Jerry Manuel vows to make the Mets work on fundamentals

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Jerry Manuel.jpgWhen it comes to spring training evergreen stories there aren’t many more venerable than “best shape of his life” and “Player X spent the winter working on a new arm angle to get on top of his breaking ball” pieces. After those, however, you have to go with “Manager X plans on emphasizing fundamental baseball this spring” rebop. According to Allen Barra, this year it’s the Mets singing that tune:

Looking for bright spots as the Mets pitchers and catchers report?
Here’s one: Jerry Manuel has vowed to put his team through a starter
course in fielding fundamentals.

Two observations:

  • The major leagues is a bit late to be teaching anyone fundamental baseball. The best way to ensure good fundamental baseball at this level is to, you know, get guys who are fundamentally-sound baseball players and use them a lot; and
  • As Barra notes, the the Mets are likely to realize a dramatic improvement on defense simply by having Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes back on the field.  Query: is Manuel clever/devious enough to be aware of this, plant some “I’m emphasizing fundamentals” stories in the press and then later try to take credit for the inevitable improvement brought on by Beltran and Reyes being back?

Probably not. He’s got more to worry about than silly spin games. But part of me likes to think of Jerry Manuel trying to play the angles in advance of what could be an ugly summer in Queens.

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.