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Los Angeles Dodger Trevor Bauer starts strong and hangs on for win in debut



Trevor Bauer stood near the back of the mound, breathed slowly, swayed his head and took two steps forward to assume his position on the rubber.

It was the middle of the seventh inning, and Bauer was nine outs away from recording his first career no-hitter in impressive and emphatic fashion — at Coors Field, a hellscape for opposing pitchers, and in his first start since winning the National League Cy Young Award, signing with the reigning champion Los Angeles Dodgers and obtaining a record-setting contract.

Bauer’s first pitch in Friday’s bottom of the seventh, a 90 mph fastball, was lined to left field for a base hit by Trevor Story. His third pitch, a 75 mph knuckle curve, was deposited into the Colorado Rockies’ bullpen in right-center field. His 11th pitch, an 84 mph cutter to Ryan McMahon, sailed over the right-field scoreboard.

Bauer had gone from untouchable to unrecognizable in an instant, a reminder of the oddities that perpetuate a baseball stadium residing more than 5,000 feet above sea level.

On Thursday, a Cody Bellinger two-run homer was scored as a one-run single after Justin Turner crossed paths with him on the bases. On Friday, a fluffy gray cat ran out near the third-base dugout and settled in center field to take a break. And through both nights, the mighty Dodgers accumulated a whopping 31 hits — none of which resulted in home runs. Weird.

“Weird? Come on, media, you guys should love this — we’re not just relying on the home-run ball,” Turner said after an 11-6 victory. “How many times have we heard that in the past?”

There isn’t a whole lot that can be gleaned from 1.2% of a season, but the first two games of 2021 — a win and a loss — have reinforced two obvious points about a Dodgers team that might threaten to break the single-season wins record.

1. The offense could be among the greatest ever. Corey Seager (5-for-8) has stayed locked in through the 2020 regular season, the ensuing playoffs, the spring training that spilled over into the new year and the real games that followed it. But Mookie Betts, Max Muncy and Will Smith are already in sync, Bellinger looks comfortable with a slightly open stance, and 23-year-old second baseman Gavin Lux, who simplified his swing largely by cutting out the excess hand movement in his setup, looks poised to break out.

2. Adding Bauer to this rotation is unfair.

Through the first six innings of his 2021 debut, Bauer allowed one baserunner, recorded nine strikeouts and seemed primed to join Hideo Nomo as the only pitchers to throw a no-hitter at Coors Field. He was commanding his slider and cutter, two pitches that accounted for 12 of his 15 swings and misses, and staring down the Rockies’ hitters as they swung through them.

It marked the third time Bauer took a no-hitter into the seventh, but also the third time he couldn’t complete it.

“I don’t really care,” he said. “If it happens, it happens. It’s not something that’s in the pitcher’s control. Unless you strike out 27 guys, there’s gonna be balls put in play and that’s luck, whether they get hit at people or the defense makes a great play.

“There were a lot of great defensive plays behind me tonight. I very easily could have given up hits before the seventh. I look at it as luck and I try to focus on things I can control, which is my physical preparation, mental preparation, the stuff coming out of my hand, my decisions on the mound and where the ball ends up at the plate. Those are really the only five things I can control.”

Most of the questions surrounding the Dodgers’ surprise signing of Bauer this offseason centered on social-media history and overall reputation, but there were also questions about his pitching.

Before last year’s dominant season with the Cincinnati Reds — at least partly influenced by a regionalized schedule in which he constantly faced inferior lineups — Bauer had posted a 3.99 ERA while averaging 181 innings from 2014 to 2019. He was a reliable, well-above-average starter, but not necessarily the type of rotation anchor who would command $85 million over a two-year stretch.

Bauer refuted that notion in spring training, noting the injuries he dealt with in 2019 and stating that his numbers compare favorably to the likes of Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg since he altered his approach for the second half of the 2017 season. (For the record: Bauer’s numbers are very similar to Strasburg’s during that stretch, even though Bauer accumulated significantly more innings, but Cole’s are noticeably better.)

“If you actually look at it,” Bauer said in early March, “I’ve been pretty elite.”

His first six innings of 2021 seemed to validate some of that.

Watching it fall apart in the seventh — possibly a byproduct of Bauer spending a lot of time running the bases in the thin air of Colorado during the prior half-inning — didn’t change much.

“This is the first time I really got to watch him compete in a regular-season game, and it was really fun to watch,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He was in complete control.”

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Oakland Athletics continue stadium negotiations to stay in town, still considering Las Vegas option



Oakland Athletics president Dave Kaval stood somewhere near the south side of the Las Vegas Strip on Wednesday morning, with the Cosmopolitan and Planet Hollywood within eyesight. Kaval will be there alongside his architect over the next two days, he said, sitting in on a series of meetings and analyzing where a prospective new stadium could someday reside. Meanwhile, negotiations with the city of Oakland regarding a 35,000-seat waterfront ballpark at the Howard Terminal site are in what Kaval described as “the bottom of the ninth inning.”

Oakland City Council officials voted Tuesday in favor of a non-binding term sheet for the ballpark and its surrounding development, a project that will cost up to $12 billion. But Kaval pushed back because the city voted in favor of a term sheet that differed from the one the A’s proposed three months earlier and included amendments that the team was seeing for the first time. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred followed with a statement expressing disappointment in the outcome and promising to “immediately begin conversations with the A’s to chart a path forward for the Club.”

