Matsui carries Yankees to World Series victory

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Whether it was the remnants of a weekend cold or simply not having the extra day of rest he’s often been accustomed to, Pedro Martinez showed up Wednesday with far from his best stuff. He still managed to hold his own against eight of the Yankees’ nine hitters in two times through the order. Unfortunately, he had no answer for Hideki Matsui’s hot bat.
Matsui had a two-run homer in the first, a two-run single in third and a two-run double off J.A. Happ in the fifth to drive in six runs as the Yankees won 7-3 and clinched their 27th World Series.
Andy Pettitte, working on three days’ rest, got the win by allowing three runs over 5 2/3 innings in a gutsy performance. He walked five, but he largely stayed out of trouble until Ryan Howard homered in the sixth. Before that, Chase Utley, Howard and Raul Ibanez had been hitless against him for the series.
Martinez lasted only four innings, and he wouldn’t have made it that far if not for some poor at-bats from the bottom of the lineup. There was no way the Phillies could have scratched him before he took the mound, but they must have known from the start that he was going to struggle with his velocity clearly down from where it was in Game 2.
That’s the story of the game, with a little Mariano Rivera mixed in. The story of the series should be the Phillies’ inability to put together rallies. Both teams had a two-run homer tonight. Both teams had two doubles. Both teams had exactly 10 singles+walks. Yet the Yankees scored seven runs and the Phillies three.
It was typical of the series. The Phillies had the higher OPS, yet they just couldn’t get multiple hits in a row. 10 of their 12 homers were solo shots. The Yankees were much better at hitting with men on base. Mark Teixeira had an awful series, but the rest of the top five was able to carry a bottom four that ended up doing little.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel never deviated from his plan at any point during the postseason. Cliff Lee didn’t start on three days’ rest during any of the first six months, so he wasn’t going to do it in October. Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz were red hot? It didn’t matter. They were going to keep hitting where they had in the regular season.
The Phillies needed to look for an edge or two in order to beat what was a superior Yankee team, but they just employed the same strategies that worked for them all year long. While it’s not the only reason they lost, the reluctance to adapt didn’t help matters.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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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.