Carlos Correa Hits Career-High 25th Home Run to Help Houston Astros Clinch AL West Title

Carlos Correa has blasted his team to another title…

The 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop hit his career-high 25th home run with a three-run shot, as the Houston Astros clinched the AL West title with a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.

Carlos Correa

It’s the fourth division title in five seasons and 10th overall for the Astros. They’re in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, extending a franchise record.

“That sounds pretty special,” Correa said.

The Astros will open the AL Division Series on October 7 against the Chicago White Sox — home field for that best-of-five matchup is still to be determined. Houston went 5-2 against the White Sox this year.

Houston was a wild-card team last year in manager Dusty Baker‘s first season with the club. So where did this division-clinching victory rate on his list?

“Every time you win, it ranks higher than the last time. And you never get tired of winning,” he said.

Correa’s huge hit in the fourth inning allowed the Astros to put a recent stretch where they dropped five of six games behind them and let the celebration begin at Minute Maid Park.

“We are where we are because of him,” Astros star second baseman Jose Altuve said.

Astros mascot Orbit dashed onto the field waving a huge orange flag that touted the team’s division title as the players cheered and embraced after the final out.

“I’m proud of my team,” Altuve said. “They went out there every single day this season to make this happen.”

Tampa Bay, which has already clinched the top seed in the American League playoffs, put runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth but didn’t score.

Rays rookie Wander Franco went 0-for-4 to snap a 43-game on-base streak, which tied him with Frank Robinson in 1956 for the longest such string in MLB history among players 20 or younger.

 

Yuli Gurriel singled to start Houston’s fourth and Kyle Tucker walked. Correa followed with his towering shot that smashed off the wall in left field to put the Astros up 3-0 against Ryan Yarbrough (9-7).

The charismatic shortstop put a hand to his ear to encourage the crowd as the rounded third base on the home run trot.

Lance McCullers Jr. (13-5) didn’t allow a hit until Ji-Man Choi singled to start the sixth. There were two outs in the inning when Brandon Lowe homered on a ball to right field that sailed just inside the foul pole to cut the lead to 3-2.

White Sox’s Seby Zavala Becomes First Player in MLB History to Hit First Three Career Homers in Same Game

Seby Zavala has homered his way into MLB history…

The 27-year-old Latino professional baseball player and Chicago White Sox rookie hit the first three home runs of his career on Saturday night, including a grand slam, but the Cleveland Indians rallied to beat Chicago 12-11.

Seby Zavala

Zavala became the first player in big league history to hit his first three career home runs in the same game, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. The catcher played his 18th game in the majors — he was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte on July 6 to replace the injured Yasmani Grandal.

Batting ninth, Zavala hit a solo homer in the third off Triston McKenzie. He connected for a grand slam off McKenize in the fourth for a 6-1 lead and a solo drive against Bryan Shaw in the seventh.

“I always knew I could swing it,” Zavala said. “Going through a rough patch for a couple of months, I knew if I kept working, something would click and I feel pretty good at the plate.”

With a chance to become the 19th player to hit a record-tying four homers in a game, Zavala singled in the eighth and finished with six RBIs.

Zavala — who will turn 28 on August 28 — played at San Diego State, finishing up with the Aztecs in 2015. Later that year, he was a 12th-round selection by Chicago in the June entry draft. He hit 20 home runs at Triple-A Charlotte in 2019.

His magic wasn’t enough to outpace the Indians on this night, however, as Austin HedgesOwen Miller and Amed Rosario homered to help Cleveland overcome a five-run deficit.

The Indians totaled nine runs in three straight innings to take the lead. Justin Garza (1-0) threw two scoreless innings. Emmanuel Clase got five outs for his 13th save.

The Arizona Diamondbacks Reveal New Gold Uniform Inspired by State’s Hispanic Culture

David Peralta is preparin’ for a golden moment…

The 33-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball outfielder will soon be donning the Arizona Diamondbacks’ recently unveiled gold uniform.