What, exactly, does that mean?

“I think we need to unpack what was passed and what it means,” Kaval said in a phone interview with ESPN. “The fact that the city did not vote on our proposal — I mean it’s unusual to have that positioning. We do appreciate some of the concessions that were made. I think the party had been negotiating in good faith to try to get to a mutually agreeable solution. Obviously we didn’t get there before the vote. And so we have to balance that progress with some of the stark realities of, ‘How do we move this project into an implementation phase?’ We can’t let the process be the product.”

The A’s made a public proposal in April stating they would privately finance the ballpark, which will cost an estimated $1 billion, while also providing $450 million in community benefits and arranging for an additional $11 billion in private investment to eventually build up the surrounding neighborhood with 3,000 residential units, up to 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, 270,000 square feet for retail, an indoor 3,500-seat performance center, 400 hotel rooms and up to 18 acres available for public parks.

The city countered with a plan that includes three key differences: a new financial structure that depends on only one infrastructure financing district, preventing the A’s from creating an additional one at Jack London Square; an increase in affordable housing demands to 35% of residential units; and an additional community benefits fund that isn’t solely committed to capital investments.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other community leaders hosted a news conference near the Howard Terminal site on Wednesday morning in which they touted the city’s proposal and urged the A’s to continue negotiating. Schaaf said she’s noticing an “openness” from the A’s, adding that the city “provided the primary things that they asked for, that they have said they need to keep going on this process.”

“I respect that they’re trying to keep the heat on,” Schaaf said, “and what better place to go than Vegas for heat.”

Kaval, on the other hand, painted the Vegas trips as due diligence to cover for a project that might not materialize and provide a parallel path for a team playing in an outdated facility. Kaval said he wants more specifics about how the A’s would be reimbursed for a $352 million infrastructure payment and more specificity around when environmental clearances will be given and when a final binding vote can occur, ideally by the end of the current baseball season.

Oakland city officials see their counterproposal from Friday, and the amendments that were introduced on Tuesday, as the natural evolution of a negotiation.

A’s officials basically see it as a new agreement entirely.

“We need to know what was passed, how it relates to our original proposal,” Kaval said. “We need to understand the timeline to get the definitive vote. And we need to work really closely with the league, because they have a strong point of view on this. They wanna make sure the A’s have a home. We really are running out of time. We’re under a lot of pressure because our current facility is 10 years past its useful life. Let’s not forget that going sideways is really no longer an option.”

The A’s have spent the better part of the past two decades hoping to secure a new stadium in the Bay Area, a pursuit that took them through San Jose, Fremont and multiple sites in Oakland, most notably around Laney College. Renovations of the current Coliseum site, where the A’s have played since 1968, have been deemed nonviable largely because of the team’s stated desire for a downtown location.

Manfred said before last week’s All-Star Game that it would be a “mistake” to refer to the Las Vegas option as a bluff, calling it “a viable alternative for a major league club.” Other relocation options — including Portland, Oregon; Nashville, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Montreal — could materialize if the team’s deal with the city falls through.

That is not necessarily the case just yet.

“We’re focused on the two parallel paths — Oakland and southern Nevada,” Kaval said. “That’s by the direction of the league, and that will remain our focus until they give us additional direction.”

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New York Mets trade OF Billy McKinney to Los Angeles Dodgers for minor leaguer, cash



CINCINNATI — The New York Mets traded outfielder Billy McKinney to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday for minor league outfielder Carlos Rincon and cash.

The NL East-leading Mets also claimed right-hander Roel Ramírez off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Mets acquired McKinney from Milwaukee on May 25. In 39 games with New York, the 26-year-old batted .220 (20 for 91) with six doubles, a triple, five home runs and 14 RBI. He was designated for assignment on July 16.

The 23-year-old Rincon hit .263 with 12 homers and 48 RBI in 63 games at Double-A Tulsa. He will report to Double-A Binghamton.

The 26-year-old Ramirez will be optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. He pitched in one game for St. Louis this year and one game last season.

Ramirez was 0-1 with one save and a 4.34 ERA in 20 games with Triple-A Memphis this year.

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Baltimore Orioles pitcher Keegan Akin and outfielder Anthony Santander on COVID injured list



ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Baltimore Orioles placed left-hander Keegan Akin and outfielder Anthony Santander on the COVID-19 injured list before Wednesday’s game at Tampa Bay.

Akin had been scheduled to start against the Rays.

Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde learned about the situation late Tuesday night.

“We’re following the protocols,” Hyde said. “There’s going to be more information. This is pretty last-minute news, so there’s going to be more information as we go along, but right now we’re putting two guys on the injured list because of COVID protocols and then we’ll go from there.”

Alexander Wells, who was on the taxi squad, replaced Akin as Wednesday’s starter. Outfielder Ryan McKenna, who had been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday, rejoined the team.

“You’ve seen it a few times here with the league with other clubs,” Hyde said. “It’s really the first time this has happened with us and it’s unfortunate, but I saw that a couple other teams had same sort of issue recently and ready for it to be over.”

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