The Grand Slam: Mariners snap eight-game losing skid on Kyle Seager’s walk-off homer

It’s still a little too early to panic in Seattle, but another Mariners loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday may have pushed fans to the brink. Seattle dropped each of the first two games in the series and came in losers of eight straight overall.

The outlook didn‘t look good here either with Houston holding a three run lead in the seventh inning, but one player and two swings turned that all around.. Third baseman Kyle Seager, who hadn’t homered in a game since Sept. 3, 2013, got Seattle on the board with a two-run homer in the seventh and then lifted them to a 5-3 victory with a three-run walk-off homer in the ninth.

It was obviously a much needed win for Seattle, who were on the verge of back-to-back sweeps against Miami and Houston. Just the same, it was a much needed confidence boost for Seager. A .260 hitter over the first three years of his career, Seager came in hitting only .156 with two RBI on the season. Despite his struggles, manager Lloyd McClendon was determined to let Seager hit his way out of it. That patience worked to everyone‘s benefit on Wednesday.

”He has a track record and I’ve said all along that he is going to hit,” McClendon said. ”Obviously, when you’re in a losing streak and the guys you expect to hit don’t hit, it’s a little frustrating but in that case you have one of two options: you can sit him or you can play him. I chose to play him and he didn’t disappoint.”

The multi-homer game was the third of Seager’s career. The five RBIs were a new career high. 

STRIKEOUTS AND WACHAS: St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha had a night to remember and a night to forget in their 3-2 loss to the New York Mets. You might think that’s impossible, but consider that while Wacha recorded each of his first nine outs via the strikeout and had 10 overall, he also allowed three hits, issued a career high five walks, and was pulled after a career low four innings. 

The damage wasn’t terrible. Wacha only allowed two runs, which was obviously greatly aided by the whiffs and a swirling wind that at one point knocked off his cap, but manager Mike Matheny had to think about the long-term as well. 93 pitches squeezed into four innings is enough to make any manager uncomfortable.  

“He looked like he was going to have his stuff,” said Matheny. “He was just missing at times for whatever reason, getting a little bit side to side. He looked like he felt strong and was jumping at times, then the next thing you knew, you would see a beautifully executed pitch in the bottom of the zone. Then he was off wide to the side again — no good explanation. He tried a couple of adjustments, and they didn’t work.” 

The Cardinals nearly rallied in the ninth when Daniel Descalso doubled home Jon Jay. Matt Carpenter was waved home as well on the play, but a perfect relay throw by shortstop Ruben Tejada and a great tag by catcher Travis d’Arnaud got him just before he touched home. The play was reviewed and upheld, and the Mets held on for the nail-biting victory. 

GUSTY WINDS WREAK HAVOC AT COORS:

If you think pitching at Coors Field is a nightmare under normal circumstances, try it with a jet stream driving baseballs towards Wyoming. That’s the task starters Matt Cain and Tyler Chatwood and both bullpens were faced with on Wednesday afternoon, and the result was the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies offenses combining for nine home runs.

Six of them were hit by Giants, including Hector Sanchez’s 11th inning grand slam that helped secure their 12-10 victory. Sanchez, who got the start over a slumping Buster Posey, also temporarily gave the Giants a one-run lead with a solo homer in the eighth. Michael Morse hit two, a solo shot in the second and a three-run homer in the fourth. Brandon Belt tied Mark Trumbo for the NL lead with his seventh, while Brandon Hicks rounded it out for San Francisco with his second. Charlie Blackmon, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Morneau all homered for Colorado.

The nine homers are second only this season to the wild Reds-Pirates game that featured 10 home runs last week. 

GREINKE OUTSHINES HAMELS IN MARQUEE MATCHUP: Zack Greinke improved to 4-0 with seven stellar innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies tallied only a single run in the second and a Jayson Nix solo homer against a fatiguing Greinke in the eighth, but it wasn’t enough as the Dodgers walked away with a 5-2 victory

Greinke also notched double digit strikeouts for the first time in a Dodgers uniform and the18th time overall, finishing with 11 compared to only one intentional walk. 

Despite the tough draw offensively, it wasn’t a complete loss for Philadelphia. Returning starter Cole Hamels, who missed the first three weeks after battling biceps tendinitis, was excellent in his season debut, allowing only two runs on six hits over six innings, while striking out five and walking one. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Mike Trout robs Bryce Harper with impressive diving catch

The wonderful thing about baseball is the story we expect to dominate headlines entering a game or a series can often be overshadowed by something unexpected or historic. You just never know which direction it will take, which keeps things unpredictable and gives us endless topics to discuss.

