What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday’s action

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Jameson Taillon, your city needs you. The 67-69 Pirates have lost eight games in a row, falling an insurmountable 21 games out of first place in the NL Central. They’re also now 5.5 games out of the second NL Wild Card slot and even the injury-plagued Mets are closer to that than the Pirates are.

The Pirates, simply, haven’t been hitting. While they scored seven runs in Tuesday’s loss and six runs in Monday’s loss, the club has been shut out three times during their current eight-game skid, including twice by the lowly Brewers. The pitching has been abysmal, yielding an aggregate 38 runs over their last four games.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the team’s failure, however, may be closer Tony Watson. The Pirates traded soon-to-be free agent Mark Melancon to the Nationals on July 30, opening up the door for Watson to take over as the closer. To that point, Watson had a 2.64 ERA and a 39/15 K/BB ratio in 44 1/3 innings, mostly serving as the set-up man for Melancon. Since taking over as the closer, Watson has a 5.02 ERA and a 10/5 K/BB ratio in 14 1/3 innings. He’s given up five home runs, including three in the ninth inning on Tuesday night to the Cardinals in a devastating 9-7 loss.

There are 26 games left in the regular season for the Pirates. Let’s hypothetically and very generously say they go 16-10 (.615), putting them at 83-79. They would need the Giants to go 8-16 (.333) or worse or the Cardinals to go 9-16 (.360) or worse, and the Mets to go 9-14 (.391) or worse. Furthermore, the Marlins (six games out) could win no more than 14 of their remaining 23 games (.607). Similarly, the Rockies (7.5 games out) could win no more than 16 of their remaining 24 (.667). In other words, in order for the Pirates to sneak into the postseason, they need four out of five teams in the NL Wild Card race to hit the skids starting now.

Note: Records used are prior to Wednesday afternoon’s games.

The odds are against them, but stranger things have happened in September. Ask the 2007 Mets. Taillon starts for the Buccos tonight at home against the Cardinals’ Mike Leake in a 7:05 PM EDT start.

The rest of Wednesday’s action…

Atlanta Braves (Mike Foltynewicz) @ Washington Nationals (Stephen Strasburg), 7:05 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman) @ New York Yankees (Bryan Mitchell), 7:05 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Doug Fister) @ Cleveland Indians (Carlos Carrasco), 7:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jeremy Hellickson) @ Miami Marlins (Andrew Cashner), 7:10 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Mike Montgomery) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Matt Garza), 8:10 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy) @ Minnesota Twins (Kyle Gibson), 8:10 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Albert Suarez) @ Colorado Rockies (Jorge De La Rosa), 8:40 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (David Price) @ San Diego Padres (Jarred Cosart), 9:10 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Brock Stewart), 10:10 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (A.J. Griffin) @ Seattle Mariners (Ariel Miranda), 10:10 PM EDT

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.