Steven Brault

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And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Giants 8, Dodgers 6: This game ended a little over an hour before I started these recaps and the San Francisco and L.A. writers covering the game were still at the ballpark, awake and beefing about whatever writers beef about. Good times! The delay was due to rain and lightning that twice hit AT&T Park last night, causing the game not to get started until super late. The teams stuck it out, however, because the forecast doesn’t look all that better for today and tomorrow and the Dodgers didn’t want to give up their travel day on Thursday. As it was, they gave up their 11th straight game, extending this death spiral. Denard Span — batting third — hit a homer into McCovey Cove and drove in three. Hunter Pence — leading off — had three hits and scored twice. Between the two delays the teams ended up having to use 15 pitchers combined and 40 players overall. What a night.

Rockies 5, Diamondbacks 4: Nolan Arenado hit a tie-breaking three-run home run in the eighth inning and drove in four on the evening in what seems like a preview of the NL Wild Card game. After their 13-game winning streak, the Diamondbacks have dropped three of four.

Indians 11, Tigers 0: That’s 19 straight for Cleveland, which took a 5-0 lead by the second inning — three of those coming on a bases loaded triple from Francisco Lindor — and never looked back.  Carlos Carrasco tossed six shutout innings. Lindor knocked in four on the night. Jose Ramirez hit a long two-run homer and drove in three. It’s getting ahead of things to say the Indians will make the World Series — and the way they’re playing now it looks silly to say the Dodgers will make it — but if they both do, know that Cleveland has closed 15 and a half games in the standings between them and L.A. in 17 days and now stand four games behind for the best record in baseball which would, in turn, determine home field advantage in the World Series.

Blue Jays 4, Orioles 3: The Orioles are scuffling again, and are likely playing their way out of Wild Card contention. Ryan Goins hit a solo home run, Marco Estrada was solid and Darwin Barney had two hits and an RBI. He also did this on a double, advancing to third on a throwing error:

Yankees 5, Rays 1: This one was played in Citi Field because of Hurricane Irma, so the “visiting” team won. Todd Frazier hit a three-run homer in a five-run fourth inning made possible by Trevor Plouffe’s two-out error. The Yankees closed to within three games of Boston in the AL East and now have a four-game lead over Minnesota for the top AL Wild Card spot. The Rays are all but done, falling four back of the Wild Card with 17 to play and with five teams ahead of them.

Pirates 7, Brewers 0Steven Brault allowed one hit over six shutout innings, striking out six, and left with a 6-0 lead, two runs of which came off of his own bat with an RBI single. Nice night at the office. Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte each hit two-run shots. Milwaukee falls to 2.5 back of the idle Cubs and two back of the idle Cards in the NL Central.

White Sox 11, Royals 3: Jose Abreu hit for the cycle on Saturday, hit two homers on Sunday and had four hits last night, falling a homer short of another cycle. He also walked. Adam Engel hit a three-run homer as the Chisox won easily.

Rangers 5, Mariners 3: In the second inning Delino DeShields reached on bunt single and then scored from first base on a Shin-Soo Choo double, running through the third base coach’s stop sign to do it. In the fourth inning he hit a home run. In closing, Delino DeShields is a land of contrasts.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 9, White Sox 4: The Indians finally trailed in a game — down 4-3 in the first inning, for their first time behind in 68 frames — but they continued their winning ways, taking their 13th game in a row.  Jose Ramirez, who just won Player of the Week honors, started on a second straight week of dominance by hitting two more homers. Here Cleveland’s starter, Danny Salazar, couldn’t make it out of the first inning, allowing those four runs, but seven Indians relievers combined for eight and a third scoreless innings. If the Indians take their 14th straight game today, they’ll tie the franchise record winning streak.

Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 2: This one went 19 innings and ended after 1AM. Ending it: a Mookie Betts double to lead off the inning followed by a walkoff bloop single from Hanley Ramirez. It would’ve ended hours earlier in the Blue Jays favor if not for Ramirez and Mitch Moreland each grounding out to plate a run in the bottom of the ninth to tie it up at two. That wasted a fantastic performance from Marco Estrada, who tossed seven shutout innings. A long game is hard on everyone, but I guess the bright side of this is that, given that they couldn’t do anything against Estrada, it’s probably evidence that the Red Sox have stopped cheating.

Pirates 4, Cubs 3: Down 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Max Moroff and David Freese hit RBI singles to bring the Pirates back from behind. Jordan Luplow homered. The Pirates starter, Steven Brault, didn’t get the decision, but he was the first lefty to start for Pittsburgh all year, which is weird.

Tigers 13, Royals 2: Big day for Tigers first baseman John Hicks, who homered twice and drove in four.  JaCoby Jones homered twice as well, and the Tigers won easily despite losing starter Anibal Sanchez after only five pitches into the game when he was hit on the leg with a come backer.

Reds 9, Brewers 3: It was close until the bottom of the seventh when the Reds plated five runs. Three of those came on a Scooter Gennett homer. Robert Stephenson allowed one run over six for the win. Milwaukee has dropped two straight to the lowly Reds on days when the Cubs have lost, blowing a chance to make up ground.

Phillies 9, Mets 1: Ben Lively was a one man gang, allowing one run over seven innings and drove in four runs via a two-run homer and a two-run single. He and the Phillies rocked Jacob deGrom, who allowed nine runs — six earned — on ten hits in three and a third, including that homer to Lively. Lively homered in his last start too, and is now 6-for-21 (.286) with two home runs and eight RBI on the year.

Nationals 2, Marlins 1: Stephen Strasburg tosses six shutout innings, running his total to 26 consecutive scoreless innings, and struck out eight. He might’ve gone longer but suffered from some cramps that caused him to leave early. Daniel Murphy‘s eighth inning homer was the difference offensively. He almost had another one earlier but Giancarlo Stanton robbed it from him by reaching over the wall to snag it:

Rays 2, Twins 1: Jake Odorizzi took a no-hitter into the seventh and ended up with six and two-thirds shutout innings to get the win. Probably good that it was broken up, of course, as he needed 90 pitches to get that far and thus never would’ve been able to go the distance. Lucas Duda supplied all of the Rays offense, with an RBI double and a solo homer.

Rockies 9, Giants 6Trevor Story homered and Nolan Arenado hit an RBI double as the Rockies rode a four-run sixth inning to their eighth straight win over the Giants at Coors Field. Colorado used nine pitchers. Pablo Sandoval went 0-for-4. He walked, but he’s now hitless in 37 straight at-bats. Woof.

Orioles 7, Yankees 6: Manny Machado hit a walkoff two-run homer with two outs to give the O’s the win. This came after Baltimore was down five. It also came when Dellin Betances threw a bunch of breaking balls instead of fastballs. Betances said after the game that he should’ve thrown more fastballs. Ya think?

Angels 8, Athletics 7:  Ben Revere lined a go-ahead single in the top of the 10th inning and the Angels took over the second Wild Card spot with this win combined with the Twins loss. Mike Trout was thrown out at the plate twice: once in the third inning when he tried to score from third on a grounder, then again in the fifth when he tried to get home from second on a single. You win when that happens and you’re living a charmed life.

Astros 3, Mariners 1: Welcome to the Astros, Justin Verlander. Houston’s newest pitcher tossed six innings, allowing one run and striking out seven. His only blemish: a solo homer to Kyle Seager in the fourth. His run support came via an Alex Bregman sac fly and a homer from former Tigers teammate Cameron Maybin.

Diamondbacks 3, Dodgers 1: Arizona wins its 12th straight and the Dodgers drop their fifth straight and tenth in their last 11. Here Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu each allowed a run but didn’t figure in the decision. In the tenth Pedro Baez walked the first two batters he faced and then both of them scored on a fielder’s choice + error combo when Justin Turner threw home and Yasmani Grandal couldn’t handle it. Things suck hard for the Dodgers right now, but every good team goes through a bad stretch. The key is, you know, getting out of it.

