Yanks push ALCS back to Texas with Game 5 victory

16 Comments

Trailing 3-1 in this year’s seven-game ALCS against the Rangers, the Yankees’ offense finally decided to wake up on Wednesday evening in New York.

Jorge Posada kicked off the game’s scoring with an RBI single in the second inning, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano hit back-to-back homers in the third and Lance Berkman even registered an RBI against a left-hander as the Yanks grabbed a 7-2 win.

CC Sabathia did not pitch well, surrendering 11 hits in six innings, but the Rangers struggled to drive in runs for once and C.J. Wilson had issues finding the plate for most of the night.

Josh Hamilton finished 1-for-4 with a strikeout, Vladimir Guerrero did not register a hit in four plate appearances, Elvis Andrus was picked off second base with the Rangers threatening in the seventh inning and Nelson Cruz exited early with a tight left hamstring.

Losses breed bad news.  Or perhaps bad news breeds losses.

Either way, we now move to Game 6, set for Friday in Arlington, Texas.

The Rangers will throw Colby Lewis, a right-hander with a 3.72 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 32 starts during the regular season and a 1.69 ERA over two starts in these playoffs.  He was signed last winter out of Japan and became a real catch for Texas almost immediately.  The 31-year-old native of Bakersfield, California struck out 196 batters and walked only 65 spanning 201 innings in 2010, but he will have his hands full against a tough and suddenly hot Yankees lineup.

The Yanks will put their faith in Phil Hughes, a 24-year-old righty with 18 wins and a 1.25 WHIP over 31 outings during the regular season.  He held the Twins scoreless during a dominant seven-inning start in the ALDS but was lit up for seven earned runs on 10 hits in Game 2 of this Championship Series against Texas.  It’s anyone’s guess as to how he might fare in Game 6, and a quick hook seems likely if his stuff is not looking sharp.

Hughes had a 3.65 ERA during the first half of 2010 and a 4.90 ERA in the second half.  He’s been a force in one outing this postseason and far too hittable in another.  Inconsistency is a norm in baseball and it tends to render useless the practice of predictions and predeterminations.

As this American League Championship Series heads back to Arlington, only one real looming question remains: If a Game 7 is played, how will the Yankees get through Rangers ace Cliff Lee?

Lee has allowed only two earned runs in three starts this postseason and shut out the Yankees over eight innings in Game 3.  He boasts a total of 34 strikeouts in 24 playoff innings this year and has walked just a single batter.

The Yankees will go with veteran lefty Andy Pettitte on normal rest in a potential Game 7 and will make Sabathia available out of the bullpen.  Pettitte is great, and he’s been fairly sharp this postseason, but he’ll be a definite underdog in what could be the most important baseball game ever played in the Dallas area.

Off we go.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.