Category Archives: MLB

Yankees hire Matt Blake as pitching coach

The New York Yankees didn’t waste any time finding their new pitching coach, as they have hired Matt Blake to fill the role Larry Rothschild left behind. Blake was formerly the pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians and is known for developing big-league pitchers.

Blake’s ability to refine pitchers and his familiarity with the Yankees system, having worked as an area scout for them in the past, makes him a terrific candidate for the Bombers moving forward. He takes a more analytical approach to the game, while Rothschild depends on his gut and old-school mentality.

This is a step forward for a Yankees team that did have a great bullpen last year but saw their starters struggle at times. Blake should increase the efficiency of both units if he can manage to make the most of the pitching presently on the roster.

Blake comes over from the Cleveland Indians, where he previously served as the team’s pitching coordinator. The Yankees parted ways with longtime pitching coach Larry Rothschild earlier this offseason. New York also interviewed David Cone for the position.

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Of the four known candidates for the job, three (with former Yankees star David Cone as the outlier) were younger names in their 30’s without much any direct coaching experience on an MLB staff. 

University of Michigan pitching coach Chris Fetter and Arkansas pitching coach Matt Hobbs were the two other names linked to the Yankees’ search.

It will be up to Blake to modernize the Yankees’ handling of their arms, and it perhaps isn’t surprising that New York hired someone from a Cleveland organization that has excelled at developing homegrown pitching in recent years. 

Indians manager Terry Francona just praised Blake’s work in preparing young hurlers such as Jefry Rodriguez, Zach Plesac, and Aaron Civale, with the latter two making their Major League debuts in 2019.

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Stephen Strasburg opts out of deal with Nationals

As expected, Washington Nationals right-hander and reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg has opted out of his contract, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

The Nationals have not yet established the news. Strasburg is walking away from four years and $100 million. Saturday was the deadline to opt out.

Strasburg, 31, threw a National League leading 209 innings during the regular season, and ended with 3.32 ERA and 251 strikeouts. He then threw another 36 1/3 innings with a 1.98 ERA during Washington’s postseason run, including 8 1/3 innings of two-run ball with the season on the line in World Series Game 6.

The Nationals signed Strasburg to a seven-year extension worth $175 million in May 2016.

The contract included heavy deferrals, as big Nationals contracts often do. Because a dollar today is worth more than a dollar five years from now, the present day value of those four years is much less than $100 million. Strasburg would come out ahead financially simply by re-signing a new four-year, $100 million deal with no deferrals. 

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The Nationals will almost certainly try to re-sign Strasburg, who they selected with the No. 1 overall pick back in 2009. He is the second best starting pitcher on the free agent market behind Gerrit Cole and could command upwards of six years and $150 million this winter, even at age 31 and with injuries throughout his career. That might even be selling him short.

Washington will also try to re-sign third baseman Anthony Rendon this winter. Should they lose Strasburg to free agency — I imagine his hometown Padres will make a big push to sign him — the Nationals would still have Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin to front to the rotation going forward. 

The Nationals will undoubtedly make Strasburg the qualifying offer prior to Monday’s deadline, ensuring they receive draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

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Nationals defeat Astros to win Franchise’s first World Series

Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon and the Washington Nationals finished their amazing comeback journey — fittingly with one last late rally on the road.

Kendrick and Rendon homered in the seventh inning as the Nationals overcame a two-run deficit, rocking the Houston Astros 6-2 Wednesday night to win the first title in franchise history.

With all eyes on Scherzer and his remarkable recovery after a painkilling injection, these Nationals truly embraced their shot in the only Series when the road team won every game.

Even more against the odds: Juan Soto and Washington came from behind to win five elimination games this postseason, an unprecedented feat.

“What a story,” said Ryan Zimmerman, the only player who’s been a part of every Nationals team.

“The way this game went is the way our whole season went,” he said.

Strasburg, new lefty Patrick Corbin and the Nats brought the first World Series championship to the nation’s capital since ol’ Walter Johnson delivered the crown for the Senators in 1924. This franchise started out as the Montreal Expos in 1969 when the major leagues expanded beyond the border, putting a team with tricolor caps at jaunty Jarry Park. They moved to D.C. in 2005, ending Washington’s three-decade-plus wait for big league baseball after the Senators left town to become the Texas Rangers.

