MLB star hits a triple - and three homers - in win

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MLB star hits a triple - and three homers - in win

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- With an impressive display of power, Ryan Braun made Petco Park look downright cozy. Braun had his first three-homer game and added a two-run triple to tie his career high with six RBIs, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to an 8-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on Monday night. The reigning NL MVP became the first player to hit three home runs in a game at spacious Petco Park since it opened in 2004. It came several days after the Padres said they are studying bringing in the fences at the downtown ballpark to make it more fair. "It was just one night," Braun said. "There's no doubt this is one of the more challenging if not the most challenging place to hit home runs in the league. I think for fans, you want to see offense. Offense is exciting when teams are scoring runs. It's a lot of fun for the fans to watch. So I think if they did do that, it would make it more of a neutral ballpark. As of right now it certainly favors pitchers pretty substantially." Petco Park's deep outfield, particularly in right and right-center, swallows fly balls that would be homers in other yards, particularly on cool nights like Monday. Not on this night, though. Braun hit a solo homer deep into the sandy play area beyond the right-center fence -- one of the deepest parts of the park -- with one out in the fourth. That homer was in the area where the Padres are considering bringing in the fences. He drove a two-run shot onto the balcony on the fourth level of the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left-field corner with one out in the fifth. Both were off rookie Joe Wieland (0-4). Rickie Weeks was aboard on a walk before Braun's second homer. "He put some good swings on pitches. He's strong. You're talking about the MVP of the league," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's got big power and he showed it. After the first, he really locked in after that." Braun's third shot, to left, came on the first pitch he saw from Ernesto Frieri with two outs in the seventh. Braun came up again with two on and two outs in the ninth and nearly equaled the major league record of four home runs in a game when he hit a triple that short-hopped the right-center fence. The slugger has seven homers and 17 RBIs. "It's definitely special," Braun said. "It's an extremely challenging game we play. You're going to deal with a lot of failure, a lot of adversity, and when you have a special night like that you try to enjoy it and it's that much more fun and enjoyable when your team wins the game. It was definitely a pretty cool night." Shortly after he won the MVP award last year, ESPN reported that Braun failed a drug test in October with a high testosterone level. But he won his appeal and avoided a 50-game suspension. Then he made his case to fans upon his arrival in spring training, saying that chain of custody issues with his urine sample cast doubt on the validity of the test. That didn't end the controversy; baseball officials were unhappy with the arbitrator's decision, and a urine sample collector issued a statement saying he followed proper protocols and that there was no evidence of tampering. Braun also has hinted that there's more to the story than he's letting on, refusing to share those details. Braun began the night batting .263. "You know these nights are few and far between," he said. "It's a moment you try to embrace, you try to enjoy. It's been a challenge for me and for us this year, and I think we got a couple breaks, a few things really went our way and you hope something like this turns our luck around, turns our momentum around." Randy Wolf (2-2) got the win after allowing three runs and nine hits in five innings. Wieland became the third Padres pitcher to start a season 0-4 in his first four starts. He allowed five runs -- three earned -- and five hits in five innings, struck out eight and walked two. San Diego took a 1-0 lead on Yonder Alonso's RBI single with two outs in the second and was poised to add on when it got runners to second and third with no outs in the third. Wieland singled for his first big league hit and advanced on Chris Denorfia's double to center. But Wolf struck out Jesus Guzman and retired Chase Headley and Nick Hundley to end the threat. After Braun's solo shot in the fourth, Aramis Ramirez reached on second baseman Orlando Hudson's error, Mat Gamel singled with two outs and Alex Gonzalez doubled them both in for a 3-1 lead. Braun's second homer made it 5-2. San Diego added a run on Jason Bartlett's double-play ball in the sixth before Braun homered again. NOTES: Black said LF Carlos Quentin is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Tucson on Tuesday. The plan is to use him as DH on Tuesday and then have him play left field on Wednesday. Quentin began the season on the disabled list after having knee surgery during spring training. ... The three-game series continues Tuesday night with Milwaukee RHP Shaun Marcum (1-1, 4.13 ERA) scheduled to pitch against San Diego RHP Edinson Volquez (0-2, 3.60). ... The Padres said Braun is the first player to hit three homers and a triple in a game since Fred Lynn did it for Boston at Detroit on June 18, 1975, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Miguel Montero is out and Victor Caratini is in.

The Cubs made a shakeup at catcher Wednesday and will have to forge the last half of the 2017 season without the presence of veteran Montero, who has 1,149 MLB games under his belt and was hitting .286 with an .805 OPS this year.

