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ALCS Live Blog: Rangers-Yankees ALCS Game 5


7:55 PM: That’ll do it.  Yankees win 7-2 and we’re headed back to Texas for Game 6.

7:46 PM: Yep, here comes Mo.  It’s a non-save situation, but Rivera hasn’t pitched in five days and needs a little work.

7:35 PM: This one is just about over.  Granderson just launched a line drive homer to right field in the top of the eighth inning, moving the Yankees to a 7-2 lead here in Game 5.  Mariano Rivera is warming in the bullpen and appears likely to take on the Rangers in the top of the ninth.

7:28 PM: Wood is rolling right along for the Yankees.  The former Cubs starter and Indians closer retired Vlad on a groundout to the mound, Murphy on a strikeout and Ian Kinsler on a groundout to a diving A-Rod at third base.  The Yanks need only three more outs to advance to Game 6 in Texas.

7:21 PM: A-Rod stole a base and Marcus Thames nearly homered, but the Yankees ultimately went scoreless in the bottom of the seventh frame.  The Rangers still trail 6-2.

7:03 PM: Andrus kicked off the top of the seventh with a leadoff walk and then advanced to second base on a wild pitch from Kerry Wood.  But Wood caught the speedy shortstop leaning toward third base one at-bat later and connected with Jeter for a crucial pickoff.  Wood then retired Hamilton with a nasty breaking ball to finish off the Rangers’ mild threat in the top of the seventh.

6:47 PM: Kirkman surrendered a leadoff double in the bottom of the sixth to Granderson, but the Yankees opted to have Brett Gardner lay down a sacrifice bunt and the young Texas lefty got Swisher to ground into an inning-ending double play.  The Yankees are up 6-2 as Game 5 moves to the seventh inning.

Moral of the story here?  Never give a pitcher his first out, especially a 24-year-old with zero postseason experience and only 16.1 total major league innings to his name.

6:34 PM: Wilson has been pulled after allowing six hits and six runs over five innings.  He threw 93 pitches, only 48 of which were registered as strikes.  Michael Kirkman, 24, has been brought on in relief and will be making his postseason debut.

6:29 PM: The Rangers mustered only one run out of a busy sixth frame, but Sabathia has been pushed to 112 pitches and could be pulled in the seventh if the Texas lineup can manage a baserunner or two.  The Yanks still lead, 6-2.

6:08 PM: Swisher drew a walk to open the bottom of the fifth, A-Rod delivered his first extra-base hit of the 2010 postseason one out later, then Marcus Thames was intentionally walked in front of Berkman, who has struggled traditionally against left-handed pitchers.  You know how this one goes.

Berkman delivered exactly what the Yankees needed, launching a sky-high fly ball to deep center field that allowed Swisher to tag and score from third.  New York leads 6-1 as we head to the sixth inning.

6:00 PM: If the Rangers are going to make a comeback here in Game 5, they’ll have to do it without one of their best sluggers.

Morosi reports that Nelson Cruz has been pulled because of a tight left hamstring.  David Murphy will take over in left field.  Cruz missed a ton of time this season because of problems with his left hammy and could be asked to sit out a potential Game 6.

5:58 PM: Sabathia allowed two singles after Treanor’s solo shot, but got Hamilton to ground into a double play to end the top of the fifth.  The big man has thrown 79 pitches, 54 of which have been strikes.

5:52 PM: Jon Paul Morosi of says that the Yankee Stadium scoreboard had Treanor pegged as a “Jeff.”  His first name is Matt, of course.  Redemption!  Or whatever.

5:50 PM: Misty May’s husband!  Misty May’s husband!

Treanor, the Rangers’ catcher du jour, launched a home run to left field off Sabathia to open the top of the fifth inning.  Texas is now in Slam Range with a 5-1 deficit and will look to keep chipping away.

5:41 PM: Posada opened the bottom of the fourth with a double to left field and advanced to third base one at-bat later when Granderson launched a fly ball to deep center field.  The veteran catcher was unable to reach home plate, however, and the score remains 5-0 Yanks as Game 5 moves to the fifth inning.

5:32 PM: TBS sideline man Craig Sager reports that Berkman got the wind knocked out of him and couldn’t breath during the final at-bat of the top of the fourth.  But he was spotted smiling in the Yankees’ dugout moments later and should be fine for the rest of the game.

5:30 PM: Berkman lost his footing on the infield warning track while tracking down a foul ball in the top of the fourth.  He laid on the ground for about a minute, but replays showed that he did not hit his head on the ground and he was able to man first base for the rest of the frame.  It’s something we’ll be sure to keep an eye on.

5:26 PM: Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz lifted a high fastball into the gap in right-center field for a one-out single in the fourth inning.  Cruz is working on a 10-game postseason hitting streak, as is the speedy Andrus, but Sabathia retired Kinsler on a strikeout and then Jeff Francoeur on a sharp groundout to end the top of the fourth.  The Rangers have left runners in scoring position in each of the last three innings.

5:17 PM: Wilson rallied for three straight outs after Swisher and Cano’s back-to-back shots, but the left-hander has thrown 56 pitches — 28 of which have been strikes — and could struggle to last longer than five or six innings.

5:09 PM: Wow.  Hitting against a backdrop of “MVP” chants, Robbie Cano just went yard over Yankee Stadium’s short right field fence.  It is now 5-0 Yanks here in Game 5 of the ALCS.

