And That Happened: Tuesday's Scores and Highlights

41 Comments

Twins 6, Indians 4; Athletics 7, White Sox 2:  These combined results hand the central division to Minnesota. The Twins lost their All-Star closer to Tommy John surgery in March. They lost their MVP candidate first baseman to a concussion in July. Their reigning MVP catcher’s OPS is down 150 points from a year ago. Going in and along the way there was much reason to doubt. In the end they become the first team to clinch. Congratulations 2010 Minnesota Twins, you defied expectations and adversity. This moment is yours.

Phillies 5, Braves 3: I’ll probably spend much of the winter wondering what might have happened if, before this pivotal series started, the Braves had managed to find (a) a starting pitcher who had reached puberty; and (b) an outfielder — one friggin’ outfielder — better than Nate McLouth, Melky Cabrera, Matt Diaz and Rick Ankiel to play next to Heyward. But we must deal with the world as it is, not how we wish it would be, and the world is set up thusly: with the Phillies are the better team, 20-win Roy Halladay is the likely Cy Young Award winner and the the NL East title is now virtually assured of remaining in Philadelphia. And don’t look back, Atlanta, because somethin’ might be gainin’ on ya. Specifically . . .

Giants 1, Cubs 0: Matt Cain and Carlos Zambrano trade zeroes for six innings each, but Buster Posey comes through with a solo blast in the eighth. Good thing too, because . . .

Padres 6, Dodgers 0: Clayton Richard scattered, smothered and covered eight hits while shutting out the Dodgers. The Padres gained a game on the Braves in the wild card. The Dodgers, alas, were eliminated from playoff contention.

Diamondbacks 3, Rockies 1: Colorado, unfortunately, loses ground, falling 2.5 games behind the Giants and three off the wild card pace. Joe Saunders (8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7K) must have had laser-like control last night, huh Carlos Gonzalez? “He was throwing balls everywhere and we were making it a lot easier on him because we were swinging at bad pitches.” Oh, well, in that case.

Yankees 8, Rays 3: The real Yankees starting lineup — which we haven’t seen much of lately — has returned this week, and with it the Yankees’ winning ways have as well. Funny how that works. This one was never really in doubt after a five-spot in the first, thanks in part to a Nick Swisher bomb. Oh and Jorge Posada may or may not have reached first base on a phantom hit by pitch. But really, I don’t have the energy to get worked up about this again so soon after last week’s Jeter thing. Maybe if it happened next week I’d muster some outrage at the outrage and play the frame-the-issue game and all of that again, but for now let’s all just pretend it never happened, OK?

Marlins 5, Mets 2: The Mets are officially eliminated from playoff contention. All of you who had paid for postseason ticket deposits may now apply for refunds.

Pirates 5, Cardinals 2: Break up the Pirates. Four in a row for Pittsburgh, their first four-game winning streak in over a year. Lately I have been making a habit of mentioning that the Cards have been losing to teams they shouldn’t be losing to, but I had no idea it was this bad. According to the game story, they’ve dropped seven straight series against sub-.500 teams.

Reds 4, Brewers 3: The Cardinals loss and the Reds win drops the magic number to four. The only negative here is seeing Jim Edmonds hurt himself on a home run trot. Stay down, champ! Stay down!

Orioles 9, Red Sox 1: Ty Wigginton hit a three-run homer in the seventh to put the O’s up 4-1, and then the Sox bullpen figured, eh, what the hell, and allowed five more. Four of those by Jon Papelbon, by the way, as he makes his impending non-tender easier and easier for everyone involved.

Blue Jays 5, Mariners 3: Three homers for the Jays. Ichiro went 4 for 4, putting him at 197 hits on the year. His 200-hit season streak is about all that’s left for anyone to check off a baseball to-do list in Seattle before putting things in storage for the winter.

Nationals 8, Astros 4: J.A. Happ threw six shutout innings and then the Houston bullpen allowed eight runs on eight hits over the next two. That’s special. And don’t look now but Chris Johnson was a triple short of the cycle!

Royals 9, Tigers 6: Detroit had a 3-0 lead after four but then gave up nine runs before a mini-rally in the ninth which made the final score look closer than the game really was.

Angels 2, Rangers 0: Ervin Santana with the five-hit shutout. I don’t think you can say “scattered” with five hits, though, which makes me sad because I was going to use another Waffle House menu item for this one like I did in the Padres-Dodgers recap. Alas.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

Elsa/Getty Images
11 Comments

Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.