Mike Gosling goes out in style


Mike Gosling.jpgThis is the first and probably the last time I’ll ever write about Mike Gosling on this blog, but I was in the crowd last night to see him pitch and I feel very grateful for having been there.

Unless you’re a hardcore Diamondbacks fan, you probably have no idea who Mike Gosling is. Short version: he’s a pitcher who came out of Stanford and was taken by Arizona in the second round of the 2001 draft. After a year of decent work in double A, Gosling seemingly met his match in the Pacific Coast League, putting up three straight years of ERAs in the fives, with increasingly poor peripherals.

The Diamondbacks waived him and the Reds picked him up, where it was more of the same.  Then the Blue Jays took him and turned him into a reliever for a season only to release him. Then a half season stop with the Twins organization and finally the Indians.  There were cups of coffee here and there, but he’s basically been a AAA soldier for several years.

Last night Gosling got the start for the Columbus Clippers.  I was at the game, and though Carlos Santana’s two-homer, five-RBI night was the big story, Gosling pitched well, shutting out a very good Durham Bulls team over six and a third innings. He left to the polite but muted applause of the crowd, most of whom were at Huntington Park for the dime-a-dog night promotion, not the final bow of Mike Gosling’s non-storied career.

And it was the final bow:  Mike Gosling announced after the game that he was retiring back home to San Diego in order to spend more time with his wife, Kim, and his 4-month-old son, Max.  He had actually made his decision before the game, but hadn’t told anyone outside of team management. Maybe that was to preserve the integrity of the game. Maybe that was in case he changed his mind (though on a cold and wet Ohio night, I’m sure the prospect of heading back to the warm embrace of his family in the sunny climes of San Diego rendered a change of heart impossible). But no matter the reason, last night was it for him, and I’m glad I was there to see it.

Not because Mike Gosling was anything special as a pitcher, obviously. Indeed, as the game was happening I really didn’t give him much if any thought.  But knowing now that it was his last game, I’m struck with a certain joy and wonder about it all.

How many ballplayers leave the game on their own terms? Sure, maybe Gosling’s original terms were to leave the game following his 350th win and seventh World Series ring, but at some point over the past seven or eight years he likely readjusted to reality, accepting the fact that he was basically a double-A pitcher kicking around triple-A baseball and that the future held no further glory for him.  He turns 30 this fall, and he knows the score. Last night the score for him was zeros. However sad it is to walk away from something you’ve done since you were a kid, leaving like that rather than being released by one team and shunned by all the rest has to make the process a bit sweeter.

As does the reason for leaving.  As I write this, Mike Gosling is probably sitting in Port Columbus International airport waiting for a plane that will take him home to San Diego to see Kim and Max and to begin his new life.  How nice is it that he left his old one walking as tall as anyone could reasonably hope under the circumstances?  How nice is it that someone — in this case a Columbus Dispatch reporter — made a note of it so that we could know of this small but, in its own way, beautiful moment?

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.