Daily Dose: Sore elbow shuts down Santana

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Johan Santana has been scratched from his scheduled Tuesday start with soreness in his left elbow. For now at least the Mets have indicated that they hope the injury is a short-term problem, but several teammates suggested Monday night that Santana may be headed for surgery. He’ll be examined further by doctors Tuesday, at which point the Mets should know whether Santana has a chance to pitch again this year.
Santana has hardly been horrible of late with a 3.94 ERA this month and a 3.22 ERA since the All-Star break, but a closer look at his numbers reveals that something has clearly been off for quite a while. After averaging a career-low 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings last season he produced 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings through the end of May this year, but that dipped to 4.5 in June, 6.5 in July, and now 5.5 in August.
To his credit Santana has been able to maintain an ERA in the low 3.00s the whole time, but a three-month stretch where one of the decade’s greatest strikeout pitchers manages just 60 in 100.2 innings is a definite red flag. As rotation-mate Mike Pelfrey put it: “I don’t think anyone expects good news.” If he does land on the disabled list, Santana would become the 20th Mets player to spend time on the shelf this year.
While the Mets hope for one piece of decent news this season, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Jake Peavy made his third rehab start Monday at Triple-A, throwing five scoreless innings with three strikeouts and two walks. As recently as a few days ago the White Sox suggested that he’d need several more rehab outings before joining the rotation, but those plans have apparently changed. Jose Contreras has been booted from the rotation following another bad outing Monday and Peavy could be his replacement.
* Scott Baker was 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA and eight homers allowed through four starts, but after turning in another gem Monday night with seven innings of one-run ball he’s now 12-3 with a 3.74 ERA and 109/25 K/BB ratio in 133 innings since. That includes 5-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 43/9 K/BB ratio in eight starts since the All-Star break and he’s been the only Twins starter who hasn’t fallen apart over the past couple months.
AL Quick Hits: Scott Downs came off the disabled list Monday, but Cito Gaston said that he’ll be eased back into closing … Edwin Encarnacion (hamstring) took Downs’ spot on the DL after hitting .186 since being traded to Toronto … Chris Davis will be back in the majors Tuesday after batting .327 in 44 games following his demotion to Triple-A … Brad Penny has been dropped from Boston’s rotation in favor of Junichi Tazawa, at least until Tim Wakefield (calf) returns from the DL … Carl Crawford left Monday’s game with lower back tightness … Daisuke Matsuzaka (shoulder) tossed three scoreless innings in a rehab start Monday at rookie-ball … Justin Morneau was back in the lineup Monday after missing six games with an inner-ear infection … Roy Halladay got knocked around Monday for a second straight start, coughing up eight runs on 12 hits … Joe Saunders’ (shoulder) return from the DL has been moved up to Wednesday after a successful simulated game … Ichiro Suzuki missed Monday’s game with a strained calf, but hopes to be back in the lineup Wednesday.
NL Quick Hits: Tony La Russa said Monday that John Smoltz was tipping his pitches while struggling in Boston, but facing the Padres, Nationals, and Pirates in his first three NL starts will help too … Cliff Lee gave up just a pair of unearned runs in seven innings Monday, improving to 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA and zero homers allowed in five Phillies starts … Aaron Cook (shoulder) may be able to return before the end of the regular season after an MRI exam Monday revealed no structural damage … Pablo Sandoval left Monday’s game with a strained calf … Ryan Howard homered twice off Bobby Parnell and knocked in five runs Monday, passing the 100-RBI mark … Ryan Hanigan landed on the disabled list Monday with post-concussion symptoms from a foul tip off and Chris Dickerson (ankle) joined him on the shelf … Jason Giambi will likely join the Rockies in September after inking a minor-league deal Monday … Jeff Francoeur is day-to-day with a torn thumb ligament suffering trying to make a catch.

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.