Division rivals make challenge trade: Church for Francoeur

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Now this one was positive stunning. One-for-one trades involving
established players at the same positions are unusual enough. To see
division rivals making such a deal in the middle of the season when
they’re separated in the standing by a half-game makes this one of the
most unusual trades in memory.

This seems like a huge gamble for the Mets, who are banking they can
turn Francoeur around. Francoeur is the younger player by more than
four years. He’s the better athlete and he’s more durable. Plus, it’s
not like Church was having a very good season. Still, Francouer has
been a terrible player for a year and a half now and it’s not like he
was very good before that. Church had an average of 73 points of OPS
this year, 132 points last season and 31 points in 2007. His career OPS
is 790, compared to 732 for Francoeuer. Church has played in tougher
environments as well. While Turner Field has a rep as a pitcher’s park,
right-handed hitters have always done quite well there.

For the Braves, getting another left-handed hitter to go along with
Brian McCann, Nate McLouth, Garret Anderson and Casey Kotchman was
hardly ideal. Still, I imagine they jumped at this opportunity pretty
quickly. While Church’s numbers are well down this year, he’s hit
.310/.360/.424 against righties and .326/.359/.444 away from Citi
Field. The Braves can put him in a strict platoon with Matt Diaz in
right. That makes Garret Anderson an everyday player, but manager Bobby
Cox seemed to like him as one anyway. Besides, he’s equally mediocre
against lefties and righties.

Money isn’t much of a factor here. Both Francoeur and Church are in
their first years of arbitration. Francoeur makes $3.375 million, while
Church is earned $2.8 million. Francoeur, if he fails to turn it
around, looks like a strong candidate to be non-tendered at the end of
the season. Church could be as well, but probably only if he gets hurt
again. Neither is eligible for free agency until after 2011.

I see the Braves as the clear winners here. Church has the greater
offensive upside and should work out very well in a strict platoon with
Matt Diaz. Francoeur was a huge liability as a full-time player and
wasn’t even good enough against lefties to contribute as a reserve.
Still, while I dislike the deal, I do appreciate that GM Omar Minaya
was willing to try something that could go down as a spectacular
failure if the Braves go on to make the playoffs and the Mets fall
short. Most in his position wouldn’t have the guts.

Jacob deGrom outduels Clayton Kershaw, Mets take 1-0 NLDS lead

Jacob de Grom
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Jacob deGrom put together one of the best post-season starts in Mets history, outdueling three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to pitch his team into a 1-0 NLDS lead. The right-hander fanned 13 over seven shutout innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk as the Mets won 3-1.

deGrom’s game score of 79 is the fifth-best by a Mets starter in the playoffs, behind Jon Matlack, Mike Hampton, Bobby Jones, and Tom Seaver, according to Baseball Reference. As Katie Sharp notes on Twitter, deGrom is one of three pitchers to hold the opposition scoreless on 13 or more strikeouts and one or fewer walks. The other two are Tim Lincecum and Mike Scott.

In the eighth inning, reliever Tyler Clippard allowed a one-out double to Howie Kendrick followed by an RBI single to Adrian Gonzalez as the Dodgers finally got on the board. Closer Jeurys Familia entered and recorded the final out of the eighth inning by inducing a weak line out from Justin Turner. In the ninth, Familia worked a 1-2-3 frame to wrap up the game.

Kershaw remains winless in the post-season since Game 1 of the 2013 NLDS, a span of seven starts. He gave up a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning, then walked the bases loaded in the seventh inning before departing with two outs. Reliever Pedro Baez entered and allowed two of his inherited runners to score when David Wright lined a single to center field. On the evening, Kershaw was on the hook for three runs on four hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts. Though he lost his command a bit towards the end of his start, the lefty pitched quite well and will be on the receiving end of some unnecessary criticism as a result of taking another post-season loss.

deGrom and Kershaw both struck out 11 batters, the first time that has happened in a major league post-season game.

Michael Cuddyer didn’t look too good out in left field for the Mets.

Game 2 of the NLDS will continue on Saturday at 9:00 PM EDT. Noah Syndergaard will start for the Mets opposite Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom create MLB first with 11 strikeouts each in the playoffs

Jacob deGrom
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers over six frames on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and four walks total in 6 2/3 innings.

The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.

Michael Cuddyer not shining in left field early in NLDS Game 1

Michael Cuddyer
AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek

Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.

Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.

With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.

Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.