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But the unbelievable path these wild-card Nationals with the curly W logo took, well, no one could have imagined.

Because in one topsy-turvy week, they put aside the pain of past playoff failures.

“Resilient, relentless bunch of guys,” manager Dave Martinez said. “They fought all year long.”

Having lost star slugger Bryce Harper in free agency and beset by bullpen woes, Washington plummeted to 19-31 in late May. It got so bad there was talk around town the Nationals might fire Martinez and trade away Scherzer.

Instead, they stuck with the mantra that sprung up on T-shirts — Stay In The Fight.

“That was our motto,” Scherzer said.

And months later they finished it, indeed. The Nationals became the first wild-card team to acquire the Series since Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in 2014. Starting with San Francisco’s win, the last six champs have clinched on the road.

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Nationals force World Series Game 7

It’s been an unusual road to Game 7 of the World Series for Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals.

Seizing the October spotlight he missed out on as a youngster, Strasburg pitched another postseason gem into the ninth inning Tuesday night as the Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 7-2 to tie this Fall Classic at 3-3.

Juan Soto ran all the way to first base with his bat following a go-ahead homer, the same way Houston slugger Alex Bregman did earlier.

Yep, these wild-card Nationals have matched the heavily favored Astros swing for swing, hit for hit – even home run celebration for home run celebration.

Now, it’s onto a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night to resolve the only Series in which the visiting team won the first six.

”It’s weird, really. You can’t explain it,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. The Nationals will try their ultimate comeback in a year when they were written off time after time, hoping for the first title in the 51-season history of a franchise that started as the Montreal Expos and the first for Washington since the Senators in 1924.

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Visiting teams have won three straight Game 7s in the Series since the Cardinals defeated Texas at home in 2011.

”I don’t think there’s a person in the building that would have assumed that all road teams were going to win,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said. ”We’ve just got to make sure that last one is not the same.”

Washington rebounded from a 19-31 start – the Nats were given just a 1.6% option to win the Series on May 23 – to finish 93-69. They rallied from a 3-1 eighth-inning deficit against Milwaukee in the NL wild-card game, a two-games-to-one deficit vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series and a 2-1, fifth-inning deficit in Game 6 vs. the Astros.

Outscored 19-3 at Nationals Park while going 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position, the Nationals got the strong outing they needed from Strasburg, who allowed his only runs in the first inning, struck out seven and walked two while throwing 104 pitches. ”It was a mental grind out there, especially after the first,” Strasburg said. ”Just got to keep fighting.”

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Astros hammer Nationals to take 3-2 lead in World Series

The Houston Astros handed the ball to Gerrit Cole, and he gave them a firm grip on the World Series.

Minus ailing ace Max Scherzer, the Nationals were no match in this Washington wipeout.

Cole looked exactly like the stud who dominated baseball most of this season, bouncing back from a Game 1 clunker to pitch the Astros to a 7-1 win Sunday night and a 3-2 lead.

Slumping rookie Yordan Álvarez and Carlos Correa hit early two-run homers off emergency starter Joe Ross, George Springer added another postseason drive and Houston won its third straight at Nationals Park.

What a turnaround, too — outscored 17-7 overall at Minute Maid Park, Houston hammered Washington 19-3 at Nationals Park.

Scherzer beat Cole in the opener, and was the Nats’ best hope to slow Houston. But he was scratched just 3 1/2 hours before game time because of an irritated nerve near his neck, an injury that could finish him for the Series.

With the road team winning every time so far, Houston heads home with two chances to claim its second title in three years.

Justin Verlander gets the first try when he starts against Stephen Strasburg in Game 6 on Tuesday night. Cole threw three-hit ball for seven innings, nicked only by Juan Soto’s home run in the seventh, and struck out nine.

Justin Verlander gets the first try when he starts against Stephen Strasburg in Game 6 on Tuesday night. Cole threw three-hit ball for seven innings, nicked only by Juan Soto’s home run in the seventh, and struck out nine.

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Cole’s mix of 99 mph heat and sharp breaking balls induced a bevy of bad swings from the Nats as he improved to 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA this postseason. It might’ve been his final start for Houston — he’s eligible for free agency and figures to command a steep price.

Standing tall on the mound, Cole was unflappable in the face of 43,910 fans who went from fired up to furious to flat-out frustrated.

