Carlos Gomez could have let his bat do the talking. But that’s not his style.
Houston’s wild stallion of a center fielder went rogue again Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. After a sixth-inning fly-out that Gomez didn’t much care for, New York’s bench voiced its disapproval. Clearly Gomez’s antics struck a nerve with the Yankees, who were trailing 9-0 at the time. Gomez directed an audible “shut up” toward the dugout, which seemed to provoke catcher John Ryan Murphy. Luis Valbuena restrained Gomez while the benches cleared.
Not much came of the disturbance, except that it riled up Gomez enough to homer in his next at-bat. The 413-foot blast put the Astros ahead 15-1, the score they would eventually win by. It was the Astros’ most lopsided victory since 2010 when they beat the Cardinals 18-4. Houston’s next win will be its 71st of the year. That’s more than they had all last season.
Descriptions like “feisty” and “passionate” are too diplomatic for Gomez. “Loose cannon” and “head case” are closer to the real thing, though the Astros don’t mind the crazy as long as it helps them win ball games. Maybe Gomez should embrace his inner psycho. Before Tuesday, he was hitting just .181 in 83 at-bats since the Brewers shipped him out of town. Tuesday, he went 2-for-6 with four RBI, the same number he had in his previous 23 contests.
For the rest of the AL’s sake, let’s hope the Yankees didn’t wake a sleeping giant. Gomez appeared in two straight All-Star Games before missing out this year and has four seasons of 30-plus steals on his resume. Gomez is also one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball as evidenced by his two Gold Glove awards.
The Astros are getting George Springer (broken wrist) back soon but that won’t impact Gomez. Springer will return to right field while the trio of Colby Rasmus, Evan Gattis and Jake Marisnick will platoon in left.
Cy Young candidate Dallas Keuchel spanned seven shutout innings for his 15th win of the year. The left-hander leads the American League in victories and is second to Sonny Gray in WHIP (1.00) and ERA (2.12). A ground-ball pitcher by trade, Keuchel ranks a surprising sixth in the league in strikeouts with 165. Of course, that’s largely a product of his massive workload. Among AL starters, only Corey Kluber has thrown more innings this year.
New York’s loss allowed Toronto to take over first place in the AL East, but at least Brendan Ryan had an eventful night. The Yankees second baseman appeared in right field for the first time since 2008. Later he showed off his pitching chops by delivering two scoreless frames. Twenty of his 28 pitches went for strikes as Ryan’s fastball topped out at 86 mph. Unfortunately, Ryan shaved his famous mustache, rendering his pitching debut slightly less awesome than it would have been.
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Hanley Moving to First Base
There was a time, believe it or not, when the Red Sox were on the cutting edge. They were one of the first adopters of the sabermetrics movement in the early 2000s, which was about the same time they discovered front office prodigy Theo Epstein.
Back then they were ahead of the curve. Now they’re trying not to get left behind.
Boston’s handling of Hanley Ramirez shows just how far the mighty Red Sox have fallen. It took them nearly five months to realize what most of us knew after only a few games: Ramirez can’t play left field. Well, technically he CAN. The Red Sox have allowed him to do so all year. He’s just not very good at it.
The Red Sox announced that Ramirez will move to first base next season, if not sooner. Ramirez seemed almost relieved. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
It’s crazy to think Manny Ramirez, a home-run hitting toddler with the attention span of a goldfish, played eight years of left field at Fenway and Hanley couldn’t make it through one. Ramirez (Hanley, not Manny) only has four errors this year but that doesn’t tell the whole story. UZR (ultimate zone rating) is a much better evaluator because it factors in range, arm strength and double plays. By that measure, Hanley is dead last out of 58 qualified outfielders.
Ramirez’s hair game has been on point (his sweet dreadlocks rival Johnny Cueto for the best in baseball) but that’s been about the only thing going for him. He’s even struggled offensively, hitting .190 with 20 strikeouts in 105 at-bats since the All-Star break. He hasn’t homered since July 11 against the Yankees.
The Red Sox would probably love to get Ramirez off their payroll, but with an annual salary north of $20 million, it’s going to be tough to move him. First base has been up for grabs since Mike Napoli left, though rookie Travis Shaw has done a solid job filling in over the last month (.338, 6 HR, 14 RBI in 74 at-bats). Utility man Brock Holt might see time there when Dustin Pedroia returns from his hamstring injury.
