What Happened to the Red Sox?

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Despite their late season charge, everyone kind of figured that the Twins would fall to the Yankees in the ALDS.  While some morons totally blew the call on the Cardinals-Dodgers series, it’s not like the Dodgers winning was a total shocker either. But did anyone really think that the Red Sox would simply roll over and play dead like they did against Anaheim?

Actually, maybe some folks did.  Here’s Theo Epstein after yesterday’s loss: “I don’t think anything that happened in this series was completely out
of the blue.  We saw things that
were reflected early in the season.”

What kinds of things?  For one thing, the shakiness of Papelbon.  No, you can’t pin this all on him — and let’s be 100% clear here: the Sox “fans” booing Paps after the top of the ninth was a totally bush league move from folks who should know better — but the fact is that Papelbon v.2009 was not the same pitcher we grew used to seeing in 2006, 2007 and 2008.  His velocity is down and when you have a merely superior fastball as opposed to an otherworldly one like he’s had in the past, you’re going to get smacked around a bit.  And you get the sense that he knows his kung-fu isn’t what it used to be. He went 3-0 on Chone Figgins before getting anything over in the ninth. The same Chone Figgins who had been 0-12 prior to that at bat.  Papelbon should have been throwing his version of batting practice fastballs to him, challenging him to do something with the ball. Except now Papelbon’s version of a batting practice fastball is no longer an above-average major league fastball, and his tentativeness simply underscored this.

But like I said, hanging this on Papelbon is to miss the real story here, and that’s the story of an aging and incomplete offense that feasted on the Orioles and in home games all year but which was really exposed against the Angels pitching.  Ortiz was 1-12 with zero extra base hits. Lowell had an RBI yesterday, but was 0-7 in the two games in Anaheim. Jason Bay was 1-8. There was a lot of that.  It’s just not a team with a bat that strikes fear into the heart of a pitching staff anymore.  The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan went so far as to pine for Manny Ramirez yesterday.  

I don’t know if it’s that bad, but the 5-1 lead in yesterday’s game was, in hindsight, a mere blip on the radar screen. The one run and eight hits they gathered in two losses in Anaheim was far more indicative of the state of the Sox against good pitching.

It’s going to be a slightly longer offseason than expected in Boston this year, but from the looks of things Theo Epstein is going to need all of the extra time he can get in order to cure what ails the Red Sox.

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.