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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

Bryce Harper struck out four times in a game for the first time in nearly four years

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper reacts after he struck out during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Washington. The Phillies won 3-0.(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has not exactly been strikeout-averse over his five-year career, but he has been pretty good about not bunching them up. Entering Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Harper had struck out three or more times in a game only 21 times in 533 games. He had registered two four-strikeout games, the last of which occurred on August 21, 2012 — his rookie season.

On Sunday, Harper struck out three times against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez and once against reliever Seung Hwan Oh for the dreaded golden sombrero. The reigning NL MVP has now equaled his walk and strikeout totals at 17 apiece.

Despite the rough afternoon, Harper still owns a lusty .272/.390/.679 triple-slash line with nine home runs and 24 RBI.

Chase Headley doesn’t think Yankee Stadium is as hitter-friendly as advertised

New York Yankees Chase Headley (12) breaks his bat on a ground out to third during the third inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Monday, April 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
AP Photo/Brandon Wade
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Yankees third baseman Chase Headley finished April without registering an extra-base hit. Across 71 plate appearances, he registered only nine hits for an uninspiring .150/.268/.150 triple-slash line. Speaking to David Laurilia of FanGraphs, Headley said that Yankee Stadium isn’t as hitter-friendly as many people think it is, and added that the shift has helped to limit his offensive success.

“Everybody talks about how good of a ballpark Yankee Stadium is to hit in, but it’s pretty big with the exception of right field,” said Headley. “The rest of it plays as big, or bigger, than most yards. It’s maybe a better fit for guys who hit the ball high down the line than it for guys who hit the ball like I have for a lot of my career.”

[…]

“Because of the shifting that’s going on now, if you hit the ball on the ground, for the most part you’re out,” Headley told me. “I’m trying to get the ball elevated — I want to hit it hard in the air — and if I never hit another ball on the ground, I’ll be happy.”

According to StatCorner.com, Yankee Stadium is indeed better for left-handed hitters, and particularly so when it comes to extra-base hits. It lists park factors for handedness, setting 100 as average. A higher number means it’s more hitter-friendly. Here are the left-right numbers as of today’s writing:

  • Singles: 101 for left-handed hitters, 102 for right-handed hitters
  • Doubles and triples: 101 LH, 82 RH
  • Home runs: 137 LH, 127 RH

Headley’s hypothesis seems to have some merit. But his claim that shifts have been hurting him doesn’t seem to hold up to the numbers.

babip

Headley’s ground ball BABIP (batting average on balls in play) this season is only .022 behind his career average of .239. As he’s only hit 23 ground balls total this season, the difference between .239 and .217 is less than one hit.

Where Headley’s BABIP is notably lower is line drives. His career average line drive BABIP is .698, but it’s only .333 on nine line drives in 2016. This could be simple bad luck or it could mean Headley is making worse contact. FanGraphs’ batted ball data suggests Headley has been pulling significantly fewer balls (36 percent to his 45 percent career average), and he’s making “hard” contact less often (21 percent versus his 31 percent career average). Overall, there’s been very little change in his ground ball rate versus his fly ball rate.

Headley mentioned to Laurila that if he could, he would try to hit fly balls to the pull side more often. “I’m working on that,” he said.

Carlos Martinez sued for battery, negligent transmission of STDs, and more

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
AP Photo/Matt York
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Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez was given permission to leave the team on Friday in order to travel to Miami. Martinez was named in a lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed he knowingly trasmitted mutliple sexually trasmitted diseasese to her. She is seeking $1.5 million in damages for battery, negligent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, fraud, and more, TMZ reported on Saturday.

Martinez rejoined the team and started on Sunday afternoon against the Nationals. His attorney called the allegations “100% false”.

The Cardinals are waiting for more information to find out if the league will investigate the matter under its domestic violence policy. Via Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, GM John Mozeliak said, “We wait. And once we learn more, then we’ll have more of an idea. These are things you just learn as you go.”

Should obstruction have been called on Ryan Webb?

Toronto Blue Jays' Kevin Pillar gestures to the dugout after hitting a triple against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, April 8, 2016, in Toronto. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)
Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP
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The Blue Jays had a comfortable 5-1 lead in the top of the ninth inning of Sunday afternoon’s game against the Rays, but one never knows when a base runner might be crucial. Kevin Pillar was on first base when reliever Ryan Webb threw over to first on a pickoff attempt and got him in a rundown.

First baseman Logan Morrison chased Pillar towards second base, lobbing the ball to shortstop Brad Miller. Miller sent Pillar back to first base, throwing to Webb covering the bag. Webb chased Pillar back towards second base and threw to second baseman Logan Forsythe. Forsythe chased Pillar back again, but Webb wasn’t able to get out of Pillar’s way. Second base umpire Mark Ripperger immediately signaled “no obstruction” and Pillar was easily tagged out after he was essentially bear hugged by Webb.

Here’s the MLB.com video.

Major League Baseball defines obstruction as “the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.” Webb had already thrown the ball and Forsythe was in possession of it, so he couldn’t have been considered “in the act of fielding.”

At any rate, the Jays still won 5-1, giving them the series win over the Rays.