The National League Wild Card race just got, well, pretty wild.
Craig Kimbrel had the Marlins down to their final strike in the bottom of the ninth inning tonight, but the rookie closer served up a walkoff two-run home run to former Brave Omar Infante en route to a stunning 6-5 loss. The home run followed a single by Emilio Bonifacio which was originally ruled as an error on Chipper Jones.
Kimbrel has allowed home runs in consecutive appearances after giving up just one over his first 75 games. Perhaps this is just something fluky, but one wonders if his heavy workload is finally catching up to him.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals survived a ninth inning rally to beat the Phillies 4-3. Kyle Lohse allowed an unearned run over 7 1/3 innings in the victory, besting Roy Halladay.
Following tonight’s action, the Braves hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals in the Wild Card race. It’s actually two games if you count the loss column. And don’t forget about the suddenly hot Giants, who are 3 1/2 back. The Braves have eight games remaining while the Cardinals and Giants will play nine apiece.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.