Such was the case during the anticipated Los Angeles Angels-Washington Nationals series this week featuring the first ever regular season battles between Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. We expected the spotlight to be trained on the two young phenoms throughout, but it was 41-year-old Raul Ibanez who stole the show on Monday with a three-run double in the eighth. Then on Tuesday, a red hot Albert Pujols connected for career home runs No. 499 and 500, which had many fans focusing on his milestone and thinking back to his explosive early days as a 21-year-old rookie in 2001. 

On Wednesday, though, we finally had a moment that put the spotlight on both Trout and Harper, but by the time the play was over it was shining solely on Mike Trout. 

It happened in the first inning with Harper hitting and two Nationals on base. Harper drilled a sinking line drive in Trout’s direction that appeared destined to fall and perhaps give Washington an early lead. However, Trout charged in from deep center field and extended full out to make a diving catch, robbing Harper of a hit and Washington the chance for a huge first inning.  

It’s the type of play and effort Trout has become known for. In fact, such a play barely registers anymore since we’ve grown accustomed to watching him scale fences and dive in every direction. But robbing Harper certainly registers, because even if they may not acknowledge a personal rivalry, the competitive drive they both possess suggests they’d like to get one over on the other.

In this case, it’s advantage Trout.

As for the series, the advantage goes to Trout again. He finished 5-for-14 with a double, three runs scored and the Angels took home two victories. Harper finished the series 1-for-11 wih a walk, but technically got the last laugh on Wednesday as Washington rallied from a three run deficit to win it 5-4 in the ninth inning.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

David Price hit by line drive in cup and says he doesn’t even feel it

For those who have never experienced the pain of getting hit in the male genitalia, let’s just say, “good for you.” Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price got hit there Tuesday night on a line drive by Joe Mauer but says, somewhat incredulously, that he didn’t feel a thing.

Price was wearing a protective cup (which not all major leaguers do, but most infielders do) and it protected him from unspeakable pain and perhaps worse in the top of the fourth inning.

Mauer turned around a 77 mph breaking pitch, hitting it squarely right back at Price, who could not get his glove in position in time to protect his groin. Price reflexively dropped to his knees after getting hit, but only for an instant, and he was back on his feet walking after the ball, which had deflected and come to a stop near the midpoint between third base and the mound. Price’s gait suggested someone who had been stunned, but not necessarily injured. Mauer was aboard with a single and the Rays athletic training staff came out to check on Price.

Amazingly, and thankfully, he shook it off. Via the Tampa Bay Times:

“I guess it’s the best place to hit me,” Price said. “I don’t know how I didn’t really feel it or it didn’t break my cup. I’m extremely lucky. If that ball is 2 feet up it’s in my face or in my throat. It’s not good. So it’s probably one of the last places I wanted to get hit, but I was very fortunate for it to not hurt.”

Astro will be relieved. Getting hit there didn’t seem to affect how Price pitched. Price’s team led 4-1 at the time of the Mauer liner, and he tossed a complete game, finishing with 12 strikeouts and one walk in a 7-3 victory for the Rays.

Joe Mauer even joked about it, dryly, as other Minnesotans might:

“I’m glad he’s okay,” Mauer said. “But he could have taken the rest of the night off if he needed.”

Well played, Mauer. Pretty well played, anyway. (Actually, he can be funnier. Maybe next time. Not that he has to hit a line drive off Chris Sale’s groin to find out.)

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David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

Collin McHugh dazzles for Astros as waiver-wire pickup

Picked up off waivers a week before Christmas, pitcher Collin McHugh performed like few others ever have in their Houston Astros debut.

Called up from Class AAA earlier this week and given only 24 hours notice that he was starting, McHugh struck out 12 over 6 2/3 shutout innings Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory against the Seattle Mariners. McHugh, a 26-year-old right-hander who came in with a career mark of 0-8 with an 8.94 ERA in nine starts with the Rockies and Mets the past two seasons, allowed three hits and no walks in leading Houston to its second straight victory.

The Ultimate Astros blog notes that McHugh’s performance pretty much shocked everybody:

“I’ve had a lot of people encouraging me the last few years just kind of bouncing around a little bit not really knowing where home’s going to be,” McHugh said. “For my wife who couldn’t be here tonight and for my family back in Atlanta, this one’s kind of for them.”

A performance like Tuesday’s leads to all sorts of neat oddities. Only one other pitcher has struck out more batters in his Astros debut: J.R. Richard, who fanned 15 in 1971.

From 2005-14, only four other Astros starters reached 12 strikeouts in a game: Bud Norris (twice), Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers. Norris was the last to do it, on June 6, 2012 in a loss to the Cardinals.

