Quick hits: Happ to start Game 3 vs. Rockies

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– Saturday’s snow-out will allow the
Phillies to go with J.A. Happ in Sunday’s Game 3 against the Rockies.
Happ was knocked out of Thursday’s Game 2 after taking a comebacker off
the right shin, but appears to be good to go. With the inclusion of
Happ, the Phillies would presumably start Cliff Lee in Game 4 and Cole
Hamels in Game 5. If things go according to plan, Jayson Stark of ESPN
reports that
the Phillies would be the first team to start five left-handers in a five-game division series. The Mariners started four (Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer and Jeff Fassero) against the Orioles in 1997.



– They’ll have to survive Saturday’s Game 3 first, but manager Tony LaRussa said Chris Carpenter will start on short rest in a probable Game 4 against the Dodgers on Sunday.
Carpenter yielded four runs over five innings in a 5-3 loss in
Wednesday’s Game 1. The Cardinals had considered John Smoltz or Kyle
Lohse for Game 4, but the early deficit has changed LaRussa’s mind. If
it happens, Carpenter, who missed large parts of two seasons following
Tommy John surgery, would be starting on three days rest for the first
time in his major league career.




– While former Nationals skipper Manny Acta acknowledged his interest in the Astros’ managerial vacancy on Friday night, it appears Jim Fregosi is also being considered for the job.
Fregosi, 67, hasn’t managed in the majors since 2000 with the Blue
Jays. He is 1,028-1,095 lifetime, making one World Series appearance
with the Phillies in 1993. Of course, current Astros general manager Ed
Wade was also the general manager of that team. While Fregosi is
highly-regarded for his handling of veteran players, it’s hardly an
inspiring choice for a team that has failed to make a postseason
appearance since losing in the World Series in 2005.




– And finally, Memories of Kevin Malone points out
that those with postseason inexperience (Randy Wolf, Cliff Lee, Adam
Wainwright, Brian Duensing and Clayton Kershaw) have outperformed those
who have been there before (Chris Carpenter, Cole Hamels, C.C.
Sabathia, John Lackey, Aaron Cook, Jon Lester, Ubaldo Jimenez). This is
a small sample-size, to be sure, but it goes back to what Jim Leyland
always says: Take talent over experience.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.