Daily Dose: Astros shut down Oswalt

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Roy Oswalt’s back problems haven’t improved, so after back-to-back rough starts the Astros have decided to shut him down for the season. “It’s not getting any better and it’s kind of lingering a bit,” Oswalt said. “If we were in contention and fighting for the playoffs, I would try to get an epidural block and ride it as long as I could. But I don’t want it to linger for next year.”
Oswalt had a 3.66 ERA and 104/33 K/BB ratio in 135.1 innings through 21 starts, but has a 5.48 ERA in nine outings since then and finishes the season with an ERA over 4.00 for the first time in his nine-year career. Toss in a team-record 16 no-decisions leading to just eight wins and it has definitely been a very disappointing campaign, but his secondary numbers suggest a 2010 bounce back if he can get healthy.
While the Astros remain on the hook to the 32-year-old Oswalt for at least two more seasons and at least $33 million, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Matt LaPorta is showing why it was so foolish for Cleveland to keep him at Triple-A for so long, driving in three runs Wednesday to make him 28-for-96 (.292) with five homers and eight doubles since being called up in mid-August. LaPorta’s extended stint in the minors will keep his raw totals modest and likely make him undervalued in 2010, but he’s a potential middle-of-the-order bat with 30-homer power right now.
* Mike Scioscia talked earlier this week about possibly giving rookie Kevin Jepsen some save chances because of Brian Fuentes’ struggles and may want to put those wheels in motion after Fuentes blew his seventh save of the year Wednesday. Some questionable umpiring conspired against Fuentes and the Angels, but he has a 6.38 ERA and four blown saves since the All-Star break and Jepsen has been great.
* Trevor Cahill tossed seven innings of one-hit ball Wednesday, combining with two relievers on a shutout of the Rangers. Even with the excellent outing Cahill moves to just 9-12 with a 4.54 ERA and equally unimpressive 88/68 K/BB ratio in 168 innings, although certainly at 21 years old he has plenty of room to improve. He’s not likely to miss a ton of bats, but induces lots of grounders and will throw more strikes in 2010.
* Jesus Flores got off to a nice start this year, hitting .301/.371/.505 through 106 trips to the plate, but a bruised shoulder turned into a stress fracture that sidelined him for four months. He finally returned this week, but had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum Wednesday. Washington is hoping that Flores will be healthy for spring training, but the 24-year-old former breakout candidate is now a big question mark.
AL Quick Hits: Jorge Posada began serving a three-game suspension Wednesday, so third-string catcher Francisco Cervelli delivered a walk-off single … Bartolo Colon (elbow) was released Wednesday by the White Sox after going 3-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 12 starts … Jarrod Saltalamacchia will undergo surgery Monday for thoracic outlet syndrome, which has a four-month recovery … Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable Wednesday because of back soreness … Nate Robertson will start Sunday in place of Jarrod Washburn (knee) … Tim Wakefield (back) is now scheduled to rejoin the rotation Monday, but will throw a bullpen session first … Fausto Carmona will stay in the rotation at 3-11 with a 6.58 ERA, with Eric Wedge explaining that “we’re going to keep running him out there” … Vladimir Guerrero left Wednesday’s game after taking a fastball off the ribs … Victor Martinez is due to rejoin the team Thursday after being away for a personal issue.
NL Quick Hits: St. Louis is skipping Kyle Lohse’s next rotation turn, with John Smoltz set to start Friday … Huston Street (biceps) threw a bullpen session Wednesday and hopes to return Sunday, but will work as Franklin Morales’ setup man initially … Joe Blanton bounced back from his worst outing of the season with six scoreless innings Wednesday … Manny Parra (neck) won’t make his scheduled Friday start despite an MRI exam revealing no structural damage … Justin Upton went 5-for-5 and missed the cycle by a homer Wednesday while teammate Mark Reynolds went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts … Randy Johnson came off the disabled list and officially joined the Giants’ bullpen Wednesday … Justin Lehr amazingly gave up five runs on five solo homers Wednesday … George Sherrill threw two perfect innings Wednesday, giving him a 0.42 ERA in 21.1 innings with the Dodgers … Milwaukee is debating whether to shut Yovani Gallardo down for the season after 180.2 innings.

Video: Brett Gardner goes deep for his first and second home runs of 2017

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It’s been a slow start to the season for Yankees’ outfielder Brett Gardner, who entered Saturday’s matinee against the Orioles with a .188/.316/.234 batting line, three doubles and five stolen bases in his first 76 PA of the year. That all changed in the first inning of Saturday’s game, when Gardner skied a leadoff home run to right field:

Orioles’ right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t find his footing against the Yankees in the second inning, either. Gardner returned for his second home run of the season, a three-run shot to lift New York 5-0 over Baltimore:

Measured at 411 feet in the right field bullpen, the left fielder’s blast marked the seventh home run hit by a Yankee this series. According to the club’s PR department, it’s also the first multi-home run game Gardner has recorded since September 2015. The Yankees currently lead the Orioles 7-0 through four innings.

And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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Friday’s weekend series kicked off with Gift Ngoepe’s first major league start, Mike Trout‘s important anniversary and an informal home run derby between the Yankees and Orioles. Here are the rest of Friday’s scores and highlights:

Yankees 14, Orioles 11 (10 innings): Manny Machado may have hit 2017’s longest home run on Friday night, but he was forced to share the spotlight as the Orioles and Yankees combined for eight home runs in their 10-inning slug-fest. In the end, the only home run that mattered was the last one of the night: a walk-off, three-run 411-footer by Matt Holliday to clinch the Yankees’ first win of the series.

