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The scuffling Orioles remained steadfast last week that they still had time to get back on track, offering up the looming month of September as an opportunity to make an extended run and catch up in the American League Wild Card standings.

And while the O’s face an uphill climb, Sunday’s calendar flip was certainly a start. Led by a pair of three-run homers from J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones, Baltimore (72-63) rallied for a seven-run seventh inning to cap a 7-3, sweep-avoiding win against New York.

The victory moves the Orioles back ahead of the Yankees for third place in both the Wild Card and AL East races, three games back of the Tampa Bay Rays, who lost to Oakland on Sunday.

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“We were a little flat,” Hardy said of an Orioles club that hadn’t scored in 18 innings until Matt Wieters’ RBI single to start things in the seventh. “We could all see it. We could all feel it. That was big for us. Hopefully, that jump-starts our September.”

It certainly helps prop up Baltimore, which has won seven of its last 18 games, and keeps the O’s in the hunt as they head to fellow Wild Card foe Cleveland for the final leg of a nine-game, three-city road trip.

“We’ve got [Justin] Masterson tomorrow. You think we’ll be relaxed and confident?,” manager Buck Showalter said of his club’s tough schedule down the stretch. “That’s why people are playing meaningful games this time of the year, because they’ve got good pitchers you’re going to see every day.

“Scoring seven runs in one inning on September 1, we hope it bodes well for a good September, because we’re going to need it. It’s a good way to start the month.”

The decisive seventh got started with Michael Morse — in his Orioles debut — and Danny Valenciaeach picking up their second hit of the afternoon to chase starter Andy Pettitte in favor of right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley. Wieters snapped the scoreless stretch with an RBI single to left-center field, and Hardy blasted the first pitch he saw just over the right-field wall for his 24th homer of the season, giving the O’s their first lead of the day.

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“Pettitte was dominant pretty much all game,” Morse said of the veteran lefty, who was only charged with a pair of runs after he exited. “He’s not going to give you much to hit. He’s a tough pitcher and we got a couple things going right there, and things went our way.”

Brian Roberts kept things going with a bunt single and, after reliever Boone Logan walked Nick Markakis, Yankees manager Joe Girardi brought on the fourth pitcher of the inning in Joba Chamberlain. Jones made Chamberlain pay one out later, sending a 1-1 slider out to deep center field to push the Orioles’ lead to four.

“When someone does good, everyone does good,” Logan said about the Yankees’ bullpen. “When someone [stinks], we all [stink]. It’s just one of those days where everybody had a bad game.”

The same truth didn’t hold for the Orioles, with the bullpen picking up five innings and not allowing a run after a dismal four-inning outing from starter Wei-Yin Chen.

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Key in that was rookie righty Kevin Gausman, who turned in two scoreless frames with three strikeouts to help keep the game from getting out of hand. Francisco Rodriguez tossed a 1-2-3 seventh, Tommy Hunter navigated the eighth and Darren O’Day tossed a scoreless ninth to finish off New York.

“Gausman kind of got it going,” Showalter said of the potential sweep looming through the game’s first half.

“The season’s not over today, one way or the other,” added Showalter. “We understand the games are dwindling. I’ve said it a lot of times that September is an eternity, and from experience, you line it up every day and grind it and see where it takes you.”

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Chen, coming off the worst outing of his career — in which he allowed eight earned runs over 3 2/3 innings — continued to struggle with his command and issued a career-high five walks, including a bases-loaded four-pitch free pass to Brett Gardner to plate the Yankees’ second run. Derek Jeterfollowed with a sacrifice fly to push the Orioles’ deficit to three and Chen was charged with three runs over four innings.

“Even though I’ve had the two bad starts, I still have the confidence in me,” Chen said through his interpreter. “I gave out a lot of free passes today. The last time, I gave out free passes, too. This is the thing I need to work on. Next time, I believe I will bounce back, and we’ll see.”

The Orioles hope that Sunday’s bounce-back win was the start of something good.

“I love it,” Morse, acquired in a waiver claim last week, said of joining the playoff push. “This is what we play for. This is a great team, a great organization, and there’s so much upside to this organization and this team. And I think these guys are just starting to touch what they are capable of doing.”

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As B.J. Upton’s struggles have extended throughout this season, the Braves have remained patient with the hope that this oft-streaky outfielder would eventually live up to his reputation of being a player who has a knack for getting hot at the right time.

Time will tell how productive Upton will be during the remainder of this season. But the veteran outfielder will enter September with the momentum created by a four-hit performance that was capped by his walk-off single in the 11th inning of Saturday night’s 5-4 win over the Marlins.

“He’s had tough months, but nobody remembers what you did in April, May and June,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “If everything goes well and we go where we want to go and he continues swinging the bat, that’s what he’s going to be remembered by. So those are good things.”

After they stranded two runners in both the ninth and 10th innings, Upton was not necessarily the guy the Braves would have chosen to come to the plate with two on and two outs in the 11th inning. He entered the plate appearance hitting .091 (7-for-77) with runners in scoring position and .023 (1-for-41) with two outs and runners in scoring position.

But none of that mattered when Upton laced right-handed reliever Ryan Webb’s slider to right-center field. The sharp single scored pinch-runner Paul Janish from second base and prompted the second walk-off celebration the Braves have staged this week.

