Return of Bad Brad dooms Phillies

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It was fun while it lasted.
Lidge opened the postseason with five straight scoreless appearances. He put together that kind of streak just once during the regular season, when he saved five in a row from May 26-June 1. Of course, he finished the regular season 0-8 with 11 blown saves and a 7.21 ERA.
It looked like Lidge might be on his way to another flawless inning Sunday in a tie game against the Yankees, as he retired Hideki Matsui on a popout and struck out Derek Jeter to begin the top of the ninth. A Johnny Damon single and then one of the oddest double steals you’ll ever see followed. With Mark Teixeira up and the shift employed, Damon swiped second and kept on going, reaching third easily since third baseman Pedro Feliz had been covering second.
Damon’s presence on third as the go-ahead run appeared to make Lidge nervous about using his slider. He went on to hit Teixeira and then give up a go-ahead double on a fastball to Alex Rodriguez that caught too much of the plate. Jorge Posada followed with a hard two-run single to the gap, and Lidge only got out of the inning because one of the game’s worst baserunners chose to continue on to second and was thrown out by 20 feet. Mariano Rivera finished from there, and the Yankees won 7-4.
It was another well played game until the ninth. CC Sabathia was fine on three days’ rest, surrendering three runs in 6 2/3 innings. Joe Blanton overcame a poor first to keep the Phillies in it by allowing four runs over six innings. Chase Utley homered off Sabathia, and Pedro Feliz tied the game in the eighth with a solo shot off Joba Chamberlain. The Yankees got their runs without hitting a homer. It helped that they really bunched together their hits. All seven runs and eight of their nine hits came in three innings (the first, fifth and ninth).
That the Phillies have gotten so little from the first, fourth and sixth spots in their order has made it very difficult for them to sustain rallies. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez are all struggling mightily right now. Ibanez was particularly awful tonight. His first at-bat, a strikeout against Sabathia with two on and two out in the first, was the worst that any hitter had all night, and he ended up 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
The Phillies now face a big uphill climb to come back in the World Series. They’re the definite favorites in Game 5, with Cliff Lee pitching at home against A.J. Burnett on short rest. Still, even if they prevail then, taking two in a row in Yankee Stadium, without having Lee to fall back on, will be extremely difficult.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.