Jose Bautista thought he was finished being a third baseman. Brett Lawrie had never even gotten started at shortstop. Yet both players were forced to change positions after Yunel Escobar injured his groin in Sunday’s loss to the Rangers.
With Kelly Johnson absent due to a sore hamstring and Yan Gomes getting sent down before the game, the Blue Jays opened Sunday with only Rajai Davis and Jeff Mathis on the bench. After Escobar’s injury, manager John Farrell shifted Bautista to the infield for the first time in 2012 and put Lawrie in a position he hadn’t played since high school.
Bautista started 25 games at third base last year and is certainly no stranger to the position, but he had started in right field exclusively this year. Lawrie started out as a second baseman in the minors before being shifted to third upon being acquired by the Blue Jays in the Shaun Marcum trade with the Brewers.
The Blue Jays could have simply used Lawrie at second and moved Omar Vizquel to shortstop after Escobar went down. However, they probably didn’t want to risk Lawrie having to turn a blind double play when he hasn’t worked on it in a couple of years. At least at shortstop, he could see a runner bearing down on him. The Jays certainly didn’t want to risk an injury to such a big piece of their future.
The Jays also had the option of forfeiting their DH and using Edwin Encarnacion at third base or even shortstop had they wanted to go that route.
Albert Pujols kicked things off for the Angels in dramatic fashion on Friday night, cranking a two-RBI home run off of the Orioles’ Jeremy Hellickson to give the club an early lead in the first inning. The 350-footer was his 18th home run of the year and No. 609 in his 17-season career, tying Sammy Sosa on the all-time home run list for eighth overall and most home runs hit by a player born outside of the United States.
With the home run, Pujols sits just three homers shy of tying Jim Thome’s 612-home run record for seventh on the all-time list. That figures to be the last major milestone still ahead of the designated hitter this season, with Ken Griffey Jr.’s 630-home run mark still a distant 21 blasts away.
The Angels, meanwhile, ran with Pujols’ lead, collecting home runs from Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Kaleb Cowart and Mike Trout. It wasn’t quite enough to quash the Orioles, however, who surged to a 9-7 finale after Manny Machado went 3-for-5 with three home runs and struck a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.
The Nationals placed right-hander Max Scherzer on the 10-day disabled list with left neck inflammation, the team announced Friday. Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start against the Padres and replaced by left-hander Matt Grace, though an official roster move has yet to be made to fill his spot on the roster. The assignment is retroactive to August 15.
Scherzer experienced a similar pain on the right side of his neck at the start of the month, though this is the first official stint he’ll serve on the disabled list in 2017. While comments from club manager Dusty Baker suggest that the injury wasn’t caused by any particular trauma, it seems likely that the ace right-hander will be sidelined for at least one more start.
It’s a terrible time to lose a star pitcher, especially with the Nationals positioned to make a deep run in the postseason, but their 14-game cushion in the NL East should buy them some time while Scherzer’s on the mend. Prior to his bout of inflammation, the 33-year-old looked remarkably healthy this season. He pitched through his fifth consecutive All-Star campaign and currently boasts a 12-5 record in 24 starts, complete with a 2.25 ERA (good for second-best among qualified starters), 2.2 BB/9 and 12.3 SO/9 in 160 1/3 innings.