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.

World Series Game 1 will feature Dallas Keuchel vs. Clayton Kershaw

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The Dodgers and Astros have selected their starters for Game 1 of the World Series. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel will open the series for the Astros, while fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the first of two home games at Dodger Stadium.

Keuchel, 29, has been a steady presence for the Astros this postseason. He clinched Game 2 of the ALDS with 5 2/3 innings of one-run, seven-strikeout ball against the Red Sox and returned for his second postseason win with seven scoreless innings against the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS. He was outmatched in Game 5 of the Championship Series, however, scattering four runs and eight strikeouts across 4 2/3 innings while the Yankees worked their way up to a 5-0 shutout. Nevertheless, he’s perhaps the Astros’ strongest arm behind ALCS MVP Justin Verlander and has not surrendered a single home run in 17 1/3 consecutive innings this postseason.

Kershaw, on the other hand, has had a less consistent track record in the playoffs. While his postseason yips have been well-documented thus far, his struggles on the mound haven’t always led to disaster — at least not this time around. The Dodgers are 3-0 in all three of Kershaw’s starts this month and enjoyed a quality start from their ace during Game 5 of the NLCS last Thursday. The 29-year-old southpaw recorded his second win of the playoffs with a run, three hits, a walk and five strikeouts over six innings. Unlike Keuchel, he’s given up a home run in each of his outings to date (and four homers in Game 1 of the NLDS).

Game 1 is set for Tuesday evening at 8:00 PM ET. The Dodgers have home field advantage through Games 1 and 2 before the series moves to Houston, and will try to capitalize on that advantage in order to extend their postseason winning streak at Dodger Stadium. They’re 4-0 at home and 3-1 on the road this October, while the Astros boast a 6-0 advantage in Houston and a significantly less impressive 1-4 record away from home.