MLB Wrap: Braves' win streak reaches seven

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MLB Wrap: Braves' win streak reaches seven

ATLANTA -- Justin Upton drove in five runs with two homers, Julio Teheran matched his career high with 11 strikeouts, and the Atlanta Braves beat the Colorado Rockies 11-2 on Thursday night for their seventh straight win.

Jason Heyward added a two-run homer and Chris Johnson had three hits as the Braves completed a four-game sweep of the Rockies. The Braves outscored the Rockies 31-5 in the last three games of the series.

Atlanta's 7-0 homestand also included three wins over St. Louis.

The Rockies were without outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez. The middle of their lineup took another hit when Troy Tulowitzki was ejected in the second inning.

The NL East-leading Braves stretched their lead over Washington to 11 games.

Teheran (8-5) struck out the side in the third and fifth innings. He lasted only five innings, allowing one run and five hits and two walks, in his third straight start of allowing no more than one run (see full recap).

Indians win eighth straight
CLEVELAND -- Justin Masterson was quick to pass along credit for Cleveland's eighth straight victory to the guy he provided him all the support he needed in a 6-1 decision over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

"The story's about Ryan Raburn doing his thing," Masterson said. "That was pretty cool to see."

Raburn homered twice and drove in four runs as the Indians, who have won 13 of 17, completed a four-game sweep of the reeling White Sox.

Raburn, who has played a major role off manager Terry Francona's bench, hit a two-run homer in the third, had an RBI single in the fifth and belted a leadoff home run in the seventh. He has 13 homers and 37 RBIs in 173 at-bats while playing mostly against left-handed starters.

"I prepare myself the same way every day whether I'm playing or not," Raburn said. "This is one of those years where everything is going right for me. I'm trying to hold on to it and ride it as long as I can." (see full recap).

Harvey, Mets shut out by Marlins
MIAMI -- Tom Koehler focused on the opposing hitters, rather than the other team's pitcher. No matter that it was NL All-Star starter Matt Harvey.

Koehler threw six effective innings and the Miami Marlins stalled Harvey once again, beating the New York Mets 3-0 Thursday.

"The key is really not to think about it too much," Koehler said. "I was facing the Mets. You put up zeros against anybody who's pitching, your team tends to be in pretty good shape."

Logan Morrison's two-out single broke a scoreless tie in the sixth. Donovan Solano added a two-run single later in the inning.

"He's got good stuff. Right now he's one of the best pitchers in baseball and so I think the whole team feels good because he lost today," Solano said.

Harvey (8-3) allowed three runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out eight (see full recap).

Norris picks up first win as an Oriole
BALTIMORE -- One day after being acquired from the Houston Astros, Bud Norris dominated his former teammates over six innings in his Orioles debut, and Baltimore got a home run from Chris Davis in a 6-3 victory Thursday night.

The only runs Norris (7-9) allowed were on solo homers by Brett Wallace and Mark Krauss. The right-hander gave up four hits, walked two, and his season-high eight strikeouts included three by cleanup hitter Chris Carter.

Davis hit his major league-leading 39th home run off Travis Blackley in the seventh, a solo shot that gave him 100 RBIs for the season. He is the 39th player in club history to reach the 100 RBI mark and the first since Nick Markakis in 2009.

Norris spent his entire big league career with Houston until Wednesday, when he was dealt to the Orioles for outfielder L.J. Hoes and a minor league prospect.

Because the Astros scratched Norris from his scheduled start against Baltimore on Tuesday, he was well rested before heading to the mound (see full recap).

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

According to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it up to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with 8 homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253 with 24 HR, 57 RBIs and an .815 OPS.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

A few Phillies thoughts between NFL playoff games:
 
Jerad Eickhoff was in town the other day putting smiles on the faces of some special kids at CSN Philly’s annual Shining Star Awards dinner, which benefits the March of Dimes.
 
Before the event, Eickhoff was a guest on Philly Sports Talk and he was asked about the possibility of being the Phillies' opening day starter April 3 in Cincinnati. The right-hander said all the right things, noting that there were several worthy candidates and that the decision ultimately would be made by manager Pete Mackanin, and he was right on all counts.
 
In the big picture, it doesn’t matter a whole lot who gets the ball on opening day. The goal of every starter is to stay healthy for a full season and if he does that he’ll end up with 33 starts and ample opportunity to pitch himself to the top of the rotation.
 
Still, starting on opening day is a big honor, even if a lot of folks won’t remember who got the ball for the opener much beyond Memorial Day.
 
