Diamondbacks outlast Rockies 11-8, advance to NLDS

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
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The Diamondbacks managed to stay just ahead of the Rockies throughout Wednesday night’s National League Wild Card game, eventually securing an 11-8 victory to advance to the National League Division Series.

First baseman Paul Goldschmidt staked the D-Backs to a 3-0 lead with a three-run home run off of starter Jon Gray in the first inning. Ketel Marte tacked on another run in the second on a triple, chasing Gray from the game. Daniel Descalso of all hitters added some more insurance in the third inning with a two-run home run off of Tyler Anderson.

Staring down a six-run deficit after three frames, the Rockies didn’t go down quietly, much to their credit. They put together a four-run fourth inning against Zack Greinke. Gerardo Parra knocked in a run with a single, Mark Reynolds plated one with a ground out, Jonathan Lucroy brought home a run with a double to right field, and Alexi Amarista singled to center to score the fourth run. Greinke was unable to complete the fourth inning.

Things calmed down a bit as neither team scored in the fifth or sixth innings. In the seventh, the Rockies cut the deficit to 6-5 when Charlie Blackmon knocked in a run with a bunt. Archie Bradley, who got the final out in the top of the seventh, stepped to the plate in the bottom half with two outs and two runners on. He swatted a Pat Neshek slider to left-center field for a two-run triple, making it an 8-5 game.

As usual, the Rockies didn’t stay down. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story hit back-to-back solo home runs off of Bradley in the top of the eighth. Pat Valaika represented the tying run in scoring position when he doubled with two outs, but Lucroy flied out to end the frame.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Diamondbacks added yet more insurance. A.J. Pollock drilled a two-run triple to right field off of Greg Holland to make it 10-7. That marked the D-Backs’ fourth triple of the game. Jeff Mathis plated Pollock with a surprise bunt that Holland couldn’t field cleanly.

Fernando Rodney took the hill in the ninth to protect the four-run lead. After allowing a leadoff single to Ian Desmond, Rodney struck out out Charlie Blackmon and D.J. LeMahieu. Desmond took second and third base on defensive indifference, then scored when Carlos Gonzalez singled up the middle. Rodney finally ended the game, getting Arenado to ground out.

The Diamondbacks will open the NLDS against the Dodgers on Friday at 10:30 PM ET. Clayton Kershaw will start that one for the Dodgers.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.