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Baseball

    As high as the Braves soared during a 7-3 road trip that was capped by a sweep of the Mets in New York, they came home with a thud, getting swept by the Giants in a three-game series that ended with a 4-3 loss Sunday afternoon at SunTrust Park. Top pitching prospect Mike Soroka gave up seven hits and four runs in four innings in his second major league start and the Braves didn’t muster an extra-base hit until the ninth inning against the surging Giants, who’ve won 11 of their past 14 games.  Kurt Suzuki’s RBI double with one out in the ninth cut the Giants’ lead to 4-2 and Ender Inciarte’s ground out brought in another run before Ozzie Albies popped out foul with a runner at third to end the game. It’s the first three-game losing streak of the season for the Braves, who only had back-to-back losses twice before this series. The Braves had not been swept and had lost just one of 10 series before the Giants came to town.  The Braves were swept and outscored 24-9 by the Giants, after coming into the series riding a five-game winning streak that included a sweep at New York in which the Braves outscored the Mets 21-2. After totaling 11 or more hits in four consecutive games to finish the trip, including 22 extra-base hits in that span, the Braves mustered eight or fewer hits in each game against the Giants including six extra-base hits in the entire series. Braves starters went 12-2 with a 2.41 ERA and .218 opponents’ average in the last 25 games before the Giants series, but were 0-3 with a 13.14 ERA in three games against San Francisco while allowing a 28 hits and 18 earned runs in just 12 1/3 innings. Soroka’s start was the best of the Braves’ three in the series after woeful outings by Brandon McCarthy (3-1/3 innings, 12 hits, eight runs) and Mike Foltynewicz (five innings, nine hits, six runs). Soroka was terrific in his major league debut Tuesday at New York, allowing six hits and one run with no walks and five strikeouts in six innings. But against the Giants, the leadoff runner reached base in all four innings against him and he wasn’t able to work out of jams in the third and fourth innings, giving up two runs in each of those innings. Soroka was charged with seven hits, four runs and three walks with three strikeouts, throwing 49 strikes in 84 pitches over four innings.  » More: Never miss a minute of what’s happening with the Braves. Subscribe to myAJC.com
  • Jones fell just shy of Ken Griffey Jr.’s voting record. Griffey earned 99.32 percent of the vote in 2016. He missed just three votes, besting Tom Seaver only missing five in 1992.
  • Former Braves general manager John Coppolella has been banned for life by Major League Baseball as part of discipline handed down by the league Tuesday for major infractions committed in the international free-agent market. In addition, special assistant Gordon Blakeley has been suspended for one year. In handing down the punishment, the league announced that Braves will forfeit rights to 13 international prospects, will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period and are restricted from signing players in the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000. The highest-profile signee that the Braves will lose is infielder Kevin Maitan. Here is the complete statement from MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred: “My office has completed a thorough investigation into violations of Major League Rules by the Atlanta Braves. The Braves cooperated throughout the investigation, which was conducted by MLB’s Department of Investigations. The senior Baseball Operations officials responsible for the misconduct are no longer employed by the Braves. I am confident that Terry McGuirk, John Schuerholz, Alex Anthopoulos and their staffs have and will put in place procedures to ensure that this type of conduct never occurs again and which will allow the Club to emerge from this difficult period as the strong and respected franchise that it has always been. “The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules. Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000. “As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period. These players were Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Kevin Maitan, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Peña, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zuniga. In addition, the Braves entered into additional ‘package’ agreements in 2016 and 2017 in which they signed Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre for reduced amounts, and provided additional money to those players’ agents by signing other players affiliated with their agents to contracts with inflated bonuses. In order to remedy these violations, I am releasing these players from their contracts with the Braves and declaring them free agents eligible to sign with any other Club. The procedures governing the players’ release and the signing process will be communicated to MLB Clubs under separate cover.  “The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective. “While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent. “The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft. “With respect to individual discipline, former Braves General Manager John Coppolella will be placed on the permanently ineligible list, effective immediately. Former Braves Special Assistant Gordon Blakeley will be suspended for a period of one year, effective immediately, and may not perform services for any MLB Club during his suspension. I intend to discipline other Braves’ International Baseball Operations employees who participated in the misconduct after the completion of our internal procedures. My staff will speak to the Players Association and officials in the Dominican Republic regarding appropriate consequences for the representatives of the players who intentionally participated in schemes to circumvent our rules, none of whom are certified by the Players Association.” Check myAJC.com for a full report on the Braves and the punishment.
  • An Illinois boy returning home after receiving treatment for a rare cancer was greeted by a bedroom renovation designed just for the young Cubs fan. When Ken Markiewicz heard a WGN report about Joey Ventimiglia, 7, a young Cubs fan battling cancer, he felt compelled to use his artistic skills to show his support. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news Ventimiglia was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, which is a rare type of brain tumor. Because of the tumor’s position, surgery is not an option, WGN reported. Ventimiglia has been receiving experimental treatment in Mexico to battle the aggressive cancer.  Markiewicz, who owns Crayons Gone Wild, offered to paint a Cubs-themed mural for Ventimiglia, free of charge. Markiewicz reached out to the Ventimiglia family with his idea and while Ventimiglia was at his latest treatment, Markiewicz transformed the boy's bedroom into a dream for a Cubs fan. Markiewicz painted a baseball on the boy's closet and got the entire Cubs team to sign the artwork. He also recreated the famous ivy-covered wall at Wrigley Field. Ventimiglia was in awe when he was wheeled into his bedroom and saw the Cubs-inspired artwork. To Markiewicz, he simply said, 'Thank you.
  • Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited New York’s Yankee Stadium to watch her beloved team take on the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, and it only made sense that she found herself right at-home in “The Judge’s Chambers.” >> Read more trending news Sotomayor, a Bronx-native, took a seat in the rooting section named for rookie Aaron Judge as the Yankees beat the Red Sox 6-2, The Washington Post reported. With a foam gavel stamped with “All Rise” in hand and wearing a black robe – both courtesy of the stadium, according to The Associated Press – Sotomayor could be seen smiling broadly as she cheered for the Yankees. Sotomayor has rooted for the Yankees since she was a child. She threw out the first pitch to kick off the 2009 season at Yankee Stadium.
  • Former major-league baseball star Don Baylor died Monday morning after a long struggle with multiple myeloma. He was 68. >> Read more trending news Baylor died at 4:25 a.m. Monday at St. David’s South Hospital in his native Austin, Texas, his son confirmed to the Austin American-Statesman. Baylor graduated from Austin High School as one of the first African-Americans to attend the school and the very first to play baseball and football for the school. He played 19 seasons in the major leagues and was a feared power hitter who was known for crowding the plate and taking a pitch -- lots of them. He was hit a then-record 267 times, an example of his toughness and fearless style. Baylor would have become the first black player in University of Texas history but for his decision to turn down a scholarship offer from legendary coach Darrell Royal to pursue a career in baseball. Baylor played for six different American League teams -- most notably the California Angels -- but also the Baltimore Orioles, Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox. Following his playing career, he became manager for the expansion Colorado Rockies with a six-year stint and later managed the Chicago Cubs for three seasons. He was drafted by Baltimore in the second round of the 1967 Major Leagues free agent draft and reached the majors in short fashion, making the club in 1970.
  • Rain delays during baseball games can become tedious, but not when the bullpens of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs get creative. >> Read more trending news While waiting out a 2½-hour rain delay in the top of the second inning Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field, both bullpens competed against one another with dance-offs and mime acts.  The Cubs got it started with a variety of masks -- horses, chicken, an owl, a zebra and a unicorn. Then the Diamondbacks countered with T.J. McFarland putting on his uniform upside-down and dancing. But Arizona really gained an edge when four pitchers did their version of bobsledding, using chairs and leaning to the right and left, using their hands in sync to “steer” the vehicle properly. The Cubs answered back with Carl Edwards casting a line from a chair and “fishing,” catching a teammate who futilely flopped as he tried to disengage the hook. But the Diamondbacks won this battle with room to spare. Rubby De La Rosa became a human bowling ball as Arizona tried to convert a 7-10 split. De La Rosa rolled into Archie Bradley (the 7-pin) with the proper spin, causing the right-handed reliever to topple to his left and into Andrew Chafin. After an agonizing wobble, Chafin tumbled to the ground and the Diamondbacks converted the split. At that point, the Cubs’ bullpen conceded defeat. At least the bullpen pitchers fared better than a member of the Wrigley Field grounds crew, who tripped and got stuck on the tarpaulin as it was hauled over the infield. When the game resumed, the Diamondbacks also got the last laugh, winning 10-8 thanks to three home runs by Paul Goldschmidt.
