Mike Baxter’s Saturday feat a first in nine years

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Five-walk games typically happen once or twice per year, and Mike Baxter’s Saturday against the Padres was even more unusual than most.

Baxter, the Mets’ right fielder, became the first player since Florida’s Ivan Rodriguez on April 8, 2003 to go 0-for-0 with five unintentional walks in a game.

The 27-year-old Baxter entered the night with eight walks in 71 at-bats and 43 games for the season.

Baxter was the second player this year with five walks in a game, but the Royals’ Alex Gordon had eight plate appearances when he did it in a 15-inning game against the Cardinals back on June 17. Gordon was also the last player to go 0-for-0 with five walks in a game, pulling it off on July 30, 2008. However, he was intentionally walked twice in that game.

That Ivan Rodriguez was the last player to go 0-for-0 with five unintentional walks should surprise most (it certainly did me). The free swinging catcher had just 446 unintentional walks in 10,270 career plate appearances, a rate of one unintentional walk every 23 plate appearances. He was uncharacteristically patient in 2003, setting a career high with 55 walks (six intentional). His next highest total was 41 walks (also with six intentional) from 2004.

If you’re still interested in more walk trivia, know that Baxter is the 86th different player since 1918 with five walks in a game. Mel Ott has the high total, with four such games. Barry Bonds is alone in second with three (with at least one intentional walk in all three). The only active players with two are Gordon and Mark Teixeira.

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.