As Hawk Harrelson would say if he weren’t limited to moans and groans at the moment, the Tigers have owned the White Sox this year. They rallied from three runs down in the ninth and prevailed 6-5 in the 10th today, giving them a 12th straight victory.
It’s the longest winning streak by a team this year and the longest for the Tigers since 1934. They finished the season series with the White Sox winning 13 out of 18 games.
Alex Avila, who didn’t start, and Carlos Guillen, who hadn’t started in 11 days, were the heroes in this one. Serving as a pinch-hitter for just the second time this year, Avila hit a game-tying two-run homer off Sergio Santos in the ninth. Guillen homered in the second and delivered the go-ahead single in the 10th as part of a 3-for-5 days.
The comeback denied Dylan Axelrod a victory in his first major league start. He left with a 5-2 lead after striking out eight in six innings. Tigers starter Brad Penny gave up all five White Sox runs. Four of them were unearned, but it was Penny’s own error that preceded the runs.
Avila’s homer was his 19th and gave him 77 RBI on the season. Miguel Cabrera is the second Tiger expected to get some down-ballot MVP votes this year, but I’m not sure Avila isn’t more deserving. He’s played in 128 games this season and has a .919 OPS. The only primary catcher within even 100 points of OPS of him is Atlanta’s Brian McCann at .841.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.