Daily Dose: How much for that Hombre in the window?

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Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer are the leading MVP candidates with two weeks left this season and it sounds like both players may spend the offseason negotiating contract extensions. Mauer is a free agent after next season and the Twins desperately want to lock him up long term, and St. Louis owner Bill DeWitt revealed Thursday that the Cardinals plan to approach Pujols with a long-term deal as well.
Pujols still has two seasons remaining on the seven-year, $100 million contract that he signed in February of 2004, so the Cardinals can afford to be a little more patient with him than the Twins can be with Mauer. In fact, the first order of business for the Cardinals this winter will be deciding what to do with free agent Matt Holliday, who’s hit .356 with 13 homers and 50 RBIs in 55 games since coming over from the A’s.
While the Cardinals decide whether to hand out $250 million in new deals, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Lou Piniella reportedly gave Rich Harden the option of shutting things down for the season and the impending free agent decided against making another start. “It’d be a lot different if we were in it and they needed me to pitch,” Harden said. “I’d be out there in a second and I’d be fine. I’m still healthy, feeling good.” Maybe, but he’s not “feeling good” enough to give potential suitors one more look at his oft-injured arm.
As usual Harden has been dominant at times and shaky at times this year, going 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA and 171/67 K/BB ratio in 141 innings. He has the best strikeout rate in baseball among pitchers with 25 starts, narrowly beating Tim Lincecum and Justin Verlander, and held opponents to a .234 average. On the other hand his walk rate is eighth-worst among 25-start pitchers and he hasn’t logged 150 innings since 2004.
* Bronson Arroyo held the Pirates to one run in seven innings Thursday for his 12th straight Quality Start, which is quite a turnaround considering that he was sporting a 5.65 ERA through early July. Since then he has a 2.15 ERA and 67/23 K/BB ratio in 109 innings spread over 15 starts and has allowed more than three runs just once in that time, although his win-loss record is modest at 6-5.
Arroyo’s impressive stretch has his ERA below 4.00 for the first time all year. In fact, the last time his ERA resided under 4.00 was following his first start of 2008. Arroyo isn’t having a breakout at the age of 32, but his turnaround makes next season’s $11 million salary a little more palatable for the Reds whether they choose to keep him or shop him to a big-payroll contender. Arroyo also has an $11 million option for 2011.
* I’ve posted tons of Twitter updates this week and will probably ramp things up even further once the playoffs get going, so sign up to follow me or forever be uncool.
AL Quick Hits: Clay Buchholz stayed on a roll Thursday with 6.2 shutout innings and has now allowed six total runs in his last six starts … Justin Verlander took over the MLB lead with 256 strikeouts and won his 17th game Thursday as the Tigers upped their AL Central lead to three games … Felix Hernandez picked up his 17th win with eight solid innings Thursday … Zack Greinke didn’t pitch Thursday, but still managed to get ejected from his dugout seat for arguing balls and strikes … Kevin Jepsen will be unavailable for another few days because of what the Angels are calling “a dead arm period” … Josh Hamilton (glute) plans to return to the lineup Friday after missing three weeks … Tim Wakefield’s next scheduled start has now been pushed back to Wednesday … Scott Feldman remains stuck on 17 victories after coughing up seven runs in 3.1 innings Thursday.
NL Quick Hits: Matt Kemp’s big game Thursday night made him the first player in the Dodgers’ storied history with 25 homers, 25 steals, and 100 RBIs in a season … J.A. Happ lingering oblique injury didn’t seem like a problem Thursday as he allowed two runs in 5.2 innings for his 11th victory … Raul Ibanez was scratched from Thursday’s lineup with a stomach virus, so Ben Francisco started in his place … Bruce Bochy said Wednesday that stud prospect Buster Posey may finally see some playing time behind the plate once the Giants are eliminated from the Wild Card race … Carlos Gonzalez (hamstring) was out of the lineup again Thursday and could be sidelined until next week … Jeremy Hermida (hamstring) took batting practice Wednesday for the first time since September 2 and aims to return this weekend … Cristian Guzman made a pair of throwing errors Wednesday and took Thursday’s game off because of shoulder soreness.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 9, Twins 3; Twins 4, Indians 2: Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis each had three hits and a homer in the first game, helping the Indians win their sixth straight. That streak ended in the second game, however, as Aaron Slegers, making his big league debut, allowed only two runs while pitching into the seventh and Max Kepler hit a go-ahead homer that inning. Eduardo Escobar knocked in two on a 3-for-5 evening.

