As always, Thursday is a travel day for several teams around the league, so there are only 12 MLB games on the schedule. The first-place Yankees beat the first-place Astros in the opener of their four-game series in New York. In case you missed it, here’s what you need to know heading into this AL showdown. Meanwhile on the National League side, the Nationals completed the three-game sweep of the Phillies.

All that and more in our daily roundup. Let’s get to it.

Select games can be streamed regionally via fuboTV (Try for free). For more on what channel each game is on, click here.

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Baseball scores for Thursday, June 20

Blackmon stays hot with leadoff homer

No player in baseball is hotter than Charlie Blackmon right now. Since returning from his calf strain two weeks ago, Blackmon has gone 26 for 54 (.481) with five doubles and six home runs in 11 games. He has 25 hits in his past nine games.

So what did Blackmon do to start Thursday afternoon’s series finale with the D-Backs? A leadoff dinger, of course. It was his 17th home run of the season and fifth leadoff homer, tying George Springer for the MLB leadoff homer lead.

When he hit the injured list last month, Blackmon was sporting a strong .300/.356/.565 batting line. He has since raised that to an otherworldly .339/.385/.646. Yes, he plays in Coors Field and that helps, but not every Rockies player hits like that.

The Rockies as a team have been on an offensive hot streak for over a month now. Dating back to May 1, they lead all teams in runs (294), batting average (.301), on-base percentage (.360) and OPS (.867).

Yankees extend home run streak

The Yankees are adding three fearsome bats to their lineup this week. First, Edwin Encarnacion came over in a trade with the Mariners. Then Giancarlo Stanton returned from the injured list. On Friday, Aaron Judge will return from the injured list as well. Manager Aaron Boone’s lineup possibilities are tantalizing.

Long before this week though, the Yankees started a home run streak that is approaching the historic. Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres both took Astros righty Framber Valdez deep in the fourth inning Thursday, extending the team’s streak to 23 games with a homer. Here is Sanchez’s (at the time) AL-leading 22nd homer:

DJ LeMahieu added a two-run home run against Chris Devenski later in that fourth inning. It is New York’s third six-run inning in the past two days and the fourth time they’ve batted around in the past five days. The Yankees offense is a nightmare for pitchers and Judge isn’t even back yet. And, in the seventh inning, Encarnacion reclaimed his spot atop the AL home run leaderboard with a two-run blast for his 23rd homer on the season:

Anyway, the home run streak is the second longest in Yankees history, trailing only a 25-gamer in 1941. The Yankees are also closing in on the longest home run streak in baseball history. That belongs to the Rangers, who had a 27-game home run streak in 2002. With the juiced ball and all those power bats, the Rangers’ streak is in definite jeopardy.

Nationals sweep Phillies

The Nationals completed a three-game sweep of the Phillies with Thursday’s 7-4 victory. It’s the first time this season the Nationals have completed a three-game sweep. Washington has won 17 of its past 24 games to climb to within 3 1/2 games of the second wild-card spot. The Nationals entered Thursday having already overtaken the Mets for third place in the NL East for the first time since April 23. Philadelphia has lost five out of six games.

Almost a month after falling to 19-31, Washington has used a 17-7 surge to get within two games of .500 (36-38) for the first time since April 28. After bullpen problems reached a new low for the Nationals, the adjusted bullpen — Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero and Sean Doolittle — has been a large part of the team’s recent success. Anthony Rendon, Victor Robles and Kurt Suzuki each homered in the win. In Bryce Harper’s second series back at Nationals Park this season, he went 1 for 9 with four walks and three strikeouts. 

The Phillies and Nationals will each open three-game series Friday, with the Phillies hosting Miami while the Nationals visit first-place Atlanta.

Cubs’ Alzolay picks up win in his MLB debut

Making his MLB debut at Wrigley Field on Thursday, right-hander Adbert Alzolay had himself a day.

Alzolay came on in relief of starter Tyler Chatwood to start the fifth inning with the Cubs leading 6-3. He tossed four innings of relief and racked up five strikeouts. Alzolay, 24, didn’t allow a hit until the Mets’ Todd Frazier hit a leadoff home run in the ninth inning. With the impressive debut and victory, Alzolay has already hit a few milestones:

Alzolay, Chicago’s No. 4 ranked prospect, was signed out of Venezuela in December 2012.

Reds win fifth straight

The Cincinnati Reds beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-1 on Thursday night for their fifth straight victory. It’s a season-best winning streak for Cincinnati, while Milwaukee has now dropped a game for the sixth time in seven games.

Right-hander Tanner Roark (5-6), who had lost three consecutive starts and five of six, finally got run support from the Reds lineup. The Reds had scored a total of six runs in Roark’s previous three starts. Roark allowed just three hits, struck out seven and hit three batters in six solid innings.

Reds shortstop Jose Iglesias went 2 for 5 in the win, with four RBI and a two-run home run off Jimmy Nelson in the fifth inning.

Nelson allowed five runs on seven hits and four walks across five innings while taking the loss. Nelson is making his return after missing the 2018 season due to shoulder surgery, and he’s begun the 2019 season with three consecutive disappointing starts. He has an unsightly 9.75 ERA over 12 innings. Nelson, Milwauke’s fifth starter, will look to turn things around sooner rather than later. He opened up about his pitching struggles so far this season, with the media after Thursday’s loss.

As own own Matt Snyder notes, the Reds are still hanging around. Read more about how this team might just have a path to NL Central contention here.

Highlight of the day: Turner’s defensive gems

Nationals shortstop Trea Turner didn’t just have one defensive gem to earn him highlight of the day, he finished his day with two incredible plays. The first, a sliding and spinning stop on a grounder followed by a throw to home to nab Phillies’ Scott Kingery for the final out of the second inning. Take a look:

The second Turner highlight came in the fifth inning. With a runner on third, Turner made a fantastic play to start a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play to end the Phillies threat and keep the game tied at 3 apiece. 

Turner’s proving that he’s got Gold Glove potential. 

Stat of the day: Yelich keeps crushing homers

The stat speaks for itself. I mean this is just absurd.

The Brewers’ Christian Yelich, 2018’s NL MVP, has hit 56 home runs over his past 162 games.

Thursday’s homer came off Yelich’s bat at 114.2 mph and traveled 462 feet, according to Statcast. It also extended Yelich’s current hitting streak to 17 games. During his 17-game hitting streak, Yelich is hitting .457 (32 for 70) with seven homers, seven doubles, one triple and 14 RBI. His 28 homers are one shy of the franchise record before the All-Star break, which was set by Prince Fielder with 29 in 2007.

Quick hits