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The New York Mets just can’t quit Tim Tebow.

Despite hitting just .163 with four home runs in 77 games at Triple-A Syracuse in 2019, the Mets have extended a spring training invitation to the 32-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner. He’s one of eight non-roster invitees the club announced on Thursday.

Tebow begins his fourth full season in the Mets organization and owns a career batting line of .223/.299/.338 with 18 home runs and 327 strikeouts in 287 games. His 2019 season ended on July 21 with a laceration to his pinkie on his left hand. His 2018 season also ended early when he missed the final two months with a broken bone in his right hand.


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Tebow, who works for the SEC Network as a football analyst during his baseball offseason, isn’t a legitimate prospect, given his age and lack of production. The Mets have received criticism in the past for giving Tebow playing time in the minors over other players who might actually help the Mets in the future.

Tebow, however, remains popular among fans — helping boost ticket sales for both home and road games — and teammates, who have expressed throughout his minor league career that they enjoy having him around.

Tebow’s best season in the minors came in 2018, when he hit .273/.336/.399 at Double-A Binghamton — not terrible, but as a left fielder with poor range and below-average speed, the profile isn’t that of a future major leaguer, even if he were 22 instead of 32.

Earlier in the offseason, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen did not rule out the possibility of Tebow playing for the Mets this season. “[He's] one step away,” Van Wagenen said. As a non-roster player, Tebow would have to be added to the 40-man roster if he ever got called up to the majors, which would potentially mean removing another player.

Among the other non-roster invitees were left-handed pitcher David Peterson, the club’s first-round pick in 2017 who had a 4.19 ERA at Double-A in 2019, and 22-year-old lefty Kevin Smith, the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2019 after posting a 3.15 ERA between Class A and Double-A.

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CARLSBAD, Calif. — The San Francisco Giants have hired Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi to be their president of baseball operations.

Zaidi, 41, leaves the Dodgers after four years working under team president Andrew Friedman. The Dodgers made the World Series each of the past two seasons.


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Although he admits he’d rather see more effort from Manny Machado, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Machado “checks all the boxes” when it comes to putting in the work and being a good teammate.

“We set out to find one of the best minds in baseball and Farhan’s many accomplishments and expertise exceeded our expectations,” Giants president Larry Baer said in a statement. “Farhan is widely viewed as one of the top executives in our industry and we are thrilled to have him lead the next chapter of Giants Baseball.”

Zaidi returns to Northern California, where he worked for the Oakland Athletics as assistant general manager before joining the Dodgers in 2014.

“I am delighted to return to the Bay Area and to join one of the most storied franchises in the game,” he said. “I have watched the Giants from afar and I have great respect for the organization’s culture and many accomplishments. I am excited about this new opportunity and I’m looking forward to getting right to work.”

The Giants dismissed general manager Bobby Evans in September. San Francisco went 73-89 in 2018, including a majors-worst 5-21 in September.

The Giants have missed the postseason the past two seasons after winning three World Series titles in five years earlier this decade.

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BOSTON — For seven months, the Boston Red Sox offense has looked unstoppable. In Game 1 of the World Series, neither rain nor future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw could stem Boston’s red tide.

Behind a career night from Andrew Benintendi and a game-breaking, three-run pinch home run from Eduardo Nunez, the Red Sox outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers to win 8-4 at Fenway Park on Tuesday.


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From the wild-card round through the World Series, we’ll have the 2018 postseason covered.

Benintendi went 4-for-5, with three singles and a double, drove in the first run of the game and scored three times. All of Benintendi’s hits came off left-handed pitching, including three against Los Angeles ace Kershaw.

Benintendi became just the fourth Boston player with a four-hit game in the World Series, joining Jacoby Ellsbury in 2007 and Wally Moses in 1946. At 24, he’s the second-youngest Red Sox player with a four-hit game in the postseason.

The young left fielder had plenty of help. J.D. Martinez had a couple of searing RBI hits, Mookie Betts scored a couple of runs, and Rafael Devers had a key RBI single. And Nunez provided the big blow.

