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The Mets win a weird one

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The Mets beat the Giants 5-4 this afternoon, but whether anyone actually deserved to win, well, that’s up for debate.

The Mets certainly appeared to be in control entering the top of the ninth, as Frank Francisco was handed a 4-1 lead after Mike Pelfrey tossed eight innings of one-run ball. However, Francisco was pulled in favor of Tim Brydak after letting three out of the first four batters reach base, including an RBI single by Emmanuel Burriss. After Byrdak struck out Hector Sanchez, Collins again made a switch, this time bringing in Jon Rauch to face pinch-hitter Brandon Belt. And that’s when things got nuts.

Belt hit what appeared to be a game-ending pop-up to shallow center field, but it fell for a game-tying two-run double after Ruben Tejada couldn’t track it down and rookie center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis overran it. Yes, it was truly “Luis Castillo: Part Deux,” though with a slightly higher degree of difficulty. Rauch then struck out Angel Pagan to end the inning and keep the game tied.

Things only got weirder from there, though, as Belt stayed in the game at first base to begin the bottom of the ninth and Aubrey Huff played second base for the first time in his major league career with Ryan Theriot unavailable due to illness. That’s right, Aubrey Huff played second base. In a real game. What could possibly go wrong? It didn’t take too long to find out.

Lucas Duda reached on a leadoff single against Clay Hensley before being replaced by pinch-runner Scott Hairston. He was moved over to second on a sacrifice by Josh Thole before Ruben Tejada drew a walk. Justin Turner came up as a pinch-hitter against Jeremy Affeldt and hit what looked like a tailor-made inning-ending double-play ball to Burriss, who was at shortstop. The only problem was that there was nobody home at second base because Huff broke toward first base for some reason. Old habits, I guess. Turner ended up beating it out for an infield single to load the bases.

The wackiness hit its crescendo when Nieuwenhuis hit a grounder to Belt at first base. Belt quickly threw to home for the force out, but Buster Posey made an errant throw back to Affeldt at first base which allowed Tejada to come around and score the winning run. Posey’s throw likely would have been on target, but he was given a bit of a nudge when Hairston stuck out his leg on a slide into home plate. Posey tried to argue interference, but it fell on deaf ears from home plate umpire Doug Eddings. And so, it was a walk off win for the Mets, though in a bit more subdued fashion that you’d normally see.

My hope is that the footage of this inning can at least have some value to future generations, perhaps to serve as an example of what not to do in a baseball game.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.

Diamondbacks hire Mike Fitzgerald to head Research and Development department

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Mike Hazen, new Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Red Sox, addresses the media during a press conference to announce his promotion before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on September 24, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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According to an official announcement, the Diamondbacks have acquired former Pirates quantitative analyst Mike Fitzgerald as their new Director of Research and Development.

Fitzgerald joined the Pirates’ front office in 2012, where he frequently accompanied the team on the road to help breach the divide between analytics and the clubhouse. According to a profile written by Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh in 2014, Fitzgerald’s multifaceted approach brought balance and perspective to the organization, whether he was assisting coaches in making statistically sound decisions, optimizing the batting order, weighing in on scouting and personnel decisions, developing more effective defensive positioning, or keeping players and personnel appraised of the latest developments in sabermetrics.

In the wake of Fitzgerald’s departure, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington praised the Diamondbacks for a smart acquisition and said that the club has every intention of finding a replacement analyst, albeit one who will have some big shoes to fill.