Daily Dose: The other LaRoche

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Many people were quick to write off Andy LaRoche when he got off to a
bad start in the majors, batting just .184/.288/.272 in 111 games
between the Dodgers and Pirates. However, as awful as those early
numbers were LaRoche’s track record in the minors predicted long-term
success and sure enough he finally appears to have gotten on track at
the age of 25.

Pittsburgh showed patience when LaRoche started the season 2-for-22
and he’s responded by going 47-for-139 (.338) with 16 extra-base hits
in 40 games since, giving him a nice .304/.374/.435 mark overall.
LaRoche may never develop more than 20-homer pop, but he’s hitting for
a nice batting average, getting on base at a good clip, and playing
solid defense just like his minor-league stats predicted.

While the Pirates are rewarded for their patience with LaRoche, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Beginning the year with Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson in the
rotation hasn’t worked out especially well for Oakland, as the
21-year-olds have combined to go just 4-10 with a 4.93 ERA in 20
starts. Despite that manager Bob Geren revealed that the A’s will call
up 22-year-old Vince Mazzaro to make his big-league debut Tuesday
against the White Sox.

Much like Cahill and Anderson, Mazzaro is a good prospect who likely
isn’t ready to thrive in the majors yet. Taken out of high school in
the third round of the 2005 draft, Mazzaro posted ERAs of 5.05 and 5.33
at Single-A before going 12-3 with a 1.90 ERA in 22 starts at Double-A
last season. However, at 22 years old with a 3.80 ERA and 71/26 K/BB
ratio in 90 innings at Triple-A rushing him seems silly.

* An MRI exam on Grady Sizemore’s inflamed left elbow revealed no
structural damage, but Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff said Monday that
he may still be facing surgery. Sizemore is expected to spend two weeks
resting the elbow and getting treatment, but if he doesn’t show
significant improvement during that time he’s a candidate for
arthroscopic surgery that would sideline him for another 4-6 weeks.

* Edinson Volquez’s return from the disabled list lasted all of one
inning Monday, as he experienced numbness in several fingers on his
pitching hand and exited after getting swinging strikeouts on Rick
Ankiel and Jason LaRue. Volquez is set to be examined further Tuesday
and had been on the DL for two weeks because of back spasms.

* Rich Hill struggled in his start last week, but bounced back
Monday with seven shutout innings against the Mariners. Hill was one of
my favorite sleeper targets this year because he still possessed
big-time strikeout ability if the control issues that plagued him last
season could be cured. Spring elbow problems delayed his Orioles debut,
but he now has a 4.15 ERA and 22/12 K/BB ratio in 21.2 innings.

AL Quick Hits: Joba Chamberlain likely quieted some critics
Monday by throwing eight innings of two-run ball … White Sox general
manager Kenny Williams said Monday that he never talked to the Astros
about Roy Oswalt … Coco Crisp will be away from the Royals for at least
the next few days following the death of his great grandmother … Jeremy
Bonderman (shoulder) threw eight shutout innings in a rehab start
Sunday at Triple-A … Victor Martinez started at designated hitter
Monday despite fouling a ball off his knee Sunday … Xavier Nady
experienced elbow pain while playing catch Monday, but will try to
throw again Tuesday as he attempts to avoid Tommy John surgery … Jarrod
Washburn lost his duel with Hill despite slicing his ERA to 3.22 with
seven innings of one-run ball … John Smoltz (shoulder) allowed one run
over five innings in a rehab start Sunday at Single-A.

NL Quick Hits: Carlos Beltran was once again scratched from the
lineup Monday with a stomach virus … Jose Valverde (calf) tossed a
25-pitch bullpen session Monday and is scheduled to do so again
Wednesday … Kyle Lohse (forearm) reported no problems following a
bullpen session Sunday and is on track to start Wednesday … Aramis
Ramirez (shoulder) said Monday that he’s still hoping to rejoin the
Cubs after the All-Star break … Anibal Sanchez (shoulder) is slated to
come off the disabled list to start Tuesday … Mike Cameron is
day-to-day after leaving Monday’s game with a knee injury … Ricky
Nolasco pitched well Monday in his second start at Triple-A, allowing
one run in seven innings … According to Jerry Manuel, Jose Reyes (calf)
could come off the DL as soon as Friday … Troy Glaus (shoulder) has
been cleared to resume throwing … Hiroki Kuroda came off the shelf
Monday with five solid innings against Arizona, allowing two runs.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Saturday’s action

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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It’s the last Clayton Kershaw start of the regular season. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

The Dodgers already have the NL West in the bag, but they’re still fighting for home-field advantage against the Nationals. Should the two teams end up with the same regular season record by Monday morning, the edge will go to the Dodgers, who have a better head-to-head record this year. Kershaw has already been announced as the starter for Game 1 of the NLDS, while the Nationals have kept their lineup close to the vest for the time being.

