The St. Louis Cardinals are headed to their eighth NLCS since 2000 and their ninth since 1996.
Adam Wainwright did his Adam Wainwright thing, allowing just one run in a nine-inning complete game effort as the Cardinals ousted the Pirates from the postseason with a 6-1 victory in NLDS Game 5 on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The Cards got on the board quickly with a two-run home run in the bottom of the second inning from postseason legend David Freese and then added a run in the sixth and three more in the eighth. Pirates starter Gerrit Cole gave up that Freese blast in the second and didn’t make it beyond the fifth despite impressive stuff and a decent overall stat line.
Pittsburgh’s only run was scored in the top of the seventh inning after three straight infield singles. Pedro Alvarez was the one who drove it in, becoming the only player in major league history to tally an RBI in his first six career postseason games. The Pirates finished Game 5 with just one fewer hit than the Cardinals but Wainwright excels in high-leverage spots and did so again on Wednesday night in front of a sea of red.
Now the Cardinals have a date with the Dodgers in the best-of-seven Championship Series.
That series begins this Friday night in St. Louis. It should be another thriller.
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.