Oddities abound in Royals’ Game 1 victory

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The Orioles led the American League in homers this year with 211. The Royals finished last with 95.

The Royals led the American League in steals this year 153. The Orioles finished last 44.

On Friday, all roles were reversed. The Royals hit three homers. The Orioles hit one. Baltimore was 2-for-2 stealing bases. Kansas City was 0-for-1.

Let’s run down some of the madness from Kansas City’s 10-inning victory:

– Two innings after calling his shot*, Alcides Escobar hit Kansas City’s first homer. He had three in 598 at-bats combined between the regular and postseason before taking Chris Tillman deep.

– Tillman gave up five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. It was the first time he had allowed five runs since June 5.

– James Shields gave up four runs and 10 hits in five innings. He has a 5.63 ERA in three postseason starts, yet the Royals have won all of them anyway.

– The Orioles’ game-tying run in the sixth came on a 70-foot bloop/pop-up hybrid from Alejandro De Aza that dropped in the perfect spot behind the pitcher and in front of the middle infielders. Before that, the Royals’ big “blast” came was Alex Gordon’s broken-bat double dumped down the right-field line with the bases loaded in the third.

– The Royals, also dead last in the AL in walks this year, worked seven tonight. Three of those came in a row to start the top of the ninth, yet the Royals failed to score in the inning.

– Orioles closer Zach Britton issued all of three of the ninth-inning walks. He had never walked more than one batter in a 74 appearances this season. The three guys he walked were Alcides Escobar (23 BB in 620 PA), Jarrod Dyson (22 BB in 290 PA) and Lorenzo Cain (24 BB in 502 PA). Dyson and Cain both walked on four pitches while attempting to give themselves up by sac bunting.

– After those three walks and a total of 12 straight balls from Britton, Eric Hosmer took one of the worst swings in baseball history on a 1-0 count, hackng wildly at a slider a foot off the plate. He went on to hit a grounder on a full count that led to the go-ahead run being cut down at home. He also barely deigned to run the grounder out, which could have led to a double play had the Orioles handled it cleanly.

– The Royals hit two homers in the 10th inning, with Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas going deep. They hit one extra-inning homer in 162 games during the regular season. They have four now in the postseason.

– Even untouchable Royals closer Greg Holland made things interesting in the end. He had gone 12 straight innings without allowing a hit before giving up two tonight, and he surrendered his first earned run since Aug. 15 before closing out the 8-6 game.

*Escobar didn’t actually call his shot. He was pointing to an annoying stand of lights from TBS’s pregame set that he wanted shut off before leading off the game in the top of the first.

Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

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The Cleveland Indians have traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, Texas is sending center fielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. There are reports that the Indians will be getting more than just those two players, but no word yet. The deal is pending physical.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.

DeShields, 27, is a career .246/.326/.342 hitter (76 OPS+) and that’s about how he performed in 2019 as well. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in May. Clase, who will turn 22 before next season, pitched 21 games, all but one in relief, for the Rangers in 2019 and will still be considered a rookie in 2020. He has been used mostly as a reliever in the minors as well.

Pending what else the Tribe is going to be getting, this appears to be a light return for a pitcher who, despite his 2019 injuries, should be expected to come back and be a workhorse. Unless there is some real talent coming back, in addition to DeShields and Clase, it would seem to be a salary dump for Cleveland and a steal for Texas. It is likewise perplexing how any of the many, many teams who could use starting pitching — the Angels and the Mets, among others, come to mind — could not top the package Texas offered.