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Live Blog: Rangers-Yankees ALCS Game 4

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UPDATE: And this baby is finally over. The Rangers have won 10-3 and now lead the Yankees 3-1 in the ALCS. The Rangers will try to earn their first trip to the World Series tomorrow (okay, well today, technically).

As always, thanks for reading. Stay tuned for a post-game recap from Craig.

12:04 AM: Wait, this thing isn’t over yet? No, apparently not. Brett Gardner, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter are scheduled to bat in the bottom of the ninth. Oliver stays in while Neftali Feliz warms in the pen. Seriously.

11:59 PM: Wow. This one is officially a blowout, as Nelson Cruz joins the party with a two-run homer, pushing the score to 10-3. Mass exodus from Yankee Stadium.

11:55 PM: Josh Hamilton leads off against Sergio Mitre with his second home run of the night and his fourth of the series. 8-3 Rangers.

11:52 PM: Berkman hit it hard, but Michael Young was able to snag it and force Robinson Cano out at second base to end the inning. Nothing doing for the Yankees. It’s still 7-3 as we move to the ninth. Sergio Mitre will face Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz.

11:48 PM: Well, looks like the Rangers may have caught a break, as Swisher may have been hit by a pitch there. Unfortunately for the Yanks, he continued the at-bat and flied out to center. Two away for Berkman.

11:45 PM: Rapada walks Cano and the bases are loaded for Nick Swisher. Darren Oliver is going to pitch now, because Neftali Feliz threw a bunch of pitches in the ninth inning last night. That’s what I’m going with.

11:39 PM: O’Day was able to strike out Marcus Thames swinging, but walked Alex Rodriguez. Now Ron Washington is calling on the left-hander Clay Rapada against Robinson Cano. Rapada gave up a single to Cano in the eighth inning mess back in Game 1.

11:32 PM: Curtis Granderson draws a leadoff walk in the bottom of the eighth and that will be the end of the road for Derek Holland. Fantastic job by the young southpaw. Right-hander Darren O’Day will come on to face Marcus Thames.

11:27 PM: It’s 7-3 as we head to the bottom of the eighth. The Yankees still have six outs to play with, though a large segment of their “fans” have already given up. Shameful.

11:17 PM: Derek Holland sits the Yankees down 1-2-3 in the seventh. The young left-hander allowed an inherited runner to score on the first batter he faced in the fourth, but has held the Yankees to just one hit over 3 2/3 scoreless innings.

11:03 PM: Joba Chamberlain gets David Murphy looking to escape further damage, but the Rangers still managed to add two more runs in the top of the seventh. The Yankees have nine outs left.

10:58 PM: And Ian Kinsler just dumped one in shallow right field, scoring Vladimir Guerrero from third and pushing the score to 7-3. Runners still on second and third base. This game could get out of hand quickly here.

10:51 PM: No interference needed with this one. Josh Hamilton just hit a solo homer off Boone Logan to push the Rangers’ lead to 6-3. Logan, who specifically entered the game to pitch to Hamilton, is done. Joba Chamberlain is in.

10:45 PM: And David Robertson replaces A.J. Burnett to start the seventh. One inning too late, perhaps.

10:40 PM: According to Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse, Mark Teixeira was diagnosed with a strained right hamstring. He will undergo an MRI before being re-evaluated. Of course, if he is taken off the playoff roster, he will not be eligible to play if the Yankees reach the World Series.

10:32 PM: My goodness. Bengie Molina just launched a three-run homer inside the left field foul pole to give the Rangers a 5-3 lead in the top of the sixth. And Joe Girardi elected to walk David Murphy intentionally to get to him. Incredible. This game has everything. And it’s not even close to being over. Girardi may have pushed his luck by asking for more than five.

10:24 PM: Alex Rodriguez just hit into a double play to end the fifth for the Yankees. They’re still up 3-2. It sounds like Nick Swisher will move to first base, while Marcus Thames will stay in the game in right field. By the way, Swisher has played six games at first base this season and 255 in his career. He’s familiar with the position, but obviously a marked step down from Teixeira. Don’t forget Thames, who has a pretty rotten reputation as a defender.

10:17 PM: Wow. This is potentially very bad news for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira just went down in a heap at first base trying to leg out a ground ball, clutching at his right hamstring. It looked like he was in quite a bit of pain as he was escorted off the field. Not good.

10:08 PM: So much for karma. The Brett Gardner “Bartman redux” play is rendered irrelevant, as A.J. Burnett gets Josh Hamilton to fly out with two runners on to end the top of the fifth.

9:54 PM: Derek Holland struck out Francisco Cervelli to end the threat. It’s 3-2 Yankees after four innings.

Side note: That last half-inning was over 30 minutes long. That makes me sad.

