Mike Napoli

Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre turn in the Rangers’ play of the game

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It’s only fitting, as the two have been the Rangers’ best players in the World Series.

With the bases loaded, one out and the tying run having already touched home plate in the sixth, Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre pulled off the perfect pickoff Thursday, retiring Matt Holliday at third in the Game 6 that the Rangers went on to lose in extra innings.

The Rangers entered the bottom of the sixth with a 4-3 lead, but with one out, the Cardinals loaded the bases on two grounders — one going for an infield single and the other turning into an error on Michael Young — and a walk. Alexi Ogando then replaced starter Colby Lewis and walked Yadier Molina on five pitches, tying the game.

It was at that point that Napoli, who suffered what initially looked like a season-ending ankle injury going into second base two innings earlier, took matters into his own hands. He fired down to third after an Ogando fastball and caught Holliday far enough off the base that Beltre was able to put his foot down and block the bag. Holliday dove right into Beltre’s foot and suffered a badly bruised finger that knocked him out of the game.

Ogando remained very shaky afterwards, so it seems very likely that the Cardinals would have taken the lead if not for the pickoff. A wild pitch advanced the two remaining runners, and Ogando loaded the bases again with a walk to light-hitting Nick Punto. Derek Holland took over at that point and preserved the tie by getting Jon Jay to hit a comebacker.

With 10 RBI in the series, including one tonight, Napoli will likely be World Series MVP should the Rangers prevail on Friday. Still, a big defensive highlight in a crucial situation added to his cause. He’s been one of baseball’s best players in his 129 games this season, and now everyone should know it.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.

Cardinals, Dexter Fowler agree to a five-year, $82 million deal

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.

The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.

For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.