MLB Wrap: Scherzer K's 14 as Tigers beat Pirates

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MLB Wrap: Scherzer K's 14 as Tigers beat Pirates

DETROIT -- Max Scherzer and Brad Ausmus both knew early on Thursday afternoon that something special might be happening.

Their reactions were slightly different.

When Scherzer struck out eight Pittsburgh batters in the first three innings, Ausmus was thinking of two of the worst days of his playing career.

"I've been the victim of two 20-strikeout games, and when he started out that fast, I was starting to wonder if he could put up a huge total," said Ausmus, who faced Roger Clemens in his 1996 20-K game and Kerry Wood two years later. "He was making pitches that looked like the ones Kerry was throwing that day."

Scherzer also knew a big number was possible, but he didn't care about records (see full recap).

Royals rally to beat A's
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Nori Aoki and Billy Butler each drove in two runs in a five-run seventh and the surging Kansas City Royals rallied to defeat the Oakland Athletics 7-3 Thursday.

The Royals have won 18 of 22 to move 12 games above .500 for the first time since July 20, 2003.

The Royals took the season series, winning five of seven against the Athletics, who have the best record in the majors.

Aoki's two-run triple put the Royals ahead 5-3. Butler's single scored Aoki and Alcides Escobar. Jarrod Dyson fouled off four consecutive pitches before hitting an RBI single to right for the first run of the inning (see full recap).

Gordon leads Dodgers over Braves
ATLANTA - Despite hitting only .229 in the first 12 games in August, Dee Gordon remained confident in his approach as he refused to make changes that might lead to bad habits.

Gordon's self-confidence paid off on Thursday, as he had three hits and scored four runs to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers past the slumping Atlanta Braves 6-4 on Thursday.

Gordon, hitting .291 overall, also stole two bases, increasing his total to 54, the most in the major leagues.

"Dee Gordon beat us," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's probably your most traditional leadoff hitter I've seen in a long time."

Gordon had plenty of help. Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez, who followed Gordon in the batting order, each also had three hits. Gonzalez drove in three runs (see full recap).

Fiers K's 14 in Brewers' win
CHICAGO -- Mike Fiers struck out a career-high 14 through six innings of three-hit ball, Khris Davis and Mark Reynolds homered, and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-2 on Thursday to widen their first-place lead in the NL Central.

Scooter Gennett drove in two runs with a double, and Elian Herrera and Carlos Gomez each had RBIs to help the Brewers move 2 games ahead of Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The Cardinals host San Diego on Thursday night.

Fiers (2-1) dominated and walked only one in his second start this season since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville to face the Dodgers last Saturday. In that one, he pitched eight strong innings and outdueled Zack Greinke for his first win this season.

Cubs starter Edwin Jackson (6-13) lasted just 4 2-3 innings and allowed five runs before being lifted for Jacob Turner, who pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings in his Cubs debut. Jackson has lost six of his last seven decisions (see full recap).

Harper, LaRoche homer in Nats 4-1 win vs. Mets
NEW YORK -- Stephen Strasburg bounced back from a poor start to pitch seven efficient innings, Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche each hit a two-run homer, and the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 4-1 Thursday night to set a franchise record with their 11th consecutive win on the road against one team.

The Mets' 11 straight losses to Washington in Queens are their most against one team in club history. New York lost 10 in a row to the Braves at Shea Stadium from 1991-92.

Strasburg (9-10) gave up three hits and an unearned run, improving to 2-8 in 13 road starts. He struck out eight and walked two.

Rafael Soriano was perfect in the ninth for his second straight save in the series and 28th overall (see full recap).

7-run sixth powers Red Sox over Astros
BOSTON -- Dustin Pedroia's two-run double capped a seven-run sixth inning Thursday night that sent the Boston Red Sox to their fourth straight win, 9-4 over the Houston Astros.

Pedroia finished with three hits, Daniel Nava had two doubles and David Ortiz added two singles as the Red Sox improved to 8-0 in Fenway Park against the Astros.

Matt Dominguez hit a two-run homer for Houston, which opened a 10-game road trip with its fourth loss in five games.

Allen Webster (3-1) gave up four runs -- three earned -- and five hits in six innings for Boston.

Trailing 4-1, the Red Sox chased starter Scott Feldman (6-9) during their biggest inning of the season (see full recap).