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Janish replaced Chris Johnson, who capped his own four-hit performance with a single that sparked the decisive inning and raised his batting average to a National League-best .331.

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“We’ve got a very good ballclub,” Upton said. “It’s not going to be one guy every night. It just so happened tonight was my night.”

Along with delivering the game-winner, Upton also produced a game-tying sixth inning home run that helped the Braves claim their sixth consecutive victory and increase their division lead over the Nationals to 15 games. They will enter September with their magic number to clinch the National League East at 13.

“I’m just going to stay the course and trying not to do too much,” Upton said. “You just keep at it and keep grinding. My teammates have been behind me all year. They haven’t given up on me. That’s a big part of it. I’ve had their support all year.”

After striking out in Saturday’s first two at-bats, Upton found himself in the midst of a 4-for-42 skid that extended back to Aug. 7, when he notched his only other four-hit game of the season. But he got himself back on track in the sixth inning when he erased a 3-1 deficit with a two-run home run off Miami starting pitcher Jacob Turner.

Upton’s first home run since June 15 marked the first of four consecutive hits he recorded to exit this game with a .195 batting average. Instead of focusing on that number, the Braves are simply looking forward to the possibility that this game marks the start of another of his late-season surges.

Upton grabbed the attention of the baseball world when he hit seven home runs while playing in his first postseason in 2008. The franchise-record five-year contract he gained from the Braves in November was a product of the 19 home runs he hit in his last 57 games of the 2012 season.

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“I’ve been working hard all year and I’m finally starting to see some consistent results,” Upton said. “The season is not over. I’ve just got to keep playing and working hard and stick with what I’m doing.”

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Upton’s contributions benefited Mike Minor, who was in line for a loss after surrendering opposite-field home runs to his nemesis, Justin Ruggiano, and Giancarlo Stanton through the first three innings. Ruggiano has hit .412 (7-for-17) with two home runs in his career against Minor.

Along with hitting a two-run home run in the first inning, Ruggiano began the seventh inning with a single and scored on Logan Morrison’s one-out single, which allowed the Marlins to regain the lead that was lost when Upton homered during the previous half-inning.

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The lead proved to be short-lived as former Braves left-handed reliever Mike Dunn surrendered a two-out, seventh-inning double to Johnson and Brian McCann’s game-tying single.

McCann’s single erased the possibility of Minor being saddled with a loss on a night in which he allowed as many home runs (two) as he had in his previous 10 starts combined.

“For us, four runs is like 25 runs for some teams,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “You’ve got to try to find a way to win that ballgame. We didn’t.”

The Braves wasted some opportunities while stranding 15 runners. They left the bases loaded twice and put two on with none out before Dan Uggla grounded into a double play to end the ninth inning.

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But with their rock-solid bullpen allowing just two hits over four scoreless innings, and Upton picking an opportune time to halt his most recent funk, the Braves took one more step toward clinching their first division title since 2005.

“We have guys that step up,” Upton said. “That is what this team is about. It’s never going to be about one guy. When we need somebody to step up, it just seems like that is what happens.”

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Roy Halladay wasn’t sharp in his second start since returning from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, but Michael Young and the Phillies’ offense came to the rescue on Friday afternoon.

The veteran right-hander gave up five runs on seven hits, two walks and two hit batters in five innings, but Young led the offense in a 6-5 comeback victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the opener of a three-game series. The comeback gave interim Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg a win in his first game as a skipper at Wrigley Field after spending 15 of his 16-year Hall of Fame career in Chicago.

With the game tied in the ninth, Young blooped an RBI single to right field against Cubs relieverKevin Gregg to score Roger Bernadina with the go-ahead run. It was Young’s fourth hit of the game, tying a season-high.

“I definitely caught a break on that last one,” Young said. “It wasn’t necessarily the hardest-hit ball in the world, but fortunately it found a patch of grass out there. I’ve faced [Gregg] a lot over the years. He’s got good stuff, and the only thing I was trying to do was keep my approach relatively simple.”

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Trailing 5-0 in the sixth, the Phillies rallied for four runs. Kevin Frandsen pinch-hit for Halladay and opened the inning with a line-drive triple to center that went off the glove of a sliding Junior Lakeand rolled to the warning track, enabling Frandsen to reach third.

The hit snapped an 0-for-16 pinch-hitting slump for Frandsen.

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“Any time you can come off the bench and be a spark, [which has been] tough to come by as of late … to have a good pinch-hit, anything to spark something,” Frandsen said. “We needed something.”

Young — who is 7-for-12 against the Cubs this season — followed with an RBI single to right. Following another single by Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley hit a two-run triple to right-center to make it a 5-3 game. Utley scored on Domonic Brown’s grounder to second to make it 5-4.

In the seventh, Frandsen struck again with a two-out homer to left to tie it.

“They just put the bat on the ball,” said Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, who held the Phillies to two hits through the first five innings. “They had a couple key hits and kept runners on base and kept the pressure on me, and I found too much of the plate [with my pitches].”

“The guys battled all the way through,” said Sandberg. “It’s been a characteristic of the guys at least the last two weeks. … There’s a good energy on the bench that goes a long way.”

Halladay struggled with his command. In the first, he hung a first-pitch changeup to Anthony Rizzo, who belted a solo homer to right field.

