AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Joe Maddon started Matt Szczur on Tuesday because Villanova won

9 Comments

If you thought the Cubs’ starting lineup on Tuesday looked a little weird, you’d be right. Matt Szczur is starting in left field and batting eighth.

Why? Szczur played baseball for Villanova University. Villanova won the NCAA men’s basketball championship on Monday night, defeating North Carolina 77-74 thanks to a buzzer-beater three-pointer from Kris Jenkins.

Manager Joe Maddon thought he’d get some of Villanova’s winning juju by starting Szczur, per MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. Maddon said, “Villanova wins the national championship, so I thought it was a good bet for tonight again.”

Szczur, 26, hit a three-run double in his only at-bat during Monday’s 9-0 victory against the Angels. But he hadn’t exactly been Mr. Productive in his 146 previous at-bats between 2014-15, compiling a .224/.276/.343 triple-slash line with three home runs and 13 RBI.

Even ignoring the Villanova connection, starting Szczur does make some sense. Jorge Soler is already in the lineup as the DH, and Kyle Schwarber would be at a disadvantage in the lefty-lefty match-up against Angels starter Andrew Heaney.

Royals, Alex Gordon close to contract agreement

Alex Gordon
Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
1 Comment

MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports that the Royals and outfielder Alex Gordon are “getting close” to an agreement on a one-year contract. Terms of the deal aren’t yet known, but the Royals could make it official within the next few days.

Gordon, who turns 36 years old next month, hit .266/.345/.396 with 13 home runs and 76 RBI over 633 plate appearances with the Royals this past season. His offense has waned, owning an adjusted OPS of 84 since 2016 (100 is average), but he still plays decent defense.

Gordon has spent all 13 years of his major league career with the Royals. With the club in a rebuilding phase, he will serve as the clubhouse leader and be a mentor to younger players on the roster.