Daily Dose: Bolstering the Pen

Daily Dose: Bolstering the Pen

Dave Shovein breaks down the Nationals’ acquisition of Kelvin Herrera and Brandon Nimmo’s big homecoming in Tuesday’s Daily Dose

Bolstering the Bullpen

Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo has been no stranger to acquiring elite late-inning relievers to bolster the back-end of his bullpen. Over the last three calendar years, he has traded for Jonathan Papelbon, Mark Melancon, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler.

The last three names on that list have formed a highly formidable trio this season for the Nationals. They have also been heavily relied upon. Kintzler is currently on the disabled list with a right forearm flexor strain, and the 37-year-old Madson has shown signs of wearing down while already appearing in 26 games this season.

So Rizzo went out and did what he does best, acquiring Royals’ closer Kelvin Herrera on Monday for a trio of minor leaguers.

The 28-year-old right-hander has been outstanding this season, posting a 1.05 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 22/2 K/BB ratio across 25 2/3 innings this season while converting 14 of his first 16 save chances. Combining him with incumbent closer Sean Doolittle gives the Nationals perhaps the best one-two punch in the National League to close out games. It also takes some of the load off of Madson and Kintzler who will continue to function in setup roles.

Herrera is in the final season of his contract and is owed roughly $3.4 million over the remainder of the season. The Nationals are believed to be on the hook for the entirety of that amount remaining on his contract.

While nothing definitive has been announced yet as to how the Nationals will utilize their new bullpen, you’d have to think that Doolittle will continue to function as the team’s primary closer, while Herrera will pitch primarily in the eighth inning. They could always be flipped on occasion though if there are tough left-handers due up in the eighth inning.

If that is indeed the case, it’s a death blow to the fantasy value of Herrera. Those who have gotten exceptional results out of him so far were hoping to at least have him remain in the closer’s role until the end of July, where he was expected to be flipped at the trade deadline. Now, Herrera owners will have to scramble to secure saves elsewhere.

One place to look, could be the vacancy at the back end of the Royals’ bullpen. While he doesn’t have any closing experience at the major league level, Kevin McCarthy is expected to get the first crack at the closer’s gig there.

The 26-year-old right-hander owns a 3.86 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 19/7 K/BB ratio across 30 ⅓ innings on the season. The ratios may not be pretty, and the strikeout rate leaves much to be desired, but saves are saves, and if he’s indeed the guy in the ninth inning for the Royals, he’ll have some appeal in mixed leagues.

In return for Herrera, the Royals netted three prospects. Third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez looks to be the best of the bunch, and was ranked as the 10th best prospect in the Nationals’ organization prior to the season. The 23-year-old was enjoying a solid season at Double-A Harrisburg, slashing .274/.321/.391 with five homers, 26 RBI and 10 stolen bases. He isn’t far away from being big-league ready and could be the heir-apparent to Mike Moustakas at the hot corner.

The Royals also received speedy 21-year-old outfielder Blake Perkins. A second round pick of the Nationals in the 2015 draft, Perkins has struggled in his first exposure at High-A Potomac, hitting just .234/.344/.290 with one homer, 21 RBI and 12 stolen bases.

The third piece of the return package for the Royals was 17-year-old right-hander Yohanse Morel. He’s considered very raw, but owns an electric fastball that runs as high as 95 mph, with room to grow into more velocity. He also has a good feel for a power slider.

Overall, it’s a nice return package for the Royals, getting some talented prospects for a bullpen arm who was going to walk away for nothing at season’s end. Meanwhile, the Nationals get another dominant bullpen arm that they coveted and didn’t really have to give up any of their top prospects to do so. At least initially, this looks to be a mutually beneficial trade for both sides.

Finding Nimmo

Mets’ outfielder Brandon Nimmo was born and raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The closest major league ballpark to his hometown is Coors Field in Colorado, just a two-hour drive away.. So naturally, with the Mets beginning a series in Colorado on Monday, Nimmo wanted to have his entourage in attendance.

Nimmo said that he had to buy 75 tickets for friends and family who wanted to see him play live in Colorado. The 25-year-old outfielder evidently wanted to put on a show.

Leading off the game, Nimmo smashed an electrifying drive off of the wall in right center field, hustling all the way around the bases for an inside-the-park home run. He blazed around the bases in just 14.70 seconds.

The one thing that Nimmo hasn’t done well this season, is hit left-handed pitching. Entering play on Monday, he had hit just .196/.327/.304 with one homer, one RBI and a 21/7 K/BB ratio over 55 plate appearances. So even though it didn’t leave the yard, it was mighty encouraging to see him hit that homer off of Rockies’ southpaw Tyler Anderson.