In the second, Halladay hit two consecutive batters with two outs, but escaped without yielding a run.

Halladay labored in the fourth, when he was roughed up for three runs. Nate Schierholtz led off with a solo home run, and Donnie Murphy followed with a sun-aided double on a ball that Bernadina couldn’t see in center field.

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Brian Bogusevic walked and moved to second one out later on a sacrifice bunt by Samardzija.Starlin Castro then drove a two-run double to the right-center-field gap to make it 4-0.

In the fifth, John Mayberry threw Bogusevic out trying to stretch his RBI single to a double, the first of the right fielder’s two outfield assists — the second was in the seventh, when he threw Dioner Navarro out at the plate after Darnell McDonald’s single.

Halladay said that his shoulder felt good and that the biggest factor in his command issues was getting a grip on the baseball on a hot day in Chicago.

“The only factor I had was later in the game, just all this sweat that was kind of causing the ball to slip more than it was early on,” said Halladay, who is 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in five career starts at Wrigley Field.

“But I didn’t get tired. I had more of an issue holding on to the ball later in the game. … Just dealing with the heat and dealing with the moisture was the biggest issue.”

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Sandberg said Halladay battled despite difficult conditions.

“[Halladay] struggled a little bit on command,” Sandberg said. “It was a little warm out there but he battled. … He gave us some innings, and with our bullpen the way that it’s been, we were able to keep the score in check and let the offense attempt to come back.”

The Phillies’ bullpen delivered four scoreless innings, as Zach Miner, Jake Diekman, B.J. Rosenberg, and Jonathan Papelbon shut down the Cubs. Rosenberg picked up his first win of the season and second of his career. He has made seven consecutive scoreless appearances.

Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 23rd save.

The Phillies have won 12 of their last 16 against the Cubs, but this one was special for Sandberg, who received a standing ovation when he came out to exchange lineup cards before the game.

“It was good. I heard it,” he said.

“A little tip of the hat to the crowd for that. And once I got up there with the umpires we chatted a little bit. I asked them if they wanted me to take them around the ground rules,” he added, jokingly.

“I think we’re all really happy for Ryno right now,” Young said. “He had an incredible career playing for a storied franchise. … We’re very happy [that] we could give him a win. It was a hard-fought win.”

Sandberg acknowledged that this win was an extra-special one.

“It’s a good one to have,” he said. “It’s a good win to get.”

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The dilemma facing Don Mattingly every time he needs to bench Yasiel Puig is that he might be putting four hits on the bench, too.

That was Puig’s answer to Wednesday’s disciplinary timeout when he returned to the lineup Friday night. WithAdrian Gonzalez slugging a pair of two-run homers andA.J. Ellis adding a solo shot, the Dodgers pounded the Padres, 9-2, at a hot and humid Dodger Stadium.

Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched six solid innings before hitting the wall in the seventh, rebounding from a cold and back-to-back losing starts, and even doubling in the first run to improve his record to 13-5.

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Gonzalez, a sinus infection gone after two days off, saw early batting practice Friday pay off with his 15th career multi-homer game, and he did it against his former team.

“They’ve got some star power,” said Padres manager Bud Black. “They’ve got some names.”

Ellis’ blast to center completed back-to-back homers in a five-run seventh inning. Hanley Ramirezhad two doubles and two RBIs. Edinson Volquez, the club’s latest reclamation project, made his Dodgers debut against the team that released him earlier this week with a scoreless inning.

But it was hard for even Gonzalez to overshadow Puig, who showed no aftereffects from being yanked midway through Wednesday’s game for unspecified bad behavior.

He doubled, singled three times, drove in a run, scored another and stole two bases. He fouled out in his last at-bat. In 77 games, he’s had four hits in two of them and at least three hits 12 times. The Dodgers are 54-23 in games he’s played.

“I was waiting to be asked about him,” said Ramirez. “Everybody knows he’s an unbelievable player. He’s just a kid and he brought energy to the club.”

So Mattingly has benched Puig twice in the last two weeks. He did it in Miami, when Puig was 0-for-11. Puig added to the news that day with a late arrival to the ballpark, getting fined, then responded with a game-winning home run after being inserted in a double-switch.

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And now this, yanked two days ago by Mattingly, lectured by club officials and then grilled by the media, and he comes back with four hits. His flamboyance is exceeded only by his talent and ability to perform despite the drama, if not because of it.

“I just come to play baseball like I’ve always done,” Puig said when asked if there was added incentive after the benching. “I always give 100 percent every game.”

Asked if he lets his game speak for him, he said:


Mattingly, whose discipline of Puig had the added benefit of calming a clubhouse that had tired of the rookie’s actions, is tired of questions about Puig.

“Do we have to get back into this all the time?” he said. “He played the game the way we wanted. The other day is over. He was great tonight. He played with energy. He made a good decision on the bases on the ball in the hole. He got a couple of good jumps on the stolen bases. He was patient over there.”

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The win restored the Dodgers’ National League West lead to 10 1/2 games, matching the season high. That’s a jaw-dropping turnaround from the 9 1/2 games the Dodgers were out of first place the last time they faced the Padres in June. The Dodgers also have a 22-win month, setting a Los Angeles Dodgers record for one month and only three shy of the franchise record set in Brooklyn in 1957 and 1953.

