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Live blog: Yankees-Rangers ALCS Game 1

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UPDATE: It’s all over. Thanks to a stunning eighth inning comeback, the Yankees have taken Game 1 of the ALCS over the Rangers 6-5.

Mitch Moreland singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning against Mariano Rivera and was then bunted over to second base by Elvis Andrus. Not the worst play if you are trying to stay alive, but it’s tough to give up even one out when you are facing the best closer in the history of the world. Michael Young hung in there against Rivera, but eventually struck out swinging for the second out. Josh Hamilton grounded out to Alex Rodriguez end it, stranding Moreland at second base.

Thanks for hanging out at HBT tonight. Stay tuned for our post-game wrap-up from our very own Aaron Gleeman.

11:47 PM: The Yankees missed a prime chance to add an insurance run in the top of the ninth inning. After Derek Jeter led off with a double, Yankees manager Joe Girardi oddly made the call for Nick Swisher to bunt…with nobody out. Swisher popped up the bunt and Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez followed with consecutive fly outs to end the inning. Mariano Rivera enters the bottom of the ninth with a 6-5 lead.

11:32 PM: Yikes. The nightmare isn’t over yet. Ian Kinsler led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a four-pitch walk against Kerry Wood, but proceeded to get picked off first base. That’s a killer. Wood then got David Murphy to ground out and Julio Borbon to strike out swinging. The Rangers are actually hitless since Michael Young’s two-run double in the fourth inning. It’s 6-5 as we head to the top of the ninth.

11:20 PM: Completing a nightmare eighth inning for the Rangers, the Yankees jumped ahead 6-5 on a broken bat single by Marcus Thames. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot of debate about using Ron Washington using Holland against a lefty-killer like Thames. Of course, if Washington would have brought in a right-hander there, he probably would have had to face Lance Berkman. Pick your poison, I guess.

By the way (via Aaron), here’s Nolan Ryan’s reaction to the top of the eighth inning. I feel bad for you Rangers fans, but this is pretty classic stuff.

11:08 PM: We’re all tied up in Texas. The Yankees have plated four runs and Ron Washington is about to use his fifth pitcher of the inning. And there’s still nobody out!

After taking over for C.J. Wilson, Darren Oliver walked Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira to load the bases. Darren O’Day then entered, giving up a rocket to Alex Rodriguez past Michael Young and into left field. Derek Jeter and Swisher scored to narrow the gap to 5-4. Washington made another pitching change, bringing in Clay Rapada to face Robinson Cano. He singled to center field, bringing Teixeira home — Rodriguez was able to make it to third on an error by Josh Hamilton. Left-hander Derek Holland is in to face Marcus Thames with runners on first and third.

10:53 PM: C.J. Wilson was just pulled from the game after giving up an RBI double to Derek Jeter in the top of the eighth. He received a well deserved standing-ovation from the Arlington faithful as he walked off the field. All told, Wilson gave up six hits while walking a pair and striking out four. He threw 68 out of 104 pitches for strikes. Can’t ask for much better.

Darren Oliver is now in the game to face Nick Swisher with Jeter on second base and no outs.

10:30 PM: The Yankees are finally on the board. Robinson Cano just snuck one just inside the right field foul pole to lead off the top of the seventh inning, ending the shutout for C.J. Wilson. Interestingly, left-handed batters didn’t hit a single home run against Wilson in 171 plate appearances during the regular season. In fact, it was the first time he had served up a home run to a lefty batter since June 3, 2008 (Shin-Soo Choo).

10:17 PM: C.J. Wilson needed just nine pitches to get through a 1-2-3 top of the sixth inning. The Yankees desperately need baserunners, so it was a little surprising to see Nick Swisher swinging on the first pitch to lead off the inning. Wilson now has six shutout innings under his belt.

Dustin Moseley is coming in for the Yankees in the bottom of the sixth. Like Joba Chamberlain before him, this is his first appearance since October 3.

9:56 PM: Derek Jeter grounded into an inning-ending double play in the top of the fifth, so the score remains 5-0.

In other news, Joba Chamberlain is in the game to start the bottom of the fifth inning, as C.C. Sabathia is done for the night. He gave up six hits while walking four and striking out three. Aside from a playoff tuneup last October and an injury-shortened start last June, this was his shortest outing as a Yankee. It’s probably for the best. If the Yankees come back, great. If not, they may need him for Game 4.

9:41 PM: The Rangers finally cashed in against C.C. Sabathia in the bottom of the fourth. Michael Young doubled the other way to drive in Matt Treanor and Elvis Andrus, giving the Rangers a 5-0 cushion. Joba Chamberlain is up in the Yankees’ bullpen, as Sabathia is at 95 pitches through four innings.

9:32 PM: Robinson Cano and Marcus Thames had back-to-back singles with two outs in the top of the fourth, but C.J. Wilson was able to get Jorge Posada to fly out and escape. He has thrown 58 pitches through four innings, walking one and striking out three (including two swinging strikeouts of Alex Rodriguez).

