yard run, there were no long gallops to skew the average. The strong running game takes heat off Kessler.

      "It was just (that) we had to get out there and play together as a team and get our stuff together," Crowell said. "All the plays that we wanted to run, we just had to go out there and play as a team."

      The Browns now have 434 yards rushing after three games, which projects to 2,315 yards for the season. They rushed for 1,529 yards last year.

      --Kicker Pat Murray suffered a knee injury in practice on Friday, forcing the Browns to scramble for a replacement. They signed Cody Parkey, who was 32 of 36 on field-goal tries with the Eagles in 2014. He did not play last year after being waived in the final cuts of 2015.

      Parkey did not even have the chance to practice with the Browns. He was 2 of 5 on field-goal attempts against the Dolphins. He was wide left from 46 yards at the end of regulation with the score 24-24.

      "I know everybody will say it came down to the field goals but I'm not going to put that kind of pressure on Cody," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "Cody just got off a plane with us and I don't know him as well as I know this chair right here. I'm getting to know him and he came out there and he attempted to do what a lot of people don't do in front of the world and the country and try to kick a ball through the uprights."

      Jackson said the plan is to stick with Parkey for now.

      --Terrelle Pryor caught seven passes for 144 yards. Both were career highs. He also completed three passes for 35 yards and rushed for 21 yards with a touchdown. He is the first NFL player to register at least three passing attempts, three rushing attempts and three receptions in the same game since Billy Kilmer did it for the 49ers in 1964.

      "Obviously, I made a couple plays, but there were some drops as well," Pryor said. "I'm very dissatisfied with myself, personally, but I'm very proud of my teammates."

  • Pirates acquire Bostick from Nationals for Gushue
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 26, 2016

    The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired infielder Chris Bostick from the Washington Nationals on Monday.

    • In return, the Nationals received minor league catcher Taylor Gushue and cash considerations.

      The 23-year-old Bostick hit a combined .250 with 22 doubles, 10 triples, eight home runs and 51 RBIs in 135 games this season between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.

      Bostick was originally selected by Oakland in the 2011 draft before being acquired by Texas on Dec. 3, 2013. The right-handed hitting infielder was then acquired by Washington on Dec. 11, 2014.

      Bostick has a career minor league average of .263 with 122 doubles, 39 triples, 49 home runs, 294 RBIs and 107 stolen bases in 615 games since making his professional debut in 2011. He entered this season tabbed as Washington's 23rd-best prospect, according to MLB.com.

      Bostick was added to the 40-man roster but will not report to Pittsburgh. To make room for Bostick on the 40-man roster, infielder Josh Harrison was placed on the 60-day disabled list (right groin strain).

      Gushue, 22, was the Pirates' fourth-round pick in 2014. He played at Class A Bradenton this season, hitting .226 with 17 doubles, eight home runs and 38 RBIs.

  • Marlins to honor Fernandez by wearing No. 16 jerseys
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 26, 2016

    The Miami Marlins will wear No. 16 jerseys in Monday night's game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park in honor of Jose Fernandez, who tragically died in a boating accident.

    • It will be the last time any Mariners player wears that number, which will be retired.

      Although there has been no official act to retire the No. 16, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria told the Sun-Sentinel, "Nobody's going to wear it. I can tell you that now, nobody will wear that number again."

      The Marlins' 24-year-old pitching ace and two of his friends were killed early Sunday morning in the accident near Miami Beach when their 32-foot boat had a "severe impact" with a jetty.

      Fernandez, Emilio Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, died from trauma in the crash and did not drown, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation. The boat was traveling at a significant speed when it struck rocks, authorities said. The investigation is ongoing.

      Their bodies were discovered at 3:15 a.m Sunday. Marlins team officials were told of the news at 6:30 a.m. and by 10 a.m., the entire team had gathered at Marlins Park even though Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves was canceled.

      "When I think about Jose," manager Don Mattingly said Sunday, "I see a little boy. The way he played, here was just joy with him. When he pitched, you just see that little kid that you see when you watch kids play Little League or something like that."

      The team has vowed to honor and support Fernandez's family through this difficult time. Last week Fernandez had posted on Instagram that his girlfriend, Carla Mendoza, is pregnant.

      Fernandez twice attempted to defect from Cuba unsuccessfully and was thrown in jail on a third attempt before finally reaching the United States and attending high school in Tampa, Fla.

      A two-time All-Star, Fernandez was drafted in 2011 and rose to the Marlins' starting pitching staff by 2013.

      Fernandez was named National League Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA in 76 career starts for the Marlins. He was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA this season.

  • After tragedy, Marlins and Mets brace for emotional game
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 26, 2016

    MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez was on the mind of virtually everyone in South Florida on Sunday, especially those who follow the Miami Marlins.

    • However, the tragic boating-accident death of the 24-year-old All-Star pitcher didn't just impact those in his community.

      Fernandez was also respected throughout baseball.

      The New York Mets, who will visit the Marlins on Monday to start a three-game series that is sure to be emotional, showed on Sunday that Fernandez was on their minds, too.

      Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who like Fernandez was born in Cuba, hung up a jersey with his friend's name and his No. 16.

      "Our guys are a special group," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We wanted to honor Jose, so we put up his jersey in our dugout. All our guys walked by and gave it a little tap."

      Cespedes said the tribute for Fernandez was the idea of Mets owner Jeff Wilpon, who had the jersey made.

      "(Wilpon) came and talked to us in the trainer's room before the game," Cespedes said. "I decided I wanted to be the one to hang it up in the dugout, just to let everyone know how much this loss means to us."

      The Mets (83-73) lead the San Francisco Giants (82-74) by one game and the St. Louis Cardinals (81-74) by 1 1/2 games in the battle for two NL wild-card berths. It is likely that two of those three teams will make the playoffs.

      Miami (77-78) is tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates (77-78), next in the wild-card standings, both 4 1/2 games back with seven games to play.

      The Marlins, though, can still play for pride. They can play to try to get a winning record for the first time since 2009. And they can play to honor Fernandez.

      Marlins third baseman Martin Prado said he doesn't know how his team can possibly be ready to play on Monday night.

      "We are not robots," Prado said. "We are humans. We feel things. Jose made an impact, in different ways, on every player on this team.

      "I know we have to play the games. We are professionals. ... But there is a lot of pain. We miss him."

      Marlins manager Don Mattingly wept openly during a Sunday press conference to announce Fernandez's passing.

      "I saw such a little boy in Jose," Mattingly said. "He played with the joy of a Little Leaguer."

      The Marlins have not announced who will start on Monday -- Fernandez had been scheduled to pitch before his tragic accident.

      Left-hander Adam Conley, who had been scheduled to pitch Sunday before that game with the Atlanta Braves was canceled, is the likely candidate to face the Mets.

