Atrocious umpiring not a factor as Yanks stomp Angels

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At least some brought their A games to the park on Tuesday. The Halos certainly didn’t live up to their logos, and the boys in blue continued to build the case for why instant replay needs to be greatly expanded in baseball.
Since it turned into a rout, CC Sabathia will be the story, and deservedly so. On three days’ rest, the big left-hander silenced anyone still questioning his postseason record with eight innings of one-run ball. He improved to 3-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.19.
Had the game remained close, then the umpires would have faced their greatest scrutiny yet. Tim McClelland, widely revered as the game’s best, horribly botched two plays at third, making it obvious in the process that he wasn’t even paying attention to the game in front of him.
In the fourth, second-base umpire Dale Scott missed a clear pickoff at second base. That was the play that led to McClelland’s first error. Nick Swisher should have been called out after straying from the bag, but Scott ruled him safe following the pickoff throw. He went on to advance to third and seemingly score on a sac fly, but McClelland, who never looked to see where Swisher was, said Swisher left too early and called him out, though replay showed he didn’t. It wasn’t even particularly close.
At least that was righting a wrong. McClelland’s call in the fifth suggested that his head was a long way from Anaheim. Swisher hit a comebacker to Darren Oliver with Jorge Posada on third and Robinson Cano on second. Oliver threw home, and catcher Mike Napoli snatched the ball and ran Posada back to third. Cano, meanwhile, had run almost all of the way to third, only to stop a foot in front of the bag. Posada returned to third, but overran the base, allowing Napoli to tag both players while neither was on the bag. Bizarrely, McClelland only gave the Angels the one out. Fortunately, the Angels did get out of the inning without further damage.
So, the score will overshadow the bad umpiring and some poor managing from Mike Scioscia, who decided against pulling an ineffective Scott Kazmir to start the fifth and never went to Ervin Santana until it was 5-1. It didn’t matter, since the Angels couldn’t get anything going against Sabathia and they again failed to stop Alex Rodriguez, who went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and three-run scored.
Now comes the unnecessary day off before a must-win Game 5 for the Angels. A.J. Burnett and John Lackey will pitch. With Lackey comes his personal catcher, Jeff Mathis, and that the Angels are facing a right-hander means that Maicer Izturis is due to start at second over Howie Kendrick. However, Scioscia better have some sort of new plan in store, because a weaker lineup is hardly what the Angels need right now.
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The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.