Looming Infield Options, Ortega's Nice Run, Rehab Assignments, and Other Cubs Bullets

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bleachernation.com 20 July, 2021 - 07:32am 17 views

When is the MLB trade deadline?

The 2021 Major League Baseball trade deadline is set for Friday, July 30 at 4 p.m. ET. MLB moved up the deadline by one day this season to avoid having it on a weekend day with afternoon games. Plenty of big names could be moved in the coming days as contenders try to beef up their rosters for the stretch run. CBS sports.comMLB trade deadline tracker: Every deal ahead of July 30, including Joc Pederson to the Braves

Mets closer Edwin Diaz blew his third straight save opportunity last night. I am mentioning it here at the top of these Bullets for no particular reason at all.

•   Last night’s loss pushed the Cubs to 9.5 games back of the Brewers, tied for their largest deficit of the season (they reached it during the Phillies series, and then briefly bounced back). The Brewers open a two-gamer with the Royals today, while the Cubs FIGHT to get back into a third-place tie with the Cardinals. Not what we would’ve hoped this late July rivalry series would be.

•   Gotta give some more love to Rafael Ortega, who continues to hit against righties (.290/.343/.452, 117 wRC+), and plays solid defense anywhere in the outfield. He made a great catch early in last night’s game:

Rafael Ortega, meet the center field wall. pic.twitter.com/aWIv8Ptf13

— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) July 20, 2021

•   Having just turned 30, Ortega is not a prospect or a guy you could realistically bet on as a “future piece,” but like we discussed when he was signed to a minor league deal, he’s one of those guys who has been too good for Triple-A for four years now. It was worth giving him a shot, in a new org, to see what could happen, and maybe it’s all come together for him to be a solid bench piece for a few years now? It does happen, especially if your hopes/expectations are reasonable. The challenge is going to be his lack of minor league options, but I wouldn’t hate seeing him get more starts in the second half to see if there’s actually some evolution here. The sample is still very small (he has 80 successful PAs this year, compared with 447 unsuccessful big league PAs spread across multiple seasons before this year).

•   The flip-side there is that if Ortega is one of those guys that a team wants to pick up in the coming week, knowing they can no longer pick up complementary pieces in August (no more waiver trade period), you might let him go in a very modest trade because there’s at least a 50/50 shot you weren’t going to want to keep him on the 40-man all offseason anyway.

•   When Nico Hoerner got double-switched out of Sunday’s game, and then didn’t get the start last night, you wondered if something was up. It wasn’t that long ago that he returned from a serious hamstring injury, and maybe he felt a little something and the Cubs are playing it safe? If that’s the case, I haven’t heard anything about it. And Hoerner was interviewed before yesterday’s game, but it was just a normal interview about playing through a stretch like this on a team not winning. Of course, if he is fine, then why was he double-switched out and sat in favor of Eric Sogard the last 1.5 games? Surely the Cubs aren’t trying to showcase Sogard for the purposes of some team picking him up in trade as a bench guy, right? I was pretty easily sold on Sogard as a minor league contract guy before the season and a possible bench player, but he’s hitting .230/.281/.294 (57 wRC+) in his last 119 games (this season and last season). The defense has mostly been solid, last night’s error notwithstanding, but there’s just no bat there whatsoever. I don’t really see the point in sitting Hoerner in favor of Sogard at any time right now.

•   Speaking of that position, David Bote’s rehab assignment continues at Iowa, where he’ll presumably play again tonight. He’s playing alongside Matt Duffy, who is expected to be activated on Thursday. Bote is probably not far behind, and maybe that’s part of the reason Sogard is getting a little more run? Because the Cubs know he might get DFA’d in a few days, so they want him to play just a bit more before that happens, and then they try to move him out during the week of the DFA (which would also be the week running up to the deadline)? Seems like a stretch to me, but in any case, with Duffy and Bote due back very soon, the composition of the infield and roster will change, and I suspect the Cubs will want both of those guys making starts right away juuuuuuust in case a team comes calling on July 30.