Gonzalez talked more about Ryu’s hitting than his own.

“He’s a great hitter,” said Gonzalez. “He did a lot to help himself and get us going. He has the classic Asian swing. He steps in the bucket, but keeps his hands inside and through the ball. I’ve tried to imitate that swing, the Ichiro swing.”

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Nobody will try to imitate the late landing on his slide as he scored on Puig’s single that followed.

“My initial thought was I just have to stay alive, I have to be safe no matter what,” Ryu said. “After I was safe I thought that I should practice how to slide.”

As long as he keeps pitching like this. He went 6 1/3 innings and raised his home record to 7-2 with a 2.07 ERA. After allowing the Red Sox four first-inning runs in his last start, Mattingly said Ryu came out Friday with a purpose, and Ryu agreed.

“I didn’t change anything in my mechanics, but I was convinced I wasn’t going to give up any runs in the first inning,” he said. “I went out there and was a little more focused and that’s why my velocity was a little higher.”

Mattingly had Ramirez bat third ahead of Gonzalez against former Dodger Eric Stults, and it worked well in the third inning, when Ramirez led off with a double and Gonzalez homered to the opposite field, the way he did often when he played for the Padres. He leads the club with 19 homers and 85 RBIs.

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When the Royals beat the Twins on Tuesday night, it marked the third time in club history that there have been three wins in three straight days over three different opponents.

The first came May 6-8, 1990, when the Royals beat the White Sox at home, then won games at Cleveland and at Texas. The second came Aug. 27-29, 1995, with home wins over the Rangers and Brewers sandwiched around a one-day trip at Yankee Stadium.

The Royals, as expected, put pitchers Danny Duffy and Luke Hochevar on their 25-man roster before Wednesday night’s game against the Twins.

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Their corresponding moves were more unexpected, however, as pitchers Wade Davis and Louis Coleman both were optioned to Class A Wilmington.

Why Wilmington?

Because the team in the Class A Carolina League stands less of a chance to be in postseason play and Davis and Coleman can return to the Kansas City roster faster, by next Tuesday.

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“If we send them to [Triple-A] Omaha or [Double-A] Northwest Arkansas, they have a chance to extend play by being in the playoffs,” manager Ned Yost said. “Wilmington is a long shot. So we sent them there in order to get them back by Sept. 3.”

That’s the day after the Minor League regular season ends. If Davis and Coleman had been optioned to a team whose season is extended, they would have to stay with that team for a full 10 days before being recalled. That would be on Sept. 7.

With the Royals still holding playoff hopes, they wanted to get the two pitchers back as soon as possible.

“With Moose [third baseman Mike Moustakas] battling his leg thing and him being sick, we couldn’t send a position player out. We couldn’t go with a two-man bench until then,” Yost said. “So it came down to the pitching side.”

Several pitchers still had Minor League options, but Yost opted to keep both bullpen left-handers, Tim Collins and Will Smith, because of strong left-handed hitters with the Twins and the Blue Jays, their next opponent.

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“So the thinking behind it was Wade is going to the ‘pen; we’ll send him down to let him get two innings under his belt to get reacclimated to relieving,” Yost said. “He’ll throw one two-inning stint on Saturday and be back ready to go for us on the 3rd. Coleman is going to throw an inning Thursday, an inning on Saturday and then be ready to be back with us on the 3rd.”

Duffy was recalled from Omaha to start Wednesday night’s game against the Twins as he replaces Davis in the starting rotation. Hochevar is returning after being on paternity leave for three days.

The Royals’ 40-man roster remains at 39.

Third basemanMike Moustakas, stricken by strep throat, was out of the Royals’ lineup again Wednesday night and expected to sit out Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the Twins as well.

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“He looks better; he’ll be available to pinch-hit tonight if I need him,” manager Ned Yost said Wednesday. “It’s a quick turnaround [for Thursday] and a very, very hot day. Strep throat can really sap you to begin with, and we’ll probably wait until we get to Toronto and it’s a little more-climate controlled.”

Toronto has a retractable roof.

Moustakas missed Tuesday night’s series opener because of his illness. He has also been battling a calf problem since Aug. 12, playing in just six games since then.

Catcher Brett Hayes’ power surge has been recognized by the Pacific Coast League.

Hayes hit a combined six home runs in four games for Triple-A Omaha against New Orleans to win the PCL’s Player of the Week honors. He had at least one blast in each game, including a walk-off solo shot in the 10th inning last Thursday. He was the first Omaha player to have six homers in one series since Craig Brazell in 2007.

Three other Royals farm hands also won honors last week: Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert of Northwest Arkansas was Texas League Player of the Week. Rated the Royals’ No. 9 prospect by MLB.com, Cuthbert hit .421 with seven RBIs. Idaho Falls had the Pioneer League’s top player, Daniel Rocket, .348 with seven RBIs, and top pitcher, Luis Santos, with a one-hitter and seven strikeouts.

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 Royals right fielder Justin Maxwell was taken out of Wednesday night’s 8-1 win over the Twins after being hit on the right hand by a pitch in the ninth inning.

He had X-rays, which were negative, and was expected to be ready to play Thursday afternoon.

