A-Rod powers Yankees to ALDS sweep of sloppy, punchless Twins

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This series had to be awfully confusing for the baseball-watching public, who for years have been assured by every announcer, columnist, and talking head that Alex Rodriguez is incapable of coming through in the clutch and the Twins win by “doing the little things.”
Neither of those prepackaged storylines proved accurate in New York’s sweep of Minnesota, but then again they weren’t entirely accurate coming into the ALDS either.
Rodriguez going 5-for-11 with two homers and six RBIs in the three-game series is certainly a big change from his recent playoff struggles, but for all the criticism that he’s taken for wilting under pressure he has a higher lifetime postseason OPS than Derek Jeter and has hit extremely well in “close and late” situations during the regular season throughout his career.
And while fans and media members who don’t actually see Minnesota play all that much tend to blindly repeat the various mantras about “playing the right way” the Twins’ focus on fundamentals and execution has steadily eroded since Tom Kelly stepped down as manager in 2001. Both positive and negative, reputations can be difficult to shake once established.
A few big hits in the ALDS aren’t going to keep Rodriguez from being labeled a choker again after his next strikeout in a crucial situation, just as a few bone-headed mistakes aren’t going to keep non-Minnesotans from believing that the Twins are a well-oiled, small-ball machine. However, both reputations took a major hit over the past three games and because of it the Yankees are headed for an ALCS matchup with the Angels.
Game 2 and Game 3 were both there for Minnesota to claim, but instead the Twins blew leads, made mental and physical mistakes, and came up empty in far too many scoring opportunities while falling to 0-10 against the Yankees this season and 16-48 against them overall in eight years under Ron Gardenhire. Those are remarkable numbers considering that the Twins are 699-560 (.555) against all other teams during that time.
Of course, the Yankees aren’t like all other teams. CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte each turned in a Quality Start against Minnesota and the bullpen trio of Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, and Phil Hughes appeared in all three games. Thanks to the drawn-out playoff schedule they’ll continue to lean heavily on that outstanding six-man core. Oh, and they also have the deepest, highest-scoring lineup in baseball.
After blasting an MLB-high 244 homers during the regular season the Yankees homered six times against the Twins. Meanwhile, the hitters on Minnesota’s playoff roster combined for just 127 long balls and the Twins failed to homer even once in three games. The good news for the Yankees is that their hitters can do damage against any pitching staff. The bad news for the Yankees is that the Angels’ offense is far more dangerous than the Twins’ injury-wrecked lineup.
Right now though, New York sure looks like the team to beat.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

White Sox 3, Cubs 1: Cubs were hot, White Sox had lost nine straight so of course the Sox beat the Cubs. Baseball is cool on the merits, but one of the best things it has going for it outside of the game action is that it does not lend itself to people spending an hour talking about each game on some studio show beforehand, making predictions about who will do what, the “keys to the game” and all of that. Baseball is wonderfully random. It just . . . happens.

As for what happened here: Adam Engel and Matt Davidson homered and Miguel Gonzalez allowed one run and seven hits in seven and a third.

Astros 13, Phillies 4: Well, some things are predictable, like Jose Altuve getting his hits. He got four on Sunday. He got four last night. He has a 16-game hitting streak now, during which he’s hitting .528 (38 for 72). He’s batting .365/431/.574 on the year. He’s like Wade Boggs with more power and, presumably, a lower tolerance for airplane beers. Altuve drove in three. Alex Bregman homered and doubled twice. Brian McCann went deep. Josh Reddick, Yuli Guriel and Carlos Beltran each drove in two in this rain-interrupted game which gave the Houston batters a number of Phillies relievers to feast upon.

Blue Jays 4, Athletics 2: Francisco Liriano pitched on three days rest to cover for the blister-afflicted Aaron Sanchez. He could do so because his last two outings were short affairs due to, you know, not pitching so good. Here he was fine, giving up two runs over five innings. After he left three Toronto relievers pitched four no-hit innings. Russell Martin homered. Justin Smoak walked with the bases loaded.