•   Throw in Patrick Wisdom and Kris Bryant and Javy Báez, and it’s going to be a very full infield of guys you want starting. Well, unless, you know. Things happen.

•   For Hoerner, the importance of starting is just about the development for 2022 and beyond:

Big difference for Nico Hoerner this yr versus last: performance against 4-seam fastballs.

Here are Savant visualizations by season. What a difference it’s made to embrace his instinct to go inside-out vs velocity. pic.twitter.com/MXDF7Jxykr

— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) July 19, 2021

•   Last night’s game (the season?) in a couple images:

2021 Chicago Cubs Baseball pic.twitter.com/E88sGUBBQf

— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 20, 2021

Final: Cardinals 8, Cubs 3. pic.twitter.com/mxEMuZdzXV

— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 20, 2021

•   Obviously you take the double, right? I was surprised by the responses:

You have a homer, a triple, and a double in your first three at bats. It’s a blowout. In your 4th at bat, you HAMMER one to the right center gap, and you know it’s reaching the wall. Do you

— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 19, 2021

•   Great shot of the Darvish Prospects (which, very soon, we’ll stop referencing them that way, especially given how much Caissie and Preciado are exploding in the ACL):

Once affectionately referred to as the Mesadres, the young prospects @ReginaldPrecia4 Yeison Santana Ismael Mena and @owen_caissie can now officially be called #Cubs 07-19-2021. pic.twitter.com/kkIjXugRWX

— John Antonoff (@baseballinfocus) July 20, 2021

•   Bryan is the best. I’m gonna join him in this. So hit all the dingers today, dudes:

I’ll be donating $10 for every 💣 hit by a Cubs minor leaguer today to Make-A-Wish on behalf of the Blogathon, and $25 per Brennen bomb. Would love for some people to join me at whatever $ amount is comfortable for you. Blogathon remains the best thing about BN. https://t.co/k2FXNY91xJ

— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) July 20, 2021

•   Make sure to check out the BN Blogathon details here!

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.

Bleacher Nation Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Bleacher Nation is a private media site, and it is not affiliated in any way with Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Bulls, the Chicago White Sox, or the Chicago Blackhawks. None of MLB, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, the Cubs, the Bears, the Bulls, the White Sox, or the Blackhawks have endorsed, supported, directed, or participated in the creation of the content at this site, or in the creation of the site itself. It's just a media site that happens to cover MLB, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Bulls, the Chicago White Sox, and the Chicago Blackhawks.

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Cardinals cash in on the Cubs' flubs, reach .500

STLtoday.com 20 July, 2021 - 10:00am

The Cardinals' Jake Woodford pitches to Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant in the first inning of a game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Monday, July 20, 2021. He allowed six hits, no walks and struck out six in the Cards' victory. (Daniel Shular, dshular@post-dispatch.com)

The Cardinals' Jake Woodford pitches Monday night, when he held the Cubs to one run in 5 2/3 innings of work. He allowed six hits, no walks and struck out six.

The Cardinals' Yadier Molina claps his hands while running to first base after singling in the second inning Monday night.

Young righthander Jake Woodford had to wait his turn as the Cardinals explored other starting pitching options in a year in which only one hurler who opened the season in the rotation, 39-year-old Adam Wainwright, still is in it. Woodford went from bullpen to taxi squad to Memphis and back to St. Louis.

That turn finally came Monday night as Woodford, the 10th pitcher to start for the Cardinals this season, worked out of a first-inning spot and proceeded to set down the Chicago Cubs on six hits and one run for 5 2/3 innings in an 8-3 victory at Busch Stadium before the second-largest home crowd of the season — 38,199. It was Woodford’s first career start at Busch — his other had been before an empty park in Chicago, against the White Sox, last season.

