The Matchup: Baltimore Orioles (93-69) at Texas Rangers (93-69)
The Time: Friday, 8:37 PM Eastern
The Starting Pitchers: Joe Saunders (3-3, 3.63 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90 ERA)
The Breakdown: Watching the Rangers melt down these past couple of weeks — especially in game 162 vs. the A’s on Wednesday — one is tempted to say that they have zero momentum — maybe negative momentum — heading into the playoffs and are sitting ducks.
Of course, if one were to say that, one would be ignoring the fact that (a) there is no correlation between how a team finishes and how they perform in the playoffs; and (b) momentum, as the old saying goes, is your next day’s starting pitcher. And the Rangers have the way better next day’s starting pitcher.
Yu Darvish hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, but after making some mid-season adjustments he went 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA and 67/15 K/BB ratio in 57 innings over his final eight starts. The Orioles have not faced him at all this year and his is not the most conventional stuff in the world. I really think he’s going to present some problems for the men in orange.
Saunders, meanwhile, is no one’s definition of a shutdown ace. While he pitched well since joining the Orioles in August — a 3.63 ERA and 23/8 K/BB ratio in 45 innings — he is a lefty, the Rangers are righty heavy and they have beat him up like he owed them money the times they’ve faced him. The Orioles bullpen has been the team’s strength this year, but they’re gonna need to be ready early in this one, methinks.
The Prediction: The Orioles are a great story and, if you don’t have a rooting interest in these AL playoffs, it’s hard not to root for them. But a one-and-done game against a tough pitcher on the road in the first playoff series most of these guys have ever seen? Eh, not liking their chances. Rangers 6, Orioles 3.
The Blue Jays acquired Yankees’ infielder/outfielder Rob Refsnyder for first base prospect Ryan McBroom, the teams announced Sunday. Refsnyder was designated for assignment by the Yankees earlier in the week and is expected to report to Triple-A Buffalo, while McBroom could find a landing place on the Blue Jays’ Double-A roster in Trenton.
Refsnyder, 26, had trouble heating up at the plate during his third campaign with the Yankees. He batted .135/.200/.216 with a double and two stolen bases through his first 40 PA in 2017 and was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre coming out of the All-Star break. His numbers solidified during a 38-game stint in Triple-A, where he posted a .312/.390/.464 batting line with 15 extra-base hits in 159 PA. He’s not slated for a major league gig with the Blue Jays just yet, but could see some time at second base behind Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, especially with Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki still on the mend.
McBroom, 25, was ranked No. 30 among the Blue Jays’ top prospects in 2017. He profiles as a bat-only first baseman with little speed or range in the infield, and was working through his second season at Double-A New Hampshire prior to the trade. He entered Sunday slashing .243/.321/.402 with 12 home runs through his first 392 PA of the year.
Marlins’ president of baseball operations Michael Hill told reporters Sunday that he has no intention of dealing Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Justin Bour, J.T. Realmuto, Marcell Ozuna or Dan Straily at the trade deadline this July. That’s a decision he feels would be better left in the hands of the Marlins’ new ownership, though the hand-off may still be a ways away.
That doesn’t mean that teams aren’t interested in the club’s core players, however. From Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald:
It’s not stopping calls from coming in,” Hill said of the interest. “It’s been fairly consistent, with people checking in to see where we’re at to see if we may be open to expanding the players we’re talking about. But we haven’t put any of those guys in play.
ESPN’s Buster Olney adds that there’s a catch-22 when it comes to moving superstars like Stanton. He represents the face of the franchise and one of the team’s most significant assets, but the remainder of his 13-year, $325 million contract also makes up a sizable portion of the Marlins’ debt.
While the club may not be ready to deal some of their marquee players just yet, they don’t intend to sit pat at the deadline, either. They’re still looking to shed some payroll in the bullpen after dealing right-handed reliever David Phelps to the Mariners and appear to be listening to multiple offers on fellow righty A.J. Ramos. Ramos, 30, has seen mixed results over his first 37 1/3 innings of 2017 with a 3.86 ERA, 4.8 BB/9 and 11.1 SO/9, though Hill appears optimistic that the Marlins can extract considerable value from a trade.