The Kansas City Star


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Whit Merrifield fist-pumped the Royals’ dugout in delight. Red Sox reliever Blaine Boyer clenched his fist in anger.


The key battle in the Royals-Red Sox series opener went to Merrifield, who bounced a single through a drawn-in left side of the infield and paved the way to a 4-2 Royals’ triumph at Kauffman Stadium on Monday.


The game stood 2-2 when the bottom and top of the Royals’ order served up the go-ahead drama.


Catcher Drew Butera, in the lineup as Salvador Perez rested because of a sore rib, stroked a one-out line drive to center field, where Jackie Bradley Jr. made a diving attempt.


Bad move. The ball bounced past Bradley and to the wall as Butera chugged into third base with the fifth triple of his eight-year career.


That brought up Merrifield, who fouled up five pitches, presumably to allow Butera catch his breath.


Merrifield perfectly placed his high hopping grounder between third baseman Pablo Sandoval and shortstop Xander Bogaerts, setting off the dueling fists of emotion.


The Royals weren’t finished.


With Merrifield running, Jorge Bonifacio bounced a slow roller to second base, allowing Merrifield to take second and score when Lorenzo Cain dropped a single to right.


The Royals had taken the opener of a series between two of baseball’s hottest teams.


Winners of seven of their last nine, the Royals had closed to striking distance of the Central Division lead. By winning seven of 10, the Red Sox have chased down the slumping Yankees in the East. Monday was about maintaining momentum.


The Royals improved to 34-35 and remain 3 { games behind the first place Cleveland Indians, who also won on Monday. They’ve won eight of nine and stand 12-5 in June.


The Royals gave starter Jason Hammel a lead in the third when Eric Hosmer crushed a two-run homer to center and the base of the scoreboard. Merrifield opened the inning with an infield single and Cain looked like he might have got one out of Kauffman. But the ball ran out of steam on the warning track.


Hosmer, who had struck out in his first plate appearance on a checked swing, didn’t miss this full-count offering from Hector Velazquez, making his second major league start and third appearance. The distance was estimated at 446 feet and was Hosmer’s eighth home run this season, and marked career RBIs 501 and 502.


The Royals’ lead was short-lived. Hammel opened the fourth by surrendering a bloop single to Hanley Ramirez, on a ball that just eluded right fielder Bonifacio. Bradley then took Hammel over the right field bullpen to make it 2-2.


Toronto 7, Texas 6


ARLINGTON, Texas — Among the things that make good baseball teams go are the delivery of timely hits and receiving contributions from players who were never expected to make a significant impact.


It also helps when the team’s best players live up to their reputations.


The Texas Rangers still believe they are a good team. Of late, seeing has been believing.


On Monday, they struck on the good things they need to keep afloat in the American League playoff picture, with Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Tanner Scheppers, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre coming through. But their old foe this season, the bullpen, bit them at the worst time.


Matt Bush couldn’t close out the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth inning, as a slim one-run lead disappeared and turned into a 7-6 loss to open a four-game series. The Rangers have still won eight of their past 12 games. A win, though, would have moved them back above .500 and moved them into a tie for the second wild-card spot with a mere 93 games to go.


Anything can and will happen over the final 3 { months, but the Rangers are trending in the right direction despite what happened to Bush in the ninth inning.


Andrus and Beltre drove in all five runs in the Rangers’ big fourth inning, and Bibens-Dirkx, Scheppers and two others delivered three scoreless innings to keep the Blue Jays at bay.


Fort Worth Star-Telegram


Astros 4, A’s 1


OAKLAND, Calif. — Bring back the New York Yankees.


A day after completing a four-game series sweep against the Bronx Bombers in front of big, supportive crowds, the Oakland A’s dropped a quiet 4-1 decision to the Houston Astros Monday night in front of an even quieter Coliseum crowd numbering a mere 10,482.


It was the third smallest crowd of the year for the A’s, a big comedown after topping the 30,000 mark for three straight days against New York. It was a comedown on the field, too, as the A’s managed just four hits against Brad Peacock and three relievers and struck out 13 times in the process.


The Astros, who own baseball’s best record at 47-24, ran their record to 5-1 against Oakland in 2017 but had to work for it against rookie Daniel Gossett, who was making his second career start. Battered for six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings by Miami in his major-league debut, the 24-year-old right-hander had a nice rebound effort. He pitched shutout ball into the fifth inning against high-powered Houston, and was one pitch from getting out unscathed.


But No. 9 hitter Jake Marsnick connected on a 2-2 pitch with a runner at third base and sent it sailing high and deep over the center field wall to give the Astros a 2-0 lead. It was the only blemish on his night, but ultimately a costly one. Gossett (0-2) wound up pitching 6 2/3 innings, allowing just those two runs while not walking a batter and striking out six.


East Bay Times


On most nights, especially the way the A’s have been smacking the ball of late, that should have netted him his first victory.


Oakland, however, could never get the bats going against Peacock, who was once A’s property but never actually pitched for them in the big leagues. Peacock (4-1) went 5 2/3 innings and allowed just four hits and one run while walking one and striking out eight.


The A’s had one big chance at a rally in the sixth. After Adam Rosales opened by striking out, Matt Joyce doubled to right, Chad Pinder walked and Jed Lowrie hit a shot into the right-center gap that appeared to tie the game. Joyce scored easily, but Pinder was cut down at the plate when right fielder George Springer made a terrific cutoff on the ball and shortstop Carlos Correa made a brilliant relay throw to home plate. After Khris Davis walked, reliever Will Harris retired Yonder Alonso on a grounder to second and the A’s went meekly from there.


Houston padded its lead with Springer’s 20th home run of the year off A’s right-hander John Axford, and Derek Fisher hit his second homer of the season off the A’s fourth pitcher, Josh Smith.


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(c)2017 East Bay Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)


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The Seattle Times


SEATTLE — If it was yet another two resounding cracks off the bat of Mike Zunino that resonated most loudly for the Seattle Mariners on Monday night, the manner in which James Pazos silenced the Detroit Tigers in a pivotal sixth inning wasn’t far behind.


Zunino’s two home runs and four runs batted in were the obvious keys to Seattle’s 6-2 win over the Tigers in front of 21,517 at Safeco Field Monday night that the Mariners hope foreshadows what looms as a critical stretch of home games.


The contest is the first of 16 of 19 at Safeco Field for the Mariners, who are now 21-13 at home this season.


The game was tied 2-2 entering a sixth inning that began ominously but ended with Seattle on the way to victory.


A walk and a hit gave Detroit two on with one out when Nicholas Castellanos hit a grounder off reliever Steve Cishek to Mariner shortstop Taylor Motter, an inning-ending double play written all over it.


Instead, the ball glanced off Motter’s glove and everyone was safe.


Pazos relieved Cishek, who TV replays showed angrily pounding his glove on the bench in the dugout while a foreboding air fell over Safeco.


Pazos, though, continued what has quietly been a stellar season.


He first froze pinch-hitter Mikie Mahtook with a breaking ball on a 2-2 count that just grazed the outside corner of the strike zone for the second out.


Then Pazos struck out Andrew Romine swinging at a 99 mph high fastball.


He now has allowed just five runs in his last 26 2/3 innings with 36 strikeouts.


With one out in the bottom of the inning, Jarrod Dyson singled.


That brought up Zunino, who had grounded out with two on to end the second and struck out with two on to end the fourth.


But this has been a different Mike Zunino since his recall from Tacoma on May 22. He entered the game having already set a team record for RBI in a month by a catcher with 22 (Dan Wilson had held the record with 21 in April 1996).


Zunino made Detroit reliever Alex Wilson work to a full count, Dyson stealing second along the way.


Then on the eighth pitch, Zunino clubbed it over the wall in left field, giving the Mariners a 4-2 lead they wouldn’t give up.


As if to try to further prove his resurgence is lasting, Zunino then hit another two-run homer — again scoring Dyson — off Francisco Rodriguez to make it 6-2 in the eighth.


Zunino has eight home runs and 27 RBI since May 29 with 26 hits in his last 65 at-bats.


If Zunino and Pazos were the obvious stars, manager Scott Servais would also likely point to rookie starter Sam Gaviglio, who battled some wildness to get the key outs he needed to keep Seattle in it early.


Gaviglio walked four, and he threw 84 pitches in five innings.


But he also induced double plays in the third and fourth innings to limit the damage.


The key one came with the bases loaded and no outs in the third off the bat of Alex Avila. The play gave Detroit a 1-0 lead but when Gaviglio got the next out, it was also a big wasted opportunity for the Tigers.


Gaviglio allowed another run on a two-out double by Ian Kinsler in the fifth, which came after it appeared Gaviglio had picked off Jose Iglesias for the final out of the inning.


Instead, Iglesias — initially leaning toward second — dove and evaded the tag of Danny Valencia.


Still, it was another solid start for Gaviglio, who could be sent to Tacoma later this week if the team recalls Hisashi Iwakuma, who worked two innings in a rehab start for the Rainiers on Monday night.


