Starlin Castro strained his hamstring

Starlin Castro strained his hamstring

Starlin Castro was batting here at Hohokam in the fourth inning when he pulled up lame, reaching back for his hamstring while running out an infield single. A trainer saw him and he came out of the game. The official word now is “left hamstring tightness” which has him day-to-day. Good news, I think. When…

Barrage of homers lead Nats past Cardinals in series finale

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Barrage of homers lead Nats past Cardinals in series finale

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 10-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.

How it happened: Sometimes in baseball all it takes is a second look at a pitcher and on Sunday the difference between the Nationals' first run through the lineup and their second against Cardinals starter Michael Wacha was quite significant.

For the first three innings, the Nats were held hitless, the only baserunner earned on a walk to Wilson Ramos. But then in the fourth, things quickly devolved for Wacha. The Cardinals right-hander gave up two hits to lead off the frame, the second to score a run. He then allowed a two-RBI single to Ramos with two outs.

The three runs in the fourth off Wacha gave them the lead, but a five-run seventh inning put this one on ice for the Nationals. Anthony Rendon led off with a solo homer and Jayson Werth cleaned up the rest with a pinch-hit grand slam. It was Werth's sixth career grand slam and his first ever as a pinch-hitter. It was also just the second pinch-hit grand slam in Nats' history following Justin Maxwell's in September of 2007. You don't see them very often.

Ramos then added a two-run homer in the eighth to make it 10-2. It was Ramos' third hit of the day.

Ten runs were more than enough help for Stephen Strasburg and the Nats' bullpen. Strasburg gave up one run on a homer to Brandon Moss, but otherwise limited damage throughout the afternoon with six hits and two walks spread across six strong innings. Strasburg now has the best start in franchise history at 9-0.

The Nats' bullpen ran into some trouble in the seventh with a bases-loaded jam with one out, but Felipe Rivero escaped the frame with just one run allowed and a lead intact. The run came on a sac fly by Matt Adams, but all things considered, it could have been much, much worse. 

What it means: The Nationals closed their homestand on a positive note as they get set for an 11-day road trip, which is tied for the longest one they have this season. They also finished their season series against the Cardinals with a 5-2 record. That's a nice change of course after they went 8-18 against them from 2012 through 2015.

Rendon smacks homer No. 4: Rendon added an insurance run in the eighth inning with a solo home run to right field on the first pitch he saw from reliever Jonathan Broxton. After having zero homers in April, Rendon has four this month. He has reached safely in 20 of his last 22 games. In 18 games going back to May 10, Rendon is 24-for-63 (.381) with two homers, six doubles, a triple, 10 RBI, 12 walks, 11 runs and three steals. He posted his 10th multi-hit outing of that 18-game stretch. Even taking Saturday night off did not cool him down.

Ramos hits No. 6: Ramos reached base four times on Sunday with a walk and three hits in three at-bats. He hit a two-run bomb to left field in the eighth inning, his sixth homer of the season. Ramos is now batting .336 through 40 games this season.

Zimmerman gets another XBH: After going 4-for-4 with two homers on Saturday night, Zimmerman notched another extra-base hit on Sunday with his double in the fourth inning. Zimmerman now has 10 doubles on the season and 14 extra-base hits in May after posting just four in April. The problem for Zimmerman has been consistency this season in putting together more than two solid games in a row. Just last week he had two hits in consecutive games on May 23-24, then went hitless in four straight outings. On May 10 he had two homers, but that was during a stretch where he went 5-for-37 across nine games. It has truly been feast or famine for the Nats' first baseman this season.

Harper drives in a run: Harper's RBI single to score Michael Taylor in the fourth inning gave him his fourth straight game with a hit. He also has an RBI in five of his last eight games despite only having four hits during that stretch. Harper has scored a run in four straight outings. Overall, though, it was another frustrating day for Harper, who went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. After he popped out in the sixth, he was shown on a television replay chucking his batting helmet in the dugout.

