Tanner Roark accuses Cubs of playing “scared baseball” by avoiding Bryce Harper

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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Tanner Roark started but did not factor into the decision in Sunday’s 4-3, 13-inning loss to the Cubs. Roark pitched well, yielding a lone unearned run on four hits and a pair of walks with seven strikeouts in six innings of work. Neither of his walks were intentional.

That’s notable because Roark watched teammate Bryce Harper get walked six times in seven plate appearances on Sunday, with three of those walks of the intentional variety. In fact, in the Cubs’ four-game series sweep of the Nationals, Harper was walked 13 times in 18 trips to the plate. Teams have become increasingly less willing to pitch to Harper, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s reluctance hasn’t been seen since the early 2000’s when Barry Bonds routinely drew intentional walks.

Roark was “very, very surprised” to see the Cubs avoid Harper so deliberately, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. He added, “I think it’s scared baseball.”

While some rudimentary analysis showed that most of Harper’s walks were ill-advised, the Cubs limited him to one single for the entire series and they wound up sweeping the Nationals. So, in that regard, the strategy worked. The Nationals will likely have to get used to it because if Harper continues hitting the cover off of the ball, opposing managers will be more and more unwilling to pitch to him, particularly in important situations.

Zack Britton’s season over, TJ surgery comeback out of time

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Zack Britton‘s season is over, his comeback from Tommy John surgery cut short after just three relief appearances for the New York Yankees.

New York put the 34-year-old left-hander on the 60-day injured list and selected the contract of right-hander Jacob Barnes from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Britton was removed after throwing a tiebreaking wild pitch in Friday’s 2-1 loss to Baltimore, an outing that lasted just nine pitches. The two-time All-Star had Tommy John surgery on Sept. 8, 2021, and made eight minor league injury rehabilitation appearances starting Aug. 24 and three big league appearances beginning Sept. 24. He threw 36 pitches to nine batters with a 13.50 ERA, six walks and one strikeout.

“Kind of running out of time here and having a little bit of fatigue last night, it’s like one of those things, you don’t want to power through that and reach for more and then do some damage as you’re coming back,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Saturday. “He’s in a good spot heading into the offseason.”

Britton had hoped to be able to help the Yankees in the postseason. He is eligible for free agency after the World Series.

“It’s just that final sharpness,” Boone said. “At this point in the season, just kind of up against it there. But he worked his tail off to put himself in this position and give himself an opportunity and certainly admire that.”

Barnes, 32, started the season with Detroit and was released on June 18 after going 3-1 with a 6.10 ERA in 22 relief appearances. He struck out 10 and walked nine in 20 2/3 innings.

Barnes signed a minor league contract with Seattle, made four relief appearances for Triple-A Tacoma, then was brought up by the Mariners and designated for assignment two days later without playing in a game. He refused an outright assignment, signed back with the Tigers and made five appearances at Triple-A Toledo. Released by the Mud Hens, he signed with Scranton on Aug. 30 and had a 2.25 ERA in 10 games for the RailRiders.

Boone said reliever Clay Holmes will not go on the IL after receiving a cortisone injection on Thursday for inflammation in his right rotator cuff. If the Yankees had put Holmes on the IL, he would not be available for the Division Series.

After playing his first game since Sept. 4 and going 0 for 3 on Froday, DJ LeMahieu said his injured right second toe felt fine and he anticipated playing Sunday. He is in a 2-for-41 slide.

“It felt good to play again,” LeMahieu said. “I felt like a baseball player.”

Matt Carpenter, sidelined since breaking his left toot on Aug. 8, ran on the field and will be among players reporting to training camp for Double-A Somerset, where there will be eight or nine pitchers. Boone anticipates Carpenter being available for the postseason as a pinch-hitter or designated hitter.

Right-hander Frankie Montas, sidelined since Sept. 16 by inflammation in his pitching shoulder, has resumed throwing.

“I don’t know about the Division Series,” Boone said, “more likely beyond.”