SAN DIEGO — The Mets’ Rene Rivera sent a shot up the middle, a certain two-run single that would close the gap with the Padres.But Allen Cordoba had other ideas and his diving stab help preserve a 6-3 win for the Padres on Wednesday night. “I saw the ball come off the bat and I just wanted to try and make the play and not let any runs score,” he said through a translator. Cordoba stretched to field the ball, bounced to his feet and fired to first to retire Rivera. “That was as big of a play as we have had all year,” Padres manager Andy Green said. They were other standouts as Luis Torrens had three RBI, Manuel Margot homered and Jhoulys Chacin was effective through 5 1/3 innings. But it was Cordoba’s web gem which was likely the difference. “That was a game-changing play,” cheap jerseys Green said. Torrens’ first career triple came with the bases loaded in the Padres’ four-run third inning. Margot’s first-inning homer set the tone as the Mets lost for just the second time in their last eight games. Chacin (10-7), who had lost five of six decisions to the Mets, flipped that script with a solid outing. He reached the double-digit victory mark for the first time since 2013 by allowing two runs and four hits. The right-hander walked three and struck out five in lifting his home mark to 6-2. Brad Hand worked the ninth, earning his fourth save and pushing his scoreless string to 17 1/3 innings. Steven Matz (2-4) lasted only three innings as he lost his third straight decision and extended his streak to five outings without a win. He surrendered six runs and nine hits, with four strikeouts. “If you don’t locate, you’re going to get knocked around in this league,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “You gotta get the ball off the middle of the plate.” In his last three starts Matz has pitched a total of nine innings, charged with 16 runs and 27 hits. “I don’t feel fatigued,” Matz said. “I feel good and healthy out there. There’s really no excuses to how I’m pitching.” Wilmer Flores’ homer in the eighth sliced the Mets’ deficit to 6-3. The Mets crawled within 6-2 in the sixth when Jose Reyes drew a bases-loaded walk after they chased Chacin. Rene Rivera followed with a sharp grounder up the middle, but shortstop Allen Cordoba made a diving stab and he was able to throw out Rivera to quell the rally. San Diego pulled away in the third inning. The big blow was Torrens’ triple, which was nearly a grand slam. The ball smacked the top of the right-center field wall, scoring all three baserunners. Before Torrens’ two-out, bases-clearing hit, Margot and Wil Myers’ delivered consecutive doubles, with Myers’ chasing in Margot after his second extra-base hit. Margot has five hits in the past two games and a team-high 23 multi-hit games. The Padres struck quickly when Margot stroked a two-run homer for a 2-0 lead. Margot’s first-inning homer, his sixth of the year, was hit 419 feet over the center-field fence. TRAINER’S ROOM Mets: Manager Terry Collins said INF Neil Walker (torn left hamstring) could rejoin the club for this weekend’s series in Seattle. When Walker returns, he could see time at third base. His 58 starts this year have been at second base.
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PHILADELPHIA — As Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow looks for ways to upgrade his pitching staff at Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline, he reminds himself daily that he is operating from a position of strength.“We’re not going to overpay dramatically, because we’re not in a situation where we have to,” Luhnow told ESPN at Citizens Bank Park. “We have a pretty good team, and if we can improve it without giving up too much of our future, we will.”
The Astros entered Wednesday’s series finale against the Phillies with a 67-33 record and a 17-game lead over the second-place Seattle Mariners in the American League West. They’ve been fueled by an offense that leads the majors in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, total bases and OPS. Houston’s pitching also has been effective, with a lot less national acclaim. The Astros rank first among the 30 MLB clubs with 1,018 strikeouts, and they’re second cheap mlb jerseys authentic in batting average against (.234) and ERA (3.98). Staff ace Dallas Keuchel will return from a neck injury on Friday and join Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers Jr. in the rotation for a three-game road series against the Detroit Tigers. Houston has been mentioned in speculation as a potential landing spot for Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray, the two most coveted starters available in advance of Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline. If the Astros add a starter, it most likely will be someone who is accomplished enough to slot in with Keuchel and McCullers at the beginning of a playoff series. Luhnow also has the postseason in mind as he scours the relief market. The Astros have been scouting Tigers left-hander Justin Wilson, San Diego Padres lefty Brad Hand and several other options. Houston manager A.J. Hinch has received a lot of mileage out of his middle- and back end-of-the-rotation starters. Mike Fiers went 6-3 with a 2.51 ERA over a span of 12 starts entering Wednesday’s outing against the Phillies. Brad Peacock has struck out 97 batters in 71⅓ innings as a starter and reliever. And Charlie Morton threw seven innings of three-hit, shutout ball in a 5-0 victory over the Phillies on Tuesday. One of those three pitchers will have to shift to the bullpen now that McHugh and Keuchel are back from the disabled list. Peacock, the most versatile member of the group, appears to be the leading candidate to pitch in relief. Luhnow made it clear the Astros are aiming high in their deadline discussions with teams. “I think if we are going to acquire a starting pitcher, that person is going to have to be a clear upgrade to the group [we have], and that’s a very small list of pitchers,” Luhnow said. “To a certain extent, that makes things a little bit easier. “Right now, the rotation is healthy. Whoever we get, we’re not acquiring them to help us win the division. We’re acquiring them to help us in the postseason. It’s a very advantageous position to be able to focus on that exclusively. That’s what we’re doing.”
