Troublesome shoulder puts Scott Rolen back on the DL

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Incredibly enough, Scott Rolen started at third base for the NL All-Star team earlier this month.  That may go down as his one good memory from 2011.

Rolen was placed back on the disabled list Friday because of more pain in the left shoulder that’s troubled him for years.  Rolen had played in just one game this week, going 1-for-4 against the Pirates on Wednesday.  He’s hit .242/.279/.397 with five homers and 36 RBI in 252 at-bats this season.

With Juan Francisco also shelved, the Reds picked Todd Frazier as his replacement.  Frazier, 25, was hitting .260/.340/.467 while splitting time between third base, first base and left field for Triple-A Louisville.  He had 15 homers and 17 steals, but he had also fanned 82 times in 90 games.

Expect Miguel Cairo to get most of the starts at third base for now.  The journeyman utilityman has exceeded expectations once again this year, hitting .288/.353/.410 in 139 at-bats for the Reds.

The Reds probably won’t go looking for a starting third baseman in trade talks, but they would be smart to bring in someone better than Edgar Renteria to help out.  Renteria is batting just .232/.306/.278 and the Reds have refused to use him anywhere other than shortstop, where he isn’t an asset any longer anyway.

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.