Lee's dominance puts Yankees in early hole

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The winner of Game 1 has prevailed in each of the last six World Series
It’s a streak that started when the Marlins upset the Yankees in six games in 2003. But the truth is that none of the series since have been close. In fact, three were sweeps and the other two ended in five games.
We still figure to see a better battle this time around, but anyone who expected the Yankees to steamroll their opponent from the weaker league got a nasty surprise when Cliff Lee completely shut the team down. It was nearly the first time the Yankees had been shut out in 41 World Series Game 1s.
On the other hand, at least they avoided being shut out back-to-back series games, having been blanked by Josh Beckett to close out the 2003 series.
Besides Lee, Chase Utley was the story. The game’s best second baseman homered twice to join Babe Ruth as the only left-handed hitters to homer twice off a left-handed pitcher in the same World Series game. He also reached base in a 26th straight postseason game, breaking Boog Powell’s record.
It was an extremely well played game until the eighth. CC Sabathia was wild in the first, but he pitched out of trouble and he went on to have a fine outing, spoiled only by Utley. Utley’s solo homers, two of the four hits allowed by CC, both came on two-strike fastballs that caught way too much of the plate.
What has to concern Yankees fans is that neither Phil Hughes nor David Robertson could help keep a 2-0 game close in the eighth. Hughes walked both batters he faced, though a couple of arguable calls went against him in the second at-bat. Robertson retired just one of three hitters. As mediocre as Joba Chamberlain has looked, the Yankees need Hughes and Robertson to serve as the bridge to Mariano Rivera. There are serious questions whether either can get the job done.
The offense was simply overmatched by an ace pitching at the absolute top level of his ability. Lee might have had the first World Series shutout since Beckett in 2003 if not for another postseason miscue from the Utley-Jimmy Rollins double play combination in the ninth. He struck out 10 and walked none. The run was unearned, so he now has a 0.54 ERA in four postseason starts.
Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez combined to go 0-for-8 with five strikeouts against him.
Game 2 now seems to be pretty close to a must-win for the Yankees, who just might have to face Lee twice more. Pedro Martinez and A.J. Burnett are set to take the mound.

A Mexican team wins the Caribbean Series for the third time in four years

Mexican players celebrate their victory in the Caribbean Series baseball final against Aragua Tigres of Venezuela, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Designated hitter Jorge Vazquez hit a game-winning home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, lifting Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory and the championship of the Caribbean Series. (AP Photo/Roberto Guzman)
Associated Press
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For those who aren’t familiar, Serie del Caribe, or the Caribbean Series, is the highest club level baseball tournament in Latin America, pitting the champions of the winter leagues in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela against one another in a bacchanalia of baseball that, if there was justice in the world, we’d all be watching instead of football.

This year’s installment ended last night with Mexico’s Mazatlan Venados beating Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres 5-4 in the final game at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Jorge Vazquez — who Yankees fans may remember from a few years back — provided the winning margin when he hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning.

This is the third Serie del Caribe title for a Mexican club in the past four years, with Naranjeros de Hermosillo winning in 2014 and Yaquis de Obregón winning in 2013. Pinar del Río from Cuba won it last winter. This is the first time the Venados have won it.

As we noted yesterday, this was longtime MLB starter Freddy Garcia‘s last game. He gave up four hits and allowed two earned runs over five and a third innings for the Tigres, getting a no-decision.

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

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
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.