With the off-season additions of Logan Morrison and Corey Hart, the Mariners were seemingly stockpiling first base types. But according to manager Lloyd McClendon, first base is Justin Smoak’s to lose. Despite hitting .238, Smoak showed improvement last season, setting a career-high in home runs (20), slugging percentage (.412), and on-base percentage (.334).
Via Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune:
“I told him he’s my first baseman,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I told him that this winter. Having said that, he still has to go out and perform. I like what I see (this spring) from him. He’s doing a pretty darn good job.”
The Mariners recently avoided arbitration with Smoak, agreeing to a one-year, $2.7875 million deal with a $3.65 million club option for 2015. He is eligible for arbitration going into 2016 and can become a free agent after the 2016 season concludes. The Mariners are hoping he can continue making progress as he nears free agency, giving them a good reason to sign him to an extension.
The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.
In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.
Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).
Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.
With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.