Rangers win first ever postseason series, advance to ALCS vs. Yanks

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Roy Halladay made history last week, but Cliff Lee continues to rule the postseason.

Lee struck out 11 in a 5-1 victory over the Rays in Game 5 tonight, giving the Rangers their first ever postseason series victory and a date with the Yankees in the ALCS.

The Rangers held a 3-1 lead going into the top of the ninth inning, but Ian Kinsler provided some breathing room with a two-run shot off Rays closer Rafael Soriano. Lee got Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton in order as the Rays went down without much of a fight in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Lee tossed a season-high 120 pitches in the win. He allowed just two runs over 16 innings during the series (1.13 ERA), posting a ridiculous 21/0 K/BB ratio, improving to 6-0 with 1.43 ERA in seven career postseason starts. He’s a postseason cyborg.

Keep in mind that because Lee was needed in Game 5 tonight, C.J. Wilson will oppose CC Sabathia in Game 1 of the ALCS in Arlington on Friday night. Colby Lewis is likely to get the assignment in Game 2, allowing Cliff Lee to pitch on regular rest for Game 3 next Monday.

And what can you say about the Rays? They managed to win the American League East and secure home-field advantage, but lost all three games at the Trop and were held to just two runs along the way. That’s what out-of-this-world pitching will do to you. Now they are faced with an offseason where Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano are all likely to sign elsewhere.

Justin Verlander: “I’d like to see the AL and NL have the same rules… I vote NL rules.”

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 10:  Starting pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning at Safeco Field on August 10, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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On Thursday afternoon, Rays pitcher Chris Archer asked his Twitter followers, “Lots swirling around what needs to be changed about the game of baseball. What do y’all want to see changed, if anything, & why?”

Tigers ace Justin Verlander responded:

To that, Archer said:

For what it’s worth, Verlander hasn’t been much of a hitter. In 47 career plate appearances, he has three singles and no extra-base hits. And if the AL did get rid of the DH rule, the Tigers would have nowhere to put Victor Martinez. Verlander, though, would have an easier time pitching to opposing pitchers rather than their DH’s.

Rusney Castillo disappoints again by not running out a routine grounder

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 18:  Rusney Castillo #38 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after he was caught off third base for the third out of the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on August 18, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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The Red Sox inked Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract back in August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.

That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.