Yanks push ALCS back to Texas with Game 5 victory

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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.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.

Report: Rangers agree to six-year extension with Rougned Odor

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The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.

It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.