Always be prepared: Royals backup catcher hits two homers off the bench

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The fates are smiling on the Kansas City Royals these days. In addition to winning like crazy and taking over first place in the AL Central, they’re doing just fine even if key players go down.

Last night catcher Salvador Perez left the game in the seventh inning with right knee discomfort. That’s a bad thing. But then backup Erik Kratz entered the game and hit two solo home runs in his only two plate appearances.  The first home run extended the Royals’ lead to 4-0 in the seventh, and his second came in the ninth inning to make it a 6-1 game. Which was necessary, as the Twins mounted a mini-rally in the ninth, falling short.

After the game, Kratz had this to say:

“You put your work in before the game as a bench guy to be ready to go in,” Kratz said. “Some people could say well, Salvi plays every day, so why not take a day off? In my opinion, what’s the point of taking a day off if that might be the day you come in and play?”

While this runs somewhat counter to one of my own favorite dynamics in life — sometimes being utterly unprepared is totally thrilling — it is probably the better approach to take.

Meanwhile, Perez’s removal from the game is said to be precautionary. He’s day-to-day.

The Cubs will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday

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The Cubs soundly defeated the Cardinals on Monday night, 10-2, sending their magic number down to one. They will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday with another win against the Cardinals. Alternatively, if they lose, they can still clinch if the Brewers also lose on Tuesday.

The Cubs, of course, won the Central last year en route to winning their first World Series since 1908. It wasn’t nearly as easy this year as the club was below .500 entering June and was exactly at .500 entering July. A 16-8 July, 17-12 August, and 15-8 September have helped put the Cubs back in position to return to the postseason.

Not to be forgotten, the Cardinals were eliminated from NL Central contention with Monday’s loss. Now they have their sights set on the second NL Wild Card slot and currently trail the Rockies in that race.

The matchups for Tuesday’s action:

Carter Capps to undergo surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome

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Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that Padres pitcher Carter Capps will undergo surgery this offseason to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which doctors believe caused the right-hander’s blood clots. The Padres hope to have him ready by spring training next year.

Capps, 27, underwent Tommy John surgery last year and didn’t debut this season until August 7. He made 11 relief appearances, yielding nine runs on 12 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He went back on the DL on September 12 due to the blood clot issue.

The Padres acquired Capps from the Marlins last July in the Andrew Cashner trade which ended up having a lot of moving parts. Capps will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. It’s quite possible the Padres choose to non-tender him.