Hamilton Cruz frustrated

Giants grab 3-1 lead, leave Rangers on last legs

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Before this series began, many prognosticators gave the Rangers the edge because of the postseason success of Cliff Lee and the team’s powerhouse offense. Not an unreasonable conclusion to make, really. Well, not only did Lee get knocked around pretty good back in Game 1, but the Rangers have been shut out twice in the first four games of the series.

Things just aren’t going according to plan.

Madison Bumgarner was absolutely dominant in Game 4 on Sunday night, allowing just three measly singles over eight shutout innings as part of a 4-0 win. Only one Rangers’ baserunner managed to make it past first base all night long — and that was set up by an error by Juan Uribe in the bottom of the seventh inning.  The 21-year-old left-hander walked a pair and struck out six in the victory, including three strikeouts of Vladimir Guerrero, who looked completely lost in the batter’s box.

Bumgarner is the second youngest pitcher in World Series history with at least eight shutout innings. Jim Palmer was 20 years old when he tossed a complete-game shutout in Game 2 of the 1966 World Series, beating some guy named Sandy Koufax. Gee, and to think, a year ago, many people were ready to give up on Bumgarner as a legit pitching prospect because of a drop in velocity.

Believe it or not, I actually have some good news for Rangers fans. Coming into the series, there was some debate about just where Jonathan Sanchez belonged in the Giants’ rotation, or if he belonged at all. Imagine if Bumgarner got the call in Game 3 on Saturday night instead of Sanchez? The Giants may well have had a commanding 3-0 lead going into Game 4 on Sunday. And that’s certainly not a place you want to be.

While that was the glass half-full approach, here’s the thing. No team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series since the Royals defeated the Cardinals in 1985. And that was with the infamous help of first base umpire Don Denkinger. In other words, it doesn’t look good.

With their collective backs against the wall, the Rangers will turn to their ace Cliff Lee against Tim Lincecum in Game 5 on Monday night. Granted, the left-hander revealed himself to be human in Game 1, but we have a mountain of evidence to suggest that he is quite capable of bouncing back from a poor outing. The Giants have a brilliant pitcher of their own going on Monday, so it would be foolish to look past him, but assuming the Rangers can scrounge up enough runs to actually win — obviously no given at this point — the real toss-up may be Game 6 against Matt Cain back at AT&T Park in San Francisco. A place where the Rangers are 0-11 all-time.

As you may remember, C.J. Wilson was forced to leave in the seventh inning of Game 2 because of a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported Sunday that Wilson began using a topical skin adhesive and plans to be available to start Game 6 on Wednesday. If the Rangers are fortunate enough to get that far, it’s just impossible to know what pitcher they are going to get.

If Brett Anderson hits better this year, thank Josh Donaldson

Los Angeles Dodgers' Brett Anderson ducks away from a pitch from Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher David Holmberg on a bunt attempt during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Associated Press
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Or, at the very least, thank his bat.

Brett Anderson, who hit a meaty .085/.173/.106 last season, just got his first 2016 bat delivery, it seems. He posted a pic of the shiny lumber on Twitter a few minutes ago, with a message to his former teammate, the reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, whose “JD” initials signifying whose model number it is are plainly visible on the barrel:

 

If Anderson breaks out offensively this year — say, he pushes that OBP over .200 — I may reconsider my “DH in the National League now” argument and merely suggest that pitchers get better bats.

In other news, whose bat was Zack Greinke using last year? And did he leave any behind at Camelback Ranch? Might be worth looking.

Diamondbacks working on a deal with Tyler Clippard

at Citi Field on July 28, 2015 in Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
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Last week Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart revealed that he was interested in signing free agent reliever Tyler Clippard and now Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that the two sides have “made progress toward a deal.”

Piecoro notes that by trading Aaron Hill and his remaining contract to the Brewers the Diamondbacks created a bit of payroll flexibility that they could use to sign Clippard.

Clippard has a long history of excellent work as both a setup man and closer, but his raw stuff and secondary numbers have declined even though his ERA remained very good at 2.92 last season for the A’s and Mets. His strikeout rate dipped to a career-low 8.1 per nine innings, which is drop of about 25 percent from 2009-2014.

Two elite Cuban players defect

cuba hat
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Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com just reported that Yulieski Gurriel & Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who are brothers, reportedly defected and will be seeking MLB deals. There aren’t any details yet, but Sanchez will be updating with a full story that we’ll link here when he has it. UPDATE: Here it is.

Yulieski is a 31-year old third baseman and, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler he was the No. 1 player remaining in Cuba. He was one of the Cuban players who was permitted to play in Japan recently, and he just put up a .305/.349/.536 season with 11 homers in 62 games for the Yokohama Bay Stars and has continued to rake in Cuba. He is likely major league ready right this instant. He’d be an unrestricted free agent given his age and team’s signing him would not be subject to international bonus pool limits.

Lourdes is only 22 years old. He’s hit .269/.355/.414 in 1036 Serie Nacional plate appearances and Badler thinks he has 20-homer potential in the majors one day. He’s currently a shortstop, but is probably destined for a corner. He is young enough to where he would be subject to bonus pool limits. Several teams have already exceeded those limits for the current signing period, limiting the number of teams who could sign him. If, however, it takes MLB a long time to clear him as a free agent — and with immigration issues and the like, that’s very possible — he may not be eligible to be signed until next year, which could bring some other teams into the fold.

 

Indians close to signing ex-Nationals reliever Craig Stammen

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Right-hander Craig Stammen, who spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Nationals, is expected to sign with the Indians.

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Indians “hope to finalize a deal” with Stammen today, adding veteran depth to the bullpen. It’ll likely be a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Stammen missed nearly all of last season following elbow surgery and the Nationals non-tendered him, but he’s scheduled to be ready for spring training. After struggling as a starter early in his career he’s posted a 3.02 ERA in 280 innings out of the bullpen, so if healthy it’d be a nice addition for Cleveland.