Daily Dose: Big Papi heating up

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David Ortiz has finally broken free of his season-long slump, taking CC
Sabathia deep Thursday for his third homer in five games. It’s
certainly not time to say that Big Papi is back to his usual self yet,
but he’s now 9-for-29 (.310) with three long balls already this month
after batting .185 with one homer in 178 at-bats through the end of

Unfortunately for Ortiz and his fantasy owners this hot streak
figures to be put on hold over the weekend–and for nine of the next 15
games–because Boston will be playing under NL rules during interleague
games. He’ll no doubt see plenty of pinch-hitting opportunities and may
get a couple starts, but the Red Sox will just hope that he doesn’t
cool off before the AL schedule resumes on June 29.

While the Red Sox win eight straight games versus the Yankees for
the first time since 1912, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Kelvim Escobar looked fairly good in his return to the Angels’
rotation Saturday, but will give up plans of starting another game this
year after determining that his surgically repaired shoulder simply
isn’t ready for the workload. He’ll move to the bullpen, where he’s had
plenty of success in the past, and Angels relievers have combined for
an AL-worst 5.71 ERA. Matt Palmer will replace him in the rotation.

* David Price struggled to throw strikes again Thursday, failing to
make it out of the fifth inning while handing out six walks and needing
105 pitches to record 13 outs. Price has an impressive 26 strikeouts
and .188 opponents’ batting average in 19 innings, but 18 walks and
just 58 percent strikes. He showed good control prior to this season,
but walked 18 in 34.1 innings at Triple-A before the call-up.

* John Maine admitted Thursday that his shoulder “hurts a little
bit,” so New York placed him on the disabled list after initially just
pushing his next start back a day while saying that he was going
through a “dead arm” period. “Nothing serious,” Maine said. “My
shoulder is just fatigued. It’s dead. I think I pushed it a little too
much. Now it’s starting to lock up on me.” Fernando Nieve may fill-in

* Chien-Ming Wang will remain in the rotation for now, with manager
Joe Girardi saying Thursday that the struggling right-hander will make
one more start before the Yankees reevaluate his role. “At some point,
production is important,” Girardi said. “We told him that it’s a very
important start.” Wang will start Wednesday at home against the
Nationals, with his pregnant wife set to be induced Tuesday.

AL Quick Hits: Zack Greinke allowed three runs over 7.1 innings
in a no-decision Thursday, but two of them scored off the bullpen … Jim
Thome will be limited to pinch-hitting duties for the next nine games
of interleague play … Jason Bartlett (ankle) is expected to remain
sidelined until next week, but Pat Burrell (neck) will rejoin the
lineup Friday after missing a month … Ervin Santana allowed six runs
over 4.2 innings Thursday and now has a 7.47 ERA in six starts since
coming off the disabled list … Garrett Olson beat his old team
Thursday, holding the Orioles to two runs over five innings … Luke
Scott went deep again Thursday, giving him nine homers since coming off
the DL on May 27 … Gavin Floyd took a shutout into the eighth inning
Thursday, but got a no-decision when Bobby Jenks blew a save … Koji
Uehara returned from the DL by allowing four runs over five innings
Thursday … Orlando Hernandez will try a minor-league comeback with

NL Quick Hits: St. Louis is reportedly interested in Miguel Tejada, which could be a good fit
… Max Scherzer shut out the Giants for 7.2 innings Thursday, tossing a
career-high 116 pitches … Willy Taveras went hitless Thursday and is
0-for-20 this month while battling through hamstring soreness … Huston
Street gave up a three-run homer Thursday while working on a fourth
straight day … Fighting the blogosphere
hasn’t slowed Raul Ibanez down, as he smacked a three-run homer
Thursday … Javier Jazquez had a dozen strikeouts over eight innings of
one-run ball Thursday, but got a no-decision … Mike MacDougal worked
three innings in the past two days, so Joe Beimel picked up a one-run
save Thursday … Carlos Delgado (hip) is reportedly still at least three
weeks from swinging a bat … Geoff Blum delivered his second
game-winning hit in 24 hours Thursday with a walk-off single in the
13th inning.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.