He wasn’t finished though. After going down on strikes in his second at-bat. Nimmo jumped on Anderson’s first pitch for a single in the fifth inning. He then victimized another left-hander, Harrison Musgrave, for a towering solo homer in the seventh that increased the Mets’ advantage to 4-1. That one was absolutely crushed, an estimated 449 feet which makes it the second longest home run of Nimmo’s career, and the second longest home run hit by any Mets’ hitter this season.

In his final at-bat of the evening, and his first against a right-hander, Nimmo delivered a two-run single as part of a six-run uprising in the ninth inning.

Nimmo finished the night 4-for-6 with a pair of runs scored and four RBI and is now slashing a robust .287/.410/.603 with 12 homers and 22 RBI on the season. Fantasy owners who bought in early on have been handsomely rewarded.

Astro-nomical Comeback

Riding an 11-game winning streak, the Astros trailed the Ray 4-0 through three innings on Monday. Like true champions though, they didn’t panic and went to work chipping away at that deficit.

They scratched out a pair of runs in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Josh Reddick. They trimmed that deficit to one run when Gurriel delivered another RBI single in the sixth inning.

Gerrit Cole settled in nicely after giving up four early runs, keeping the Rays off the board for the next four innings to keep his team in the ballgame. Still, they trailed 4-3 entering the ninth inning against Rays’ closer Sergio Romo.

As late-inning rallies so often do, it all started with a leadoff walk to Marwin Gonzalez, on four pitches no less. Max Stassi followed with a single, and Tony Kemp successfully sacrificed both runners into scoring position. George Springer then reached on catcher’s indifference, loading the bases for Alex Bregman.

The 24-year-old third baseman didn’t disappoint, lining a walk-off two-run double into the gap in left center to deliver the Astros their 12th consecutive victory. With the Mariners idle on Monday, the Astros pick up a ½ game on the M’s and now own a two-game edge in the American League West.

American League Quick Hits: According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, The Yankees and Mariners have each expressed interest in acquiring Blue Jays’ southpaw J.A. Happ… Melky Cabrera elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus. He’ll try to latch on elsewhere… Kevin Kiermaier (thumb) is on track to be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday… Brett Gardner sat out his second straight game on Monday with a sore right knee… The Indians signed veteran southpaw Mark Rzepczynski to a minor league contract… All tests on the right elbow of Carlos Carrasco came back negative… Avisail Garcia (hamstring) could rejoin the White Sox over the weekend… Bartolo Colon defeated the Royals on Monday, earning the 244th win of his illustrious career. With the win, he passed Juan Marichal for the most wins in major league history by a Dominican born hurler… Aaron Hicks homered for the second straight game as the Yankees beat the Nationals… Jason Kipnis went 3-for-4 with a homer as the Indians beat the White Sox… Aroldis Chapman secured his 21st save in a win over the Nats… 

National League Quick Hits: Clayton Kershaw (back) threw three innings in a simulated game on Monday. The left-hander said afterwards that he would next pitch in a game in five days, but the Dodgers have yet to make a determination if that will be on a minor league rehab assignment or with the big league club… Javier Baez (elbow) is expected to return to the Cubs’ lineup on Tuesday… The Phillies optioned struggling right-hander Hector Neris to Triple-A Lehigh Valley… Jeremy Hellickson (hamstring) will throw a simulated game on Tuesday, and if all goes well should return to the Nationals’ rotation over the weekend… Travis Shaw sat out Monday’s game with a sore right wrist… Wade Miley (oblique) will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Biloxi this week… Jay Bruce was scratched from the Mets’ starting lineup on Monday due to continued soreness in his hip… Walker Buehler (ribs) is expected to throw a bullpen session on Saturday at Citi Field… Nick Williams was removed from Tuesday’s game after a ball ricocheted off of the outfield fence and hit him in the face. He’s considered day-to-day… Trevor Williams allowed just one hit over seven shutout innings in a masterful victory over the Brewers… Juan Soto blasted a two-run homer, powering the Nationals to victory in the finale of the suspended game from May 15. Officially, it will go in the history books as his sixth home run of the season, but having occurred on May 15, which is five days before Soto actually made his big league debut… Aaron Altherr slugged a walk-off two-run double to complete a comeback victory against the Cardinals… Nick Pivetta racked up a career-best 13 strikeouts over 7 ⅓ innings in a no-decision against the Cardinals… Jacob deGrom struck out seven while allowing one earned run over eight innings in a victory over the Rockies at Coors Field… Paul Goldschmidt slugged his 15th home run as the Diamondbacks topped the Angels… The Marlins rallied for three runs off of Hunter Strickland in the ninth inning to secure a come-from-behind victory over the Giants.

