The Astros announced that they have designated right-handers Paul Clemens and David Martinez for assignment in order to make room on their 40-man roster for September callups. Righties Jorge De Leon and Nick Tropeano each had their contracts selected, necessitating corresponding 40-man moves. Additionally, catcher Max Stassi, outfielder L.J. Hoes and shortsop Jonathan Villar have been recalled, while lefty Darin Downs has been activated from the DL and waiver claim Sam Deduno has been added to the active roster.
Clemens, 26, has mopped up 98 innings for the Astros over the past two seasons and posted a 5.51 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 36.9 percent ground-ball rate in the process. Though he posted strong numbers through Double-A in his minor league career, he stumbled at Triple-A and has recorded a combined 5.91 ERA in 182 2/3 innings over parts of four seasons at that level.
The 27-year-old Martinez has logged 18 1/3 innings with Houston over the past two seasons with a 6.38 ERA and a 12-to-5 K/BB ratio in that time. He, too, has struggled at Triple-A, posting a 6.03 ERA over his two seasons (94 innings) with Oklahoma City.
Tropeano is the most notable prospect of the bunch, ranking 13th among Astros prospects on the midseason list compiled by Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com. The 2011 fifth-round pick pitched to a 3.03 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 124 2/3 innings as a member of Triple-A Oklahoma City’s rotation this year. Callis and Mayo note that his low-90s fastball and changeup give him two above-average offerings, and his slider has the potential to be above-average as well. With the potential for three above-average offerings, Tropeano would seem to have a shot at being a rotation member in the future.
The Brewers announced that they have designated outfielder Caleb Gindl for assignment and released right-hander Hiram Burgos. These moves have helped clear room for infielders Matt Clark, Hector Gomez and Jason Rogers, who have been added to the roster as September callups.
Gindl received his second taste of Major League action this year, but he didn’t receive nearly the same playing time that he did last year when Ryan Braun was serving his suspension. Gindl slashed just .158/.304/.158 in 23 plate appearances — a far cry from the very respectable .242/.340/.439 triple-slash he posted last year with the Brewers. However, the 26-year-old’s struggles weren’t confined to the Majors, as he batted just .227/.310/.354 in 408 PA with Triple-A Nashville.
Burgos, 27, ranked as Milwaukee’s No. 12 prospect heading into the 2013 season (per Baseball America), but as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy points out (on Twitter), a shoulder injury has wrecked the last two seasons. Burgos posted a 6.44 ERA in the Majors last season and a 6.50 ERA at Triple-A this year as he battled through that injury, but prior to that he had totaled a 3.27 ERA in 77 Triple-A innings. Heading into this season, Burgos had a 3.64 ERA and a 427-to-137 K/BB ratio in 497 1/3 career minor league innings.
The Blue Jays announced a flurry of roster moves with rosters expanding for the month of September. Both Darin Mastroianni and Matt Hague have been designated for assignment, while right-hander Neil Wagner, who was designated yesterday, has been released. Additionally, Brett Lawrie has been transferred to the 60-day DL.
The 40-man moves create space for the selection of top prospect Dalton Pompey‘s contract, the selection of veteran George Kottaras‘ contract and the reinstatement of Brandon Morrow from the 60-day disabled list. Additionally, Toronto has activated Dan Johnson from the DL and recalled Ryan Goins, Anthony Gose, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and Daniel Norris from Triple-A.
Mastroianni, 29, hit .156/.156/.250 in 32 plate appearances with the Blue Jays after they claimed him on waivers from the Twins earlier this season. The Jays had lost Mastroianni to the Twins on waivers two years prior, and the speedster looked to have carved out a spot for himself in Minnesota as a fourth outfielder following a solid .252/.328/.350 batting line in 77 games. However, a series of ankle injuries kept Mastroianni off the field, and he’s yet to again show the respectable bat and plus speed that made him an asset in that 2012 season.
Hague, also 29, has posted strong Triple-A numbers this season between the Pirates and Blue Jays organizations. He’s totaled a .282/.371/.465 batting line with 15 homers in his fourth season at that level. Hague has never received an extended look in the Majors, though the first baseman does have 76 PA in the bigs. He’s hit just .222/.263/.250 in that limited chance, however.
