Melky Cabrera Helps Lead the Dominican Republic Past Venezuela for Final Olympic Baseball Berth

Melky Cabrera is headed to the Tokyo Games…

The 36-year-old Dominican baseball player, nicknamed The Melkman, sparked a comeback from a three-run deficit with a two-run homer to help lead the Dominican Republic past Venezuela 8-5 on Saturday and win the final qualifier at Puebla, Mexico.

Melky Cabrera

In the process, the Dominican Republic claimed the final Olympic baseball berth for the COVID-19-postponed 2020 Tokyo Games.

Former Kansas City Royals infielder Ramon Torres hit a go-ahead infield single in a six-run fourth inning for the Dominicans, who joined host Japan, the United States, Israel, Mexico and South Korea at the Olympics. The baseball tournament will be played from July 28 to August 7 in Fukushima and Yokohama.

Baseball, dropped from the Olympics after 2008, was restored for the Tokyo Games and is being dropped again for 2024, though it is likely to be added for Los Angeles in 2028.

Players on 40-man Major League Baseball rosters are not eligible.

San Francisco prospect Diego Rincones put Venezuela ahead with a three-run homer in the second inning off Radhames Liz, whose last major league appearance was with Pittsburgh in 2015.

Emilio Bonifacio walked off starter Yapson Gomez with two outs in the third, and Cabrera, a 15-year big league veteran, greeted former Los Angeles Angels pitcher Eduardo Paredes with a two-run homer.

Juan Francisco singled leading off the fourth and Milwaukee Brewers prospect Harold Chirino relieved. Boston prospect Johan Mieses singled, Diego Goris followed with a tying double and Torres singled for a 4-3 lead.

Charlie Valerio‘ had an RBI single, Gustavo Nunez hit a two-run single and Bonifacio added a sacrifice fly for an 8-3 lead.

Former big leaguer Dario Alvarez pitched a hitless fourth for the win.

Milwaukee prospect Alexander Palma singled in a run in the seventh off former Arizona prospect Luis Castillo, and Danry Vasquez hit an RBI double with two outs in the ninth off Jairo Asencio before Palma’s game-ending groundout.

The Netherlands was eliminated Friday. Australia, China and Taiwan withdrew from the final qualifier citing the coronavirus pandemic.

Ronald Acuna Jr. Leads Atlanta Braves to Historic Homer-Heavy Win Against Pittsburgh Pirates 

It’s one for the history books for Ronald Acuna Jr. and his Atlanta Braves teammates…

The 23-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball outfielder hit a grand slam in the second inning off Tyler Anderson, pinch hitter Ehire Adrianza added another slam in the eighth against position player Wilmer Difo and the Braves homered seven times in a 20-1 rout of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.

Ronald Acuna Jr. 

Austin Riley homered twice for his first multi-homer game, and Ozzie AlbiesMarcell Ozuna and Dansby Swanson also went deep for the Braves, who became the first team in major league history to have seven or more homers in a game that included two slams, according to STATS.

This was the sixth seven-homer game in Braves history, and the 20 runs were the most a team has scored in a game this season.

“It was awesome,” Riley said. “Just seemed like everything clicked offensively. I think it really goes to show what this team is capable of doing. I know things might not seem like they’re clicking right now on a daily basis, but it’s there, and it’s a matter of time.”

Acuna had five RBIs and gave Atlanta a 5-0 lead with his 14th homer, which tied him with the Los Angeles Angels‘ Shohei Ohtani for the major league lead. Acuna’s first slam came against Pittsburgh’s Alex McRae on June 10, 2019.

Difo, a 29-year-old middle infielder in his seventh major league season, relieved to start the bottom of the eighth with the Pirates trailing 12-0.

Pitching to catcher Jacob Stallings, Difo threw at up to 88 mph, and Adrianza homered on a first-pitch 80 mph offering. Difo allowed three walks and six hits in his one inning, giving up run-scoring singles to Kevan Smith and Guillermo Heredia, Ozuna’s RBI double and Riley’s sacrifice fly. Difo left with a 72.00 career ERA.

“I think Stallings summed it up best,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said with a laugh. “Difo didn’t have his best stuff tonight, and they capitalized on it.”

Albies and Riley homered back-to-back in the fifth for a 9-0 lead, and Riley and Swanson hit consecutive homers in the seventh against Chasen Shreve.

“We’ve been struggling to score runs and get hits, so that was good to see,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “There were some good at-bats, going the other way, it was a good night. And the way Ian backed up his last start with how he threw tonight was really good.”

Tyler Anderson (3-4) gave up nine runs, 10 hits — seven for extra bases — and two walks in five innings. The Pirates had won five of his previous six starts.

