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Looking ahead to ALDS Game 2: Tigers-Athletics

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Backed by 11 strikeouts over seven innings from AL Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer, the Tigers topped the Athletics 3-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS at O.Co Coliseum. The two teams will meet for Game 2 this evening at 9:00 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on TBS.

Here’s a quick look at the pitching matchup and some random notes:

Already down one game in the series, the Athletics will turn to rookie right-hander Sonny Gray. A first-round pick in 2011, the 23-year-old right-hander has been mighty impressive since making his major league debut in July, posting a 2.67 ERA and 67/20 K/BB ratio over 64 innings in 10 starts and two relief appearances. We may have seen the starting rotation arranged differently if A.J. Griffin was healthy, but Athletics manager Bob Melvin wanted to give Gray the start at home as opposed to Comerica Park.

After facing Scherzer in Game 1, things don’t get any easier for the A’s tonight, as Justin Verlander will be on the hill for Detroit. While Verlander had somewhat of a down season for his lofty standards, posting a 3.46 ERA in 34 starts, he finished September by striking out 22 batters in 12 scoreless innings over his final two starts. Not good news for an A’s team which set a franchise playoff record by striking out 16 times in Game 1.

As for the Athletics’ lineup, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group speculates that Daric Barton could be benched for Game 2 while Brandon Moss starts at first base and Seth Smith serves as the designated hitter. Barton went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in Game 1 and had a pair of defensive miscues.

There probably won’t be any major changes for the Tigers. Andy Dirks made the start in left field last night, but it’s possible we’ll see Jhonny Peralta out there there for Game 2. Then again, O.co Coliseum can be pretty tricky to navigate, so it might not be the best setting to experiment. Miguel Cabrera was removed for defensive purposes in the eighth inning last night, but he told Paul Hagen of MLB.com after the game that he “felt good.” He went 1-for-4 with an RBI single before exiting.

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: