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The Monday Takeaway
They say you get what you pay for, and with Daniel Norris, Jairo Labourt, and Matt Boyd, the Blue Jays paid for two or three months of an ace. An ace who could quiet the surprisingly potent offense of one of their primary postseason competitors. An ace who could work deep into games for a contender whose pitching staff is the wobbly leg on an otherwise sturdy stool. An ace who could shoulder a heavy load for a team that’s only had three games this year in which its starter worked beyond 115 pitches, and only one in which that got the pitcher in question through the eighth.

David Price was all of those things Monday afternoon in his Toronto debut, entertaining a rowdy crowd at the Rogers Centre, where 45,766 came eagerly dressed in blue on the civic holiday north of the border.

The lefty began his Canadian career with a strikeout of Brian Dozier. He made it two straight by fanning Eduardo Nunez. And a fly out by Trevor Plouffe wrapped up a clean first.

The crowd hushed briefly in the second, when Torii Hunter thumped a solo shot to give the Twins a 1-0 lead

but went right back to cheering when Price bounced back to strike out another pair. It only grew louder when Ryan Goins tied the game with a round-tripper.

Nervous times resumed in the top of the fourth, when a leadoff double by Plouffe was followed not by the strikeouts the fans hoped for from Price, but instead by consecutive walks that loaded the bases. Some of the left-hander’s new teammates might’ve ceded the lead back to the visitors or crumbled altogether. But Price wove his way out of trouble, popping up Eddie Rosario, punching out Aaron Hicks, and whiffing Kurt Suzuki to preserve the 1-1 draw.

It was all Toronto and all Price from that point on.

In the bottom of the fifth, newcomer Troy Tulowitzki singled, setting the stage for a two-run tater off the bat of Josh Donaldson,

whose 27th big fly of the year gave his pitcher all the support he needed.

Price K’d a pair in a clean sixth and one more in a 1-2-3 seventh before Toronto padded his lead to 5-1 with a two-run rally. Then, he caught Eduardo Escobar looking for his 11th strikeout, the most ever by a hurler wearing the Jays uniform for the first time.

Dozier flied out. Nunez grounded out. And with 15 straight outs following the fourth-inning jam, Price’s work here was done.

His line: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 11 K on 119 pitches, 80 of them strikes.

With it, Price became the first Jays starter to eclipse 10 Ks in a game this season and the fourth to get 24 outs without allowing more than three hits.

He gave John Gibbons‘ power-packed offense plenty of opportunities to come through against Ervin Santana, who struggled to get ahead of his opponents. Only nine of the 27 saw first-pitch strikes, and he got 12 of his outs through the air, neither a recipe for success at the homer-boosting Rogers Centre, where the Jays were bound to eventually supply their new ace with adequate support.

Goins tied it, Donaldson untied it, and Edwin Encarnacion and Justin Smoak broke it open against Blaine Boyer in the seventh.

Thanks to them, Price left up 5-1, handing a comfortable cushion to fellow import LaTroy Hawkins, who turned in a scoreless, 10-pitch ninth.

The Jays couldn’t have dreamed up a better debut for Price, a better way to begin their four-game showdown against the Twins, with whom they now share the second Wild Card berth. With three games left in the series and two months to go in the season, there’s plenty of work left to do.

But in acquiring Price, Toronto sought a true no. 1 starter who could win big games in the dog days of August, during the September stretch run, and into October. Tens of thousands flocked to Rogers Centre to see if that’s what they got, giving the southpaw a special setting in which to make his first impression:

David Price: "That was the best atmosphere I've been in." #BlueJays
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) August 3, 2015

And Price gave them exactly what they wanted to see.

Quick Hits from Monday
Even some of the toolsiest players can spend a decade in the majors without once hitting for the cycle. Occasionally, journeymen who’d otherwise be afterthoughts surprise us with one dazzling afternoon that includes a hit of each type. Very rarely does a player earn a second career cycle. And the club of those with three had admitted only a trio before last night.

