Through his first five starts of the 2019 season, Mike Minor had been mighty impressive, compiling a 3.21 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 26/11 K/BB ratio across 33 ⅔ innings. That included his first ever complete game shutout -- a seven strikeout, three-hit gem against the Angels on April 17.
After that start, there were rumblings that the Phillies and Mets had expressed strong interest in acquiring the 31-year-old southpaw, who has about $18.5 million remaining on his contract through the 2020 season.
If there was serious interest before Saturday, those teams are going to need to up the ante after Saturday’s dazzling performance.
Minor racked up a career-high 13 strikeouts in a victory over the Mariners, allowing just one run on three hits and a walk. It also matched the Rangers’ club record for a left-handed pitcher, done by Jamie Moyer in 1989 and matched by Cliff Lee in 2010.
Minor admitted to reporters after the game that though he was in command throughout the evening, he didn’t even feel like he had his best stuff out there, “I knew tonight I was in control of it. I felt a lot of the counts were 0-2, 1-2. I was getting ahead of them. I didn’t feel I had great stuff, overpowering stuff, but I was putting the ball where I wanted it.”.
Adding in Saturday’s brilliance, Minor now sits at 3-2 with a scintillating 2.88 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 39/12 K/BB ratio over 40 ⅔ innings.
Despite their .500 record through 26 games, the Rangers are not expected to compete for a playoff spot in the American League West. They’d be best served speeding up their rebuild process by flipping Minor for the best prospects that they are able to acquire. If he continues pitching like he did on Saturday, he’s only going to drive that price up higher.
Not Just Home Cooking
For years, we have heard the stories about how the stats of all Rockies’ hitters need to be viewed with a questionable eye, as playing their home games at Coors Field gives such a massive boost to their overall numbers.
That stigma has cost several Rockies’ hitters, including Nolan Arenado, the chance of being named National League MVP. In fact, the superstar third baseman has never finished higher than third in the balloting.
What he is currently doing on the road should at least be able to silence some of the doubters. On Saturday, Arenado crushed a solo homer off of Mike Foltynewicz in the second inning, setting a Rockies’ franchise record by homering in his fifth straight road game. In fact, only one of Arenado’s six home runs so far this season has come at Coors Field.
For the season, the superstar third baseman is hitting .292/.336/.538 with six long balls and 20 RBI. If he continues to mash like this on the road though, he’s going to keep his name squarely in the discussion for MVP award honors at season’s end.
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The Phillies welcomed Jean Segura back from the injured list on Saturday, after the dynamic shortstop had missed nearly two weeks of action with a left hamstring strain.
In just his second at-bat since returning, Segura was drilled in the helmet by a 90 mph fastball thrown by Trevor Richards. He remained on the ground for a while after the scary incident, but was ultimately able to walk off the field under his own power.
Segura is a critical bat atop the Phillies lineup and is off to a terrific start this season, slashing .324/.387/.471 with a homer, 10 RBI and one stolen base in his first 17 games. The Phillies went just 4-6 in the 10 games while he was on the shelf.
Fortunately, Phillies’ skipper Gabe Kapler gave a good word on his status after the game, indicating that Segura did not have a concussion. There’s a chance that he may receive a day off on Sunday as a precautionary measure, but it appears initially as though Segura will be able to avoid a quick return to the injured list.
Is there a shake-up happening in the closer’s role in Tampa Bay that we should be paying attention to? The way Saturday’s game against the Red Sox played out, that could be the case.
Rays’ closer Jose Alvarado has been exceptional this season, though he has been forced to log a heavy workload through the first month of the season. While he was unavailable earlier in the week, right-hander Emilio Pagan recorded a pair of saves in his stead.
No one really thought anything of it at the time, as another bullpen arm picking up a couple of saves while their closer was resting didn’t seem like a big deal -- and certainly not an indicator of a change in role.
On Saturday however, the narrative seemed to change. The Rays entered the eighth inning with a 2-0 advantage over the Red Sox, when Rays’ manager Kevin Cash turned to Diego Castillo. It’s certainly possible that his plan was to have Castillo work the eighth inning and then give Alvarado the ball in the ninth as has become the norm.
Castillo struggled though, surrendering a leadoff homer to Mookie Betts and a one-out walk to Xander Bogaerts. He was then yanked -- after throwing only eight pitches -- in favor of Alvarado. Now again, it’s very possible that the plan here was for Alvarado to get the final five outs of the game, but he needed 21 pitches to escape a bases-loaded jam and get the final two outs of the inning.
