On Tuesday night, Padres pitcher Chad Qualls irked some Giants players and some fans when he spiked the baseball and yelled after tagging Andres Torres out at the plate. We can argue whether the Giants — who have a number of players who are demonstrative, flashy and just plain silly — have any standing to take issue with Qualls, but justified or not, there is some tension there. Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that San Francisco talk radio was buzzing with serious Qualls hate all day yesterday.
Don’t expect that tension to be reduced any after Jenkins’ story, however, because Qualls — while speaking pretty truthfully based on what my San Francisco correspondents have told me — added some fuel to the fire, at least with the fans, when he had this to say about playing in beautiful AT&T Park:
“Playing in San Francisco, you gotta understand, when you’re warming up two feet from the fans, they’re not telling you how good you are or telling you how glad they are that you’re warming up. They’re calling you every name in the book, every cuss word in the book. To shut them down on an inning where we’re ahead, it’s kinda putting it to the city and the fans, because they’re just wearing you out on a consistent basis as you’re warming up, spitting on you, calling you anything they want. The later the game, the more drunk they are, the more harsh the words.”
Like I always say in such situations, Chad: don’t go halfway with this. Make it a full heel-turn. Feed on their anger and take it as over-the-top as you can. It may make road trips to San Francisco hard in the short term, but in 20 years you’ll be asked to come up for speaking engagements and dinners and conventions and all kinds of good stuff because everyone loves a villain.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP