New York Yankees v Texas Rangers, Game 2

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.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.

 

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.