5:07 PM: Nick Swisher, rocking the high socks, took Wilson deep on a flat inside fastball to open the bottom of the third inning.  The Yankees are up 4-0 with no outs and Cano stepping to the plate.

5:03 PM: Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus reached on an infield single that barely stayed fair, advanced to second base on a Michael Young groundout, then stole third base without a throw.  But Sabathia retired Hamilton on a two-out liner to Jeter and ended the threat in the top of third.  Sabathia looks like he might be settling in.

4:49 PM: So much for that late-arriving crowd.  And all that talk about momentum.  Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson knocked a one-out single to shallow right field and a few bad throws by the Rangers allowed both Berkman and Posada to score.  It’s 3-0 Yanks.

4:45 PM: And, just like that, the Yankees are on the board.  Jorge Posada drew a 2-0 count then pushed an over-the-middle fastball into left field as A-Rod raced around to score.  New York leads 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning.

4:42 PM: Wilson threw a first-pitch ball to the first three batters he faced in the first inning, walked both Alex Rodriguez and Lance Berkman on four straight pitches in the bottom of the second.  Wilson has been excellent this October, but he issued a league-high 93 walks during the regular season and that same lack of control is costing him tonight.

4:33 PM: Ian Kinsler delivered the Rangers’ third hit of the game in the top of the second inning with a shallow single to center field.  Kinsler then stole second base moments later, but Sabathia got out of the jam with a strikeout of catcher Matt Treanor.  Go ahead and file this under “who cares” or “we already know that,” but Treanor is married to celebrity beach volleyball player Misty May Treanor.  Beat that, Jeter.  Oh.

4:25 PM: Wilson carved through the top of the Yankees’ batting order in the bottom of the first, getting Derek Jeter to ground out, Nick Swisher to line out and Robinson Cano on a groundout to second.  Cano is batting in the three-hole this evening because of Mark Teixeira’s hamstring injury.  Big Tex has been ruled out for the rest of the postseason.

4:19 PM: Sabathia allowed two hits in the top of the first inning — one to leadoff man Elvis Andrus and another to hot-hitting outfielder Josh Hamilton — but the Yankees ace induced a key double play and struck out Vladimir Guerrero to finish off the frame.

4:13 PM: Here we are.  The Rangers lead their seven-game ALCS matchup with the Yankees 3-1 and are looking to advance to the franchise’s first-ever World Series with a win this evening in The Bronx.  Yankee Stadium is not exactly rocking, probably due to the odd start time and a late-arriving crowd, but the Yanks do have CC Sabathia on the mound and will look to get going offensively against Texas lefty C.J. Wilson.  We’ll keep tabs on the progress of Game 5 all evening.

Jessica Mendoza and Chris Archer were great in the booth

Jessica Mendoza
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Not news: Jessica Mendoza, who has been excellent on all of the ESPN broadcasts she has done since taking over for Curt Schilling, was excellent last night too.

She was great on the nuts and bolts, continued to show that she can describe hitting mechanics better than most color commentators — way more of them seem to be more comfortable talking about pitching — and was a seamless presence in the booth in terms of flow, timbre and all of the aesthetic aspects of broadcasting. If she has a fault thus far it’s that she leans on some cliches about hitters’ mindsets and desire to win sometimes. This puts her in with approximately 100% of all other color commentators in baseball now and throughout the history of baseball, of course, so it’s not really a demerit.

Ultimately, the true test of a good commentator is whether they (a) add insight; and (b) do so without distracting or upstaging the game. In this Mendoza is superior to most commentators in baseball and clearly superior to the “stop and listen to me” brand of analysts the major networks have employed on national broadcasts in recent years.

Indeed, the one of the best compliments I think I can give Mendoza is that she was — in the literal sense, not the judgmental sense — unremarkable. Meaning: during the game and after there was nothing she said or did that was worthy of the highly-critical remarks almost every broadcaster gets, going back through Schilling, Kruk, Harold Reynolds Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and everyone else ESPN and Fox have forced upon us in their history doing playoff baseball. I’m on Twitter during most playoff games and sometimes the broadcaster bashing is more interesting than the game. Mendoza gives the would-be bashers very little material.

At least those who would bash on the actual merits. There remains a group of deadenders who are irked by her very presence in the booth because she is a woman. The New York times rounds up some of the less mouth-breathery types today, but God knows there are many, many worse. Some of them even in professional media. At least for now. Whether you choose to ignore those people or choose to engage them — which, their dead end opinions notwithstanding can be a useful exercise in my opinion — know that they are out there being miserable and sexist as God and the First Amendment intended them to be.

While there are many who slam Mendoza on the faulty premise that she lacks credentials and experience in the booth, there was one person in the ESPN booth last night, at least for a while, who was a total TV noob. His name was Chris Archer. He pitches a bit for the Tampa Bay Rays. And lo and behold, he was pretty damn good himself.

Archer needs some polish for style — he has a lot of “ummms” and “uhhhs” about him — but his analysis is both sharp and quick. Meaning he was RIGHT ON the points when he needed to be without any of the usual prompting guests in the booth need from the play by play guy. At one point he even flowed into play-by-play and did a pretty good job of it.  Chris: if that pitching stuff doesn’t work out, you have a bright, bright future in television.

So, on the first night of the playoffs, there were no complaints about the broadcast. Mostly because the broadcasters weren’t the stars of the show. The game was. And it was complemented nicely by a couple of good voices.

And John Kruk.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.