Italian flag

The Mariners are calling up an interesting young man


Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times alerts us to something neat: the Mariners are going to call up and presumably play the first Italian-born player in nearly 50 years. And it’s not as if he were born at Aviano Air Base and came to the states when he was still in diapers, either. He’s totally Italian:

[Alex] Liddi, 23, will also be the first graduate of the MLB European Academy to play in the majors as well as the first Italian born and raised player to do it … Liddi stayed in his native city of San Remo and played amateur baseball in Italy until signed by Seattle at age 17.

Cue a bunch of obvious Italian stereotypes because most of us just can’t help ourselves.  And cue some not-so-obvious ones from people like me.

You see, my wife’s family is Italian. Like, really Italian with a whole branch of it including her much older half-sister having been born, raised and still living over there.  Which means I have a nephew named Marco over there who is not much younger than Liddi, and through a couple of meetings and a lot of silly interaction on Facebook I have been exposed to a fair amount of Italian youth culture. Which is simultaneously awesome, hilarious and frightening.

If Liddi is anything like that completely ridiculous nephew of mine and his dozens of completely ridiculous Italian friends, I would highly, highly recommend that the beat writers get near this guy in the clubhouse after games because he will NOT offer you the boilerplate “I just want to help the team win some games” rebop.  Rather, he’ll, like, dance and then name-check some weird European combination hip hop/death metal band and then show you inappropriate pictures of his friend’s girlfriend which — when you see them — you’ll wonder how in the hell his friend let him have a copy in the first place. And when you try to gently criticize him, everyone will yell at you for being insensitive to the impressionable young boy.

Or maybe I’m just working through some family issues right now.

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.