Ohioans rejoice: LaPorta, Stubbs get callups

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One move was overdue.  The other was more about the thrill of finally getting Willy Taveras out of the Cincinnati lineup.  On Wednesday, the Indians added 2007 first-round pick Matt LaPorta to their roster, while the Reds called up 2006 first-rounder Drew Stubbs.


Bypassed when Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco, Victor Martinez all were shipped off, Matt LaPorta finally received his promotion when fellow youngster Trevor Crowe landed on the disabled list.  The 24-year-old was up briefly earlier this year, batting .190/.286/.286 in 42 at-bats.  He was hitting .299/.388/.530 in his first season in Triple-A, but the Indians held off on promoting him because of some indecisiveness over where to play him.  A first baseman in college, LaPorta was moved to the outfield when drafted by Milwaukee.  The Indians didn’t have Prince Fielder blocking him when they picked him up for CC Sabathia, but they left him in the outfield originally, only starting to give him more time at first base as this year went along.  He projects best at first base, but he could continue to shift between positions in the majors.


While it’s LaPorta’s bat that will carry him, Stubbs was chosen to replace the injured Taveras because of his defense in center.  It was still a surprise to see him picked over Chris Heisey, who played center in Double-A before joining Stubbs at Louisville.  Heisey has shown the better bat all year long, even though he’s faded recently.  Stubbs has struggled mightily of late, posting a .194 average in 62 at-bats this month.  He’s hitting .268/.353/.360 with 46 steals in 54 attempts for the season.


Stubbs stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 205 pounds, so the strength should be there.  He also strikes out like a power hitter, with 104 Ks in 107 games this season.  Unfortunately, he’s totaled just three homers in 411 at-bats.  Last year, he had seven in 470 at-bats.  That his defense in center is truly exceptional should make him a long-term regular, but there wouldn’t seem to be any star potential here, unless we’re talking fantasy baseball.  He’s not quite the burner that Taveras is, but he is an excellent basestealer, something that could land him a spot at the top of the order for the Reds next year.  The audition comes now, and if he’s impressive enough, then the team could eat the second year of Taveras’ deal.


As an aside, this isn’t the first time LaPorta and Stubbs have been connected.  LaPorta starred for the Gators and Stubbs for the Longhorns when Florida and Texas met in the finals of the 2005 College World Series, won by Texas.

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.