9:49 PM: Elvis Andrus just made a heckuva play, diving to his right to field a ground ball hit by Brett Garnder and then having the presence of mind to get the force-out at third base. Alex Rodriguez still scored from third, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead, but wow. Very impressive.

9:44 PM: Berkman just singled into right field, but Alex Rodriguez was held up at third base. And it’s a good thing he was, because that was an excellent throw by Nelson Cruz. Ron Washington then came with the hook for Tommy Hunter, as Derek Holland will come in to pitch to Brett Gardner with the bases loaded.

9:40 PM: Nick Swisher battled to a full count, but Tommy Hunter was able to get him swinging. He’s still on the ropes, but will pitch to Berkman with two on and one out.

9:30 PM: Derek Holland is up and throwing for the Rangers. Tommy Hunter has four strikeouts so far tonight, but it’s not like he’s fooling anybody. The Yankees have had lots of good swings off him.

9:27 PM: Alex Rodriguez was just plunked. Fans don’t like it, but they should. Here comes Robinson Cano.

9:22 PM: And David Murphy skies out to left to end the top of the fourth. Vladimir Guerrero led off with a single, but didn’t budge from first base. A.J. Burnett has thrown 41 out of 60 pitches for strikes, fanning four and walking just one. Dare I say it? Ah, why not? He’s looking pretty sharp.

9:20 PM: By the way, that was probably a deke by Cervelli during the Ian Kinsler at-bat. He did that several times during the regular season, trying to catch baserunners napping. Vlad didn’t bite this time.

9:12 PM: And Ian Kinsler was perfectly placed this time. Stationed in shallow right field, he caught a liner off the bat of Mark Teixeira to end the bottom of the third. Curtis Granderson — who moved up on a balk — was left stranded at second base.

9:07 PM: We’re tied. Curtis Granderson hit a liner that couldn’t be handled by second baseman Ian Kinsler on the short-hop. Jeter scores.

9:05 PM: Derek Jeter just nearly hit one out to straight-away center field. After the ball bounced past Josh Hamilton and back towards the field off play, he managed to leg out a two-out triple.

8:58 PM: The Rangers have taken the lead without the ball leaving the infield. Elvis Andrus grounded out to Mark Teixeira for the first run and Michael Young hit a tapper behind the mound which couldn’t be handled by Alex Rodriguez to drive in the second. Tough luck for A.J. Burnett. It’s 2-1 Rangers going into the bottom of the third.

8:53 PM: Okay, back to the game at hand. A.J. Burnett is back to being A.J. Burnett. He issued a leadoff walk to David Murphy and then hit Bengie Molina with a pitch. Mitch Moreland sacrificed them over to to second and third. Again, I hate that play. Elvis Andrus is up with one away.

8:50 PM: You know, I’m willing to give right field umpire Jim Reynolds the benefit of the doubt on that Robinson Cano homer. Nelson Cruz clearly went over the fence with the glove and when that happens — whether we like it or not — interference cannot be called. I still think it should have been reviewable, though.

8:45 PM: And Berkman strikes out looking to end an eventful bottom of the second inning. After what we just witnessed, all I can say is “ugh.” Major league baseball can do better than this. They have to.

8:41 PM: The umpires have come back, changing the call from a home run to a foul ball. Lance Berkman is back in the batter’s box.

8:39 PM: You can’t make this stuff up. Lance Berkman just crushed one that was ruled as a home run inside the right field foul pole. The problem? It’s not fair, at least from what I can see. The umps are going in to look at a replay. Looks like this one is coming back.

8:35 PM: Uh, we just had Jeffrey Maier all over again. In almost the same spot in a brand new stadium. Robinson Cano hit one that Nelson Cruz had a legitimate chance of catching, but due to some obvious fan interference, it ended up in the seats, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead. You could literally see a guy hit Nelson Cruz’s glove. Amazingly, it will not be challenged. Not sure why, but it’s not happening.

8:28 PM: Two perfect innings for A.J. Burnett, including three strikeouts. He has also thrown 21 out of his 27 pitches for strikes. It’s very early yet, but that’s a pretty darn good ratio.

8:18 PM: Tommy Hunter was equal to the task, retiring the Yankees in order on just seven pitches. Mark Teixeira went down swinging and is 0-for-12 to begin the series.

8:12 PM: Burnett needed just nine pitches to get out of the first inning. Also, this is the first time the Rangers have failed to get on board in the first inning during the series. By default, he’s obviously better than CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte. What can I say, I’m a sucker for small sample sizes.

8:09 PM: And would you look at that, A.J. Burnett just retired Elvis Andrus without incident to begin the ballgame. Give that guy a contract extension!

7:58 PM: I’m back to live blog Game 4 of the ALCS between the Rangers and Yankees. I’ve only been able to do ALCS games so far, but this is nothing personal against the National League. I promise. Things have just sort of worked out that way.