      Conley (8-6, 3.94 ERA) would be making his first start since Aug. 13. He sustained a finger injury on his left hand, and he likely would be on a strict pitch limit.

      New York will counter with right-hander Bartolo Colon (14-7, 3.12 ERA).

      With four of the five pitchers the Mets were counting on to end this season in their rotation now injured -- Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler -- Colon has clearly been New York's rotation savior.

      And even though Colon is 43 years old, he is doing quite the opposite of running out of gas. He went 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA in August and is 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA in September.

      Collins said Colon is the perfect pitcher to have on the mound on Monday. Due to his vast experience, he figures to know how to navigate the emotion evening.

      The Mets say they will hang up their Fernandez jersey in their dugout on Monday, and the Marlins will no doubt dedicate what remains of their season to their fallen teammate.

      Fans, sadly, were robbed of seeing Fernandez at home on Monday in his beloved Marlins Park -- where he had a 29-2 career record and a 1.49 ERA -- battling a Mets team that is fighting hard to make the playoffs.

      Collins still expects the Marlins to bring their best.

      "I'm sure they are all going to be fired up," Collins said, "not only to beat us but to honor Jose."

  • Brewers to see familiar faces when they battle Rangers
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    MILWAUKEE -- As he left the home clubhouse at Miller Park for possibly the last time, Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun took a moment to reflect on what his team accomplished this season; the first in a massive rebuilding effort for the franchise.

    • "To this point, we've played at least as well if not better than anybody expected," Braun said. "We have more wins (70) than we did a year ago (69) and that's after trading away our set-up guy, our closer, our All-Star catcher and our third baseman."

      Braun and the Brewers will be reunited with two of those players -- catcher Jonathan Lucroy and right-handed reliever Jeremy Jeffress -- Monday when they open a three-game series against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park.

      Lucroy has been a key cog for the Rangers, who locked down the AL West championship last week. Bouncing back from an abysmal 2015 campaign, at least by his standards, Lucroy was batting .299 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs when he and Jeffress were shipped to Texas just before the non-waiver trade deadline.

      With the Rangers, Lucroy has kept on hitting, posting a .278 average with 10 homers and 28 RBIs. He's also thrown out 42 of 109 runners attempting to steal this season, the third-best mark in baseball.

      But Braun was hardly impressed by that statistic.

      "Lots of easy stolen bases this week with Luc," joked Braun, who needs four more stolen bases to hit 20 for the fifth time in his career.

      Jokes aside, Braun was happy to watch friends clinch their divisional crown.

      "It's great to see them ultimately in a position they want to be in," Braun said. "It's a lot of fun to watch them clinch from afar; I'm just glad it happened before we got there."

      Jeffress, meanwhile, has had a rockier transition. He had a 2.22 ERA and 27 saves at the time of the trade but struggled in nine outings with Texas then, in late August, was arrested for a DUI and placed on the restricted list.

      Texas reinstated Jeffress over the weekend, but it's still unclear how or if the Rangers will use him down the stretch or during the postseason.

      "I just want to move forward from this," Jeffress said. "I'm still a sick man, I'm still working on my treatment. Coming from the program I was just in made me a better person, a wiser person."

      The Brewers will also be reacquainted with outfielder Carlos Gomez, who signed with Texas in late August after he was designated for assignment by the Astros.

      Milwaukee shipped Gomez to Houston last year in a deadline deal but the lively outfielder struggled en route to the postseason, batting just .242 in 41 games. Things got even worse this season; Gomez was hitting .210 with just five home runs and 29 RBIs when he was released Aug. 19.

      Since joining the Rangers, Gomez appears to be back on track. He's hit six homers, driven in 16 runs and has four stolen bases in 27 games.

      "I think he's added energy at the top of the lineup for us. He added some on-base and power. The strikeouts (are) still there," manager Jeff Banister said last week. "However, he has calmed the approach down, which is more conducive to leading off an inning. I like the look of what he has provided us from that leadoff spot."

      At 92-64, the Rangers begin the day tied with Boston for the best record in the American League. They'll send left-hander Martin Perez to the mound hoping he can extend his streak of four consecutive quality starts.

      Perez took a no-decision his last time out, scattering four hits without a walk over seven innings against the Angels.

      Milwaukee will counter with right-hander Matt Garza, who spent the second half of the 2013 season with Texas before signing a four-year, $50 million contract with Milwaukee.

      He is 0-2 with a 4.20 ERA in his last three starts.

  • MLB notebook: Marlins ace Fernandez dies in boating accident
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, an All-Star starting pitcher who escaped Cuba to become one of the best young arms in baseball, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning at the age of 24.

    • The Marlins canceled their scheduled game Sunday afternoon against the Atlanta Braves.

      Fernandez was one of three people killed in the boat crash near Miami Beach, police said early Sunday. The Coast Guard discovered an overturned boat around 3:30 a.m. Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, according to authorities. Fernandez was killed as a result of the impact of the crash and did not drown.

      The boat carrying Fernandez and two others was traveling at a significant speed when it struck rocks, authorities said.

      --Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper left Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates with an apparent left thumb injury.

      The 2015 National League MVP was injured while sliding into third base on a triple in the third inning. He remained in the game and later scored before he was replaced by Chris Heisey.

      Harper was one of the few Washington regulars in the starting lineup a day after the Nationals clinched their third NL East title in five years.

      --Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully will call three more games this season, the Dodgers' final series in San Francisco, before retiring. Scully said previously he will not call any of the Dodgers' postseason games.

      --Colorado 2B D.J. LeMahieu seeks to become the third member of the team to win a batting championship in the past four seasons, following OF Michael Cuddyer in 2013 and 1B Justin Morneau in 2014.

      --Giants RHP Johnny Cueto (groin) was unable to make his Sunday start and was replaced by rookie Ty Blanch. SS Brandon Crawford (finger) returned to the lineup after missing four games.

      --A's manager Bob Melvin announced before the game that RHP Sonny Gray (elbow inflammation) will start Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels. Gray, who hasn't made a start since Aug. 6, is expected to pitch no more than two innings before LHP Ross Detwiler replaces him.

      --Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier was hit on the hand by an Eduardo Rodriguez fastball in the bottom of the third inning and left the game. He is considered day-to-day with a bruised left wrist.

      --Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said chances were slim that RHP Homer Bailey will pitch again this season. The veteran returned from Tommy John surgery on July 31 but made just six starts before he was sidelined with tightness in his right biceps. Because of that, Bailey hasn't pitched in nearly a month.

  • MLB roundup: Dodgers walk off with NL West title
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    LOS ANGELES -- Charlie Culberson hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Los Angeles Dodgers the National League West championship with a 4-3 win over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

    • Reliever Joe Blanton earned the victory that gave the Dodgers their fourth successive division title.

