Justin Verlander strikes out 14 New York Yankees

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Justin Verlander strikes out 14 New York Yankees

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Justin Verlander raised his left arm to acknowledge a roaring, standing ovation. It was his right arm, though, that gave the New York Yankees so much trouble. Verlander matched a career high with 14 strikeouts and got home-run support from Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, leading the Detroit Tigers over New York 7-2 Monday night. "Felt pretty good," Verlander said. He looked good, too. Verlander (12-7) threw 132 pitches, his most in a regular-season game, to lift the Tigers to a fifth straight win. Before this opener of a four-game series, manager Jim Leyland said the Tigers needed a big effort from Verlander. "Hopefully your ace is an ace," Leyland said. Verlander was, putting together one of his best performances of the season. He started strong and didn't let up. The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young award winner struck out former teammate Curtis Granderson -- for the first of three times -- with an 85 mph breaking pitch to lead off the game and struck out the first two Yankees in the second inning. Verlander also fanned Ichiro Suzuki and Mark Teixeira three times each. Verlander gave up two unearned runs after his fielding error extended the fifth inning. Leyland visited Verlander at the mound in the eighth after he gave up a walk to Raul Ibanez, and left him in the game following a brief chat about how he felt following Derek Jeter's comebacker off his left leg the previous inning. Verlander said he told Leyland his left calf was OK. "He said, Then let's get this last batter and we'll see what happens,'" Verlander recalled Leyland saying. With many of the 41,381 fans on their feet, Verlander responded by striking out Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez and Suzuki to tie his strikeout high set last year against Arizona. "In the eighth inning, he still had a 100 mph fastball," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "The rest of his pitches are great, too." Suzuki snapped his 12-game hitting streak with the Yankees. He also struck out for the first time with his new team and finished with three to match a career high. Verlander hit low and outside corners with fastballs and buckled knees with an assortment of breaking pitches that left the Yankees standing and looking or swinging and missing. "Did you see some of those pitches?" Detroit catcher Alex Avila asked. "That last curveball, I don't think anybody could've hit it. I had enough trouble catching it." When New York did make contact for base hits, Verlander was at his best. "He shut us down," Yankees star Derek Jeter said. "A lot of time great pitchers get a little attitude when they have guys on base and they bear down. He did that." After Verlander's night was over -- one pitch shy of the career-high 133 he threw in Game 5 of the AL championship series last year against Texas -- closer Jose Valverde retired the side in order in the ninth. Detroit, which is chasing Chicago in the AL Central, has won 19 of its last 23 home games. The AL East-leading Yankees have lost 11 of 17 overall. Ivan Nova (10-6) was roughed up for seven runs and 11 hits -- matching a career high -- in 5 1-3 innings. Nova is 1-4 over his last eight starts since June 28. "Every pitcher goes through it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You're going to go through struggles. For the most part, the kid has been pretty good for us but right now, he's struggling. He'll find his way out. Verlander, as good as he is, goes through struggles. He's not 20-0 this year." Nova said he still has confidence in his stuff. "I've got to keep my head up and keep working," he said. "It's just location. I left too many pitches over the plate." Cabrera sent a thigh-high pitch over the middle of the plate 454 feet, clearing the second row of shrubs in center field, for his 28th homer in the fourth inning. Fielder cleared the fences for the 19th time with a no-doubt shot to right in the second. The Tigers broke it open with three runs in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth to go ahead 7-2. Verlander allowed the Yankees to score twice in the fifth when Granderson hit a two-out grounder and the pitcher glanced down to step on first base as Fielder made an accurate throw that hit his glove. Jeter and Robinson Cano took advantage with RBI singles that made it 2-all. "I need to be able to make that play," Verlander said. He made up for that miscue -- easily. NOTES: Verlander is the first Tigers pitcher since Jim Bunning (June 10, 1958) to strike out 14 Yankees in a game. ... The Yankees have decided Triple-A LHP Manny Banuelos, out since May with a bruised left elbow, won't pitch again this season. ... Verlander had lost his last two starts, giving up nine runs over 12 innings. ... Nova has given up 11 hits twice this year to Detroit and three times in his career. ... Jeter had two hits, his 43rd multihit game of the year after having more than one hit in 45 last year.

5 things we learned about the Cubs in June

5 things we learned about the Cubs in June

As the Cubs get ready to open up a four-game series against the New York Mets on Thursday night, don't expect a magician in Citi Field’s visiting clubhouse, despite a few obvious parallels to last season.

The Cubs were also in New York on the final day of June in 2015, coming off arguably their worst stretch of the season (when they lost five straight to the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals). This summer, the Cubs have responded to their biggest speed bump – losing six of seven games to the Cardinals and Miami Marlins last week – by sweeping the Cincinnati Reds out of Great American Ball Park in a wildly eventful three-game series.

It's a little bit of deja vu for the Mets, too, as they are searching for an offensive identity for the second straight summer, just as the Cubs come into town. The Cubs will enter July with at least 51 wins and a share of the best record in baseball, now just a few percentage points separating them and the red-hot Texas Rangers.