Its members were Babe Herman, who did it twice in 1931 and once in 1933, Bob Meusel, whose cycling came in the roaring ’20s, and John Reilly, who predated the Modern Era. No one had gained entry in more than eight decades.

One of the few active big-leaguers with two cycles to his name was Adrian Beltre. He notched his first on September 1, 2008 for the Mariners against the Rangers, with Matt Harrison as the Texas starter. His second came in support of Harrison, wearing a Rangers uniform, on August 24, 2012.

And now, days after Harrison was shipped to Philly in the Cole Hamels blockbuster, Beltre has a third.

In a 12-9 barnburner that featured 28 total hits, eight first-inning runs, and a furious Astros rally, the Rangers needed every bit of Beltre’s torrid bat. He got the hardest part out of the way early, contributing a two-run triple

to a six-spot capped by Shin-Soo Choo‘s two-run home run.

Texas stranded Beltre after a second-inning double, but, unsatisfied with a 6-3 lead, the Rangers took it to Mike Fiers in the right-hander’s Astros debut, which came in the third. Beltre added only a non-RBI single to this five-run outburst; Rougned Odor‘s two-run three-bagger dealt the biggest blow to Fiers’ rising ERA.

But just as the Rangers were ready to pull away, the Astros came roaring back, not wanting to wave the white flag just yet. Jason Castro hooked a grand slam inside the right-field pole, and just like that, it was 11-7.

As you might recall, Beltre still had a home run in the hopper. Here it is:

That solo shot completed the cycle and brought home the Rangers’ 12th run of the night. They went on to win 12-9.

In doing so, they gave Colby Lewis a “W” in exchange for six innings of seven-run work, a reward for gobbling up outs just effectively enough to avoid being sent to the showers for squandering a massive lead. Lewis gave up 10 hits and three homers, pounding the zone with stuff the Astros were all too happy to pound right back. Per the Play Index, the veteran righty is the first American League starter to get a win for six or fewer innings of 10-plus hit, seven-plus-earned-run, three-plus-homer work since Mike Mussina on May 19, 1996.

He’s also the first Ranger ever to receive such a gift. And, for the most part, he has Adrian Beltre to thank.

***

The new-look Mets announced to the Nationals that they’re in it to win it with a weekend sweep that put them percentage points shy of the East division lead. In case the Marlins had any lingering doubts about those intentions, Terry Collins‘ club hammered them home Monday in Miami.

Terry Collins’ imports, both internal and external, sprang to life in a 12-1 blowout that featured six doubles, the first time the Mets have collected a half-dozen two-baggers since an 11-10 Coors Field Special in May 2014.

Yoenis Cespedes had three of those doubles, two at the expense of Tom Koehler, who was tagged with seven runs in 4 1/3 innings of work. Travis d’Arnaud accounted for two more doubles off Koehler, and Michael Conforto treated the right-hander to his first career home run:

All the while, Bartolo Colon was doing what he does best: throwing strikes and inducing weak contact. He did that for eight innings, keeping the Fish to five singles and two Christian Yelich doubles, while striking out five. Buoyed to a 3-0 lead in the second and a 7-0 margin after five, Colon chucked it over the plate and dared the Marlins to hit it, booking first-pitch strikes to 23 of 31 foes and 78 strikes in 101 pitches overall.

Every Mets starter besides Lucas Duda came away with at least one hit Monday, and yes, that includes big Bartolo, who’s up to .150 on the year, not too shabby for a pitcher whose swing has been the butt of many a GIF and Vine in recent years.

Duda, meanwhile, went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and two walks. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, he’s just the fifth player since 1914 to pick up a couple of free passes to go with a golden sombrero in a nine-inning game. The most recent had been Adam Dunn, who also did it against the Marlins, back on June 6, 2008.

Up in the nation’s capital, the D’backs warded off a furious Nationals rally in the ninth inning to win 6-4. And thus, for the first time since June 19th, the Mets are all alone in first place.

***

When it comes to home runs, it’s better late than never. And, as the Giants found out from the Braves Monday, provided you hit enough of them, late is also better than early.

