USA TODAY Sports Weekly

AL and NL notes: 300 saves (and counting) for Aroldis Chapman; young Astros OF seizes chance; Javier Baez butts heads with Mets fans.

- COMPILED BY RICK VACEK

AL EAST Baltimore Orioles

Trying to streamline his mechanics, LHP Keegan Akin pitched exclusivel­y from the stretch Aug. 26 against the Los Angeles Angels and won for the first time this season after eight losses.

His ERA still was 7.26, but it was his strongest outing of the season. He allowed one run in a career-high seven innings for his first quality start.

“Trying to keep things simple,” he said. “I was overthinki­ng things there for a stretch.”

Akin was the first O’s starter to pitch into the seventh since LHP John Means on May 24.

❚ The Aug. 26 win was the Orioles’ second in succession after snapping their 19-game losing streak the day before. With three homers in the first game, Baltimore became the first team to hit two or more homers off Angels RHP Shohei Ohtani in his career.

Boston Red Sox

Rather than make a deadline trade for a starter, the Red Sox believed LHP Chris Sale would be the pitcher they needed after he returned from Tommy John elbow surgery. Sale responded by going 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA in his first three starts.

In one of those outings, on Aug. 26 against the Minnesota Twins, he retired the first 14 batters and had his third immaculate inning (three strikeouts on nine pitches). Sandy Koufax is only other pitcher in major league history with three.

But Sale’s starts were against three last-place teams – the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers in addition to the Twins – and he didn’t last more than 5 1⁄3 innings in any of them.

Manager Alex Cora said it’s still like spring training for Sale.

❚ OF J.D. Martinez snapped a 0-for-20 skid by going 3-for-5 Aug. 28 at Cleveland. His 10thinning, three-run homer was the difference in Boston’s victory.

New York Yankees

LH closer Aroldis Chapman became the 31st pitcher to record 300 career saves, joining Mariano Rivera as the only Yankees on the list with a scoreless ninth inning Aug. 26 against the Athletics at Oakland.

Chapman, who was out Aug. 6-17 because of a sore elbow, recently has gotten competitio­n for the closer’s job. One of the candidates is LHP Wandy Peralta, a veteran but not an experience­d closer.

“He’s fearless,” manager Aaron Boone said of Peralta, “and he’s got the arsenal and the stuff to be a really good reliever.”

With the help of the coaching staff, Chapman made some mechanical adjustment­s and started using his fastball more than he had in previous outings.

❚ The Yankees’ 13-game winning streak, their longest since a 13-gamer in 1961, ended Aug. 28 at Oakland. The Yankees have had six longer streaks in team history, including a team-record 19 straight in 1947.

Tampa Bay Rays

RHP Pete Fairbanks returned after missing a month because of a sore shoulder, and it could be the first of several valuable arms to join a relief corps that still led the major leagues with a 3.04 ERA entering the week.

RHPs Nick Anderson, J.P. Feyereisen and Ryan Thompson, who all have missed extended time because of injuries, were on the verge of returning. RHP David Robertson, signed to a minor league deal Aug. 16, also was ready to be in the mix.

The bullpen had a 4.40 ERA, 18th in the majors, in a 30-day stretch through Aug. 29.

“We’ve had a lot of turnover and moving parts here the last couple of weeks, but everyone’s stepped up,” RH reliever Andrew Kittredge said.

❚ The Rays entered the week 34 games over .500, tying the best mark in franchise history. They were 96-62 in the final week of the 2008 season.

Toronto Blue Jays

Relying heavily on his slider, LHP Robbie Ray matched his career high with 14 strikeouts against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 25. He is the fifth Toronto pitcher in history to reach that mark and the first left-hander to do so.

“He’s obviously come pretty close to perfecting that slider that just comes at you in the strike zone and takes a bite toward the third-base line,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “Our game plan was to take it if we could recognize it. And that’s easier said than done.”

After leading the majors in walks last season, Ray came into the week with only 37 bases on balls and was third in the majors in strikeouts with 192.

❚ LHP Steven Matz has allowed two or fewer earned runs in seven of his last eight starts and has a 2.16 ERA in that span.

AL CENTRAL Chicago White Sox

C Yasmani Grandal returned from the injured list Aug. 27 after a nearly twomonth absence and hit two homers while tying a franchise record with eight RBI in a 17-13 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Grandal played in 11 minor league games on a rehab assignment after recovering from a torn tendon in his left knee.

“I was supposed to leave before I did. I told them ‘Hey, this is not going to work. We’re going to have to push it back a little bit more,’ ” Grandal said. “But once I got to the minor leagues, I wasn’t going to come up until I was 100% ready.”

❚ LHP Dallas Keuchel is in danger of not being in the postseason rotation. He entered the week 2-5 with a 6.79 ERA in his last 10 starts.

Cleveland

Perhaps MLB’s crackdown on pitchers using sticky substances caused RHP James Karinchak to lose his grip on a major league roster spot.

Karinchak was optioned to Class AAA Columbus (Ohio) on Aug. 28 after posting an 8.40 ERA with nine strikeouts in 15 innings over his last 18 games. He began the season by striking out 68 in 39 1⁄3 innings and posting a 2.52 ERA in 41 games.

The downturn began right around the time of the crackdown. Asked if there was any relation, pitching coach Carl Willis said, “That’s something that you’d have to ask him.”

❚ RHP Aaron Civale, out since June 22 because of a sprained right middle finger, hit 92 mph while throwing 4 1⁄3 scoreless innings Aug. 27 during a rehab assignment at High-A Lake County (Eastlake, Ohio).

 ?? MIKE DINOVO/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? In his first game back after nearly two months, White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal hit two home runs while tying a franchise record with eight RBI in a win over the Cubs.
MIKE DINOVO/USA TODAY SPORTS In his first game back after nearly two months, White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal hit two home runs while tying a franchise record with eight RBI in a win over the Cubs.

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