Speculation will continue to swirl about the Angels being in the market for a veteran first baseman thanks to Kendry Morales’ broken ankle, but for now Mike Scioscia is giving career-long catcher Mike Napoli a shot to grab hold of the position:
Mike’s going to get a lot of looks at first. We have some depth at the catching position which is going to let us use his versatility at first and contribute offensively. We’ll probably mix in some other guys, but we’ll try to keep his bat in the lineup.
Napoli hadn’t played a single inning at first base in the majors prior to Morales’ injury, but Jeff Mathis coming off the disabled list yesterday frees him up to move out from behind the plate.
Napoli admitted that moving to first base “felt a little strange” initially, but he’s by far the Angels’ best option offensively and did play there some in the minors. In fact, this could be Napoli’s best chance at everyday playing time, as Scioscia has often gone with Mathis’ glove over his bat when choosing his starting catcher.
Napoli has a lifetime .848 OPS, which is above average for big-league first basemen, and he’s averaged 30 homers per 500 at-bats for his career. Assuming he can be somewhat passable defensively, Napoli is very capable of giving the Angels the same type of production they’d get from a midseason pickup like Paul Konerko.
Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, the team crowned ace Justin Verlander the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.
“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”
Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.
The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.