Orioles, Yankees drop one-run games

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A pair of lengthy winning streaks came to an end Sunday, as both the Yankees and Orioles lost one-run games to keep the status quo atop the AL East.

The Orioles saw their six-game streak conclude in losing 2-1 to Boston. Baltimore caught a very bad break in the top of the ninth, when Jim Thome’s hard shot to right skipped over the low right-field wall at Fenway for a ground-rule double, preventing Mark Reynolds from scoring from first and tying the game. The O’s went on to strand the bases loaded against Andrew Bailey.

Today’s game did mark the debut of the game’s top pitching prospect, 19-year-old right-hander Dylan Bundy. Bundy got flyouts from both batters he faced and showed a 92-94 mph fastball in his first appearance since starting for Double-A Bowie on Aug. 28.

The Yankees, who had won seven straight, fell a few minutes later, as the A’s salvaged one game in Yankee Stadium by prevailing 5-4.

The game featured more shaky umpiring, most of it coming from home-plate umpire Mike Estabrook. Complaining about the first of his three strikeouts on the day, Alex Rodriguez could be heard telling Estabrook that the called third strike was “on the ground.” It was a slight exaggeration, but it was definitely low. Later, Nick Swisher was rung up on a pair of curveballs that were clearly outside. Robinson Cano also had something to say about the called strike three that ended the game in the ninth, but that one seemed to have plenty of corner.

Also damaging: Larry Vanover missed on a bang-bang play at first base in the second inning, giving Josh Donaldson a single. Cliff Pennington later hit a two-run homer in the frame.

Oakland’s bullpen deserves much of the credit for the win. Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour combined to pitch 4 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of A.J. Griffin. Hiroki Kuroda took the loss for the Yankees after giving up five runs — four earned — in 5 2/3 innings.

Since both the Orioles and Yankees both ended up winning two out of three this weekend, the Yankees still have their one-game lead in the AL East. The A’s will have either a 2 1/2- or 3 1/2-game lead in the wild card, pending the Angels’ outcome today.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.

 

There is a Tyler glut in baseball

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It’s a slow news morning — Miguel Montero is gone and everyone else is quiet — so you should go read Tyler Kepner’s latest column over at the New York Times. It’s, appropriately, about Tylers.

There are a lot of them in baseball now, Tyler notes. No Larrys and hardly any Eddies or Bobs. This obviously tracks the prevalence of the name Tyler in the population at large and the declines in Larrys, Eddies and Bobs. It’s the kind of thing I imagine we’ve all noticed from time to time, and it’s fun to do it in baseball. For his part, Kepner tries to make an all-Tyler All-Star team. The results are sort of sad.

There are always one or two Craigs floating around baseball from time to time, but not many more than that. We got a Hall of Famer recently, so that’s pretty nice. There will likely be fewer over time, as Craig — never even a top-30 name in popularity — is now near historic lows. I’m not complaining, though. I never once had to go by “Craig C.” in class to differentiate myself from other Craigs. Our biggest problem is being called Greg. We tend to let it pass. Craigs are used to it by now.