UPDATE: Acta wasn’t kidding about Hafner returning this week. He’s in tonight’s lineup, batting sixth for the Indians.
Travis Hafner has been out since August 5 with a back injury and has been limited to just 60 games this year, but manager Manny Acta said yesterday that he’s “optimistic” the 35-year-old designated hitter will rejoin the Indians’ lineup at some point this week.
Assuming the Indians decline his $13 million option for 2013 this is the final season of Hafner’s four-year, $57 million contract, which means it’s also likely his final season in Cleveland after spending most of that time on the disabled list with an assortment of injuries.
When healthy Hafner has never ceased being productive, posting an OPS above .800 in each of the past four seasons, but he hasn’t played 100 games since 2010 and hasn’t played 120 games since 2007. It’d be nice to see “Pronk” contribute a few big hits as a proper sendoff.
The Dodgers and Astros have selected their starters for Game 1 of the World Series. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel will open the series for the Astros, while fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the first of two home games at Dodger Stadium.
Keuchel, 29, has been a steady presence for the Astros this postseason. He clinched Game 2 of the ALDS with 5 2/3 innings of one-run, seven-strikeout ball against the Red Sox and returned for his second postseason win with seven scoreless innings against the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS. He was outmatched in Game 5 of the Championship Series, however, scattering four runs and eight strikeouts across 4 2/3 innings while the Yankees worked their way up to a 5-0 shutout. Nevertheless, he’s perhaps the Astros’ strongest arm behind ALCS MVP Justin Verlander and has not surrendered a single home run in 17 1/3 consecutive innings this postseason.
Kershaw, on the other hand, has had a less consistent track record in the playoffs. While his postseason yips have been well-documented thus far, his struggles on the mound haven’t always led to disaster — at least not this time around. The Dodgers are 3-0 in all three of Kershaw’s starts this month and enjoyed a quality start from their ace during Game 5 of the NLCS last Thursday. The 29-year-old southpaw recorded his second win of the playoffs with a run, three hits, a walk and five strikeouts over six innings. Unlike Keuchel, he’s given up a home run in each of his outings to date (and four homers in Game 1 of the NLDS).
Game 1 is set for Tuesday evening at 8:00 PM ET. The Dodgers have home field advantage through Games 1 and 2 before the series moves to Houston, and will try to capitalize on that advantage in order to extend their postseason winning streak at Dodger Stadium. They’re 4-0 at home and 3-1 on the road this October, while the Astros boast a 6-0 advantage in Houston and a significantly less impressive 1-4 record away from home.