Backs against the wall, Giants and A’s come through

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With four teams combining on just 16 hits and five runs, Tuesday’s games were all about the pitching. Facing elimination, the Giants and A’s survived thanks to the strength of their rotations and bullpens.

Tied 1-1 for most of the day, the Giants tried emptying their bench as a means to score a run in the eighth after the Reds brought in lefty Sean Marshall. They sent up three straight pinch-hitters, none of whom reached base in the inning. The strategy may have proved very costly in time, particularly with Hunter Pence nursing a leg problem that left him hobbled after he reached base in the 10th. The Giants still had catcher Hector Sanchez available, and they could have put Buster Posey at first base and Brandon Belt in the outfield had the need arisen. But if they had made that move, the bench would have been completely exhausted for the rest of the game.

Fortunately, the Giants were able to win the game in the 10th, after a bad-hop grounder led to a Scott Rolen error and an unearned run against Jonathan Broxton. Sergio Romo, who got his first at-bat since 2010 in the top of the 10th, closed out the game.

After Ryan Vogelsong’s shaky first inning, Giants pitchers allowed a total of one-hit to the Reds in the 2-1 victory. Still, one wonders just how differently the game might have gone had Brandon Phillips not gotten thrown out trying to take third in the top of the first. The Reds ended up with three hits and a walk in the inning, yet scored just one run.

That first inning was the only time the Giants were in trouble today. One could say A’s pitchers weren’t even in trouble the once. The Tigers were able to put two men on just once, doing so with one out in the top of the second. Too bad for them that the wrong part of the Detroit lineup was up in that situation. Andy Dirks and Avisail Garcia both grounded out to strand the runners.

Thanks to a couple of sterling plays by A’s outfielders, both on balls hit by Prince Fielder, the Tigers never had an extra-base hit in their 2-0 loss in Oakland. The A’s bullpen, which was so disappointing in the Game 2 loss, rebounded to pitch three scoreless innings, with just two hits and no walks allowed. Sean Doolittle fanned all three batters he faced in the eighth. Grant Balfour gave up a single to Miguel Cabrera in the ninth, only to induce a double play from Fielder afterwards.

And thus the Bay Area teams will live to play another day. By virtue of being at home for the remainder of the series, one imagines the A’s will have a better chance than the Giants of advancing. Of course, they’ll have to keep pitching well, as the offense could be stymied by Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. The Giants haven’t inspired a lot of faith, not with their offense scoring a total of five runs in three games. It’s a good bet that the Reds will put up some runs at least one of these next two games, and the Giants might be hard-pressed to match them.

Four teams are in on Mike Moustakas

Mike Moustakas
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Free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas is drawing interest from at least four clubs, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Friday. The Brewers are the presumed frontrunners to land the infielder, but Heyman adds that the Angels may take the inside edge as Moustakas hails from the San Fernando Valley and has invested in charity efforts in California over the last year. The Phillies and Padres, on the other hand, have been involved to a lesser degree as they’re both thought to be in hot pursuit of fellow free agent third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado, though their interest in the veteran Moustakas could ramp right back up should they lose out on Machado in the weeks to come.

Moustakas, 30, declined a $15 million mutual option with the Brewers at the end of the 2018 season, and like many others left on the market, has yet to find a landing spot in advance of spring training. While he’s several years removed from his last All-Star performance, he ran a decent campaign with the Royals and Brewers last year, slashing a combined .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs, a .774 OPS, and 2.4 fWAR across 635 plate appearances.

He certainly appears to be a fit in Anaheim, where he could supplant Zack Cozart at the hot corner and balance out the Angels’ right-heavy lineup alongside Kole Calhoun, Justin Bour, and Tommy La Stella. Even if the Angels have serious interest in the third baseman, however, they’re likely to wait and see what kind of contract Machado (and the as-yet unsigned Bryce Harper) fetches before extending any serious offers of their own. They’re far from the only club to use the four-time All-Star as a litmus test this offseason, which has only fueled a growing unrest among MLB players who believe that more serious action — such as a midseason walk-out or a league-wide strike — will need to be taken over the next few months.