Francona “aggravated” by Buck Showalter’s comments

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Orioles manager Buck Showalter made a couple of controversial comments in a recent issue of Men’s Journal about some of his opponents in the American League East. He said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter “ticks” him off and that he’d “like to see how smart” Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein “is with the Tampa Bay payroll.”

Epstein was asked about the remarks last week and played it safe, telling reporters that he hadn’t seen the article and didn’t care to comment. Red Sox skipper Terry Francona took a different route.

The eccentric skipper spoke Sunday with Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe:

“I got asked that the other day and I hadn’t seen it. I got it third-hand and I kind of joked about it a little bit. Then I read it and actually I was kind of aggravated a little bit,” Francona said. “I don’t think that’s anybody’s place. That’s my boss. I was actually kind of aggravated a little bit. It’s not the end of the world, but I thought he shouldn’t have done it.”

“I just thought that was a little bit out of line. I don’t think he’d be appreciating if I said something about Andy [MacPhail, Baltimore’s president of baseball operations], which I wouldn’t. It’s none of my business. And for the record, I think Andy’s really good.”

The Showalter-led Orioles went 3-3 against Boston at the end of last season. Given Baltimore’s mediocre roster and the additions that the Red Sox made this winter, our guess is that .500 record won’t last too long.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.