It’s official: playoff baseball is coming back to Pittsburgh.
On the strength of six home runs, the Pirates defeated the Reds 8-3 this afternoon at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. With the victory, the Pirates clinched home field for the Wild Card game on Tuesday against the Reds. It will be the first home playoff game for the Pirates since Game 5 of the 1992 NLCS and the first playoff game in the history of PNC Park. Now that’s going to be fun.
As for today’s power explosion, Neil Walker hit two home runs while Andrew McCutchen, Marlon Byrd, Pedro Alvarez, and Andrew Lambo also went deep. Bronson Arroyo gave up five of them, setting a new career-high.
The Pirates have already chosen Francisco Liriano to start Tuesday’s Wild Card play-in game, but the Reds have yet to make an official announcement on a starter. Mat Latos is the likely favorite for the assignment.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.