Marlins beat Diamondbacks in 10 innings
MIAMI -- Marcell Ozuna doubled home Garrett Jones with the winning run in the 10th inning, and the Miami Marlins topped the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-4 on Thursday night.

Ozuna's line-drive to left-center came off Bradin Hagens (0-1), who was making his major league debut. Hagens got a double play to escape the ninth, but Jones reached on a leadoff walk in the 10th and scored two batters later.

Mike Dunn (10-5) pitched two perfect innings for Miami and became the first reliever to reach double-digits in wins since Matt Belisle for Colorado in 2011, according to STATS.

Mark Trumbo had a pair of RBI singles for Arizona. Diamondbacks starter Chase Anderson allowed nine hits and three runs in six innings, and David Peralta had an RBI triple to highlight a two-run third (see full recap).

Jay lifts Cardinals, 4-3, over Padres
ST. LOUIS -- Pinch-hitter Jon Jay delivered a two-run double in the eighth inning and right fielder Shane Robinson threw out the potential tying run at the plate in the ninth to help the St. Louis Cardinals hold off the San Diego Padres 4-3 Thursday night.

Jhonny Peralta hit an early two-run homer for the Cardinals, who moved ahead of Pittsburgh into second place in the NL Central. St. Louis remained two games behind division-leading Milwaukee.

San Diego had its five-game winning streak snapped and fell to 16-9 since the All-Star break.

Trailing by two in the ninth, the Padres loaded the bases with one out against closer Trevor Rosenthal. Pinch-hitter Jake Goebbert came through with an RBI single to right, but Alexi Amarista was cut down at home when he tried to score from second (see full recap).

Rays top Rangers, 6-3
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Evan Longoria homered and drove in three runs, Jake Odorizzi helped extend Tampa Bay's impressive road pitching streak with seven strong innings, and the Rays beat the Texas Rangers 6-3 Thursday night.

Longoria's team-leading 15th homer was a two-run shot that gave the Rays a 6-2 lead in the fifth. Logan Forsythe had a two-run homer, his fifth, to put the Rays in front to stay in the second.

Odorizzi (9-9) struck out seven to help give the Rays their AL-record 18th consecutive road game without allowing more than three runs.

Robbie Ross (2-5) came up from Triple-A Round Rock to fill in for Texas ace Yu Darvish, who is sidelined with elbow inflammation. The left-hander gave up six runs in 4 1-3 innings (see full recap).

Drew Anderson has emerged as one of the Phillies' top pitching prospects

Drew Anderson has emerged as one of the Phillies' top pitching prospects

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Drew Anderson remembers his telephone ringing in November. He remembers hearing Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan congratulate him and tell him that he'd been placed on the team's 40-man roster.

Anderson was elated.

"It was awesome," the right-handed pitcher said the other day.

So awesome that Anderson celebrated in an unusual way.

"I busted out 50 pushups," he said. "I had so much adrenaline."

The internal discussions that teams have when considering which players to protect on the 40-man roster and which ones to risk losing in the Rule 5 draft are often long and detailed and decisions are not always reached easily.

But in Anderson's case ...

"It was not a long conversation," Jordan said. "The feeling was, 'Put him on the roster. Don't lose him. Let's talk about the next guy.'"

"Across the board," minor-league pitching coordinator Rafael Chaves said. "And that's not common for a kid that pitched in A-ball."

Anderson, who turns 23 on March 22, will get his first taste of Double A ball in April.

Clearly, the Phillies are high on him.

But how high?

"We've got scouts who will tell you that he might be our best pitching prospect," Jordan said.

Given some of the power arms that the Phils have collected in the low minors, that's quite a statement.

If it seems as if Anderson has flown below the radar since being drafted by the Phillies in 2012 it's because, well, he's done just that.

For a while.

He received little interest from four-year colleges coming out of Galena High School in Reno, Nevada, and was headed to Mesa Community College in Arizona before the Phillies selected him in the 21st round that year.

"My name never really got out there," he said. "Really only the Phillies looked at me. (Area scout) Joey Davis saw me and he said he liked that I had a fluid arm and he liked the way the ball jumped out of my hand. He saw me as a sleeper pick. I just wanted to play ball so I said, 'Yeah, I'll give it a shot.'"

