Brandon Beachy hasn’t pitched since June 16 last season. He felt soreness in his right elbow and subsequently underwent Tommy John surgery, ending his season and significantly cutting into his 2013 hopes. Nearly a full year later, though, Beachy is nearing a return. He has made two rehab starts with Triple-A Gwinnett spanning nine innings, striking out 11 and walking six while surrendering three runs. He will make one more rehab start before being recalled to start one of the double-header games against the Mets on June 18.
As David O’Brien notes in a column posted earlier today, the Braves could use the 26th-man rule that allows teams to temporarily add an extra player for double-headers. However, that would only temporarily address the issue of finding room for Beachy in the rotation. It’s a decision that has Fredi Gonzalez pacing.
“I don’t know — that’s my honest-to-God answer,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Sunday. “I don’t think there’s a clear-cut answer right now. And I don’t want to say, ‘Let’s see what happens,’ because people think, ‘Fredi’s hoping somebody gets hurt.’ And I don’t want that. I want everybody to be pitching healthy and then we’ve got to come up with some kind of plan. But right now we don’t have a plan.”
O’Brien points out that the Brave rotation has been running on all cylinders, particularly as of late. Tim Hudson, the veteran of the staff but the worst-performing with a 4.48 ERA, has shown marked improvement in his most recent two starts. The other four have posted ERA’s under 3.50, including Mike Minor (2.52) and Kris Medlen (2.87), who have been ace-like.
An obvious solution would be to trade either Hudson or Paul Maholm, as both are eligible for free agency after the season. But doing so would require the Braves to have to rely on Beachy’s surgically-repaired elbow during an important post-season series, which would be a gamble right now.
Though somewhat stressful, having too many awesome pitchers is a wonderful problem to have for the 39-24 Braves, currently enjoying an 8.5-game first-place lead in the NL East.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.