Great Moments in Courting Free Agents: Gabe Kapler Edition

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LAS VEGAS — As happens every year at the Winter Meetings, every manager will sit for an interview session here in the media room. Most of them go how you would expect: a lot of cliches, a lot of broad answers and a lot of effort spent keeping answers from becoming headlines. I used to sit in on as many of them as I possibly can, but I now pick and choose because there generally isn’t a lot of news for our purposes.

Still, the boilerplate and headline avoidance can be entertaining in its own way. Gabe Kapler of the Phillies had his session late this morning and the first two questions he was asked were about Manny Machado, who the Phillies are said to be courting in free agency. Specifically, they were questions about him being a “showboat” and how that might go over in Philadelphia.

While I’m a little tired of that characterization of Machado, it’s a fair question and one that a lot of Philly fans probably want to know the answer to. Kapler, meanwhile, likely knows that he can’t exactly expound colorfully on an issue that (a) could potentially alienate a free agent target; or (b) anger fans who may not yet be sold on the idea of Machado coming to Philly.

So how did he answer? By, basically, acknowledging that he has heard of a baseball player named Manny Machado and that he is aware that the Phillies play in the city of Philadelphia:

Q. Given the fan base, could a player like Machado provoke negative reactions with his showboating?

GABE KAPLER: I think Manny has done a tremendous job in his career of establishing a reputation of being one of the top young players in baseball. And I think he’s in an incredible position to be able to choose from a wide variety of suitors at this point. And I think wherever he goes, somebody’s going to get an incredible baseball player.

Q. Could the Philadelphia-Northeast type fan market react negatively to [inaudible]?

GABE KAPLER: I think the Philadelphia fan base is an incredibly passionate and devoted one, and they demand that their players play hard. They set an incredibly high bar and are disappointed when players don’t meet that bar. Probably speak to players in general rather than to any one specific player. But it’s certainly a high bar, and it should be a high bar.

This was the baseball equivalent of “name, rank and serial number.” I’m sort of in awe. Kapler has only been on the job a year, but that was a masterclass in saying nothing when it’s absolutely in his best interests to say nothing. Gotta hand it to him.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.