Hamels lets down Phillies one more time

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It seems like the story has been repeated several times this year. Cole Hamels came out firing again Saturday, keeping the Yankees hitless through three innings. The only one of the first 11 hitters to reach did so on a HBP. And then it all fell apart, too quickly for Charlie Manuel to do much of anything about it. Mark Teixeira walked and Alex Rodriguez homered in the fourth. In the fifth, four of the first five batters delivered hits, resulting in three runs. Hamels left down 5-3, and the Yankees ended up winning 8-5.
For the fourth straight postseason start, Hamels failed to last six innings. He’s given up 16 runs and seven homers in 19 innings. Compare that to the 2008 postseason, when he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and gave up two homers in 35 innings.
The search for a reason has been on for months. How could one of the league’s best be so consistently mediocre for so long? His strikeout, walk and home run rates are practically identical to his 2008 marks. His groundball rate is actually up slightly. His velocity readings are essentially the same.
Pitch tipping? It’d be the easiest explanation, but it’s one the Phillies have surely examined time and time again. I think a big part is that the league has gotten smarter about laying off his excellent changeup. Hamels has never had a remarkable fastball, and his curve is average at best. If you swing at those pitches, you have a pretty good chance against him.
Unable to come back after Hamels departed, the Phillies are now down 2-1 in the World Series. Andy Pettitte wasn’t great, but he neutralized the left-handers — Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez combined to go 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the game — and that ensured that both of Jayson Werth’s homers were solo shots. Alex Rodriguez, the redeemed Nick Swisher and Hideki Matsui went deep for the Yankees in the victory.
The Phillies, so confident after Game 1, can’t be feeling good about things now. The decision to back up Cliff Lee to Game 5 leaves them with essentially no choice other than to start Hamels in a potential Game 7. J.A. Happ would be the alternative, and he’ll probably be too burnt from relief work. The Yankees, meanwhile, are all set to go with CC Sabathia against Joe Blanton on Sunday. The Phillies will have to pull off quite an upset to avoid falling behind 3-1.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.