In a game that featured a major league record 21 pitchers and took nearly seven hours, the Rays outlasted the Orioles 5-4 in 18 innings Friday.
The Rays’ win came hours after they were officially eliminated from AL East contention by the Red Sox, but they’ve already known for a couple of weeks that it’d probably be the wild card or nothing. They celebrated like they clinched a berth themselves when David DeJesus singled in Desmond Jennings in the bottom of the 18th.
Jennings was scratched from the Rays’ original lineup because of a sore neck, but he ended up playing 10 innings anyway and going 2-for-4 with a walk. His double got the rally started in the 18th.
Getting the victory was Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays’ 11th pitcher. The Orioles likewise turned to a starter, Bud Norris, in the 16th. He took the loss.
The Orioles went the 18 innings without ever using closer Jim Johnson, though they had him warming up often enough.
The win puts the Rays alone at the top of the wild card race. The Indians won a rain-shortened game against the Astros on Friday, and the Royals edged Rangers 2-1 after scoring in the bottom of the eighth. Here are the standings with 8-9 games left:
Tampa Bay – 84-69
Cleveland – 84-70
Texas – 83-70 (.5 games back)
Baltimore – 81-72 (2.5 games back)
Kansas City – 81-72 (2.5 games back)
New York – 81-73 (3 games back)
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.