A look at what’s happening around the majors Thursday:
Protective netting at ballparks is again under scrutiny after a young girl was struck in Houston by a foul ball. Albert Almora Jr. of the Chicago Cubs hit a line drive into the stands down the third base line and almost immediately put his hands on his head in horror. The girl who got hit was picked up by a man who appeared to be with her, and he dashed up the stairs not long after she was struck. The Astros said the fan was taken to a hospital, but did not disclose any further details. A photo taken by The Associated Press showed the girl apparently conscious and crying as she was whisked away and nearby fans looked on.
Like all major league stadiums, Minute Maid Park has netting to protect fans near the field from foul balls. On the third base side in Houston, it extends to the end of the visiting team’s dugout. The girl was sitting in what looked to be the third or fourth row about 10 feet past where the netting ends. Following recommendations from Major League Baseball, by the start of the 2018 season all 30 teams had expanded their protective netting to at least the far ends of the dugouts after several fans were injured by foul balls in 2017.
EAST TO WEST
Japanese stars Shohei Ohtani and Yusei Kikuchi are set to square off for the first time in the major leagues when the Mariners host the Angels. Ohtani and Kikuchi attended the same high school, though at different times, and they only faced each other twice in Japan. Kikuchi, Seattle’s rookie left-hander, struck out Ohtani twice in two at-bats in 2013, and Ohtani got two hits and whiffed once against Kikuchi during a game in 2017. First pitch in Seattle is set for 11:10 a.m. Tokyo time.
The first-place New York Yankees have won eight straight series heading into a four-game set against AL East rival Boston. Chris Sale (1-6, 4.19 ERA) pitches the opener for the Red Sox, who make their second visit to Yankee Stadium this season after dropping both games in mid-April. New York left-hander J.A. Happ (4-3, 5.09) is 8-4 against the Red Sox in the regular season.
The banged-up Houston Astros get a day off to rest after their latest injury. Already missing fellow stars Jose Altuve and George Springer, the AL West leaders expect to be without shortstop Carlos Correa for four to six weeks after he says he fractured a rib during a massage at home. “To sustain an injury in such an unusual way makes it even more frustrating,” the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year said in a statement issued through the team. Altuve is out indefinitely after experiencing fatigue and soreness in his surgically repaired right leg. Utility infielder Aledmys Diaz, catcher Max Stassi and right-hander Collin McHugh are also on the injured list.
The Rays begin a four-game series against major league-leading Minnesota, and Tampa Bay is hoping fans actually show up to watch. Tropicana Field hosted a franchise record-low crowd of 5,786 on Tuesday, then drew 6,166 on Wednesday against Toronto. Attendance has been an issue for years, but the numbers are especially jarring with Tampa Bay among the majors’ best teams. Rays President Brian Auld issued a statement Wednesday, saying “we appreciate the support of our fans, and we believe that St. Petersburg, Tampa and the entire Tampa Bay region will rally around this exciting and compelling Rays team.”