MLB Home Run Derby odds boil down to Stanton, Judge

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The combination of a home ballpark and being the only returning power hitter in the field has put Giancarlo Stanton atop the MLB Home Run Derby futures board – albeit barely.

Defending champion Stanton, of the hometown Miami Marlins, is listed as a +165 betting favorite to capture MLB’s annual contest of clout at Marlins Park on Monday night at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

New York Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge, who has an MLB-best 30 home runs and is threatening to take down Mark McGwire’s rookie record, is listed right behind at +175. By virtue of having had more home runs on June 15, Stanton is the No. 1 seed, whereas Judge is No. 2.

Eight players will be participating in a bracket-style timed event, where each player has four minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. Hitters get another 30 seconds if they hit two home runs measured at more than 440 feet.

Stanton, who bashed 61 big flies during the 2016 contest at San Diego’s Petco Park, will try to become just the third repeat champion and third player to win in his home park. Judge will try to be the first rookie to win since 1986.

Either player is a worthy play, but there’s far, far greater value in picking one of the darkhorses. For the quarter-finals, Staton faces that other Yankees rookie, Gary Sanchez (+1400 to win). Sanchez has the longest average home-run distance in the field (422 feet to Judge’s 415 and Stanton’s 410) and could be an early bracket-buster. Upsetting Stanton would throw the field wide-open.

The Minnesota Twins’ Miguel Sano (+1000) and Kansas City Royals’ Mike Moustakas (+1400) meet in the other quarter-final in the “Stanton region” of the bracket. Sano (average home run distance of 414 feet) should also be considered a darkhorse.

Judge faces the other Marlins representative, Justin Bour (+1400), in his quarter-final. Bour has an average home-run distance of 398 feet – tied with Moustakas for lowest in the field – and might be a bit of a sacrificial lamb up against Judge.

Meantime, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger (+900 on the 2017 Home Run Derby odds) and the Colorado Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon (+2000) meet in an all-NL West quarter-final. Bellinger has enlisted his father Clay Bellinger as his pitcher and will be the fourth competitor to have his dad serving up meatballs. One of the other three (Robinson Cano in 2011) won and another (Bryce Harper in 2015) was runner-up.

Blackmon, meantime, faces a potential Bellinger-Judge tag team just to make the final, so his high price is probably a red herring.

Angels throw no-hitter in first home game since Skaggs’ death

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels put on Tyler Skaggs’ No. 45 jerseys and stood solemnly on the field while his mother, Debbie, delivered a heartbreakingly perfect strike on the first pitch.

The Angels then proceeded to play their heavy hearts out in their first home game since their beloved pitcher’s death.

Two Angels pitchers combined to throw the 11th no-hitter in franchise history, and Mike Trout drove in six runs in a stunning 13-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.

On the day before what would have been Skaggs’ 28th birthday, these astonishing Angels played a practically perfect game with his memory in their minds.

“Tonight is about him,” injured Angels infielder Zack Cozart said before the game. “We’re going to do what we can to honor him and keep his legacy going.”

This tribute ended up exceeding all logic and expectation, however.

Still reeling from the loss of their left-handed starter early last week in Texas, the Angels somehow excelled in every aspect of the game while wearing replicas of Skaggs’ red jersey.

The Angels scored eight runs on seven hits in the first inning alone, with Trout delivering a two-run homer and a two-run double.

Taylor Cole opened with two perfect innings before Félix Peña came on for seven more, allowing only a fifth-inning walk in the performance of his life.

Before the game, Skaggs’ presence was strong in Anaheim.

“He’s still a part of the team, even though he’s not here,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said before the game.

His jersey hung in his untouched locker in the clubhouse, his pristine cleats and gloves ready for a ballgame. The big stereo system in the room’s center is silent because the affable left-hander who controlled the Angels’ musical choices is no longer here.

And on the far wall of the clubhouse, two photos of Skaggs now flank his competitive catchphrase printed in tall letters: “WE’RE NASTY.”

“He’s the life of the team, honestly,” said Cozart, Skaggs’ teammate for the past two seasons. “We’re family in here. We’re around each other all day, every day. You just hurt so much for Tyler’s family. … It’s so sudden and so tragic. Forty-five will always be in my mind. That’s how it’s always going to be for all of us.”

The baseball season’s relentless pace forces the Angels to heal while they play, and they went back to work after a somber All-Star break during which Skaggs was honored at the game in Cleveland.

“In some respects, sometimes keeping busy can help,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “I don’t really know if that’s the right way to go about it, because you do need to grieve. Everybody has those moments, personal to them. I’ve had a couple of those myself. But for a lot of us, seeing each other again is nice.”

During a poignant pregame ceremony, both teams lined the basepaths as Skaggs’ family took the mound led by Debbie Skaggs, the longtime softball coach at Santa Monica High School.

Debbie Skaggs threw a brisk strike to Andrew Heaney, Skaggs’ best friend and fellow Angels rotation member.

The Angels then battered Seattle starter Mike Leake in a surreal seven-run, eight-hit first inning highlighted by Trout, who has been relentless at the plate ever since Skaggs’ death.

Trout crushed a 454-foot, two-run homer to left-center on the first pitch he saw from Leake. The two-time AL MVP appeared to look toward Skaggs’ family in the stands as he crossed the plate after an unusually long home run trot.

Cole also opened flawlessly on the mound. The reliever pounded his chest and pointed at the sky when Kole Calhoun caught the final out of the second.

While the Angels eventually will settle into the rhythms of the season, Skaggs’ presence will be felt throughout the stadium, from his intact locker to the large likeness of the well-liked pitcher now displayed prominently on the center field wall.

A memorial created by fans in front of the Big A’s main entrance has grown to the size of a pitcher’s mound, with hats, signs and baseballs and other Angels memorabilia delivered to the stadium by heartbroken fans over the past 10 days. Most of the Angels saw the memorial in person for the first time when they returned from a difficult road trip and the ensuing All-Star break.

“I think guys will become emotional again, because it is still very fresh,” Ausmus said. “That’s fine. We’re human beings. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez are engaged

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LOS ANGELES — Jennifer Lopez said yes to Alex Rodriguez’s proposal, and with the rock he presented, who could say no?

The couple posted an Instagram photo of their hands with a massive engagement ring on Lopez’s ring finger. The former Yankees shortstop captioned his photo with “she said yes” and a heart emoji.

The couple has been dating since early 2017 and later that year landed on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine with their celebrity couple nickname, J-Rod.

In January, Rodriguez told The Associated Press that he and Lopez had similar backgrounds and her latest film “Second Act” reflected the ties that drew them together.

“It really resembles a lot of the arc that Jennifer and I lived in our life: Both born in New York, both come from immigrant parents, both have two children, both Latino Americano – her from Puerto Rico, me from Dominican Republic. We’ve been through our ups and downs, but here we are in our 40s and trying to live the best lives possible and, at the same time, give back and pay it forward,” Rodriguez said.

It will be Lopez’s fourth marriage and Rodriguez’s second. Each has two children from previous marriages.