Billy Butler, Alex Gordon power Royals to victory in dramatic fashion

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The Royals won their fourth consecutive game this afternoon thanks to clutch hitting from Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. Trailing the White Sox 5-3 going into the ninth, the Royals were 18% to win according to FanGraphs win expectancy. It fell as low as 9% when Alcides Escobar flied out to center with runners on first and second for the second out. Butler, though, doubled to right-center, plating his team’s fourth and fifth runs to tie the game.

After Royals reliever Greg Holland retired the White Sox in short order in the top of the tenth, the offense went back to work. With two outs and Lorenzo Cain on second base, right-hander Brian Omogrosso intentionally walked the left-handed Chris Getz to bring up George Kottaras. Omogrosso couldn’t find his control as he unintentionally walked Kottaras on five pitches to bring up Alex Gordon. Gordon swung at Omogrosso’s first pitch, a 91 MPH fastball, and drove it deep to right field out of the reach of Alex Rios, plating Cain for the walk-off victory.

The win expectancy chart from FanGraphs is fun to look at:


Source: FanGraphs

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.

I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.

Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.

Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.

To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.