Royals could go to Kendall in No. 2 spot

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Not that manager Trey Hillman’s lineup is going to make or break the Royals offense this year — it’s already obviously broken — but Jason Kendall has hit second the last two days and could be an option there in the regular season.
For what it’s worth, Hillman told the Kansas City Star that no one had an early lead on the spot, but he’s clearly considering his light-hitting backstop.
“I know his numbers have gone down the last three years, but we’re trying to get him to focus on keeping the ball out of the air,” Hillman said. “He can still handle the bat, and he’s pretty efficient in his bunting game. So that’s one thing we’re looking at.”
Kendall, as everyone knows, has been one of the game’s worst hitters the last three years. He batted .246/.327/.324 and .251/.331/.305 in his two years with the Brewers, and those OBPs were aided by 13 intentional walks, presumably all of which came with the pitcher on deck. He also tends to ground into a lot of double plays when he gets the chance, something that’s a terrible quality for a No. 2 hitter. He led the AL in that category in 2005 with 26.
It should be obvious that Kendall is a No. 8 or No. 9 hitter if he has to be in the lineup at all. Yet all indications are that Hillman hasn’t learned his lesson. The Royals last year got a disgusing .236/.278/.329 line out of their No. 2 hitters, with Willie Bloomquist and Mitch Maier receiving much of the time there. Having David DeJesus bat second and Billy Butler third seems like the Royals’ best option this year.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.

The Cardinals are optimistic about Yadier Molina’s status

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Jenifer Langosch of reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.

This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.

Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.