Wagner underwent Tommy John surgery in August, which will likely sideline him for the majority of the 2015 season. He was a reasonably effective bullpen piece for the Jays in 2013, posting a 3.79 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 38 innings. Those numbers aren’t too dissimilar from his career marks at Triple-A, where he’s posted a 3.91 ERA with a superior 10.1 K/9 and a 3.3 BB/9 rate.
The Astros fired manager Bo Porter yesterday, and owner Jim Crane confirms to Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle that Porter and GM Jeff Luhnow weren’t seeing eye to eye. “[The GM and the manager] have to be closely aligned and singing the same song,” said Crane. “That wasn’t happening.” Crane acknowledged that Porter was put in a difficult situation and said he feels Porter “did a pretty good job with what we gave him” before voicing his support for Luhnow’s vision. Crane says that Nolan Ryan, Reid Ryan and Craig Biggio will all be involved in the search for the next Houston manager, and he wonders if the Astros would benefit from someone with more managerial experience.
Here’s more on Porter’s firing and the search for the next Astros skipper…
San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner was historically effective in August, joining Curt Schilling as one of two pitchers in the modern era to strike out 55 or more batters while walking three or fewer in a calendar month, per ESPN Stats & Info.
The lefty had a 1.57 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 4-1 record during his incredible August, which included a pair of complete-game shutouts and a 56-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio a for the month. He had a trio of double-digit strikeout performances among his six outings while recording a quality start each time out.
The 56 strikeouts were easily Bumgarner's personal best for a calendar month, surpassing the 48 he had in May of this year. With 199 for the season, he's already matched his career high set last year after consecutive seasons (2011 and 2012) with 191 punchouts.
Having narrowly missed 200 strikeouts in each of the last three years, Bumgarner is set to hit the mark this Saturday, when he'll face major league strikeout leader David Price and the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
Schilling posted an insane 62-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the Arizona Diamondbacks in May of 2002 on his way to finishing the year with 316 strikeouts. No pitcher has reached 300 strikeouts in a season since both Schilling and teammate Randy Johnson (334) did so that year.
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Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera hit a pair of home runs in Monday's 12-1 win over the Cleveland Indians to move into sole possession of fifth place in franchise history, per Lee Sinins of Complete Baseball Encyclopedia.
Cabrera, who previously hadn't homered since Aug. 2, hit a two-run shot in the first inning to match Cecil Fielder's 245 home runs with the Tigers, before passing Fielder with an opposite-field solo blast in the eighth. Both home runs barely cleared the fence, with the first a line drive to left field, while the second was a towering fly ball to right.
The two-time reigning AL MVP gingerly made his way around the bases throughout the game, as he's been dealing with an ankle injury for the last two weeks. After sitting out Sunday's series finale versus the Chicago White Sox, Cabrera finished the Labor Day victory with four hits, four runs and three RBI in five-at bats.
The first long ball ended a 27-game home run drought, the longest of Cabrera's career, per ESPN Stats & Info.
The second—No. 384 for his career—not only moved Cabrera past Fielder on the franchise list, but also moved the slugging Venezuelan past Larry Walker for 61st place on the all-time major-league list as per MLB's official website.
Though his 19 home runs this season fall far short of expectations, the 31-year-old Cabrera still looks like a near-lock to eventually join the 500-homer club, which currently has 26 members.
He hit 44 home runs in both 2012 and 2013, capping off a streak of seven consecutive 30-homer seasons that will likely end this year. Needing just 116 more to join the 500-homer club, Cabrera has hit 35 long balls per 162 games in his career, and has still never been placed on the disabled list.
He needs 154 more homers—which would give him 538 for his career—to pass Al Kaline (399) for first place on the Tigers' all-time list.
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October is about pitching.
It's about front-line starters like Jon Lester and Clayton Kershaw and airtight bullpens like those of the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners. Since teams are consistently facing off against the best pitching in baseball, October is also the time of year when lineups have to scratch out runs by any means necessary. Clubs have to be capable of scoring in a variety of ways, from clutch home runs to perfectly executed small ball.
