MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

5 for fighting: Contenders face off tonight

Postseason chase for 10 teams gets ratcheted up a notch

5 for fighting: Contenders face off tonight

Welcome to the best time of the year. When the pressure and tension are cranked up. When seven months of hard work could be lost in an instant. These next five weeks are going to have the look and feel of postseason baseball, at least in terms of adrenaline and competitive fire.

The pennant chase kicks into high gear tonight when five series begin featuring 10 teams in the thick of the playoff race -- Yankees-Royals, Blue Jays-Orioles, Pirates-Cubs, Marlins-Mets, Mariners-Rangers -- but we've already seen the game's best reach a new level, with the defending World Series champion Royals pummeling the Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball to win another high-impact series.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Royals rally with mantis that 8 the Monster

Royals rally with mantis that 8 the Monster

BOSTON -- The surging Royals, who have thrived on the big stage in recent years, stunned the Red Sox with an eight-run sixth inning that fueled a 10-4 victory on Sunday night at Fenway Park.

The impressive barrage, led by rookie Raul Mondesi's three-run triple that put Kansas City on top for good, gave the defending World Series champions a series victory and their 17th win in the last 21 games.

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Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

LA 'Vins' by a toenail; Cubs' W not meant 2B

LA 'Vins' by a toenail; Cubs' W not meant 2B

LOS ANGELES -- A grounder from Adrian Gonzalez, a foot race won by Corey Seager and a run scored by Andrew Toles were the difference in a 1-0 victory for the Dodgers over the Cubs on Sunday at Dodger Stadium, a contest that legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said "all boiled down to a whisper, a toenail, a 'toe dance' around second base."

With the game in a scoreless tie going into the bottom of the eighth inning, Toles got aboard on a hit-by-pitch from Trevor Cahill, then advanced to third when Howie Kendrick reached base on Cahill's throwing error.

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Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Donaldson hits 3 HRs; Blue Jays sweep Twins

Donaldson hits 3 HRs; Blue Jays sweep Twins

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson brought the rain with his first career three-homer game, and the Blue Jays brought the brooms, completing a sweep of the Twins, 9-6, and handing Minnesota its season-high 10th straight loss on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

Toronto's third come from behind victory of the series was fueled by the reigning American league MVP. Donaldson's two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh put the Blue Jays in front for good, and his second solo home run of the day in the eighth put the icing on the cake.

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Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.

Dhiren Mahiban is a contributor to MLB.com based in Toronto and covered the Twins on Sunday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

N.Y. tops Seoul to give U.S. Little League title

N.Y. tops Seoul to give U.S. Little League title

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Sixteen teams from around the world played weeks' worth of tournaments, and by Sunday, it all came down to one game. In a contest dominated by pitching and defense, Maine-Endwell, N.Y., defeated Seoul, South Korea, 2-1, in the 2016 Little League World Series title game on Sunday, finishing the tournament undefeated and becoming the first U.S. team to win in five years.

Maine-Endwell broke open a scoreless game in the bottom of the fourth inning against South Korea starting pitcher Junho Jeong, who struck out nine batters in four innings and didn't give up a hit to the potent New York lineup until there was one out in the fourth.

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Mike McCormick is an editorial director for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Jays, O's fight for AL East lead on MLB.TV

Wild Card contenders jockey for position in tonight's games

Jays, O's fight for AL East lead on MLB.TV

Over the next five weeks, the Blue Jays and Orioles will play a combined 51 of their 64 remaining games against American League East opponents.

With the East race simply too close to call right now and postseason positions on the line, each ensuing series for these teams will become their new most important series of the season. That starts tonight in Baltimore, when the Blue Jays come into town clinging to a slim two-game lead over the Red Sox and a three-game cushion on the Orioles.

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Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bucs' boom keeps pressure on in Wild Card

Bucs' boom keeps pressure on in Wild Card

MILWAUKEE -- Right on schedule, here come the Pirates.

John Jaso and Gregory Polanco hit solo home runs in a go-ahead sixth inning Sunday, and Starling Marte added an insurance shot in the eighth as Ivan Nova and charging Pittsburgh finished a four-game sweep of Milwaukee with a 3-1 win at Miller Park.

