x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Comeback win is 'fun' for Martinez

Pedro Martinez made a victorious return to the mound behind a potent offence to help the Philadelphia Phillies storm to a 12-5 thrashing of the Chicago Cubs in his first start with his new team on Wednesday.

CHICAGO // Pedro Martinez made a victorious return to the mound behind a potent offence to help the Philadelphia Phillies storm to a 12-5 thrashing of the Chicago Cubs in his first start with his new team on Wednesday. Pitching for the first time since ending a four-year stint with the New York Mets last September, the three-time Cy Young Award winner worked his way through five innings, striking out five batters while allowing three runs.

"It was really fun to get back to the game," Martinez said. "I'm healthy and I'm going to improve. I expect to improve." Martinez, who has battled a number of injuries in recent years and is coming back from a shoulder ailment, filed for free agency after last season and was finally signed by the Phillies on July 15. As the 37-year-old Martinez enjoyed a successful return to his familiar place as a starting pitcher, the Chicago youngster Jeff Samardzija, making his first career start, was battered by the World Series champions in front of the long-suffering faithful at Wrigley Field.

Philadelphia (63-48) scored eight runs in the fourth inning, and Samardzija left the game after being charged with seven runs in three and a third innings. Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez both hit three-run homers in the fourth after Shane Victorino had a two-run shot in the third to help consign the Cubs (58-54) to a fourth straight loss and the sixth in their last seven contests. For his part, the wily Martinez allowed hits in the first three innings and got into a no-out bases-loaded jam in the fifth but escaped with minimum damage on his way to his 215th career win.

Chicago are struggling with injuries, and have two starting pitchers, Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano, on the disabled list as well as the third baseman Aramis Ramirez. A bizarre moment marred the contest in the fifth inning when a fan threw a cup of beer on centre fielder Victorino as he was making a catch. The Cubs' general manager, Jim Hendry, apologised to the Phillies for the incident. The Phillies moved three games clear of the Florida Marlins in the East Division of the National League with the result as the Marlins lost 14-6 at home to the Houston Astros.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, the West Division leaders, came unstuck against the San Francisco Giants, who made up some ground on their opponents with a 4-2 win sealed by Juan Uribe's two-run homer in the 10th. The Colorado Rockies stayed hot on the Dodgers' heels as they thrashed the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-0 with Ubaldo Jimenez pitching eight scoreless innings for the Rockies.

The St Louis Cardinals remain top in the Central thanks to a 5-2 home win over the Cincinnati Reds, with Albert Pujols' 38th home run of the season helping them clinch it. The Atlanta Braves swept their two-match series at home to the Washington Nationals by wrapping up a 6-2 win with Adam LaRoche contributing two home runs and three RBIs, while the New York Mets beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-5 and the San Diego Padres beat the Milwaukee Brewers 6-5.

In the American League, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels strengthened their play-off prospects with victories to keep them clear at the top of their respective divisions. The Yankees secured a 2-1 series success against the Toronto Blue Jays with a 4-3 win at home, sealed by Robinson Cano's walk-off single to bring home Alex Rodriguez. Their regular season record is now 71-43, keeping them top in the East with nine wins from their last 10 outings.

The Boston Red Sox kept up the pressure on the Yankees with an 8-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers inspired by homers from Mike Lowell and Jason Bay. The Angels were 10-5 victors over the Tampa Bay Rays to complete a series sweep and underline their supremacy in the West as late three-run homers from Gary Matthews Jr and Howard Kendrick helped them pull clear of the Rays. The Texas Rangers kept in touch thanks to a 5-0 win over the Cleveland Indians. Josh Hamilton's two-run double in the third was key.

Ken Griffey Jr scored Adrian Beltre in the bottom of the 14th inning as the Seattle Mariners beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0. The Oakland As claimed a series victory over the Baltimore Orioles with a 6-3 win at Camden Yards and the Minnesota Twins turned the tables on the Kansas City Royals, beating the Royals 7-1 after losing to them 14-6 on Tuesday. * Reuters