Nathan chokes, A-Rod comes through in Game 2

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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).

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.