      With two out in the bottom of the 10th, Culberson hit a 91 mph fastball from Boone Logan into the stands down the left field line for his first home run of the season and the sixth career.

      The game not only marked the end of the Dodgers' regular-season home schedule, it culminated a weekend of festivities honoring Vin Scully. The Hall of Fame broadcaster called his final game at Dodger Stadium. Scully said he would not broadcast any of the team's postseason games.

      Padres 4, Giants 3

      SAN DIEGO -- Wil Myers' RBI single in the seventh inning lifted San Diego past San Francisco.

      Myers drove in Manuel Margot, who was on base after his third hit of the game, a triple into the right-center gap. Myers tomahawked a grounder just inside the first base line to score Margot, who finished a homer shy of the second cycle in Padres history.

      Brandon Morrow pitched to three batters, retiring two, for the win. Brad Hand recorded his first save after getting the final five outs.

      Red Sox 3, Rays 2 (10 innings)

      ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Veteran designated hitter David Ortiz went 3-for-5 with a double in his final game at Tropicana Field, lifting Boston over Tampa Bay for its 11th straight win.

      The Red Sox completed the three-game sweep of the Rays to inch closer to an AL East title. The Red Sox are 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays.

      Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez had 13 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings in a no decision. The Rays struck out 11 consecutive times against Rodriguez and reliever Heath Hembree to set a major league record. The Rays struck out 23 times to set a franchise record.

      Blue Jays 4, Yankees 3

      TORONTO -- Edwin Encarnacion hit an infield single to second base to score the winning run as Toronto came back with two runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat New York.

      Jose Bautista homered for the Blue Jays. Didi Gregorius homered for the Yankees.

      Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda did not factor in the decision after allowing three hits, three walks and one run in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out seven. Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada also did not figure in the decision after allowing one run, four hits and two walks while striking out seven over seven innings.

      White Sox 3, Indians 0

      CLEVELAND -- Carlos Rodon pitched eight innings, allowed two hits, striking out 11, as Chicago beat Cleveland at Progressive Field.

      Rodon walked three and threw 108 pitches as the White Sox ruined Cleveland's chance to clinch the Central Division title at home. The Indians' magic number for clinching the division is at one.

      David Robertson pitched the ninth to earn his 36th save. Rodon and Robertson struck out eight of the last nine Indians hitters to end the game.

      Royals 12, Tigers 9

      DETROIT -- Salvador Perez, Cheslor Cuthbert, Raul Mondesi and Alex Gordon each hit a home run and Kansas City pounded out 19 hits in a victory over Detroit.

      Kansas City hit for the cycle four batters into the game and when Paulo Orlando singled, it drove starter Matt Boyd from the game without retiring a batter.

      The Tigers made it interesting as the game wound down, rallying for two runs off Kevin Herrera in the eighth inning.

      Victor Martinez hit a grand slam in the third inning.

      Mets 17, Phillies 0

      NEW YORK -- Rookie Robert Gsellman threw a career-high seven scoreless innings to lead New York to a rout of Philadelphia at Citi Field.

      The National League wild-card leading Mets capped their final homestand of the regular season with the most lopsided shutout win in the franchise's 55-season history. The previous biggest shutout was a 14-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on April 19, 1998.

      New York took three of four from the Phillies, who jumped out to a 10-0 lead Saturday before being outscored 25-0 the remainder of the series.

      Nationals 10, Pirates 7

      PITTSBURGH -- Jayson Werth smacked a pinch-hit, two-run homer to highlight a five-run eighth inning as Washington pulled out a win over Pittsburgh at PNC Park.

      The four-hour game featured a combined 21 hits, four ties, 45 players used (tied the National League record), 17 pitchers (one shy of the major league record), a benches-clearing incident, two ejections and an injury to a star player.

      Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper started and left in the third inning with an apparent left thumb injury. There was no immediate word on the exact nature of the injury or a prognosis.

      Reds 4, Brewers 2

      MILWAUKEE -- Brandon Finnegan threw five shutout innings and Scott Schebler had two hits with a pair of RBIs as Cincinnati beat Milwaukee at Miller Park.

      Finnegan closed the book on his first full big league season on a high note. He struck out four batters and scattered three hits without walking a batter, picking up his tenth victory of the season.

      Astros 4, Angels 1

      HOUSTON -- Joe Musgrove worked seven strong innings and Houston belted three solo home runs to offer support in a win over Los Angeles at Minute Maid Park.

      Musgrove allowed one run on seven hits while recording four strikeouts. He did not walk a batter for the first time in six starts and capped a strong stretch of home appearances with a 1.75 ERA over six games (five starts) at Minute Maid Park.

      Evan Gattis and Tony Kemp launched leadoff home runs in the second and fifth innings. Tyler White added his eighth home run with one out in the seventh inning.

      Mariners 4, Twins 3

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Nelson Cruz hit two solo home runs and Jesus Sucre continued his hot hitting since his recall from Triple-A with a two-run homer as Seattle held on for a win over Minnesota, which lost its 100th game and will finish with the league's worst record and the top pick in next year's draft.

      Cruz had four homers in the series, including one in each game for the Marlins, who kept pace in the American League wild-card race. The Mariners remained 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the second wild card.

      Taijuan Walker pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Mariners, allowing three runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out seven. Edwin Diaz finished with his 17th save in 19 chances.

      Athletics 7, Rangers 1

      OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rookie right-hander Jharel Cotton gave Athletics fans a reason to believe in a brighter future in the home finale, limiting Texas to one run in seven innings in a victory over the American League West champions.

      Ryon Healy smacked a two-run home run among three hits, and Stephen Vogt ignited a seven-run second inning with a three-run double, helping the A's finish with a win at home after they'd begun the six-game homestand with five consecutive losses.

      Meanwhile, the Rangers fell into a tie with the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the AL heading into the final week of the regular season. The Cleveland Indians are also still in the chase for the home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.

      Orioles 2, Diamondbacks 1

      Hyun Soo Kim hit an early two-run homer and Baltimore finished a three-game sweep of Arizona.

      The victory let the Orioles hold on to the second wild-card spot. Baltimore came into this game with a half-game lead over Detroit for that No. 2 wild card.

      Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy gave up one run in five innings. Bundy allowed that only run in the fourth inning before the Orioles went to the bullpen in the sixth.

      Cubs 3, Cardinals 1

      CHICAGO -- Jon Lester allowed three hits in 6 2/3 innings, and Chicago set a franchise record for single-season victories by beating St. Louis.

