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ABERDEEN, Md. — Vi Ripken, matriarch of the famed Orioles family that includes Hall of Fame son Cal Ripken Jr., has died. She was 82.

Family spokesman John Maroon said Sunday that she died on Friday, a day before her birthday, in Aberdeen, where a youth stadium carries the Ripken name.

Violet and Cal Ripken Sr. married in 1957, and he spent four decades in the Baltimore system as a player, minor league coach and manager. He managed the Orioles in 1987 and early 1988, when sons Cal Jr. and Billy played infield for him.

She also made headlines in 2012 after being the victim of a bizarre kidnapping. Police said she was kidnapped at gunpoint at her home in Aberdeen and driven around blindfolded by her abductor. She was found bound and unharmed about 24 hours later in her car near her home. The case was never solved.

Vi Ripken was involved for many years in local and charitable organizations in the Maryland area.

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Vi Ripken,” the Baltimore Ravens said in a statement. “The Ripkens are engrained in the fabric of the greater Baltimore community, and Vi played a significant role in helping establish their family’s strong legacy. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her children and grandchildren during this sorrowful time.”

She is survived by sons Cal Jr., Billy and Fred and daughter Elly. Grandson Ryan Ripken, a minor leaguer in the Baltimore system, played Sunday in the Orioles’ exhibition game against Pittsburgh.

Cal Sr. died in 1999.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Cubs’ Willson Contreras says crowd-silencing post-HBP blast vs. Brewers ‘feels good’

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Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras let his bat do the talking on Tuesday night after getting hit by a Milwaukee Brewers pitcher for the seventh time over the past two seasons.

Contreras hit a go-ahead eighth inning home run that shushed the crowd while rounding the bases.

“It feels good to shut them up,” Contreras said after the Cubs 3-2 win. “When they boo me, I don’t really care. But don’t get sensitive when I do something like that.”

Contreras has been pitched inside repeatedly in recent years against Milwaukee, including in their last series at Wrigley Field when he was hit in the helmet.

“I know a lot of those hit by pitches are not intentional,” he said. “I was trying to send a message last series at home and then I got fined $7,500 because I was trying to protect myself. That hit by pitch can be the end of my career.”

After getting hit in the head in Chicago, he got hit again the next day leading to the benches and bullpens clearing. That led to a fine for breaking Covid protocols, so this time Contreras took his frustration out on the baseball — and then the crowd. “They picked the wrong guy to throw at,” Contreras said. “That was a message sent.”

One inning after Contreras was hit by a pitch on Tuesday, Cubs reliever Ryan Tepera threw behind Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff leading to words between the two, as well as Contreras, who was behind the plate.

“That caught me off-guard,” Contreras said. “I didn’t know anything about it. I was just trying to calm him down because I know how it feels to be thrown at.”

Contreras is known as an emotional player but even the Brewers have been understanding of his frustration after getting hit so much. The crowd took the brunt of his emotions this time, instead of the Brewers.

“It’s good to shut them up,” Contreras stated. “If you want to boo, boo. I don’t really care…A lot of people that watch the game, they don’t understand what’s going on.”

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Night of 11 aces — Shane Bieber-Lucas Giolito doesn’t disappoint; Blake Snell falls apart

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We can call Tuesday night the “Night of the 11 Aces,” which might refer to the time Uncle Bob won all the money at family poker night, but on this evening refers to the unusual gift of seeing 11 legitimate preseason Cy Young candidates all starting.

The marquee matchup was the American League Central showdown between the IndiansShane Bieber and the White Sox‘s Lucas Giolito in Chicago, and it lived up to expectations in what will be one of the best duels we’ll see all season. Maybe the best we’ll see.

Both pitchers took a shutout into the eighth inning, Bieber went nine, and the game was scoreless heading into extra innings. Cleveland finally scratched two runs in the top of the 10th inning, and Bieber got the win when Josh Naylor caught Jake Lamb’s potential tying home run just in front of the fence in right field.

Both pitchers were in complete control throughout — and showed you don’t have to throw 98 mph to dominate in the majors. Bieber works extremely fast, which always makes his games enjoyable to watch, but it’s his combination of throwing strikes with great movement that makes him so tough. He was amazingly efficient in this game: Through eight innings he had thrown just 86 pitches, a remarkable 67 for strikes, taking advantage of the hyper-aggressive Chicago lineup.

