The Pirates continued their hot streak with a 2-1 victory over the Brewers tonight, their eighth in a row and their 50th of the season. The Red Sox also started the day at 49 wins, but dropped their afternoon game against the Blue Jays. The Cardinals won, so the Pirates maintain their one-game lead in the NL Central.
Starter Francisco Liriano tossed six solid frames for the Buccos, allowing just one run on seven hits and a walk while striking out six. He lowered his ERA to 2.23 as he has turned out to be quite a solid pickup by GM Neal Huntington judging from the lefty’s first ten starts in Pittsburgh. Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, and Jason Grilli each pitched a perfect inning in relief. Grilli picked up his league-leading 27th save in the effort. The offense was provided by two solo home runs, by Pedro Alvarez in the second and by Garrett Jones in the fourth.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Indians and Padres are still discussing a potential trade for a starting pitcher, namely Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer. Rosenthal adds that a deal isn’t close and is unlikely to occur before Opening Day. The Padres are balking at the Indians’ asking prices for the two starters.
The Padres could certainly use an ace at the top of the rotation. With the addition of Manny Machado, the lineup is looking decent, but beyond Joey Lucchesi, the starting pitching doesn’t inspire confidence.
Kluber, who turns 33 years old next month, has club options for the next two seasons at $13.5 million and $14 million with $1 million buyouts each. Last year, the right-hander finished third in AL Cy Young balloting, finishing 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA and a 222/34 K/BB ratio in 215 innings.
Bauer, 28, is earning $13 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration heading into 2020. Last year, Bauer went 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA and a 221/57 K/BB ratio across 175 1/3 innings.
The Indians are the prohibitive favorites in the AL Central once again, but that has as much to do with the mediocrity of the rest of the division as the Indians’ commitment to competing. If the Indians were to trade either or both starters, that would be good news for the Twins, who are projected to be 15 games worse than the Indians but still finish in second place, according to PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus.