D.J. Short

Baseball Daily Dose

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Postseason Dose: Mighty Altuve

Friday, October 6, 2017


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With Chris Sale and Justin Verlander on the mound Thursday, it appeared that we were poised for our first pitchers’ duel of this still-young postseason. Perhaps we should have known better. AL MVP hopeful Jose Altuve instead played a starring role by slugging three solo homers as the Astros defeated the Red Sox 8-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

In his first ever postseason start, Sale ended up being charged with seven runs over five-plus innings. He gave up back-to-back homers to Alex Bregman and Altuve in the bottom of the first inning to put himself in an early hole. The Red Sox tied things up in the fourth inning against Verlander, but Marwin Gonzalez put the Astros right back on top with a two-run double in the bottom-half of the frame. They wouldn’t look back. Altuve took Sale deep again in the fifth and later homered off Austin Maddox in the seventh. He earned a curtain call for the accomplishment and was showered with “MVP” chants throughout.

Altuve is the ninth player in history to hit three homers in a postseason game. It has actually happened 10 times before, but Babe Ruth did it twice. Altuve is the first player to pull off the feat since Pablo Sandoval did it against the Tigers in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series.

For Sale, the start was the continuation of a troubling trend. The southpaw gave up nine home runs in September, including a four-homer game and a three-homer game. Yes, this is the “Year of the Home Run,” but is it possible he’s running out of gas?

Verlander went six innings in the victory. He wasn’t overly dominant, striking out three batters while inducing only six swinging strikes in his 99 pitches, but he managed to avoid the big inning. He remains undefeated since coming over to the Astros.

The Red Sox won’t have long to dwell on the loss, as Game 2 will kick off a busy day of baseball on Friday. Drew Pomeranz will try to even things up for Boston while Dallas Keuchel will start for Houston.

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Bauer Brilliant

When Indians manager Terry Francona announced his rotation for the ALDS, many scratched their heads at his decision to go with Trevor Bauer in Game 1 and staff ace Corey Kluber in Game 2, but he’s looking pretty smart right about now. Coming off a brilliant second half, Bauer held the powerful Yankees lineup in check Thursday evening by tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the Indians won 4-0 in Game 1 in Cleveland.

Bauer held the Yankees hitless until Aaron Hicks doubled with one out in the sixth inning. It was the longest no-hit bid in Indians playoff history. He wouldn’t have gotten as far as he did without a brilliant diving catch from center fielder Jason Kipnis (yes, center fielder Jason Kipnis) in the second inning. Bauer finished with two hits allowed while striking out eight and walking just one. It was a far cry from a year ago, when the talk was more about a finger injury caused by his drone.

Midseason acquisition Jay Bruce did most of the heavy lifting for the Indians’ offense, doubling and scoring in the second inning before slugging a two-run homer in the fourth. He added a sacrifice fly in the fifth. The Indians’ Twitter account was happy to take a dig at the Yankees in the process by saying, “Jay Bruce is on our team because our owner wrote a check that competitors for Jay wouldn’t.” For context, Bruce was linked to the Yankees at one point earlier this summer, but they reportedly wanted the Mets to pay some of his remaining salary to get a deal done. The Indians were willing to pay the whole thing.

Sonny Gray lasted just 3 1/3 innings for the Yankees while giving up three runs on three hits and four walks. After a big showing in the AL Wild Card game against the Twins, Aaron Judge walked away with the dreaded Golden Sombrero after going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. The Yankees struck out 14 times on the night, with Indians relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen picking up three apiece.

The Indians will have a chance to take a commanding lead in the series when they send Kluber to the hill for Game 2 on Friday. CC Sabathia will start for New York.

Nunez Down and Out

Eduardo Nunez played in just one game over the final three weeks of the regular season due to a nagging PCL injury in his right knee, but not only was he on the Red Sox roster for the ALDS against the Astros, he hit second in Game 1 on Thursday. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

Nunez aggravated his knee injury trying to run out a ground ball in the top of the first inning. He had to be literally carried off the field by Red Sox manager John Farrell and a trainer. He’s officially off the ALDS roster as a result, with outfielder Chris Young taking his place. More should be known about the outlook for Nunez after he goes for an MRI this weekend, but he’s now ineligible to return unless the Red Sox reach the World Series.

Thanks to a monster finish with the Red Sox after coming over from the Giants, Nunez posted a career-high .801 OPS (110 OPS+) this season while batting .313/.341/.460 with 12 homers, 58 RBI, and 24 steals. He was probably looking at a nice payday as a free agent this winter, but a severe injury could impact that. It’s certainly fair to question whether the Red Sox rushed him back, but Farrell said after the game that he had “no regrets” with the situation.

Quick Hits: Max Scherzer (hamstring) skipped a bullpen session Thursday and will be held back until Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cubs. That means that Stephen Strasburg will start Game 1 on Friday, followed by Gio Gonzalez in Game 2 … Taijuan Walker will start Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers on Friday … Alex Wood is lined up to start Game 4 of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks … According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Giants, Cardinals, and Phillies were the “most aggressive” pursuers for Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton this summer … Doug Fister will start Game 3 of the ALDS against the Astros … The Dodgers are leaving Hyun-Jin Ryu off their NLDS roster … Brian Goodwin (groin) will likely be on the Nationals’ roster for the NLDS … Collin McHugh was left off the Astros ‘ roster for the ALDS … David Wright underwent a laminotomy procedure on his lower back Thursday, but remains determined to continue his playing career … Charley Walters of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Paul Molitor is expected to return as Twins manager in 2018 … Kennys Vargas told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press that he’s open to playing in Japan or Korea next season…



D.J. Short is a Rotoworld senior baseball writer and hosts the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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