“It was definitely a bigger stage than maybe I was used to,” Woodford said, “but (pitching coach Mike) Maddux just told me to trust my stuff and let the defense work behind me.”

Woodford’s parents had flown in from the Tampa, Florida area with his father seeing his son pitch in the majors for the first time.

With both teams at 46-47, the winner of the game would climb to .500 and the loser would dip two games under it. Woodford had a lot to do with the Cardinals achieving the former and so did some atrocious Cubs defense, which committed three errors that could be charged and another that couldn’t in a four-run St. Louis fourth inning. Chicago had four errors overall.

Dylan Carlson, who had been in a one-for-19 dive, drove in four runs for the Cardinals, with a two-run homer, run-scoring single and a bases-loaded walk.

“I was doing a better job (Monday) of not necessarily missing my pitch (and) being able to handle the pitches I can do some damage with when they’re given to me,” he said.

Paul Goldschmidt, who earlier had extended his hitting streak to 14 games, hit his 16th homer and fourth in five games as the Cardinals reached the .500 mark for the first time since June 20.

Woodford, 24, a 2015 first-round draft pick, fanned four men in succession in the first and second innings, the first two on sliders and the second two on 92 mph fastballs.

The first two were the more important because the Cubs had a man at third base with one out in the first after Willson Contreras doubled and advanced on Anthony Rizzo’s groundout. Javy Baez and Kris Bryant then whiffed.

It was not hard to identify the top of the first as a game-changer.

“I thought that was a big moment, just to set the tone and get out of a little jam there to start the game,” Woodford said.

Manager Mike Shildt said, “‘Woody’ did a tremendous job.”

Woodford struck out a fifth hitter in a scoreless third, highlighted by first baseman Goldschmidt’s sprawling stop on Contreras’ smash. Then, Woodford put down a sacrifice bunt in the Cardinals’ third to advance Harrison Bader, who had singled to left.

Carlson singled up the middle to score Bader and record his first run batted in since June 28.

Then the Cubs’ infield defense self-destructed in the fourth. Yadier Molina’s single to center was the only ball that left the infield during the uprising.

Third baseman Patrick Wisdom threw high to first as he rushed his throw on Tyler O’Neill’s one-out grounder as O’Neill steamed down the line. Molina singled and Tommy Edman walked to fill the bases against Alec Mills.

Consecutive errors by shortstop Baez, one fielding and one throwing, allowed a run to score on each miscue. After Woodford struck out, Carlson’s walk forced in another.

Goldschmidt, taking a mighty swing at a 65 mph curve, sent a roller to Mills’ left. The pitcher couldn’t get it but when first baseman Rizzo fielded the ball, Mills had not continued to cover the bag at first and Rizzo had to hold it. The Cardinals’ lead had grown to 5-0.

The first three Cubs hit safely in the fifth to load the bases but Woodford induced pinch-hitter Ian Happ to ground into a double play, with Goldschmidt making a slick pick at first, and the Cubs netted just one run out of the inning.

Woodford had been 1-1 in relief for the Cardinals this season but had been at Memphis preparing to be a starter lately. He lasted 80 pitches on Monday before T.J. McFarland threw one pitch to end the sixth. Woodford didn’t walk a hitter while fanning six and earned a start at Cincinnati this weekend, Shildt said.

Carlson walloped his eighth homer, a two-run shot, in the sixth off Keegan Thompson after Paul DeJong had been hit by a pitch. Goldschmidt then connected off Thompson to give the Cardinals their fourth set of back-to-back homers this season. Goldschmidt is 23 for 56 (.411) in his 14-game streak.

Former Cardinal Wisdom hit his 14th homer, off lefthander Andrew Miller, in the seventh and Rizzo’s double off John Gant led to a run in the eighth.

