El Duque to attempt comeback with Rangers

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The Rangers, who have already gambled on Jason Jennings and Kris Benson with mixed results this year, announced the signing of Orlando Hernandez to a minor league contract on Thursday.

There hadn’t been much talk about Hernandez lately, but little brother
Livan said in February that El Duque intended to make a comeback as a
reliever during the season. Hernandez wasn’t ready to pitch at the
beginning of the season following surgery to remove a bunion on his
right toe. The foot problems prevented him from pitching for the Mets
last season as he finished up a two-year, $12 million contract. In
2007, he went 9-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 24 starts and three relief
appearances.

El Duque is listed as being 39 years old, but the assumption is that
he’s 43. It’s doubtful that he’d have any chance of holding up as a
starter for the Rangers, but we wouldn’t bet against him proving quite
useful out of the pen. He’s always been able to strike hitters out with
his vast array of pitches and arm angles. He might even be a legitimate
right-handed setup man for a team currently relying on Darren O’Day in
that role.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.