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.

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.