David Peralta

The uniform is a reference to the Sonoran Desert and the state’s Hispanic culture as the latest alternate jersey in the City Connect collection.

The jersey reads “Serpientes” across the front, intended to highlight Arizona’s Hispanic culture, while the uniform patch features the Arizona state flag and a reference to Phoenix’s nickname as the Valley of the Sun.

The Diamondbacks will debut the uniforms on June 18 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and plan to wear them six more times: July 16 against the Chicago Cubs, July 30 against the Dodgers, August 13 against the San Diego Padres and for a three-game series with the Dodgers on Hispanic Heritage Weekend from September 24 to 26, which includes Roberto Clemente Day.

“I was really excited about that because we are involving the Spanish community in a special way. Arizona has a really big Hispanic community, and for me to be part of that, I am really proud and excited about it,” said Peralta. “We have Venezuelan guys, Dominican guys on our team to represent the Spanish community in Arizona. It really is a big deal for us, especially the way they’re doing it with the team name.”

Arizona will join the Boston Red SoxMiami MarlinsChicago White Sox and Cubs with a City Connect jersey.

The Diamondbacks conducted Zoom calls during the 2020 season to survey players on their thoughts about potential City Connect uniform designs. Peralta said that while many of the uniforms featured a nod to Arizona’s Hispanic culture — according to the most recent U.S. census data, more than 42% of the state’s residents identify as Hispanic — the gold design jumped off the page.

“I was looking at the colors in the computer and I thought it looked good, but when I saw the jersey, the way the colors come out, the contrast levels, it was like whoa, this is unique,” Peralta said. “This is something different.”

Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall said the jersey will replace the current alternative that reads “Los D-backs” and could become a regular part of the rotation depending on the reaction from fans and whether the team wins while wearing the uniforms.

“If we have an overwhelmingly favorable reaction to it, then we are going to start working them in a little more,” Hall said. “If we see that the hoodies and the T-shirts and jerseys are flying off the shelf in the team shop, we’ll know that fans want to see it more, and we’ll get feedback from fans and players. Our players are extremely superstitious, and if we turn the season around, you’ll see Serpientes out there a lot more, especially if we can rattle off some wins with it.”

When approached by MLB and Nike regarding City Connect, the Diamondbacks immediately agreed to take part in the inaugural run of uniforms. When deciding on which colors to use, they decided to stick to their existing set.

“Our preference was to have more of a bright or loud color, but we thought that it was a reflection of the desert,” Hall said. “It was a color that we already had, so it’s not an escape from what we have already, but I think our fans would have been more shocked if we had completely abandoned our colors.”

The Diamondbacks historically have been one of the more experimental teams when it comes to uniform designs. Ahead of the 2016 season, the team unveiled a complete redesign featuring a polarizing gradient snakeskin pattern on the uniforms and pants, widely considered among fans to be among the worst in the sport. When Nike took over as the uniform provider for MLB, Arizona once again redesigned its jerseys.

“We’ve been bold at times, maybe too bold, had too many options in the past, and we simplified,” Hall said. “We were one of the first teams to completely abandon our original colors and we were purple and teal, and for years, we had MLB asking us to consider changing our colors. We already had the Rockies with the purple. The purple never really matched up, and on TV, it looked more blue. The purple and teal was somewhat outdated.

“There was no red in our division, and they put on an entire presentation for us where baseball was showing us that we should be the color red because of the Sedona Mountains and the sky and we said, no, thank you, but the more we thought about it, it made sense. We’re such a young franchise, and you can do that.”

Peralta said that while gold is not a typical color for a baseball uniform, he thinks the unique look will appeal to fans. During a photoshoot ahead of the jersey reveal, the outfielder noticed a similar shade of gold on a snake’s skin to the one found on the jerseys.

“It’s just all about doing something different,” Peralta said. “The fans, the young guys, they like it, all of the kids. With these new uniforms, it’s different, and I think that’s the best part of that. People are going to be like, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen something like that.'”