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Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Andrew Gruman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Milwaukee and covered the Pirates on Sunday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gomez endears himself to new club with D

Rangers outfielder makes pair of fine defensive plays in win over Tribe

Gomez endears himself to new club with D

ARLINGTON -- Carlos Gomez made a loud entrance to Globe Life Park when he smacked an emotional three-run home run in the first at-bat of his Rangers debut on Thursday. Since, though, he's been hitless and that continued with an 0-for-3 line in Sunday's 2-1 win over the Indians.

But Gomez was still able to make an impact in the win with two fine defensive plays in left field, including a running grab near the warning track on a Mike Napoli line drive in the sixth that ended the inning with runners on first and second.

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Ryan Posner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Papi ties Foxx on all-time list with 534 HRs

Ortiz takes Royals' Ventura deep for 31st homer of season

Papi ties Foxx on all-time list with 534 HRs

BOSTON -- Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz continues to pound the baseball in his final Major League season, joining legends as he does it. The slugger roped career homer No. 534 in Sunday night's 10-4 loss to the Royals to tie Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx for 18th on the all-time list.

Big Papi is now two home runs away from tying Mickey Mantle.

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Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Week Ahead: Braun among trade candidates

Which players could also be moved before Aug. 31?

Week Ahead: Braun among trade candidates

The week ahead in Major League Baseball brings us to one of our favorite months and favorite words to utter every year: September.

The final month of the regular season means percolating pennant races that we've all come to anticipate and absorb, dramatic plays on the field that can define stretch drives, and the type of late season bonding that forge a clubs' identities heading into the postseason.

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Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

LLWS champs get a shoutout from Drake

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LLWS champs get a shoutout from Drake

After a tense 4-2 win over the team from Goodlettsville, Tenn., in the U.S. title game, the Endwell, N.Y., Little Leaguers are on to the 2016 Little League World Series championship game. They've even got the phone call from the president to prove it.

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To the races: MLB postseason schedule announced

AL Wild Card Game opens playoffs on Oct. 4; World Series begins Oct. 25

To the races: MLB postseason schedule announced

Major League Baseball announced its 2016 postseason schedule on Tuesday, opening with the American League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser on TBS on Tuesday, Oct. 4, and followed by the National League equivalent on ESPN one night later. The 112th World Series on FOX will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in an AL city to be determined.

While the 10 participants and eventual matchups are gradually being determined, the full postseason schedule can be found at MLB.com/postseason.

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Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bullpen of the Week: 'Pen has Bucs knocking

Pirates relievers push team to NL Wild Card doorstep

Bullpen of the Week: 'Pen has Bucs knocking

When Pirates closer Mark Melancon was traded to the Nationals nearly a month ago, Bucs fans could be forgiven for worrying if the remaining members of the team's bullpen would be able to adjust over the stretch run.

So far, so good. The Bucs have gone 15-10 in August, including 5-2 over the past week, and are on a Major League-high four-game winning streak heading into Monday's action. The Pirates are just a half-game behind the Cardinals in the chase for the last National League Wild Card spot as they begin a big series against the Cubs tonight in Chicago.

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Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nunez's arm gets Bumgarner's back

Nunez's arm gets Bumgarner's back

SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner allowed just three runs in seven innings in a 13-4 win against the Braves on Sunday, but the Giants' ace had third baseman Eduardo Nunez to at least partially thank for the performance.

After Bumgarner allowed a two-run home run to Freddie Freeman in the sixth, cutting the Giants' lead to 5-3, Matt Kemp lined a ball down the third-base line. But it couldn't get past a diving Nunez, who promptly sprang up and fired a strike to Brandon Belt at first for the second out of the inning.

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Justin Wise is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Puig reportedly placed on trade waivers

Puig reportedly placed on trade waivers

Yasiel Puig has been placed on trade waivers by the Dodgers, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported on Sunday.

It is common for teams to place their players on revocable trade waivers during August. If Puig is claimed by another team, which according to Rosenthal is likely, the Dodgers could either work out a deal with the claiming team, allow Puig to go to that team without a trade or pull Puig back from waivers.

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David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Photo of the Day: The aftermath of Josh Donaldson's three-homer day/hat trick

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Photo of the Day: The aftermath of Josh Donaldson's three-homer day/hat trick

As we've learned earlier this season, when a Toronto Blue Jays player hits three home runs in one game (even if it happens in Baltimore), Blue Jay fans will honor the moment hockey-style and toss their hats onto the field. 

