The Cardinals have stormed out to an early lead over the Pirates in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett completely melted down in the bottom of the third inning, giving up seven runs before being pulled from the ballgame. He failed to record an out in the nightmare frame.
The ugly inning started with a leadoff walk to Adam Wainwright and a single from Matt Carpenter, which set up a long three-run homer from Carlos Beltran which landed in the second deck inside the right field foul pole. Burnett then gave up a double to Matt Holliday and hit Matt Adams with a pitch before walking Yadier Molina and Jon Jay to force in a run. David Freese followed with a single down the right field line to score two more runs while a third run scored on a throwing error by Marlon Byrd. That was enough for Clint Hurdle to finally bring the hook.
According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the seven runs scored by the Cardinals are an NLDS record for an inning. It might be time to start thinking ahead to Game 2.
As for Beltran, his postseason excellence continues. He now has 15 home runs in 153 plate appearances in the postseason, tying him with Babe Ruth for eighth all-time. As our own Matthew Pouliot points out, his 1.275 OPS is the best all-time among players with at least 100 plate appearances. You can watch the video of his third-inning blast below:
Meanwhile, Wainwright has been brilliant on the mound for the Cardinals. He has sat down all nine batters he has faced while striking out three. The Cardinals lead it 7-0 as we move to the top of the fourth inning.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.