Still, the Dodgers hung close, tying the game 2-2 in the third and 3-3 in the fifth. They closed within 5-4 in the seventh on Manny Machado’s sacrifice fly. Boston protected the lead when Eduardo Rodriguez got Cody Bellinger out on a shallow fly to center with two men on base.

That set the stage for Nunez, who hit for Devers with two runners on after Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called lefty Alex Wood in from the bullpen. Nunez turned on a Wood offering and rifled it over the Green Monster in left. According to Statcast, Nunez’s blast had an exit velocity of 106.8 mph, his hardest-hit dinger in the past two seasons.

The offensive fireworks occurred despite the much-anticipated showdown between Kershaw and Boston ace Chris Sale. Neither pitcher recorded an out after the fourth inning. It was the first time in World Series history that two pitchers who had recorded 300-strikeout seasons had faced each other.
Eduardo Nunez celebrates his three-run home run in Game 1. Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Martinez gave Boston the lead with a rocket double off the center-field fence in the far expanses of Fenway Park, a 109 mph shot that drove in Steve Pearce from first to put the Red Sox ahead 3-2 in the third. Martinez slipped on the damp infield while rounding second base and limped around for a bit under the watchful eye of Boston’s trainer. He remained in the game.

The Dodgers had tied the game with three hits off Sale in the third, the last a single to left by Machado, the subject of the expected robust round of boos during pregame introductions. Machado drove in three runs in the contest.

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From the first pitch of every series to the last out of Game 7, you can catch the entire MLB postseason on ESPN Radio. Listen »

Boston scored two batters into the game after Betts led off with a single, stole second and scored on Benintendi’s single. When Benintendi scored on Martinez’s hit, it continued a long trend of breaking on top early in the postseason.
Boston has scored multiple first-inning runs in four straight World Series Game 1s, having also done it in 2004, 2007 and 2013. Boston led the majors by going 74-15 this season when scoring the first run of the game. The Red Sox entered the night 7-0 when scoring first during the postseason.

Rain pelted Boston for most of the day before the game, with the heaviest precipitation coming from a thunderstorm that passed over the city about 90 minutes before first pitch. But once the front passed, the tarp came up in time for introductions, James Taylor sang the national anthem and the game started on time.

In Taylor’s most famous recording, he sung of seeing fire and rain. On Tuesday, the rain stopped in time for the fire, which was supplied once again by baseball’s most prolific offense. The Dodgers’ task in Game 2 and beyond is clear:

Find out where the fire extinguisher is.

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SAN DIEGO — Manuel Margot made sure the woeful San Diego Padres finished the season on a positive note and the deflated Arizona Diamondbacks went into the offseason lamenting one more game that got away.

Margot scored on a dropped third strike in the 10th inning, two innings after he was erased at the plate by being too aggressive, and the Padres beat the Diamondbacks 4-3 on Sunday.

“I had to score no matter what,” Margot said. “When I saw no one was at home, I went for it.”

Thanks to Margot’s hustle, the last-place Padres (66-96) took two out of three in their last series of the season.

“The first time they threw me out by quite a bit,” Margot said.

The Diamondbacks, a playoff team last year who led the NL West on the first day of every month this season, ran out of steam to finish in third place, nine games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies.

Margot, who also homered and stole a base on a 3-for-5 afternoon, reached in the 10th on his career-high eighth triple. When Jake Barrett (0-1) struck out pinch-hitter Francisco Mejia and the ball got away from John Ryan Murphy, Margot raced home on Murphy’s throw to first baseman Daniel Descalso. The relay back to home was tardy after Descalso hesitated, unsure where he should aim his toss.

“It was kind of a weird play and I should have just thrown it,” Descalso said. “I was thinking the whole time, `Get it back to Murph,’ and then I realized Barrett was there and I double-clutched and it was too late.”

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said Margot took advantage of the miscue.

“It looked like (Descalso) didn’t think anyone was at home plate,” he said. “Give credit to Manuel. He made a very athletic play.”

The Padres are hopeful Margot is a key piece in their rebuilding effort. His numbers fell off from his rookie year but he provided a glimpse of what he can do in the season finale.

