Given how bad the Rangers had been against AL playoff teams on the road and given that ace David Price was going for the Rays today, Tampa Bay probably felt pretty confident coming into today’s game. Of course, that’s why they play the games.
Jeff Francoeur hitting an RBI double and Bengie Molina going 3 for 4 with a homer and a couple of RBI himself wasn’t exactly something you’d bet the mortgage on. But Cliff Lee showing up strong was, and all three of those things happened. It was interesting in the ninth as Neftali Feliz walked the first two batters, but a good defensive play from Jeff Francoeur — he’s so dreamy; I love him so — and calmer nerves on the part of Feliz closed things out to preserve the game.
So: how screwed are the Rays?
Pretty screwed, I’d say! As our friend Joe Posnanski noted today, teams that win the first game of five-game series are 70-26 over the years. That’s pretty good. And that’s before you realize just how big a falloff the Rays rotation has from Price to James “Shomer Shabbos” Shields and Matt “I ain’t been all that since my no-hitter” Garza. Sure, the Rangers have a big falloff from Cliff Lee to the rest of their rotation as well, but at this moment of the season I have more faith in C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter.
But hey, if we didn’t predict Frenchie and Molina’s star turns today, we can’t predict gloom and doom for the Rays either. It’s one game. There are as many as four more remaining. They have a shot.
Just a lot less of a shot than the Rangers do, statistically speaking.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.