The 2017 Phillies have two legitimate candidates for opening day starter: Jeremy Hellickson and Eickhoff. 

Hellickson got the nod last year and did nothing to suggest he does not deserve the honor again this year. The veteran right-hander pitched 189 innings over 32 starts and was a pro’s pro from the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse.
 
But with all due respect to Hellickson, this early vote for the opening day assignment goes to Eickhoff for a number of reasons.
 
First of all, he’s earned it with his performance. He led the starting staff in starts (33), innings (197 1/3) and ERA (3.65) in 2017. He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure constantly stress to the staff the importance of throwing strikes. Eickhoff responded in 2016. His ratio of 1.92 walks per nine innings was the fourth-best mark among National League starters in 2016.

In addition, he's earned it with his conduct and example. The guy approaches his craft with a maturity, dedication, work ethic and seriousness that is reminiscent of Roy Halladay.

All of this leads us to another reason that Eickhoff should get the opening day nod: The Phillies are a building team and Eickhoff, 26 years old and under team control for five more seasons, is going to be around for a while. Hellickson will likely depart for free agency after this season. Ditto Clay Buchholz. Awarding Eickhoff the opening day start would be a show of faith in the pitcher, a message that management believes he can be a rock and a leader in the rotation now and in the future. 
 
And as for the notion that holding Eickhoff back until the second or third game of the season would help keep him away from opposing teams’ top pitchers and get him better matchups and possibly more run support. Well, Eickhoff already knows what it’s like to face top rivals and keep his team in the game. Last year, he matched up against Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and twice against both Kyle Hendricks and Zack Greinke. Late in the season, he faced NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer twice and lefty stud Chris Sale once. He pitched 19 innings in those three starts and allowed six runs. Pretty solid.
 
It’s certainly not the most important decision that Mackanin & Co. will face between now and April, but when it comes to opening day starter, well, we like Eick.
 
• Spring training is less than a month away, but the Phillies’ offseason roster construction remains in progress. You can pretty much bank on the club adding a bat, likely a left-handed-hitting outfielder, in the coming days.
 
Brandon Moss and Michael Saunders, both free-agent outfielders, remain the most likely targets, with Moss probably the best fit because of his ability to help out at first base.
 
The Phillies have had longstanding interest in Jay Bruce, who is on the Mets’ trading block, but sources say the price for him is two prospects. The rebuilding Phillies are committed to hanging on to their prospects. Moss or Saunders would cost just money, making them better fits on a short-term deal.

• The Phillies will officially open their new developmental academy in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. The club has leased four different facilities since ramping up efforts in the DR in 1994. The new facility, built on 45 acres in Boca Chica, is co-owned by the Phillies and Minnesota Twins. The two teams have separate baseball facilities and dormitories for up to 78 players. The clubs share kitchen, dining and field maintenance costs.
 
Read more about the new facility here.
  
• Agreeing at the midpoint and avoiding a hearing is always the goal when a player and his team exchange salary figures during the arbitration process. Cesar Hernandez submitted a figure of $2.8 million and the Phillies came in at $2 million. Shake hands at $2.4 million and move on.
 
• We mentioned this recently, but it’s worth repeating because it’s so remarkable. At home in 2016, the Phillies recorded a team batting average of .230 and a team on-base percentage of .291. Those marks were the club’s worst in more than a century of official record keeping.
 
• Phillies prospect Carlos Tocci is a strong candidate for the rookie of the year award in the Venezuelan winter league. The 21-year-old outfielder hit .323 with a .403 on-base percentage in 59 games for the Aragua ballclub.
 
Odubel Herrera was rookie of the year and batting champion in the Venezuelan league two years ago.
 
• And finally, Phillies chairman David Montgomery was among the honorees at the 14th annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation In the Spirit of the Game awards dinner Saturday night in Beverly Hills, California.
 
Montgomery received the Allan H. “Bud” Selig Executive Leadership Award. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, Bo Jackson, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a host of legendary scouts were among the other honorees at the event.
 
It was nice to see an organization dedicated to scouting recognize Montgomery, who served as Phillies president from 1997 to 2014. As leader of the Phillies, Montgomery always realized the importance of scouts in building a successful organization, and in his typical style built personal relationships with every member of his club’s scouting staff, right down to the area guys who drive around baseball’s backstreets in search of young talent. Winning the 2008 World Series was the highlight of Montgomery’s time as club president and that team was built on the back of good scouting.
 
So congratulations to one of the classiest and most respected men in the game on a most fitting honor.