Gaviglio, who hadn’t appeared in a big-league game before May 11 but was forced into the rotation due to injuries, has pitched at least five innings in all seven of his starts and allowed two or fewer runs in five.


Edwin Diaz pitched the ninth to close it out as the Mariner bullpen threw four scoreless innings.


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(c)2017 The Seattle Times


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Chicago Tribune


CHICAGO — The Cubs, home for a three-game series before resuming their 20-game odyssey on the road, rallied for a 3-2 victory Monday night over the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field. Jon Lester surrendered home runs to Jose Pirela and Yangervis Solarte, but Willson Contreras sparked a two-run rally with a game-tying home run in the seventh.


Anthony Rizzo extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a leadoff bunt single in the bottom of the first. Manager Joe Maddon put on the hit-and-run play in the seventh inning with Javier Baez at first, and the move paid off when Jose Pirela bobbled Albert Almora Jr.’s double to score the winning run.


Lester threw 71 pitches through the first three innings but managed to last six innings. Koji Uehara worked out of a jam in the eighth. Wade Davis struck out Wil Myers and induced Hunter Renfroe to hit a grounder to the mound with the tying and go-ahead runs on base to end the game.


Almora made a sliding catch in right center to rob Chase d’Arnaud of a hit in the second, but Lester had to labor after a Baez throw sailed well wide of first for an error in the third.


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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


MILWAUKEE — Andrew McCutchen ruined a few dinners Monday night. His two-run, opposite-field home run off Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Matt Garza in the sixth inning cleared the wall by a hair and crashed in a picnic area beyond the right-field fence at Miller Park.


McCutchen’s blast chased Garza and awakened the offense in the Pirates’ 8-1 win over the first-place Brewers, capturing the opening game of a four-game series in Milwaukee. They then punished reliever Wily Peralta with five consecutive baserunners to start a four-run seventh.


Right-hander Gerrit Cole made the run support count, allowing three hits over seven innings of one-run baseball. He walked two and struck out five, lowering his ERA to 4.28.


McCutchen paced the Pirates’ 11-hit performance with two hits and three RBIs, bringing his batting average to .261. Gregory Polanco had two hits, and David Freese was 2 for 3 with a walk.


The Pirates (32-38) arrived in Milwaukee on Sunday night after dropping two of three games at home against the Chicago Cubs. Pittsburgh sat six games behind the Brewers (38-34) entering their four-game series at Miller Park, their first of three trips there this season. Milwaukee was five games over .500, the Cubs were at .500, and the rest of the division was in the red.


“Trying to find our way,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s kind of like those races you see where everybody starts off and you stay kind of jumbled, and somebody is looking to make a break at some point in time.”


If Hurdle was referring to a peloton — the pack of riders in a bicycle race — note the breakaway riders typically take off far earlier than this, and they are almost always caught before the finish line. Perhaps the pack isn’t a bad place to be, but the Pirates must start to advance soon, as a continued slide before the All-Star break would increase the likelihood of a trade-deadline fire sale.


“I’m glad it’s happening right now,” Hurdle said regarding the road trip to Milwaukee. “It’s a good opportunity for us, where we are at this time in the season, to come in and play the first-place team for four games. Wonderful.”


This season, Cole has seen home runs fly off bats at an alarming rate. That’s how the Brewers opening the scoring Monday, with Travis Shaw smacking a second-inning solo shot into the bullpen in left-center field for his 13th home run this season. It was home run No. 16 allowed by Cole this season, already well beyond his previous career-high of 11 set in 2014 and 2015.


The Pirates cracked back quickly. Leading off the third, Francisco Cervelli walked. Jordy Mercer sprayed a single the other way, extending his hitting streak to nine games. The runners moved into scoring position on Cole’s sacrifice bunt. The lineup turned over, and Adam Frazier snuck a two-run, seeing-eye single into left field, with Mercer crossing just ahead of the throw.


By the sixth, Garza seemed to tire. After Freese roped a leadoff single, Garza fell behind 2-0 on McCutchen with one out. The starter was in a bad spot, as McCutchen has a 1.210 OPS in his career when hitting a 2-0 pitch into play. Garza’s fastball was off the plate away, but higher than the previous two, and McCutchen ripped it just over the right-field wall.


McCutchen’s homer, his 13th this season, was No. 29 against the Brewers since 2009, second-most among opposing players behind the former Cincinnati Reds slugger Jay Bruce (30).