So, when Josh Donaldson hit three in the team's 9-6 win over the Twins on Sunday, the Bringer of Rain became the Bringer of Caps. And because the game was actually in Rogers Centre this time, there were many, many more.

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Salazar's improvement a silver lining in loss

Indians righty strikes out 10, looks more like his old self vs. Rangers

Salazar's improvement a silver lining in loss

ARLINGTON -- If the Indians want to maintain their footing atop the American League Central, the team knows it has to play better than it has of late. That is stating the obvious for a team that has seen its lead drop by three games over the past seven contests.

During a 2-1 loss to the Rangers on Sunday, Cleveland walked away encouraged by a solid outing from righty Danny Salazar, whose recent issues compounded some problems for the rotation as a whole. That was the only true positive, along with the fact that the Indians did not lose in blowout fashion like in the previous two losses at Globe Life Park.

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Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rangers edge Indians, pad lead in AL West

Rangers edge Indians, pad lead in AL West

ARLINGTON -- If the Indians and Rangers see each other again this season, it will be under the bright October lights with much more on the line. For now, Texas will have to settle for finishing a successful season series with the Tribe with a 2-1 victory on Sunday at Globe Life Park.

With the win, the American League West-leading Rangers took three of four in this set to wrap up a 5-2 showing against the AL Central's top team. In Sunday's finale, lefty Derek Holland led the way with six solid innings, left fielder Carlos Gomez made a pair of key catches and both Ian Desmond and Jonathan Lucroy drove in runs.

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Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.

Ryan Posner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas and covered the Rangers on Sunday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

Dodgers just outside top 5 in Power Rankings

Nationals, Blue Jays move past Indians; Royals crack the top 10

Dodgers just outside top 5 in Power Rankings

The notion that the strength of a starting rotation typically dictates where a team will end up by the end of the season is a nice theory and all, but one particular team in the National League is making a strong case that starting pitching is way overrated.

How else can you explain the Dodgers, with six starting pitchers on the disabled list, firmly holding their grasp onto the top spot in the NL West? They're without Clayton Kershaw and a whole mess of others, while piecing together a rotation consisting of (for now at least) Rich Hill, Bud Norris, Ross Stripling, Julio Urias, and ... well, pick someone.

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Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Carlos Beltran has hair now and, well, you should really just look at it

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Carlos Beltran has hair now and, well, you should really just look at it

Look at this picture of Carlos Beltran from last week.

Intense, strong, possibly spooked by a paranormal sighting off to his right, but also, bald. His head is completely shaved. Now, let's go to a clip from the Rangers' 2-1 win over the Indians on Sunday. Something has changed.

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Springer's parents honored at LLWS

2016 Little League Parents of the Year given award before championship game

Springer's parents honored at LLWS

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- A simple but important philosophy sums up why George and Laura Springer were named the 2016 Little League Parents of the Year.

"Being a parent is not a spectator sport," said George Springer Jr., father of the Houston Astros' outfielder. "To be a successful parent, you need to be involved in your kids' lives and always balance what is right for them."

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Mike McCormick is an editorial director for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ross, Maddon enjoy Scully's company in LA

'He was really kind and gracious,' Cubs manager says of Dodgers broadcaster

Ross, Maddon enjoy Scully's company in LA

LOS ANGELES -- David Ross got his brownies and joined Cubs manager Joe Maddon for a private audience with legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully before Friday's 6-4 win.

Ross and Maddon presented Scully with a No. 67 from the Wrigley Field scoreboard as well as a Dodgers flag that flew at the Cubs' home ballpark. Maddon also included some T-shirts that the Cubs players are wearing this season with some of the manager's sayings, including "Respect 90," "Do Simple Better," and "The Process is Fearless" in Japanese.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Archer earns 200th K in 10-strikeout effort

Righty avoids club record-tying 18th loss with finale win over Astros

Archer earns 200th K in 10-strikeout effort

HOUSTON -- Chris Archer reached one milestone while avoiding another on Sunday.

The Rays right-hander struck out 10 in the Rays' 10-4 win, moving him to 202 strikeouts for the season. He also picked up the win, which prevented him from tying Tanyon Sturtze, who set the club record with 18 losses in 2002 when he went 4-18.

