Jesus Montero took the normally unbeatable Jered Weaver deep twice Sunday as the Mariners topped the Angels in Anaheim 4-1.
Weaver entered the day having won nine straight starts. He was 8-0 with a 0.92 ERA at home this year and 15-1 with a 2.13 ERA overall. His only previous defeat came in Texas back on May 13.
True to form, Montero had his big game after getting the start at catcher. He’s hit .316/.353/.513 with eight homers in 40 games as a catcher this year, compared to .243/.288/.344 with four homers in 58 games as a designated hitter.
Montero’s struggles as a designated hitter have to be of some concern to the Mariners, given that he also hasn’t shown much to suggest that he belongs behind the plate for the long haul. The team made University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, and he could be ready to start in the majors as soon as 2014. The Mariners may want to think about trying Montero at first base next year. Justin Smoak isn’t looking like much of a road block there.
As for Weaver, he came up one win shy of matching Chuck Finley’s Angels record for consecutive starts won. He’s still right there with Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young race, though. Weaver tops the circuit with a 2.22 ERA, while Verlander is second at 2.46. Weaver has three more victories than Verlander’s 12, but Verlander has a huge lead in innings (175 2/3 to 138) and also ranks first in the AL in strikeouts with 174 (Weaver has 106).
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.