“It was a great day for him and hopefully it fires him up going into the offseason,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “He has a chance to be right in the middle of what we’re doing here.”

Arizona went ahead 3-2 in the ninth on a sacrifice fly from Socrates Brito, but the Padres tied it 3-3 on Eric Hosmer’s bloop single to left. Jose Castillo (3-3) pitched the 10th for the win.

Arizona went 8-19 in September to finish 82-80, salvaging a winning record for the second consecutive year.

“I think that is something,” Lovullo said earlier in the series. “When it’s all said and done after the month that we had, it is really positive and a good way to finish.”

The Padres, who spent all but four days in the NL West basement, again look ahead to better days. It was their eighth straight losing season and their third straight year with at least 91 losses.

“From our standpoint, we expect to be a lot better,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller said before the game. “I don’t get too much into a number goal from a win standpoint. I think from out standpoint next year, we’re going to start to compete. You’ve got to get over .500 to do that. We’re going to come in next year and not try to put a ceiling on anything. We expect to be a lot better here moving forward and I think the guys in that room understand that and believe that as well.”

Arizona starter Robbie Ray pitched four-plus innings, allowing two runs on five hits. He walked four and struck out eight.

Joey Lucchesi was surrendered two runs and four hits over six innings. The rookie’s eight strikeouts were one off his career high.
Steven Souza’s first career pinch-hit home run tied it 2-2 in the sixth.

With Freddy Galvis, who played in all 162 games, and Wil Myers aboard on singles in the fifth, Brito dropped to one knee while trying to find the ball in the sun in right field. Instead it landed beside him, with Galvis scoring for a 2-1 Padres advantage.

Margot homered in the second, and the Diamondbacks pulled even when Marte connected in the fourth.


Diamondbacks: Open next season in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.

Padres: Host the San Francisco Giants on March 28, 2019.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/tag/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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DETROIT — George Springer understood the situation as he was about to dive for Dawel Lugo’s line drive in the eighth inning.

“I could tell I was either going to get to it, or this is going to be a really bad play,” the Houston outfielder said. “I’m happy that I got to it.”

Springer made the catch to help preserve Houston’s lead, and the Astros swept a series at Comerica Park for the first time, wrapping up a three-game set with a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday. The Tigers had a man on first with two outs in the eighth when Lugo hit a liner down the line in right field. Springer made a diving catch . If he had missed and the ball had skipped past, the tying run would have scored.

“I think George on his own took a step toward the line to start the play,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said. “Got a great jump on it. With the runner in motion, a lot of bad can happen if he doesn’t come up with that, but it’s the right play to dive. Certainly the right play to be aggressive.”

It was the 13th series sweep of the season for the Astros, who have won 10 of their last 11 games. Houston entered with a three-game lead over Oakland atop the AL West.

Gerrit Cole (14-5) allowed two runs and three hits in five innings. He walked four and struck out nine.

Josh James pitched three innings in relief, allowing a two-run homer by Nicholas Castellanos in the seventh that pulled the Tigers within a run. Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth for his first save.

James McCann also homered for Detroit. Daniel Norris (0-4) allowed five runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.

“I started running out of gas in the third inning, which is frustrating, because that’s not how you want to feel,” said Norris, who returned from the disabled list Sept. 1 after missing much of the season with a groin injury. “I got through four with a lot of weak contact, but I started missing spots in the fifth and they have great hitters.”

Houston trailed 2-1 before scoring four runs in the fifth. Alex Bregman put the Astros ahead with a two-run double, and Tyler White added a sacrifice fly. An RBI double by Marwin Gonzalez made it 5-2.

Bregman opened the scoring with an RBI single in the third. Mikie Mahtook answered with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning, and McCann led off the Detroit fourth with a homer.

The Astros swept a three-game series at Tiger Stadium in 1998, but they’d never done it at Detroit’s current ballpark, which opened in 2000.


Cole moved into the American League lead in strikeouts with 260, two more than teammate Justin Verlander. Bregman has a major league-best 50 doubles, along with 100 runs and 100 RBI. The last player to reach all three of those marks in one season was Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, who had 101 runs, 52 doubles and 109 RBI in 2014.