Major League Baseball roundup: Astros walk off in 9th for 12th straight win

Major League Baseball roundup: Astros walk off in 9th for 12th straight win

Jun 18, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman (2) gets a game-winning RBI hit during the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Bregman delivered a walk-off, two-run double and the Houston Astros stretched their winning streak to a franchise-record tying 12 games with a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday at Minute Maid Park.

Bregman delivered with the bases loaded and one out against Rays right-hander Sergio Romo (1-2), the seventh pitcher of the night for Tampa Bay. Bregman lined a 1-1 slider into left-center field, plating Marwin Gonzalez (walk) and Max Stassi (single), who reached in succession to open the frame. The Astros opened a nine-game homestand after going 10-0 on their recently completed road trip.

Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole (no-decision), who walked four of the first 12 batters he faced before settling into a groove, retired 11 consecutive batters following the Joey Wendle’s two-run single in the third and completed seven innings allowing four runs on three hits and a season-high five walks with eight strikeouts. Cole threw a season-high 116 pitches.

Rays catcher Wilson Ramos hit a two-run, opposite-field homer in the first for Tampa Bay. Collin McHugh (2-0) earned the win in relief for Houston.

Nationals 5, Yankees 3 (completion of suspended game)

Rookie Juan Soto hit a long two-run pinch-hit homer with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning as Washington beat New York in the completion of a suspended game from May 15 at Nationals Park.

The game resumed in a 3-3 tie after rain halted the originally scheduled game and the makeup was rained out on May 16. When the game started last month, the game-time temperature was 85, but by Monday it increased to 95 with a heat index of 105.

Soto, who made his major league debut on May 20, batted for Matt Adams against Chad Green (2-1). He gave the Nationals a two-run lead by hammering a 3-1 fastball into the second-to-last row of the seats in the second deck in right. It was Soto’s sixth homer and third against the Yankees. The resumption of the game will be considered his major league debut with an asterisk, but the 433-foot drive was not his first career homer.

Yankees 4, Nationals 2

Giancarlo Stanton collected four hits, including a booming RBI double with two outs in the top of the seventh inning as New York held on over Washington.

In the makeup game from May 16, Stanton (4-for-5, two RBIs) recorded his third game this season with four hits and seventh of his career. Stanton’s big night occurred after he was 2-for-13 in a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, culminating in a tense postgame interview on Sunday.

Bryce Harper went 0-for-4 as the Nationals dropped their fourth straight and went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Mark Reynolds drove in both runs for Washington with an RBI groundout in the second and a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

Rangers 6, Royals 3

Bartolo Colon became the winningest pitcher born in the Dominican Republic in major league history, and Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre each homered as visiting Texas handed Kansas City its seventh straight loss.

It was the 244th career win for the 45-year-old Colon (4-4), breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Juan Marichal for most wins by a Dominican-born player and moving him within one win of tying Nicaraguan Dennis Martinez (245) for most wins by a pitcher from a Latin American country. Colon also recorded his 2,503th career strikeout, which broke a tie for 33rd place on the alltime list with Christy Mathewson.

Choo, who also doubled, walked three times in five at-bats and scored twice, reached base for the 32nd straight game, the longest active streak in the major leagues. Ian Kennedy fell to 1-76 for the Royals, going six innings allowing five runs on four hits with eight strikeouts and three walks.

Phillies 6, Cardinals 5 (10 innings)

Aaron Altherr delivered a walk-off, two-run double with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning as Philadelphia notched a wild win over visiting St. Louis.

Philadelphia blew a two-run lead in the ninth and saw St. Louis take the lead in the 10th on Tommy Pham’s homer before rallying for the win. Altherr smacked a liner to left off Matt Bowman (0-2) with two runners on and Cardinals left fielder Marcell Ozuna missed a diving attempt and the ball got past him. Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana both scored to give the Phillies their sixth win in the past eight games.

The Cardinals’ ninth-inning rally kept Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta from ending his four-start losing streak. Pivetta struck out a career-best 13 in 7 1/3 innings and allowed two runs, four hits and one walk. St. Louis got home runs from Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Pham in defeat while Odubel Herrera smacked a three-run shot for Philadelphia.

