Batter’s Box: Hip, Hip, Hiura!

In his first appearance in the Batter's Box, Ryan Fickes provides news and notes from from Friday's noteworthy hitters.

It’s the final series of the season for every team and, despite MLB’s efforts to recreate the magic of the last weekend of 2012 with the addition of the second wild card, there’s not a ton on the line. The American League is all but set with just Tampa and Oakland jockeying to host the Wild Card Game. In the National League, the biggest question is if Milwaukee can catch St. Louis for the Central title, because the second-place team will go on the road to Washington.

At a game back of St. Louis, Milwaukee is in exactly the type of situation where veteran leadership is critical to making that last push to achieve the team’s goals, and the club isn’t lacking there with Yasmani Grandal and Lorenzo Cain, among others, on the team. However, it’s Keston Hiura, the 23-year-old rookie, who’s carrying the offense on his shoulders. Facing the lowly Colorado Rockies, Hiura went 4-for-4 with a HBP, producing two doubles and a run.

It started the rough way, as he took the plunking in the first inning to push Trent Grisham to second and get him into position to score on a Ryan Braun single. His first double went to waste. His second hit, a single, advanced Grisham again, only to see him stranded. His third hit, another single, wiped out with a double play. In the ninth, Hiura led off with his second two-bagger of the night, and this time finally got picked up by Travis Shaw to score his only run. By then, it was too little too late, and Milwaukee fell 11-7.

I want to see Hiura in the playoffs, as his .309 /.376/.586 line with 23 doubles and 19 home runs in basically half a season has been nothing short of amazing. However, he can’t do it himself, and if Milwaukee doesn’t want to face a toss-up Wild Card Game, it has gotta get better support for Hiura for the last two games and definitely better pitching.

Raimel Tapia (OF, Colorado Rockies)1-1, HR, R, 4 RBI. It’s been a slog at times for Tapia, as he’s struggled to get consistent playing time despite flashes of solid potential. Even at the end of a lost season for the Rockies, he’s on the bench a couple of times a week. Still, he got his at-bat and did the most with it, launching a grand salami to right field as part of a seven-run sixth inning to push Colorado out in front of Milwaukee. Maybe next year he’ll get more more consistent playing time, because the potential is there.

Manny Machado (3B, San Diego Padres)3-4, HR, R, RBI. A .787 OPS isn’t exactly what San Diego was looking for with the monster contract it signed Machado to, especially with good but not spectacular defense. It’s been even worse over the last month, with just a .610 OPS overall in September. The Padres didn’t exactly expect to compete in 2019, but they’re going to need a lot more in 2020 from Machado if they want to get up with the likes of Los Angeles.

Joc Pederson (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI. That’s No. 36 on the year, an impressive total for a platoon bat. There’s some thump in the Dodgers lineup with Max Muncy, Bellinger, and Joc Pederson putting up 34, 36, and 37 home runs, respectively, and every position in the lineup featuring players with 15-20+ HR power. This isn’t your typical pitching-driven Dodgers contender.

Austin Hays (OF, Baltimore Orioles)2-4, 2 R, 2B. Hays leapt into Orioles’ fans view with .900+ OPS showings in the minors in 2016 and 2017 before receiving a cup of coffee with 63 plate appearances in 2017, resulting in a .555 OPS. 2018 proved nothing short of a disaster with a .676 OPS in Low-A and Double-A. After battling some nagging injuries and putting up a more respectable .763 OPS, primarily at Triple-A Norfolk this year, Hays has made the most of his return to Baltimore with a .313/.380/.578 slash across 71 plate appearanes. It certainly helps create a little bit of hope from an otherwise miserable season in Baltimore to see the young Hays looking more comfortable at the plate and making some pretty amazing plays in the outfiedl to close the season.

DJ LeMahieu (2B, New York Yankees)—3-5, 2 2B, R, 3 RBI. Isn’t leaving Colorado supposed to hurt offensive performance? Lemmiewinks isn’t playing that game, as his .902 OPS (138 OPS+) this year is just short of his career-high .911 OPS (128 OPS+) as a 27-year-old in Colorado in 2016. 30-year-old middle infielders aren’t supposed to have career years!

Gerardo Parra (OF, Washington Nationals)3-3, HR, R, 4 RBI. It’s pretty amazing that Parra is getting playing time on a playoff team, despite being a below-average hitter since being traded to Baltimore in 2015 and playing mediocre defense. He mostly serves as bench depth in Washington, but the Nationals aren’t complaining when he carries the offense on a night when Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto go 2-for-15. 

Nelson Cruz (DH, Minnesota Twins)3-4, RBI. This isn’t the most impressive line in the world, except that it’s Nelson Cruz, he’s 38 years old, and he’s posting a 1.023 OPS. Amazing.

Paul Goldschmidt (1B, St. Louis Cardinals)0-5, 3 K. The Cardinals are going to need more than that, Paul. On the bright side, Goldy might be a potential draft steal for you in 2020 coming off a down year.

(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Southern Marylander

Ryan is the most Marylander Marylander that ever Marylander'd, having been born, raised, educated, worked, and vacationed in Maryland. As an Orioles fan, he knows that all life is suffering and, as such, has dedicated his fandom to developing a variety of insanely complex spreadsheets for tracking fantasy baseball statistics and answering random baseball questions.

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