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Atlanta Braves’ Dylan Lee makes history with 1st career start in World Series, lasts 15 pitches

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ATLANTA — Dylan Lee walked into the Atlanta Braves clubhouse about 2 p.m. on Saturday and was called into manager Brian Snitker’s office.

The 27-year-old left-hander was told he was making his first major league start six hours later.

In the World Series.

“I was shocked, of course,” Lee said.

Lee lasted just 15 pitches for the Braves in their 3-2 comeback win over the Houston Astros. Atlanta has a 3-1 lead in the World Series.

Never before had a pitcher’s first big league start come in the World Series. Lee faced four batters and allowed one run while getting one out, the shortest Series start since the Yankees’ David Wells in Game 5 of 2003.

“My God, we put him in an unbelievable situation,” Snitker said. “Your first start in the big leagues is going to be in a World Series game, are you kidding me?”

Lee made his major league debut 29 days earlier and his resume consisted of 80 pitches to 21 batters, just 29 to nine hitters during the regular season.

In his first start at any level in more than four years, Lee didn’t get a decision and walked away with a 9.00 ERA in two Series outings.

“His command was off a little bit than what I’ve seen before, which is understandable,” Snitker said.

Snitker was short on starters because of Charlie Morton’s broken leg and planned bullpen nights for Games 4 and 5. The delayed notification of Lee was intentional.

“Just for his sake,” the manager said. “He probably wouldn’t have gotten any sleep because people have been texting him and his phone would have been going off all night.”

After finding out he was making his first start at any level since July 23, 2017, a five-inning outing for Class A Greensboro against Asheville, Lee passed the stunning development on to fiancée Courtney White.

“I told my fiancée and her family and my family that they should come a little early to the game,” he said.

Wanting to feel like it was a relief appearance, Lee asked Snitker to call bullpen coach Drew French to summon him into the game — even though it hadn’t started yet.

All eight position players were on the field when Lee ran in from the bullpen, wearing bright red spikes. He threw just five strikes, allowing Jose Altuve‘s infield single on his first offering, a 94 mph fastball. Lee left with the bases loaded from walks to Michael Brantley and Yordan Alvarez around Alex Bregman‘s strikeout on a 2-2 changeup.

Kyle Wright started warming up after Lee’s second pitch, a plan that was predetermined.

A sea change from the World Series of Dusty Baker’s playing days.

“I grew up watching Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and Juan Marichal and all the greats,” the Astros’ manager said. “I remember as a kid, my dad used to say ‘Spahn and Sain and pray for rain,’ and you’d look forward to pitching matchups. There’s nothing better than an old-fashioned pitching matchup.”

Snitker, another baseball lifer, said pitching injuries are inevitable.

“They play so much baseball now, I think at a young age. And I think that’s part of why, to me, they break,” he said. “They never rest. These guys are going to barns and taking pitching lessons in the winter. Guys used to play basketball and football and pitch in the spring and whatever sport was in season was their favorite one. I think guys are majoring in pitching at a really young age.”

Lee’s two major league regular-season appearances were the fewest for a Series starting pitcher, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous low was six by Philadelphia’s Marty Bystrom and the Mets’ Steven Matz.

A 10th-round pick by Miami in the 2016 amateur draft from Fresno State, Lee was released by the Marlins in spring training and signed a minor league deal with the Braves in April.

He went 5-1 with a 1.54 ERA in 34 relief appearances for Triple-A Gwinnett. He made his big league debut on Oct. 1 and pitched again the following day. Not on the Braves’ initial two postseason rosters, he was activated for Game 4 of the NL Championship Series after right-hander Huascar Ynoa injured his pitching shoulder.

Having thrown the first pitch after “Play ball!” Lee doesn’t expect to be making his next start any time soon.

“I know that I’m a reliever now,” he said in the interview room as his teammates laughed.

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MLB free-agency grades – Texas Rangers bet big on their future with Marcus Semien signing

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Raise your hand if, like me, you uttered something unprintable when you heard the reported terms of Marcus Semien‘s new contract and the team that had offered them. That’s what we call a knee-jerk reaction, which isn’t always rational or correct. Your real response is what you come up with after thinking through the factors involved. Often, then, you see a reason and a rhyme, even with surprising news.

For me, after thinking this deal through, I still think something mildly unprintable, but it’s a word that’s less severe than my knee-jerk phrase — and it comes with a slightly more positive connotation.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Semien and his representatives agreed to a seven-year, $175 million deal with the Texas Rangers. It’s the richest deal by far of this year’s free-agent season, matching the average annual value of Justin Verlander‘s deal with the Astros ($25 million) but for a half-decade longer.

In finding a new team, Semien becomes the second member of the long-anticipated shortstop free-agent class of 2021-22 to find a long-term home (the first being Francisco Lindor, who agreed to an extension with the Mets last season). Let’s consider that class with a few numbers from baseball-reference.com:

Here, it’s worth noting that Passan is also reporting that Semien is far from likely to be the last of the Rangers’ high-level free-agent targets, even among that shortstop class. Still, for now, we’ll look at how he fits as if he were the jewel of the Rangers’ winter push, and not just a jewel.



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Twins, Buxton find perfect balance in incentive-laden deal

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For his first 24 games of 2021, Byron Buxton was the best baseball player on the planet. He hit for average. He hit home runs. He hit doubles. He stole some bases. He played center field like Hermes, only in cleats instead of winged sandals. He hit .370/.408/.772 with nine home runs, 10 doubles and five stolen bases. He led all hitters in slugging percentage and trailed only Mike Trout in OPS.

This was the ceiling we had longed dreamed of for Buxton, who at his best is the most dynamic player in baseball this side of Shohei Ohtani: a combination of power, speed and defense that would make him a modern-day Willie Mays or Ken Griffey Jr.

Of course, it’s unfair to compare anybody to those two, and it was unfair to expect Buxton to keep hitting at that level. But sadly, we don’t even know how close he would have come, because once again the injury bug wrecked Buxton’s season. On May 7, he went on the injured list with a hip strain, suffered while running to first base on a groundout. He returned on June 19, and in his third game back, he suffered a fracture in his left hand when Reds pitcher Tyler Mahle hit him with a 94-mph fastball.

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Avisail Garcia, Miami Marlins reach 4-year deal, sources say

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Outfielder Avisail Garcia and the Miami Marlins are in agreement on a four-year, $53 million contract, a source told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Sunday.

Garcia, 30, spent the past two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. He hit .262 in 2021, with 29 home runs and 86 RBIs — both career highs.

Miami had some money to spend in free agency after going 67-95 this past season, and made an early move with Garcia, one that helps shore up the team’s outfield.

CEO Derek Jeter had said he planned to be active this offseason.

“For the first time, really since we’ve been here as an ownership group, I expect to be pretty active — or I should say, have active conversations. There’s two sides to it,” he said in Octover.

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