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Orioles continue to negotiate with No. 4 overall pick Kevin Gausman


UPDATE: The Times-Picayune has backtracked from their original story. It now says that Gausman is “seriously considering” a return to LSU. Meanwhile, Aaron Fitt of Baseball America passes along this statement from LSU coach Paul Mainieri:

“Kevin is still in negotiations…any reports portraying his return to LSU as definite are premature.”

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun was told by Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich that the two sides are still talking and are “making progress.”

10:01 PM: We heard earlier today that No. 8 overall pick Mark Appel is leaning toward returning to Stanford for his senior season, but apparently the Pirates aren’t the only team having a tough time reaching an agreement with their first-round selection.

Albert Buford of the New Orleans Times-Picayune was told by a source that No. 4 overall pick right-hander Kevin Gausman will return to LSU for another season rather than sign with the Orioles.

Pretty surprising news, if true. Gausman’s quote in the report is far less definitive, though.

“This is turning out to be a tough decision, but as of now my heart is still with LSU,” Gausman said. “There are still things for me to accomplish as a Tiger.  I still want to play in and win the College World Series, and with a lot of guys coming back next year I believe we can do it.”

“I also believe I’ll only continue to improve and become a more complete pitcher working with (LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn) Gausman said. “I have no problem at all going back to LSU. We’ll see what happens.”

Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton and Mike Zunino have already signed with their respective teams, so Gausman is the highest remaining unsigned pick from this year’s draft. Ironically, the Orioles passed over the chance to take Appel by selecting Gausman.

The slot recommendation for the No. 4 overall pick is $4.2 million, so Gausman would be passing up a large chunk of change to return for his junior season. As such, this is likely a matter of Gausman’s reps putting the pressure on with Friday’s 5:00 p.m. ET deadline looming. Of course, because the new CBA limits draft spending, the Orioles can only offer so much without losing next year’s first-round pick.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.