A few weeks before the trade deadline a year ago, the Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman, a star reliever who would spend one-third of a regular season and one full postseason in Chicago before hitting free agency.Earlier this month, the Diamondbacks acquired J.D. Martinez, a star outfielder who will spend one-third of a regular season and (most likely) one full postseason in Arizona before hitting free agency. The way we ordinarily assess major leaguers — by their WAR, for instance, or their projected WAR or even by how much a major league team is willing to pay them to play baseball — Martinez and Chapman are comparable. Chapman signed an $86 million contract last offseason; Martinez looks poised to get roughly that much. They are of roughly equal value. This is truly basic analysis, but it’s basically true analysis. The Cubs gave up far, far more in trade to get Chapman than the Diamondbacks did to get Martinez. The Cubs gave up one of the 10 best prospects in baseball; the Diamondbacks gave up one of the 10 best prospects in the Diamondbacks system, perhaps. It follows, then, that either the Cubs got suckered or the Diamondbacks got a steal, and the Yankees were brilliant or the Tigers blew it. Maybe to all of that. I’m here to warn you against declaring suckers and bargains at the trade deadline. The trade deadline is a borderline irrational marketplace that defies the sort of precision analysis we typically apply to transactions. What makes the July market so bonkers? 1. Supply and demand fluctuate wildly from year to year — or even week to week. Unlike the offseason, when the vast majority of teams are trying to improve in a general and immediate sense, trade deadline teams’ incentives are narrowly tailored to the standings, and their rosters are largely already set. Meanwhile, there isn’t a batch of dozens of free agents to choose from; there is a small handful of players available from out-of-it teams. As Dave Cameron wrote for FanGraphs after the Martinez deal, this month there just weren’t any teams with a big enough need to bid against the Diamondbacks. You can basically go through every contender in baseball and not really find another team like the Diamondbacks. They’re the only team who had the obvious corner-outfield need and the incentive to upgrade for the rest of 2017. Other teams were probably interested, but likely not interested enough to really push that hard for Martinez. The other side of pricing is, of course, supply. And while there don’t seem to be that many teams buying corner-outfield rentals, there are a bunch of teams selling them.
