Padres shouldn't declare Gonzalez off limits

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adrian gonzalez running.jpgWe’ve been playing this game for nearly six months now: some team is talking to the Padres about Adrian Gonzalez — usually the Red Sox — and then the report goes on to state, in some similar but perhaps not identical fashion, “yet the Padres have no reason to trade their first baseman.”
But they do. There are two very good reasons for the Padres to trade Gonzalez, even though he’s ridiculously affordable at $10.25 million for the next two years.
Reason No. 1: The Padres aren’t going to the World Series during the next two years.
There’s quite a bit to like about the group the Padres are putting together. The bullpen should be excellent once again, and a rotation comprised of a healthy Chris Young, Kevin Correia, Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, Sean Gallagher could keep the team in a lot of games. The offense, though, is still a huge problem. Besides Gonzalez, there isn’t a position player in the organization sure to be an above average regular, and the Padres will likely be below average at all four up-the-middle spots unless someone new is brought in. I could see the pitching keeping the Padres in the race for a time next year, but they’re not going to be there in the end. The 2011 outlook wouldn’t be much better, barring the addition of a couple of more bats.
Reason No. 2: Kyle Blanks should never play the outfield again.
In need of some offense, the Padres tried shifting the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Blanks to the outfield last season. He came up and delivered 10 homers in just 148 at-bats, but he simply wasn’t adequate in Petco’s spacious corners and he got hurt while trying to cover all of that ground. A torn plantar fascia in his right foot ended his season in late August.
Besides Gonzalez, Blanks is likely the best hitter in the Padres organization. Yet much of what he would provide in the batter’s box would be given away if the Padres continued to use him in the outfield. Worse, the team would be inviting more injuries. He belongs at first base.
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Now, I’m not saying the Padres need to trade Gonzalez right away. Blanks just turned 23 in September, and it wouldn’t hurt him to spend another three or four months in Triple-A. Gonzalez, though, probably has as much trade value right now as he’ll ever have, and there’s been nothing to suggest that the Padres have a realistic chance of signing him for the long-term. If the right offer comes along, the Padres can’t be afraid to pull the trigger.

Brewers hold off the Dodgers to force Game 7 of the NLCS

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Down 3-2 in the NLCS, the Brewers faced a must-win situation during Game 6 on Friday. Any residual uncertainty they might have felt about their chances of extending the series was all but resolved in the first inning, however, when Jesús Aguilar, Mike Moustakas, and Erik Kratz combined for a four-run spread to take an early lead. Powered by those early-game RBI, as well as masterful performances from Wade Miley, Corey Knebel, and Corbin Burnes, the club surged to a 7-2 win to pull even with the Dodgers and force a Game 7 tiebreaker.

Left-hander Wade Miley trounced the Dodgers in 4 1/3 innings of two-run, four-strikeout ball. He was bested by David Freese in the very first at-bat of the night, which culminated with a 402-footer to right field to put Los Angeles on the board, 1-0. After a few scoreless innings from the Dodgers, Freese returned to torment Miley in the top of the fifth, this time with an RBI double that narrowed the Brewers’ advantage from four runs to three.

Things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for opposing lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. In the bottom of the first inning, Ryu allowed a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain, followed by a four-pitch walk to Ryan Braun. Jesús Aguilar came up to bat with two out and two on, then smacked a two-RBI line drive double to right field. Moustakas and Kratz went back-to-back-to-back with Aguilar, putting up another three runs on an RBI double and single, respectively.

The Brewers kept rolling in the second inning. Christian Yelich and Braun each collected a double off of Ryu, bringing Milwaukee’s lead to 5-1 over Los Angeles. Braun advanced to third on a Travis Shaw groundout, but with Aguilar up to bat, Ryu wasn’t going to chance a repeat of the Dodgers’ first-inning debacle. He intentionally walked Aguilar, then whiffed Moustakas on three straight fastballs to cap the inning.

By the time both Miley and Ryu were forced from the mound, the Brewers stood 5-2 above their opponents. Right-hander Corey Knebel worked a scoreless 1 2/3 innings, striking out Manny Machado to eliminate another potential rally from the Dodgers in the fifth inning and retiring all four batters in the sixth (save for Joc Pederson, who reached base after taking a 96.3-MPH fastball to the wrist). The righty received another significant opportunity to do some damage against the Dodgers in the bottom of the fifth, when he came up to bat for the first time in his professional career with the bases loaded and two outs… but saw just four pitches before swinging at a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.

After Ryu’s unexpected departure in the third, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts cycled through five pitchers — Julio Urías, Alex Wood, Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson, and Kenta Maeda — in an attempt to squelch the Brewers’ comeback. The bullpen combined for four consecutive scoreless frames, but was ultimately foiled in the seventh, when, with runners on second and third and two outs, a wild pitch from Maeda ricocheted off the front of home plate and allowed Aguilar to plate yet another insurance run. Still not content with a two-hit, two-RBI performance, Aguilar came back in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single — only moments after a failed double play that would have ended the inning — to bring the Brewers to a cushy 7-2 advantage as they entered the ninth.

No similar last-minute rallies awaited the Dodgers there. Rookie right-hander Corbin Burnes orchestrated another flawless 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, retiring Pederson and Puig with consecutive strikeouts and inducing a game-inning, series-extending pop-up from Matt Kemp to wrap the win.

Game 7 is set for 8:09 PM EDT on Saturday. The starters for both clubs have yet to be announced.