Fourteen of the 15 American League teams are no further removed from the second wild-card spot than 5.5 games, as of this morning. In other words, 14 of the 15 AL teams should be working with a full dose of hope, including the Houston Astros, who lost 111 games last season, and the Boston Red Sox, who have started slowly after dousing each other with champagne last fall.\n
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Fourteen of 15. All are looking for difference-makers, players who can propel them in the last 3.5 months, players who have provided hints that they are capable of giving a lot more. Players like the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman.\n
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He struggled through some early-season injury trouble and had made one appearance in the big leagues this season before being called up to start against Oakland last weekend, and Gausman overpowered the Athletics, looking completely at ease, throwing his fastball in the high 90s and mixing in changeups. Gausman followed that with a good start against Toronto on Thursday, in which he surrendered one run in six innings. \n
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One evaluator who witnessed the outing says he kept coming back to one name: Justin Verlander. \n
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“Because of the power,” the evaluator said. “He’s got a special arm.”\n
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After Gausman’s start against the Athletics, Oakland first baseman Brandon Moss told MASN: \"That guy, I got to home plate in my first at bat and I looked at [Nick] Hundley and I said, 'How can that guy be in Triple-A?’ From what I understand he's had some command issues but the way he pitched, that was the best stuff we've seen all year.\n
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“The first at-bat, you could tell he had [velocity], but you never know how that is going to go. We can adapt to that. Second and third at-bats he started mixing in off-speed for strikes and keeping it down. Then he had 99 in the tank when he needed it.\"\n
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Gausman said in a phone conversation Friday afternoon that his time in the Baltimore bullpen late last season helped him in learning to fully commit to each pitch, to each situation. With Darren O’Day hurt, Gausman stepped into a late-inning role, and rather than having an extended long-toss session to prepare to pitch, he only had a handful of pitches to get ready physically and mentally, sometimes with runners on base and the game on the line. \n
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There were times in the past, Gausman said, when “I would completely lose focus. This season, when I throw a pitch, if it’s not the pitch I wanted to execute, I have learned that I have to put it behind me. … I learned the intense level I have to have.”\n
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“I got to pitch in Fenway Park in the eighth inning. When you pitch well in those situations, you start to say to yourself, ‘I have the stuff to pitch at this level.’”\n
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Gausman says he has learned to put the result of each pitch behind him, and with the help of Triple-A pitching coach Mike Griffin, he has developed a second type of changeup. Gausman has used a splitter, which is thrown at a great velocity variation from his fastball. But there have been times when Gausman hasn’t had a feel for the pitch, so he started throwing a version of the circle changeup -- thrown a little bit harder than the splitter, but it gives him something else to use.\n
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So far, so good: In his two starts, he has allowed four walks in 13 innings, with nine strikeouts and just two earned runs. There was speculation that Gausman’s stay in the big leagues might be temporary, but with the Orioles -- like all AL teams -- trying to find a way to break out of the muddle, Gausman has the look of a solution.\n
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• By the way: Dylan Bundy, the former No. 1 pick, will make his first start since having Tommy John surgery last year, as Trevor Hass writes. He could be a difference-maker sometime in the last weeks, as well.\n
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Bundy “should be ready to go to Class AA by the end of the month,” Orioles GM Dan Duquette wrote in an email. “He is doing well throwing his fastball, curveball and changeup for strikes. He just needs to get into routine and get some additional seasoning under his belt.”\n
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Ubaldo Jimenez was more effective, but lost. \n
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Around the league\n
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• The Padres are ripe for changes: They were shut down again Friday, at a time when club ownership is extremely unhappy with the performance of the team. \n
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• On Friday’s podcast, Claudia Williams -- daughter of Ted Williams -- told a lot of stories about her dad, including a Joe DiMaggio gem, as she discussed the release of her new book. Karl Ravech and Justin Havens went next-level on Max Scherzer’s season and Tim Hudson’s Hall of Fame chances. \n
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• The Phillies are preparing for a fire sale, writes Ryan Lawrence. \n
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• Sometimes teams will give a silent treatment to a rookie after his first career homer, but in the case of Gregory Polanco, his homer was pivotal and the other players just couldn’t help themselves. This could have been Polanco’s coming-out party, says Clint Hurdle. \n
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From the Elias Sports Bureau:\n
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Fewest career games before first five-hit game with HR\n
*Modern era (since 1900)\n
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2014 -- Gregory Polanco, four\n
1993 -- Mike Lansing, five\n
1996 -- Brant Brown, eight\n
1954 -- Hank Aaron, nine\n
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Jordan Zimmermann pitched great, but Lance Lynn was just a little better. \n
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From ESPN Stats & Info, how Lynn won:\n
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A) Avoided walking a batter in a start for the first time since April 8 against Cincinnati.\n
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B) Allowed just one hard-hit ball, his lowest total since allowing none on April 14 against the Brewers.\n
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C) Threw 68.5 percent of his fastballs for strikes. This is 3.7 percent higher than his average on the season. \n
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• From ESPN Stats & Info, the Cardinals' 14 shutouts this season are tied for the third most through 67 games in MLB history and the most by any team since the 1969 Cubs (15).\n
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• The Rockies were hit by even more serious injuries, but rallied in the ninth inning. \n
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• The Royals are closing fast on the Tigers at the top of the AL Central, and they took down the White Sox on Friday. The Tigers were shut out. \n
