What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

AP Photo/Todd Kirkland

We’ve had a bunch of day games already. As a result, there’s not a whole lot to preview. So we’ll dig a bit into each game.

The game we are highlighting is, naturally, the Braves game. The Twins lost again to the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon, running their record to 0-9. The Braves are also winless through eight games and will take on the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg shortly, at 4:05 PM EST. A loss will keep them neck-and-neck with the Twins and will bring them one step closer to matching the worst start in franchise history: 0-10 in 1988.

Julio Teheran arguably gives the Braves the best chance to win and that’s who will be opposing Strasburg. And one figures that Freddie Freeman will wake up eventually. He’s hitting an abysmal .080 with a .200 slugging percentage in 33 plate appearances to begin the season.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

New York Yankees (Nathan Eovaldi) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EST

Would you believe me if I told you that if you take out Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays have hit five home runs as a team? The club that made a living hitting dingers last season has had trouble hitting them to begin the 2016 season. Even their 4.22 runs per game average seems good at first glance, but pales in comparison to the 5.5 they averaged last year. At 4-5 and with a run differential that is barely above zero, the Blue Jays need their bats to wake up.

Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman) @ Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels), 8:05 PM EST

The Orioles finally lost a game on Wednesday night, a 4-2 loss to the Red Sox. Unlike the Jays, everyone’s been hitting for the Orioles. The club is tied for the league lead in homers with 14 and their bats have combined for a collective.289/.356/.511 triple-slash line. The starting pitching, contrary to expectations, hasn’t been terrible. However, the starters have been inefficient, averaging fewer than five innings per start over the first eight games.

Cincinnati Reds (Raisel Iglesias) @ Chicago Cubs (Jason Hammel), 8:05 PM EST

In a season that has very quickly countered pre-season expectations, the Cubs are one team that has thus far been exactly as billed. At 7-1, the pre-season World Series favorite Cubs are tied for the best record in baseball and currently have the best record in the National League. The starting rotation has been the MVP so far, as John Lackey is the only one to turn in a substandard start, allowing six runs in six innings in his season debut. Only the Nationals, Dodgers, and Phillies have put up a better rotation ERA than the Cubs’ 3.10.

Kansas City Royals (Ian Kennedy) @ Houston Astros (Doug Fister), 8:10 PM EST

The Royals haven’t been hitting much to begin the season, averaging a paltry 3.5 runs per game, but they’ve been pitching masterfully as a unit. Tonight’s starter, Ian Kennedy, tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings his first time out. He’ll have to work around a hot-hitting Astros lineup. While one is familiar with the Astros’ star-studded middle infield of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, it’s their rookie first baseman who has been raising eyebrows thus far. Tyler White has three homers, 10 RBI, and a .483/.529/.897 triple-slash line over his first 34 plate appearances. White was ranked 13th in the Astros’ minor league system by MLB Pipeline, but A.J. Reed (#2) has been considered the first baseman of the future. This is what’s known as “a good problem to have”.

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Ross Stripling)

Ross Stripling, of all people, flirted with a no-hitter in his major league debut last Friday against the Giants. The right-hander, however, walked four and ran his pitch count up to 100, so manager Dave Roberts took him out with one out in the eighth inning. Reliever Chris Hatcher came in and promptly served up a game-tying two-run home run to Trevor Brown. Though the Dodgers would go on to lose on a Brandon Crawford walk-off homer, Roberts ultimately made the right call, prioritizing a young pitcher’s arm health over an individual achievement.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.