With their backs against the wall, the Giants have been unstoppable this month, winning five straight elimination games against the Reds and Cardinals.
It’s an impressive streak, no doubt. The Cardinals would likely be the first to admit it. After all, they’re riding a streak of six straight wins in elimination games themselves.
Now one of those streaks is bound to come to an end on Monday. Or perhaps Tuesday, since the forecast for Monday evening is pretty grim.
The Giants’ key for Game 7 is obvious: they need ace Matt Cain to come out and match the starts put up by Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong in the last two games. Cain’s looked more like a No. 3 than a No. 1 so far this month, giving up exactly three runs in all three of his starts. It’s left him 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA. That’s quite a change from the last two months of the season, when Cain allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of 12 outings.
The Cardinals probably don’t need quite so much from fellow 16-game winner Kyle Lohse, not with Trevor Rosenthal and Jason Motte both ready to pitch up two innings in relief. Lohse, though, is definitely the guy they want out there. He’s 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA in his three postseason starts. He outdueled Cain in Wednesday’s Game 3, a 3-1 victory for the Cardinals in St. Louis.
The guess here is that Cain is due. The same goes for likely NL MVP Buster Posey. And while the Giants’ best relievers don’t match Cardinals’ huge arms, they’ve been plenty effective to date.
Of course, everyone who has come away doubting Lohse lately has been made to look foolish. At the very least, he always keeps it close. The Cardinals are 23-13 in Lohse’s starts this year. Of the 13 losses, nine were by one run, three were by two runs and one was by three runs (May 30 against the Braves).
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.