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We saw a thrilling ninth inning on Tuesday night, but the Red Sox escaped against the Yankees to head to the ALCS, which means that none of the four Division Series matchups went to a deciding fifth game. And so, we’re forced to play the waiting game for back-to-back days before the Dodgers and Brewers play Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday at Miller Park. The good news is that we’re guaranteed at least one game a day between the NLCS and ALCS through next Wednesday.
While we take some time to recharge the batteries and maybe check out some Arizona Fall League action, there were still some notable news items on an otherwise idle Wednesday…
Fresh off his one-inning relief appearance in Game 4 against the Yankees, Chris Sale is officially set to start for the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday in Boston. Meanwhile, Justin Verlander will start for the Astros to complete the marquee matchup. Sale yielded two runs over 5 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts in his Game 1 start against the Yankees in the ALDS. Verlander allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Indians last Friday, so he’ll be going on seven days’ rest for the series opener.
We also learned the Game 2 starters on Wednesday, as David Price will start for Boston while Gerrit Cole will get the call for Houston. Price failed to make it out of the second inning in his Game 2 ALDS start, allowing three runs on three hits (including two homers) and two walks. He’s still trying to exorcise some postseason demons. Cole’s experience was quite the opposite in his ALDS start against the Indians, as he struck out 12 batters while allowing just a solo homer to Francisco Lindor over seven innings.
Moving over to the NLCS side, we know that Clayton Kershaw is lined up to start Game 1 for the Dodgers. The Brewers haven’t officially announced their choice, but Jhoulys Chacin looks like the mostly likely option after throwing a bullpen session on Wednesday.
Correa Still Ailing
Carlos Correa slugged a three-run homer as part of the Astros’ blowout win on Monday to finish off the Indians in the ALDS, but the status of his back remains perhaps the biggest question for the club as their playoff run continues.
It’s been obvious for quite some time now that Correa is still hurting. After a seven-week stint on the disabled list, Correa batted just .180/.261/.256 with two homers in 153 plate appearances down the stretch. He also appeared in just three games after September 18 as the Astros gave him extra rest in preparation for the postseason.
Correa started all three games during the ALDS while going 1-for-10 (.100) with three walks and two strikeouts, but he told Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press on Wednesday that he’s been receiving treatment “24/7” and that the injury bothers him most at the plate. Perhaps most revealing, he said that he’s been forced to “baby” his swing because “every time I swing and miss it’s going to hurt.” Correa said that he’s also been feeling pain in other areas as he compensates for his back, including his obliques.
The best hope for Correa to get back to normal is some extended rest, but he’s obviously hoping that the Astros’ offseason doesn’t begin until after repeating as World Series champions. For now, he’ll settle for four days off before the start of the ALCS.
Marlins, Nats Make a Deal
The postseason is ongoing, but that doesn’t stop teams from making moves. There was an interesting and surprising one on Wednesday, as the Nationals picked up right-handed reliever Kyle Barraclough from the Marlins in exchange for an undisclosed amount of international bonus money. More on that in a minute.
As for Barraclough, he’s coming off an uneven season in which he posted a 4.20 ERA and 60/34 K/BB ratio over 55 2/3 innings. The 28-year-old had a 0.99 ERA through the end of June while taking over the Marlins’ closer job in the process, but he struggled with a 10.24 ERA with 17 walks and six homers allowed over his final 24 appearances. He also missed some time with a back injury.
Barraclough has averaged 5.5 BB/9 in his career, but this is still a fine buy-low for Washington given what their bullpen looked like down the stretch this year. He’s arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, so he won't be a free agent until after the 2021 season.
The goal for the Marlins was to pick up more bonus money as they pursue some prospects out of Cuba. 22-year-old outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, ranked by Baseball America as the top prospect for the 2018-2019 international signing period, is the most notable among them. His brother, 17-year-old Victor Mesa, Jr., and 16-year-old right-hander Sandy Gaston are also being pursued. With their recent moves — including trading Ryan Lillie to the Reds — the Marlins are believed to rival the Orioles for the most money available to sign these players.
Ziegler Hangs it Up
Brad Ziegler announced his retirement on Wednesday after 11 seasons in the majors. And on his 39th birthday, no less. The submariner finishes his career with a 2.75 ERA and 105 saves over 739 appearances.
Ziegler appeared in a career-high 82 games (which also led the majors) this past season with the Marlins and Diamondbacks while posting a 3.91 ERA and 50/25 K/BB ratio over 73 2/3 innings. Known for his ability to induce grounders, he also led the majors (min. 50 IP) with a 71.1 percent ground ball rate.
The soft-tossing Ziegler didn’t break into the majors until his age-28 season in 2008 as a member of the Athletics, but he was unbelievably durable after that, making at least 64 appearances between 2010-2016 until a back injury limited him to 53 appearances last season. However, he made it through this season healthy and proved he still had something left in the tank. Ziegler wrote a thoughtful goodbye on Wednesday, during which he said that he was happy to walk away knowing he could still compete at the highest level.
Quick Hits: According to David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago, Kris Bryant turned down overtures of an extension from the Cubs in the past several months that was worth “well north” of $200 million … Ross Stripling, who was left off the Dodgers’ NLDS roster, admitted on Wednesday that he’s been tipping his pitches … Jon Gray told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that he "wasn't really healthy" during his disappointing 2018 campaign and hopes to pack on muscle during the offseason ... Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the Mets have interviewed Rays senior VP of baseball operations Chaim Bloom for their general manager vacancy … Meanwhile, Jon Heyman of FanCred Sports hears that Indians general manager Mike Chernoff is “getting hot” as a possible name of interest for the Mets’ vacancy … Danny Salazar is slated to resume throwing in November as he begins to make his way back from July shoulder surgery … Robert Murray of The Athletic reports that the Rangers have shown preliminary interest in Brewers bench coach Pat Murphy for their managerial opening … The Reds claimed catcher Juan Graterol off waivers from the Twins ...
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