The Sox finally made him work in the ninth inning as he threw 27 pitches, but with two on he fanned Yoan Moncada on four pitches — four curveballs — and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

With that outing, Bieber wins Ace of the Night. Let’s do a quick review of all 11 starters:

1. Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 SO

After striking out 12 in each of his first two starts of 2021, Bieber became just the sixth pitcher since 1901 to begin a season with three straight games of 10 or more strikeouts, joining Gerrit Cole (2018), Rich Hill (2015), Randy Johnson (2000), Nolan Ryan (1973) and Sam McDowell (1970). His fastest pitch of the night was 94.3 mph, just the 37th-fastest pitch of the game. That’s plenty fast enough, but he does it easily, without ever overthrowing. He actually threw more curveballs (46) than fastballs (39) and does a great job of mixing his first pitch to a batter: 12 fastballs, 10 curves, 8 sliders, 1 changeup. Despite throwing so many first-pitch offspeed pitches, he still threw them for strikes — 24 of 31 batters faced. Beautiful.

2. Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO

Giolito picked up the hard-luck no decision, despite pitching into the top of the eighth (he was removed after walking the leadoff batter in the inning). His fastest pitch of the game was 94.2 mph, but he did a good job of adding and subtracting on his fastball — he’s not afraid to throw 92 at the top of the zone, trying to get the opponent to chase. His short arm action adds deception to his delivery, and he’s pitching with supreme confidence. This was his best outing of his three starts, and with 26 strikeouts in 17.2 innings, he looks like he’s also on his way to a huge strikeout season.

The most underrated pitcher in the majors? Ryu finished second in the 2019 National League Cy Young vote and third in the 2020 AL vote and has a 2.30 ERA going back to 2018 — yet I don’t think anybody predicted he will win in 2021. No, he doesn’t own the blazing fastball of Cole, but man does he know he know how to pitch. Four of his seven K’s came on pitches that were outside the strike zone, the one run he allowed was unearned, and he threw 68 of 95 pitches for strikes.

Bauer was greater than a -300 favorite on the moneyline at home against a Rockies team that struggles to score runs away from Coors Field, probably one of the surer bets of the season — and he didn’t disappoint. After taking a no-hitter into the seventh against the Rockies in his first start of the season, the only hit allowed in the first five innings was a swinging bat. He did walk the first two batters in the second, but he escaped with two strikeouts and a popout. Good outing, but the game we’re looking forward to is Sunday: Bauer against Blake Snell and the Padres (see below).

Woodruff was my favorite off-the-board Cy Young candidate entering the season, and he has done nothing to suggest he can’t finish high in the voting. He throws strikes, has a good defense behind him and will get to face the Cubs five or six times.

Woodruff’s fastball topped out at 98.4 mph in this game, and he threw 24 pitches at 97 mph or faster. Fifty-eight of his 95 pitches were fastballs, but what makes him so tough is his curveball and changeup are both plus offerings. He left with a 2-1 lead, but the Brewers’ bullpen blew it and Woodruff remains 0-0 in three starts despite a 2.12 ERA. Something to watch the next time Woodruff faces the Cubs. After Woodruff hit Willson Contreras (the Brewers have now hit him seven times going back to last season), the Cubs threw behind Woodruff. The Cubs are “protecting” their teammate, but Contreras practically leans over the plate asking to be hit. Here’s Ryan Tepera’s pitch:

Matched up against Stephen Strasburg, Flaherty was … fine. He wasn’t efficient at all, throwing first-pitch strikes to just six of the 19 batters he faced and throwing 96 pitches, which is why he lasted just five innings. He got away falling behind hitters in this game, but that’s not a path to success. Really, Flaherty is still trying to find his form from the second half of 2019, when he had one of the best stretches in MLB history. He walked six over 10.1 innings in his first two starts of 2021, so while he was walk-free in this game, the sharp command is not there yet.

I had this game on my big screen and he probably deserved a little better result. Nola is fun to watch and Mets announcer Ron Darling made a comparison I hadn’t thought of before, suggesting Nola reminds him of Dennis Eckersley, with the three-quarters arm action and flair in the delivery. Anyway, Nola was cruising into the fourth when Jeff McNeil started a three-run rally with one out on a half-swing infield dribbler. Kevin Pillar was jammed but hit a bloop single to center. Jonathan Villar hit a soft fly ball into right-center for a hustle double. Nola hit Tomas Nido to load the bases and after Marcus Stroman struck out, Brandon Nimmo singled to right field, the one hard-hit ball of the inning.

I still view Nola as a sleeper Cy Young candidate (in a league without Jacob deGrom), although his park and defense works against him). Kudos to Stroman, who wasn’t one of our 11 aces, but had one of the best outings of the night with six shutout innings as the Mets won 4-0 to sweep the doubleheader.

