MLB Wrap: Speedy Hamilton stars in MLB debut

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MLB Wrap: Speedy Hamilton stars in MLB debut

CINCINNATI -- The dirt-smudged base leaned on the floor in front of Billy Hamilton's locker. An inscription in black ink noted the importance: "MLB Debut 9/3/13."

Some debut!

The speedy outfielder who outran everything in the minors got his first stolen base in the majors on Tuesday night, and it decided a game with playoff implications. Hamilton swiped second and came around on Todd Frazier's double in the seventh inning, sending the Cincinnati Reds to a 1-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

"That's my job -- stealing in important situations," said Hamilton, who had brown dirt on both knees from his hard slide into that keepsake base. "This was a real big situation -- a pennant race."

Hamilton set a professional record by swiping 155 bases in the minors last year. He got an ovation when he made his big league debut as a pinch runner for Ryan Ludwick, who led off the seventh with a single against Seth Maness (5-2) (see full recap).

Bucs get victory to guarantee winning season
MILWAUKEE -- This one was for Roberto Clemente. The Hall of Famer's retired jersey is still the only 21 that matters for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pinch-hitter Travis Snider homered in the ninth inning to lift Pittsburgh to a 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night that clinched the Pirates' first non-losing record in two decades.

Clemente played right field for Pittsburgh and finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits. He died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while trying to deliver food and relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

"The one family I'm happy for is the Clemente family," manager Clint Hurdle said. "They told me earlier in the season that we can't have 21 losing seasons, that we've got to find a way to not have Roberto's number tied to that. I told them we'd find a way to take care of that. It's been taken care of."

Snider drove a 2-2 pitch from Jim Henderson (3-5) over the wall in center for his second pinch-hit homer of the season. He also accomplished the feat against the Chicago Cubs on May 21 (see full recap).

Lester outduels Scherzer in Red Sox win
BOSTON -- Jon Lester outdueled Max Scherzer and the Boston Red Sox beat Detroit 2-1 on Tuesday night, ending the Tigers right-hander's chance to become just the second pitcher to open a season with a 20-1 record.

Lester (13-8) lowered his ERA to 1.71 in his past six starts. He allowed one earned run and eight hits with a season-high nine strikeouts and no walks.

Scherzer (19-2), who won his first 13 decisions, lost for the first time since July 13 when the Texas Rangers beat him 7-1.

Roger Clemens is the only pitcher to start off at 20-1 and ended up 20-3 with the New York Yankees in 2001. Rube Marquard was the only other pitcher with a 19-1 record, but lost his next decision in 1912 with the New York Giants.

Boston scored on Will Middlebrooks' two-run single in the fifth after Detroit's Jose Iglesias doubled in a run in the second in the matchup of division leaders (see full recap).

Braves improve MLB-leading home record
ATLANTA -- Kris Medlen pitched seven strong innings while Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis homered to help the Atlanta Braves win their second straight game with a 3-1 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.

The Braves have won 20 of 24 at Turner Field to improve the major leagues' best home record to 51-19.

Gattis, who was recalled earlier in the day after a three-game stint at Triple-A Gwinnett, tied it at 1-all off with his 16th homer in the seventh. After Mets starter Carlos Torres (3-3) walked Dan Uggla on nine pitches, Simmons hit his 13th homer to make it 3-1.

Medlen (12-12) allowed seven hits and one run while striking out nine.

Closer Craig Kimbrel converted his 34th straight save opportunity and improved to 44 for 47 this season. He struck out Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker, allowed a single to Omar Quintanilla and retired pinch-hitter Justin Turner on a groundout.

New York has dropped three straight and nine of 13 (see full recap).

Yankees use five-run 8th to beat White Sox
NEW YORK -- Eduardo Nunez's two-run double capped a five-run eighth inning that rallied the New York Yankees past the Chicago White Sox 6-4 on Tuesday night for a crucial victory as they chase an AL playoff berth.

Derek Jeter got the Yankees started on a vintage comeback, and pinch hitter Curtis Granderson tied the score with an RBI single. New York, which began the day 2 games out of a wild-card spot, won for the 12th time in 14 home games to improve to 16-7 in its last 23 overall.

Alexei Ramirez hit a two-run triple and Alejandro De Aza homered to build a three-run lead for All-Star Chris Sale, but the last-place White Sox couldn't hold it. They dropped their fifth straight to start a 10-game trip against AL East contenders.

Sale was cruising along with a 4-1 lead until Jeter singled with one out in the eighth and Robinson Cano drove a 1-2 pitch off the left-field fence for a double -- the third extra-base hit off the ace by a left-handed batter all season (see full recap).

Today's Lineup: Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi, Andrew Knapp all get starts

Today's Lineup: Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi, Andrew Knapp all get starts

Just mere hours after topping the Braves in dramatic fashion in the 10th inning, the Phillies will have a much different lineup take the field Sunday afternoon as they look for the sweep of Atlanta (see Sunday's game notes).

Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Andrew Knapp will all start Sunday's series finale.

Nava will bat fifth start in left field for the ailing Howie Kendrick, who's missed the last week with an oblique issue. Nava's sample size at the plate so far this season is small, but he's still 8 for 21 (.381 batting average) with two homers, two doubles and 7 RBI. So it makes sense that manager Pete Mackanin wants to get Nava some more at-bats.

Stassi bats sixth and gets the nod at first in place of Tommy Joseph, who had that odd sequence of events late in Saturday's win. First, Joseph had an ugly at-bat with the game tied in the ninth inning. Then in the top of the 10th, he caught a popped-up bunt and suddenly made an ill-advised throw to an empty third base, helping the Braves plate the go-ahead run. So today could be a day just to clear Joseph's head.

Both Nava and Stassi are left-handed bats against Braves righty starter Mike Foltynewicz.

