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.

Report: Astros extend Justin Verlander for two years, $66 million

Justin Verlander
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The Astros are in agreement with right-hander Justin Verlander on a two-year, $66 million extension, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com was among those to report on Friday. With no money deferred, the $33 million he’ll receive over the next two years will set a record AAV for major-league pitchers; something MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says matters to Verlander, who “cares how his deals affect markets (and fellow players).”

While it’s far from the five-year, $100 million extension teammate Alex Bregman signed with the club on Friday, the deal will give the Astros a bigger window to consider their long-term plans for the ace before he hits free agency again. Prior to Saturday’s agreement, Verlander’s original contract — the hefty seven-year, $180 million arrangement he reached with the Tigers in 2013 — was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

It’s difficult to overestimate the value Verlander has provided to the Astros since they acquired him from the Tigers back in 2017. He was named the 2017 ALCS MVP following seven shutout innings in a must-win Game 6 performance and helped the Astros clinch their first franchise World Series title. In 2018, he earned his seventh career All-Star distinction and received consideration for both AL Cy Young and MVP awards after pitching to a 16-9 record in 34 starts with a 2.52 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, 12.2 SO/9 (the product of a career-high 290 strikeouts), and 6.7 fWAR over 214 innings.

The deal has not been confirmed by the team.