Jordan recalled seeing Anderson pitch at Single A Lakewood early in the 2014 season. Anderson had added strength to his 6-foot-3 frame and his fastball velocity had jumped from 90-92 mph to 93-95 mph.

"It was just a matter of physical maturity, his body getting stronger, and we were really excited," Jordan said.

Anderson did not make it through that season, however. He came down with an elbow injury and the following spring became a statistic — a pitcher who needed Tommy John surgery.

Anderson missed the 2015 season. He came back in May of last year and made 15 starts between Lakewood and Clearwater. At Clearwater, the Phillies' advanced Single A stop, Anderson posted a 1.93 ERA in 32 2/3 innings. He struck out 37 and walked 10.

The rehabilitation process after Tommy John surgery focuses on more than just the elbow. Special attention is paid to the shoulder and the legs. Working under Joe Rauch, the Phillies' minor-league rehab specialist, Anderson gained much strength in those areas and it showed in his fastball velocity last summer.

He got it up to 97 mph.

He also has a good breaking ball and an improving changeup to go with a classic pitcher's body. He has long arms and weighs 205 pounds.

"We just felt some team out there would have taken him even if they had to stash him in the bullpen," said Jordan, expounding on the Phils' decision to add Anderson to the 40-man roster in November. "He's too big an asset."

Anderson is excited about making the jump to Reading this season. He's never pitched more than 76 innings as a pro and now that he's healthy needs to start racking up mound time and experience.

Anderson mentioned how hard he worked this offseason to get ready for his first trip to big-league camp and what lies beyond when he heads to Double A.

The hard work started with those 50 pushups that he busted out upon learning that he'd been placed on the 40-man roster.

"After hearing that, it was time to kick it in gear," he said. "I was like, 'Let's do this.'

"I've had some ups and downs, but I feel like I'm on track now."

Phillies Notes: Hector Neris looks to become three-pitch guy in 2017

Phillies Notes: Hector Neris looks to become three-pitch guy in 2017

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Hector Neris racked up 102 strikeouts, the second-most ever by a Phillies reliever, during his breakout 2016 season.

The right-hander did it basically with a two-pitch mix — a power fastball and a darting splitter that manager Pete Mackanin likes to call “an invisible pitch.”

After last season, Neris reflected on his success, which included a 2.58 ERA over 80⅓ innings, the third-most among NL relievers.

Neris determined that he would need to diversify his pitch repertoire if he’s going to continue to have success.

So during winter ball in his native Dominican Republic, he dusted off his seldom-used slider and threw it more. He’s polishing it up in this camp and plans to use it in the upcoming World Baseball Classic and during the regular season.

“I think it’s something that can make me better,” Neris said. “I’ve never had the confidence in it that I had in my other pitches, but I’m working hard on it. It will give me a third option for the hitter to think about.”

Neris threw a slider 2.9 percent of the time in 2016, according to MLB Statcast. He threw more than 49 percent splitters and 46 percent fastballs.

“In the big leagues you have to respect the hitter,” Neris said. “The hitters know me now and they know I throw fastballs and splitters. I need to have that third pitch for them to respect. When I throw it, I want them to say, ‘What is that?’”

Neris’ splitter darts down and in to a right-hander hitter. The slider will break the other way.

Neris has talked about different grips on the pitch with guest spring-training instructor Larry Andersen, who threw a million sliders in his career.

“He threw some nasty ones today,” Andersen said after Tuesday’s workout. “The pitch will help him.”

McLaren to WBC
Bullpen coach John McLaren will leave camp on Wednesday and travel to Japan as Team China assembles for the World Baseball Classic. McLaren will manage that club. He also skippered the club in 2013.

Asked if he spoke more than seven words of Chinese, McLaren quipped, “That would be pushing it. I’m still trying to conquer English.”

Team China will provide a translator for McLaren, though there is a universal element to baseball communication.

“This is my third time going to the WBC,” McLaren said. “I love it.”

Almost game time
The Phillies will play their annual exhibition game against the University of Tampa on Thursday. The Phils are expected to play many of the young players that will make up their Triple A Lehigh Valley roster. Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr., who pitched at Double A Reading last season, will come over from minor-league camp to make the start. Pitching coach Bob McClure said he expected to get several projected big-league relievers work in the game.

Alec Asher will start the Grapefruit League opener against the Yankees on Friday in Tampa and Adam Morgan will start Saturday’s games against the Yankees in Clearwater.