NLCS - Los Angeles Dodgers v St Louis Cardinals - Game Two

Yasiel Puig has come up small for the Dodgers in the NLCS

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Cuban superstar Yasiel Puig is the reason why the Dodgers are in the NLCS. The day before he made his Major League debut on June 3, the Dodgers were 23-32 in last place in the NL West. From Puig’s debut through the end of the regular season, they went 69-38 (.645) to win the NL West by a cool 11 games. Puig finished with a .925 OPS.

To criticize Puig when he has already done so much for the Dodgers and when he is surrounded by so many other capable players would normally be unfair, but such is life when you create such lofty expectations for yourself. Puig has shown himself to be the catalyst of the Dodgers, but he has been anything but thus far in the NLCS. In Game 1, he went 0-for-6 with two strikeouts, leaving a boatload of runners on base:

  • First inning: With runners on second and third and two outs, Puig struck out to end the inning. (2 runners left on base)
  • Third inning: With the bases loaded and one out, Puig hit a ground ball back to the pitcher, who got the force out at home. (3 LOB)
  • Fifth inning: With a runner on first base and two outs, Puig popped out weakly to third base to end the inning. (1 LOB)
  • Eighth inning: With a runner on first base and no outs, Puig grounded out to shortstop for a fielder’s choice. (1 LOB)
  • Eleventh inning: Puig struck out looking to lead off the inning.
  • Thirteenth inning: Puig flied out to right field to lead off the inning.

Game 2:

  • First inning: With a runner on second base and two outs, Puig struck out swinging to end the inning. (1 LOB)
  • Fourth inning: With the bases empty and two outs, Puig struck out swinging to end the inning.
  • Sixth inning: With the bases loaded and one out, Puig struck out swinging. (3 LOB)
  • Ninth inning: Puig struck out looking to lead off the inning.

For those of you counting, Puig is 0-for-10 with six strikeouts and 11 runners left on base. He is certainly not the only culprit for the Dodgers’ NLCS woes, but he has been a big part of it by coming up small in every situation he has been placed into thus far. If the Dodgers are to stage a comeback within the next five games against the Cardinals, they will need Puig to pick up the slack, and fast.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.

Report: Tyson Ross not expected to pitch in April

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Petco Park September 29, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.

The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:

We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.

Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.