By the way, Craig just tweeted this link to Nolan Ryan’s first pitch. Pretty cool if you haven’t seen it. He can still bring the heat.

9:13 PM: Josh Hamilton led off the bottom of the third with a walk, then earned his antlers by stealing second base on a swinging strikeout by Vladimir Guerrero. CC Sabathia balked, moving him to third base, but the big southpaw was able to get Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler to ground out, keeping the score at 3-0. The Yanks are pretty darn fortunate to be this close.

9:02 PM: The Yankees just had their first threat of the game in the top of the third inning, but were unable to score. Despite giving up a single to Curtis Granderson and walking Brett Gardner, C.J. Wilson threw just 13 pitches in the inning.

8:51 PM: After throwing 36 pitches in the first, Sabathia retired the side in order on 14 pitches in the second. He continued to miss up on his first two batters in the frame, but had a nice sequence on Michael Young, striking him out looking for the third out.

8:35 PM: Didn’t see that one coming. Pitching on nine-days’ rest, CC Sabathia struggled to command his fastball in the bottom of the first, throwing just 16 out of 36 pitches for strikes and walking three. It could have been a lot worse, too, as the third out was recorded at home plate after a wild pitch. Fortunately, it looks like home plate umpire Gerry Davis got this call right.

As for Josh Hamilton, he probably won’t have to answer any more questions about his poor performance at the plate during the ALDS. He turned on a hanging curveball and eeked it over the right field fence to give the Rangers an early 3-0 lead. That’s where we stand after one.

8:11 PM: C.J. Wilson just negotiated his way through a 1-2-3 top of the first, throwing just 12 pitches. Wilson led the American League with 93 walks during the regular season, averaging 4.1 BB/9, so look for the Yankees to work the count as the game continues. Of course, they are the Yankees, so we should expect nothing less.

8:00 PM: At long last, baseball.

Game 1 of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Rangers is just a few short minutes away.

With that in mind, I’ll be dropping some of my random thoughts and observations right here throughout the night. Feel free to join the conversation in our comments section.

Tonight’s starters:

C.J. Wilson – The southpaw went 15-8 with 3.35 ERA during the regular season, including a 5.65 ERA in three starts against the Bombers. He tossed 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Rays in Game 2 of the ALDS.

CC Sabathia – The big left-hander was 21-7 with a 3.18 ERA during the regular season, including six innings of one-run ball in his lone start against the Rangers on April 16. He allowed four runs — three earned — over six innings in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Twins.

Looking for tonight’s lineups? Aaron has you covered right here.

Jose Fernandez was in the middle of baseball’s culture war

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins and Brian McCann #16 of the Atlanta Braves have words after a solo home run by Fernandez in the sixth inning during a game  at Marlins Park on September 11, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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A lot has been written since news of Jose Fernandez’s death broke early Sunday morning. Fernandez will be remembered fondly for the way he seemed to never stop smiling and for the way he competed on the field. Having already won the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year, it seemed inevitable that Fernandez would one day win a Cy Young Award. We were truly watching one of the best arms of this era and that was paired with a terrific personality. The combination is quite rare and the sport was made so much better in the four years during which Fernandez pitched.

Fernandez attempted to defect to the United States four times and was sent to prison after each of the first three unsuccessful attempts. On the fourth attempt, his mother was thrown overboard in choppy waters and Fernandez dove in to rescue her. Fernandez risked everything to come to the United States to play baseball and seek a better life for himself and his family. If anyone had a right to tell other players to “play the game the right way” or to “respect the game,” it would have been Fernandez. But he never did. He played every game like it was his first. He savored his time out on the baseball field.

When Fernandez somehow snagged a Troy Tulowitzki line drive, Tulo stopped in his tracks to ask him, “Did you catch that?” Fernandez, flashing his trademark smile, replied, “Yeah, I did.”

When Giancarlo Stanton hit a monster home run to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, Fernandez cheered like he had just won the lottery.

Most memorably, Fernandez took a moment to take in his first career home run, hit on September 12, 2013 against the Braves. He lifted a 1-0 Mike Minor change-up for a no-doubt home run just in front of the Clevelander sign beyond the left field fence at Marlins Mark. Fernandez took his time circling the bases and, as he passed third base, Chris Johnson chirped at him. Catcher Brian McCann confronted him at home plate and shortly thereafter, both benches emptied. Even during this tense moment, Fernandez was seen smiling. In the dugout, he had an expression on his face that seemed to say, “Really?”

Fernandez was not the most central figure in baseball’s culture war, but as one of baseball’s best and most well-known players, he was certainly in the middle with the likes of Yasiel Puig, Jose Bautista, and Carlos Gomez. The war was about baseball’s “unwritten rules” which were devised by a homogeneous group of players decades ago and still followed today, still a rather homogeneous group. Newer players, an increasingly diverse group, were expected to adhere to these rules despite the fact that many of them played the game in a culture where emotion and exuberance were a normal part of the game.