The crowd gave Ross a huge ovation when he walked onto the field for warmups, sympathetic to his situation — he had pitched a total of two innings in almost a month.

Cole ended his outing by getting Victor Robles on a called third strike, a pitch the TV zone showed to be off the plate. Robles chucked his bat, helmet and gloves, and crowd soon began a derisive chant at umpire Lance Barksdale. Cole led the majors in strikeouts this year, was second to Verlander in wins and topped the AL in ERA. Yet he hardly looked like an October star in Game 1, giving up five runs over seven uneven innings.

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Astros fire assistant GM Brandon Taubman

The Houston Astros fired assistant general manager Brandon Taubman on Thursday after firstly denying a news article that Taubman had taunted female journalists in the baseball team’s clubhouse about the signing of a pitcher accused of domestic violence.

“We were wrong,” the Astros said in a statement, referring to the club’s first claim that Taubman’s “inappropriate comments were not directed toward any reporter.”

Taubman’s “conduct does not reflect the values of our organization and we believe this is the most appropriate course of action,” the Astros said.

The team also directly apologized to Sports Illustrated and its reporter Stephanie Apstein, who on Monday broke the news of Taubman’s heckling of the reporters about pitcher Roberto Osuna. The reversal by the Astros came, the team said, after a two-day investigation by officials from Major League Baseball, who questioned members of the media.

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Taubman repeatedly yelled “Thank God we got Osuna, I’m so f—— glad we got Osuna” in the direction of three female reporters Saturday night after the Astros defeated the Yankees to win the American League pennant and secure a World Series berth, according to Sports Illustrated’s article.

One of the reporters subjected to the taunts was wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet.

That reporter, according to a subsequent account by NPR, has tweeted continually about domestic violence in recent years, and Taubman complained last year that her tweets of domestic violence hotline phone numbers had been posted “moments after Osuna entered several Astros games in relief.”

Osuna, while playing with the Toronto Blue Jays, was arrested for alleged domestic violence in May 2018 against the mother of his young child. He later was hired by the Astros.

Although his criminal case later was dropped after the alleged victim went to Mexico and declined to testify against him, Osuna was suspended for 75 games by Major League Baseball. The Astros presently are down 0-2 in the World Series against the Washington Nationals

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Aaron Hicks returns to Yankees’ lineup

Giancarlo Stanton was on the field for batting practice previous to Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, but the Yankees slugger is unclear when his right quadriceps strain will permit him to play the outfield or run the bases. In the meantime, Aaron Hicks got the start in center field, playing there for the first time since Aug. 3.

“It’s pretty similar to 48 hours ago. Just going to see what we can do,” Stanton said. “It’s not the best, but I’m able to hit. We’re at least that far right now. I don’t have much time. Time is not on my side right now. I’m doing what I can.” Stanton sustained the injury legging out a second-inning infield single in ALCS Game 1 at Houston’s Minute Maid Park on Saturday night. He played six more innings before being removed for defense, slugging a sixth-inning home run, but he did not appear in the Yanks’ 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Astros in Game 2 on Sunday night.

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Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that if this were the regular season, Stanton’s injury is significant enough that it would require a stint on the injured list.

New York is reluctant to substitute Stanton on the ALCS roster, because doing so would render him ineligible to play in the World Series.

“We’re trying to strike that balance,” Boone said. “I feel like we’re in a good spot, lineup-wise. Obviously, it gets tougher the further you go, especially when you only have a three-man bench anyway. So those are all things that we have to consider.” If the Yankees were to make an injury substitution, their candidates include infielder/outfielder Tyler Wade — who was on the ALDS roster, but later subbed out in favor of Hicks — or a pair of first basemen in the right-handed-hitting Luke Voit and left-handed-hitting rookie Mike Ford.

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Freese, 2011 Series MVP, retires after 11 seasons

David Freese, the 2011 World Series Most Valuable Player with the St. Louis Cardinals, revealed his retirement on Saturday after 11 seasons.

“Padres, Cardinals, Angels, Pirates, and Dodgers. You took a 23-year old kid out of college and pushed him to 36,” wrote Freese in a social media post, thanking all the clubs he was a part of during his career.

“Can’t thank you enough for that. Needed it. Will never stop thinking about the days I got to be around such wonderful people playing this game. As I move forward with the next phase of my life, I am forever grateful to all of you and the game of baseball.”

Freese, 36, spent the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers playing mostly first base, and also spent time with the Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates.