ESPN notes that the McHugh is the first Astros pitcher since Randy Johnson in 1998 to have at least 12 strikeouts with no walks in a game.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow was ecstatic:


McHugh says he was surprised the Astros were interested in him, that they even knew who he was. Truthfully, McHugh had been more successful as a blogger than he had been as a major leaguer. Visit A Day Older A Day Wiser to find out where McHugh is coming from as a writer.

Houston used him as a tandem starter at Class AAA, where he had never thrown more than 73 pitches this season. He threw 89 against the Mariners. Houston uses the tandem concept throughout its minor-league system, in which two pitchers are scheduled to divide the innings of a nine-inning game. Ideally, one goes five innings and the other finishes with four. It’s to reduce wear on pitchers arms and to maximize more pitchers as potential starters in the majors. It’s always easier to cut back to one or two innings as a reliever. Not that the Astros are putting McHugh in the bullpen yet.

No matter the results against Seattle, McHugh doesn’t have the stuff of Randy Johnson or J.R. Richard. His fastball against the M’s topped off at 94 mph, and some of that was adrenaline. But there’s something to be said for seizing an opportunity, which McHugh did in his first attempt with the Astros. It’s the kind of thing that impresses manager Bo Porter, and surely will lead to more opportunities.

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Why sacking David Moyes now makes sense for Man United

David Moyes has been sacked by Manchester United before he could even finish out the first season of his six-year contract and it makes perfect sense.

Man United still have four games left to play this season, but with 11 losses this is already the club’s worst season of the Premier League era. That record has ensured they will not play in the Champions League next season for the first time since 1995 and if they remain in seventh place, they won’t even have a (perhaps unwanted) chance at the Europa League. That alone would be enough to get the manager of any club one season removed from winning a league title sacked, but for Moyes it was made so much worse by the way in which this played out.

“When we had bad times here, everyone stood by me and your job now is to stand by your new manager,” Sir Alex Ferguson told the fans in his farewell address, but Moyes made it very hard for them to do that. His long list of dubious records and accomplishments would’ve been dismissed a ridiculous impossibility had it been predicted before the season began and he made a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Under his leadership, Man United lost both their matches against Man City, both their matches against Liverpool and both their matches against his former club, Everton (who are currently two places ahead of Man United in the table). He either lost or never had the players’ belief. But aside from all of that, he really did a splendid job.

Depending on how you look at it, the question is either why Man United waited this long to sack him or why they wouldn’t just let him finish the season out and start fresh next year. According to the Independent, there’s a practical answer to both of those questions.

The decision to get rid of the 50-year-old was discussed and possibly ratified at a recent United board meeting but there is a financial motive behind delaying removing him until now. 

The mathematical impossibility of United finishing in the top four this season, following their 11th Premier League defeat of the season at Goodison Park on Sunday, means that United need only give Moyes a one-year pay-off under the terms of his five-year deal, rather than honour the full four years left on that contract. Ryan Giggs could then take over as caretaker manager for the final four games of the season

Initially, it had been thought that the Scot’s departure might be a graceful one after United’s Premier League season ends at Southampton on 11 May. But chief executive Ed Woodward has been urgently seeking to tie up transfer business in Germany and Spain before the World Cup starts, in 52 days’ time. The prospect of securing players such as Southampton’s Luke Shaw and Bayern Munich’s Toni Kroos would be even more challenging if United were under the leadership of a lame-duck manager, as well as unable to offering such recruits Champions League football next season.

Of course, the World Cup always complicates the summer transfer window and since Woodward proved how much difficulty he had with it under normal circumstances last year, clearing Moyes out and working towards the future now seems absolutely necessary. Though it doesn’t guarantee the next attempt at replacing Ferguson will go much smoother, it certainly couldn’t get much worse. Probably.

A look back at David Moyes’ season on DT:

-David Moyes’ harrowing first day at Man United in pictures
-DT Exclusive: David Moyes negotiates with David Moyes for Fellaini and Baines
-DT Exclusive: David Moyes reprimands Ashley Young for diving
-Man United’s 4-1 loss to Man City in David Moyes’ pained facial expressions
-Man United’s 2-1 loss to West Brom in David Moyes’ pained facial expressions
-Future News: David Moyes’ car breaks down on road named after Sir Alex Ferguson
-Man United’s loss to Newcastle in David Moyes’ pained facial expressions
-Man United’s FA Cup loss to Swansea in David Moyes’ pained facial expressions
-Man United’s super smiley training session proves everyone is having a great time
-The first draft of David Moyes’ letter to Man United fans

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Brooks Peck is the editor of Dirty Tackle on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow on Twitter!