Chicago White Sox Rookie Yermin Mercedes Makes MLB History with 8-for-8 Start

Yermin Mercedes continues his historic run…

The 28-year-old Dominican Chicago White Sox rookie got three hits in his first three at-bats on Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels to improve to 8-for-8 to start 2021, the most consecutive hits to start a season by any player in the modern era (since 1900).

Yermin Mercedes

Mercedes, who had one major league at-bat entering the season, going 0-for-1 in 2020, has started at DH the past two games and tortured the Angels with his two-strike hitting — five of the eight hits have come with two strikes.

After homering in the second inning on Saturday for his first career home run, Mercedes’ eighth straight hit came in the sixth inning, a double that bounced off the warning track in left-center.

“I’m just trying to wait for my pitch and not do too much,” Mercedes said after the White Sox lost 5-3 in Anaheim. “Just stay right there and swing hard. It doesn’t matter if it is two strikes or no strikes, I just want to see the ball.” 

The eight hits:

Friday
1. Line-drive single off a 1-2 changeup from Andrew Heaney
2. Ground ball single off a 1-0 sinker from Javy Guerra
3. Line-drive single off an 0-1 cutter from Chris Rodriguez
4. Line-drive single off an 0-2 cutter from Mike Mayers
5. Double to left field off an 0-2 change from Alex Claudio

Saturday
6. 421-foot home run off a 2-2 splitter from Alex Cobb
7. Ground ball single off a 1-2 sinker from Cobb
8. Double to deep left-center off a 1-0 sinker from Cobb

In his ninth at-bat, Mercedes flew out to center field to end his streak. He finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored on Saturday.

“All of his hits have been clutch and he has been putting us in position to try to win,” manager Tony LaRussa said. “He has had a great approach, especially with two strikes.”

Mercedes is a rookie who has bounced around three organizations, originally signed by the Washington Nationals and spending time with the Baltimore Orioles before the White Sox signed him in 2018. He wasn’t expected to be a big part of the lineup, but Eloy Jimenez‘s injury has opened up playing time, with projected DH Andrew Vaughn starting the past two games in left field.

LaRussa said Mercedes was supposed to have the night off Saturday but that he earned his way into the lineup with his 5-for-5 night.

Mercedes has spent most of his time in the minor leagues at catcher but does own a .302 career minor league average, and in 2019, he hit .317/.388/.581 with 23 home runs in 95 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

“I never imagined that. It is great for me,” Mercedes said of his start. “Now, it’s a new day for me. I want to keep doing well and work with my approach. I want to play every day and I’m excited for that.”

Before Mercedes, the only player since 1900 to get five hits in his first career start was Cecil Travis, who went 5-for-7 for the Washington Senators in 1933.

The overall record for consecutive hits at any point in a season is 12, shared by the Chicago CubsJohnny Kling (1902) and two Boston Red Sox players, Pinky Higgins (1938) and Walt Dropo (1952).

Chicago White Sox’s Yermin Mercedes Makes MLB History in Game Against Los Angeles Angels

Yermin Mercedes has earned his place in the annals of Major League Baseball history… 

The 28-year-old Dominican professional baseball catcher became the first player in the modern era to go 5-for-5 in his first career start, leading the Chicago White Sox to a 12-8 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night at Angels Stadium.

Yermin Mercedes

Mercedes, playing in his second career game, also drove in four runs in an extraordinary performance as Chicago’s designated hitter.

“I’m so excited right now,” Mercedes said. “I don’t even know what to say right now, or what I want to say, but I’m just so happy.”

The only players since 1900 to get five hits in their first career start are Mercedes and Cecil Travis of the Washington Senators, who went 5-for-7 in 1933. Fred Clarke also did it for the Louisville Colonels in 1894.

Mercedes singled in his first at-bat in the third, delivered a two-run single in the fourth, then singled in the sixth and eighth innings before capping his night with a two-run double in the ninth.

“There were a lot of great things that happened, and the greatest thing was the designated hitter,” said manager Tony La Russa, who got the first victory of his second stint running the White Sox.