      Lester earned his league-leading 19th victory, and David Ross, who is retiring after the season, homered as the National League Central champions reached 99 victories, which they last accomplished in 1935. They took two of three against the Cardinals, who trail the Giants by a half-game for the second NL wild card.

      Lester (19-4) struck out seven while lowering his ERA to 2.28, second lowest in the majors behind his teammate Kyle Hendricks (2.06), another candidate for the NL Cy Young Award. Lester hasn't allowed more than two runs in a start since July 24 against the Brewers.

      Braves-Marlins (cancelled)

      Miami ace Jose Fernandez, an All-Star starting pitcher who escaped Cuba to become one of the best young arms in baseball, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning at the age of 24.

      The Marlins canceled their scheduled game against Atlanta as a result.

      Fernandez was one of three people killed in the boat crash near Miami Beach. The Coast Guard discovered an overturned boat around 3:30 a.m. Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, according to authorities. Fernandez was killed as a result of the impact of the crash and did not drown.

  • Future face of baseball, Fernandez leaves lasting void
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    The palpable feelings of pain and loss were particularly sharp on Sunday as all of baseball mourned the untimely death of Miami ace Jose Fernandez who perished in a boating accident.

    • Yes, the 24-year-old was one of the sport's biggest talents. But he was so much more. He was an inspiring tale of perseverance, successfully defecting from Cuba on his fourth attempt and needing to dive from the boat to rescue his mother after she'd fallen out of the boat on that final journey. And he was exemplary, playing with a happiness and enthusiasm that made him a beacon to other players and fans.

      "When you watch kids play Little League, that's the joy Jose played with," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said, breaking down in tears.

      The Marlins postponed their game with the Braves and weepy players lingered at the field consoling one another. There were moments of silence before every game and tributes of all fashions. The Mets, for example, hung a jersey with Fernandez' name and No. 16 in the home dugout at Citi Field.

      He lived an American Dream after the defection.

      He learned English and went to high school. He was a first-round draft pick and got a $2 million signing bonus. He rocketed through the minors, reached the majors at age 20 and won the NL Rookie of the Year. And though Tommy John surgery robbed him of most of the next two seasons, he was back in the conversation for the Cy Young award this year, 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA.

      Any time a life is snatched long before it's time, the question that inevitably looms centers on what might have been. The potential, the unfolding story and the anticipated achievements are gone in a blink. Having those whisked away creates a wound.

      This wound will not heal fast. It cut deep into Major League Baseball, the Marlins organization and city of Miami.

      Baseball will be without one of its greatest ambassadors when the Red Sox' David Ortiz retires at the end of this season. Big Papi is one of the game's biggest personalities, almost universally loved by players and fans. He is a great competitor and performer. But he is also someone who makes us feel good when we watch the game because he is effusively happy.

      Fernandez had that kind of happiness about him.

      He could have been an heir apparent, another great ambassador for the sport.

      And baseball is likely going to need that going forward. Young fans are going to be the key if the sport is to keep thriving. The rules intended to speed up the game and the technological advances are geared to attracting a new generation of fan. Fernandez might have been the personality to connect to them.

      In Fernandez, the Marlins had a big piece of their foundation. He and Giancarlo Stanton had become the face of the franchise as it has ascended in recent years. Surely the front office envisioned him as the cornerstone for many future successes. In addition to the personal loss all in the organization feel, that could be compounded down the road if they aren't able to succeed as they expected.

      The NBA's Boston Celtics were ultimately laid low for a long stretch after the untimely deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis. At the time when they were envisioned to emerge as stars of the team, the franchise felt the long-term after effects.

      Miami, too, could feel the impact for a long time.

      There was a synchronicity, a perfect fit between that city and this Cuban refugee who became an American citizen and star of the local team. On days when Fernandez was the starting pitcher at home, the Marlins drew about 6,000 more spectators than their average. He was a hero to many Cuban-American families and a tremendous role model. Such things are assets every city doesn't have enough of.

      Fernandez' body was found with those of two others at the wreckage of their boat in the early hours of Sunday. Not long before he had included in a social media post a photo of his pregnant girlfriend. So much lay ahead for him.

      His next scheduled start was to be Monday against the Mets at Marlins Park. That game will be played, but we should expect a lot of anguish and tears too. It will be the second day of pain from this loss. Many more lie ahead.

  • Mourning Marlins gather to remember fallen Fernandez
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    MIAMI – Teammates and officials cried and smiled in the hours after learning Jose Fernandez was gone too soon.

    • Fernandez, the Miami Marlins' 24-year-old All-Star right-hander, was with two friends late Saturday night into early Sunday morning when the 33-foot boat they were in crashed into rocks.

      Their bodies were discovered at 3:15 a.m. Marlins team officials were told at 6:30 a.m. And by 10, the entire team had gathered at Marlins Park even though Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves was canceled.

      "When I think about Jose," manager Don Mattingly said, "I see a little boy. The way he played, here was just joy with him. When he pitched, you just see that little kid that you see when you watch kids play Little League or something like that."

      The Marlins gathered as a team, some of them in uniform, processing the loss of one of their leaders and a friend and favorite in the locker room. They stayed together, talking and sharing, as the grieving process began. Several players went to the pitcher's mound at Marlins Park, where a No. 16 was painted behind the mound and Fernandez's cap sat on the pitching rubber.

      The names of the two friends were not released, and that information is awaiting notification of next of kin. Authorities said they were males in their 20s but not athletes.

      Miami's game against the New York Mets on Monday night will be played as scheduled.

      "That's a hard question to answer," Marlins third baseman Martin Prado said when asked how his team can possibly focus on baseball for the six remaining games on their schedule.

      "We are not robots. We are humans. We feel things. Jose made an impact, in different ways, on every player on this team.

      "I know we have to play the games. We are professionals. There is a lot of pain. We miss him."

      Fernandez defected from Cuba, along with his mother and sister, in a boat in 2007. During that perilous journey, his mother fell overboard, and Fernandez had to dive in to save her life.

      "Jose had to work harder than most to get freedom," Marlins executive David Samson said of Fernandez, who became a U.S. citizen last year. "He would often tell me, ‘You don't really understand what freedom is because you were born into freedom.' "

      After settling in Tampa, Florida, Fernandez became the Marlins' first-round pick in 2011. He was called up in 2013 and named National League Rookie of the Year. He was a two-time All-Star in a far-too-brief four-year major-league career.

      At Marlins Park, Fernandez was nearly untouchable – a 29-2 record and a 1.49 ERA. Overall, Fernandez went 38-27 with a 2.58 ERA in four seasons.

      In his last start, on Sept. 20, Fernandez tied a career high by lasting eight innings. He held the Washington Nationals to three hits, no walks and no runs, striking out 12 batters in a 1-0 win.

