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Playoffs get wild with wild pitches

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Playoffs get wild with wild pitches

These playoffs sure are getting wild.

With wild pitches, that is.

By the bay in San Francisco to Motown's Comerica Park and Busch Stadium in the Midwest, pitchers are flinging balls to the backstop with a regularity rarely seen in October.

Jitters? Adrenalin? Just plain overthrowing? It's something, all right.

``Perhaps some of the guys might be trying too hard and they're bouncing the balls way in front of the plate,'' Reds manager Dusty Baker said. ``The ones I've seen didn't give the catchers much chance to catch it. I just hope we don't have any.''

Actually, all the wildness got the Reds coaches chatting about it on the way to AT&T Park for Sunday's Game 2 against the Giants.

Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman threw a pair of wild pitches Saturday night, including one that scored a run in his team's 5-2 victory in the playoff opener at San Francisco.

There were two more in the eighth inning at Detroit on Sunday that brought home runs - one for each team in the Tigers' 5-4 win against the Oakland Athletics. That's the first time in postseason history in which both teams scored a tying run on a wild pitch in the same inning, according to STATS LLC.

``Man, that Oakland game was wild, wasn't it?'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy offered without prompting. ``It's a little different time. Pitchers are trying to put a little bit more on it, trying to make that great pitch.''

Then, Washington Nationals 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez had one of his own. The wild pitch scored a run after Gonzalez walked four of the first five batters in a 3-2 Game 1 win against the defending World Series champion Cardinals in St. Louis.

``If you see that, you have to be ready on the bases,'' San Francisco switch-hitter Pablo Sandoval said. ``All the teams have been doing that. A situation like this, you have the pressure on you to try to do too much. That's the situation with the pitchers. They try too much and that's the time they throw wild.''

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FADING MEMORY: Andy Pettitte was in his second season in the majors when the New York Yankees last faced the Baltimore Orioles in the playoffs, so forgive the left-hander if his memory of the 1996 AL championship series is a little fuzzy.

``I remember it was a good series. I believe I had the opportunity to pitch,'' Pettitte said Sunday, hours before the Yankees were to open their AL division series against Baltimore. ``It helped us get to the World Series, that's something I remember.''

Other than that, not much.

``It was a long time ago,'' he said. ``I'm trying real hard right now but it's as good as I can get. I may be wrong, but I believe I was able to pitch here in Baltimore.''

Not only did Pettitte pitch, but he won the clincher. He also started Game 1, although fan Jeffrey Maier's performance was arguably more memorable.

Pettitte is scheduled to start Game 2 of the ALDS on Monday. He will take 42 games of postseason experience to the mound, along with a 19-10 record and a 3.83 ERA.

It's been a crazy year for Pettitte, who came out of retirement to pitch in May and then missed three months with a broken lower left leg. Now here he is, pitching in the playoffs again.

``A lot of ups and downs. A rollercoaster for sure,'' he said. ``When I came back this is what I was hoping to get the opportunity to do. All in all, it's been a good year so far.''

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PROBABLY PITCHING: When the Oakland-Detroit series shifts from the Motor City to the Bay Area for Game 3 on Tuesday night, the A's are hopeful left-hander Brett Anderson will be ready to make his first start since getting hurt Sept. 19 against the Tigers.

After missing the last couple weeks of the regular season with a strained right oblique, the A's put Anderson on their postseason roster. He was 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA in a season limited to six starts by elbow surgery and the side strain.

A's manager Bob Melvin said Anderson feels good, but he wants to wait until Monday to announce whether he'll start the next night.

``Whether we win, lose or draw (Game 2) we'd like to pitch him sooner than later,'' Melvin said before the A's lost 5-4 to the Tigers and trail 2-0. ``Probably not going to draw, though, right?''

The Tigers will send right-hander Anibal Sanchez to the mound in Game 3. Sanchez has been largely lackluster with the Tigers since they acquired him and second baseman Omar Infante from Miami in July for highly touted Jacob Turner and two minor leaguers.

Sanchez was 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA, including a loss in which he gave up five earned runs to Oakland on Sept. 20, but he has given up a total of one run in his last two starts.

``The stuff that he's been throwing out there the last couple of outings, definitely the guy I thought we got,'' Detroit catcher Gerald Laird said.

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WHO NEEDS LEFTIES?: Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is playing the NL division series with just one left-handed reliever.

Matheny, however, has reason to be confident in the late innings: his three righties.

Marc Rzepczynski is the lone left-hander in the St. Louis bullpen after the Cardinals opted not to include rookie Sam Freeman. Since acquiring Edward Mujica in a trade-deadline deal, he has generally handed the seventh inning, Mitchell Boggs the eighth and Jason Motte the ninth.

``We have been pretty consistent in our formula with seven, eight, nine, sticking with our three guys,'' Matheny said. ``And that's something that we'll most likely continue to do. We'll have the one lefty to pick a spot, whether to get one of those three out of trouble, or if need be, before that.''

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Without Tanner Roark, where do the Nationals go from here?

Without Tanner Roark, where do the Nationals go from here?

