Girardi's gaffes give Angels new life

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Too much stupidity on the basepaths prevented it from being a great game, but Monday’s ALCS Game 3 was another exciting contest, one that will keep the second guessers going all night long following the Angels’ 5-4 win in 11 innings.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi will catch all of the flak after his team lost for the first time in six postseason games. The decision to pull David Robertson after he faced just two batters, retiring both, will be the one under the microscope.
However, the truly awful decision was pulling Johnny Damon with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 10th. Girardi thought a better arm might make a difference, so he inserted Jerry Hairston Jr., even though Mariano Rivera allows relatively few flyballs to left field.
The move would have been more defensible, though still undesirable, had Hairston come in off the bench. However, Hairston had already been inserted into the game as a designated hitter when he batted for Brett Gardner in the top of the ninth. The move meant the Yankees would lose their DH with the spot due up third in the top of the 11th.
Of course Rivera, being Rivera, pitched out of the jam, without any help from Hairston. But the switch meant that Rivera would have to either hit in the 11th or be removed from the game. Girardi opted to pull him and use Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli fanned, and Robertson came in to pitch the bottom of the 11th.
After Robertson got two outs by throwing 11 pitches, there was another shocking move. Out came Robertson and in came fellow right-hander Alfredo Aceves. The switch likely had something to do with Robertson throwing 33 pitches on Saturday, but if it made sense to use him to get two outs to start an inning, it certainly made sense to keep him in to face another right-hander. Besides, it wasn’t a real 33-pitch outing for Robertson on Saturday. Intentional walks accounted for one-quarter of those pitches.
The moves backfired in spectacular fashion. Howie Kendrick singled off Aceves and Jeff Mathis followed up with a game-winning double over the head of Hairston in left. It was a ball that likely would have eluded Damon as well, but the natural outfielder would have made a better run at it.
The hit was redemption for Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who had his own non-move that seemed to backfire in the 10th. After Mathis led off that inning with a double, Scioscia could have had Reggie Willits run in his place. Had he done so, there’s a good chance the Angels would have ended the game in the frame, as Willits shouldn’t have had any problem scoring from third on a Chone Figgins grounder to first that forced Mark Teixiera into a dive. Mathis opted to hold on the groundout and was stranded at first. It was an uncharacteristic decision from the typically aggressive Scioscia, but one that worked out just fine when Mathis won the game in the 11th.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.