Marlins send former first-round pick Chris Volstad back to minors

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After 93 big-league starts, 2005 first-round pick Chris Volstad is still struggling to establish himself.  He was optioned to Triple-A on Saturday following an outing Friday in which he allowed four runs — three earned — in five innings against the Mets.

It’s the third straight season in which Volstad has received a midseason demotion.  In 2009, he was sent down on Aug. 29.  Last year, the move came on July 7.  This year, his ERA actually peaked at 6.07 on June 14, but the Marlins stuck with him then and he bounced back to go 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in his final three starts of June.  July, unfortunately, was a different story, as he pitched six innings in just one of his four outings.  He heads back to Triple-A with a 5-8 record and a 5.58 ERA.

The Marlins have long had high hopes for Volstad, but he’s been one of the game’s worst regular starters since arriving in July 2008.  Only four pitchers have started at least 90 games the last four seasons and posted a worse ERA+:

1. Fausto Carmona – 80
2. Kevin Correia – 82
3. Zach Duke – 85
4. Livan Hernandez – 85
5. Volstad – 89
6. Joe Blanton – 91
7. Kyle Lohse – 91
8. Aaron Harang – 92
9. Carl Pavano – 94
10. Barry Zito – 95

Volstad is just 24, and it’s doubtful the Marlins are giving up on him.  Still, he’s now out of options, so they won’t be able to go back to this well again next year.  The Marlins will likely turn to Brad Hand as Volstad’s replacement in the rotation for now.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

Associated Press
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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.