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.

Must-read: A profile on former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, currently in jail for alleged murders of three men

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Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times has an outstanding profile of former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, who is currently in jail for allegedly murdering three men nearly two years ago.

Fenno describes Martin’s erratic personality as he became a highly-touted baseball prospect who then descends into drug use. Friends described Martin has having completely changed into an unrecognizable person. Martin had repeated conflicts with friends and family such that police reports became common and he was placed in a psychiatric facility. Sadly, the facility only held him for less than 48 hours. He would allegedly murder three people upon returning home: his father, his brother-in-law, and a home security system contractor. Martin fled from police, who eventually caught up to him and subdued him with the help of a police dog.

Fenno’s profile is really worth a read, so click here to check it out.

Martin, 23, was selected by the Rays in the first round (38th overall) of the 2011 draft. He spent three years in the Rays’ system, reaching as high as Single-A Bowling Green.

Pedro Martinez: “If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him.”

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On Sunday, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was ejected for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado‘s head. It was revenge for a slide of Machado’s which ended up injuring Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Barnes was suspended four games.

Hall of Famer and former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said that if he were in Barnes’ shoes, he would have also thrown at Machado, although not necessarily at his head. Via ESPN’s Scott Lauber:

If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him. The only thing I would’ve done differently is probably bring the ball a little bit lower.

Martinez added that Machado “did not intend to hurt Pedroia. And I know that because I know Machado.” And he doesn’t think Barnes meant to throw at Machado’s head.

Martinez, of course, was certainly a pitcher who wasn’t afraid to pitch inside to batters and even hit a few of them when he felt he or his teammates had been wronged. This is an unfortunate part of baseball’s culture and the fact that it continues means that it will eventually result in someone being seriously hurt. It’s disappointing that Martinez isn’t willing to be a better role model now that his playing days are over. Martinez could have set an example for today’s pitchers by saying what Barnes did crossed a line. Getting a Hall of Famer’s seal of approval will only embolden players now when they feel they must defend their teammates’ honor.

The “tradition” of beaning batters to defend one’s teammates is anachronistic in today’s game, especially when Major League Baseball has made strides in so many other ways recently to protect players’ safety.