Given how bad the Rangers had been against AL playoff teams on the road and given that ace David Price was going for the Rays today, Tampa Bay probably felt pretty confident coming into today’s game. Of course, that’s why they play the games.
Jeff Francoeur hitting an RBI double and Bengie Molina going 3 for 4 with a homer and a couple of RBI himself wasn’t exactly something you’d bet the mortgage on. But Cliff Lee showing up strong was, and all three of those things happened. It was interesting in the ninth as Neftali Feliz walked the first two batters, but a good defensive play from Jeff Francoeur — he’s so dreamy; I love him so — and calmer nerves on the part of Feliz closed things out to preserve the game.
So: how screwed are the Rays?
Pretty screwed, I’d say! As our friend Joe Posnanski noted today, teams that win the first game of five-game series are 70-26 over the years. That’s pretty good. And that’s before you realize just how big a falloff the Rays rotation has from Price to James “Shomer Shabbos” Shields and Matt “I ain’t been all that since my no-hitter” Garza. Sure, the Rangers have a big falloff from Cliff Lee to the rest of their rotation as well, but at this moment of the season I have more faith in C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter.
But hey, if we didn’t predict Frenchie and Molina’s star turns today, we can’t predict gloom and doom for the Rays either. It’s one game. There are as many as four more remaining. They have a shot.
Just a lot less of a shot than the Rangers do, statistically speaking.
The Yankees are facing a convoluted path to the postseason, and they didn’t do themselves any favors after Todd Frazier fell for Ryan Goins‘ hidden ball trick in the third inning of Friday’s series opener. With one out and Frazier on second base, Jacoby Ellsbury skied a deep fly ball to right field, where it was caught by Jose Bautista just shy of the warning track and tossed back to Goins at second. Goins faked the throw to Marco Estrada, then sneakily (or not so sneakily, depending on your vantage point) gloved the ball and caught Frazier off the bag for the third out.
Of course, it helped that Frazier’s back was turned during the throw, so Goins’ fake-out may not have been as obvious as it was when the Yankees reviewed the tape several minutes later.
Goins earned another spot on the highlight reel in the sixth inning, mashing his second grand slam of the season while Frazier — and the rest of the Yankees’ offense, sans one home-run-record-slaying Aaron Judge — scrambled to catch up. The Yankees currently trail the Blue Jays 8-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, and will need to pull off a comeback (and hope the Astros and Athletics clinch their respective games) before they can lay claim to a playoff spot.
The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.
Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.
With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.