Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers told reporters he was sucker-punched by a group of males after having dinner on Thursday night in Cleveland, thus explaining his suddenly-bruised left eye and the cuts on his face. But that might not be the actual story.
A witness to Scheppers’ supposed sucker punch told Clevescene.com that the incident happened at 2:30 a.m. — not anywhere near dinner time — and that Scheppers was accompanied by teammates Joe Nathan and A.J. Pierzynski, along with “a bunch of girls.” Scheppers, according to the witness, was a “verbal instigator” and there was some jawing back and forth for a few minutes before a punch got thrown.
“He lost a bar fight,” the witness, whose exact level of involvement is unclear, explained to Vince Grzegorek of Clevescene.com on Sunday morning. “He had 10 chances to walk away before this happened.”
The 6-foot-4 right-hander will undoubtedly have to field questions about this account of the incident on Sunday evening, after the Rangers wrap up their weekend series against the Indians at Progressive Field.
Scheppers, 26, has an impressive 1.74 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 46 2/3 innings of relief this season.
UPDATE, 5:21 p.m. ET: Here’s a statement from the Cleveland Police, via the Dallas Morning News:
“The preliminary investigation reveals that on Friday, July 26, at approximately 2:30 a.m. Texas Ranger pitcher Tanner Scheppers was involved in a physical altercation at Panini’s Bar located on W. 6th Street. Further investigation reveals that the altercation was called in by Downtown Alliance workers and that Third District officers responded to the scene to investigate. Once on scene officers attempted to get information from Scheppers for a report however, he refused to provide information and refused to make a police report. Further, officers called for EMS and he refused medical attention and EMS was disregarded. The officers then conveyed Scheppers and another male to the Ranger’s team hotel.”
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.