Compare that to the 2014 trade deadline, when Boston was shopping Andrew Miller, who had recently broken out as a top setup man in his final season before free agency. There were no other premium relievers available on the market that week, and according to Boston GM Ben Cherington, every contender in baseball called about Miller. The result: Boston got back a top-100 pitching prospect (Eduardo Rodriguez) in a move that Keith Law called “the best value move of the day,” bumming out Orioles partisans. 2. One trading partner might be more motivated to make a deal than the other. In the offseason, even a rebuilding team can justify keeping its players, knowing that they’ll have another chance to cash in at the trade deadline (and that they might sell some season tickets in the meantime). But the Tigers, pretty much out of contention and about to see Martinez hit free agency, had almost no choice but to move him. They could have tried waiting to see if another buyer emerged — either because another team got hot and played itself into contention or because an established contender was hit by an injury — but they couldn’t really not trade Martinez. The only leverage they had over the Diamondbacks was to bluff; otherwise, the Diamondbacks had much more power to set the price. 3. Not all buyers have the same reasons to buy. The vast majority of teams go into an offseason hoping to win their division, not sure (beyond a range of 10 or 15 or so victories) how many games they’ll end up winning and not sure how many victories will be necessary. With this broad uncertainty, every win added is valuable. More important, every additional win is equally valuable for all competitive teams. Their goals for the offseason are all more or less the same: Get good players to win as many games as possible. The trade deadline, though, comes when two-thirds of the season is finished, and a lot of the standings are baked firm. For a team such as the Royals, one or two wins could be the difference between winning a division and missing the playoffs entirely, a difference that could mean tens of millions of dollars in revenue and a dramatically different mood all offseason. But for a team such as the Astros, up by 17 games in the AL West, even 15 extra wins probably change absolutely nothing. The Royals, then, would theoretically be rational if they put a much higher value on a veteran upgrade than the Astros would. Or wait! Maybe it’s the opposite. The Astros know that they’ll be playing in the American League Division Series. They know that they have a reasonable chance of winning a World Series and that whomever they add will be playing incredibly important games. The Royals, meanwhile, might need upgrades to stay alive in this race — but even if they stay alive, they might not make it to the postseason, and even if they make it to the postseason, it might be for only one game. If the point is to win or get close to a World Series, there’s a much better chance that a Royals trade would turn out to be for nothing. Which is to say that the incentives are complicated, and every contending team has its own variables that change every day: how close they are to the division title, how close they are to a wild card, how much they value home-field advantage in a possible wild-card game, how strong their outlook is after this season. In the offseason, 15 teams might look at J.D. Martinez and value him close to equally. That isn’t true 100 games into a season. 4. July standings rev up rivalries. With fewer teams in contention, with less ambiguity about which teams you’re battling, with probable playoff matchups foreseeable and with a small number of teams looking to upgrade at any position, it’s easier in July to see an acquisition as also obstructing a direct competitor’s pursuit. A player’s value to a team could be, in the right circumstances, just about doubled. This was certainly part of what made the Yankees’ acquisition last week of third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle such a coup in their pursuit of the division-leading Red Sox: Those are “three players who could have helped address the Red Sox’s two most glaring needs,” as ESPN’s Scott Lauber put it, and Frazier in particular was probably the last true third baseman on the trade market. 5. The playoffs are a whole new ballgame. At this point last year, Cleveland had a comfortable lead in its division and a 97 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus. With such an easy path to October, giving up two top prospects for Andrew Miller — now a bona fide relief ace — didn’t mean much for the rest of the regular season. (They won their division by eight games.) But the Indians knew that when the postseason came around, they would be able to guarantee that Miller would be on the mound in some of the biggest moments of their season. The difference between acquiring him and not acquiring him would be dramatic; a World Series appearance might ride on a single at-bat Miller could be held back for. This is not true for the Diamondbacks and Martinez. He’ll bat when his turn in the lineup comes up. The closer to the postseason we get, the more it might make sense to invest in October-specific value rather than an April-to-September roster. 