Including last year’s postseason, the Giants are riding a streak of 16 straight victories with Barry Zito on the mound. The left-hander pitched seven scoreless innings and went 2-for-3 with two runs scored Wednesday in a 10-0 drubbing of the Rockies.
Zito posted a 1.69 ERA in his three postseason starts last year, and he’s yet to allow a run in 14 innings in 2013.
Perhaps no one but me is thinking of next year right now, but at the rate Zito is going, the Giants might actually pick up his $18 million option for 2014, a possibility that would have seemed preposterous at pretty much any point since the first year of his seven-year, $126 million contract.
The key there is the $7 million buyout attached to said option, meaning the Giants will essentially have to decide whether they think Zito will be worth $11 million in 2014. Or perhaps the decision will be made for him; the option vests automatically if Zito throws 200 innings this year. He hasn’t reached that mark since 2006, his last year with Oakland, but it probably goes hand-in-hand with the Giants’ decision anyway. If Zito throws 200 innings or very close to it, he’ll probably be someone the Giants will want around at $11 million for 2014.
Of course, that’s all a long way off. The Giants will just enjoy the ride for now, since there’s no telling whether it will last. If you remember, Zito started with a 1.67 ERA in four starts last April, then posted ERAs of 4.94, 4.54, 4.07 and 6.46 the following four months before rebounding in September. In 2010, Zito started 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA in April and then went 5-14 with a 4.72 ERA the rest of the way.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.
The Rangers got a bit of a breather on Saturday after clinching the division lead during Friday night’s win. Naturally, it was also a prime opportunity for another of Adrian Beltre‘s well-documented antics, as he spent his off day directing the Rangers’ infield defense with a series of signs. Even with Carlos Beltran‘s help, no one, least of all those playing the infield, appeared to have any idea what Beltre’s gestures were intended to convey.
You can add this to the list of in-game oddities Beltre has become so well-known for over the years, running the gamut from the way he kicked a ball over the foul line to his histrionics every time someone comes close to touching his head. If nothing else, it’s a convincing audition reel for the third baseman’s future in major league coaching — a career path that, I’d imagine, would end up looking something like this: