USA TODAY Sports Weekly

Baez pans Mets fans; Molina back for 1 more

- Milwaukee Brewers St. Louis Cardinals Colorado Rockies Contributi­ng: Danny Knobler, John Perrotto, Jay Paris, wire reports

RHP Brandon Woodruff is a big reason why the Brewers entered the week with a commanding lead in the NL Central. The 28-year-old was 8-7 with a 2.38 ERA through 25 starts and had pitched at least six innings in 18 games.

He said the key to his success is throwing first-pitch strikes:

“When I can get ahead, I’m able to locate the fastball, for the most part. It just helps me out so much more with everything else. That’s my game. In this game, there’s always a few moments when you have to really lock it in and just mentally slow things down.”

❚ Bench coach Pat Murphy was ejected Aug. 28 by second base umpire Adrian Johnson while the lineup cards were exchanged. The Brewers were upset the game was going to start despite threatenin­g weather.

Pittsburgh Pirates

RF Gregory Polanco, the lone remaining player from the Pirates’ last postseason team in 2015, was given his unconditio­nal release after hitting .208 with 11 home runs in 107 games.

The highest-paid player on the roster by far at $11.6 million, Polanco had become the target of frequent booing by the fans. The jeering reached its peak Aug. 25 when he made a pivotal error in a loss to the Arizona Diamondbac­ks.

“To Gregory’s credit, the way he handled it was so profession­al and so understand­ing,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He understand­s what we’re doing as an organizati­on, how we’re moving forward. I had a ton of respect for him (before and) I have even more respect for him now.”

❚ The Pirates, who are last in the majors in several offensive categories, fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein on Aug. 30. He is the brother of former major league infielder David Eckstein.

C Yadier Molina, 39, signed a one-year, $10 million contract extension for 2022 and said he will retire after that. He is in his 18th season since breaking into the major leagues with the Cardinals in 2004.

“It’s hard to keep up in this game to a high level,” Molina said. “When you’re 39, it’s tough. I try my best. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be able to finish strong next year and try to bring the trophy back to St. Louis this year and next year.”

Molina was hitting .256 with eight home runs through 99 games. He has won nine Gold Gloves and been selected to 10 All-Star Games and played for the World Series champions in 2006 and 2011.

❚ RHP Adam Wainwright is 4-0 with a 0.30 ERA against the Pirates this year and unbeaten against them in his last 17 starts dating to opening day in 2016. He shut them out for seven innings Aug. 28 at Pittsburgh.

NL WEST Arizona Diamondbac­ks

The last-place Diamondbac­ks lineup will be skewed toward the team’s youth movement in the final month, manager Torey Lovullo said.

Veterans such as 1B Christian Walker and LF David Peralta will be marginaliz­ed. 1B/OF Pavin Smith or 1B Seth Beer (having a productive season in Class AAA) eventually could replace Walker.

IF/OF Josh Rojas has been playing regularly and will continue to do so. CF Daulton Varsho, 2B Josh VanMeter and 3B Drew Ellis also are expected to see the field more.

❚ SS Jordan Lawlar, the Dbacks’ top prospect, lasted only two games in his first minor league season before being sidelined until 2022 by a shoulder injury. Lawlar was the sixth overall pick of this year’s draft.

LF Raimel Tapia’s anticipate­d return from a toe injury is welcomed by the Rockies. The speedy Tapia has been the Rockies’ most consistent player, batting .288 with a career-high 24 doubles, and has energized their running game atop the order with a career-best 19 steals.

OFs Connor Joe and Sam Hilliard replaced Tapia, and Joe improved his stock while resurrecti­ng his career with steady performanc­es. Hilliard is expected to be a key contributo­r in Colorado’s future, but he was hitting .200 through Aug. 29.

❚ The Rockies had won three straight games away from Coors Field just once through Aug. 29. But their road woes took a temporary vacation when they took two of three from the Dodgers on Aug. 27-29 at Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers know their showdown with the San Francisco Giants on Sept. 3-5 is significant in determinin­g the NL West title. But they declined to tinker with their rotation plans leading up to it, which means RHP Max Scherzer won’t face the Giants.

In his first five starts after coming over from the Washington Nationals, Scherzer was 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 29 innings.

But Scherzer is out because manager Dave Roberts gave his starters an extra day of rest before the Giants series.

LHP David Price will lead a bullpen game in one outing at San Francisco, and the other two starts will fall to LHP Julio Urias and RHP Walker Buehler. Urias, in particular, is having his work monitored because he already has reached a career high in innings pitched (144 2⁄3 through Aug. 29).

❚ LHP Clayton Kershaw (forearm) isn’t expected to be ready when he is eligible to exit the injured list on Sept. 5.

San Diego Padres

RHP Joe Musgrove, who earlier this year threw the franchise’s first no-hitter, became the Padres’ stopper as they tried to stay relevant in the NL wildcard race.

RHP Yu Darvish has been slowed by forearm issues, and LHP Blake Snell has been a disappoint­ment although he did have a 2.12 ERA through five starts in August.

Musgrove was the only Padres starter to log more than 7 2⁄3 innings through Aug. 29, and he had done it twice. He also was one of four pitchers in the majors with two shutouts and was 10th in the NL with a 2.85 ERA through 26 games (25 starts).

❚ When the Padres were held to four or fewer hits in all three games while being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 24-26, it marked the first time their offense sputtered to that degree since they dropped three straight to the Cincinnati Reds in 1981.

San Francisco Giants

The expansion of the roster by two players to 28 in September is down from previous seasons. But it still will be of particular use to the Giants, whose interchang­eable parts have been a major weapon.

3B Evan Longoria was set to be activated Aug. 31 after recovering from a hand injury, but his addition didn’t require that anyone else be sent down. Longoria’s season previously was interrupte­d by a shoulder injury on June 5, and he was hurt again just five games into his return.

The Giants also added to their pitching staff by claiming LHP Jose Quintana on waivers from the Los Angeles Angels.

❚ RHP Logan Webb needed only three pitches in an inning to retire the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 28. Only six pitchers in the club’s San Francisco history have matched Webb’s feat.

 ?? CHARLES LECLAIRE/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? The Cardinals’ Yadier Molina signed a one-year extension to play in 2022, after which he’ll retire.
CHARLES LECLAIRE/USA TODAY SPORTS The Cardinals’ Yadier Molina signed a one-year extension to play in 2022, after which he’ll retire.

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