As recently as two weeks ago Michael Saunders appeared to be in danger of playing himself out of the Mariners’ plans. He was hitting .226, had a career batting average under .200, and remained an everyday player largely due to the Mariners not having better options in center field.
And then something clicked for Saunders in a big way. He went 3-for-5 against the Rangers on May 29, notched three more hits the next day, had four hits two games later, tallied another three hits Tuesday, and kept rolling last night by going 3-for-5 versus the Angels.
Add it all up and Saunders went 18-for-36 (.500) with two homers and five doubles in an eight-game stretch, producing at least three hits in five of those games. To put that in some context, Saunders didn’t have three hits in any of his first 48 games this season and managed three hits just once in 58 games last season.
Eight games are only eight games, obviously, but Saunders’ minor-league track record always suggested he was capable of developing into a solid hitter and at age 25 he might finally be on track. And right now he’s the only Mariners hitter with an OPS above .800. His OPS eight days ago? .691.
It was assumed already, but Mike Scioscia made it official during Monday’s press conference for new general manager Billy Eppler that he will return as Angels manager in 2016.
Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in the majors, has been at the helm with the Angels since 2000. There was a clause in his contract which allowed him to opt out after the 2015 season, but he has decided to stay put. He still has three years and $15 million on his contract, which runs through 2018.
Jerry Dipoto resigned as Angels general manager in July amid tension with Scioscia, so there were naturally questions today about what to expect with first-time GM Eppler in the fold. According to David Adler of MLB.com, Scioscia isn’t concerned.
“I think we’re going to mesh very well,” Scioscia said. “If we adjust, or maybe he adjusts to some of the things, there’s going to be collaboration that’s going to make us better.”
Eppler is the fourth general manager during Scioscia’s tenure with the team.
After winning the AL West last season, the Angels finished 85-77 this season and narrowly missed the playoffs. The team hasn’t won a postseason game since 2009.
Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez sat out the final series of the regular season in order to rest a strained left intercostal muscle, but there was good news coming out of a workout today in advance of Tuesday’s Wild Card game vs. the Yankees.
This has been a lingering issue for Gomez, who missed 13 straight games with the injury last month. He aggravated the strain on a throw to home plate last Wednesday and was forced to sit while the Astros fought to keep their season alive. Astros manager A.J. Hinch told reporters last week that Gomez’s injury would typically take 45-50 days to recover from, so it’s fair to wonder how productive he can be during the postseason.
Gomez mostly struggled after coming over from the Brewers at the trade deadline, batting .242 with four home runs and a .670 OPS over 41 games.