Pedro Alvarez’s eighth-inning RBI single helps Pirates take 2-1 lead in NLDS

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Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez finished the 2013 regular season with a .180/.252/.286 line against left-handed pitching. Not exactly his cup of tea. But he came through in a big spot against lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist, delivering a tie-breaking RBI single to right, putting the Pirates up 4-3 in the eighth inning. Siegrist, by the way, finished the regular season with a 0.45 ERA in 39.2 innings.

The Cardinals made Game 3 of the NLDS a seesaw affair. After the Pirates went up 2-0 in the first inning on a two-run single by Marlon Byrd, post-season legend Carlos Beltran delivered a two-run single of his own in the fifth. The Pirates went ahead in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by Russell Martin. But the Cardinals tied it right back up in the top of the eighth when Carlos Beltran blasted a solo home run to right-center off of Mark Melancon, leaving the score at three apiece.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny went to right-handed reliever Carlos Martinez to start the bottom of the eighth. Andrew McCutchen led off with a double down the left field line, putting the Pirates in great position to take the lead, but he made a base running error when Justin Morneau hit a sharp grounder to the left side. Shortstop Pete Kozma had him dead to rights, making an easy throw to third for the tag. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle brought in Josh Harrison to pinch-run for Justin Morneau. Marlon Byrd drew a walk to put runners on first and second with out out. With Alvarez due up, Matheny — smartly — went to Siegrist, knowing the numbers were overwhelmingly in his favor.

The post-season famously a small sample size affair and Alvarez showed the magic of it when he came through against Siegrist with an RBI single. Russell Martin followed up with a line drive RBI single to left. Closer Jason Grilli came on in the ninth inning, working around a lead-off single by Matt Adams to nail down the save.

The Pirates will look to advance to the NLCS with a victory tomorrow in Game 4 against the Cardinals. Cardinals starter Michael Wacha will oppose Pirates starter Charlie Morton.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.