The Cardinals were shut out by the Cubs yesterday afternoon, so the Reds had a chance to move into second place in the National League Central with a win over the Brewers last night. And they appeared in fine position to do just that when Arolids Chapman strolled to the mound for the bottom of the ninth inning. However, Jonathan Lucroy had other ideas in mind.
After Jean Segura beat out an infield single to lead off the ninth, Lucroy turned on a hanging 1-2 slider from Chapman and put it over the left field fence to secure a stunning 7-6 victory for the Brewers. Lucroy was 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in his career against the hard-throwing left-hander coming into the night.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Reds, who now sit at 69-53 on the season. They are a half-game behind the Cardinals and 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Pirates. With the Reds and Cardinals comfortably atop the standings for the Wild Card play-in game, it looks like all three NL Central teams will be playing October baseball.
Your Friday box scores:
Cardinals 0, Cubs 7
Royals 2, Tigers 1; Royals 3, Tigers 0
Diamondbacks 2, Pirates 6
Yankees 10, Red Sox 3
Dodgers 4, Phillies 0
Giants 14, Marlins 10
Rockies 6, Orioles 3
Blue Jays 4, Rays 5
Nationals 2, Braves 3 (10 innings)
Mariners 3, Rangers 1
White Sox 5, Twins 2
Astros 8, Angels 2
Mets 5, Padres 2
Indians 2, Athletics 3
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.