As always, feel free to add your own commentary in our comments section.

Game 4 starters:

Tommy Hunter: One of the Rangers’ most pleasant surprises of the regular season, Hunter finished 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA over 23 games (22 starts). He allowed two runs over five innings in his lone start against the Yankees this season back on September 11. Hunter yielded three runs — two earned — over four innings in a loss to the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS on October 10.

A.J. Burnett: We’ve already reserved this nickname for Cliff Lee, but A.J. Burnett might also qualify as “The Scariest Thing Ever” to Yankees fans. At least on this night, anyway. The high-priced right-hander was shaky during the regular season and hasn’t pitched since October 2. On the bright side, he posted a 2.50 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 18 innings (three starts) against the Rangers during the regular season.

Lineups:

 NEW YORK YANKEES                TEXAS RANGERS
1. Derek Jeter, SS                  1. Elvis Andrus, SS
2. Curtis Granderson, CF        2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B              3. Josh Hamilton, CF
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B            4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH
5. Robinson Cano, 2B            5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. Nick Swisher, RF               6. Ian Kinsler, 2B
7. Lance Berkman, DH           7. David Murphy, LF
8. Brett Gardner, LF             8. Bengie Molina, C
9. Francisco Cervelli, C         9. Mitch Moreland, 1B

Columnist calls for Sammy Sosa to “come clean.” He probably shouldn’t.

15 Sep 1998:  A silhouette portrait of Sammy Sosa #21of the Chicago Cubs taken in the dug-out as he looks across the field during the game against the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Park in San Diego, California. The Cubs defeated the Padres 4-2
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Yesterday Sammy Sosa — quite ridiculously — compared himself to Jesus Christ. The idea: he has suffered greatly since retirement, having been shunned by the Cubs and disparaged by the baseball establishment and . . . well, I don’t know how that makes him Jesus, but forget it, he’s rolling.

Today, predictably, a Chicago columnist does what columnists have been doing for years with respect to guys suspected of PED use: argues that Sosa should “come clean” if he wants to come in from the cold. Here’s David Haugh of the Tribune:

The game welcomed back Barry Bonds and McGwire from steroid exile after both separately acknowledged their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. Fox Sports employs Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to PED use during his career. The door back to baseball is open for Sosa, but only if he follows the same path his contemporaries from the steroid era did. The Cubs have made this clear to Sosa, in no uncertain terms, yet he continues to paint himself as the victim.

This is not accurate. Bonds has never “come clean” about his PED use. He was in litigation over it until 2015 and wasn’t giving any confessionals about it. When the Marlins hired him he said nothing. He made allusions to being “an idiot” in an interview last summer, but that was clearly focused on his cagey attitude, not his drug use. There was no deal with the Marlins that his job was prefaced on his “coming clean,” and he never did.

The same can be said for McGwire. Big Mac was hired by the Cardinals as a hitting coach on October 26, 2009. His acknowledgment of PED use came months later, just before spring training in January 2010. While it may be plausible that the Cardinals told McGwire that they would not hire him absent a confession of PED use, that’s not how it tracked in real time. At his hiring, John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt each said there was no set blueprint for how McGwire would proceed as far as his public statements went and they allowed him to control the timeline. His confession seemed to be very much a function of heading off spring training distractions and questions from the press which would have access to him everyday, not some precondition of his employment.

But even if we grant the apparently erroneous premise that Bonds and McGwire “came clean” to return to baseball’s good graces, such a road map is of no use to Sosa. He’s not looking to coach or, as far as we know, even be employed by a club. If the study we talked about four years ago remains accurate, coming clean about PED use makes an athlete look worse in the eyes of the public than those who deny. Ask David Ortiz how that works. It likewise will do nothing for his Hall of Fame vote totals. Ask McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro how that works.

Sosa may be engaging in some unfortunate hyperbole, but as far as can be determined, he’s not asking for a whole hell of a lot. He’s not asking for a coaching job or to have his number retired or for them to rename Wrigley Field after him. He’s asking to be acknowledged as a part of Cubs history. He’s asking for the same kind of treatment other retired greats receive from time to time. A first pitch? A public appearance or two? Some minor role as a team ambassador? The bar for that isn’t very high.

The Cubs, who benefited greatly from Sosa’s production — and, necessarily, by whatever juicing Sosa did to achieve it — aren’t being asked to do much. Just to be decent to a person who is an important part of their history. That should not require that Sosa give a weepy interview about steroids which will serve no one’s purpose but the tut-tutting media. A media which, if McGwire’s example is any guide, will still slam Sosa if he comes clean and claim that his confession wasn’t good enough and his contrition wasn’t genuine. If he does confess, bank on that reaction. Bet the mortgage on it.

All of which makes me wonder if it’s the media, and not the Cubs who are the ones who really want to see such a thing.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.