Giants' Sanchez celebrates scoring a run next to Rangers' Lee during Game 1 of Major League Baseball's World Series in San Francisco

Rangers in trouble as Cliff Lee falls in Game 1 to Giants


Cliff Lee was 7-0 in his first eight postseason starts.  He shut out the Yankees in the ALCS and struck out 21 Tampa Bay hitters in two ALDS starts before that.  He was supposed to be unbeatable in big games.  He was supposed to handle the Giants with ease.  He was supposed to lead the Rangers to the franchise’s first-ever World Series title.

So much for predeterminations.

The Giants tagged Lee for eight hits and seven runs on Wednesday night in San Francisco, chasing him from Game 1 of the World Series in the fifth inning while scoring an eventual 11-7 victory.  Lee displayed excellent control for most of the night, but he wasn’t able to hit the corners of the strike zone like he had in recent postseason starts and San Francisco poured on extra-base hit after extra-base hit.

Freddy Sanchez had three consecutive doubles, Juan Uribe homered and rookie phenom Buster Posey collected yet another RBI.

Sanchez hit just .292/.342/.397 during the regular season while battling shoulder and finger injuries, and he had just one extra-base hit in 40-plus postseason at-bats before Wednesday night.  And yet the second baseman played the hero.

The Giants caught heat from certain sections of the baseball universe for trotting out staff ace Tim Lincecum in Game 1 against Lee.  Some thought San Francisco should concede the loss to baseball’s best big-game pitcher and try to play catch-up on the back of “The Freak” in Game 2.  But Giants manager Bruce Bochy is smarter than that.  He’s smart enough to know that past success means very little in the game of baseball and that putting his club’s best foot forward in Game 1 made the most sense.

Bochy’s boys now have a 1-0 lead in the seven-game Fall Classic and have proven they can handle the best pitcher Texas has to offer.

Matt Cain will take the mound in Game 2 against Rangers starter C.J. Wilson and Jonathan Sanchez will go for the Giants in Game 3 against Colby Lewis.  Baseball is impossible to predict, especially during the playoffs, but it’s fact — not opinion — that San Francisco has better pitchers lined up in this series.

Cain, a righty, has not allowed a single earned run in two outings this postseason and features an active four-pitch arsenal that should minimize the danger of Texas’ sluggers.  Wilson, meanwhile, walked a league-high 93 batters during the regular season and was touched up for nine runs in 12 innings of work during the ALCS against New York.

Sanchez, a lefty, struck out 205 batters over 193.1 innings in 2010 and has been just as dominant so far in the playoffs.  Colby Lewis is a fighter with a great backstory, but he doesn’t have the raw stuff that Sanchez boasts and will enter Game 3 as a sure underdog, no matter what takes place on Thursday night in Game 2.

It’s odd to say, considering the many pundits that predicted the Rangers to ease through this 2010 World Series, but the Giants might actually be the favorite from here on out.

No, San Francisco doesn’t have the best offense.  And, no, it’s not going to be easy to win multiple games in what should be a rowdy Rangers Ballpark.  But all it takes is one Cody Ross or a few extra-base hits from a guy like Sanchez.  All it takes is one big inning for the ace-heavy Giants to put away a team like Texas — a team that relies so deeply on offensive production.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.