The Braves are in Queens, New York tonight to open up a three-game series against the Mets. Catcher Evan Gattis isn’t starting, but figures to be used as a pinch-hitter late in the game if the Braves are in need of some offense, as the 26-year-old came up with two big home runs recently: on Saturday, Gattis broke an eighth-inning 0-0 tie with a two-run home run off of Kenley Jansen; on Tuesday, he tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run off of Glen Perkins; and on Wednesday, he boosted the Braves’ lead to 8-0 with a fourth inning grand slam off of Vance Worley.
It wasn’t always easy. As MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports, the last time Gattis was in New York, he was out of baseball and begging for food and money.
When Gattis attempted to get money from an ATM machine to buy a hot dog on the fourth day of that five-day trip, he learned he was penniless. His account showed a negative $17, and he was not scheduled to fly back home out of John F. Kennedy International Airport until the next night.
“I was like, ‘What am I going to do?'” Gattis said. “I just lost it. I was so beaten. I was bawling, crying. I was trying to sell clothes. I was like, ‘You want a bag of clothes so I can get on a train to get to JFK?'”
Things have turned around for Gattis, who spent this afternoon at MLB’s Fan Cave in New York dressed up as a polar bear for some reason.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP