Matthew Pouliot

Ned Yost

Ned Yost made a terrible double-switch last night

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Most likely, nothing Royals manager Ned Yost did or didn’t do was going to change the outcome of Sunday night’s Game 5. Madison Bumgarner was dominant, and no combination of Royals hitters figured to beat him. Still, in the midst of the game, Yost made his most inexplicable move in weeks: he committed to 25th man Jayson Nix.

It happened in the seventh inning with the Giants up 2-0 and coming to the plate. James Shields was done for the night after six innings, and Kelvin Herrera was taking over. Had the game been taking place in an American League park, nothing here would have raised an eyebrow.

Game 5, though, was played in San Francisco. And the Royals had the pitcher’s spot due up second in the top of the eighth.

Still, this should have been irrelevant. The obvious strategy was to let Herrera, the Royals’ busiest reliever all postseason, pitch the seventh and get lifted for a pinch-hitter. Instead, Yost opted to make the double-switch. He planned for Herrera to pitch two innings, even though Wade Davis and Greg Holland both have undertaken lesser workloads this month and were very much available, having not pitched Saturday.

That was actually the lesser problem with the move, though. The bigger one is that he locked Nix, who was replacing Omar Infante, into batting second the following inning and finishing the game. Nix wasn’t even on the roster for the ALDS or ALCS. He replaced Christian Colon for the World Series because the Royals preferred his defense. Nix had two at-bats all month. He had a total of seven at-bats in September. He’s a poor hitter in the best of times, and these were not the best of times. For the season, he batted .120/.169/.157 in 83 at-bats.

Had Yost simply waited to pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot, he would have had his pick of Billy Butler, Norichika Aoki or Josh Willingham to hit (Butler actually hit for Jarrod Dyson to lead off the inning. The other two didn’t get at-bats in the game). Instead, he forced himself to go with Nix, since there weren’t any other infielders on the roster to take over.

Nix ended up flying out in his at-bat in the eighth. Herrera pitched a scoreless seventh, then gave up back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the eighth and was pulled. Davis entered and had a rare off night, allowing both inherited runners to score and giving up a run of his own before escaping the frame. The Royals went on to lose 5-0.

So, no, Yost didn’t cost the Royals the game. He hasn’t cost the Royals a game in a long time now, and it’s been pretty difficult to find ways to make fun of him of late. This was an awful choice, though.

Dodgers lose scouting director Logan White to Padres

logan white
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The Dodgers made a big hire in luring Andrew Friedman away from the Rays to run baseball operations earlier this month, but they’ve now lost a second key member of their front office to a division rival with scouting director Logan White leaving to join the Padres, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports.

White’s exit follows that of DeJon Watson, who joined a rebuilt Diamondbacks front office prior to the Dodgers’ move to bring in Freidman and replace general manaher Ned Colletti. Watson, formerly the Dodgers’ head of player development, likely would have received consideration for the GM gig had he not departed.

White wasn’t in the GM mix, which might be why he picked now to bolt. According to Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times, White will serve as a pro scouting director and senior advisor to GM A.J. Preller in San Diego. He previously worked for the Padres from 1993-95 and interviewed for their GM opening before they hired Preller.

White spent 12 years with the Dodgers, heading up the team’s draft efforts and also leading the charge to bring in Takashi Saito and Hiroki Kuroda from Japan. Among the players he drafted were Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin and Chad Billingsley, plus current top prospects Corey Seager and Joc Pederson.

Farewell to a future superstar

Oscar Taveras
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Oscar Taveras was 22. His girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, was 18. Irrelevant of the young outfielder’s talent in the game that I love, the deaths of two people with seemingly so much time ahead of them is a loss for the world.

Yet, it’s hard not to think about that talent.

Taveras emerged as a top prospect when he hit .386/.444/.584 as a 19-year-old for low Single-A Quad Cities in 2011. He followed that up by hitting .321/.380/.572 with 23 homers and just 56 strikeouts in 477 at-bats for Double-A Springfield as one of the youngest players in the Texas League in 2012. After that season, he was universally regarded as one of the top three talents in the minors. He drew comparisons to many of the best left-handed hitters of the past, with even the name of Ted Williams being brought up.

2013 was a challenging year for Taveras. Hobbled by an ankle injury, he played in just 47 games and hit .306/.341/.462 in Triple-A. He had surgery that August and didn’t enter 2014 at 100 percent. He fought his way to the majors anyway, but he struggled in two stints, hitting .239/.278/.312 in 234 at-bats. The Cardinals traded Allen Craig in part to make room for him in right field, only to pick Randal Grichuk over him during the postseason.

Taveras didn’t start a single postseason game, though he still made an impression with his game-tying homer in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the NLCS. That turned out to be the Cardinals’ lone win over the Giants. Overall, he went 3-for-7 off the bench against the Nationals and Giants.

