Tops in NL East both Win; ChiSox Win late in Texas;

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Both the Mets and Nationals, the two top teams in the NL East came out winners at opposite ends of the country last night. In Washington, the Nationals ended their losing skid with a 5-4 win over the Tigers on a walkoff home run by Clint Robinson. During the game, news broke that starter Stephen Strasburg had been signed for 7 more years with the Nats at a cost of $175 million.  He struck out 11 Tigers in 7+, although he was touched up for a pair of two-run home runs. Nick Castellanos and J.D. Martinez hit the two round trippers. But the Nats’ have won the last 11 starts Strasburg has made and their offense was up to the test. Daniel Murphy hit a 2-run home run accounting for 2 of the 4 runs the Nats got off Anibal Sanchez.  In the 9th, Bryce Harper was ejected for yelling from the dugout at the home plate umpire following a strikeout of Danny Espinosa.  Robinson was sent up as a pinch-hitter and ended the game by leaving the park.

Meantime in Los Angeles, the Mets put up a 4-2 win over the Dodgers.  Scott Kazmir set the tone for the night by giving up a home run on the first pitch of the game to Curtis Granderson. Kevin Plawecki unloaded another home run in the second for a 2-0 Mets lead. Kazmir was lucky to survive the third.  He might not have without help from the Mets. Granderson singled but was thrown out trying to take second. After Asdrubal Cabrera was hit by a pitch and David Wright walked,   Yoenis Cespedes singled home Asdrubal Cabrera on a hit where David Wright went to second. Lucas Duda walked loading the bases and prompting warmup action in the Dodgers’ bull pen. But on Juan Lagares’ fly ball to left, while Wright tried to score Yoenis Cespedes wandered off second for no good reason and was an easy out ending the inning and keeping it 3-0. Trayce Thompson made it a game in the 4th hitting a two-run home run off Steven Matz.  But Matz doubled home the game’s final run in the visiting 6th.

Meantime, the American League’s surprising best team so far, the White Sox took 12 innings to beat the Rangers 8-4 in Texas. Todd Frazier, who the White Sox signed off the Reds roster this winter hit a grand slam in the top of the 12th to provide the margin of victory.  It was his second long ball of the night. The Sox had a 3-1 lead going to the last of the 8th, but the Rangers  put up a pair to tie it. Rougned Odour opened up with a tripple, followed by an RBI single by Adrian Beltre. Ian Desmond doubled home the tying run.  Each team put up a run in the 9th setting up Frazier’s dramatics in the visiting 12th.

The Yankees have won 3 out of 4 following a 6-3 win last night over the Royals.  They hit 5 solo home runs off Chris Young, who in spite of his size (six feet ten,) can’t approach 90 MPH with his fastball. Tonight they send Masahiro Tanaka who has done well up to now against the Royals’ Chris Medlen who was shelled by the Nats for 9 runs over just 2 innings in his last outing. The Cubs and Padres were rained out last night, but will play tonight and have a day/night doubleheader tomorrow at Wrigley. The Orioles and Twins were also a casualty of bad weather, and if there is a makeup it will be Wednesday. Out west, the Cardinals face the Angels in an interleague game.  Mike Leake, who hasn’t won any of his starts, faces the Angels’ Hector Santiago who is 2-1 with a 3.58 ERA.  Leake’s problem is big innings where his foes put up a crooked number. Jacob DeGrom, who won game 5 of last year’s NLDS will face Alex Wood at Chavez Ravine late tonight.

Last year’s World Series MVP, Salvador Perez is 26 today. He’s been with the Royals since August 2011. He’s been an All-Star and won the gold glove as a catcher the last 3 seasons. Nobody should ever tell Perez “You stink,” because at the end of 2013 he got 4 hits after being sprayed with Victoria’s Secret perfume by Alcides Escobar.  He’s switched to 212 VIP cologne and sprays it on for luck before every game.

One of the original  Mets, Jim Hickman is 79. While he didn’t play in their opener in St. Louis, he played his first major league game in their second game, April 14 in New York. The Tennesseean would last until 1974 in the bigs. He was with the Amazing Mets through 1966, then the Dodgers, Cubs and Cardinals.  His Cubs were the team the Mets beat on Oct. 1, 1973 to clinch the NL East. His one All-Star appearance was in 1970 as a member of the Cubs. He hit the last home run in the Polo Grounds at the end of 1963.  A year later when Shea Stadium opened he was the first Met to draw a walk and be hit by a pitch, both in the first game at Shea.  In September 1965 he became the first Met to hit 3 home runs in a game, which he managed at a rusting Sportsman’s Park which had less than a season to remain open. In the 12th inning of the 1970 All-Star game, he hit the single that drove in Pete Rose with the infamous and now illegal slide that ruined Ray Fosse’s career. Hickman and both pitchers of record-Claude Osteen the winner and loser Clyde Wright, all hailed from Tennessee.

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