Strasburg left in, then pulled: Strasburg's exit after six innings was part of some creative managing for Dusty Baker. He sent Strasburg out to start the seventh after 104 pitches, but then brought in Oliver Perez before Strasburg even threw a pitch in the inning. He called on Perez once Cardinals manager Mike Matheny brought in Kolten Wong as a pinch-hitter. And once Matheny saw Perez come in, he replaced Wong with Aledmys Diaz to pinch-hit. There was a pitching change and two pinch-hitters inserted into the game all before a single pitch was thrown. The Nats, by the way, have now won all 11 of Strasburg's starts this season and 15 in a row dating back to 2015.

Up next: The Nats embark on a long road trip beginning with three games in Philly. They play three at the Phillies, then three at the Reds and White Sox. Monday night will be a 7:05 p.m. start with Tanner Roark (3-4, 2.71) set to pitch opposite Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 3.97).

Kim's first major league home run helps Orioles to 6-4 win

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USA TODAY Sports

Kim's first major league home run helps Orioles to 6-4 win

CLEVELAND—Before Sunday’s game, manager Buck Showalter joked that Hyun Soo Kim’s average would have to fall below .350 for him to consider benching him. 

Kim, who started his fifth straight game in left field, hit his first major league home run to power the Orioles to a 6-4 win over the Cleveland Indians before 18,565 at Progressive Field on Sunday. 

With the scored tied at four, Kim lined a 2-2 pitch off Jeff Manship (0-1) to right field, and the Orioles (28-20) had a 5-4 lead. 

Kim, who began the season as a virtual outcast because he refused to accept the club’s request that he hone his game in Norfolk. 

Instead, Kim mostly watched for the season’s first several weeks, but produced in his occasional appearances. 

During the road trip with the Orioles striking out at a record pace, Showalter inserted the contact hitting Kim into the lineup, and he’s produced. 

While he did strike out twice on Sunday, Kim walked and hit the home run. 

On their road trip, the Orioles lost five of nine, but won two of three against Los Angeles to start the trip and Cleveland (26-22). They lost three straight to Houston, fanning a major league record 52 times. 

In South Korea, Kim showed power. Last year, he hit 28 home runs there, but on his first one in the U.S., he trotted around the bases and ran into the dugout while his teammates ignored him. 

A moment later, they rushed to congratulate him. 

The Orioles quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead off Mike Clevinger. 

Adam Jones walked, and with one out, Manny Machado singled and Chris Davis walked to load the bases. Mark Trumbo slammed a ball off the left field wall scoring all three runners. 

Jonathan Schoop doubled to start the fourth, moved to third on a fly ball by Nolan Reimold and scored on Ryan Flaherty’s first RBI of the season, a sacrifice fly to center. 

Chris Tillman (7-1) didn’t allow a hit in the first three innings, but Carlos Santana led off the fourth with a home run, his ninth of the season, and with one out, Francisco Lindor walked and Mike Napoli homered, his 10th of the season, and the lead was cut to 4-3.

Jason Kipnis tied the score at four with his seventh home run in the bottom of the sixth. 

Tillman gave up three home runs in his first 10 starts, and equaled that total in six innings. He allowed four runs on four hits.

Brad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth, but Kipnis singled to start the eighth, and Lindor doubled. Darren O’Day came on to face Napoli, and retired him on a ground ball to third. Jose Ramirez was walked intentionally to load the bases. 

Lonnie Chisenhall fouled off six straight pitches, and was finally called out on strikes for the second out, and Yan Gomes struck out to end the inning.

Reimold hit his fourth home run of the year off Tommy Hunter in the ninth to give the Orioles some breathing room. 

Zach Britton pitched the ninth for his 14th save, but it wasn’t easy. Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis started the inning with singles. Santana hit into a force play, and Britton ended it by striking out Kipnis and Lindor.

NOTE: The Orioles open a four-game homestand on Monday with Boston. Steven Wright (4-4, 2.52) faces Tyler Wilson (2-3, 3.80).

