Maddux returns to Atlanta, throws out ceremonial first pitch

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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ATLANTA- Hall of Famer Greg Maddux threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Sunday night’s Game 5 of the World Series.

Maddux, wearing his Braves jersey, tipped his cap in response to an ovation from fans as he walked onto the field. Fittingly, he threw the pitch to Eddie Perez, who was often his designated catcher.

Perez, also a former Braves coach, now is a special advisor for player development for the team.

Maddux won four consecutive Cy Young Awards for the Chicago Cubs and the Braves, including in 1995 when he posted a remarkable 19-2 record with a 1.63 ERA for Atlanta’s 1995 World Series champion team.

It was a rare Atlanta appearance for “Mad Dog” Maddux. The 55-year-old Maddux is the pitching coach for UNLV.

SLUMPING BREGMAN MOVES DOWN

Houston manager Dusty Baker moved struggling third baseman Alex Bregman down in his batting order.

Entering Game 5, Bregman had only one hit in 14 World Series at-bats (.071) with no homers and one RBI. He was hitting seventh. He was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in Saturday’s night’s 3-2 loss while hitting third in Game 4.

Baker met with Bregman to discuss the move.

“He understood,” Baker said. “He went out and took extra BP and just trying to find his stroke. So he’s a team guy. There’s no problem with him moving.”

Baker said he hoped to move Bregman back up in a lineup with the designated hitter if the Series returns to Houston for Game 6.

PERFECT AT HOME

The Braves entered Game 5 of the World Series against Houston trying to extend one of their most impressive home postseason performances in team history.

Entering Sunday night’s game, the Braves were 7-0 at home in the postseason, including wins in Games 3 and 4 of the World Series. It is their second-longest home winning streak in the postseason, and the longest in one postseason. They won eight consecutive home postseason games from Oct. 7, 1995, to Oct. 9, 1996.

Overall, the Braves had won 12 of their last 13 home games before Game 5.

Despite the strong finish, the Braves’ home advantage wasn’t nearly as notable in the regular season. They were 42-38 at home and 46-35 on the road.

Astros manager Dusty Baker knows his team also plays well at home. The Astros are 5-2 at home this postseason but needed to avoid elimination to move the Series back to Houston.

“I’m just trying to figure out a way to get back in this thing, and more than anything, figure out a way to get back to Houston with some life because Houston gives us what Atlanta gives them,” Baker said.

SUPER ROSARIO

One day later, Braves left fielder Eddie Rosario‘s backhanded catch at the wall of Jose Altuve‘s drive in the eighth inning was still being discussed. Rosario, running at full speed, appeared to have luck on his side as he stuck his glove out at the last second for the catch.

“I tip my cap,” right-hander Luke Jackson said. “What a play by Rosario. I think that’s why he’s got the nickname Super Rosario right now.”

It was a highlight of Atlanta’s 3-2 win but not necessarily one to use as a guide for young outfielders, according to Braves manager Brian Snitker.

“I’m not even going to go look at that again,” Snitker said after the game. “I’m just glad he caught it. … That’s probably not an instructional video we show our minor leaguers.”

ALVAREZ SORE BUT STARTING

Left fielder Yordan Alvarez, who crashed into the wall trying to catch Jorge Soler‘s go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of Game 4, was sore but able to start Sunday night.

Baker said he initially feared Alvarez hurt his shoulder reaching for the ball when he hit the fence.

“He banged his knee on the fence because he had paint or something that came off on his knee,” Baker said.

ASTROS’ NL OUTFIELD

Baker had to reconfigure his outfield for the World Series games played in Atlanta, with no designated hitter under National League rules.

Alvarez normally was a designated hitter but his move to the outfield meant Kyle Tucker has shifted to center field, where he played only four games in the regular season. Michael Brantley is starting in right field.

“Playing center is definitely different, but I think I’ve done a good job,” Tucker said Saturday. “I just try to go out there and do my best and try to catch as many balls and get in as fast as possible. I think overall we’ve done pretty good.”

REMEMBERING ’95 – SORT OF

Braves closer Will Smith, a native of Newnan, Georgia, said he cherishes memories of watching Atlanta games with his father. But the memories of the Braves’ 1995 World Series title are faint. Smith was only 6 and on vacation in Panama City, Florida, with his family when the Braves beat the Indians in the World Series.

“I just remember my dad being super excited when Marquis Grissom caught the last out,” Smith said. “I knew they won, but I was still too young to remember much.”

Report: Brandon Nimmo staying with Mets on 8-year, $162M deal

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – Center fielder Brandon Nimmo is staying with the free-spending New York Mets, agreeing to an eight-year, $162 million contract, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement is subject to a successful physical and no announcement had been made.

A quality leadoff hitter with an excellent eye and a .385 career on-base percentage, Nimmo became a free agent last month for the first time. He was a key performer as the Mets returned to the playoffs this year for the first time since 2016.

The left-handed hitter batted .274 with 16 homers and a team-high 102 runs, a career high. He also set career bests with 64 RBIs and 151 games played. His seven triples tied for most in the National League.

Bringing back Nimmo means New York is poised to return its entire everyday lineup intact from a team that tied for fifth in the majors in runs and won 101 regular-season games – second-most in franchise history.

But the Mets remain busy replenishing a pitching staff gutted by free agency, including Jacob deGrom‘s departure for Texas and Taijuan Walker‘s deal with Philadelphia that was pending a physical.

On the final day of baseball’s winter meetings Wednesday, the Mets completed an $86.7 million, two-year contract with former Houston ace Justin Verlander that includes a conditional $35 million player option for 2025. New York also retained All-Star closer Edwin Diaz last month with a $102 million, five-year contract, and the team has a $26 million, two-year agreement in place with veteran starter Jose Quintana, pending a physical.

Those moves add to a payroll that was the largest in the majors last season. Under owner Steve Cohen, who bought the Mets in November 2020, New York became baseball’s biggest spender this year for the first time since 1989. The Mets’ payroll was $273.9 million as of Aug. 31, with final figures that include bonuses yet to be compiled.

Nimmo was selected by New York with the No. 13 pick in the 2011 amateur draft. He declined a $19.65 million qualifying offer from the Mets last month.

The 29-year-old Wyoming native made his big league debut in 2016. He is a .269 career hitter with 63 homers, 213 RBIs and 23 triples in 608 games. He has an .827 career OPS and has improved his play in center, becoming a solid defender.

Nimmo’s new deal with the Mets was first reported by the New York Post.