Adrian Beltre hit three homers — all solo shots — to lead the Rangers past the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3. That win makes three which puts the Rangers in the ALCS, making it there by beating the Rays in the division series for the second straight year.
For the Rays, the season ends six days after it was improbably extended. The high drama occasioned by their pursuit of the collapsing Red Sox offset by a division series that was anti-climactic in the extreme. The momentum, if you believe in such things, carried over into their Game 1 drubbing of the Rangers, but after taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning of game 2, they seemed to have no life left in them at all. Mike Napoli took care of them in that game and in Game 3, Beltre today. Into the postseason with a bang, out with a whimper.
- Beltre was the sixth player to hit three homers in a postseason game. Reggie Jackson, Adam Kennedy, um, some other guys, and then Beltre. Points to whoever can name the other three.
- Matt Harrison struck out nine in five innings. Can’t say he looked extremely dominant — it wasn’t as if he was really overpowering guys — but results is results. And strikeouts lead to big pitch counts, which is why he only went five.
- Major kudos to Ron Washington and the Rangers front office. Last year there was a sense that Cliff Lee, Hired Gun, was everything. With Lee gone, Jon Daniels pushed a number of buttons, Nolan Ryan opened the purse strings a bit and Ron Washington made it all happen in a way that people, I don’t think, truly appreciate. Just a fantastic organization they got down in Texas.
- Sean Rodriguez scored from second on a Casey Kotchman single in the fourth. To score he had to barrel into Mike Napoli who is, suffice it to say, is much, much bigger than Rodriguez. Napoli had the plate blocked so the collision was unavoidable, but Napoli took a forearm to the jaw and looked a bit dazed afterward. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s OK and ready to go for the ALCS.
- Matt Moore relieved Jeremy Hellickson. Believe it or not, it was his home debut. He too gave up a homer to Beltre, but he was impressive all the same. I’ve never seen someone generate his velocity with such an easy, almost lazy delivery. The season is over, but this kid’s future is crazy-bright.
- Evan Longoria went 1-for-11 with 6Ks in the three Texas wins. Ouch.
- It ended up not mattering, but Sean Rodriguez was allowed to score his third run of the game in the ninth when he walked, was allowed to reach second on defensive indifference and then scored on a Casey Kotchman single. Why on Earth would the Rangers just ignore the runner in that situation? I’ve always hated that. That run didn’t need to score.
- The attendance was 28,299, which wasn’t a sellout. It’s hard to sell out games at Tropicana Field to begin with, and a weekday 2PM start makes it harder, but that’s still kind of a bummer.
And with that, the Rangers play the waiting game. Do they face the Tigers following A.J. Burnett-pocalypse tonight, or does Burnett hold serve for the Yankees and force a Game 5? Playoff baseball: it’s, like, totally awesome.
New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.
Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.
The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.
It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.
Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.
The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.
Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.
Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.
Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.
While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.
Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.