Thursday's thoughts: Hanigan seals his fate

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– You know Dusty Baker didn’t want to do it, but with Ramon Hernandez
getting a day off, Ryan Hanigan was moved up to the fifth spot against
the Braves. It was the first time this season that Hanigan, who entered
with a .395 OBP, hit higher than seventh. Most of his starts had come
from the eighth spot. Sure enough, Hanigan went on to clog up the bases
in three of his four plate appearances as the Reds were shut out by the
Braves. He’ll almost surely be benched or at least dropped in the
lineup on Friday.

– The Mariners could learn something from their rookie first
baseman: Mike Carp has walked twice in five plate appearances since his
callup Wednesday. His teammates have walked twice and fanned 21 times
in those two games.

– The Jays used seven relievers in their win over Phillies, and it
was the one that made his season debut, Jeremy Accardo, who earned the
save. Brandon League cost Jason Frasor the opportunity when he couldn’t
get through the eighth cleanly. Frasor ended up coming in to get the
final out of the eighth, but not before he allowed a game-tying single.
He then left with the pitcher’s spot in the order due up, but he
probably would have come out anyway, since the Phillies had Chase Utley
and Ryan Howard starting the ninth. B.J. Ryan took over with the Jays
back on top by one, retired one of the two and then made way for
Accardo, who allowed only a single while finishing up. It’s probably
not a sign of things to come, but Gaston did have the right idea in
playing matchups against the unbalanced Philly lineup.

– Ozzie Guillen will be second-guessed after pulling Gavin Floyd for
a pinch-hitter with the White Sox up 5-1 in the eighth. Floyd was at
just 90 pitches, and he hadn’t given up more than a single all day.
Scott Linebrink, with some help from a Chris Getz error, ended up
blowing the lead in the eighth, and the White Sox lost 6-5 in the

– Let’s see just how cruel the baseball gods are: Chris Young was up
to .276/.400/.569 for the month before suffering a leg injury in the
midst of a 4-for-4 game against the Royals. He entered June at
.178/.220/.313 this season.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.