So when it came to the ninth, it was Pagan who again got the baseball in search of his third save of the week. The 27-year-old right-hander obliged, working a scoreless ninth inning that included a pair of strikeouts. He has been outstanding this season, compiling a 1.29 ERA, 0.29 WHIP and 8/1 K/BB ratio through his first seven innings. Alvarado and Castillo have both been terrific as well though.
What we need to decipher here, is whether or not Pagan is going to continue to see the bulk of the save chances. Perhaps Cash prefers to have the left-handed Alvarado available for the highest leverage situations in the game, whether that occurs in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings, and is completely comfortable with Pagan closing it out in the ninth. Or it could just be a matter of circumstance in three different games this week.
For those speculating on saves, Pagan is certainly going to attract a ton of attention in free agent bidding on Sunday. Hopefully the Rays have another save chance arise before then to give more clarity to the situation.
American League Quick Hits: J.D. Martinez was a late scratch from the Red Sox’ lineup on Saturday due to back spasms. He’s considered day-to-day, but remains questionable for Sunday. … Willians Astudillo was removed from Saturday’s game -- and subsequently placed on the 10-day injured list -- with a left hamstring strain. … Trey Mancini is considered day-to-day after X-rays came back negative on his right index finger on Saturday. … The Blue Jays signed speedster Ben Revere to a minor league contract. … Billy Hamilton was forced to leave Saturday’s game against the Angels due to hamstring tightness. … Jose Berrios picked up his fourth victory, striking out eight over six innings of two-run ball against the Orioles. … Max Kepler slugged a pair of homers to pace the Twins in that one. … Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 1-for-4 with a walk in Saturday’s victory over the Athletics, hitting out of the cleanup spot in the Blue Jays’ lineup. … J.A. Happ scattered five hits over seven shutout frames in a victory over the Giants. … Gary Sanchez blasted a grand slam to lead the Bombers’ attack. … Yandy Diaz blasted a leadoff home run -- his seventh overall on the season -- leading the Rays past the Red Sox. … Charlie Morton struck out five over six shutout innings in that one… Shane Bieber struck out nine in a no-decision against the Astros. … Tony Kemp walloped a pinch-hit, walk-off homer to win it for the Astros in the 10th inning. … Brad Peacock punched out seven over six innings of one-run baseball in a tough-luck no-decision there. … Hunter Dozier went 4-for-5 with a pair of triples and four RBI as the Royals trounced the Angels. … Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor each blasted three-run homers as the Rangers demolished the Mariners.
National League Quick Hits: Alex Wood (back) felt discomfort after throwing a bullpen session last week and will be re-examined by doctors next week. … The Brewers officially signed Gio Gonzalez to a one-year, $2 million contract. He’ll make his first start for the Brewers on Sunday against the Mets. … Chris Archer landed on the 10-day injured list with inflammation in his right thumb. He’s only expected to miss one turn through the rotation. … Corey Dickerson suffered a setback in his recovery from a right posterior shoulder strain after he felt renewed tightness on Saturday after throwing from 110 feet. … Marcell Ozuna homered and drove in five runs on Saturday, leading the Cardinals past the Reds. … Yangervis Solarte clubbed his first home run of the season -- a three-run shot in the ninth -- in a losing effort against the Yankees. … Stephen Strasburg fanned nine over seven innings of two-run ball in a no-decision against the Padres. … Rhys Hoskins slugged his eighth home run as the Phillies held on to beat the Marlins. … Charlie Blackmon delivered a go-ahead two-run double in the ninth inning as the Rockies rallied to beat the Braves. … Daniel Murphy slugged his first home run in that victory. … Noah Syndergaard allowed five runs on 10 hits over five innings against the Brewers and now owns a miserable 6.35 ERA through his first six starts. … David Bote homered twice and drove in five runs, leading the Cubs in a rout over the Diamondbacks. … Christian Yelich blasted his league-leading 14th home run and swiped a base as the Brewers topped the Mets. … Pete Alonso clubbed a three-run homer -- his ninth of the season -- in a losing effort there… Yu Darvish notched eight strikeouts over six innings of one-run ball in a win over the Diamondbacks. … Joc Pederson came through with a go-ahead two-run triple in the seventh inning, propelling the Dodgers to victory over the Pirates. … Clayton Kershaw earned his first victory of the 2019 season, striking out eight over seven innings of one-run baseball against the Pirates.