Nate McLouth

Yankees, Orioles eek out one-run wins to preserve AL East tie

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The Orioles got a walkoff win over the Rays in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday, and the Yankees held on against the Red Sox to keep pace in the AL East.

Baltimore won 3-2 on a Nate McLouth “single” off the right field wall that scored Manny Machado with one out in the ninth, handing Kyle Farnsworth a loss.

Machado, a rookie still supposedly learning the ins and outs of third base after moving over from shortstop upon being promoted, made an outstanding heads-up play to help preserve the tie in the top of the ninth (video). With two outs and pinch-runner Rich Thompson on second, Evan Longoria hit a slow roller down the third-base line, one that was too slow for Machado to make a play on. However, shortstop J.J. Hardy followed the runner from second to third and was in the perfect spot when Machado whirled and fired to third, catching Thompson having rounded the bag.

The Yankees won their game 5-4 a bit later. Curtis Granderson homered twice and Robinson Cano went deep once, accounting for all five Yankees runs. The Red Sox rallied from 5-1 down with two runs in the seventh and then a Jarrod Saltalamacchia solo shot in the ninth. They weren’t far away from making it back-to-back homers off Rafael Soriano in the ninth, but Daniel Nava’s high fly to left was caught by Chris Dickerson at the wall.

New York’s win may have been costly, as Derek Jeter left with a bone bruise in his left ankle after coming down awkwardly on the first-base bag in the eighth. There was also a collision at first an inning later, with Alex Rodriguez running over James Loney after Andrew Miller’s wild throw pulled the first baseman into the baseline. Fortunately, both players were able to stay in, though Loney hurt his left shoulder on the play.

Boston’s Cody Ross was ejected from the game in the eighth for arguing a called third strike on a breaking ball that looked low and outside. Bobby Valentine backed his player and was tossed himself, giving himself a new Red Sox single-season record with six ejections in a season.

With the wins tonight, the Orioles and Yankees are both 80-62. The Rays have fallen three games back of both at 77-65.

Cardinals, Dexter Fowler agree to a five-year, $82 million deal

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.

The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.

For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
Associated Press
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.