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).

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies (15-27) vs. Rockies (29-17)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies were supposed to take a step forward in 2017. Pete Mackanin went out on a limb when he said before the season that he thought they could be close to a .500 team, and so far they've fallen well short of that expectation.

At 15-27, the Phillies are on pace to go 58-104, an even worse record than 2015, the year of Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, etc.

They hope to stop the profuse bleeding tonight against the Rockies, who can't lose on the road lately.

1. Franco and Saunders sit
Looking for some more offense, or just a different approach, Mackanin is sitting Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders tonight in favor of Andres Blanco and Ty Kelly (see lineup).

Franco has actually been hitting a bit more in May, picking up a hit in nine straight games before going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Monday. Still, he's hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage, and his .657 OPS is 27 percent below the league average.

Saunders just hasn't done much with the Phillies. He's hitting .227/.273/.383 with four homers and 15 RBIs, and he's struck out 35 times in 150 plate appearances. Two of those four homers came in games that were already decided.

It's a rare start for Blanco, just his fifth of the season. Coming mostly off the bench the last four seasons, he's been a consistent hitter for the Phillies, batting .270/.333/.449 with 43 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs in 559 plate appearances, essentially a full season's worth.

2. Eflin's turn
Mackanin's hope is that with Aaron Nola back from the DL, Jeremy Hellickson appearing to turn a corner and Zach Eflin giving the Phils some consistent innings, the starting rotation can get into a groove, thus helping out the bullpen and giving the Phillies a chance to win more close games the way they did in 2016.

Jerad Eickhoff was just OK last night, allowing four runs in six innings as he dropped to 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA. A quality start tonight from Eflin against a strong Rockies lineup would go a long way because the Phillies really need more than half of their rotation to be clicking right now.

Eflin was rocked his last start in Texas, allowing seven runs on 11 hits and two walks over four innings. It caused his ERA to rise from 2.81 to 4.25 and his WHIP from 1.00 to 1.25.

As is usually the case when Eflin doesn't pitch well, he just wasn't getting his sinker low enough in the zone. He had induced 40 groundballs over his previous three starts before picking up just eight against the Rangers. 

An interesting note on Eflin is that he's struck out just five of the 70 right-handed hitters he's faced compared to 13 of the 85 lefties he's seen. Righties have hit .323 off him with a .798 OPS compared to .250 with a .715 OPS from lefties.

Current Rockies are 3 for 16 off Eflin with just one extra-base hit. He faced Colorado last season at Coors Field and gave up just two runs over six innings.

3. An unlikely start
Unlike most seasons, the Rockies are pitching well and winning on the road. Colorado has gotten off to hot starts almost every year the last five, but it's usually fueled by an unsustainably hot offense. 

Hasn't been the case in 2017. The Rockies are middle of the pack with a 4.29 ERA, a half-run lower than the Phillies. And away from Coors Field, they have a 3.45 ERA, the second-lowest road ERA for any team behind the Diamondbacks.

The run has been credited to a young starting staff that has been missing projected No. 1 Jon Gray. We saw former first-round pick Jeff Hoffman dominate the Phillies last night (seven innings, three hits, one run, seven strikeouts) and tonight the Phils face 22-year-old German Marquez (2-2, 4.34).

One of the biggest difference-makers for the Rockies in 2017 has been closer Greg Holland, who signed a prove-it deal with Colorado coming off a major injury. He has 19 saves and a 0.96 ERA in 20 appearances and has earned himself a whole of money this winter.

4. The book on Marquez 
The Rockies acquired Marquez along with left-handed reliever Jake McGee in the January 2016 trade that sent Corey Dickerson to the Rays, where he's thrived.

Marquez made just a handful of appearances in the majors last season but has been solid for the Rockies in five starts so far this year. 

He throws pretty much all four-seam fastballs (65 percent) and curveballs (24 percent), with his heater averaging 95.1 mph. He'll also mix in a few changeups to lefties and cutters.

In two starts away from Coors Field, Marquez has allowed just one run in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts. He's kept the ball in the park in four of five starts.

5. This and that
• Good to see Aaron Altherr pick up two doubles last night. He was 6 for his previous 33.

• Tommy Joseph in May: .345/.418/.707, six doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs. 

• Since beginning the season on an eight-game hitting streak, Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP, six walks and 35 strikeouts.

• Daniel Nava was placed on the 10-day DL with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. LHP Adam Morgan was recalled again from Triple A to take his place on the active roster.