Astros: C Martin Maldonado was shaken up in the fifth when Detroit’s Ronny Rodriguez caught him on the left arm with the bat while following through on a swing. Maldonado stayed in the game.


Tigers: SS Niko Goodrum left the game with a right quad contusion after he collided with LF Christin Stewart when Stewart went to the ground to make the catch on a shallow fly in the second.


Houston is off Thursday before hosting a three-game series against Arizona. Dallas Keuchel (11-10) starts the opener for the Astros on Friday night.

Detroit also has an off day before three games at Cleveland. Matthew Boyd (9-12) takes the mound for the Tigers on Friday night against Josh Tomlin (1-5).

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SAN FRANCISCO — Derek Holland got a little extra pleasure out of beating the Texas Rangers, a team he believes gave up on him two years ago.

The veteran left-hander pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning against his original club, Steven Duggar hit a two-run triple and the San Francisco Giants topped Texas 3-1 on Sunday.

“I wanted to go out there, make sure I continue with what we’ve been doing this whole year, continue the same game plan and just kind of go from there,” Holland said. “Obviously, a win is great. To go against my former teammates and those guys, it is a little bit better — so now I can maybe say some stuff to them.”

Holland, who won 62 games over eight seasons with the Rangers after they drafted him in 2006, was mostly sharp while notching consecutive victories for the first time this season.

He yielded one run and three walks with four strikeouts, then left to a standing ovation from the San Francisco crowd.

“Just pitched a beautiful game,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s great to see players like Derek, who it looks like they may be toward the end of their career, bounce back and show that there’s a lot of game left in what they have.”

Four days earlier, Holland (7-8) gained national attention after making a racially insensitive joke while appearing on MLB Network alongside Giants massage therapist Haro Ogawa in a bit that was meant to be fun. Holland later apologized for his comment.

“I know I had made a mistake and I am still very sorry for what I’ve done,” Holland said. “With the stuff that happened off the field, (the ovation) meant a lot to me. Hopefully with my apology to them they have my back and they understand those were not the intentions.”

Evan Longoria tripled and scored on a passed ball for San Francisco. The Giants won a home series for the first time since taking two of three from the Chicago Cubs in early July.

Elvis Andrus had an RBI double on his 30th birthday for Texas. The Rangers finished 2-4 on their road trip.

“Holland was throwing the ball well,” manager Jeff Banister said. “He made it very challenging for our hitters, being able to pitch in and across the plate.”

The Giants went ahead in the fourth.

Hunter Pence singled off Yovani Gallardo (7-3) with two outs. After Nick Hundley walked, Duggar lined a 2-2 pitch between center fielder Carlos Tocci and right fielder Nomar Mazara to put San Francisco up 3-1.

Duggar, the No. 8 hitter, was shocked the Rangers didn’t walk him with the pitcher’s spot due up next.

“I thought they were going to selectively pitch around me,” he said.

Texas stranded runners at second base in the fifth and eighth and left two on in the seventh when Tony Watson got Rougned Odor to hit a soft comebacker.

Mark Melancon retired three batters for his third save.


Bochy was asked what he thought while watching Duggar race around the bases for his first career triple. “I wish I had that speed, that’s what goes through my mind,” Bochy said. “It’s a gift.”


Rangers: Joey Gallo, who sprained his left ankle in the series opener, was back in the starting lineup after being limited to a pinch-hit appearance on Saturday.
Giants: Buster Posey was placed on the 10-day disabled list, as expected. The six-time All-Star catcher is scheduled to have season-ending hip surgery Monday in Colorado. Aramis Garcia was called up from Triple-A Sacramento.


Rangers: Face the Dodgers and RHP Walker Buehler (6-4, 2.96 ERA) on Tuesday in Texas. Buehler is 2-0 with a 1.07 ERA in his past four starts. Texas had not announced a scheduled starter.

Giants: RHP Chris Stratton (8-7, 5.37 ERA) makes his second start since being called up to replace Dereck Rodriguez in the rotation when he faces LHP Patrick Corbin (10-4, 3.17) and the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday. Stratton leads San Francisco in wins despite two trips to the minors.

