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USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - News and notes by Mau­reen Mullen

Trans­ac­tions, stand­ings, cal­en­dars, se­ries to watch.

Bal­ti­more Orioles

Right-han­der Alex Cobb didn’t sign with the Orioles un­til March 21 and missed spring train­ing, then went 2-12 with a 6.41 ERA in 17 first-half starts.

But his ERA since the All-Star break, de­spite a 2-3 record, is 2.15, and in his first five Au­gust starts, span­ning 35 in­nings, he was 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA de­spite deal­ing with a blis­ter on his right hand for much of that time. In­cluded in that stretch was his first nine-in­ning com­plete game since 2012.

“It was tough early on in the sea­son, deal­ing with just the fail­ures, not only as a team but me per­son­ally, and feel­ing like I re­ally con­tributed poorly to the first half,” Cobb said. “You try to pick your­self up and build on some pos­i­tives and make a run with that and re­ally show that you can con­trib­ute, you should be here. That’s been my fo­cus since I got here, re­ally.”

❚ Cobb’s com­plete game was the sec­ond by a Bal­ti­more pitcher this sea­son (Dy­lan Bundy had the other). It is the first time Orioles pitch­ers have recorded at least two com­plete games in a sea­son since 2014.

Bos­ton Red Sox

The week­end was a wake-up call for the Red Sox in gen­eral and for right-han­der Rick Por­cello in par­tic­u­lar.

Bos­ton was swept at Tampa Bay, its first se­ries loss after go­ing 10-0-4 in its pre­vi­ous 14. The last time the Red Sox went that long with­out drop­ping a se­ries was 1972, when their streak reached 16.

And Por­cello’s loss Aug. 25 gave him his first back-to-back de­feats of the sea­son and dropped his sec­ond-half record to 4-3 with a 4.33 ERA. He was 11-4 with a 4.13 ERA in 20 firsthalf starts.

“It should teach us that we’ve got to come in and play and do the things we’ve been do­ing all year that have made us suc­cess­ful, and teams aren’t go­ing to lay down be­cause we’ve got 90 wins or what­ever it is,” Por­cello said. “We’ve still got to play base­ball. Noth­ing is done here, you know?”

❚ J.D. Martinez en­tered the week lead­ing the ma­jors in bat­ting av­er­age and RBI and was one homer be­hind Oak­land’s Khris Davis. The only Red Sox player ever to lead the ma­jors in homers, RBI and av­er­age in a sea­son was Ted Wil­liams in 1942.

New York Yankees

Left-han­der J.A. Happ has been nearly per­fect since the Yankees ac­quired him from the Blue Jays be­fore the trade dead­line, so­lid­i­fy­ing a ro­ta­tion that has fal­tered at times.

Happ’s lat­est gem gave him a 5-0 record and 2.37 ERA with 32 strike­outs in 301⁄3 in­nings for New York. He is the first pitcher to win his first five starts for the Yankees since Bob Tur­ley in 1955.

“He’s given us ex­actly what we’ve needed. He’s been able to pitch deep into games and be ef­fi­cient,” man­ager Aaron Boone said.

Happ — at 35 a first-time All-Star this year — is 15-6 over­all and has a chance to reach 20 wins for the sec­ond time in three sea­sons.

❚ CC Sa­bathia hon­ored the Black Aces dur­ing Play­ers’ Week­end with a pair of cus­tom­ized cleats. The Black Aces, of which Sa­bathia is a mem­ber, are a group of 15 African-Amer­i­can pitch­ers who have won at least 20 games in a sea­son. Sa­bathia won 21 games for the Yankees in 2010 and has 244 vic­to­ries in his 18-year ca­reer.

Tampa Bay Rays

Out­fielder Tommy Pham was lim­ited by in­juries (dis­lo­cated fin­ger, right foot frac­ture) after be­ing ac­quired from the Car­di­nals be­fore the trade dead­line and was 2-for-22 (.091) in his first seven games for the Rays.

But after miss­ing three more games last week, Pham was back in the lineup Aug. 25 and hit his first homer in more than a month.

“Tommy’s go­ing to do a lot of big things for us,” man­ager Kevin Cash said. “Good to get him back on the field.”

It was Pham’s 15th homer of the sea­son. He hit a ca­reer-high 23 in 2017.

❚ Catcher Michael Perez, who made his ma­jor league de­but July 26, had four RBI on Aug. 24 against Bos­ton, match­ing his to­tal in his first 20 games. He drove in two more runs Aug. 26.

❚ The Rays have set sin­gle­sea­son team records by us­ing 31 pitch­ers, 16 start­ing pitch­ers (most in the ma­jors) and 20 rook­ies. Of the 25 play­ers on the Aug. 26 ac­tive ros­ter, 13 (52 per­cent) were rook­ies and 16 (64 per­cent) had fewer than two years of ser­vice time.

Toronto Blue Jays

Troy Tu­low­itzki is go­ing to miss the en­tire sea­son, giv­ing cre­dence to spec­u­la­tion that his days at short­stop might be over.

Bo Bichette is con­sid­ered Toronto’s short­stop of the fu­ture, and Aled­mys Diaz has been the pri­mary short­stop this sea­son.

But Tu­low­itzki doesn’t seem in­ter­ested in chang­ing po­si­tions. “I would love for it to be a com­pe­ti­tion, be­cause that makes our team bet­ter,” he told “I re­mem­ber be­ing a rookie, peo­ple thought I had no chance to make the team out of spring train­ing. I had to beat out a vet­eran.”

Tu­low­itzki, who hasn’t played in a game since July 28, 2017, had surgery on both heels in early April and orig­i­nally was ex­pected to be out for only eight weeks.

❚ DH Kendrys Mo­rales had home­red in seven con­sec­u­tive games, one short of the ma­jor league record, through Aug. 26. That gave him 21 for the sea­son; he hit 28 last year.

“Ob­vi­ously, it was nice to get into a save sit­u­a­tion, but def­i­nitely weird fac­ing the guys who I’ve been with for so long.”

Zach Brit­ton Yankees left-han­der, after record­ing his first save for New York. The Yankees ac­quired him July 24 in a trade with the Orioles, the team that drafted him in the third round in 2006.


The Rays still have high hopes for Tommy Pham, who was lim­ited by in­juries and got off to a slow start after join­ing the team at the trade dead­line.

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