UPDATE: With the Dodgers off the table, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com was told by a source that Hiroki Kuroda is now “considering all options,” including offers from major-league teams regardless of location as well an offer to return home to pitch for the Hiroshima Carp. For what it’s worth, the expectation is that he could earn more with a major-league club than in Japan.
11:40 AM: The Dodgers signed left-hander Chris Capuano to a two-year, $10 million contract yesterday, which effectively signified as a goodbye to Hiroki Kuroda. Many believe that the veteran right-hander would rather go back to Japan than pitch for another team in the United States, but that hasn’t stopped other MLB teams from expressing interest.
Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies “have quietly pursued” Kuroda and believe they may have a decent chance of signing him based on “preliminary conversations.” However, it’s not clear whether they have had any direct talks with Kuroda’s agent.
Kuroda, who turns 37 in February, lost 16 games for a lousy Dodgers team this season, but posted a 3.07 ERA and 161/49 K/BB ratio over 202 innings. He has a 3.45 ERA since coming over to the United States in 2008, which is better than fellow National League hurlers Roy Oswalt, Yovani Gallardo, Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley. There aren’t many quality free agent starting pitchers available this winter, so he could fetch a pretty nice contract if he elects to stick around.
The Rockies are no longer in the running for Oswalt, but also remain interested in Kevin Millwood and Jeff Francis.
The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.
After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.
But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.
- They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
- They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
- They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
- They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.
The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.
Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.