A cautionary tale about Andrew Bynum (and possibly Hassan Whiteside)

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A cautionary tale about Andrew Bynum (and possibly Hassan Whiteside)

Andrew Bynum had is fully guaranteed multimillions. He’d made an All-Star Game and soon after he checked -- maybe cashed is the better word -- out. Now, he’s making headlines for looking like Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man and makes me wonder about this offseason with so much cash flooding the market who’ll be the next Bynum.

Bynum, 28, is a cautionary tale for NBA teams especially when it comes to doling out max money to free agents with character questions.

Hassan Whiteside, 26, immediately comes to mind. He will command it from somehwere, but given his personality and tendency to care more about himself than the team (currently Miami Heat) he comes with risk. When a player with character questions with no job security is hungry, literally, he can suppress those flaws that made them a former NBA player. But what happens when Whiteside goes from earning $981,000 in the final year of a two-year deal vs. $93 million-plus over four years which is his max salary calcuations?

Whiteside was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2010 and after two uneventful seasons played in Lebanon and China. He even had an altercation with DeMarcus Cousins in practice and went to the D-League. He had a remarkable 2015-16, averaging17.6 points, 14.7 rebounds and 4.6 blocks With him injured, the Heat fell to the Toronto Raptors in seven games of the East semifinals.

What's the Bynum parallel? Bynum had great numbers too and actually won something. He spent his first seven seasons with the L.A. Lakers and averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in 2011-12. He won two NBA championships. In that final year in L.A., he finally made the All-Star Game.

Rather than being grateful for being at the event, he was bitter. He repeatedly responded, “I don’t care" and "I really don't want to be here." His posture was worse. He refused to put on a good face at the fan showcase considering the league made him a millionaire out of high school. 

While most players appreciate the gesture from fans who vote for the starters or the league’s coaches who vote in reserves, the 7-footer truly was aloof. That was the same season that Bynum was benched by then-coach Mike Brown for shooting an ill-advised three-pointer in a game and then he defiantly told media afterwards if he felt like doing it again he would.

This was the same Bynum who delivered a vicious cheap shot to under-6-foot guard J.J. Barea as the Dallas Mavericks swept them out of the second round of the 2011 playoffs. It was a forearm under the outstretched arm of Barea as he drove to the basket from a 285-pound man. Bynum was angry as his Lakers trailed by 30 in the fourth of a close-out game. Then he took off his jersey as he headed for the exit after the ejection and walked into the tunnel bare-chested with Metta World Peace (the voice of reason, apparently) escorting him.

Bynum, who made $1.8 million as a rookie made $15 million that final year in L.A., was shipped in a four-team trade to the Philadelphia 76ers who picked up his $17 million 2013-14 season though Bynum never played for them. Why? Despite already dealing with knee issues, he made them worse by bowling. He hadn't been heard from since.

Maybe Whiteside doesn't fall into this cycle (and he doesn't have Bynum's knees). He's too good to let walk on by, especially if you're the bottom-dwelling Lakers of today or the Houston Rockets who'll part ways with Dwight Howard. But a team must have the right culture for him to propser which is why the Rockets probably wouldn't be the best fit.

Heat President Pat Riley has no choice but to attempt to keep Whiteside in the fold. If there were better free agents out there available at the position instead of the 30-and-over likes of Chris Kaman, Al Jefferson, Joakim Noah, Zaza Pachulia, Ian Mahinmi he might be more inclined to let him walk. Like with the oft-injured Bradley Beal getting a max offer from the Wizards, supply vs. demand creates the backdrop for all of this. The scarcity of assets causes value soar.

Teams take risks on younger players with questionable attitudes and even health. They play the "what if" game and hope year-by-year progression bears fruit. Maybe Whiteside has reformed, but for most of his career he has been a malcontent. What happens when he no longer has to toe the line to stay in the NBA? What happens when he knows no matter what he does or says, $93 million will eventually show up in his bank account? 

If he continues to get better, Whiteside will then be a bargain. Or, like the Indiana Pacers found out after they gave Roy Hibbert a $60 million deal (when the cap was $58 million), that team will have buyer's remorse. Perhaps Whiteside won't be the player who fails to hold up his end of the bargain, but it'll be someone in this free-agent class. Just give it a year or two.