And That Happened: Division Series Edition

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Giants 1, Braves 0: Congratulations, Major League Baseball: a playoff game was decided by a blown call. Sure, Tim Lincecum struck out 14 dudes — and I don’t want to detract from what was a clearly dominant performance on his part — but he would have been in the dugout with his very nice no-decision watching the bullpens battle in the 10th inning had the umpires made the correct call on Buster Posey’s stolen base in the fourth inning.  Posey admitted it after the game, going so far as to say “I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have instant replay right now.” That’s pretty much on the nose, is it not? Certainly we can’t change the outcome of baseball games that are in the books, but how Selig and the rest of the powers that be can continue to say everything is just dandy with umpiring and the state of replay is beyond me.

Setting that aside for now — and believe me, I’ll be saying more about it later — the Braves didn’t do themselves any favors whatsoever. Yes, Lincecum was good, but if the Braves had at any point in the game said “Hey, you know what? Maybe we should stop swinging at balls six inches out of the zone” it may have been a different game.  If Bobby Cox had not inexplicably intentionally walked Pablo Sandoval before the Cody Ross single that scored Posey, it may have been a different game.  But they didn’t and it wasn’t.

Ultimately, this was Tim Lincecum’s night. It was a fantastic performance by the guy, doing what he had to do to win a game in which his own offense wasn’t doing him any favors themselves. He went the distance, saving his pen for tonight’s game and putting the Giants in an excellent position to go up 2-0 before heading to Atlanta.

Yankees 5, Twins 2: More bad umpiring here, though this was balls-and-strikes bad, not calls-in-the-field bad. Maybe in a just world we have replay for disputed calls right now, but I don’t think any set of circumstances would have us living in a world with automated ball-and-strike umping at present. But jeez, look at Hunter Wendlestedt’s zone. Ick.  It all culminated, of course, in what should have been strike three to Lance Berkman
in the seventh. Instead, Wendlestedt called it a ball and Berkman
hit what ended up being the game-winning double on the next
pitch. He ended up scoring too, making it 4-2 ,and that was basically all she wrote.

But like with the Braves’ awful at-bats against Tim Lincecum, the Twins have a bigger issue to deal with here. Namely the fact that tattooed on the rear end of each and every Minnesota Twins player are the words “Property of the New York Yankees Baseball Club.”

Rangers 6, Rays 0: And for our third bad call of the day, we go to Tampa, where Michael Young’s three-run homer came one pitch after he stayed alive on a disputed — an ultimately incorrectly-called — check-swing.  Unlike the other two games, though, this wasn’t the deciding factor. James Shields was terrible, the Rays’ bats listless and Texas was never challenged.  Leave it to Mitch Williams of all people to correctly analyze the problem here: “there are three other guys who should have started that game over James Shields.” OK, maybe that overstates it a little — and I still don’t know that I’d want Shields starting in Texas — but Joe Maddon’s decision to go with him in Game 2 doesn’t look too spiffy at the moment. Not that he really had control over things . . .

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).