Mike Napoli has been out since August 11 with a quadriceps injury, but the Rangers catcher took a big step in his recovery yesterday by spending seven innings behind the plate in a minor-league rehab game.
In addition to catching seven innings Napoli went 0-for-2 with a hit by pitch in Game 2 of the Double-A playoffs and T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that he could be back in the Rangers’ lineup as soon as this weekend.
Napoli’s injury combined with the Rangers’ decision to part with Yorvit Torrealba has left Geovany Soto as their primary catcher. Soto, who was acquired from the Cubs on July 31, has started 24 of the past 30 games while hitting just .219 with a .639 OPS for the Rangers.
Even while seeing his OPS drop nearly 300 points compared to last season’s breakout Napoli posted a .771 OPS with 17 homers in 92 games before being shut down.
Angels DH Albert Pujols passed Mark McGwire for sole possession of 10th place on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard, slugging his 584th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.
Mike Trout had already slugged a solo home run off of Jays starter Marco Estrada to bring Pujols to the dish. Pujols jumped on an 0-1 cut fastball, sending it out to left-center field, clearing the fence by a few feet.
Pujols, who finished 4-for-4 with the homer and an RBI double, is batting .257/.321/.441 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI on the year. His next target on the home run leaderboard is Frank Robinson at 586.
Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals.
The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton.
Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single to Bryce Harper, followed by a double to Anthony Rendon that scored Harper, pushing the score to 10-8 and ending Britton’s streak. Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice back to Britton, but the lefty finally finished the game by getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Britton now holds a nice 0.69 ERA with 38 saves and a 61/16 K/BB ratio in 52 innings of work this season.