      "He told one of our teammates that the (Nationals start) was the best game he had ever pitched," Prado said. "And now he's gone."

      Fernandez was originally scheduled to pitch on Sunday against the Braves.

      But after pitching those eight innings in his previous start, the Marlins decided to push him back one day, to Monday, where he would face the New York Mets, a team they were chasing in the NL wild-card playoff race.

      With no game to pitch on Sunday, perhaps that entered into Fernandez's thinking after the Marlins played Saturday night. Perhaps this would be a good time, Fernandez might have been thinking, to go out on a speed boat with two friends.

      That decision proved fatal as the boat, according to authorities, hit some rocks and capsized.

      Authorities said speed was a factor in the crash. But they found no evidence of alcohol or drugs, and the authorities also confirmed that Fernandez died of the impact of the crash, not a drowning.

      The entire Marlins roster came out to Sunday's press conference in a show of support for their teammate, starting with manager Don Mattingly, who was unable to say much without crying.

      "I saw such a little boy in Jose," Mattingly said. "He played with the joy of a Little Leaguer."

      How Mattingly viewed Fernandez was ironic because this joyous young man, Fernandez, was soon to be a father. Marlins president David Samson said Fernandez and his girlfriend were expecting a daughter.

      "We recognize that life is precious," Samson said. "We sat with our team today and a lot of words were said, meaningful words. When something like this happens, there is just love and prayer."

      Marlins general manager Michael Hill said he remembers scouting Fernandez when the pitcher was a high school star in Tampa, Florida.

      "He was a precocious young guy," Hill said. "I remember sitting in his kitchen (after the draft) and trying to sign him and then introducing him in 2011 as our newest Marlin. … This is a tremendous loss."

  • Nationals OF Harper injured vs. Pirates
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    PITTSBURGH -- Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper left Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates with an apparent left thumb injury.

    • The 2015 National League MVP was injured while sliding into third base on a triple in the third inning. He remained in the game and later scored before he was replaced by Chris Heisey.

      Harper was one of the few Washington regulars in the starting lineup a day after the Nationals clinched their third NL East title in five years.

  • Baseball stunned by loss of Jose Fernandez
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    Major League Baseball began mourning the loss of one of the game's brightest young stars, Miami Marlins All-Star Jose Fernandez.

    • Fernandez, 24, was killed in a boating accident near Miami Beach early Sunday. The Marlins canceled their scheduled game against the Atlanta Braves.

      Fernandez made three unsuccessful attempts to defect from Cuba and was jailed before finally reaching the United States and attending high school in Tampa, Fla. He was drafted in 2011 and voted National League Rookie of the Year in 2013.

      New York Mets manager Terry Collins refused baseball questions Sunday morning in his pregame press conference, saying he would only talk about Fernandez, whose infections spirit made him popular with fans and peers alike.

      "This one hits you in the stomach," said Collins, who remembers when Fernandez made his major league debut in 2013 at Citi Field, allowing one earned run in five innings.

      "When the first pitch left his hand, the first thought was 'Oh, wow, this is something special,'" Collins said. "I was telling the guys this morning, he was here for the All-Star game when the game was here in Citi Field, and he treated our staff in our kitchen with tremendous respect and he was only 20 or 21 years old at the time. Very, very polite."

      An outpouring of condolences came in from around the league:

      --New York Yankees: "On behalf of Hal Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees, we offer our deepest condolences to Jose Fernandez's family and loved ones, and to the entire Miami Marlins organization he so joyfully and proudly represented."

      --Yankees manager Joe Girardi: "It's sad, a very sad day. You think about all the people's lives that this affects and how difficult it must be down there right now. It must be awful. I don't know how you ever get over it. It affects the whole community, families. It's going to affect people who didn't even know him, just because of his ability to pull the community together and what he had been through in his life and how important he was down there."

      --David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox: "It's a tragedy for baseball. Jose was a star on the field but was an even better person. Rest in peace, my friend."

      --Kansas City Royals: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jose Fernandez, his family and the entire Marlins organization during this incredibly difficult time."

      --Washington Nationals: "We are heartbroken by the news of Jose Fernandez's passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the entire Marlins organization."

      --Atlanta Braves: "The Atlanta Braves organization sends our deepest condolences to the family of Jose Fernandez and to the Marlins organization."

      Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, who is from Havana, Cuba, was removed from the lineup Sunday after learning of Fernandez's death.

  • Marlins ace Fernandez dies in boating accident
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 25, 2016

    Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, an All-Star starting pitcher who escaped Cuba to become one of the best young arms in baseball, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning at the age of 24.

    • "The Miami Marlins organization is devastated by the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time," the team said in a statement.

      The Marlins canceled their scheduled game Sunday afternoon against the Atlanta Braves.

      "All of Baseball is shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez," Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "He was one of our game's great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life."

      Fernandez was one of three people killed in the boat crash near Miami Beach, police said early Sunday. The Coast Guard discovered an overturned boat around 3:30 a.m. Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, according to authorities. Fernandez was killed as a result of the impact of the crash and did not drown.

      The boat carrying Fernandez and two others was traveling at a significant speed when it struck rocks, authorities said.

      Fernandez twice attempted to defect from Cuba unsuccessfully and was thrown in jail on a third attempt before finally reaching the United States and attending high school in Tampa, Fla.

      A two-time All-Star, Fernandez was drafted in 2011 and rose to the Marlins' starting pitching staff by 2013.

      Fernandez was named National League Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA in 76 career starts for the Marlins. He was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA this season.

      Fernandez announced on Instagram last week that his girlfriend is pregnant.

      After Sunday's tragedy, the Tampa Bay Rays canceled a scheduled pregame ceremony to recognize retiring Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, per his wishes.

      The Miami Dolphins plan to hold a moment of silence for Fernandez before their game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, a team official told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

  • Mets try to get by with patchwork rotation
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    The New York Mets are fighting for a National League wild card start despite a patchwork starting rotation.

    • Noah Syndergaard was the last remaining healthy starter from last season's four-headed monster of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Syndergaard, but a bout with strep throat pushed back his latest start by a few days.

      While Harvey and deGrom underwent season-ending surgery, Matz (shoulder impingement) has yet to be ruled out for the postseason. The 25-year-old left-hander has been out since Aug. 14 and will not return to the rotation, though manager Terry Collins left open the possibility of bullpen work.

      "Right now, if he's able to throw - able to pitch - maybe we'll put him in the 'pen and see if we can get him an inning here or an inning there to see how he reacts to it," Collins said of Matz, who is 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA.

      Matz played catch before Saturday's game and would be used cautiously out of the bullpen, if at all.

      The Mets used left-hander Sean Gilmartin as a spot starter in place of Syndergaard on Saturday. Gilmartin could not make it out of the first inning while getting ripped for five runs and four hits while walking three.