Ramirez’s transition to first, whether it happens this year or next, is by no means a permanent move. He’ll move to DH as soon as David Ortiz retires, which will probably be after the 2016 season. That’s the last year of his contract and at this point, Ortiz is really just sticking around to get his 500th home run. Pablo Sandoval is built like a first baseman and will probably end up there when Ramirez moves to DH. Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada might be ready to take over third by that point.
In the short term, moving Ramirez to first would allow Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo to become everyday players. Both have been sensational in the second half (.311, 4 HR, 21 RBI for Bradley, .374, 4 HR, 19 RBI for Castillo) and are huge upgrades defensively over Ramirez.
Hanley’s defensive struggles have obviously been weighing on him. Perhaps a move to first would give him some peace of mind and help restore his bat, which seems to have gone silent. The last-place Red Sox could certainly use a lift.
American League Quick Hits: Rangers 2B Rougned Odor left Tuesday’s game with a right finger injury but his X-rays came back negative. He’s day-to-day … Yu Darvish logged 25 throws from 60 feet on Monday and will do the same on Wednesday and Friday. He’s five months removed from Tommy John surgery … Rookie Trayce Thompson plated three runs in Tuesday’s win over Boston. The younger brother of basketball star Klay Thompson has hit a remarkable .522 since his call-up on August 3 … Baltimore’s current six-game losing streak is its longest since September 2013. They trail Texas by two and a half games for the final Wild Card spot … Michael Brantley bopped two round-trippers in Cleveland’s win over Milwaukee. It was his third career multi-homer game … The Indians placed Carlos Carrasco on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Cody Anderson will start in his place on Wednesday … Devon Travis received a cortisone shot in his left shoulder on Tuesday. He’s not close to returning from the disabled list … Another day, another homer for Miguel Sano. According to ESPN Stats and Information, he’s the first player 22 or younger to hit 12 home runs in his first 45 games since Adam Dunn in 2001 … Kendrys Morales melted the space-time continuum with a 472-foot blast on Tuesday. It was the longest home run by a Kansas City hitter this year and the eighth longest in MLB … Red Sox games won’t be the same without play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo next year. NESN has decided not to renew his contract. I figured the Orsillo news would be a good excuse to show this clip (spoiler: pizza is thrown).
National League Quick Hits: Dee Gordon, who isn’t slow, tied a career-high with four stolen bases Tuesday against the Pirates … Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton is hoping to return in about 10 days. The three-time All-Star hasn’t played since breaking his hand on June 26 … Ichiro Suzuki logged his 10,000th plate appearance on Tuesday. That’s third most among active players behind Alex Rodriguez and Adrian Beltre … Christian Yelich went 2-for-4 with a double in his return from the disabled list. He missed the minimum 15 days with a right knee contusion … Denard Span (back) also came off the DL on Tuesday. Right-hander Tanner Roark was optioned to High-A Potomac in the corresponding roster move … Ryan Zimmerman clubbed a grand slam in Tuesday’s win over the Padres. It was the fifth of his career and his first since July 7, 2013 … Jedd Gyorko homered twice in Tuesday’s loss to Washington. He’s already gone deep seven times since the All-Star break … The Dodgers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over Cincinnati. Justin Turner and Jimmy Rollins both homered … Howie Kendrick is close to beginning a rehab assignment. He’s been out with a strained hamstring since August 9 … Yasmani Grandal sat out Tuesday with a sore left shoulder. He won’t be available for Wednesday’s game … The Cubs have gone 21-4 over their last 25 games. That’s their best stretch since 1938 … Jake Arrieta threw another quality start on Tuesday (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 8 Ks, 1 BB). That’s 13 in a row for the right-hander … Emilio Bonifacio agreed to a minor-league deal with the Cubs. The White Sox cut him last week … The Mets have homered 39 times in August. The team record for home runs in a single month is 40 set in June 2006 … Yoenis Cespedes belted his seventh home run in 22 games since his trade to New York. He’s one homer away from tying his career-high of 26 … Juan Uribe took some grounders at first base on Tuesday. If he plays there, it could open up time for David Wright at third base.