6. Clubhouse chemistry is complicated. The conventional wisdom around baseball these days is that good clubhouse chemistry is desirable and important but hard to engineer or anticipate or even assess. This is all amplified for a player added midseason, who joins a team that already has its culture, its narrative arc, its pregame music routines and its post-hit celebration memes. The player added midseason doesn’t go through the cheap mlb jerseys authentic team-building rituals of spring training. And the player added midseason joins a team that, mostly likely, has had success. If that success suddenly evaporates, he is the new variable who might well be blamed. See, for instance, the panic that grew throughout the summer of 2014 after the A’s traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester and went 22-33 thereafter. It wasn’t Lester who was blamed, but the trade took on totemic significance in the collapse narrative — a narrative even the players bought into. 7. The future is unwritten. The Cubs this month traded for Jose Quintana. As all players’ are, Quintana’s next few months and next few years are unpredictable. When Baseball Prospectus used its PECOTA projections to forecast him before the season, for instance, it figured that he was a three-WAR pitcher, but it also allowed that there was a 10 percent chance he’d be a five-WAR pitcher and a 10 percent chance he’d be a one-WAR pitcher. Knowing everything we knew about Quintana, we couldn’t really rule out that he’d be on Cy Young ballots, and we couldn’t rule out that he’d pitch like a lousy fifth starter. That is a scale of uncertainty we can handle, though. The headline name the Cubs gave up for Quintana exists in a world of uncertainty that could make or break a franchise. Eloy Jimenez was the 14th-best prospect in baseball coming into the season, according to Baseball America. Carlos Beltran was once the 14th-best prospect in baseball, and he turned into a superstar who might make the Hall of Fame. Drew Henson was once the 14th-best prospect in baseball, and he retired with one major league hit. If the range of Jose Quintana outcomes spans, say, 10 WAR over the final two and a half years of his current contract, the range of Eloy Jimenez outcomes over the next seven years might be 30 or 40 WAR. To declare a winner or loser based on a player who might turn into Carlos Beltran or might turn into Drew Henson — with absolutely no clue yet which — is bold. This is true even of the non-headline names. When Cleveland traded Jake Westbrook in a three-way deadline deal in 2010, it got back a fringy Double-A pitcher who had a career 4.29 ERA across the Padres’ minor league system and was barely even mentioned in the next day’s newspaper articles. Four years later, he won the Cy Young Award, and two years after that, he pitched the Indians to Game 7 of the World Series. He’s Corey Kluber, he was the best player traded that summer, and it radically altered two franchises. Of course, none of this means we can’t analyze a trade. Better prospects — such as the ones the Yankees got for Chapman — are better than lesser prospects. Diamondbacks fans can be pleasantly surprised that they got Martinez for so little, and Tigers fans can be disappointed that their GM didn’t find a more robust market for such an excellent player. But it’s never harder than it is in July to call a GM a genius or a fool, and it’s never harder to anticipate who we’ll say “won” a trade when we look back 10 years from now.
SAN DIEGO — Yoenis Cespedes hit a big league homer — and one of the Little League variety to help power the New York Mets to another victory.Cespedes had three RBI and finished a single shy of the cycle as the Mets beat the San Diego Padres 6-5 to win for the sixth time in seven games. Cespedes’ check-swing triple in the seventh inning was the difference. Facing reliever Phil Maton, Cespedes punched a pitch down the right-field line with Curtis Granderson aboard after an inning-opening single. Granderson scored and Cespedes followed him home on Wil Myers’ throwing error for a 6-4 lead. It was the Mets’ third “Little League homer” — one aided by errors — since the All-Star break. “I really wanted to hold the swing back, but I couldn’t,” Cespedes said through a translator. Cespedes exited the game after running cheap jerseys authentic the bases with a sore quadriceps, which isn’t considered serious. Myers’ errant throw was fielded by left fielder Jose Pirela, and he had a chance to get Cespedes at the plate. “So we send Granderson and I pick up Ces and I thought they had a play on him, which they did,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “On the overthrow, the left fielder did a great job backing him up, but Ces just had a good slide.” Seth Lugo (5-2) went at least six innings for his third straight start, which has produced two wins. He surrendered four runs — three earned — and eight hits. He struck out one. “Overall, I had a pretty good bad day,” Lugo said. Addison Reed pitched the ninth for his 12th straight save and 18th in 20 chances. But he allowed an RBI double to Dusty Coleman, who got his first major league hit. Jose Torres (5-3), who worked 1 2/3 innings, took the loss. Kyle Lloyd made his major league debut after being summoned from Triple-A El Paso. He pitched four-plus innings and was charged with four runs and six hits. He walked two and struck out two. “Some of the hits that fell in were definitely on the softer side,” Padres manager Andy Green said. Added Lloyd: “I just tried to make the most of the opportunity.” Myers’ fifth-inning sacrifice fly tied the score at 4. The Padres were aided by Asdrubal Cabrera’s error in his fourth career start at third base. The Mets chased Lloyd in the fifth after Granderson and Cabrera delivered consecutive doubles. Kirby Yates relieved Lloyd and gave up an RBI double to Cespedes in pushing the Mets ahead 4-3. Travis d’Arnaud’s RBI single pulled the Mets within 3-2 in the fourth. The Padres seized the lead in the second, fueled by two home runs. Allen Cordoba smacked his first homer since May 13, a two-run shot to push the Padres ahead 3-1. Hunter Renfroe homered in his third consecutive at-bat earlier in the inning when he smacked Lugo’s 77 mph curveball. Cespedes put the Mets up in the first with a solo shot, his 10th homer of the year and his fourth in six career games at Petco Park. “It has just been a matter of going for swings in the zone, swinging at better pitches,” Cespedes said.