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As Mariano Rivera prepares to retire, the closer’s farewell tour has become a central subplot to the season. Major League Baseball’s all-time saves leader has been greeted warmly in each of his road stops, and the Yankees are planning a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera’s illustrious career in September.

Rivera will be the last active player to regularly wear uniform No. 42, with the number having been retired throughout MLB in 1997 to honor the achievements of barrier-breaking great Jackie Robinson. During his 19-year big league career, Rivera has also chiseled his own mark on the number’s legacy. In honor of Rivera and his contributions, MLB.com is commemorating 42 notable moments from Rivera’s career — the 42 Days of Mo.

Mariano Rivera’s first All-Star Game was a sign of things to come for the Yankees closer and all-time great.

Three up, three down and drive home safely, folks.

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Rivera — a 13-time All-Star — hardly arrived at the 1997 Midsummer Classic to the same fanfare of this July at Citi Field. Sure, baseball people and fans were aware of his talent. But he was far from the legend he is today.

The year before he was John Wetteland’s setup man on the Yankees’ 1996 World Series champion squad, so dominant in that role that New York let Wetteland walk as a free agent and handed the ninth inning to Rivera.

It wasn’t necessarily a smooth transition, as he blew saves in three of his first six opportunities. He eventually settled in — and discovered his famous cut fastball — and had 27 saves and a 1.96 ERA at the All-Star break, getting chosen for the team by Yankees manager Joe Torre.

That All-Star selection wasn’t only special because it was Rivera’s first. It also was telling of just how great of a season he was having, as he was one of only two relievers chosen for the American League team (along with Baltimore’s Randy Myers) and three overall (San Francisco’s Rod Beck).

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So it was no surprise that Torre entrusted Rivera with a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning of his first All-Star Game. Superstars like Barry Bonds, Tony Gwynn and Mike Piazza were out of the game by the time Rivera took the mound, but the young right-hander still faced some of the NL’s top hitters.

Rivera first faced Marlins catcher Charles Johnson, striking him out.

He then got Cubs first baseman Mark Grace to ground out to first before Marlins outfielder Moises Alou lined out to second to end the game.

It was a perfect beginning to an All-Star career.

For weeks, Alfonso Soriano has been hearing from friends and family members eagerly tracking his progress toward 400 career homers. Once the Yankees slugger got within striking distance, he did not keep them waiting very long.

Soriano hit his 399th and 400th career home runs in consecutive at-bats on Tuesday night, connecting for both drives off of Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ in the Yankees’ 7-1 victory at Rogers Centre.

“I didn’t want the same thing that happened when I got my 2,000th [hit], when it took a couple of games,” Soriano said. “As soon as I got the first one, I just put in my mind, ‘Let me swing if I see something close to home plate, try to hit another one and get it out of the way.’ Thank God it happened.”

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Soriano became the seventh player to hit his 400th homer as a Yankee, joining a select group comprised of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez.

The homers — a three-run shot in the first inning and a solo blast in the third — were Soriano’s 10th and 11th since he joined the Yankees from the Cubs in a July 26 trade.

It marked Soriano’s sixth multihomer game of the season and the 36th of his Major League career, giving him 28 homers overall this season.

“I just think about making a good swing,” Soriano said. “I never try to think about hitting homers, because that never happens. I just try to make a good swing, see the ball good and try to hit it hard.”

Soriano also became the sixth player in Major League history to reach 400 homers, 2,000 hits and 250 stolen bases, joining Willie Mays, Andre Dawson, Barry Bonds, Sheffield and A-Rod.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Soriano has seemed to be rejuvenated by his return to pinstripes, in which he started his Major League career in 1999.

“What he’s done here in the month of August, I’m sure people are talking about it,” Girardi said. “There’s baseball left in this guy, and he can have a really good year.”

Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, Tuesday’s winning pitcher, said that the 36-year-old Soriano has been an “energizing” force for the club.

“He looks like a young man out there,” Pettitte said. “I know he’s not. Hopefully, we can keep it going. He’s doing a great job for us, that’s for sure.”

Soriano started his big league career with the Yankees in 1999 and hit 98 homers for New York before being traded to the Rangers in the February 2004 deal that brought Rodriguez to the Bronx.

Soriano hit 64 home runs in his two seasons with Texas, then enjoyed a 46-homer campaign with the Nationals in 2006 before signing as a free agent with the Cubs, with whom he slugged 181 of his career home runs.

“When I retire, I can think about what I did in the game,” Soriano said. “I’m very proud. The talent that I’ve got, God gave it to me. I never think I’m going to hit 400 homers in the big leagues with my size, but I think I work hard and try to get better every day. That’s what I’ve got.”

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Baseball’s commitment to civil rights is on display every single day of every single season in the dugouts and executive offices across the sport. In the end, it’s that simple.

There are men and women of color and different backgrounds and experiences leading the game, shaping it, instilling it with their vision. Once the ceremonies have ended and the speeches have been forgotten, that is what civil rights is all about.

After a weekend of emotion and remembrance in which Major League Baseball honored the courage and vision of the people who were on the front lines of the fight for racial fairness in this country, it still comes down to actions, not words.

Baseball’s progress in this area is indisputable. It has long been intertwined in America’s civil rights struggle. Jackie Robinson broke the sport’s color line in 1947 — one year before President Truman integrated the Army, seven years before the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision and almost two decades before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began leading the fight for fairness.

