And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Mets 7, Marlins 6:  Jordany Valdespin hit a pinch-hit three run homer in the sixth to put the Mets up to stay, breaking their six game losing streak. But Terry Collins is on the hot seatNo he isn’t! Yes he is! She’s my daughter! [slap] My sister! [slap!] My daughter …

Nationals 2, Braves 0: The Nats finally break through against the Braves. Biggest reason: the best kept secret in baseball: Jordan Zimmermann’s awesomeness. Why that’s a secret I don’t know, but ask 100 baseball fans to name the Nats rotation I bet his name is listed after Strasburg and Gonzalez by almost everyone, and I bet some folks even forget it. His numbers may be a tad inflated so far this season because four of his six outings have come against the Marlins-Marlins-Cubs-Mets, but he’s a legit stud. Maybe the most underrated starter in the NL.

Twins 6, Tigers 2: Anibal Sanchez was coming off a 17-strikeout performance against the Braves but here he didn’t really have it. “It” being either his best stuff or an opponent that would swing at it if the pitcher putted it up to home plate. Scott Diamond was sharp. The Twins showed when facing Bruce Rondon that you can throw it 100 miles per hour, but it don’t mean nothin’ if it doesn’t have any movement.

Pirates 6, Brewers 4: Pittsburgh finally takes one at Miller Park. Four runs in the eighth thanks to Starling Marte’s two-run homer and RBI singles from Brandon Inge and Pedro Alvarez. John Axford blew up here, giving the Brewers their first loss this season when leading after seven. Shades of 2012.

Angels 5, Athletics 4: Mark Trumbo has been a bright spot at least. Three homers in three days for the big guy. He also leads the league in mixed metaphors:

“It was probably more of a nail-biter than we would have liked. This team hangs around and they’ll find a way to get back in it if you let them. You just have to keep your foot on the gas pedal and try to pound them into submission before they get their second wind.”

I hate it when people hit me with gas pedals when I’m trying to breathe.

Indians 6, Phillies 0: Ryan Raburn went 4 for 5 and is hitting .364/.407/.655. Because that makes sense. The Indians have won four straight, outscoring their opponents 39-5. The Phillies send Halladay and Lee into a two-game series and get outscored 20-2. That’s something that would have made no sense a year ago at this time. Heck, it still makes little sense.

Cardinals 4, Reds 2: Lance Lynn is 5-0 and has won ten straight decisions. He also got a hit and laid down “a perfect bunt” which he said after the game was what he was most happy about. Pitchers batting is adorable.

Yankees 5, Astros 4: Over at IIATMS, Jason is keeping tabs of how big the Yankees’ disabled list-only payroll is right now. It’s up to $95 million. Yet the Yankees are still winning ballgames. Later this year some manager on the hot seat is gonna start whining about all the injuries he’s had to deal with. He’ll say it’s “not an excuse,” but he really will be offering it as an excuse. When he does, I hope Johnny Sportswriter asks him why his injuries have kept him out of contention while the Yankees are still in the thick of the AL East race.

Cubs 6, Padres 2: Scott Feldman goes the distance, striking out 12 and allowing only two runs. Andrew Cashner — the Cubs first round pick back in 2008 — faces his old coworkers and doesn’t make it into the fifth inning.

Red Sox 10, Blue Jays 1: Clay Buchholz tosses seven shutout innings and improves to 6-0. Two homers for Mike Napoli, one which travelled multiple parsecs.

White Sox 5, Rangers 2: Texas had its chances against Chris Sale in the first couple of innings but didn’t take full advantage of all of their baserunners. Slenderman — which if people aren’t calling Sale that now, they really should be — settled down after that and didn’t allow anything after that. Conor Gillaspie and Alejandro De Axa homered in the seventh.

Giants 9, Diamondbacks 6: The comeback kids: the Giants rally against the Arizona bullpen for the third straight game to sweep the Gritties. Brandon Belt had a three-run homer. I haven’t watched many Giants games this year, but it feel like Belt has had a lot of big late hits for a guy whose batting line is rather blah overall.

Rockies 7, Dodgers 3: I suppose it’s possible the Rockies can keep winning despite getting meh performances from their starting pitchers, but I just don’t feel like it’s likely. Juan Nicasio only went four innings, but the bats — and Dexter Fowler’s glove, robbing Adrian Gonzalez of a dinger — picked him up. This game lasted nearly four hours. You won’t be surprised to learn that Josh Beckett was starting for the Dodgers.

Royals 9, Rays 8: The Rays led 6-1 after three and a half, but Kansas City scored one in the fourth, two in the fifth and five in the sixth. After the game, Jeff Francoeur explained why the Royals feel like they can always come back from deficits:

“Our goal is to get the first one or two guys on every inning and then let whatever is going to happen, happen,” Francoeur said. “Tonight, we were able to do that.”

Jeff Francoeur: on base percentage guru.

