– Tommy Hanson’s second big-league outing will come against the Orioles
in Baltimore. He started off in fine fashion against the Brewers five
days ago, only to end up allowing three homers and seven runs in six
innings. This could be a tougher assignment, as the Orioles lead
baseball with a .294 average at home and are tied for fourth with 39
homers. The Orioles are set to start Jason Berken, who was picked over
David Hernandez to remain in the rotation with Koji Uehara back. Berken
is 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA in three starts.
– My hopes of seeing Lance Berkman reach 300 homers, 1,000 RBI,
1,500 hits and 5,000 at-bats at the same time were dashed Thursday,
when he reached 5,000 at-bats in his final plate appearance. He’s still
at 299 homers, 994 RBI (with just one in his last seven games) and
1,499 hits. It won’t be easy to add to the totals with the Astros
facing Dan Haren tonight, but maybe we’ll see Berkman get 1,500 hits
and Miguel Tejada reach 2,000 (he’s at 1,999) in the same game.
– Roy Halladay, the major league leader in victories and winner of
seven straight, will go for his 11th win versus the Marlins on Friday.
Florida will counter with Ricky Nolasco, who was effective in his
return to the majors last week. The Marlins are 14-4 against the Jays
all-time, but this will be the first time they’ve faced off since 2006.
– The Subway Series kicks off with Livan Hernandez and Joba
Chamberlain on the mound. Hernandez is working on a streak of four
straight victories, but he hasn’t had to face any American League teams
this year and he hasn’t pitched in any ballparks like new Yankee
Stadium. In fact, not one of his five wins this year has come against a
team currently over .500. He’s 0-3 with a 6.37 ERA in five career
starts against the Bombers. Chamberlain will be making his first ever
start against the Mets. He’s 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA this season.
Game of the Night
Boston vs. Philadelphia – A showdown between the teams with the
second- and third-best records in baseball highlights the interleague
schedule tonight. The Red Sox will begin the series with Jon Lester,
who has lowered his ERA from 6.07 to 5.09 while allowing two runs in 15
innings and striking out 23 over his last two starts. He beat the
Phillies last June by throwing seven scoreless innings. Phillies
starter Joe Blanton is also much improved recently. He’s lowered his
ERA from 7.11 to 5.46 by giving up just five runs over his last three
starts. The former Athletic is 3-2 with a 3.75 ERA in eight starts
against the Red Sox.
The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.
In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.
According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.
McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.
The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.
The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.
In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.
The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report: