Rangers make early lead stand up in Game 2

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On Friday, it was 5-0 after four innings.  Today, it was 5-0 after three.

The Rangers, though, held on this time.  Jumping all over Phil Hughes, they scored a total of seven runs in the first five innings and turned a five-run lead over to the bullpen in the sixth.  Colby Lewis was strong early, although just like in his start against the Rays, he wore down quickly.  He gave up a solo homer to Robinson Cano in the sixth to make it a 7-2 game and then allowed two more batters to reach with two outs.

At that point, it was obvious a move needed to be made.  Manager Ron Washington, though, again seemed to be throwing darts as far as whom to bring in.  Warming up in the pen were probable Game 4 starter Tommy Hunter and lefty specialist Clay Rapada.  Due up for the Yankees was the left-handed-hitting Brett Gardner.

Washington had to know that if he called on Rapada, the Yankees were going to counter with right-handed slugger Marcus Thames.  On the plus side, that would get Gardner’s speed and defense out of the game.  But Thames, who hit nine homers in 127 at-bats after the All-Star break and one more in the ALDS, was a definite threat to make it a 7-5 game with three innings still to go.

Fortunately, it all worked out for Washington.  Rapada entered, and Thames came in as a pinch-hitter.  The battle went on for nine pitches, with Thames battling back from down 0-2 to work the count full, but Rapada ended up with the strikeouts.

From there, the Yankees continued to threaten, but couldn’t come up with clutch hits.  They worked leadoff walks off Alexi Ogando in the seventh and Darren Oliver in the eighth, but left two men on in both frames.  Ogando’s strikeout of the red-hot Cano to end the seventh was just as big as Rapada’s an inning earlier.

So now, while the series is even and home-field advantage has gone to the Bombers, one has to think the Rangers are happier with how things went in the first two games than the Yankees are.  Both CC Sabathia and Hughes suddenly look vulnerable, and Texas has its ace lined up for Games 3 and 7.  The pendulum would certainly swing back in the Yankees’ favor with a win over Cliff Lee on Monday.  The Rangers would be at a far bigger disadvantage than the Yankees upon facing a 2-1 deficit.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.