Mets 7, Nationals 5: In a battle of elite arms, the Mets took the lead with Jacob deGrom‘s 12-strikeout performance. Max Scherzer struck out seven over six innings, but a couple of timely knocks from Travis d'Arnaud in the second and fourth innings unraveled the Mets’ flimsy one-run lead and eventually, their hold on the game altogether.

Rays 7, Blue Jays 4: Home runs are swell, as are late-game comebacks and solid pitching performances, but it’s not every day that you get a full highlight reel’s worth of plays from Steven Souza Jr.:

Red Sox 5, Cubs 4: Visiting Cubs fans monopolized a good section of Fenway Park on Friday, and the Cubs played nearly as well as if they were playing against the ivy backdrop of Wrigley Field. Although the Sox jumped out to an early five-run lead in the first inning, the Cubs worked a four-run comeback and put the game-tying run on second base when Ben Zobrist lined a double in the ninth inning. That’s as far as they got, however, leaving Zobrist stranded to drop their second consecutive loss of the week.

White Sox 7, Tigers 3: The White Sox extended their win streak to five consecutive games on Friday, clinching first place in the AL Central after a shutdown performance from the bullpen and a late-game comeback spearheaded by Geovany Soto and Tim Anderson. Tigers’ third baseman Nicholas Castellanos helped, too, committing three errors in the sixth and eighth innings to facilitate the White Sox’ rally and cement their 12th win of the year.

Pirates 12, Marlins 2: If you haven’t gotten up to speed on Gift Ngoepe’s intriguing path to the major leagues, do yourself a favor and peruse this excellent 2009 profile by Sports Illustrated’s Gary Smith. Ngoepe was promoted to the bigs last Wednesday and has already garnered some attention for hitting a single in his first career at-bat. He was no less impressive on Friday, going 3-for-3 with two base hits, two walks and an opposite-field triple that just cleared Giancarlo Stanton‘s head at the wall.

Mariners 3, Indians 1: The Mariners may be short one Felix Hernandez, Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz, but they looked more than capable of taking on the Indians during Friday’s series opener. Robinson Cano and Ben Gamel combined for a three-run lead on two home runs and Ariel Miranda allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings, effectively stifling several rally attempts by the Indians and clinching his second win of the year.

Angels 6, Rangers 3: It’s been five years since Mike Trout received his permanent call-up from the minors, and he celebrated in true Mike Trout fashion, engineering an impressive catch on the warning track and collecting a two-run homer against Rangers’ right-hander Nick Martinez:

The Rangers, meanwhile, would have been better off spending their Friday like Yu Darvish:

Braves 10, Brewers 8: Don’t look now, but the Braves are no longer in last place. They relinquished their spot at the bottom of the NL East on Friday, scooting half a game above the Mets after they mounted a six-run rally in the last few innings of a 10-8 win over the Brewers. That’s thanks in large part to their bullpen, which stifled Milwaukee’s comeback attempts with four scoreless frames, giving Ender Inciarte and Adonis Garcia just enough time to clear the bases in the seventh inning and take the lead on Kurt Suzuki’s RBI single in the eighth.

Astros 9, Athletics 4: Consistency isn’t exactly what Charlie Morton is known for, and Friday’s outing was no exception. The veteran right-hander got off to a rocky start in the first inning, putting runners on first and second and watching Khris Davis unleash a three-run bomb for an early lead. While Morton eventually settled down to strike out a career-high 12 batters, Davis still had the righty’s number, and took him deep a second time for the Astros’ fourth and final run of the night.

Cardinals 7, Reds 5: Reason #7 why you should never sleep on the job:

Twins 6, Royals 4: It looked like the Royals finally caught a break on Friday. They built a modest three-run lead early in the game and were able to keep their heads above water even after Miguel Sano brought the Twins within a run of tying the game on a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Everything looked hunky-dory for Kansas City until the eighth, when Joakim Soria loaded the bases for Sano, home plate umpire CB Bucknor took a 92 m.p.h. fastball to the face mask, and the Twins jumped out to a two-run lead to secure the Royals’ eighth consecutive loss.

Rockies 3, Diamondbacks 1: Just as we all predicted, neither the Giants nor the Dodgers are anywhere near the top of the NL West this year. The top two spots appear reserved for the Rockies and Diamondbacks, who have traded first place several times during the month of April. Colorado reclaimed the division on Friday, spearing their 15th win on a one-run outing by rookie southpaw Kyle Freeland and a handful of hits from Carlos Gonzalez, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon.

Dodgers 5, Phillies 3: Kenta Maeda is finally looking like the starter the Dodgers need him to be, and not a moment too soon. The right-hander struck out eight over seven innings, holding the Phillies to five hits and two runs in his second winning effort this season. It’ll still take some time to get that ERA below 6.00, however, and the Dodgers have to dig themselves out of a three-game deficit if they want to reclaim first place in the NL West this spring.

Giants 4, Padres 3: So much for rookie jitters. Christian Arroyo has made a comfortable home in the major leagues, slugging .250/.250/.800 through his first four career games and topping it off with his second home run against the Padres on Friday night.