Derek Holland

Why not Derek Holland in Game 7?


Thursday’s rainout put manager Ron Washington in a tough spot for his Game 7 starter: should he go with the guy he lined up for the outing, Matt Harrison, or the pitcher who looked far better in his one go against the Cardinals so far, Derek Holland?

Holland’s inconsistency is well noted. He finished tied with James Shields for the AL lead with four shutouts this season, yet his overall 3.95 ERA doesn’t match up to Harrison’s 3.39 mark. Still, Holland was the Rangers’ choice to start Game 2 in both the ALDS and ALCS before his struggles got him pushed back in the World Series rotation.

Holland, of course, threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings against the Cardinals in his Game 4 victory. Harrison gave up five runs — three earned — in 3 2/3 innings in losing Game 3.

Washington has already settled on Harrison for the possible Game 7. Here’s to hoping he did actually go and reevaluate the choice and not just make that call because that’s the way he set up the rotation in the first place. It’s certainly a defensible decision.

Holland had five starts during the regular season in which he went at least eight innings and allowed no more than one run. Here’s how he followed those up:

May 24: 4 ER in 4 IP vs. White Sox
June 9: 4 ER in 7 1/3 IP vs. Twins
July 14: 0 ER in 9 IP vs. Mariners
July 20: 7 ER in 5 1/3 IP vs. Angels
Aug. 5: 4 ER in 1 2/3 IP vs. Indians

Holland turned in back-to-back shutouts on July 7 & 14, but that surrounded the All-Star break and he was working on six days’ rest. Even including that outing, he had a 6.26 ERA in his five starts immediately after his best outings of the season.

If it were my call, I’d start Holland anyway. He’s more likely than Harrison to have a dominant outing, and if he doesn’t have it — something that’s usually clear pretty early when it comes to Holland — he can be yanked quickly. Harrison, though, is quite a bit better than he showed in Game 3, and he’ll probably give the Rangers five or six solid innings if allowed to do so.

The other plus in going with Harrison is that it allows the Rangers to put Holland in the bullpen for Game 6 tonight. And if things go well tonight, the Rangers won’t be needing a Game 7 starter anyway.

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.

Pirates’ Nick Leyva selected as senior advisor of baseball ops

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  Coach Nick Leyva #16 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 17, 2013 in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.

Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:

The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.

In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.

This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.

Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.

Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:

We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.