Carlos Lee or not, Don Mattingly sounds ready to upgrade over James Loney

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By pursuing an ultimately unsuccessful trade for Carlos Lee the Dodgers made is obvious that they’re not happy with James Loney’s production at first base, so when Loney told Don Mattingly that he feels ready to break out offensively the manager was understandably skeptical:

He came into my office and he felt like he’s got it, so we’ll see. He feels good, so we’ll see. He’s confident. He got a couple hits tonight and we’ll leave it there. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. I’ve been through this the last four years with James, so we’ll see where it rolls.

In other words, talk is cheap when you’re a 28-year-old veteran at an offense-driven position with a .425 career slugging percentage.

Arash Markasi of ESPN Los Angeles paints a picture of Mattingly being more or less fed up with talk of Loney’s “confidence level” at the plate, noting that the manager is sick of “answering the same questions about Loney every year” and deadpanned “better ones” when asked what adjustments the first baseman needed to make.

At this point in his career Lee is hardly a sure-fire upgrade over even Loney, but the bigger point is that the Dodgers have been starting one of the least-productive first basemen in the league for five seasons now and finding someone who can top Loney’s measly .404 slugging percentage and .741 OPS during that time shouldn’t be very tough.

In the meantime Loney is making $6.4 million after being paid $4.9 million in 2011 and $3.1 million in 2010. For that $14.4 million the Dodgers have gotten 395 games of a .271 batting average, .329 on-base percentage, and .392 slugging percentage with a total of 24 homers in 1,479 plate appearances.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.