News Flash: team performs worse against good teams than bad ones


I noticed this kicking around the Twitterverse last night and this morning, but the meme developed fully this afternoon: Oh noes! The Yankees don’t play well against good teams!

That’s the refrain from the New York Times today, which notes:

The Yankees’ struggles against better teams have received little
attention, and it is no wonder why. In recent weeks, the team has played
well over all, and the numbers seem to tell a story of a team that is
among the hottest in baseball . . . But many of those wins have come against bad teams.

I touched on this last week (and totally mangled the facts, but whatever), but the fact remains: bad baseball teams are much easier to beat than good baseball teams, and even championship baseball teams have worse records against the winners than the losers. In fact, a major league source who asked for anonymity because he’s not permitted to share such information revealed that beating good teams is much, much harder than beating bad teams.  It’s true!

But maybe saying stuff like that — or saying the thing that best describes what happened to the Yankees against the Phillies the last two nights (i.e. that the Yankees lost because they just weren’t playing well) is too boring.

It’s much more interesting to create some overarching theme that invokes mental toughness or the lack thereof than to simply chalk it up having trouble with junkballers, the bullpen pitching poorly at the wrong time and simply having the bats go to sleep.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.