Daily Dose: Pujols helps Wainwright to 18

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Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright led the Cardinals to their NL-leading 84th victory Wednesday, with Pujols smacking a pair of homers and Wainwright shutting out the Brewers for seven innings. St. Louis is now 7-2 this month, 27-8 since August 1, and 34-15 since the All-Star break, and suddenly looks like the clear team to beat in the National League after sitting at just 41-38 after three months.
Pujols is six homers ahead of Mark Reynolds for the MLB lead with 47, is one behind Prince Fielder for the league lead in RBIs with 124, and trails just Hanley Ramirez for the batting title. However, the odds of a Triple Crown are very slim, because getting his .331 batting average past Ramirez and his .357 mark would be extremely difficult in just four weeks. The bum will probably have to settle for his second straight MVP.
Wainwright may also be headed for some hardware after becoming the season’s first 18-game winner. Along with the shiny win total that voters love Wainwright leads the NL with 205 innings and ranks fourth in ERA at 2.59. Rotation-mate Chris Carpenter has the league’s best ERA at 2.16, but has thrown 38 fewer innings than Wainwright. Tim Lincecum has a 2.34 ERA in nearly as many innings, but is “only” 13-5.
While the Cardinals emerge as the league’s best team and the Cy Young race goes down to the wire, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Ryan Madson replaced Brad Lidge in the midst of a save situation Tuesday and got the call from the outset Wednesday, closing out a 6-5 victory with a scoreless frame. Charlie Manuel hasn’t officially announced a change yet, but after five months of bad pitching Lidge may have finally forced his manager’s hand. Keep a close eye on how the bullpen shakes out over the next couple games, but Madson is a must pickup.
* Texas knocked Fausto Carmona out of the game in the first inning Wednesday and then Scott Feldman cruised to his 16th victory with seven shutout innings. Nothing in Feldman’s track record or secondary numbers suggest that he’s anywhere near this good, but he’s shown zero signs of slowing down and is now 16-4 with a 3.46 ERA in 164 innings. He’ll likely be on my “busts” list for 2010, but it’s been quite a ride.
* Los Angeles’ rotation depth is coming in handy now that Randy Wolf was scratched from his scheduled Friday start with elbow soreness. Joe Torre said that Wolf might be able to rejoin the rotation after missing just one turn, but meanwhile Hiroki Kuroda will start in his place against the Giants. Wolf has a long history of injuries and is just one out away from his most innings since 2003, so there’s cause for concern.
AL Quick Hits: Brian Roberts doubled Wednesday to become just the fourth player of all time with 50-plus doubles in three seasons … Joba Chamberlain was lifted after just three innings and 56 pitches Wednesday as the Yankees continued to suppress his workload … Roy Halladay took a complete-game loss Wednesday, finishing his MLB-high seventh start … Daisuke Matsuzaka (shoulder) made his final rehab start Wednesday at Single-A, allowing one run in 6.2 innings … Adam Jones’ (ankle) year is officially over after he was moved to the 60-day disabled list Wednesday … Jeff Niemann got stuck with another no-decision Wednesday despite allowing one run in seven innings … Brandon Morrow will come up from Triple-A to start Friday, but can’t be trusted yet … Francisco Liriano will work out of the bullpen after coming off the shelf Wednesday … B.J. Upton left Wednesday’s game with discomfort in the ankle that he injured a collision last week.
NL Quick Hits: Jose Reyes (hamstring) said Wednesday that he’s still trying to return this year, but don’t count on it … Wandy Rodriguez hurled another gem Wednesday and has allowed zero or one earned run in 11 of 13 starts … Tommy Hanson tossed eight shutout innings Wednesday before Rafael Soriano blew what would have been his 10th win … Ubaldo Jimenez (hamstring) will throw a bullpen session Thursday in preparation for his start this weekend … Tim Lincecum (back) said Wednesday that he hopes to avoid a second missed start … Kevin Kouzmanoff is expected to miss at least a few games after injuring his calf Tuesday … Dexter Fowler returned from the disabled list Wednesday, but wasn’t in the starting lineup … Huston Street (biceps) is now considered unlikely to pitch before next week … Matt Holliday left Wednesday’s game with a bruised knee … Cliff Lee won Wednesday, but struggled while allowing five runs over seven innings … Jose Valverde has been found to be 15 months older than his listed birth date, making him 32 years old.

Report: Barry Bonds under consideration to be the Marlins hitting coach

Barry Bonds

This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Yadier Molina’s new backup: Cardinals sign Brayan Pena to two-year deal

Brayan Pena Reds
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Veteran catcher Brayan Pena has agreed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cardinals, who’re investing much more than usual in their backup for Yadier Molina.

After bouncing around for a decade without getting even 250 plate appearances in a season Pena signed with the Reds and topped 350 plate appearances in both 2014 and 2015. His production didn’t improve any, as Pena hit .263 with five homers and a .652 OPS in 223 games as a regular.

Pena’s best skill is rarely striking out, which enables him to hit for a decent batting average, but he has very little power and swings at everything. He struggled to control the running game this season at age 33, but has a decent throw-out rate for his career.

Making a multi-year commitment to Pena suggests the Cardinals are no longer counting on Molina being the same type of workhorse behind the plate, which certainly makes sense given his age and injury history. Pena will replace Tony Cruz, who’s been Molina’s understudy since 2011 while hitting just .220 with five homers and a .572 OPS in 259 games.

While we wait for free agent signings: Andrew McCutchen stars in a one-act play

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It’s a pretty slow offseason so far. We’ve had a couple of minor signings. I guess Jordan Zimmermann is sort of a big deal. But it’s a lot more quiet so far this year than it was this time last year. I suppose there’s no real rhyme nor reason for it. Baseball offseason is long, there is no salary cap and thus there’s no rush to do things too quickly.

So, while we wait, here’s Andrew McCutchen doing his best to kill time until spring training starts:

Red Sox sign outfielder Chris Young

Chris Young Getty

Veteran outfielder Chris Young thrived in a platoon role for the Yankees this past season and now he’s headed to the rival Red Sox to fill a similar role, signing a multi-year deal with Boston according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

Young was once an everyday center fielder for the Diamondbacks, making the All-Star team in 2010 at age 26, but for the past 3-4 years he’s gotten 300-350 plate appearances in a part-time role facing mostly left-handed pitching. He hit .252 with 14 homers and a .773 OPS for the Yankees, but prior to that failed to top a .700 OPS in 2013 or 2014.

Given the Red Sox’s outfield depth–Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Brock Holt even with Hanley Ramirez back in the infield–Young is unlikely to work his way into everyday playing time at age 32, but he should get another 300 or so plate appearances while also providing a veteran fallback option. And it’s possible his arrival clears the way for a trade.