Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes hits walkoff homer; A’s sweep Dodgers


An ugly series for the Dodgers had an especially ugly ending Thursday, with Yoenis Cespedes hitting a walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the A’s a sweep in Oakland.

Josh Lindblom, one of the NL’s best setup men this season, had a terrible ninth today. He walked Coco Crisp to start the inning and then allowed him to advance with a wild pitch. Jemile Weeks then dropped down the bunt everyone in the ballpark knew was coming, yet Lindblom, after picking it up, turned and looked to fire to third base with no one standing there. Juan Uribe was drawn way in on the play, and even had Uribe been back, it was a good enough bunt with a speedy baserunner that Crisp was likely to be safe anyway.

That made it first and third with none out for Cespedes. Had things gone as planned and the sacrifice been successful, Cespedes almost certainly would have been walked to set up the double play. As it was, the A’s pitched to him, and he ripped a line drive that barely stayed to the right of the foul pole in left, giving the A’s a 4-1 win.

Much credit should go to Travis Blackley. Coming off his first win in eight years last week against the Padres, Blackley matched Clayton Kershaw pitch for pitch in this one. Both threw eight innings and allowed one run on three hits. Kershaw struck out seven and walked two. Blackley fanned six and walked none.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have to be wondering where their offense went. Despite having the DH available, they scored just two runs in being swept. Leadoff man Dee Gordon went without a hit or a walk for the third straight game today, yet still managed to get caught stealing (he reached on a fielder’s choice in the ninth). $85 million outfielder Andre Ethier is hitting .171 in 70 at-bats this month. They actually used Ivan De Jesus — a utilityman who hadn’t started a game in three weeks — as their DH today.

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.

Pirates’ Nick Leyva selected as senior advisor of baseball ops

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  Coach Nick Leyva #16 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 17, 2013 in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.

Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:

The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.

In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.

This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.

Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.

Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:

We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.