Last night was a rare Friday night where I was at a baseball game rather than working right here on HardballTalk. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, as I finally had the chance to meet our blogger-in-chief Craig Calcaterra and take in the Mets-Nationals game. Yes, we are allowed out of the basement on occasion.
When I first moved back to the D.C./Maryland area in 2009, I used to be able to stroll around Nationals Park at my leisure and without much worry for long lines or crowded corridors. It’s not like that here anymore. Hey, everybody loves a winner, right? This has been a Redskins town for as long as I can remember and one winning season for the Nats may not change that overnight, but it’s easy to see that something pretty cool is being cultivated here.
As for last night’s game, well, it wasn’t pretty for Johan Santana. He unraveled after three hitless innings, giving up a grand slam to Michael Morse in the fourth inning and a two-run shot to Bryce Harper in the fifth. Santana has now allowed six runs or more in five straight starts. He has an ugly 8.27 ERA in 10 starts since his no-hitter and a 4.85 ERA overall.
Can we blame Santana’s prolonged funk on his unprecedented workload from the no-hitter? Tough to say, as it’s possible he would have hit a wall at some point anyway in his first season back from major shoulder surgery. But the possibility of a shutdown looms large at the moment.
The Nationals improved to a major-league best 74-45 with last night’s 6-4 win and remain four games in front of the surging Braves in the National League East. With just eight more victories, the Nationals will have their most wins in a season since moving to D.C. in 2005. I’d say they have a pretty decent chance at pulling that one off.
Your Friday box scores:
Orioles 3, Tigers 5
Cubs 3, Reds 7
Red Sox 4, Yankees 6
Dodgers 3, Braves 4 (11 innings)
Rangers 2, Blue Jays 3
Diamondbacks 3, Astros 1
White Sox 2, Royals 4
Phillies 2, Brewers 6
Indians 4, Athletics 6
Pirates 2, Cardinals 1
Rays 12, Angels 3
Marlins 6, Rockies 5
Twins 3, Mariners 5
Giants 10, Padres 1
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.