As King once said, baseball forced Americans to see the world in a different way than they’d seen it before. There would be miles to go when Robinson played that first game, but it began with an African-American man playing a baseball game.

“It makes you feel that baseball has been more than just a game, more than just a recreation,” White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. “We had a great impact on the country.”

Commissioner Bud Selig’s profound legacy includes 18 years of labor peace, record-setting attendance and revenues and a host of sweeping changes related to technology and the fan experience. Yet none of those accomplishments has had a more meaningful impact than the memo he sent to teams on April 14, 1999.

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It would come to be known as the “Selig Rule,” and it required every club to consider minority candidates “for all general manager, assistant general manager, field manager, director of player development and director of scouting positions.”

In addition, Selig asked clubs to provide him a list of their openings and to include a list of candidates, including minority candidates, to be interviewed.

“I’d tell the clubs, ‘You’re hurting yourself when you’re just recycling these guys; you’re limiting yourself,'” Selig said. “I believed we have such a great opportunity to do good and constructive work. I’m just asking people to be fair.”

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Several years later, the NFL would announce its “Rooney Rule,” in which football teams were required to do things baseball was already doing. Indeed, baseball was well on its way to reshaping itself by then.

“I’m tremendously proud of it,” Reinsdorf said. “I get annoyed when I hear people talk about the Rooney Rule when we had this three years earlier. I want to praise the Commissioner for his foresight. This is one of the first things he did.”

Dr. Richard Lapchick of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida once more praised the sport in his annual Racial and Gender Report Card. “Major League Baseball continues to achieve high marks on the issue of racial hiring practices,” Lapchick wrote. He also praised the sport for improving gender hiring practices.

“As he nears retirement, one of the legacies of Commissioner Bud Selig is that he recognized the need for diversity in baseball long ago,” Lapchick wrote. “MLB continues to make real progress in the areas of inclusion and diversity.”

Upon reading those words, Selig said: “That’s the highest compliment I’ve ever gotten.”

And that, Selig said, began with Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey.

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“Baseball, because of Rickey and Jackie, changed American society,” Selig said. “That’s what we should be trying to do. A week before Jackie died [in 1972], he said that someday he hoped to see a black face in the dugout [working as manager]. I think if Jackie came back and looked around, he’d say, ‘You’re doing OK, Bud. But you can do better.’ I would agree with him.”

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In the 14 years since the Selig Rule, baseball’s front offices have been transformed from about three percent women and minorities to more than 20 percent. Also, with an assortment of events — including the Civil Rights Game, Jackie Robinson Day, Roberto Clemente Day and the MLB Diversity Business Summit — baseball continues to cast its spotlight on racial and gender fairness.

Baseball has come so far that African-American players and coaches no longer see a glass ceiling. Where Frank Robinson and Dusty Baker may have thought they’d never get a chance to manage, Astros manager Bo Porter, 41, who is black, simply encourages young people in the game to be prepared for their opportunity.

“I’m extremely proud of how far we’ve come,” Porter said. “Before the Commissioner implemented that policy, it was different. I never thought I wouldn’t get a chance. I think because of Frank Robinson and Dusty Baker and Cito Gaston and Ron Washington and Willie Randolph, who came before me, they helped give me an opportunity. They were my mentors, too. I pray that one day I’ll have the opportunity to return the favor.”

Selig said he’s proud that progress in affirmative action will be a large part of his legacy. But he said it’s about more than that. It’s about something really basic and something that ought to be really American.

It’s about trying to do the right thing.

Marathon men: D-backs outlast Phillies in 18 Jay Bruce Jersey

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Starter Randall Delgado pitched six innings on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park and at one point had a six-run lead.

The fact that Arizona ended up using nine pitchers — including Tuesday’s scheduled starter, Trevor Cahill — before finally beating the Phillies, 12-7, in 18 innings makes it pretty obvious that things didn’t go smoothly for either team after that. Still, the D-backs were eventually able to snap a three-game losing streak and remain seven games behind the Reds for the second National League Wild Card spot.

Third baseman Martin Prado thought the turning point came when the Phils brought in outfielder Casper Wells to start the 18th. Before that inning was finally over, Phils infielder John McDonald, who had been pressed into service in the outfield, had also taken the mound.

“Both teams had a lot of opportunities, but pitching came up big for both of us. They just ran out of pitchers, and that gave us an advantage. And fortunately for us, we got the win,” Prado said.

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Added infielder Cliff Pennington: “When you’re facing Casper and Johnny Mac, it’s like, ‘This is crazy.’ But hopefully, you just find a way to get a hit and put a run across and win the game.”

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The game finally ended at 2:11 a.m. ET. Adam Eaton’s two-out double scored Tony Campana from first, and the D-backs added four insurance runs. Cahill, who had never pitched in relief in the Major Leagues, threw four shutout innings to get the win. But even when he was told to go to the bullpen, he didn’t really believe he’d actually pitch.

“Even when I was down there, I was like, there was still no way. Then they said, ‘[Brad] Ziegler has one more [inning],’ and I was like, ‘Oh, gosh.’ So I jumped on the bike and put heat on my arm and stretched out. I definitely had enough time. I usually watch some video and try to eat a balanced meal, but I think they were in a little more of a rush than that.”