Pittsburgh tied a 20-1 loss to Brooklyn on August 1, 1890, and a 25-6 loss to Brooklyn on May 20, 1896, for its third-largest margin of defeat, behind a 27-5 loss at Cincinnati on September 12, 1883, and a 20-0 loss to Milwaukee on April 22, 2010.

Shelton said it will be easy to move on from such a lopsided loss.

“It’s actually easier to move on from a game like this because the games that are 4-1, 4-3, there’s situations you look back and think this couldn’t have been different,” he said. “Tonight we just got beat. You just move on from it and come back tomorrow.”

Albert Pujols Reportedly Heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Albert Pujols will be heading back to the field sooner than expected…

The 41-year-old Dominican professional baseball first baseman and designated hitter, a future MLB Hall of Famer, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have reportedly agreed on a major league contract, according to ESPN.

Albert Pujols

The deal, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, isn’t expected to become official until Monday, a source said.

When it does, the Dodgers will pay Pujols only the prorated portion of the major league minimum salary for the rest of the season, roughly $420,000, a sum that will be subtracted from the $30 million salary that is being paid to him by the Los Angeles Angels.

Pujols, in the last year of his 10-year, $240 million contract, was designated for assignment by the Angels on May 6 and was officially released after clearing waivers on Thursday. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts declined to comment on Pujols prior to Saturday’s game because the deal hasn’t been officially announced.

With the defending World Series champion Dodgers, Pujols is expected to be mostly used as a late-game pinch hitter. But he could also get some playing time at first base with everyday first baseman Max Muncy capable of playing second and third base.

Only 41 of Pujols’ 12,486 career regular-season plate appearances have come as a pinch hitter, but the Dodgers expect him to help a young, inexperienced bench.

His right-handed bat might also help a team that entered Saturday with a .663 OPS against left-handed pitchers, 136 points fewer than its OPS against righties. Pujols is batting only .198/.250/.372 in 92 plate appearances this season and has been a below-average hitter by park-adjusted OPS since 2017. But he owns an .878 OPS against lefties in 2021, and his .513 expected slugging percentage suggests he has also been running into some bad luck.

In 18 plate appearances under what Baseball-Reference identifies as late-and-close situations, Pujols owns a .313/.389/.500 slash line.

Pujols, who hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing beyond 2021, ranks fifth in career homers (667), second in RBIs since they became an official stat in 1920 (2,112) and 14th in hits (3,253). He has won three National League MVP awards, two Gold Gloves and six Silver Sluggers and has been invited to 10 All-Star Games.

His first decade with the St. Louis Cardinals — consisting of a .331/.426/.624 slash line, 408 home runs and 1,230 RBIs — stands as arguably the greatest 10-year run in baseball history. In Year 11, he finished fifth in NL MVP voting and won his second World Series ring.

He becomes the fourth former MVP on the current Dodgers roster, joining Cody BellingerMookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, the Dodgers are the fourth team in MLB history to feature four former MVP winners, joining the 1978 Reds, 1982 Angels and most recently the 1996 Red Sox.

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.'”

Francisco Lindor Agrees to 10-Year, $341 Million Deal with New York Mets

Francisco Lindor has landed a big deal…

The 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop and the New York Mets have agreed to a 10-year, $341 million deal.

Francisco Lindor

Lindor’s deal will be the third largest based on total value in Major League Baseball history, trailing only the deals for the Los Angeles AngelsMike Trout ($426.5 million) and the Los Angeles DodgersMookie Betts ($365 million).

The Mets were widely expected to sign Lindor to a long-term extension after acquiring the four-time MLB All-Star in a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Indians this offseason.

The negotiations became a major storyline during spring training, with new Mets owner Steve Cohen writing on Twitter last week, “What do think Lindor will accept? I’m going to crowdsource the answer.”

“Lindor is a heckuva player and a great guy. I hope he decides to sign,” Cohen wrote on Tuesday.

Lindor had stated that he would “go to free agency” if he didn’t have a deal in place by Opening Day, saying he did not want to negotiate during the season. The Mets open Thursday against the Washington Nationals.

In January, the Mets avoided salary arbitration with Lindor by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $22.3 million. It was the fourth-biggest one-year contract for an arbitration-eligible player, trailing Mookie Betts ($27 million with Boston last year), Nolan Arenado ($26 million with Colorado in 2019) and Josh Donaldson ($23 million with Toronto in 2018).

A two-time Gold Glove winner, Lindor is a career .285 hitter and has averaged 29 homers, 86 RBIs and 21 steals in his six major league seasons — all with the Indians, who drafted him in 2011.

