I’m not sure what could possibly compel a struggling second-rate closer with a 5.14 ERA to talk trash publicly against the Yankees, but Mets right-hander Frank Francisco took the media bait and did just that.
With this weekend’s Subway Series starting at Citi Field tonight, Francisco was asked for his thoughts about facing the Yankees and told Mike Puma of the New York Post:
I can’t wait to face those chickens. I want to strike out the side against them. I’ve done it before.
And then according to Puma he perhaps had a brief moment of self-awareness and said: “I think I’ve said too much already.”
Francisco spent the first seven years of his career in the American League before signing a two-year, $12 million deal with the Mets as a free agent this offseason, so he’s indeed faced “those chickens” plenty before. And he’s pitched pretty damn well too, posting a 3.29 ERA, .229 opponents’ batting average, and 24/10 K/BB ratio in 27 career appearances versus the Yankees.
Puma even looked back at the game logs and found that, sure enough, Francisco struck out the side against the Yankees on May 21, 2004, whiffing Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi in order. So, you know, that totally gives him the upper hand this weekend. Or something.
As you’d expect none of Francisco’s teammates were dumb enough to take the same bait, especially after the Yankees swept the Mets at Yankee Stadium just two weeks ago.
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.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP