Cody Ross is back from the disabled list and batting cleanup for San Francisco this afternoon, and to make room on the roster the Giants have optioned top prospect Brandon Belt back to Triple-A.
Belt played regularly after somewhat surprisingly making the team out of spring training, starting 13 of 17 games, but he hit just .192 with one homer and a .569 OPS in 60 plate appearances and in order to get him into the lineup the Giants had to weaken the outfield defense with Aubrey Huff in right field.
That’s going to remain an issue whenever Belt returns, because Huff is under contract for $10 million next season and has a $10 million option or $2 million buyout for 2013, but the 23-year-old Belt can benefit from more time in the minors–he spent just 13 games at Triple-A last season–and by sending him back down the Giants keep his service time clock from ticking any further. Belt remains one of the best hitting prospects in baseball, but he’s not a fully formed major leaguer yet and may get some outfield work himself in Fresno.
The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.
After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.
Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.