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WASHINGTON — Jose Urena’s previous start ended after one very heated pitch.

On Sunday, he went the distance.

Making the most of his borrowed time, Urena pitched a two-hitter for his first complete game in the majors to lead the Miami Marlins over the Washington Nationals 12-1 on Sunday.

Urena (4-12) was suspended for six games by Major League Baseball after he hit Atlanta Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. on Wednesday. Urena was ejected from that start after throwing one fastball and appealed the penalty, keeping him eligible to play.

“I know what I did, and I know what kind of person I am and what kind of teammate,” Urena said. “Just tried to execute my plan and go out there and have fun and show what I can do.”

Urena, tied for the National League lead in hit batters, didn’t plunk anyone on the Nationals, nor did he alter his approach. He struck out four, walked two and retired the last 16 batters. It was his first complete game in 74 big league starts.

“If you make a mistake, you’ve got to pay,” Urena said of Washington’s lineup. “We tried to move their feet, make them uncomfortable at the plate. Try to attack the inside.”

Right-hander Pablo Lopez was originally slated to start Sunday’s game, but manager Don Mattingly opted to push him back to Tuesday and insert Urena.

The 26-year-old right-hander’s next start would normally be scheduled for next weekend at home against the Braves. After the game Sunday, he said he will maintain his appeal.

Starlin Castro got a career-high five hits and scored three times. JT Riddle and J.T. Realmuto each homered and drove in three runs for Miami, with Riddle connecting for the second straight game. Isaac Galloway had three hits, including his first career home run.

It was the Marlins’ first series win in Washington since 2014.

Trying to keep pace with the Braves and Phillies in the NL East, the third-place Nationals have lost four of their past five against the last-place Marlins. The Nationals host the Phillies for three games beginning Tuesday night.

Gio Gonzalez (7-10) allowed eight runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings. In his past 13 starts, Gonzalez is 1-8 with 7.07 ERA.

“I think it was, in all honesty, an ugly game. And everybody saw it,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Gio couldn’t keep us in the game, and it got ugly.”

Leading 3-1, the Marlins broke it open with a five-run fifth. After Riddle’s sacrifice fly, the Marlins loaded the bases, and Rafael Ortega hit a bases-loaded, two-run double off the glove of diving first baseman Matt Adams to end Gonzalez’s afternoon.

Realmuto greeted reliever Greg Holland with a two-run single, making it 8-1.


After a pair of third-inning walks, Castro blooped an RBI single in front of charging center fielder Bryce Harper. Austin Dean then lined a two-run double over the head of Harper, who appeared to misread it off the bat. Later, Harper rushed in and dropped Brian Anderson’s fly ball for an error in the seventh.


Marlins: INF/OF Garrett Cooper (right wrist sprain) went 0-for-3 in a rehab game with Class A Jupiter on Sunday. He played six innings at first base.


Nationals: Martinez said RHP Stephen Strasburg (cervical nerve impingement), who threw a bullpen session Saturday, will come off the DL and start Wednesday vs. the Phillies. “He feels good,” Martinez said. “He says he’s ready.” … Martinez is hopeful that reliever Kelvin Herrera (right rotator cuff impingement) will return for the Phillies series. … RHP Sean Doolittle (left toe inflammation) threw a bullpen session Saturday.


Marlins: Lopez (2-3, 4.79 ERA) starts when the Marlins host the Yankees in the first of two games Tuesday night. It will be his first start against the Yankees.

Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (8-12, 4.13) opposes the visiting Phillies on Tuesday night. He is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA against the Phillies this season but 5-0 with a 1.77 ERA overall since the All-Star break.

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Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale is expected to return from the disabled list on Sunday at Baltimore, manager Alex Cora said.


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Sale has been on the DL since last week due to shoulder inflammation. There was some talk that he would return Wednesday in Toronto, but the Red Sox instead will hold him back for the series finale against the Orioles.

When Sale went on the DL, both he and the team said the issue was minor, and it was likely that he would miss only one start.