Diamondbacks 4, Astros 0: Patrick Corbin fell one out short of a shutout, allowing only four hits in eight and two-thirds, and Archie Bradley retired the final batter to make it a team effort. Jake Lamb homered. Daniel Delscalso hit an inside-the-park homer. Lamb called that weirdness and raised by striking out on a wild pitch that allowed David Peralta to scores from third.

Reds 13, Cubs 10: The Reds scored nine runs in the second inning. Normally that’d be enough to ensure a win, but this one was wild, with the Cubs coming back to tie it in the fifth. The Reds kept scoring, however, winning it going away. Lots of crooked numbers in this box score, with Reds outfielder Phillip Ervin driving in four, including the two-run homer which broke the 9-9 ties, and Jose Peraza and Joey Votto each driving in three for Cincinnati. The Cubs hit six homers: Ian Happ had two and Kris Bryant, Alex Avila, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber each hitting one. Jon Lester gave up nine runs — seven earned — and left before he could finish two innings. Scott Feldman allowed six in less than four.

Braves 10, Rockies 4Ender Inciarte hit two of Atlanta’s four homers as the Braves bounced back from Wednesday’s rout. Freddie Freeman and Tyler Flowers also homered as Colorado and Atlanta split their four-game set. A scare for the Rockies: Nolan Arenado had a ball smack his hand as he tried to field it at third, forcing him out of the game. X-rays came back negative, however, which is positive.

Blue Jays 5, Rays 3: It was tied 3-3 in the eighth, thanks in part to two solo homers from Josh Donaldson, when Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer. Donaldson is on fire, having hit 11 home runs over his past 19 games, including four times in this series. He’s batting .400 (20 for 50) with 21 RBI in the month of August. There are nine teams in the AL realistically competing for two Wild Card spots, with the Blue Jays — previously written off for dead — among them, three games out of the second spot. September is gonna be nuts.

Cardinals 11, Pirates 7: Dexter Fowler drove in three, two of which coming on a triple, as the Cardinals come back after being down 5-0. Game highlight, though, was Josh Harrison dancing.

Yankees 7, Mets 5Gary Sanchez homered and drove in five runs as the Yankees sweep the Mets in the Subway Series. Which is misnamed, as I figure that few if any of the players involved actually take the subway to the games anymore, what with the subway being an absolute disaster these days.

Rangers 9, White Sox 8: Nomar Mazara homered in drove in five too, hitting a tie-breaking three-run homer in the fifth. The Rangers have won four straight and seven of eight, climbing back to .500. Mazara has 25 RBI in his past 19 games and is on a pace for 111.

Nationals 2, Padres 1: The Nats only had four hits in the game, but one of them was a Ryan Zimmerman homer to break a 1-1 tie in the eighth. Edwin Jackson — who, at this point, we must refer to as “Edwin Jackson of all people” every time he’s mentioned — allowed one run over seven, scattering eight hits.

Giants 5, Phillies 4Jeff Samardzija was solid, winning for the fourth time in his last five starts and Jarrett Parker hit a two-run double in the fifth that led to Denard Span and Hunter Pence scoring within seconds of each other after Pence almost caught up with Span on the base paths:

Don’t look back, somethin’ might be gainin’ on ya.

Kris Bryant on Joey Votto: “He’s the best player ever … He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

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The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”

Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.