Facing the Dodgers is Giants’ left-hander Ty Blach, who is poised to make the second major league start of his career this afternoon. The Giants are in a precarious position heading into the last two games of the year and have the potential to force a three-way tie among NL wild card contenders. A thorough breakdown of the wild card and home-field advantage possibilities has been outlined here.

You can find more from Saturday’s action below.

New York Mets (Bartolo Colon) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Phil Klein), 1:05 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Chad Kuhl) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha), 1:05 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Wade Miley) @ New York Yankees (Luis Severino), 4:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) @ San Francisco Giants (Ty Blach), 4:05 PM EDT

Miami Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen) @ Washington Nationals (Tanner Roark), 4:05 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester) @ Cincinnati Reds (Tim Adleman), 4:10 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer) @ Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez), 4:15 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Jordan Zimmerman) @ Atlanta Braves (Aaron Blair), 7:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Hector Santiago) @ Chicago White Sox (James Shields), 7:10 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) @ Boston Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez), 7:10 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Jake Odorizzi) @ Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis), 8:05 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta) @ Colorado Rockies (Jeff Hoffman), 8:10 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Clayton Richard) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley), 8:10 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Collin McHugh) @ Los Angeles Angels (Tyler Skaggs), 9:05 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Jharel Cotton) @ Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma), 9:10 PM EDT

Settling the Scores: Friday’s results

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Norichika Aoki #8 of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run off of starting pitcher Raul Alcantara #50 of the Oakland Athletics during the second inning of a game against the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Raul Alcantara was in the business of distributing home runs on Friday night.

Robinson Cano caught the tail end of a 94.1 m.p.h. fastball in the first inning, driving it to center field to put the Mariners on the board. In the second, Norichika Aoka found his fourth home run of the year on a similarly-placed heater. The Mariners then targeted Alcantara’s off-speed stuff, picking on the right-hander’s changeup and slider to get two more home runs in the third: the first, another dead-center blast by Cano, and the last, a bomb by Nelson Cruz that popped off the center field wall and survived an umpire review.

Taijuan Walker, who enjoyed the spike in run support from his 3.6 average, was not immune to the home run bug either, giving up the first and only run of the night on Ryon Healy’s 102-m.p.h. home run in the sixth inning.

While Walker excelled at run prevention, he also came one walk shy of hitting a career-high mark, with five walks spread over six innings. Seattle’s bullpen stepped in for three perfect innings to close out the game and, despite six perfect frames from Oakland relievers Zach Neal and Daniel Coulombe, quashed the A’s hopes of closing a four-run gap.

The Mariners’ win on Friday puts them one game back of the wild card; if they take the rest of the series and the Tigers and Blue Jays lose one of their remaining weekend games, the Mariners will tie for the remaining wild card spot. With Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez on the hill this weekend, winning shouldn’t be an issue. Getting the Blue Jays to collapse against the Red Sox (and, to a lesser extent, the Tigers against the Braves) is another story.

Here are the rest of the box scores from Friday’s games. Keep an eye out for the first modest bat flip of Jose Bautista‘s career, Madison Bumgarner‘s eighth RBI of the year, and the Orioles’ three-homer inning.

Orioles 8, Yankees 1

Marlins 7, Nationals 4

Mets 5, Phillies 1

Cubs 7, Reds 3

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3

Tigers 6, Braves 2

Rangers 3, Rays 1

Rockies 4, Brewers 1

White Sox 7, Twins 3

Indians 7, Royals 2

Cardinals 7, Pirates 0

Diamondbacks 5, Padres 3

Angels 7, Astros 1

Mariners 5, Athletics 1

Giants 9, Dodgers 3