Bumbling Scioscia can't blow Game 5

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The ALCS victory was theirs for the taking even after an awful first inning, but the Yankees couldn’t reach out and grab it. Instead, the series will head back to New York for a Game 6 on Saturday. The end result came in spite of the efforts of one Mike Scioscia, the AL’s likely Manager of the Year for 2009.
Let’s run down the mistakes:
– He sat down his hottest hitter, Howie Kendrick, to go to Maicer Izturis, just as he had done during the regular season. Izturis did make one notable defensive play, snaring a grounder that had deflected off Kendry Morales’ glove, but he went 0-for-4 while batting sixth in the lineup. Kendrick is 4-for-11 with a homer and a triple in the series.
– In the seventh, he made the bizarre choice to let John Lackey face Johnny Damon with the bases loaded, only to pull him in favor of Darren Oliver once Damon was retired. Removing Lackey prior to Damon’s at-bat would have been defensible. Letting Lackey face Teixeira after retiring Damon would have been defensible. Instead, Scioscia went the one route that made no sense at all. It’s not like he even had history on his side, as Teixeira went 2-for-3 with a walk lifetime against Oliver. Teixeira delivered a three-run double, and Oliver never got an out in what ended up being a six-run inning.
– Scioscia twice played small-ball in bad situations. In the seventh, he had Chone Figgins put down a sacrifice with two on and none out, even though Figgins has grounded into a double play once every 91 plate appearances in his career. The Angels went on to score three times in the inning, and perhaps they would have broken the game open if not for giving up an out. In the eighth, the red-hot Jeff Mathis was asked to bunt against Joba Chamberlain with a man on second and two outs. He failed to get it down in two attempts and ended up striking out.
– Scioscia actually made a great call in the eighth, turning to probably Game 7 starter Jered Weaver in reliever. Weaver was dominant in retiring Melky Cabrera, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter on two strikeouts and a comebacker. Scioscia, though, couldn’t resist going to closer Brian Fuentes in the ninth. In the end, it worked out. Fuentes loaded the bases on two walks — one intentional — and a HBP, but he got out of it by retiring the ice-cold Nick Swisher to end the game.
So, now we’ll see a Game 6. Joe Saunders vs. Andy Pettitte. It means both teams will resume using their best lineups, with Jorge Posada catching for New York and Kendrick playing second for the Angels. The only thing in doubt is whether Mathis or Mike Napoli will catch. Napoli caught Saunders in Game 2, but Mathis is too hot to be benched now.

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.