On an objective level there have been worse losses in recent Yankees history. They’ve been blown out. They’ve lost big games. Bad things have occurred to even this most historically blessed team. But I can’t recall an uglier night, all around, than what we witnessed tonight. Among the lowlights:
- Tommy Hunter was quite hittable, but the Yankees didn’t take full advantage of his vulnerabilities, missing multiple scoring opportunities;
- Mark Teixeira injured his hamstring and may very well be done for the year, no matter how far the Yankees advance;
- Joe Girardi was gifted with what had been a more than serviceable A.J. Burnett start, went to the well with him once too often and ended up paying for it with a Bengie Molina three-run homer;
- In the bottom of the eighth Girardi allowed Lance Berkman to bat right handed with the bases loaded. It was the Yankees’ last, best chance of the game and maybe the season, and Berkman hits, like, -.397 right handed. He grounded out to third to end the threat; and finally
- Yankees fans were simply pathetic, first pulling a Jeffrey Maier — and acting like total morons afterward — then pulling a Steve Bartman on a foul ball that, while it ended up not mattering, didn’t distinguish the fan base. Oh, and then that fan base left the place in droves beginning in the seventh inning, despite the fact that it was still only a four run game. Yankees fans are the best around, I’ve heard. Well, I guess I’ll have to take their word for it.
Like I said, just ugly stuff. And now maybe it’s over.
No, not technically over, because the Rangers need four wins, not three. But do the Yankees have a chance? Sure, anything is possible, and if the old saw about momentum being the next day’s starting pitcher means anything, that’s good news for CC Sabathia and the Yankees.
But the fact is that they’re not hitting a lick, not even on a night when the Rangers ran out their worst starter and a Game 1-style bullpen brigade. They’ve lost Teixeira who, while he hadn’t been hitting, could certainly be expected to hit eventually and can still certainly pick it at first. If they’re going to run the table — which they must — they must do it against C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Cliff Lee, three pitchers who gave the Yankees fits the first time through.
You can’t predict baseball, because baseball is inherently unpredictable. But you can make some educated guesses. And my guess is that the Yankees suffered a terminal blow these last two nights. Even if they linger on for another day, the end is near. They’re not going to pull this out.
John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.
Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.
Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.
The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.
The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.
Scott Kazmir went winless with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts. He allowed 41 hits, eight of them homers, in 29 innings, posting an 18/11 K/BB ratio. When the Astros got five innings of two-run ball from him Friday against the Royals, they should have thanked their good fortune and moved right along to the pen.
And they knew this. They must have. Josh Fields got up in the pen after Kazmir issued a one-out walk in the fifth. The left-hander got out of the frame, making himself eligible for the victory in what was then a 4-2 game, but it was still very surprising to see him come back out for the sixth, particularly with the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.926 OPS against lefties) and right-handed Lorenzo Cain due up.
Kazmir retired Zobrist, but he gave up a double to Cain. He was then pulled, even with the left-handed Eric Hosmer coming up. Manager A.J. Hinch had committed my biggest baseball pet peeve: he sent his starter back to the mound with the idea of pulling him after his first mistake.
It worked out terribly. Oliver Perez gave up a pair of soft hits to Hosmer and Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. Fields then entered and walked the unwalkable Salvador Perez to tie the game at 4. The Astros gave up another run in the seventh and lost the game 5-4.
Maybe that’s the way it would have worked out anyway. Kazmir did give up just the one baserunner. It might not have even harmed the Astros if Perez had better luck.
Still, the thinking that went into the decision was disturbing. It’s always better to bring that reliever in with no one on base when you can. That’s especially the case with this Astros pen, which lacks a double-play specialist, much less a Wade Davis. But anyone in that pen would have been a better choice than sending Kazmir out to face Zobrist and Cain for a third time. Hinch needs to be more aggressive going forward.
The Cardinals have won so many division titles, it’s tough to keep track of them all. At least, it would be tough if it weren’t for Baseball Reference.
40,000 rally towels were given away to fans at Busch Stadium ahead of Friday’s NLDS Game 1 against the Cubs. The towel listed all of the years the Cardinals won the NL Central… and 2001. That year, they tied with the Astros for the best record in the National League at 93-69. However, because the Astros won the season series 9-7, they were awarded first place and the Cardinals took the Wild Card.