The Giants clubbed the first four big flies of the series opener at Turner Field, where the ball was carrying awfully well on a 91-degree August night. Brandon Belt launched the first, Brandon Crawford drilled two more, and Buster Posey hit one between the shortstop’s pair to push the Giants to a 6-0 lead in the home half of the fourth.

Then the Braves started chipping away.

The first chip was a big one: a three-run shot by Jace Peterson that halved the deficit. An RBI single by Nick Markakis brought home the first non-home-run tally of the evening in the sixth. One inning later, Chris Johnson greeted Hunter Strickland—homer-prone in the 2014 playoffs, but homer-free to this point in 2015—with the loudest swing of a contest teeming with bombs:

Bruce Bochy‘s squad countered with an insurance run in the top of the ninth, and it’s a good thing they did, because otherwise, A.J. Pierzynski would’ve walked off the Braves with this two-out, two-run blast off Santiago Casilla. Instead, Pierzynski’s dinger merely tied the game, sending it to extras.

Three frames later, the Giants rallied to take an 8-7 edge, and handed it over to Ryan Vogelsong, their eighth pitcher of the night. A Crawford error put the tying run on first, but more importantly, it put the winning run at the plate. And when Vogelsong had to challenge Adonis Garcia with a 3-1 offering, the rookie came through with the last and biggest big fly on an eight-homer night in Atlanta:

It handed the Giants their second-straight rough defeat, on the heels of a comeback thwarted in Texas on Sunday. San Francisco fell to three back of the idle Dodgers in the West and dropped a half-game out of the wild-card lead, as the Pirates-Cubs tilt was postponed.

***

If you get 18 hits in a nine-inning game, it’s generally fair for you to expect to win it. Teams have reached that total 140 times since the start of the 2013 season, and they’ve won 137 of them.

Twenty-nine of the 30 big-league clubs are a combined 130-0 when they post a number 18 or higher in the “H” column of the box score. The other one is 7-3.

As you might’ve guessed, the lone laggards—chiefly because of the ballpark they call home—are the Colorado Rockies. And on Monday, the Rockies didn’t just rack up 18 knocks. They did so in a game where the opposing starter was Felix Hernandez.

Trouble is, by the time the Rox got to hitting, the Mariners were up 4-0. So Charlie Blackmon‘s leadoff double barely threatened King Felix, and Jose Reyes‘ ensuing RBI single hardly marked the start of a coup.

Then Kyle Seager tacked a second-inning homer onto his first-inning double. And that was before Nelson Cruz made it a back-to-back set with a solo shot. By then, it was 6-1. And, the next inning, Brad Miller went yard, making it 7-1.

The Rockies got two runs back on four singles in the fourth, then another in the sixth on Blackmon’s second double of the night. But Robinson Cano doubled home Seager—following a walk, steal, and wild pitch—in the seventh, and that insurance tally proved fateful come the last of the ninth.

Tom Wilhelmsen got the ball in a non-save situation, but he quickly flubbed his assignment, giving up a single to Nolan Arenado. That brought new Mariner Rob Rasmussen to the mound for a lefty-lefty faceoff with Carlos Gonzalez, who also singled. And so Lloyd McClendon was compelled to turn to his scuffling closer, Carson Smith.

Smith was fine to start, fanning D.J. LeMahieu, but then Ben Paulsen doubled home both inherited runners and Nick Hundley singled home Paulsen. Suddenly, it was 8-7, and the Rockies had 17 hits. Their 18th was a single by Kyle Parker that advanced pinch-runner Brandon Barnes to third. But pinch-hitter Michael McKenry struck out, Blackmon flied out, and Barnes was stuck 90 feet away when the fat lady sang.

And so the Rockies finished with seven runs on 18 hits. One short on both accounts.

The Questionable Base-Coaching Decision of the Day
Rays 5, White Sox 4. Brad Boxberger in a runner-on-second, zero-out jam. Adam LaRoche plops a single into shallow center field. There is, you might recall, nobody out. And this is what third-base coach Joe McEwing sees:

Alexei Ramirez is about 20 feet shy of third base, looking for the sign from McEwing. Kevin Kiermaier, an elite defensive outfielder, is charging toward the ball, in position to field it just as Ramirez rounds the bag and fire an almost-straight-line throw home. There is nobody out.