The Cardinals have won three games in succession and six of their past nine games and Woodford is the first starter to be a victorious for the Cardinals other than Wainwright and Kwang Hyun Kim since June 29. And it was the Cardinals’ first win since June 20 in which one of the three late-inning relievers — Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos or closer Alex Reyes wasn’t needed.

The Cardinals last had been at .500 at 36-36. It isn’t exactly like they’re at .600 but Shildt sees this as a stepping-off point.

“We didn’t like being under (.500), I can tell you that,” Shildt said. “You can’t get over it until you get at it.

“Yeah, it’s good to get back to .500. Now it’s time to get beyond it — on the positive side.”

Up next: 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, vs. Cubs, BSM

Cards to be announced vs. Williams (3-2, 5.51)

• Birds stumble leading off games, B5

Pitchers and catchers report one day a year. We cover the rest. Wherever baseball takes us, The Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com will bring you there with unmatched year-round, 24-hour, and award-winning coverage of the Cardinals. Please support our work with your digital subscription.

Keep up with the latest Cardinals coverage from our award-winning team of reporters and columnists.

Rick Hummel is a Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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1. John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations

The Cardinals' Jake Woodford pitches to Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant in the first inning of a game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Monday, July 20, 2021. He allowed six hits, no walks and struck out six in the Cards' victory. (Daniel Shular, dshular@post-dispatch.com)

The Cardinals' Jake Woodford pitches Monday night, when he held the Cubs to one run in 5 2/3 innings of work. He allowed six hits, no walks and struck out six.

The Cardinals' Yadier Molina claps his hands while running to first base after singling in the second inning Monday night.

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Shildt on Woodford's start: 'He did a nice job'

Bally Sports Midwest 20 July, 2021 - 10:00am

Cardinals sign second-rounder Baez, an outfielder with high upside and commanding a high bonus

STLtoday.com 20 July, 2021 - 10:00am

Fans watch during the first round of the 2021 MLB baseball draft, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The machinations elsewhere in the draft to save a few hundred thousand here or another hundred thousand there allowed the Cardinals to sign, as planned, one of the youngest players in the draft with one of the largest upsides.

Joshua Baez, an outfielder from Massachusetts, agreed to terms with the Cardinals on Monday at Busch Stadium. They announced the deal a few hours before opening a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs.

Baez, 18, was the 54th overall pick in the draft.

His bonus is close to $2.3 million, a source confirmed, and it's about $900,000 more than the slot assigned to his spot in the draft. (The 54th spot was assigned $1,338,500 entering the draft.) He was expected to sign for a bonus more representative of being a top-30 prospect entering the draft and having a strong commitment to Vanderbilt. The Cardinals lured him away from that, and his agreement with the Cardinals will include the cost of tuition to pursue an undergraduate degree.

Baez was at Busch Stadium on Monday to complete the agreement and take batting practice just days after the Cardinals also signed their first-round pick, UC-Santa Barbara pitcher Mike McGreevy.

"I'm just glad to be here," Baez told reporters after his round of batting practice. "I'm really passionate about the sport. I would love to be (back) here within two to three years. For now, it's just about getting better, continuing to work on it."

Baez is headed to Jupiter, Fla., on Tuesday to join the Cardinals' complex team at the Roger Dean Stadium facility.

He said he planned to buy a new house for his mom with the bonus.

Baez has been clocked with an exit velocity off his bat at 100 mph and a fastball off his fingertips at 98 mph. He told reporters Monday at Busch that he sees himself as a center fielder. The Cardinals intend to have him develop and advance as an outfielder, and they hope he'll join Jordan Walker as the rising middle-order hitters they have in the lower levels.

Here is Baseball America's scouting report on Baez: "Baez is one of the youngest players in the class—he turns 18 at the end of June—but he's also one of the most physical and explosive players in the country. He has fast bat speed, he's strong for his age with more room to fill out and his raw power is already at least plus now with a chance to be a 70 in the near future and he could become a 35-plus home run threat. His arm is already at least a 70 tool from the outfield. He's been up to 98 mph on the mound this year and shown sporadic feel to spin a breaking ball, so pitching is a fallback option if hitting doesn't click, though he hasn't focused much on pitching and is still raw and wild. Baez has immense upside if he's able to make enough contact and draw enough walks, but swing and miss has been an issue.