Indians 6, Reds 2: Josh Tomlin gave up a couple of solo dingers but that’s all he gave up, allowing two runs on four hits over six. Carlos Santana himself hit a couple of solo homers negating all of that. Bradley Zimmer drove in two with a sac fly and an RBI single. The Indians tie up the 2017 Ohio Series 2-2. As we always note, the loser of the series wins Ohio.

Royals 5, Tigers 3: The Royals jumped out to a 3-0 lead but the Tigers tied it up with RBI singles from Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila in the sixth. The Royals put it away in the 12th inning, however, with homers from Sal Perez and Mike Moustakas. This 12-inning game was shorter than the Tigers’ nine inning game on Sunday.

Orioles 5, Rays 0: Kevin Gausman tossed six shutout innings, striking out eight and the bullpen added three shutout innings to close it out. Adam Jones homered. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop turned a nifty double play:

Cardinals 8, Rockies 2: Mike Leake shut out the Rockies for seven innings as his mates scored two in the first, fourth, seventh and eighth for a nice, symmetrical bit of run support. Randal Grichuk, Jose Martinez and Tommy Pham homered for the Redbirds.

Marlins 4, Rangers 0: Adam Conely caught the seven shutout inning bug himself — lot of that going around lately — and Giancarlo Stanton homered twice to tie Aaron Judge for the league lead. He’s on pace for 53 dingers.

Diamondbacks 10, Braves 2: R.A. Dickey‘s flutterball didn’t flutter so good and he was touched for four runs on five hits in three and two-thirds. Braves reliever Matt Wisler gave up four runs on five hits in two innings and he doesn’t have a knuckler to blame. A.J. Pollock did a lot of the touching up, driving in four with a homer and an RBI double and single. Zack Greinke allowed two over eight innings in this non-contest.

Mariners 4, Red Sox 0: James Paxton tossed — you’ll never guess — seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out ten. Kyle Seager hit a solo homer. The Red Sox’ bats are snoozing lately. Boston’s lead in the East is down to two games, but they’re tied with the Yankees in the loss column. It must be Dennis Eckersley’s fault.

Dodgers 6, Twins 4: The Dodgers were down by a run in the eighth when Cody Bellinger launched a three-run homer on an 0-2 pinch to put the score in cement. That made a winner out of Dodgers reliever Edward Paredes, making his major league debut at age 30 after ten years toiling in the minors. Bartolo Colon pitched for the Twins. He wasn’t bad for the 2017 version of him, allowing three runs over five innings. No telling if that buys him another start or if he continues to consider retirement.

Mets 5, Padres 3: Jacob deGrom is one of the few things that has gone right for the Mets this year, and it’s gone really right. He wins his eighth straight start, allowing two runs and striking out eight over eight innings. Wilmer Flores homered and Yoenis Cespedes tripled in a run.

Pirates 10, Giants 3: Andrew McCutchen hit a three-run homer and grounded in a run and Jordy Mercer hit his own three-run shot. Gerrit Cole won for the fifth time in six starts. Both sides took issue with home plate umpire Chris Conroy’s strike zone, with Bruce Bochy and acting manager Dave Righetti getting tossed and with Clint Hurdle acknowledging that it was a tough zone. Bochy kind of cut to the heart of the matter, though, when he said, “. . . but that really had nothing to do with what happened tonight. We gave up three-run homers.” Yup.

Wilson Ramos suffers head injury on Ruben Tejada’s backswing

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Rays catcher Wilson Ramos had to exit Monday night’s game against the Orioles in the fifth inning after suffering a head injury. Ruben Tejada broke his bat on a ground out and the barrel hit Ramos in his helmet. Rich Dubroff reports that Ramos needed six staples to close a laceration on his head.

Ramos will continue to be evaluated under MLB’s concussion protocol. He may wind up on the seven-day concussion disabled list.

Ramos, 29, entered Monday’s action batting .222/.259/.426 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 59 plate appearances. He was 0-for-2 before being replaced by Jesus Sucre.