But Montero talked his way out of town and Caratini is the immediate choice for a replacement behind starting backstop Willson Contreras.

[Where it all went wrong with Miguel Montero and the Cubs]

Caratini is a 23-year-old switch-hitter whom the Cubs acquired from the Atlanta Braves in 2014 as part of the Emilio Bonifacio/James Russell deadline deal. The Braves initially selected Caratini in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Miami-Dade College.

The Puerto Rican native has mostly played catcher (297 games) in his minor-league career, but has also seen time at first base (76 games) and third base (57 games). 

Caratini got his first taste of big-league spring training action this season, impressing with a .379 average and 1.175 OPS in 16 games (29 at-bats).

He is enjoying the best offensive season of his career in Triple-A Iowa, hitting .343 with a .384 on-base percentage and .923 OPS.

Caratini has already set a career high with eight home runs while clubbing 20 doubles and driving in 54 runs in 68 games. He also has only 40 strikeouts in 245 at-bats.

The Cubs named Caratini the organization's minor league player of the month in May after he drove in 17 runs in 24 games while hitting .366 with a .573 slugging percentage.

Caratini also should help the Cubs running game — an area where Montero was 0-for-31 in throwing out baserunners. Caratini has nabbed 28 percent of would-be basestealers in Iowa, a mark that is directly even with the MLB average.

Contreras is throwing out 34 percent of would-be basestealers in 2017.

Caratini figures to be the short-term answer for the Cubs at catcher given the organzation doesn't have many other options. Kyle Schwarber has not been a viable option behind the plate after recovering from major knee surgery that sapped almost his entire 2016 season. Taylor Davis — a 27-year-old catcher/infielder — is currently on the disabled list and has yet to make his MLB debut.

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

WASHINGTON – The Cubs swiftly reacted to Miguel Montero’s jaw-dropping criticism of Jake Arrieta, dumping the veteran catcher the day after the Washington Nationals ran wild with seven stolen bases and exposed some of the issues within the visiting clubhouse.

You could read the writing on the wall Wednesday morning when Anthony Rizzo’s comments on his weekly WMVP-AM 1000 appearance went viral. An All-Star first baseman who is tight with management and picky about when he decides to speak up called out Montero as a “selfish player.”

In designating Montero for assignment – a source confirmed catcher Victor Caratini will also be promoted from Triple-A Iowa – the Cubs will have to eat roughly half of his $14 million salary in the final year of his contract. 

Montero’s biggest sin is that he no longer produces like the two-time All-Star he had been with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he developed a reputation for blunt honesty and a willingness to mentor young players. The Cubs wanted that edge when they traded for Montero at the 2014 winter meetings, part of a dramatic makeover that included signing ace pitcher Jon Lester to a $155 million megadeal.

Montero’s goofy “#WeAreGood” hashtag on Twitter became a symbol for a rising franchise and a loose team that didn’t care about the weight of history. 

But where Montero could be the spokesman in Arizona and wear the target on his back, a backup catcher can’t torch a Cy Young Award winner and the team’s running-game strategy when he is 0-for-31 and Contreras is throwing guys out 34 percent of the time.     

Montero welcomed Contreras and Kyle Schwarber to the big leagues, generously trying to help with their learning curve, even as they kept taking his playing time. Montero didn’t exactly have the same reaction to David Ross becoming a media darling and a crossover celebrity.

[RELATED: Miguel Montero sends classy goodbye to Cubs players and fans]

Montero already put himself in jeopardy in the immediate World Series aftermath, ripping manager Joe Maddon in a radio interview on the same day as the championship parade and Grant Park rally.  

Montero couldn’t help himself, even after delivering a pinch-hit grand slam against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, and driving in what turned out to be the winning run in the 10th inning against the Cleveland Indians in a World Series Game 7.

Montero wouldn’t bite his tongue late Tuesday night after a sloppy, frustrating 6-1 loss at Nationals Park. With a 39-38 record, several key players on the disabled list and a clubhouse far more complex than Maddon’s Woodstock visions, the Cubs are in crisis mode.   

“It really sucks because the stolen bases go on me,” Montero said. “When you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. It’s just like: ‘Yeah, OK, Miggy can’t throw nobody out.’ Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on. It’s tough, because it doesn’t matter how much work I put in.

“If I don’t get a chance to throw, that’s the reason why they were running left and right today, because they know he was slow to the plate. Simple as that. It’s a shame that it’s my fault because I didn’t throw anybody out.”