Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia responded to the Braves’ recent accusations of stealing signs after being swept in a three-game series in Miami. The Marlins outscored the Braves 23-7, a far cry from the four runs they scored when they lost two of three to the Braves in Atlanta earlier in the week.
Braves starter Aaron Harang, who entered the game with a 0.85 ERA but was hammered for nine runs in 4 2/3 innings, said, “It was baffling, like, where were these guys last week? They were way too comfortable. It seemed like they were all hitting like Ted Williams.”
All Salty can do is laugh. Via MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro:
“I think the Marlins have kind of been a punching bag almost for the past few years, because of things that have happened,” said Saltalamacchia, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Friday. “It doesn’t bother us, as far as we go. We’ve got to go out there and control what we can control.
“At the same time, as a player, you kind of sit back and laugh a little bit. From my perspective, I like it. I think they’re focusing on the wrong things. For them to focus on what we’re doing, and ‘Are we stealing signs? Are we doing this?’ That means they’re not focusing on what they should be focusing on. That kind of gives us an advantage.”
The Braves are certainly not the only team to accuse an opponent of stealing signs. The Rockies accused the Phillies in 2010. The Yankees accused the Blue Jays in 2011. The Orioles accused the Blue Jays again in 2012. The Athletics accused the Yankees last season. But there’s only so much you can do with stolen signs and the Braves’ series sweep at the hands of the Marlins had much more to do with their own poor performance than any edge allegedly gained by impropriety.
But it’s been a common thread with the Braves lately — of blaming others without introspection. They have become the baseball police, arbiters of fun, deciders of “the right way” to play the game. They can only complain so often before everyone starts to tune them out. Perhaps it’s already begun.
There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.
Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.
Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.