Marlins 5, Giants 4

Miguel Rojas capped a three-run ninth inning with a tie-breaking, RBI single, allowing Miami to rally to victory in the opener of a three-game series in San Francisco.

Down 4-2, Brian Anderson led off the ninth by drawing a walk from Giants closer Hunter Strickland (3-3). J.T. Realmuto followed with a double, plating Anderson to get Miami within one. Strickland then walked Justin Bour to put the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base, and both scored one out later on consecutive RBI singles by Lewis Brinson and Rojas.

Miami’s Kyle Barraclough recorded his sixth save of the season with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. Tayron Guerrero (1-2), who pitched a scoreless eighth inning, was credited with the win.

Mets 12, Rockies 2

Brandon Nimmo homered twice and drove in four runs, Jacob deGrom pitched eight strong innings, and New York beat Colorado in Denver.

Wilmer Flores and Devin Mesoraco also homered for the Mets, who have followed a four-game losing streak with three straight wins. New York backed another solid outing from deGrom (5-2) with 15 hits. The Mets’ ace struck out seven and allowed two runs — one earned — to drop his ERA to 1.51, tops in the majors.

Gerardo Parra had two hits and drove in a run for Colorado, which has lost eight straight at home to fall to 11-20 at Coors Field.

Indians 6, White Sox 2

Trevor Bauer racked up eight strikeouts in seven scoreless innings and Cleveland pulled away over visiting Chicago.

Only Mother Nature could stop Bauer (6-5), who did not return to the mound after a 35-minute rain delay in the bottom of the seventh. The storm snapped his bid to record double-digit strikeouts for the fifth consecutive start, which would have tied Corey Kluber’s franchise record. Bauer, 27, has 129 strikeouts in 100 2/3 innings and ranks tied for third in baseball in strikeouts, behind only Washington’s Max Scherzer (152) and Houston’s Gerrit Cole (138).

Jason Kipnis went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs to lead the Indians at the plate. Roberto Perez added a pair of doubles and two RBIs as Cleveland improved to 6-2 against Chicago this season. Matt Davidson doubled and homered for the White Sox, who lost their fifth in a row.

Pirates 1, Brewers 0

Trevor Williams combined with two relievers for a two-hitter, and Jordy Mercer drove in the only run in the seventh inning as Pittsburgh slipped by visiting Milwaukee.

Pittsburgh, which picked up its ninth shutout win, has won four of its past five games and is looking to regain a foothold in the National League Central. Monday was the opening of a three-game set against the first-place Brewers. Milwaukee has lost three straight. The fourth-place Pirates climbed to within six games of the Brewers.

The starters, Williams and Milwaukee’s Jhoulys Chacin, dueled into the seventh inning. Williams (6-4) threw a one-hitter over seven innings, with seven strikeouts and two walks. He threw 96 pitches. The only hit against him was Jonathan Villar’s two-out single in the fourth. Chacin (6-2), who had won his past six decisions, gave up one run and six hits in 6 1/3 innings, with two strikeouts and two walks. He lasted at least six innings for the third straight start.

Diamondbacks 7, Angels 4

Paul Goldschmidt, Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed hit home runs, Zack Greinke threw 6 1/3 solid innings and Arizona beat Los Angeles in Anaheim, Calif.

Goldschmidt’s two-run homer in the first inning got the ball rolling for the D-backs, who increased their lead to 6-0 before the Angels could get anything across against Greinke.

Justin Upton and Albert Pujols hit back-to-back homers off Greinke in the fourth inning to narrow the Angels’ deficit to 6-2, but the team’s seventh-inning rally was stifled when center fielder Jarrod Dyson reached over the wall to take away a potential grand slam from Upton. Archie Bradley got the final four outs for his third save.

Dodgers-Cubs (ppd.)

After waiting nearly three hours to begin action, the game between Los Angeles and Chicago was postponed due to rain and a limited power outage at Wrigley Field.

In addition to showers in the area, a small power outage affected the operation of the right field lights.

The game will be made up as part of a split doubleheader on Tuesday, with the first game scheduled for a 1:05 p.m. ET start time. The night game is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. The three-game series is the Dodgers’ only trip to visit the Cubs this season.

–Field Level Media

Out with ankle injury, top Orioles prospect Austin Hays waiting for return to form after slow start

Out with ankle injury, top Orioles prospect Austin Hays waiting for return to form after slow start

Austin Hays is not one to wait for anything when it comes to baseball, and yet that’s what has pretty much defined his season.