  • Red Sox 3B Sandoval inching closer to return
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval could return much earlier than expected from shoulder surgery, possibly even before the end of the regular season.

    • Sandoval, who lost his starting job to Travis Shaw in spring training, underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May that was expected to end his season. The 30-year-old is progressing in his rehab and joined the team for batting practice in Tampa Bay on Saturday.

      "At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next spring training," Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters. "We're not getting too far ahead of ourselves, here. But at the same time, compliment him for the work that he's put in. The way he's responded to the rehab. The way he's worked himself back into better condition. So we're staying open-minded."

      Sandoval signed a five-year, $95 million contract prior to the 2015 season but endured a terrible debut campaign with Boston, batting .245 with 10 home runs.

      Shaw is batting .246 with 16 home runs and 71 RBIs, but is marred in a 3-for-29 slump over his last 10 games. Brock Holt got the start at third base on Saturday against the Rays.

  • Astros' Giles hit by line drive during batting practice
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    Houston Astros closer Ken Giles took a line drive off his right wrist during batting practice on Saturday, putting the rest of his season in doubt.

    • Giles was in right field throwing with other pitchers when he was struck by the ball. He was carted off the field.

      "It wasn't good," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It looked like the ball off of the bat hit him pretty hard, so he was already starting to bruise in the wrist area. He'll be taken in.

      "It looked very painful to me."

      Giles, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason, owns a 4.31 ERA with 13 saves. The 26-year-old right-hander suffered through a terrible outing on Friday, when he managed one out while getting rocked for six runs on three hits and three walks.

      Houston entered the night two games behind the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers in the race for the second American League wild card. Giles has been serving as the team's closer since the beginning of August.

  • MLB roundup: Nationals win NL East
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    PITTSBURGH -- The Washington Nationals won their third National League East title in the last five years with a 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Saturday night, coupled with the New York Mets' 10-8 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

    • Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos each drove in two runs and reliever Reynaldo Lopez (4-3) pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings for Washington (90-64).

      The Nationals' Joe Ross was making his second start since missing 66 games because of right shoulder inflammation. He went a prescribed three innings in his first outing. However, he got yanked with two outs in the third after giving up a run and leaving the bases loaded for reliever Sean Burnett.

      Red Sox 6, Rays 4

      ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Dustin Pedroia hit a two-out grand slam in the seventh inning as Boston clinched a postseason berth with its 10th straight victory.

      The Red Sox's winning streak is its longest since 2009. Boston's Rick Porcello (22-4) became the majors' first 22-game winner and Boston's first since Pedro Martinez won 23 in 1999.

      Tampa Bay's Logan Forsythe hit his 20th home run of the season, a solo shot, with two outs in the ninth off closer Craig Kimbrel, who picked up his 30th save of the season. Kimbrel had held opponents hitless (0-for-20) in his previous eight appearances.

      Dodgers 14, Rockies 1

      LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw tossed seven scoreless innings and Josh Reddick hit a grand slam as Los Angeles crushed Colorado.

      Reddick went 3-for-4 with five RBIs and three runs. It was Reddick's fourth career slam and the seventh this season for the Dodgers.

      Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson drove in two runs apiece as the Dodgers reduced their magic number to one to capture their fourth straight National League West title.

      Giants 9, Padres 6

      SAN DIEGO -- Angel Pagan raced home with the tiebreaking run on a 10th-inning error by rookie right fielder Hunter Renfroe and Denard Span followed with a two-run homer off reliever Kevin Quackenbush to give San Francisco a victory over San Diego.

      The Padres had rallied from a 6-0 deficit to tie the score in the seventh.

      San Francisco prevented Los Angeles from clinching the National League West title and moved the Giants into a first-place tie with the New York Mets in the National League wild-card race. St. Louis trails the Mets and Giants by a half-game.

      Phillies 10, Mets 8

      NEW YORK -- Maikel Franco hit a three-run homer in the first inning and Darin Ruf laced a three-run homer in the fourth as Philadelphia raced out to a 10-run lead and hung on.

      New York and San Francisco are tied for the NL wild-card lead, one-half game ahead of St. Louis.

      The Mets nearly pulled off the biggest comeback in team history after manager Terry Collins pulled his three best players -- Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes -- with the Phillies ahead 10-0 after four innings.

      Cardinals 10, Cubs 4

      CHICAGO -- St. Louis scored six runs in the first three innings en route to routing Chicago and staying afloat in the National League wild-card race.

      Stephen Piscotty homered, Yadier Molina drove in four runs and Randal Grichuk drove in three for the Cardinals, who are one-half game behind the Mets and the Giants in the NL wild-card race. St. Louis has won five of its last seven games.

      The NL Central champion Cubs saw their four-game winning streak end. They remain stuck on 98 victories and tied for a franchise-record 56 home wins. Chicago last won 99 games in 1935, when it reached 100.

      Blue Jays 3, Yankees 0

      TORONTO -- Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer with two out in the eighth inning to send Toronto past New York.

      The Blue Jays beat the Yankees for the second straight time with two games left in the four-game series between the American League East rivals. Toronto leads the AL wild-card race by 1 1/2 games over Baltimore and is two games clear of third-place Detroit.

      It was the third loss in a row for the Yankees and the third straight game in which they have been shut out as their chances for a wild-card spot are all but gone.

      Orioles 6, Diamondbacks 1

      BALTIMORE -- Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo homered and starter Wade Miley shut down his former team for 8 2/3 innings as Baltimore rolled past Arizona.

      The victory moved the Orioles (84-71) back into second place in the AL wild-card battle by one-half game as Kansas City's five-run ninth inning handed the Detroit Tigers a 7-4 loss earlier Saturday.

      It was Mancini's third homer this week after his recent call-up.

      White Sox 8, Indians 1

      CLEVELAND -- Jose Abreu and Carlos Sanchez had three hits apiece and Todd Frazier homered as Chicago beat Cleveland.

      The Indians' four-game winning streak and the White Sox's six-game slide were snapped.

      The win stalled Cleveland's quest to clinch the American League's Central Division title. The Indians' magic number for clinching was reduced to two, though, with Detroit's loss to Kansas City.

      Royals 7, Tigers 4

      DETROIT -- Eric Hosmer belted a three-run home run to help Kansas City overcome a two-run deficit with two outs in the ninth.

      Paulo Orlando blasted a two-run double in the ninth for the Royals. Hosmer's 24th home run of the season, which gave him 100 RBIs, came on a low 1-1 changeup by Francisco Rodriguez (3-4).

      Detroit fell one-half game behind Baltimore for the second wild-card spot in the AL.

      Twins 3, Mariners 2

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Early homers by Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano helped Minnesota snap a seven-game losing streak.

