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.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.