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).

Phillies trade RHP Severino Gonzalez to Marlins

Phillies trade RHP Severino Gonzalez to Marlins

The Phillies traded right-handed pitcher Severino Gonzalez to the Marlins on Tuesday, five days after designating him for assignment.

The Phillies will receive a player to be named later or cash.

Gonzalez was DFA'd on Jan. 19 to make room for outfielder Michael Saunders. 

Gonzalez pitched in 34 games for the Phillies in 2015 and 2016, starting seven. All told, he had a 6.68 ERA in 66 innings.

The 24-year-old from Panama has had excellent command numbers throughout his minor-league career, with 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings compared to 1.9 walks. But he's been a bit overmatched in the majors, especially as a starter, rarely exceeding the low-90s with his fastball.

The Phillies moved Gonzalez to the bullpen full-time last spring after adding depth to their starting pitching staff. He was successful at Reading and Lehigh Valley, posting a 2.93 ERA in 21 appearances, and though he struggled in the majors out of the Phils' 'pen, he showed a better fastball when being used as a reliever. Gonzalez's heater, which averaged 89.2 mph as a starter in 2015, rose to 93.5 mph as a reliever in 2016.

Yordano Ventura, Andy Marte die in separate Dominican crashes

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Yordano Ventura, Andy Marte die in separate Dominican crashes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Yordano Ventura quit school as a teenager so he could begin working a construction job to help his family make ends meet, laboring day after day in the hot sun of the Dominican Republic.

It was a chance tryout with the Kansas City Royals that changed the trajectory of his life.

Yordano wowed scouts with an electrifying fastball, the best they had seen in years, and a confident demeanor that bordered on brash and arrogant. And both of those traits served him well as he rocketed to the major leagues, helped the Royals win a long-awaited World Series championship in 2015, and became one of the most popular players in a city that embraced baseball one again.

Ventura, whose nickname "Ace" fit so perfectly, died Sunday in a car crash on a stretch of highway near the town of San Adrian in his native Dominican Republic. He was 25.

"Our team and our organization is hurting deeply," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "It's certainly something that puts everything into strong perspective, and challenges us all to never grow tired or weary or cease to do what is right, and loving others. Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow.

"We loved Yordano," Moore said. "We loved his heart, we loved who he was as a teammate, a friend. He was somebody that challenged us all and made us better and I'm going to miss him."

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo said Ventura died on a stretch of highway 40 miles northwest of Santo Domingo, the nation's capital. Mateo did not say whether Ventura was driving.

He's the second young star pitcher to die in past four months. Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was 24 when he was killed along with two other men in a boating accident near Miami Beach in late September.

Also Sunday, former major league infielder Andy Marte died in a separate car accident in the Dominican Republic. Metropolitan traffic authorities said he died about 95 miles north of the capital.

"I was traveling to the airport this morning and I got a phone call wanting to know if I'd heard about Yordano, and I thought they meant Marte," Moore said. "My first thought was, `Were they together?'

"Then shortly afterwards, I got a call from Major League Baseball confirming this tragedy."

The Dominican Republic has the second-highest traffic-related death rate in the world -- officials there believe alcohol, speed and a blatant disregard for traffic laws is to blame. Oscar Taveras, Jose Oliva, Rufino Linares and Jose Uribe are among players who have died in crashes in the country.

It wasn't known whether Ventura had been drinking or speeding at the time of his accident.

Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez, a fellow Dominican whom Ventura called his hero, posted pictures of Ventura and Marte on Twitter and said, "Guys, the only way we can pay tribute to you, is by reflecting on the adjustments we all have to make in this game called life."

Moore speaks frequently with Latin American players about dangers of returning home, including driving on the perilous roads.

"I'm more intentional about it to the point where it probably goes in one ear and out the other," Moore said, "but we're constantly discussing these things."

