Folks, if you’re not watching this game, flip over to TBS on your TV. If you’re not the TV-owning type, head to your nearest sports bar because you’re not going to want to miss the conclusion of this game, as it’s been a complete pitcher’s duel through the first two and a half hours.
Tigers starter Justin Verlander retired the first 11 Athletics he faced and has allowed just four hits through seven frames. Overall, he has struck out 11 and walked one. The closest Verlander has been to danger came in the bottom of the fifth when the Athletics led off the inning with consecutive singles. However, a failed bunt attempt by Josh Reddick followed by two strikeouts put the kibosh on that rally. The A’s tried to put together a two-out rally in the seventh when Reddick singled to right to put runners at first and third, but Verlander escaped after a ten-pitch at-bat by Stephen Vogt, resulting in a strikeout. Vogt fouled off seven of the ten pitches he saw.
Athletics rookie starter Sonny Gray has matched Verlander, also holding the Tigers to three hits and two walks while striking out eight. Like Verlander, the fifth inning was a bit dicey for Gray. Omar Infante walked to lead off the inning, then advanced to second on a Don Kelly ground out. Jose Iglesias then reached on an infield single, putting runners at first and third with one out. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the Athletics executed a strike-him-out/throw-him-out double play, retiring Austin Jackson on strikes while catcher Stephen Vogt nailed Iglesias at second base.
Gray is at 97 pitches, Verlander 117. It looks like it will end up being a battle of the bullpens. Hold on to your seats.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.