  • The anticipation of opening a pack of baseball cards remains exciting for collectors of all ages, but a Tennessee man pulled an extraordinary card last week, and it was an emotional, life-changing moment.   >> Read more trending news Steve Winfree of Knoxville began dialysis for kidney disease in November and needs a transplant. On Thursday, Winfree, an avid collector, opened a pack of Topps cards. A special insert revealed that his wife, Heather Winfree, would be donating a kidney to him. As Heather filmed the event Winfree, 32, pulled cards of Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard and Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier.  Then he found a special Topps card with his own likeness on the front. As he read the back of the card he began to choke up, because he learned his wife was a match and would be donating her kidney. “Heather will be pitching a new kidney to him,” the card read. “They are sure to hit it out of the ballpark together!” “She kept saying, ‘You have a special insert there,’” Winfree told MLB.com. “I knew something was up because she never films me.” Winfree is an Atlanta Braves fan who collected cards as a youth. He said he stopped during high school but resumed his hobby “once I could afford it.” Opening packs of cards has been therapeutic for Winfree, his wife said. “There were a lot of times where we would be in the hospital and I would grab a pack and we would open them,” Heather Winfree told MLB.com. “The low-key fun gets our minds off the everyday stresses.” When he saw the special card, which resembles the 2016 Topps design, Winfree noticed the word “recipient” in place of where a player’s position was on the card. “I saw it coming,” he said. “But I lost it and I asked her, ‘You want to save my life?’” The emotional video of Steve Winfree reacting to the card has gone viral. He will receive the transplant at the Vanderbilt Transplant Center in Nashville. Steve Winfree said the response to the video has been gratifying. “Heather and I have been so overwhelmed with the kindness of people,” he said in a Twitter message Sunday night.
  • The son of former Atlanta Braves second baseman Keith Lockhart has been placed on life support after he was hit in the face by a baseball, according to media reports. >> Read more trending news  Jason Lockhart, 15, was hit Saturday, June 17, during a baseball tournament in South Carolina as he touched home plate. The catcher was throwing the ball back to the pitcher when it hit Jason in the face and broke his nose. Jason originally received stitches. While at a doctor’s office for a follow-up two days later to remove the tubes and packing in his nose, his nose began to bleed uncontrollably. A CT scan showed the fracture was worse than realized and there was a tear inside his nose, The Associated Press reported. Since then, doctors were working on controlling the bleeding. Keith Lockhart, who played with the Braves from 1997 to 2002 and is now a scout with the Chicago Cubs, has provided updates on social media and asked for prayers for his son. Jason underwent surgery to repair the fracture in his nose, but the bleeding persisted.  According to a Facebook post by Lockhart’s daughter, Sydney, who also has been providing updates on her brother’s condition, Jason was placed on life support Friday.  In part, she wrote on Facebook: “Last night they were able to put Jason into a paralytic state through meds and machines. This has helped stop any movement that could encourage or cause a bleed to begin.” The bleeding, however, continued. On Sunday night, Keith Lockhart wrote on Twitter that doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite hospital were closing in on a possible cause for the bleeding: Late on Sunday, Sydney Lockhart wrote on her Facebook page: The doctors decided to take Jason into surgery to do an endovascular embolization today. They went in to his arteries and blood vessels and found the two most practical areas that could be feeding the areas where Jason has been bleeding. They went into both arteries on each side of his nose and cut off the blood supply. They are hopeful that this is the source of the bleeding. The surgery was a couple of hours long and Jason is now resting still on the ventilator to keep his vitals monitored and keep him comfortable. They will watch him for 24 hours and then he will go into surgery tomorrow to have his nose repacked and this will give them an opportunity to look back behind the packing to make sure there are no other areas bleeding. We are tired here but hopeful. The prayers and support that everyone has given to us is overwhelming and we are truly touched. Thank you so much. WE FEEL SO SURROUNDED This article contains information from The Associated Press.
  • A security guard is being criticized on social media after ejecting a fan and taking a baseball from a child during an Atlanta Braves game in SunTrust Park on Wednesday night. After Braves player Rio Ruiz hit a ball down the right field line at the bottom of the eight inning, a fan reached over the outfield wall with his glove, snagged the ball and handed the ball to a child. Video appears to show a security guard jump over the wall and eject the fan from the stadium for interfering with live play. The security guard also told the boy that he couldn’t keep the ball he was holding, then took it from him. After Wednesday night’s game, Braves officials contacted the boy’s family and gave him a Freddie Freeman-signed ball, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The boy was also invited back to a game to celebrate his birthday in July. The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Braves, 12-5 in extra innings. There was plenty of reaction on Twitter to the incident, from media and fans who watched it unfold on their televisions.