Strange thing about the Winter Meetings. They were held in Las Vegas, that vibrant, salacious desert city, and delivered the fervor of a yawn.

The Red Sox held a press conference for a pitcher they already signed. The Hall of Fame announcement led to more grumbling than celebration, with poor Harold Baines caught in the middle just trying to enjoy his moment. Scott Boras’ day in front of the Christmas tree stirred everyone until they read through what he said. Lots of words, little substance, next to no news.

One Nationals executive lamented spending 14 hours in a suite without accomplishing anything. That about sums it up.

So, where to now? The Nationals created a gap by sending out Tanner Roark on the final day of the meetings. The move was, and remains, strange. A key decision-maker for the Nationals noted acquired Triple-A reliever Tanner Rainey throws 100 mph. What he doesn’t do is make up 180 major-league innings next season. That person, or persons, remains out there somewhere.

And the replacement is going to cost more than the Nationals should pay based on what the market has already delivered. In particular, the three-year, $30 million deal Texas gave Lance Lynn is problematic for the Nationals. Lynn was bad last season. Very bad. A 4.77 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 156 ⅔ innings. That earned him $30 million. He was better in 2017 following a return from Tommy John surgery. Combine the seasons for a 4.04 ERA. That’s superior to Roark during the span (4.50) but also requires a three-year commitment to an aging and declining pitcher.

Other aging and declining pitchers are going to want similar contracts. No quality organization wants to give them.

Which, again, makes jettisoning Roark odd. Maybe the Nationals find another starter on a two-year, $15 million deal. That would be optimum. A slight savings, modest commitment, a chance for improvement over Roark’s 97 ERA-plus the last two seasons. This has to be the premise inside their room: We can do slightly better for slightly less while also acquiring a future reliever. It’s a swing to have it all in this spot.

Meanwhile, the Nationals are sifting through the second base market. Several everyday players remain. That’s the good news. The challenge here is Washington will not want to sign one for longer than two years. Carter Kieboom is creeping toward the major leagues. No reason to pay an exorbitant price for the position he’s likely to grab when starting out at the highest level.

Two interesting points on the market have already hit: Ian Kinsler’s two-year, $8 million deal with the adrift San Diego Padres, and Jonathan Schoop’s one-year, $7.5 million contract with the Minnesota Twins. Schoop has power and is an above average defender. He’s also the kind of emphatic swinger the Nationals are trying to move away from. Kinsler is going into his age-37 season. His 2.4 WAR from last year — largely based on his quality defense — is solid. His 87 OPS-plus, not so much. And two years is one too many.

But, they give a sense of where price points for second baseman exist. If Kinsler is going to receive two years, DJ LeMahieu probably wants four. If Schoop receives $7.5 million, LeMahieu can expect $10 million per season. Those numbers push him out of the Nationals’ preferred range.

Jed Lowrie turns 35 next April. He’s a top-5 defender, according to Fangraphs, and walks often.  Would his back-to-back seasons of above-.800 OPS be enough for the Nationals to give him two years and $20 million? Do they need to wait for the rotation piece in order to see what spending wiggle room remains? Roark was expected to make around $10 million following arbitration. If that cost is pushed down to $7 million, is the difference available for a second baseman?

Otherwise, the Nationals may as well stick with the proposed Wilmer Difo-Howie Kendrick platoon at second. The external options are too thin. Kieboom, a deadline trade or a waiver claim could help fix things midseason, if necessary.

So, think of the Nationals’ remaining list as filled with a must, a maybe and a look. The must is finding another starter. The maybe is a second baseman. The look is into the left-handed reliever market. Not much was done in Vegas. Certain things have to be done before West Palm Beach.

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Nationals set to bring back Matt Adams

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USA TODAY Sports

Nationals set to bring back Matt Adams

The Nationals just checked another box.

They have reached an agreement to bring back first baseman Matt Adams, pending a physical, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

The deal is for one year with a mutual option in 2020.

Adams flourished last season with the Nationals when he delivered an .842 OPS with an 118 OPS-plus in 306 at-bats as a part-time player. He was crucial since Ryan Zimmerman spent the middle of the season on the disabled list.

The Nationals later flipped Adams to the St. Louis Cardinals for “cash considerations”, which made him little more than a waiver claim for St. Louis. The Nationals just saved the remainder he was owed on his contract following the Aug. 21 transaction.

Adams, a quiet professional, fit well in the clubhouse. One on-field tear earned him a T-shirt homage to his nickname: “Big City doing Big City things” that several of his teammates wore pregame.

His role will be the same as last season: insurance for Zimmerman, as well as a power left-handed bat off the bench who will receive the occasional start if Zimmerman is healthy.

Adams’ return also enables the Nationals to shop for a true second baseman as opposed to a hybrid player like Marwin Gonzalez. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has continually moved the needle from standing pat to hunting for a starting second baseman. For now, a platoon of Wilmer Difo and Howie Kendrick is in place.

The Nationals' largest gap remains in the rotation following the trade of Tanner Roark. They need to find 180 innings in a thin free agent pitching market to replace Roark’s production from the last three seasons.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported the agreement with Adams.

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