He was a career .277 hitter and even better in the postseason, with a .299 average. Freese made his final entrance Wednesday in a deciding Game 5 of an NL Division Series, striking out as a pinch hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers. They lost 7-3 to the Washington Nationals. Freese had started Game 1 at first base.

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He made his major league debut with St. Louis in 2009 and turn out to be a postseason star two years later.

Freese batted .545 with 12 hits in the NL Championship Series in 2011. He also set an MLB postseason record with 21 RBIs and earned MVP honors in the NLCS and World Series.

Freese was an All-Star in 2012, when he played in a career-high 144 games after injuries had dogged him in previous years. In Game 1 of the NLCS versus San Francisco, he hit a two-run homer off Madison Bumgarner.

In his first 25 postseason games, Freese batted .386 with six homers, 25 RBIs and a .739 slugging percentage in 100 plate appearances. Only Carlos Beltran (.824) and Babe Ruth (.744) had higher slugging percentages in the same number of plate appearances.

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Anibal Sanches, Miles Mikolas get NLCS Game 1 starts

The Nationals and Cardinals have tabbed starters for Game 1 of the NLCS, set for Friday night in St. Louis.

The visiting Nationals will send veteran Aníbal Sánchez to the hill to oppose Miles Mikolas, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and Anne Rogers, respectively. While the Nationals haven’t set the rest of their rotation yet, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt has set up Adam Wainwright for Game 2, Jack Flaherty for Game 3, and Dakota Hudson for Game 4.

Sánchez, 35, was quite good in his NLDS Game 3 start versus the Dodgers, limiting them to a lone run while scattering four hits and a pair of walks with nine strikeouts over five innings. Sánchez is, in a lot of ways, an afterthought when considering the Nationals’ rotation which boasts Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin.

The Cardinals know well enough not to undervalue Sánchez, who posted a 3.85 ERA across 30 regular season starts.

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Mikolas, 31, enjoyed a major league career rebirth last year after spending several years in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants. In 2018, he led the league with 18 wins while posting a 2.83 ERA in 200 2/3 innings.

He ended sixth in NL Cy Young voting. He wasn’t able to follow up with the same level of success this year, finishing the regular season leading the league with 14 losses along with a 4.16 ERA.

Mikolas was good in his NLDS Game 1 start against the Braves, though, allowing a lone run over five innings. He also tossed a perfect inning of relief in Game 4.

The Cardinals will start Adam Wainwright in Game 2 of the NLCS, followed by ace Jack Flaherty in Game 3 and Dakota Hudson in Game 4.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez said X-rays presented nothing broken on the hand of catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was hit by a pitch in Washington’s win on Wednesday night. Suzuki was going to go through concussion protocol once the Nationals arrived in St. Louis.

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Atlanta Braves’ Brian McCann to retire after 15-year career

After a decade and a half in the major leagues, Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann is calling it quits.

The former All-Star told reporters after the Braves’ NLDS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals that he is retiring. Thanks to a one-year contract signed last offseason, McCann’s career will end with the same team with which he spent his first nine seasons in MLB.

“This is it for me,” McCann said. “I’m going to go home and be a dad, and play with my kids … It’s time to go. Fifteen years. It’s done.”

In 15 years as a major leaguer, McCann racked up a .262/.337/.452 career line with 1,590 hits and 282 home runs, all while directing pitching game plans behind the plate. McCann was a perennial All-Star during his first tenure with the Braves, delivering one of the most dangerous bats from the catching position in the league and accruing seven All-Star nods.

From 2008 to 2016, McCann posted at least 20 homers in every season

A nine-year streak bested only by Mike Piazza and Yogi Berra at the catching position.

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After hitting free agency following the 2014 season, McCann signed a five-year deal with the New York Yankees, where he saw less accomplishment until he was traded to the Houston Astros. There, he won his first career World Series ring in 2017.

McCann later returned to the Braves for one last ride, the perfect setting for a man who was born in Atlanta, grew up in Georgia and was drafted by the Braves back in 2002.

“I went to high school here. I grew up here. I got to play nine years to start my career here,” McCann said. “I grew up with some of my heroes growing up, and got to come back and play with the new generation. I’d say that’s a success.” Of course, McCann’s legacy is also described by who he was as a teammate, and the reviews there are quite positive.

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