Let's take a look at five things we learned about the Cubs in June:

1. They're not unstoppable.

Joe Maddon claims he doesn't believe in June swoons, but the Cubs just fought through their worst month of the season. But with a win Thursday, they will be 17-11 in June – only one game off May's pace (18-10 record).

The run differential (plus-170) is still almost double the next-closest team (Cleveland Indians at plus-91). Of course, the run differential soars while playing the Reds. The Cubs have scored 87 runs in those 10 games, or 21.1 percent of their runs for the season (412).

Also worth noting, this losing stretch coincided with a slew of injuries that included leadoff guy Dexter Fowler, role player Tommy La Stella and Jorge Soler, who had just started heating up before landing on the disabled list.

2. Kris Bryant is a superstar.

Bryant was already enjoying a pretty solid sophomore campaign before the series in Cincinnati, but he exploded for the best offensive game in franchise history on Monday night, and then added three more hits, two walks, an RBI and a pair of runs scored in the final two games at Great American Ball Park.

For June, Bryant enters play Thursday with a 1.058 OPS and is now on pace for 44 homers, 122 RBI and 128 runs scored with a .931 season OPS. 

Oh yeah, and over the past calendar year, he's leading the National League in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) – and ranking fourth in Major League Baseball – ahead of even 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper.

There's no sophomore slump for Bryant, and at the age of 24, he continues to get better. With only 225 big-league games under his belt, he's already one of the best players in the league.

3. They absolutely need more bullpen help.

After a 2.72 bullpen ERA in April, Cubs relievers have posted ERAs of 3.80 and 3.93 in May and June, respectively.

Even elite closer Hector Rondon has struggled, blowing all three of his saves on the season over the last two weeks and allowing three of the five earned runs he's given up in 2016 in June.

Justin Grimm has a 5.79 ERA on the season and Adam Warren had allowed 13 runs over his last 17.2 innings before going down to the minor leagues to stretch out as a starter.

The Cubs are still searching for another left-handed arm in the bullpen. (Travis Wood is effective against both righties and lefties and serves as one of the long men in the bullpen.) The Cubs would also like another potentially dominant reliever to help take some of the load off Pedro Strop and Rondon at the back end of the bullpen.

4. This really is a great situation for young players.

The Cubs promoted two of their top prospects in June, and Willson Contreras and Albert Almora both hit the ground running.

Contreras has played three different positions and has posted a 1.067 OPS and 10 RBI in 12 games, while Almora is hitting .286 with a .776 OPS and hit his first big-league home run on Wednesday in Cincinnati.

The two rookies joined a list that includes Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber as young players who came up to the big-league level and flourished amid a contending squad.

Maddon and his coaching staff help create an environment where every player can feel comfortable.

5. The starting rotation couldn't keep that up forever. 

While Jon Lester continues to roll, Jake Arrieta has looked human in June with a 3.54 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. John Lackey carried a hot streak into the month before allowing 10 earned runs in 10.1 innings against the Cardinals and Marlins.

The Cubs still lead baseball by a wide margin with a 2.54 rotation ERA (almost a full run better than the Mets' 3.30 mark), but there's a different look about this pitching staff when Arrieta is struggling with his command and the bullpen is searching for consistency.

To be clear, those are still excellent numbers. Just not the video-game stats the pitching staff was putting up in the first two months of the season.

Get to know Bears rookie Jordan Howard

Get to know Bears rookie Jordan Howard

Meet Jordan Howard.

Selected by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft, the 6-foot, 230-pound running back out of Indiana rushed for 1,213 yards and nine touchdowns on 196 carries for the Hoosiers in 2015.

Howard is a physical offensive weapon who is sure to give Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey a run for their money come training camp in August. But before the rookie suits up in Bourbonnais, get the chance to know what he's all about off of the field. 

Howard is featured in the final segment of "Meet the Rookies," a four-part series on ChicagoBears.com that chronicles the inspirational stories of the team's newest additions. The other rookies featured in the series are outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, wide receiver Daniel Braverman and tight end Ben Braunecker.
 
Catch Howard's segment of "Meet the Rookies" here.
 

Cubs' Dexter Fowler hit in leg with bat by power-swinging toddler

Cubs' Dexter Fowler hit in leg with bat by power-swinging toddler

On this edition of Chicago's Funniest Home Videos, Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler is all smiles after being hit in the leg by a power-swinging toddler.

Fowler, who is currently on the disabled list with a right hamstring injury, posted the video of an impromptu batting practice that broke out with his neighbors and a young left-handed prospect named Kellen.

Take a look for yourself and insert your own Bob Saget play-by-play voice.

Hilarious!

For those hardcore fans who are concerned with Fowler's health, it's all good, the 30-year-old was lightly struck in the left leg by a soft NERF bat and did not appear to be in any serious pain.

Although Kellen missed on his initial swing in the video, we're certain his swing will continue to develop over time. A few more training sessions with Fowler, who currently leads all National League outfielders in MLB All-Star votes, should only enhance his potential of becoming a real home run threat down the road. And who knows, maybe we'll see the young fellow suiting up for the Cubbies one day.