Fernandez’s death should be a reminder that, when all is said and done, baseball is just a game and we’re meant to have fun with it. He was the embodiment of fun on the baseball field. In his memory, players should admire their handiwork on the field. Flip a bat after hitting a foul ball, like Odubel Herrera. Bat flip a fly out, like Puig. Players should laugh and pump their fists and cheer as if they might never have a chance to do it again. Because they might not.

Jose Fernandez was remarkable on and off the field

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Pitcher Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins poses for photos on media day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 24, 2016 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
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Jose Fernandez’s love for baseball was born in Santa Clara, Cuba. It was there, alongside childhood friend and St. Louis Cardinal Aledmys Diaz, that he devoted hours to makeshift games of baseball. Often alone, often without a teammate, a playing field, or even a baseball, Fernandez would spend hours lobbing baseball-sized rocks in the air, hitting them with sticks, and circling imaginary bases.

The dream was to play in the Cuban National Series, a 16-team league that formed when the original Cuban League disbanded in 1961. When Fernandez became a teenager, however, his stepfather, Ramon Jimenez, defected to the United States. It took Jimenez 13 attempts before he made a successful escape, and soon he sent for his wife and children. Whatever baseball aspirations Fernandez had took a backseat to his own treacherous journey from Cuba to Florida.

After two unsuccessful attempts and two months in a Cuban prison, 15-year-old Fernandez, his mother, and his stepsister tried again. The voyage was tumultuous; at one point, Fernandez’s mother fell overboard. Fernandez dove in after her and helped her swim 30 yards back to the boat. It took another month and change before Fernandez was settled in Florida with his family, and from there, his baseball career appeared to flourish overnight. He enrolled in Braulio Alonso High School and pitched during two championship runs with the Florida Class 6A state champions, working a 13-1 record and 2.85 ERA in his senior year with two no-hitters.

By 2011, several weeks before his 19th birthday, Fernandez was selected by the Miami Marlins in the first round of the MLB draft. His ascension through the minor leagues was even more remarkable. In his first season with Single-A Greensboro, Fernandez contributed six innings of a combined no-hitter, pitched to a combined 1.75 ERA and 158 strikeouts between Greensboro and Advanced-A Jupiter, and was distinguished as the preeminent Marlins minor league pitcher of the year.

If the transition from Miami’s minor league circuit to the big league stage was a rocky one, Fernandez hid it well. He debuted with the Marlins on April 17, 2013, holding the Mets to five innings of one-run ball and striking out eight of 19 batters. Only six major league pitchers under 21 years old had struck out at least eight batters during their major league debut; at 20 years old, Fernandez was the seventh.

The rest of his rookie season was no less groundbreaking. Fernandez worked a 2.19 ERA, second only to Clayton Kershaw’s 1.83 mark among qualified starting pitchers, appeared in his first All-Star Game, was named Rookie of the Month in two consecutive months, and capped his year with a staggering 4.1 fWAR. The Marlins didn’t just find their next ace in Fernandez; they found one of the best starting pitchers of the decade.

This isn’t to say that Fernandez was perfect — no player is. Reports surfaced in November 2015 that the 23-year-old hurler was working under a strained relationship with the Marlins’ brass, refusing to adhere to dugout protocol and asking president of baseball operations Michael Hill when he would be traded. Per Andy Slater of slaterscoops.com, the higher-ups in the Marlins’ organization weren’t the only ones frustrated with their star pitcher. Casey McGehee reprimanded Fernandez for showing up late to the clubhouse, and unnamed players also expressed their hope that Fernandez would struggle on the mound in future starts as a consequence for his arrogant behavior.

Following the report, several players stepped forward in Fernandez’s defense. According to a report by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the worst criticism levied at Fernandez was that he occasionally acted his age. (Brian McCann, who confronted Fernandez in a benches-clearing brawl after the rookie’s first career home run, might have agreed.) Others, like right-handers Dan Haren and Tom Koehler, vocalized their support for the pitcher despite any underlying tension surrounding his potential departure.

Whether or not the rumors had merit, Fernandez was spared the chopping block during his lengthy recovery process in 2014 and 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. In 2016, he again proved his dominance on the mound. Through 186 ⅔ innings, the 24-year-old posted 16 wins, a staggering 12.49 K/9 rate, a 2.86 ERA and career-high 6.2 fWAR. It should have been just the second outstanding season of a lengthy career; instead, it was his last.

In the wake of today’s tragedy, it is difficult to dwell on Fernandez’s professional accomplishments. We know that he was more than the sum of his innings pitched in Miami, more than a feel-good story or a testament to the resilience of other players who defected from their home countries in pursuit of a better life. By all reports, he was a man of incredible courage, a cherished son and grandson, and a remarkable talent on the field. His life, as with any other, should be valued not for what he did or did not do, but simply because he existed.