Knapp will give Cameron Rupp the day-game-after-night-game breather behind the plate Sunday.

One note on Atlanta's lineup: Brandon Phillips, who drilled the game-tying homer off Edubray Ramos in the top of the ninth on Saturday, has been moved up to the second spot in the order for Sunday's finale.

Both teams' lineups can be found below:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Aaron Altherr RF
3. Odubel Herrera CF
4. Maikel Franco 3B
5. Daniel Nava LF
6. Brock Stassi 1B
7. Freddy Galvis SS
8. Andrew Knapp C
9. Zach Eflin SP

Braves
1. Ender Inciarte CF
2. Brandon Phillips 2B
3. Freddie Freeman 1B
4. Matt Kemp LF
5. Nick Markakis RF
6. Kurt Suzuki C
7. Jace Peterson 3B
8. Dansby Swanson SS
9. Mike Foltynewicz SP

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Phils aim for first sweep of the season

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Phils aim for first sweep of the season

Phillies (8-9) vs. Braves (6-11)
1:35 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies and Braves played quite the game Saturday night. 

The teams went back and forth in the final two innings, culminating in Maikel Franco's walk-off single. What do they have in store for Sunday? Zach Eflin will take the hill for the Phillies opposite Mike Foltynewicz, a matchup of developing right-handers in their 20s.

Here are five things to know for Sunday's game.

1. Eflin back to form
Promoted to the majors at the beginning of the week, Eflin looked back to form in his first MLB start of 2017.

Eflin had the unfortunate problem of needing to rehab two knee surgeries this offseason, but clearly has not lost much in terms of his stuff. He looked a lot like the Eflin who produced five quality starts in a stretch of six appearances last summer, not the one who gave up 20 runs in his last 13 innings.

While he threw just five innings against the Mets, he limited New York to just two runs while working around six baserunners. Both runs came in the first inning and he retired 13 of his last 15 batters faced. 

The 23-year-old righty lives off his low-90s fastball and sinker while mixing in a slider and curveball. He was sinker heavy in his first start of 2017 and it was effective at Citi Field.

One of his best starts last season came against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Eflin needed just 92 pitches to throw a six-hit complete game with just one earned run allowed, a solo homer by Ender Inciarte. He didn't walk any Braves batters and struck out six in a quick game (2:08 in duration). Atlanta slugger Freddie Freeman went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and no batter got more than one hit.

2. Foltynewicz vs. the Phils
Foltynewicz hasn't had an ideal start to the season. His first start came in inclement weather vs. the Pirates, then he had to come out of the bullpen with a series of off days, which allowed the Braves to skip their fifth starter.

His most recent appearance came back in the rotation on Tuesday and he held his own against the Nationals, who were without a few key veterans but still had Max Scherzer on the hill. Foltynewicz held the Nats the just two runs over seven innings, scattering nine baserunners while striking out three batters. He walked four batters and has a paltry 8/7 K-BB ratio this year. 

In his three seasons with the Braves, the 25-year-old righty has a sub-optimal 4.85 ERA over 222 2/3 innings. However, his ERA got much better from 2015 to 16 (5.71 to 4.31) and his 4.26 ERA thus far in 2017 isn't half bad. 

Foltynewicz lives off his mid-90s fastball that has touched 97 this season. He mixes in a slider that draws a lot of groundballs, a sinker and a changeup. His velocity is down a little this season, which could explain his poor strikeout rate.

Folynewicz is 2-1 in four appearances against the Phillies in his career but has a 6.00 ERA, allowing five homers and 12 runs in 18 innings. Franco and Tommy Joseph each have one of those home runs while Odubel Herrera has three hits off the right-hander.

3. Ryan Howard: Braves minor leaguer
Believe it or not, Ryan Howard could be playing for another NL East team this year. The former Phillies slugger made his debut Saturday night for the Gwinnett Braves, Atlanta's Triple-A affiliate. 

Howard had himself quite a night, going 2 for 2 with two singles, an RBI, a hit-by-pitch and a walk, which was intentional. For someone signed so recently to a minor-league pact, it was an encouraging showing, although it's unlikely he'll be called up anytime soon.

There are two major obstacles to Howard making it back to the show with the Braves. The first is Freddie Freeman. With Freeman, the Braves already have a lefty slugger at first base for the foreseeable future. The other issue is Howard isn't on the Braves' 40-man roster. Atlanta has little incentive to add Howard to its 40-man because they're in full rebuild mode and need to prioritize their prospects.

Still, there may be something left in the tank for Howard. He still hit 20 home runs last season and was quite effective in the second half, particularly as a platoon bat. Even if the Braves ultimately don't need Howard, his opportunity in Gwinnett is a chance to audition for other teams as well. Veterans on minor-league deals often have opt-outs or could be granted their release if another team shows interest. 

If you're curious, Howard doesn't play Lehigh Valley, the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate, until July 17-19 and doesn't play in Lehigh Valley until a week later.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Freddy Galvis struck out twice on Saturday, but he also extended his hitting streak to six games with a double. It was just his second extra-base hit since April 7.

Braves: Freddie Freeman has raised his average to .400 on the season. His .400/.507/.850 batting line won't last, but he looks to have brought his game to another level this year.

5. This and that
• The Phillies are on a three-game winning streak, including two straight over the Braves. Despite finishing ahead of Atlanta in the standings in 2016, the Phillies lost their last seven games vs. the Braves last season.

• The Phils have won two extra-inning games in the last five days. They haven't done that since April 17 and 20 of last season.

• Aaron Altherr has a six-game hitting streak going and has raised his average to .379. He has doubled in consecutive games and has two hits in three straight games. For good measure, he's added stolen bases in two of Phillies' last three games.