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Friday December 6th, 2019 7:34AM

LEADING OFF: Nats-Mets open series, Yanks-Jays slugfest

By The Associated Press
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A look at what's happening around the majors today:

UNEXPECTED IN THE EAST

The Nationals and Mets begin a three-game series in Queens with surprising significance considering both teams have been more than 10 games below .500 this season. Washington now leads the NL wild-card race, and New York is only 2 1/2 games behind. The Mets have won 13 of 14 after stunningly deciding to be buyers at the trade deadline, and former Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman (6-11, 3.07) will make his second start since being acquired last month. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg (14-5, 3.72) is up for the Nats, who recently swept a three-game set at San Francisco.

BIG SWINGS UP NORTH

The Yankees and Blue Jays are set to slug it out again a night after making history in Toronto. New York hit three home runs — two from Gio Urshela — to set a big league record with 19 homers over four games. Meanwhile, Blue Jays rookie Bo Bichette became the first player ever to double in nine straight games, and he also homered to give him an unprecedented 13 extra-base hits in the first 11 games of his career. Bichette is the first rookie to have an extra-base hit in nine straight games since Ted Williams in 1939, according to STATS. Former Toronto lefty J.A. Happ (9-6, 5.24) is scheduled to start for the Yankees against righty Sean Reid-Foley (1-2, 2.49). AL East-leading New York has won nine straight.

DH DOWN

Minnesota is hoping for good news on leading home run hitter Nelson Cruz after he strained his left wrist whiffing on a pitch by Cleveland's Mike Clevinger on Thursday night. The Twins dropped the opener of the pivotal four-game series, cutting their AL Central lead to one, and now might be without Cruz. The 39-year-old slugger was set to be evaluated, and the team expected to announce more Friday.

PRICE DOWN

The Red Sox will try to remain relevant to the AL playoff picture without left-hander David Price, who was placed on the 10-day IL on Thursday after an MRI revealed a cyst on his left wrist. The team announced the 33-year-old Price was treated with a shot of cortisone in the wrist. Price is 7-5 record with a 4.36 ERA over 21 starts this season. Cora noted that the cyst, classified as a TFCC cyst, was not cancerous or related to any other serious illness.

NET POSITIVE

The Astros will extend the protective netting at Minute Maid Park to cover more of the seating area, joining other teams that have taken safety measures after foul balls injured fans. The team announced Thursday the extended netting would be installed before the homestand starting Aug. 19. It will run farther down the left field and right field lines to better protect fans from foul balls and bats that fly out of hitters' hands. A 2-year-old girl suffered a skull fracture when she struck by a foul ball during a May game in Houston. Last month, the Chicago White Sox became the first major league team to extend protective netting from foul pole to foul pole.

BAUER POWER

Right-hander Trevor Bauer is slated to make his first appearance in front of his new home fans as Cincinnati continues a series against the Cubs. Bauer was acquired from Cleveland ahead of the trade deadline and labored at Atlanta in his first start with the Reds, a 5-4 loss. Bauer hasn't faced the Cubs since May 22, 2018, when he pitched six scoreless innings in a 10-1 victory.

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