The Daniel Bard train gains momentum

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Every few days you see another article like this about Daniel Bard in the Boston media:

There’s little doubt that with his potential, Bard could conceivably be a big-league closer right away. He has an overpowering fastball that regularly hits 98 or 99 on the gun, and his fast-developing slider has become a solid secondary pitch. With that arsenal alone, he could be a lights-out guy in the ninth inning . . . Bard deserves a shot at the big time. He’s a 45-save season waiting to happen.

Like the others I’ve seen, this article plays it passive and doesn’t explicitly demand that the Sox trade Jonathan Papelbon.  But it’s apparent that the “oh, whatever shall we do with the bullpen logjam occasioned by the presence of the increasingly expensive and suddenly unreliable Papelbon” talk is really lobbying for just that very thing.

Should Boston trade Papelbon?  I think the answer to that question lies with Billy Wagner.  Bard could crash and burn in his first taste of the closer’s role, and it would be awfully nice to have someone else around to help ease the transition.  If Wagner is serious about wanting to retire, convince him to hang around one last year and play John Wetteland to Bard’s Mariano Rivera.  If he demands multiple years, give him two — assuming they’re not outrageous — and transition Bard from setup guy to closer between next year and mid-2011.

The key here is that by trading Papelbon, you have his almost certain-to-be-disrupting presence out of the way as you anoint Bard the future closer. And you get something for him in return.  Seems worth exploring to me.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.