He waited for a shoulder problem to clear up and give him a chance at a major league spot this spring. He waited for that good feeling that carried him to top prospect status in an unparalleled year at the plate in 2017 to return once his season got going.

And now, he waits for the bone bruise and tendinitis in his ankle to clean up so he can get back on the field and, if not be part of the Orioles’ pending youth movement at the majors, at least get back to feeling good about his game again.

“Being in the boot, you’ve got a lot of sitting around, a lot of time to think about why things were going the way they were and how to fix it, how to combat it,” Hays said. “I’ve had a lot of conversations with our rovers and our coordinators and hitting coaches, and I think we’ve had a lot of good conversations about why things were going the way they were, and what I can do to fix it.”

Hays, after hitting .329 with 32 home runs and 32 doubles between High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie last year before making his major league debut, was batting .224 with a .623 OPS and a dozen extra-base hits before he went on the disabled list with the current ankle trouble. He and the team’s medical staff are unclear as to how it even came about.

It bothered him for a few days, and he kept playing through it, then taped it up for a few more games, and before long couldn’t run without a limp.

“We still haven’t figured out where that came from,” Hays said. “I didn’t get hit by a pitch. I didn’t foul a ball off my foot. We still haven’t figured that out. It’s just tendinitis, and I had the bone bruise as well. We’re trying to get the tendinitis out of there and we should be good after that.”

He’ll be in the boot for about a week, at which point it’ll be a month since he last played, May 26.

Hays made clear he doesn’t blame the spring training shoulder injury that ultimately cost him weeks of game action and a chance at making the major league team, or the ankle injury now, for his lack of production.

“I was feeling good at the start of the year,” Hays said. “I felt healthy. I felt like I was prepared for the year.”

Hays and Gary Kendall, Bowie’s manager, want to see what the end product looks like when he’s back and healthy.

“He was a real confident hitter,” Kendall said. “When he got here, he was on a roll. Balls in the middle of the plate, he did a lot of damage. He ate up left-handed pitching. His power numbers, the singles, doubles — all those things he brought to the table. But not being healthy, and he played a little while with that nagging injury, I’d just like to see him once after the break when this injury is behind him and see what he is. He’s sort of the same guy.

“I think he just needs to get some confidence. He needs to get back in there and get some reps. I think he’s going to be fine. Everybody can get off to a little bit of a slower start, and I just think he got off to a slow start. The biggest thing is we just don’t [want] him to lose his confidence, because that was so huge last year with him coming up here. It just showed by the way he played. But his effort level, which he has a lot of, is good — the way he plays the outfield, runs the bases. The other things don’t miss a beat. He’s a productive player, and we’re looking forward to him getting back here.”

As Hays’ struggles built in the first half of the season, plenty of theories emerged inside and outside the organization about their causes. Because he came in looking stronger and more physical after his offseason training program, some believed he’d added the wrong kind of muscle and possibly led to his health problems.

Rival evaluators saw someone whose all-fields approach had been replaced by a pull-heavy, power-oriented swing that didn’t jive with how teams had learned to pitch him. Hays struggled with spin away in his major league stint last year, and teams are pitching him that way this season, but those aren’t pitches that can be pulled. Kendall believes Hays’ adjustments in how other teams pitch him and what he can do with those pitches will bring back his earlier form.

Hays believes he was “just missing too many good pitches to hit” early in the count, putting him in two-strike situations more often and taking away some opportunities to be more aggressive.

He doesn’t believe there’s been a material change to his game. He doesn’t go back to anything mechanical when he’s looking to reclaim his 2017 stroke, but keeps going back to the confidence he carried with him all through one of the best seasons anyone in the minors put together.

“You work every day and put all the reps in to have the feeling like I did last year,” Hays said. “Last year, I had that feeling the whole year. It never really went [away] longer than a day or two, or lasted a week, or anything like that.

“Getting off to a cold start this year, it was a little bit different from last year because I never really had a stretch like that. Just learning how to deal with and how to come out of it, just like every player has to do at some point. It’s been a little bit different of a feeling, but I’m just trying to be the same guy.”

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Rebalance the scales: Rein in N.Y.'s prosecutors to prevent abuse

Rebalance the scales: Rein in N.Y.'s prosecutors to prevent abuse

One of the most notorious cases was Jabbar Collins, who in 1994 was falsely accused of killing a Brooklyn rabbi and had three witnesses testify against him. Over the course of 16 years in prison, Collins discovered that the witnesses against him been locked up for separate offenses, and prosecutors promised them deals if they would give false testimony. Neither judge nor jury was informed of these side deals at the time of trial.