Framber Valdez & Three Houston Astros Relievers Tie MLB Record for Strikeouts in Nine-Inning Game

Framber Valdez has earned a place in Major League Baseball history…

The 28-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher and three Houston Astros relievers tied the MLB record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game, as the Astros won 4-2 for a sweep on Sunday of the Los Angeles Angels.

Framber ValdezTwelve different Los Angeles batters came to the plate and all of them struck out at least once. 

Valdez struck out a career-high 13 in six innings, allowing two runs on three hits and five walks. Relievers Hector Neris and Rafael Montero each struck out two in scoreless innings and Ryan Pressly (2-2) fanned three in the ninth.

“It’s something that is very emotional and very exciting for me,” Valdez said through a translator after the game. “It’s very special to be a part of that.”

Astros manager Dusty Baker concurred.

“It’s very impressive. He was throwing strikes,” Baker said referring to Valdez, and when asked about the team total of 20, he simply replied, “Boy, that’s a lot.”

The 20 strikeouts is the most in a nine-inning game in Astros franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. There had been several occasions where other teams struck out 20, including performances by Max Scherzer, Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood. The Astros’ previous record was 18 in 1964 against Cincinnati.

Houston pitchers fanned 47 in the series against the Angels.

Carlos Correa Agrees to Three-Year, $105.3 Million Contract with Minnesota Twins

Carlos Correa is Twinning

The 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop has agreed to a three-year, $105.3 million contract with the Minnesota Twins that includes opt-outs after the first two seasons, according to ESPN.

Carlos Correa

Correa’s deal, which was first reported by Fox 26 Houston, will pay him $35.1 million in each of the three years, sources said.

Correa’s choice to play with the Twins comes as a surprise, given the team has lost 18 consecutive postseason games and finished last in the AL Central a year ago at 73-89.

His average salary makes him the highest paid Latino in the MLB, as he becomes baseball’s fourth highest behind New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer ($43.3 million), New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole ($36 million) and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout ($35.5 million).

 

A two-time MLB All-Star who was the first pick in the 2012 amateur draft, Correa led the Houston Astros‘ turnaround. Houston lost more than 100 games each year from 2011-13, then won its first World Series title by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games in 2017.

He’s coming off perhaps his best season, posting a career-best 7.2 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com, which ranked third in the American League. He hit .279 with 26 homers, 92 RBIs and 104 runs for the Astros. The oft-injured Correa played in 148 games, his most since the 2016 season.

It was also Correa’s most decorated season. He appeared in the All-Star Game, finished fifth in AL MVP balloting, won his first Gold Glove at shortstop and was awarded a Platinum Glove by Rawlings as the AL’s top overall defender. Since Correa broke in for the Astros in 2015, he ranks sixth among all position players in WAR (34.1).

For all his regular-season exploits, Correa has been even more accomplished during the postseason. Since his first appearance for Houston in 2015, Correa ranks third among all players in postseason homers (18). His 59 RBIs in the playoffs are 10 more than any other player during that span.

Still, Correa remains a controversial figure because of his association with the sign-stealing scandal that tainted the Astros’ 2017 World Series title, and his adamant defense about the legitimacy of the championship. Before the 2020 season, he told reporters, “When you analyze the games, we won fair and square. We earned that championship.”

Despite the controversies, Correa is respected around the game as a clubhouse leader.

“If your best player is not a good leader, they can take you down the wrong road,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Correa during the 2021 playoffs. “Carlos is in the great category.”

Minnesota has not been to the World Series since winning the 1991 title and has lost its past eight postseason series since beating Oakland in a 2002 AL Division Series.

Correa has enjoyed great success in Minnesota as a visiting player, though. He has a .413 batting average (26-for-63) at Target Field with five homers and 20 RBIs in 15 games. His 1.205 OPS is his highest at any ballpark where he has played four or more games.

Correa became a free agent after rejecting the Astros’ qualifying offer, worth $18.4 million. As a result of his departure, Houston will recoup a compensatory draft pick.

Correa was the top overall pick of the 2012 amateur draft after being selected by Houston out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. He then went on to win AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.

Jose Iglesias Agrees to One-Year Contract with Colorado Rockies

Jose Iglesias is headed to Colorado…

The 32-year-old Cuban professional baseball shortstop has agreed to a one-year contract with the Colorado Rockies, according to The Associated Press.

Jose IglesiasIglesias, who is represented by MVP Sorts Group, will earn $5 million.

Bringing in Iglesias all but shuts the door on a return of free-agent shortstop Trevor Story, who is set to become the latest big-name player to exit the Rockies.

Before the 2021 season, the team traded perennial All-Star and Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Story turned in a 24-homer, 20-steal season in ’21 as the Rockies missed the playoffs for a third straight year.

Iglesias batted .271 last season over 114 games with the Los Angeles Angels and 23 with the Boston Red Sox. He was an MLB All-Star in 2015 while a member of the Detroit Tigers.

Iglesias, who made his debut in Major League Baseball in 2011, has also played with the Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles during his 10-year-career.

Eric Chavez To Join New York Mets as the Team’s Hitting Coach

Eric Chavez is headed crosstown…

The New York Mets have reportedly agreed to hire the 44-year-old Mexican American professional baseball coach and former third baseman as their hitting coach, just weeks after he joined the New York Yankees as an assistant hitting coach, according to ESPN.