Now, in McEwing’s defense, the on-deck hitter is Avisail Garcia, who’s already struck out twice in this game. And, with the benefit of foresight, the decision looks a bit better, because Garcia would go on to earn a hat trick.

Nonetheless, this

is one McEwing would like to have back.

The Best Catcher Framing of the Day
Nice try, A.J.:

Can’t blame A.J. for trying. pic.twitter.com/ryxHJvBpUw
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) August 4, 2015

The Defensive Play of the Day
And, finally, back to our regularly scheduled programming in this part of WYNTK. Take it away, Michael Bourn:

What to Watch on Tuesday
With one of the league’s worst present rotations, Red Sox fans have reason to pine for the future, and they’ll get a glimpse of it this evening when Henry Owens toes the rubber. The left-hander brings a 3.16 ERA up from Triple-A Pawtucket, where he struck out 103 and walked 56 in 122 1/3 innings while serving up only seven home runs.

If you’ve followed Jeff Moore‘s Minor League Update, you’ve learned that Owens has the stuff to dominate when he’s finding the plate. As his 4.1 BB/9 in Pawtucket indicates, control remains a bugaboo for Owens, but it’s one that the Red Sox are apparently comfortable having him sort out at the highest level. Owens will have the pleasure of taking on Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka in the Bronx, the sort of challenge every Red Sox prospect surely dreams of tackling while rising up the minor-league chain, albeit with a narrower gap between the rivals in the standings. Both sides had the day off Monday, and they’ll take the field for the opener with a 13-game margin, the Yankees in first at 59-45, the Red Sox bringing up the caboose at 47-59 (7:05 p.m. ET).

***

July wasn’t kind to Joc Pederson, who took part in the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game festivities, then sank right back into his slump. Pederson wound up batting .169/.229/.258 over 96 plate appearances, striking out 31 times while drawing only four walks. That rut earned the rookie a few days off, which manager Don Mattingly hoped would clear his head, but the early return on that plan was a hitless hat trick Sunday, which is to say: not good.

Pederson got another off day Monday as the Dodgers traveled cross-country to Philadelphia, where they’ll open up a three-game set with the Phillies this evening. Jerome Williams is due to pitch in game one, a bit of good news for Pederson because the veteran righty has punched out only 11 left-handed batters all year.

The 23-year-old Pederson has done his best work this year against changeups and cutters,

bopping four-seam fastballs over the fence on occasion, but also whiffing on them too frequently. He might like to hear that Williams doesn’t throw four-seamers often, and that changeups and cutters are about 45 percent of his pitch mix to lefties.

Add in the favorable Citizens Bank Park, and the stars are aligned for Pederson to snap out of his month-long funk in the first game of the Dodgers’ six-game Tour de Pennsylvania. He’ll aim to back Alex Wood in the former Brave’s post-trade debut (7:05 p.m. ET).

***

If you like strikeouts and filthy sliders, and you have non-baseball plans for tonight, you’re doing it wrong. When it comes to Ks and unhittable breaking balls, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better duel than the one scheduled at U.S. Cellular Field this evening: Chris Archer versus Chris Sale.

The right-handed Archer has 173 strikeouts in 147 1/3 innings, including 11 against the Tigers his last time out. Opponents are batting .172 and slugging .249 off his slider this year, and they’ve struck out in 123 of the 273 at-bats in which it’s been the terminal pitch.

Sale, slinging from the left side, has 177 Ks in 137 2/3 frames, but he’s gone three straight starts without exceeding seven punchouts, noteworthy because he reached double-digits in eight straight earlier this year. Sale is less slider-dependent than Archer, but he’s been even more efficient in racking up Ks with the breaker, doing so 50 times in the 93 at-bats that’ve ended on it.

So, to reiterate: If you love watching sliders like this

or this,

the Rays-White Sox tilt is one you won’t want to miss (8:10 p.m. ET).