Though they likely owe an assist to Tony La Russa, the Rangers are now just one win away from winning their first ever World Series title.
The Rangers defeated the Cardinals 4-2 on Monday night in Arlington and now hold a 3-2 lead in the series going into Game 6 on Wednesday night in St. Louis. Mike Napoli was the offensive star for the second straight day, delivering an opposite field two-run double off left-hander Marc Rzepczynski in the bottom of the eighth to put the Rangers in front.
C.J. Wilson danced in and out of trouble over his 5 1/3 innings of work, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits, five walks and a wild pitch. The Cardinals had plenty of opportunities on offense, but went just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left a total of 12 men on base. They also gave away three outs via sacrifice bunts, which resulted in zero runs crossing the plate. Scott Feldman, Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver and Neftali Feliz combined for 3 2/3 shutout innings in relief of Wilson.
While the Rangers walked away with the victory, this game will likely be remembered for some real head-scratchers on the part of La Russa, some of which he chalked up to miscommunication in his post-game press conference.
Allen Craig was gunned down twice at second base with Albert Pujols at the plate while Rzepczynski was strangely left in the ballgame to face Napoli, who has a .955 career OPS against southpaws. La Russa said in the postgame that he actually wanted right-hander Jason Motte to face the right-handed hitting Napoli, but that he wasn’t able to communicate that information to his bullpen. Whether that’s true or not really doesn’t matter at this point, because leaving Rzepczynski in resulted in the decisive play of the ballgame.
With their backs against the wall, the Cardinals will send Jaime Garcia to the mound against Colby Lewis on Wednesday night as they attempt to force a Game 7.
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.