It wasn’t the worst call of Jim Leyland’s life. It may not have even been the worst call he made today. But Leyland opened the floodgates for a five-run 10th inning when he intentionally walked Jeff Francoeur in the 10th inning Thursday against the Royals. It was a 3-3 game at the time, but the Tigers went on to lose 8-3 after an Alex Gordon grand slam in the inning.
Francouer was walked by left-hander Phil Coke with one out and runners on second and third after a wild pitch. Coke had already walked a left-handed batter in the inning in Mike Moustakas and he went on to walk George Kottaras after the IBB, giving the Royals a one-run lead. Fellow lefty Darin Downs took over from there, and after getting a grounder to second that led to a forceout at home, he surrendered the slam to Gordon.
In truth, walking Francoeur there was a move a bunch of managers in Leyland’s position would have made. Francoeur has always hit lefties quite well. Even as lousy as he has been this season, he entered the day 7-for-18 against lefties, good for a .389 average. And on deck was a rusty left-handed hitting catcher with a career .194 average against lefties (Kottaras, who had taken over for Salvador Perez in the game, had just five plate appearances despite spending the whole season to date on the Royals’ roster). Coke’s entire reason for being is to retire left-handed batters, and if he could have gotten Kottaras for the second out, he had another set to hit in Chris Getz.
But this wasn’t Coke’s day. It is something that Leyland might have figured out during the walk to Moustakas, but if he was going to leave Coke in and not turn to a right-hander, then walking Francoeur was justified. Frankly, if I were going to blast Leyland about anything today, it’d be about giving yet another start to .118-hitting Don Kelly in left field.
With Game 1 of the Red Sox-Indians ALDS set to commence on Thursday, there’s no better starter for the job than Corey Kluber. The only question is whether or not the right-hander will be up to the task after sustaining a mild quadriceps strain earlier this week.
Indians’ manager Terry Francona appeared optimistic about Kluber’s chances of recovering in time for the Division Series, but admitted that he doesn’t have his rotation set in stone for the first couple of postseason games. Complicating matters is Monday’s potential make-up game between the Indians and the Tigers, which they’ll be forced to play if the outcome has bearing on playoff seeding.
Per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Francona doesn’t have a starter for the make-up game, either, though he clarified that rehabbing right-hander Danny Salazar would not be eligible. Salazar is still working his way back from a forearm injury in hopes of joining the Indians for their postseason run, and needs to toss another simulated game before he can be expected to return to the mound. Kluber, meanwhile, will throw off the mound on Sunday.
With Kluber or Salazar limping out of the gate, the Indians will likely have to fall back on right-handers Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Bauer is slated for Saturday’s face-off against the Royals and confirmed his willingness to pitch on short rest through the playoffs. The 25-year-old also spoke to the Indians about his ability to pitch out of the bullpen, though it’s an option they appear unlikely to exercise. While Francona’s comments on Friday stressed the club’s patient approach toward their rotation, Bauer appeared revved and ready to go:
If it was up to me, […] I’d pitch and be ready to start or be available out of the ‘pen every game. In the playoffs, there’s really no reason to save anything. So, whenever I can get in there, whenever they want me to get in there, I’ll be ready.
Matt Holliday might not have a landing spot with the Cardinals in 2017, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to hang his cleats up just yet. Prior to the Cardinals’ afternoon set against the Pirates on Saturday, the 36-year-old expressed his desire to further his career elsewhere, even if staying in St. Louis is not a possibility.
It’s been a down year for the outfielder, who batted .242/.318/.450 through 107 games before landing on the disabled list with a fractured right thumb. His 0.6 fWAR is the lowest mark of his career to date. Notwithstanding two injury-riddled seasons (he was sidelined through most of 2015 with a right quadriceps strain), he’s performed admirably for the Cardinals over the past eight years, putting up a .292/.379/.494 batting line, 156 home runs, and 26.8 fWAR with the club. With a return to full health, he might not be on the market for long.