APTOPIX NLCS Giants Phillies Baseball

Roy Oswalt gets it done on the mound, on the bases as the Phillies tie up the NLCS at 1


The best part of this game came right after it was over, as FOX’s Ken Rosenthal was interviewing Jimmy Rollins:

Rosenthal: “What does this game do for you, Jimmy?”

Rollins: “Well, it puts us tied 1-1.”

Some things just are as they appear, you know?

Like Roy Oswalt dealing. There was no magic here. There was nothing more than what met the eye: Oswalt throwing lots of strikes, challenging Giants hitters to do something with them, only to have them fail over and over again. Cody Ross got another homer on what must have been a mistake pitch — no way that Chooch and Oswalt mean to throw him yet another middle-in fastball, right? Not after he hit that pitch out twice against Halladay, right? — but that was about it. Oswalt threw eight dominant innings, striking out nine and allowing only that homer and a couple of singles.

But that wasn’t all. Oswalt contributed on the basepaths as well, singling, then taking second on a sacrifice, then scoring from second on a Placido Polanco single. Which he really shouldn’t have scored on, by the way, as third base coach Sam Perlozzo had the stop sign up as Oswalt approached third. I guess Roy couldn’t hear him over the sound of the swooshing satin of the warmup jacket he was wearing while on base, because he kept coming and slid home ahead of the relay throw to make it 3-1 Phillies. There probably shouldn’t have been a relay throw. If the ball wasn’t cut off, Oswalt may have been nailed at the plate. It ended up being a moot point, though, as the Phillies scored three runs on a bases-clearing double by Rollins later in the inning, putting the game out of reach.

For the Giants part, Jonathan Sanchez started out shaky, unable to make the ball go where he wanted it to. He walked in the game’s first run during his 35-pitch first inning. If early in the game you would have told me that Sanchez would pitch into the seventh I would have said you were crazy, but he settled down and did just that. He had some help getting there though, as many Phillies hitters — notably Jayson Werth and Rollins — thought it was a good idea to do some first-pitch swinging. Such an approach prolonged Sanchez’s night, but the Phillies made it into the San Francisco bullpen eventually, and when they did it was goodnight Irene.

With this series, like the Yankees-Rangers series, tied 1-1, we have ourselves a competitive couple of League Championship Series, no? On Tuesday it will be Hamels vs. Cain by the Bay. Now that the Phillies have figured out how to pitch to Cody Ross — or at least they hope they have — someone in a cream, black and orange uniform had better figure out how to hit the ball, or else this thing isn’t coming back to Philly.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.