Wladimir Balentien consistently crushed minor-league pitching at every level and hit .283/.351/.535 with 67 homers in 302 games at Triple-A, but he’s now headed to Japan at age 24 after struggling in 559 plate appearances for the Mariners and Reds.
Balentien has tons of power, smacking 15 homers and 31 doubles in 511 at-bats even while struggling overall in the majors, but he hit just .221 with 149 strikeouts and a ghastly .281 on-base percentage while flailing away at off-speed stuff.
Flaws and all I’m still convinced that he could be a solid platoon player, starting against left-handed pitching as a backup corner outfielder, but instead of trying to work his way back to the majors by crushing more Triple-A pitching he’ll take what is surely a higher salary for a chance to be a star in Japan.
Tommy Pham started off his playoff career in style, blasting a solo home run in the eighth inning of the Cardinals’ Game 1 win against the Cubs, padding the lead to 2-0 at the time. Pham launched a 3-1, 87 MPH cutter from John Lester way over the fence in left-center field at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals would tack on two more runs before the frame ended, as Stephen Piscotty hit a two-run homer against Pedro Strop.
Pham, 27, posted a .901 OPS in 196 plate appearances with Triple-A Memphis and an .824 OPS in 173 PA at the major league level. He was a great source of outfield depth for the Cardinals earlier this season when Randal Grichuk succumbed to an elbow injury.
The Angels have claimed outfielder Todd Cunningham off waivers from the Braves, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes was designated for assignment to create room for Cunningham on the 40-man roster.
Cunningham, 26, took only 93 trips to the plate for the Braves this season, batting .221/.280/.267 with 15 singles, four doubles, four RBI, and 13 runs scored. He did play above-average defense in limited playing time. Cunningham will simply serve as organizational outfield depth for the Halos.
The waiver claim is the first move made by new Angels GM Billy Eppler, who joined the team from the Yankees earlier this week.
John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.
Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.
Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.
The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.
The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.