Asked how long he could have gone, Cahill laughed.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to find out,” he said.

Manager Kirk Gibson hasn’t decided who will now start on Tuesday against the Padres at Chase Field.

Both teams emptied their bullpens and benches, with the Phillies’ originally scheduled Sunday starter Tyler Cloyd, pitching five innings of relief. Instead of facing Cloyd in the series finale, the D-backs will now face Roy Halladay.

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The D-backs are the first team to play three games of at least 16 innings in a season since the 1989 Dodgers. It was the longest time of game (7:06) in franchise history and tied the mark for most innings, done three times previously. Arizona walked 18 times, also a club record, and right fielderGerardo Parra had a career-high five hits.

All of that came about because relievers Joe Thatcher and Heath Bell combined to give up four runs in the bottom of the eighth, allowing the Phillies to tie the score.

“I was disappointed, but we moved on,” Gibson said. “Then it was sudden death. We’ve exhausted our pitching. We’re going to have to figure that out. After they tied it up, the bullpen did a great job.”

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Prado remained in the game despite a stiff back, though second baseman Aaron Hill left the game in the bottom of the seventh as a precautionary measure due to mild tightness in his groin.

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“We had guys hurt. They sucked it up. It was a long night,” Gibson said.

The way the game started, there was no reason to expect that this would be anything but a laugher for the D-backs, especially since promising Phillies rookie Ethan Martin didn’t survive the first inning. Martin recorded two quick outs but didn’t retire another batter, allowing three runs on three hits and three walks.

Arizona added insurance runs against Luis Garcia in the second and third and against Zach Minerin the fifth and sixth. In the meantime, Delgado was mowing down the Phillies. He didn’t give up his first hit until catcher Carlos Ruiz homered on a 2-0 fastball leading off the fifth. To that point the only runner for the Phillies had been Chase Utley, who walked with two outs in the first.

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Delgado (4-4) ended up pitching six innings, allowing three runs on three hits. He walked one and struck out six.

The Phillies went into the game with three straight walk-off wins, including one against the D-backs on Friday night, and had a chance to make it four going into the ninth but couldn’t take advantage of scoring opportunities. The D-backs, too, could not cash in on their chances until the speedy Campana drew a two-out walk in the 18th. Because he was running with the pitch, Campana scored easily when Eaton doubled to left-center.

It wasn’t quick, and it wasn’t easy, and Sunday’s game was scheduled to start in less than 12 hours. At least the D-backs could console themselves with a win.

“There’s not really a choice, is there?” Pennington said. “You just go out there and keep playing.”

And playing, and playing and playing.

Roenicke, teammates appreciate Braun’s apology Customized Reds Jersey

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By the time the Brewers made it to Great American Ball Park on Friday afternoon, they had almost 24 hours to read and digest the statement released by left fielder Ryan Braun, who admitted to and apologized for taking a banned substance as he recovered from an injury late in the 2011 season.

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And as the team prepared to open a three-game series against Cincinnati, one question bounced around the visiting clubhouse:

Was it enough?

“It was certainly enough for me,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “I think it’s enough for his teammates. He made some calls to his teammates, but I think no matter what he comes out and says, there’s going to be some negative from a lot of people, still, that he didn’t say enough, that he didn’t explain himself enough. I think he did.”

In the statement, Braun said that he was dealing with a nagging injury late in the 2011 season and turned to a cream and lozenge, both of which, he was told, would help him recover quickly. He said he regretted not admitting to taking the substance immediately after he tested positive for synthetic testosterone in October of that season, when he instead appealed a suspension and won.

Nearly two years later, Braun was suspended on July 22 for 65 games after Major League Baseball linked him to the Biogenesis clinic and its founder, Anthony Bosch. Along with Braun, 12 other players received 50-game suspensions, while Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games but has appealed.

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Brewers reliever John Axford is one of those teammates who has spoken with Braun, and he said those conversations, combined with Thursday’s statement, were enough for him to move forward. Since the suspension, though, Axford said one of the most significant issues for him was that he wanted to know exactly what Braun had done, and he was pleased to see that come out.

“Everybody wants to know that,” Axford said. “For Ryan to be able to step up and say exactly what happened and what he did, I think that was huge, not only for himself, but for everyone involved around him, especially his teammates, his family, his friends, his supporters and people outside that are questioning it.”

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When asked if Braun should go a step further than the statement and address the media in a press conference, Axford said it could help people move on and put the situation behind them.

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who also talked with Braun last week, called the statement “a good first step in the road to redemption” and was fairly confident that more is on the way.

“I think he will do [a press conference] eventually,” Lucroy said. “I don’t know when, but he will do one. I think that will help him out, for sure, to answer some questions, and answer some direct questions, and kind of get it all out there, I guess.”

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Roenicke understood why Braun decided to go with a written statement, saying he likely can’t answer various questions for legal reasons. He also understood why some people, especially fans and other players, wanted more from Braun.

“If he wants to [hold a press conference] some time, fine,” Roenicke said, “but I don’t think it’s necessary. I think he needs to move on. I think we need to move on as a team. He’s going to be with us next year, and hopefully, we get that same player back that’s very important to this club and fits in well with the team.”

