Daily Dose: Hello Billy, Goodbye Gary?

Leave a comment

Billy Wagner came off the 60-day disabled list Thursday, rejoining the Mets’ bullpen less than 12 months after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery. He looked great while rehabbing in the minors, tossing seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and zero walks, but now enters an odd situation because the Mets have little use for him now and aren’t planning to pick up his $8 million option for next season.
Wagner’s remaining contract means that he should clear waivers without a problem, which would allow the Mets to trade him to a contender willing to take a shot on the greatest left-handed reliever in baseball history still having some gas left in the tank. He’s owed another $2.5 million or so this year with a $1 million buyout for 2010, so the Mets need to eat salary to get anything in return. He’s worth a pickup, for sure.
While the Mets welcome someone back from the shelf ahead of schedule for once, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Of course, it wouldn’t be the Mets without some trouble to go along with Wagner’s return and Gary Sheffield provided the drama Thursday by reportedly asking for an extension and then threatening to leave the team. Earlier this week Sheffield made some odd statements about not expecting to finish the season with the Mets, so his causing a stir now is hardly shocking.
He’s had a very nice season, hitting .286/.378/.468 in a part-time role for one of the best adjusted OPS+ totals in baseball history by a 40-year-old outfielder, but clearly the Mets can’t be blamed for not looking to lock him up to an extension. They pulled Sheffield back from waivers when he was claimed earlier this month, so a release is the only possible resolution if he can’t be placated.
* Cincinnati decided to put Johnny Cueto on the disabled list Thursday after he went 0-6 with a 10.63 ERA in his last eight starts. Obviously something isn’t right with the promising 23-year-old and the official word is right shoulder inflammation, although the Reds gave no indication that the injury is serious and are hoping that he can get back in the rotation when eligible to return early next month.
Cueto had followed up a very solid rookie campaign by going 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA in 16 starts prior to his implosion, so assuming that the injury proves minor the horrible recent numbers are likely to make him significantly undervalued heading into 2010. For now Micah Owings will replace him in the rotation after spending three weeks on the DL with shoulder problems of his own, but he has little fantasy upside.
AL Quick Hits: Jon Lester tossed eight innings of one-run ball Thursday for his fourth straight Quality Start … Joba Chamberlain is scheduled to make six more starts this season as the Yankees limit his workload … Nelson Cruz came off the disabled list with a homer Thursday … Jason Varitek missed his third straight game with a sore neck Thursday, so Victor Martinez filled in behind the plate … Matt LaPorta rejoined the Indians by driving in three runs Thursday … J.D. Drew went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers Thursday while batting eighth in the lineup … Jarrod Washburn served up four homers to his former Mariners teammates Thursday, giving him eight long balls allowed in four Tigers starts … Justin Morneau has flown back to Minnesota to have his inner-ear infection and dizziness examined by a specialist … Chris Duncan was released Thursday less than a month after coming to Boston in the Julio Lugo trade.
NL Quick Hits: Drew Stubbs hit a walk-off homer Thursday in his second MLB game after going deep three times in 107 games at Triple-A … Carlos Zambrano (back) threw five shutout innings in a rehab start Thursday at Single-A … San Francisco’s dominant pitching and awful hitting continued Thursday as they wasted a Matt Cain gem … Ian Stewart struck out in all four at-bats Thursday and has now whiffed in 30 percent of his at-bats overall … It took 23 starts of a 5.47 ERA, but the Mets finally cut Livan Hernandez loose Thursday … Anibal Sanchez will return from the 60-day disabled list to start Friday against the Braves … Justin Upton (oblique) is slated to begin a rehab stint Monday at Single-A … Johan Santana got stuck with another tough-luck loss Thursday despite giving up three runs in seven innings … Aaron Harang allowed one run in seven innings Thursday, but once again was left without a victory … Nick Johnson (hamstring) is likely headed for the DL if he doesn’t show improvement soon.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

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
Leave a comment

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.