After failing to catch on during three years in the Washington Nationals‘ system, Mercedes played independent ball in 2014 before grinding his way up the minors with Baltimore and Chicago, which snagged him as a Rule 5 pick in 2017. Mercedes got just one plate appearance as a pinch-hitter for the White Sox last season.

“I just want to cry every time I see I’m in the majors right now,” Mercedes said. “It’s a long time. I’ve got a big history, so it’s about time, but it’s hard for me because just looking around, and I’m like, ‘It’s real. I’m here.'”

Gio González Agrees to Minor League Deal with Miami Marlins

Gio González is returning to his home state…

The 35-year-old Cuban American professional baseball player and veteran left-handed pitcher has agreed to terms on a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins and will take part in the team’s major league camp.

Gio Gonzalez

González, a South Florida native, pitched in 12 games last year for the Chicago White Sox with four starts and had an ERA of 4.83. He has a career record of 131-101 with a 3.70 ERA in 13 seasons for four teams.

At 35, González provides experienced depth for the Marlins’ talented young rotation. He is a two-time MLB All-Star, with the Oakland As in 2011 and Washington Nationals in 2012.

Fernando Tatis Jr. Agrees to 14-Year, $340 Million Contract Extension with San Diego Padres

Fernando Tatis Jr. is a big deal… with a big deal…

The 22-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop, nicknamed “El Niño“, has agreed to a 14-year, $340 million contract extension with the San Diego Padres, securing one of the largest guarantees in American sports history and marrying himself to the team with which he quickly established himself as a star, according to ESPN.

Fernando Tatis Jr.

Tatis, the emerging face of baseball, will receive the third-biggest deal in baseball history — and do so at a far younger age than Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, both of whom signed their megadeals at 27.

The 6-foot-3, 217-pound Tatis, whose dazzling shortstop play is perhaps exceeded by his prowess at the plate, went to San Diego via trade and is now the player around whom the Padres will build a team equipped to win a championship.

Full of substance to back up his style, Tatis blitzed through the minor leagues after the Padres acquired him from the Chicago White Sox in a deal for aging starter James Shields. His talent in spring training was so apparent in 2019 that San Diego started him at shortstop on Opening Day, eschewing the standard play of sending supreme talents to the minor leagues to manipulate their service time and keep them under team control for an extra season.

The mutual admiration between the team and Tatis was clear enough that the Padres hoped it wouldn’t be a mistake. And with a deal that will lock him up for nearly a decade and a half, through his age-35 season, the Padres convinced Tatis that small-market San Diego is where he belongs.

Tatis wasn’t willing to relinquish control of that. He will receive a full no-trade clause, allowing him veto power over any potential deal. The $340 million marks the largest deal given to a player before he reaches arbitration — nearly $200 million more than Trout’s first contract extension. Trout’s second extension set a domestic sports record of $426.5 million guaranteed, and Betts’ $392 million deal is now followed by Tatis’ contract.

Tatis joins Manny Machado, who plays third base next to him, as Padres with $300 million-plus deals — and they join New York Yankees duo Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton as teammates with such gaudy contracts. Both Machado and Tatis are represented by agent Dan Lozano.

Machado’s agreement with San Diego before the 2019 season was a turning point for the organization, which has positioned itself as the greatest threat to the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who happen to play in the Padres’ division. San Diego blossomed during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, with Tatis playing a front-and-center role after a dynamic rookie season that ended because of injury.

Hitting leadoff, with his trademark dreadlocked hair flowing out of his batting helmet and a bat flip at the ready, Tatis was the best player in the game for the first half of the season, an unstoppable combination of raw talent, polish and excitement, the sort that is evident even to the casual fan.

His appearances in more commercials — for Major League Baseball and products he was selling — illustrated that Tatis might be different than other would-be stars. The sport, starving for someone with wide appeal, struck gold with Tatis, who was raised in the Dominican Republic by his father, longtime major league infielder Fernando Tatis, and his mother, Maria.