The lefty is 11-4 with a 2.04 ERA in 22 starts this season for Boston.

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CLEVELAND — Manny Machado will receive his share of attention during All-Star Week in Washington — whether or not he’s still in a Baltimore Orioles uniform by the end of it.

As trade talks heat up across baseball, another name connected to the New York Yankees rumor mill is likely to generate buzz in the nation’s capital:

Justus Sheffield.


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A first-round pick in 2014 from Tennessee, the left-handed starting pitcher has climbed the ranks in the Yankees organization and become a possible piece of the puzzle as New York reportedly tries to land Machado from the O’s.

On Wednesday alone, there were conflicting reports as to whether Sheffield, a Triple-A starter, was part of a trade package the Yankees offered the Orioles in exchange for their superstar shortstop.

With Baltimore in need of young starting pitching it can rebuild around, Sheffield would be a slam-dunk addition. But the Yankees like Sheffield’s trajectory and are looking for starting pitching themselves, so bringing him to the Bronx sooner rather than later makes some sense.

Potential trade partners will get an up-close look at Sheffield during Sunday’s Futures Game at Nationals Park. An annual exhibition that offers an early look at the next crop of rising major league stars, the Futures Game has helped launch some big league careers. Last year, current MLB regulars Ronald Acuna Jr., Rhys Hoskins and Rafael Devers competed in the game.

One of the Yankees’ most venerable active pitchers is already singing the praises of his team’s lone Futures Game rep.

“What I saw during spring training,” CC Sabathia said of Sheffield, “he could pitch in the big leagues and be a great starter.”

Based off the reports he has heard about Sheffield’s most recent performances for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Sabathia believes it won’t be long before the player he considers a little brother is on a big league roster.

And Sabathia would be happiest if Sheffield came up in pinstripes.

“I hope that he gets up here soon,” Sabathia said. “If his stuff is there … it would give us a boost, for sure.”

Sheffield — who was traded to New York at the 2016 deadline as part of a move that sent reliever Andrew Miller to eventual AL champion Cleveland — has a 4-5 record and 2.44 ERA in 16 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He opened the year with the Yankees at spring training: In 5 1/3 innings across three spring appearances, he allowed six hits and seven runs and struck out four.

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Although the numbers weren’t impressive, something caught Sabathia’s attention.

“Just electric stuff. His slider wipes off the table. His fastball is good,” Sabathia said. “He’s just got to get the command down.”

Sheffield’s command and control have appeared to improve as of late. He’s lasting deeper into games, allowing fewer runs and giving up fewer walks. He had one three-walk game since June 14 after four such outings in his previous seven starts, and he has surrendered just two runs in his past 18 1/3 innings — a span of three starts.

Although Sabathia isn’t keeping close tabs on Sheffield’s minor league outings — the vet says the two talk each week about practically everything but baseball — what he has seen of Sheffield reminds him of another lefty: himself.

“It’s his stuff for sure and just his mentality,” Sabathia said. “He wants to be good, and he wants it now.

“That’s how I was. If I can help guide him through some of that, some of those early bumps in the road, then I feel like I can help him.”

At times this season, it has appeared the Yankees might need Sheffield’s help ASAP. Injuries to Masahiro Tanaka and Jordan Montgomery, coupled with occasional struggles in Sonny Gray’s roller-coaster year, had some wondering just how deep the Yankees would dip into their farm system for pitching help before the trade deadline.

To help get through the injuries, they’ve used rookies Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga before Loaisiga was shelved due to inflammation in his shoulder. Right-hander Luis Cessa has also made the Scranton-to-New York shuttle a couple of times this season.

Gray tossed six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in Wednesday night’s 9-0 win over Baltimore, but hadn’t made it past the third inning in his previous two starts. Entering Wednesday, the Yankees were 7-10 with a 5.85 starter’s ERA in games Gray pitched. In all other games, they were 52-21 with a 3.53 starter’s ERA.

