– Detroit’s Justin Verlander, arguably baseball’s hottest pitcher,
takes on his nemesis tonight in the fourth game of a five-game series
with the White Sox. Verlander has won six in a row since April 27,
posting a 1.12 ERA during that span, but he’s 2-9 with a 5.90 ERA
lifetime against the Pale Hose. That’s a full quarter of his 36 career
losses coming against one team. The struggling John Danks will get the
ball for the White Sox.
– I’m rooting for Lance Berkman to drive in five runs with a pair of
doubles tonight, setting things up perfectly for Thursday. He’s
currently sitting at 299 homers, 994 RBI, 1,497 hits and 4,993 at-bats.
– It figured that the Pirates would want to Charlie Morton a look
soon after acquiring him in the Nate McLouth deal, but to have him
pitch against his former team just a week following the deal certainly
wasn’t the ideal scenario. He’s taking Jeff Karstens’ place against the
Braves tonight after Karstens was needed in Monday’s 15-inning game.
Game of the Night
N.Y. Yankees vs. Boston – Chien-Ming Wang wasn’t exactly eased back
into the Yankee rotation: after facing the Rangers in his first start
since coming off the disabled list, he gets to pitch in Fenway tonight.
Wang is 6-5 with a 4.82 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox. Boston will
go to Tim Wakefield, who didn’t pitch in either of the first two series
against the Bombers this year. The knuckleballer went 1-1 with a 4.98
ERA in four starts against the Yankees in 2008 and is 10-17 with a 5.03
ERA lifetime against the team. Alex Rodriguez has hit .276 with seven
homers in 76 at-bats against him. The Red Sox will hope for another
strong night from David Ortiz, who has hit .444 with two homers in 36
at-bats versus Wang.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.