"He performed well last summer on the showcase circuit and he started the spring by managing his at-bats well, but as the season progressed, he got more out of sync and swung through a lot of ordinary Massachusetts high school pitching. Baez isn't a free-swinger, but there's some stiffness to his stroke and he tends to get his front arm extended early, which hampers the adjustability of his swing to be able to react to and square up different pitch types and locations. In center field, Baez shined all spring. He's a solid-average runner underway who doesn't have typical burner speed or long gliding strides for the position, but he's a power runner who has good instincts, reading the ball well off the bat with good routes to both gaps. He's built like a corner outfielder and many scouts believe he will ultimately outgrow the position and head to right field, but he has enough athleticism and ball skills to start out in center."

Pitchers and catchers report one day a year. We cover the rest. Wherever baseball takes us, The Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com will bring you there with unmatched year-round, 24-hour, and award-winning coverage of the Cardinals. Please support our work with your digital subscription.

Keep up with the latest Cardinals coverage from our award-winning team of reporters and columnists.

Derrick Goold is the lead Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and past president of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

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1. John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations

Power-hitting outfielder Joshua Baez loomed large on high school diamonds and the showcase circuit.

Fans watch during the first round of the 2021 MLB baseball draft, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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Enhanced Box Score: Cardinals 8, Cubs 3 - July 19, 2021

bleachernation.com 19 July, 2021 - 10:20pm

It was fun for a couple innings. Kinda, anyway. Alec Mills looked great early on, and, you know, it’s not even that he looked bad by the time he was getting bounced. It was just a lot less fun.

Specifically, the Cubs gave up five runs in the 4th inning – I say “Cubs” not “Mills,” and I say “gave up” not “Cardinals scored – because it was a comedy of errors (three of them, including two by Javy Báez on back-to-back groundballs) that did most of the damage. I think only one ball left the infield that entire inning. Mostly, Mills looked like a guy who should be sticking in the rotation for a while. It was the crap around him that caused most of the discomfort.

Keegan Thompson gave up a couple homers in his two innings of middle relief. Dillon Maples was scoreless in his inning of work, throwing strikes and getting four groundballs (albeit with spin rates down 300(!) RPM from earlier in the season before his injury (and before, you know, the other stuff)).

Offensively, it was some squandered big-inning opportunities and a Patrick Wisdom homer. Wisdom and Rafael Ortega had nice games on the whole, though Wisdom did contribute to the lofty error total.

Full box score.

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.

Bleacher Nation Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Bleacher Nation is a private media site, and it is not affiliated in any way with Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Bulls, the Chicago White Sox, or the Chicago Blackhawks. None of MLB, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, the Cubs, the Bears, the Bulls, the White Sox, or the Blackhawks have endorsed, supported, directed, or participated in the creation of the content at this site, or in the creation of the site itself. It's just a media site that happens to cover MLB, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Bulls, the Chicago White Sox, and the Chicago Blackhawks.

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Here are 6 years where big pennant-race leads were blown

Bleed Cubbie Blue 19 July, 2021 - 11:00am

Think the NL Central race is over? Maybe, but... leads this big have been blown before.

I am well aware that the Chicago Cubs are nine games out of the NL Central lead entering Monday’s action with 69 games remaining and are currently listed with a 4.8 percent chance of making the postseason. I know that this season is likely going to end with the Cubs trading off many current players and the team watching the playoffs with the rest of us, on TV. Trades are likely to come. Why am I not writing about those? It’s pretty obvious which players are desirable, or not, by other teams, and many of the rumors I’ve seen seem like pure speculation. I could do that, but... we will know, soon enough, about deals. The deadline is 11 days away.