Cardinals 8, Padres 4: Jose Martinez hit two home runs and Harrison Bader homered and drove in three. Travis Wood didn’t pitch all that well for San Diego, but he did hit a two-run homer.

Rangers vs. Braves — POSTPONED:

You shatter me your grip on me a hold on me
So dull it kills
You stifle me
Infectious sense of
Hopelessness and prayers for rain
I suffocate
I breathe in dirt
And nowhere shines but desolate
And drab the hours all spent on killing time
Again all waiting for the rain

2017 Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Pittsburgh Pirates.

The biggest change for the Pirates during the offseason came not with a free agent sign or a trade, but with a realignment of its outfield. Five-time All-Star and 2013 National League MVP Award-winner Andrew McCutchen spent every inning of his eight-year major league career in center field, but he is shifting to right field for the 2017 season. Starling Marte moves from left to center, and Gregory Polanco moves from right to left.

Many Pirate fans were emotionally preparing for the possibility of life without McCutchen, as his name kept coming up in trade rumors, but nothing ever materialized. The 30-year-old had the worst season of his career last year, finishing at .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs, 79 RBI, 81 runs scored, and six stolen bases in 675 plate appearances. His defense, too, hit a low point, prompting the realignment of the Pittsburgh outfield.

The McCutchen situation wasn’t the only issue plaguing the Pirates during the offseason. Third baseman Jung Ho Kang was arrested in South Korea for a DUI, his third since 2009. He was involved in a one-car accident that caused property damage and fled the scene, but thankfully no one was hurt. Kang’s driver’s license was revoked and he entered an alcohol treatment program. He was cut from South Korea’s World Baseball Classic roster and he still may face punishment from Major League Baseball, though his entering a treatment program may prevent that. Kang was also under investigation for a sexual assault incident in Chicago during the summer.

Aside from that, though, the Pirates’ offseason was quiet. Their biggest addition came in the form of starter-turned-reliever Daniel Hudson, who inked a two-year, $11 million pact with the club in December. He appeared in 70 games for the Diamondbacks last season, finishing with a 5.22 ERA and a 58/22 K/BB ratio in 60 1/3 innings. It may seem foolish at first blush, but pitching coach Ray Searage has a long history of taking pitchers down on their luck and fixing them up.

Hudson has a chance of becoming the Pirates’ closer if not to open the season, then at some point this summer if the club trades lefty Tony Watson. Watson took over as the closer after the Pirates dealt Mark Melancon to the Nationals. The lefty saved 15 games and ended the season with a 3.06 ERA and a 58/20 K/BB ratio in 67 2/3 innings. As Watson can become a free agent after the season, GM Neal Huntington may feel incentivized to trade Watson by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Behind Hudson and Watson, the Pirates have veterans in Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, Antonio Bastardo, and Jared Hughes.

Let’s hop back to the outfield briefly for a rundown. Marte won his second Gold Glove Award and made his first All-Star team last year, batting .311/.362/.456 with 48 extra-base hits, 46 RBI, 71 runs scored, and 47 stolen bases in 529 plate appearances. Compared to his 2015 output, he hit for more average and less power, and stole more bases. Marte and the Brewers’ Jonathan Villar were the only players to slug .450 or better while swiping 40-plus bags.

Polanco represents a lot of the Pirates’ potential. The former top prospect had his best season as a major leaguer last year, batting .258/.323/.463 with 22 home runs and 86 RBI in 587 plate appearances. Few are expecting the Pirates to hang around with the defending champion Cubs this season, but if they do defy expectations, it will be because of a big year from Polanco.