Castillo versus the red-hot Kevin Gausman looked great on paper, but both starters surrendered two home runs and combined to allow nine runs (granted, a 19-mph wind out to center field didn’t help). Castillo had that terrible Opening Day start against the Cardinals (10 runs), followed up with seven scoreless innings against the Pirates, and now this effort, so he’s still looking for that consistency. Batters are hitting .600 against his two-seamer so far, so … maybe more four-seamers to go with his lethal changeup?

Fifth in the Cy Young voting in 2020, Fried has struggled to find the same command in 2021 and has now allowed 23 hits in 11 innings in three winless outings. He allowed two home runs in this start, as many as he allowed in 56 innings last season. Fried allowed five balls in play — four of them hits — of 100-plus mph, plus another hit at 99.7 mph and four others at 95 mph, the threshold of a hard-hit ball. His single-game high last season was four balls of 100 and just six of 95-plus. In other words, the Marlins pounded him.

10. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals: 4 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 5 BB, 3 SO

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Stephen Strasburg rubs his shoulder in the dugout as he struggles vs. the Cardinals.

I had this game on the iPad and every time I glanced down somebody on the Cardinals was rounding the bases. Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and the struggling Matt Carpenter all homered off Strasburg, who via Game Score had the second-worst start of his career. He walked five batters for the just the second time in 243 career starts and allowed three home runs for just the sixth time. The biggest concern: He averaged just 90.7 mph on his fastball, the lowest of his career by a full mph. He had pitched six scoreless innings in his first start of 2021, so maybe this was just one of those nights like he’s never had before. But a lot will be made of the drop in velocity.

The 2018 Cy Young winner had pitched well in his first two starts with the Padres, but pitched just 0.2 innings as manager Jayce Tingler played it safe, including removing him one out shy of a potential win in his first start — which Snell wasn’t too happy about. This start was a complete disaster. Snell actually retired the first two batters on eight pitches, but the next six batters reached, including two walks and a hit batter. Really, Tingler had no choice. The most pitches in an inning this season is 40 and Snell’s career high is 42. You don’t want to leave him in and see a long 10-pitch battle that has him approaching 50 pitches in one inning in a game in early April. Snell didn’t seem to agree, though:

All in all, I’d give our aces about a C+. We had a memorable duel between Bieber and Giolito, but three of them were terrible. Hey, maybe all these guys will line up to pitch again on Sunday and we can do this all over again.



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Fresh off Joe Musgrove’s no-hitter for San Diego Padres, business is booming at his family coffee shop

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PITTSBURGH — This no-hitter, it turned out, came with a cup of Joe.

Fresh off pitching the first no-no in the San Diego Padres‘ 52-year history, Joe Musgrove found out his achievement served up a positive effect on his family, too.

The right-hander’s parents own and operate a coffee shop in the San Diego suburb of Alpine, California. Padres fans have been flocking there since Musgrove tossed his gem last Friday against the Texas Rangers in Arlington.

“It’s something that’s been in the family for 20 years, a small drive through in a small town, so they don’t usually do crazy business,” Musgrove said Tuesday.

“But the last few days have been some of the best days they’ve ever had. I really appreciate people helping support their small business,” he said.

Musgrove will see some familiar faces in his first start since the history-making effort. He’s set to pitch Wednesday night in Pittsburgh — last January, after three seasons with the Pirates, he was traded to the hometown Padres.

Musgrove threw 112 pitches against the Rangers and struck out 10. Yet he says he is ready to face his old team from both a physical and mental standpoint.

“I was really grinding and feeling pretty beat up the first couple of days (after the game),” Musgrove said. “I didn’t get a lot of sleep the first couple of nights. But I’ve had two good nights of sleep and I feel ready to go.

“It was really a cool moment and worth taking some time to celebrate and enjoy. But I’m moving past it and getting ready for this start because it’s easy to slump and slide if you don’t stay prepared.”

Musgrove joined the Pirates in a January 2018 trade that sent Gerrit Cole to Houston. The 28-year-old Musgrove bought a house in Pittsburgh – which he sold Tuesday – and became attached to the city.

“The city really grew on me the couple of years I was here,” he said. “It’s a blue-collar lifestyle and I feel like I cemented myself in the city pretty quickly with the way I approach the game and embraced the people.”

Injured Pirates left-hander Steven Brault and Musgrove were not only teammates in Pittsburgh but also at Grossmont High School in the San Diego area. Brault watched every pitch of his old friend’s no-hitter on television.

“To be in the history books and not to just be on the hometown team but to throw the first no-hitter is amazing,” Brault said. “I remember when I was a kid, we’d go the games and people would get close (to a no-hitter) and it was such a big deal for the fans.”

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