The Royals lowered flags at Kauffman Stadium to half-staff Sunday, and displayed Ventura's photograph on the large, crown-shaped scoreboard in centerfield of the empty ballpark. Fans were leaving flowers, hats and other mementos within hours of learning of his death.

Royals teammates learned the news in a text chain and took to Twitter to share their sorrow.

"I love you my brother. I'm in disbelief and don't know what to say," first baseman Eric Hosmer said.

Third baseman Mike Moustakas also expressed disbelief, tweeting: "I love you Ace. I don't know what to say other than I'm going to miss you a lot. RIP ACE."

Ventura will be buried Tuesday in the Dominican Republic. Moore, manager Ned Yost and other members of the Royals are planning to attend.

Before his start in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series, Ventura paid tribute to Taveras, his close friend and countryman who had been killed days earlier in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Ventura wrote "RIP O.T (hash)18" on his hat and also wrote messages on his glove, cleats and the mound before shutting out San Francisco for seven innings in a win.

"If he was still here, I would for sure be talking to him, and Oscar would be very happy for me," Ventura said afterward. "Oscar was a very humble guy and very likable, and I'm going to miss him a lot."

Ventura signed a $23 million, five-year deal with the Royals shortly before he started on opening day in 2015. He then helped them bounce back from their loss to the Giants in Game 7 by returning to the World Series and beating the New York Mets in five games for their first crown since 1985.

The right-hander went 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA last season, and his fiery demeanor was never more evident than when he hit Orioles star Manny Machado with a fastball to trigger a brawl. Ventura was suspended nine games for the pitch, though it was cut to eight on appeal.

In a surreal coincidence, the 33-year-old Marte played his final game in the big leagues for Arizona on Aug. 6, 2014. Ventura started that game for Kansas City.

"Today is a very sad day for our entire game and particularly for the many loyal fans in the Dominican Republic, the home of both Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

Said players' union head Tony Clark: "It's never easy to lose a member of our fraternity, and there are no words to describe the feeling of losing two young men in the prime of their lives. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, friends, teammates and fans throughout the United States and Latin America."

Moore said he spoke to Miami general manager Mike Hill early Sunday, in part because Moore admired the grace and heart in which the Marlins organization dealt with Fernandez's death.

It wasn't certain whether Fernandez was driving the boat when it crashed on Sept. 25. He had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.147, above Florida's legal limit of 0.08, according to autopsy reports released by the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's Office.

"That was one of the first things that came to mind when I began to figure out how we were going to process this," Moore said. "Mike was able to provide some insight. Just give me some comfort, really."

Ventura wound up pitching his entire career for the Royals, going 38-31 with a 3.89 ERA.

Born June 3, 1991, in Samana, Dominican Republic, Ventura was a true rags-to-riches story. He quit school at 14 and was laboring on a construction crew to support his family when he heard about a tryout, which led to a spot in the Royals' academy located on his picturesque island home.

Still, the odds were long that Ventura would ever make it to the big leagues. Very few players from the Dominican academies reached the pinnacle of the sport.

But over time, Ventura was able to harness one of the most electric fastballs that scouts had seen in years, and his headstrong and confident nature was essential to his rapid rise. He made his debut to great fanfare in 2013, allowing just one run again Cleveland in a sign of things to come.

He eventually became a cornerstone of a youth movement that included young stars such as Hosmer and Moustakas, one that carried the Royals first to respectability, then to the top of the American League.

He was 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 2014, his first full season in the big leagues, and helped the Royals reach the World Series for the first time in nearly three decades. Then he helped to lead them back to the Fall Classic in 2015, this time completing the job on a crisp night in New York.

"He always had a zest for life, an innocence about the game, a freshness, a fearlessness," Moore said, his voice cracking. "He was a very compassionate human being, loved to compete, no doubt challenged us, but that made us better. Nobody could ever doubt how much he cared about his teammates, how much he cared about the fans, and how much he loved to compete and to pitch."