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Pujols leaves game with hamstring injury
Albert Pujols left Wednesday night's game against the Athletics after singling in the sixth inning with a left hamstring injury. Pujols tried to stay in, but manager Mike Mike Scioscia did the right thing and took his first baseman out. He was noticeably limping, but MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reported he was walking better after coming out of the game. It appears the injury is minor and Scioscia doesn't think Pujols will need a stint on the disabled list.
Pujols had already been struggling coming into Wednesday so losing any extra time would really hurt. Through 21 games, he's hitting just .208/.291/.364 with three home runs, 11 runs and nine RBI. While he's been unlucky with a .208 BABIP, the 35-year-old is hitting a career-low 15.2 line drive rate with a 91 wRC+. Seeing Pujols struggle out of the gate is bad news, as last year he got off to a solid start with nine home runs and a .279 batting average in April.
We all know that Pujols' power is in serious decline, and it might be a struggle for the slugger to reach 25 home runs in 2014. ZIPs projects Pujols to finish with a .268 batting average, 22 home runs and 82 RBI. Maybe it's time to sell Pujols' name to a team struggling for a first baseman. Of course, that was made just even harder following Wednesday's injury. Keep on an eye on Pujols, who will most likely miss a day or two at the least.
Latos also exits game with hamstring injury
Mat Latos hasn't been at his best since arriving in Miami, and Wednesday was another step in the wrong decision. Latos went five innings against the Mets, allowing three runs on five hits, including a home run, and was forced from the game with a left hamstring strain after singling in the bottom of the fifth inning. (Yes, another pitcher hurting himself doing non-pitcher things.)
As of Wednesday night, the Marlins are calling him day-to-day. Latos said he could walk following the game, but couldn't straighten his leg out, according to Fox Sports Florida's Christina De Nicola. He'll undergo an MRI Thursday for further evaluation.
Latos, who stuck out three Wednesday, now owns a 5.40 ERA and 17/9 K/BB ratio in 21 innings across five starts, all coming against NL East opponents. Latos' velocity is down nearly two ticks, and his latest injury could result in a missed start. After giving up seven runs in his Marlins debut, Latos had allowed two runs in his next three, failing to make it to the sixth inning twice. The 27-year-old right-hander owns a 4.05 FIP and his swinging strike rate is down for the third straight year. No longer a strikeout pitcher, Latos shouldn't be counted on anything more than a No. 4. I was high on Latos in the pitcher-friendly ballpark, but that can only carry a pitcher so far.
Drew Smyly was dominant in a no-decision against the Yankees on Wednesday, striking out 10, walking one and allowing just two runs on four hits. The only mistakes for Smyly on this day were two solo home runs to Chase Headley and Chris Young, who has been on fire lately. Since returning to the Rays starting rotation, Smyly has 15 strikeouts and one walk in 10 2/3 innings to go with a 3.38 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. There's a reason why the Rays demanded Smyly in a trade for David Price. If he can stay healthy, the 25-year-old southpaw can be a top 30-pitcher the rest of the way. He owns a 229/68 K/BB ratio in 251 2/3 innings as a starter to go with a 3.54 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Somehow, he's still available in 20 percent of ESPN leagues.
Yet another big injury occurred Wednesday night, this time to Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar. The Royals shortstop was hit in the earflap by Cleveland's Danny Salazar and was forced from the game with a left cheek contusion. The Royals are waiting on further test results to determine if he'll need a stint on the disabled list. So far this season, Escobar is hitting .291/.329/.367 with 10 runs, eight RBI and a pair of steals. He scored 71 runs and stole 31 bases a year ago, so losing his speed would be a big blow to Kansas City's offense. What was most surprising is that Yordano Ventura didn't retaliate.
Joc Pederson batted leadoff for the Dodgers last night and hit a home run in his first at bat against Ryan Vogelsong. The 23-year-old rookie has been a force for the Dodgers so far, hitting .298/.461/.596 with four home runs, 13 runs, 10 RBI and a steal. While he's struck out a lot (22 strikeouts), he's also taking a lot of walks (17) in the early going. There's definite 20/20 potential here, and batting first in the order will only help the runs. Don Mattingly has done some strange things with his lineup, like not playing the red-hot Alex Guerrero, so hopefully he sticks with Pederson in the one slot for the foreseeable future. Jimmy Rollins has been struggling, so Pederson should get the chance.
Max Scherzer, who missed Tuesday's start with a jammed thumb, is confirmed to make his next start against the Mets on Friday. Scherzer owns a 1.26 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 29/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. Jeff Samardzija, meanwhile, doesn't like pitching in front of empty crowds. He gave up eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits in five innings to raise his ERA to 4.78 and WHIP to 1.38.
Nelson Cruz and Hanley Ramirez each hit their 10th home runs of the season Wednesday. Both players are locked in. Ramirez, especially, is staring at a career year in Boston if he could just stay healthy. Cruz is the early favorite to lead the league in home runs again, even though he plays half of his games in spacious Safeco.
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