      The Twins, who have 99 losses, got seven solid innings from starter Tyler Duffey (9-11).

      Nelson Cruz homered for Seattle, which fell two games behind Baltimore for the second wild-card spot in the AL.

      Angels 10, Astros 4

      HOUSTON -- Albert Pujols stroked a game-tying single in the eighth and C.J. Cron followed with a sacrifice fly that capped Los Angeles' four-run inning in its victory over Houston.

      The Angels piled on with five runs in the ninth to move within one win of completing a four-game series sweep Sunday.

      The Astros wasted another strong start from right-hander Brad Peacock by squandering a three-run lead. They also fell 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the final wild-card spot in the AL.

      Rangers 5, Athletics 0

      OAKLAND, Calif. -- Shortstop Elvis Andrus hit a pair of two-run homers, Yu Darvish pitched seven shutout innings and Texas rolled to victory.

      One day after clinching the American League West crown, Rangers manager Jeff Banister gave all of his regulars except Andrus and right fielder Nomar Mazara the day off.

      Adrian Beltre, Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond, Jonathan Lucroy, Rougned Odor, Mitch Moreland and Carlos Gomez were spectators as Andrus had the first multi-homer game of his career and drove in a career-high tying four runs.

      Marlins 6, Braves 4

      MIAMI -- Dee Gordon had two hits, three steals and scored twice as Miami defeated Atlanta.

      The Marlins snapped the Braves' seven-game winning streak, which was the longest run by Atlanta since 2014.

      The Braves' Freddie Freeman had an RBI single and a solo home run. He has 32 homers this season, and also extended his career-high hit streak to 28 games.

      Reds 6, Brewers 1

      MILWAUKEE -- Dan Straily struck out five batters in 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball and Joey Votto hit his 26th home run of the season as Cincinnati beat Milwaukee.

      Straily (14-8) cruised through his outing, scattering five hits and two walks to post his third consecutive victory. The only earned run he gave up came on a solo home run from Domingo Santana in the second inning.

      Votto also drew three walks.

  • Nationals looking to clinch in Pittsburgh
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    PITTSBURGH -- It might feel like a do-over Saturday when the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates play the second game of their three-game series at PNC Park.

    • Thanks to Pittsburgh's 11-inning, 6-5 win Friday, Washington is still trying to clinch the National League East title, and the Pirates are still clinging to long odds that they will get into the postseason.

      Actually, even if the Nationals had won Friday, they would not have clinched because their magic number was two and the New York Mets won. But a win would have left Washington in control and needing just a win Saturday -- or in any of its last nine regular-season games -- to capture its third division title in five years.

      Pittsburgh also has nine games left, but a 3 1/2-game mountain to get into a wild-card position might be insurmountable.

      Still, getting the win Friday to help keep their hopes alive and avoid a scenario where Washington gets to celebrate at their home park was something positive for the Pirates -- and especially for rookie Jacob Stallings, who hit a walk-off pinch-hit RBI single with two outs and a full count in the 11th.

      "Obviously, it's a big win for us trying to make the playoffs," Stallings said. "It was pretty cool."

      Washington's Joe Ross (7-5, 3.48 ERA) is slated to start Saturday, his second start since coming off the disabled list after recovering from a shoulder injury.

      After being out 2 1/2 months, Ross allowed one run on six singles in three innings on Sunday, throwing 51 pitches, in the Nationals' rain-shortened loss against Atlanta the Braves.

      "I felt good, and that was what I was mainly concerned with," Ross told the Washington Post after that game. "Just going out there feeling good and competing."

      The Nationals hope for a little more from Ross, and look for him to go longer Saturday. That is particularly true now after Washington used seven relievers Friday.

      Before he got hurt, Ross struck out a career-best 11 in 7 1/3 innings in a 4-1 Washington win over Pittsburgh that was Ross' third major league start.

      Ross will be matched against one of the Pirates' steadiest starters over the past seven weeks.

      Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.19 ERA) has been more than steady since the Pirates acquired him from the New York Yankees Aug. 1.

      In his first nine starts with Pittsburgh, he is 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA with 46 strikeouts and just three walks.

      He has made just one career start against Washington, a 4-1 win while pitching for the Yankees in 2012.

      Nova has been so good that reports abound that the Pirates will not be able to afford to re-sign him despite their interest in doing so.

      For now, Pittsburgh needs him to keep its playoff hopes alive Saturday.

  • MLB roundup: Cubs clinch NL homefield advantage
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 24, 2016

    CHICAGO -- Jake Arrieta's goal may be perfection but he realizes he can occasionally ease up and still have good outcomes.

    • Arrieta (18-7) scattered five hits in a seven-inning shutout effort as the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 on Friday at Wrigley Field.

      Chicago (98-55) topped last year's 97-win total and matched the most victories by any Cubs team since 1945 with its fourth straight in the opener of a three-game weekend series.

      The Cubs also clinched home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs, thanks to the Washington Nationals' loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates Friday night. The Cardinals are a half game behind the Giants for the second wild card.

      Rangers 3, Athletics 0

      OAKLAND, Calif. -- Cole Hamels pitched seven shutout innings, Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer and Texas clinched the American League West crown with a victory against Oakland at the Oakland Coliseum.

      The Rangers won the West for the second straight year and for the fourth time in the past seven seasons. They've made the postseason five times overall in that span and reached the World Series in 2010 and 2011 but lost both years.

      Hamels (15-5) allowed six hits, struck out seven and walked two. He won for the first time since Aug. 25 against Cleveland. Hamels went 0-1 with a 10.50 ERA in his previous four starts. But he looked ready for the postseason in a rematch against the A's and right-hander Kendall Graveman, seven days after allowing six runs over six innings and getting a no-decision in a 7-6 Rangers win in Arlington.

      Tigers 8, Royals 3

      DETROIT -- Victor Martinez, Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin blasted home runs to back rookie Michael Fulmer's seven innings of one-run ball in Detroit's victory over Kansas City that kept the Tigers in control of the American League's second wild-card spot.

      Detroit remains a half-game up on Baltimore for the second spot and the Tigers' fifth win in a row kept them one game behind Toronto.

      Fulmer (11-7) allowed eight hits, struck out seven and didn't walk a batter. His seven innings gave him 155 2/3, enough to qualify for and assume the league's ERA lead at 2.95. He needs 6 1/3 innings in his final start of the season Wednesday against Cleveland to reach the 162 he needs to qualify for the ERA crown.

      Orioles 3, Diamondbacks 2 (12 innings)

      BALTIMORE -- Mark Trumbo led off the bottom of the 12th inning with his 44th homer of the season and Baltimore rallied past Arizona.

