Three up, three down: Old rotation has propelled A’s to verge of playoffs
A look at who’s hot and who’s not in MLB this week:
Winning brew: In an era where teams are more than happy to ride a bullpen to October success, the Milwaukee Brewers could enjoy a long postseason ride. The Brewers might be obscured by the Chicago Cubs, but Milwaukee has the second-best record in the National League. The outfielders the Brewers acquired last winter, Lorenzo Cain and L.A. native Christian Yelich, rank as the top two position players in the league. Yelich might be the NL MVP, and he and infielders Jesus Aguilar and Travis Shaw have 30 home runs apiece. The Brewers lead the majors with a 2.48 earned-run average in September. And, while every other NL contender sweats its bullpen, the Brewers have gotten a combined 24 2/3 scoreless innings this month from closer Corey Knebel and setup men Xavier Cedeno and Jeremy Jeffress. They also have Josh Hader, who has faced 35 batters this month and struck out 23.
Old people: Edwin Jackson was 19 when he made his major league debut for the Dodgers, beating Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. In the 15 years since then, Jackson has played for 13 teams, with one All-Star appearance (2009 Detroit Tigers) and one World Series title (2011 St. Louis Cardinals). When the Oakland Athletics threw as many old darts as they could to see who could stick in their injury-ravaged rotation, surely they did not expect Jackson, Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill each to start 15 games and post an ERA under 4.00. All three did, and the A’s appear playoff-bound. Jackson, who started this season in the minor leagues and who turned 35 this month, has a 3.18 ERA. The only American League West starters with a lower ERA (minimum 80 innings) pitch for the Houston Astros: Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton.
Sons of old people: In Jackson’s 2003 debut game, ex-Dodger Raul Mondesi played right field for the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2015, his son Adalberto made his major league debut for the Kansas City Royals – in the World Series, so he won a championship ring before he played a regular-season game. It has taken three years for Adalberto to establish himself as a major leaguer, the same three years it took the Royals to move on from decent-field, no-hit shortstop Alcides Escobar. In three months as an everyday player, Adalberto is batting .285 with 11 home runs and 26 stolen bases. Good news: He has hit home runs more often than Cody Bellinger, Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols this season. Bad news: He went a month without a walk. Fantasy league news: He is one of five AL players with at least 10 homers and 25 steals.
Slow exit: Mike Scioscia fought the good fight for 18 years, refusing the disgrace or amusement of using a position player to pitch. In this 19th and final season as the Angels’ manager, he yielded to necessity, twice using backup catcher Francisco Arcia. On Thursday, with the countdown to Scioscia’s retirement nearing zero, the Angels suffered the most lopsided defeat in franchise history, a 21-3 loss to Oakland in which Arcia pitched two innings – more than five of the six pitchers that preceded him. The Angels could grin and bear it, as Arcia became the first player in major league history to pitch, catch and hit a home run in one game. Can’t imagine Scioscia found much humor in watching a catcher heaving breaking balls – we assume they were breaking balls – at 54 mph.
Fresno blues: Fresno has nice folks, a perfectly fine minor league ballpark, and the wildly popular days when the Grizzlies play as the Fresno Tacos, with a taco truck throwdown. “Tacos and baseball are who we are,” the team says. “Hence the slogan: We are what we eat.” But none of California’s major league teams wants to send their triple-A players to Fresno, and four would rather send them out of state: the Angels to Salt Lake City, the Dodgers to Oklahoma City, the A’s to Las Vegas, and the San Diego Padres to El Paso. The Houston Astros just fled Fresno, leaving the Grizzlies/Tacos to pair with the last major league team in need of a triple-A home: the Washington Nationals. Flight time between Washington and Fresno: six hours and 20 minutes. Flight time between Washington and San Jose: six hours and 30 minutes. That San Jose is the one in Costa Rica.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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