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MLB Weekly Report: Ben Sheets Wins First Game Since 2010

Ben Sheets Win
Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

The All-Star break made for a short week around the big leagues. Here’s what’s happening in Major League Baseball:

Ben Sheets Gets a Win as Braves beat Mets 6-1

Former pitching ace Ben Sheets tossed six scoreless innings in his debut for the Braves on Sunday, as Atlanta beat the New York Mets, 6-1. Sheets, who last pitched in the major leagues with Oakland in 2010, was making his first major league start since having surgery to replace a ligament in his right arm. Sheets’ performance helped Atlanta (49-39) sweep the Mets and extend its winning streak to seven games. If Sheets can regain the form that helped make him a four-time All-Star during his career with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2001 to 2008, the Braves could win the NL East.

Ryan Dempster Extends Scoreless Streak

Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster threw six scoreless innings on Saturday in the Cubs 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Dempster’s performance extended his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 33. While the Cubs (36-52), who trail Cincinnati by 14 games in the NL Central, have little hope of making the post-season, Dempster has a legitimate chance via trade. In the final year of a four-year, $52 million contract, Dempster is among the most coveted starting pitchers as the July 31 deadline approaches. The Cubs should be able to get at least one solid prospect for the veteran starter.

Ozzie Guillen Asks Umpire To Check Pine Tar on Bryce Harper’s Bat

The Washington Nationals (51-35) and Miami Marlins (42-46) may be on the verge of an NL East rivalry. Miami manager Ozzie Guillen asked home-plate umpire Tom Foster to check the bat of Nationals’ rookie Bryce Harper for pine tar in the first inning of Sunday’s 4-0 Washington victory. Later in the game, Guillen felt Harper gestured toward him after replacing his bat, so the Marlins’ manager left the dugout. Guillen wouldn’t comment further, but he said he intended to talk to Washington manager Davey Johnson about Harper’s gesture.

Play of the Week: Quintin Berry, Detroit Tigers

Few teams have played better in July than the Detroit Tigers. In the clip below, left fielder Quintin Berry takes a home run away from Baltimore’s Wilson Betemit in Detroit’s 7-2 win over the Orioles on Friday

Upcoming Series to Watch: Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox

The AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox (49-39) visit Fenway Park for four games starting on Monday. While the Boston Red Sox (45-44) are still very much alive in the AL Wild Card chase, the big storyline of this series will be the return of longtime Red Sox’ third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who was traded to the White Sox for Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart on June 24. Prior to the trade, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine had criticized Youkilis in the press, much to the dismay of his teammates and the Boston fans.

Fantasy Player to Add: Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals

Though he’s not a power threat, Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar is hitting a solid .313 with 13 steals in 2012. The young shortstop has hit well in the second spot of the Royals’ batting order and is turning into an offensive star.

Fantasy Player to Drop: J. J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles

Though he broke out of a 3-for-44 slump with a game-tying, extra-inning home run against the Tigers on Saturday, Orioles’ shortstop J.J. Hardy has had a sub-par 2012 after hitting 30 home runs in 2011 for Baltimore. With just 18 walks and 60 strikeouts in 367 at-bats this season, Hardy hasn’t shown enough plate discipline to warrant keeping him active in hopes of a big second half.

MLB notes: Encarnacion Signs; Strasburg Nearing Innings Limit; Stars Return From Injury

The Toronto Blue Jays signed designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion to a three-year contract extension worth $29 million last week. Encarnacion homered twice on Saturday, his 24th and 25th of the year…The Washington Nationals are sticking to their plan of shutting down All-Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg once he reaches the 160-170 innings pitched mark this season. Two years removed from Tommy John surgery to replace a ligament in his right arm, Strasburg is 10-4 with a 2.66 earned run average …Several stars returned from injuries for their playoff-contending teams after the All-Star break: outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier were back in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup over the weekend; first baseman Lance Berkman returned to the St. Louis Cardinals batting order after missing more than a month with a knee injury, and Baltimore Orioles’ right fielder Nick Markakis made his way back from surgery to remove a broken hamate bone from his right wrist…Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay, who has been on the disabled list since May 28 with a lat strain, is expected to start against the Dodgers in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

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