Jesse Chavez Signs Minor League Deal with the Los Angeles Angels

Jesse Chavez is springing into action…

The 37-year-old Latino veteran right-hander has re-signed with the Los Angeles Angels on a minor league deal.

Jesse Chavez

Chavez will join the Angels’ spring training camp in Tempe, Arizona, after he clears their intake protocols, according to the team.

Chavez appeared in 38 games for the Angels in 2017, making 21 starts. He left for the Texas Rangers as a free agent after one season, and he excelled after being traded in July 2018 to the Chicago Cubs, where he was managed by current Angels skipper Joe Maddon.

Chavez spent the past two seasons back with the Rangers, struggling last season with a 6.88 ERA in 18 appearances.

With experience as a starter, long reliever and late-inning reliever, Chavez could provide versatility for the Angels, whose long-struggling pitching staff can use all the depth it can get.

Chavez is a native of the Los Angeles area, graduating from high school in Fontana before pitching in junior college in Riverside. He has also pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Felix Hernandez Signs Minor League Deal with Baltimore Orioles

Felix Hernandez has a new deal…

The Baltimore Orioles have agreed to sign the 34-year-old Venezuelan-American veteran professional baseball pitcher, nicknamed “King Félix,” to a minor league contract.

Felix Hernandez

Hernandez won an American League Cy Young Award, two ERA titles and made six MLB All-Star teams over 15 seasons with the Seattle Mariners before becoming a free agent last offseason.

Hernandez signed a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves and looked sharp during spring training, but he ultimately opted out of the pandemic-shortened 60-game season.

In his most recent big league action, Hernandez went 1-8 with a 6.40 ERA in 2019. He hasn’t finished with an ERA under 4.00 since 2016, and his last All-Star appearance was in 2015. He has won 169 games and owns a 3.42 career ERA.

Hernandez could earn a rotation spot with the rebuilding Orioles, who have 2019 All-Star left-hander John Means locked in as a starter but not much else. They traded Alex Cobb to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, leaving Keegan AkinDean KremerJorge LopezWade LeBlancThomas Eshelman and Bruce Zimmermann as the only returning players to start at least one game in 2020.

 

Baltimore has also announced it has agreed to minor league deals with infielders Seth Mejias-Brean and Malquin Canelo, right-handers Dusten Knight, Konner Wade and Spenser Watkins, and left-hander LeBlanc.

Freddy Galvis Signs One-Year Contract with Baltimore Orioles

Freddy Galvis is ready to play ball in the Charm City.

The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball shortstop has agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles, helping the team fill a hole in their infield.

Freddy Galvis

Galvis broke into the big leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012 and spent the past two years with Cincinnati Reds.

He hit .220 with seven homers and 16 RBIs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Galvis is expected to take over as Baltimore’s shortstop from Jose Iglesias, who was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in December. Galvis played 33 games at shortstop last season and 16 at second base.

He would receive a $250,000 assignment bonus the first time he’s traded.

Galvis had a $5.5 million salary last season — the option year of his previous contract, which wound up as $2,037,037 prorated during the shortened season.

Galvis has a .247 career batting average with 95 home runs and 386 RBIs. A journeyman who is headed to his fifth big league team, Galvis started with the Phillies, made a one-year stop with the San Diego Padres in 2018 and played with the Toronto Blue Jays before joining Cincinnati during the 2019 season.

His best season offensively was in 2019, when he hit 23 homers with 70 RBIs.

Baltimore signed him primarily for his ability to deftly play in the middle of the infield. He has a .984 fielding percentage as a shortstop over 801 games.

Jason Castro Signs Two-Year, $7 Million Contract with Houston Astros

Jason Castro has landed an astronomical deal…

The Houston Astros have reached a two-year, $7 million contract with the Latino professional baseball catcher, according to ESPN.

Jason Castro

The deal, which includes $2 million in possible escalators based on games played at catcher in 2021, brings Castro back to Houston, where he was drafted in the first round of the 2008 amateur draft, spent his first six major league seasons and was an MLB All-Star in 2013.

Castro gives Houston another veteran catcher to play behind starter Martin Maldonado. Castro hit hit .232 with 62 home runs and 212 RBIs over 617 games during his first stint in Houston.

Castro finished the 2020 season with the San Diego Padres following a trade by the Los Angeles Angels in August. He appeared in 27 games between the two teams during the shortened season, hitting .188 with two home runs and nine RBIs. He spent the previous three seasons with the Minnesota Twins, where he played 208 games and hit .229.

He’s been a below-average hitter throughout his career, with a .230 batting average, but has been lauded for his pitch-framing and blocking skills.

The Athletic first reported on the agreement, while USA Today first reported the terms of the deal.