So indulge me, if you will, with this list of teams that blew leads around the number of games the Brewers currently lead the NL Central by — or in a couple of cases, even bigger — this late in the season or even later. It happens, and more often than you might think.

There is one thing all these teams have in common: Like the Brewers today, all of them appeared to be sailing toward a pennant or postseason berth with little or nothing to stop them... but all of them sat home in October.

Will the 2021 Cubs do this? Probably not. Stipulated and acknowledged. These are still memorable parts of baseball history.

The Dodgers split a doubleheader with the Braves on August 11 and had a 70-36 record, leading the NL by 13 games.

They went 26-23 the rest of the way in the regular season and a 96-58 record should probably have been good enough, but the Giants went 37-7 to tie them, then the Giants famously won the three-game playoff on Bobby Thomson’s home run in the bottom of the ninth of the third game.

This is perhaps the most-quoted collapse in MLB history. The Phillies led the NL by 6½ games with 12 remaining.

Then they chose the worst possible time to lose 10 in a row. The first of those 10 consecutive defeats was 1-0 to the Reds on a steal of home. The Cardinals, meanwhile, were winning eight straight.

The Phillies did win their final two games of the season. The Mets had won the first two games of a series against the Cardinals and if they had won on the season’s final day, it would have forced a three-way tie for the NL pennant among the Cardinals, Phillies and Reds. St. Louis won 11-5 to win the pennant by one game.

There has still never been a three-way tie for any MLB postseason spot.

You probably don’t need to hear anything more about this one, so I will simply note that on August 6, the Cubs beat the Astros 5-4 and were 71-41, 30 games over .500 and nine games ahead in the NL East.

They went 21-29 after that while the Mets were 41-15.

On July 19, 1978 — exactly 43 years ago today — the Red Sox led the AL East by nine games. The Brewers were second, the Orioles third, and the Yankees fourth, 14 games behind.

The Red Sox went 37-35 and the Yankees 51-21 and the teams wound up tied at 99-63. In fact, the Red Sox at one point fell as far as 3½ games behind New York with 14 to go, but wound up ending their schedule with an eight-game winning streak to force the divisional tie.

The Yankees, famously, won the tiebreaker game on a home run by Bucky Dent, whose name you still don’t speak in polite company in Boston.

On August 15, the Angels defeated the White Sox 7-3 and led the Rangers in the AL West by 10½ games. The Mariners were 12½ games behind, in third place and only one game over .500 at 51-50.

The Angels collapsed, going 14-28 while Seattle went 27-16 to force a divisional tie at 78-66 in that strike-shortened 144-game season.

The Mariners won the divisional playoff 9-1 and defeated the Yankees in a division series before losing the ALCS to Cleveland.

The Braves didn’t have much of a chance to win their division, as the Phillies had a commanding lead. But the Braves defeated the Nationals September 1 to lead the Cardinals in the NL wild-card race by 8½ games.

Meanwhile, on that same date the Red Sox lost to the Yankees, but still led the AL East by half a game, and were also 8½ games ahead of the wild-card leading Rays.

Boston went 7-19 the rest of the way and lost on the last day of the season to be eliminated from the wild-card race, won by the Rays (the Yankees won the division). Jon Lester, beer and fried chicken were said to be involved. If the Red Sox make the playoffs in 2011 and make a long playoff run, it’s entirely possible Theo Epstein doesn’t wind up with the Cubs.

Atlanta went 8-18 and was also eliminated on the season’s final day. The Cardinals wound up with the wild card.

There are more examples than this of blown leads even later in the season. Is it likely that the Brewers will blow their division lead and the Cubs, Reds or Cardinals will win the NL Central? Of course it isn’t, most times when teams run out to leads like this they keep them.

But every once in a while, a collapse by one team and a late-season run by another gives a far different result than was expected in late July.

You just never know, because baseball!

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