Shane Robinson

Lineup change suggests Cardinals are ready for small ball

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If you did a million World Series simulations last week — and I assume someone out there probably did — Game 5 almost surely ended up being the lowest scoring contest of the bunch. It’s simply a rematch of Game 1 with Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright facing off again, but this time it’s in the NL park, with no designated hitter. Also, Busch Stadium is a tougher place to hit than Fenway anyway. Those John Lackey-Michael Wacha matchups may also have projected as pitcher’s duels, but they were both slated for Fenway and the DH.

So, yes, on paper, tonight appears likely to be a low scoring game. That’s probably a big reason why Cardinals manager Mike Matheny decided to not only start Shane Robinson but to put him in the two hole ahead of Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran. If leadoff man Matt Carpenter singles or walk to lead off an inning, it’s a good bet that Robinson is going to bunt him over or that Matheny will at least try a hit and run. It may be the latter, since Robinson actually doesn’t have any successful sac bunts in his major league career.

And that’s not necessarily such a horrible plan; one run could make a whole lot of difference in tonight’s game. But it’ll sting in the end if the Cardinals again happen to find themselves up down two runs in the ninth with two outs and their No. 2 hitter up. Beltran didn’t get his chance in Game 4 because of Kolten Wong’s miscue. Tonight’s it’s Matheny’s machinations that could cost him an at-bat.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

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.