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.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.