The Pirates piled on in the seventh against the reliever Peralta. Hurdle left in Cole to lead off, despite the fact he was at 96 pitches. Cole singled. Frazier walked. Josh Harrison and Polanco singled, and left fielder Hernan Perez tripped over his feet for a run-scoring error. Freese bounced an infield single. McCutchen sent a sharp single to center for an 8-1 lead.


Brewers manager Craig Counsell lifted Peralta after he was charged with four earned runs.


Hardly bothered by the extended inning, Cole emerged for the seventh and spent just seven pitches to retire the side in order. After allowing 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings over four starts from May 22 to June 8, Cole has gone seven innings with one run allowed in his past two starts.


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(c)2017 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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Sun Sentinel


MIAMI — Marcell Ozuna added another bullet point to his All-Star resume Monday.


With a ninth-inning line drive to left-center field, Ozuna lifted the Miami Marlins to an 8-7, walk-off win over the Nationals at Marlins Park. Dee Gordon, who started the two-out rally with a walk, scored from third.


The game-winning hit gave the Marlins their first lead of the day. They had tied previously the game twice, with six innings in the third (four on Justin Bour’s grand slam) and one in the seventh (on Giancarlo Stanton’s solo shot).


Down six in the bottom of the third, the Marlins plated a half-dozen runs to tie the game. The final four scored with two outs in a rally sparked by Stanton’s infield single. After Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna walked to load the bases, Bour walloped a grand slam into the Miami bullpen in right field.


Left-hander Justin Nicolino’s return from the disabled list with a bruised left index finger was brief and unsuccessful. He lasted three innings, allowing six runs (three earned) on seven hits.


The Nationals burned him for two homers: Bryce Harper in the first on a full-count fastball low that turned into a scorching line drive to right-center, and Anthony Rendon in the second into the home-run sculpture. Washington added three unearned runs in the third on a rally made possible by Nicolino’s own throwing error.


Vance Worley, in his first relief appearance since getting bumped from the rotation, allowed one run in two innings. Stephen Drew’s pinch-hit double scored Ryan Zimmerman from first.


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(c)2017 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)


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The Baltimore Sun


BALTIMORE — Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy matched Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber batter for batter through three scoreless innings Monday night, and the fans who showed up at Camden Yards under threat of rain had to believe they were in for a special pitching duel.


They weren’t.


Bundy’s fast start disintegrated in a hail of fourth-inning line drives and the Indians put up back-to-back four-run innings to end the Orioles’ hopes of adding to their modest two-game winning streak. The Indians never looked back, scoring a 12-0 victory before an announced 13,875 in the opener of a four-game series.


So much for momentum. Bundy needed 100 pitches to retire 13, leaving with one out in the fifth inning and allowing six earned runs. His pitching line was finalized when reliever Vidal Nuno surrendered a two-run homer to first baseman Carlos Santana.


That homer extended a dubious stretch for the Orioles pitching staff, which has set an American League record by allowing five or more runs in 16 consecutive games. The major league record of 20 is held by the Philadelphia Phillies, and it was set when Calvin Coolidge was president.


The Indians weren’t done. They kept hammering away at the beleaguered Orioles bullpen, scoring three more runs in the sixth inning and one in the ninth while piling up 17 hits in a game that was reminiscent of the ugly series at Yankee Stadium two weekends ago.


It was mostly overkill, of course, since Kluber did not flinch on the way to his second complete shutout of the year. He carried a one-hit bid into the sixth inning and did so with such efficiency that he had thrown fewer than half as many pitches as Bundy when the Orioles starter exited the game.


Bundy (7-6), who got off to a terrific start this season, was in line for his fifth loss in seven games, though he had given up three runs or fewer in four of his previous six games. This was clearly his worst outing of the year, and it raised his ERA almost a half-run, from 3.29 to 3.72.


The start of the game was delayed for 29 minutes, but — by some accounts — the Orioles and Indians were lucky to start it at all.


The early forecasts were bad enough that the Aberdeen IronBirds postponed their opener and there was serious doubt the game at Oriole Park would be played.


The fourth inning Indians rally started with three straight one-out doubles, the first of which gave third baseman Jose Ramirez a club record with doubles in seven consecutive games. The second was Edwin Encarnacion’s 1,500th career hit.


The Indians hit six doubles in a span of two innings — four in the fourth and two in the fifth — and they pumped up the volume in the fifth with home runs by Jason Kipnis and Santana.


The only Orioles hit through the first five innings was a single that Adam Jones poked through the right side of the infield.


Kluber gave up his second hit of the game to Seth Smith in the sixth and allowed a single to Hyun Soo Kim in the eighth. All three hits came with two outs, and no Oriole advanced past first base.


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(c)2017 The Baltimore Sun


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