Despite calls to skip Gray in his latest turn in the rotation, the Yankees stuck by him.
“Everybody in the clubhouse understands kind of what I’m going through on the field, but at the end of the day, I’m coming here and contribute the same way I can on the days I’m not pitching,” Gray said. “This is probably the longest I’ve struggled in a period. But I’m comfortable. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m not going to hold my head down. I’m going to walk around with my head up high, and I’m going to figure it out.

“That’s just kind of how I go about things — not just baseball, but things in life. I’m going to keep working until I figure it out, and that’s kind of how I approach it.”

The Yankees have exercised a similarly patient approach. If Gray can show more consistency, they’ll have reason to keep that going.

In the meantime, the Yankees need to figure out whether they should keep Sheffield in the fold and, if so, when he should be called up to the big league roster.

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PHILADELPHIA — Aaron Nola was the man Gabe Kapler wanted on the mound with Manny Machado at the plate and the tying run on third base.

It was the right move.

Nola stuck out nine in seven splendid innings, Nick Williams hit a two-run homer and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 Wednesday to sweep a two-game interleague series.

Nola (11-2) gave up one run and seven hits to win his fifth straight decision.

He escaped a jam on his 103rd pitch when second baseman Cesar Hernandez made an outstanding, over-the-shoulder running catch on Machado’s shallow fly to right with two outs and runners on first and third.

“That’s awesome,” Nola said of the play.

Kapler, who was heavily criticized for pulling Nola after 68 pitches in the season opener at Atlanta, visited the mound before letting his ace face Machado with a 2-1 lead.

“We knew he was the best option,” the first-year manager said. “He always makes us feel confident.”

Nola said he would’ve lobbied to stay in but didn’t have to say anything other than he felt fine.

“I want to go deep in the game,” he said. “I want to get through that inning.”

After five consecutive losing seasons, the Phillies are on the rise under Kapler. They pulled within 1 1/2 games of NL East-leading Atlanta and moved 10 games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 2011 season with a franchise-record 102 wins.

“It’s a nice milestone, one we can celebrate,” Kapler said.

Making his second career start and third appearance, Orioles right-hander Yefry Ramirez (0-2) retired 13 of his first 14 batters before running into trouble in the fifth. Ramirez gave up two runs — one earned — and one hit in five innings.

“I was really proud of Yefry. You couldn’t ask for much better,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Williams connected off David Hess in the seventh, sending a 409-foot shot into Philadelphia’s bullpen in right-center and extending the lead to 4-1.

Victor Arano tossed two scoreless innings for his first career save.

Ramirez didn’t allow a hit until Scott Kingery ripped a one-out double to left in the fifth. Williams, who walked, advanced to third on the hit.

Jorge Alfaro followed with a grounder down the first-base line. Chris Davis moved a few steps to his left, took his eyes off the ball to look at Williams running halfway down the line, and the ball knuckled under his glove. Both runners scored on the error.

Adam Jones lined an RBI double to left-center in the third, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead.


For the second straight day, fans clapped each time Machado was introduced. They also chanted “We want Manny!”

The three-time All-Star is set to become a free agent after the season and the Phillies are among the teams interested in acquiring him before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31 or signing him in the offseason.

Machado told reporters before the game he wants to play shortstop wherever he goes and he wouldn’t be surprised if Philadelphia aggressively pursued him. Phillies team president Andy MacPhail held the same position in Baltimore when the Orioles selected Machado No. 3 overall in the 2010 amateur draft.


Orioles: OF Joey Rickard was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to replace OF Colby Rasmus, who was placed on the restricted list before Tuesday night’s game.
Phillies: RHP Jerad Eickhoff was scheduled to throw another live batting practice at Single-A Clearwater. Eickhoff has nerve issue in fingers and hasn’t pitched this season.


Orioles: RHP Andrew Cashner (2-8, 4.48 ERA) starts the opener of a four-game series at Minnesota on Thursday night. Cashner had a 3.21 ERA in five starts in June but didn’t earn a win.

Phillies: Nick Pivetta (5-7, 4.66 ERA) takes the mound at Pittsburgh for the start of a three-game series on Friday. Pivetta earned the win in a scoreless inning of relief in Philadelphia’s 13-inning victory over Washington last Sunday.