It’s crushing to think that if only the Cardinals had advanced to the World Series, Taveras would still be alive. He’d be coming off the bench and smiling and cheering on his teammates. He’d begin to emerge as a quality regular next year with one of the NL’s sweetest left-handed swings. He’d be an All-Star in 2016 on his way to hitting 25 homers. He’d lead the Cardinals back to the World Series, this time as their everyday left fielder and No. 3 hitter. He’d win a batting title. He’d win an MVP. He’d cap his Hall of Fame career by homering in his final game, just as he did in his very first.

That none of it will happen now is more than a loss for the Cardinals, a team that has suffered more than its share of tragedy. It’s a loss for everyone who loves baseball.

RIP, Edilia.

RIP, Oscar. As much as my thoughts are with your friends and family, I also so badly wanted to see what the future held in store for you.

 

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Giants pull off a victory-by-committee

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In beating the Royals 11-4 in Saturday’s Game 4, the Giants tied a postseason record by getting hits from 11 different players and used six pitchers, the last five of which combined for 6 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.

The Giants had 16 hits in all, the most in a World Series game since the Red Sox collected 17 in pummeling the Rockies 13-1 in the 2007 World Series. They were the sixth team in postseason history to have 11 different players with hits, but the first to do so in a World Series since the Yankees in a 16-3 rout of the Pirates in 1960.

Three Giants — Matt Duffy, pitcher Yusmeiro Petit and Joaquin Arias — went 1-for-1 in the contest.

All of that offense allowed the Giants to overcome a rough outing from Ryan Vogelsong, who just couldn’t overcome a bunch of misfortune in the third. He ended up allowing four runs in 2 2/3 innings.

It was the 16th time in World Series history that a team had managed to win despite a starter going three or fewer innings and giving up at least four runs. It last happened with the Angels against the Giants in Game 2 of the 2002 World Series. Kevin Appier as tagged for five runs in two innings in that one, but Giants starter Russ Ortiz was even worse, giving up seven runs in 1 2/3 innings before being pulled. Appier was replaced by John Lackey in what ended up being an 11-10 win for the Angels.

The winner was Petit, who extended his postseason scoreless streak to 12 innings with three shutout innings in Game 4. He’s allowed a total of four hits in his three extended appearances. Petit is the first reliever ever with three outings of three or more scoreless innings in a single postseason. Bruce Kison (1971), Dick Drago (1975) and Sparky Lyle (1977) both had two apiece.

Giants should give Yusmeiro Petit the Game 4 start

Yusmeiro Petit
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You know, if they’re not going to use him in relief.

Yusmeiro Petit was the Giants’ second best reliever this year. In 49 innings out of the pen, he had a 1.84 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP and 59 strikeouts. He was almost a perfect match for Giants closer Santiago Casilla, except for how they were used (both had the same WHIP and .177 batting-averages against Casilla had a 1.70 ERA, but gave up two unearned runs compared to none for Petit).

Petit wasn’t quite as successful as a starter, mostly because of the home run ball. He gave up 11 in his 12 starts, which resulted in a 5.03 ERA even tough he had an exceptional 74/11 K/BB ratio and 1.13 WHIP in 68 innings. Still, most of those struggles were early on. After entering the rotation for good on Aug. 28, Petit had a 3.93 ERA in his final six starts.

Ryan Vogelsong was less good during that span; he had a 5.53 ERA in five during September. In the postseason, he’s had one fine outing against the Nationals (1 ER in 5 2/3 IP) and one lousy outing against the Cardinals (4 ER in 3 IP).

It’s not that Vogelsong is an awful choice to start Game 4 against the Royals. Petit is simply the better one. And if manager Bruce Bochy didn’t use Petit in Wednesday’s Game 2 loss to the Royals because he figures he might need him to go long in Vogelsong’s place on Saturday, then the obvious move is to simply go to Petit as the starter in the first place.

Petit has saved the Giants’ bacon twice so far in the postseason, pitching six innings in the marathon Game 2 against the Nationals and three innings in relief of Vogelsong in Game 4 of the NLCS. He allowed a total of two hits while not giving up any runs in those outings. He fanned 11. The Giants might not have won either game without him.

And facing the Royals in AT&T Park seems like a pretty ideal matchup for Petit. His issue is the home run ball. He’d be going against a team that doesn’t hit home runs in a ballpark that doesn’t give up many.

But it won’t happen. Petit seems to be the fallback. He’s getting saved for situations that might never materialize.

I don’t blame Bruce Bochy for eschewing Petit in Game 2. After Jake Peavy left a tie game in the sixth, Bochy thought he was going to get through the last four innings with his five cogs: Jean Machi, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo and Casilla. That was never a situation for Petit in the regular season, nor was it a situation he’s been used in during the postseason. Apart from a poor first half from Romo, those five guys got the job done for the Giants all season long. They’re the close-game relievers. Petit is the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency guy.

But Petit is too good for that role. He’s allowed 99 hits, walked 26 (six intentionally) and struck out 144 in 126 innings this year. He can make a difference, if the Giants let him.