Aided by umps, Angels run away with Game 1

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The Angels, who have had three of their last four postseason runs spoiled by the Red Sox, took a big step towards getting the Rally Monkey off their backs with a 5-0 victory in Thursday’s ALDS Game 1.
Boston had plenty of reason to gripe after the game. Torii Hunter should have been rung up on strikes before walking to lead the bases in the third. First-base ump C.B. Bucknor missed Kevin Youkilis’ obvious tag on Howie Kendrick to extend the fourth inning. Bucknor had an even worse call in the sixth, when Youkilis had to jump off first base to make a catch. He clearly came right back down on the bag, yet Bucknor called the runner safe anyway.
That none of those plays came in innings in which the Angels scored means there won’t be any long-term controversy here. Still, those extra pitches Lester was forced to throw added up. Vladimir Guerrero should have been the first out of the fourth, not the last of the third. Jeff Mathis, the easiest out in either lineup, never should have come to the plate in the fourth, yet he made the last out after the blown call on Kendrick. Had things worked out differently, perhaps Torii Hunter never would have made it to the plate to hit his three-run homer in the fifth.
In the end, it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. After an encouraging first inning, the Red Sox turned in mostly atrocious at-bats against an impressive John Lackey, who pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings. The only threat was a two-out rally in the sixth, when Dustin Pedroia singled and Victor Martinez walked. Youkilis went on to work a 3-0 count and then took what was clearly ball four on the TBS pitch trax, only to have an inconsistent Joe West call it a strike. He went on to ground out, and the Red Sox put just one runner on during the final three innings.
The story of the game was Lackey’s performance. He allowed four hits, walked just the one and struck out four. Darren Oliver replaced him in the eighth and retired five in a row to end the game. It was Lackey’s first postseason victory since the 2002 World Series. He had been 0-3 in six outings since. Boston was shut out in the postseason for the first time since 1995.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”