11:15 PM ET: Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Twins and Willingham are “very close” to a three-year, $21 million contract.
UPDATE III: Hold up. Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com and Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune are both hearing that a deal between the Twins and Willingham isn’t done. What’s more, Christensen reports that talks aren’t dead with Michael Cuddyer. This could get interesting.
UPDATE II: Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that the Twins and Willingham have agreed to a contract, pending a physical. No word on the exact terms, but Crasnick hears that it’s a multi-year contract.
UPDATE: Not only are the Indians out of the mix, Rosenthal now reports that the Twins are “near an agreement” with Willingham.
Cleveland has been linked to Josh Willingham for weeks now, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported this afternoon that the Indians are no longer pursuing the free agent outfielder and now team president Mark Shapiro has made that very clear on Twitter.
Shapiro made a couple tweets urging fans to be patient despite the Indians’ lack of offseason activity and then responded to a question specifically about Willingham like this:
Nothing is official yet, of course, but it seems pretty unlikely that Shapiro would be willing to make a comment like that about Willingham if there was any chance of him signing with the Indians.
And if the Indians are truly out of the mix for Willingham that leaves the Twins as heavy favorites.
For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and two walks total.
The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.
Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.
Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.