Tatis wasn’t a highly touted prospect when he signed with the White Sox as a 16-year-old. The athleticism, the explosiveness, all of the skills he now wields — they were simply tools back then. Maybe they would arrive, maybe they wouldn’t.

San Diego saw something different — a player who, in his first year after signing, grew, gained muscle, started looking the part. After the trade, he grew another inch, then another, and by the time Tatis was embarrassing Double-A pitchers, he looked the part of a future star.

To become that so quickly, not just finishing fourth in the MVP voting in 2020 but compelling a team to guarantee $340 million, speaks to the Padres’ commitment to Tatis. They could have kept him for four more seasons before he reached free agency. Instead, after he hit .277/.366/.571 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in 59 games, they gave Tatis more than any free agent ever has received.

Talks between the sides picked up early this week, and sources familiar with the discussions expected a deal to get done. One of this size? One of this magnitude? Well, when Tatis does something, he tends to do it big.

Nomar Mazara Agrees to One-Year, $1.75 Million Deal with Detroit Tigers

Nomar Mazara is roarin’ into the Motor City

The 25-year-old Dominican professional baseball right fielder has sealed the deal with the Detroit Tigers on a one-year, $1.75 million contract.

Nomar Mazara

Mazara, who turns 26 in April, hit .228 with one home run in 42 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. That was his first season with the Chicago White Sox after he spent four with the Texas Rangers.

“After a frustrating 2020 season, I’m looking forward to a fresh start and getting to work with the coaching staff, especially AJ Hinch, who I always enjoyed competing against during his time in Houston,” Mazara said. “I’ve come to really appreciate coming to Detroit as a visiting player and can’t wait to join their baseball community this season.”

Hinch took over as Detroit’s manager this offseason.

Mazara hit 20 home runs in each of his first three years with the Texas Rangers, then 19 in 2019. He tied for fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2016, the year Detroit pitcher Michael Fulmer won the award.

“Heading through the offseason we were looking to add a left-handed-hitting outfielder to provide AJ with more options for the lineup, and bringing Nomar on board does exactly that,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said.

Mazara’s deal includes $500,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances: $100,000 each for 350, 400, 450, 500 and 550.

To make room for Mazara, the Tigers designated right-hander John Schreiber for assignment.

Francisco Liriano & Toronto Blue Jays Agree to Minor League Deal

Francisco Liriano is flying high…

The 37-year-old Dominican veteran professional baseball relief pitcher, a left-hander, has agreed to a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays that includes an invitation to spring training.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano didn’t pitch in the MLB during the pandemic-altered 2020 season. He was in camp with the Philadelphia Phillies on a minor league deal when the Phillies released him in July before Opening Day.

He went 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 69 relief appearances for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019, striking out 63 and walking 35 in 70 innings.

Liriano, an MLB All-Star as a rookie with the Minnesota Twins in 2006, is 112-114 with a 4.15 ERA in 300 starts and 119 relief outings over 14 major league seasons with the Twins, Chicago White Sox, Pirates, Blue Jays, Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers.

He pitched for Toronto in 2016 and 2017 before getting traded to Houston for outfielders Teoscar Hernández and Nori Aoki.

Liriano won a World Series ring with the 2017 Astros, making five short relief appearances during the postseason that year.

Carlos Rodon Agrees to One-Year Deal with Chicago White Sox

Carlos Rodon isn’t losing his white sox

The 28-year-old Cuban American professional baseball pitcher will return to the Chicago White Sox after the team reached a one-year, $3 million deal with the left-hander, according to ESPN.

Carlos Rodon,

Rodon, who was selected by the White Sox with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft, became a free agent after he wasn’t tendered a contract after the 2020 season.

He broke into the majors in 2015 and looked as if he could be a key member of the team’s rotation for years to come before he was hampered by a series of injuries.

Rodon is 29-33 with a 4.14 ERA in 97 career major league games, including 92 starts. He made four appearances last season, going 0-2 with an 8.22 ERA.