The starting rotation will be the backbone of the Pirates. FanGraphs is projecting four starters to be average or better in terms of Wins Above Replacement. Gerrit Cole leads the staff and will try to improve on a disappointing 2016 campaign during which he hit the disabled list three times and mustered a 3.88 ERA with a 98/36 K/BB ratio in 116 innings. Cole’s 2015 season is illustrative of his potential as he finished fourth in NL Cy Young balloting with a 2.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts across 208 innings. While one can rattle off at least 10 names more likely to win the Cy Young this year than Cole, his winning the hardware would not in the least bit be surprising.

Young Jameson Taillon will slot in No. 2 for the Pirates. The right-hander has been injury prone throughout his career and experienced fatigue in his right shoulder last year, prompting the Pirates to carefully manage his workload. Still, he made 18 starts and finished with a 3.38 ERA and an 85/17 K/BB ratio in 104 innings. Taillon’s ability to make 30 starts in 2017 is still very much in question. When he does start, he can be one of the best in baseball, but 15 versus 30 starts will be the big factor in his value.

In the middle of the rotation is Ivan Nova. Is he another reformed pitcher whose success should be credited to Searage? The right-hander had a mostly unimpressive career and carried a 4.90 ERA with the Yankees before they sent him to Pittsburgh on August 1. In 11 starts with his new club, Nova impressed with a 3.06 ERA and a 52/3 K/BB ratio in 64 2/3 innings. While history says Nova isn’t that good a pitcher, he’s the umpteenth wayward hurler to get his wheels realigned in Pittsburgh and set on an even better path. Ask J.A. Happ, Edinson Volquez, and Francisco Liriano if Searage knows what he’s talking about. The Pirates were willing to make the bet, inking Nova to a three-year, $26 million contract in December.

The final two spots in the rotation are up for grabs between Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, Tyler Glasnow, and Drew Hutison. Glasnow was a consensus top-15 prospect across baseball entering last season. He pitched 23 1/3 innings in the bigs, compiling a 4.24 ERA and a 24/13 K/BB ratio. He has the most promise of the bunch given his age and high-90’s fastball. Hutchison has experience as the only one of the bunch to have made his major league debut prior to 2016. Though he flashed greatness at times over parts of four seasons with the Blue Jays, he was wildly inconsistent as his 4.93 career ERA shows. Brault made seven starts and one relief appearance last year to the tune of a 4.86 ERA. Kuhl made 14 starts and put up a 4.20 ERA.

Returning to the infield, Josh Bell is looking at a full season at first base. He recently underwent knee surgery to remove a loose body, but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. A top prospect entering last season, Bell hit a solid .273/.368/.406 with eight doubles, three home runs, and 19 RBI in 152 PA in the big leagues. In the event Bell’s knee acts up, John Jaso and David Freese are capable backups.

Josh Harrison will reprise his role at second base. The exciting 29-year-old made his first All-Star team and finished ninth in NL MVP voting in 2014, but his two seasons since then have been underwhelming. Last year, he hit .283/.311/.388. Harrison is pretty much a gap hitter who plays plus defense and provides plus speed on the bases. The Pirates’ ability to vie for the NL Wild Card (or more) will have some relationship with Harrison’s ability to improve on his recent performance.

Jordy Mercer rounds out the infield at shortstop. He hit .256/.328/.374 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI in 584 plate appearances last season. If the Pirates find themselves in the thick of things, they may feel tempted to upgrade the position via trade. Mercer is 30 years old and the Pirates may not see a reason to build with him as part of their future.

Francisco Cervelli will take the lion’s share of the playing time behind the dish. He’s one of the better hitters in baseball when it comes to getting on base. His .377 OBP last year ranked 20th among hitters with at least 350 PA. While Cervelli doesn’t do much else with the bat, he’s earned a reputation for calling games, handling a pitching staff, and playing defense. Chris Stewart will back up Cervelli.

The NL Central is going to be extremely tough for the Pirates as they’ll be staring down the defending champs. The Wild Card may be a more realistic goal for the club, but even that will be difficult with the Cardinals and Mets expected to finish second in their respective divisions as well.

Prediction: 81-81 record, 3rd place in NL Central