Last year at around this time, the Braves and Royals engaged in a waiver war over right-hander Jairo Cuevas. The Royals, guided by former Atlanta assistant GM Dayton Moore, claimed him from the Braves on Oct. 24, the Braves reclaimed him on Nov. 27 and the Royals reclaimed him on Dec. 10.
The Royals ended up winning the battle, as they were able to non-tender Cuevas and then re-sign him on Dec. 13, allowing them to keep him in the organization without using a 40-man roster spot on him. Cuevas went on to miss the entire 2009 season after recovering from shoulder surgery, and he’ll be back in Royals camp as a non-roster player next year.
There will be no waiver war this time. However, there could be some controversy over the fate of one Juan Abreu. The Royals’ Double-A Northwest Arkansas affiliate announced Friday that Abreu had been re-signed to a minor league contract.
The Braves, apparently, disagreed. They announced the signing of Abreu to a major league contract on Tuesday and added the 24-year-old right-hander to their 40-man roster.
Time will tell if Abreu is worth the fuss. He can reach the mid-90s with his fastball and he’s struck out 10.9 batters per nine innings during a four-year minor league career, but his command is awful and he struggled in his first attempt at Double-A last season. Overall, he had a 3.67 ERA and a 53/36 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings between high-A Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas last season. He’ll almost certainly open next year back in Double-A.
If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.
But are we even at 2-2?
On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.
But remember: stuff happens.
Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.
Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.
Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.
All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.