Nathan chokes, A-Rod comes through in Game 2

Leave a comment

Just because a guy has a lousy postseason reputation, it’s still probably not the best strategy to start grooving fastballs.
The Twins had Game 2 of the ALDS in control when they took a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning Saturday. They even picked up the last run after Mariano Rivera entered, and they went on to get a scoreless bottom of the eighth from Matt Guerrier. All that was left was for closer extraordinaire Joe Nathan to shut the Yankees down in the ninth.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. Alex Rodriguez, who drove in the Yankees’ only previous run when he took a Nick Blackburn fastball left right over the heart of the plate into left field for a single, got a 3-1 fastball left up in the zone and teed off, taking it over the wall in center for a two-run homer.
It was another postseason failure for Nathan, who has given up seven runs in 7 1/3 innings in October action. He has two losses and a blown save to go along with his one save in seven appearances.
For A-Rod, it was even more redemption following his two-RBI game on Wednesday. He has five RBI in the ALDS, matching his high for a postseason series. He also had give in the 2000 ALCS and the 2004 ALCS, both of which were losses for his teams.
The Twins still had a chance from there, but the brutal call from Phil Cuzzi to deny Joe Mauer a leadoff double in the 11th really hurt. The Twins went on to load the bases with no outs anyway, but David Robertson retired Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez and Brendan Harris to escape the jam.
It was quickly over then. Mark Teixeira scorched a ball to left to begin the bottom of the 11th. A foot lower and he might have been held to a single. Instead, it skipped off the top of the wall for a game-ending homer.
The Yankees will travel to the Metrodome for Sunday’s Game 3 with a commanding 2-0 lead. Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano are the scheduled starters, and it now appears as though the Twins might go down without ever throwing their best starter (Scott Baker).

The Mets are a mess

Al Bello/Getty Images
1 Comment

The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

Dylan Buell/Getty Images
1 Comment

If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.