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• The Yankees had a nice win in the first game of their series at Oakland, led by David Phelps. \n
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Mat Latos returns to the Reds’ rotation today, and Tony Cingrani is good with whatever the Reds decide, writes C. Trent Rosecrans. \n
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Evan Gattis continues to come up very big for the Braves. \n
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Moves, deals and decisions\n
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1. Wrote here Friday about the Cubs’ early trade talks on Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija. Gordon Wittenmyer writes this morning that the Mariners are among the aggressive teams. \n
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2. The Orioles don’t expect a resolution on Manny Machado’s suspension this weekend, writes Alejandro Zuniga. \n
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3. Oscar Taveras was sent to the minors. Bernie Miklasz isn’t buying what the Cardinals are saying about this choice. \n
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4. Alberto Callaspo is on paternity leave. \n
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Dings and dents\n
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1. Gerrit Cole is set to throw a side session Sunday. \n
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2. Adam Wainwright is going to test his elbow today. \n
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3. The Twins’ Brian Dozier has a back issue. \n
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4. A.J. Ellis was activated from the disabled list. \n
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5. Danny Valencia hopes to begin his rehab soon. \n
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6. Stephen Drew missed his fifth straight game. Rival evaluators who speculated about Drew’s return in April spoke with concern about this exact situation: Drew didn’t have the benefit of full spring training, perhaps making him more vulnerable to injury. He needs to put up numbers to rebuild his value, and he’s not playing.\n
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7. Andy Dirks is likely to go on a rehab assignment soon, as Ted Kulfan writes. \n
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8. A Tigers reliever had surgery. \n
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9. Mitch Moreland is discussing his options.\n
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10. Jason Heyward will be evaluated day to day, after being hit on the hand by a pitch. \n
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11. A couple of Colorado pitchers had bullpen sessions. \n
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Friday’s games\n
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1. Jimmy Rollins tied the Phillies’ hit record. \n
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2. Bobby Abreu had four hits. \n
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3. The Red Sox pounded Justin Masterson and the Indians. \n
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4. The Reds are hanging in there, and they pulled out a victory against Milwaukee after blowing a lead. \n
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5. The Astros did a lot of swinging and missing. \n
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6. Miami rallied but lost. \n
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7. The Giants had a ninth-inning problem. \n
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8. Arizona dropped a series opener. \n
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9. Clayton Kershaw was really good. \n
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10. Robinson Cano’s throwing error proved costly in a 1-0 game. \n
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11. The Rays played like they are supposed to play. From ESPN Stats & Info, how Alex Cobb dominated the Rays: \n
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A) He generated 10 strikeouts with his changeup, second-most in his career and most this season (he had 16 missed swings on the pitch).\n
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B) Hitters were 0-for-15 with no hard-hit balls in at-bats ending in his changeup.\n
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C) The 15 outs recorded with a changeup tied a career high.\n
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D) Threw 15 changeups in two-strike counts, second-most this season.\n
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NL East\n
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• The Mets are choosing sides in the World Cup. \n
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• The Marlins are pulling the reins on Andrew Heaney, as they save innings for later in the season. \n
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NL Central\n
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Challenges abound for Bryan Price, writes Hal McCoy. \n
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• The Brewers have some roster moves. \n
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NL West\n
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• Arizona has been allowing a lot of homers. \n
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• Dodgers owner Mark Walter doesn’t understand the home woes of his team. \n
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AL East\n
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Will Middlebrooks is trying glasses. \n
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• A Rays outfielder got a lot of attention for a leaping catch. \n
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• The Blue Jays are being tested. \n
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AL Central\n
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Carlos Santana is better at first base. \n
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Kyle Gibson aced a test in a big spot. \n
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AL West\n
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• The Rangers won the first game in what could be a make-or-break road trip. \n
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Yu Darvish will pitch against Oakland on this road trip. \n
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Sonny Gray had a bad day. \n
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• The Angels are not ready to move Albert Pujols down in the lineup. \n
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Logan Morrison is reaping the rewards of a lot of playing time in Triple-A, writes Bob Dutton. \n
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Lastly\n
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• As Derek Jeter started his final series in Oakland, the talk was about the Flip Play. \n
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Jeter had two more hits Friday; he’s got nine hits in his last four games. He’s closing in on Carl Yastrzemski and Honus Wagner on the all-time leaderboard. \n
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• A Cubs prospect homered in his professional debut. \n
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• A look at the feud between Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra. \n
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• Carson Fulmer starts for Vanderbilt tonight on the first day of the College World Series. \n
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