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Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Yasiel Puig can now add #PuigYourCoach to his ever-expanding hashtag collection

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Yasiel Puig can now add #PuigYourCoach to his ever-expanding hashtag collection

During the Rio Olympics, Yasiel Puig took to his Twitter account to show just how intensely he was rooting on Puerto Rico's Monica Puig, the first athlete ever from there to take home a gold medal and, coincidentally, the girlfriend of his Triple-A OKC Dodgers teammate, right-hander Jose De Leon. 

On Sunday, word trickled out that Puig was spending some time as OKC's first-base coach in their 6-1 win over Colorado Springs.

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Cubs vow to learn from game-deciding miscue

Cubs vow to learn from game-deciding miscue

LOS ANGELES -- Ben Zobrist took responsibility, but it was Javier Baez who misread a play, and the miscue cost the Cubs in a 1-0 loss to the Dodgers on Sunday. Manager Joe Maddon doesn't anticipate the same thing to happen in October.

The Cubs and Dodgers were scoreless with one out in the eighth, and Los Angeles loaded the bases as reliever Trevor Cahill hit a batter, then fielded Howie Kendrick's grounder and overthrew first for an error. Corey Seager was intentionally walked, and Maddon called on rookie Carl Edwards Jr. , who struck out Justin Turner on a 97-mph fastball.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

O's push back Yanks behind Gausman's gem

O's push back Yanks behind Gausman's gem

NEW YORK -- Kevin Gausman cooled off a red-hot Yankees lineup to pick up his first road victory of the season, Mark Trumbo hit his Major League-leading 40th home run and Steve Pearce also homered as part of a three-RBI performance as the Orioles defeated the Yankees, 5-0, on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

Gausman walked none and struck out eight over seven innings, scattering seven hits as the O's salvaged the finale of a three-game series. The right-hander's effort silenced a Yankees club that thumped O's pitching for 27 runs in the first two games of the series.

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Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

Blue Jays bats could erupt tonight

Donaldson, Tulo, Martin, Upton Jr. among best picks to click

Blue Jays bats could erupt tonight

Welcome to DraftKings fantasy baseball, the Official Daily Fantasy Game of Major League Baseball.

The players listed below are in position to provide difference-making stats for DraftKings participants on Monday.

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Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pollock makes impact in third game back

Pollock makes impact in third game back

PHOENIX -- D-backs center fielder A.J. Pollock always says he tries to impact the game in some way every time he steps onto the field.

In his first two games back from his recovery for a fractured right elbow, Pollock didn't make quite the impact he's been capable of in the past. That changed in Sunday's 11-2 win over the Reds, when Arizona's center fielder impacted the victory in about every way possible.

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Jake Rill is a reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Strahm impressing out of KC 'pen with ease

Rookie spins 0.68 ERA in first 10 Major League games

Strahm impressing out of KC 'pen with ease

BOSTON -- It is not supposed to be this easy. Royals rookie left-hander Matt Strahm burst onto the scene last month and has been nothing short of phenomenal since.

After another brilliant outing (2 2/3 scoreless innings) in the Royals' 10-4 victory Sunday night against the Red Sox, Strahm lowered his ERA to 0.68 in 10 games.

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Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Torres, Sheffield among top prospect performers Sunday

Yankees No. 2 prospect collects first four-hit game for Tampa; No. 7 allows 1 hit in 5 scoreless

Torres, Sheffield among top prospect performers Sunday

Shortstop Gleyber Torres and left-hander Justus Sheffield, two of the New York Yankees' key prospect acquisitions from the non-waiver Trade Deadline, have made strong impressions as teammates on Class A Advanced Tampa. On Sunday, the duo paced their new club to an 8-2 victory over Brevard County, with Torres leading the offense with four hits and Sheffield tossing five scoreless innings.

Making his fifth start for Tampa after coming over from the Indians along with Clint Frazier (Yankees' No. 1) as part of the Andrew Miller trade, Sheffield, the Yankees' No. 7 prospect, tossed three hitless frames before yielding a knock to begin the fourth. It was the only hit allowed in five innings by the No. 87 overall prospect, who walked three and struck out five while throwing 53 of his 86 pitches for strikes.

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Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.