Braun’s suspension runs through the end of this season, meaning he’ll be able to join the team for Spring Training. Lucroy, who said he believes the hardest part for Braun has been dealing with the fact that he lied to teammates, expects Braun to be welcomed back with open arms next season, as long as he is a good teammate and contributes to the team.

Axford offered a similar sentiment.

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“I don’t want to talk for everybody at the same time, but I think when Ryan walks around the clubhouse, he’s not looked down upon. He never has been,” Axford said. “He’s always been a great teammate, a great friend and a great person. So this course of events that have built up to what’s happening right now, obviously there’s a little bit of a mark, but I think people are going to be able to move past it, personally.”

As for this season, Lucroy said the attention surrounding Braun’s suspension is just a distraction, and players are not letting it get to them. Roenicke added that Braun likely feels worse than anybody, and that he believes the apology issued Thursday was truly genuine.

“This is a nice young man that messed up,” Roenicke said. “That’s what it is, and he’s got a long road ahead of him. He’s going to be, I’m sure, yelled at [at] all of the stadiums he goes to again next year. He’s going to have things continue to be written about him, but it’s a first step in trying to get through this, probably trying to heal up some relationships, whether it’s the fans, whether it’s his good, good friends, whether it’s his teammates. I think this was a nice step towards that.”

Kershaw stymies Marlins with eight-inning gem Josh Hamilton Jersey

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Clayton Kershaw wasn’t quite right Thursday, which for him means that he still pitched eight scoreless innings, combining with Brian Wilson (how strange is that?) as the Dodgers blanked the Marlins, 6-0.

Kershaw also singled home the first run of a three-run fourth inning, followed by Carl Crawford’s two-run double, as the Dodgers finished a two-city eastern trip 5-2. They are 28-5 since the All-Star break, 45-10 since June 22 and 22-3 in their last 25 road games. They took three of the four games with the Marlins and haven’t lost a series since mid-June.

More important, with Arizona’s loss, the Dodgers extended their division lead to a season-high 9 ½ games.

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Kershaw has allowed 11 runs in his last 10 starts. He improved his record to 13-7, lowered his Major League-leading ERA to 1.72 (Sandy Koufax’s career low was 1.73) and wasn’t even on his game.

He walked three, a high for the past two months, two of them leading off innings. He pitched out of the stretch in all but two innings. But Nick Punto, starting at shortstop for a resting Hanley Ramirez, triggered three double plays behind him, and Skip Schumaker bailed him out of a couple other jams by robbing the Marlins of hits.

“It could have gone a lot different,” said Kershaw. “In a lot of ways, I was fortunate to get out of the game without giving up any runs.”

Wilson pitched a scoreless ninth inning in his Dodgers debut and first Major League game since undergoing Tommy John surgery and departing the Giants.

Kershaw finished with six strikeouts in his 11th consecutive quality start. He’s part of a starting rotation that is 17-2 in the last 26 games. This was the staff’s 17th shutout, which leads the Majors.

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Kershaw, though, gave an immediate indication of command issues when he walked Christian Yelich on four pitches leading off the bottom of the first inning. The Marlins put runners in scoring position each of the first three innings, but Kershaw wiggled out of each jam. The Marlins went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

“I was terrible the first couple innings,” said Kershaw. “I didn’t have fastball command.”

Kershaw said he never really found it. With catcher A.J. Ellis’ direction, Kershaw threw more offspeed pitches.

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“If I didn’t,” he said, “I’d be out of there. Fortunately, I got the double plays and threw enough good pitches.”

Manager Don Mattingly said he wasn’t really worried about Kershaw’s early issues, especially as he saw Kershaw using fewer pitches per inning as the game progressed.

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“He keeps coming after people,” Mattingly said. “He’s pretty good. He raises the bar pretty high pretty much every time out. He has a rough inning or two and we worry about him. He sets the bar high, but that’s okay.”

Kershaw had a lead by the fourth inning. Yasiel Puig led it off with what he thought was a home run to dead center, as he jogged to first, only to kick it in gear rounding the bag when the ball hit inches from the top of the wall. It went for a double.

“It’s almost not fair to hit a ball that hard and not go out,” Mattingly said.

Andre Ethier was called out on strikes and Ellis tapped out to the pitcher as Puig took third. Skip Schumaker was hit by a pitch on the foot for the second time, the ball appearing to Puig to be a wild pitch and he slid head-first into pitcher Henderson Alvarez covering home, only to be sent back to third base.

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Juan Uribe walked to load the bases for Kershaw, who lined a sharp single to left field to score Puig. Crawford’s sinking liner skipped off the glove of diving right fielder Giancarlo Stanton as Schumaker and Uribe scored with Kershaw stopped at third.

The Dodgers added to the lead with a two-run fifth on back-to-back two-out doubles to center by Ethier and Ellis and an RBI single by Schumaker. Adrian Gonzalez scored in the seventh when he doubled, took third on a passed ball and came home on Puig’s sacrifice fly.

Kershaw did finish up strong, retiring the last five batters he faced and turning it over to Wilson after making 103 pitches.

“I’ve seen him a lot better,” said Miami manager Mike Redmond. “He looked like his command was not there with his fastball. But at the same time, too, whenever we did get in a situation with a guy on, he executed his pitches, and was able to keep us at bay.”