MLB In Full Bloom - Harper Set To Return Monday - 6/30/2014

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Bryce Harper is set to return to the Washington Nationals today after missing the last 57 games due to surgery on his left thumb. The outfielder has been on a rehab assignment since June 23 and is ready to go after he blasted three home runs in his game with Double-A Harrisburg on Saturday. The homers gave Harper a .643 batting average with four home runs and 22 total bases in five minor league rehab games. Harper will be back with the team on Monday, at which time some lineup shuffling will be in order. When Harper was placed on the disabled list, Ryan Zimmerman was also on the disabled list. Since returning, Zimmerman has made a home in Harper's spot in left field. Nationals manager Matt Williams said he will use Harper in all three outfield spots and he also said he'll use Zimmerman at third base and first base to supplement his playing time when not in left field. The players hurt most in that scenario are likely to be Denard Span, who may see Harper cut into his time in center field, and Danny Espinosa, who will sit when Zimmerman returns to the hot corner. Adam LaRoche could end up seeing some added days off as well.

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Clayton Kershaw delivered another impressive performance in Sunday's victory over the Cardinals as he racked up 13 strikeouts over seven shutout innings and extended to 24. He allowed just five hits and a pair of walks on the afternoon. Kershaw finishes June with a 6-0 and a 0.82 ERA. He owns a spectacular 2.04 ERA over 79 1/3 innings on the season and remains the best pitcher in the game today. He'll look to continue his dominance when he takes on the Rockies at Coors Field on Friday.
  • Matt Joyce went 5-for-6 with a double, two home runs, and four RBI in Sunday's win over the Orioles. It was certainly a career day for Joyce, who collected five hits in a game for the first time in his career. He also hit two home runs in a game for only the third time in his career. Joyce, who has faced right-handed pitching almost exclusively, is batting .274 with five home runs and 33 RBI on the season.
  • Felix Hernandez was in complete control in Sunday's victory over the Indians as he surrendered just one hit and three walks over eight shutout innings. King Felix struck out nine and Lonnie Chisenhall's single in the fifth inning was the only blemish on what could've been a memorable afternoon. Hernandez improves to 10-2 on the season and owns an impressive 2.10 ERA.
  • Homer Bailey was dominant on Sunday,  as he gave up just three hits and a walk over nine innings as he shut as the Reds finished off the four-game series sweep of the San Francisco Giants. Bailey struck out seven in this gem and his fourth career shutout. He has been highly inconsistent this season, registering a 4.39 ERA in just over 104 innings. He'll look to keep it going when he faces the Brewers at home on Saturday.
  • The San Francisco Giants are experiencing a collapse right now and can't wait for the calendar to turn to July. Since June 8th, the Giants are 5-15 and have watched a 9 1/2 game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers evaporate. The Dodgers and Giants are tied for first place, well to be 100% accurate, the Giants lead by 1 percentage point. The Giants are 3-7 in their last ten games and run production has been so low. In their past 7 games, the Giants have scored a grand total of 12 runs. Along with struggling to score any runs, the Giants have not been good defensively which has contributed to this losing streak. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are 7-3 in their past ten games and 15-6 since June 8th.
  • The Chicago Cubs had their first Sunday off in 82-years yesterday. The Cubs took the day off to in consideration of the City of Chicago's concern over neighborhood traffic with Sunday's annual Pride Parade in Wrigleyville. The last time the Cubs did not have a scheduled game on a Sunday was June 19, 1932. That year, the Cubs and Giants played a doubleheader on Saturday, June 18, and then had Sunday off before playing in Philadelphia on Monday. This time around, the Cubs and Nationals played a day/night doubleheader on Saturday and the Nationals were on their way out of town after winning both games.
  • David Ortiz belted his 450th career home run on Sunday as the Red Sox defeated the Yankees in the Bronx.

MLB In Full Bloom - Mike Leake Dazzles In Dominant Effort - 6/27/2014

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Mike Leake held the San Francisco Giants to one run over eight innings, striking out 12, to lead the Reds to a 3-1 victory on Thursday. Leake's only mistake was an Adam Duvall solo homer in the seventh inning when the Reds held a 3-0 lead. Leake has won three straight starts as he has benefited from 19 runs of support he didn't need, allowing just six runs over 21 innings. Leake will carry a solid 3.41 ERA into a nice matchup when he takes the mound in San Diego on Tuesday. The wins have been coming in bunches of late for Cincinnati, which has won five of its last six games and eight of 11. The club improved to 40-38 to move two games above a .500 record for the first time this season. It's a particularly opportune time for a hot club to face a first-place team, as the reeling Giants have lost 12 of their last 16 games.

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Josh Beckett threw seven shutout innings, scattering four hits, in a no-decision against the Cardinals on Thursday. Beckett struck out four and walked two to neutralize Adam Wainwright in a fierce 1-0 Dodgers' victory. Beckett is on a roll as he has thrown 14 straight shutout innings and allowed just four runs over his past 29 innings pitched. Beckett entered the game with a 1.58 ERA over his last six outings. Now, he owns a shocking 6-2 record and 2.11 ERA. He'll face the Indians next week.
  • Ryan Braun went 2-for-3 with two walks, a stolen base, and two runs scored in Thursday's win over the Rockies. Braun walked and scored in the first inning, then singled and scored in the fifth. His eighth-inning stolen base was his eight of the season in 11 attempts, and he is now batting .284 with 10 home runs and 41 RBI. At 49-32, the Brewers lead the Major Leagues in victories and is off to its best 81-game start in a franchise history that dates to 1969 -- two games better than the previous mark set in 1979 and matched in 2007.
  • Rick Porcello earned his 10th win with a three-hit shutout over the Rangers on Thursday. It marked the second complete game and the first shutout of his career.  Porcello allowed three hits, walked three, and struck out six on the evening. He is having the best season of his career following years of mediocrity, now the proud owner of a 3.41 ERA in 97 2/3 innings. He'll look to keep the ball rolling in next week's home start against the Athletics.
  • Chase Utley went 3-for-7 with an RBI single and a walk-off two-run home run in Thursday's 14-inning victory over the Marlins. It was Utley's first walk-off hit since 2007 and it was the Phillies' only extra-base hit on the night. Utley has been in a bad slump at the plate, but still maintains a respectable .296 batting average with six home runs and 37 RBI on the season.
  • Hanley Ramirez (shoulder) had an MRI on his right shoulder showed on Thursday and it showed no structural damage. Ramirez hasn't played since aggravating his shoulder injury on Monday, but he will avoid the disabled list for now. He remains day-to-day with irritation of the A/C joint in his shoulder.
  • Bryce Harper (thumb) could be activated from the disabled list as soon as Monday. Harper played in right field for Double-A Harrisburg last night, and is scheduled to play nine innings in center field Saturday and then play in left field Sunday. If everything goes will, which it has to this point, he could be in the lineup versus the Rockies Monday. Harper has been on the shelf since late April with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.

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