What follows is a rundown of the six MLB teams who check all those boxes and are designed for deep playoff runs. The list includes three squads from the American League and three from the National League. The teams are ranked in order of how likely they are to actually pull off just such a run during the 2014 postseason.
After hitting a home run in each of the last five games, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista enters Tuesday's contest against the Tampa Bay Rays looking to match Jose Cruz Jr.'s franchise record of six consecutive games with a home run, per Complete Baseball Encyclopedia (via GammonsDaily.com).
Already just the second player in Jays history with a streak of five games or more, Bautista only has one non-homer hit—a single from last Tuesday's game against the Boston Red Sox—during his historic run. Having gone hitless in his four games prior to the streak, the slugging outfielder's hit total over the last nine contests consists of five home runs and just the one single.
Cruz Jr.'s streak came toward the end of the 2001 campaign when he homered in six consecutive games from Sep. 29 to Oct. 5. Unlike Bautista, Cruz Jr. added plenty of other hits during his streak, recording three doubles and three singles during the six-game stretch.
A talented player who never quite lived up to his top-prospect billing, Cruz Jr. set personal bests in home runs (34), RBI (88), runs (92), stolen bases (32), batting average (.272) and OPS (.856) that year.
Should Bautista extend his streak Tuesday night to match Cruz's, he'll sit just two games away from the all-time MLB record of eight straight games with a homer, set by Dale Long (1956), Don Mattingly (1987) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1993), per Baseball-Almanac.com.
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With only four weeks left until the much-anticipated month of October arrives, the Milwaukee Brewers have set themselves up for a chance at a run for the World Series, but it won't be easy getting there.
The Brewers have seemingly been on a mission to not just make the playoffs in 2014 but do so as the champions of the NL Central division. They've held atop the division for most of the 2014 season and until lately looked to be in firm control heading into the final stretch.
While the division begins to take shape for the final time this season, the Brewers find themselves one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals and two games ahead of the surging (6-4 in their last 10 games) Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, the Brewers have stumbled down the stretch and have lost six straight and eight of their last 10 games.
Historically, when the Brewers are in contention late in the season, general manager Doug Melvin has selling teams on speed dial and is looking to make a splash with All-Star additions like C.C. Sabathia and Zack Greinke. However, the Brewers' front office seemed content with the team's roster this year as the trade deadline came and went without any blockbuster deals (unlike some of the league-altering transactions by Oakland, Detroit, and division-foe St. Louis).
Following this year's deadline, Brewers fans seemingly couldn't argue with Melvin's decision to pass on the trade market's available starting pitchers. The Brewers won 11 of their next 17 games following the deadline and did so against some of the game's best in Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.
A potentially devastating injury to starting pitcher Matt Garza put a strain on the pitching staff and created a more dire need for productive plate appearances by the Brewers' hot-and-cold offense. One bright spot to the injury bug plaguing the Brewers' starting pitchers was the stellar step-in performance by Mike Fiers (4-2) and the flashes of potential displayed by Jimmy Nelson.
Fiers is already drawing praise from his teammates.
"It has been incredibly impressive," outfielder Ryan Braun told The Associated Press (via USA Today) regarding Fiers performance this year. "I don't think anybody foresaw him coming up and being the best pitcher in baseball the last four starts."
It's likely that Broxton's role will be to set up for Francisco Rodriguez initially, though it's feasible Broxton will take over at closer at some point. K-Rod has allowed runs in three of his last four outings and sports a 4.86 ERA in his last 18 outings. Of course, Broxton's ERA in August is 5.23, so it's not like either one is hot right now.
With the return of Matt Garza this Wednesday, a talented and reinforced bullpen, consistent offense, and a little luck, the Brewers are definitely worth the price of admission this month as they look to win their second division title in the last four years.
So as September begins, the Brewers will look to hold off the veteran Cardinals and surging Pirates to ensure their place in the hunt for the NL title. With 10 of the Brewers' final 26 games against the Cardinals and Pirates (a key matchup begins Thursday with a four-game series against St. Louis), their fate lies within their own hands.
Win those divisional games, win the division. Win the division, all bets are off.
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