      Trumbo lined a 1-2 pitch from Matt Koch (1-1) into the left field seats to snap a four-game losing streak for the Orioles.

      Baltimore remains a 1/2 game behind Toronto and Detroit, both of which won Friday night, in the wild-card standings.

      The Orioles loaded the bases with one out in the 11th, but failed to score as Manny Machado flied to short left and Chris Davis flied to center.

      Red Sox 2, Rays 1

      ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Boston won its ninth straight game, getting a first-inning home run from David Ortiz and letting it stand in a win over Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field.

      Ortiz, greeted to cheers in his final series at the Trop, tagged Rays starter Chris Archer (8-19) with a two-run home run, in what would end up as Archer's 11th straight loss against Boston over a span of 16 starts. Drew Pomeranz (3-5) threw five innings and the bullpen held Tampa Bay to one hit in the final four.

      Boston (90-64) came in with a 5 1/2-game lead in the American League East and held that lead on Toronto, now with eight games to play. The Rays have dropped four of their last five, and are now 7-10 against the Red Sox this season. Archer set a franchise record with his 19th loss and now leads the majors as well.

      Blue Jays 9, Yankees 0

      TORONTO -- Troy Tulowitzki had four RBIs, Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer, Francisco Liriano pitched six scoreless innings and Toronto defeated New York.

      The Blue Jays maintained their hold on the first American League wild-card spot while dealing a blow to the wild-card chances of the Yankees. The Blue Jays are still one game ahead of the Detroit Tigers, who hold the second wild-card spot. The Yankees fall to four games behind the Tigers.

      Liriano (8-13) allowed three hits, two walks and struck out six to even his record at 2-2 since joining the Blue Jays in August after a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

      Braves 3, Marlins 2

      MIAMI -- Adonis Garcia's ninth-inning single drove in the go-ahead run as Atlanta continued to haunt Miami with a victory at Marlins Park.

      The last-place Braves are 11-6 against the Marlins this season.

      Pinch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio started the ninth-inning rally with a one-out single. He stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher J.T. Realmuto. Bonifacio scored when Garcia stroked a 2-2 pitch to left for a single.

      Indians 10, White Sox 4

      CLEVELAND -- Jose Ramirez doubled, homered and had four RBIs, Coco Crisp had three hits and three RBIs and Cleveland beat Chicago at Progressive Field.

      The win is Cleveland's fourth in a row as the Indians reduced their magic number for clinching the American League Central Division title to three games.

      The Indians trailed 2-0 after three innings, but then scored 10 runs over the next three innings to hand the White Sox their sixth loss in a row.

      Mets 10, Phillies 5

      NEW YORK -- Michael Conforto's three-run homer capped a six-run fifth inning by New York, who retained at least a share of the National League wild-card lead by using six pitchers to patch together a vital victory over Philadelphia at Citi Field.

      The Mets have a one-game lead over the San Francisco Giants for the top wild card in the NL. New York is 1 1/2 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals, who fell to the Chicago Cubs 5-0.

      The Phillies have lost two straight for the first time since a three-game skid from Sept. 9-11.

      Padres 7, Giants 2

      SAN DIEGO -- Right-hander Edwin Jackson held San Francisco to two runs over six innings and Wil Myers put San Diego ahead to stay with a three-run homer in the first inning as the Padres defeated the Giants at Petco Park.

      The loss dropped the Giants a game behind the New York Mets in the National League wild-card race, although San Francisco still holds a half-game lead over St. Louis for the second wild-card berth.

      The win was the Padres' seventh in eight games against the Giants since the All-Star break after the Giants won the season's first nine meetings.

      Brewers 5, Reds 4

      MILWAUKEE -- Chris Carter hit his 38th home run of the season and Ryan Braun hit a two-run single in the seventh as Milwaukee rallied for a victory over Cincinnati at Miller Park.

      Reds right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (8-5) worked six innings and allowed five runs on six hits and three walks while striking out four.

      Jose Peraza had two hits for Cincinnati, including a three-run home run in the fifth that put the Reds up, 3-1.

      Pirates 6, Nationals 5 (11 innings)

      PITTSBURGH -- Pinch-hitter Jacob Stallings hit a bases-loaded, two-out, full-count RBI single to left in the 11th as Pittsburgh came from behind to beat Washington at PNC Park and keep the Nationals from moving closer to clinching the National League East title.

      Washington still has a magic number of two for clinching, thanks to its loss and a win by the New York Mets.

      Pittsburgh has won seven of its past 10 and eight of its past 12, but time is running out on its playoff hopes. It was four games out of an NL wild-card spot, pending San Francisco's later game, with nine games remaining.

      Mariners 10, Twins 1

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Seattle posted a six-run seventh inning to open its three-game visit to Minnesota decisively, blasting past the struggling Twins.

      Robinson Cano went 4-for-5, scored twice and had a pair of RBIs for Seattle, which remained two games behind Detroit for the final wild-card spot in the American League after winning for the third time in five games.

      Left-hander James Paxton (5-7) went seven innings for the Mariners, allowing one run, five hits and striking out nine Twins for his first win since Aug. 7. Although most of the damage was done after he left the game, Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson (6-11) took the loss, allowing five hits and two runs in five innings.

      Angels 10, Astros 6

      HOUSTON -- C.J. Cron, whose throwing error in the sixth inning yielded a run, delivered a bloop single in the ninth inning to help Los Angeles to a comeback victory over Houston at Minute Maid Park.

      The Angels mounted a stunning rally against Astros closer Ken Giles (2-5), starting with a leadoff single from nine-hole hitter Cliff Pennington with Houston leading 6-4. Third baseman Yunel Escobar followed with a game-tying, two-run homer four batters before Cron deposited a hit into shallow center field to score Mike Trout.

      The Astros were knocked out by another bloop hit, this one a three-run double off the bat of pinch-hitter Rafael Ortega. Astros shortstop Carlos Correa made a diving attempt at the ball in center field but came away empty, allowing Ortega to clear the bases with two outs. Correa left the game following the play.

      Dodgers 5, Rockies 2

      LOS ANGELES -- Joc Pederson and Andre Ethier homered, and Los Angeles inched closer to a fourth straight National League West title with a victory over Colorado at Dodger Stadium.

      With the second-place San Francisco Giants losing to the Padres 7-2 in San Diego, the Dodgers reduced their magic number to two to win the division.

      Reliever Ross Stripling worked three scoreless inning for the win. Stripling led a parade of relievers to the mound after Dodgers starter Scott Kazmir lasted just one inning before leaving with right intercostal spasms. Kazmir, who allowed two hits and threw 19 pitches (13 strikes), was making his first appearance in a month after dealing with neck issues.

      Rockies starter Jon Gray struck out 10, walked three and surrendered four runs on three hits in four innings.