Omar Infante - Game 2 ALDS

Vaunted bullpen trio lets A’s down in loss to Tigers

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Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour combined to pitch nine scoreless innings, allowing just three hits in the process, in the series sweep of the Rangers last week. In today’s Game 2 loss to the Tigers, the trio gave up four runs — two earned — and six hits in 2 2/3 innings of work.

What was a 2-1 Oakland lead when Doolittle entered to start the bottom of the seventh turned into a 5-4 loss after Don Kelly’s sac fly in the ninth.

All three relievers allowed two hits. Doolittle still would have escaped his inning clean if not for Coco Crisp’s drop of Miguel Cabrera’s fly to shallow center. It was ruled an error, so both runs Doolittle allowed were unearned. Still, he took a blown save, as did Cook after his wild pitch allowed the tying run in the eighth. Balfour suffered the loss in the ninth after entering a 4-4 game.

To see all three get negative results in the same game is simply incredible. Doolittle took a loss or a blown save just twice in 44 regular-season appearances this year. Balfour was even better, with three such appearances in 75 trips to the mound. Cook took a loss and/or a blown save seven times in 71 appearances.

Now, sure, many of those appearances came in situations in which a loss or a blown save was never in play. And most of them didn’t come against offenses as good as Detroit’s. Still, for all three to fail back-to-back-to-back, well, perhaps there is a little something different to this thing they call postseason baseball.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.