Overaggressive Cardinals come up empty in Game 5 loss

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In getting shut out by the Giants on Friday, the Cardinals never worked a walk against Barry Zito and company. Their one free pass was intentional, as Pete Kozma was walked ahead of the pitcher to set up an inning-ending double play in the second inning.

In all, the Cardinals have drawn a total of eight unintentional walks in five games against the Giants. That’s a remarkably low total from an offense that finished fourth in the NL with 533 walks. And it’s not like the Giants have been throwing Cliff Lee over and over again. They were seventh in the NL in walks allowed by their pitchers, at 489.

Matt Holliday and Jon Jay have been the most aggressive of the Cardinals hitters so far, and it seems to be taking a toll. Holliday went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts tonight and is 4-for-21 with no extra-base hits in the series. He hasn’t homered since the wild card game against the Braves two weeks ago. Jay, the Cardinals’ leadoff man, is 5-for-21 with no walks. He’s also been awful in road games all year long, so there’s a case for sitting him with the series returning to St. Louis on Sunday. However, the Cardinals value his defense so highly that it’s unlikely they’d go that route.

At the very least, hitting coach Mark McGwire should have talks with both. For Holliday, this is shaping up as his sixth lousy postseason series in seven total series with the Cardinals. He hit .289 with five homers and 10 RBI during the Rockies’ World Series run in 2007, but since arriving in St. Louis in 2009, he’s come in at .250 with three homers and 13 RBI in 108 at-bats. Much of that production came in last year’s NLCS against the Brewers. He went 3-for-19 with no RBI in the World Series last year, and he’s hitting .222 with seven RBI in 45 at-bats so far this month.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.