Eric Chavez

Neither team has spoken publicly on the matter, but the transition, while uncommon, was said to have been executed in good faith.

Chavez, who was announced as part of Aaron Boone‘s staff with the Yankees on December 20, now will help make up the burgeoning staff of longtime manager Buck Showalter and join Mets general manager Billy Eppler for the third time.

Chavez, a six-time Gold Glove third baseman during a playing career that spanned 17 years, was hired by the Yankees as a special assignment scout in 2015 when Eppler served as assistant GM.

When Eppler presided over the Los Angeles Angels‘ baseball-operations department shortly thereafter, he hired Chavez as a special assistant and later named him manager of the team’s Triple-A affiliate.

The Mets have also brought in Joey Cora to be their third-base coach and will reportedly add Wayne Kirby as first-base coach.

Eric Chavez to Serve as New York Yankees Assistant Hitting Coach

Eric Chavez is headed to the New York…

The New York Yankees have finalized manager Aaron Boone‘s staff for 2022, with the 44-year-old Mexican American former professional baseball third baseman joining the team.

Eric ChavezChavez, who won six Gold Glove Awards and a Silver Slugger Award during his professional career, will serve as an assistant hitting coach alongside Casey Dykes.

Other new coaching staff members include hitting coach Dillon Lawson, third-base/outfield coach Luis Rojas, first-base/infield coach Travis Chapman and assistant pitching coach Desi Druschel.

Bench coach Carlos Mendoza and pitching coach Matt Blake are back for their third seasons in pinstripes, while bullpen coach Mike Harkey returns for a 13th year.

New York fired hitting coach Marcus Thames, third-base coach Phil Nevin and assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere after the Yankees went 92-70 and lost the American League Wild Card Game against the Boston Red Sox. First-base coach Reggie Willits left to coach at the University of Oklahoma.

Chavez had a 17-year MLB career and spent the past five seasons as a special assistant with the Los Angeles Angels.

 

Rojas was fired by the New York Mets in October after two underwhelming years as manager. The 40-year-old Latino baseballer was with the Mets organization for 16 years. He was replaced in Queens by Buck Showalter, who held his introductory news conference Tuesday.

 

Chavez, 44, who played third base for the Yankees, Oakland Athletics and Arizona Diamondbacks, was in the mix for Rojas’ old job with the Mets, before they ultimately hired Showalter.

Jhoulys Chacín Agrees to One-Year, Guaranteed $1.25 Million Contract with Colorado Rockies

The Rockies times will continue for Jhoulys Chacín

The 33-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball right-handed pitcher has agreed to a guaranteed $1.25 million, one-year contract with the Colorado Rockies that allows him to earn an additional $500,000 in performance bonuses.

Chacin was 3-2 with a 4.34 ERA in a career-high 45 relief appearances and one start for Colorado, which signed him on April 1 after he was released from a minor league contract by the New York Yankees near the end of spring training.

He became a free agent after the World Series.

Chacín is 81-89 with a 4.06 ERA in 227 starts and 76 relief appearances in 13 seasons with Colorado (2009-14, 2021), the Arizona Diamondbacks (2015), Atlanta Braves (2016), the Los Angeles Angels (2016), San Diego Padres (2017), Milwaukee Brewers (2018-19), Boston Red Sox (2019) and Atlanta (2020).

Chacín would earn $125,000 for making five starts and for each additional five through 20 and $125,000 for 30 pitching appearances and each additional 10 through 60. His total bonuses are capped at $500,000.

Albert Pujols Hits First-Inning Home Run in St. Louis Return

It’s a memorable homecoming for Albert Pujols.

The 41-year-old Dominican professional baseball player hit a home run in his return to Busch Stadium, sending the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 7-2 win over his former St. Louis Cardinals team on Tuesday night.

Albert Pujols

The playoff-contending Dodgers won the sixth time in eight games. St. Louis has lost four in a row.

A star slugger who led the Cardinals to a pair of World Series championships, Pujols made his second appearance at Busch Stadium after playing for St. Louis from 2001 to 2011.

Pujols drew a 40-second standing ovation when his name was announced prior to a first-inning at-bat, with catcher and longtime teammate Yadier Molina stepping in front of the plate to prolong the cheer. They had a short embrace before Pujols stepped in. Pujols promptly drilled the fourth pitch from J.A. Happ on a line over the wall in left. It was his 679th career home run and 17th of the season.

“It’s one of those things that you hope could happen,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. “But the likelihood is very improbable. Getting a standing ovation and then homering in that first at-bat. Storybook. I’m a firm believer that the game honors you. The way Albert’s played the game for so long, the right way, that’s the way it was supposed to go.”

Pujols tried to downplay the moment.

“When it happens, you just let it happen,” he said. “It’s part of the game. Embrace the moment. But try not to get caught up too much.”

His teammates had no problem enjoying the special moment.

“It was pretty surreal,” Turner said. “Pretty cool for everyone in the stadium — not just Albert. Every time he hits a homer, you’re watching history.”

The 10-time MLB All-Star drew a similar fan reaction when he returned to St. Louis with the Los Angeles Angels for the first time in 2019. He was given a standing ovation in all 12 plate appearances that series, including a one-minute tribute in his first trip to the plate. He also homered in the first game of that series.

Pujols, who did not play in the series opener Monday night, went 1-for-4. The first baseman signed a 10-year deal with the Angels after the 2011 season, then joined the Dodgers last May.

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.