Last night’s rainout in St. Louis could dramatically change the pitching plans for Game 7, but the Cardinals will have to get there first by winning tonight’s Colby Lewis-Jaime Garcia matchup.
They faced off in Game 2, combining for 13.2 innings of one-run ball. Garcia exited after seven shutout innings with a 1-0 lead, but the Rangers scored two runs in the ninth inning off Jason Motte to grab the victory.
Lewis has been excellent for the Rangers nearly every time out in the playoffs, both this season and last season, combining to make seven postseason starts with a 2.22 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 45 innings. Texas is 5-2 in those seven games and Lewis allowed more than two runs just once, coughing up four runs to the Tigers in Game 3 of the ALCS.
Garcia’s postseason track record is limited to four starts this year and his performance has been a mixed bag. He turned in a stinker against the Brewers in Game 1 of the NLCS and was yanked early in Game 5 of that series, but also tossed a Quality Start versus the Phillies in Game 3 of the NLDS and shut out the Rangers for seven frames in his last appearance.
On paper at least it looks like a pitchers’ duel and a very close matchup, with the gamblings odds pegging the Cardinals as slight favorites at home. Clear skies are expected for tonight (and tomorrow night) and like four of the first five games in the series Lewis vs. Garcia looks likely to be another tight, low-scoring game that may come down to the fully rested relievers. Hopefully the Cardinals’ bullpen phone is working.
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.