Mariners 8, Orioles 3: Seattle has taken five of seven. Michael Morse hit his third homer in four games. After the game Eric Wedge provided his bosses with a baseline which can help them better decide if he needs to be fired later:

“I feel like our guys have taken significant steps and what you are seeing now is more the norm in regard to what our guys are capable of.”

Awfully courteous of him.

Report: Rangers agree to six-year extension with Rougned Odor

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The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.

It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.

2017 Preview: Minnesota Twins

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Minnesota Twins.

Which iteration of the Twins will we get in 2017? The second-place contenders of 2015, blazing their way through the standings with 83 wins and a handful of hot prospects? The burnouts of 2016, flopping to the bottom of the division with 103 losses and a lineup held in place by Brian Dozier and, well, Brian Dozier? Or something in between?

Finishing dead last has its perks, namely a first-round draft pick and the feeling that things can’t be quite as bad as they were the year before. Unfortunately for the Twins, the only major preparation they made for the 2017 season came in the form of a front office shakeup. Derek Falvey assumed control of the club in October, bringing GM Thad Levine into the fold in November as the club assumed a more analytics-friendly approach toward the rebuilding movement.

When it came to roster revisions, however, there wasn’t much moving or shaking this winter. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, catcher Kurt Suzuki and left-handers Tommy Milone and Pat Dean vacated their spots on the roster. Falvey avoided some of the bigger bats and bullpen arms in free agency and opted to sign backstop Jason Castro and journeyman reliever Ryan Vogelsong instead.

By and large, the core of the Twins’ roster remained the same. Center fielder Byron Buxton, infielder/outfielder Michael Sano and right-hander Jose Berrios still form the nucleus of the club’s top prospects. Middle infielder Brian Dozier will also return in 2017, though he appears to be on borrowed time with the Twins after putting up monster numbers in the second half of 2016. Ervin Santana will head the rotation again, accompanied by fellow veterans Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes, while right-handed relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly and Matt Belisle and rehabbing lefty Glen Perkins attempt to prevent another bullpen collapse in 2017.

Without any major additions to the team (and, excepting the departure of Trevor Plouffe, any major subtractions), the Twins will look to their existing cadre of players for significant improvements in 2017. Miguel Sano is expected to take over third base in Plouffe’s absence, which will bring a welcome end to his short-lived and wholly unsuccessful experiment in right field. Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco and Joe Mauer should round out the infield, with Byung Ho Park and Kennys Vargas currently vying for a spot as the team’s designated hitter.

The lineup is still four or five or six sluggers shy of formidable, but if Dozier can be counted on to repeat his 42-homer, 5.9 fWAR performance from 2016, there will be at least one Twin worth intentionally walking in 2017. Neither Miguel Sano nor Byron Buxton have quite found their footing against big league pitching yet, and another year spent struggling in the majors could mean another year of sub-optimal run production for the team as well. Jason Castro, who grades as an above-average defender behind the plate, is unlikely to provide any additional pop for the Twins at the plate after slashing just .210/.307/.377 through 376 PA with the Astros in 2016.

The pitching department also leaves a little to be desired in light of the league-worst 5.09 ERA they amassed last season. A veteran-heavy rotation could get a boost from the addition of fifth-starter candidate Jose Berrios, who is thought to be the favorite after fellow rotation candidate Trevor May underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week. Right-hander Tyler Duffey and 23-year-old southpaw Adalberto Mejia are also waiting in the wings. Both have made convincing cases for their inclusion on the pitching staff this spring, but Duffey is coming off of a 6.43 ERA in 2016 and Mejia lacks some of the polish that Berrios offers. Still, stockpiling young pitching depth isn’t a bad thing, and could give the Twins a cushion in the event of injury or collapse down the stretch.

The bullpen outperformed the rotation in 2016, which is saying… something, though maybe not a lot. They still finished the year with a cumulative 4.63 ERA, good for last place among their American League rivals, and delivered just 2.1 fWAR while taking on the fourth-most innings in the league. The standout performer was 28-year-old righty Ryan Pressly, who worked a 3.70 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 in 75 1/3 innings last year. In light of Ryan Vogelsong’s recent departure from the club, the Twins will round out their bullpen with left-hander Craig Breslow, who turned in a 4.50 ERA with the Marlins in 2016 and is looking for a bounce-back season of his own after reworking his delivery at age 36.

For now, it looks like Falvey and the Twins’ front office are taking a wait-and-see approach to the coming season, which bodes well for their long-term vision (assuming most of their young prospects pan out) and not so well for their chances of moving up in the division in the next year or so. That could change by the trade deadline if they can secure a worthwhile return for Dozier, though given the rumors of their understandably high asking price, it could take more than a few months to get a deal in place.

Even assuming that all the chips fall in the Twins’ favor in 2017 — prospects start hitting consistently, the rotation solidifies, and Falvey loosens the purse strings enough to net more established contenders — it’s difficult to imagine anything more than a fourth-place finish for the club as they continue to rebuild and regroup. Barring any major improvements on the inconsistent, if occasionally productive, lineup of 2016, another last-place finish feels imminent.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL Central.