Orioles bring in Millwood to head young rotation

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It was a prerequisite to the Rangers’ signing of Rich Harden; Kevin Milllwood’s $12 million salary simply had to be stricken from the books.
To make it happen, the Rangers ate $3 million and sent the veteran to the Orioles for former closer Chris Ray and a player to be named.
Millwood is coming off his best season in his four with Texas, as he went 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA in 31 starts. It seems like he’s frequently dealt with leg problems in recent years, but he still averaged 31 starts per year as a Ranger. He’s at that same 31 even if you go back eight years.
And that’s the kind of stability the Orioles were looking to add to a rotation that’s only other sure thing is Jeremy Guthrie. They’ll accept a return to 4.00+ ERA from Millwood if he stays on 200-inning pace. And if some other young starters come along as hoped, he could be traded again at the deadline, most likely at a profit.
The key here is that the Orioles kept all of their promising young starters and instead parted with Ray, who will still intriguing but was also arbitration eligible and no longer prized by the team. The soon-to-be 28-year-old Ray saved 33 games in his first full season in the majors in 2006, but he required Tommy John surgery in Aug. 2007, missed all of 2008 and failed to bounce back as hoped last season. He ended up with a 7.27 ERA in 43 1/3 innings for the club.
The good news is that Ray didn’t leave much velocity on the table. He still throws 92-95 mph consistently. However, AL batters typically had a very easy time lining up his fastball last season, and his decision to rely more and more on his slider did him little good. A new pitching coach in Mike Maddux might be just what he needs to turn his career around and reemerge as a quality late-game reliever. Still, it’s at least as likely that he’ll be off the 40-man roster by June 1 as it is that he’ll be a major asset in the Texas pen.
In the end, both teams are getting what they wanted here. The Orioles identified Millwood as more desirable than the free agent options and got him without surrendering a key piece. The Rangers viewed Harden as a potential upgrade for their rotation and still saved $1.5 million with the rotation switch. Sounds like a good trade to me.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.